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Happy Mother’s Day

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A Special Mom

From: Our Daily Journey

A Special Mom

Read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Scattering Seeds

From: Our Daily Bread

Scattering Seeds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Habit of Enjoying Adversity

From: Utmost.org

The Habit of Enjoying Adversity

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

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

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

 

Make God Your Right Choice

 

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

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

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

 

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Whose Side Are You On?

From: Get More Strength.org

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

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

Ouch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Camping Psalms

From: Our Daily Bread

Camping Psalms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lily’s Choice

From: Our Daily Journey

Lily’s Choice

Read:

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

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

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

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

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

The Holy Spirit Is Our Advocate

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John 14:26

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

 

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

 

The Advocate

From: Our Daily Bread

The Advocate

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

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

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

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

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

We can rejoice that Jesus sent us the Advocate.

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

The Holy Spirit fills Jesus’s followers.

Forgiven Debt

From: Our Daily Journey

Forgiven Debt

Read:

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Habit of Having No Habits

From: Utmost.org

The Habit of Having No Habits

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

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

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

Express Your Joy Through Singing

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

From: Our Daily Bread

Singing with Violet

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

God’s Good Presence

From: Our Daily Journey

God’s Good Presence

Read:

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Love One Another”

From: Utmost.org

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

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

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

God Will Wipe Away Your Tears

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

From: Our Daily Journey

Tears No Longer

Read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unlighted Paths

From: Our Daily Bread

Unlighted Paths

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

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

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

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

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

Take the Initiative

Take the Initiative

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

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

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

Reaching Beyond Our Grasp

 

Where there is no revelation [or prophetic vision], the people cast off restraint… —Proverbs 29:18

(Pictures of things that are just out of their grasp).

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Reaching Beyond Our Grasp

From: Utmost.org

Reaching Beyond Our Grasp

There is a difference between holding on to a principle and having a vision. A principle does not come from moral inspiration, but a vision does. People who are totally consumed with idealistic principles rarely do anything. A person’s own idea of God and His attributes may actually be used to justify and rationalize his deliberate neglect of his duty. Jonah tried to excuse his disobedience by saying to God, “…I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm” (Jonah 4:2). I too may have the right idea of God and His attributes, but that may be the very reason why I do not do my duty. But wherever there is vision, there is also a life of honesty and integrity, because the vision gives me the moral incentive.

Our own idealistic principles may actually lull us into ruin. Examine yourself spiritually to see if you have vision, or only principles.

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?

“Where there is no revelation [or prophetic vision]….” Once we lose sight of God, we begin to be reckless. We cast off certain restraints from activities we know are wrong. We set prayer aside as well and cease having God’s vision in the little things of life. We simply begin to act on our own initiative. If we are eating only out of our own hand, and doing things solely on our own initiative without expecting God to come in, we are on a downward path. We have lost the vision. Is our attitude today an attitude that flows from our vision of God? Are we expecting God to do greater things than He has ever done before? Is there a freshness and a vitality in our spiritual outlook?

 

Too Good Not to Share

From: Our Daily Bread

Too Good Not to Share

[John] came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. John 1:7

During court proceedings, witnesses are more than onlookers or spectators. They are active participants who help determine the outcome of a case. The same is true of our witness for Christ. We are to be active participants in a matter of absolute importance—the truth of Jesus’s death and resurrection.

When John the Baptist came to tell people about Jesus, the light of the world, he did so by declaring his knowledge of Jesus. And John the disciple, who recorded the events, testified of his experience with Jesus: “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The apostle Paul would elaborate on this idea as he told young Timothy, “The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2).

All Christians have been summoned before the courtroom of the world. The Bible says we are not mere spectators but active participants. We testify to the truth about Jesus’s death and resurrection. John the Baptist was the voice of one calling in the desert. Our voices can be heard in our workplace, neighborhood, church, and among our family and friends. We can be active witnesses, telling them about the reality of Jesus in our lives.

Do our actions enable us to witness for Jesus? In what creative ways might we witness today?

The gospel is too good not to share.

 

Foreigners and Nomads

From: Our Daily Journey

Foreigners and Nomads

Read:

Hebrews 11:1-16
These people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they . . . agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth (Hebrews 11:13).

Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, I maintained Nigerian citizenship because of my parents’ diplomatic status. I once met a lady from Indonesia who excitedly launched into her native tongue after learning my birthplace. Embarrassed, I informed her that I was only there briefly and had no knowledge of the language. I was born in the country—but am not of it.

Likewise, the Bible refers to believers as foreigners and nomads on the earth—not of it (Hebrews 11:13). Our identity isn’t created by the secular world; we live out God’s heavenly perspective. The heroes of faith profiled in Hebrews 11 were described as “looking forward to a country they [could] call their own” (Hebrews 11:14). This didn’t mean their birthplace or place of origin, “but they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16).

It’s for this reason that Jesus urged His followers to store up treasures in heaven, rather than on earth, for our hearts tend to be centered wherever we have our treasure (Matthew 6:19-21). He went on to describe those who hoard material things in this life as fools who don’t have “a rich relationship with God” (Luke 12:16-21).

Whenever I take a trip for work I focus on the tasks that need to be accomplished, but never lose sight of the fact that my home awaits me. This prompts me to be efficient with my time, so as not to delay or jeopardize my trip back there.

In the same way, we must strive to accomplish the earthly purpose for which we’ve been created in God’s power and leading. He’s the One who will one day renew the earth—uniting it with all that is heaven (Revelation 21:1).

Waiting Can Be A Burden

 

Luke 12:35-40

 

“Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. “Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. “Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.

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The Burden of Waiting

From: Our Daily Bread

The Burden of Waiting
Read: Psalm 90 | Bible in a Year: 2 Kings 4–6; Luke 24:36–53

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Over the last few years, two members of my family have faced life-threatening diagnoses. For me, the hardest part of supporting them through their treatments has been the constant uncertainty. I am always desperate for a definitive word from a doctor, but things are rarely that straightforward. Instead of being given clarity, we are often asked to wait.

It’s hard to bear the burden of uncertainty, always wondering what the next test will reveal. Will we have weeks, months, years, or decades before death separates us? But regardless of disease and diagnosis, each of us will die one day—things like cancer just bring our mortality to the forefront instead of letting it hide in the recesses of our minds.

Faced with sobering reminders of our mortality, I find myself praying words that Moses once prayed. Psalm 90 tells us that though our lives are like grass that withers and fades (vv. 5–6), we have an eternal home with God (v. 1). Like Moses, we can ask God to teach us to number our days so we can make wise decisions (v. 12), and to make our brief lives fruitful by making what we do for Him count (v. 17). Ultimately, the psalm reminds us that our hope is not in a doctor’s diagnosis, but in a God who is “from everlasting to everlasting.”

How can we best spend the time we’ve been given?

We can face the reality of our own mortality because we trust in God.

 

 

Lynn Cowell May 8, 2017
Seeing With My Heart
LYNN COWELLFrom: Crosswalk.com

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24 (NIV)

Growing up in a home swimming with female hormones, I was blessed to have not one “mother,” but four. I was the youngest of five daughters, and there was always a feminine perspective around … ready and willing to point me in the right direction. Sometimes they used their words, but more often, their guidance was subtle: Their actions spoke.

These women taught me how to keep going when life isn’t what you expect. They modeled staying true to yourself, your family and God even when “true” was not given to you. They showed me how to love even when love costs dearly.

The women of my family, both the one I was born into and the one I married into, have all, in one way or another, shaped me into the woman I am becoming.

God has intersected my life with still more women through friendship, who have spurred me on when I struggled to keep moving forward. These women, some whose names I can’t remember, were so crazy in love with Jesus, they drew me to fall in love with Him, too.

They practiced the wisdom found in Hebrews 10:24“… spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

These women in my past, who impacted my whole life, have come in all ages, all shapes and all sizes … all women who taught me to see with my heart.

Today, the women teaching me to see with my heart include my daughters. At one point I was the one doing all the teaching. But today, I am daily challenged by them. Seeing the world in a way I haven’t before, I learn from their love for people and their desire for everyone to know their true value. While it was once a one-way teaching, now we spur each other on.

This growing, this learning to see with my heart and not with my natural eyes, has not always been easy. The Lord in His kindness and graciousness has sent those who’ve been bold enough to confront me, showing me the error of my ways. And I know, as I continue to desire to grow, He’ll continue to send more who will challenge me.

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and while it honors those who brought us into this world, it is also a day to celebrate women. To say “thank you” to those in our lives who have helped us grow, challenged us and taught us to see with more than our natural eyes.

Lord, thank You so much for the many women You have brought into my life who’ve helped me become the woman I am today. Help me not just receive, but also to be one who spurs on others to good works as well. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Getting On with Your Life

From: CBN.com

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Our lives are filled with good and bad memories. The impressions of the past live in our minds, and we can look at them over and over again. The scenes we recall are like snapshots, forever stopped in time. Still, they evoke strong feelings that have the power to influence our thinking. Ironically, most of these lifeless pictures determine who and what we are right now although they captured moments many years and places ago. Our present attitude, as well as our behavior, depends on which events we choose to relive.

Our human nature is to dwell on the negative – what we regret or what injured us. Our divine nature, on the other hand, looks forward to and focuses on what lies ahead in the kingdom. We can easily become obsessed by the former and forget about the latter, even though we know heaven should come first. That is precisely why we have so much trouble “getting on with our life” once we have been offended or wounded. We look so long at reflections that make us unhappy we cannot see what is there to make us happy.

“I can’t do it,” you might be thinking. “There is too much for me to forget and too much for me to forgive. The pain and the anger won’t go away. I am still suffering. It’s impossible for me to get over what happened.” For the most part, you are right. You can’t get over the past. You can’t put it behind, at least not on your own. But Jesus can. He can make you forget and forgive. He can give you the strength to move on without the hurt and the anxiety. He can heal the wounds completely if you let him.

It is time for us to get rid of what prevents us from being ourselves: the wonderful child that God created, not the person the world has molded. Take all of the many pictures of your life that you hold in your mind. Put them all together on the table in front of you. Look at each one carefully, and then choose the ones you want to keep and the ones you want to forget. Throw away the images not worth keeping and showing to others. What value or purpose can there be in sharing situations that remind us who we were long ago? We are not that person anymore. We have changed.

“Forget the former things,” the Lord told Isaiah. “Do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” You, my friend, are that “new thing!” If those around you do not recognize you today it is because they do not realize who you are now; they are seeing the old thing of years ago. They perceive only what they saw then, nothing more and nothing less. What do you think would happen, for example, if you suddenly went back to the same people who hurt you? Would they welcome you back? Probably not. They cannot forget the past because they are living in it. Why, then, would you want to keep looking at dark memories of what is done and over?

You and I are made for today, not yesterday. Our future depends on the present, and nothing is more important than what we do right now. This moment is the perfect time to start moving forward again and stop letting guilt stop us. “He whom the Son sets free, is free indeed.” There is no reason for anything (or anyone) to hold us back. No person on earth can keep us captive because we have been released from bondage. Get rid of those old pictures of you being beaten and bruised. The only one you need to keep is that of Jesus on the cross.

Have You Invested In Heaven?

Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it… —Luke 14:28

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Building For Eternity

From: Utmost.org

Building For Eternity

Our Lord was not referring here to a cost which we have to count, but to a cost which He has already counted. The cost was those thirty years in Nazareth, those three years of popularity, scandal, and hatred, the unfathomable agony He experienced in Gethsemane, and the assault upon Him at Calvary— the central point upon which all of time and eternity turn. Jesus Christ has counted the cost. In the final analysis, people are not going to laugh at Him and say, “This man began to build and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:30).

The conditions of discipleship given to us by our Lord in verses 26, 27, and 33 mean that the men and women He is going to use in His mighty building enterprises are those in whom He has done everything. “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple ” (Luke 14:26). This verse teaches us that the only men and women our Lord will use in His building enterprises are those who love Him personally, passionately, and with great devotion— those who have a love for Him that goes far beyond any of the closest relationships on earth. The conditions are strict, but they are glorious.

All that we build is going to be inspected by God. When God inspects us with His searching and refining fire, will He detect that we have built enterprises of our own on the foundation of Jesus? (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). We are living in a time of tremendous enterprises, a time when we are trying to work for God, and that is where the trap is. Profoundly speaking, we can never work for God. Jesus, as the Master Builder, takes us over so that He may direct and control us completely for His enterprises and His building plans; and no one has any right to demand where he will be put to work.

Praise in the Dark

From: Our Daily Bread

Praise in the Dark

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. Hebrews 13:15

Even though my friend Mickey was losing his eyesight, he told me, “I’m going to keep praising God every day, because He’s done so much for me.”

Jesus gave Mickey, and us, the ultimate reason for such never-ending praise. The twenty-sixth chapter of Matthew tells us about how Jesus shared the Passover meal with His disciples the night before He went to the cross. Verse 30 shows us how they concluded the meal: “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

It wasn’t just any hymn they sang that night—it was a hymn of praise. For millennia, Jews have sung a group of Psalms called “The Hallel” at Passover (hallel is the Hebrew word for “praise”). The last of these prayers and songs of praise, found in Psalms 113–118, honors the God who has become our salvation (118:21). It refers to a rejected stone that became a cornerstone (v. 22) and one who comes in the name of the Lord (v. 26). They may very well have sung, “The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad” (v. 24).

As Jesus sang with His disciples on this Passover night, He was giving us the ultimate reason to lift our eyes above our immediate circumstances. He was leading us in praise of the never-ending love and faithfulness of our God.

You are always worthy of praise, Lord, even when I don’t feel like praising You! Help me to learn to praise You more and more.

Praising God helps us recall His goodness that never ends.

Facing Life’s Temptations

From: Our Daily Journey

Facing Life’s Temptations

Read:

Genesis 4:1-10
If you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master (Genesis 4:7).

Bill battled drug and alcohol addiction for years before gaining victory. From his experience, he’s identified four warning signs of impending relapse: isolation, internal feelings of discontent, frustration and anger, and delusional thinking.

Not all of us are recovering addicts, but we all face temptation in life. Thankfully, “when you are tempted, [God] will show you a way out so that you can endure” (1 Corinthians 10:13). There are times, however, when we don’t take His wise path.

Cain battled the temptation to sin. One of Adam and Eve’s sons, he grew to be a farmer while his brother Abel was a shepherd (Genesis 4:1-2). At harvest time, both brothers gave a sacrifice to the Lord, Cain from the crops he grew and Abel from the flock he tended. But something about Cain’s sacrifice offended God; perhaps he gave grudgingly or less than he could have. God accepted Abel and his sacrifice, but rejected Cain and his offering. This filled him with rage and despair (Genesis 4:3-5).

God told Cain that he and his sacrifice would have been accepted if he had been obedient. The Lord cautioned: “If you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master” (Genesis 4:7). This was God’s “way out” for Cain, but he refused to take it, gave in to temptation, and killed his brother (Genesis 4:8).

When we humble ourselves before God, we become aware of the sin that can trip us up (Hebrews 12:1). We can’t master sinful desires in our own strength—only by the power of the Holy Spirit can we can resist them (Romans 8:5). May we pray and ask for the Spirit to give us what we need to resist temptation today.

 

Forgiveness Brings Healing To You

Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

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Should I Forgive?

From: Our Daily Bread

Should I Forgive?

 

I arrived early at my church to help set up for an event. A woman stood crying at the opposite end of the sanctuary. She’d been cruel and gossiped about me in the past, so I quickly drowned out her sobs with a vacuum cleaner. Why should I care about someone who didn’t like me?

When the Holy Spirit reminded me how much God had forgiven me, I crossed the room. The woman shared that her baby had been in the hospital for months. We cried, embraced, and prayed for her daughter. After working through our differences, we’re now good friends.

In Matthew 18, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a king who decided to settle his accounts. A servant who owed a staggering amount of money pleaded for mercy. Soon after the king canceled his debt, that servant tracked down and condemned a man who owed him far less than what he’d owed the king. When word got back to the king, the wicked servant was imprisoned because of his own unforgiving spirit (vv. 23–34).

Choosing to forgive doesn’t condone sin, excuse the wrongs done to us, or minimize our hurts. Offering forgiveness simply frees us to enjoy God’s undeserved gift of mercy, as we invite Him to accomplish beautiful works of peace-restoring grace in our lives and our relationships.

Lord, help us give our grievances to You so that You may turn them into something good. Make us ready to forgive completely and earnestly. Give us Your spirit of unity.

Forgiving others expresses our trust in God’s right to judge according to His perfection and goodness.

 

Party On?

From: Our Daily Journey

Party On?

Read:

Amos 4:1-13
Still you would not return to me (Amos 4:6).

I recently read of the plight of “370,000 . . . ordinary middle-class people” forced to rummage “in stinking piles of rubbish for rotten cabbage leaves.” Hundreds of thousands of people in the country were scavenging for food while members of the political upper crust were “enjoying lavish parties and gourmet cuisine.” The article revealed unjust conditions and the failure of governmental leaders to do the right thing to help their people.

The prophet Amos similarly brought strong words to Israel and its upper crust for “partying on” while the poor suffered. He described the corrupt wealthy as “fat cows” who called out, “Bring us another drink!” even as they “[oppressed] the poor and [crushed] the needy” (Amos 4:1).

It’s interesting to note that the very people Amos condemned were offering sacrifices. The problem? They were giving offerings to Yahweh, but their purpose in doing so was simply for themselves (Amos 4:4-5). Worship that’s offered with complete indifference to the suffering of others is deeply offensive to God.

God in His holiness (His perfect nature) lovingly disciplined His erring people so that they would turn to Him and pursue justice. But the haunting refrain found five times in chapter 4 reveals their stone-cold hearts: “But still you would not return to me” (Amos 4:6,8,9,10,11).

Scripture reveals that God loves all people and wants us to care for those in need (Jeremiah 22:3; 1 John 3:17). If we’ve grown cold in our compassion for the poor and oppressed—partying on while they remain in misery—it’s time to repent and return to Him. And as our all-powerful God provides (Amos 4:13), may we share sacrificially with others today.

 

Liberty and the Standards of Jesus

From: Utmost.org

Liberty and the Standards of Jesus

A spiritually-minded person will never come to you with the demand— “Believe this and that”; a spiritually-minded person will demand that you align your life with the standards of Jesus. We are not asked to believe the Bible, but to believe the One whom the Bible reveals (see John 5:39-40). We are called to present liberty for the conscience of others, not to bring them liberty for their thoughts and opinions. And if we ourselves are free with the liberty of Christ, others will be brought into that same liberty— the liberty that comes from realizing the absolute control and authority of Jesus Christ.

Always measure your life solely by the standards of Jesus. Submit yourself to His yoke, and His alone; and always be careful never to place a yoke on others that is not of Jesus Christ. It takes God a long time to get us to stop thinking that unless everyone sees things exactly as we do, they must be wrong. That is never God’s view. There is only one true liberty— the liberty of Jesus at work in our conscience enabling us to do what is right.

Don’t get impatient with others. Remember how God dealt with you— with patience and with gentleness. But never water down the truth of God. Let it have its way and never apologize for it. Jesus said, “Go…and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19), not, “Make converts to your own thoughts and opinions.”

Be A Blessing Through God

Be a blessing to others through God’s work in you.

 “I will bless those who bless you, . . . and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:3

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Drumroll, Please . . .

From: Get More Strength.org

“I will bless those who bless you, . . . and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:3

There are some moments in Scripture that I would have choreographed a little differently if it had been up to me. Now, before you start writing in to tell me I’m a heretic, please know that I believe wholeheartedly in the final authority of Scripture and the sovereignty of God. I don’t want to risk a lightning bolt and am not slacking off in my theology!

But if you or I were consulted about some of these moments in Scripture, we might have orchestrated them with a little more fanfare. For instance, the moment when Adam woke up to find Eve before him had to be a “fireworks, roses, and violins” kind of moment! Or what about the birth of Christ? Though God had a purpose in it, we probably would have chosen something a little more dramatic than a dingy stable and a few shepherds.

I have the same kinds of thoughts when I read through Genesis 12:1-3. This conversation between Abraham and God occurs in the middle of nowhere. I think of Abraham as a great patriarch, but in this moment he is an uninitiated nomad with no doubt an idolatrous background. And yet, here in this conversation between God and a rather unlikely person, God makes an earth-shattering promise. God shows up and tells Abraham that he would become a great nation. Then God promises—this is the moment we would cue the drum roll and a thousand-trumpet fanfare—that through him, “All peoples on earth will be blessed.”

This is one of the first prophecies of the coming of Jesus Christ through the seed of Abraham. Take it personally—you and I, who are followers of Jesus today, are recipients of the phenomenal benefits of that promise.

Both genealogies of Jesus in the Gospels trace His lineage back to Abraham. Through the entire Old Testament, even when it seemed that the promise had been jeopardized by the unfaithfulness of Israel, God was faithfully preparing to keep His promise to Abraham. And then the moment arrived when the promise was fulfilled. On the hill of Calvary, it was a descendant of Abraham hanging on the cross, giving His life for us so that, as the promise predicted, you and I could be “blessed” in massive proportion. And it all started with a promise made to a wandering nomad over 4,000 years ago. No cheering crowds or angelic choirs—just God, His promise, and an unlikely recipient.

And here is the good news. God still shows up to speak to rather unassuming people like you and me. Every time we read His promises to us it is a profound moment. Behind every promise and plan He lays out for us in His Word, there are ramifications of strategic proportions. You may not hear a lot of fanfare, but the God who was faithful to Abraham will be faithful to His promises to you! So strike up the band—drum roll, please—God still speaks and delivers on His promises! Are you listening? Do you believe?

 

The Ministry of Memory

From: Our Daily Bread

The Ministry of Memory

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Our experiences of loss and disappointment may leave us feeling angry, guilty, and confused. Whether our choices have closed some doors that will never reopen or, through no fault of our own, tragedy has invaded our lives, the result is often what Oswald Chambers called “the unfathomable sadness of ‘the might have been.’ ” We may try to suppress the painful memory, but discover we can’t.

Chambers reminds us that the Lord is still active in our lives. “Never be afraid when God brings back the past,” he said. “Let memory have its way. It is a minister of God with its rebuke and chastisement and sorrow. God will turn the ‘might have been’ into a wonderful [place of growth] for the future.”

In Old Testament days when God sent the people of Israel into exile in Babylon, He told them to serve Him in that foreign land and grow in faith until He brought them back to their home. “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ ” (Jer. 29:11).

God urged them not to ignore or be trapped by events of the past but instead to focus on Him and look ahead. The Lord’s forgiveness can transform the memory of our sorrow into confidence in His everlasting love.

Father, thank You for Your plans for us, and for the future that awaits us in Your love.

For more insight from Oswald Chambers, visit utmost.org.

God can use our deepest disappointments to nurture our faith in Him.

 

Amazing Grace, Amazing Faith

From: Our Daily Journal

Amazing Grace, Amazing Faith

Read:

Matthew 8:5-13
When Jesus heard this, He was amazed (Matthew 8:10).

If I asked you to hum the melody of Amazing Grace, it’s likely you would know it. It’s a well-known song that reminds us about God’s astonishing forgiveness. His grace gave us spiritual sight when we were blind—allowing us to draw near to Him. God’s grace makes us shiver in reverence of Him, but it also eases our fears. As the song says, God’s grace is truly amazing!

While we marvel at the wonders of God, it’s interesting that Jesus once marveled at a person’s faith. In one instance, a Roman officer approached Jesus and explained that his servant was bedridden and in severe pain. Jesus volunteered to visit the soldier’s house and heal the man. But the centurion felt he wasn’t worthy of Jesus’ visit, and believed He could heal his servant without being present (Matthew 8:8). “When Jesus heard this, He was amazed” (Matthew 8:10). Then He commended the solider for his great faith, and confirmed that He had made the patient well.

What keeps us from amazing Jesus with our faith? Without even knowing it, we sometimes believe that the laws of nature and time limit His power. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is the One who created time and the scientific constants that help us understand our world. “Through [Christ] God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we . . . can’t see . . . and He holds all creation together” (Colossians 1:16-17).

According to the Bible, Jesus can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants. He has the power to heal us physically and give us spiritual life. God has revealed His incredible grace through His Son (2 Timothy 1:9-10). If He’s amazed you with His grace, will you amaze Him with your faith?