Tag Archives: inspiration

Approaching God

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Hebrews 4:16

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 
Ephesians 2:18

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

James 4:8

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Romans 5:1-2

 

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

Approaching God

Approaching God

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge. Psalm 73:28

A woman desiring to pray grabbed an empty chair and knelt before it. In tears, she said, “My dear heavenly Father, please sit down here; you and I need to talk!” Then, looking directly at the vacant chair, she prayed. She demonstrated confidence in approaching the Lord; she imagined He was sitting on the chair and believed He was listening to her petition.

A time with God is an important moment when we engage the Almighty. God comes near to us as we draw near to Him in a mutual involvement (James 4:8). He has assured us, “I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20). Our heavenly Father is always waiting for us to come to Him, always ready to listen to us.

There are times when we struggle to pray because we feel tired, sleepy, sick, and weak. But Jesus sympathizes with us when we are weak or face temptations (Heb. 4:15). Therefore we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (v. 16).

Lord, thank You that I can pray to You in all places at all times. Put the desire to come near to You in my heart. I want to learn to come to You in faith and in confidence.

God is everywhere, is available every time, and listens always.

 

Spiritual Decay

From: Our Daily Journey

Spiritual Decay

Read:

Deuteronomy 30:1-20
The Lord your God will delight in you if you obey his voice and keep the commands and decrees written in this Book of Instruction, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul (Deuteronomy 30:10).

Recently, I heard a sermon that touched on the second law of thermodynamics. I now understand a scientific principle and have been reminded of an important spiritual one!

The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy (disorder) always increases with time. In a closed system—a system with no outside influence preventing deterioration—quality always worsens as the clock unwinds. In the same way, when our Christian lives become disengaged from actively seeking God, we’ll naturally descend into increasing spiritual chaos and decay.

The story of the Israelites provides a powerful example of this principle. The Israelites were regularly warned of the consequences of excluding God from their lives (Leviticus 26:14-46Deuteronomy 28:15-68). They persisted in their rebellion, however, which ultimately led to spiritual decay and judgment through exile in Babylon (Deuteronomy 30:1). Only a genuine heart change and a commitment to reengage fully with God by “[turning] to the Lord [their] God with all [their] heart and soul” could restore their fortunes and enable them to live abundant lives (Deuteronomy 30:10, also Deuteronomy 30:2-6). When we retreat from fully following God, we gradually slip into spiritual decline; but when we live connected to Him, we stem the destructive slide and enjoy a grace-filled life (Deuteronomy 30:11-20).

In our fallen nature, we have a tendency to drift away from God. Our noisy world and busy schedules often drown out His warnings of spiritual drift and decay. But when we connect to the influence of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), we’re able to steer clear of spiritual decay and keep growing in our walk with God. The Spirit provides what we need to continue to grow and mature in Jesus!

 

Carey Scott July 12, 2017
How to Create an Uncommon Hunger for God
CAREY SCOTT

From: Crosswalk.com

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6 (NASB)

I was about to lose it.

We were going around the circle giving updates about the spiritual condition of our hearts — something I usually love to do. As a deep-waters kind of girl, I’m always ready to dive right in to feelings. But it had gone on for hours, and there was bacon waiting for us. Bacon.

And as it was now approaching noon, and brunch was in smelling distance, my deep waters were drying up. I was becoming hangry.

The Urban Dictionary defines “hangry” as being so hungry that the lack of food causes anger or frustration. Spot on, isn’t it? Can you remember a time you were so hungry you yelled at someone you love, rolled your eyes at your spouse, used choice words on the driver who cut you off or thought mean things toward someone at work? Your need for sustenance can really turn your happy into hanger.

I think we can become hangry on a spiritual level, too. Our hearts will long for the kind of nourishment only God can provide, and we’ll struggle to navigate life’s ups and downs until our spiritual hunger is tamed. As we read in Matthew 5:6, Jesus reminds us God will not only bless us for feeling hangry for Him, but He will also satisfy that need to the fullest.

A wise friend once told me that hankering for a taste of the Holy Spirit was better than feasting on our favorite foods. (Honestly, it’s hard to imagine anything yummier than queso and chips from my favorite Texas food chain.)

But over and over and over, God reminds me He will satisfy and fill me up even moreand even better than anything the world can offer.

And while foods like queso can tame our tummy, the only way to satisfy our soul is to feast on God’s Word.

You and I were created to hunger after God more than anything the world offers. It’s an uncommon choice — an ability God baked into the heart of every believer. But it’s an intentional decision we must choose daily.

It means when bad news comes, we get on our knees and pray. We take our pain and fear to Him first. We put God at the top of our to-do lists, not the bottom. It means we don’t treat Him like leftovers, something we reluctantly grab when nothing else satisfies.

Relying on anything other than God to feed our souls will keep us in an ordinary, common relationship with Him. Instead of embracing His power, strength and wisdom, we settle for the world’s morsels. Unless we choose to feast on God’s promises, we’ll spiritually starve ourselves.

Having an uncommon hunger for God is something we have to cultivate. It’s something we can ask Him to give us.

Let’s want God more than anyone or anything. And let’s live in such a way that others see the Father because of it. Yes, I am giving us all permission to be that crazy Jesus-girl.

Because when we do, we’re choosing to be an uncommon woman. And the world needs our lives to shine God’s hope, now more than ever.

Dear Lord, help me want You above anything else. It’s so easy to get “hangry” for the wrong things and look to the world to satisfy my needs or heal my heart. But in doing so, I’m forgetting that You are my provider. You are ready and willing and able to be my all. Help me choose You! I don’t want to live a common life; I want to thrive as an uncommon woman. Forget the world. I want You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Give In To God’s Will

 

 

Rest for the Weary   Matthew 11:28

27   All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. 

28   Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 

  29   Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.…

 

 

Giving in to Jesus

Giving in to Jesus
Read: James 4:6–10 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 1–3; Acts 17:1–15

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:11

They call it “The Devil’s Footprint.” It’s a foot-shaped impression in the granite on a hill beside a church in Ipswich, Massachusetts. According to local legend the “footprint” happened one fall day in 1740, when the evangelist George Whitefield preached so powerfully that the devil leaped from the church steeple, landing on the rock on his way out of town.

Though it’s only a legend, the story calls to mind an encouraging truth from God’s Word. James 4:7 reminds us, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

God has given us the strength we need to stand against our adversary and the temptations in our lives. The Bible tells us that “sin shall no longer be your master” (Rom. 6:14) because of God’s loving grace to us through Jesus Christ. As we run to Jesus when temptation comes, He enables us to stand in His strength. Nothing we face in this life can overcome Him, because He has “overcome the world” (John 16:33).

As we submit ourselves to our Savior, yielding our wills to Him in the moment and walking in obedience to God’s Word, He is helping us. When we give in to Him instead of giving in to temptation, He is able to fight our battles. In Him we can overcome.

Lord Jesus, I give my will to You today. Help me to stay close to You in every moment, and to love You by obeying You.

The prayer of the feeblest saint . . . is a terror to Satan. Oswald Chambers

 

Creation Teaching

From: Our Daily Journey

Creation Teaching

Read:

Psalm 19:1-14
They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world (Psalm 19:3-4).

We recently moved to my husband’s hometown, a city that features a beautiful metro park system. Every day, prior to work and after dropping off two of our three young daughters at school, we take a brief hike together. My husband straps our baby onto his back in a backpack-like contraption, and off we go!

Along with the trees, river, and streams, we see wild turkeys, countless deer (including fawns and their parents), herons, goldfinches, cardinals, woodpeckers, squirrels, and chipmunks. We also relish seeing turtles of all sizes sunning themselves on the trunks of fallen trees in a bog.

As we hike through the nature preserves, I remind myself to look up. For indeed, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word . . . . Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world” (Psalm 19:1-4). If I’m outside at night, I intentionally gaze up at the stars in hopes of getting to know God a little better (Psalm 19:2). If I can’t go outside, I look out the window to catch a glimpse of His creation.

Spending time in nature nurtures our spiritual growth. As Paul notes, creation—animals, birds, the sky, the earth, the trees, the plants, and the fish—reveal aspects of God’s nature (Romans 1:20). Theologians call this truth general revelation.

Spending time in creation definitely does reveal the natural world’s compelling testimony about our Creator. As Jesus taught, it’s important for us to note the flowers of the field, for they reflect God’s love and provision for us (Matthew 6:28-30).

 

Sharon Jaynes July 11, 2017
When You Don’t Like the Story God is Writing
SHARON JAYNES

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

If it were up to me, I would have scripted some of life’s stories differently. So many tragedies have struck people near and dear to me that if I were the writer, they would have been changed.

Fortunately, I’m not the author, because each of these women impact thousands upon thousands of women all over the world with her powerful stories of God’s redemption. God turned their pain into purpose, their misery into ministry and their devastation into anointed messages of hope and restoration. Sudden glories fill and spill from each of their lives.

Their journeys have led them through dark valleys and back out into the light on the other side.

But if I had to decide?

My second child would not have passed away before she was born. Carol’s son would not be in prison. Linda’s daughter would not be a quadriplegic. Barbara’s daughter would not be bipolar. Patty’s 21-year-old daughter would not have been in a fatal car accident. Jennifer’s husband would not have succumbed to a brain tumor.

Difficult times are pregnant with glory moments — moments when we see God’s plan just waiting to be birthed in the lives of those willing to labor through the pain. The key is not to allow bitterness and anger to make our hearts infertile to God’s gifts.

One way to avoid the darkening of the soul is by constant communication seasoned with thanksgiving — a continual acknowledgement of God’s presence.

After my husband and I graduated from college, we moved to Charlotte so he could open a new business. But after we moved, the man who was to be his business partner changed plans.

“Sorry, Steve,” he said. “I’ve changed my mind. Good luck, son.”

I was so upset. OK, I was flat-out angry. Angry with the potential partner. Angry with God. We had prayed, fasted and felt this was where God was leading us. We had no money. No job. And school debt.

Three months later, a situation opened up that was far better than our original plan. It wasEphesians 3:20 in action: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us …”

Well, why didn’t God do that in the first place? Why didn’t He lead us directly to that second opportunity when we did all that praying and seeking? He could have.

But He is far more interested in developing our character than in doling out a life of comfort and ease. C.S. Lewis notes: “If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable. Think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.”

That’s where Proverbs 3:5-6 comes in: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

We are ever the students. He is the teacher still. Trials rip away the flimsy fabric of self-sufficiency and become the raw material for God’s miracles in our lives. And those miracles are moments of sudden glory.

Oh that we would trust Him even if the twists and turns never make sense this side of heaven. That’s what trusting God is all about. As we live and move and have our being in Him, life’s dark places are simply opportunities to trust that God knows the way — and the perfect time to hold on tight.

Especially since He’s still writing the story.

Father, thank You for always knowing and doing what is best for me. Forgive me when I don’t trust You but think my way is best. I know that You have wonderful surprises in store for me when I simply trust You in all things. Thank You for being the Teacher. Help me to be a good student of Your Truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Restoration Of Everything Satan Took

Satan, death, hell, the sea, and anything else will have to give all souls within them back to God. So, everything taken will be restored at the judgment.

The Final Judgment        Revelation 20:13

12  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne. And there were open books, and one of them was the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their deeds, as recorded in the books.

13  The sea gave up itsdead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead,and each one was judged according to his deeds.

14  Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death—the lake of fire.…

Restoration of Everything Satan Took

From: CBN, By: Martha Noebel

Prophecies for the future are already beginning to come to the body of Christ. Last night at a prayer meeting at the church I attend, the pastor shared that he believed God was calling the year ahead as the year of “rest.”

Resting sounded like a wonderful thing to do. But since we should be preparing for the end-times, I didn’t understand how we had the time to spare by doing nothing.

Then the Lord spoke to my heart this acronym:

Restoration of
Everything
Satan
Took

Wow! The picture of getting back all that the enemy has stolen from us would certainly line up with progress in spite of the lack of struggle. I could not help but think of the world striving and realized that with rest … all striving would cease. We could see God prospering us financially, spiritually, physically, and know that in every area of our lives, we would know victory.

I pictured our churches filling up without the gimmicks we are using to attract the lost. Away with the free turkey if you visit. Away with the competition to come up with the sharpest looking church Website. And away with the yard sales, candy sales, etc. in order to raise money for various church building projects.

God is going to give back to the church all that Satan took. He has robbed us of our finances, lured our loved ones into sin, and tried to weaken us in our physical bodies. But the Lord is saying, “Enough!”

Here is a promising scripture:

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. Isaiah 58:11-12 NIV

The Lord has promised to guide, satisfy, prosper, refresh, rebuild, raise up, repair, and restore his people. The church of the future will be a mighty church that will be able to do more and will not have to try so hard for the results.

This sounds unbelievable I know, but I believe it. Our God is a God of increase and blessing. He will hear and answer our prayers as we declare what He says about things and then we begin believing it.

Why don’t you join me in trusting God for many surprising miracles in the future? Let’s see what great and mighty works He will do if we let Him.

Getting Away with It

From: Our Daily Bread

Getting Away with It

By faith Abel still speaks. Hebrews 11:4

In June 2004, at a Vancouver art gallery, Canadian cross-country skier Beckie Scott received an Olympic gold medal. That’s interesting, because the Winter Olympics had been held in 2002—in Utah. Scott had won bronze behind two athletes who were disqualified months later when it was learned they had used banned substances.

It’s good that Scott eventually received her gold, but gone forever is the moment when she should have stood on the podium to hear her country’s national anthem. That injustice couldn’t be remedied.

Injustice of any kind disturbs us, and surely there are far greater wrongs than being denied a hard-won medal. The story of Cain and Abel shows an ultimate act of injustice (Gen. 4:8). And at first glance, it might look like Cain got away with murdering his brother. After all, he lived a long, full life, eventually building a city (v. 17).

But God Himself confronted Cain. “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground,” He said (v. 10). The New Testament later recorded Cain as an example to avoid (1 John 3:12; Jude 1:11). But of Abel we read, “By faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead” (Heb. 11:4).

God cares deeply about justice, about righting wrongs, and about defending the powerless. In the end, no one gets away with any act of injustice. Nor does God leave unrewarded our work done in faith for Him.

Father, as Your Son taught us to pray, we ask that Your kingdom will come, Your will be done to change this broken world. Thank You for redeeming us.

Sin will not ultimately be judged by the way we see it, but by the way God sees it.

 

 

The Spiritually Lazy Saint

From: Utmost.org

The Spiritually Lazy Saint

We are all capable of being spiritually lazy saints. We want to stay off the rough roads of life, and our primary objective is to secure a peaceful retreat from the world. The ideas put forth in these verses from Hebrews 10 are those of stirring up one another and of keeping ourselves together. Both of these require initiative— our willingness to take the first step toward Christ-realization, not the initiative toward self-realization. To live a distant, withdrawn, and secluded life is diametrically opposed to spirituality as Jesus Christ taught it.

The true test of our spirituality occurs when we come up against injustice, degradation, ingratitude, and turmoil, all of which have the tendency to make us spiritually lazy. While being tested, we want to use prayer and Bible reading for the purpose of finding a quiet retreat. We use God only for the sake of getting peace and joy. We seek only our enjoyment of Jesus Christ, not a true realization of Him. This is the first step in the wrong direction. All these things we are seeking are simply effects, and yet we try to make them causes.

“Yes, I think it is right,” Peter said, “…to stir you up by reminding you…” (2 Peter 1:13). It is a most disturbing thing to be hit squarely in the stomach by someone being used of God to stir us up— someone who is full of spiritual activity. Simple active work and spiritual activity are not the same thing. Active work can actually be the counterfeit of spiritual activity. The real danger in spiritual laziness is that we do not want to be stirred up— all we want to hear about is a spiritual retirement from the world. Yet Jesus Christ never encourages the idea of retirement— He says, “Go and tell My brethren…” (Matthew 28:10).

Be Joyful And Show Mercy

Acts 24:10

When the governor had nodded for him to speak, Paul responded: “Knowing that for many years you have been a judge to this nation, I cheerfully make my defense,

2 Corinthians 9:7

Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Romans 12:8

or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Psalm 68:3

But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; Yes, let them rejoice with gladness.

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A Joyful Heart

From: Our Daily Bread

A Joyful Heart

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.  Psalm 100:1

My granddaughter’s favorite tune is one of John Philip Sousa’s marches. Sousa, known as “The March King,” was a US composer in the late nineteenth century. Moriah isn’t in a marching band; she’s only twenty months old. She just loves the tune and can even hum a few notes. She associates it with joyful times. When our family gets together, we often hum this song along with claps and other boisterous noises, and the grandchildren dance or parade in circles to the beat. It always ends in dizzy children and lots of laughter.

Our joyful noise reminds me of the psalm that implores us to “worship the Lord with gladness” (Ps. 100:2). When King Solomon dedicated the temple, the Israelites celebrated with praises (2 Chron. 7:5–6). Psalm 100 may have been one of the songs they sang. The psalm declares: “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. . . . Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (vv. 1-2, 4). Why? “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever”! (v. 5).

Our good God loves us! In grateful response, let’s “shout for joy to the Lord”! (Ps. 100:1).

Dear Lord, give us thankful hearts to praise You, because You are good and all that You do is good. Your love endures forever!

Praise is the overflow of a joyful heart.

 

 

Come Apart

From: Our Daily Journey

Come Apart

Read:

Mark 6:7-1230-32
Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31).

During a particularly tense period at work, I found that the stress was making it difficult to concentrate. My mind was constantly racing, and I struggled to focus even on Bible study and prayer. I had to learn to deliberately separate and guard my heart from prevailing winds—wherever they came from.

Jesus understood the importance of taking steps to preserve our mental well-being. In the midst of a bustling public ministry that included miracles such as restoring eyesight, healing the sick, and raising the dead, He “often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (Luke 5:16).

He also taught His disciples to rest. When the disciples came back from proclaiming His message (Mark 6:7,12), they were eager to tell Jesus about everything they’d done and taught (Mark 6:30). After all, they’d preached repentance, cast out demons, and healed many sick people. Jesus listened to them, but then said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He did this because He knew they needed rest: “There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat” (Mark 6:31).

David offers another example of intentionally caring for ourselves in the middle of anxiety. In Psalm 131:1-2, King David stated that he didn’t “concern [himself] with matters too great for [him]. . . . Instead, [he] calmed and quieted [himself], like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.” David illustrated the intentionality of calming and quieting our minds by choosing not to dwell on disquieting matters, but rather settling our minds by putting our “hope in the Lord” (Psalm 131:3).

May we too learn to come apart from the bustle and busyness of life and refresh ourselves in Jesus.

 

 

Will You Examine Yourself?

From: Utmost.org

Will You Examine Yourself?

Do you have even the slightest reliance on anything or anyone other than God? Is there a remnant of reliance left on any natural quality within you, or on any particular set of circumstances? Are you relying on yourself in any manner whatsoever regarding this new proposal or plan which God has placed before you? Will you examine yourself by asking these probing questions? It really is true to say, “I cannot live a holy life,” but you can decide to let Jesus Christ make you holy. “You cannot serve the Lord…”— but you can place yourself in the proper position where God’s almighty power will flow through you. Is your relationship with God sufficient for you to expect Him to exhibit His wonderful life in you?

“The people said to Joshua, ‘No, but we will serve the Lord!’ ” (Joshua 24:21). This is not an impulsive action, but a deliberate commitment. We tend to say, “But God could never have called me to this. I’m too unworthy. It can’t mean me.” It does mean you, and the more weak and feeble you are, the better. The person who is still relying and trusting in anything within himself is the last person to even come close to saying, “I will serve the Lord.”

We say, “Oh, if only I really could believe!” The question is, “Will I believe?” No wonder Jesus Christ placed such emphasis on the sin of unbelief. “He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58). If we really believed that God meant what He said, just imagine what we would be like! Do I really dare to let God be to me all that He says He will be?

Without Faith You Can’t Please God

Hebrews 11:6

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

 

Ephesians 5:8-10

 

for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:9

Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.

Galatians 6:8

For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

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 (pictures of people who are pleased)

 

Pleasing Him

From: Get More Strength

“So we make it our goal to please him.” 2 Corinthians 5:9

It may not always seem like it, but children really do want to please their parents. Just picture the little boy who beams with pleasure when his mom proudly puts the crayon-scribbled picture up on the fridge! Or the little girl who immediately looks up into the bleachers to see if Dad saw her first hit in softball.

Sadly, when we grow up without feeling the joy of parental affirmation, we often end up with misdirected drives to perform and please someone, somewhere, somehow. As a result, it’s possible to become twisted by unhealthy addictions to work or by immoral relationships. This tendency may even leave us spiritually weak and unprincipled, willing to violate biblical standards if it means we can please someone who is leading us down the wrong path.

This intrinsic drive to please the significant people in our lives ultimately reflects the fact that we were built to bring pleasure to someone outside of ourselves—namely our Creator God. I can’t think of a higher satisfaction in life than knowing that He indeed is pleased with me, knowing that I am right with Him and that He delights in my love for Him. And just in case you have always pictured God as being hard to please—perhaps like some people you know—think again. The psalmist tells us, “the Lord takes delight in his people” (Psalm 149:4). In Romans 12:1, we learn that He is literally pleased when we offer our bodies as “living sacrifices,” and the writer of Hebrews assures us that when we offer a “sacrifice of praise” as well as the sacrifice of doing good and sharing with others, we can know the joy of pleasing God (Hebrews 13:15-16). This joy is not a surreal, head-in-the-clouds experience nor a short-lived, down-sided thrill package that our world offers based on self-indulgence. Rather, it is the long-term sense of stability and “all-rightness” that comes from a life bent on obedience to our heavenly Father and knowing that He delights in our cooperation with His will and ways.

Paul makes it clear that pleasing God also involves a commitment to serve those around us, looking to Jesus as our example. “Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself” (Romans 15:2-3). When our time and energy is self-directed, focused only on our own welfare and pleasure, we miss the joy of serving others as a way of bringing pleasure to our heavenly Father. And, by the way, He never intended pleasure to be a goal of our lives, but rather a by-product of significant and constructive pursuits.  It comes from fulfilling what we were built to do in terms of serving Him. It’s the joy of bringing happiness to others and knowing that when that is happening, God is pleased with us.

Take a tip from Paul. Make it your life pursuit to be busy pleasing the One who loves to be pleased with you!

 

Comforted To Comfort

From: Our Daily Journey

Comforted To Comfort

Read:

2 Corinthians 1:3-7
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:4).

“Pastor, the results came out positive. My wife has breast cancer.” When a congregation member broke this news to me one Sunday morning, I was speechless. What could I possibly say to comfort my friend in light of this bitter news? After a moment of silence, I quickly remembered the words that most comforted me when my own wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. And so with a level voice, I replied, “I want you to know that I’m here for both of you, no matter what.” He wore the same expression of gratitude that I had worn years before when a friend encouraged me with those identical words.

What a blessing it is to read in 2 Corinthians 1:3 that “God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.” Most of us know this is true and have experienced this comfort firsthand. But that’s not the end of the story. What we often overlook is that after we receive the comfort of God, we are to pass that same comfort on to others who are suffering: “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others” (2 Corinthians 1:4). The comfort of God isn’t the end of the process. We’re blessed by God so that we might be a blessing to others.

I have to admit that I often view the comfort of God selfishly—as a special gift that God grants to me so that I alone might be strengthened in the midst of hardship. But when I do this, I’m limiting the full power of God’s consolation. The comfort of God is so abundant and powerful that not only does it encourage me in my own time of need, but it also equips me to become a comforter to others. By God’s love and power, may we be comforters today.

 

July 8

From: Through TheBible

2 Kings 6:15-17 (NIV) 15When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. 16“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

When the king of Aram warred against Israel, Elisha sent word to the king of Israel informing him of the places Aram’s army would camp. The king of Aram thought one of his generals was a spy. When he learned it was the prophet Elisha that knew by Divine power what his plans were, he surrounded the city to capture Elisha.

The servant of Elisha got up that morning and saw the army surrounding the city in wait for them. He was scared, but Elisha wasn’t. Elisha could see in the spirit. That is why he knew where the enemy camped. That is why he knew he did not need to fear. Then Elisha asked God to let his servant see what he could see. There in the hills around them was a much greater army, a spiritual army. The hills were full of horses with chariots of fire.

If we look in the carnal realm, we see only what looks to be too great for us. Enemies seem to have the upper hand. Situations look impossible. Odds appear to be too great. But if we will let God open our eyes of faith so that we can see in the spirit, we will see resources that our enemy has no idea we have.

Elisha single handedly (through the power of God) captured this army. That is because one person and God are a majority. It doesn’t matter how great the numbers are against you, as long as God is on your side and you are listening to and obeying Him.

Prayer: Lord, open my eyes, so that I can see the reality of the spiritual realm.

Evening

July 8

John 17:17-19 (NIV) 17Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

In John 15, Jesus said the disciples were already cleaned (or pruned) by the Word. He prayed to the Father to use the Word to sanctify them. Sanctify means to set apart for a special use. As we read on in the prayer, we see that this definition of ‘sanctify’ goes with the thoughts that followed.

Jesus then prayed that as He was sent into the world, so He was sending them into the world. They were to be light in the midst of darkness, lambs sent out among wolves. They were to carry the convicting message of light and life to people that often do not want to hear, and like Jesus, they would die for their faith.

Following this understanding of the word ‘sanctify’, we would then read the next verse to say that Jesus set Himself apart that they might be truly set apart. Without His sacrifice on the cross, there is no possibility that we could be set apart. Without His complete purity bearing our sin we would never have been able to receive the Spirit that sets us apart and anoints us to go into the world as He went into the world.

In a similar way, our commitment to purity and faithfulness affects those to whom we minister. Of course we do not provide the sacrifice for sin; only Christ can do that. But we do set a living example that encourages them to walk down this path. As you allow the word of God to cleanse and purify your life, you encourage others that there is hope. You give them inspiration to allow the Word to do the same in them. It is not just for your sake alone that the Word is sanctifying your life. Everyone in the body affects all the others that are connected. To choose to compromise not only affects you, but all others in the body. Your commitment to this growing process of sanctification affects others more than you realize.

Consider: Allow the truth, the Word, to sanctify you.

The Ultimate Good

john 15: 9-14       No Greater Love
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 
10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.
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The Ultimate Good

From: Our Daily Bread

The Ultimate Good

I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Philippians 3:8

As I was growing up in Jamaica, my parents raised my sister and me to be “good people.” In our home, good meant obeying our parents, telling the truth, being successful in school and work, and going to church . . .  at least Easter and Christmas. I imagine this definition of being a good person is familiar to many people, regardless of culture. In fact, the apostle Paul, in Philippians 3, used his culture’s definition of being good to make a greater point.

Paul, being a devout first-century Jew, followed the letter of the moral law in his culture. He was born into the “right” family, had the “right” education, and practiced the “right” religion. He was the real deal in terms of being a good person according to Jewish custom. In verse 4, Paul writes that he could boast in all of his goodness if he wanted to. But, as good as he was, Paul told his readers (and us) that there is something more than being good. He knew that being good, while good, was not the same as pleasing God.

Pleasing God, Paul writes in verses 7–8, involves knowing Jesus. Paul considered his own goodness as “garbage” when compared to “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.” We are good—and we please God—when our hope and faith are in Christ alone, not in our goodness.

Dear God, as I seek to live a good life, help me remember that knowing Jesus is the way to ultimate goodness.

We are good—and we please God—when our hope and faith are in Christ alone, not in our goodness.

 

Love Them with Me

From: Our Daily Journey

Love Them with Me

Read:

Psalm 12:1-8

I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do (Psalm 12:5).In March 2007, I was standing in an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in northern Uganda gazing at hundreds of young refugees who were staring back at me. As I looked into their eyes, saw their malnourished frames, and witnessed their deplorable living conditions, the Holy Spirit filled me in a way I’d never experienced before. I sensed God was telling me, “I love these children. I love them!” And then, it was as if He extended this invitation: “Come love them with me.”

So I did just that. I moved to East Africa and—through both the beautiful and gut-wrenching journey of walking with victims of war and with children who’d been orphaned or abandoned—witnessed the glorious truth of Psalm 12 that “the Lord’s promises are pure, like silver refined in a furnace” and that He sees, He hears, He cares, and He shows up (Psalm 12:6). In His words: “I have seen the violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor” (Psalm 12:5).

Though much of the world overlooks and even dismisses the impoverished, the refugees, the widowed, and the otherwise marginalized, God doesn’t. To the contrary, in response to cries to Him for help, He says, “I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do” (Psalm 12:5). His compassionate heart is revealed in the ways He moves to “protect the oppressed” (Psalm 12:7).

Whether we’re struggling through our own pain or weighed down by the suffering of others, we can take comfort in God’s sure promises in Psalm 12 to be with and deliver the oppressed. Even if we can’t easily see how, we can rest assured that our God isworking to rescue the poor—perhaps even using us as part of His loving, restoring work.

 

 

No Small Thing

From: CBN, Rev. Pam Morrison

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As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. Luke 21:1-2

Introducing the Devotion book God Calling, A.J. Russell wrote:

There is a legend that the praise for building the Cathedral of St. Sofia was not given to the Emperor Constantine but to Euphrasia, a poor widow who drew from her mattress “a wisp of straw and gave it to the oxen” that drew the marble from the ships. That was all, she did nothing more. 1

With those words, he reminds us of the phrase from Zechariah 4:10, “Who despises the day of small things?”

Well, plenty of us do.

I have often heard Christians console someone when a great setback has occurred by saying, “Ah, it’s because God has a greater plan for you.”

Or, if someone is discouraged about their present work or ministry, they will say, “I KNOW God has a bigger plan for me. I keep praying for Him to send it.”

These may seem to be harmless messages of encouragement, but is that the witness of scripture that something bigger and better is always waiting down the road for the faithful? Our Savior came to us as a poor man, not as a king. He was terribly unimpressed with the Temple and all its glitz, but deeply concerned with people, often one at a time. Why do we think our road should be paved while His was rutted, or that this necessarily brings Life?

For us to think we must achieve something big in the eyes of the world in order to matter is to deny the beautiful truth of Luke 21:1-2. In a magnificent Temple complex, filled with milling worshipers, some rich, Jesus saw a widow.

The word for “saw” often means a deeper kind of seeing – knowing, perceiving, grasping.  Jesus saw this inconsequential woman, and not only His attention, but His praise adorned her – not others.

This is such an important concept. Too many of us get caught up in future and grand thinking.  “The Lord is going to give me a great ministry down the road.  Then I will matter to Him and to others.”  We may not think it just that way, but is that why our hearts can reject our daily service as only a prelude to the “real thing?”

The danger in being caught up in “some day I will do a great thing for God” is that we may miss the frequent and daily opportunities to serve Him which, by the way, may make an extraordinary impact for the Kingdom.

The Lord impressed this thought upon my heart recently through a painful, 25 year old memory. Years ago, we rescued a puppy from the woods and he became a beloved, but persistently playful pet. Always, he was “on the move.” I was aspiring to grow in my musical ability, practicing piano constantly, dreaming of being so much more than the “ordinary” piano teacher I thought I was. There was no harm in striving for excellence.  It’s just that one day, for the umpteenth time, our young dog banged my leg with his rubber chicken, inviting me to play while I was trying to memorize a difficult piece. Annoyed, I put him outside. Stray dogs engaged him to run and that day we lost him as he was hit by a car.

The Lord reminded me that my devastation was not only due to losing my pet, but also to regret because I was striving so hard to matter to somebody that I could not stop to play with the sweet dog He had put in my life. Through this wisp of a memory, He pointed to other ways I still strain to earn value. “You don’t have to perform to be loved,” I felt Him say. “You are safe. Trust Me. Let Me love you and out of the overflow, give. No matter how small your daily gifts may seem, I see them and a chorus of praise rises up over each one.”

We must remember this in our walk with Jesus. If we fix our eyes on being noticed by people, on achieving greatness, we will probably miss the multiple opportunities to minister that He puts right under our noses. It isn’t that excellence or that growth of ministries is unimportant, it’s that our Lord is one who delights in “two small coins” given in love.

Going First

1 John 2:15-17

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

17 And the world pass away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God abides for ever.

Going First

From: Our Daily Bread

Going First
Read: 1 John 4:7–21 | Bible in a Year: Job 32–33; Acts 14

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

We worked patiently to help our son heal and adjust to his new life with our family. Trauma from his early days in an orphanage was fueling some negative behaviors. While I had enormous compassion for the hardships he experienced in his early days, I felt myself begin to withdraw from him emotionally because of those behaviors. Ashamed, I shared my struggle with his therapist. Her gentle reply hit home: “He needs you to go first . . . to show him he’s worthy of love before he’ll be able to act like it.”

John pushes the recipients of his letter to an incredible depth of love, citing God’s love as both the source and the reason for loving one another (1 John 4:7, 11). I admit I often fail to show such love to others, whether strangers, friends, or my own children. Yet John’s words spark in me renewed desire and ability to do so: God went first. He sent His Son to demonstrate the fullness of His love for each of us. I’m so thankful He doesn’t respond as we all are prone to do by withdrawing His heart from us.

Though our sinful actions don’t invite God’s love, He is unwavering in offering it to us (Rom. 5:8). His “go-first” love compels us to love one another in response to, and as a reflection of, that love.

Thank You, Lord, for loving me in spite of my sin. Help me to “go first” in loving others.

God loved us first so we can love others.

You Are What You Think

From: Get More Strength

“Or he is the kind of man who is always thinking about the cost. “Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.” Proverbs 23:7

I don’t know about you, but some nights I can’t shut down my mind—it races back through the day, scanning my mental hard drive, opening conversation files, viewing jpegs of people’s faces I’ve encountered, and revisiting deleted messages—some good, some bad. Our minds are like a Pentium processor, a powerful piece of technology. In fact, according to God, how you think is really what makes you, you.

One wise king wrote: “As [a person] thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 NKJV).What you think about is a wide-open window to what you really believe, trust in, worry about, and even worship. And not everybody has programmed their minds to think alike. Some think truth is relative. Which means that for them there are no absolute truths, so whatever works is just fine—nothing is ever always right or always wrong. Others think that there is no real truth and that truth comes in many shapes and colors. That’s pluralism—many truths exist, and as long as you don’t make me choke on your truth, I won’t force you to swallow mine.

If there is no truth and there are no absolutes, then everybody can do whatever they want to do—welcome to the party with no rules! But you and I know that, ultimately, thoughts managed by relativistic, pluralistic software lead to a zigzagging, crazy, self-seeking, dead-end life where everybody loses, including you.

Thankfully you don’t need to settle for software that doesn’t deliver what it promised. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). How solid is that? That takes the punch out of both lines of thinking. Here’s the deal: What you think about you, God, the world, your spirituality or lack of it, sex, gay marriage, religion, or anything else, really makes you who you are. Jesus simply says, “When you’re ready to think like God thinks about all of life, download my Word—I am the way and the truth.”

It’s time to reboot! Install the truth of God’s Word onto the hard drive of your mind. He’ll scan the files of your thoughts, motives, and attitudes and make them completely new. As Paul said, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind!” (Romans 12:2)

And in case you’re still not convinced, remember that God has warned us, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 16:25). Just because it seems right, doesn’t make it right. Check every thought by the truth that Jesus offers, and when in doubt search His Word.

 

Imitate My Father

From: Our Daily Journey

Imitate My Father

Read:

Leviticus 19:33-34
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love (Ephesians 5:1-2).

The idea of immigrants competing with locals for jobs is a political hot potato in many countries. Some citizens resent the newcomers because they perceive them as stealing jobs, competing for scarce services, and causing overcrowding. With unfamiliar customs and languages, the immigrants are sometimes accused of disturbing and even threatening the social fabric of the native born. So how should believers in Jesus respond to the aliens living in their midst?

Fresh out of Egypt, God commanded His people to be kind to foreigners. He told them, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them” (Leviticus 19:33 NIV), because, ”You were once foreigners living in Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34). They were to remember how they too were mistreated as aliens (Exodus 23:9Deuteronomy 10:19).

But that’s not all. God expects us to be proactive—to “treat [the foreigners] like native-born, and love them as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19:34). We’re to treat foreigners as locals, not outsiders. As Jesus said, “I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home” (Matthew 25:35). That’s grace!

God gives us a compelling motivation to reach out in this way. “I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34). Our God “is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation” (Psalm 145:9). God “shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

Let God Speak Through You

Acts 2:14-42

Peter Preaches to the Crowd

14 Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. 15 These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. 16 No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days,’ God says,
    ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
    Your young men will see visions,
    and your old men will dream dreams.
18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit
    even on my servants—men and women alike—
    and they will prophesy.
19 And I will cause wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below—
    blood and fire and clouds of smoke.
20 The sun will become dark,
    and the moon will turn blood red
    before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.
21 But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord
    will be saved.’[a]

(Peter was not trained to speak. When the Holy Spirit came upon him, he spoke the truth with power. He was not afraid. He spoke and many souls were saved. )
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Could I Say That?

From: Our Daily Bread

Could I Say That?

It was not you who sent me here, but God. Genesis 45:8

“The perception of favoritism is one of the biggest factors in sibling rivalry,” said Dr. Barbara Howard, a developmental behavioral pediatrician (“When Parents Have a Favorite Child” nytimes.com). An example would be the Old Testament character Joseph, who was his father’s favorite son, which made his older brothers furious (Gen. 37:3–4). So they sold Joseph to merchants traveling to Egypt and made it appear that a wild animal had killed him (37:12–36). His dreams had been shattered and his future appeared hopeless.

Yet, along Joseph’s journey of life, he chose to be true to his God and rely on Him even when it seemed to make his situation worse. After being falsely accused by his employer’s wife and imprisoned for something he didn’t do, Joseph struggled with the injustice of his situation but kept trusting the Lord.

Years later his brothers came to Egypt to buy grain during a famine and were terrified to discover that their despised younger brother was now the Prime Minister. But Joseph told them, “Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you . . . . It was not you who sent me here, but God” (45:5, 8).

Joseph’s kind words cause me to wonder if I would be ready for revenge. Or would I be gracious because my heart had confidence in the Lord?

Dear Father, give us the faith to trust You today and the ability to see Your hand of good along our road of life.

In the darkest hours of life, only through the eyes of faith can we see the loving hand of God.

 

Limited View

From: Our Daily Journey

Limited View

Read:

1 Corinthians 4:1-16
So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.

The spot began as a small discoloration on the baseboard adjacent to one of our bedroom doors. Unsure of what caused it, we dismissed it as an unidentified spill. After a lengthy stretch of rainy days, however, the three-inch spot had not only grown, but the baseboard on the opposite side of the door began to yellow as well. The bowing wood and the musty smell of damp carpet hastened our investigation, and we discovered that our original assessment had neglected to capture the full picture. Overflow from the rain had seeped into the door frame of our back porch, resulting in damage that had now become plain to see.

We all see our own opinions quite clearly. We’re confident in assessing the reliability of what we see—especially in our appraisal of others. After all, we assure ourselves, we see what we see. Or do we?

In 1 Corinthians 3–4, Paul deals with a type of conflict that we still experience today among believers in Jesus: divisive, opinionated allegiance. We often fail to recognize our own limitations regarding the level of knowledge we possess. Paul’s admonishment of the Corinthian church is relevant: We’re not qualified to assess others because we rarely have total clarity of our own motives (1 Corinthians 4:2-4). Only God is qualified to evaluate and acknowledge what’s praiseworthy (1 Corinthians 4:5).

We desire security and sureness of truth, but setting our allegiances based on our human opinion is dangerous ground. Our perspective is limited, and even what insight we might possess is often not our own (1 Corinthians 4:7). True love for God is revealed in our sacrifices for the good of others, and the deeper proof of our wisdom is seen in our willingness to remain teachable (1 Corinthians 4:9-16).

 

Don’t Plan Without God

From: Utmost.org

Don’t Plan Without God

Don’t plan without God. God seems to have a delightful way of upsetting the plans we have made, when we have not taken Him into account. We get ourselves into circumstances that were not chosen by God, and suddenly we realize that we have been making our plans without Him— that we have not even considered Him to be a vital, living factor in the planning of our lives. And yet the only thing that will keep us from even the possibility of worrying is to bring God in as the greatest factor in all of our planning.

In spiritual issues it is customary for us to put God first, but we tend to think that it is inappropriate and unnecessary to put Him first in the practical, everyday issues of our lives. If we have the idea that we have to put on our “spiritual face” before we can come near to God, then we will never come near to Him. We must come as we are.

Don’t plan with a concern for evil in mind. Does God really mean for us to plan without taking the evil around us into account? “Love…thinks no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Love is not ignorant of the existence of evil, but it does not take it into account as a factor in planning. When we were apart from God, we did take evil into account, doing all of our planning with it in mind, and we tried to reason out all of our work from its standpoint.

Don’t plan with a rainy day in mind. You cannot hoard things for a rainy day if you are truly trusting Christ. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled…” (John 14:1). God will not keep your heart from being troubled. It is a command— “Let not….” To do it, continually pick yourself up, even if you fall a hundred and one times a day, until you get into the habit of putting God first and planning with Him in mind.

Happy 4th Of July- Independence Day

Life Through the Spirit

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. 

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c]And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 

in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

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Celebrate Freedom

From: Our Daily Bread

Celebrate Freedom
Read: Romans 6:15–23 | Bible in a Year: Job 28–29; Acts 13:1–25

The law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2

After being kidnapped, held hostage for thirteen days, and released, New Zealand news cameraman Olaf Wiig, with a broad smile on his face, announced, “I feel more alive now than I have in my entire life.”

For reasons difficult to understand, being freed is more exhilarating than being free.

For those who enjoy freedom every day, Olaf’s joy was a good reminder of how easily we forget how blessed we are. This is also true spiritually. Those of us who have been Christians for a long time often forget what it’s like to be held hostage by sin. We can become complacent and even ungrateful. But then God sends a reminder in the form of a new believer who gives an exuberant testimony of what God has done in his or her life, and once again we see the joy that is ours when we are “free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).

If freedom has become boring to you, or if you tend to focus on what you can’t do, consider this: Not only are you no longer a slave to sin, but you are freed to be holy and to enjoy eternal life with Christ Jesus! (6:22).

Celebrate your freedom in Christ by taking the time to thank God for the things you are able and free to do as His servant.

Living for Christ brings true freedom.

 

 

Mercy’s Saving Call

Mercy’s Saving Call

Read:

Jonah 2:1-10
My salvation comes from the Lord alone (Jonah 2:9).

What is she thinking? The wedding is one week away! That thought raced through my mind as I worked on my piano music for a marriage ceremony. Though I’d tried for weeks to nail down song titles, keys, and more with the other wedding musician, the silence was deafening.

On the wedding day, part of me wanted to lash out at the other musician for keeping us from being prepared. But God enabled me to extend mercy. The woman told me she’d been working long hours, and I also learned she had recently been divorced. I thanked God for giving me a heart of mercy for a person whose life had simply been too full of pain and exhaustion to respond the way I would have liked.

God’s mercy flows today just as it did during the time of Jonah. Though the prophet got many things wrong, he was dead on when he stated, “My salvation comes from the Lord alone” (Jonah 2:9). Those words can also be translated, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.” God in His loving authority extends grace and mercy to those we might deem unworthy—like that heartless family member, mean-spirited co-worker, or unrepentant neighbor.

In fact, God’s mercy is so amazing He showered it on Israel’s enemies in the city of Nineveh. Listen to these words God spoke to Jonah (who wanted Him to lash out at the Ninevites and destroy them): “Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness . . . . Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” (Jonah 4:11).

May we extend mercy today to those who don’t deserve it. The people around us are broken just as we are. They need to be “snatched from the jaws of death”—spiritual death (Jonah 2:6). May we “[remember] the Lord,” turn to Him in prayer, and allow the beauty of His mercy to triumph (Jonah 2:7Jonah 4:2).

 

 

Exploding Prayer

From: Dee Aspen

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“Wow, I bet the stars are having a heart attack right now!” gasped Johnny, my girlfriend’s five-year-old son. His sparkling brown eyes scanned the night sky.

We marveled at the magnificent firework display above the football field where we sat on blankets, staring above us. It was our church’s annual Fourth of July picnic.

Each rocket projected skyward trailing an invisible line and paused before bursting downward like cascading leaves. The colors spiraled into the night or blossomed upward creating a beautiful multi-colored garden that lit the sky. How do they work? I wondered watching the smoke near the launching pad.

Prayer is described as earthly petitions rising up “as the smoke of incense together with prayers” (see Revelations 8:4). Suddenly I realized this was a new picture of prayer rising to God.

Again and again, each blast was accompanied by an unearthly silence — our eyes riveted to the small almost indiscernible streak paving its way to the heavens. The hush of anticipation broke into the “oohs and ahs” with each burst of color, sound and light. Not one pattern was alike: each was varied beautiful and powerful.

We pray, shooting earthly petitions up to God. Sometimes it feels seemingly insignificant down here and almost indiscernible … like the faint projectile. But once our prayers break through the Heavens — when God takes hold of them — something wonderful happens. Just like the fireworks, He responds to each prayer He receives producing powerful and varied results for all to see.

Sometimes after the initial blast, a frail wobbly line wiggled its way up to a black sky followed by silence.  “It’s a dud,” the crowd would grumble. Seconds more passed and “kaboom!” Every corner of the darkness filled with light, to our delight and surprise. We had written it off after waiting just a few seconds without seeing results! It’s our human nature. How quickly we give up praying if we feel our prayers are simply disappearing in thin air.

No wonder Jesus told his disciples, “Men should always pray and not give up.” Luke 18:1.

How does it happen? The power of God, described in Aramaic as dunamos is from the word dynamite. The hidden power of prayer waits with the potential of dynamite. As our hearts link to God He ignites prayer. We whisper that prayer and it shoots up to heaven. When God receives it, He opens it adding the power and the glory!

We see the answers come tumbling down from Heavenly places.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” James 1:16

This year as you follow those tiny ribbons heavenward, attach a small prayer in your heart to one or two. As the color bursts forth imagine God at work with your small act of faith. Be ready to wait and trust that it has reached its destination. God has heard your prayers and He is working on an answer.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us… Ephesians 3:20

Dear Lord, keep me praying, knowing it doesn’t matter how I feel—how great or small my prayers may sound. Each is answered and each is power-packed as it reaches you, Lord, in those heavenly places.

Living Free From Bondage

 I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. Joshua 7:12

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Destroying the Divides

From: Our Daily Bread

Destroying the Divides
Read: Joshua 7:1–12 | Bible in a Year: Job 25–27; Acts 12

I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. Joshua 7:12

A writing deadline loomed over me, while the argument I had with my husband earlier that morning swirled through my mind. I stared at the blinking cursor, fingertips resting on the keyboard. He was wrong too, Lord.

When the computer screen went black, my reflection scowled. My unacknowledged wrongs were doing more than hindering the work before me. They were straining my relationship with my husband and my God.

I grabbed my cell phone, swallowed my pride, and asked for forgiveness. Savoring the peace of reconciliation when my spouse apologized as well, I thanked God and finished my article on time.

The Israelites experienced the pain of personal sin and joy of restoration. Joshua warned God’s people not to enrich themselves in the battle for Jericho (Josh. 6:18), but Achan stole captured items and hid them in his tent (7:1). Only after his sin was exposed and dealt with (vv. 4–12) did the nation enjoy reconciliation with their God.

Like Achan, we don’t always consider how “tucking sin into our tents” turns our hearts from God and impacts those around us. Acknowledging Jesus as Lord, admitting our sin, and seeking forgiveness provides the foundation for healthy and faithful relationships with God and others. By submitting to our loving Creator and Sustainer daily, we can serve Him and enjoy His presence—together.

Lord, please help us recognize, confess, and turn away from our sin, so that we can nurture loving relationships with You and others.

God can purge our hearts of the sin that destroys our intimacy with Him and others.

 

Man in the Middle

From: Our Daily Journey

Man in the Middle

Read:

Jeremiah 20:1-18

If I say I’ll never . . . speak in [God’s] name, his word burns in my heart like a fire (Jeremiah 20:9).I heard a story about a college student who became trapped in a 17-inch space between two buildings. After zigzagging up a fire escape, he planned to jump from one rooftop to another. Instead, he fell into the slim chasm—dropping three stories until he was wedged in the narrow space between the buildings, unable to move. Finally, rescuers bored a hole through one of the buildings and pulled him to safety.

As God’s prophet, Jeremiah also felt trapped. Should he choose to speak the messages God wanted him to deliver—which caused him to be a social outcast—or simply speak what the people wanted to hear?

Although Jeremiah chose to speak God’s words, the cost was difficult. At one point, after being released from prison, the prophet lamented over the ridicule he endured, saying, “These messages from the Lord have made me a household joke” (Jeremiah 20:8). But he found he couldn’t stay silent, “If I say I’ll never mention the Lord or speak in His name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. . . . I am worn out trying to hold it in!” (Jeremiah 20:9).

Jeremiah’s thoughts haunted him as he considered the rumors, name-calling, and threats he would receive if he continued to speak for God. Yet he acknowledged God’s protection and said, “The Lord stands beside me like a great warrior” (Jeremiah 20:11). Jeremiah stayed faithful to God and He sustained his prophetic ministry.

Many of us feel the tension between following God and the corresponding trouble that comes as we serve Him. Difficulty may continue, but God’s power can uphold us through all of it. He will enable us to prevail “not by force nor by strength, but by [His] Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6).

 

God’s Independence Day

Author: Beth Patch

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Most Americans have celebrated Independence Day in their lifetime. Burgers and hotdogs sizzle on grills and fireworks burst in the sky. We eat, maybe hear The Star Spangled Banner, watch fireworks and go home. July fourth has become commonplace, another day for big sales events and flying an American flag.

However, an Independence Day celebration approaches to impress the whole world! We don’t know the date and shouldn’t believe anyone who tells us they do. But, no one on earth or in heaven will miss its importance; and it will mark a day of freedom from the greatest oppressor ever – Satan.

It is the day of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ’s return. It is the beginning of real freedom, like no one has ever had before (except Adam and Eve before they sinned). Those who have believed in Christ’s atoning blood for their sins and have trusted and believed in Him, might have what an old preacher of mine used to call “a Hallelujah breakdown!”

This Independence Day will release Christians from the many sins keeping them entangled. Imagine, no more sickness, no more addictions, no more gossip, no more unkindness, no more anything that does not reflect the positive attributes of the love of our Father God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Currently, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, to strengthen us, to comfort us, and to give us power through Christ’s death and resurrection. However, we are still tripped up by sin as long as we live in this fallen world. When Jesus comes, all our ungodliness along with our negative baggage goes away. I can’t think of a better freedom than that.

Actually, the whole scene of Jesus’ return sounds so incredible, I doubt there are words to describe the immense emotional, spiritual, and physical response people will have.

The Bible tells us Jesus will return to earth just like He left, through the clouds (Acts 1:11b), with his angels (Matt 16:27), with the trumpet call of God and a loud command (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Scripture says believers in Christ will be changed in a twinkling of an eye and Jesus will destroy all dominion, authority and power standing in opposition to Almighty God (1 Corinthians 15:521 Corinthians 15:24).

Our earthly minds are limited in their comprehension of this miraculous time. It’s a God thing, and try as we may, we can’t peg down the details on how God will accomplish the return of Jesus Christ and the destruction of evil.

Picture the sky filled with God’s mighty angels, the sound of God’s trumpet, which has to be the most beautiful and loudest sounding instrument, and our Lord Jesus shining radiantly as He leads His mighty angelic troop in the sky.

Envision watching victory as Christ and his angels capture Satan and his demons, and justice is completed. It will be more graphic and stirring than any riveting movie Hollywood could ever think of producing.

Many theologians have studied the return of Christ and have disagreed about the order of when things happen or exactly how they happen. These varied opinions on the return of Christ and the disappearance of believers from the earth have created divisions among believers who desperately want to cling to one decided order of the end times.

My response to such division is that it won’t matter how we interpret end times scriptures when God’s day of Independence comes. Everything will be revealed in God’s perfect timing. The Independence Day of our God will come when we least expect it and we are instructed to be ready as if it were the next moment. So, in case it happens to be today, Happy Independence Day!