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In Jesus Christ There Is Joy

  • 1 Peter 1:8-9

    8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
  • Romans 15:13

    13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • 2 John 1:12

    12 I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
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Remember When

Remember When

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:3

Our son wrestled with drug addiction for seven years, and during that time my wife and I experienced many difficult days. As we prayed and waited for his recovery, we learned to celebrate small victories. If nothing bad happened in a twenty-four-hour period, we would tell each other, “Today was a good day.” That short sentence became a reminder to be thankful for God’s help with the smallest things.

Tucked away in Psalm 126:3 is an even better reminder of God’s tender mercies and what they ultimately mean for us: “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” What a great verse to take to heart as we remember Jesus’s compassion for us at the cross! The difficulties of any given day cannot change the truth that come what may, our Lord has already shown us unfathomable kindness, and “his love endures forever” (Ps. 136:1).

When we have lived through a difficult circumstance and discovered that God was faithful, keeping that in mind helps greatly the next time life’s waters turn rough. We may not know how God will get us through our circumstances, but His kindness to us in the past helps us trust that He will.

Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end, our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend. Robert Grant

When we cannot see God’s hand, we can trust His heart.

 

Lynn Cowell January 13, 2017
Be Still
LYNN COWELL

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

One after another, choices needing decisions just keep coming.

Home decisions hang in the balance. When can I get this fixed? Who will follow through with the repairs? What will it take to get everything done?

Work decisions weigh on my mind. What are the next steps to take? Am I the only person who can do this? Do I need to bring in more help? How will this timeline come together?

Relationship decisions tug on my heart. Is “yes” the best answer? When can I spend time with them? Should I really be that honest with my thoughts and feelings?

Decision fatigue.

Even as I write these words, my mind feels so very tired of the many decisions that need to be made.

Weary, my heart turns to the only One who has the answers to each and every single decision.

I open to a blank page in my journal to share my tired heart with the Lord.

A prayer seeps from my heart, through my pen and onto the page. Weariness oozes from the ink: Lord, renew my awareness of Your presence. I need a fresh infilling of You in me. I need Your wisdom, for You to do a gentle, peaceful work in me that flows from me. No rushing. No pressure. Just peaceful guidance from You, leading to purposeful obedience from me.

As I pray I realize that in the natural, this pathway of making these decisions alone will not lead to peace. He is peace.

I make the best choice I can choose — turning to His Word to me: “Be still, and know that I am God …” (Psalm 46:10a).

Do you see that comma? It seemed to jump off the page.

A pause.

Be still, …

When I’m still, then I will know. I will know the peace He embodies. He will show me His will. I will know that He is God.

Not When I’m busy, When I’m productive or When I make all the right decisions, but When I’m still.

The word “still” in Hebrew (the original language of the Old Testament) means: to hang limp, sink down, be feeble, to be lazy, to leave alone, abandon, withdraw, to show oneself slack.

Am I reading this right? Could it be that God is endorsing this type of behavior?

Yes, I have read His word correctly.

Be still. Be patient. Be quiet. Be trustful and know. That is where He calls me to go: Pause and find Him. Peace.

Lord, being still, when there is so much to do, seems so wrong. Yet, Your ways are not my ways. Help me to breathe deep, be still and pause to take You in. I want to know that You are God. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Exodus 14:14, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (NIV)

Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (NIV)

Isaiah 30:15, “For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.’ But you were not willing.” (NASB)

 

Far Better

From: Our Daily Journey

Far Better

Read:

Philippians 1:20-24
For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better (Philippians 1:21).

For two and a half years, a visit to my wife’s oncologist was part of our weekly routine. But one visit was different. In a discernably subdued tone, he told us that he was going to stop her treatment. The chemo was no longer effective. My wife had come to the final stage of her fight against a fast-growing, aggressive cancer.

Lay Keng’s faith, however, remained strong. Her anticipation to see Jesus was palpable. She knew she would soon be home with her Father (John 14:1-3). With Paul she could say, “I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me” (Philippians 1:23).

Yet she was greatly conflicted—“torn between two desires” (Philippians 1:23). She experienced the intense tension Paul described. Ever mindful of her joy in being a wife, mother, and friend, she was also God’s servant and wanted to continue “to live for Christ” and “do more fruitful work for [Him]” (Philippians 1:21-22). But her surrender to God’s perfect plan reflects these words from Paul: “I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die” (Philippians 1:20).

At the time, Lay Keng didn’t know how much time she had left. All she was told was that she had “a few months.” But she knew that her heavenly Father knew her days. There were uncertainties, yet she was fully assured of her future hope (Philippians 1:20). “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better” (Philippians 1:21).

This assurance was only because of what Jesus did for her on the cross. And, as the Father’s greatly loved child, she had been set free from the power of death and the fear of dying (Hebrews 2:14-15). For my wife, now with Jesus, death held no fear. Indeed, she is “with Christ, which [is infinitely and unquestionably] far better” (Philippians 1:23).

Don’t Play With Fire

What is the danger in playing with fire?  You can get hurt. 
Departing from God can be dangerous also.
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Playing with Fire

From: Get More Strength.org

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

No doubt you’ve noticed that people around you are not into absolute truth these days. When it comes to matters of morality, the prevailing philosophy is a multiple-choice view, with competing thoughts and perspectives on what is right and wrong listed as A, B, C, or D. And although these perspectives are often contradictory, prevailing pop philosophers today have added choice E: “all of the above.”

While many people are comfortable with such ambiguity in their personal choices, very few would want their material world to be this arbitrary. Everyone affirms that there are some basic, absolute physical laws that govern our experience and shape our behavior. Take, for example, the reality of heat and fire. I first learned about this when playing in my Dad’s car as a 5-year-old.

I was mesmerized by one particular feature in this new car—the cigarette lighter. I can remember not only discovering the lighter, but pushing it into the socket. I was enamored by the glow of the red circles on the lighter when it popped out. But I pushed my curiosity a little too far when I pulled the glowing lighter out and pressed it on the tip of my index finger. I still can’t explain exactly why I did this, but I quickly realized that it was not a smart idea!

In that moment I discovered that the physical laws governing heat and fire are not arbitrary. The circular lines branded on my finger were powerful evidence to convince me that fire burns and that I needed to keep a healthy distance. Understanding the absolute nature of gravity, mathematics, blood pressure, and other physical realities is essential for living life safely and successfully.

But isn’t it interesting that even though we all believe it is important to respect and submit to physical laws, many of us now believe that moral laws are up for grabs! Unfortunately, believing and living by that philosophy inevitably leads to disastrous consequences.

And the most dangerous outcome of all relates to our eternal destiny. If we live in a morally multiple-choice world where nothing is always wrong and nothing is always right, then there is no sin. No sin means no need for a Savior. If there’s no need for a Savior, there’s no point in the cross. The empty tomb means nothing, and there is neither hell to be shunned nor heaven to be gained. Our Bible becomes at best irrelevant and at worst the scheming work of ancient men designed to oppress and deny us the privilege of pleasure. Yet God has made it clear—some things are right and some things are wrong. There is sin, and we need a Savior. There is a hell to be shunned and a heaven to be gained. To ignore the reality of moral absolutes is to play with a fire that you don’t recover from.

In fact, it isn’t just eternal consequences that should concern us but the impact on life as well. The breakup of homes, the increasing violence on our streets, the alarming rise of sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS, and the general unraveling of a sane and safe environment all testify to the destructive impact of ignoring God’s laws.

Thankfully, God is not a multiple-choice God. Jesus came to assure us that there is truth and that if we know and live in the realm of His truth we are truly free! Free from the inevitable consequences that come when we live to do whatever we want to do.

No wonder the psalmist wrote that those who delight in the law of God are “like a tree planted by streams of water,” and that those who scoff at the truth are “like chaff that the wind blows away” (Psalm 1:1-41).

 

 

Lysa TerKeurst January 12, 2017
Recapturing Us in the Midst of Our Rush 
LYSA TERKEURST

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:9-10 (NLT)

Do you ever wonder exactly what God wants you to do, especially when you have so many demands to manage?

So often, we want big directional signs from God. But God just wants us to pay attention to what He places right in front of us. I learned this early in ministry when I had dreams to do big things for God.

However, when I looked at what was right in front of me at that time, it was my neighbors, Ken and Mary. They lived down the street and were known for their amazing hospitality, adorable farmhouse and parties that stepped out of the pages of a magazine.

Mary was alive with creativity and always thinking of ways to bless others. Ken adored living out his retirement years helping his bride create a haven for family and friends.

But cancer swept in and before long, Ken laid Mary to rest in the arms of Jesus.

I remember seeing Ken not long after Mary’s funeral. I knew I needed to stop and say something. But what?

When I reached Ken, I just bent down and gave him a hug. “How are you, Ken?” Tears filled his eyes, “Not so good. The silence is killing me, Lysa.”

And with those words, I knew this interaction with Ken was an assignment from God. He was stirring my heart more and more, as I began to sense I should invite Ken over for dinner.

I started having this argument with God in my mind, “God, he’s going to expect food. My cooking doesn’t even hold a candle to Mary’s. Are you sure about this?”

But Ken hadn’t asked for an amazing meal. What made his heart ache was the silence.

So I smiled at Ken and said, “Well then, you must come to our house for dinner. I can’t always promise it will be tidy and I’m certainly no great cook, but one thing is for sure — my house is never silent.”

Thus started a tradition — Monday night dinners with Ken.

We never had a properly set table. But the noise of our family was an orchestra of comfort and healing to Ken’s lonely heart.

We wanted to live out today’s key verse, Romans 12:9-10, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”

Being knee-deep in the realities of small children made me feel like this wasn’t my season of life to make a difference to the outside world. But God used my offering of what little I had!

We just did life, and let Ken join in. I would often ask about Mary’s ways of doing things, and his face would light up at the opportunity to keep part of her alive.

And slowly but surely, as we all made time for these special dinners, we recaptured the sacredness of relationships that so often gets lost in the rush of our days.

One night, as Ken was leaving our home, he made his way over to a bush in full bloom. He tenderly picked up one of the flowers and pressed his face close, breathing in its scent deeply.

He then looked back at me standing in the doorway and said, “Don’t miss this. Don’t rush through your life, Lysa. Make time to stop and breathe it all in.”

I’ve never forgotten that.

Eventually, Ken met someone who could cook, got remarried and moved away.

But my family and I still preserve that sacred space for Monday night dinners. We invite co-workers, acquaintances and friends who feel like family to join us. We take time to talk. Laugh. Process life. Breathe it all in.

Although our to-do lists and schedules tug at our attention, we don’t allow anything to take priority over these moments. I refuse to let the people I’ve been entrusted with get my “less” instead of my “best” because I’m distracted.

I’m so thankful God entrusted me with that small assignment to give Ken noise all those years ago. A little gift placed in the hands of a big God can change the world. It changed ours, and it changed Ken’s.

It amazes me that what started out as a simple gesture to help a grieving neighbor became one of the greatest ministry blessings of my life. And I’ve done a lot of breathing it all in ever since.

Dear Lord, help me see the assignments right in front of me. I desperately want to unrush my schedule so I can love those You have entrusted to me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

Nothing Hidden

Nothing Hidden

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Hebrews 4:13

In 2015 an international research company stated that there were 245 million surveillance cameras installed worldwide, and the number was growing by 15 percent every year. In addition, multiplied millions of people with smartphones capture daily images ranging from birthday parties to bank robberies. Whether we applaud the increased security or denounce the diminished privacy, we live in a global, cameras-everywhere society.

The New Testament book of Hebrews says that in our relationship with God, we experience a far greater level of exposure and accountability than anything surveillance cameras may see. His Word, like a sharp, two-edged sword, penetrates to the deepest level of our being where it “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:12–13).

Because Jesus our Savior experienced our weaknesses and temptations but did not sin, 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” (vv. 15–16). We don’t need to fear Him but can be assured we’ll find grace when we come to Him.

Nothing is hidden from God’s sight. Nothing is greater than God’s love. Nothing is stronger than God’s mercy and grace. Nothing is too hard for God’s power.

 

 

A Good Name

From: Our Daily Journey

A Good Name

Read:

Ruth 3:1-18
Being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold (Proverbs 22:1).

When we considered remodeling our basement, our neighbors all recommended the same person for the job—Tony. He’s an experienced carpenter who shows up every day, delivers more than he promises, and finishes what he starts. People trust this handyman enough to give him their house keys and many let him keep the keys after he finishes the job. When they have a home repair project, they simply contact Tony and he comes over, lets himself in, and goes to work.

Ruth also enjoyed an excellent reputation in Bethlehem. Born in Moab, she followed her mother-in-law, Naomi, to Israel after both of their husbands died. There she met Boaz, a well-connected landowner who valued her character. When he proposed marriage, he said, “Everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman” (Ruth 3:11).

Ruth’s virtue was due partly to her work ethic. She diligently foraged local fields for leftover grain to provide for herself and Naomi. A foreman noticed that Ruth remained “hard at work . . . except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter” (Ruth 2:7). When the barley harvest ended, Ruth continued to work by gleaning wheat in early summer (Ruth 2:23).

Ruth’s character was revealed in her humility, obedience, and respect for her mother-in-law. Instead of looking for a husband her own age, she allowed Naomi to choose for her (Ruth 3:3-5). She let Boaz know she was available for marriage, and Boaz carefully protected Ruth’s reputation in the way he responded (Ruth 3:9,14).

Proverbs 22:1 says, “Being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold.” May God work in and through us to produce a character and reputation that honors Him and reflects this beautiful name: Jesus.

Why Are You On Earth?

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

 

Dr. Tony Evans January 11, 2017
What Were You Put on Earth to Do?
DR. TONY EVANS

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

When you set out to plan your day — or even your week — what is it you want to do most? Even deeper than that — what is your dream?

I didn’t ask you what your dream is for your friend, kids, spouse, church or work — I want to know what your dream is, if you still even know what it is? What were you put here on earth to fulfill?

Now, if you struggle with answers for any of the above, know you’re not alone. Especially if you are a busy mom, knee-deep in daily duties and driving demands, you … are … not … alone.

And yes, I was never a mom — but I was a very involved dad in our four kids’ lives. Every morning, it was my responsibility to get them ready for school, bundle them into the car and drive them where they needed to go. And every evening after work, I focused on dedicated family time — devotions around the table, playtime with them on the floor wrestling or doing board games. (Sometimes I even let them win!)

And for years, I had homework duty, too. So I understand how it feels to sit for hours after a long day at work — glued to the dinner table with a restless child night after night, year after year — trying everything to help the one who struggles with attention-deficit-disorder grasp the importance of perseverance and learning.

I understand the things that keep parents up at night, unable to sleep — concerned with whether or not their children will be equipped to fulfill their dreams. These concerns and passions of parenting, marriage and relationships at church or work can be all-consuming for so long that eventually you wake up one day and realize you’ve forgotten about your dreams, passions and your destiny to fulfill. Just making it through the day is enough.

I get it. I know how it is to give so much you simply do not have enough energy left to think about yourself anymore.

Dream? Only when sleeping.

Purpose? Passion? Eaten up by the daily demands of living a life for others. Which is good. It’s easy to forget what used to inspire you, drive you or even bring you hope.

It’s easy to forget the you in you.

God has a destiny for you. He has a purpose and a plan for you. Ephesians 2:10reminds us, “we are God’s masterpiece … so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” He has something that maximizes your skills, personality, experiences, passions and compassions in a way like no one else ever could.

Sure, it may not happen tomorrow. Nor will you get there by going in a straight line. This is because God sets twists and turns in all our lives that provide opportunities for us to grow, mature, be humbled, learn, develop, surrender, gain confidence and more. I call these twists and turns “detours.”

Detours are unanticipated routes that take us another way to our intended destination. It’s either a sign you come upon, a person who steers you elsewhere or a police car with lights flashing, sitting there to let you know the road you are traveling is no longer available. Inevitably, they are also road bumps to our emotions. Because of the detour, we must go off the beaten path, take longer than we had wished, and be inconvenienced more than we had hoped.

Few of us like to be stalled, for any reason. Even if it’s just someone cutting us off in traffic and forcing us to slow down. But detours are necessary to make any improvement on the paths we travel. Or to clean up any wreck or avoid hazards. Detours are designed for our own good on the roads of life, regardless of how we view them.

Detours are a good thing that often feel bad.

This is because it’s in our detours that we’re developed for our destiny.

We learn patience, compassion, kindness, gratitude and all those wonderful things that empower us to fully live out our dreams. You may feel that your life right now is on one ongoing detour from fulfilling your dreams … while you’re serving the needs of others, setting your own hopes aside. But, just like Joseph whom God positioned from the pit to the palace (read Genesis chapter 37-50), God has a plan for every moment in your life as well. Yes, even the most mundane and monotonous ones.

God is taking you straight to your destiny … in His ever God-like-zig-zagging-sort-of-way.

Father God, help me keep my eyes open and learn to look for Your hand in the midst of happenstance, so my hope remains steadfast and my heart remains full. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Protocol

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

Let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. —James 1:6

If you were invited to a meeting at the White House with the President of the United States, regardless of your opinion of him or her, you would probably go. Upon entering the White House, a protocol officer would meet you and outline the proper procedures for meeting the President. Suffice it to say, it would be unacceptable to let loose with a burst of undignified familiarity or negative criticism as you shook hands.

So it should come as no surprise that God’s Word makes it clear that there is a protocol for entering the presence of God. Hebrews 11:6 outlines one aspect of appropriate interaction: “He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” God wants us to be fully devoted to Him—and He takes it personally when our hearts are filled with criticism, unbelief, and doubt.

James tells us that when we ask God for wisdom, the key to His response is whether or not we are asking “in faith” (1:6). God is pleased when we approach Him with unwavering faith.

So leave your doubt at the door and follow the protocol: Approach God with a heart of faith, and He will be pleased to provide all the wisdom you need.

God, give me the faith of a little child!
A faith that will look to Thee—
That never will falter and never fail,
But follow Thee trustingly. —Showerman

Exchange the dissatisfaction of doubt for the fulfillment of faith in God.

 

 

Light the Path

Light the Path

Read:

Daniel 12:1-4
Those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever (Daniel 12:3).

The next time you’re gazing into the night sky, consider that the closest star beyond the sun is more than forty trillion kilometers away. To reach that star you’d need to travel at the speed of light for more than four years! Incredibly, we can still see its light from earth.

Scientific data like this wasn’t available when Daniel penned his book some 2,600 years ago. Our modern-day knowledge, however, heightens the power of his simile in Daniel 12:3: “Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.” An expanded way of stating this is: Those who lead many to righteousness will be like bodies in the heavens that shine their light across countless distances, illuminating worlds and providing beacons in the darkness. What a powerful image!

Daniel brought God’s message to His people exiled in Babylon, a culture where worshiping God alone could be a life-threatening proposition (Daniel 6:13-17). The prophet described the mysterious future of the world and encouraged them to see beyond their present troubles while focusing on the lives of others. Two millennia later, I struggle with doing the same things.

It’s encouraging to remember that we’re made right with God—led to righteousness, as Daniel would say—through faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-22). His sacrifice and resurrection give us hope for the future the prophet described. By believing in Jesus and reflecting Him we become “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14; Philippians 2:15).

Our task today is to illumine the path so others can clearly see Jesus. Instead of being flickering stars, may we radiate the God of light who lives within us by His power (1 John 1:5).

 

 

Christ Gives Rest To The Overwhelmed

 

Rest for the Weary
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.…

 

 

 

Kathi Lipp January 10, 2017

From: Crosswalk.com
What to Do When You’re Just Overwhelmed
KATHI LIPP

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

If one more person asks me about centerpieces, I think I may stab myself with the cake knife!

How can one of the happiest days in a family’s life — something all of us have been looking forward to for years — turn into one of the most overwhelming events ever?

You see, overwhelm camouflages itself. Some days it appears in hard places: A health crisis. Not being able to pay the bills. A huge project at work that requires all your time and attention.

Other times, it sneaks in through the door of blessings: A new, unexpected addition to the family. A long-dreamed-about trip to see family. Or, in our case, one of our kids getting married.

When Amanda and Shaun announced their engagement, we were thrilled. We’d been praying for the right man to come into Amanda’s life, and Shaun was a welcome addition to the family.

But after the announcement came all the wedding plans. Who do we invite? Where will we hold the wedding? How will we pay for everything?

After the initial excitement, reality came crashing down on us. That’s when overwhelm kicked in. Dreams of seeing Amanda walking down the aisle were replaced with elaborate fantasies of bribing the kids to elope.

When I’m overwhelmed, my first instinct is to shut down. Then I fall back into familiar overwhelmed thinking patterns: I just need to work harder. Maybe I can rearrange my schedule to do some work on Sundays. Yes, that’s it … except my husband and I agreed that our Sundays would be a day for rest. But how else would these plans come together?

After stressing and stewing about how to make everything work, I finally remembered I was not in this alone. God is not surprised by the trials, or the blessings, coming my way.

When I start to feel the familiar weight of overwhelm press down, here’s what I eventually remind myself to do:

Stop comparing plates.
Our capacity to handle life is like dishes at an estate sale. There are dinner plates, salad plates, dessert plates and more. Some people get the dinner plates; their capacity is awe-inspiring. Then there are those who have been given a salad plate. They overwhelm easily and live a carefully curated life in order to function.

Friends, we need to know which size plate we have.

If you’re delicately balancing a demitasse cup plate in life, and your best friend has a turkey platter of a plate, don’t start comparing your capacity to hers. God designed your temperament and hers differently on purpose.

Take the next faithful step to deal with overwhelm.
With my daughter’s wedding, when I started to feel the panic of overwhelm rise within me, instead of trying to “suck it up” and power through, I learned to ask the right questions:

• I asked for time. I asked if I had some flexibility on other deadlines — I did!

• I asked for help. When my friend Nancy heard that Amanda was getting married, she offered to help with all the plans and prep. I politely declined, and then five minutes later, came to my senses and begged her to help. Nancy got to use her gift of planning amazing parties on the cheap, and I obeyed orders and bore less stress.

• I asked for grace. My husband and I took the day after the wedding off from work. We wanted time to rest, reflect and recover. The wedding was a huge blessing in our lives, but it was also stressful. We didn’t want to carry that over into other parts of our lives. Taking that day to reflect on what God had done — and rest — was priceless.

Practice trusting God more deeply before overwhelm sets in.

I’ve learned to step back, take a break and let myself sit in the unimaginable — the thought that God already provided everything I need for this challenge. I no longer let calendars, emails and to-dos dictate my next move, but I hold to God’s promises to shape my heart into the kind of daughter He designed me to be.

Father, let me take every thought and emotion, blessing or burden, directly to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

More than Feelings

From: Our Daily Journey

More than Feelings

Read:

2 Kings 17:35–18:6
He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made (2 Kings 18:4).

Looking quizzically at my phone, I smiled as I discerned the message my daughter had texted. It wasn’t the words; it was the emoji. How in the world had such a small graphic managed to perfectly capture my teenage daughter’s sigh of impatience, roll of her eyes, and slightly annoyed tone of voice when saying my name? But there it was—the exasperated emoji!

While my response to my daughter’s text that day was lighthearted, I realized that even though we can be good at expressing our emotions, we don’t always wield them well. Exhibiting our emotions isn’t the problem. After all, we’re made in the image of an expressive God (Genesis 1:27). We falter, however, when we make our emotional state the barometer of what we believe or the compass for decision-making.

Hezekiah’s radical cleansing of the temple reveals not only how important it is for us to resist idolatry, but also how far-reaching the impact can extend when we don’t (2 Kings 17:41). A gift to bring healing, the bronze serpent had become an object of worship because it was more tangible than an unseen God (Numbers 21:8-9; 2 Kings 18:4). Forsaking their covenant promise to worship the Lord alone, the Israelites bowed at the altar of circumstances and as a result generations became imprisoned in idolatry (2 Kings 17:38-41).

God created us to live in the fullness of His image—emotions included. But it’s vital that we choose, as Hezekiah did, to trust in God’s “great strength and . . . powerful arm” to lead us (2 Kings 17:36). Anything less leads to bondage. Regardless of our emotions, we find true security through faithful obedience to the One who remains consistent and trustworthy (2 Kings 18:5-6).

 

 

Preach The Word

 

From: Streams in the Desert

They were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the Word in Asia (Acts 16:6).

It is interesting to study the methods of His guidance as it was extended towards these early heralds of the Cross. It consisted largely in prohibitions, when they attempted to take another course than the right. When they would turn to the left, to Asia, He stayed them. When they sought to turn to the right, to Bithynia, again He stayed them. In after years Paul would do some of the greatest work of his life in that very region; but just now the door was closed against him by the Holy Spirit. The time was not yet ripe for the attack on these apparently impregnable bastions of the kingdom of Satan. Apollos must come there for pioneer work. Paul and Barnabas are needed yet more urgently elsewhere, and must receive further training before undertaking this responsible task.

Beloved, whenever you are doubtful as to your course, submit your judgment absolutely to the Spirit of God, and ask Him to shut against you every door but the right one. Say, “Blessed Spirit, I cast on Thee the entire responsibility of closing against my steps any and every course which is not of God. Let me hear Thy voice behind me whenever I turn to the right hand or the left.”

In the meanwhile, continue along the path which you have been already treading. Abide in the calling in which you are called, unless you are clearly told to do something else. The Spirit of Jesus waits to be to you, O pilgrim, what He was to Paul. Only be careful to obey His least prohibition; and where, after believing prayer, there are no apparent hindrances, go forward with enlarged heart. Do not be surprised if the answer comes in closed doors. But when doors are shut right and left, an open road is sure to lead to Troas. There Luke awaits, and visions will point the way, where vast opportunities stand open, and faithful friends are waiting.
–Paul, by Meyer

Is there some problem in your life to solve,
Some passage seeming full of mystery?
God knows, who brings the hidden things to light.
He keeps the key.

Is there some door closed by the Father’s hand
Which widely opened you had hoped to see?
Trust God and wait–for when He shuts the door
He keeps the key.

Is there some earnest prayer unanswered yet,
Or answered NOT as you had thought ‘twould be?
God will make clear His purpose by-and-by.
He keeps the key.

Have patience with your God, your patient God,
All wise, all knowing, no long tarrier He,
And of the door of all thy future life
He keeps the key.

Unfailing comfort, sweet and blessed rest,
To know of EVERY door He keeps the key.
That He at last when just HE sees ’tis best,
Will give it THEE
.
–Anonymous


Random Acts of Kindness

From: Our Daily Bread

Random Acts of Kindness

“Why have I found such favor [grace] in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?” Ruth 2:10

Some say that the American writer Anne Herbert scribbled the phrase “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a placemat at a restaurant in 1982. The sentiment has since been popularized through film and literature and has become a part of our vocabulary.

The question is “Why?” Why should we show kindness? For those who follow Jesus, the answer is clear: To show the tender mercy and kindness of God.

There’s an Old Testament example of that principle in the story of Ruth, the emigrant from Moab. She was a foreigner, living in a strange land whose language and culture she did not understand. Furthermore, she was desperately poor, utterly dependent on the charity of a people who took little notice of her.

There was one Israelite, however, who showed Ruth grace and spoke to her heart (Ruth 2:13). He allowed her to glean in his fields, but more than simple charity, he showed her by his compassion the tender mercy of God, the One under whose wings she could take refuge. She became Boaz’s bride, part of the family of God, and one in a line of ancestors that led to Jesus, who brought salvation to the world (see Matt. 1:1–16).

We never know what one act of kindness, done in Jesus’s name, will do.

God Is Our Fortress And Protection

God is our refuge and fortress. We can rest in His strength and love.  He is our protection and provision.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 (NIV)
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Lysa TerKeurst January 9, 2017

From: Crosswalk.com
Dear God, Where Are You?
LYSA TERKEURST

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 (NIV)

“Mom, I didn’t make it. Please pray for me. I just feel confused about God.”

My heart sank. I felt my daughter’s deep hurt. I felt it as clearly as if it were my own.

I know what it feels like to want something so badly and have that dream shut down. That door close. That opportunity slip away.

She’d been talking about going for this special achievement at summer camp for three years. Every time we talked about camp, she talked about going for this achievement. But she wasn’t old enough to try until her fourth year at camp.

Finally, this was going to be her year.

She met every challenge and could see the goal in sight … until the fire. She was supposed to light a campfire with nothing but three matches, one small square of newspaper and a few sticks of wood.

She struck the first match and held it up to the newspaper. It didn’t ignite. She struck the second match and held it up to the newspaper. It still didn’t ignite.

She stared at the third and final match. Knowing that a big part of the challenge was teaching the kids how to communicate with God and fully rely on Him, she’d been praying through every stage of the challenge. But now, she didn’t just pray — she cried out to God.

“Please help me, God. Please,” she mouthed as she struck the third match. She held the flame up to the paper once again and watched in complete disbelief. The matchstick burned, but the paper did not.

As soon as the final match burned out, she lowered her head in defeat, and gave all her wood to the girls still in the challenge.

When I arrived at camp to pick her up a week later, she asked if we could go sit by ourselves and process this situation.

The fact that she didn’t get the camp honor was not what was bothering her the most. What was bothering her the most was not experiencing God’s power like the other girls had. They all had stories of God answering their cries for help in amazing ways that carried them all the way through the challenge.

“Mom, I didn’t get that with God. Why?”

This was a tough question. One of those questions as a mom that you don’t want to mess up in answering.

I asked her to help me recall every step of her challenge so we could intentionally look for God’s hand. As she recalled every part, I listened intently for anything unusual and unexplainable.

And when she got to the fire, I found it. There was no reason her newspaper shouldn’t light. None at all. Everyone else’s paper lit. Hers should have. But it didn’t.

“Honey, that can only be explained by God intervening. He was there. He was listening. And we just have to trust that there was some reason you shouldn’t have continued that challenge. We may not know that reason, but we can certainly trust God was right there … protecting you … loving you … revealing His power to you.”

She put her head on my shoulder, “You really think so, Mom?”

I whispered, “I know so.”

I know so because I trust the truth God has given me. Truths like these are anchors that hold me to the reality of who God is:

He is the One in whom I find comfort and reassurance: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”(John 16:33, NIV).

He is right here with me in the midst of my trouble, and I am not alone: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Yes, I know deep hurt. But I also know deep hope. So, I whispered it again, “Yes, sweetheart, I know so.”

Sometimes God’s power is shown as much in preventing things as it is in making them happen. We may never know why. But we can always know and trust the Who.

Dear Lord, thank You for knowing what I need and what I don’t — even when I don’t agree. Help me see Your “yes” and “no” as protection and guidance. Today, I choose to trust You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Prayerful Inner-Searching

From: Utmost.org

Prayerful Inner-Searching

“Your whole spirit….” The great, mysterious work of the Holy Spirit is in the deep recesses of our being which we cannot reach. Read Psalm 139. The psalmist implies— “O Lord, You are the God of the early mornings, the God of the late nights, the God of the mountain peaks, and the God of the sea. But, my God, my soul has horizons further away than those of early mornings, deeper darkness than the nights of earth, higher peaks than any mountain peaks, greater depths than any sea in nature. You who are the God of all these, be my God. I cannot reach to the heights or to the depths; there are motives I cannot discover, dreams I cannot realize. My God, search me.”

Do we believe that God can fortify and protect our thought processes far beyond where we can go? “…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). If this verse means cleansing only on our conscious level, may God have mercy on us. The man who has been dulled by sin will say that he is not even conscious of it. But the cleansing from sin we experience will reach to the heights and depths of our spirit if we will “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7). The same Spirit that fed the life of Jesus Christ will feed the life of our spirit. It is only when we are protected by God with the miraculous sacredness of the Holy Spirit that our spirit, soul, and body can be preserved in pure uprightness until the coming of Jesus-no longer condemned in God’s sight.

We should more frequently allow our minds to meditate on these great, massive truths of God.

 

Of Penguins and People

From: Our Daily Journey

Of Penguins and People

Read:

Hebrews 6:10-12
You have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do (Hebrews 6:10).

In 2011, a Brazilian fisherman came across a struggling penguin. The tiny creature’s feathers were soaked with oil and it desperately needed food. So the man took the sickly bird home and cared for it. Once it was healthy, he released it and the bird swam happily away.

Two months later, however, the penguin paddled back! And since then, the bird, nicknamed Dindim, has swum thousands of miles each year to visit the retiree—spending eight months with him before returning to the coasts of Argentina and Chile. The man, who says that Dindim grows more affectionate with each visit, declares, “I love the penguin like it’s my own child and I believe the penguin loves me.”

The author of Hebrews wrote that loving relationships between us and other believers in Jesus is a way for us to show our love for God. “You have shown your love to him by caring for other believers” (Hebrews 6:10).

Like the Brazilian fisherman, our compassionate care reveals a genuineness of faith in and love for Jesus as we “keep on loving others as long as life lasts” (Hebrews 6:11; 1 John 3:16-20). This translates from the original language to literally mean showing the same eager commitment. And committed “faith and endurance” marks true believers who tenderly care for others—all out of love for God (Hebrews 6:12).

It can get sticky at times and be downright difficult as people struggle with the slippery, gritty, pervasive ways of sin, along with spiritual starvation due to poor choices. But, just as Jesus has so richly poured out love and compassion on us, may we continue reaching out by the “power that comes from God” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

We love God by loving His children as if they’re our own.

We All Need Forgiveness

Are people like sheep? Do people need to be watched over?

The Suffering Servant
5   But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.

6   All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.

7  He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.…

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Is My Sacrifice Living?

Is My Sacrifice Living?

This event is a picture of the mistake we make in thinking that the ultimate God wants of us is the sacrifice of death. What God wants is the sacrifice through death which enables us to do what Jesus did, that is, sacrifice our lives. Not— “Lord, I am ready to go with You…to death” (Luke 22:33). But— “I am willing to be identified with Your death so that I may sacrifice my life to God.”

We seem to think that God wants us to give up things! God purified Abraham from this error, and the same process is at work in our lives. God never tells us to give up things just for the sake of giving them up, but He tells us to give them up for the sake of the only thing worth having, namely, life with Himself. It is a matter of loosening the bands that hold back our lives. Those bands are loosened immediately by identification with the death of Jesus. Then we enter into a relationship with God whereby we may sacrifice our lives to Him.

It is of no value to God to give Him your life for death. He wants you to be a “living sacrifice”— to let Him have all your strengths that have been saved and sanctified through Jesus (Romans 12:1). This is what is acceptable to God.

Who’s Holding All the Cards?

From: Get More Strength.org

“Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing, whose name was Boaz.” Ruth 2:1

To borrow a poker phrase, some people seem to hold all the cards. They are dealt a winning hand while the rest of us do the best with what few resources we may have. And with a “winner takes all” frame of mind, many of these high-profile, prosperous people manipulate and maneuver their wealth and power to pursue their own interests and advance their own cause. We all know the type.

In the story of Ruth, Boaz holds all the cards. He enters the scene as a man of great wealth and power. Yet I am struck by several aspects of his life that set him apart from the typical guy who holds all the cards.

I love the fact that he willingly aligns his resources with God’s heart for the poor and needy. God outlined in Levitical law that those who didn’t have the resources to survive could be “gleaners”—gathering grain that intentionally was left at the edge of the fields during harvest time. Boaz lived in a time when everyone did what was right in their own eyes. After a devastating famine, he could easily have ignored God’s heart for the poor in order to secure an abundant harvest for himself. But unlike other wealthy landowners, he still welcomed gleaners in his field. It was a tangible display of God’s love for the needy.

God also provided ways in which foreigners could be welcomed in Israel. Again, Boaz aligned himself with God’s heart—even for a Moabite from enemy territory. He could have cast Ruth aside when he learned she was not a Jew. Instead, he opened his heart to her. Sometimes we don’t want other “kinds” of people to move into our neighborhood, but God is actually delighted when they do. It’s an opportunity for us to do what Boaz did—open our hearts to “different” people who could use a tangible expression of God’s love and grace in their lives.

Not only did Boaz use his wealth for the benefit of those in need and welcome a foreigner to his field, he also desired to see God’s blessing poured out on her (Ruth 2:12) and then proceeded to be the instrument of God’s blessing in her life (Ruth 2:14). He became the answer to her prayers.

Boaz was also abundantly generous in his care for Ruth. Once again he put his treasures where God’s heart is. It is the character of God to be a generous God “able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).

So when was the last time you planned to cooperate with God and be the answer to someone’s prayers? You may think, Easy for Boaz—he had all the cards! But we all have some cards. Whether big or small, there’s always something we can do to bring the heart of God to a needy life that crosses our path.

Besides, God is the One who really holds all the cards. He shares His resources with us not for us to consume them all ourselves, but to share them for His glory and the good of others. So life is not about holding all the cards. From God’s point of view, it’s what you do with your cards. Use them as God would to bless others who cross your path.

 

 

Put Down Your Burdens

From: Our Daily Bread

Put Down Your Burdens

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

A man driving his pickup truck on a country track saw a woman carrying a heavy load, so he stopped and offered her a lift. The woman expressed her gratitude and climbed into the back of the truck.

A moment later, the man noticed a strange thing: the woman was still holding onto her heavy load despite sitting in the vehicle! Astonished, he pleaded, “Please, Madam, put down your load and take your rest. My truck can carry you and your stuff. Just relax.”

What do we do with the load of fear, worry, and anxiety we often carry as we go through life’s many challenges? Instead of relaxing in the Lord, I sometimes behave like that woman. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28), yet I’ve caught myself carrying burdens I should offload onto Jesus.

We put down our burdens when we bring them to the Lord in prayer. The apostle Peter says, “Cast all your anxiety on [Jesus] because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Because He cares for us, we can rest and relax as we learn to trust Him. Instead of carrying the burdens that weigh us down and weary us, we can give them to the Lord and let Him carry them.

I’m tired, Lord. I bring You my burdens today. Please keep them and carry them for me.

Prayer is the place where burdens change shoulders.

 

 

The King’s highway opened and cleared

From: Biblegateway, and Charles Spurgeon

“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Acts 16:31

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 16:21-23

I remember a certain narrow and crooked lane in a certain country town, along which I was walking one day while I was seeking the Saviour. On a sudden the most fearful oaths that any of you can conceive rushed through my heart. I put my hand to my mouth to prevent the utterance. I had not, that I know of, ever heard those words; and I am certain that I had never used in my life from my youth up so much as one of them, for I had never been profane. But these things sorely beset me; for half an hour together the most fearful imprecations would dash through my brain. Oh, how I groaned and cried before God! That temptation passed away; but before many days it was renewed again; and when I was in prayer, or when I was reading the Bible, these blasphemous thoughts would pour in upon me more than at any other time. I consulted with an aged godly man about it. He said to me, “Oh, all this many of the people of God have proved before you. But,” said he, “do you hate these thoughts?” “I do,” I truly said. “Then,” said he, “they are not yours; serve them as the old parishes used to do with vagrants—whip them and send them on to their own parish. So,” said he, “do with them. Groan over them, repent of them, and send them on to the devil, the father of them, to whom they belong—for they are not yours.” Do you not recollect how John Bunyan hits off the picture? He says, when Christian was going through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, that one stepped up softly to him, and whispered blasphemous thoughts into his ear, so that poor Christian thought they were his own thoughts; but they were not his thoughts at all, but the injections of a blasphemous spirit.

For meditation: The Lord Jesus Christ heard things that were temptations to him, but he always resisted them and never sinned. As long as we hate and resist them, temptations remain temptations only—they become sins only when we enjoy them and give in to them.

Practice Faith In God

 

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him”    Hebrews 11:6

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Leap of Faith

From: Get More Strength.org

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” Hebrews 11:6

What do you picture when you hear the word faith?

One of my mental pictures of faith in action is the memory of my two-year-old grandson, Silas, shivering by the side of a swimming pool, looking eagerly at his dad in the water. His dad is calling to him from only about two inches away, “Go ahead, Silas, jump!” In that moment Silas faces a major crisis of faith. Can he trust that his dad is powerful enough to catch him if he jumps in? And does he trust that his dad’s character is good—that he will keep his promise to catch him? After a moment of contemplation, Silas acts on his faith, jumping into his dad’s arms! Giggling, he’s ready to climb back out and do it again . . . and again . . . and again!

That’s what faith is. It’s putting your belief and trust in something or somebody outside of yourself, and then acting on that belief. Think about the examples given in Hebrews 11:1-40. Like, for instance, Abraham, venturing from his home to the unfamiliar, trusting a promise that wouldn’t materialize for decades. How about that same patriarch, placing his beloved son, Isaac, on the altar, trusting that somehow God would either provide an alternate sacrifice or raise his son from the dead? Or think about Moses, choosing to leave behind the pleasures and power of the pharaoh’s palace to shepherd a group of grumblers out of slavery into the Promised Land. Step by step, day by day, Moses acted on his faith in a promise that wouldn’t even completely materialize until after his death. The writer of Hebrews recounts these and many other examples of trust in this “Hall of Faith” chapter.

Of course, acting on faith isn’t always easy. It calls us to step away from what is comfortable and safe and, like a two-year-old at the edge of a vast swimming pool, look into unknown and unfamiliar circumstances. Maybe it’s a challenge to surrender our finances to God’s control, a career change, a move overseas, or waiting patiently on the Lord for the right spouse. It may be forgiving an offender or risking something for the sake of integrity or purity. Whatever the case, when God nudges our heart beyond what we can manage and manipulate on our own, we have an opportunity to act on the faith that we profess to believe.

The questions we face are as simple as the question in my grandson’s little heart when he’s at the edge of the pool. Can we trust that our Father is powerful enough? And do we trust that He is good? The answer to both questions, if we understand and believe the teaching of God’s Word, is a resounding “Yes!” Our all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present God can handle every situation we face. He is the very essence and definition of what is good. He will always do what is right and we can trust Him to ultimately not let us fall or fail.

What I like best is that Hebrews 11:6 tells us that faith triggers a response of pleasure in God’s heart. As we demonstrate our trust in Him, He is not apathetic or indifferent, but actually delights in our belief in Him. In fact, as His children, the writer says, we cannot please Him without faith! It is impossible.

I don’t know what “pool” you are standing next to today. But I do know the character of the Father who is calling you to act on your faith in Him. I invite you to the pleasure of trusting Him today. Come on in! The water’s fine!

Our Source of Provision

From: Our Daily Bread

Our Source of Provision

The Lord is near to all who call on him. Psalm 145:18

In August 2010, the attention of the world was focused on a mine shaft near Copiapó, Chile. Thirty-three miners huddled in the dark, trapped 2,300 feet underground. They had no idea if help would ever arrive. After seventeen days of waiting, they heard drilling. Rescuers produced a small hole in the mine shaft ceiling, and that hole was followed by three more, establishing a delivery path for water, food, and medicine. The miners depended on those conduits to the surface above ground, where rescuers had the provisions they would need to survive. On day sixty-nine, rescuers pulled the last miner to safety.

None of us can survive in this world apart from provisions that are outside of ourselves. God, the Creator of the universe, is the one who provides us with everything we need. Like the drill holes for those miners, prayer connects us to the God of all supply.

Jesus encouraged us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). In His day, bread was the basic staple of life and pictured all the daily needs of the people. Jesus was teaching us to pray not only for our physical needs but also for everything we need—comfort, healing, courage, wisdom.

Through prayer we have access to Him at any moment, and He knows what we need before we even ask (v. 8). What might you be struggling with today? “The Lord is near to all who call on him” (Ps. 145:18).

To learn more about prayer, read Let’s Pray at discoveryseries.org/hp135.

Prayer is the voice of faith, trusting that God knows and cares.

A Way Out

From: Our Daily Journey

A Way Out

Read:

1 Corinthians 10:12-14
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will . . . show you a way out so that you can endure (1 Corinthians 10:13).

The email began: “All, I try not to overload your reading with too many articles. But when I find one that is so good, I can’t help but to share it with you.”

Naturally, my interest was piqued, and I downloaded the article. But when I saw the title was “Four Temptations that Leaders Face,” honestly, I wasn’t too excited. I thought: Hmm . . . I don’t face many temptations. Boy, was I wrong!

Pastor Dan Reiland categorizes the temptations that leaders—and all of us—face, by using the following four “Ps”: Pressure temptations, power temptations, purity temptations, and people temptations. I can identify two of those as part of my own Achilles’ heel. While under pressure, I’m too easily tempted to lose my patience or become harsh with my words. And I’m often tempted to be people-pleasing rather than God-pleasing.

In 1 Corinthians 10:12-14, Paul provides some helpful counsel for how to handle temptations. First, he reminds us not to underestimate the danger of the situation or overestimate our own ability to handle it (1 Corinthians 10:12). We need to “watch and pray, so that [we] will not give in to temptation” (Matthew 26:41). Second, Paul encourages us by noting that our challenges are not unique. God is faithful, and He will help us. He won’t allow the temptation to be more than we can stand (1 Corinthians 10:13). Finally, we’re told that we can overcome temptation because God gives us the grace to do so. Every temptation is an opportunity to turn to God and His vast resources.

God, may we resist the power of temptation by Your power. Please show us the way out, and give us the strength to follow it. And when we falter and fail, grant us grace to run to You for mercy and restoration. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Practice The Way Of Truth

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Truth or Consequences

From: Get More Strength.org

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body” Ephesians 4:25

In my first church ministry, I pastored a small, newly planted congregation, which meant that I shouldered many of the week-to-week office responsibilities. So, when the Sunday school curriculum needed to be ordered, our volunteer superintendent came to me with a gentle reminder: “Hey, Pastor, don’t forget to order the curriculum for the next quarter.”

“No problem!” I confidently replied. And then I promptly forgot.

The following Sunday, I bumped into him and his wife. “Hey, Pastor, did you remember to order the curriculum?”

I’m ashamed to say that my response was spontaneous and devastatingly deceitful. Without missing a beat, the urge for self-protection and preservation of personal pride emerged, and I straight out lied, “Yep!” and promptly walked to my office.

As I pulled my sermon notes out of my briefcase, God’s conviction in my spirit was brutal.

It was as though God were saying, “So you’re the preacher are you? The truth-teller from the pulpit today?” The Spirit’s probing was penetrating. I knew I was in deep weeds with God. The Bible tells us that He is truth and He cannot lie. Lying makes the “big-ten” list of sins in the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus said that Satan is the father of lies. So I was stuck! I had two alternatives. FedEx overnight. They’d never know! But I would, and so would God. The other option was to bring them into my office, admit my sin, and plead their forgiveness.

I knew that I needed to do what our text today commands us to do, to “put off falsehood” and speak truthfully to our neighbors. The church is to be a place marked by a commitment to truth, because our God is a God who is true. Genuine, loving relationships are always anchored in truth. When we veer from that, even a little, the consequences are disastrous—damaged relationships, compromised leadership, and most sadly, a loss of mutual trust, integrity, and effectiveness in our witness for Jesus Christ.

That Sunday morning I learned how strong our desire for self-preservation and self-glory can be. Lies offer the opportunity to keep people thinking well of us, and they are great for getting ourselves out of a tight jam. I also learned how hard it is to admit this kind of a failure. Admitting the truth about my lie would expose how flawed I really am. And, after all, I was the pastor. Pastors don’t make mistakes. I feared that revealing the real pastor who lived under the navy blue preaching suit could put my ministry at risk.

But ultimately, and thankfully, God’s Spirit gently prodded me to value the truth more than my own reputation, and I found myself calling the superintendent and his wife into my office.

“As your pastor, I am committed to the truth,” I said. “I failed to tell you the truth this morning. I not only forgot to order the curriculum this week, but then lied to you about it just now. I am deeply sorry and need to ask for your forgiveness.”

With grace and love, this dear couple instantly replied, “Oh, Pastor, that’s alright. We forgive you.” And I was able to continue my ministry that morning with a renewed sense of humility and wonder at the grace of God, and with a relationship restored.

I know it can be difficult to tell the truth sometimes. But the consequences of unchecked deception are lethal. Make the right choice: Tell the truth. Take it from me; you’ll be glad you did!

Arlene Pellicane January 6, 2017

From: Crosswalk.com
Environment is Stronger Than Willpower
ARLENE PELLICANE

“For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16 (NIV)

For my mom’s birthday one year, a creative friend made her a poster board plastered with chocolate bars. Each chocolate bar was part of a sentence like, “Your friendship is worth $100 Grand.” To my surprise, she didn’t eat the candy. Every time I went into her home office, I had to look at those chocolate bars. For months I was tempted to “enjoy” my mom’s birthday gift for myself!

Finally, I asked my mom if I could cut open the wrappers and throw away the chocolates. That candy-laden environment was winning against my willpower. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I came to a breaking point: Either eat the candy, or change the environment.

Environment is stronger than willpower. We may have all the willpower in the world, but when we’re constantly surrounded by chocolate (or another favorite treat), we will eventually give in.

Today’s key verse warns believers about the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Those chocolate bar decorations certainly represented the lust of the flesh, a physical temptation, for me. Whether your goal is to eat healthier or to pray more, it’s crucial to create the right environment to reduce temptation.

If my temptation is food, I must make my home a safe place to eat. I can’t buy junk food in the grocery store or stock my cupboards with it and expect to resist the temptation for a late-night snack. Instead I’ll do better to fill my kitchen with fruits, vegetables and healthy snacks to create a better environment. It’s not always easy, but I find when I make the decision beforehand to walk past the breakroom and the box of donuts waiting on the countertop — over time — it becomes easier to resist.

When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, his first attempt was with food. The devil said, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3b, NIV). But Jesus answered, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” (Luke 4: 4b, NIV).

Notice Jesus didn’t say people don’t need food. He said that man doesn’t live by food alone. We can lean on the promises of God’s Word when we’re tempted to indulge the lust of the flesh.

Maybe you don’t have a problem with food. Maybe your struggle is prayer. I understand. Sometimes I want to pray, but my flesh says, “I’m too tired” or “I don’t need to pray; I’ve got this handled.” Just as I can create a healthier environment by eating whole foods and attending an exercise class, I can also create a prayerful environment.

What’s been helpful for me is to begin each day by praising God for who He is. I place my Bible right next to my bed so it’s the first thing I reach for. I’ve also developed new habits like not checking social media until I check in with God in prayer. When I first started this new routine, I would even put a sticky note over my phone to remind me.

A positive environment can inspire you to make the choices you want to make. Don’t count on willpower to defeat the lust of the flesh. Rely on the Holy Spirit and wisely build an environment for positive change and accountability.

And if you ever receive a bunch of candy bars for your birthday, here’s my advice: Share them with others and get them out of your house as soon as possible!

Dear God, I praise You that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Help me take care of my physical body and my soul. Show me how to turn away from the lust of the flesh. Reign over my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Worship

From: Utmost.org

Worship

Worship is giving God the best that He has given you. Be careful what you do with the best you have. Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to Him as a love-gift. Take time to meditate before God and offer the blessing back to Him in a deliberate act of worship. If you hoard it for yourself, it will turn into spiritual dry rot, as the manna did when it was hoarded (see Exodus 16:20). God will never allow you to keep a spiritual blessing completely for yourself. It must be given back to Him so that He can make it a blessing to others.

Bethel is the symbol of fellowship with God; Ai is the symbol of the world. Abram “pitched his tent” between the two. The lasting value of our public service for God is measured by the depth of the intimacy of our private times of fellowship and oneness with Him. Rushing in and out of worship is wrong every time— there is always plenty of time to worship God. Days set apart for quiet can be a trap, detracting from the need to have daily quiet time with God. That is why we must “pitch our tents” where we will always have quiet times with Him, however noisy our times with the world may be. There are not three levels of spiritual life— worship, waiting, and work. Yet some of us seem to jump like spiritual frogs from worship to waiting, and from waiting to work. God’s idea is that the three should go together as one. They were always together in the life of our Lord and in perfect harmony. It is a discipline that must be developed; it will not happen overnight.

 

Extravagant Love

From: Our Daily Journey

Extravagant Love

Read:

John 12:1-8
Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume . . . and she anointed Jesus’ feet (John 12:3).

Every year during Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter), many churches follow Jesus’ example during the Last Supper by washing one another’s feet. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet and told them to imitate what He had done. Washing feet is a prayerful and powerful act, but it can also upset our sense of pride, personal space, and privacy. It can be truly unsettling.

Mary, filled with love for Jesus, pulled out her “jar of expensive perfume” and spilled it over Jesus’ feet (John 12:3). She cleaned them with the aromatic ointment, using her own hair as a towel.

Unlike the discomfort we might feel while having someone wash our feet (and the discomfort the disciples felt (especially Peter) when Jesus washed their feet), Jesus welcomed Mary’s tender generosity. It wasn’t Christ but Judas who was bothered. “That perfume was worth a year’s wages,” he exclaimed. “It should have been sold and the money given to the poor” (John 12:5).

John tells us that Judas’ intentions were not so noble as he made them sound; rather he was conniving to get his hands on more of the money. Still, I’m struck by Jesus’ defense of Mary. “Leave her alone,” He said. “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me” (John 12:8). Jesus, a constant friend to those on the fringe, was in no way opposing care for the poor but rather highlighting how love for Him comes before all other affections.

Mary’s effusive love was an offense to some of those around her. Jesus’ effusive love for us is an offense to many as well. Extravagant love heals us, but it also unnerves us. We’ll need courage to both give and receive this powerful, profuse love that flows from God.

Practice Truth In The New Year

Truth or Consequences

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body” Ephesians 4:25

In my first church ministry, I pastored a small, newly planted congregation, which meant that I shouldered many of the week-to-week office responsibilities. So, when the Sunday school curriculum needed to be ordered, our volunteer superintendent came to me with a gentle reminder: “Hey, Pastor, don’t forget to order the curriculum for the next quarter.”

“No problem!” I confidently replied. And then I promptly forgot.

The following Sunday, I bumped into him and his wife. “Hey, Pastor, did you remember to order the curriculum?”

I’m ashamed to say that my response was spontaneous and devastatingly deceitful. Without missing a beat, the urge for self-protection and preservation of personal pride emerged, and I straight out lied, “Yep!” and promptly walked to my office.

As I pulled my sermon notes out of my briefcase, God’s conviction in my spirit was brutal.

It was as though God were saying, “So you’re the preacher are you? The truth-teller from the pulpit today?” The Spirit’s probing was penetrating. I knew I was in deep weeds with God. The Bible tells us that He is truth and He cannot lie. Lying makes the “big-ten” list of sins in the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus said that Satan is the father of lies. So I was stuck! I had two alternatives. FedEx overnight. They’d never know! But I would, and so would God. The other option was to bring them into my office, admit my sin, and plead their forgiveness.

I knew that I needed to do what our text today commands us to do, to “put off falsehood” and speak truthfully to our neighbors. The church is to be a place marked by a commitment to truth, because our God is a God who is true. Genuine, loving relationships are always anchored in truth. When we veer from that, even a little, the consequences are disastrous—damaged relationships, compromised leadership, and most sadly, a loss of mutual trust, integrity, and effectiveness in our witness for Jesus Christ.

That Sunday morning I learned how strong our desire for self-preservation and self-glory can be. Lies offer the opportunity to keep people thinking well of us, and they are great for getting ourselves out of a tight jam. I also learned how hard it is to admit this kind of a failure. Admitting the truth about my lie would expose how flawed I really am. And, after all, I was the pastor. Pastors don’t make mistakes. I feared that revealing the real pastor who lived under the navy blue preaching suit could put my ministry at risk.

But ultimately, and thankfully, God’s Spirit gently prodded me to value the truth more than my own reputation, and I found myself calling the superintendent and his wife into my office.

“As your pastor, I am committed to the truth,” I said. “I failed to tell you the truth this morning. I not only forgot to order the curriculum this week, but then lied to you about it just now. I am deeply sorry and need to ask for your forgiveness.”

With grace and love, this dear couple instantly replied, “Oh, Pastor, that’s alright. We forgive you.” And I was able to continue my ministry that morning with a renewed sense of humility and wonder at the grace of God, and with a relationship restored.

I know it can be difficult to tell the truth sometimes. But the consequences of unchecked deception are lethal. Make the right choice: Tell the truth. Take it from me; you’ll be glad you did!

 

 

Dr. James Merritt January 5, 2017
Time Well Spent
DR. JAMES MERRITT

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.“ Psalm 37:4-7 (NIV)

There is an old saying “time is money.” That really isn’t true. The real truth is “time is life.” Life comes down to the time we have on this earth and how we spend it.

The older I get, the more I realize the most precious time in life is when I spend it with the people I love the most. Even after 40 years of marriage, I love spending time with my precious Teresa. One-on-one. Just the two of us. I have never gotten over the fact that … a) she married me, and b) she still loves to spend time with me.

Yet even more amazing to me is that God desires to spend time with me!

In fact, He wants to spend time with you and me so badly that He paid in order to get it. He sent Jesus to remove every barrier, tear down every wall and unlock every door so we could have a personal relationship with Him. In fact, He gave us His Word so we could hear from Him constantly and consistently.

That’s why I love to read my Bible. I know God wants me to have unrestricted access to Him, anywhere and anytime I want. God has a personal side and He wants me to know it. God wants you to get to know Him better so you can love Him fully, hear Him clearly and experience His guidance. This comes by spending time with Him in His Word.

A king by the name of David wrote a song about the benefits of spending time with God, showing us why this should be a top priority of our life.

Spending Time with God Causes Me to Reflect God’s Character
Just as I enjoy spending precious time with my wife, God is delighted when we are delighted in Him! He loves to be our eyes and ears so He can speak into our heart.

Have you noticed the more time you spend with someone, the more you become like them? As we spend time with God and His Word, He changes us so we become more like Him. God changes us so He can use us to change other people. You simply cannot spend time with God, hear His Word, know Him better, love Him more and be the same person.

Spending Time with God Causes Me to Receive God’s Blessings
God promises that when we delight in Him, He will give us the desires of our heart. Now this is not a “your wish is my command!” promise. As we spend time with God, we will delight in Him. His desires become our desires because our hearts are tuned to His. He will grant us what we desire, because we both want the same thing!

Spending Time with God Causes Me to Rest in God’s Will
As we spend time with God and His Word, our faith and trust in Him will grow. Fear is replaced by faith, and worry is replaced by worship. Spending quality time with God and consistently studying His Word grows our confidence in His power and our commitment to His plans for our lives.

So today … set aside time to spend with the One who is above all time. It will be time well spent.

Heavenly Father, thank You for wanting to spend time with me and inviting me to spend time with You. Help me prioritize this time with You, knowing it is the path to divine power and meaningful productivity in the time You have given me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

Income vs. Investment

Income vs. Investment

Read:

1 Timothy 6:6-19
Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth (1 Timothy 6:6).

“And what do you do, Susan?” I asked over dinner. “Oh, not much,” she said. Approaching the question differently, I asked Susan what she’d done that week. Her answer made me feel exhausted!

That week Susan had helped lead her church’s women’s ministry, touching several hundred lives. She’d spent two days helping a friend recover from surgery. She’d mentored two young women; cooked, cleaned, and cared for her family; and was now offering hospitality to me. I told Susan she was doing a lot with her life. “I don’t always feel so,” she replied, “because I’m not bringing in an income.”

In a culture like ours, it’s easy to value people by their paychecks: The higher the income, we think, the more significant they must be. But this can leave the low-paid, the unemployed, fulltime parents or volunteers, and people like Susan feeling devalued. Something is wrong with the popular way we measure a person’s significance.

The apostle Paul knew the importance of money (1 Timothy 5:18), but he placed it secondary to other forms of “wealth”—like godliness (1 Timothy 6:6). He warned that money could destroy godliness (1 Timothy 6:7-9) and advised those with lots of money to use it in a godly way (1 Timothy 6:18-19). To Paul, money ranked lower than faith, love, and generosity (1 Timothy 6:11,18)—the very things Susan was evidencing in her life. She may not have been earning an income, but Susan was “rich in good works.”

What if we valued our lives another way: not by our incomes, but by our investments—by how much love, time, and assistance we gave to others? Those earning much would remember what wealth is for, while those earning little would rediscover God’s economy: that in His eyes, helping a friend after surgery or looking after one’s family is the work of millionaires.

Be Prepared For The New Challenges

Be prepared for the new year’s challenges.

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January 2, 2017

From: Crosswalk.com
Start the New Year Prepared
KATY MCCOWN

“When yo go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2 (NLT)

“I’m not doing this again,” I proclaimed, and I meant it with all my heart.

Just a few days before, I spent a dark, rainy weekend packing our lives into boxes and then unloading them into a new place in a new city.

Though the bulk of the work was behind me, I felt exhausted and unsatisfied. I didn’t look forward to new memories and planting roots, because this new place had no more certainty than the last one. I feared another weekend much like the one I’d just experienced was all too close.

So, I announced I wasn’t doing it again. But my husband’s career requires us to relocate often, so although I knew I couldn’t cling to the idea of never moving again, I could purpose to do it differently the next time.

Why do we need this lamp? There are perfectly fine lights on the ceiling. Who needs headboards for the beds? The wall will be support enough. This dresser isn’t necessary.We can stack clothes on the shelf in the closet.

And so it went. One thing at a time, I whittled away at our stuff and created a simpler, much more manageable life of mobility.

In today’s key verse, God talks to His people, the Israelites, as they begin a journey. After years in captivity, they rejoiced at the freedom to return to their homeland. But to get there, they would have to travel a long distance.

Their travel would look quite different from ours — no plane to catch and no trailer to haul their stuff. So you can imagine the challenge this nation would face when they found themselves standing in front of deep waters or difficult rivers.

Men, women, children, livestock and all their belongings would have to find a way through these physical obstacles.

Though we may not come upon an actual river, we will likely encounter something this year that mimics a rushing current or suffocating smoke. Notice how our key verse says, “When you go through deep waters … When you go through rivers of difficulty … When you walk through the fire of oppression.”

When. Not if.

The nation of Israel was guaranteed to encounter all of these on their journey, and I think we can count on it too. So let’s prepare for it, shall we?

When I realized the uncertainty of my family’s future, I purposed to get rid of all of the extra, unnecessary things that weighed us down. The things we absolutely could live without and would ultimately free us up to follow God wherever He chose to lead us.

Since that day, my family has moved every single year. And that’s okay. Our things are now so simplified we can do it in a matter of hours. Our last move demanded my husband and me, and about two hours of our time. That’s it.

Consequently, I no longer dread future moves, because I know we’re prepared for it.

We all have extra. Sometimes in our physical surroundings. Sometimes in our spiritual ones. To face the troubles sure to surface, we need to get rid of the extra.

When the water is deep, your feet can’t feel the bottom. And your body is tired, but the other side is still so far away. That one thing you don’t need could be the one thing that drags you under.

Of course, no matter how prepared we feel, we’ll never be able to conquer our troubles alone. God didn’t just warn of potential problems ahead, He included promises to stand on in the midst of them.

God will be with us. We will not be overtaken. We will not be utterly consumed.

As we head into a new year, let’s start this one prepared, so when we face the trials of life we will stand. Undaunted by deep waters. Ready for rivers of difficulty. Fearless in the face of the fire.

Dear God, thank You. Thank You for the smiles and laughs and songs and prayers all shared in 2016. And thank You for the promise of Your presence as I travel through 2017. Through deep waters and difficult rivers and oppressive heat, You promise You will be with me. May my actions prove Your promises this year. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Heaven – This Way

From: Get More Strength.org

“You know the way to the place where I am going” John 14:4

The classic World War II movie The Longest Day portrays one of the clever military strategies of the German army. After the Allies had taken the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, their orders were to assemble in the town of St. Mere-Eglise in France. When they saw the sign for St. Mere-Eglise, naturally they proceeded in that direction. There was only one problem: The Germans had turned the sign to point in the opposite direction.

Unknowingly, the Allied forces confidently followed the sign and started marching toward the German trap. The hero of the Allied forces, played by John Wayne, showed up just in time to rescue them from certain destruction. One glance at his compass told him they were heading for disaster. “Hey, where’s everybody going?” he shouted. “Am I the only one here with a compass? It’s east; it’s east. Somebody moved the sign!”

It’s an old trick, but in our spiritual lives Satan continues to use it against us with great success. He turns the signs pointing to ultimate victory and a great final destiny toward the defeating attitudes of fear, despair, and hopelessness. Jesus, on the eve of His death, wanted to prepare His friends for the battle ahead. He knew that the disciples would be confused and disoriented by the enemy, so He lovingly assured them of victory and pointed them toward their final destination, heaven. He’s done the same for us. He assures us that regardless of the forces that might come against us today, heaven is just ahead and the victory is ours!

Jesus won the victory on “D-Day” when He died on the cross for you! At that point it was His intention to set your heart on heaven. Keeping our eyes on heaven means that regardless of what we face, we know where we are headed. Heavenward travelers proceed with the confidence that all the difficulties of the journey are merely temporary and well worth the pain in light of the ultimate and eternal joy of our destination. But beware! Satan wants nothing more than to distract and disorient your heart. He craftily points the sign toward feelings of inadequacy and defeat. He masks the signs pointing to guilt and regret with slick invitations to seduction and compromise. In fact, many of his distractions claim that heaven is really the here and now if only you will engage in a little out-of-bounds pleasure or in living to increase your stacks of stuff. When we think we’ve got heaven here, the enemy has won the day. But it’s not too late to get back on track. Jesus holds the compass, and He knows that to follow Satan’s clever shifting of the sign is to walk right into the trap of Satan’s destruction. He knows the territory well and is calling us to follow Him all the way to heaven—the ultimate destination of eternal fulfillment and joy!

Hear Him shouting to your heart: “Hey, you’re going the wrong way! Follow me!”

 

The Perfect Gift

From: Our Daily Bread

The Perfect Gift

Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

The weeks after Christmas are the busiest time of year in the US for merchandise returns as people trade unwanted gifts for what they really want. Yet you probably know a few people who always seem to give the perfect gift. How do they know just what another person values and what is right for the occasion? The key to successful gift-giving is not money; it’s listening to others and taking a personal interest in what they enjoy and appreciate.

This is true for family and friends. But what about God? Is there anything meaningful or valuable that we can give to God? Is there anything He doesn’t already have?

Romans 11:33–36, a song of praise to God for His great wisdom, knowledge, and glory, is followed by a call to give ourselves to Him. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (12:1). Instead of being shaped by the world around us, we are to be “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” (v. 2).

What’s the best gift we can give to God today? In gratitude, humility, and love we can give ourselves completely to Him—heart, mind, and will. It’s just what the Lord is longing to receive from each of us.

Dear Lord, I’m Yours. I want to offer myself to You—heart, mind, and will—in humble service and in thankful worship for all You have done for me.

The best gift we can give to God is ourselves.

 

 

How Much God Loves You

From: Our Daily Journey

How Much God Loves You

Read:

John 17:1-26
May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me (John 17:23).

When my children were small, I often read them the bedtime story Guess How Much I Love You. A baby rabbit stretched his arms high and told his daddy he loved him that much. His father had longer arms, so he raised them up and said he loved his son even more. The baby hopped and said he loved his dad that high. The father could jump higher, and so he hopped to show his love was even greater. Finally, the baby rabbit said he loved his daddy all the way to the moon. The father thought for a moment and said, “I love you right up to the moon—and back.”

I like that story because it impressed upon my children what I couldn’t put into words. How could I tell them just how much I loved them? I know the ache of a parent’s heart when words fail, so I was amazed to hear that my heavenly Father feels the exact same way about me.

In an astounding prayer, Jesus asked His Father to unify us so “the world will know that you sent me and have loved them as much as you love me” (John 17:23). Our heavenly Father loves us as much as He loves His Son? I wouldn’t believe it if it weren’t in the Bible, and even then I wonder if I’m reading it correctly. But without question, that’s exactly what it says.

The God of the entire cosmos loves you as much as He loves anyone—as much as He loves His “one and only Son”! (John 3:16). Do you know what that means? You could not possibly be loved more—or better.

When I finished reading the bedtime story, I would tuck my children in and give them a goodnight kiss. There wasn’t anything for them to do but accept that they were loved. So it is with us. Snuggle in the warm embrace of your heavenly Father’s grace today.