Tag Archives: marriage

Unfinished Works

At the Potter’s House

18 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted,10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.

11 “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the Lord says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways,each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’ 12 But they will reply, ‘It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; we will all follow the stubbornness of our evil hearts.’”

 

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Unfinished Works

From: Our Daily Bread

Unfinished Works

Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24–25

At his death, the great artist Michelangelo left many unfinished projects. But four of his sculptures were never meant to be completed. The Bearded Slave, the Atlas Slave, the Awakening Slave, and the Young Slave, though they appear unfinished, are just as Michelangelo intended them to be. The artist wanted to show what it might feel like to be forever enslaved.

Rather than sculpting figures in chains, Michelangelo made figures stuck in the very marble out of which they are carved. Bodies emerge from the stone, but not completely. Muscles flex, but the figures are never able to free themselves.

My empathy with the slave sculptures is immediate. Their plight is not unlike my struggle with sin. I am unable to free myself: like the sculptures I am stuck, “a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me” (Rom 7:23). No matter how hard I try, I cannot change myself. But thanks be to God, you and I will not remain unfinished works. We won’t be complete until heaven, but in the meantime as we welcome the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, He changes us. God promises to finish the good work He has begun in us (Phil. 1:6).

God, thank You that You make us new creatures through the work of Your Son Jesus Christ, freeing us from our slavery to sin.

He is the potter; we are the clay.

 

 

Eternal Perspective

From: Our Daily journey

Eternal Perspective

Read:

Acts 7:54-60
“Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!” (Acts 7:56).

Tricia Mingerink’s young adult Christian fantasy series The Blades of Acktar contains a scene where the protagonist is forced to watch friends and family martyred for their faith. A fearful person, she was struck by the peace with which each martyr faced death. In a moment of clarity, she realized that these believers were not bound by their immediate circumstances. The fear borne out of her exclusive focus on the present melted away as she embraced a perspective of eternity in God’s presence.

The story of Stephen demonstrates a similar response to suffering. While facing a group of irate Jewish leaders, Stephen lifted his eyes to heaven and saw a vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:54-56). His joyous proclamation of this sight drove the leaders into such a murderous frenzy that “they rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him” (Acts 7:57-58).

But this assault didn’t cause Stephen to take his eyes off Jesus. “As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ He [then] fell to his knees, shouting, ‘Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!’ ” (Acts 7:59-60). Even when facing his own death, Stephen was able to follow Jesus’ example and intercede on his murderers’ behalf.

When Jesus said we should “seek the Kingdom of God above all else” (Matthew 6:33), He was challenging us to move away from an exclusive focus on the here and now. In seeking God’s kingdom here on earth, we prepare our hearts for the eternity beyond and understand that the present reality does not have the final say in our story.

May we adopt an eternal perspective as the Holy Spirit helps us see all of life through God’s eyes and heart.

 

Held by the Grip of God

From: Utmost.org

Held by the Grip of God

Never choose to be a worker for God, but once God has placed His call on you, woe be to you if you “turn aside to the right hand or to the left” (Deuteronomy 5:32). We are not here to work for God because we have chosen to do so, but because God has “laid hold of” us. And once He has done so, we never have this thought, “Well, I’m really not suited for this.” What you are to preach is also determined by God, not by your own natural leanings or desires. Keep your soul steadfastly related to God, and remember that you are called not simply to convey your testimony but also to preach the gospel. Every Christian must testify to the truth of God, but when it comes to the call to preach, there must be the agonizing grip of God’s hand on you— your life is in the grip of God for that very purpose. How many of us are held like that?

Never water down the Word of God, but preach it in its undiluted sternness. There must be unflinching faithfulness to the Word of God, but when you come to personal dealings with others, remember who you are— you are not some special being created in heaven, but a sinner saved by grace.

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do…I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

From Brokenness To Salvation

 

Luke 7:36-50

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred Roman coins,[a] and the other fifty.

42   Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

( The woman is this story may have gone from brokenness to salvation through faith in Christ. It is one of the greatest expressions of gratitude to God in the bible).

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Broken and Hurting

From: CBN and Paul Linzey

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Every one of us is broken in some way. We might look fine on the outside, but inside we’re hurting. If we’re to find healing or any positive result from the pain, it might be helpful to take a look at Job, James, and Jesus to see how we can respond in painful circumstances.

Even though he did everything right, Job suffered terrible business losses, extreme physical pain, and undeserved accusations from his friends. His wife also lost everything, and chose to let go of hope and faith, suggesting that he do the same. Instead, Job turned to the Lord, and began to understand more fully his own weakness and need for God. These are important lessons that sometimes have to be learned the hard way. We have a tendency to be self-sufficient, unaware of our desperate need for God. In his darkest moments, Job chose to turn toward the Lord, and so can we.

The second possibility for meaning in our pain is character growth. James 1:2-4 tells us to remain joyful when we endure tests and trials, because they will help us mature. It is true that pain can break us, but it also has a way of strengthening us and deepening us. The difference is how we respond to the crisis and to the work of the Holy Spirit.

A third potential benefit of tribulation is that it can help us develop compassion for others. When Jesus looked at the crowds, he saw their need and was moved to compassion. He cared about people and saw their hurts. He felt their need, and acted. He fed them, healed them, taught them, loved them. The Apostle Paul picks up this theme in 2 Corinthians 1:4 when he says the Lord comforts us in our troubles so that we can comfort others.

Some people respond to pain by becoming hardened, bitter, or angry. Others are jealous of those who seem to have everything going right. If we want to grow in Christ and enjoy life to its fullest, however, we can’t afford to let either of those happen. Instead, we can turn to the Lord, mature as human beings, and develop a sense of compassion for others.

There’s a song in the musical version of Les Misérables that a Christian pastor sings to a hungry, homeless criminal, “Come in, sir, for you are weary, and the night is cold out there. There’s a bed to rest til morning, rest from pain and rest from wrong.”

That’s what the Lord is saying to us in Matthew 11:28 (Paraphrased), “Come to me, you who are tired, carrying a heavy load, and I will give you rest.” Rest from pain, and rest from wrong.

Get In The Game

From: Get More Strength

To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. —Colossians 1:29

I love going to Chicago’s Wrigley Field for a baseball game—sitting in the stands, downing a great hot dog, and cheering the Cubs on to victory!

Unfortunately, Christianity has become a lot like professional sports. As a friend of mine has observed, there are nine guys on the baseball field doing all the work and thousands in the stands just watching. And as you probably know, that’s not God’s game plan for His people. He wants us to climb out of the stands, get out on the field, and join the team.

If you are wondering what good you can do on the field, wonder no more. What about your financial resources? Jesus can take your “silver and gold” and use it to accomplish great things for His glory.

But more than just getting out your checkbook, you have gifts you can contribute. God has given each of us spiritual gifts that can help advance His kingdom. Whether it’s teaching, encouraging, serving, showing hospitality, or extending mercy, each ability can yield great dividends. Let’s follow the example of Paul, who tirelessly served on God’s field for the joy of being used by Him (Col. 1:28-29).

Believe me, it’s far more rewarding to be on the field than to sit in the stands.

Start where you are in serving the Lord,
Claim His sure promise and trust in His Word;
God simply asks you to do what you can,
He’ll use your efforts to further His plan. —Anon.

Don’t make a cemetery of your life by burying your talents.

 

Shameless Persistence

From: Our Daily Journey

Shameless Persistence

Read:

Luke 11:1-13
Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you (Luke 11:9).

After 45 years of talking with God, I still find prayer to be an enigma. At times, I’ve felt as if I stopped praying too soon. If I had persevered, would the outcome have been different?

Like me, Jesus’ disciples needed to learn more about the nature of prayer. So He taught them how not to pray (Matthew 6:5-8), how they should pray (Matthew 6:9-13), and the confidence and persistence with which they were to call out to God (Matthew 7:7-11).

Once, after watching Jesus pray, one of His disciples requested, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). After instructing them how to pray (Luke 11:2-4), Jesus continued to teach “them more about prayer” with a story (Luke 11:5-8): A guest had unexpectedly turned up late at night, and the host—wanting to show hospitality—unfortunately had nothing to offer. So the host went to his friend nearby to borrow some food. Irritated at being awakened at midnight and having to leave his bed, the friend initially refused to help him (Luke 11:5-7). Undeterred, the needy host continuously and audaciously knocked on the friend’s door until he yielded and gave him the food he asked for (Luke 11:8-9). The friend didn’t help him out of friendship, but “because of [his] shameless persistence” (Luke 11:8).

Thankfully, God isn’t like that reluctant friend; He’s a generous and good Father (Luke 11:11-13). He is not annoyed by our persistence. On the contrary, He welcomes it, expecting us to “keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9).

God hears us (Luke 11:10). May we continue to seek His will even as we lift up our prayers with “shameless persistence.”

 

 

Recognizing Who Jesus Is

53   After Jesus’ resurrection, when they had come out of the tombs, they entered the holy city and appeared to many people.
55   And many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to minister to Him.…
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John 1:3          Through Jesus All Things Were Made
2   He was with God in the beginning.
4   In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.…
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Very Good!

From: Our Daily Bread

Very Good!

Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! Genesis 1:31 nlt

Some days seem to have a theme running through them. Recently I had one of those days. Our pastor began his sermon on Genesis 1 with two minutes of breathtaking, time-lapse photography of blossoming flowers. Then, at home, a scroll through social media revealed numerous posts of flowers. Later on a walk in the woods, the wildflowers of spring surrounded us—trilliums, marsh marigolds, and wild iris.

God created flowers and every other variety of vegetation (and dry ground to grow in), on the third day of creation. And twice on that day, God pronounced it “good” (Gen. 1:10, 12). On only one other day of creation—the sixth—did God make that double pronouncement of “good” (vv. 25, 31). In fact, on this day when He created humans and His masterpiece was complete, He looked over all He had made and “saw that it was very good!” (nlt).

In the creation story, we see a Creator God who delighted in His creation—and seemed to take joy in the very act of creating. Why else design a world with such colorful and amazing variety? And He saved the best for last when He “created mankind in his own image” (v. 27). As His image-bearers we are blessed and inspired by His beautiful handiwork.

Dear Creator God, thank You for creating the world in all its beauty for our enjoyment—and Yours. Thank You too for making us in Your image so that we would be inspired to create.

All creation bears God’s autograph.

 

 

Faith In God Without Effect

From: Streams In The Desert

For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? (Rom. 3:3).

I think that I can trace every scrap of sorrow in my life to simple unbelief. How could I be anything but quite happy if I believed always that all the past is forgiven, and all the present furnished with power, and all the future bright with hope because of the same abiding facts which do not change with my mood, do not stumble because I totter and stagger at the promise through unbelief, but stand firm and clear with their peaks of pearl cleaving the air of Eternity, and the bases of their hills rooted unfathomably in the Rock of God. Mont Blanc does not become a phantom or a mist because a climber grows dizzy on its side.
–James Smetham

Is it any wonder that, when we stagger at any promise of God through unbelief, we do not receive it? Not that faith merits an answer, or in any way earns it, or works it out; but God has made believing a condition of receiving, and the Giver has a sovereign right to choose His own terms of gift.
–Rev. Samuel Hart

Unbelief says, “How can such and such things be?” It is full of “hows”; but faith has one great answer to the ten thousand “hows,” and that answer is–GOD!
–C. H. M.

No praying man or woman accomplishes so much with so little expenditure of time as when he or she is praying.

If there should arise, it has been said–and the words are surely true to the thought of our Lord Jesus Christ in all His teaching on prayer—if there should arise ONE UTTERLY BELIEVING MAN, the history of the world might be changed.

Will YOU not be that one in the providence and guidance of God our Father?
–A. E. McAdam

Prayer without faith degenerates into objectless routine, or soulless hypocrisy. Prayer with faith brings Omnipotence to back our petitions. Better not pray unless and until your whole being responds to the efficacy of your supplication. When the true prayer is breathed, earth and heaven, the past and the future, say Amen. And Christ prayed such prayers.
–P. C. M.

Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which lies outside the will of God.

 

 

Drawing on the Grace of God— Now

From: Utmost.org

Drawing on the Grace of God— Now

The grace you had yesterday will not be sufficient for today. Grace is the overflowing favor of God, and you can always count on it being available to draw upon as needed. “…in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses”— that is where our patience is tested (2 Corinthians 6:4). Are you failing to rely on the grace of God there? Are you saying to yourself, “Oh well, I won’t count this time”? It is not a question of praying and asking God to help you— it is taking the grace of God now. We tend to make prayer the preparation for our service, yet it is never that in the Bible. Prayer is the practice of drawing on the grace of God. Don’t say, “I will endure this until I can get away and pray.” Pray now — draw on the grace of God in your moment of need. Prayer is the most normal and useful thing; it is not simply a reflex action of your devotion to God. We are very slow to learn to draw on God’s grace through prayer.

“…in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors…” (2 Corinthians 6:5)— in all these things, display in your life a drawing on the grace of God, which will show evidence to yourself and to others that you are a miracle of His. Draw on His grace now, not later. The primary word in the spiritual vocabulary is now. Let circumstances take you where they will, but keep drawing on the grace of God in whatever condition you may find yourself. One of the greatest proofs that you are drawing on the grace of God is that you can be totally humiliated before others without displaying even the slightest trace of anything but His grace.

“…having nothing….” Never hold anything in reserve. Pour yourself out, giving the best that you have, and always be poor. Never be diplomatic and careful with the treasure God gives you. “…and yet possessing all things”— this is poverty triumphant (2 Corinthians 6:10).

 

Cause For Rejoicing

Philippians 4:4

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

 
Deuteronomy 12:7

“There also you and your households shall eat before the LORD your God, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

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Cause for Rejoicing

From: Get More Strength

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!” Philippians 3:1

I’ll never forget the Sunday morning when I was hanging out in the hall with a bunch of my “cool” junior high friends before Sunday school. Walking toward us was a visitor to our class, wearing a chain of perfect attendance awards pinned to his shirt. As he approached, our attitude about him was anything but sanctified. It was more like, “Who does he think he is?”—and we immediately dismissed him as a legitimate candidate to make it into the “in” group. Not one of my finer moments, I must admit, but a good illustration of what happens when people walk around flaunting their accomplishments.

The early church at Philippi had similar problems. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul spoke forcefully against the Judaizers in the church who were flaunting the fact that they kept the religious customs of the law, including circumcision. In their minds they were the blue-ribbon Christians in Philippi, and their self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude was a source of conflict and division in the church. Paul’s advice? Stop rejoicing in your own accomplishments, and start rejoicing in the Lord.

When he commanded the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord, he wasn’t calling for incessant, glib expressions of “praise Jesus!” Aren’t we all just a little tired of people who walk around with 24-hour “praise Jesus!” smiles on their faces? He was calling for something deeper. It was a call to forsake our absorption with things that elevate us and to instead live in a way that makes Jesus the focus of our “bragging rights.” To illustrate the importance of this, Paul gave a personal testimony in verses 4-6. After listing his own accomplishments, he said that he had learned to count it all “loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

The lesson for us is that there are no “blue-ribbon” Christians. There is no spiritual caste system that separates the high performers from the others. We all have one blue ribbon: Jesus.

Whatever it is in your life that you want to brag about—don’t! As Jeremiah said, “Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth” (Jeremiah 9:24).

When we begin bragging about Jesus and His wonderful grace in our life, we can replace the “Who does he think he is?” attitude with the desire to say, “Let me tell you who He is!”

 

Reconciling Yourself to the Fact of Sin

From: Utmost.org

Reconciling Yourself to the Fact of Sin

Not being reconciled to the fact of sin— not recognizing it and refusing to deal with it— produces all the disasters in life. You may talk about the lofty virtues of human nature, but there is something in human nature that will mockingly laugh in the face of every principle you have. If you refuse to agree with the fact that there is wickedness and selfishness, something downright hateful and wrong, in human beings, when it attacks your life, instead of reconciling yourself to it, you will compromise with it and say that it is of no use to battle against it. Have you taken this “hour, and the power of darkness” into account, or do you have a view of yourself which includes no recognition of sin whatsoever? In your human relationships and friendships, have you reconciled yourself to the fact of sin? If not, just around the next corner you will find yourself trapped and you will compromise with it. But if you will reconcile yourself to the fact of sin, you will realize the danger immediately and say, “Yes, I see what this sin would mean.” The recognition of sin does not destroy the basis of friendship— it simply establishes a mutual respect for the fact that the basis of sinful life is disastrous. Always beware of any assessment of life which does not recognize the fact that there is sin.

Jesus Christ never trusted human nature, yet He was never cynical nor suspicious, because He had absolute trust in what He could do for human nature. The pure man or woman is the one who is shielded from harm, not the innocent person. The so-called innocent man or woman is never safe. Men and women have no business trying to be innocent; God demands that they be pure and virtuous. Innocence is the characteristic of a child. Any person is deserving of blame if he is unwilling to reconcile himself to the fact of sin.

 

For Such a Time as This

From: CBN Network

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Ever wonder why it is so important not to waste time? I sat at my desk the other day during my break thinking about how much of my time I really waste.

It’s not that I am idle for any length of time. I work 40 hours a week and sometimes more. I attend church, take care of my home, and spend time with my family and friends.

I can remember those moments I could have seized to really make a contribution to society and perhaps come to another’s’ aid. I realized the most productive thing I have gotten involved in only takes me five hours a week.

There is a precious family at my church who I help by watching their very ill, little girl in the nursery. I come away so rewarded those two nights a month.

When I think of true ministry, I think of those moments when the little girl laughs as we play ball, or when she sits and holds a graham cracker in both hands. She is adorable, and has to wear a surgical mask (to keep germs away) because she has an Immune disease, among other problems. When she wants me to hold her, that is when my face lights up.

I just saw the new movie, “One Night with The King.” In it, Esther was told “you were born for such a time as this.” I am glad I have this moment in time to make a difference where God has placed me too.

I just finished taking a spiritual gifts test at my church and although I took it many years ago, I see some changes. Could that be a sign of some spiritual maturity? I certainly hope so!

I am a teacher of the Word and that came in very strong on the test. I love when I get to teach in my Bible class on Sunday mornings as an assistant. Second to that, I love how my desire to pray for children who are ill has manifested itself in my work with this special child. I can say: Lord for such a time as this, thank you for calling me aside.

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 NIV

Although my ministry to bless a child may not be on as grand a scale as Queen Esther’s, it certainly is an opportunity to make a difference, and that is what we all must do as Christians. We all have a gift to share …. maybe it is a smile, a hug, a song, or a story to tell.

I found that being an encourager is a wonderful gift for a mother whose child is very ill. Whether you hand someone you know a $5 bill or offer to go to the pre-school children’s class to do story time, you too can make a difference. Ask the Lord to show you where the need is or how you can use your gift. What is your passion?

We all are pieces of a puzzle in the body of Christ and working together we make a whole. It will make a whole lot of difference if our part is missing. This is the way we stay fulfilled and connected in service to the Lord.

God will show you just what your hidden talents and gifts are to serve Him and serve others. You were called for such a time as this!

Living With A Clear View

1 Peter 3:16

and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

 
1 Timothy 1:19

keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.

Acts 24:16

“In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.

Job 27:6

“I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go. My heart does not reproach any of my days.

 

 

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Living With a Clear View

From: Get More Strength

“Offer your bodies as living sacrifices . . . this is your spiritual act of worship” Romans 12:1

I love Wrigley Field in Chicago. But like most old ballparks, it has the necessary but aggravating problem of support posts that obscure the view of the game. Unfortunately, I got stuck behind one of those posts at a game once, and, needless to say, it was disappointing. Without a clear view, I became easily distracted.

It can be like that with worship. Without a clear view of what really counts, we are quickly distracted by lesser things in life. And when that happens, our worship becomes ritualistic and routine. Worship isn’t meant to be a drab experience, but rather an active, ongoing, enthusiastic response to God for His work and worth in our lives.

As I sat distractedly behind the post, I often wondered why everyone was cheering. What had I missed? Losing sight of the real game, God’s wonderful worth to us, will make you wonder why others are so excited about God and why you are only excited about your own dreams, desires, and possessions. Maybe it’s time to look around the obstructions of life to see Jesus clearly again and notice what He is worth to you—personally.

And what would that worship look like? Well, it would be more than singing in church. True worship is a surrender of all that we are and have. Paul told the believers in Rome to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1). Our lives are to be placed on the altar as an act of worship as well! Is He worth that kind of sacrifice? You bet! He gave up everything to set you eternally free. It’s time to tell Him how much He is worth by returning the favor. Being truthful, loving, honest, and forgiving even when it hurts would be a great place to start. And be careful, living sacrifices tend to want to climb off the altar!

Go ahead—get out from behind the support posts so you can get a fresh glimpse of Jesus. He’s the only action worth worshiping in your life!

 

Playing In Concert

From: Our Daily Bread

Playing in Concert
 
 

So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. Romans 12:5–6

During our granddaughter’s school band concert, I was impressed by how well this group of 11- and 12-year-olds played together. If each of them had wanted to be a solo performer, they could not have achieved individually what the band did collectively. The woodwinds, brass, and percussion sections all played their parts and the result was beautiful music!

To the followers of Jesus in Rome, Paul wrote, “In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us” (Rom. 12:5–6). Among the gifts Paul mentioned are prophecy, service, teaching, encouragement, giving, leadership, and mercy (vv. 7–8). Each gift is to be exercised freely for the good of all (1 Cor. 12:7).

One definition of in concert is “agreement in design or plan; combined action; harmony or accord.” That’s the Lord’s plan for us as His children through faith in Jesus Christ. “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (v. 10). The goal is cooperation, not competition.

In a sense, we are “on stage” before a watching and listening world every day. There are no soloists in God’s concert band, but every instrument is essential. The music is best when we each play our part in unity with others.

Lord, You are the Conductor of our lives. We want to play Your song of love and grace in concert with Your children today.

There are no soloists in God’s orchestra.

 

Upending

From: Our Daily Journey

Upending

Read:

Acts 16:16-34
Paul shouted to [the jailer], “Stop! Don’t kill yourself. We are all here!” (Acts 16:28).

A backyard bash was underway when a man carrying a gun approached and demanded money from the partygoers. The partiers would have handed their money to the bandit, but no one had any cash! So they offered what they did have—a drink. Surprisingly, the crook accepted and joined their party. An unexpected response changed everything.

According to psychologists, “responding in an unexpected way to prompt a positive response” is called noncomplementarity. In the vernacular, it’s called upending. As trendy as it may seem, the idea is centuries old. Jesus said, “Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those you hurt you” (Luke 6:27-28).

Paul and Silas modeled upending when they didn’t run away from a jail where they’d been locked up. God used a late-night earthquake to unfasten their chains and open the prison doors. Shaken awake, the jailer assumed his prisoners had escaped. He drew his sword to end his life, but Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” (Acts 16:28).

Although the jailer had been the one to restrain them in stocks and keep them confined, they prevented him from hurting himself. Perhaps because of their kindness, he fell down before them pleading, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). That day the prison guard and his whole household trusted Jesus for salvation.

As the Holy Spirit gives us the power to go against our natural instincts for self-protection and revenge, it will cause people to wonder why. Kindness toward offenders reveals the reality of Jesus and His grace at work within us. Choosing a Spirit-led response in difficult situations honors Him—the greatest “upender” of all time (Luke 23:33-34).

Waiting Silently For God

 

Proverbs 17:28 “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”

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

Lamentations 3:26 “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

Psalm 62:5 “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.”

Psalm 141:3 “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!”

 

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Silence

From: Our Daily Bread

Silence

How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Habakkuk 1:2

Skittish chickens scattered as relief trucks clattered past the weathered huts of the village. Barefoot children stared. Traffic on this rain-ravaged “road” was rare.

Suddenly, a walled mansion loomed into view of the convoy. It was the mayor’s house—although he didn’t live in it. His people lacked basic necessities, while he lounged in luxury in a distant city.

Such unfairness angers us. It angered God’s prophet too. When Habakkuk saw rampant oppression he asked, “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” (Hab. 1:2). But God had noticed, and He said, “Woe to him who piles up stolen goods . . . who builds his house by unjust gain!” (2:6, 9). Judgment was coming!

We welcome God’s judgment of others, but there’s a pivot point in Habakkuk that gives us pause: “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him” (2:20). All the earth. The oppressed along with oppressors. Sometimes the appropriate response to God’s seeming silence is . . . silence!

Why silence? Because we easily overlook our own spiritual poverty. Silence allows us to recognize our sinfulness in the presence of a holy God.

Habakkuk learned to trust God, and we can too. We don’t know all His ways, but we do know that He is good. Nothing is beyond His control and timing.

Lord, when trouble comes we can pray like Habakkuk, “We have heard of your fame; we stand in awe of your deeds. Repeat them in our day; in our time make them known” (Hab. 3:2).

The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. Proverbs 29:7

 

The Unchanging Law of Judgment

From: Utmost.org

The Unchanging Law of Judgment

This statement is not some haphazard theory, but it is an eternal law of God. Whatever judgment you give will be the very way you are judged. There is a difference between retaliation and retribution. Jesus said that the basis of life is retribution— “with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” If you have been shrewd in finding out the shortcomings of others, remember that will be exactly how you will be measured. The way you pay is the way life will pay you back. This eternal law works from God’s throne down to us (see Psalm 18:25-26).

Romans 2:1 applies it in even a more definite way by saying that the one who criticizes another is guilty of the very same thing. God looks not only at the act itself, but also at the possibility of committing it, which He sees by looking at our hearts. To begin with, we do not believe the statements of the Bible. For instance, do we really believe the statement that says we criticize in others the very things we are guilty of ourselves? The reason we see hypocrisy, deceit, and a lack of genuineness in others is that they are all in our own hearts. The greatest characteristic of a saint is humility, as evidenced by being able to say honestly and humbly, “Yes, all those, as well as other evils, would have been exhibited in me if it were not for the grace of God. Therefore, I have no right to judge.”

Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). He went on to say, in effect, “If you do judge, you will be judged in exactly the same way.” Who of us would dare to stand before God and say, “My God, judge me as I have judged others”? We have judged others as sinners— if God should judge us in the same way, we would be condemned to hell. Yet God judges us on the basis of the miraculous atonement by the Cross of Christ.

 

Unappreciated?

From: Our Daily Journey

Unappreciated?

Read:

Luke 17:11-19
Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:17).

Have you ever gone out of your way to do something kind for others, only to have them ignore your effort? You stayed up past midnight to finish a report for your boss or planned a special getaway for your family. You were excited to please them, but ended up disappointed when they didn’t even say thank you.

Jesus can empathize. He once entered a village with much on His mind. He was walking to Jerusalem where He knew He would die on the cross (Luke 18:31-33). His deep thoughts were interrupted by the shouts of ten lepers, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:13). Ostracized by society, they’d been shut off from family, friends, and even God. (They were not allowed to enter the temple; see Leviticus 13:45-46.) They were in agony, dying, and alone. Jesus was their only hope.

He called them over and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14), in accordance with Mosaic law, which required those cured of leprosy to offer sacrifices (see Leviticus 14:1-57). On their trip to the temple, they noticed their skin was healthy again. Their sores were gone. Shouts of joy must have startled other travelers, yet only one leper—inexplicably only one—returned to thank Jesus for his healing.

Jesus noted the ingratitude of the other nine. He said, “Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:18). He didn’t sweep their lack of response under the rug. Instead, He focused on the grateful person kneeling before Him. “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you” (Luke 17:19). Although all the lepers were healed, only one person’s gratitude led him to the Savior.

Jesus continued to heal all the way to Jerusalem, where He gave His life to heal us. May we thank Him with hearts full of gratitude today.

Love God Not The World

 

Do Not Love the World    I John 2:15

14  I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

15   Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world,the love of the Father is not in him.

16   For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not from the Father but from the world.…

 

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She Loves Me, . . . She Loves Me Not

From: Get more Strength

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15

Did you ever try to figure out whether or not someone you loved, loved you in return? Who knows when, but a long time ago some romantic had the idea that you could solve the dilemma by pulling petals off of a daisy. Remember how it works? “She loves me, she loves me not . . .” When you got to the last petal, you’d have it figured out. And, the beauty of it was, if you didn’t like the outcome, you could grab another flower and start over!

Sometimes I wonder if that’s how God feels about our love for Him. We know from Scripture that God’s love toward us is faithful, undaunted, and unchanging (Lamentations 3:22-23). But, quite frankly, our love for Him is often fickle and erratic. One day it’s “we love Him,” and a couple of days later it looks like “we love him not.” And while we would never say it that way, sometimes that’s really what it is! One day we resonate with intimacy toward God, and the next, we feel distant and disconnected.

I suspect that part of the problem is our understanding of the word love. We use the same English word to speak about so many things. I could say, “I love the Chicago Cubs; I love deep-dish pizza; I love the family dog; and I love my wife” using the same word for all, but meaning dramatically different things. Then we take that same word and say, “I love God.” No wonder the meaning gets lost!

That’s why I’m thankful for the writings of the apostle John. He moves the discussion about our love for God from the realm of our fickle feelings to tangible, practical ways that we can express our love to God regardless of how we feel. John tells us that God feels loved by us when we surrender to Him and obey (1 John 5:3). He also tells us that loving God is expressed to Him by loving our brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 4:21). And in today’s verse we see that our love for God is also proven when we choose to love God more than the world! “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

So, thankfully, our love for God doesn’t need to rise and fall on how we feel on a given day. Loving Him is about our choice to put Him first and care about the things He cares about! And that is something we can do on a regular basis regardless.

If you’ve been caught in a “petal-pulling” love relationship with Jesus, set yourself free by choosing to express your love to Him in concrete ways every day. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the good feelings follow your good choices!

 

Covenant Relationship

From: Our Daily Journey

Covenant Relationship

Read:

Malachi 2:10-16
So guard your heart (Malachi 2:16).

Two different friends from different spheres of my life—one a man, one a woman—told me about their unfaithful spouses during the same week. Both felt betrayed and angry. They wondered if they would ever feel whole again.

The book of Malachi is about another broken relationship. As part of the line of Abraham, the people of Judah shared a covenant—a special agreement of commitment—with God (Genesis 12:1-3; Malachi 2:10). They were meant to show the world what it looks like to love and serve Him, but they were straying. Additionally, some of Judah’s men were committing adultery. Malachi speaks of their two betrayals at the same time, using their adultery to help them understand the severity of their sin against God (Malachi 2:11-14).

Can the same thing be said of some followers of Jesus? Am I sometimes the same as the people of Judah? Do I strive after things that lead me away from God?

Jesus calls His followers out of faithless living and into a covenant relationship with Him (Hebrews 10:16-18; 1 Peter 2:9-10). He also equips His followers to serve Him and promises that the Holy Spirit will indwell them (John 14:15-17). If you’re a disciple of Jesus, He truly has these things for you.

In a counterintuitive way, today’s passage reminds us of what a covenant relationship with God looks like. Judah’s disobedience helps us understand God’s faithfulness. Their corruption illumines God’s holiness (His perfect, transcendent nature), and their betrayal underscores His righteousness.

Worship God because He has—and always will—keep His covenants. “Guard your heart,” confess any sin that lingers, and enjoy the peace and love of a committed relationship with God today (Malachi 2:16).

 

The Ministry of the Inner Life

From: Utmost.org

The Ministry of the Inner Life

By what right have we become “a royal priesthood”? It is by the right of the atonement by the Cross of Christ that this has been accomplished. Are we prepared to purposely disregard ourselves and to launch out into the priestly work of prayer? The continual inner-searching we do in an effort to see if we are what we ought to be generates a self-centered, sickly type of Christianity, not the vigorous and simple life of a child of God. Until we get into this right and proper relationship with God, it is simply a case of our “hanging on by the skin of our teeth,” although we say, “What a wonderful victory I have!” Yet there is nothing at all in that which indicates the miracle of redemption. Launch out in reckless, unrestrained belief that the redemption is complete. Then don’t worry anymore about yourself, but begin to do as Jesus Christ has said, in essence, “Pray for the friend who comes to you at midnight, pray for the saints of God, and pray for all men.” Pray with the realization that you are perfect only in Christ Jesus, not on the basis of this argument: “Oh, Lord, I have done my best; please hear me now.”

How long is it going to take God to free us from the unhealthy habit of thinking only about ourselves? We must get to the point of being sick to death of ourselves, until there is no longer any surprise at anything God might tell us about ourselves. We cannot reach and understand the depths of our own meagerness. There is only one place where we are right with God, and that is in Christ Jesus. Once we are there, we have to pour out our lives for all we are worth in this ministry of the inner life.

Reason To Smile

 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

 

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Reason to Smile

From: Our Daily Bread

Reason to Smile

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

In the workplace, words of encouragement matter. How employees talk to one another has a bearing on customer satisfaction, company profits, and co-worker appreciation. Studies show that members of the most effective work groups give one another six times more affirmation than disapproval, disagreement, or sarcasm. Least productive teams tend to use almost three negative comments for every helpful word.

Paul learned by experience about the value of words in shaping relationships and outcomes. Before meeting Christ on the road to Damascus, his words and actions terrorized followers of Jesus. But by the time he wrote his letter to the Thessalonians, he had become a great encourager because of God’s work in his heart. Now by his own example he urged his readers to cheer one another on. While being careful to avoid flattery, he showed how to affirm others and reflect the Spirit of Christ.

In the process, Paul reminded his readers where encouragement comes from. He saw that entrusting ourselves to God, who loved us enough to die for us, gives us reason to comfort, forgive, inspire, and lovingly challenge one another (1 Thess. 5:10–11).

Paul shows us that encouraging one another is a way of helping one another get a taste of the patience and goodness of God.

Father in heaven, please help us to give others a small taste of the mercy and kindness You are forever offering us.

What could be better than working to bring out the best in one another?

 

Gifts from God

From: Our Daily Journey

Gifts from God

Read:

Psalm 127:1-5
Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him (Psalm 127:3).

Police were sent to a home in response to a report of domestic child abuse. When they arrived at the house, they found a scared four-year-old girl with a black eye, swollen cheek, and bruises covering a majority of her tiny frame. The officers were devastated when they asked her to say her name and she meekly replied, “Idiot.”

In light of this particularly heart-wrenching example of both physical and emotional abuse, Psalm 127 has some vital words of wisdom for those who’ve been entrusted with children. Many believers in Jesus are familiar with verse 3, which says, “Children are a gift from the Lord ; they are a reward from him.” Indeed, this verse is frequently attached to birth announcements and is spoken often by parents who are experiencing joy for the children with which God has blessed them (Psalm 127:5).

Theologian Albert Barnes says that Psalm 127 “emphasizes the happiness God intends for parents to derive through having children, and explains the divine favor bestowed on parents whom God’s entrusted with children’s lives, health and virtues.”

But if people view kids as a burden, abuse will sometimes follow. For those struggling to love and protect their children, Barnes suggests looking deeply into this passage and recognizing that as we depend on God and are guided by the Scriptures, we’ll receive what’s needed to wisely and lovingly nurture them.

If you’re not a parent, consider how you can be used to love and encourage children. Most of us have children in our lives that we’re influencing in some way. May we be encouraged that the Bible can help us better understand and live out our roles. And may we seek the Holy Spirit’s power in living out His love for children.

 

Have You Come to “When” Yet?

From: Utmost.org

Have You Come to

A pitiful, sickly, and self-centered kind of prayer and a determined effort and selfish desire to be right with God are never found in the New Testament. The fact that I am trying to be right with God is actually a sign that I am rebelling against the atonement by the Cross of Christ. I pray, “Lord, I will purify my heart if You will answer my prayer— I will walk rightly before You if You will help me.” But I cannot make myself right with God; I cannot make my life perfect. I can only be right with God if I accept the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ as an absolute gift. Am I humble enough to accept it? I have to surrender all my rights and demands, and cease from every self-effort. I must leave myself completely alone in His hands, and then I can begin to pour my life out in the priestly work of intercession. There is a great deal of prayer that comes from actual disbelief in the atonement. Jesus is not just beginning to save us— He has already saved us completely. It is an accomplished fact, and it is an insult to Him for us to ask Him to do what He has already done.

If you are not now receiving the “hundredfold” which Jesus promised (see Matthew 19:29), and not getting insight into God’s Word, then start praying for your friends— enter into the ministry of the inner life. “The Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends.” As a saved soul, the real business of your life is intercessory prayer. Whatever circumstances God may place you in, always pray immediately that His atonement may be recognized and as fully understood in the lives of others as it has been in yours. Pray for your friends now, and pray for those with whom you come in contact now.

Driven By God

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

 

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air

( Pictures of cowboys driving cattle)
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Driven by God

From: Our Daily Bread

Driven by God

May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him. 1 Kings 8:58

A few months ago I received an email inviting me to join a community of “driven people.” I decided to look up the word driven, and I learned that a driven person is someone highly motivated to succeed and who will work hard to achieve his goals.

Is it good to be a driven person? There is a test that never fails: “Do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Many times we do things for self-glory. After the flood in Noah’s day, a group of people decided to build a tower in order to “make a name” for themselves (Gen. 11:4). They wanted to be famous and avoid being scattered all over the world. Because they were not doing it for God’s glory, though, they were erroneously driven.

In contrast, when King Solomon dedicated the ark of the covenant and the newly constructed temple, he said, “I have built the temple for the Name of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:20). Then he prayed, “May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands” (v. 58).

When our greatest desire is to bring glory to God and walk in obedience, we become driven people who seek to love and serve Jesus in the power of the Spirit. Let our prayer echo Solomon’s. May our “hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands” (v. 61).

Father, give me the desire to obey You and do everything for Your glory.

Do everything for the glory of God.

 

 

The Grand Project of Salvation

From: Our Daily Journey

The Grand Project of Salvation

Read:

Romans 1:8-17
This Good News about Christ . . . is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile (Romans 1:16).

The Swedish writer Fredrick Backman’s 2012 debut novel A Man Called Ove is the tale of a man who sees no reason to live. After the death of his wife (the one person who brought him laughter, intimacy, and joy) and after losing his job, Ove plots his suicide. But then he’s drawn into the larger story around him: There’s a pregnant woman who needs his support, a neighbor in conflict with authorities who are trying to force him into a nursing home, and a young man estranged from his father. Ove discovers reasons to live as he moves beyond himself and toward others.

The apostle Paul describes a similar movement—how our lives take on new meaning as we’re caught up into the great purposes of God’s grand project of salvation. The apostle describes the gospel (or the “Good News about Christ”) as that “power of God at work, saving everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). This was a shocking pronouncement because Paul boldly declared how God’s interests were not, as some supposed, only for Israel but rather for both the Jew “and also the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).

As Paul explained, he felt a “great sense of obligation to people in both the civilized world and the rest of the world, to the educated and the uneducated alike” (Romans 1:14). Paul’s energy exploded with new vigor because of this revelation: God’s love and renewal is for everyone. And Paul could participate in His bold scheme.

We find our own small stories erupting with new meaning when we allow God to pull us outside ourselves and place us in the center of His work rescuing the world. As Stanley Hauerwas says, “Salvation is the delightful surprise of having your little life caught up in the purposes of God for the whole world.”

 

 

The Service of Passionate Devotion

From: Utmost.org

The Service of Passionate Devotion

Jesus did not say to make converts to your way of thinking, but He said to look after His sheep, to see that they get nourished in the knowledge of Him. We consider what we do in the way of Christian work as service, yet Jesus Christ calls service to be what we are to Him, not what we do for Him. Discipleship is based solely on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on following after a particular belief or doctrine. “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate…, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). In this verse, there is no argument and no pressure from Jesus to follow Him; He is simply saying, in effect, “If you want to be My disciple, you must be devoted solely to Me.” A person touched by the Spirit of God suddenly says, “Now I see who Jesus is!”— that is the source of devotion.

Today we have substituted doctrinal belief for personal belief, and that is why so many people are devoted to causes and so few are devoted to Jesus Christ. People do not really want to be devoted to Jesus, but only to the cause He started. Jesus Christ is deeply offensive to the educated minds of today, to those who only want Him to be their Friend, and who are unwilling to accept Him in any other way. Our Lord’s primary obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of people— the saving of people was the natural outcome of His obedience to the Father. If I am devoted solely to the cause of humanity, I will soon be exhausted and come to the point where my love will waver and stumble. But if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity, even though people may treat me like a “doormat.” The secret of a disciple’s life is devotion to Jesus Christ, and the characteristic of that life is its seeming insignificance and its meekness. Yet it is like a grain of wheat that “falls into the ground and dies”— it will spring up and change the entire landscape (John 12:24).

A Good Dad Is A Blessing

 

Happy Father’s Day 

 

John 3:16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God. who loved me and gave himself for me.

Ephesians 2:4-5 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, evenwhen we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

 

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A Perfect Father

From: Our Daily Bread

A Perfect Father

The righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them. Proverbs 20:7

My father once admitted to me, “When you were growing up, I was gone a lot.”

I don’t remember that. Besides working his full-time job, he was gone some evenings to direct choir practice at church, and he occasionally traveled for a week or two with a men’s quartet. But for all the significant (and many small) moments of my life—he was there.

For instance, when I was eight, I had a tiny part in an afternoon play at school. All the mothers came, but only one dad—mine. In many little ways, he has always let my sisters and me know that we are important to him and that he loves us. And seeing him tenderly caring for my mom in the last few years of her life taught me exactly what unselfish love looks like. Dad isn’t perfect, but he’s always been a dad who gives me a good glimpse of my heavenly Father. And ideally, that’s what a Christian dad should do.

At times earthly fathers disappoint or hurt their children. But our Father in heaven is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Ps. 103:8). When a dad who loves the Lord corrects, comforts, instructs, and provides for the needs of his children, he models for them our perfect Father in heaven.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your faithfulness that I can always count on. Please help me to live today in a way that leaves behind a legacy of faithfulness and love.

A life lived for Christ is the best inheritance we can leave our children.

 

God or Not?

From: Our Daily Journey

God or Not?

Read:

John 10:22-42
We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God (John 10:33).

In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.”

The people of Jesus’ day were confronted with this choice. Although the Teacher’s words and actions set Him apart, “the people were . . . divided in their opinions about him. Some said, ‘He’s demon possessed and out of his mind. Why listen to a man like that?’ Others said, ‘This doesn’t sound like a man possessed by a demon! Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’ ” (John 10:19-21).

At the height of the controversy, “the people surrounded him and asked, ‘how long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly’ ” (John 10:24). “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me,” Jesus replied. “The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. . . . The Father and I are one” (John 10:25,30). Ironically, even when Jesus spoke plainly to them, the crowd struggled with His response. No sooner had He made this declaration than “once again the people picked up stones to kill him” (John 10:31).

The struggle to accept Christ’s claims continues today. If you harbor a lingering doubt about who He is, prayerfully consider what He revealed about Himself (John 10:24-30). The One who died and rose again that we might have eternal life—revealing His power over sin and death—is the Messiah, our Shepherd, and the Giver of life (John 10:24-28). Jesus is the Son of God! (John 10:30).

 

Two-Way Street

From; Get More Strength

“You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 15:14

Ever had a one-way friendship? You know the drill—people who always need a favor but never give anything in return. Every time they come close, you can almost hear that sucking sound as they bring a new set of demands and needs. In these kinds of friendships, there is clearly something missing if you’re looking for the joy of shared friendship.

I’ve often wondered if God ever feels that way about us with our constant barrage of questions, problems, and prayer requests. Of course, He wants us to cast all our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7), and thankfully He stands ready and willing to help (Hebrews 4:16). But if we aspire to be a friend of God, we need to recognize that true friendship with God is a reciprocal deal.

When Jesus talked about friendship, He told the disciples, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). They probably had a hard time getting past the shock of the first part, “You are my friends . . . ” Any good Jew would have known that Abraham and Moses were the only two people in the Old Testament to have been called a “friend” of God.  What a distinct privilege! But notice the second part, “if you do what I command.” Jesus made it clear that His true friends would be those who would show their allegiance to Him by doing what He told them to do: “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

Jesus proved His friendship when He “laid down His life” for us. Now the question is, what will we do for Him? Although we can never out-give Him or come close to repaying Him, every day we have opportunities to display our friendship with Him when we extend kindness to someone, forgive an offender, and show compassion to the poor and the oppressed.

So, welcome to the privilege of being God’s friend—and the privilege of proving it. After all, true friendship goes both ways!