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Happy New Year

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New Year’s Day Holiday Devotional

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“Undone”

Years and years of hard work… diligently putting it all together… piece by piece…
thinking all is well… progress is being made

but then you… come and scramble the whole picture…
leaving pieces scatter everywhere

you smile lovingly…as I sit in the middle of the mess… knowing that I don’t know
knowing that I’m undone… and thinking to yours
now that’s progress

This poem by Jim Branch was my life. I was sitting in the middle of the mess; the mess God allowed me to make, teaching me His will, not mine. “Just sit,” He whispers; He was making me rest in my mess. And rest.

Finally, God told me my next move. Be bold, go deep. Yikes! God was finally willing to rebuild, but I had to obey, I had to go deep, get messy, and do hard work. My reward? Life more free and full, more than I could ever imagine. I could no longer remain hidden, my faults, messiness and shame were going to be flaunted for all to see. But now is time to obey, to continue walking through my wall and conquer.

“… now that’s progress …” We build our castles, years of hard work. Then God allows the crumble, He allows the crumble so that we can again rely on Him and know that we are His Beloved. The past twelve weeks of the Women’s Ministries Internship has been intense and full; I put in hard work, I dug deep and it got tough. But I was a warrior fighting for her Father’s will, fighting to hear His voice. I was still, I was intentional, I was real. I finally knew that in spite of me, I am His. No longer is my life about following rules, doing the “right” things, earning merit, or being ashamed of my mess. I am His chosen, He fought for me! He guides me as I follow in joyful obedience; His saving grace has overpowered my sinful nature so that I can give myself to my Heavenly Father every day! My story is His story, and it has just begun!

So know this about our Great God: He loves you so much more than we can fathom. He has a purpose for you still, until His Kingdom come. Your mess, your shame, is His story. Fight through that wall, be a warrior for Christ!

Into Your hands Father, we commit to your Spirit, in spite of ourselves, to Your will. We are joyfully obedient, we are still and quiet to hear Your voice. We rest in You. Through our suffering we accept Your invitation to greater intimacy.

So, beloved children of God, sit back, get planted, take rest and live in the fullness of God. Know your story as part of His story; share that story, make community and be intimate with His people. Be open to His will, be aware of opportunities for depth; put in the work and don’t look back, your life will be changed. I pray that we never stop yearning to feel His love and to know Him more deeply.

“Come to Me. Get away with Me and I’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take real rest…Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:25-30 MSG

Be restored and let’s go deep together!

 

One Thing

Have you made a New Year’s resolution? Or maybe you’ve given up on doing that! Perhaps in past years you’ve been through the cycle of optimism, trying hard, faltering, getting discouraged, and giving up.

Indeed, most people who make a New Year’s Resolution have given up on their project by mid February. Many people discard the whole idea and say, “I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions!”

But there is another way to approach the start of a New Year: Pray for God to lead you in a “New Year’s Renewal.”

For a number of years I’ve been using the clean slate and fresh start of a New Year to make a New Year’s Renewal. I pray about what the Lord wants to do in my life and how I can work with him to grow in that area.

My New Year’s Renewals always boils down to one thing: More than anything I want to be the kind of person who lives for the one thing of being devoted to Christ with all my heart.

Each year God shows me a problem I need to overcome or something about how I live my daily life that needs to change so that I can get more centered on Christ as my One Thing.

My friend Howard Baker in his book, The One Thing, showed me that three of our Bible heroes inspire us to live with singular Devotion to the Lord:

• David: In the midst of his painful and frightening desert trials over about ten years in which he was horribly mistreated and nearly killed he prayed, “One thing I ask, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life… My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’” (Psalm 27:4, 8).

• Mary: She set aside her kitchen work to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him and she received his affirmation: “There are many things that can be worried about, but only one thing is needed – it is the best thing – and Mary has chosen it!” (Luke 10:41-42, my paraphrase).

• Paul: He counted his many accomplishments and blessings as dung compared to the “surpassing greatness of knowing Christ” (Philippians 3:8). He expressed his life ambition, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

This year, more than ever, I want to seek the One Thing that is the best thing, to be more devoted to Christ, don’t you? Of course you do or you wouldn’t be reading this Devotion!

How do we grow to be devoted to Christ as our One Thing? How do we make real changes to how we live our daily lives as an expression of love for God? How do we overcome worry or anger? How do we learn to rejoice in trials? Pray without ceasing? Love difficult people? Not by trying hard! That won’t last very long. Or it’ll just make us proud!

The way to make a real character change – to learn, grow, or heal in any area – is by training. Look to Jesus as your Coach and “work out” with him. “Train yourself to be godly” Paul advises us (1 Timothy 4:7).

An important part of any spiritual training program is meditating on Scripture.

To meditate on Scripture is more than reading it. And its different than studying it. When you meditate on Scripture you pray through God’s Word by applying it to the struggles and opportunities of your life. You become as a bee that stops on a flower and lingers, staying on the flower to suck out the nectar and using it to make sweet honey.

“Your word, O Lord, is sweeter than honey!” exclaims the Psalmist (Psalm 119:103, my paraphrase).

May you and I, day-by-day, discover more sweetness in Scripture and use it to live for the One Thing of loving God and loving others as he loves us.

Can God change your life?

God has made it possible for you to know Him and experience an amazing change in your own life. Discover how you can find peace with God.You can also send us your prayer requests or chat online with the CBN Prayer Team

 

Let Us Keep to the Point

From: Utmost.org

Let Us Keep to the Point

My Utmost for His Highest. “…my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed….” We will all feel very much ashamed if we do not yield to Jesus the areas of our lives He has asked us to yield to Him. It’s as if Paul were saying, “My determined purpose is to be my utmost for His highest— my best for His glory.” To reach that level of determination is a matter of the will, not of debate or of reasoning. It is absolute and irrevocable surrender of the will at that point. An undue amount of thought and consideration for ourselves is what keeps us from making that decision, although we cover it up with the pretense that it is others we are considering. When we think seriously about what it will cost others if we obey the call of Jesus, we tell God He doesn’t know what our obedience will mean. Keep to the point— He does know. Shut out every other thought and keep yourself before God in this one thing only— my utmost for His highest. I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and Him alone.

My Unstoppable Determination for His Holiness. “Whether it means life or death-it makes no difference!” (see Philippians 1:21). Paul was determined that nothing would stop him from doing exactly what God wanted. But before we choose to follow God’s will, a crisis must develop in our lives. This happens because we tend to be unresponsive to God’s gentler nudges. He brings us to the place where He asks us to be our utmost for Him and we begin to debate. He then providentially produces a crisis where we have to decide— for or against. That moment becomes a great crossroads in our lives. If a crisis has come to you on any front, surrender your will to Jesus absolutely and irrevocably.

 

Thanks-Living

From:  Our Daily Bread

Thanks-Living
Read: Psalm 23 | Bible in a Year: Genesis 1–3; Matthew 1

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. Psalm 23:6

Wanting to mature in her spiritual life and become more thankful, Sue started what she called a Thanks-Living jar. Each evening she wrote on a small piece of paper one thing she thanked God for and dropped it in the jar. Some days she had many praises; other difficult days she struggled to find one. At the end of the year she emptied her jar and read through all of the notes. She found herself thanking God again for everything He had done. He had given simple things like a beautiful sunset or a cool evening for a walk in the park, and other times He had provided grace to handle a difficult situation or had answered a prayer.

Sue’s discovery reminded me of what the psalmist David says he experienced (Ps. 23). God refreshed him with “green pastures” and “quiet waters” (vv. 2–3). He gave him guidance, protection, and comfort (vv. 3–4). David concluded: “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life” (v. 6).

I’m going to make a Thanks-Living jar this year. Maybe you’d like to as well. I think we’ll see we have many reasons to thank God—including His gifts of friends and family and His provisions for our physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. We’ll see that the goodness and love of God follow us all the days of our lives.

Dear Lord, You bless me in more ways than I can count. Thank You for Your love for me.

When you think of all that’s good, give thanks to God.

Happy New Year’s Eve

 

  • 2 Corinthians 5:17

    17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
  • Psalm 98:1

    1 Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
  • Romans 8:18

    18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
  • Isaiah 43:19

    19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

 

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A Year of New Things

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“See, I am doing a new thing!” Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

Thanks to Christmas, we all end the year with new things—new toys for the kids, new clothes (not always the right color or size, but still new), new pounds on our bodies. We start the year off with new things, too—a new calendar on the wall, new bills to pay, and new resolutions for the days ahead.

Everybody likes new things, including God. He’s called the Ancient of Days, but He says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” God begins His book with the story of His creating a new world; He ends it with His plans to make a new heaven and new earth.

Our heavenly Father wants to do new things in the lives of His children. He desires to teach us new truths about Himself, provide new opportunities for ministering to others, take us to higher levels of worship and deeper levels of trust. But too often we’re like the Israelites when they were traveling in the wilderness.

God promised to provide for them by raining down bread from heaven six days a week. He instructed them to gather only enough manna for each day, except for the day before the Sabbath when they were allowed to store up two days’ worth. When some of the people disobeyed and tried to hoard extra manna, it became rotten and full of worms by the next morning.

I’m like that sometimes. God wants to do new, fresh things in my life and in my ministry for Him. But often I try to hold on to yesterday’s stale manna. I don’t want to let go of what is comfortable and familiar—some old way of thinking, a certain way of doing things, my usual area of service to Him. I may miss new and exciting things God has planned for me if I don’t fully trust His guidance, even when He seems to be leading me down unfamiliar paths.

One of the best ways to keep our faith fresh and new is to develop a habit of daily Bible study. God’s Word is timeless—old and new at the same time. Just as God’s “compassions are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23), a daily dose of His Word can give us new understanding, fresh insights, and renewed strength.

We can drink in the Psalms to help us “sing to the Lord a new song” (33:3 and others). We read in Ezekiel about God’s promise to give us “a new heart and a new spirit” (chapters 11, 18, 36). We rejoice along with Paul as he declares, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Studying the letters of Colossians and Ephesians reminds us that we have taken off our “old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:9) and are to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).

If we need motivation to live like a new creation, God has provided two keys in His Word. It’s important to look backward to the New Covenant, the source of our salvation. We can meditate on Hebrews and thank God again that the sacrifice of Jesus made “a new and living way” for us to enter His presence (Hebrews 10:19-22). And we also keep looking forward to our future by reading Revelation. We can find comfort in thinking about the time when God will right all wrongs, heal all hurts, and give us a new name and a new home.

A good way for a child of God to celebrate the New Year is to let go of anything that has gone stale or rotten. Then we’ll be free to live each day expecting new, fresh things from the One Who promises, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5)

 

New Beginnings Make New Endings

I recently saw this quote, “No one can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending” (Unknown). I really began to think about that statement. The conclusion was that we don’t start over; but we begin again right where we are, making things better in our lives.

As a believer in Christ, it is not about saying I will do this and I won’t do that and then dropping the idea or falling short. It is more about asking the Lord to help us each day, to fall deeper and deeper in love with Him. This way our focus will be set on the things of heaven and not on all this earthly stuff.

If I were to make a New Year resolution, it would be to have a deeper commitment, a deeper love, and a deeper worship for the Lord. In the beginning of this past year, He spoke to me in that still small voice in prayer and said, “I am more than enough. I am more than enough in every area of your life.” He also said to tell others the same thing.

This year I am determined to make Him my all and all. He wants our undivided attention in spite of the distractions and temptations that lie waiting around the corner. He has to be our main focus.

How we will end this year will be determined by how we started it. Did we want to get more “INTIMATE” with the lover of our soul? I looked up the word intimacy and the meaning is to be close, familiar, very personal and private.

Do you want a new ending this year? How do you want the ending of your life? If you’re not a Christian, please know that this could be the best New Year of your life. Your life can be filled with hope and peace. To know what the ending will be is an extra bonus. Why should every year be the same as the one before with nothing really changing? After all, the New Year resolutions may or may not get accomplished.

If you are a Christian and you feel stagnate in your relationship with the Lord, then now is the time to rekindle the love affair with Him. He calls us to Himself and says, “Come away my beloved.” Can you hear Him? He is tugging at your heart. The real ending in our life will be when Jesus says well done my good and faithful servant. That statement will be for someone who took the time to get to know Him, love Him, and that obediently followed Him.

 

Now Is the Day

From: Our Daily Bread

Now Is the Day

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2

Our preschool-age granddaughter Maggie and her kindergarten-age sister Katie hauled several blankets to the backyard, where they proceeded to build a blanket tent in which to play. They had been outside a while when their mom heard Maggie call for her.

“Mom, come here quick!” Maggie yelled. “I want to ask Jesus into my heart, and I need your help!” Apparently at that moment her need for Jesus became clear to her, and she was ready to put her faith in Him.

Maggie’s urgent call for help in trusting Jesus brings to mind Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 6 about salvation. He was discussing the reality that Jesus Christ’s coming—including His death and resurrection—instituted an era he called “the time of God’s favor.” We live in that time, and salvation is available to all right now. He said, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (v. 2). For all who have not yet trusted Jesus for forgiveness, the time to do so is now. It is urgent.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit has alerted you to your need to put your trust in Jesus. Like Maggie, don’t put it off. Run to Jesus. Now is the day!

Heavenly Father, I now understand my need to have my sins forgiven. I also realize that only Jesus—because of His sacrifice on the cross—can forgive my sin. I put my faith and trust in Jesus today. Please forgive me and become the Lord of my life.

There’s no better day than today to enter into God’s family.

 

This prayer from Billy Graham, written for The Saturday Evening Post in 2008, is just as relevant this year.

Our Father and our God, as we stand at the beginning of this new year we confess our need of Your presence and Your guidance as we face the future.

We each have our hopes and expectations for the year that is ahead of us—but You alone know what it holds for us, and only You can give us the strength and the wisdom we will need to meet its challenges. So help us to humbly put our hands into Your hand, and to trust You and to seek Your will for our lives during this coming year.

In the midst of life’s uncertainties in the days ahead, assure us of the certainty of Your unchanging love.

In the midst of life’s inevitable disappointments and heartaches, help us to turn to You for the stability and comfort we will need.

In the midst of life’s temptations and the pull of our stubborn self-will, help us not to lose our way but to have the courage to do what is right in Your sight, regardless of the cost.

And in the midst of our daily preoccupations and pursuits, open our eyes to the sorrows and injustices of our hurting world, and help us to respond with compassion and sacrifice to those who are friendless and in need. May our constant prayer be that of the ancient Psalmist: “Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end” (Psalm 119:33).

We pray for our nation and its leaders during these difficult times, and for all those who are seeking to bring peace and justice to our dangerous and troubled world. We pray especially for Your protection on all those who serve in our armed forces, and we thank You for their commitment to defend our freedoms, even at the cost of their own lives. Be with their families also, and assure them of Your love and concern for them.

Bring our divided nation together, and give us a greater vision of what You would have us to be. Your Word reminds us that “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).

As we look back over this past year we thank You for Your goodness to us—far beyond what we have deserved. May we never presume on Your past goodness or forget all Your mercies to us, but may they instead lead us to repentance, and to a new commitment to make You the foundation and center of our lives this year.

And so, our Father, we thank You for the promise and hope of this new year, and we look forward to it with expectancy and faith. This I ask in the name of our Lord and Savior, who by His death and resurrection has given us hope both for this world and the world to come.

Amen

 

 

 

Start The New Year Right

1. 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2. Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

3. Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

 

Start The New Year With God

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Danya Jordan December 30, 2016
The Gift No One Talks About
DANYA JORDAN

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith … if it is giving, then give generously …” Romans 12:6,8b (NIV)

My friend’s kidney was shutting down. I felt helpless and wondered: What can I do?

The question hit me hard. If my kidney is a match, will I donate it?

I had an internal struggle between what I would lose and what she would gain: I only have two kidneys; what if something happens to my other one? But my friend is dying. What if my kidney will give her life?

After praying about it, I nervously called the Medical University organ transplant department and registered as a potential organ donor for my friend. They gave me specific instructions and explained they would run more tests to see if my kidney was a match.

Then I waited.

After a battery of tests, the organ transplant people called to say my kidney wasn’t a fit.

I was disappointed I couldn’t help my friend as time ticked away. Every moment mattered as her kidney was shutting down.

Soon after the kidney experience, I heard a sermon series about Romans 12 that detailed the seven spiritual gifts:

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully”(Romans 12:6-9, NIV).

Before this experience with my friend, I’m embarrassed to say I’d never thought that giving “generously” was a spiritual gift. It’s a gift no one talks about.

These other six spiritual gifts seem to naturally appear in sermon messages often: prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, leadership and mercy.

Yet giving generously to the needs of others comes straight from the Lord. He gives us the desire and the joy to give.

Giving a few dollars to the collection plate at church or offering spare change to someone ringing a bell with a bucket doesn’t really require much of me. But giving generously — and sacrificially — is led by God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And God rewards those who give. Proverbs 28:27a says, “Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing” (NLT).

Thankfully, my friend finally received the good news that a kidney was ready for her transplant! She was perfectly matched with an anonymous donor who gave life to my friend.

That was three years ago. Today, she is doing beautifully with her new kidney. And she’s alive because of someone else’s gift.

In this Christmas season and every day, may we prayerfully and joyfully use our spiritual gift of giving generously to meet the needs of others. And thank the Lord in His kindness, for blessing us as a result.

Father God, giving generously is a struggle for so many of us. It doesn’t come naturally. We know it’s a gift straight from You, Lord. Please help us open the doors of our hearts and generously give, so we, in turn, might change the world for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

On the Wing

On the Wing

So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:31

In his book On the Wing, Alan Tennant chronicles his efforts to track the migration of the peregrine falcon. Valued for their beauty, swiftness, and power, these amazing birds of prey were favorite hunting companions of emperors and nobility. Sadly, the wide use of the pesticide DDT in the 1950s interfered with their reproductive cycle and placed them on the endangered species list.

Interested in the recovery of this species, Tennant attached transmitters to a select number of falcons to track their migration patterns. But when he and his pilot flew their Cessna behind the birds, they repeatedly lost signal from the transmitters. Despite their advanced technology, they were not always able to track the birds they wanted to help.

It’s good to know that the God who cares for us never loses track of us. In fact, Jesus said that not even one sparrow “will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. . . . So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:29-31).

When we face difficult circumstances, fear may cause us to wonder if God is aware of our situation. Jesus’ teaching assures us that God cares deeply and is in control. His tracking of our lives will never fail.

Father, I’m putting my longings and burdens on You at the end of this year because I know You care for me and can work powerfully. Thank You that I and my loved ones are in Your care.

If God cares for birds, will He not care for His children?

 

Yesterday

Yesterday

Security from Yesterday. “…God requires an account of what is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:15). At the end of the year we turn with eagerness to all that God has for the future, and yet anxiety is apt to arise when we remember our yesterdays. Our present enjoyment of God’s grace tends to be lessened by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present.

Security for Tomorrow. “…the Lord will go before you….” This is a gracious revelation— that God will send His forces out where we have failed to do so. He will keep watch so that we will not be tripped up again by the same failures, as would undoubtedly happen if He were not our “rear guard.” And God’s hand reaches back to the past, settling all the claims against our conscience.

Security for Today. “You shall not go out with haste….” As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, forgetful delight, nor with the quickness of impulsive thoughtlessness. But let us go out with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ.

Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.

WISDOM FROM OSWALD CHAMBERS

 

Secret Storage

From: Get More Strength.org, By: Joe Stowell

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

One of the New Year’s resolutions that I have managed to keep is my plan to clean out the two storage rooms in our basement. When we initially moved into our house, whenever the movers didn’t know where to put something, we sent them to the storage rooms. Since then, a similar fate has been assigned to the stuff we continue to accumulate and don’t know what to do with. Cleaning out those rooms seemed like a daunting task, but I have to tell you it’s great to have it done. I go down there a lot now just to revel in the victory!

While I was cleaning, throwing away, sorting, and organizing, I thought about my heart. I thought about the secret places in my life that no one sees. The storage rooms where stuff that should be discarded stacks up. And here is what became clear to me: Who I really am is not determined by the parts of my life that are open to public view. In our house we do a pretty good job of keeping them in good order. The real commentary on what kind of a person I am is the condition of the storage rooms. If they are cluttered with unwanted, bad, and unnecessary things, then it says something about me. It says I am too busy . . . or, too lazy . . . or, undisciplined . . . or, just apathetic. Or, it says that I really don’t mind a lot of junk behind closed doors. It might even say that I like the junk in the storage rooms.

It’s like that in life. Who we really are is a lot about the condition of the secret places of our hearts.

When I was done, my male need for affirmation was out of control, I wanted Martie to come down immediately and see how clean and organized it all was . . . I even told my son that he had to stop by and see! Which made me wonder if the true test of secret places being in good order might just be whether or not you’d like someone to open the door to see how it looks. As the writer in Proverbs says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life”!

 

 

From: Streams in the Desert
Samuel took a stone and placed it between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Up to here the Lord has helped us.”—1 Sam 7:12

The word “hitherto” seems like a hand pointing in the direction of the past. Twenty years or seventy, and yet “hitherto hath the Lord helped us!” Through poverty, through wealth, through sickness, through health; at home, abroad, on the land, on the sea; in honor, in dishonor, in perplexity, in joy, in trial, in triumph, in prayer, in temptation—“hitherto hath the Lord helped!”

We delight to look down a long avenue of trees. It is delightful to gaze from one end of the long vista, a sort of verdant temple, with its branching pillars and its arches of leaves. Even so look down the long aisles of your years, at the green boughs of mercy overhead, and the strong pillars of lovingkindness and faithfulness which bear up your joys.

Are there no birds in yonder branches singing? Surely, there must be many, and they all sing of mercy received “hitherto.”

But the word also points forward. For when a man gets up to a certain mark, and writes “hitherto,” he is not yet at the end; there are still distances to be traversed. More trials, more joys; more temptations, more triumphs; more prayers, more answers; more toils, more strength; more fights, more victories; and then come sickness, old age, disease, death.

Is it over now? No! there is more yet—awakening in Jesus’ likeness, thrones, harps, songs, psalms, white raiment the face of Jesus, the society of saints, the glory of God, the fullness of eternity, the infinity of bliss. Oh, be of good courage, believer, and with grateful confidence raise thy “Ebenezer,” for,

“He who hath helped thee hitherto
Will help thee all thy journey through.”

When read in Heaven’s light, how glorious and marvelous a prospect will thy “hitherto” unfold to thy grateful eye.
—C. H. Spurgeon

The Alpine shepherds have a beautiful custom of ending the day by singing to one another an evening farewell. The air is so crystalline that the song will carry long distances. As the dusk begins to fall, they gather their flocks and begin to lead them down the mountain paths, singing, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. Let us praise His name!”

And at last with a sweet courtesy, they sing to one another the friendly farewell: “Goodnight! Goodnight!” The words are taken up by the echoes, and from side to side the song goes reverberating sweetly and softly until the music dies away in the distance.

So let us call out to one another through the darkness, till the gloom becomes vocal with many voices, encouraging the pilgrim host. Let the echoes gather till a very storm of Hallelujahs break in thundering waves around the sapphire throne, and then as the morning breaks we shall find ourselves at the margin of the sea of glass, crying, with the redeemed host, “Blessing and honor and glory be unto him that sitteth on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever!”

“This my song through endless ages,
Jesus led me all the way.”

Finish The Work God Has Started

Hang in there and be tough when dealing against evil forces.

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4

 

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The Perfecting Storm

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4

In Cornwall, England, you can visit a place called The Eden Project. The Eden Project attempted to build the perfect environment in which plants and trees could flourish. Obviously named for the Garden of Eden, this collection of “biomes,” huge domes, provides a tightly monitored atmosphere with a perfect temperature range and humidity. There are no insects and there is no pollution. What more could a tree want?

But there was a problem.

After this wonder of science was built, the scientists on the project noticed something strange. The leaves on the big trees were beginning to wilt and the branches were starting to droop. Puzzled, they consulted a tree expert. After studying the situation, he reported, “Your problem is that there is no wind in the environment. It’s the wind that pushes and moves the tree fibers forcing the nutrients and moisture to be drawn up from the ground. Trees need the stress of the wind or they won’t thrive!”

How much is that like our lives? A lot!

Given a choice, we would construct our own little “Eden Project” around our homes, our families, our dreams, and our futures. In our bubble, we would have just the right emotional climate—a controlled and restricted atmosphere where we could click the delete button keeping out unwanted news and pain. Trouble would be carefully filtered before it could reach us, keeping us well protected from the “pollution” of suffering and heartache. In our dream world, we would no doubt think that designing this stress-free environment would provide a spiritual climate in which we could thrive!

Right? Well, not really.

James points out that our lives need a little “wind” if we are going to grow and mature. In fact, we are called to choose an attitude of joy in the face of life’s storms, trusting by faith that God is going to use them to help us grow. James says that the trials you and I face, whatever shape they take, test our faith. They are there to reveal whether or not we really believe the things we say we believe on Sunday mornings at church. Do we trust that God is good all the time? Do we really believe that His faithfulness is great and that His mercies are new every morning? Do we have the confidence that His faithfulness never fails and that He never bails on us when the storm clouds rise?

As your faith holds, strong perseverance—your ability to “hang in there”—enables you to stay faithful and steady in the face of the divine storm. And, as you patiently stay under the stress of the “wind,” God will make you “complete, not lacking anything.”

It’s the wind of life that stretches and presses the spiritual fibers of your heart to bring nourishment and vitality to your soul.

And, just in case you missed it, look back at the beginning of today’s passage. Did you catch it? James says, “Whenever you face trials,” not “if you face trials.” The storms of life are a given. And while these storms can be heart-wrenching, terrifying, and truly, truly dark at times, I am encouraged and reassured from Scripture to know that these trials are not random. They are yet another way that God is helping us grow, flourish, and mature. And if we understand that, then we can choose, by faith in our Father, to welcome His perfecting storm.

 

Bekah Jane Pogue December 29, 2016

From: Crosswalk.com
Celebrating When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned
BEKAH JANE POGUE

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

I was the girl who got by with planning, a.k.a. controlling.

I hosted. Invited. Decorated and opened my homes to friends and strangers. Yet I mistook intimacy with God as my responsibility. Like a party I was in charge of orchestrating. Do you know this feeling?

Try harder. Be peppier. Keep smiling. Keep giving. Keep controlling.

Go. Encourage. Perform.

Maybe along the way my faith will go as planned, too.

Deep in my soul, I wanted to release myself to an authentic relationship with my Creator. To allow God Himself to be the inviter, the host, the planner, but I wasn’t quite sure how to let go. Can someone please tell me how I can know God to be real in the middle of moves, job changes, mommy meltdowns and busyness? Is there such a thing as responding and celebrating with an everyday faith?

Vibrant faith, I assumed, was for people in full-time ministry. You know, the super-spiritual: those who have a Master of Divinity degree, or go to Israel in their spare time or tell supermarket strangers about Jesus. Bless. I somehow couldn’t erase the childhood illusion of faith being compared to running through the daisies with Jesus, donned in an eyelet dress. I’m sorry, but this gal just can’t pull off eyelet dresses these days.

Tell me, how does faith fit in with bills and cancer and feeling too much? How does God manifest through social media, the routine and loneliness? For the kind of people like me, who have kids who whine, a marriage that demands work and crazy passionate dreams? Is there space for that type of faith?

Then suddenly, my life shifted. My sweet dad had a stroke, and seven days later he passed away.

I was numb. Unable to muster up energy to control, let alone do anything else.

But his passing became the freeing catalyst to notice how Jesus is more authentic than I’d ever experienced. As I stepped into the pain of loss, into foggy weeks of numbness and standing outside of my body, I recognized self-made habits I’d built around control.

Sitting outside on our weathered patio bench, for the first time, I simply was. I didn’t do. I only existed. I’m done, God, I cried. I have nothing to give anyone, especially You.

These feeble confessions changed my dependency on control. I released all my people-pleaser, perfection-aspiring goals, the to-do lists and faces I strove to make happy, and I got real down-and-dirty with my Lord. Getting real with God saved my life. He drew me into safe corners I hadn’t known were tangible. Into foreign spaces I’d ignored all my life. Suddenly I was keenly aware that every pain, relationship and detour is an invitation to see God’s genuine heart in the middle of it.

This is where choosing “Real” began for me. Before, I tried to will circumstances into submission, but now I’m opting to celebrate a dependent faith relationship in the middle of the unexpected.

Do you desire to see how present Jesus is in real-life circumstances? Are you exhausted from putting on your big girl panties, being strong, pep talking or reciting, “Let’s do this!”? Do you hope to see how God has a beautiful plan in the mess, in the scary, in the unknown, in the tears and in not feeling enough?

My new agenda is holding my hands open and asking, “God, help me not miss You today. However You invite.”

I’m finding this open-handed way of living is more abundant and peace-offering than anything I can create. And I pray you, too, want to put down the party-planning faith perspective and join me as together we opt to experience a genuine right-here-in-the-middle-of real-life Jesus.

Dear God, thank You for inviting me into an intimately real relationship with You today. Right here. In the messes and unknowns and relationships. Help me notice Your invitations in the tiny, grand and unplanned moments. Thank You for displaying Your peace where I want to control. I praise You for revealing Yourself in out-of-the-box, personal ways. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Willing Humility

From: Our Daily Journey

Willing Humility

Read:

Philippians 2:5-11
He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).

According to The Wall Street Journal, there’s a new fad among top-level executives. It’s called humility. One former leader states that humility “is the flavor du jour.” Companies prize humble leaders because they listen well and share the limelight. Of course, the leaders have to actually be humble. Fakers abound, like a former executive who constantly stole the limelight from subordinates. According to one observer, “He didn’t understand the humility part of being humble.”

Jesus fully understood the “humility part of being humble.” Though He was God, He humbled Himself like a slave and lived in obedient submission to God the Father. Jesus willingly became a human being for our sake (Philippians 2:6-7). This wasn’t mere similarity, but true identity with human beings. Christ was born and grew up in humble circumstances (Luke 2:7,12,16,22-24), He was obedient to His human parents (Luke 2:51), He submitted to baptism (Matthew 3:13-15), He endured insults and ill-treatment (Matthew 26:66-67; 1 Peter 2:23), and ultimately humbled Himself by dying a criminal’s death on a cross to save us (Philippians 2:8).

Unquestionably, Jesus demonstrated full and willing humility. His life of humble obedience to the Father is a model for us. We’re called to empty ourselves of our self-interests, submit to God, and follow Him. When we humble ourselves, He promises to delight in us, rescue us, lift us up, support us, lead us in His way, and be gracious to us.

To refuse to humble ourselves before God is to invite Him to humble us. He will do so, not to hurt us, but to restore and renew us (1 Peter 5:5-7). In Jesus, may the Holy Spirit empower us to live free of self-interest as we willingly serve others.

 

Deserter or Disciple?

From: Utmost.org

Deserter or Disciple?

When God, by His Spirit through His Word, gives you a clear vision of His will, you must “walk in the light” of that vision (1 John 1:7). Even though your mind and soul may be thrilled by it, if you don’t “walk in the light” of it you will sink to a level of bondage never envisioned by our Lord. Mentally disobeying the “heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19) will make you a slave to ideas and views that are completely foreign to Jesus Christ. Don’t look at someone else and say, “Well, if he can have those views and prosper, why can’t I?” You have to “walk in the light” of the vision that has been given to you. Don’t compare yourself with others or judge them— that is between God and them. When you find that one of your favorite and strongly held views clashes with the “heavenly vision,” do not begin to debate it. If you do, a sense of property and personal right will emerge in you— things on which Jesus placed no value. He was against these things as being the root of everything foreign to Himself— “…for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). If we don’t see and understand this, it is because we are ignoring the underlying principles of our Lord’s teaching.

Our tendency is to lie back and bask in the memory of the wonderful experience we had when God revealed His will to us. But if a New Testament standard is revealed to us by the light of God, and we don’t try to measure up, or even feel inclined to do so, then we begin to backslide. It means your conscience does not respond to the truth. You can never be the same after the unveiling of a truth. That moment marks you as one who either continues on with even more devotion as a disciple of Jesus Christ, or as one who turns to go back as a deserter.

Become A New Creation Through Christ

 

Ambassadors for Christ
16   So from now on we regard no one according to the flesh. Although we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.

17   Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!

18   All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:…     II Corinthians 5:16-18

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Living in the Perfect Tense

From: Get More Strength

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

One of my all-time favorite jokes is about the guy who was applying for a truck driver’s job. As part of the oral exam to pass the driving test, the instructor said, “Let’s say you and your sidekick Bob are going down a steep hill and all of a sudden your brakes go out, and at the bottom of the steep incline is a train stalled on the tracks. What would you do?”

The applicant replied, “I’d wake Bob up!”

Puzzled by his response, the instructor asked, “Why would you wake up Bob?”

“Well, me and Bob have traveled a lot of miles together and we have seen a lot of pretty spectacular wrecks, but Bob ain’t never seen a wreck like the wreck that’s going to happen at the bottom of the hill!”

This fallen, broken world we live in is a lot like a runaway truck without brakes—on its way to sure destruction. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be caught sleeping in the passenger seat of that truck!

Thankfully, Paul makes it very clear that Jesus provided a way of escape from this fallen, destined-for-destruction world order. When he told the Corinthian believers in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that old things are passed away, he was talking about the old world order that is headed for judgment. And Paul uses the past tense to assure us that the certain doom is already accomplished. Thankfully, Jesus has already paid the price to avert our riding this world’s 18-wheeler to disaster. It is historical fact, already accomplished for those who are in Christ.

What that means for those of us who are in Christ is that we are no longer in the death grip of the “old things”: All the dark seductions of our fallen world. All the lying and deceit. All the over-the-line sensuality and immorality. All the damage and despair caused by slavery to sin. This is all the old, outdated stuff that is marked for judgment and extinction.

Instead, we as His followers are part of a “new creation.” When Paul proclaimed the good news that “the new has come,” he used the perfect tense of the Greek language, indicating a past action with continuing results. In other words, there are ongoing ramifications of Jesus’ past action to save us. In the perfect tense, His past action is intended to continue to produce results; results that reflect the new order of a life in the grip of Jesus’ love. New stuff like honesty, purity, forgiveness, generosity, servanthood, faithfulness, and compassion for those who are sleeping in the passenger seat of the runaway truck. His process of making us into a new creation is ongoing, anchored in the historical bedrock of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. That means that we as His followers are, in a sense, a “work in progress” looking more and more like His new creation all the time.

At the start of this new year, it’s a good time to ask if your life looks more like the old or more like the new. As a “new creation” in Jesus, what are the results in your life that clearly reflect His new way of living? Let’s wake up to the fact that we don’t belong to the darkness of this fallen world, and gladly embrace the new dynamics that God wants to create in our lives.

Live to make progress in the perfect tense of Christ’s finished work and make it a New Year that will be a lot more like the new and a lot less like the old.

 

 

Lysa TerKeurst December 28, 2016

From: Crosswalk.com
A Gut-Honest Look at Love 
LYSA TERKEURST

“It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a (NIV)

Today I’m feeling so challenged to look at love a little differently. Sometimes in the gut-honest quietness of my heart, I look at love through the eyes of what it will offer me.

I hold out the little cup of my heart to the people I love, “Will you fill my empty spaces? Today will you do that one really thoughtful thing and make me feel like I’m the most noticed and special woman in the world?”

Then I hold it out to my children, “Will you fill up my empty spaces? Will you do something today that makes me look really good as a mom so I’ll feel a little more validated?”

Then I hold it out to my ministry, “Will you fill up my empty spaces? Will you provide something today that makes me feel more significant?”

Maybe a Wednesday morning is an odd time to consider such things.

But as we get closer to a new year I think this Wednesday morning is the perfect time to hit the reset button on my sometimes frail heart. Love is a tricky thing. Our hearts were created to crave it. God proclaims that love is greater than hope and greater than faith.

Amazing.

God also proclaims that love never fails. And in the quietness of my heart that verse from1 Corinthians 13 makes me squirm a bit. I see love failing all the time. Or do I?

If my only view of love is what it will give me, love from others will fail me every time. It’s not that love fails. It’s that other people were never meant to be my God. Even a wonderful family and a thriving ministry can never truly fill me up, right all my wrongs and soothe those deep insecurities.

No, I can’t read 1 Corinthians chapter 13 with eyes hungry to see what love should give me, and then demand it from those around me. I should read those steadfast Scriptures with the realization: This is the kind of love I can choose to give.

I can choose that my love will be patient. My love will be kind. My love won’t keep a record of wrongs. (Ouch — that’s a hard one, right?)

I can choose that my love will protect and persevere.

And I can choose to lay the cup of my heart at Jesus’ feet and stop twirling, twirling, twirling, hoping — no, demanding — that those around me do things for me they were never meant to do.

Love isn’t what I have the opportunity to get from this world. Love is what I have the opportunity to give.

Dear Lord, thank You so much for Your love. I know that because I am abundantly loved by You, I have an abundance of love to give. Help me today to live loved and to give love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)

Matthew 22:37-39, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (NIV)

 

 

Locked Into Love

From: Our Daily Bread

Locked Into Love

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 106:1

In June 2015, the city of Paris removed forty-five tons of padlocks from the railings of the Pont des Arts pedestrian bridge. As a romantic gesture, couples would etch their initials onto a lock, attach it to the railing, click it shut, and throw the key into the River Seine.

After this ritual was repeated thousands of times, the bridge could no longer bear the weight of so much “love.” Eventually the city, fearing for the integrity of the bridge, removed the “love locks.”

The locks were meant to symbolize everlasting love, but human love does not always last. The closest of friends may offend each other and never resolve their differences. Family members may argue and refuse to forgive. A husband and wife may drift so far apart that they can’t remember why they once decided to marry. Human love can be fickle.

But there is one constant and enduring love—the love of God. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever,” proclaims Psalm 106:1. The promises of the unfailing and everlasting nature of God’s love are found throughout Scripture. And the greatest proof of this love is the death of His Son so that those who put their faith in Him can live eternally. And nothing will ever separate us from His love (Rom. 8:38–39).

Fellow believers, we are locked into God’s love forever.

I’m grateful for Your unending love, Father. I’m locked into Your love by the Holy Spirit who is living in me.

Christ’s death and resurrection are the measure of God’s love for me.

 

 

God’s Job, and Ours

From: Our Daily Journey

God’s Job, and Ours

Read:

1 Kings 17:1-16
[The widow] did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days (1 Kings 17:15).

When I was first called to pastor a church, my family and I were, frankly, broke! I had just finished Bible college and my wife had been homeschooling our young daughters. The church was in a popular area, and house prices were at a premium. We needed a home, but they were all so very expensive. We really liked one place, but had no money for a deposit or to offer for rent. The real estate agent asked us if we wanted it.

I took my wife aside and said, “What do we do? We have no money for this.” Her wise words humbled me: “This was not our idea; we never asked to be here or even to pastor a church. It was God’s idea, so it’s His job. We just obey.” So we simply said “yes” to the agent and walked away. All the money came in over the next few days.

Elijah heard from God and was bold enough to walk up to a king and tell him some hard news—the land was about to experience a 3 1/2-year drought (1 Kings 17:1). Then, following God’s instruction, he went and waited at a brook. God provided food in a miraculous way! “The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening” (1 Kings 17:6). After the water dried up, God sent Elijah to Zarephath. In that village, God performed another amazing act of provision. This time, the food didn’t come by way of birds, but by a simple request made by the prophet to a widow (1 Kings 17:13). She obeyed and God did the rest (1 Kings 17:14-15).

The pattern here is very simple. It’s our job to follow as God leads, and then obey the things He asks us to do (1 Kings 17:1-4). As we follow Him, He will provide not what we necessarily want, but what we truly need—sometimes in amazing ways.

Jesus Helps You With Your Load

Do you know your load limit? 

Do you know your emotional load limit?

Rest for the Weary

27All 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.

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

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

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Load Limits

From: Get More Strength.org

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” 1 Corinthians 10:13

Daddy, can I help you?” It was my four-year-old son, Matt, who was watching me carry cartons of empty pop bottles to the car. We could return them for a dime apiece, so after months of stacking them up in the garage, I was off to collect the cash bonanza.

I said, “Sure, Matt,” and he picked up a carton of bottles and put them in the car. When we got to the store, he grabbed his carton of bottles and shuffled along next to me across the big parking lot. About half way to the store, obviously exhausted, he looked up and said, “Dad, I can’t carry this anymore.”

Count on it, I didn’t say, “Listen, Kid, you started this, so pick up that carton right now and finish what you started!” Of course not!

I took the carton out of his hands, because I knew it was too heavy for him to handle. As his earthly father, I understood what his limits were and helped him carry the load.

Thankfully, our heavenly Father understands our load limit and comes alongside to help. It’s hard to stick it out during difficult times when the trouble in our lives seems far too heavy and there is no end in sight. It’s in times like these that we feel like giving up—like we can’t go on. But God’s Word reminds us that “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). It’s important to note that this verse is talking about more than just bearing up under temptation. In the original Greek, the word temptation actually means “all kinds of trials.”

Ever feel like you’re in the middle of all kinds of trials? The problem with problems is that they have a tendency to drain us of our strength—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And that’s when our adversary likes to launch his attack. When we’re weak, he haunts us with thoughts like: How could a loving God allow this to happen? and God has brought you to this place and has just left you here. Or, You’re beyond help—God can’t help you now. But when you start thinking these thoughts, you need to know that they are flat out lies from the pit. You can be sure that they don’t reflect God’s heart for you during difficult times.

In the Old Testament, one of God’s names is Jehovah Jireh—our provider—and He always lives up to His name. He stands ready to provide abundant grace so that we can bear up until He has finished His work in the trial (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). He gives us a peace that passes understanding as we trust and rely on Him with a grateful heart (Philippians 4:6-7). He gives wisdom to see our tough times from His point of view (James 1:5). He gives us the assurance that He will stick it out with us and not leave or forsake us, so that we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What man can do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).

So, chin up! Our troubles and trials have not escaped the notice of the One who comes alongside to help when it seems like the load is too much to bear.

 

 

Chrystal Hurst December 27, 2016

From: Crosswalk.com
When Your Cares and Concerns Keep Cropping Up
CHRYSTAL EVANS HURST

“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (ESV)

I recently stumbled upon some pictures from when my oldest son, now a teenager, was in preschool.

The pictures captured a summer camping trip, and in one particular shot, I caught him tossing a twig in the water.

I sat staring at that picture on my computer, letting my mind wander back to that moment, almost 10 years ago, when I watched my boy enjoy a carefree moment on a carefree day. I remember standing behind him, watching him, smiling and enjoying my own carefree moment, seeing him having fun.

I watched him consistently and deliberately pick up a stick from the ground and throw it hard and far across the water. There were broken twigs everywhere. It was almost as if they kept cropping up. My son didn’t seem bothered by all the twigs near his feet. His goal was simply to see exactly how far those sticks could go. He cast each broken twig, one at a time, with all his might. The farther each stick went, the more excited he got.

As I contemplated the photo and memories of that relaxed afternoon, I thought about how much easier it seems to cast broken twigs into the water than to cast the concerns of my broken life onto God.

Instead of picking them up one at a time to cast at His feet, I tend to pick them up and collect them — holding on to them and letting the burden of the brokenness weigh me down.

Why do we opt to carry the broken pieces of our lives in arms of anxiety, fear, stress or worry — instead of casting those cares upon the Lord?

I’m convinced we either don’t believe He cares, or we don’t know how to do it.

Our key Scripture says in 1 Peter 5:7 we ought to cast our cares upon God. The word “cast” means to throw forcibly. As it’s used in Scripture, it implies more than a casual placing of our concerns at Jesus’ feet. Casting our cares upon God gives us a picture of forcibly tossing our cares and troubles as far away from us as they will go, trusting the God who loves us can catch them and knows exactly how to deal with all that concerns us.

The Amplified Bible version of that same verse says, “casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].”

I must be consistent and deliberate about noticing the little things that concern me and placing them at the Father’s feet in prayer. And I must talk to Him about those things verbally or by jotting them in my journal to symbolize giving those things to Him.

And if those broken pieces keep cropping up, I simply keep tossing ‘em His way.

What is concerning you today?

Cast or throw them with all of your might at the feet of Jesus. Pray with faith, believing God does care and He is fully capable of handling your requests.

Will the cares and concerns of this life keep cropping up? Yes. They most certainly will.

But as you consistently and deliberately cast your cares on Him, you’ll begin to see how far anxiety, fear, stress or worry move away from you as you learn to trust in Him.

And just like my son, the more excited you will become.

Dear Father in Heaven, so much in my life is broken. I have so many concerns and cares, and they weigh me down. While I desire to cast my cares upon You, I find I usually pick them back up again, and they only add more anxiety and stress. Please help me learn to cast my cares on You as I learn what it means to rest and trust in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

Rescued

From: Our Daily Journey.org

Rescued

Read:

2 Corinthians 12:1-10
That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).

The Laingsburg flood of 1981 was the worst of its kind in South African history. In two days nearly half a meter (almost 17 inches) of rain fell, 104 people died, and 184 houses were destroyed. The town of Laingsburg was built close to the “dry river bed” of the Buffalo River. What the town engineers failed to realize, however, is that this relatively small river floods its banks every 100 years or so. Although the local farmers were initially grateful for the rain, their relief soon turned to dread as a six-meter (almost twenty-foot) wall of water rushed through the town, carrying with it people, animals, houses, and belongings.

When we endure a flood of challenging circumstances, it can threaten to drown our resolve and suffocate our faith. The apostle Paul faced his fair share of tough times. He was shipwrecked, imprisoned, beaten, and robbed (2 Corinthians 11:23-29), yet he remained firm in his confident trust in God and concluded that he “would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am” (2 Corinthians 11:30).

The apostle boasted in his weakness so that the power of Christ could work through him. He took pleasure in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles he suffered for Jesus. Time and again, God showed Himself faithful to Paul, not by keeping him from the dark, rushing waters of suffering and pain, but rather by declaring, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Jesus walks with us though the hard times and equips us to grow in character through them.

Paul’s epiphany led him to declare, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Look to Jesus and the way He’s molding you when difficulties come calling.

 

 

The Power of Simple Words

From: Our Daily Bread

The Power of Simple Words

We did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 2 Peter 1:16

Raucous laughter marked the guests in my father’s hospital room: Two old truck drivers, one former country/western singer, one craftsman, two women from neighboring farms, and me.

“…and then he got up and busted the bottle over my head,” the craftsman said, finishing his story about a bar fight.

The room bursts into laughter at this now-humorous memory. Dad, struggling for breath as his laughing fought with his cancer for the air in his lungs, puffs out a reminder to everybody that “Randy is a preacher” so they need to watch what they say. Everything got quiet for about two seconds, then the whole room exploded as this news makes them laugh harder and louder.

Suddenly, about forty minutes into this visit, the craftsman clears his throat, turns to my dad, and gets serious. “No more drinking and bar fights for me, Howard. Those days are behind me. Now I have a different reason to live. I want to tell you about my Savior.”

He then proceeded to do just that, over my father’s surprisingly mild protests.  If there’s a sweeter, gentler way to present the gospel message, I’ve never heard it.

My dad listened and watched, and some years later believed in Jesus too.

It was a simple testimony from an old friend living a simple life, reminding me again that simple isn’t naïve or stupid; it’s direct and unpretentious.

Just like Jesus. And salvation.

Go and make disciples of all nations. Matthew 28:19

Forgiveness Feels Wonderful

 

  • Matthew 6:14-15

    14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
  • 1 John 1:9

    9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
  • Isaiah 43:25-26

    25 “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. 26 Review the past for me, let us argue the matter together; state the case for your innocence.
  • Acts 3:19

    19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,
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Christina Hubbard December 26, 2016

From: Crosswalk.org
What Forgiveness Feels Like
CHRISTINA HUBBARD, COMPEL Member

“When you are praying and you remember that you are angry with another person about something, forgive that person. Forgive them so that your Father in heaven will also forgive your sins.” Mark 11:25 (ERV)

It’s making me squirm in my wooden chair, this idea of total forgiveness.

People talk loudly around me as I sip coffee at a restaurant and read Jesus’ words that rock me to the core. I wonder, Can these people hear the secret welling up in my throat? I’m a Christian and I don’t know how to forgive.

I instinctively put my hand over the page to hide the words. I feel exposed.

I’ve walked with God for many years, but I’m struggling to get over past hurts. My relationships are suffering, and the same personal issues keep rising up in my life. I’ve realized I haven’t really shown mercy to those who have injured me, not completelyForgiveness does not come naturally.

I thought it would be easier to love others like my Father in Heaven. But today, forgiveness feels strange, uncomfortable and radical, like the sun blazing hot on me through the cold cafe window.

Forgiveness is heat and exposure, my heart laid bare in front of God. It feels like surgery. I’m having to admit I’ve become angry and bitter. There have been times lately when forgiveness feels nearly impossible because my heart is bound up tightly like a kid’s knotted shoelaces.

I have pitted myself against others and fought hard for my own rights. I’ve justified myself under the cloak of righteousness and called it love. Slowly, I’m realizing I cannot change people. I am the only problem I can fix.

I think of those who have forgiven me. My husband who pardoned me after I walked out years ago. My kids who hugged me after I yelled. A whole roomful of people who loved me anyway when I threw something in anger.

The capacity to forgive means we are wholly reliant on these open hearts of ours walking around, alive and resurrected in Christ. Beating, open, raw. Forgiving, letting be, letting go.

To forgive is to be transformed completely and never bring up a fault again — no matter what it is. We are to pray and want the best for the one who has injured us. This is unsettling because it feels impossible. Even after I forgive, anger tries to sneak in again and again.

Forgiveness feels like letting people off the hook. Releasing our vise grip on “I told you so” and “You hurt me.” Without forgiveness, our hearts become hard as stone, petrified wood, rotting slower than time.

Today’s Scripture verse reminds us feelings cannot be trusted, but God’s mercy can. It’s not easy, this everyday surrendering of ourselves. We must keep our hearts open to be reworked day after day.

When past hurts rise up and our spiritual lives grow cold, it’s time to bare our hearts to our Heavenly Father, who changes hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. He is faithful to fill us with grace as many times as we need. On repeat. Forever.

We don’t have to be cold, dead wood. We can be heat and life to this world like God. He is constantly reminding us of places we need to let mercy in. He lays our hearts bare at the table, and we experience the great undoing, recalibrating work of grace. We forgive so we will be forgiven. Totally.

Dear Jesus, old hurts and feelings still threaten to hijack my heart, but I want to forgive like You forgive me. When I feel anger creeping in, let that be the signal to forgive again and experience mercy’s healing power. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Expectations

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

“My earnest expectation and hope [is] that . . . Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” Philippians 1:20

Expectations! We all have them. We expect that people will be nice to us, that we’ll have good health, great marriages, faithful friends, successful careers. But what do we do when life doesn’t live up to our expectations? In Philippians 1, Paul shows us the way. He faced broken expectations of place, people, and the future, yet he remained surprisingly upbeat.

Paul was stuck in prison—not a great place to be! When we get stuck in a tough marriage, an unrewarding job, or a challenging neighborhood, it’s easy to get discouraged. But Paul was wonderfully positive. He said that his suffering helped to advance the gospel (Phil. 1:12).

Maybe people haven’t lived up to our expectations. Paul likely expected other believers to encourage him. Instead, some were actually glad he was in jail and were preaching out of “envy and strife” (Phil. 1:15). Paul’s response? “Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice” (Phil. 1:18).

Maybe it’s an uncertain future—the loss of a spouse, a job transfer, or a health crisis. Paul knew that at any moment Nero might give the order for his execution, yet he declared, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Adopt Paul’s only expectation—for Christ to be honored no matter what!

In all I think and say and do,
I long, O God, to honor You;
But may my highest motive be
To love the Christ who died for me. —D. De Haan

You can expect to enjoy God’s presence when you honor Him with your life.

Everlasting

From: Our Daily Bread

Everlasting

Read:

John 6:22-48
I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life (John 6:47).

Gary Alexander had the job of demolishing some buildings that were more than a hundred years old. After reducing the structures to rubble, he noticed part of a wall still standing. These words were scrawled on the bricks: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47 KJV).

Jesus spoke the words found on that wall to the crowd who followed Him. The people had recently eaten some of the loaves and fishes Jesus miraculously multiplied. He had catered a free lunch and they wanted to see what else He could do.

“You want to be with me because I fed you,” Jesus said. “Don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that [I] can give you” (John 6:26-27). Jesus called Himself the “bread of life” (John 6:35). He promised that anyone who ate this bread from heaven would live forever (John 6:48-50).

Those who debated the meaning of Jesus’ words bickered and fought (John 6:41,52). It was hard for them to see past the physical world to grasp His spiritual message. In the end, the ones who wanted full bellies from His food (John 6:26) or entertainment from watching His miracles (John 6:30) abandoned Jesus and His teaching (v.66).

Jesus wasn’t surprised. He knew that some who looked like disciples were not true believers. When He asked the original Twelve if they would leave as well, Peter responded, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe and we know that you are the Holy One of God” (vv.68-69).

By God’s grace, we can know that Jesus is the Bread of Life and the Savior of the world—the One who provides life everlasting!

 

On Time

From: Our Daily Bread

On Time

When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son. Galatians 4:4

Sometimes I joke that I’m going to write a book titled On Time. Those who know me smile because they know I am often late. I rationalize that my lateness is due to optimism, not to lack of trying. I optimistically cling to the faulty belief that “this time” I will be able to get more done in less time than ever before. But I can’t, and I don’t, so I end up having to apologize yet again for my failure to show up on time.

In contrast, God is always on time. We may think He’s late, but He’s not. Throughout Scripture we read about people becoming impatient with God’s timing. The Israelites waited and waited for the promised Messiah. Some gave up hope. But Simeon and Anna did not. They were in the temple daily praying and waiting (Luke 2:25–26, 37). And their faith was rewarded. They got to see the infant Jesus when Mary and Joseph brought Him to be dedicated (vv. 27–32, 38).

When we become discouraged because God doesn’t respond according to our timetable, Christmas reminds us that “when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son . . . that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Gal. 4:4–5). God’s timing is always perfect, and it is worth the wait.

Heavenly Father, I confess that I become impatient and discouraged, wanting answers to prayer in my own time and on my schedule. Help me to wait patiently for Your timing in all things.

God’s timing is always right—wait patiently for Him.

Merry Christmas!

 

SIMPOSIOUS. COM WISHES  EVERYONE A  WONDERFUL HOLIDAY AND A MERRY CHRISTMAS

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”   Luke 2: 1-20

 

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What Christmas Is About

From: Our Daily Journey

What Christmas Is About

Read:

Luke 2:8-14
The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! (Luke 2:11).

In Charles M. Schulz’s classic TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown set out to buy a Christmas tree. As the play’s director, Charlie was determined that his theatrical work would not reflect the commercialization of Christmas that he saw all around him.

Charlie Brown proudly returned with what he thought was a “real” Christmas tree—a small sapling. But it didn’t go over well. The cast members scoffed at the young tree, mocked him, and walked out of rehearsal. As Charlie pondered with his friend Linus (the only cast member who remained), about what had happened, he asked out loud, “Isn’t there anyone who really knows what Christmas is all about?”

Linus, who’d been practicing his lines, offered the real answer. He stepped to center stage and flawlessly recited the account out of Luke’s gospel of the angels appearing to surprised shepherds and announcing the birth of a Baby who would change the world (Luke 2:8-14).

As we look back across nearly 2,000 years, we may find ourselves pondering another question. How did a Baby—born in an obscure corner of the world, who never attended college, wrote a book, traveled the globe, or held public office—make such an immense impact on the world?

The testimony of the Scriptures and God’s people put it many ways, but it can be summed up with one word—love. For God so loved the world He made, especially the people He made to inhabit it, that He sent His Son Jesus Christ into it in order to redeem and restore it (John 3:16).

The little Baby whose birth we celebrate is the embodiment of God’s story of love—a story that brings peace and “joy to all people” (Luke 2:10).

 

 

Save the Paper

From: Get More Strength.org

“[Jesus] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Philippians 2:7

Above the joyful sounds of Christmas morning, as children open their presents in attack mode, you can usually hear someone older and wiser saying, “Don’t rip the paper. Save it for next year!” It’s a Christmas thing as deeply embedded in Christmas tradition as jingle bells and holly. The point is that valuable wrapping paper is worth keeping.

Jesus, God’s ultimate gift, came in wrapping paper that is worth keeping. In Jesus’ case, it’s the wrapping that makes the gift so valuable.

When God decided to come to earth as a gift to all mankind, He could have wrapped the gift in a far more spectacular way than He did. Imagine how mind-boggling it would have been for Him to light up the sky with His presence in a celestial show of brilliant power and might. But instead, He chose to come to our planet by wrapping Himself in the likeness of common folk like you and me. As our text says, He chose to take on the form of human likeness—and that of a servant to boot!

So why is this wrapping so important? It shows that He understands what it’s like to be human. He is no stranger to your struggles. He knows your joys and sorrows. Because He has experienced every aspect of being human, he has a clue about you and your needs. When we come to Him, He never says, “I don’t get it,” because He does get it. He’s been there before! As the writer of Hebrews tells us: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16).

As a boy, I would snoop under the Christmas tree ahead of time. I could usually spot gifts for me by the designs on the paper. Those with dolls and lace were certainly for my sisters. But I knew that the ones wrapped in trains and planes most likely were for me!

One glance at the wrapping on God’s gift of Jesus reveals that this gift was meant for you. The scars in His hands and feet reflect His commitment to serve you and save you—all the way to the cross. As Paul tells us in Philippians 2:7-8, Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

As I think about the wrapping on Jesus, I’m reminded that all of us are wrapped in some kind of paper. We spend most of our lives wrapping and rewrapping ourselves in clothes, cars, houses, positions, social networks, and other symbols we think will enhance our appearance.

If the wrapping we choose is made only of these earthbound things, we miss something vital about the meaning of Christmas. If, as Paul instructed, I am to have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5), it means that I too must wrap myself in the spirit of servanthood. Those of us who have received God’s gift are called to recycle His wrapping paper into our own lives by giving ourselves as a gift to others just as He gave Himself as a gift to us.

I guess “save the paper!” is pretty good advice after all.

 

Joy for All

Joy for All

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Luke 2:10

On the final day of a Christian publishing conference in Singapore, 280 participants from 50 countries gathered in the outdoor plaza of a hotel for a group photo. From the second-floor balcony, the photographer took many shots from different angles before finally saying, “We’re through.” A voice from the crowd shouted with relief, “Well, joy to the world!” Immediately, someone replied by singing, “The Lord is come.” Others began to join in. Soon the entire group was singing the familiar carol in beautiful harmony. It was a moving display of unity and joy that I will never forget.

In Luke’s account of the Christmas story, an angel announced the birth of Jesus to a group of shepherds saying, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10–11).

The joy was not for a few people, but for all. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son” (John 3:16).

As we share the life-changing message of Jesus with others, we join the worldwide chorus in proclaiming “the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.”

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”

Father, give us eyes to see people of all nations as recipients of Your grace and joy.

The good news of Jesus’s birth is a source of joy for all people.

Happy Christmas Eve

Luke 2:7

7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in
a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Today is Christmas Eve. The day before we celebrate Jesus’ birth.

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Image result for pictures of christmas eve  Have a peaceful Christmas Eve

 

The Hope of Christmas

From: Get More Strength.org

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:5

We talk a lot about hope.

We hope the weather will be good for our family vacation. We hope that our favorite team will win the Super Bowl—or at least make it to the big game! We hope that we get just what we want for Christmas.

But for many of us, hope lacks a sense of certainty. It is more like a wish—something that we want to happen but have no way of knowing that it ultimately will. So we keep our fingers crossed and “hope” that everything will go the way we want it to.

The reality is that often life doesn’t turn out the way we hoped it would. Hope is a fragile commodity. When life is disappointing, our optimism is replaced by feelings of discouragement and hopelessness. Before long we run the risk of becoming cynics who believe that there is nothing in which we can confidently hope.

This was the landscape of life when Jesus entered the world. The prevailing mood of Israel was anything but hope. The once proud nation was now a puppet state of the pagan Roman Empire. The common person lived under the defeating burden of the exaggerated requirements of the religious establishment. Centuries before, they had been promised a deliverer who would restore Israel to its former glory, but it had never happened.

Into this sense of cynical hopelessness, true Hope was born. But the tragedy of that first Christmas was that very few realized the hope that had been introduced. Hope for the forgiveness of sins. Hope for a bright future—forever. Hope for God’s presence and power in daily living. Hope that would enable us to forget the past and set our sights on stuff that doesn’t disappoint. A hope that, because of Jesus, is a certainty and not just another wish to be dashed on the rocks of reality.

I love the honesty of the psalmist who said, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” We’ve all been there. But let’s not stop there. Keep reading! “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5). Rejoice that Jesus came to give you something better than the disappointments of life on planet earth. And when by faith you embrace Him and all that He promised, you can have a hope that is no longer a fingers-crossed wish that you harbor in your heart, but rather a confident, courageous optimism that is rooted in the certainty of His Word.

Pin your hopes on Jesus this Christmas—you won’t be disappointed!

 

 

Christmas in Captivity

From: Our Daily Bread

Christmas in Captivity

On those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2

Rev. Martin Niemoller, a prominent German pastor, spent nearly eight years in Nazi concentration camps because he openly opposed Hitler. On Christmas Eve 1944, Niemoller spoke these words of hope to his fellow prisoners in Dachau:  “My dear friends, on this Christmas . . . let us seek, in the Babe of Bethlehem, the One who came to us in order to bear with us everything that weighs heavily upon us. . . . God Himself has built a bridge from Himself to us! A dawn from on high has visited us!”

At Christmas we embrace the good news that God, in Christ, has come to us wherever we are and has bridged the gap between us. He invades our prison of darkness with His light and lifts the load of sorrow, guilt, or loneliness that weighs us down.

On that bleak Christmas Eve in prison, Niemoller shared this good news:  “Out of the brilliance that surrounded the shepherds a shining ray will fall into our darkness.” His words remind us of the prophet Isaiah, who prophetically said, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isa. 9:2).

No matter where today finds us, Jesus has penetrated our dark world with His joy and light!

Lord Jesus, we find hope and strength in knowing that Your light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The joy of Christmas is Jesus.

 

 

The Hidden Life

From: Utmost.org

The Hidden Life

The Spirit of God testifies to and confirms the simple, but almighty, security of the life that “is hidden with Christ in God.” Paul continually brought this out in his New Testament letters. We talk as if living a sanctified life were the most uncertain and insecure thing we could do. Yet it is the most secure thing possible, because it has Almighty God in and behind it. The most dangerous and unsure thing is to try to live without God. For one who is born again, it is easier to live in a right-standing relationship with God than it is to go wrong, provided we heed God’s warnings and “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7).

When we think of being delivered from sin, being “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), and “walk[ing] in the light,” we picture the peak of a great mountain. We see it as very high and wonderful, but we say, “Oh, I could never live up there!” However, when we do get there through God’s grace, we find it is not a mountain peak at all, but a plateau with plenty of room to live and to grow. “You enlarged my path under me, so my feet did not slip” (Psalm 18:36).

When you really see Jesus, I defy you to doubt Him. If you see Him when He says, “Let not your heart be troubled…” (John 14:27), I defy you to worry. It is virtually impossible to doubt when He is there. Every time you are in personal contact with Jesus, His words are real to you. “My peace I give to you…” (John 14:27)— a peace which brings an unconstrained confidence and covers you completely, from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. “…your life is hidden with Christ in God,” and the peace of Jesus Christ that cannot be disturbed has been imparted to you.

Obedience To God Can Save You

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt.” Matthew 2:13-14 (NIV)
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Arlene Pellicane December 23, 2016

From: Crosswalk.com
But Lord, I Don’t Want to Go There
ARLENE PELLICANE

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt.” Matthew 2:13-14 (NIV)

Have you ever had to move on … when you really wanted to stay put?

Maybe you didn’t want to relocate because of work. Perhaps you dreaded that first appointment with a counselor or fitness coach. You pleaded with the Lord, “Please, don’t make me go there!”

I have felt that way before and I believe Mary, the mother of Jesus, also knew what that was like. In Matthew 2:9-12, we find the Magi visiting Mary’s family. Imagine Mary’s delight and awe to see the Magi worshipping her son.

She didn’t have to worry about necessities because the Magi gave young Jesus treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Maybe Mary wanted to freeze those moments of abundance and goodness. After all, it had been a hard journey to Bethlehem and giving birth in a stable wasn’t exactly comfortable or lavish.

Yet after the Magi had gone, our key verse introduces an angel of the Lord who appears to Joseph in a dream. He instructs Joseph to take Jesus and Mary and flee to Egypt because King Herod was trying to kill Jesus.

Imagine going to bed happily with visions of Magi, gold and treasures, then being shaken in the darkness with the urgent command, “Get up! We must travel now to Egypt. Herod is trying to kill Jesus!”

Another journey … and of all places, to Egypt. Egypt was famous for idolatry, tyranny and enmity toward the people of God. It was the house of bondage for the Israelites — the place where centuries earlier, Hebrew male infants had been sentenced to death.

Don’t you think Mary might have thought, “But Lord, I don’t want to go there. Are You sure about this?”

Notice the Lord spoke to Joseph, not Mary. Mary had to trust that God had spoken to her husband. We don’t know if she said stubbornly, “Well, if we’re supposed to go to that awful place Egypt, the angel better come back and tell me!”

But I doubt that’s what she said. That’s not consistent with Mary’s character and disposition of “let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38c, NKJV). The Bibletells us they left that night for Egypt. There was no delay. With every step, Mary declared her faith in God. She knew her position was the “maidservant of the Lord” (Luke 1:38b) not the “master of her own life.”

Would you or I have gone so directly, so obediently?

About six years ago, I attended a small prayer meeting once a week at my church. I loved that prayer time with older, wiser women who taught me how to persevere in prayer. Yet in this peaceful oasis, I felt the Lord nudging me to start another prayer meeting at my home, in my neighborhood instead.

But then I would miss praying with my friends.

But then I would have to lead instead of just participating.

But then I would have to clean my house!

Regardless of my questions, excuses and hesitations, I couldn’t shake the thought. I knew the Lord wanted me to make the change from my beloved fellowship to something new. A few months later, I opened up my home and four moms joined me for the first time to pray together for our children and our neighborhood school.

It’s been wonderful.

Sometimes God calls us away from something good so He can do a new work in a different place.

Whether God calls us far away to Egypt or to our own dining room table, we must trust and go as Mary did. Mary’s days in Egypt fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet Hosea, “… Out of Egypt I called my son” (Matthew 2:15b, NIV). When God calls us to new or different places, He’s fulfilling His purposes through us, too.

Lord, may I go where You call me without delay. Like Mary, I am Your maidservant. May it be to me according to Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

Sharing in the Atonement

From: Utmost.org

Sharing in the Atonement

The gospel of Jesus Christ always forces a decision of our will. Have I accepted God’s verdict on sin as judged on the Cross of Christ? Do I have even the slightest interest in the death of Jesus? Do I want to be identified with His death— to be completely dead to all interest in sin, worldliness, and self? Do I long to be so closely identified with Jesus that I am of no value for anything except Him and His purposes? The great privilege of discipleship is that I can commit myself under the banner of His Cross, and that means death to sin. You must get alone with Jesus and either decide to tell Him that you do not want sin to die out in you, or that at any cost you want to be identified with His death. When you act in confident faith in what our Lord did on the cross, a supernatural identification with His death takes place immediately. And you will come to know through a higher knowledge that your old life was “crucified with Him” (Romans 6:6). The proof that your old life is dead, having been “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), is the amazing ease with which the life of God in you now enables you to obey the voice of Jesus Christ.

Every once in a while our Lord gives us a glimpse of what we would be like if it were not for Him. This is a confirmation of what He said— “…without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). That is why the underlying foundation of Christianity is personal, passionate devotion to the Lord Jesus. We mistake the joy of our first introduction into God’s kingdom as His purpose for getting us there. Yet God’s purpose in getting us into His kingdom is that we may realize all that identification with Jesus Christ means.

 

What Can I Give Him?

From: Our Daily Bread

What Can I Give Him?

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Psalm 103:2

One year, those responsible for decorating their church for Christmas decided to use the theme of “Christmas lists.” Instead of decorating with the usual shiny gold and silver ornaments, they gave each person a red or green tag. On one side they were to write down the gift they would like from Jesus, and on the other they were to list the gift they would give to the One whose birth they were celebrating.

If you were to do this, what gift would you ask for and what would you offer? The Bible gives us lots of ideas. God promises to supply all our needs, so we might ask for a new job, help with financial problems, physical healing for ourselves or others, or a restored relationship. We might be wondering what our spiritual gift is that equips us for God’s service. Many of these are listed in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. Or we might long to show more of the fruit of the Holy Spirit: to be more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind and good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled (Gal. 5:22–23).

The most important gift we can ever receive is God’s gift of His Son, our Savior, and with Him forgiveness, restoration, and the promise of spiritual life that begins now and lasts forever. And the most important gift we can ever give is to give Jesus our heart.

You overwhelm me with Your gifts, Lord. In return, I want to give You the very best present that I can. Please show me what You want most from me.

If I were a wise man, I would do my part. Yet what can I give Him—give Him my heart. Christina G. Rossetti

 

Approaching Prayer

From: Our Daily Journey

Approaching Prayer

Read:

Romans 15:30-33
I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me (Romans 15:30).

At times I’m hesitant to invite others to pray for me. If, for example, I say, “Please pray for me, I’m experiencing a spiritual attack in a certain area,” do I sound arrogant? Do I sound as if I think I’ve done something so important the enemy’s trying to stop me? Am I possibly calling something a spiritual attack that’s actually a consequence of something I’ve done or haven’t done? Will friends and ministry partners grow weary of repeated requests for prayer? Are my prayer needs too personal to share?

While it’s healthy to approach prayer with humility and discretion, too much introspection can hinder us from approaching God at all—privately or corporately.

A dear friend wrote this to me: “It’s a gift when friends entrust me with their struggles and let me see their victories. As I walk with them and intercede on their behalf, I get to see the power of God move and provide in a way that is almost miraculous. Honestly, it would be ‘easier’ some days to be surrounded by people who are not in need, but then I would miss the greatest blessing of all—authentic people who are waking up every day and doing life the best they can.”

In Romans 15:30, the apostle Paul models the importance of reaching out for prayer when he writes to his brothers and sisters in Jesus, urging them “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit.”

Rather than fearing that we’re imposing, let’s recognize the gift we’re giving when we invite others to participate in Galatians 6:2, which says, “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”