Tag Archives: mother

Prevent Suffering By Consulting God

Judges 18:5-6

 

They said to him, “Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether our way on which we are going will be prosperous.” The priest said to them, “Go in peace; your way in which you are going has the LORD’S approval.”

1 Samuel 10:22

Therefore they inquired further of the LORD, “Has the man come here yet?” So the LORD said, “Behold, he is hiding himself by the baggage.

 Is it easy to choose one of these?  When tougher choices come consult God’s wisdom.

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Choices

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

“Wherever you go, I will go; and . . . your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” Ruth 1:16

A friend once told me: “Joe, I’ve come to realize that my life is not made by the dreams that I dream but by the choices that I make.”

Count on it: You will have plenty of choices in life. And usually they boil down to a choice between “What do I want?” and “What’s best for others?”

After their husbands died, Ruth and Orpah were faced with a strategic choice (Ruth 1:11). Their mother-in-law Naomi told them they should go home. She didn’t want them to feel any obligation to her, in spite of the fact that her loss was far greater. She had lost her own husband and both of her sons.

Orpah and Ruth could either go home and start a new life, or stay with Naomi to help her in a time of great need. They knew very well that the latter choice would probably mean living in a foreign land as widows for the rest of their lives, since few Jewish men would want to marry a foreign woman.

Ruth chose to serve the needs of Naomi rather than to serve herself. Orpah chose to leave Naomi for what she thought would be a better life. Ruth went on to play a significant role in Jewish history and became an ancestor of Jesus (Matt. 1:5).

Make the best choice. Choose to serve others.

When we’re involved in serving
And meeting others’ needs,
We’re imitating Jesus
In thoughts and words and deeds.  —Fitzhugh

Serve God by serving others.

 

 

Shannon Popkin January 25, 2017
Control Girl to Jesus Girl
SHANNON POPKINFrom: Crosswalk.com

“Not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42b (ESV)

“You guys are going to love this!” I said as I plopped steaming heaps of peach porridge into my kids’ breakfast bowls.

They didn’t look convinced.

This was my fifth new recipe that week — all attempts to accommodate my son’s new elimination diet. The nutritionist had promised that peach porridge would be a favorite. But Cade — who was 6 and never shy about his opinion — said, “Blech! Mommy, this is so icky!

His older siblings giggled and admitted, “Mom, it is pretty bad.”

I should have laughed good-naturedly and pulled out some gluten-free cereal, but instead, I snapped: “Well that’s your breakfast and you’re going to eat it.” I was running out of recipes and patience. Plus those ingredients were expensive. And I had enough left for 10 more batches of peach porridge. “These kids are so picky!” I fumed.

The older kids, sensing I meant business, began forcing porridge down by gulping juice, but Cade refused. “I can’t eat it, Mommy!” he wailed.

I whirled around and said, “Oh, yes you can, and you’ll sit there till you do!”

He choked down several spoonfuls down, but then began gagging dramatically, which produced a little heap of porridge that slid right back into his bowl.

I was furious. “Oh, so you want to start over?” I snarled and replaced his porridge with a fresh, heaping bowl.

Oh, the crying and gnashing of teeth in our kitchen that morning! The bus came and went, and poor little Cade sat spilling tears into his bowl. Before long, the wash of remorse came. I apologized, fed my poor boy and drove him to school. It’s one of many “Control Girl” memories I wish I could erase.

I’m learning that my anger over little things — like dirty clothes under the bed or an un-shoveled driveway — is often a symptom of a deeper problem. Anger is what’s spewing, but feeding my anger is a deep, unhealthy craving for control.

The same is true of my anxiety. On the surface, I might be fretting or obsessing over my baby not crawling or my husband’s spending, but feeding my fear is a desperate longing to have control.

So, when I feel a surge of anger or a spike of anxiety, I’m learning to ask myself, OK, Shannon, what are you trying to control? What do you feel you’re losing control of?

And then I remind myself of the truth: I’m not in control. God is.

God never intended for me to shoulder the burden of trying to control. I can live responsibly and positively influence the people I love. But can I ultimately control whether my kids graduate with honors, marry a Christian or eat their peach porridge? No, I can’t.

And when I clamp down on outcomes I’m convinced I can and must create (in parenting or elsewhere), I only become angry, fretful and obsessed.

Thankfully, Jesus offers me another way. He invites me to follow Him and live the way He did. And how did Jesus live? Did He take control or give it up?

The hours before Jesus’ arrest were the most stressful, trying moments of His life. Unlike us, Jesus could have taken control and avoided the cross. Instead we see Jesus sweating profusely in agonized prayer, pleading, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42, ESV).

Do you hear the surrender in Jesus’ words? I often picture the posture of surrender as hands serenely lifted during a gentle worship song. But perhaps the image of Jesus’ sweaty battle on His knees is more accurate.

And what does this uphill, gritty surrender yield? Peace. Security. Hope in God, not in my ability to lunge for control.

Surrender begins not in cross-sized situations but in the small moments — like when my 6-year-old won’t eat his porridge. Or my middle-schooler fails math. Or my husband shrugs off health concerns. In these moments, will I explode in anger or dissolve in fear? Or will I retrain my heart to say, Not my will but Yours, Lord, be done …?

Small surrender leads to big surrender. And a lifestyle of surrender is what turns me from a Control Girl into a Jesus Girl.

Lord, thank You that I am not in control and that You are. Help me live like both of these are true. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Thunder and Lightning

From: Our Daily Bread

Thunder and Lightning
Read: Psalm 29 | Bible in a Year: Exodus 12–13; Matthew 16

The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning. Psalm 29:7

Many years ago a friend and I were fishing a series of beaver ponds when it started to rain. We took cover under a nearby grove of quaking aspen, but the rain continued to fall. So we decided to call it a day and run for the truck. I had just opened the door when lightning struck the aspen grove with a thunderous fireball that stripped leaves and bark off the trees, leaving a few limbs smoldering. And then there was silence.

We were shaken and awed.

Lightning flashes and thunder rolls across our Idaho valley. I love it—despite my close call. I love the raw power. Voltage! Percussion! Shock and awe! The earth and everything in it trembles and shakes. And then there is peace.

I love lightning and thunder primarily because they are symbols of God’s voice (Job 37:4), speaking with stupendous, irresistible power through His Word. “The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning . . . The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace” (Ps. 29:7, 11). He gives strength to endure, to be patient, to be kind, to sit quietly, to get up and go, to do nothing at all.

May the God of peace be with you.

Calm my spirit in the storms, Lord. Grant me Your peace and the strength to walk through this day.

Faith connects our weakness to God’s strength.

 

God Comforts Us

From: Streams in the Desert

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (Psalms 23:4).

At my father’s house in the country there is a little closet in the chimney corner where are kept the canes and walking-sticks of several generations of our family. In my visits to the old house, when my father and I are going out for a walk, we often go to the cane closet, and pick out our sticks to suit the fancy of the occasion. In this I have frequently been reminded that the, Word of God is a staff.

During the war, when the season of discouragement and impending danger was upon us, the verse, “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord,” was a staff to walk with many dark days.

When death took away our child and left us almost heartbroken, I found another staff in the promise that “weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

When in impaired health, I was exiled for a year, not knowing whether I should be permitted to return to my home and work again, I took with me this staff which never failed, “He knoweth the thoughts that he thinketh toward me, thoughts of peace and not of evil.”

In times of special danger or doubt, when human judgment has seemed to be set at naught, I have found it easy to go forward with this staff, “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” And in emergencies, when there has seemed to be no adequate time for deliberation or for action, I have never found that this staff has failed me, “He that believeth shall not make haste.”
Benjamin Vaughan Abbott, in The Outlook

“I had never known,” said Martin Luther’s wife, “what such and such things meant, in such and such psalms, such complaints and workings of spirit; I had never understood the practice of Christian duties, had not God brought me under some affliction.” It is very true that God’s rod is as the schoolmaster’s pointer to the child, pointing out the letter, that he may the better take notice of it; thus He pointeth out to us many good lessons which we should never otherwise have learned.
Selected

“God always sends His staff with His rod.”

“Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deut.33:25).

Each of us may be sure that if God sends us on stony paths He will provide us with strong shoes, and He will not send us out on any journey for which He does not equip us well.
Mclaren


Be Courageous In The Lord

 Colossians 1:11   being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so
that you may have great endurance and patience.
If your life’s work is a shadow of what you have done in life. How distinctive would your shadow be?
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Casting Shadows

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

No flesh should glory in His presence. —1 Corinthians 1:29

Legend has it that Michelangelo painted with a brush in one hand and a candle in the other to prevent his shadow from covering his masterpiece in progress.

That’s the kind of attitude we should adopt if we are serious about wanting to display the masterpiece of God’s glory on the canvas of our lives. Unfortunately, we tend to live in a way that draws attention to ourselves—our cars, our clothes, our careers, our position, our cleverness, our success. And when life is all about us, it’s hard for people to see Jesus in us. Jesus saved us to be reflections of His glory (Rom. 8:29), but when we live for ourselves, our shadow gets cast on the canvas of His presence in us.

When the believers in Corinth were feeling too full of themselves, Paul warned them “that no flesh should glory [boast] in His presence” (1 Cor. 1:29), and reminded them of what Jeremiah said, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31; Jer. 9:24).

Think of your life as a canvas on which a picture is being painted. What would you rather have people see: the masterpiece of the presence of Jesus or the shadow of your own profile? Don’t get in the way of a great painting in progress. Live to let others see Jesus in you.

My life is a painting created by God,
And as such I’ve nothing to boast;
Reflecting the image of Christ to the world
Is what I desire the most. —Sper

A Christian’s life is the canvas on which others can see Jesus.

 

T. Suzanne Eller January 24, 2017
When a Bad Day Becomes a Bad Year
SUZIE ELLERFrom: Crosswalk.com

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 (NIV)

It started out as a promising family day, with lots of good things packed in, until everything started going wrong.

Someone got impatient. Someone else got mad. Someone’s feelings were hurt.

Suddenly, the good day was a mess.

When it finally ended, there were a lot of reactions simmering in my heart, and none of them led in the right direction. I went over the day again and again. There’s something satisfying in rehashing a scene to justify my feelings, or to vilify someone else’s actions.

It’s also not really helpful.

This was family. We would get together again soon. If I nurtured those frustrations, I’d take them to the next family event like a bad side dish.

I sat outside that night and held up the day to God.

I asked Him to show me if I played a role in the conflict and, if so, what to do differently next time. I asked that He ease the emotions simmering just under the surface.

In today’s text, Paul reminds us we’re all imperfect. There will be days we have a grievance with each other. People will say the wrong thing. People will react in the wrong way. What we do in response can help us resolve the issue — at least in our hearts.

I have friends who haven’t spoken to their family in a long time. When I ask why, some point to the exact day an offense took place. Others have forgotten the original offense, but the feelings march on as if it took place yesterday.

In both situations, unresolved feelings were stoked and fueled.

One bad day became one bad week, which became one bad month, and it was still doing damage in the hearts of everyone years after the initial offense.

When I invited the Holy Spirit into my bad day, I was able to see some tired and stressed family members. I was able to pinpoint misunderstanding. Although I wasn’t directly involved (at least this time), I certainly played a part in moving it forward.

I needed to put one bad day in perspective and measure it against some really great days with these same people.

I needed to offer mercy, as I admitted the times I’ve said the wrong thing or arrived at an event stressed and out-of-sorts.

Has a bad day turned into a bad week? Are you still reliving that bad day or a bad moment? Talk to God about your painful moments. Share those unresolved feelings with Him.

We were never supposed to live our life tangled up in one bad day. As we ask God to help us move forward, we’ll not only find a listening ear but also help resolving the issues.

And that one bad day can take its rightful place in our thoughts and in our lives.

Heavenly Father, help me offer mercy to others, just as You’ve shown me mercy. I’ve held on to these feelings for far too long. I don’t want to be defined by one day, but live every day fully. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Timeless Groove

From: Our Daily Journey

Timeless Groove

Read:

Daniel 3:1-30
Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him (Daniel 3:28).

What’s your favorite way to listen to tunes? From vinyl albums to 8-track cartridges to cassettes to compact discs (CDs) to MP3s, we’ve enjoyed our music in ever-changing ways over the years. These days, however, more and more young adults are reaching back to buy vinyl records again with 12,000,000 units sold in 2015 alone. These fans are all about a music experience that lets them view and hold on to an album, not simply download songs into a device. Though vinyl might seem ancient and passé to some music lovers, for others it’s classic and timeless.

Long ago, a trio of exiled Jews were definitely not enjoying a musical experience. With “the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments,” they were commanded to bow down to a golden statue of a Babylonian king (Daniel 3:4-5). Staying true to the one true God, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to hit the dirt. Their actions ignited King Nebuchadnezzar’s fury as well as the flames of a massive furnace that the three were thrown into for not bowing low before the gold (Daniel 3:13,19-23).

The young men should have been turned to ashes, but they were spared by God’s miraculous power (Daniel 3:24-27). Having chosen to worship the “Ancient One” (Daniel 7:9) instead of some king who had recently burst on the scene, the trio not only survived, but they brought praise and honor to God by none other than Nebuchadnezzar himself: “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! . . . There is no other god who can rescue like this!” (Daniel 3:28-29).

When we’re tempted to fall for the gods of this age (money, power, pleasures, and more), may we instead remain in the timeless groove of our all-powerful, everlasting God.

Repentance Brings Rejoicing In Heaven

 

“But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.”>Luke 15:22-24 (HCSB)

This is from the parable of the prodigal son. His father was very happy to see him as he returned repentantly. The father rejoiced in his son’s decision to turn and come home.

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Karen Ehman January 23, 2017
Quick! Bring Out the Best
KAREN EHMANFrom: Crosswalk.com

“But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.”>Luke 15:22-24 (HCSB)

When someone wrongs you, how do you respond? I admit, I don’t always respond in the most gracious of ways — or with the most gracious of words.

Even when that person admits responsibility and asks for forgiveness, sometimes I still want to dwell on their fault rather than respond with grace. However, a fender-bender incident from years back taught me an important lesson about the right way to react.

I was driving back to my dorm my sophomore year of college, when a car ran a stop sign and smashed into my old station wagon. Uninjured but upset, I got out of my car. At that point, I discovered that the person who hit me was someone I knew: the baseball coach’s teenage daughter.

She was understandably shaken. At the time of the accident, she was driving a  car and was apprehensive about calling her parents. With a little encouragement, she walked to a building on campus to phone her dad. As soon as she explained about the accident, her dad asked over and over, “How are you? Do you have any injuries at all? Are you sure you’re okay?”

She confessed the accident was all her fault. Plus, she expressed her worry about the vehicle, but repeatedly, her dad’s only concern was to make sure she was safe. He seemed to care nothing about the car’s damage.

The memory of that incident touches my heart. My kids have been in minor accidents in older cars, and I too have been more concerned about their well-being than the car. But in this particular situation, I might have had a hard time looking past the price tag of that nice vehicle.

I can’t help but wonder: If I knew my child was okay, would I still be as forgiving if I had just recently laid down a large sum of money to buy a brand-new vehicle?

There is one similarity I see in this story and the story of the prodigal son: the fathers’ reactions. Both kids had a dad who responded with the bigger picture in mind.

In our key passage today, Luke 15:24 tells how the father says of the son, “He was lost and is found!” The son, who had selfishly taken all his inheritance early, was now back to confess he’d made some foolish choices. And amazingly, the father responds with joy! No bitterness. No guilt trips. The father didn’t look at his clothes and remark on his shabby appearance.

In that moment, the father was able to step back and see the big picture of his son’s homecoming as he says, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him …”

The Bible is so practical. What If I used those same words when someone came to me admitting their faults? Take a moment to pause and think about what it would look like to respond to a desperately repentant person by saying, “Quick, let me get my very best for you.” Take a moment to picture yourself saying these words to someone: “Quick, let me bring out my very best for you.”

Then take a moment to picture yourself receiving these words: “Quick, let me bring out my very best for you.”

The college coach who was more concerned with his daughter’s well-being than the damage to the car is a great reminder to look at the big picture. Give grace. Grant compassion. Be quick to forgive.

You know, just like Jesus treats us.

Father, may I respond with quick compassion and total forgiveness when someone admits their fault. Just like You did with me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

Transformed by Beholding

From: Utmost.org

Transformed by Beholding

The greatest characteristic a Christian can exhibit is this completely unveiled openness before God, which allows that person’s life to become a mirror for others. When the Spirit fills us, we are transformed, and by beholding God we become mirrors. You can always tell when someone has been beholding the glory of the Lord, because your inner spirit senses that he mirrors the Lord’s own character. Beware of anything that would spot or tarnish that mirror in you. It is almost always something good that will stain it— something good, but not what is best.

The most important rule for us is to concentrate on keeping our lives open to God. Let everything else including work, clothes, and food be set aside. The busyness of things obscures our concentration on God. We must maintain a position of beholding Him, keeping our lives completely spiritual through and through. Let other things come and go as they will; let other people criticize us as they will; but never allow anything to obscure the life that “is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Never let a hurried lifestyle disturb the relationship of abiding in Him. This is an easy thing to allow, but we must guard against it. The most difficult lesson of the Christian life is learning how to continue “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord….”

 

 

Lack Nothing

From: Our Daily Bread

Lack Nothing

God is able to bless you abundantly, so that . . . you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

Imagine going on a trip without luggage. No basic necessities. No change of clothing. No money or credit cards. Sounds both unwise and terrifying, doesn’t it?

But that’s exactly what Jesus told His twelve disciples to do when He sent them out on their first mission to preach and heal. “Take nothing for the journey except a staff,” said Jesus. “No bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt” (Mark 6:8–9).

Yet later on when Jesus was preparing them for their work after He was gone, He told His disciples, “If you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36).

So, what’s the point here? It’s about trusting God to supply.

When Jesus referred back to that first trip, He asked the disciples, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” And they answered, “Nothing” (v. 35). The disciples had everything they needed to carry out what God had called them to do. He was able to supply them with the power to do His work (Mark 6:7).

Do we trust God to supply our needs? Are we also taking personal responsibility and planning? Let’s have faith that He will give us what we need to carry out His work.

You are good, Lord, and all You do is good. Help us in our endeavors to pray and to plan and to trust You.

Who Will Help

“How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you” Isaiah 30:19
God is wonderful and gracious to help us in time of trouble,
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Who Will Help?

“How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you” Isaiah 30:19

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the story my son told me about taking his family to see the stage production of The Lion King. A good time was being had by all until the play turned to the point in the story where the young lion, Simba, wandered into the dangerous valley and right into the trap of his evil uncle, Scar. The plot goes like this.

In order to usurp the kingdom from his brother Mufasa, Simba’s Dad, Scar arranged for a group of hyenas to chase the wildebeest into a stampede that would endanger little Simba and lure his father, Mufasa, to the rescue. At which point Scar would kill Mufasa and begin to rule as king. After the stampede ended, little Simba looked up, all alone, to see his father lying dead on the ground. In the quietness of that moment, with the dust and smoke still swirling on stage, little Simba began to cry, “Help, help, help!” It was at that point in the hushed theater that my three-year-old grandson stood up on his chair and shouted, “Why doesn’t somebody help him?!”

It’s a reminder of a sobering truth. Each day, scores of people within the reach of our resources are hurting and desperately in need of someone to rush the stage of their life and help them. And here is the issue for us: Will we just sit by and watch like detached observers in comfortable theater seats? Or will we get engaged and do something about it? We are called to be the extension of the hand of God to the needy and helpless that are within our reach.

The Old Testament is filled with accounts of God’s people crying out for help. Although their trouble was often self-imposed due to the waywardness from God, I’m amazed by the fact that He was still eager to come to their aid. In the midst of a lot of self-inflicted bad news brought by the prophet Isaiah, he assured the people that “the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. . . . How gracious He will be when you cry for help!” (Isaiah 30:18-19).

What great news, and better news yet is that God’s ultimate act of grace and compassion came in human flesh, in the person of Jesus. It was His nail-pierced, bleeding hands that redeemed us from our self-inflicted desperate situation once and for all. At the cross, Jesus took the heart of God into His own hands.

And now, as recipients of His grace, we can do no less for others who are in need. Listen for that cry of help, rush the stage of their need, and let God extend His compassion through your helping hand today.

 

Out of Love

From: Our Daily Journey

Out of Love
 

Read:

Isaiah 1:10-20
These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me (Isaiah 29:13).

An elderly woman’s two daughters dropped by one day to clean her home. Both made the house sparkle, but the first daughter left the impression that her work was a burden. The second was cheery and made her mother feel that her sacrifice was a joy. Both daughters did the same tasks, but the first seemed to do them out of duty alone. The second revealed that her labors were out of love for her mother.

Putting myself in the shoes of the elderly mother, I would be saddened by the daughter who made it evident that her work was a burden and be blessed by the one who cleaned with a smile on her face. Reflecting on this, I wonder: What’s my motivation to serve God and those He places in my life? Does He see me serving out of a sense of duty or out of love for Him?

In Isaiah 1, the Israelites were offering sacrifices to God as He’d commanded, and they were also keeping the Sabbath and festivals. But He said, “I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams” (Isaiah 1:11), “I want no more of your pious meetings” (Isaiah 1:13), and “I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals” (Isaiah 1:14). Why? Because God knew the hearts of the people performing all those outwardly sparkling sacrifices—people whose hearts were far from Him. Their worship was a matter of tradition and ritual observance rather than heartfelt desire to love and honor Him.

Does God see our love for Him reflected in what we do? Consider why we pray, read the Bible, attend church, and give a portion of our income as a tithe. And as we allow God’s Word to search our hearts, may we repent and ask Him to help us do what’s right and for the right reason—out of love for the One who loves us so well.

 

Am I Looking To God?

From: Utmost.org

Am I Looking To God?

Do we expect God to come to us with His blessings and save us? He says, “Look to Me, and be saved….” The greatest difficulty spiritually is to concentrate on God, and His blessings are what make it so difficult. Troubles almost always make us look to God, but His blessings tend to divert our attention elsewhere. The basic lesson of the Sermon on the Mount is to narrow all your interests until your mind, heart, and body are focused on Jesus Christ. “Look to Me….”

Many of us have a mental picture of what a Christian should be, and looking at this image in other Christians’ lives becomes a hindrance to our focusing on God. This is not salvation— it is not simple enough. He says, in effect, “Look to Me and you are saved,” not “You will be saved someday.” We will find what we are looking for if we will concentrate on Him. We get distracted from God and irritable with Him while He continues to say to us, “Look to Me, and be saved….” Our difficulties, our trials, and our worries about tomorrow all vanish when we look to God.

Wake yourself up and look to God. Build your hope on Him. No matter how many things seem to be pressing in on you, be determined to push them aside and look to Him. “Look to Me….” Salvation is yours the moment you look.

 

God’s Face

From: Our Daily Bread

God's Face

For God . . . made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6

Much of my career as a writer has revolved around the problem of pain. I return again and again to the same questions, as if fingering an old wound that never quite heals. I hear from readers of my books, and their anguished stories give human faces to my doubts. I remember a youth pastor calling me after he had learned that his wife and baby daughter were dying of AIDS because of a tainted blood transfusion. “How can I talk to my youth group about a loving God?” he asked.

I have learned to not even attempt an answer to these “why” questions. Why did the youth pastor’s wife happen to get the one tainted bottle of blood? Why does a tornado hit one town and skip over another? Why do prayers for physical healing go unanswered?

One question, however, no longer gnaws at me as it once did: “Does God care?” I know of only one way to answer that question, and the answer is Jesus. In Jesus, God gave us a face. If you wonder how God feels about the suffering on this groaning planet, look at that face.

“Does God care?” His Son’s death on our behalf, which will ultimately destroy all pain, sorrow, suffering, and death for eternity, answers that question. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

God’s love for us is as expansive as the open arms of Christ on the cross.

God Turns Bad News To Good

 

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:11

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Bad News . . . Good News

From: Get More Strength.org

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:11

Today our dose of daily strength comes from Matthew 5:11, when Jesus gave a “good news . . . bad news” announcement to His disciples. First the bad news: They could expect to be slandered, maligned, and persecuted for their identity with Him. Two thousand years of church history have proven those words to be dead-on accurate.

As a Christian growing up in the West, I have not experienced the excruciating level of persecution faced by scores of saints living for Christ in places like China, the Sudan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and other hot spots of blatant opposition to the gospel. The growing hostility of Islam only promises to increase the body count. So I hate to even begin to compare myself to them except to say that on a much smaller scale we all face the distinct possibility of being misunderstood, maligned, and ostracized for standing up for Jesus in a day when He and His claims are becoming increasingly unpopular.

I woke up to this reality early on in my life. Our church was hosting an evangelistic service—a “bring all your unsaved friends to hear the gospel” kind of revival meeting. Wanting to join the cause, I got up the courage to ask one of my high school buddies to come, hoping that he would give his life to Christ that night. I remember being disappointed when he sat quietly through the service and stayed glued to his seat during the invitation.

The next day I walked past him as he was hanging out with a group of popular athletes. As I waved, he elbowed the guys and chided, “Hey, Joe took me to his church last night hoping that I would get saved. I guess he thinks I’m going to hell!” They all thought that was hilariously funny while I sheepishly made my way to class. It was my first taste of being in trouble for Jesus’ sake.

Businessmen who on company trips quietly stand for Jesus by not joining the other guys for an evening at the “gentleman’s club” know how uncomfortable it is to be looked on as being weird and not a part of the gang. College students who are ridiculed in class for daring to be a proponent of creation or intelligent design know what Jesus was talking about in this passage. And most of us have seen the raised eyebrow of a friend when we have mentioned that Jesus is the only way to God.

We are caught in the crossfire of two civilizations. Jesus proved how real the crossfire was when He went to the cross as a maligned, unwanted, falsely accused criminal.

But here’s the good news: Jesus promises that we are “blessed” when we are persecuted for His sake. As He said, “Great is your reward in heaven.”

Blessed? Rewarded? No one feels blessed or rewarded when they are marginalized or, much worse, martyred. Unless, that is, you believe that this is not the only world you have. Temporary trouble here is put into perspective by the assurance that there will be eternal rewards in the world to come. Give me a choice between collapsing to the intimidation here and facing Jesus as a traitor to His cause or of being maligned here and welcomed as a loyal warrior in heaven, and I’ll stick up for Jesus every time.

And, when you are tempted to fold under the pressure, remember that the day is coming when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

So, next time you feel the press of the warfare, chin up! Great is your reward in heaven.

 

Abandon It All

From: Our Daily Bread

Abandon It All

I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. Romans 12:1

When I played college basketball, I made a conscious decision at the beginning of each season to walk into that gym and dedicate myself totally to my coach—doing whatever he might ask me to do.

It would not have benefited my team for me to announce, “Hey, Coach! Here I am. I want to shoot baskets and dribble the ball, but don’t ask me to run laps, play defense, and get all sweaty!”

Every successful athlete has to trust the coach enough to do whatever the coach asks them to do for the good of the team.

In Christ, we are to become God’s “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). We say to our Savior and Lord: “I trust You. Whatever You want me to do, I am willing.” Then He “transforms” us by renewing our minds to focus on the things that please Him.

It’s helpful to know that God will never call on us to do something for which He has not already equipped us. As Paul reminds us, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us” (v. 6).

Knowing that we can trust God with our lives, we can abandon ourselves to Him, strengthened by the knowledge that He created us and is helping us to make this effort in Him.

Heavenly Father, no one deserves our sacrifice and dedication more than You. Help us to realize the joy that comes from abandoning ourselves to You.

There is no risk in abandoning ourselves to God.

 

God’s Masterpiece

From: Our Daily Journey

God’s Masterpiece

Read:

Psalm 139:13-16
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! (Psalm 139:14).

When asked which author he would choose to write his life’s story, author and activist Wendell Berry answered: “A horrible thought. Nobody. As the only person who ever has lived my life, I know that most of it can never be documented, is beyond writing and beyond words.”

Berry knows (and this is consistent in his writing) that each human life, each human story, is uniquely marvelous. The wonder of a life can never be captured in mere words.

David knew this truth even better than Berry. He reveled in the wonder of how he existed as God’s intricate creation, knowing that God “made all the delicate, inner parts of [his] body” (Psalm 139:13). When he considered his physical traits and his complex personhood (all the things that made him the unique person he was), David exclaimed to God: “Your workmanship is marvelous” (Psalm 139:14).

This may seem odd, or even inappropriate, to some. Are we supposed to think well of who we are—of our body or our personality? If we consider such things, aren’t we merely exhibiting pride? The psalmist recognized that we’re God’s grand creation, and we properly honor Him when we recognize how He reveals love, beauty, and goodness in and through us. While it’s true that we’re sinful and in need of God’s rescue, it’s also true that we’re splendid humans who bear God’s image and can radiate beauty to the world.

Many of us are concerned about dishonoring God by thinking too highly of ourselves (Romans 12:3). Fair enough. It’s also possible to dishonor God, however, by dishonoring His creation. We’re God’s craftsmanship—“God’s masterpiece,” Paul says (Ephesians 2:10).

You are God’s masterpiece. God takes delight in you. In you, God has made something truly good and beautiful.

Grace Changes Everything

 “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” Exodus 34:6

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Stunned by Grace

From: Get More Strength.org

 

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” Exodus 34:6

For all of us who think that God is the hammer guy of the Old Testament, think again! I’m just a little put out on the prevailing thought that God was brutal and ugly in the Old Testament and that thankfully Jesus arrived on the scene in the New Testament to rescue His reputation. Getting our attitudes about God straight is a big deal. It’s really hard to love and follow a God who is ruthless with His power and abusive in His relationships. It’s bad enough that some of us have dads like that, let alone a Father in heaven who perpetuates the problem.

So, here’s the good news. Take a deep breath. You don’t need to feel that way about God anymore! When the real God stands up in the Old Testament, His actions and attitudes consistently exhibit an unusual depth of grace in the face of deep offenses against Him and His law.

Take the sin of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:1-24. Talk about a time when it would have been really appropriate for God to pull the hammer out! God had given them everything they needed for life and satisfaction in a perfect environment. They blatantly conspired with God’s enemy and used God’s gift of the garden to serve their own selfish desires. And in the process they destroyed the gift of God as sin destroyed the garden and their lives, to say nothing of granting Satan access to the domain of God where he would continue his damaging ways right up to today.

If one of our kids had taken all that we had built up and all that we had given to them and in our face destroyed it all, well, my guess is that grace would be the last response to cross our minds. Annihilation, yes—grace, no!

But get a grip on this. Of those two options God chose grace.

  • The grace to walk back into the fallen, damaged garden and call them out of the bushes—not to hammer them, but to restore them.
  • The grace to replace the self-constructed, fig leaf cover-up of their sins with the sacrificial provision of the animal skins, pointing to the ultimate moment of grace when the sacrifice of Jesus would cover us with the permanent covering of the righteousness of Christ.
  • The grace to promise them that the day would come when the seed of woman would deal the death blow to Satan’s head.
  • The grace to expel them from the garden so that they would not eat of the tree of life and live forever in the bondage and brokenness of sin. He had something better in mind: heaven—where they could live forever liberated from the consequences of their own foolishness.
  • The remarkable stroke of grace to Cain who in a fit of jealous rage murdered his brother. After refusing to accept God’s gracious offer of a second chance and then killing his brother, God marked him so that others would not kill him and then upped the punishment by sevenfold against anyone who would ignore the mark and kill Cain (see Genesis 4:3-15).
  • The grace to reestablish a godly line in a deeply damaged world by the birth of Seth who started the legacy of those who would live by “calling on the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26).

Getting to know the real God is a wonderful experience, especially if we are getting to know Him as a God of unusual grace. Why? Because we all deserve the hammer! I will never stop being grateful that I serve and love a God who manages my brokenness with the healing and restoring power of His grace.

Alicia Bruxvoort January 20, 2017
How to Live a Brave and Beautiful Life
ALICIA BRUXVOORT

From: Crosswalk.com

“You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life. As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending, and I know true joy and contentment.” Psalm 16:11 (VOICE)

The woman sitting beside me in the airport held a faded leather backpack that appeared to had weathered a lifetime of stories. And the hiking boots laced to her ankles bore the scars of a thousand miles.

And, to be honest, I was surprised by the discontent that stirred deep in my soul as I wondered what adventures the traveler next to me had lived.

I’d like to scale a mountain bigger than the laundry piles in my basement, I silently pouted while I counted the eyelets on those dusty boots.

I’d been serving at a ministry conference all weekend and would soon catch a flight back to the small town I call home. And though I was excited to be reunited with my husband and five children, I wasn’t eager to return to my daily grind of carpooling and homework-helping, cooking and cleaning.

“Where are you headed?” the wearer of those boots asked, interrupting my pity party.

“Home,” I replied as I lifted my eyes to meet her kind smile and reciprocate the question.

Turns out our destinations were the same, but we had little else in common. She worked for an international relief organization, serving people in need all over the world. I worked from home serving the six people who live beneath my roof.

During the past week, while I’d watched ballgames and grumbled about cooking dinner again, she’d watched the sun rise over the Himalayas and delivered food to hungry children in Nepal. Her feet had trekked through jungles and climbed rugged mountains, while mine had wandered grocery store aisles and played endless rounds of backyard soccer.

The more we talked, the more I wondered why this world traveler was waiting to catch a flight to my pedestrian little town.

When I asked that question, her eyes sparkled.

She told me she was on her way to visit her only sister who was “raising kids and cattle” on the family farm where they’d both been born.

I tried to imagine the dramatically different lives these two sisters had lived — one sprouting wings and traveling the world, the other sinking roots and rarely venturing beyond state lines.

“So have you always been the brave one?” I queried with a wink.

The woman fiddled with the leather strap on that old backpack, then met my gaze. “Actually, my sister’s the brave one.”

My expression must have broadcast my confusion, because that boot-clad traveler flashed me a knowing smile and continued, “I’ve spent a lifetime finding joy all over the world. But my sister wakes up in the same place every day and chooses to find joy right where she’s at.”

A lump of conviction welled in my throat.

“I think that’s brave,” the woman beside me murmured with quiet reverence.

In today’s key verse, King David reminds us the secret to living a beautiful life isn’t dependent on where our feet tread but in WHOM our feet follow.

A life of joy isn’t found in chasing adventure but in chasing our Savior.

And, according to Psalm 16:11, when we choose to keep company with Jesus — prayerfully seeking Him first and obeying His directions — we find true contentment right where we are.

The overhead speaker crackled with our flight’s first boarding call. And as the woman beside me excused herself to make a phone call to that brave sister of hers, my eyes seeped silently with tears.

I pictured the ordinary life waiting for me at home — the demands and the delights, the giggles and the grumbles, and suddenly, I couldn’t wait to hop on that plane and return to my beautiful life.

And maybe, once I hugged those five kids who call me Mom and scaled those mountains of laundry that grew tall in my absence, I’d dig out my old hiking boots and set them by the door. ‘Cause sometimes we just need a simple reminder to keep looking for joy on the path beneath our feet.

Dear Lord, I want to find joy in the life You’ve planned for me. Give me strength to follow and obey. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Breath of Life

From: Our Daily Breadd

Breath of Life

Then the Lord God . . . breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Genesis 2:7

On a cold and frosty morning, as my daughter and I walked to school, we enjoyed seeing our breath turn to vapor. We giggled at the various steamy clouds we could each produce. I received the moment as a gift, reveling in being with her and being alive.

Our breath, which is usually invisible, was seen in the cold air, and it made me think about the Source of our breath and life—the Lord our Creator. For He who formed Adam out of the dust of the ground, giving him the breath of life, also gives life to us and to every living creature (Gen. 2:7). All things come from Him—even our very breath, which we inhale without even thinking about.

We may be tempted, living with today’s conveniences and technology, to forget our beginnings and that God is the one who gives us life. But when we pause to remember that God is our Creator, we can build an attitude of thankfulness into our daily routines. We can ask Him for help and acknowledge the gift of life with humble, thankful hearts. May our gratitude spill out and touch others, so that they also may give thanks to the Lord for His goodness and faithfulness.

Dear heavenly Father, what an awesome and powerful God You are! You created life by Your very breath. We praise You and stand in awe of You. Thank You for Your creation.

Give thanks to God, our Creator, who gives us the breath of life.

 

 

Turn From Darkness Into The Light

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Lysa TerKeurst January 19, 2017
I Was Her
LYSA TERKEURST

From: Crosswalk.com

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”John 8:12 (NIV)

I saw her coming across the arena. Deliberately. Intentionally. Her eyes fixed on the stage … on me … on what I must have represented in that moment — a woman who might understand.

Through the crowd. Up the stairs. Across the stage. She stood next to me, pressing her shoulder against mine, as I was speaking to 6,500 women.

And there she was staring out at thousands, but pressing into one. Needing more than words.

Later she explained she needed God and thought if she stood close enough to me, she just might be able to feel Him.

I didn’t have time to carefully plan what to do. I’d never had this happen before. I’ve never seen this happen. It wasn’t even on my scope of possibility. But there she was. And there I was. Two women who simply, desperately, need Jesus.

And because I am so hyper-aware of my own desperation for Jesus in every moment of every day, I simply wrapped my arm around her and kept on speaking.

It was a wrinkle in time. Something that wasn’t supposed to be, and yet was. And I think I now know why.

I needed to remember that ravenous longing I once had to press against somebody who knew Jesus. I was her. Looking at other people’s faith wondering how to get that. That depth. That closeness. That unswerving conviction.

I truly thought if only a person with that faith would let me be close enough, I’d discover their secret. I’d learn their routines. I’d mimic their obedience. I’d follow them to the ends of the earth until I got it right. Then, then, then, I’d feel close to Jesus. I’d understand the Bible. I’d pray powerful prayers. And all would finally make sense.

However, there is a big difference between being close to people who love Jesus and being close to Jesus Himself.

I can certainly learn from people. “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise” (Proverbs 13:20a, ESV).

But if I want closeness with Jesus, I won’t find that in following anyone but Jesus Himself. He is the One who must be pursued.

There have been a thousand whispers from my heart, “Show me, Jesus. Show me how to follow You, be close to You, press into You, be more like You … show me. Show me today. Show me in this minute. Show me, please Jesus, show me.”

A thousand whispers. And there will surely be thousands more that pour from my lips. For Jesus wants us to walk with Him. He says, “Follow me.” Over 20 times in the Gospels, “Follow me. Follow me.”

And those who dare to whisper yes and then walk in His ways, find the One for whom they are longing. They find light and love, hope and life — “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12 (NIV)

Yes, there she was. And there I was. Two women who simply, desperately, need Jesus.

Dear Lord, I desperately need You. But I don’t ever want to settle for a secondhand relationship with You  relying on what others know of You, instead of seeking You for myself. I want to see You. I want to hear You. I want to know You. So I’m asking You to show me. Help me to follow You. I am choosing to press in close to You above all others today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Vision and Darkness

From: Utmost.org

Vision and Darkness

Whenever God gives a vision to a Christian, it is as if He puts him in “the shadow of His hand” (Isaiah 49:2). The saint’s duty is to be still and listen. There is a “darkness” that comes from too much light— that is the time to listen. The story of Abram and Hagar in Genesis 16 is an excellent example of listening to so-called good advice during a time of darkness, rather than waiting for God to send the light. When God gives you a vision and darkness follows, wait. God will bring the vision He has given you to reality in your life if you will wait on His timing. Never try to help God fulfill His word. Abram went through thirteen years of silence, but in those years all of his self-sufficiency was destroyed. He grew past the point of relying on his own common sense. Those years of silence were a time of discipline, not a period of God’s displeasure. There is never any need to pretend that your life is filled with joy and confidence; just wait upon God and be grounded in Him (see Isaiah 50:10-11).

Do I trust at all in the flesh? Or have I learned to go beyond all confidence in myself and other people of God? Do I trust in books and prayers or other joys in my life? Or have I placed my confidence in God Himself, not in His blessings? “I am Almighty God…”— El-Shaddai, the All-Powerful God (Genesis 17:1). The reason we are all being disciplined is that we will know God is real. As soon as God becomes real to us, people pale by comparison, becoming shadows of reality. Nothing that other saints do or say can ever upset the one who is built on God.

 

Laying Down Our Lives

From: Our Daily Journey

Laying Down Our Lives

Read:

John 15:9-17
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).

Writer James Bryan Smith tells the story of how author and speaker Brennan Manning came to better understand the deep love of God. Brennan had a best friend named Ray. They hung around, double-dated, and even bought a car together. In time they enlisted and served in the same military unit.

One day the two friends were in a foxhole talking when a hand grenade landed in their midst. Ray looked at Brennan and quickly jumped on top of the bomb. It exploded and killed him instantly. Sometime later, Brennan went to visit Ray’s mother. He asked her, “Do you think that Ray loved me?” She replied by saying something to the effect of, “What more could he have done for you, Brennan?”

Ray had shown he loved his friend more than he loved his own life. And his actions helped Brennan realize just how deeply Jesus loved him. John wrote, “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us” (1 John 3:16).

Yes, Jesus laid down His life for His disciples, for the world, and for everyone (John 10:1-18, see also John 3:16-17). Prior to His death, He said, “Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13). He was a living example of this teaching in not only giving up His physical life, but in how He routinely laid down His life by humbly, compassionately serving the disciples and others with whom He came into contact (Philippians 2:3-5).

Empowered by God working within us, we’re called to lay down our lives for others. This includes sacrificially giving of ourselves—our time, possessions, plans—out of love for God and for them. May we humbly lay down our lives for Jesus’ sake today.

Victory Is Coming Soon

 

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They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”   Revelation 6:10

 

Esther Fleece January 18, 2017
How Long, O Lord?
ESTHER FLEECE

“How long will my enemy triumph over me?“ Psalm 13:2b (NIV)

When I reached my 30s, I remember praying “How long, Lord?” as I filled out yet another change of address form.

During several years of job and life transitions, I’d filled out my share of these. I needed to have a list of my previous addresses nearby just to remember them all, and it drove me insane when the gas station pumps began requiring zip codes to make a transaction. My biological family had painfully broken apart years ago, and now everywhere I turned, I was reminded I had no place to call home.

Why, God, am I still living out of a suitcase? How long is this going to be my life?

These were honest prayers, raw prayers, and I had to go on a journey with God to learn it was OK to pray them at all.

For much of my life, I thought to question God was to doubt Him. I had learned to trust in His sovereignty, and desired God’s will for my life over my own. But somewhere along the path of obedience, my questioning ceased, and so did my laments.

Lament is a passionate expression of grief where God meets us in our time of sorrow. Lamenting prayers are prayers where we express our honest emotions before God. God wants to hear us, even on our bad days, and He is always open to our honest prayers.

One example of a lament found in Scripture is when the Psalmist cries out to God, asking: How long?

“How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1, NIV)

Have you ever lamented how long to God? How long must you be in angst? How long before you see your children come to the Lord? How long must you stay in a job that doesn’t satisfy you?

David’s how long lament shows we will sometimes feel forgotten, and even forsaken by God. Notice that this lament isn’t silenced by a happy-go-lucky song in church, or dismissed by an uncomprehending friend. David’s lament is taken directly to God in the form of prayer. In Scripture God permits us to lament, and as we cry out to him in lament, He answers.

The Psalmist continued, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:2a)

God gives us permission to present our honest questions before Him. He knows we will have anxious thoughts and troubling circumstances. It is what we do in these lamenting times that matter.

Unfortunately, I am guilty of often gossiping about God instead of taking my honest laments before Him in prayer. As a child of God, we can take our questions directly to God, even while our hearts are still filled with pain.

Why is she getting married, and I am still single?

Why is her life blessed, and I am still struggling?

Why is my sorrow unending, with no change in sight?

What are your how long prayers right now? Do you have permission to express them in the context of a Christian community, and have you given yourself permission to lament them directly to God?

We are all blessed with good things in life, and many of us are simultaneously struggling. As God’s people, we can experience multiple emotions at once. In a later Psalm, David laments as a form of confession, while at the same time asking God’s help to give Him praise.

“Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.” (Psalm 51:15, NIV)

There is no “fake it ‘til you make it” in Scripture. Lamenting gives our honest cries to God and gives Him the opportunity to comfort us when everything is not fine. Being “fine” is never to be our goal with God, however, intimacy and transparency are.

As we take our laments directly to God, He will meet us right where we are … not where we pretend to be. Keeping our laments inside will cause us to shut down, displace emotions, isolate ourselves or stop praying altogether. What a generous God who has invited us to lament “how long” and modeled this language to us directly.

Heavenly Father, help me let out my laments to You. As I cry out, “How long?” meet me right where I am, and transform my laments into praise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Clearing Out The Clutter

From: Get more Strength.org

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

My garage serves as “storage” for things that don’t have a place in our home, and, frankly, there are times when I am ashamed to open the door. I don’t want anyone to see the clutter. So, periodically, I set aside a workday to clean it up.

Our hearts and minds are a lot like that—they accumulate lots of clutter. As we rub shoulders with the world, inevitably, perhaps unknowingly, we pick up ungodly thoughts and attitudes. Thinking that life is all about “me.” Demanding our rights. Reacting bitterly toward those who have hurt us. Before long, our hearts and minds are no longer clean and orderly. And while we think we can hide the mess, eventually it will show.

Paul pointedly asked, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Cor. 6:19)—which makes me wonder if God often feels like He is living in our messy garage.

Perhaps it’s time to set aside a spiritual workday and, with His help, get to work clearing out the clutter. Discard those thoughts of bitterness. Bag up and throw out the old patterns of sensual thoughts. Organize your attitudes. Fill your heart with the beauty of God’s Word. Make it clean to the core, and then leave the door open for all to see!

More like the Master I would ever be,
More of His meekness, more humility;
More zeal to labor, more courage to be true,
More consecration for work He bids me do. —Gabriel

Don’t let the Spirit reside in a cluttered heart. Take some time to clean it up today!

 

Long Shadows

From: Our Daily Bread

Long Shadows

The Lord is good and his love . . . continues through all generations. Psalm 100:5

Several years ago, my wife and I stayed in a rustic bed-and-breakfast in the remote Yorkshire Dales of England. We were there with four other couples, all British, whom we had never met before. Sitting in the living room with our after-dinner coffees, the conversation turned to occupations with the question “What do you do?” At the time I was serving as the president of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and I assumed that no one there knew of MBI or its founder, D. L. Moody. When I mentioned the name of the school, their response was immediate and surprising. “Of Moody and Sankey . . . that Moody?” Another guest added, “We have a Sankey hymnal and our family often gathers around the piano to sing from it.” I was amazed! The evangelist Dwight Moody and his musician Ira Sankey had held meetings in the British Isles more than 120 years ago, and their influence was still being felt.

I left the room that night thinking of the ways our lives can cast long shadows of influence for God—a praying mother’s influence on her children, an encouraging coworker’s words, the support and challenge of a teacher or a mentor, the loving but corrective words of a friend. It’s a high privilege to play a role in the wonderful promise that “His love . . . continues through all generations” (Ps. 100:5).

Lord, help us to remember that while our lives are short, what we do for You now can have an impact long after we are home with You. Lead me today to invest in the lives of others.

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

“It Is the Lord!”

From: Utmost.org

“Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink’ ” (John 4:7). How many of us are expecting Jesus Christ to quench our thirst when we should be satisfying Him! We should be pouring out our lives, investing our total beings, not drawing on Him to satisfy us. “You shall be witnesses to Me…” (Acts 1:8). That means lives of pure, uncompromising, and unrestrained devotion to the Lord Jesus, which will be satisfying to Him wherever He may send us.

Beware of anything that competes with your loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of true devotion to Jesus is the service we do for Him. It is easier to serve than to pour out our lives completely for Him. The goal of the call of God is His satisfaction, not simply that we should do something for Him. We are not sent to do battle for God, but to be used by God in His battles. Are we more devoted to service than we are to Jesus Christ Himself?

Hold On To Your Faith

 

 

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Hebrews 12:1-2   (NIV)

1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

2    fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

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Image result for pictures of holding onImage result for pictures of holding on

 

What Are We Holding On To?

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.”  —1 Timothy 6:12

Tolkien’s classic The Lord of the Rings trilogy came to life in recent years on film. In the second epic story, the hero, Frodo, reached a point of despair and wearily confided to his friend, “I can’t do this, Sam.” As a good friend, Sam gave a rousing speech: “It’s like in the great stories . . . . Full of darkness and danger they were. . . . Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.” Which prompted Frodo to ask: “What are we holding on to, Sam?”

It’s a significant question, one that we all need to ask ourselves. Living in a fallen, broken world, it’s no wonder that sometimes we feel overwhelmed by the powers of darkness. When we are at the point of despair, ready to throw in the towel, we do well to follow Paul’s advice to Timothy: “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12).

In life’s battles, let’s hold on to the fact that good will triumph over evil in the end, that one day we will see our Master and Leader face-to-face, and we will reign with Him forever. You can be part of this great story, knowing that if you have trusted Jesus for salvation you are guaranteed a victorious ending!

Though weak and helpless in life’s fray,
God’s mighty power shall be my stay;
Without, within, He gives to me
The strength to gain the victory. —D. De Haan

The trials of earth are small compared with the triumphs of heaven.

 

 

Sharon Jaynes January 17, 2017
Reigniting Passion in Your Marriage
SHARON JAYNESFrom: Crosswalk.com

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Revelation 2:4-5a (NIV)

What do you do when you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’ in your marriage? Maybe you truly adored your husband in the beginning, but now you can’t remember why. Maybe you honestly admired his finer qualities, but now you can’t remember what they were. You once appreciated his wonderful attributes, but now you take them for granted.

Between taking out the garbage, paying the bills, running the car pool, mowing the lawn, disciplining the kids and folding the laundry, sometimes the passion of marriage gets lost. It happens to all of us at one time or another. We can get so busy taking care of life that we forget to take care of love.

No one gets married to have a long list of chores.

If you’re like me, you got married because you were madly in love and couldn’t imagine life without your man! You were passionately stirred beyond belief and couldn’t wait to tie the knot and spend the rest of your days with this incredible person God had miraculously brought into your life. Maybe you still feel that way. But maybe you could use a little reminder — a re-stoking of that passion.

In the book of Revelation, God had this to say to the church at Ephesus: “I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4). Ephesus was one of the most loving churches in the New Testament, and yet somewhere along the way they lost that initial thrill of knowing Christ. Their love for each other and for God had grown cold.

So how do you get that lovin’ feelin’ back? God gave the church two simple steps inRevelations 2:5a, and I believe we can apply them to our marriages as well: “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.”

  1. Remember how it was in the beginning.
  2. Return and do the things you did at first.

For most of us, the accumulation of small struggles can nibble like termites to undermine the foundation of what appears to be a healthy structure as surely as the unexpected, earth-shaking rumble of sudden disaster. And routine, even good routine, can rob us of the joy and passion of marriage … if we let it.

One day I took John’s words in Revelation to heart, and decided to “remember and return” by romancing my husband. One day I simply put a sticky note on his bathroom mirror that said, “I love you.” Another day I placed a box of Red Hot candy on his car seat with a note that said, “You’re a hottie.”

And you know what happened? Steve had a skip in his step and smile on his face. And what happened in me? I can hardly describe the love that welled up in me, as I loved my man well. Hear this … I changed! The passion was re-ignited.

I don’t have a personal story of how God took our marriage and miraculously transformed it into a storybook romance filled with white-knight rescues, relentless romance and rides into the sunset leaving all danger and darkness behind. Although our marriage has been all that at one time or another, it’s no fairy tale.

Our marriage is like a daily journal, one page after another, one day after another. I’m guessing just like yours. Some entries are smudged with tears; others are dog-eared as favorites. Some days are marred by unsuccessful erasures that couldn’t quite rub away the hurtful words said; others are finger-worn by the reading of precious events time and time again.

But on those days when I see my marriage slipping into the mundane cadence of passionless routine, I pull out my list of ideas, and put a smile on Steve’s face.

Lord, may that be my challenge today. When I see the fire needs stoking, help me remember and return. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 Corinthians 7:5, “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (NIV)

Proverbs 5:18, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” (NIV)

 

Finding Life

From: Our Daily Bread

Finding Life

Because I live, you also will live. John 14:19

The words of Ravi’s father cut deep. “You’re a complete failure. You’re an embarrassment to the family.” Compared to his talented siblings, Ravi was viewed as a disgrace. He tried excelling in sports, and he did, but he still felt like a loser. He wondered, What is going to become of me? Am I a complete failure? Can I get out of life some way, painlessly? These thoughts haunted him, but he talked to no one. That simply wasn’t done in his culture. He had been taught to “keep your private heartache private; keep your collapsing world propped up.”

So Ravi struggled alone. Then while he was recovering in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt, a visitor brought him a Bible opened to John 14. His mother read these words of Jesus to Ravi: “Because I live, you also will live” (v. 19). This may be my only hope, he thought. A new way of living. Life as defined by the Author of life. So he prayed, “Jesus, if You are the one who gives life as it is meant to be, I want it.”

Life can present despairing moments. But, like Ravi, we can find hope in Jesus who is “the way and the truth and the life” (v. 6). God longs to give us a rich and satisfying life.

Dear Lord, I acknowledge that I am a sinner, and I need Your forgiveness. Thank You, Jesus, for dying for me and giving me eternal life. Transform my life so that I may bring glory and honor to You alone.

Only Jesus can give us new life.

 

 

Distraction

From: Our Daily Journey

Distraction

Read:

Philippians 3:1-21
I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize (Philippians 3:13-14).

Students of a large university have a funny way of distracting opposing basketball teams during free throw attempts. They place a “curtain of distraction” beneath the basket in plain view of players on the opposing team. Just prior to shot attempts, the students open the curtain to reveal something unusual like dancing unicorns, a purple-haired “grandma” waving a cane, or a lion wearing a tutu. Recently it was US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, wearing his gold medals while pretending to swim.

The player missed both free throws.

A curtain of distraction may be entertaining, but there’s a serious “curtain” in our lives. What interesting thing does Satan use to distract us from our goal? It could be a cell phone that sucks up all our time, a friend who’s leading us away from Jesus, or a job that promises to give us everything if we give everything to it. Do family or friends say we’ve changed? The curtain of distraction may have caused us to take our eyes off the goal.

Paul says it’s not just good things—in his case being a zealous Jew—that can distract us from Christ (Philippians 3:5-8). It can also be the bad mistakes we’ve made. Are you weary of Satan pulling back the curtain to reveal a sin from your past? It could be an arrogant moment or unkind word, a bald lie or sexual sin. The memory is whistling, waving its hands, and wearing a tutu.

While the evil one wants to distract you, the Holy Spirit is there to remind you that your past sins have been forgiven. Thank God for His grace. Then, “forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, press on to . . . receive the heavenly prize” (Philippians 3:13-14). Raise your eyes to Him today!

There Is Joy In Salvation

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7 (ESV)

 

There is joy in being forgiven and saved from sim.

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Image result for pictures of joyImage result for pictures of joy

 

 

Chrystal Evans Hurst January 16, 2017
The Work and the Wonder of Love
CHRYSTAL EVANS HURST

From: Crosswalk.com

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7 (ESV)

We walked behind the house and into the backyard. My mother wanted to show me something.

There was a small tree. Not quite a sapling, but still young. It was a pecan tree, to be more exact.

As we stood in the yard of the house my parents had just moved into, I wondered why my mother thought to point out this particular tree.

“She planted it for her dad.” My mom paused and turned her face up slightly to look into the tree’s thin branches. “Her dad passed away and she planted this tree for him.”

My mother’s own father had just recently passed away and I’m sure my mom felt connected to the gesture of keeping a beloved memory alive.

It’s been some years since my mom showed me that tree. And even though the tree wasn’t planted for her dad, she has taken care of it like it was.

The tree has grown. Its trunk has gotten wider and its branches have stretched higher and become denser. We have to look up with more than a slight glance to see the top and it even provides much-needed shade.

But we didn’t plant the tree.

While my mother has watered it, trimmed it and picked up the fallen pecans, she did not place the roots of the tree in the ground.

Someone else did.

But now, we all benefit from its growth and shade.

More than 50 years ago, a man by the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. placed the roots of grand ideas in the soil of our nation. He did it to keep the dreams alive of others who had gone before. He did it while praying that in the future, others would benefit from the growth of the ideas. He did it because he knew the roots of those ideas would grow and honor the God who created people of all color.

While Dr. King planted the ideas in the hearts and minds of millions, he was not with us very long to water the tree himself.

Today, we all benefit from the tree of brotherly love and biblical equality that Dr. King planted. But we do so because so many people came alongside Dr. King, then and now. They watered the dream, trimmed it and picked up the pieces that fell every now and again.

So many over the years have honored the message and the memory of Dr. King by caring for the dream as if it were their own.

In a way, it has been. People have been compelled to keep the dream alive and well. They have felt connected because their stories or standards reminded them that the dream mattered.

And it does matter.

To all of us.

We are all connected. First John 4:7 reminds us that Christ-followers all bear the mark of the glory of God. As believers, we bear the special mandate of loving others because the love of God covered our sin. When we love our brothers and sisters, we are watering, trimming and picking up what we all hold dear — our love for God, His love for us and our remembrance of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. This is what makes it possible for us to, indeed, all be connected in Him.

And love matters. Love for those who look like us. Love for those who don’t.

The beauty of our love lies simply in this … the work of love allows us to behold the wonder of love. So, as we care for each other, we honor not only the dream of brotherly love from one man, but more importantly, the God who gave that man the ideas to plant. In doing so, we all benefit from love’s covering.

Dear Father in Heaven, help me to love my brothers and sisters in Christ and also those who do not yet know You. Help me remember that Your sacrifice was the beginning of the love that I know and the love that You want me to give to others. Help me to faithfully do my part to share Your love with the world — whether that’s on the other side of the globe, in my town, on my street or down the hallway. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Leaving a Legacy

From: Get More Strength.org

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

Do you ever wonder what kind of legacy you’ll leave behind?

I remember an older gentleman from one of the churches I pastored. He was the epitome of grace toward others; and he was deeply loved by his wife, his daughters, and his sons-in-law. In fact, his sons-in-law kneeled by his bed as he died. Afterward, one of his daughters wrote me a letter. At the end of the note, she concluded with these powerful words: “Our world has lost a righteous man, and in this world, that’s no small thing.”

I love the legacy expressed in those simple words from the pen of an admiring daughter. It reminds me of the heart of Paul as he wrote to his friend Timothy. Paul had expended himself in the service of Christ and had a keen sense that he was nearing the end of his life. We know from his writings to other churches that he was not afraid of death. In fact, he clearly stated that if he were absent from the body, he would be present with the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:3). The resurrection had defeated the sting of death (1 Corinthians 15:55), and Paul couldn’t wait to meet his Savior.

As Paul pondered the end of his life, he made three very simple statements about his legacy. He had “fought the good fight”—standing firm as a spiritual warrior, clothed in the armor of God, faithfully defending the truth of the gospel. He had “finished the race”—ensuring in the process that he was neither disqualified nor disheartened in the marathon of life and ministry. Most importantly, he had “kept the faith”—remaining true, committed, and loyal to the One who rescued him from sin and darkness.

Notice that Paul’s brief statements here say nothing about the education he had received, the places he had traveled, the letters he had written, the people he had preached to, or the churches he had planted. He flat out wanted his legacy to be labeled as “faithful.” I love that! It’s what I want to aspire to as a follower of Jesus.

So, I have to ask myself, “If that’s the kind of legacy I want to leave, how would I pursue it today?” Well, it means that my choices need to be more about “fighting the good fight.” I need to put on the spiritual armor each morning, as Paul told the Ephesians to do, and live to be victorious in all that comes my way. I need to be running the race to win, putting off all that hinders and the sins that entangle (Hebrews 12:1). And, it means that in every situation I want my attitudes, my words, and my actions to be loyal and true to Jesus.

As Paul told the Philippians, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Hebrews 3:13-14). There’s no better time than the start of this New Year to set our sights on new goals that will, over time, develop a legacy worth leaving.

Building a legacy worth leaving behind begins today and is made one decision at a time. Live this year to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” In my book, that’s a legacy worth living for!

 

January 16

From: Through The Bible

Genesis 16:11-13 (NIV) 11 The angel of the LORD also said to her: “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. 12He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” 13 She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

Hagar had been abused. She left her security because she would rather take a chance at running away, even if it meant the risk of death. Things must have been pretty bad. There she was in the desert thinking that no one cared, that no one heard her heart. Jesus met her in her hour of need. Yes, the angel of the LORD is Jesus. He told her she had a son in her womb and to name him ‘God hears’, Ishmael. God heard her misery. She is not the one that was chosen to carry the Seed, but God heard her misery. He hears us in our most desperate circumstances. We may think no one else understands, but the angel of the LORD does. He hears our misery.

The sons of Ishmael have fulfilled verse 12. Then she said to the LORD who was speaking to her (notice the angel of the LORD and LORD are used synonymously) “You are the God who sees me…”. Not only does God hear our misery, but He also sees our circumstances. He cares. God sent her back to Sarah, and she was able to go. Now she knew God saw and heard, and that was enough. It should be enough for whatever circumstance we face too. He sees and He hears. Know that He is with you and understands like no one else can. You do have One to Whom you can turn. He has heard and seen all you have been through. “No one ever cared for me like Jesus.”

Meditation: The Lord hears my misery and cares. He comforts those that mourn.