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Spontaneous Love

 

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Spontaneous Love

Love is not premeditated—it is spontaneous; that is, it bursts forth in extraordinary ways. There is nothing of precise certainty in Paul’s description of love. We cannot predetermine our thoughts and actions by saying, “Now I will never think any evil thoughts, and I will believe everything that Jesus would have me to believe.” No, the characteristic of love is spontaneity. We don’t deliberately set the statements of Jesus before us as our standard, but when His Spirit is having His way with us, we live according to His standard without even realizing it. And when we look back, we are amazed at how unconcerned we have been over our emotions, which is the very evidence that real spontaneous love was there. The nature of everything involved in the life of God in us is only discerned when we have been through it and it is in our past.

The fountains from which love flows are in God, not in us. It is absurd to think that the love of God is naturally in our hearts, as a result of our own nature. His love is there only because it “has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit . . .” (Romans 5:5).

If we try to prove to God how much we love Him, it is a sure sign that we really don’t love Him. The evidence of our love for Him is the absolute spontaneity of our love, which flows naturally from His nature within us. And when we look back, we will not be able to determine why we did certain things, but we can know that we did them according to the spontaneous nature of His love in us. The life of God exhibits itself in this spontaneous way because the fountains of His love are in the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 10:19-39 (Good News Translation)

God’s Word: Giving Us Hope

Introduction

Hebrews 10:19-39: The Lord’s followers are encouraged to keep their hearts pure and their consciences free from evil as they help each other prepare for the day when the Lord will return.

Today’s Scripture: Hebrews 10:22

Let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water.

Today’s Reading

19 We have, then, my friends, complete freedom to go into the Most Holy Place by means of the death of Jesus. 20 He opened for us a new way, a living way, through the curtain—that is, through his own body. 21We have a great priest in charge of the house of God. 22 So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. 23 Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24 Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. 26 For there is no longer any sacrifice that will take away sins if we purposely go on sinning after the truth has been made known to us. 27Instead, all that is left is to wait in fear for the coming Judgment and the fierce fire which will destroy those who oppose God! 28 Anyone who disobeys the Law of Moses is put to death without any mercy when judged guilty from the evidence of two or more witnesses. 29 What, then, of those who despise the Son of God? who treat as a cheap thing the blood of God’s covenant which purified them from sin? who insult the Spirit of grace? Just think how much worse is the punishment they will deserve! 30 For we know who said, “I will take revenge, I will repay”; and who also said, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God! 32 Remember how it was with you in the past. In those days, after God’s light had shone on you, you suffered many things, yet were not defeated by the struggle. 33 You were at times publicly insulted and mistreated, and at other times you were ready to join those who were being treated in this way. 34 You shared the sufferings of prisoners, and when all your belongings were seized, you endured your loss gladly, because you knew that you still possessed something much better, which would last forever. 35 Do not lose your courage, then, because it brings with it a great reward. 36 You need to be patient, in order to do the will of God and receive what he promises. 37 For, as the scripture says,“Just a little while longer,and he who is coming will come; he will not delay.38 My righteous people, however, will believe and live;but if any of them turns back, I will not be pleased with them.” 39 We are not people who turn back and are lost. Instead, we have faith and are saved.

Don’t Forget

 From: Get more strength

“Be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 6:12

We all have little slips in our memory once in a while, right? I love the story about the guy who decided to do something about his increasing forgetfulness. This poor chap decided to attend a seminar on how to increase his ability to remember things. And, to his great delight, the seminar worked! A few weeks later he sat in his living room, chatting with a friend about his newly improved recall ability.

“You won’t believe it,” he gushed, “This memory seminar really has helped me remember things better. I have a whole new lease on life!”

“That’s great,” his friend replied. “How does it work?”

“Well, you simply think of a common object that helps you build a link to whatever you need to remember. If you can remember the common object, then you’ll remember the other object.”

“Wow!” said his friend. “You know, to be honest, my memory’s slipping a little. What’s the name of the seminar? I think I might sign up for it.”

“Okay,” the guy replied. “Let’s see, think of a flower with red petals . . . long stem . . .  thorns . . .  rose.” Then he yelled to his wife in the next room, “Hey, Rose, what was the name of that seminar I went to?”

In Deuteronomy 6:12, Moses is talking to the Israelites about the danger of memory loss when it comes to forgetting God. God’s people were standing on the edge of the Promised Land, ready to enter a land with great cities they did not build, houses full of good things they did not fill, and vast and lush vineyards they didn’t plant. And, as good as the prospect of all this prosperity was, there was a danger lurking under the blessing. Moses knew that in good times it’s easy to forget God. The people were in danger of forgetting that it was God who had given them this land flowing with milk and honey; forgetting that it was God who went before them in each battle; forgetting, in fact, that it was only through God’s gracious choice of them as His people that they were enjoying the blessings of their new home and country. And, when we forget God, we become unthankful, proud, and self-sufficient—the kinds of things that are offensive to the Giver of every good and perfect gift.

So the solution for Israel—and for that matter, for us—is keeping God in mind! The book of Deuteronomy is actually a memory seminar about God’s goodness to His people. Moses reminds the Israelites of the law that was given on Mount Sinai. He tracks the Israelites back over the ways God miraculously provided for them—battles won, food given, shoes that didn’t wear out—the list of God’s providing work is long.

So, here’s the lesson. Beware! When God is abundantly good to us we are in great danger. We are in danger because in good times it’s easy to forget God. It’s easy to be so consumed with the gifts that we forget the Giver! And if we do that, we end up worshiping the blessings and not the One who in His amazing grace has blessed us.

The benefit of keeping God in mind is that it keeps our hearts grateful, appropriately humble, and delighted in our God for His goodness to us. Believe me, delighting in Him beats being consumed by the stuff that He has given us.

April 30, 2014

From: Crosswalk.com

Why My Savior Complex Had to Die
Amy Carroll

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 (NLT)

For years, something in me longed to be a savior. It was the space within my heart that lit with imagination when I watched heroes on TV save a falling baby with a mattress, rescue survivors from a mudslide or wrestle a hijacker to the floor of a plane. I aspired to be a woman with such daring, admired by thousands.

That desire carried me on a trip to Kolkata, India, where I was determined to make a difference with my positive attitude and can-do spirit!

I prepared with confidence and traveled with bravado, but when I arrived in the city, my assurance began to wilt. Walking out of the airport into the dead of the night, our team was surrounded at once with impoverished women and children begging. Shouldn’t they be sleeping?

Decrepit buildings lined potholed streets, patrolled by feral dogs and rifle-armed policemen. Rancid smells and unfamiliar sights assailed our senses.

On the way to our hotel, we drove by a billboard proclaiming, “Kolkata: City of Joy.” The very idea whiplashed my brain, and my deepest motives were exposed. What was I thinking? This isn’t a job for me … making Kolkata the City of Joy is truly a God-sized job!

In that moment, my desire to be a hero was both exposed and crushed. My smile and positive attitude alone would not feed the hungry, free women from oppression or liberate captives from spiritual darkness with. No, only Jesus the Savior could meet such overwhelming need and make a difference! I was simply there to serve Him.

Why did I want to be a savior? The truth was a mix of good and bad. I desired to help people, ease their suffering and introduce them to a loving God. But all that good was spoiled when mixed with my desire to feel virtuous, to gain recognition from others for the “noble” things I was doing and to feel I had met God’s requirements.

The works inspired by my savior complex might have looked good on the outside, but they were achieving self-gratification rather than pleasing God.

Jesus is our true hero, the only real Savior. Jesus brings good news to the poor. He can bind up the brokenhearted. He provides freedom for the captives and releases prisoners from the darkness. Jesus brings God’s favor, comforts those who mourn and cares for those in need. He gives us beauty instead of ashes, gladness instead of mourning and praise instead of despair (Isaiah 61:1-3). Jesus is beautiful and powerful and worthy of being the Savior.

In Matthew 20:28, Jesus reveals His superhero, Savior secret to His followers, and it’s a huge surprise: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The secret is service. As we serve our Savior and those around us, we can become behind-the-scenes heroes in God’s eyes. Humble service may not make the news, but it can definitely change the world.

Years after my lesson in Kolkata, I walked into a new volunteer position with my same bright smile and positive attitude. The difference was I wasn’t there to be a savior, but instead toserve my Savior.

Jesus is the hero to admire; I’m just there to roll up my sleeves and stand beside Him as He saves the world.

Jesus, I praise You as the only worthy Savior. Will You change my motives from a desire for admiration to a desire to humbly serve You? Please change my savior complex to a servant’s mindset? I long to follow Your example in serving Your people. In Your Name, Amen.

Certainty Through Jesus Christ

 

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Gracious Uncertainty

Our natural inclination is to be so precise—trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next—that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We think that we must reach some predetermined goal, but that is not the nature of the spiritual life. The nature of the spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty. Consequently, we do not put down roots. Our common sense says, “Well, what if I were in that circumstance?” We cannot presume to see ourselves in any circumstance in which we have never been.

Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life—gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises. When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God—it is only believing our belief about Him. Jesus said, “. . . unless you . . . become as little children . . .” (Matthew 18:3). The spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next. If our certainty is only in our beliefs, we develop a sense of self-righteousness, become overly critical, and are limited by the view that our beliefs are complete and settled. But when we have the right relationship with God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy. Jesus said, “. . . believe also in Me” (John 14:1), not, “Believe certain things about Me”. Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in—but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him.

Hebrews 9:23—10:18 (Good News Translation)

God’s Word: Giving Us Hope

From: American Bible.org.

Introduction

Hebrews 9:23—10:18: From today’s reading we learn that following the sacrificial rituals according to the Law cannot cleanse us from sin but only serve to remind us of our sins. Rather, we are saved because Christ offered himself once for all.

Today’s Scripture: Hebrews 10:12a

Christ, however, offered one sacrifice for sins, an offering that is effective forever.

Today’s Reading

23 Those things, which are copies of the heavenly originals, had to be purified in that way. But the heavenly things themselves require much better sacrifices. 24 For Christ did not go into a Holy Place made by human hands, which was a copy of the real one. He went into heaven itself, where he now appears on our behalf in the presence of God. 25 The Jewish high priest goes into the Most Holy Place every year with the blood of an animal. But Christ did not go in to offer himself many times, 26 for then he would have had to suffer many times ever since the creation of the world. Instead, now when all ages of time are nearing the end, he has appeared once and for all, to remove sin through the sacrifice of himself. 27 Everyone must die once, and after that be judged by God. 28 In the same manner Christ also was offered in sacrifice once to take away the sins of many. He will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are waiting for him. 1 The Jewish Law is not a full and faithful model of the real things; it is only a faint outline of the good things to come. The same sacrifices are offered forever, year after year. How can the Law, then, by means of these sacrifices make perfect the people who come to God? 2 If the people worshiping God had really been purified from their sins, they would not feel guilty of sin any more, and all sacrifices would stop. 3 As it is, however, the sacrifices serve year after year to remind people of their sins. 4 For the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins. 5 For this reason, when Christ was about to come into the world, he said to God:“You do not want sacrifices and offerings,but you have prepared a body for me.6 You are not pleased with animals burned whole on the altaror with sacrifices to take away sins.7 Then I said, ‘Here I am,to do your will, O God, just as it is written of me in the book of the Law.’” 8 First he said, “You neither want nor are you pleased with sacrifices and offerings or with animals burned on the altar and the sacrifices to take away sins.” He said this even though all these sacrifices are offered according to the Law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, O God, to do your will.” So God does away with all the old sacrifices and puts the sacrifice of Christ in their place. 10 Because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do, we are all purified from sin by the offering that he made of his own body once and for all. 11 Every Jewish priest performs his services every day and offers the same sacrifices many times; but these sacrifices can never take away sins. 12 Christ, however, offered one sacrifice for sins, an offering that is effective forever, and then he sat down at the right side of God. 13 There he now waits until God puts his enemies as a footstool under his feet. 14 With one sacrifice, then, he has made perfect forever those who are purified from sin. 15 And the Holy Spirit also gives us his witness. First he says,16 “This is the covenant that I will make with themin the days to come, says the Lord:I will put my laws in their heartsand write them on their minds.” 17 And then he says, “I will not remember their sins and evil deeds any longer.” 18 So when these have been forgiven, an offering to take away sins is no longer needed.

 

April 29
Strangers and pilgrims

From: Christianity.com
For reading & meditation: Hebrews 11:8-16
“‘ Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (v.16)

We continue meditating on the fact that one of the reasons why we find it so difficult to cope with ambiguity and uncertainty is because we have never really died to self-interest. We are more concerned about our own purposes than we are about His – hence we are uncertain and insecure. Today we look at Abraham and the way he handled his situation of ambiguity and uncertainty. He was almost seventy-five years old when God called him to step out on the pathway of uncertainty. There he was, loading up his camel caravan with his wife and nephew, bound for ‘somewhere’. The Amplified Bible puts if most effectively when it says: “‘ he went, although he did not know or trouble his mind about where he was to go.” Charles Swindoll humorously pictures a conversation between Abraham and his neighbours going something like this: “Abraham, where are your going?” “I’m moving.” “Why? Why ever would you want to leave Ur?” “God has made it clear that I should go.” “God? You’ve been talking to Him again?” “Right. He told me to leave. I must go.” “Well, where are you going?” “I don’t know; He didn’t tell me that.” “Wait a minute, you know you ought to go, but you don’t know where you ought to go?” “Yes.” “Abraham, you really have gone off the deep end.” And so it continues. It isn’t easy to obey without understanding. It is the same thing that we talked about two days ago: going – without knowing. It might help to remind ourselves of the term God sometimes uses to describe us – strangers and pilgrims. People on the move, free to follow Him wherever He leads – regardless.

 

Under His Care

From: Christianity.com

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” says the Lord. – (Isaiah 54:17)

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus made a fascinating statement that some have misunderstood. Speaking of believers, He said, “They will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:18). Some, of course, have misunderstood this and have held snake-handling services. But that is not trusting the Lord; it is testing the Lord.

Here is what this statement does mean: If you are a Christian, then you are indestructible until God is done with you. There is a day appointed for your death. And you really have nothing to say about when that day is.

Case in point: Paul the apostle was shipwrecked on an island, and as he was warming himself by the fire, a venomous snake bit him. So he simply picked it up and threw it into the fire. Everyone was waiting for Paul to die, but he didn’t die. Why? His time was not up. But when your time is up, it’s up. And Paul’s day eventually came.

Before that day, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper,” as Isaiah 54:17 says. That means God will keep you and protect you. Even if there is some plot against you, it will not succeed if that is not your time.

So stop worrying about when you will die because you have nothing to say about it. It isn’t up to you. The Bible says, “And  as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Does that mean you can eat anything you want? I think you should exercise and eat properly. That will improve the quality of your life. But ultimately, the quantity is up to God.

April 29
From: Christianity.com
Morning …
Jeremiah 17:17
Thou art my hope in the day of evil.
The path of the Christian is not always bright with sunshine; he has his seasons of darkness and of storm. True, it is written in God’s Word, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace;” and it is a great truth, that religion is calculated to give a man happiness below as well as bliss above; but experience tells us that if the course of the just be “As the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day,” yet sometimes that light is eclipsed. At certain periods clouds cover the believer’s sun, and he walks in darkness and sees no light. There are many who have rejoiced in the presence of God for a season; they have basked in the sunshine in the earlier stages of their Christian career; they have walked along the “green pastures” by the side of the “still waters,” but suddenly they find the glorious sky is clouded; instead of the Land of Goshen they have to tread the sandy desert; in the place of sweet waters, they find troubled streams, bitter to their taste, and they say, “Surely, if I were a child of God, this would not happen.” Oh! say not so, thou who art walking in darkness. The best of God’s saints must drink the wormwood; the dearest of His children must bear the cross. No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.

What Will We Get?

 

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What You Will Get

This is the firm and immovable secret of the Lord to those who trust Him— “I will give your life to you . . . .” What more does a man want than his life? It is the essential thing. “. . . your life . . . as a prize . . .” means that wherever you may go, even if it is into hell, you will come out with your life and nothing can harm it. So many of us are caught up in exhibiting things for others to see, not showing off property and possessions, but our blessings. All these things that we so proudly show have to go. But there is something greater that can never go— the life that “is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

Are you prepared to let God take you into total oneness with Himself, paying no more attention to what you call the great things of life? Are you prepared to surrender totally and let go? The true test of abandonment or surrender is in refusing to say, “Well, what about this?” Beware of your own ideas and speculations. The moment you allow yourself to think, “What about this?” you show that you have not surrendered and that you do not really trust God. But once you do surrender, you will no longer think about what God is going to do. Abandonment means to refuse yourself the luxury of asking any questions. If you totally abandon yourself to God, He immediately says to you, “I will give your life to you as a prize . . . .” The reason people are tired of life is that God has not given them anything— they have not been given their life “as a prize.” The way to get out of that condition is to abandon yourself to God. And once you do get to the point of total surrender to Him, you will be the most surprised and delighted person on earth. God will have you absolutely, without any limitations, and He will have given you your life. If you are not there, it is either because of disobedience in your life or your refusal to be simple enough.

The Good Old Days

 From: Get More Strength

“You have forsaken your first love.” Revelation 2:4

I must confess: I’m a romantic at heart, which means I love to hear stories of how people met and fell in love. What’s more, I love to hear stories of how they stay in love! Unfortunately, you don’t see too many 50th wedding anniversary celebrations these days.

Take Barb and Bob, for instance. Barb was a beauty queen who caught the eye of Bob, a talented athlete. It was love at first sight and romance at its best. Bob took great pride in his home and marriage, reveling in the fact that he was free to be a success in his profession because of his wife’s good work at home. She kept house, chauffeured the children, cooked, and accompanied him to social events.  Without realizing it, however, Bob was shifting from a vibrant relationship with his wife to a complacent involvement with the “institution of marriage” and the organization called home. The intimacy of their love for each other was fading, until one night Bob confessed that he had in fact lost his love for Barb.

If we’re not careful, the same shift over time can happen in our relationship with Jesus. It’s fresh and exciting at first, but after a while we find ourselves more into the “routines” of Christianity than into the Redeemer Himself. You know the routines—the things we started doing out of love for Jesus that now are done simply out of habit or, worse, guilt. Routines of teaching, Bible reading, prayer, witnessing, counseling, missions, note taking, conferences, and camps are all admirable; yet they can become dry habits if they are merely rituals without relationship.

In Revelation 2:1-29, Jesus is concerned about this slide from relationship to ritual in the lives of his followers at Ephesus. He notes that they are doing all the right things for the wrong reasons. They have, according to Jesus, lost their first love. But they had not simply lost it; our text says that they had abandoned it. Evidently, after falling in love with Jesus, their lives became distracted by the lesser things of this world, and “Jesus” became just another thing in their day-timer as they ticked off their to-do lists. Maybe you can identify.

So how do we keep that from happening? Here’s what Jesus tells the Ephesians to do: Repent! As He put it: “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Revelation 2:5). Jesus knows that duty without devotion is a mundane low-level experience compared to the heights of doing things that flow out of a heart that loves Him.

So He lovingly calls us to repent. Repentance literally means to turn around and go in the opposite direction. Thinking of your devotions and prayer life as a time of personal interaction with Jesus, of serving Him in your church as an act of worship to Him, of giving because you love Him, and of obeying because He is a leader you want to follow are all the kinds of change in attitudes that will recapture your first love for Jesus.

There are some things in life that we can never get back: our youth, the thrill of our first kiss, or our carefree college days. But doing all that we do because we love Jesus is a joy that can be reclaimed.

If you’re talking about loving Jesus the way you used to, then let’s hear it for the “good old days”!

 

Joshua Blessed Caleb

From: Through The Bible

Joshua 14:13-14 (NIV) 13Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly.

Caleb reminisced about spying out the Promised Land some 45 years earlier with Joshua. He reminded Joshua about how faithful he was to report that they could take the land because he had godly convictions. Then he reminded Joshua about the promise Moses had made to him. He could have whatever land he walked on. Caleb picked the Hebron area. There were still fortified cities with giants in them, but Caleb knew the LORD was with him. He felt as strong at 85 as he did at 40.

Joshua blessed Caleb and honored Moses promise, because Caleb wholeheartedly followed the God of Israel. It sounds like Caleb was going to take the area with his own clan, without the assistance of the other tribes. What a guy! 85 and he’s ready to take on giants and start a new homestead.

What was Caleb’s secret? He wholeheartedly followed the God of Israel. He stuck with his convictions in spite of what the majority said. He did not fear but recognized the hand of God was with him, no rationalization, no justification, just convictions backed up by action.

Do you have a spirit like Caleb’s? Why not? He wasn’t born with it. It was instilled in him, because he was willing.

Meditation: The LORD rewards those who follow Him with their whole heart.

Sovereign Lord
From:  Through The Bible

Luke 2:29-32 (NIV) 29″Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 30For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

When God delivered Israel from the last plague on Egypt, He spared the firstborn through the blood of the lambs on the doorposts. From that time forward, God claimed the rights to every firstborn male. The parents had to buy back the child with an offering. Mary and Joseph had gone to the temple to give this offering. When they arrived, a man named Simeon greeted them. He was not like the ritualistic religious leaders of his day. He communed with the Holy Spirit. It was revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the Anointed One that would save his people.

When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the temple, Simeon knew in his spirit that this baby was the One. He uttered the prophecy in our passage for today. He had seen the One, and now he was ready to die. He saw the salvation that God prepared right before everyone’s eyes. This is the One that would fulfill the prophecies of being a light to the nations of the world, and the glory of God’s people, Israel.

What a special person this man was. Only one other person had the insight in the Temple that day. His whole life was waiting for the arrival of God’s salvation, Jesus. Just to see that He had come was enough for him. It should be enough for us too. Just to know that God has provided a way, that He loved us so much that He sent His only Son, should be enough to satisfy us. Simeon’s whole being longed for the moment of His coming.

Consider: Today we are to long, with the same intensity, for His return. Come quickly Lord Jesus! Is that your heart’s cry?

Learning To Love

 

loving people : Couple cuddling and flirting in a park with a green unfocused background           loving people : Man and woman playing on beach
loving people : Family Group Relaxing Outdoors In Autumn Landscapeloving people : Man and woman playing on beach
loving people : Lovely young couple resting together on a wooden bench in the park; basket with freshly cut flowers next to themloving people : Young mother with her baby studio shot
loving people : Loving Couple at outdoor during sunsetloving people : Portrait Of Happy Young Couple Lying On Grass And Enjoying Wine
loving people : beuatiful caucasian young couple wearing a sweater with hearts on itloving people : young affectionate couple embracing in park in autumn

Learning To Love

When Hans Egede went to Greenland as a missionary in 1721, he didn’t know the Inuit language. His temperament was often overbearing, and he struggled to be kind to the people.

In 1733, a smallpox epidemic swept through Greenland, wiping out almost two-thirds of the Inuit people—and claiming Egede’s wife as well. This shared suffering melted Egede’s harsh demeanor, and he began to tirelessly labor to care for the people physically and spiritually. Because his life now better represented the stories he told them of God’s love, the Inuits could at last grasp His desire to love them too. Even in suffering, their hearts turned to God.

Perhaps you are like the Inuits in this story, and you are unable to see God in the people around you. Or perhaps you are like Hans Egede, who struggled to express love in a way that taught people about God. Knowing we are weak and needy people, God showed us what love is like. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins (John 3:16). That’s how much God loves you and me.

Jesus is the perfect example of the love that is described in 1 Corinthians 13. As we look to Him, we learn that we are loved and we learn how to love in turn.

Jesus, let me find in You a sense that I am
loved. And may my heart not grow cold and
cluttered by anger and wounds from the past so
that others can see Your reflection in me.
May I never be the barrier that blocks one’s view of God.

 

 

The Sticker Book
Micca Campbell

From: Crosswalk.com

“Do not deprive each other except 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.” 1 Corinthians 7:5 (NIV 1984)

It took creative measures to potty train our daughter. No sweet treat was good enough to get her ready for big-girl pants. It was going to take something she really loved to lure her into this next phase of life.

Suddenly, it came to me. My daughter loves stickers. This gave me a great idea. I hung a large poster board on the bathroom wall. With colorful markers, I divided the poster into weekly sections. In a basket on the floor, I placed an assortment of sparkly stickers.

Peyton’s eyes widened with excitement when I showed her the newly decorated bathroom. “Each time you go to the potty, I will give you a sticker to place on the poster board,” I explained. “When you get a certain amount of stickers, I’ll take you to the store where you can pick out a prize.”

I’ve never seen a diaper come off so quickly before in my life. The stickers were working!

My husband also noticed how well the training was going. One day, he came in from work and tossed a sticker book on the kitchen counter where I was preparing dinner. “What’s that?” I questioned.

“I noticed how the stickers were working for Peyton, and I thought maybe they’d work for you too,” he answered. I narrowed my eyes at him and thought, What is he up to?

“Every time you and I have a romantic night, I’ll give you a sticker to put in your sticker book. When you fill it up, I’ll take you anywhere in the world you want to go,” he continued with a huge grin on his face.

It’s not that I didn’t want to have romantic evenings with my husband, but most of the time tiredness trumped romance. You know what I mean?

As women, we wear a lot of hats that require much responsibility. We constantly pour ourselves out for others. At the end of the day, all I want is a soothing bath and a warm bed. I suppose my husband could interpret that the wrong way. He probably feels like he gets my leftovers. This is not God’s plan and it’s why He gave married couples this passage:

“The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except 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” (I Corinthians 7:4-5).

God knew both women and men would struggle in this area. Whatever the reason, withholding should be mutual, short-lived and discussed openly and privately between husband and wife. This helps both of you avoid temptation. Communication also helps your spouse hold on to his confidence when he knows the reason behind the struggle.

After I shared with my husband the cause for my tiredness, he started pitching in around the house. Nothing is more appealing than a man running the vacuum!

Working together can bring about great results. On the other hand, buying your spouse a sticker book might also move things in the right direction. The best reward, however, isn’t a big vacation. The best reward is sticking it out with my husband as we learn to communicate, work together and trust each other through the struggles of everyday life.

Dear Lord, my spouse is a gift from You. Give me the courage to talk honestly and openly with him. Use communication to deepen and strengthen our relationship in all areas. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

I AM Alive Through Christ

 From: Streams In The Desert

And the one who lives! I was dead, but look, now I am alive – forever and ever – and I hold the keys of death and of Hades! (Rev 1:18)

 

Flower! Easter lilies! Speak to me this morning the same dear old lesson of immortality which you have been speaking to so many sorrowing souls.

 

Wise old Book! let me read again in your pages of firm assurance that to die is gain.

 

Poets! recite to me your verses which repeat in every line the Gospel of eternal life.

 

Singers! break forth once more into songs of joy; let me hear again the well-known resurrection psalms.

 

Tree and blossom and bird and sea and sky and wind whisper it, sound it afresh, warble it, echo it, let it throb and pulsate through every atom and particle; let the air be filled with it.

 

Let it be told and retold and still retold until hope rises to conviction, and conviction to certitude of knowledge; until we, like Paul, even though going to our death, go with triumphant mien, with assured faith, and with serene and shining face.

 

O sad-faced mourners, who each day are wending

Through churchyard paths of cypress and of yew,

Leave for today the low graves you are tending,

And lift your eyes to God’s eternal blue!

 

It is no time for bitterness or sadness;

Twine Easter lilies, not pale asphodels;

Let your souls thrill to the caress of gladness,

And answer the sweet chime of Easter bells.

 

If Christ were still within the grave’s low prison,

A captive of the enemy we dread;

If from that moldering cell He had not risen,

Who then could chide the gloomy tears you shed?

 

If Christ were dead there would be need to sorrow,

But He has risen and vanquished death for aye;

Hush, then your sighs, if only till the morrow,

At Easter give your grief a holiday.

—May Riley Smith

 

A well-known minister was in his study writing an Easter sermon when the thought gripped him that his Lord was living. He jumped up excitedly and paced the floor repeating to himself, “Why Christ is alive, His ashes are warm, He is not the great ’I was,’ He is the great ’I am.’” He is not only a fact, but a living fact. Glorious truth of Easter Day!

 

We believe that out of every grave there blooms an Easter lily, and in every tomb there sits an angel. We believe in a risen Lord. Turn not your faces to the past that we may worship only at His grave, but above and within that we may worship the Christ that lives. And because He lives, we shall live also.
—Abbott

Bull’s-eye

From: GetMoreStrength.org

“…Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” Colossians 2:3

Here’s some bad news: left to ourselves, we’re not very good shots when it comes to living. We are, at the core, sinful, which explains why we lead such “ready-fire-aim” kind of lives. We are a lot like the village idiot who prided himself on being a great shot. After he shot his arrow at the side of the barn, he would then paint a bull’s-eye target around the arrow, painting the arrow into the center of the bull’s-eye.

But the bull’s-eye of life is not an I-want-my-life-to-be-like-this-thank-you barn-side painting. The bull’s-eye for life as it’s meant to be is already painted by the good and righteous ways of God. And since we are not inherently righteous, but rather fallen and frail, missing the target is a regular event.

In Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, the character named Cassius gets it right when he explains:

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Most of us excuse our miscues, or mistakes, by assigning them to fate and random bumps from the circumstances of life: “It’s not our fault. We’re victims. It’s in our stars.” But God’s take on our lives is that the fault does lie in us! Not that we are underlings as Cassius points out, but that we are born sinful, fallen, frail, and broken. By our very nature we’re wrong-headed. I have come to realize that my first instincts in a given situation are probably wrong. Granted, they don’t seem wrong. It seems right to get even; to stash away as much money as I can; to make sure that I am recognized and affirmed; to seek pleasure for myself; to live life to the full on my own terms; to do everything to dodge suffering and then resent it when suffering does invade my life; to try to be as strong as I can, because only the strong survive; and to yell at people who yell at me. But here is the warning: God says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12)! And we are reminded in Isaiah that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8).

So let’s fess up! We need help. Because we are bent in the wrong direction, we are in desperate need of God’s wisdom to live right-headedly. And, where is that wisdom found?

In Jesus!

Paul makes this clear when he writes that he desires that our hearts be encouraged so that we “may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that [we] may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).

Jesus knows the way. He has the wisdom to see life the way it should be lived. But beware! His wisdom will not seem right to you. He says to turn the other cheek, to die so that you can live, to give that you might gain, to forgive the same offense 490 times, to love your enemy, and to find meaning and productivity in suffering. Sound upside down to you? Sure it does. But it sounds that way, not because Jesus is upside down, but because we are.

The bull’s-eye of life is Jesus! Seek His wisdom and turn your “ready-fire-aim” life into blue- ribbon target shooting!

The Supreme Climb

 

A mountain climber reaching the top of a mountainClimber watching a glacier at sunrise
Lone climber reaching a mountain topLone climber in the Alps
Climbing Mt EverestDistant climber stands on mtn summit, looks out
Austria, Salzburg Country, Man hiking through Niedere Tauern mountains at sunrisethrowing
Hiker stands on pinnacle summit, arms outstretched

The Supreme Climb

A person’s character determines how he interprets God’s will (see Psalm 18:25-26). Abraham interpreted God’s command to mean that he had to kill his son, and he could only leave this traditional belief behind through the pain of a tremendous ordeal. God could purify his faith in no other way. If we obey what God says according to our sincere belief, God will break us from those traditional beliefs that misrepresent Him. There are many such beliefs which must be removed-for example, that God removes a child because his mother loves him too much. That is the devil’s lie and a travesty on the true nature of God! If the devil can hinder us from taking the supreme climb and getting rid of our wrong traditional beliefs about God, he will do so. But if we will stay true to God, God will take us through an ordeal that will serve to bring us into a better knowledge of Himself.

The great lesson to be learned from Abraham’s faith in God is that he was prepared to do anything for God. He was there to obey God, no matter what contrary belief of his might be violated by his obedience. Abraham was not devoted to his own convictions or else he would have slain Isaac and said that the voice of the angel was actually the voice of the devil. That is the attitude of a fanatic. If you will remain true to God, God will lead you directly through every barrier and right into the inner chamber of the knowledge of Himself. But you must always be willing to come to the point of giving up your own convictions and traditional beliefs. Don’t ask God to test you. Never declare as Peter did that you are willing to do anything, even “to go . . . both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). Abraham did not make any such statement— he simply remained true to God, and God purified his faith.

For Just Such a Time

From: Christianity.com

“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” – (Esther 4:14)

I love the story of Esther because in some ways, it reminds me of a fairy tale, except it is true. Esther was a beautiful Jewish girl who was plucked from obscurity, won a beauty contest, and became the queen of the kingdom. Then there was a wicked man named Haman, who hatched a plot to have all of the Jews put to death. It was Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, who came to her and described the plight of her fellow Jews, saying, “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

Esther was the queen who saved a nation. She used her influence with the king, the plot was averted, and the people were saved. Then, in perfect poetic justice, Haman, the guy who hatched the plot, ended up hanging on the very gallows he had erected for others. She was there behind the scenes. Esther could have said, “I don’t want to jeopardize my position. No one will ever find out I am a Jew. I am going to be careful and play it safe.” But instead, she put everything on the line.

Who knows that God has not put you where you are right now for such a time as this? You may be the only Christian in your family or the only believer in your neighborhood. You may be the only follower of Jesus Christ in your workplace or in your classroom. Like Esther, will you stand up for such a time as this? Will you use your influence where you can, when you can?

April 26

From: Through The Bible

Joshua 9:14-15 (NIV) 14The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD. 15Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.

After Israel conquered Ai, the Hivites that occupied nearby towns concocted a deception to save their lives. They sent a group of men that pretended they had come on a long journey. They had bags of moldy bread and looked travel weary. Actually they were the next towns that Israel would battle.

The leaders of Israel saw the dry wineskins, the patched sandals, and the worn bags with moldy bread and believed their story. Besides, it was kind of uplifting to hear how people in far off lands had heard the testimony of what God was doing for them. Great testimony wasn’t it?

They ate together and made a treaty with these deceivers. They had believed what their eyes had seen instead of consulting with the LORD. Now there was nothing they could do but put those people to work serving Israel. They could not take their lands as God had purposed for them.

Satan is the Great Deceiver. He often brings in subtle lies that make you feel good about yourself. It may even look like it is giving glory to God. We must consult the LORD. We must ask God to lead and not be led by our natural senses. We are easily tricked, but God is never deceived. He will always give us the best advice. It may not be a total loss, but it is not the highest and best that God had planned for us. Consult God in His Word, in prayer, through godly counsel and walk by faith not by sight.

Consider: Am I trusting God, or my senses?

God’s MIghty Deeds

Luke 1:51-53 (NIV) 51He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

Today’s passage is the rest of Mary’s Holy Spirit inspired song upon meeting her cousin Elizabeth. (see April 25 evening) This was an amazing event in history. The woman whose womb holds the forerunner of the Messiah and the last Old Testament prophet had just met her cousin whose womb held the Messiah. They were both filled with the Spirit and uttered prophetic words. Mary’s words are believed to have originally come forth as a song.

In the latter half of the song, we have the passage for today. It is a sweeping view of the work of God. It gives us a principle of the way God works. God is writing history by His mighty acts. Those who are proud, even secretly within their hearts, are scattered. Pride is such an offense to God because He knows how utterly needy and poor man is. Pride denies the true condition of man and the wonder of God. God takes the rulers off their thrones and lifts up the humble. The people who think they have power find that God can take that power from them in a moment. It is the humble that find themselves exalted.

Near Bethlehem is Herod’s incredible structure, the Herodium. Like a giant hill on the landscape, this towering circular structure is an architectural wonder. Underneath it are vast cisterns for water storage. Before it was a giant water arena in which sea battles were performed that included hippos. Surely the King of the Jews would be born in such a magnificent place. No, the incarnate God was born in the shadow of this structure in a little rock grotto. The humble unknown woman from Nazareth, a tiny, despised town in the far north, gave birth to the God-man, Jesus. God lifted up the humble.

Those who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness will be filled. They know they are needy. They know God is great. They know He is their only hope. They touch reality. May we all lose our pride in recognition of the reality of our sinful condition and the awesome sufficiency of God.

Consider: Your view of this reality will determine whether you go away hungry or filled.

Hebrews 7:1-28 (Good News Translation)

From; American Bible Society

God’s Word: Giving Us Hope

Introduction

Hebrews 7:1-28: God sent Jesus to make a new agreement with God’s people. In it God makes a new promise that goes beyond the promises God gave to Moses and the people of Israel. The old agreement was based on the Law, but the new agreement is based on Christ’s sacrifice to take away sins.

Today’s Scripture: Hebrews 7:26a

Jesus, then, is the High Priest that meets our needs. He is holy; he has no fault or sin in him.

Today’s Reading

1 This Melchizedek was king of Salem and a priest of the Most High God. As Abraham was coming back from the battle in which he defeated the four kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him, 2 and Abraham gave him one tenth of all he had taken. (The first meaning of Melchizedek’s name is “King of Righteousness”; and because he was king of Salem, his name also means “King of Peace.”) 3 There is no record of Melchizedek’s father or mother or of any of his ancestors; no record of his birth or of his death. He is like the Son of God; he remains a priest forever. 4 You see, then, how great he was. Abraham, our famous ancestor, gave him one tenth of all he got in the battle. 5 And those descendants of Levi who are priests are commanded by the Law to collect one tenth from the people of Israel, that is, from their own people, even though they are also descendants of Abraham. 6 Melchizedek was not descended from Levi, but he collected one tenth from Abraham and blessed him, the man who received God’s promises. 7There is no doubt that the one who blesses is greater than the one who is blessed. 8 In the case of the priests the tenth is collected by men who die; but as for Melchizedek the tenth was collected by one who lives, as the scripture says. 9 And, so to speak, when Abraham paid the tenth, Levi (whose descendants collect the tenth) also paid it. 10 For Levi had not yet been born, but was, so to speak, in the body of his ancestor Abraham when Melchizedek met him. 11 It was on the basis of the levitical priesthood that the Law was given to the people of Israel. Now, if the work of the levitical priests had been perfect, there would have been no need for a different kind of priest to appear, one who is in the priestly order of Melchizedek, not of Aaron. 12 For when the priesthood is changed, there also has to be a change in the law. 13 And our Lord, of whom these things are said, belonged to a different tribe, and no member of his tribe ever served as a priest. 14 It is well known that he was born a member of the tribe of Judah; and Moses did not mention this tribe when he spoke of priests. 15 The matter becomes even plainer; a different priest has appeared, who is like Melchizedek. 16 He was made a priest, not by human rules and regulations, but through the power of a life which has no end. 17 For the scripture says, “You will be a priest forever, in the priestly order of Melchizedek.” 18 The old rule, then, is set aside, because it was weak and useless. 19 For the Law of Moses could not make anything perfect. And now a better hope has been provided through which we come near to God. 20 In addition, there is also God’s vow. There was no such vow when the others were made priests. 21 But Jesus became a priest by means of a vow when God said to him,“The Lord has made a solemn promiseand will not take it back:“You will be a priest forever.””22 This difference, then, also makes Jesus the guarantee of a better covenant. 23 There is another difference: there were many of those other priests, because they died and could not continue their work. 24But Jesus lives on forever, and his work as priest does not pass on to someone else. 25 And so he is able, now and always, to save those who come to God through him, because he lives forever to plead with God for them. 26 Jesus, then, is the High Priest that meets our needs. He is holy; he has no fault or sin in him; he has been set apart from sinners and raised above the heavens. 27 He is not like other high priests; he does not need to offer sacrifices every day for his own sins first and then for the sins of the people. He offered one sacrifice, once and for all, when he offered himself. 28 The Law of Moses appoints men who are imperfect to be high priests; but God’s promise made with the vow, which came later than the Law, appoints the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

Reflect

In biblical times, priests made sacrifices as an act of thanksgiving and also to seek God’s forgiveness for the sins of the people. According to verses 20-28, what is the difference between the sacrifice Jesus offered and the ones offered by the priests and high priests of Israel? What does Jesus’ sacrifice mean to you?

Choose Life

 

Choose Life

From: Our Daily Bread
Choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love theLord your God, that you may obey His voice. —Deuteronomy 30:19-20
Bible in a Year:
1 Samuel 4-6; Luke 9:1-17

What is God’s will for my life? The question haunted me when I was growing up. What if I couldn’t find it? What if I didn’t recognize it? God’s will seemed like a needle in a haystack. Hidden. Obscured by lookalikes. Outnumbered by counterfeits.

But my view of God’s will was wrong because my view of God was wrong. God takes no pleasure in seeing us lost, wandering, searching. He wants us to know His will. He makes it clear, and He makes it simple. He doesn’t even make it multiple-choice. He gives just two choices: “life and good” or “death and evil” (Deut. 30:15). In case the best choice isn’t obvious, He even says which one to choose: “Choose life” (v.19). To choose life is to choose God Himself and obey His Word.

When Moses addressed the Israelites for the last time, he pleaded with them to make the right choice by observing “all the words of this law. . . . Because it is your life” (32:46-47). God’s will for us is life. His Word is life. And Jesus is the Word. God may not give a prescription for every decision, but He gave us a perfect example to follow—Jesus. The right choice may not be easy, but when the Word is our guide and worship is our goal, God will grant us the wisdom to make life-affirming choices.

Lord Jesus, we know that true wisdom comes
from leaning on You. Help us to trust in
You and to seek Your face and Your will
that we find in Your life-giving Word.
The evidence of God’s guidance can be seen more clearly by looking back than by looking forward.

 

The Collision of God and Sin

From:  My Utmost For His HIghest

. . . who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree . . . —1 Peter 2:24

The Cross of Christ is the revealed truth of God’s judgment on sin. Never associate the idea of martyrdom with the Cross of Christ. It was the supreme triumph, and it shook the very foundations of hell. There is nothing in time or eternity more absolutely certain and irrefutable than what Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross— He made it possible for the entire human race to be brought back into a right-standing relationship with God. He made redemption the foundation of human life; that is, He made a way for every person to have fellowship with God.

The Cross was not something that happened to Jesus— He came to die; the Cross was His purpose in coming. He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). The incarnation of Christ would have no meaning without the Cross. Beware of separating “God was manifested in the flesh. . .” from “. . . He made Him. . . to be sin for us. . .” (1 Timothy 3:16 ; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The purpose of the incarnation was redemption. God came in the flesh to take sin away, not to accomplish something for Himself. The Cross is the central event in time and eternity, and the answer to all the problems of both.

The Cross is not the cross of a man, but the Cross of God, and it can never be fully comprehended through human experience. The Cross is God exhibiting His nature. It is the gate through which any and every individual can enter into oneness with God. But it is not a gate we pass right through; it is one where we abide in the life that is found there.

The heart of salvation is the Cross of Christ. The reason salvation is so easy to obtain is that it cost God so much. The Cross was the place where God and sinful man merged with a tremendous collision and where the way to life was opened. But all the cost and pain of the collision was absorbed by the heart of God.

The Search For Satisfaction

From: GetMoreStrength.org
Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? —Isaiah 55:2When it comes to jigsaw puzzles, we all know that to enjoy a satisfying outcome you need all the pieces. In many ways, life is like that. We spend our days putting it together, hoping to create a complete picture out of all the scattered parts.

Yet sometimes it seems like a piece is missing. Perhaps we’ve been pursuing the wrong pieces to the puzzle. Even though we may know that life without God at the center is a life that has lost the most important piece, do we live as though He isn’t particularly relevant? And even though we may attend church regularly, is He the throbbing center of our lives? Sometimes we grow accustomed to feeling distant from God. This makes it easier to sin, complicating the sense that something important is missing.

But no matter how far we may drift from God, He wants us near. He appealed to His people through the prophet Isaiah: “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance” (Isa. 55:2).

If something is missing in your life, remember that God is the only One who can fully and abundantly satisfy you. Let Him complete the picture of your life.

The God-shaped void within our heart
Cannot be filled by treasure;
It’s only God who satisfies
In ways we cannot measure. —Sper

There’s a longing in every heart that only Jesus can satisfy.

The Souls Payment – Jesus

 

Mind the Checks

Our Daily Bread

“And after the earthquake a fire; and after the fire a sound of gentle stillness” (1 Kings 19:12, RV margin.)

A soul, who made rapid progress in her understanding of the Lord, was once asked the secret of her easy advancement. She replied tersely, “Mind the checks.”

And the reason that many of us do not know and better understand Him is, we do not give heed to His gentle checks, His delicate restraints and constraints. His is a still, small voice. A still voice can hardly be heard. It must be felt. A steady, gentle pressure upon the heart and mind like the touch of a morning zephyr to your face. A small voice, quietly, almost timidly spoken in your heart, but if heeded growing noiselessly clearer to your inner ear. His voice is for the ear of love, and love is intent upon hearing even faintest whispers.

There comes a time also when love ceases to speak if not responded to, or believed in. He is love, and if you would know Him and His voice, give constant ear to His gentle touches. In conversation, when about to utter some word, give heed to that gentle voice, mind the check and refrain from speech. When about to pursue some course that seems all clear and right and there comes quietly to your spirit a suggestion that has in it the force almost of a conviction, give heed, even if changed plans seem highest folly from standpoint of human wisdom.

Learn also to wait on God for the unfolding of His will. Let God form your plans about everything in your mind and heart and then let Him execute them. Do not possess any wisdom of your own. For many times His execution will seem so contradictory to the plan He gave. He will seem to work against Himself. Simply listen, obey and trust God even when it seems highest folly so to do. He will in the end make “all things work together,” but so many times in the first appearance of the outworking of His plans,

“In His own world He is content
To play a losing game.”

So if you would know His voice, never consider results or possible effects. Obey even when He asks you to move in the dark. He Himself will be gloriously light in you. And there will spring up rapidly in your heart an acquaintanceship and a fellowship with God which will be overpowering in itself to hold you and Him together, even in severest testings and under most terrible pressures.
–Way of Faith

 

The bottom line

Ecclesiastes 7:1-4
Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies—so the living should take this to heart (Ecclesiastes 7:2).

Pray Psalm 23:1-6 to the Lord. What truth from this psalm will you lean on today?

List the enemies that Jesus has defeated for you. How might these victories encourage you in the problems you still face?

While in college, the great missionary Adoniram Judson lost his faith when he fell under the spell of Jacob Eames, a deist who believed that God never interferes in our lives. When he was on a trip, Judson stayed at a village inn next door to a man who was dying. The man’s groans kept Judson awake and he began to think about death. Was he ready to meet God? The next morning Judson learned that the man had died. He asked the innkeeper if he knew who the man was. “Oh yes. Young man from the college in Providence. Name was Eames . . . Jacob Eames.”

Judson was shaken. He realized that deism had failed Eames, just as it would fail him in his moment of death. The time was up for intellectual games. He needed to live for the One who had beaten death.

No one likes to think about death, but if we don’t talk about it we’ll have nothing to say when we talk about Jesus. Hebrews 2:14-15 explains that Jesus came to defeat death. He became a man so He could “break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.”

If you have never feared dying, there’s little chance you’ve given your life to Jesus. Why would you? You aren’t troubled by the problem that He came to solve. But if you’ve been bothered by the thought of death—realizing that it’s the demonic intruder that has come to destroy you—then it’s likely you already know that your hope is found in Jesus alone. No one else even claims to have conquered death on your behalf. “Thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Our Co-Pilot?

 Get More Strength.com

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. —Galatians 2:20

The bumper sticker “Jesus is my co-pilot” may be a well-intentioned sentiment, but it has always troubled me. Whenever I’m in the driver’s seat of my life, the destination is nowhere good. Jesus is not meant to be just a spiritual “co-pilot” giving directions every now and then. He is always meant to be in the driver’s seat. Period!

We often say that Jesus died for us, which of course is true. But there’s more to it than that. Because Jesus died on the cross, something inside of us died—the power of sin. It’s what Paul meant when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). We were essentially co-crucified with Him. With Jesus in the driver’s seat, the old destinations are off-limits. No more turning down the streets of self-centeredness, greed, or lust. No more off-road ventures into the swamp of pride or the ditch of bitterness. We were crucified with Him and He is at the wheel now! He died so that He alone can drive and define us.

So, if you’ve died and Christ lives in you, He’s not your co-pilot. Your joy is to let Him drive and define your life. There may be a few bumps in the road, but you can count on it—He’ll take you somewhere good.

Lord, I thank You for salvation,
For Your mercy, full and free;
Take my all in consecration,
Glorify Yourself in me. —Codner

Still at the wheel of your life? It’s time to let Jesus drive.

Show Your Faith

 

people showing faith

The Way to Permanent Faith

My Utmost For His HIghest

Indeed the hour is coming . . . that you will be scattered . . . —John 16:32

Jesus was not rebuking the disciples in this passage. Their faith was real, but it was disordered and unfocused, and was not at work in the important realities of life. The disciples were scattered to their own concerns and they had interests apart from Jesus Christ. After we have the perfect relationship with God, through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, our faith must be exercised in the realities of everyday life. We will be scattered, not into service but into the emptiness of our lives where we will see ruin and barrenness, to know what internal death to God’s blessings means. Are we prepared for this? It is certainly not of our own choosing, but God engineers our circumstances to take us there. Until we have been through that experience, our faith is sustained only by feelings and by blessings. But once we get there, no matter where God may place us or what inner emptiness we experience, we can praise God that all is well. That is what is meant by faith being exercised in the realities of life.

“. . . you . . . will leave Me alone.” Have we been scattered and have we left Jesus alone by not seeing His providential care for us? Do we not see God at work in our circumstances? Dark times are allowed and come to us through the sovereignty of God. Are we prepared to let God do what He wants with us? Are we prepared to be separated from the outward, evident blessings of God? Until Jesus Christ is truly our Lord, we each have goals of our own which we serve. Our faith is real, but it is not yet permanent. And God is never in a hurry. If we are willing to wait, we will see God pointing out that we have been interested only in His blessings, instead of in God Himself. The sense of God’s blessings is fundamental

“. . . be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Unyielding spiritual fortitude is what we need.

Crosswalk.com

I’m a Meddler
Lynn Cowell

“… aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (ESV)

I did it again. Stepped in to a situation that didn’t concern me. I told myself I was helping, but it wasn’t my place to speak up. As usual, it backfired.

Contemplating all that had happened that evening, Jesus spoke to me. Of course, not literally spoke to me, but He nudged my heart: You’re a meddler, Lynn, and you need to be done with it. When you meddle, you are not trusting. When you meddle, you are saying I can’t handle it. You know I can. So be done with it. No more.

I’m a meddler.

I like to say I’m a “fixer.” That’s what I have called it in the past, but truth is, that’s just a nicer way of putting it.

Not a gossiper. No, that is someone who intentionally separates and that’s not my heart. I want to help. Really I do.

I’m a meddler. Dictionary.com defines the verb “meddle” this way: “To involve oneself in a matter without right or invitation; interfere officiously and unwantedly.”

Without right or invitation. That’s what I do. Seeing an unhappy, unhealthy or unholy situation I listen to the whisper in my head. Since I see it, I think I’m instructed to do something about it.

But most often, I am not. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 4:11 says “… aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.”

My place is to be quiet and pray. But I still prefer to fix, manipulate and get involved.

In other words, I meddle.

So, there you have it. Now that I see my actions for what they are, it’s my responsibility to change. And in order to change, I will have to slow down before I take action or open my mouth. I’ll have to ask myself: Are you meddling?

Will I be tempted to meddle? Every day. Will I mess up? I hope not, but it’s highly probable. I’m human. My desire, though, is to mind my own affairs and let Jesus get involved. I will ask Him for prayers to pray, not words to say.

This change is going to be hard. But I know Jesus is serious about not meddling. Proverbs 26:17 says, “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears” (ESV). In other words, meddling isn’t smart! And that is not what I want to be; I want to be wise.

Any other meddlers out there? Can you think of times when you got involved and you shouldn’t have? Especially when the thing Jesus wanted you to do was to pray — and only pray? Let’s pray for each other and ask Jesus to open our eyes to see and leave our troubles up to Him.

Jesus, I’m a woman who wants to be a fixer. But that’s not really my place; it’s Yours. Open my eyes before I step in, and empower me to resist the temptation to get involved. Teach me to pray instead, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

April 4

Alone In The Desert

“And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place” (Luke 9:10).

In order to grow in grace, we must be much alone. It is not in society that the soul grows most vigorously. In one single quiet hour of prayer it will often make more progress than in days of company with others. It is in the desert that the dew falls freshest and the air is purest.
–Andrew Bonar

***

“Come ye yourselves apart and rest awhile,
Weary, I know it, of the press and throng,
Wipe from your brow the sweat and dust of toil,
And in My quiet strength again be strong.

“Come ye aside from all the world holds dear,
For converse which the world has never known,
Alone with Me, and with My Father here,
With Me and with My Father not alone.

“Come, tell Me all that ye have said and done,
Your victories and failures, hopes and fears.
I know how hardly souls are wooed and won:
My choicest wreaths are always wet with tears.

“Come ye and rest; the journey is too great,
And ye will faint beside the way and sink;
The bread of life is here for you to eat,
And here for you the wine of love to drink.

“Then fresh from converse with your Lord return,
And work till, daylight softens into even:
The brief hours are not lost in which ye learn
More of your Master and His rest in Heaven.”

You Need To Know

 

“If You Had Known!”

From: My Utmost For His Glory

If you had known . . . in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes —Luke 19:42

Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly and the city was stirred to its very foundations, but a strange god was there-the pride of the Pharisees. It was a god that seemed religious and upright, but Jesus compared it to “whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).

What is it that blinds you to the peace of God “in thisyour day”? Do you have a strange god-not a disgusting monster but perhaps an unholy nature that controls your life? More than once God has brought me face to face with a strange god in my life, and I knew that I should have given it up, but I didn’t do it. I got through the crisis “by the skin of my teeth,” only to find myself still under the control of that strange god. I am blind to the very things that make for my own peace. It is a shocking thing that we can be in the exact place where the Spirit of God should be having His completely unhindered way with us, and yet we only make matters worse, increasing our blame in God’s eyes.

“If you had known . . . .” God’s words here cut directly to the heart, with the tears of Jesus behind them. These words imply responsibility for our own faults. God holds us accountable for what we refuse to see or are unable to see because of our sin. And “now they are hidden from your eyes” because you have never completely yielded your nature to Him. Oh, the deep, unending sadness for what might have been! God never again opens the doors that have been closed. He opens other doors, but He reminds us that there are doors which we have shut-doors which had no need to be shut. Never be afraid when God brings back your past. Let your memory have its way with you. It is a minister of God bringing its rebuke and sorrow to you. God will turn what might have been into a wonderful lesson of growth for the future.

To The Rescue

From: getmorestrength.org

There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. —Luke 15:7

Martie and I recently traveled to some major cities in several countries. We were struck with how lost our world is and grieved over the millions who have never heard the message of the saving grace of Jesus. The thought of reaching our world for Christ felt overwhelming.

Until I remembered the story of the boy walking on a beach. Encountering hundreds of starfish dying under the heat of the burning sun, he started throwing them back into the sea. A passerby asked, “What are you doing?” “Saving their lives,” the boy replied. “Forget it,” the man said. “You can’t possibly save all these starfish.” “Right,” replied the boy, “but it makes a big difference to each one I do save.”

I love the boy’s perspective. When the wave of sin threw us onto the shore to die, God sent His Son to walk on the beach to rescue all who would repent. And, as Jesus told His listeners in Luke 15, each time someone is rescued, heaven throws a party. “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).

Has heaven rejoiced over your rescue? If so, join the ranks of those who reach other lost souls with the rescuing grace of Jesus.

Your love, O God, would spare no pain
To conquer death and win;
You sent Your only Son to die
To rescue us from sin. —M. Gustafson

When you’ve been rescued, you’ll want to rescue others.

 

Jesus weeps

From: Our Daily Journey

Luke 19:41-44
As [Jesus] came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep (Luke 19:41).

What is your response to God’s appeal in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 andHebrews 3:7-15?

How does the fact that Jesus wept affect your view of Him and His love for you? What will you do to bring honor and glory to Him this week?

It happens often at weddings. The mother of the bride can be seen quietly sobbing. Her tears are a fitting response to the coming of age of her daughter and the memories of the years she had nutured her.

The Jews were celebrating the coming of their long-awaited king (Luke 19:35-38). Yet Jesus was weeping, the second time He had wept openly. At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus wept (John 11:35). Here He was crying audibly (Luke 19:41).

But why? His people had rejected Him. They sought political freedom. But Jesus came to deliver them from their sins and to offer them peace with God by way of the cross—not the crown.

Jesus looked at their past. God had raised many prophets, calling His people to repent. But they had killed the prophets (Luke 11:48Luke 13:34). Jesus looked at thepresent religiosity and piety that had accomplished little. The city was filled with pilgrims commemorating a sacred festival, but it was empty worship. Their temple had become a den of thieves (Luke 19:46). Jesus looked at the future. He saw the death, destruction, and devastation that would come to the people and city (Luke 19:43-44).

The Lord had lovingly and persistently pursued them, but they “were not willing!” (Luke 13:34 NIV). Jesus wept because His own people had rejected Him as their Messiah (Luke 19:14John 1:11). Israel had wasted and exhausted her opportunities. “Now it [was] too late” (Luke 19:42). “Because [they] did not accept [their] opportunity for salvation” (Luke 19:44), only the fearful prospect of judgment was in view. Forty years later, the Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.

Jesus weeps for you if you haven’t received His free gift of salvation. But it’s not too late!

Grow In God’s Strength

Grow in His Strength
From: Streams In The Desert
“As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange God with him” (Deut. 32:11, 12).Our Almighty Parent delights to conduct the tender nestlings of His care to the very edge of the precipice, and even to thrust them off into the steeps of air, that they may learn their possession of unrealized power of flight, to be forever a luxury; and if, in the attempt, they be exposed to unwonted peril, He is prepared to swoop beneath them, and to bear them upward on His mighty pinions. When God brings any of His children into a position of unparalleled difficulty, they may always count upon Him to deliver them.
–The Song of Victory

***

“When God puts a burden upon you He puts His own arm underneath.”

***

There is a little plant, small and stunted, growing under the shade of a broad-spreading oak; and this little plant values the shade which covers it, and greatly does it esteem the quiet rest which its noble friend affords. But a blessing is designed for this little plant.

Once upon a time there comes along the woodman, and with his sharp axe he fells the oak. The plant weeps and cries, “My shelter is departed; every rough wind will blow upon me, and every storm will seek to uproot me!”

“No, no,” saith the angel of that flower; “now will the sun get at thee; now will the shower fall on thee in more copious abundance than before; now thy stunted form shall spring up into loveliness, and thy flower, which could never have expanded itself to perfection shall now laugh in the sunshine, and men shall say, ‘How greatly hath that plant increased! How glorious hath become its beauty, through the removal of that which was its shade and its delight!'”

See you not, then, that God may take away your comforts and your privileges, to make you the better Christians? Why, the Lord always trains His soldiers, not by letting them lie on feather-beds, but by turning them out, and using them to forced marches and hard service. He makes them ford through streams, and swim through rivers, and climb mountains, and walk many a long march with heavy knapsacks of sorrow on their backs. This is the way in which He makes them soldiers–not by dressing them up in fine uniforms, to swagger at the barrack gates, and to be fine gentlemen in the eyes of the loungers in the park. God knows that soldiers are only to be made in battle; they are not to be grown in peaceful times. We may grow the stuff of which soldiers are made; but warriors are really educated by the smell of powder, in the midst of whizzing bullets and roaring cannonades, not in soft and peaceful times. Well, Christian, may not this account for it all? Is not thy Lord bringing out thy graces and making them grow? Is He not developing in you the qualities of the soldier by throwing you into the heat of battle, and should you not use every appliance to come off conqueror?
–Spurgeon


You’ve Got A Friend

[Jesus said,] “I have called you friends.” —John 15:15
Bible in a Year:
Judges 16-18; Luke 7:1-30

One of the ironic consequences of the sweeping growth of social media is that we often find ourselves more personally isolated. One online article warns: “Those who oppose leading one’s life primarily or exclusively online claim that virtual friends are not adequate substitutes for real-world friends, and . . . individuals who substitute virtual friends for physical friends become even lonelier and more depressive than before.”

Technology aside, all of us battle with seasons of loneliness, wondering if anyone knows, understands, or cares about the burdens we carry or the struggles we face. But followers of Christ have an assurance that brings comfort to our weary hearts. The comforting presence of the Savior is promised in words that are undeniable, for the psalmist David wrote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4).

Whether isolated by our own choices, by the cultural trends that surround us, or by the painful losses of life, all who know Christ can rest in the presence of the Shepherd of our hearts. What a friend we have in Jesus!

I’ve found a Friend; O such a Friend!
He loved me ere I knew Him;
He drew me with the cords of love,
And thus He bound me to Him. —Small
Those who know Jesus as their Friend are never alone.
No More Guilt-Induced Doubt
Renee SwopeFrom: Crosswalk.com

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)

Mom said she’d be gone all day, and she encouraged me to come over and use her place to write. In a quiet house, hopefully, I could finalize my message outlines for our church women’s retreat.

We arranged plans for my mom to be home at 5 p.m. Then my husband, J.J., would come over at 5:30 p.m. with our boys. The children could stay with Grandma while J.J. and I went to a surprise party.

Mom’s quiet house was just what I needed to get into a good studying and writing zone. It was the perfect setting … until she came home two hours early!

She brought cement pavers in and set them on the floor. She walked out and returned to plop bags of groceries in the kitchen … right where I was studying.

Normally this would have been fine, but I wasn’t done and I got the message that my time was up. Panic set in!

Then, to make matters worse, as I put my notes away I knocked a water bottle over onto my laptop. My chest tightened with anxiety, and my eyes stung with tears. My perfect day was turning into the perfect storm.

After mopping up the mess, I started getting ready for the party and waited for my husband to arrive. He didn’t show up at 5:30, or 5:40. He wasn’t answering his cell phone, and I didn’t want to ruin the surprise party by being late. So, at 6:00, I decided to take Mom’s car and have him meet me there.

Just as I was leaving, he drove up. Surprisingly, he didn’t look a bit hurried. In fact, my then 6-year-old son got out of the car first, walked up to me and said, “Daddy told us you would be mad!”

That was an understatement! Frustrated and angry, I decided it was still a good idea for me to leave. But when I pulled out of the driveway, my husband waved for me to stop and asked, “Aren’t you going to wait for me?”

“No,” I snapped. “Because you’re acting like a [beep].”

My 8-year-old son walked up and said, “Mommy! You just called Daddy a [beep].”

Suddenly guilt-induced doubt made me start questioning everything, including speaking at the retreat. I’m not cut out for this. I’m not godly enough. I must have heard God wrong. I have no business teaching a message I can’t even live.

My husband and I ended up going to the party together, with our fake “everything is fine” smiles. But the next morning at church, I went straight to my women’s ministry director, confessed what happened and told her I needed to step down from being the retreat speaker.

Her response shocked me: “Renee, if you don’t need this message as much as the women attending, then you are not qualified to teach it. But because you need it as much as we do, you are. You’ve been appointed and you are anointed to do this.”

I had never experienced such a demonstration of God’s grace.

That response showed me what it looks like to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

It’s hard to believe God could use us when we’re such a mess, yet the Bible is filled with stories of men and women He used greatly — despite their downfalls.

I ended up speaking at the retreat and shared what had happened. Although I feared some women might judge me, they loved me, accepting that I’m not perfect.

Although guilt can make us give up on ourselves, God won’t. Instead, He offers to take what feels like destruction and use it for reconstruction in our journey with Him.

When we confess our wrong thoughts, words, and actions and receive God’s forgiveness, our hearts can be set free from guilt-induced doubt and filled with grace-infused confidence.

Lord, I come to You today to receive Your mercy and find Your grace to help me. Please replace my guilt-induced doubt with Your grace-infused confidence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.