Tag Archives: Event

Let Men Always Pray

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Building For Eternity

Our Lord was not referring here to a cost which we have to count, but to a cost which He has already counted. The cost was those thirty years in Nazareth, those three years of popularity, scandal, and hatred, the unfathomable agony He experienced in Gethsemane, and the assault upon Him at Calvary— the central point upon which all of time and eternity turn. Jesus Christ has counted the cost. In the final analysis, people are not going to laugh at Him and say, “This man began to build and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:30).

The conditions of discipleship given to us by our Lord in verses 26, 27, and 33 mean that the men and women He is going to use in His mighty building enterprises are those in whom He has done everything. “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple ” (Luke 14:26). This verse teaches us that the only men and women our Lord will use in His building enterprises are those who love Him personally, passionately, and with great devotion— those who have a love for Him that goes far beyond any of the closest relationships on earth. The conditions are strict, but they are glorious.

All that we build is going to be inspected by God. When God inspects us with His searching and refining fire, will He detect that we have built enterprises of our own on the foundation of Jesus? (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). We are living in a time of tremendous enterprises, a time when we are trying to work for God, and that is where the trap is. Profoundly speaking, we can never work for God. Jesus, as the Master Builder, takes us over so that He may direct and control us completely for His enterprises and His building plans; and no one has any right to demand where he will be put to work.

Men Should Always Pray

From: Streams In The Desert

He spoke a parable unto them… that men ought always to pray, and not to faint (Luke 18:1).

No temptation in the life of intercession is more common than this of failure to persevere. We begin to pray for a certain thing; we put up our petitions for a day, a week, a month; and then, receiving as yet no definite answer, straightway we faint, and cease altogether from prayer concerning it.

 

This is a deadly fault. It is simply the snare of many beginnings with no completions. It is ruinous in all spheres of life. The man who forms the habit of beginning without finishing has simply formed the habit of failure. The man who begins to pray about a thing and does not pray it through to a successful issue of answer has formed the same habit in prayer. To faint is to fail; then defeat begets disheartenment, and unfaith in the reality of prayer, which is fatal to all success.

 

But someone says, “How long shall we pray? Do we not come to a place where we may cease from our petitions and rest the matter in God’s hands?” There is but one answer. Pray until the thing you pray for has actually been granted, or until you have the assurance in your heart that it will be. Only at one of these two places dare we stay our importunity, for prayer is not only a calling upon God, but also a conflict with Satan. And inasmuch as God is using our intercession as a mighty factor of victory in that conflict, He alone, and not we, must decide when we dare cease from our petitioning. So we dare not stay our prayer until the answer itself has come, or until we receive the assurance that it will come.

 

In the first case we stop because we see. In the other, we stop because we believe, and the faith of our heart is just as sure as the sight of our eyes; for it is faith from, yes, the faith of God, within us.

 

More and more, as we live the prayer life, shall we come to experience and recognize this God-given assurance, and know when to rest quietly in it, or when to continue our petitioning until we receive it.
–The Practice of Prayer

 

Tarry at the promise till God meets you there. He always returns by way of His promises.
–Selected

Romans 3:21-31 (Good News Translation)

From: American Bible Society

God’s Word: Renewing Us in Faith

Introduction

Romans 3:21-31: Paul declares that no one is put right with God by following the Law but that, through God’s grace, all are put right with God through Christ Jesus.

Today’s Scripture: Romans 3:24

By the free gift of God’s grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free.

Today’s Reading

21 But now God’s way of putting people right with himself has been revealed. It has nothing to do with law, even though the Law of Moses and the prophets gave their witness to it. 22 God puts people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. God does this to all who believe in Christ, because there is no difference at all:23 everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence. 24 But by the free gift of God’s grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free. 25-26 God offered him, so that by his blood he should become the means by which people’s sins are forgiven through their faith in him. God did this in order to demonstrate that he is righteous. In the past he was patient and overlooked people’s sins; but in the present time he deals with their sins, in order to demonstrate his righteousness. In this way God shows that he himself is righteous and that he puts right everyone who believes in Jesus. 27 What, then, can we boast about? Nothing! And what is the reason for this? Is it that we obey the Law? No, but that we believe. 28 For we conclude that a person is put right with God only through faith, and not by doing what the Law commands. 29 Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles also? Of course he is. 30 God is one, and he will put the Jews right with himself on the basis of their faith, and will put the Gentiles right through their faith. 31 Does this mean that by this faith we do away with the Law? No, not at all; instead, we uphold the Law.

Reflect

What is at the core of Paul’s message in this passage? How many times does the word “faith” appear in today’s reading? What does Paul say about faith? What does Paul say about the Law?

God Helps Us With Heart Ache

 

 

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Heart Matters

Our hearts pump at a rate of 70-75 beats per minute. Though weighing only 11 ounces on average, a healthy heart pumps 2,000 gallons of blood through 60,000 miles of blood vessels each day. Every day, the heart creates enough energy to drive a truck 20 miles. In a lifetime, that is equivalent to driving to the moon and back. A healthy heart can do amazing things. Conversely, if our heart malfunctions, our whole body shuts down.

The same could be said of our “spiritual heart.” In Scripture, the word heart represents the center of our emotions, thinking, and reasoning. It is the “command center” of our life.

So when we read, “Keep your heart with all diligence” (Prov. 4:23), it makes a lot of sense. But it’s difficult advice to keep. Life will always make demands upon our time and energy that cry out for immediate attention. By comparison, taking time to hear God’s Word and to do what it says may not shout quite so loudly. We may not notice the consequences of neglect right away, but over time it may give way to a spiritual heart attack.

I’m thankful God has given us His Word. We need His help not to neglect it, but to use it to align our hearts with His every day.

Dear Jesus, take my heart and hand,
And grant me this, I pray:
That I through Your sweet love may grow
More like You day by day. —Garrison
To keep spiritually fit, consult the Great Physician.

Insight

The book of Proverbs had several contributing authors, but most of the wisdom found here was written by King Solomon. In the opening nine chapters, Solomon specifically instructs his son (and sometimes his sons) regarding the wisdom that would help him engage life in a meaningful way. Some of the themes of these chapters include the value of wisdom, the necessity of faith, the peril of deceitful women, and the danger of foolishness. Beginning in chapter 10, the book becomes a collection of general wise sayings.

Disappointing Sideshows

From: Getmorestrength.org

“For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16

When I was a boy, one of the biggest annual events in town was the circus. My dad would take us early in the morning to watch the circus trains unload the tigers, lions, elephants, monkeys, and all the other animals and paraphernalia that made the circus so intriguing.

Once the circus was set up, great attractions were lined along the midway. The midway was the walkway leading to the big tent. Vendors hawked their wares, happy music played, the smell of hot dogs and cotton candy mingled in the air, and multicolored balloons bounced in the wind. With bursts of laughter and excited screams, customers twisted and turned on amusement rides. The midway was almost more than a boy could take.

The most intriguing sights of all for me were the sideshows. Large posters advertised all kinds of physical deformity and daring feats of bravery—a man with three eyes, a bearded woman, sword-swallowers, and fire-eaters. I would pull on my dad’s hand and beg him to take me to see them, only to hear him say, “Joe, it’s a waste of money. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”

This is the warning we see in 1 John 2:16. The world is a lot like the midway. Much of it is exciting. But as our Father walks us through experiences, He warns us of what will disappoint us, waste our resources, and distort and destroy us. It’s the sideshows that seduce us and endanger our experience here. Our world constantly puts us in tension with all that it offers.

This tension forces us to make up our minds about whom or what we will believe and follow. Will it be our Father or the sideshow?

When I grew up and went to the circus on my own, I couldn’t wait to put up my own money to see the sideshows—only to find out that my father had been right. My money was wasted.

It’s like that in life, but the stakes are far greater.

Cleaning up a Mess I Didn’t Make
CHRYSTAL EVANS HURST

From: Crosswalk.com

“And I pray that you … grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Ephesians 3:17b-18 (NIV)

When my middle son was 2 years old, he went through various stages that almost sent me to the mad house.

One of the most irritating stages was his habit of taking off his diaper after putting him to bed. Many late nights we would have to put on a fresh diaper, change his sheets and put him back to bed.

After awhile, we wised up. We started putting him into all-in-one pajamas that made it not so easy for him to accomplish his little feat.

That pretty much solved the problem.

Until one night, when my husband put the boys (ages 2 and 4) to bed. Unfortunately, he forgot about our precautionary measure of locking our toddler into his diaper.

Before long, our eldest son shouted at the top of his lungs, “Mommy! It stinks in here! Somebody needs his diaper changed!”

No worries. It happens, right?

Soon we heard urgency in our eldest son’s voice as he called out again, “MOMMY! COME QUICK! THERE’S A STINKY MESS IN HERE!”

We entered their room. The smell that greeted me at the door was enough to make me want to run for my life.

Friends, we are talking yuck e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e … on the sheets, blankets, feet and smudged into the carpet. So that night, while many other mothers slept peacefully in their beds, guess what I was doing?

Cleaning up a mess.

At almost midnight and for close to an hour, I was on my hands and knees cleaning and scrubbing. I’ll spare you the gory details.

Believe it or not, the carpet today looks like nothing ever happened. Between my cleaning concoctions that fateful night and a borrowed steam cleaner the next day, I managed to handle the situation like a pro.

Of course I did. I’m a mom. That’s what moms do. We clean up after our children when necessary, because that’s what love does.

There is a lesson to be learned from the middle of this messy situation …

My son didn’t mean to make a mess. He didn’t intentionally deprive me of sleep or aim to make me uncomfortable. He didn’t mean to make me suffer for his transgression.

But I did.

And why? Because that’s what love does.

Even when he wasn’t showing me much love, I loved him anyway. And I showed my love by cleaning up a mess that I didn’t make.

My dear sister… don’t you know Jesus loves us this same way?

He saw us in our mess. He cleaned up after us. He was willing to suffer for our transgressions. And even when we aren’t showing Him much love, He loved us first and continues to love us anyway.

Because that’s what love does.

I believe with all my heart that as my son matures, he will be grateful and appreciate my sacrifices. I pray that eventually he will come to understand the width, length, height and depth of the love I have for him. Just like God’s love for us, Paul prayed that the church at Ephesus “may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18).

In the same way, as we mature in our relationship with God and develop a greater understanding of why we needed His rescue, we can appreciate more and more His huge sacrifice.

Here’s the kicker – our lives, actions and attitudes should show it.

Just like mothers find a way to do what seems

… inconceivable

… impossible

… or insurmountable …

so, too, our precious Savior found a way to rescue us from our plight.

And I’m so thankful. Aren’t you?

Romans 2:1-16 (Good News Translation)

From: American Bible Society

God’s Word: Renewing Us in Faith

Introduction

Romans 2:1-16: In describing God’s judgment, Paul says that those who are faithful to God will receive rewards, and those who reject God’s truth will be punished.

Today’s Scripture: Romans 2:10a

God will give glory, honor, and peace to all who do what is good.

Today’s Reading

1 Do you, my friend, pass judgment on others? You have no excuse at all, whoever you are. For when you judge others and then do the same things which they do, you condemn yourself. 2 We know that God is right when he judges the people who do such things as these. 3 But you, my friend, do those very things for which you pass judgment on others! Do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or perhaps you despise his great kindness, tolerance, and patience. Surely you know that God is kind, because he is trying to lead you to repent. 5 But you have a hard and stubborn heart, and so you are making your own punishment even greater on the Day when God’s anger and righteous judgments will be revealed. 6 For God will reward each of us according to what we have done. 7 Some people keep on doing good, and seek glory, honor, and immortal life; to them God will give eternal life. 8 Other people are selfish and reject what is right, in order to follow what is wrong; on them God will pour out his anger and fury. 9 There will be suffering and pain for all those who do what is evil, for the Jews first and also for the Gentiles. 10 But God will give glory, honor, and peace to all who do what is good, to the Jews first and also to the Gentiles. 11 For God judges everyone by the same standard. 12 The Gentiles do not have the Law of Moses; they sin and are lost apart from the Law. The Jews have the Law; they sin and are judged by the Law. 13 For it is not by hearing the Law that people are put right with God, but by doing what the Law commands. 14 The Gentiles do not have the Law; but whenever they do by instinct what the Law commands, they are their own law, even though they do not have the Law. 15 Their conduct shows that what the Law commands is written in their hearts. Their consciences also show that this is true, since their thoughts sometimes accuse them and sometimes defend them. 16 And so, according to the Good News I preach, this is how it will be on that Day when God through Jesus Christ will judge the secret thoughts of all.

Reflect

What does Paul say about judging others (verse 1)? Reread verses 2-11. What are your thoughts about Paul’s description of God’s judgment? Is God’s judgment fair? Why or why not?

Judgment and the Love of God

 

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judgment : Florence - Duomo .The Last Judgement. Inside the cupola: 3600 m2 of frescoes, created by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari, who worked there from 1572 to 1579. Editorialjudgment : Florence - Duomo .The Last Judgement. Inside the cupola: 3600 m2 of frescoes, created by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari, who worked there from 1572 to 1579. Editorial

Judgment and the Love of God

The Christian servant must never forget that salvation is God’s idea, not man’s; therefore, it has an unfathomable depth. Salvation is the great thought of God, not an experience. Experience is simply the door through which salvation comes into the conscious level of our life so that we are aware of what has taken place on a much deeper level. Never preach the experience— preach the great thought of God behind the experience. When we preach, we are not simply proclaiming how people can be saved from hell and be made moral and pure; we are conveying good news about God.

In the teachings of Jesus Christ the element of judgment is always brought out— it is the sign of the love of God. Never sympathize with someone who finds it difficult to get to God; God is not to blame. It is not for us to figure out the reason for the difficulty, but only to present the truth of God so that the Spirit of God will reveal what is wrong. The greatest test of the quality of our preaching is whether or not it brings everyone to judgment. When the truth is preached, the Spirit of God brings each person face to face with God Himself.

If Jesus ever commanded us to do something that He was unable to equip us to accomplish, He would be a liar. And if we make our own inability a stumbling block or an excuse not to be obedient, it means that we are telling God that there is something which He has not yet taken into account. Every element of our own self-reliance must be put to death by the power of God. The moment we recognize our complete weakness and our dependence upon Him will be the very moment that the Spirit of God will exhibit His power.

A Parent’s Pain

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

I’ll never forget meeting Nathan and Connie. With five sons, they loved the Lord and were busy going about His work. Suddenly, their world was decimated by an unthinkable tragedy. The three oldest boys were driving home from Wal-Mart when a drunk driver crossed the centerline, hitting them head-on. All three were killed as a result of the accident—snatched away in a cruel, horrible moment.

Connie told me that though the accident had happened three years ago, the pain was still fresh. “To this day, it’s wrenching,” she said. But then she continued, “I’ve often wondered if that’s how Mary felt when she looked at the excruciating and publicly humiliating death of Jesus as He hung on the cross.”

It’s a sobering thought. We have sung of the cross, put it on our steeples and on chains around our necks. But if we are not careful, we grow accustomed to the thought of the cross, forgetting the very real pain, real sorrow, and loss that it represents. And while we think of Mary’s agony and the torment of the cross for Jesus, I wonder if the pain wasn’t deepest in the heart of God. Think of the heartache for the One who willingly sent His only Son! No one knew more deeply what the crushing weight and torture of the sins of the world—your sins and my sins—would be like as they were embedded into the soul of the Savior. Think of how God must have felt in that moment.

The apostle John knew full well what that moment looked like. He was there at the foot of the cross, and from Christ’s words on the cross it seems apparent that he was an eyewitness to the grief of Mary (John 19:26). Years later he would describe this moment as the supreme expression of love. “This is love,” John writes, “not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

The marvel is not that we would love God or choose to offer our lives to Him. It is that He would choose to love us and offer His only Son on our behalf! He willingly endured that pain to bring us back into relationship with Him. This alone—even if God never did anything else for us—should stimulate our hearts to live in grateful love and adoration toward Him for the rest of our lives. The thought of this indescribable love should constantly remind us that we, though undeserving and unlovable in His sight, have been blessed beyond measure and loved like no one else could love us!

I love the words to the hymn penned by Stuart Townend (who clearly has not grown accustomed to impact of the cross):

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure,

That He should give His only Son, to make a wretch His treasure.

How great the pain of searing loss, the Father turns His face away,

As wounds which mar the Holy One, bring many sons to glory.

Keeping the cross in mind with all of its heavy, yet joyful, implications may just be the most important thing we do in life!

God’s Man For That Hour

From: Through the Bible

Judges 7:20 (NIV) 20The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!”

What a fascinating plan the LORD gave them. Each of the 300 men took a pitcher with a torch inside in one hand. In the other was a trumpet. On cue, they smashed the pitchers and the light shown out. With the other hand they blew their trumpets and then shouted, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!”

The enemy was thrown into a panic thinking that each light led a company of soldiers. Frightened in the dark, they killed one another. The dream Gideon had overheard came to pass. What sword were they shouting about? It was the word of the LORD that they were faithfully obeying.

We have a treasure in jars of clay. It is the Light of the world. We seem to be totally outnumbered at times. But we keep on obeying the word and believing. We become broken vessels and the light shines out. We blow the trumpet of the Gospel and the enemy (spiritual powers) is thrown into confusion. In the darkness, the enemy does not know who is a friend and who is a foe. He ends up defeating himself. It is not as if we did any great thing. God gets all the glory. We were outnumbered and outgunned, but we just obeyed and watched God work. If God was faithful to Gideon, to give Him the plan, and encourage Him that He would bring it to pass, will He be any different with you?

Trust God to bring the victory as you obey Him.

From: Through The Bible

May 5

Luke 8:16-18 (NIV) 16″No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”

What do you have? Only what you have received. You receive physical things and spiritual things. The physical will perish; the spiritual will last. The physical does not transform the soul; the spiritual does.

How do you receive the spiritual? It is usually through your ears. In Jesus’ day, when many could not read or afford to purchase a manuscript, it was almost entirely through the ears. What do you hear?

We are familiar with this illustration as it is used in Matthew, or in the song This Little Light of Mine. Those applications are about boldly letting the witness of Jesus in you be seen by others. In this evening’s passage, Jesus is using it for either good or evil. Others will see whatever you listen to and absorb. You can’t hide what you have become. Listening transforms you. The words go into your mind and heart and affect the way you see the world around you. Cults can transform a person’s perspective by merely isolating them from other points of view. That is why Jesus says, “Consider carefully how you listen.” He is telling us to consider not only what we listen to, but also how we listen. Do we listen with discernment? Are we sorting through what we hear to discard what is not according to the Word of God, and to cling to that which is of value? Do we sort the Spirit of truth from the spirit of error? That is not to criticize, but to discern what we will receive.

Why should we take such caution? Jesus is telling us that if we receive what is good, we will receive more of the same. Our light will be visible to all. If we receive vain words, what we have believed to be of substance will prove to be emptiness. People will see our lack of substance.

Consider: What do you listen to? Consider carefully HOW you hear.

 

Practice Intercessory Prayer

Vicarious Intercession

Beware of thinking that intercession means bringing our own personal sympathies and concerns into the presence of God, and then demanding that He do whatever we ask. Our ability to approach God is due entirely to the vicarious, or substitutionary, identification of our Lord with sin. We have “boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.” Spiritual stubbornness is the most effective hindrance to intercession, because it is based on a sympathetic “understanding” of things we see in ourselves and others that we think needs no atonement. We have the idea that there are certain good and virtuous things in each of us that do not need to be based on the atonement by the Cross of Christ. Just the sluggishness and lack of interest produced by this kind of thinking makes us unable to intercede. We do not identify ourselves with God’s interests and concerns for others, and we get irritated with Him. Yet we are always ready with our own ideas, and our intercession becomes only the glorification of our own natural sympathies. We have to realize that the identification of Jesus with sin means a radical change of all of our sympathies and interests. Vicarious intercession means that we deliberately substitute God’s interests in others for our natural sympathy with them. Am I stubborn or substituted? Am I spoiled or complete in my relationship to God? Am I irritable or spiritual? Am I determined to have my own way or determined to be identified with Him?

Wake Him Up!

From: Get more Strength.org

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Elouise worked the cash register in the food court at Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute. She was, by far and away, one of my favorite people. I liked a lot of things about Elouise: her happy smile, helpful spirit, and love for everyone. But what I liked best was her down-home, streetwise wisdom that came out in some of the most memorable quips. I could give you a bunch of them, but here’s one that just might be a good word for you.

One morning, as I reached into my pocket to pull out the cash for my breakfast, I asked Elouise how she was doing, to which she replied, “Not all that great.”

“Really?” I asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Well,” she quipped, “I had to wake Him up this morning!”

I wasn’t quite getting where she was going with that, so I asked, “What do you mean? Wake who up?”

“Don’t you know your Bible?” she teasingly said with an obvious sense of joy at stumping the Moody president. To save me any further embarrassment, she went on to say, “When the disciples thought they were going to die in the storm at sea, they had to wake up Jesus so He would help them. I had to wake Him up this morning,” she said, “’cause I needed His help!”

See why she’s one of my favorite people?

What she didn’t say, though, was that it seems like Jesus was the last resort for those panicked disciples. Luke tells us that it wasn’t until the boat was nearly swamped, and it was clear that they were in great danger, that someone had the brilliant idea to wake up Jesus.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we are usually pretty slow as well to wake Him up. Well, actually, we don’t need to wake Him up since the God who watches over us neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:3)! In reality, we’re the ones who need to wake up. We need to wake up to the truth that we are not as capable as we think we are to deal with life’s challenges; that our wisdom and instincts are flawed; that trying to manage life by the seat of our pants usually gets us into a heap of trouble.

So, thankfully, the writer to the Hebrews assures us that we can come to Jesus with what the text literally says is “unstaggering confidence”—confidence that He understands our plight and is ready to help us in our time of need. And, in case you’re wondering how He will help you in your time of need, think about His grace that will help you endure, His mercy, His power to overcome, His wisdom to show you the way. And don’t forget His calming presence and His peace that passes understanding in the midst of life’s storms. They are all available for the asking!

So, next time you are overwhelmed with life and don’t know what to do, take a little advice from my friend Elouise: wake Him up! And don’t wait until He is your last resort. You’ll get exhausted and disheartened if you try to bail out your boat all by yourself!

Which reminds me of a wonderful old song that we used to sing in church when I was a boy. It goes, “I need thee, Oh, I need thee! Every hour I need thee! Oh, bless me now my Savior, I come to thee.” You’ll need Him sometime—probably today—so make that the theme song of your life.

He maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth and his hands make whole (Job 5:18). The Ministry of Great Sorrow From: Streams in the Desert   As we pass beneath the hills which have been shaken by the earthquake and torn by convulsion, we find that periods of perfect repose succeed those of destruction. The pools of calm water lie clear beneath their fallen rocks, the water lilies gleam, and the reeds whisper among the shadows; the village rises again over the forgotten graves, and its church tower, white through the storm twilight, proclaims a renewed appeal to His protection “in whose hand are all the corners of the earth, and the strength of the hills is his also.” –Ruskin   God ploughed one day with an earthquake, And drove His furrows deep! The huddling plains upstarted, The hills were all aleap!   But that is the mountains’ secret, Age-hidden in their breast; “God’s peace is everlasting,” Are the dream-words of their rest.   He made them the haunts of beauty, The home elect of His grace; He spreadeth His mornings upon them, His sunsets light their face.   His winds bring messages to them Wild storm-news from the main; They sing it down the valleys In the love-song of the rain.   They are nurseries for young rivers, Nests for His flying cloud, Homesteads for new-born races, Masterful, free, and proud.   The people of tired cities Come up to their shrines and pray; God freshens again within them, As He passes by all day.   And lo, I have caught their secret! The beauty deeper than all! This faith–that life’s hard moments, When the jarring sorrows befall,   Are but God ploughing His mountains; And those mountains yet shall be The source of His grace and freshness, And His peace everlasting to me. –William C. Gannett

Happy Endings

The first: “Houston, we have a problem.”

And then: “Hello, Houston . . . this is Odyssey. It’s good to see you again.”

Together, these two messages form the bookends to the real-life drama of NASA’s struggle to bring three astronauts safely back to earth. An explosion crippled their spacecraft partway into their April 1970 mission to the moon.

The minutes leading up to the second of the two radio transmissions were particularly dramatic as people the world over anxiously gathered around television sets and collectively held their breath to see if the crew survived reentry into the earth’s atmosphere. Cheers and tears of joy and relief exploded across the globe when the astronauts finally returned home unharmed.

Not every story has a thrilling, happy ending like Apollo 13. But the Bible reveals that those who believe in Jesus will experience one! Much as the crew of Apollo 13 endured, life as we know it can be an ordeal and it will inevitably break our hearts. Death and decay will take away our health and every person we love. But the sacrificial death and dramatic resurrection of Jesus Christ guarantees the happiest of endings.

This is the “happily ever after” that Paul wrote about in offering hope and comfort to those in need (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Quoting the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, Paul confidently declared the future resurrection of the dead when he wrote, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54).

Sometimes, all can seem lost, especially when death takes those we love. But the truth of the cross and the empty tomb emboldens us with the hope for a “happy ending” that is beyond description.

Tears Of Gratitude

From: Our Daily Bread
At a communion service my wife and I attended, the congregation was invited to come forward to receive the bread and cup from one of the pastors or elders. They told each one personally of Jesus’ sacrifice for him or her. It was an especially moving experience during what can often become just routine. After we returned to our seats, I watched as others slowly and quietly filed past. It was striking to see how many had tears in their eyes. For me, and for others I talked with later, they were tears of gratitude. The reason for tears of gratitude is seen in the reason for the communion table itself. Paul, after instructing the church at Corinth about the meaning of the memorial supper, punctuated his comments with these powerful words: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). With the elements of communion pointing directly to the cross and the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf, that service was about so much more than ritual—it was about Christ. His love. His sacrifice. His cross. For us. How inadequate words are to convey the extraordinary worth of Christ! Sometimes tears of gratitude speak what words can’t fully express.
Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all. —Watts
The love Christ showed for us on the cross is greater than words could ever express.

Insight

For centuries, the Jewish community of faith had called to memory God’s provision of their deliverance out of bondage in Egypt. This memorial was celebrated through the Passover meal (Ex. 12:1-28). A roasted lamb, unleavened bread, wine, bitter herbs, and other items helped them remember their salvation from slavery. In our reading today, we see how our Lord took that sacred feast and transformed it into a memorial of His own sacrificial death (see Luke 22:19).

Jesus Can improve Your Life

 

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He Changed My Life

Our Daily Bread

Following the death of computer pioneer Steve Jobs in 2011, more than one million people from around the world posted tributes to him online. The common theme was how Jobs had changed their lives. They said they lived differently because of his creative innovations, and they wanted to express their appreciation and their sorrow. The screen of one tablet computer said in large letters: iSad.

Gratitude fuels expression, which is exactly what Psalm 107 describes: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy” (v.2). The theme of this psalm is people in great trouble who were delivered by the Lord. Some were homeless and in need (vv.4-5); some had rebelled against God’s Word (vv.10-11); others were at their wits’ end when they cried out to God (vv.26-27). All were rescued by God. “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (vv.8,15,21,31).

When we consider the greatness of God’s love, His grace in sending Jesus Christ to die for us and rise again, and what He has delivered us from, we cannot keep from praising Him and wanting to tell others how He changed our lives!

O God, my heart is filled with praise for all that You
have done for me. You have changed the focus
and purpose of my life because You sent Your Son.
Thank You.
Our gratitude to God for salvation fuels our witness to others.
May 2, 2014From: Crosswalk.com

Losing This Battle is Not an Option
Sharon Glasgow

“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV)

By the time our daughter Heather turned 2, all my prideful pre-parenting thoughts had come back to me. How many times had I unfairly judged another mama and promised myself my kids would never act like that?

You know that behavior: flailing around in their mother’s arms, pitching a fit on the grocery store floor or throwing a tantrum in line at the movies. However, my daughter’s strong will was unrelenting. She tried my patience constantly … and often acted like that.

I’ll never forget one particularly difficult night. It had been a long grueling day of battles, and it was bedtime. (Praise God for bedtime.) Heather had hurt her baby sister, so I told her to apologize. She refused.

Everything in me wanted to just put Heather to bed, but I knew I couldn’t let this go. So in a stern voice, I told her, “Go to your room and I’ll meet you there.” Thankfully, she obeyed and walked to her bedroom.

I thought a battle had been avoided … until she looked back at me with that iron will glaring. She stood there with one foot in the room and one foot in the hall.

“Get in your room, Heather.” My tone meant business, but she wouldn’t budge. I thought to myself, I’m just too stinking tired for this.

At that point, I remembered Proverbs 3:11-12, a verse I memorized before Heather was born: “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”

As I weighed my choices, the Lord spoke to me through that verse. And I knew He was saying: Losing this battle is not an option. I took a deep breath and decided no matter how long it took, I would not allow Heather’s disobedient will to triumph over my exhaustion. I loved her too much.

She finally sat down, half in the room, half out. And I joined her in the hall. We stayed there for hours that night. I wasn’t mad, just determined. My daughter would know after this night that her mama means what she says. There was no TV. No toys. Not even a scrap of paper to draw on.

While she sat, I folded laundry, paid a few bills and made my grocery list — in between asking if she wanted to apologize. Her eyes were getting heavy, and I knew she wanted to win the battle, but I remained firm.

Finally, three hours after her bedtime she apologized to her sister and to me. I kissed her goodnight as I tucked her in bed; she hugged me and smiled like I was the greatest mom in the world. All was good in our home, at least for that night.

That wasn’t our last battle. But over time they became fewer and fewer as I consistently disciplined my children, just like the Lord disciplines those He loves. Why? Because He longs for us to be wise, to avoid making harmful mistakes and to grow in His grace. That’s what I want for my five daughters.

I spent a lot of time in prayer and sitting in doorways as my girls grew up. Each one was different from the other, each requiring a different form of discipline. They’re grown up now, and I’m delighted to say that Heather and her sisters love the Lord and walk in His ways.

I love my children and know they are worth all the time invested in the disciplining. Even the many long, sleepless nights.

Lord, I need You more than ever. I need Your strength, wisdom and leading to raise my children up in the way they should go. Help me! I feel inadequate most days. I know that through You I can do all things. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Thud!

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

Interesting, isn’t it, how some childhood experiences are permanently seared into our memory banks? One of my unforgettable memories is of watching my boyhood friend Bobby getting hit by a car. After church one Sunday morning, he and I were standing on the front steps talking. Why he decided to bolt into the street between two parked cars I’ll never know. But that is exactly what he did. As Bobby ran between the cars, his mother, who could see a car coming, screamed: “Stop! Bobby, Stop!” Whether he didn’t hear her or didn’t care I’m not sure. He just kept running. What haunts me to this day is the memory of the sound of screeching brakes and the thud of his body against the car’s fender. I need to tell you that I am tired of hearing the thud of fellow followers of Jesus getting hit by Satan. Like friends who thought that the most important thing in life was career advancement, only to hear the thud of the long-term damage to their kids and spouses. Or of those who sold out to the allure of an affair—or to the addictive seduction of porn—and are now left with the regrets of the collateral damage of their choices.

It’s easy to think you can get ahead by putting other people down or that intimidation and manipulation are handy tools for staying in control. But the thud of ruined relationships and reputations is a big price to pay for doing whatever is necessary to keep yourself on top. Lying to weasel out of a problem erodes the trust factor and compromises the strength of your character. The list of thud-able choices is long and the consequences are often irreversible.

Granted, we are sometimes blindsided by our ignorance or instinctively wrong about our responses to life. But thankfully, God is never blindsided. And, He’s never wrong. From His vantage point He has a clear view of Satan’s destructive attempts to thud our lives. So, like Bobby’s mom, He warns us with clear and unmistakable shouts from His Word. God’s Word is full of warnings about things like greed, selfishness, lying, lust, gossip, hatred, bitterness, envy, argumentative attitudes, stealing, murmuring, oppression, and ignoring the needs of the poor and underprivileged. So, it’s not that there is a lack of clarity in His voice. The problem is ours. Too often, like Bobby, we either are not listening, or we just don’t care.

The warning shouts of Bobby’s mother came from a heart of love and concern for Bobby’s welfare and safety. God warns us as well because He loves us deeply and wants to rescue us from the impending disaster of that thud in our own lives. It’s easy to think of God’s warnings and prohibitions as His attempt to take all the fun out of our lives, but that’s so wrong. In fact, nothing would give Satan more joy than getting you to think like that, because the more you think like that, the easier it is for him to “devour” you. And that’s a thud that I never want to hear!

Hebrews 11:23-40 (Good News Translation)

From: American Bible Society

God’s Word: Renewing Us in Faith

Introduction

Hebrews 11:23-40: Today’s reading continues the listing of people of great faith, beginning with Moses, and includes those who were persecuted for their faith.

Today’s Scripture: Hebrews 11:39a

What a record all of these have won by their faith!

Today’s Reading

23 It was faith that made the parents of Moses hide him for three months after he was born. They saw that he was a beautiful child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s order. 24 It was faith that made Moses, when he had grown up, refuse to be called the son of the king’s daughter. 25 He preferred to suffer with God’s people rather than to enjoy sin for a little while. 26 He reckoned that to suffer scorn for the Messiah was worth far more than all the treasures of Egypt, for he kept his eyes on the future reward. 27 It was faith that made Moses leave Egypt without being afraid of the king’s anger. As though he saw the invisible God, he refused to turn back. 28 It was faith that made him establish the Passover and order the blood to be sprinkled on the doors, so that the Angel of Death would not kill the first-born sons of the Israelites. 29 It was faith that made the Israelites able to cross the Red Sea as if on dry land; when the Egyptians tried to do it, the water swallowed them up. 30 It was faith that made the walls of Jericho fall down after the Israelites had marched around them for seven days. 31 It was faith that kept the prostitute Rahab from being killed with those who disobeyed God, for she gave the Israelite spies a friendly welcome. 32 Should I go on? There isn’t enough time for me to speak of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. 33 Through faith they fought whole countries and won. They did what was right and received what God had promised. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 put out fierce fires, escaped being killed by the sword. They were weak, but became strong; they were mighty in battle and defeated the armies of foreigners. 35 Through faith women received their dead relatives raised back to life. Others, refusing to accept freedom, died under torture in order to be raised to a better life. 36 Some were mocked and whipped, and others were put in chains and taken off to prison. 37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they were killed by the sword. They went around clothed in skins of sheep or goats—poor, persecuted, and mistreated. 38 The world was not good enough for them! They wandered like refugees in the deserts and hills, living in caves and holes in the ground. 39 What a record all of these have won by their faith! Yet they did not receive what God had promised, 40 because God had decided on an even better plan for us. His purpose was that only in company with us would they be made perfect.

Reflect

Faith, according to Hebrews 11, means trusting in God rather than observing certain rituals. What did you learn about those whose faith is described in Hebrews 11? In what ways do you demonstrate your faith?

Practice Encouragement

 

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Tree Of Rest

From: Our Daily Bread

The lone tree in the field across from my office remained a mystery. Acres of trees had been cut down so the farmer could grow corn. But one tree remained standing, its branches reaching up and spreading out. The mystery was solved when I learned the tree was spared for a purpose. Farmers long ago traditionally left one tree standing so that they and their animals would have a cool place to rest when the hot summer sun was beating down.

At times we find that we alone have survived something, and we don’t know why. Soldiers coming home from combat and patients who’ve survived a life-threatening illness struggle to know why they survived when others did not.

The Old Testament speaks of a remnant of Israelites whom God spared when the nation was sent into exile. The remnant preserved God’s law and later rebuilt the temple (Ezra 9:9). The apostle Paul referred to himself as part of the remnant of God (Rom. 11:1,5). He was spared to become God’s messenger to Gentiles (v.13).

If we stand where others have fallen, it’s to raise our hands to heaven in praise and to spread our arms as shade for the weary. The Lord enables us to be a tree of rest for others.

Thank You, Father, that You are my place of rest.
And that all You have brought me through
can be used by You to encourage others.
Bring praise to Yourself through me.
Hope can be ignited by a spark of encouragement.

 God Rules His Kingdom

The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all (Ps. 103:19).
Some time since, in the early spring, I was going out at my door when round the corner came a blast of east wind–defiant and  pitiless, fierce and withering–sending a cloud of dust before it. I was just taking the latchkey from the door as I said, half impatiently, “I wish the wind would”–I was going to say change;  but the word was checked, and the sentence was never finished.
As I went on my way, the incident became a parable to me. There came an angel holding out a key; and he said: “My Master sends thee His love, and bids me give you this.” “What is it?” I asked, wondering. “The key of the winds,” said the angel, and disappeared.
Now indeed should I be happy. I hurried away up into the heights whence the winds came, and stood amongst the caves. “I will have done with the east wind at any rate–and that shall plague us no more,” I cried; and calling in that friendless wind, I closed the door, and heard the echoes ringing in the hollow places. I turned the key triumphantly. “There,” I said, now we have done with that.”
“What shall I choose in its place?” I asked myself, looking about me. “The south wind is pleasant”; and I thought of the lambs, and the young life on every hand, and the flowers that had begun to deck the hedgerows. But as I set the key within the door, it began to burn my hand. “What am I doing?” I cried; “who knows what mischief I may bring about? How do I know what the fields want! Ten thousand things of ill may come of this foolish wish of mine.”
Bewildered and ashamed, I looked up and prayed that the Lord would send His angel yet again to take the key; and for my part I promised that I would never want to have it any more. But lo, the Lord Himself stood by me. He reached His hand to take the key; and as I laid it down, I saw that it rested against the sacred wound-print.
It hurt me indeed that I could ever have murmured against anything wrought by Him who bare such sacred tokens of His love. Then He took the key and hung it on His girdle. “Dost THOU keep the key of the winds?” I asked. “I do, my child,” He answered graciously. And lo, I looked again and there hung all the keys of all my life. He saw my look of amazement, and asked, “Didst thou not know, my child, that my kingdom ruleth over all?”
“Over all, my Lord!” I answered; “then it is not safe for me to murmur at anything?” Then did He lay His hand upon me tenderly. “My child,” He said, “thy only safety is, in everything, to love and trust and praise.”
–Mark Guy Pearse

 

God Is Mighty With You

Judges 6:12,16 (NIV) 12When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

16The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

Just as God had promised, oppressors came to afflict Israel when they began to worship other gods. The oppression was so severe and the oppressors so ruthless that they had to hide food in caves so they could survive. Then they began to call out to the true God.

The angel of the LORD is Jesus. You will notice He is later called LORD (JHWH). Jesus is the manifestation of God (Colossians 1:15). Jesus declared He was with Gideon and called him a mighty warrior. Gideon was hiding in a wine press to thresh his grain and yet the Lord called him a mighty warrior. God sees what He is making us into. What does the LORD call you?

Gideon is not so sure it is the LORD. If he is to take on this challenge to rally Israel, he knows he must have the LORD with him. The LORD promised to be with him, just as He has promised to be with us (Matthew 28:20). Whatever God asks us to do He will equip and help us accomplish it. He calls us to be co-laborers, not lone rangers.

Gideon had his doubts and needed to be sure. The LORD allowed Gideon to bring an offering. He then caused fire to come from the rock and consume the food Gideon had brought. God will assure us of His will and confirm that He is with us to help us accomplish the tasks He gives us.

Consider: What does the Lord call you? If He is with you, He will bring it to pass.

Solitude and Prayer With God

Luke 5:16 (NIV) 16But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

6:12-13 (NIV) 12One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:

Jesus lived in communion with His Father. It was more than just a time of recharging or even of getting instructions; it is a relationship of pure love (agape). The love of a husband and wife is a picture of such love, for Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me so have I loved you.” The Apostle Paul said that marriage was mystery about Christ and the church. So the love of the Father for the Son is like that of Jesus’ love for the church, which is pictured in a godly marriage relationship. A husband who loves His wife cannot easily be away from her for extended periods of time. He will phone her to hear her voice and know how she is doing, sharing the details of their lives. So it is with the Father and Jesus. Jesus had to meet with Him and share Himself and listen to the Father’s voice.

When it came time to pick His official representatives (that is what the word ‘apostle’ means), He spent all night in that sweet communion. This was one of the most important decisions of His ministry, for these men would pass on the message when He was gone. Their job was to convey to the world the life and words of Jesus, especially His victory over death. Important decisions need the counsel of the Almighty. Jesus’ example shows us how to deal with our difficult decisions. No one can stay up every night and pray, but when we are at a crossroad in life, we would be wise to follow Jesus’ perfect example. Don’t let the need for directions cause you to miss the main purpose of prayer. It is in the sharing of your life with your Father that His plan becomes clear. The goal is to hear His heart, not receive a “to do” list.

Consider: How is Jesus’ example of prayer different from your experience? Old habits die hard. How can you allow your prayer life to be transformed from duty into intimacy?

Resting In The Lord

 

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YOU CAN REST IN THE LORD

God that cannot lie promised (Titus 1:2).
From: Streams In The Desert
Faith is not working up by will power a sort of certainty that something is coming to pass, but it is seeing as an actual fact that God has said that this thing shall come to pass, and that it is true, and then rejoicing to know that it is true, and just resting because God has said it.
Faith turns the promise into a prophecy. While it is merely a promise it is contingent upon our cooperation. But when faith claims it, it becomes a prophecy, and we go forth feeling that it is something that must be done because God cannot lie.
–Days of Heaven upon Earth
I hear men praying everywhere for more faith, but when I listen to them carefully, and get at the real heart of their prayer, very often it is not more faith at all that they are wanting, but a change from faith to sight.
Faith says not, “I see that it is good for me, so God must have sent it,” but, “God sent it, and so it must be good for me.”
Faith, walking in the dark with God, only prays Him to clasp its hand more closely.
–Phillips Brooks
The Shepherd does not ask of thee
Faith in thy faith, but only faith in Him;
And this He meant in saying, ‘Come to me.’
In light or darkness seek to do His will,
And leave the. work of faith to Jesus still.

 

 

Is Your Bible a Treasure or an Ornament?

From: Closed Doors, Open Windows,

By: Mrs. Pamela Steiner

  Click on this link to see a Video of people in China receiving Bibles for the first time in their lives.  This is a link to Facebook, and you may not be able to open it if you don’t have a facebook account. I do hope you can see it, but if not, let me tell you about it.

In this video a group of Chinese young adults have received packages that contain new Bibles.  As soon as they open the packages and see what it in there, the people all rush to the center and start reaching for the Bibles as quickly as they can.There is a shout of joy coming from their hearts as each person receives his or her very own brand new Bible.  Then the shouting of joy turns to awe and amazement as they each grasp their Bibles in their hands and hug them to their breast. Many put the Bibles right up to their lips and kiss them and smell them and caress the Bible as if it is the very best gift ever received.  Some begin to weep softly as they hold this priceless treasure and realize that it is their very own Word of God, written especially for them and to keep and cherish forever.  I noticed some eagerly taking off the outer wrappers and opening their Bible, already searching for the Words of Life.

This 1 minute video touched my heart so deeply.  I cannot get it out of my mind, and that is why I had to share this with you.  Actually, this is a theme that has been on my mind for a little while.  The wonderful treasure that we have…God’s Word, written as a love letter to His precious children….you and me…a message so powerful that kingdoms have been created, others have been conquered, lives have been changed so radically that the whole world has noticed. There is no other Word by which men’s lives have been saved and changed….I could go on and on and on.  This book is THE INSPIRED WORD OF GOD, written for us,

“the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

II Timothy 3:15-17

I recently was listening to a conversation among some church leaders who made the comment about an individual whom they considered to be a real Christian…he even brought his Bible to church.  I piped up and said, “and that’s unusual?”  The reply was, “Well, yes, for a _______.” (name of denomination).  I had to bite my tongue to keep from commenting further, but this is what I was thinking:

To not expect or encourage a person to take their own Bible to church with them is like telling a soldier to go into battle without his weapon. It’s like telling a Doctor to go into surgery without his instruments. Like expecting the carpenter to build a house without any tools.  Like telling an expert violinist to make music without his violin and bow. It’s like telling a student to take a test on a subject without him ever having read the book. It’s like telling a believer that he’s on his own in the world without any guidebook.

We wonder why denominations are having difficulty maintaining their churches and reaching the lost when they haven’t been reading the instructions given to them by God…the whole foundation for establishing the church in the first place. When the average church member doesn’t know how to find the book of John or Isaiah or Genesis or Ruth or Revelation or Matthew or Daniel or Micah or Zephaniah or Deuteronomy or Job or Psalms or Proverbs or Leviticus or Acts or Romans or Ephesians or Galatians or Philippians or Numbers or Nahum or Esther or Jeremiah or I Chronicles or I Corinthians or James, Jude, I Thessalonians or II Timothy or Hebrews….need I say more…?, then how can they expect to stand up against the foes of this life and have the Word of Life hidden in their hearts that they might not sin against God? (Psalm 119:11)
How will they know how to find words of comfort and peace when they are afraid or dying or lost or sick? How will they know how to “Train up a child in the way he should go, so that when he is old he will not depart from it?” (Proverbs 22:6).   How will they know the only way to heaven…”For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life?” (John 3:16).   Will they know that Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me?” ( John 14:6 )

Oh, dear friends, we cannot take this book, the Bible, God’s Word, for granted.  Take one look at the faces of these precious Chinese children of God.  Listen to the joy in their voices as they received the Word of God into their hands.  Take note of the tears trickling down their faces, tears of joy, as they give thanks to the Lord for the gift of His Word, given to them so that they might find “the way, the truth, the life.”

These Chinese Christians are most likely in an underground church, hidden away from the Chinese Government that forbids them to have their own Bibles, * and forbids missionaries from teaching God’s Word to them. But they are willing to risk their lives for the sake of having this treasure that we so take for granted. It ought not be so.  If you have a Bible…maybe you have more than one or two…where is it? Do you read it daily?  Do you treasure it and hide its Words in your heart?  The day may come when we are no longer permitted to have our own Bibles in our country. It could happen…don’t think it can’t. (* Click on link above for more information on this.)

May 1

From: Through The Bible

Joshua 24:15 (NIV) 15But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

It seems as though some of the Israelites still had little golden “gods” that their parents had taken from Egypt. Archeologists suggest that they were very small, one to three inch long gold images of cows or other creatures. They thought of them like some today think of a good luck charm. Joshua was about to die, and he told them to get rid of those things. Amazing how gracious God had been to allow that compromise for so long! Now Joshua was saying that if you can’t give them up, go worship them, but I’m not going to.

You have to come to a crossroad where you must decide once and for all. Make up your mind. Choose today! Pick between the gods of Egypt and the Amorites, or JHWH! My family is going to serve JHWH!

Standing on the fence is really not serving Jehovah. He will have no other gods before Him. Life is about making this choice and then carrying it out to the end, as Joshua had done. Have you settled the issue in your heart? Have you chosen to serve the LORD? Are you sticking with that choice with 100% commitment?

The future of the nation depended on their choice that day. Your future depends on your choice. If you are reading this, God has probably made His sovereignty known to you. If you have not already made that commitment Joshua made, do it today.

Consider: Choose! See that your family chooses. Then live the rest of your life in service to that commitment.

May 1

Luke 5:4-5, 8 (NIV) 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

8When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”

Jesus may have been speaking in the Bay of Parables near Capernaum. It is a natural amphitheater. From the deck of Peter’s boat, thousands of people could have heard Jesus speaking. Once Jesus was done ministering to the crowd, He knew it was time to convince Peter once and for all that he needed to give all else up to follow Him. He asked Peter to go back out onto the lake. Peter knew fishing. The fish come up in the cool of the night, not in the heat of the day. He has been doing this all his life. He’s tired, and experience says that it will be a wasted effort. Peter had known Jesus since Andrew introduced him down south around John’s ministry on the Jordan. Peter probably saw Jesus do some healing miracles at the first Passover of His ministry. He saw his mother-in-law healed instantly. He respected Jesus and would do whatever He asked.

When he lowered the nets, they were instantly swamped with fish. The nets were loaded to the breaking point, and others had to come help haul in the load. Suddenly Peter realized something that hadn’t sunk in before. This man, Jesus, is not just a prophet. Creation obeys the Creator. Now respect is not quite enough. Reverence is more appropriate, if not outright worship. Who could do such a thing but God? A revelation of the majesty of God also reveals the depravity of self. Peter’s response is not, “Now I will follow You!” but “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Then Jesus could call him out of fear of failure to faith in the ability of God to transform and work with him.

Consider: Have you gone from respect to reverence and worship? Have you seen that Jesus is Lord of all? Do you see how unworthy you are to be in His presence? Then He can call you to His purposes.

Spontaneous Love

 

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Spontaneous Love

Love is not premeditated—it is spontaneous; that is, it bursts forth in extraordinary ways. There is nothing of precise certainty in Paul’s description of love. We cannot predetermine our thoughts and actions by saying, “Now I will never think any evil thoughts, and I will believe everything that Jesus would have me to believe.” No, the characteristic of love is spontaneity. We don’t deliberately set the statements of Jesus before us as our standard, but when His Spirit is having His way with us, we live according to His standard without even realizing it. And when we look back, we are amazed at how unconcerned we have been over our emotions, which is the very evidence that real spontaneous love was there. The nature of everything involved in the life of God in us is only discerned when we have been through it and it is in our past.

The fountains from which love flows are in God, not in us. It is absurd to think that the love of God is naturally in our hearts, as a result of our own nature. His love is there only because it “has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit . . .” (Romans 5:5).

If we try to prove to God how much we love Him, it is a sure sign that we really don’t love Him. The evidence of our love for Him is the absolute spontaneity of our love, which flows naturally from His nature within us. And when we look back, we will not be able to determine why we did certain things, but we can know that we did them according to the spontaneous nature of His love in us. The life of God exhibits itself in this spontaneous way because the fountains of His love are in the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 10:19-39 (Good News Translation)

God’s Word: Giving Us Hope

Introduction

Hebrews 10:19-39: The Lord’s followers are encouraged to keep their hearts pure and their consciences free from evil as they help each other prepare for the day when the Lord will return.

Today’s Scripture: Hebrews 10:22

Let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water.

Today’s Reading

19 We have, then, my friends, complete freedom to go into the Most Holy Place by means of the death of Jesus. 20 He opened for us a new way, a living way, through the curtain—that is, through his own body. 21We have a great priest in charge of the house of God. 22 So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. 23 Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24 Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. 26 For there is no longer any sacrifice that will take away sins if we purposely go on sinning after the truth has been made known to us. 27Instead, all that is left is to wait in fear for the coming Judgment and the fierce fire which will destroy those who oppose God! 28 Anyone who disobeys the Law of Moses is put to death without any mercy when judged guilty from the evidence of two or more witnesses. 29 What, then, of those who despise the Son of God? who treat as a cheap thing the blood of God’s covenant which purified them from sin? who insult the Spirit of grace? Just think how much worse is the punishment they will deserve! 30 For we know who said, “I will take revenge, I will repay”; and who also said, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God! 32 Remember how it was with you in the past. In those days, after God’s light had shone on you, you suffered many things, yet were not defeated by the struggle. 33 You were at times publicly insulted and mistreated, and at other times you were ready to join those who were being treated in this way. 34 You shared the sufferings of prisoners, and when all your belongings were seized, you endured your loss gladly, because you knew that you still possessed something much better, which would last forever. 35 Do not lose your courage, then, because it brings with it a great reward. 36 You need to be patient, in order to do the will of God and receive what he promises. 37 For, as the scripture says,“Just a little while longer,and he who is coming will come; he will not delay.38 My righteous people, however, will believe and live;but if any of them turns back, I will not be pleased with them.” 39 We are not people who turn back and are lost. Instead, we have faith and are saved.

Don’t Forget

 From: Get more strength

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 30, 2014

From: Crosswalk.com

Why My Savior Complex Had to Die
Amy Carroll

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 (NLT)

For years, something in me longed to be a savior. It was the space within my heart that lit with imagination when I watched heroes on TV save a falling baby with a mattress, rescue survivors from a mudslide or wrestle a hijacker to the floor of a plane. I aspired to be a woman with such daring, admired by thousands.

That desire carried me on a trip to Kolkata, India, where I was determined to make a difference with my positive attitude and can-do spirit!

I prepared with confidence and traveled with bravado, but when I arrived in the city, my assurance began to wilt. Walking out of the airport into the dead of the night, our team was surrounded at once with impoverished women and children begging. Shouldn’t they be sleeping?

Decrepit buildings lined potholed streets, patrolled by feral dogs and rifle-armed policemen. Rancid smells and unfamiliar sights assailed our senses.

On the way to our hotel, we drove by a billboard proclaiming, “Kolkata: City of Joy.” The very idea whiplashed my brain, and my deepest motives were exposed. What was I thinking? This isn’t a job for me … making Kolkata the City of Joy is truly a God-sized job!

In that moment, my desire to be a hero was both exposed and crushed. My smile and positive attitude alone would not feed the hungry, free women from oppression or liberate captives from spiritual darkness with. No, only Jesus the Savior could meet such overwhelming need and make a difference! I was simply there to serve Him.

Why did I want to be a savior? The truth was a mix of good and bad. I desired to help people, ease their suffering and introduce them to a loving God. But all that good was spoiled when mixed with my desire to feel virtuous, to gain recognition from others for the “noble” things I was doing and to feel I had met God’s requirements.

The works inspired by my savior complex might have looked good on the outside, but they were achieving self-gratification rather than pleasing God.

Jesus is our true hero, the only real Savior. Jesus brings good news to the poor. He can bind up the brokenhearted. He provides freedom for the captives and releases prisoners from the darkness. Jesus brings God’s favor, comforts those who mourn and cares for those in need. He gives us beauty instead of ashes, gladness instead of mourning and praise instead of despair (Isaiah 61:1-3). Jesus is beautiful and powerful and worthy of being the Savior.

In Matthew 20:28, Jesus reveals His superhero, Savior secret to His followers, and it’s a huge surprise: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The secret is service. As we serve our Savior and those around us, we can become behind-the-scenes heroes in God’s eyes. Humble service may not make the news, but it can definitely change the world.

Years after my lesson in Kolkata, I walked into a new volunteer position with my same bright smile and positive attitude. The difference was I wasn’t there to be a savior, but instead toserve my Savior.

Jesus is the hero to admire; I’m just there to roll up my sleeves and stand beside Him as He saves the world.

Jesus, I praise You as the only worthy Savior. Will You change my motives from a desire for admiration to a desire to humbly serve You? Please change my savior complex to a servant’s mindset? I long to follow Your example in serving Your people. In Your Name, Amen.

Certainty Through Jesus Christ

 

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uncertainty : Road sign implying uncertainty of the future (isolated on white) uncertainty : crossroads representing opportunities

Gracious Uncertainty

Our natural inclination is to be so precise—trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next—that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We think that we must reach some predetermined goal, but that is not the nature of the spiritual life. The nature of the spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty. Consequently, we do not put down roots. Our common sense says, “Well, what if I were in that circumstance?” We cannot presume to see ourselves in any circumstance in which we have never been.

Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life—gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises. When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God—it is only believing our belief about Him. Jesus said, “. . . unless you . . . become as little children . . .” (Matthew 18:3). The spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next. If our certainty is only in our beliefs, we develop a sense of self-righteousness, become overly critical, and are limited by the view that our beliefs are complete and settled. But when we have the right relationship with God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy. Jesus said, “. . . believe also in Me” (John 14:1), not, “Believe certain things about Me”. Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in—but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him.

Hebrews 9:23—10:18 (Good News Translation)

God’s Word: Giving Us Hope

From: American Bible.org.

Introduction

Hebrews 9:23—10:18: From today’s reading we learn that following the sacrificial rituals according to the Law cannot cleanse us from sin but only serve to remind us of our sins. Rather, we are saved because Christ offered himself once for all.

Today’s Scripture: Hebrews 10:12a

Christ, however, offered one sacrifice for sins, an offering that is effective forever.

Today’s Reading

23 Those things, which are copies of the heavenly originals, had to be purified in that way. But the heavenly things themselves require much better sacrifices. 24 For Christ did not go into a Holy Place made by human hands, which was a copy of the real one. He went into heaven itself, where he now appears on our behalf in the presence of God. 25 The Jewish high priest goes into the Most Holy Place every year with the blood of an animal. But Christ did not go in to offer himself many times, 26 for then he would have had to suffer many times ever since the creation of the world. Instead, now when all ages of time are nearing the end, he has appeared once and for all, to remove sin through the sacrifice of himself. 27 Everyone must die once, and after that be judged by God. 28 In the same manner Christ also was offered in sacrifice once to take away the sins of many. He will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are waiting for him. 1 The Jewish Law is not a full and faithful model of the real things; it is only a faint outline of the good things to come. The same sacrifices are offered forever, year after year. How can the Law, then, by means of these sacrifices make perfect the people who come to God? 2 If the people worshiping God had really been purified from their sins, they would not feel guilty of sin any more, and all sacrifices would stop. 3 As it is, however, the sacrifices serve year after year to remind people of their sins. 4 For the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins. 5 For this reason, when Christ was about to come into the world, he said to God:“You do not want sacrifices and offerings,but you have prepared a body for me.6 You are not pleased with animals burned whole on the altaror with sacrifices to take away sins.7 Then I said, ‘Here I am,to do your will, O God, just as it is written of me in the book of the Law.’” 8 First he said, “You neither want nor are you pleased with sacrifices and offerings or with animals burned on the altar and the sacrifices to take away sins.” He said this even though all these sacrifices are offered according to the Law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, O God, to do your will.” So God does away with all the old sacrifices and puts the sacrifice of Christ in their place. 10 Because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do, we are all purified from sin by the offering that he made of his own body once and for all. 11 Every Jewish priest performs his services every day and offers the same sacrifices many times; but these sacrifices can never take away sins. 12 Christ, however, offered one sacrifice for sins, an offering that is effective forever, and then he sat down at the right side of God. 13 There he now waits until God puts his enemies as a footstool under his feet. 14 With one sacrifice, then, he has made perfect forever those who are purified from sin. 15 And the Holy Spirit also gives us his witness. First he says,16 “This is the covenant that I will make with themin the days to come, says the Lord:I will put my laws in their heartsand write them on their minds.” 17 And then he says, “I will not remember their sins and evil deeds any longer.” 18 So when these have been forgiven, an offering to take away sins is no longer needed.

 

April 29
Strangers and pilgrims

From: Christianity.com
For reading & meditation: Hebrews 11:8-16
“‘ Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (v.16)

We continue meditating on the fact that one of the reasons why we find it so difficult to cope with ambiguity and uncertainty is because we have never really died to self-interest. We are more concerned about our own purposes than we are about His – hence we are uncertain and insecure. Today we look at Abraham and the way he handled his situation of ambiguity and uncertainty. He was almost seventy-five years old when God called him to step out on the pathway of uncertainty. There he was, loading up his camel caravan with his wife and nephew, bound for ‘somewhere’. The Amplified Bible puts if most effectively when it says: “‘ he went, although he did not know or trouble his mind about where he was to go.” Charles Swindoll humorously pictures a conversation between Abraham and his neighbours going something like this: “Abraham, where are your going?” “I’m moving.” “Why? Why ever would you want to leave Ur?” “God has made it clear that I should go.” “God? You’ve been talking to Him again?” “Right. He told me to leave. I must go.” “Well, where are you going?” “I don’t know; He didn’t tell me that.” “Wait a minute, you know you ought to go, but you don’t know where you ought to go?” “Yes.” “Abraham, you really have gone off the deep end.” And so it continues. It isn’t easy to obey without understanding. It is the same thing that we talked about two days ago: going – without knowing. It might help to remind ourselves of the term God sometimes uses to describe us – strangers and pilgrims. People on the move, free to follow Him wherever He leads – regardless.

 

Under His Care

From: Christianity.com

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” says the Lord. – (Isaiah 54:17)

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus made a fascinating statement that some have misunderstood. Speaking of believers, He said, “They will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:18). Some, of course, have misunderstood this and have held snake-handling services. But that is not trusting the Lord; it is testing the Lord.

Here is what this statement does mean: If you are a Christian, then you are indestructible until God is done with you. There is a day appointed for your death. And you really have nothing to say about when that day is.

Case in point: Paul the apostle was shipwrecked on an island, and as he was warming himself by the fire, a venomous snake bit him. So he simply picked it up and threw it into the fire. Everyone was waiting for Paul to die, but he didn’t die. Why? His time was not up. But when your time is up, it’s up. And Paul’s day eventually came.

Before that day, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper,” as Isaiah 54:17 says. That means God will keep you and protect you. Even if there is some plot against you, it will not succeed if that is not your time.

So stop worrying about when you will die because you have nothing to say about it. It isn’t up to you. The Bible says, “And  as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Does that mean you can eat anything you want? I think you should exercise and eat properly. That will improve the quality of your life. But ultimately, the quantity is up to God.

April 29
From: Christianity.com
Morning …
Jeremiah 17:17
Thou art my hope in the day of evil.
The path of the Christian is not always bright with sunshine; he has his seasons of darkness and of storm. True, it is written in God’s Word, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace;” and it is a great truth, that religion is calculated to give a man happiness below as well as bliss above; but experience tells us that if the course of the just be “As the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day,” yet sometimes that light is eclipsed. At certain periods clouds cover the believer’s sun, and he walks in darkness and sees no light. There are many who have rejoiced in the presence of God for a season; they have basked in the sunshine in the earlier stages of their Christian career; they have walked along the “green pastures” by the side of the “still waters,” but suddenly they find the glorious sky is clouded; instead of the Land of Goshen they have to tread the sandy desert; in the place of sweet waters, they find troubled streams, bitter to their taste, and they say, “Surely, if I were a child of God, this would not happen.” Oh! say not so, thou who art walking in darkness. The best of God’s saints must drink the wormwood; the dearest of His children must bear the cross. No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.

What Will We Get?

 

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What You Will Get

This is the firm and immovable secret of the Lord to those who trust Him— “I will give your life to you . . . .” What more does a man want than his life? It is the essential thing. “. . . your life . . . as a prize . . .” means that wherever you may go, even if it is into hell, you will come out with your life and nothing can harm it. So many of us are caught up in exhibiting things for others to see, not showing off property and possessions, but our blessings. All these things that we so proudly show have to go. But there is something greater that can never go— the life that “is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

Are you prepared to let God take you into total oneness with Himself, paying no more attention to what you call the great things of life? Are you prepared to surrender totally and let go? The true test of abandonment or surrender is in refusing to say, “Well, what about this?” Beware of your own ideas and speculations. The moment you allow yourself to think, “What about this?” you show that you have not surrendered and that you do not really trust God. But once you do surrender, you will no longer think about what God is going to do. Abandonment means to refuse yourself the luxury of asking any questions. If you totally abandon yourself to God, He immediately says to you, “I will give your life to you as a prize . . . .” The reason people are tired of life is that God has not given them anything— they have not been given their life “as a prize.” The way to get out of that condition is to abandon yourself to God. And once you do get to the point of total surrender to Him, you will be the most surprised and delighted person on earth. God will have you absolutely, without any limitations, and He will have given you your life. If you are not there, it is either because of disobedience in your life or your refusal to be simple enough.

The Good Old Days

 From: Get More Strength

“You have forsaken your first love.” Revelation 2:4

I must confess: I’m a romantic at heart, which means I love to hear stories of how people met and fell in love. What’s more, I love to hear stories of how they stay in love! Unfortunately, you don’t see too many 50th wedding anniversary celebrations these days.

Take Barb and Bob, for instance. Barb was a beauty queen who caught the eye of Bob, a talented athlete. It was love at first sight and romance at its best. Bob took great pride in his home and marriage, reveling in the fact that he was free to be a success in his profession because of his wife’s good work at home. She kept house, chauffeured the children, cooked, and accompanied him to social events.  Without realizing it, however, Bob was shifting from a vibrant relationship with his wife to a complacent involvement with the “institution of marriage” and the organization called home. The intimacy of their love for each other was fading, until one night Bob confessed that he had in fact lost his love for Barb.

If we’re not careful, the same shift over time can happen in our relationship with Jesus. It’s fresh and exciting at first, but after a while we find ourselves more into the “routines” of Christianity than into the Redeemer Himself. You know the routines—the things we started doing out of love for Jesus that now are done simply out of habit or, worse, guilt. Routines of teaching, Bible reading, prayer, witnessing, counseling, missions, note taking, conferences, and camps are all admirable; yet they can become dry habits if they are merely rituals without relationship.

In Revelation 2:1-29, Jesus is concerned about this slide from relationship to ritual in the lives of his followers at Ephesus. He notes that they are doing all the right things for the wrong reasons. They have, according to Jesus, lost their first love. But they had not simply lost it; our text says that they had abandoned it. Evidently, after falling in love with Jesus, their lives became distracted by the lesser things of this world, and “Jesus” became just another thing in their day-timer as they ticked off their to-do lists. Maybe you can identify.

So how do we keep that from happening? Here’s what Jesus tells the Ephesians to do: Repent! As He put it: “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Revelation 2:5). Jesus knows that duty without devotion is a mundane low-level experience compared to the heights of doing things that flow out of a heart that loves Him.

So He lovingly calls us to repent. Repentance literally means to turn around and go in the opposite direction. Thinking of your devotions and prayer life as a time of personal interaction with Jesus, of serving Him in your church as an act of worship to Him, of giving because you love Him, and of obeying because He is a leader you want to follow are all the kinds of change in attitudes that will recapture your first love for Jesus.

There are some things in life that we can never get back: our youth, the thrill of our first kiss, or our carefree college days. But doing all that we do because we love Jesus is a joy that can be reclaimed.

If you’re talking about loving Jesus the way you used to, then let’s hear it for the “good old days”!

 

Joshua Blessed Caleb

From: Through The Bible

Joshua 14:13-14 (NIV) 13Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly.

Caleb reminisced about spying out the Promised Land some 45 years earlier with Joshua. He reminded Joshua about how faithful he was to report that they could take the land because he had godly convictions. Then he reminded Joshua about the promise Moses had made to him. He could have whatever land he walked on. Caleb picked the Hebron area. There were still fortified cities with giants in them, but Caleb knew the LORD was with him. He felt as strong at 85 as he did at 40.

Joshua blessed Caleb and honored Moses promise, because Caleb wholeheartedly followed the God of Israel. It sounds like Caleb was going to take the area with his own clan, without the assistance of the other tribes. What a guy! 85 and he’s ready to take on giants and start a new homestead.

What was Caleb’s secret? He wholeheartedly followed the God of Israel. He stuck with his convictions in spite of what the majority said. He did not fear but recognized the hand of God was with him, no rationalization, no justification, just convictions backed up by action.

Do you have a spirit like Caleb’s? Why not? He wasn’t born with it. It was instilled in him, because he was willing.

Meditation: The LORD rewards those who follow Him with their whole heart.

Sovereign Lord
From:  Through The Bible

Luke 2:29-32 (NIV) 29″Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 30For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

When God delivered Israel from the last plague on Egypt, He spared the firstborn through the blood of the lambs on the doorposts. From that time forward, God claimed the rights to every firstborn male. The parents had to buy back the child with an offering. Mary and Joseph had gone to the temple to give this offering. When they arrived, a man named Simeon greeted them. He was not like the ritualistic religious leaders of his day. He communed with the Holy Spirit. It was revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the Anointed One that would save his people.

When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the temple, Simeon knew in his spirit that this baby was the One. He uttered the prophecy in our passage for today. He had seen the One, and now he was ready to die. He saw the salvation that God prepared right before everyone’s eyes. This is the One that would fulfill the prophecies of being a light to the nations of the world, and the glory of God’s people, Israel.

What a special person this man was. Only one other person had the insight in the Temple that day. His whole life was waiting for the arrival of God’s salvation, Jesus. Just to see that He had come was enough for him. It should be enough for us too. Just to know that God has provided a way, that He loved us so much that He sent His only Son, should be enough to satisfy us. Simeon’s whole being longed for the moment of His coming.

Consider: Today we are to long, with the same intensity, for His return. Come quickly Lord Jesus! Is that your heart’s cry?