Tag Archives: salvation

Open Their Eyes With The Truth

The Two Kinds Of Blindness are natural, and spiritual.
Matthew 15:14

“Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

 
 
Isaiah 35:5

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.

 
Luke 6:39

And He also spoke a parable to them: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit?

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The Opened Sight

The Opened Sight

By Oswald Chambers

This verse is the greatest example of the true essence of the message of a disciple of Jesus Christ in all of the New Testament.

God’s first sovereign work of grace is summed up in the words, “…that they may receive forgiveness of sins….” When a person fails in his personal Christian life, it is usually because he has never received anything. The only sign that a person is saved is that he has received something from Jesus Christ. Our job as workers for God is to open people’s eyes so that they may turn themselves from darkness to light. But that is not salvation; it is conversion— only the effort of an awakened human being. I do not think it is too broad a statement to say that the majority of so-called Christians are like this. Their eyes are open, but they have received nothing. Conversion is not regeneration. This is a neglected fact in our preaching today. When a person is born again, he knows that it is because he has received something as a gift from Almighty God and not because of his own decision. People may make vows and promises, and may be determined to follow through, but none of this is salvation. Salvation means that we are brought to the place where we are able to receive something from God on the authority of Jesus Christ, namely, forgiveness of sins.

This is followed by God’s second mighty work of grace: “…an inheritance among those who are sanctified….” In sanctification, the one who has been born again deliberately gives up his right to himself to Jesus Christ, and identifies himself entirely with God’s ministry to others.

 

Kat Lee January 10, 2018
Leaning on God
KAT LEE

“The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)

As soon as he heard the gun, Derek ran as fast as his legs would carry him. A lifetime of hard work had come down to this moment.

It was the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, and Derek Redmond was Great Britain’s best hope for a medal in the 400-meter race. He started well, but at the 200-meter mark in the semifinal race, he suddenly collapsed in a heap on the ground, writhing in pain. As the other athletes passed him, leaving his hopes in their dust, Derek wrestled with the agony of a ripped hamstring.

Everything he’d worked for his entire life had ended. In an instant, his failure was final.

Derek wouldn’t win the race. He wouldn’t win an Olympic medal. It was over.

But as the other runners completed the race, Derek made a decision. He wouldn’t win, but he would finish.

Struggling to his feet, tears streaming down his face, Derek gripped his leg and began hobbling alone toward the finish line nearly 200 meters away. He took step after excruciating step, determined to finish what he had started all those years ago.

Slowly the crowd realized what was happening. A wave of cheers spread throughout the stadium, and by the hundreds, spectators rose to their feet. The announcers barely acknowledged the winner of the race, too choked up with emotion and focused on the greater story happening at 200-meters.

Then something even more incredible happened. There was a small commotion in the crowd. A man a little older (and a little grayer) than Derek pushed his way down to the railing. He jumped over the railing and on to the track, fighting past security guards and officials as he ran to his broken and beaten son. Derek’s father wrapped his arms around him in support and spoke words of love, hope and courage over him. You could see the relief wash over Derek’s face as he leaned on his father.

Together, they crossed the finish line.

Later, reporters swarmed the elder Mr. Redmond and asked what inspired him to push through the crowd, fight past security, and jump on to the track with his son. Mr. Redmond simply said, “I intended to go over the line with him. We started his career together; I think we should finish it together.”

It’s easy to believe the lie that we struggle alone. That somehow, in the midst of our failures, we can’t come close to the Father. That He’s distant and stands off at the finish line awaiting our triumphant victory.

But Zephaniah 3:17 reminds us of the truth: “The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Friend, this is true no matter where we are on our journeys with God. No matter how many times we’ve tried to spend time with Him, pray, or read His Word consistently and felt as if we’ve failed. No matter how broken and beaten we feel, we are never alone.

No, our faithful Father is fighting to come alongside us in the journey. He’s pushing past all the discouragements and distractions. Speaking words of love, hope and courage over us. He wraps His arms around us and walks side-by-side with us.

He knows us, our biggest dreams, our secret hopes and our desperate prayers. God offers a daily invitation to lean on Him instead of stumbling through life on our own.

There is a story He wants to redeem in each of our lives, a race He wants to run with us. All we need to do is lean on Him. Morning by morning.

Heavenly Father, thank You for meeting us where we are. May we relentlessly lean into You each morning. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

That’s Awesome!

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men. —Psalm 66:5

The word awesome is tossed around a lot these days. Talk about cars, movies, songs, or food—and somebody will say, “That’s awesome!”

But if we call earth-side stuff awesome and then call God awesome, we diminish how truly awesome He is. A friend of mine has a rule in her house—the word awesome is reserved only for God.

Trivializing God is no trivial matter. He is far more than a companion who will fit into our “buddy system” or a divine ATM responding to our impulses. Until we are stunned by the awesomeness of God, we will be way too impressed with ourselves and lose the joy of the privilege of belonging to an awesome God.

A look at the Psalms puts it all in perspective. One psalmist declares, “For the Lord Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth” (Ps. 47:2). And another psalm commands: “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works!’ . . . Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men” (Ps. 66:3,5).

What could be more awesome than the love that compelled Jesus to go to the cross for us? Put Him in His proper place as the only One who is truly awesome, and praise God for His awesome work in your life!

Holy, Holy, Holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Which wert and art and evermore shalt be. —Heber

If you’re too impressed with yourself, take a closer look at God’s awesomeness.

Created To Create

Psalm 8:1-9
You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority
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Created to Create

Created to Create

Read:

Psalm 8:1-9
You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority (Psalm 8:6).

In Ridley Scott’s film The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney undergoes a harrowing struggle to survive after being stranded on Mars. Using his skills as a botanist, Watney manages to create ingenious solutions for each crisis he faces. In one particularly compelling moment, Watney gazes in wonder at the first green sprout he’d managed to coax to life in the barren planet.

At least part of the appeal of Scott’s film is its compelling illustration of the joy human beings find in drawing beauty and life from the raw materials of creation. It makes sense that we’re drawn to such stories. Created in the image of a creative God (Genesis 1:26), each of us, whether or not we consider ourselves particularly creative, has a God-given ability to use what we’ve been given to contribute to this world.

For this is what God has always intended for us. Instead of making a final product with a “Do Not Touch!” sign, God designed creation itself to produce new life (Genesis 1:11,24) and entrusted human beings to further nurture and develop it (Genesis 1:26Genesis 2:15).

It might be hard to believe God would trust us with such a gift. As David mused in wonder, would the God whose “glory is higher than the heavens” really craft a magnificent creation and then allow “mere mortals” to be entrusted with it all? (Psalm 8:1,3-9). Our fears are not unfounded; the sobering reality is that because of human sin, creation suffers (Romans 8:20).

But our rock-solid hope is that God, in the person of Jesus, is restoring not only humanity but creation as well (Colossians 1:18-21). In Him, we can find the restoration and healing we need to once more take our rightful place in the work of stewarding His world.

 

TIMES HAVE CHANGED, BUT LIFE’S HARD TIMES HAVEN’T

From: Streams In The Desert, By: L.B. Cowman

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).

I kept for nearly a year the flask-shaped cocoon of an emperor moth. It is very peculiar in its construction. A narrow opening is left in the neck of the flask, through which the perfect insect forces its way, so that a forsaken cocoon is as entire as one still tenanted, no rupture of the interlacing fibers having taken place. The great disproportion between the means of egress and the size of the imprisoned insect makes one wonder how the exit is ever accomplished at all — and it never is without great labor and difficulty. It is supposed that the pressure to which the moth’s body is subjected in passing through such a narrow opening is a provision of nature for forcing the juices into the vessels of the wings, these being less developed at the period of emerging from the chrysalis than they are in other insects.

I happened to witness the first efforts of my prisoned moth to escape from its long confinement. During a whole forenoon, from time to time, I watched it patiently striving and struggling to get out. It never seemed able to get beyond a certain point, and at last my patience was exhausted. Very probably the confining fibers were drier and less elastic than if the cocoon had been left all winter on its native heather, as nature meant it to be. At all events I thought I was wiser and more compassionate than its Maker, and I resolved to give it a helping hand. With the point of my scissors I snipped the confining threads to make the exit just a very little easier, and lo! immediately, and with perfect case, out crawled my moth dragging a huge swollen body and little shrivelled wings. In vain I watched to see that marvelous process of expansion in which these silently and swiftly develop before one’s eyes; and as I traced the exquisite spots and markings of divers colors which were all there in miniature, I longed to see these assume their due proportions and the creature to appear in all its perfect beauty, as it is, in truth, one of the loveliest of its kind. But I looked in vain. My false tenderness had proved its ruin. It never was anything but a stunted abortion, crawling painfully through that brief life which it should have spent flying through the air on rainbow wings.

I have thought of it often, often, when watching with pitiful eyes those who were struggling with sorrow, suffering, and distress; and I would fain cut short the discipline and give deliverance. Short-sighted man! How know I that one of these pangs or groans could be spared? The far-sighted, perfect love that seeks the perfection of its object does not weakly shrink from present, transient suffering. Our Father’s love is too true to be weak. Because He loves His children, He chastises them that they may be partakers of His holiness. With this glorious end in view, He spares not for their crying. Made perfect through sufferings, as the Elder Brother was, the sons of God are trained up to obedience and brought to glory through much tribulation.
–Tract

 

Prayerful Inner-Searching

By Oswald Chambers

 Prayerful Inner-Searching

“Your whole spirit….” The great, mysterious work of the Holy Spirit is in the deep recesses of our being which we cannot reach. Read Psalm 139. The psalmist implies— “O Lord, You are the God of the early mornings, the God of the late nights, the God of the mountain peaks, and the God of the sea. But, my God, my soul has horizons further away than those of early mornings, deeper darkness than the nights of earth, higher peaks than any mountain peaks, greater depths than any sea in nature. You who are the God of all these, be my God. I cannot reach to the heights or to the depths; there are motives I cannot discover, dreams I cannot realize. My God, search me.”

Do we believe that God can fortify and protect our thought processes far beyond where we can go? “…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). If this verse means cleansing only on our conscious level, may God have mercy on us. The man who has been dulled by sin will say that he is not even conscious of it. But the cleansing from sin we experience will reach to the heights and depths of our spirit if we will “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7). The same Spirit that fed the life of Jesus Christ will feed the life of our spirit. It is only when we are protected by God with the miraculous sacredness of the Holy Spirit that our spirit, soul, and body can be preserved in pure uprightness until the coming of Jesus-no longer condemned in God’s sight.

We should more frequently allow our minds to meditate on these great, massive truths of God.

Jesus Washes Clean The Repentant Sinner

Zechariah 13:1

“In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity.

Hebrews 9:14

how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

1 John 1:7

but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one
another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Titus 3:5

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit

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The Debt Eraser

From: Our Daily Bread

The Debt Eraser

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

I blinked back tears as I reviewed my medical bill. Considering my husband’s severe cut in salary after a lengthy unemployment, even paying half of the balance would require years of small monthly installments. I prayed before calling the doctor’s office to explain our situation and request a payment plan.

After leaving me on hold for a short time, the receptionist informed me the doctor had zeroed out our account.

I sobbed a thank you. The generous gift overwhelmed me with gratitude. Hanging up the phone, I praised God. I considered saving the bill, not as a reminder of what I used to owe but as a reminder of what God had done.

My physician’s choice to pardon my debt brought to mind God’s choice to forgive the insurmountable debt of my sins. Scripture assures us God is “compassionate and gracious” and “abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8). He “does not treat us as our sins deserve” (v. 10). He removes our sins “as far as the east is from the west” (v. 12), when we repent and accept Christ as our Savior. His sacrifice erases the debt we once owed. Completely.

Once forgiven, we aren’t defined by or limited by our past debt. In response to the Lord’s extravagant gift, we can acknowledge all He’s done. Offering our devoted worship and grateful affection, we can live for Him and share Him with others.

Thank You for erasing our debt completely when we place our confidence in You, Lord.

Our greatest debt, caused by sin, is erased by our greater God.

 

Is My Sacrifice Living?

By Oswald Chambers

 Is My Sacrifice Living?

This event is a picture of the mistake we make in thinking that the ultimate God wants of us is the sacrifice of death. What God wants is the sacrifice through death which enables us to do what Jesus did, that is, sacrifice our lives. Not— “Lord, I am ready to go with You…to death” (Luke 22:33). But— “I am willing to be identified with Your death so that I may sacrifice my life to God.”

We seem to think that God wants us to give up things! God purified Abraham from this error, and the same process is at work in our lives. God never tells us to give up things just for the sake of giving them up, but He tells us to give them up for the sake of the only thing worth having, namely, life with Himself. It is a matter of loosening the bands that hold back our lives. Those bands are loosened immediately by identification with the death of Jesus. Then we enter into a relationship with God whereby we may sacrifice our lives to Him.

It is of no value to God to give Him your life for death. He wants you to be a “living sacrifice”— to let Him have all your strengths that have been saved and sanctified through Jesus (Romans 12:1). This is what is acceptable to God.

 

Forgetting the True Reason

Forgetting the True Reason

Read:

Ezekiel 16:1-34
You were adorned with gold and silver. Your clothes were made of fine linen . . . and were beautifully embroidered. You ate the finest foods . . . and became more beautiful than ever. You looked like a queen, and so you were! (Ezekiel 16:13).

Tim Keller aptly expressed the spiritual state of humanity when he wrote, “Everything that troubles [us] is a result of idolatry. And what is idolatry? It’s taking a good thing and making it an ultimate thing.” View nearly any form of visual media today and you’ll see that we’ve exchanged our worship of the Creator for the created. We were designed by God to respond to beauty—His beauty. But the promise of perfection and the temptation of power draw us to lesser gods. Food, sex, fashion, you name it. Our bodies have become our idols.

A picture of God’s adoption of Israel and their rejection of Him, Ezekiel 16 expresses the idolatry of a nation in language of intimacy and betrayal. While it might be easy to distance ourselves historically from the imagery of this passage, its truth applies to us today. We “came naked from [our] mother’s womb” (Job 1:21) with nothing to offer but our broken, marred humanity covered in the blood of our sin (Ezekiel 16:4-6Romans 3:10). A protective and covenant-keeping God rescued us (Ezekiel 16:7-8), and we’ve been transformed by His love (Ezekiel 16:9-13).

But we’re tempted to forget (Ezekiel 16:15). Enticed by the world and all it offers, we turn our affection toward the voices of people and seek their affirmation. Like the Israelites, our strength, our beauty, our very talents, can become the lure drawing us into idolatrous relationship to our culture (Ezekiel 16:16-19,33-34). Sadder still, we may pass on our idolatrous tendencies to the next generation by teaching them to fit in rather than stand out (Ezekiel 16:20-21).

True hope doesn’t forget the One who rescued us. May we remember that God’s forgiveness restores what was lost, and our worship of Him reclaims our inheritance.

Jesus Is The Light Of The World

John 8: 12
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.”
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Light in the Darkness

From: Our Daily Journey

Light in the Darkness

Read:

Genesis 1:1-31
God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! (Genesis 1:31).

Moving to a new home and community can be daunting. So during a recent transition, I was grateful when my friend’s seven-year-old daughter, Maria, offered to help.

Maria couldn’t assist much in a physical way, but her presence and thoughtful gestures turned an otherwise dreary experience into a delightful one. In the midst of my “moving daze,” Maria’s happy words and acts of kindness created reasons to smile and give thanks. She created a lighthearted mood in what would have otherwise been a gloomy day.

To me, Maria sweetly reflected the joy and beauty of the God who brought light and life into darkness. It’s astonishing to ponder what transpired when “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2).

Into an unformed, bare earth, God spoke light into existence and distinguished day from night (Genesis 1:3-4). He made the sky by establishing the atmosphere and the oceans (Genesis 1:6-8) and land that sprouted vegetation (Genesis 1:9-13). He made the sun, moon, and stars (Genesis 1:14-19) and filled the earth and sky with creatures and birds (Genesis 1:20-23).

After filling the earth with “all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals” (Genesis 1:25), “God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). And as He looked over all that He had made, God declared that it was “very good!” (Genesis 1:31).

God continues to create light and life where there’s darkness. As we draw near to Him, may we experience His joy and beauty wherever we are!

 One Name

From: Our Daily Bread

One Name

At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. Philippians 2:10

Cleopatra, Galileo, Shakespeare, Elvis, Pelé. They are all so well known that they need only one name to be recognized. They have remained prominent in history because of who they were and what they did. But there is another name that stands far above these or any other name!

Before the Son of God was born into this world, the angel told Mary and Joseph to name Him Jesus because “he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21), and “he . . . will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). Jesus didn’t come as a celebrity but as a servant who humbled Himself and died on the cross so that anyone who receives Him can be forgiven and freed from the power of sin.

The apostle Paul wrote, “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9–11).

In our times of greatest joy and our deepest need, the name we cling to is Jesus. He will never leave us, and His love will not fail.

Jesus, You are the name above all names, our Savior and Lord. We lift our praise to You as we celebrate Your presence and power in our lives today.

Jesus Christ is not valued at all until He is valued above all.  Augustine

 Intimate With Jesus

By Oswald Chambers

These words were not spoken as a rebuke, nor even with surprise; Jesus was encouraging Philip to draw closer. Yet the last person we get intimate with is Jesus. Before Pentecost the disciples knew Jesus as the One who gave them power to conquer demons and to bring about a revival (see Luke 10:18-20). It was a wonderful intimacy, but there was a much closer intimacy to come: “…I have called you friends…” (John 15:15). True friendship is rare on earth. It means identifying with someone in thought, heart, and spirit. The whole experience of life is designed to enable us to enter into this closest relationship with Jesus Christ. We receive His blessings and know His Word, but do we really know Him?

Jesus said, “It is to your advantage that I go away…” (John 16:7). He left that relationship to lead them even closer. It is a joy to Jesus when a disciple takes time to walk more intimately with Him. The bearing of fruit is always shown in Scripture to be the visible result of an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ (see John 15:1-4).

Once we get intimate with Jesus we are never lonely and we never lack for understanding or compassion. We can continually pour out our hearts to Him without being perceived as overly emotional or pitiful. The Christian who is truly intimate with Jesus will never draw attention to himself but will only show the evidence of a life where Jesus is completely in control. This is the outcome of allowing Jesus to satisfy every area of life to its depth. The picture resulting from such a life is that of the strong, calm balance that our Lord gives to those who are intimate with Him.

 

 Today’s Devotions

From: Through The Bible Daily

Morning

January 7

Genesis 3:6 (NIV) 6When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Yesterday we saw a few of Satan’s strategies, and in this verse, we see why they are effective. In 1 John 2:15-17, John wrote that the world consists of the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. When Satan was able to get Eve to question God, she looked at the fruit. The child of God is to walk by faith and not by sight. We are to see in the spiritual realm with our spiritual eyes what is eternal and not be tricked by what we see in the physical. It looked good for food. Was it? As good as death! But she allowed her eyes to deceive her, instead of trusting in what God had said.

The fruit looked like it could satisfy her natural desires. The world never really satisfies. We often think it can fill the void within, but it leaves us hungrier than before. Like all addictions, there is some satisfaction, but you need to constantly increase the quantity of money, drugs, food, sex or whatever it is you are seeking to fill your emptiness. Finally that excess ends in an empty death. The void within us can only be filled by the eternal, infinite God.

She thought it would make her wise. There is a grain of truth in Satan’s lies. She would know what it was to rebel against God, to feel remorse, to be separated from His presence, to fear His justice.

These three weaknesses that both this story and the Apostle John described are with us today as much as ever. Recognize them! They are of the world. The world and its lusts pass away, but he who does the will of His Father lives forever.

Prayer: Lord help me to see that satisfaction is found in God alone.

Jesus The Gift Of God

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)
Jesus Christ was the greatest gift ever given to man.
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The Gift of the Magi

From: Our Daily Bread

The Gift of the Magi

We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. Matthew 2:2

A young married couple had more love than money. As Christmas neared, both struggled to find a gift that would show how much they cared for the other. Finally, on Christmas Eve, Della sold her long, knee-length hair to buy Jim a platinum chain for the watch he’d inherited from his father and grandfather. Jim, however, had just sold the watch to buy a set of expensive combs for Della’s hair.

Author O. Henry called the couple’s story The Gift of the Magi. His creation suggests that even though their gifts became useless and may have caused them to look foolish on Christmas morning, their love made them among the wisest of those who give gifts.

The wise men of the first Christmas story also could have looked foolish to some as they arrived in Bethlehem with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). They weren’t Jewish. They were outsiders, Gentiles, who didn’t realize how much they would disturb the peace of Jerusalem by asking about a newly born king of the Jews (v. 2).

As with Jim and Della’s experience, the magi’s plans didn’t turn out the way they expected. But they gave what money cannot buy. They came with gifts, but then bowed to worship One who would ultimately make the greatest of all loving sacrifices for them—and for us.

Father in heaven, please help us to learn what it means to give what money cannot buy.

God’s gift of grace is priceless.

Eyes to See

From: Our Daily Journey

Eyes to See

Read:

2 Kings 6:8-17
Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” (2 Kings 6:17).

My sister, a forensic scientist, once told me: “There’s no perfect crime. Many evidences are left behind at the crime scene, which the naked eye can’t see.” Blood, even minute quantities that remain after cleanup, can be made to glow by spraying chemicals on affected surfaces.

There’s more to reality than meets the eye.

Elisha’s servant learned this lesson on the morning he and the prophet were surrounded by a foreign army. As far as his eyes could see, thousands of soldiers mounted on powerful warhorses had circled the city (2 Kings 6:15). It was obvious they were grossly outnumbered, or so it seemed.

Elisha assured the young man: “Don’t be afraid! . . . For there are more on our side than on theirs!” (2 Kings 6:16). Then he asked God to help his servant supernaturally see the spiritual forces prepared to defend them, praying, “O Lord , open his eyes and let him see!” Then the young man “saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire” (2 Kings 6:17).

Elisha knew that what we see isn’t all there is. There’s an invisible spiritual realm that is just as real. Scripture speaks about angels as a part of this realm (Psalm 34:7). If we belong to God, we can trust Him to protect us until the moment He draws us to be where He is. As Psalm 91:11 promises, “He will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.”

Are you facing a situation in which the odds seem to be stacked against you? Do you feel alone and helpless? Allow the truths of Scripture to encourage you, and in prayer ask God to help you see things as He does. Then, like Elisha, may you possess eyes that see the unseen and have courage to face your challenges in His strength.

 

The Illusion of Control

By: Shadia Hrichi, Author

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After Abraham and Sarah use Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant, to conceive a son, it doesn’t take long before conflict arises. One day, it went too far. In response to Hagar’s disrespect, “Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away.” (Genesis 16:6 NLT)

Poor Hagar. Taken into a man’s chamber, but never into his heart; released by her mistress, but never set free. When Hagar realized her attempt to gain the upper hand did not work, she ran away. I imagine that Hagar never felt so alone. Perhaps she ran away thinking, “No one will miss me.” Or, “If I run away, then they’ll miss me.”

When Hagar was treated as chattel, she reacted with contempt. When Sarah was treated with contempt, she responded by bullying. When Hagar was bullied, she ran away. Just as in the Garden of Eden, all the enemy needs is one person to take the first bite to set in motion a tragic chain reaction.

For Hagar, running away likely offered her the temporary illusion of being in control. Even if she did not know where she was going, at least she could feel she was the one deciding which direction to take. It is not difficult to sympathize with Hagar’s identity crisis. She was likely acquired by Sarah at a young age. By now, her homeland is a distant memory, along with its pagan gods. She has no real relationship with the father of her child, and her mistress would probably love for Hagar to simply disappear. With no real home of her own, it is no surprise that Hagar does not know how to fully answer the Angel of the Lord’s question in Genesis 16:8, “…Where have you come from and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8a ESV)

While God does not always call us to an easy road, His ways can always be trusted. Despite how Hagar may have felt, Scripture assures us that she was never alone. God not only saw Hagar in her affliction, but He comforted her with an amazing promise. “The angel of the Lord also said to her, ‘I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.’” (Genesis 16:10 ESV)

Hagar is the only woman in the Bible to whom God personally promised a multitude of offspring. Whereas Sarah will certainly be blessed with similar and more far-reaching promises, God bestows upon Hagar His personal blessing of “a multitude” that cannot be counted. Hagar is also the only person in the entire Bible to give God a name, “You are the God who sees me” (Gen. 16:13 NIV).

How precious! In the midst of the wilderness and her woundedness, Hagar discovered she was known and she was loved. Her encounter with God gave her the courage to surrender control, obey His command, and return to her mistress – but she did not return the same. She had a voice. And she had a place. While she would remain the servant of Sarah, Hagar would also be known as the mother of Abraham’s son, whom God Himself gave the tender name Ishmael, meaning, “God hears” (Genesis 16:11). One minute we see an oppressed runaway slave; the next minute, we see a bold and courageous servant of God. No one can encounter the living God and remain unchanged.

Throughout our lives, you and I will face challenges whereby we are tempted to go our own way. It may seem like we are in control, but the reality is that control is an illusion. We are all dependent on God for everything; even our very breath comes from Him (Genesis 2:7). The truth is that when you and I resist God’s sovereignty, we hinder our own ability to experience His peace – the very thing our hearts long for the most. But praise God that He does not leave us in the midst of the wilderness and our woundedness – but willingly pursues us there!

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7 ESV)

How about you? Are there any areas in your life where you struggle for control? How can your perception of being able to take care of your problems yourself lessen your awareness of your dependence on God?

Jesus And The Father Are One

John 14: 8-10
8  Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” 
10  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I say to you, I do not speak on My own. Instead, it is the Father dwelling in Me, carrying out His work.…
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The Father and I are one.” John 10:30

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Just Like My Father

Just Like My Father

It is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16

My father’s dusty, heeled-over, cowboy boots rest on the floor of my study, daily reminders of the kind of man he was.

Among other things, he raised and trained cutting horses—equine athletes that move like quicksilver. I loved to watch him at work, marveling that he could stay astride.

As a boy, growing up, I wanted to be just like him. I’m in my eighties, and his boots are still too large for me to fill.

My father’s in heaven now, but I have another Father to emulate. I want to be just like Him—filled with His goodness, fragrant with His love. I’m not there and never will be in this life; His boots are much too large for me to fill.

But the apostle Peter said this: “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ . . . will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10). He has the wisdom and power to do that, you know (v. 11).

Our lack of likeness to our heavenly Father will not last forever. God has called us to share the beauty of character that is His. In this life we reflect Him poorly, but in heaven our sin and sorrow will be no more and we’ll reflect Him more fully! This is the “true grace of God” (v. 12).

Father God, we want to be just like You. Help us to grow more and more like You each day!

Through the cross, believers are made perfect in His sight.

 

The Life of Power to Follow

By Oswald Chambers

 The Life of Power to Follow

“And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me’ ” (John 21:19). Three years earlier Jesus had said, “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19), and Peter followed with no hesitation. The irresistible attraction of Jesus was upon him and he did not need the Holy Spirit to help him do it. Later he came to the place where he denied Jesus, and his heart broke. Then he received the Holy Spirit and Jesus said again, “Follow Me” (John 21:19). Now no one is in front of Peter except the Lord Jesus Christ. The first “Follow Me” was nothing mysterious; it was an external following. Jesus is now asking for an internal sacrifice and yielding (see John 21:18).

Between these two times Peter denied Jesus with oaths and curses (see Matthew 26:69-75). But then he came completely to the end of himself and all of his self-sufficiency. There was no part of himself he would ever rely on again. In his state of destitution, he was finally ready to receive all that the risen Lord had for him. “…He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ ” (John 20:22). No matter what changes God has performed in you, never rely on them. Build only on a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and on the Spirit He gives.

All our promises and resolutions end in denial because we have no power to accomplish them. When we come to the end of ourselves, not just mentally but completely, we are able to “receive the Holy Spirit.” “Receive the Holy Spirit” — the idea is that of invasion. There is now only One who directs the course of your life, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Lord, there is none beside thee to help. (2 Chronicles 14:11, RV).

Remind God of His entire responsibility. “There is none beside thee to help.” The odds against Asa were enormous. There was a million of men in arms against him, besides three hundred chariots. It seemed impossible to hold his own against that vast multitude. There were no allies who would come to his help; his only hope, therefore, was in God.

It may be that your difficulties have been allowed to come to so alarming a pitch that you may be compelled to renounce all creature aid, to which in lesser trials you have had recourse, and cast yourself back on your Almighty Friend. Put God between yourself and the foe.

To Asa’s faith, Jehovah seemed to stand between the might of Zerah and himself, as one who had no strength. Nor was he mistaken. We are told that the Ethiopians were destroyed before the Lord and before His host, as though celestial combatants flung themselves against the foe in Israel’s behalf, and put the large host to rout, so that Israel had only to follow up and gather the spoil. Our God is Jehovah of hosts, who can summon unexpected reinforcements at any moment to aid His people. Believe that He is there between you and your difficulty, and what baffles you will flee before Him, as clouds before the gale.
–F. B. Meyer

When nothing whereon to lean remains,
When strongholds crumble to dust;
When nothing is sure but that God still reigns,
That is just the time to trust.
‘Tis better to walk by faith than sight,
In this path of yours and mine;
And the pitch-black night, when there’s no outer light
Is the time for faith to shine.

Abraham believed God, and said to sight, “Stand back!” and to the laws of nature, “Hold your peace!” and to a misgiving heart, “Silence, thou lying tempter!” He believed God.
–Joseph Parker

Jesus Christ Is The Lord

 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.[a] 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but[b] have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

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 Is That Jesus?

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

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Whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. —Romans 8:29

As I walked into church one Sunday morning, a little boy looked at me and said to his mother, “Mom, is that Jesus?” Needless to say, I was curious to hear her response. “No,” she said, “that’s our pastor.”

I knew she would say no, of course, but I still wished she could have added something like, “No, that’s our pastor, but he reminds us a lot of Jesus.”

Being like Jesus is the purpose of life for those of us who are called to follow Him. In fact, as John Stott notes, it is the all-consuming goal of our past, our present, and our future. Romans 8:29 tells us that in the past we were “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” In the present, we “are being transformed into the same image” (the likeness of Christ), as we grow from “glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). And, in the future, “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Being like Jesus is not about keeping the rules, going to church, and tithing. It’s about knowing His forgiveness, and committing acts of grace and mercy on a consistent basis. It’s about living a life that values all people. And it’s about having a heart of full surrender to the will of our Father.

Be like Jesus. You were saved for it!

Be like Jesus—this my song—
In the home and in the throng;
Be like Jesus all day long!
I would be like Jesus. —Rowe

Live in such a way that others see Jesus in you.

Why Can I Not Follow You Now?

By Oswald Chambers

 Why Can I Not Follow You Now?

There are times when you can’t understand why you cannot do what you want to do. When God brings a time of waiting, and appears to be unresponsive, don’t fill it with busyness, just wait. The time of waiting may come to teach you the meaning of sanctification— to be set apart from sin and made holy— or it may come after the process of sanctification has begun to teach you what service means. Never run before God gives you His direction. If you have the slightest doubt, then He is not guiding. Whenever there is doubt— wait.

At first you may see clearly what God’s will is— the severance of a friendship, the breaking off of a business relationship, or something else you feel is distinctly God’s will for you to do. But never act on the impulse of that feeling. If you do, you will cause difficult situations to arise which will take years to untangle. Wait for God’s timing and He will do it without any heartache or disappointment. When it is a question of the providential will of God, wait for God to move.

Peter did not wait for God. He predicted in his own mind where the test would come, and it came where he did not expect it. “I will lay down my life for Your sake.” Peter’s statement was honest but ignorant. “Jesus answered him, ‘…the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times’ ” (John 13:38). This was said with a deeper knowledge of Peter than Peter had of himself. He could not follow Jesus because he did not know himself or his own capabilities well enough. Natural devotion may be enough to attract us to Jesus, to make us feel His irresistible charm, but it will never make us disciples. Natural devotion will deny Jesus, always falling short of what it means to truly follow Him.

 

Lysa TerKeurst January 4, 2018
How Can I Grow Closer to God?
LYSA TERKEURST

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From: Crosswalk.com

“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” Luke 9:23 (NIV)

I would love to tell you that I have a long and impressive list of goals for 2018. But I’m not really into writing out my goals for the new year. Honestly, I just want to follow hard after the Lord every day and let Him renew me and shape me into the woman I need to be this year.

I want to grow ever closer to God — pressing into Him so He makes the deepest impression on me.

So that’s my goal. Maybe it’s one of your goals too. Growing closer to God.

But how do we do that? How can we position ourselves to grow closer to God this year?

In Luke 9:23b, Jesus tells His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

His words seem surprising at first. The disciples had already given up everything to follow Jesus. Or so it seemed …

Family. Friends. Jobs. The comforts of home.

Yet, in our key verse today, we find Jesus telling them the cost is going to be even higher than they had originally anticipated. The disciples aren’t being asked to lay down some things. They are going to need to lay down everything. Their plans. Their agendas. Maybe even their own lives.

And while it may sound like a lot to ask, because of their willingness to continue following hard after Jesus they will get to experience a level of closeness with Him unlike anyone else.

Closeness when they take communion with Him before He is crucified. (Luke 22:12-20)

Closeness when He bends low to wash their feet. (John 13:1-17)

Closeness when He eats with them after His resurrection. (Luke 24:36-43)

Closeness when they are among the first to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:1-4)

So not only did they have the promise of eternity with Him in heaven, they also had the privilege of experiencing unparalleled intimacy with Him on earth.

Could they have received any sweeter gift?

This is what my heart hungers for when it comes to the Lord. I want connection. I want communion. I want closeness. Not only in a distant heavenly future but right here. Right now.

That’s why I’m so thankful Jesus’ invitation to the disciples in Luke 9:23 is for us, too. We are also invited close. Which means we are also called to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.

I realize “taking up our cross” may sound strange or vague at first, but for me it’s meant breaking old habits to create space in my heart for new growth. It’s meant moving beyond a plastic Christian checklist … Go to church. Read the Bible. Don’t cuss. Be nice. Pray. Give to the poor … and letting God mess with any and everyarea of my life.

It has meant things like offering Him my willingness to step away from TV for a season, fixing my eyes on Him first in the morning, instead of my phone and allowing Him to call me to a new level of discipline in my eating habits. Things I have said “yes” to because I long for an ever-closer walk with Him.

I don’t know exactly what following wholeheartedly after God will look like for you. But I do know that if we want to grow closer to God this year, we’ll have to distance ourselves from whatever is distracting us. We’ll have to lay aside whatever we are prone to delight in more than Him.

Let’s ask God which distraction we need to distance ourselves from in order to grow closer to Him, and then let’s do the hard and holy work of denying ourselves. Because a deeper level of intimacy with Him will always be worth the cost.

Lord, show me what stands in the way of intimacy with You, and give me the strength to lay it down — for a season or maybe even forever. I long to be closer to You. No matter the cost. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Imagine Living In God’s Glory

Psalm 24:7-8

 

Lift up your heads, O gates, And be lifted up, O ancient doors, That the King of glory may come in! Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle.

 
 
Psalm 29:3

The voice of the LORD is upon the waters; The God of glory thunders, The LORD is over many waters.

 
John 11:40

Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

 
Acts 7:2

And he said, “Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,

Revelation 19:1

After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God;

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Breathtaking Glory

From: Our Daily Bread

Breathtaking Glory

Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor. 1 Chronicles 29:11

One of the pleasures of a trip to Europe is visiting the grand cathedrals that dot the landscape. They are breathtakingly beautiful as they soar toward the heavens. The architecture, art, and symbolism found in these amazing buildings present a spellbinding experience of wonder and magnificence.

As I thought about the fact that these structures were built to reflect God’s magnificence and His all-surpassing splendor, I wondered how we could possibly recapture in our hearts and minds a similar feeling of God’s grandeur and be reminded again of His greatness.

One way we can do that is to look beyond man’s grand, regal structures and contemplate the greatness of what God Himself has created. Take one look at a starry night sky and think of God’s power as He spoke the universe into existence. Hold a newborn baby in your arms and thank God for the miracle of life itself. Look at the snow-covered mountains of Alaska or the majestic Atlantic Ocean teeming with millions of God-designed creatures and imagine the power that makes that ecosystem work.

Mankind is not wrong to reach for the sky with structures that are intended to point us to God. But our truest admiration should be reserved for God Himself as we say to Him, “Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor” (1 Chronicles 29:11).

Lord, You do take our breath away with Your greatness. Thank You for reminding us of Your grandeur in Your world and in Your Word.

God alone is worthy of our worship.

God’s Good Gifts

From: Our Daily Journey

God’s Good Gifts

Read:

1 Timothy 6:6-19
Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17).

Jamie, a professional artist, sometimes feels guilty for the long hours she spends in her studio. She wants to “take up” her “cross” to follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24), but she enjoys painting. Does that count? She wonders if she loves her art too much, in an idolatrous way. Sometimes she feels she must “pay” for her enjoyment through struggling in other areas of her life. She’s never understood how her painting could count as following Jesus.

Jamie’s concern about idolatry is understandable—it’s true that we must never serve “the things God created instead of the Creator himself” (Romans 1:25). It’s also understandable that this sensitive woman wonders whether her struggles count as carrying a “cross.” But she’s missing something important—that her love for art is her Father’s good gift to her. As Paul puts it, although we should never put our trust in earthly things, and be “generous” and “ready to share” (1 Timothy 6:18), we also believe that God “richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Do you feel the tension? Although believers in Jesus should be willing to “give up our own way” (Matthew 16:24) to follow Him, we aren’t masochists. Because “whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father” (James 1:17), there’s nothing wrong with enjoying delicious meals, soaring music, or a good story. There may be something wrong if we don’t. If we greet every pleasure with suspicion, wondering how it might tempt us to sin, we can’t enjoy it fully as God intends.

Like a good parent, God wants us to love Him more than His gifts. But He also wants us to fully enjoy His gifts. What brings joy in your life? Receive it as a sign of your Father’s love.

Clouds and Darkness

By Oswald Chambers

 Clouds and Darkness

Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Once, the Bible was just so many words to us — “clouds and darkness”— then, suddenly, the words become spirit and life because Jesus re-speaks them to us when our circumstances make the words new. That is the way God speaks to us; not by visions and dreams, but by words. When a man gets to God, it is by the most simple way— words.

Reach Your Goal Through Christ

2 Corinthians 2:14

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

 
 
1 Corinthians 15:57

but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 
1 Corinthians 9:24

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

 
Proverbs 11:30

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise wins souls.

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Pressing On

Pressing On

I press on toward the goal to win the prize. Philippians 3:14

As I walked past an outside wall of the office building where I work, I was amazed to see a beautiful flower growing up through a crack between concrete slabs covering the ground. Despite its deprived circumstance, the plant had found a foothold, rooted itself in the dry crevice, and was flourishing. Later, I noticed that an air-conditioning unit located directly above the plant dropped water on it throughout the day. While its surroundings were hostile, the plant received the help it needed from the water above.

Growing in the Christian life can sometimes be difficult, but when we persevere with Christ, barriers are surmountable. Our circumstances may be unfavorable and discouragement may seem like an obstacle. Yet if we press on in our relationship with the Lord, we can flourish like that lone plant. This was the experience of the apostle Paul. Despite the severe hardships and challenges he faced (2 Corinthians 11:23–27), he wouldn’t give up. “I . . . take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me,” he wrote. “I press on toward the goal to win the prize” (Philippians 3:12, 14).

Paul realized he could do all things through the Lord who strengthened him (4:13), and so can we as we press on with the help of One who gives us strength.

This is a day that You have made, Father. Thank You that You’ll be near me in whatever I face today.

God provides the strength we need to persevere and grow.

Heaven – This Way

“You know the way to the place where I am going” John 14:4

The classic World War II movie The Longest Day portrays one of the clever military strategies of the German army. After the Allies had taken the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, their orders were to assemble in the town of St. Mere-Eglise in France. When they saw the sign for St. Mere-Eglise, naturally they proceeded in that direction. There was only one problem: The Germans had turned the sign to point in the opposite direction.

Unknowingly, the Allied forces confidently followed the sign and started marching toward the German trap. The hero of the Allied forces, played by John Wayne, showed up just in time to rescue them from certain destruction. One glance at his compass told him they were heading for disaster. “Hey, where’s everybody going?” he shouted. “Am I the only one here with a compass? It’s east; it’s east. Somebody moved the sign!”

It’s an old trick, but in our spiritual lives Satan continues to use it against us with great success. He turns the signs pointing to ultimate victory and a great final destiny toward the defeating attitudes of fear, despair, and hopelessness. Jesus, on the eve of His death, wanted to prepare His friends for the battle ahead. He knew that the disciples would be confused and disoriented by the enemy, so He lovingly assured them of victory and pointed them toward their final destination, heaven. He’s done the same for us. He assures us that regardless of the forces that might come against us today, heaven is just ahead and the victory is ours!

Jesus won the victory on “D-Day” when He died on the cross for you! At that point it was His intention to set your heart on heaven. Keeping our eyes on heaven means that regardless of what we face, we know where we are headed. Heavenward travelers proceed with the confidence that all the difficulties of the journey are merely temporary and well worth the pain in light of the ultimate and eternal joy of our destination. But beware! Satan wants nothing more than to distract and disorient your heart. He craftily points the sign toward feelings of inadequacy and defeat. He masks the signs pointing to guilt and regret with slick invitations to seduction and compromise. In fact, many of his distractions claim that heaven is really the here and now if only you will engage in a little out-of-bounds pleasure or in living to increase your stacks of stuff. When we think we’ve got heaven here, the enemy has won the day. But it’s not too late to get back on track. Jesus holds the compass, and He knows that to follow Satan’s clever shifting of the sign is to walk right into the trap of Satan’s destruction. He knows the territory well and is calling us to follow Him all the way to heaven—the ultimate destination of eternal fulfillment and joy!

Hear Him shouting to your heart: “Hey, you’re going the wrong way! Follow me!”

Will You Go Out Without Knowing?

By Oswald Chambers

Will You Go Out Without Knowing?

Have you ever “gone out” in this way? If so, there is no logical answer possible when anyone asks you what you are doing. One of the most difficult questions to answer in Christian work is, “What do you expect to do?” You don’t know what you are going to do. The only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing. Continually examine your attitude toward God to see if you are willing to “go out” in every area of your life, trusting in God entirely. It is this attitude that keeps you in constant wonder, because you don’t know what God is going to do next. Each morning as you wake, there is a new opportunity to “go out,” building your confidence in God. “…do not worry about your life…nor about the body…” (Luke 12:22). In other words, don’t worry about the things that concerned you before you did “go out.”

Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do— He reveals to you who He is. Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you “go out” in complete surrender to Him until you are not surprised one iota by anything He does?

Believe God is always the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him. Then think how unnecessary and disrespectful worry is! Let the attitude of your life be a continual willingness to “go out” in dependence upon God, and your life will have a sacred and inexpressible charm about it that is very satisfying to Jesus. You must learn to “go out” through your convictions, creeds, or experiences until you come to the point in your faith where there is nothing between yourself and God.

 

Beginning Again- 2018

The pictures show the starting line of various races. Let’s start the New Year by becoming more like Christ everyday.
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Beginning Again

From: Our Daily Bread

Beginning Again
Read: Ezra 1:1–11 | Bible in a Year: Genesis 1–3; Matthew 1

Everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. Ezra 1:5

After Christmas festivities conclude at the end of December, my thoughts often turn to the coming year. While my children are out of school and our daily rhythms are slow, I reflect on where the last year has brought me and where I hope the next will take me. Those reflections sometimes come with pain and regret over the mistakes I’ve made. Yet the prospect of starting a new year fills me with hope and expectancy. I feel I have the opportunity to begin again with a fresh start, no matter what the last year held.

My anticipation of a fresh start pales in comparison to the sense of hope the Israelites must have felt when Cyrus, the king of Persia, released them to return to their homeland in Judah after seventy long years of captivity in Babylon. The previous king, Nebuchadnezzar, had deported the Israelites from their homeland. But the Lord prompted Cyrus to send the captives home to Jerusalem to rebuild God’s temple (Ezra 1:2–3). Cyrus also returned to them treasures that had been taken from the temple. Their lives as God’s chosen people, in the land God had appointed to them, began afresh after a long season of hardship in Babylon as a consequence for their sin.

No matter what lies in our past, when we confess our sin, God forgives us and gives us a fresh start. What great cause for hope!

God’s grace offers us fresh starts.

 

Katy McCown January 1, 2018
Adjusting Your Pace-of-Life in 2018
KATY MCCOWN

“But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’” Luke 10:40 (ESV)

I’m not a morning person.

I never have been. During my school days, I woke up at the very last minute to dress and brush my teeth before hurrying out the door. I usually reduced breakfast to dry cereal in a cup that I shoveled in my mouth once I jumped in the car.

But some days, I acted the polar opposite. On a rare occasion, I’d pop out of bed before the sun came up and be ready for the day, long before anyone else. These were usually field trip days. A break from the norm, an exciting adventure! Those were the days I looked forward to, and my morning routine proved it.

In our key verse today, we find Martha preparing for a break from the norm. It’s festival time in Israel, and Martha is busy with all the surrounding details that come with it. Festival time was a big deal. It was appointed by God and carried specific directives about how, when and where to celebrate.

Then there’s Mary, Martha’s sister, who seemed completely oblivious to the added demands of this big moment. While Martha hustled and bustled, Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” (Luke 10:39b, ESV).

Mary’s actions seem insignificant on the backdrop of the big festival at hand. Martha certainly thought so. Yet, the Bible records a different perspective.

In response to Mary’s choice to slow down and sit at Jesus’ feet, our key verse says, “But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me’” (Luke 10:40).

First of all, can’t you just see Martha with her hand on her hip, tapping her foot? Oh my goodness, she’s throwing a temper tantrum at Jesus! I love how Jesus does not appear to point His finger at her and usher a stern, “No ma’am!” Instead, He gets straight to the heart of the matter.

Jesus exposes Martha’s heart and the anxiety bubbling beneath the surface. Then He turns to Mary simply sitting near Him and calls it good.

Did you catch that? Scripture labels the “big” moment a distraction. Jesus points to the “small” moment as the good portion.

Our days are filled with things that excite us and things that feel dull and mundane. Sometimes we pace our days according to the agenda before us. The big moments pull us out of bed and usher us full-speed ahead, while the small moments call for us to linger and perhaps enjoy one more cup of coffee. But sometimes, I think we get it backwards.

From the perspective of God’s throne, I don’t know if big and small moments even exist. Instead, every moment is “from him and through him and to him,” (Romans 11:36a, ESV).

As we begin this new year, let’s approach every moment as one God has appointed for His glory. Let’s leave room in the pace of each day to linger in our quiet time listening to Jesus. Let’s slow down … even when we feel pressed by life’s seemingly “big” moments to neglect what we perceive as small.

Eventually I learned to become a morning person. Now, when I wake up I choose not to catalog the day’s events and decide if I want to get up or go back to sleep. Instead, I start by talking with my Lord. My time with Him sets the pace for the day, and that alone makes getting up worth it!

Lord, I give You this day. I’m excited for all You have planned for me today. I trust You will use every moment, big and small. Help me to adjust my life to Your priorities. Set my pace so it complements, not competes with, Your purposes. Help me to walk in step with Your Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

No Fear Factor

From: Joe Stowell, Author

“God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

The reality TV show Fear Factor featured people who are willing to face their worst fears for notoriety and financial gain. I need to tell you that I rarely watched more than a fleeting moment of the show as I surfed with my remote. I find it tough to watch people eat cockroaches, immerse themselves in a tank full of creepy worms with legs, and stay under water far too long with slimy eels crowding around their heads. It’s just not my definition of high-value entertainment. But the program did remind me that fear is an emotion that we are all very familiar with. In fact, my discomfort with watching for any length of time probably has something to do with reminding me of things and events that I fear or at least find uncomfortable.

Yet thinking of the program does make me wonder: Would I be willing to conquer my fears to do what Jesus asks me to do, just as these contestants overcome their fears for a moment in the spotlight of national TV?

There is no doubt that fear is no friend of our effectiveness for Christ. We are often fearful about witnessing, giving our money away, saying no to our friends, forgiving a cruel offense, saying yes to a short-term missionary assignment, or risking being misunderstood if we speak up for biblical values at the water-cooler. If Satan can get us stymied by fear, he doesn’t have to do much else to shut down our spiritual progress and usefulness.

So, let’s talk about what it takes to succeed for Jesus in the face of fear.

First, let’s remind ourselves that fear primarily focuses on protecting and preserving “me.” Overcoming fear begins with deciding that some things in life are more important than ourselves. Things like the eternal destinies of others, the prosperity of the work of Christ in our world, the fact that the reputation of Jesus is more strategically important than my fleeting popularity, and that His integrity and righteousness showing up in my life is more important than cheating for some personal gain. Once you and I realize that a self-surpassing passion for others and Jesus trumps fear, we can understand why the apostle John wrote that love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

But loving can often feel like a risky, sometimes losing proposition, which is why we need another ingredient to release the power of the love that conquers fear. That ingredient is trust. Trusting that God will protect you when you are fearful, that God will reward you when you feel at risk, that God will give you guidance and courage when you feel lost and intimidated is what it takes to defeat the fear that holds you back. Are you afraid that when you love you will become vulnerable, misunderstood, taken advantage of, or misused? Trust God to watch over you, meet your needs, and give you His best, and those fears will become increasingly nonexistent.

When our lives are characterized by trust-filled love, fear ultimately will not be a factor. As President Roosevelt said in his inaugural speech, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!”