Tag Archives: marriage

Live In Peace With All Men

Hebrews 12:14-17

14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.

17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

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Getting Along

From: Get More Strength

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3

I’m guessing that even astronomical gas prices won’t stop many parents from packing up the car and taking the kids on a road trip for vacation this summer. And if the trip is more than 50 miles, you can already imagine the scene in the backseat: “Mom, he’s on my side!” or “Dad, tell her to stop doing that!”  When the kids don’t get along, it drives their parents nuts and takes the joy out of the journey.

I often wonder: Does God feel that way about His kids? He has asked us to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), and yet differences in gender, color, gifts, temperaments, roles, perspectives, preferences, and denominations threaten to wreck the unity that He intends for us to enjoy on the road to paradise. The psalmist had it right when he declared, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

A close look at Jesus’ prayer in John 17:1-26 sheds some light on how to grow up and get along. Just before His ultimate demonstration of love on the cross, Jesus prayed that His followers would be unified (John 17:11) and that they would be set apart by the truth of God’s Word (John 17:16-17). He continued, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one” (John 17: 20-21).

We can’t miss the connection between truth and unity. In fact, truth is the key ingredient of biblical unity. Truth is what unites us as believers: Truth about His deity. Truth about the message of salvation that comes by grace through faith in Christ alone. Truth that the Scriptures are the sole authority for faith and practice, and that they are without error and completely trustworthy.

Jesus goes on to indicate that unity is also built around righteousness. “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (John 17: 15-16). As His followers, unity comes when together we cling to the distinction between good and evil and seek to reflect the goodness of God in all that is pure and right.

What we know to be true about God’s Word and what we know to be true about how to live gives us a lot in common! And since Jesus is at the center of it all, He becomes the glue that makes us one. I might not be particularly drawn to you—your culture and background may be different than mine—but when I find out that you too are a follower of Jesus, His Word, and His Way, I find myself saying, “You too? Hey, let’s walk together!”

Being one in Jesus gives us the joy of bearing one another’s burdens, praying for one another, overlooking class distinctions, and casting the log out of our own eyes rather than focusing on the weaknesses of others. When we let the grand things we have in common override our petty differences, the backseat will be a happier place, and we can all enjoy the journey in peace!

Prepare the Child

From: Our Daily Bread

Prepare the Child

We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:4

A phrase on many parenting websites says, “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.” Instead of trying to remove all obstacles and pave the way for the children in our life, we should instead equip them to deal with the difficulties they encounter on the road ahead.

The psalmist wrote, “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes . . . , which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children” (Ps. 78:4–6). The goal is that “they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands” (v. 7).

Think of the powerful spiritual impact others had on us through what they said and how they lived. Their conversation and demonstration captured our attention and kindled a fire in us to follow Jesus just as they did.

It’s a wonderful privilege and responsibility to share God’s Word and His plan for our lives with the next generation and the generations to come. No matter what lies ahead on their road through life, we want them to be prepared and equipped to face it in the strength of the Lord.

Father in heaven, we seek Your wisdom and guidance to prepare the children we know and love to walk with You in faith.

Through conversation and demonstration, help prepare children to follow the Lord on the road ahead.

 

Rest Affects

From: Our Daily Journey

Rest Affects

Read:

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys and other livestock, and any foreigners living among you (Deuteronomy 5:14).

 

One morning, I was surprised to see my mail carrier lugging his heavy bag. I asked him why he was delivering mail on Sunday, and he curtly responded with a single word: “Amazon.” The online retailer had started offering Sunday delivery, so it was no longer a day of rest for postal workers.

In Deuteronomy 5, God mandated that Israel observe the Sabbath with its rest requirements. Not just the men and women of Israel were to rest on Saturday—but their children, their servants, and even their work animals (Deuteronomy 5:14). In Exodus 23:10-11, we see that the land itself was also supposed to enjoy a Sabbath rest every seven years.

There’s a very good reason for the all-encompassing nature of this command: If the people of Israel didn’t observe the Sabbath, then neither could their servants, the most vulnerable and likely overworked group. The foreigners of Israel, being of a lower social standing and with fewer resources, would also not be able to afford to stop working. That’s why God “commanded” all people to rest (Deuteronomy 5:15)—not to be domineering, but because each person’s Sabbath was interconnected with the wellbeing of others.

I often fail to recognize the interconnected nature of our lives, how my personal lack of rest can rob other people of their rest in turn. But as 1 Corinthians 12:12 tells us, believers in Jesus are one body, and what affects one part of the body affects the others. A manager might make a personal choice to never take a break at work, but the truth is that everyone around her is affected by that choice as well.

Regardless of the day, may we choose to regularly rest to honor God and bless those around us! (Deuteronomy 5:14).

God Will Cloth You In Righteousness

Revelation 19:13

He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

Revelation 7:14

I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Galatians 3:27

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

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Clothed by God

From: Our Daily Bread

Clothed by God

See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you. Zechariah 3:4

When my kids were toddlers, they would play outside in our sodden English garden and quickly become covered in mud and dirt. For their good and the good of my floor, I’d remove their clothes at the door and wrap them in towels before sticking them in the bath. They’d soon move from dirty to clean with the addition of soap, water, and hugs.

In a vision given to Zechariah, we see Joshua, a high priest, covered in rags that represent sin and wrongdoing (Zech. 3:3). But the Lord makes him clean, removing his filthy clothes and covering him in rich garments (3:5). The new turban and robe signify that the Lord has taken his sins from him.

We too can receive God’s cleansing as we become free of our wrongdoing through the saving work of Jesus. As a result of His death on the cross, we can have the mud and sins that cling to us washed away as we receive the robes of God’s sons and daughters. No longer are we defined by what we’ve done wrong (whether lying, gossiping, stealing, coveting, or other), but we can claim the names God gives to those He loves—restored, renewed, cleansed, free.

Ask God to remove any filthy rags you’re wearing so you too can put on the wardrobe He has reserved for you.

Lord Jesus, through Your saving death on the cross we can find acceptance and love. May we receive this gift for Your glory.

 

 

Running the Race

From: Our Daily Journey

Running the Race

Read:

2 Peter 3:1-18
While you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight (2 Peter 3:14).

In 2005 Dean Karnazes ran 350 miles in eighty hours—setting the world record for distance running without sleep. Ten years later, Rob Young, nicknamed the “Marathon Man,” broke the record by covering nearly 374 miles in eighty-eight hours. Young, who had endured abuse by his father as a child, said he ran with two goals in mind: to test the limits of human endurance and to help the world become a better place for kids.

The apostle Peter encourages us to continue running the race for Jesus—making “every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in [God’s] sight,” and to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:14,18). As we press on, we’re reminded that although the race in Christ can sometimes seem to be long and taxing, God “isn’t really being slow about his promise”—He’s simply patiently allowing us to keep following His pace, for “He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9).

Rob Young runs to raise funds to help kids find a better life. As believers in Jesus, we also run life’s race to serve others: working toward helping them experience God’s life and joy—now and eternally. We run against winds blowing contrary to God’s truth—including distortions of God’s intent for healthy sexuality, selfish desires, and a tendency to resist His reality (2 Peter 2:10; 3:3). However, we can live pure, blameless, grace-filled lives by sharing Christ’s spirit through His Spirit as we look forward to our future with Jesus (2 Peter 3:12). He provides the wisdom, power, and strength we need to stay in the race as we grow in Christlikeness. “All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

 

Living Simply— Yet Focused

From: Utmost.org

Living Simply— Yet Focused

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin”— they simply are! Think of the sea, the air, the sun, the stars, and the moon— all of these simply are as well— yet what a ministry and service they render on our behalf! So often we impair God’s designed influence, which He desires to exhibit through us, because of our own conscious efforts to be consistent and useful. Jesus said there is only one way to develop and grow spiritually, and that is through focusing and concentrating on God. In essence, Jesus was saying, “Do not worry about being of use to others; simply believe on Me.” In other words, pay attention to the Source, and out of you “will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). We cannot discover the source of our natural life through common sense and reasoning, and Jesus is teaching here that growth in our spiritual life comes not from focusing directly on it, but from concentrating on our Father in heaven. Our heavenly Father knows our circumstances, and if we will stay focused on Him, instead of our circumstances, we will grow spiritually— just as “the lilies of the field.”

The people who influence us the most are not those who detain us with their continual talk, but those who live their lives like the stars in the sky and “the lilies of the field”— simply and unaffectedly. Those are the lives that mold and shape us.

If you want to be of use to God, maintain the proper relationship with Jesus Christ by staying focused on Him, and He will make use of you every minute you live— yet you will be unaware, on the conscious level of your life, that you are being used of Him.

With God Joy Is Forever

1 John 2:15-17

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

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

17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

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Disappointing Sideshows

From: Get More Strength

May 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

His Ascension and Our Access

From: Utmost.org

His Ascension and Our Access

We have no experiences in our lives that correspond to the events in our Lord’s life after the transfiguration. From that moment forward His life was altogether substitutionary. Up to the time of the transfiguration, He had exhibited the normal, perfect life of a man. But from the transfiguration forward— Gethsemane, the Cross, the resurrection— everything is unfamiliar to us. His Cross is the door by which every member of the human race can enter into the life of God; by His resurrection He has the right to give eternal life to anyone, and by His ascension our Lord entered heaven, keeping the door open for humanity.

The transfiguration was completed on the Mount of Ascension. If Jesus had gone to heaven directly from the Mount of Transfiguration, He would have gone alone. He would have been nothing more to us than a glorious Figure. But He turned His back on the glory, and came down from the mountain to identify Himself with fallen humanity.

The ascension is the complete fulfillment of the transfiguration. Our Lord returned to His original glory, but not simply as the Son of God— He returned to His father as the Son of Man as well. There is now freedom of access for anyone straight to the very throne of God because of the ascension of the Son of Man. As the Son of Man, Jesus Christ deliberately limited His omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. But now they are His in absolute, full power. As the Son of Man, Jesus Christ now has all the power at the throne of God. From His ascension forward He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

 

Living With Lions

Living With Lions

He is the living God and He endures forever. Daniel 6:26

When I visited a museum in Chicago, I saw one of the original Striding Lions of Babylon. It was a large mural-type image of a winged lion with a ferocious expression. Symbolizing Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of love and war, the lion was an example of 120 similar lions that would have lined a Babylonian pathway during the years of 604–562 bc.

Historians say that after the Babylonians defeated Jerusalem, the Hebrew captives would have seen these lions during their time in Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. Historians also say it’s likely that some of the Israelites would have believed Ishtar had defeated the God of Israel.

Daniel, one of the Hebrew captives, did not share the doubts that might have troubled some of his fellow Israelites. His view of God and his commitment to God stayed steady. He prayed three times a day—with his windows open—even when he knew it would mean entering a den of lions. After God rescued Daniel from the hungry animals, King Darius said, “[Daniel’s God] is the living God and he endures forever . . . . He rescues and he saves” (Dan. 6:26–27). Daniel’s faithfulness allowed him to influence Babylonian leaders.

Staying faithful to God despite pressure and discouragement can inspire other people to give Him glory.

Dear God, give me the strength to continue to trust in You when I am discouraged. Help me to experience Your never-ending love and stay close to Your side.

Faithfulness to God inspires other.

God Knows What You Need

 

The Lord’s Prayer    Matthew 6: 8
7    And when you pray, do not babble on like pagans, for they think that by their many words they will be heard.  

8  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

9   So then, this is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name,…

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The Habit of Recognizing God’s Provision

From: Utmost.org

The Habit of Recognizing God’s Provision

We are made “partakers of the divine nature,” receiving and sharing God’s own nature through His promises. Then we have to work that divine nature into our human nature by developing godly habits. The first habit to develop is the habit of recognizing God’s provision for us. We say, however, “Oh, I can’t afford it.” One of the worst lies is wrapped up in that statement. We talk as if our heavenly Father has cut us off without a penny! We think it is a sign of true humility to say at the end of the day, “Well, I just barely got by today, but it was a severe struggle.” And yet all of Almighty God is ours in the Lord Jesus! And He will reach to the last grain of sand and the remotest star to bless us if we will only obey Him. Does it really matter that our circumstances are difficult? Why shouldn’t they be! If we give way to self-pity and indulge in the luxury of misery, we remove God’s riches from our lives and hinder others from entering into His provision. No sin is worse than the sin of self-pity, because it removes God from the throne of our lives, replacing Him with our own self-interests. It causes us to open our mouths only to complain, and we simply become spiritual sponges— always absorbing, never giving, and never being satisfied. And there is nothing lovely or generous about our lives.

Before God becomes satisfied with us, He will take everything of our so-called wealth, until we learn that He is our Source; as the psalmist said, “All my springs are in You” (Psalm 87:7). If the majesty, grace, and power of God are not being exhibited in us, God holds us responsible. “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you…may have an abundance…” (2 Corinthians 9:8)— then learn to lavish the grace of God on others, generously giving of yourself. Be marked and identified with God’s nature, and His blessing will flow through you all the time.

 

Glynnis Whitwer May 16, 2017
A Better Way to Look at Disappointment
GLYNNIS WHITWER

From: Crosswalk.com

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered.” John 21:4-5 (NIV)

Everywhere I look, people are celebrating their successes. Their beautiful children, their awesome husbands and the coolest DIY projects. I’m happy for them … for the most part. But there’s a part of me I prefer to hide that whispers, “Why not me, Lord?”

It’s not that I don’t have much to be thankful for; I do. But there are these other disappointing realities I live with daily. Areas of my life that aren’t stellar, noteworthy or successful. Areas where no matter how hard I try, I just don’t experience success.

My go-to response for many years was to work harder in those areas … all the while beating myself up internally for not being disciplined, creative or smart enough.

And yet, God has been showing me something in these disappointing areas: They aren’t all due to my weakness. Sometimes God holds back success with the divine purpose of teaching me something.

I think that’s what happened to the disciples. There’s a story told in John 21, after Jesus’ death. The disciples had seen Jesus alive and had gone to Galilee to wait for His return.

One night, a few of the disciples went fishing. These guys were born to fish. But that night, after hours floating in the silent dark, they caught nothing.

The story takes an interesting turn as the sun starts to rise. Jesus stood on the edge of the lake (although they didn’t recognize Him at first). I’m sure He’d been watching them for hours … maybe even all night.

And I suspect He commanded the fish to stay back from the boat for a while. After all, He’d directed the wind and waves, and cast out demons, so surely He could direct some fish.

Jesus needed to teach His disciples an important lesson. And in order to learn it well, they had to experience some failure. Jesus spoke to the weary fishermen, as we read inJohn 21:5b-6a:

Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” (NIV)

Scripture doesn’t record the disciples’ thoughts, but I can imagine they were a bit annoyed at this piece of advice. After all, they were professional fishermen, doing everything they knew to do. The fish obviously weren’t there!

Have you ever felt that way about your life? You’ve done everything you know to do, but nothing changes?

The disciples were about to learn an important lesson about success and failure. They obeyed Jesus’ directive, shifted the nets to the other side of the boat, and Scripture records: “When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” (>John 21:6b, NIV)

At that moment they recognized the Lord, and the disciples headed to shore, towing the fish behind. The disciples didn’t just have success, they had great success.

Jesus needed the disciples to see the difference between self-directed effort and Jesus-directed effort. And in order to show them, He let them fail on their own first.

Oh, how I need to learn this lesson myself. I wonder if Jesus has watched me try on my own and held back success while I do. Is He just waiting for me to listen for His voice? To watch for His plan?

For those of us “can-do” women, this is a lesson to let soak deep in our spirits. Yes, we can do many things on our own, but that doesn’t mean we should. Why would we choose to ignore the greatest source of wisdom and power ever known, in exchange for our paltry efforts in comparison?

When we operate in our power, we see what we can do. When we operate under Jesus’ direction and with the power of the Holy Spirit, we see what God can do.

As I look back on my life, the times I’ve seen God work in the greatest ways are when I admit my natural strength isn’t enough. That’s when His supernatural strength is evident. Viewed from this perspective, it reminds me sometimes failure is an opportunity to see God work miracles.

God is always up to something for my good. And that’s a much better way to look at disappointment.

Lord, thank You for working in my life, even in ways that look like failure. Help me keep my eyes on You and not on my situation. Help me trust You more, especially when I face what looks like a disappointment. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Ultimate Authority

From: Our Daily Journey

Ultimate Authority

Read:

John 18:28-40
Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

During a recent presidential election year in my country, I found myself disappointed by the behavior of some of our Christian leaders. They told us to put our hope in Jesus, but their words and actions indicated they were putting their hope in “Caesar”—in political power.

Perhaps I’m wrong. I’m reminded of author Greg Boyle’s insight that Jesus offended nearly everyone in His day. He would’ve likely offended both sides of my country’s current political divide. Indeed, I might be disappointed or angry about the behavior of some leaders’ words and actions, but I shouldn’t assume that Jesus thinks the same as I do about all political matters.

When Pilate was cross-examining Jesus at his headquarters, he asked: “Are you the king of the Jews?” (John 18:33). After some back and forth, Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

No matter our political stance, we have to be careful not to put too much hope in any one political candidate or party to restore our nation or community. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12 that we “are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

Politicians can do a great deal of good for people. They can also do great harm. No politician, however, can change a human heart or completely restore corrupt systems. Jesus alone has authority over everything in heaven and on earth, and so we must ultimately hope and trust in Him (Acts 4:12; Colossians 1:15-20).

Is Your Treasure In Heaven?

 

Treasures in Heaven     Matthew 6:19
18   so that your fasting will not be obvious to men, but only to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

19   Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy,and where thieves break in and steal.

20   But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.…

 

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T. Suzanne Eller May 15, 2017
The Day I Discovered I Was Rich
SUZIE ELLER

From: Crosswalk.com

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6-7 (NIV)

If I were rich, I’d …

Have you ever played that game?

Well, if I were rich I know exactly what I would do. I’d go for a massage every single week. I love them!

When I do get to experience that rare luxury, I walk in expectantly. I know the massage therapist will find knots and kinks I didn’t know I had. She’ll pause over that hurting spot and work on it until I feel relief. She can make my back — aching from a hike or even bending over to pick up a sock — feel strong again.

Most of all, a massage makes me feel nurtured and well.

There was a time when I hurt inside. I was reminded of that recently when I stumbled across an old friend from my school days. She invited me to join her and her husband at dinner. Later that night, we sat around the table enjoying enchiladas and old memories. At one point, she told her husband a story about the angry young girl she remembered from middle school.

It felt odd. Like she was talking about someone else.

And she was.

As I drove home, I couldn’t help but think about the Master’s touch on my life.

I don’t need to play a game of “If I were rich,” because I am rich. I am the recipient of the “incomparable riches of his grace” Paul talked about in Ephesians 2:6-7. God’s love worked out the knots and kinks of anger that used to live inside of me.

He made me whole, both spiritually and emotionally.

Rather than being bound by my past, His healing touch led me to show compassion for others hurting in the same way.

It set me free to tell others how His touch soothed the rough edges of my heart. It set me free to celebrate how He worked out the knots of unforgiveness and helped me to stand strong for the first time.

Do you need the Master’s touch today? His faithful love nurtures us and makes us well.

I pray you invite Him in to those hurting places and allow His unfailing love to gently touch and heal you. God is waiting to nurture you, simply because you are His.

If you’ve been made whole, you don’t have to play the “If I were rich” game ever again, for you are rich beyond measure. Why don’t you take a moment and tell someone how rich you are — all because of the Master’s touch.

Heavenly Father, if I’ve taken Your healing touch for granted, forgive me. I am rich because of Your mercy. I am blessed because of Your touch, In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Forever Flowers

From: Our Daily Bread

Forever Flowers

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever. Isaiah 40:8

As a toddler, my son Xavier enjoyed giving me flowers. I appreciated every freshly picked weed or store-bought blossom he purchased with his dad. I treasured each gift until it wilted and had to be thrown away.

One day, Xavier gave me a beautiful bouquet of artificial flowers. He grinned as he arranged the silk white calla lily, yellow sunflower, and purple hydrangea in a glass vase. “Look, Mommy,” he said. “They’ll last forever. That’s how much I love you.”

Since then, my boy has grown into a young man. Those silk petals have frayed. The colors have faded. Still, the Forever Flowers remind me of his adoration. And there is something else it brings to mind—one thing that truly stands forever—the limitless and lasting love of God, as revealed in His infallible and enduring Word (Isa. 40:8).

As the Israelites faced continual trials, Isaiah comforted them with confidence in God’s enduring words (40:1). He proclaimed that God paid the debt caused by the Israelites’ sin (v. 2), securing their hope in the coming Messiah (vv. 3–5). They trusted the prophet because his focus remained on God rather than their circumstances.

In a world filled with uncertainties and affliction, the opinions of man and even our own feelings are ever-shifting and as limited as our mortality (vv. 6–7). Still, we can trust God’s unchanging love and character as revealed through His constant and eternally true Word.

God affirms His love through His dependable and unchanging Word, which endures now and forevermore.

 

The Holy Other

From: Our Daily Journey

The Holy Other

Read:

Exodus 3:1-15
Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground (Exodus 3:5).

Each Sunday my local church begins our service with a call to worship—a song declaring that we gather to proclaim God’s goodness and beauty. As we sing, we’re also affirming that we live as citizens of His kingdom. Although during most of the worship we encourage people to choose their own posture, in this opening song we always ask our people to stand. We want to open the service conscious of standing in God’s presence, reverently honoring the One who’s other than us.

Moses had a similar experience of awareness that he was in the presence of God. After fleeing Egypt, Moses had been tending his father-in-law’s flocks in the Midian desert for decades. On one occasion, Scripture reveals that Moses “led the flock far into the wilderness.” He was also far from his home, people, and from where he would have expected to be at this stage in his life (Exodus 3:1). God, however, was not far away—He was very near.

Alone, Moses glimpsed a flash of fire and turned to see a “bush . . . engulfed in flames,” only the flaming bush “didn’t burn up” (Exodus 3:2). As Moses drew close, “God called to him from the middle of the bush.” Likely with a voice that was quavering, Moses said, “Here I am!” (Exodus 3:4).

“ ‘Do not come any closer,’ the Lord warned. ‘Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of . . . Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ ” Struck with awe, Moses “covered his face because he was afraid to look at God” (Exodus 3:5-6).

Of course Moses was afraid! If we were to stand before God Almighty and not quiver, something would be wrong. God is love, but there should be moments in our life where our encounter with Him—the holy One who is other—leaves us trembling and in awe.

Happy Mother’s Day

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A Special Mom

From: Our Daily Journey

A Special Mom

Read:

Hebrews 11:23-27
Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it (Proverbs 22:6).

Most people would agree that mothers are very special people. In many countries, we even set aside a date on the calendar—Mother’s Day—to celebrate them. As I was thinking about my own mom, I remembered another mother who’s truly worth knowing. Jochebed protected her newborn—“a special baby”—because she loved him (Exodus 2:2). The law of a power-hungry king required baby Moses to be drowned. But due to her deep faith in God, she was “not afraid to disobey the king’s command” (Acts 5:29; Hebrews 11:23). Moses was saved in an amazing way! By God’s providence, Jochebed became Moses’ nursemaid. And when Moses was older, he was “taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). The infant in peril became a prince of privilege (Exodus 2:7-10).

As an adult, Moses turned his back on the power and pleasures of Egypt. Instead, he chose to suffer with his oppressed people. He wasn’t afraid of the king’s anger because he saw “the one who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27).

How did Moses know the history of his people? How did he obtain his convictions? How did he develop such deep faith in God?

As his nursemaid (Exodus 2:9), Jochebed likely had opportunities to tell Moses the stories of Yahweh and the history of his people. Her godly influence and great faith may have therefore been imprinted on the life and heart of Moses (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

Jochebed’s three children testify to the kind of mother she was. Aaron, Miriam, and Moses became the leaders of God’s people (Micah 6:4). Jochebed means “Jehovah (God) is her glory.” She lived up to her name by His power and help. Today, may we celebrate godly mothers who point their children to Jesus and live out their faith by His strength.

 

Scattering Seeds

From: Our Daily Bread

Scattering Seeds

The seed falling on good soil . . . produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Matthew 13:23

I received a wonderful email from a woman who wrote, “Your mom was my first-grade teacher at Putnam City in 1958. She was a great teacher and very kind, but strict! She made us learn the 23rd Psalm and say it in front of the class, and I was horrified. But it was the only contact I had with the Bible until 1997 when I became a Christian. And the memories of Mrs. McCasland came flooding back as I re-read it.”

Jesus told a large crowd a parable about the farmer who sowed his seed that fell on different types of ground—a hard path, rocky ground, clumps of thorns, and good soil (Matt. 13:1–9). While some seeds never grew, “the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it” and “produces a crop yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (v. 23).

During the twenty years my mother taught first grade in public schools, along with reading, writing, and arithmetic she scattered seeds of kindness and the message of God’s love.

Her former student’s email concluded, “I have had other influences in my Christian walk later in life, of course. But my heart always returns to [Psalm 23] and [your mom’s] gentle nature.”

A seed of God’s love sown today may produce a remarkable harvest.

Lord, today I want my life to sow good seeds in those around me. Help me to give out what You have put into me.

 

The Habit of Enjoying Adversity

From: Utmost.org

The Habit of Enjoying Adversity

We have to develop godly habits to express what God’s grace has done in us. It is not just a question of being saved from hell, but of being saved so that “the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” And it is adversity that makes us exhibit His life in our mortal flesh. Is my life exhibiting the essence of the sweetness of the Son of God, or just the basic irritation of “myself” that I would have apart from Him? The only thing that will enable me to enjoy adversity is the acute sense of eagerness of allowing the life of the Son of God to evidence itself in me. No matter how difficult something may be, I must say, “Lord, I am delighted to obey You in this.” Instantly, the Son of God will move to the forefront of my life, and will manifest in my body that which glorifies Him.

You must not debate. The moment you obey the light of God, His Son shines through you in that very adversity; but if you debate with God, you grieve His Spirit (see Ephesians 4:30). You must keep yourself in the proper condition to allow the life of the Son of God to be manifested in you, and you cannot keep yourself fit if you give way to self-pity. Our circumstances are the means God uses to exhibit just how wonderfully perfect and extraordinarily pure His Son is. Discovering a new way of manifesting the Son of God should make our heart beat with renewed excitement. It is one thing to choose adversity, and quite another to enter into adversity through the orchestrating of our circumstances by God’s sovereignty. And if God puts you into adversity, He is adequately sufficient to “supply all your need” (Philippians 4:19).

Keep your soul properly conditioned to manifest the life of the Son of God. Never live on your memories of past experiences, but let the Word of God always be living and active in you.

 

Make God Your Right Choice

 

Choose Whom You will Serve         Joshua 24:15
14   “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

15    “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD,choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

16   The people answered and said, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods;…

 

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Whose Side Are You On?

From: Get More Strength.org

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” James 4:4

Ever been caught in the middle of a fight? When I was a kid in junior high school, two of my buddies had a disagreement and planned to prove their dominant masculinity in a fight at the park after school. “Red” was a friend from my youth group at church, and Larry was a buddy from my neighborhood. As we walked to the park after school that day, all of Red’s friends were following him, while all of Larry’s friends clustered around him. I didn’t know what to do. Both of them were my friends. So I decided to do the diplomatic thing. First, I walked for a bit with Larry, and then I slipped over to Red’s side of the street. I’ll never forget what Red said to me. “Joe, you’re either my friend or Larry’s friend. You can’t have it both ways. Make up your mind.”

Ouch.

I knew right away that what he said had a ring of truth to it. Not unlike Red’s remark to me, the apostle James jabs us with a stinging warning: “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

I doubt that any of us would want to be on the wrong side of that equation. Yet it’s so easy to sidle up to the ways of the world. How can we know whose side we’re really on? Thankfully, Paul gives us a clue. In Galatians 5:19-21, just before he gives the famous list of the fruits of the Spirit, he lists several examples of how friendship with the world shows up in our actions: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”

If you find yourself in that list, you’re making a huge statement about whose side you’re on. And here’s a scary thought—not only are you a friend of the world, but an enemy of God when your actions stand in sharp contrast to His will and His ways. Thankfully, Paul doesn’t leave us in enemy territory. He goes on to list some examples of what friendship with God looks like: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Jesus Himself made the grounds for friendship with Him clear when He said to His disciples, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). Doing His will is what proves our friendship with Him, and it is what empowers us to bear much fruit to His glory!

So, whose side are you on? Friendship with Jesus is proven when we walk with Him in His will and His ways, which means that friendship with Jesus is a choice—a choice between Him and the ways of this fallen world.

Take it from me, James, Paul, and my friend Red, you can’t have it both ways. So be sure that you’re walking in Jesus’ crowd!

 

Camping Psalms

From: Our Daily Bread

Camping Psalms

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8:1

When my husband and I go for nature walks, we bring our cameras and take close-ups of the plants at our feet, which are like microcosms of the world. What amazing variety and beauty we see, even in the fungi that spring up overnight and dot the woods with splashes of bright orange, red, and yellow!

The snapshots of life that surround us inspire me to lift my eyes to the Maker who created not only mushrooms but also the stars in the heavens. He designed a world of infinite scope and variety. And He made you and me and placed us in the very middle of this beauty to enjoy and to rule over it (Gen. 1:27–28; Ps. 8:6–8).

My thoughts turn to one of our family’s “camping psalms”—psalms we read as we sit around the fire. “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. . . . When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Ps. 8:1–4).

How amazing that the great God who created the world in all its splendor cares for you and me!

O Lord, our majestic Maker, our hearts turn toward praise when we see snapshots of Your beautiful world. Thank You for creating us! Help us to rule Your world with wisdom.

A God wise enough to create me and the world I live in is wise enough to watch out for me.  Philip Yancey

 

Lily’s Choice

From: Our Daily Journey

Lily’s Choice

Read:

Philippians 2:1-13
[Jesus] gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave (Philippians 2:7).

Lilias Trotter had an unusual talent for painting landscapes. Born mid-nineteenth century, she acquired famous artist John Ruskin as a mentor. Ruskin believed her talent could dominate the art world. But as Lily’s art matured, so did her devotion to God. She began frequenting dangerous areas to help women in need, a practice Ruskin discouraged because he felt it kept her from perfecting her artwork. Eventually, Lily decided to spend her life serving others in Algeria.

Lily’s decision to follow her calling over a prestigious art career reminds me of the way Jesus came to earth. He “gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave” (Philippians 2:7). As Lily took on the mission of serving in a foreign country, she gave up her safe, comfortable life. Instead of being admired for her artwork, she chose to serve forgotten women and children. One of the women Lily cared for said with amazement, “No one has ever loved us like this!”

But no one has ever loved humankind like Jesus (John 15:9,13). We know He sacrificed His life for us, but we may not think as often about how He sacrificed His position in heaven as well. “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to” (Philippians 2:6). Knowing the glory of heaven as home, Jesus willingly “appeared in human form” (Philippians 2:7). He went through the the human birth process to end up in a cocoon of blankets at the mercy of His own creation. It was a radical way to say, “I love you.”

Life inevitably requires decisions about how to invest our talent, time, and money. May we, as Lily did, choose to follow where God leads and serve others out of His compassionate heart.

The Holy Spirit Is Our Advocate

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John 14:26

26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

 

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.    John 16: 13

 

The Advocate

From: Our Daily Bread

The Advocate

When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. John 16:13

As I boarded the airplane to study in a city a thousand miles from home, I felt nervous and alone. But during the flight, I remembered how Jesus promised His disciples the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’s friends must have felt bewildered when He told them, “It is for your good that I am going away” (John 16:7). How could they who witnessed His miracles and learned from His teaching be better off without Him? But Jesus told them that if He left, then the Advocate—the Holy Spirit—would come.

Jesus, nearing His last hours on earth, shared with His disciples (in John 14–17, today known as the “Farewell Discourse”) to help them understand His death and ascension. Central in this conversation was the coming Holy Spirit, an advocate who would be with them (14:16–17), teaching (15:15), testifying (v. 26), and guiding them (16:13).

We who have accepted God’s offer of new life have been given this gift of His Spirit living within us. From Him we receive so much: He convicts us of our sins and helps us to repent. He brings us comfort when we ache, strength to bear hardships, wisdom to understand God’s teaching, hope and faith to believe, love to share.

We can rejoice that Jesus sent us the Advocate.

Heavenly Father, You sent Your Son to save us and Your Spirit to comfort and convict us. May we bring You glory as we thank You for Your goodness and love.

The Holy Spirit fills Jesus’s followers.

Forgiven Debt

From: Our Daily Journey

Forgiven Debt

Read:

2 Corinthians 8:1-9
You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).

John Oliver, the host of HBO’s popular TV show Last Week Tonight, made the news when he forgave fifteen million dollars in debt. He did this to show the unsavory nature of buying debt and collecting on it. He purchased the massive debt at the price of just $.004 for every dollar. Because he owned the debt, Oliver had the legal right to collect it. Instead, he generously abolished it.

Forgiving fifteen million dollars of financial debt is generous, but it pales in comparison to God forgiving the debt of our sin through the death of Jesus. The apostle Paul made this clear in 2 Corinthians 8, which contains a beautiful summary of the gospel in 2 Corinthians 8:9. In an effort to motivate the wealthy Corinthian church to be generous givers (2 Corinthians 8:2,6), Paul used the generosity of Jesus Himself as the ultimate model for believers. Christ “became poor” when He left heaven, came to earth, and sacrificed His life on the cross.

The One who was “rich,” who had everything, made Himself nothing (Philippians 2:7). Though a holy God had every right to collect the debt of sin, He sent His Son to assume humanity’s debt of sin and pay for it with His life (Philippians 2:8). Christ became poor so that those who believe in Him might become spiritually rich—experiencing real life in and through Him.

Jesus forgave our debt by voluntarily surrendering Himself to death on a cross. His generosity should inspire devotion in us. Today, may we honor God with our bodies, give freely to those in need, forgive others as we’ve been forgiven, and be patient with others as Jesus has been patient with us. Let’s lovingly give up our lives for our brothers and sisters as He gave His life for us.

 

The Habit of Having No Habits

From: Utmost.org

The Habit of Having No Habits

When we first begin to form a habit, we are fully aware of it. There are times when we are aware of becoming virtuous and godly, but this awareness should only be a stage we quickly pass through as we grow spiritually. If we stop at this stage, we will develop a sense of spiritual pride. The right thing to do with godly habits is to immerse them in the life of the Lord until they become such a spontaneous expression of our lives that we are no longer aware of them. Our spiritual life continually causes us to focus our attention inwardly for the determined purpose of self-examination, because each of us has some qualities we have not yet added to our lives.

Your god may be your little Christian habit— the habit of prayer or Bible reading at certain times of your day. Watch how your Father will upset your schedule if you begin to worship your habit instead of what the habit symbolizes. We say, “I can’t do that right now; this is my time alone with God.” No, this is your time alone with your habit. There is a quality that is still lacking in you. Identify your shortcoming and then look for opportunities to work into your life that missing quality.

Love means that there are no visible habits— that your habits are so immersed in the Lord that you practice them without realizing it. If you are consciously aware of your own holiness, you place limitations on yourself from doing certain things— things God is not restricting you from at all. This means there is a missing quality that needs to be added to your life. The only supernatural life is the life the Lord Jesus lived, and He was at home with God anywhere. Is there someplace where you are not at home with God? Then allow God to work through whatever that particular circumstance may be until you increase in Him, adding His qualities. Your life will then become the simple life of a child.

Express Your Joy Through Singing

12   In a loud voice they said: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
14. And the four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.…
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Singing with Violet

From: Our Daily Bread

Singing with Violet

I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Philippians 1:23–24

An elderly woman named Violet sat on her bed in a Jamaican infirmary and smiled as some teenagers stopped to visit with her. The hot, sticky, midday air came into her little group home unabated, but she didn’t complain. Instead, she began wracking her mind for a song to sing. Then a huge smile appeared and she sang, “I am running, skipping, jumping, praising the Lord!” As she sang, she swung her arms back and forth as if she were running. Tears came to those around her, for Violet had no legs. She was singing because, she said, “Jesus loves me—and in heaven I will have legs to run with.”

Violet’s joy and hopeful anticipation of heaven give new vibrancy to Paul’s words in Philippians 1 when he referred to life-and-death issues. “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me,” he said. “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (vv. 22–23).

Each of us faces tough times that may cause us to long for the promise of heavenly relief. But as Violet showed us joy despite her current circumstances, we too can keep “running, skipping, praising the Lord”—both for the abundant life He gives us here and for the ultimate joy that awaits us.

Lord, when times are tough, help me to find joy. Help us to live in the tough times of this world with happiness while looking ahead to something “better by far.”

When God gives us a new beginning, we find a joy that’s never ending.

 

God’s Good Presence

From: Our Daily Journey

God’s Good Presence

Read:

Romans 8:28-39
We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28).

As I processed the news that my mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, one thought that came to my mind was, Wow, what more amazing miracles does God want to do in and through my mom? When she told me the results of the biopsy, I was thousands of miles away from her, yet somehow I had peace knowing that God was in control of the situation. After seeing Him carry my mom through a painful divorce and the loss of a child, I had no doubt that He would once again unfold His power and faithfulness in her life.

When Paul wrote to the church in Rome, he encouraged them with the reality of God’s love and presence (Romans 8:35-39). By doing so he provided them with tremendous comfort and a sense of security. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Paul boldly affirmed a basic truth: “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28). He could have said that everything works itself out for good, but he didn’t. By pointing out God’s intervention to them, Paul revealed that God isn’t only aware of the circumstances we go through, but He’s actively and intimately involved—seeking our highest good.

Furthermore, Paul encourages us with the reality that God works for our good even in our challenges—suffering, pain, a bad diagnosis—and He has a purpose that’s greater than the circumstances that threaten us (Romans 8:28,35).

The same amazing yet simple truth of God’s active involvement in the lives of His followers is as true today as it was in first-century Rome. No matter what circumstances we’re going through, may we remember that God works good through them!

 

“Love One Another”

From: Utmost.org

Love is an indefinite thing to most of us; we don’t know what we mean when we talk about love. Love is the loftiest preference of one person for another, and spiritually Jesus demands that this sovereign preference be for Himself (see Luke 14:26). Initially, when “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5), it is easy to put Jesus first. But then we must practice the things mentioned in 2 Peter 1 to see them worked out in our lives.

The first thing God does is forcibly remove any insincerity, pride, and vanity from my life. And the Holy Spirit reveals to me that God loved me not because I was lovable, but because it was His nature to do so. Now He commands me to show the same love to others by saying, “…love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). He is saying, “I will bring a number of people around you whom you cannot respect, but you must exhibit My love to them, just as I have exhibited it to you.” This kind of love is not a patronizing love for the unlovable— it is His love, and it will not be evidenced in us overnight. Some of us may have tried to force it, but we were soon tired and frustrated.

“The Lord…is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish…” (2 Peter 3:9). I should look within and remember how wonderfully He has dealt with me. The knowledge that God has loved me beyond all limits will compel me to go into the world to love others in the same way. I may get irritated because I have to live with an unusually difficult person. But just think how disagreeable I have been with God! Am I prepared to be identified so closely with the Lord Jesus that His life and His sweetness will be continually poured out through Me? Neither natural love nor God’s divine love will remain and grow in me unless it is nurtured. Love is spontaneous, but it has to be maintained through discipline.

God Will Wipe Away Your Tears

3  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.
5  And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.”…
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Tears No Longer

From: Our Daily Journey

Tears No Longer

Read:

Lamentations 2:5-11
I have cried until the tears no longer come (Lamentations 2:11).

In 2013 Dr. Ad Vingerhoets, a social and behavioral scientist from the Netherlands, wrote a book called Why Only Humans Weep. He’s one of only a few scientists who have dedicated their lives to studying why people cry. Vingerhoets states that “tears are of extreme relevance for human nature. We cry because we need other people.”

Lamentations 2 is part of a poem written during a painful and tearful time of need—need for other people and for God. It’s about the destruction of Jerusalem, the suffering and exile of its people, and God’s anger at their sin. The prophet said that He “brought unending sorrow and tears upon beautiful Jerusalem” (Lamentations 2:5). He went on to say, “I have cried until the tears no longer come; my heart is broken. My spirit is poured out in agony as I see the desperate plight of my people” (Lamentations 2:11).

Years later, a poet also wrote about tears and the exile of Israel, but in a new light. Psalm 126 says, “When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the Lord has done for them.’ . . . Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest” (Psalm 126:1-2,5-6).

Human suffering is all around us. On any given day we can read stories of profound suffering in the news. We can find it in every city. At times, it fills our own lives.

But our hope is in the same God who returned the exiles to Jerusalem. As John wrote, Jesus will someday “wipe every tear from [our] eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4). That will be a new and glorious day.

Unlighted Paths

From: Our Daily Bread

Unlighted Paths

The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

As we ventured home from a family vacation, the road took us through some desolate parts of central Oregon. For nearly two hours after dusk we drove through deep canyons and across desert plateaus. Fewer than twenty sets of headlights punctuated the darkness. Eventually the moon rose on the horizon, visible to us when the road crested hills but eclipsed when we traveled through the lowlands. My daughter remarked on its light, calling it a reminder of God’s presence. I asked whether she needed to see it to know He was there. She replied, “No, but it sure helps.”

After Moses’s death, Joshua inherited leadership of the Israelites and was charged to take God’s chosen people into the Promised Land. Despite his divine commission, Joshua must have felt challenged by the daunting nature of his task. God graciously offered Joshua assurance to be with him on the journey ahead (Josh. 1:9).

The road of life often travels through uncharted territory. We voyage through seasons when the path ahead isn’t clearly visible. God’s plan may not always be apparent to us, but He has promised to be with us “always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). What greater assurance could we hope for, no matter what uncertainty or challenge we might face? Even when the path is unlit, the Light is with us.

Lord, thank You for being near me even when I cannot see You. Please comfort me with Your presence.

Take the Initiative

Take the Initiative

Add means that we have to do something. We are in danger of forgetting that we cannot do what God does, and that God will not do what we can do. We cannot save nor sanctify ourselves— God does that. But God will not give us good habits or character, and He will not force us to walk correctly before Him. We have to do all that ourselves. We must “work out” our “own salvation” which God has worked in us (Philippians 2:12). Add means that we must get into the habit of doing things, and in the initial stages that is difficult. To take the initiative is to make a beginning— to instruct yourself in the way you must go.

Beware of the tendency to ask the way when you know it perfectly well. Take the initiative— stop hesitating— take the first step. Be determined to act immediately in faith on what God says to you when He speaks, and never reconsider or change your initial decisions. If you hesitate when God tells you to do something, you are being careless, spurning the grace in which you stand. Take the initiative yourself, make a decision of your will right now, and make it impossible to go back. Burn your bridges behind you, saying, “I will write that letter,” or “I will pay that debt”; and then do it! Make it irrevocable.

We have to get into the habit of carefully listening to God about everything, forming the habit of finding out what He says and heeding it. If, when a crisis comes, we instinctively turn to God, we will know that the habit has been formed in us. We have to take the initiative where we are, not where we have not yet been.