Tag Archives: spiritual

The Joy Of Helping Others

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The Crash

For years after the Great Depression, the stock market struggled to win back investors’ confidence. Then, in 1952, Harry Markowitz suggested that investors spread their stock holdings over several companies and industries. He developed a theory for portfolio selection that helped investors in uncertain times. In 1990, Markowitz and two others won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for their theory. Like those jittery investors, we followers of Jesus may also find ourselves frozen in fear after a “crash” in our personal lives, unsure how to pick up the pieces and move on. We might even spend our remaining lives waiting for a “Markowitz moment,” when one big idea or action can help us recover from a previous failure. We forget that Jesus has already done that on our behalf. He covered our shame, and He set us free to fellowship with God and serve Him daily. Because He gave His life, and rose from the dead, when we “fall,” we can “arise” with Him, for “He delights in mercy” (Micah 7:8,18). The moment we find Jesus, our eternity with Him begins. He walks alongside us so He can change us into the people we long to be and were created to be.
Father, my actions aren’t adequate to fix my failures. Thank You for doing that through Your Son Jesus who gave Himself for us. Help me to look up and walk with You.
Look up from your failure, and you’ll find God standing ready to receive you.

Make Way

From: Our Daily Bread, by Joe Stowell

Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. —Isaiah 40:3

Dwight D. Eisenhower was known for his courageous leadership during World War II. His battle-tested skill equipped the troops to reclaim Europe. Soon after returning to the US as a hero, he was elected president.

While in Europe, Eisenhower had experienced the danger and difficulty of navigating the twisting roads. So, for the sake of US national security, he commissioned a network of roads that became the nation’s interstate highway system. Mountains were tunneled through and valleys were traversed by mammoth bridges.

In ancient times, conquering kings gained access to newly acquired territories through highways built for their troops. Isaiah had this in mind when he declared, “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isa. 40:3). And John the Baptist called people to repentance to “prepare the way” into their hearts for the arrival of King Jesus.

What preparation needs to be done to allow Jesus unhindered access to your own heart? Are there rough places of bitterness that need the bulldozer of forgiveness? Are there valleys of complaining that need to be filled with contentment? We can’t afford to neglect this spiritual engineering. Let’s prepare the way for the King!

God will make a way Where there seems to be no way; He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me. —Moen © 1990, Integrity’s Hosanna! Music.

Repentance clears the way for our relationship with the King.

UNLESS YOU BLESS ME

 From: Streams in the Desert Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” “I will not let you go,” Jacob replied, “unless you bless me.” Then Jacob asked, “Please tell me your name.” “Why do you ask my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. (Gen 32:26,29)   Jacob got the victory and the blessing not by wrestling, but by clinging. His limb was out of joint and he could struggle no longer, but he would not let go. Unable to wrestle, he wound his arms around the neck of his mysterious antagonist and hung all his helpless weight upon him, until at last he conquered.   We will not get victory in prayer until we too cease our struggling, giving up our own will and throw our arms about our Father’s neck in clinging faith.   What can puny human strength take by force out of the hand of Omnipotence? Can we wrest blessing by force from God? It is never the violence of wilfulness that prevails with God. It is the might of clinging faith, that gets the blessing and the victories. It is not when we press and urge our own will, but when humility and trust unite in saying, “Not my will, but Thine.” We are strong with God only in the degree that self is conquered and is dead. Not by wrestling, but by clinging can we get the blessing. —J. R. Miller   An incident from the prayer life of Charles H. Usher (illustrating “soul-cling” as a hindrance to prevailing prayer): “My little boy was very ill. The doctors held out little hope of his recovery. I had used all the knowledge of prayer which I possessed on his behalf, but he got worse and worse. This went on for several weeks.   “One day I stood watching him as he lay in his cot, and I saw that he could not live long unless he had a turn for the better. I said to God, ’O God, I have given much time in prayer for my boy and he gets no better; I must now leave him to Thee, and I will give myself to prayer for others. If it is Thy will to take him, I choose Thy will—I surrender him entirely to Thee.’   “I called in my dear wife, and told her what I had done. She shed some tears, but handed him over to God. Two days afterwards a man of God came to see us. He had been very interested in our boy Frank, and had been much in prayer for him.   “He said, ’God has given me faith to believe that he will recover—have you faith?’   “I said, ’I have surrendered him to God, but I will go again to God regarding him.’ I did; and in prayer I discovered that I had faith for his recovery. From that time he began to get better. It was the ’soul-cling’ in my prayers which had hindered God answering; and if I had continued to cling and had been unwilling to surrender him, I doubt if my boy would be with me today.   “Child of God! If you want God to answer your prayers, you must be prepared to follow the footsteps of ’our father Abraham,’ even to the Mount of Sacrifice.” (See Rom. 4:12.)

Today’s Devotions

From: Through The Bible

Morning

May 28

2 Samuel 6:6-7 (KJV) 6And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. 7And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.

David wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. He had a new cart built and had the ark put on it with oxen pulling the cart. Everyone went before the ark playing musical instruments and singing. When they had come to Nachon’s threshingfloor, the ark looked like it might tip over. One of the men alongside it, Uzzah, reached out to steady it. He fell down dead.

It seems very harsh to us today, and it did to David. The next time David moved the ark, he did so according to the Law. The priests were supposed to carry the ark with special poles. David learned that you cannot add to God’s law and expect to be free of problems. God’s instructions are for our good.

Everyone learned that the presence of God was not a little thing. If the ark had fallen and touched the earth, it would be less defiled than if man touched it! Man does not realize that his rebellious, disobedient nature is far more corrupting than dirt. We strive to keep our physical bodies clean, but the real filth is on the inside.

What lessons should we learn today from this tragic event? God’s way is the best way, and it is for our good. If He gives us instruction, it is because He is protecting and keeping us. Don’t presume to add to God’s directions or take away from them. Do not do only what He tells you, but do it like He tells you.

The other lesson is to realize the holiness of God and the defiled condition of man. If we see that clearly, we will not stick our hands into God’s business, defiling it with our carnal ways and ideas. We have a great deal of Ark touching in the world today. Man wants to do what he thinks is best for the church instead of waiting upon God and doing as God directs. Don’t reach out your hand even when you think it is a good thing you are doing. Follow God’s directions.

Consider: Following God’s instructions is the best thing for me.

Evening

May 28

John 1:29,33-34 (NIV) 29The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 33I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

Throughout the Jewish history, all the way back to Abel, a lamb had been slain as a sacrifice. The lamb never really took the sins from the people. Each sacrifice was a look forward in faith to the perfect Lamb that would. It was an expression of faith that one-day God would provide. That expression of faith made them right with God. It did not take away guilt, however. Each year the atonement sacrifice was made again.

John the Baptist was sent ahead of Jesus to prepare people’s hearts for His ministry. The Holy Spirit had given a very specific sign to John. The One that he sees the Holy Spirit come down on like a dove is the One who will baptize people with the Holy Spirit. This One is the Son of God. John saw that happen when he baptized Jesus.

As Jesus walked by, John told his disciples, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” This was the Lamb that millions of lambs throughout history were just a shadow of. He is God’s Lamb. He is the One God provided to be the perfect sacrifice for sin. He had to be a sinless man that could take on the sins of others and take the curse of death for that sin in their place. The time had come. The Messiah was present.

Meditation: Look! Fix your eyes on Jesus. He takes away the sins of the world, your sin and mine. What a beautiful Lamb God has provided! This is the Son of God! “There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.”

Be a Happy Greeter

The Life To Know Him

From: My Utmost for HIs Highest

The disciples had to tarry, staying in Jerusalem until the day of Pentecost, not only for their own preparation but because they had to wait until the Lord was actually glorified. And as soon as He was glorified, what happened? “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). The statement in John 7:39 — “. . . for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified”— does not pertain to us. The Holy Spirit has been given; the Lord is glorified— our waiting is not dependent on the providence of God, but on our own spiritual fitness.

The Holy Spirit’s influence and power were at work before Pentecost, but He was not here. Once our Lord was glorified in His ascension, the Holy Spirit came into the world, and He has been here ever since. We have to receive the revealed truth that He is here. The attitude of receiving and welcoming the Holy Spirit into our lives is to be the continual attitude of a believer. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we receive reviving life from our ascended Lord.

It is not the baptism of the Holy Spirit that changes people, but the power of the ascended Christ coming into their lives through the Holy Spirit. We all too often separate things that the New Testament never separates. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not an experience apart from Jesus Christ— it is the evidence of the ascended Christ.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit does not make you think of time or eternity— it is one amazing glorious now. “This is eternal life, that they may know You . . .” (John 17:3). Begin to know Him now, and never finish.

Greed

From: Short daily devotions

Daily Devotional Bible Verse

When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food. Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:1-5 ESV)

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he instructed the “love of money is a root of all kinds of evils,” and it is “through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith” (I Timothy 6:10). Interestingly, he calls the “love of money” a “craving”, if this is the case, we need to be vigilant, lest we begin to go the way of greed. Proverbs 21:1-5 assists us in this by beginning with a person sitting at the king’s table. It then tells those of us who are often controlled by our appetite to put a knife to our throats. This is because gluttony leads to greed. We start eating and acquiring more: more money, more clothes, more cars, and gradually what we have is insufficient in satisfying our greed. 

As Christians we are called to lay up our treasure in heaven and not here on the Earth (Matthew 6:20). We each have things in our life we want just a little bit more of because we want more comfort, entertainment, status, or even security.  We think we will in turn have stability and then need less and give more to God.  This is not the case though.  Examine those things according to Scripture and be certain you aren’t traveling the path of greed. For if we do, we will find our things “gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.”

 

Live your life in Him!

From: Worthydevotions

Thursday, July 18, 2013 (7:02 am)

by George Whitten, Editor of Worthy Devotions

John 21:14-15, 22 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead. So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

After Yeshua’s (Jesus) resurrection, He showed himself to the apostles several times. Once, they were fishing, and Yeshua met them on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Peter was there, back at his craft, but swirling with inward emotions. The anguish of his recent denial, three times, exactly as Yeshua had predicted, mixed with the amazement and perplexity at the empty tomb, and finally the astounding relief and joy witnessing the risen Lord. Peter was on an emotional roller coaster for days, but the issue of his denial remained unresolved.

The Lord’s encounter with Peter on the Sea of Galilee was to fully restore him. Three times Yeshua probes His beloved disciple “Do you love me?” But this is more than just a quantitative restoration. The Lord is penetrating the apostle’s heart in this amazing conversation, because He really knows how much Peter loves Him and He wants Peter to know that He trusts him completely even after his awful failure. So Yeshua gives Peter his lifelong commission– “Feed my lambs!”; “Feed my sheep.” Yeshua knew that He could entrust Peter with this responsibility, and He told him so. Peter was restored.

Yet Peter still wobbles, even as he receives his restoration, when he asks about his fellow apostle, John. Yeshua’s response, “what is that to you, you follow me!” settles the matter. The Lord is saying, “stop the competition, Peter. Those days are over, yet you’re still comparing…I have work for you; I have a life for you; live it!”

The enemy would love to dig up your past, thrust it in your face, and leave you comparing yourself with others for the rest of your life – but the Lord has a life for you and He wants you to live it. Your life, not someone else’s. He loves you and He trusts you to be who He made you to be. So don’t allow your past failures or your present jealousies to prevent you from the life you’re called to live for Him!

 

Perfection is Coming!

Friday, July 26, 2013 (7:19 am)

Matthew 6:30-34 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today, and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? O you of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, “What shall we eat?” or, “What shall we drink?” or, “What shall we wear?” For after all these things do the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will will worry about itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

In Biblical Hebrew, the verb tenses are not like our “past”, “present”, and “future” – there are only two: “perfect” and “imperfect”. The “imperfect” tense is that which is not yet, not done, or not completed. The “perfect” is that which is done, complete and finished.

The Bible speaks of things that are yet to come in the perfect tense, as if they are already completed; (also called the “prophetic past”). God can have a finished work that hasn’t happened yet — for example, our salvation! In Messiah, we are a finished work that hasn’t happened yet. We are becoming what we are already, in Him.

Yeshua (Jesus) instructed us to pray, “on earth as it is in heaven.” Since we (believers) are born from above — from the finished, perfect work of God, we are already participating in His perfection, though we are still on earth doing His will.

So, reflect on this truth of your already complete perfection in Yeshua. You will look at your problems a little differently — actually be less worried about them from this “Heavenly” point of view. You may still be working them out with fear and trembling, yet rest in this simple and amazing fact: in Yeshua, they are already resolved!

by George Whitten, Editor of Worthy Devotions

God Listens to Your Prayers

 

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Thinking of Prayer as Jesus Taught

From: My Utmost For His Highest

Our thinking about prayer, whether right or wrong, is based on our own mental conception of it. The correct concept is to think of prayer as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our hearts. Our blood flows and our breathing continues “without ceasing”; we are not even conscious of it, but it never stops. And we are not always conscious of Jesus keeping us in perfect oneness with God, but if we are obeying Him, He always is. Prayer is not an exercise, it is the life of the saint. Beware of anything that stops the offering up of prayer. “Pray without ceasing . . .”— maintain the childlike habit of offering up prayer in your heart to God all the time. Jesus never mentioned unanswered prayer. He had the unlimited certainty of knowing that prayer is always answered. Do we have through the Spirit of God that inexpressible certainty that Jesus had about prayer, or do we think of the times when it seemed that God did not answer our prayer? Jesus said, “. . . everyone who asks receives . . .” (Matthew 7:8). Yet we say, “But . . . , but . . . .” God answers prayer in the best way— not just sometimes, but every time. However, the evidence of the answer in the area we want it may not always immediately follow. Do we expect God to answer prayer? The danger we have is that we want to water down what Jesus said to make it mean something that aligns with our common sense. But if it were only common sense, what He said would not even be worthwhile. The things Jesus taught about prayer are supernatural truths He reveals to us.

Today’s Devotions

From: Through The Bible

Morning

May 26

1 Samuel 28:5-7 (NIV) 5When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart.6He inquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets.7Saul then said to his attendants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.” “There is one in Endor,” they said.

When man becomes unrepentant and justifies his flesh, he will abandon his standards to get what he wants. To the very end, Saul remained unrepentant and proud. Faced with a united army of the Philistines, and having banished David and his men, he began to fear the outcome of the approaching battle. In fear for his physical life, he inquired of God, but God wouldn’t answer him.

It is interesting to note the usual ways in which the LORD did speak to him in the past. Dreams are one way in which the LORD communicates with us then and now. When we don’t have the exact instruction in God’s word, the LORD may reveal His direction in a dream. The Urim is believed to have been stones in the breastplate of the High Priest that would glow in answer to yes or no questions. Finally, the prophets are listed. A prophet would have a word from the LORD for Saul as Samuel had done in the past.

Saul had become the enemy of the LORD by disobedience and pride. He went against the Word of God in calling on a witch to bring up the spirit of Samuel. When we know we are out of God’s will and that God is silent toward us, desperate people will try forbidden means to see the future. If God does not tell you, it is better for you not to know. Do not try to find out the secrets of God through mystical means. It only compounds the sin of rebellion against God. If you are not hearing from God, search out the issues in your heart that must change.

Remember: If you aren’t hearing God’s instruction, the problem may be in your own heart.

Evening

May 26

John 1:14-16 (NIV) 14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'” 16From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.

The Logos became flesh. (see May 24 evening) That is the greatest of all miracles. If you can accept that miracle, then all others naturally follow. If you can’t, then you have no hope of ever being right with a holy and just God. This is the truth upon which the Bible hinges. The eternal reality of God became a human being. The last half of that first sentence means He pitched His tent among us. The worship of God that Moses established was done in a tent. There the glory of God resided. Then the glory of God moved to the temple that Solomon built. Eventually the glory and presence of God left that temple because of the peoples’ rebellion against God. In the passage for today, the glory of God returned to the tent, but this time it was the tent of a human body.

The first tent of worship was built under the direction of the Holy Spirit. This tent was also, as the Holy Spirit came upon Mary. When we see the life of Jesus, we see the glory of God. The Jews thought of the glory as a shining light or illuminated cloud. Glory is a life entirely yielded to God. It is a life filled with grace and truth. We can see the glory of God in every action and statement of Jesus.

John the Baptist came to tell the world that the Messiah was coming. Though John was born and began his ministry before that of Jesus’, Jesus eternally existed in the Father. He is the I Am and lives in the eternal now.

It is the super-abounding grace of the Eternal One that brings blessing after blessing into our lives. It was this same wonderful grace that led to the incarnation, display of glory, death and resurrection of Jesus. Do you see your life being filled with one blessing after another? It is! Open your eyes to this grace that we so often take for granted, and bless the Lord.

Sing: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me. Bless His holy name!

Righteousness

by Upper Room Administrator on Saturday, May 24, 2014
            I was the youngest of three children.  Like many of their time, my folks had to delay marriage until after World War II—or in their case even later, following Dad’s return from Japan where he served as part of the Allied occupation forces.  My parents were married in June 1948, and (as Dad was known to remark) nine months and fifteen minutes later their first daughter was born.  Bill made his appearance 22 months after his older sister, and I brought up the end of the parade about a year and a half after Bill.   Raising three children who were so close in age must have been challenging, though surviving the rigors of World War II had probably been good training.  As the youngest I sometimes felt at a disadvantage, often running to Mom for sympathy, carrying with me tales of things a devious older sibling had done to injure me.  In many cases I felt victimized, though truth be told I felt a certain satisfaction with the act of tattling in and of itself.  My mother’s answer was always the same: “Don’t worry about what they are doing; worry about what you are doing.” At the time, this message didn’t make sense to me.  If I noticed that I was doing something wrong, I certainly wouldn’t run to Mom to announce it!  Only years later did I figure out that she was urging me not to judge my own goodness in comparison to others that I knew had missed the mark, but to consider what I might do to improve my own behavior (which you have probably guessed was not flawless).   As a Christian I have come to realize that whenever we prayerfully participate in such self-examination, we realize we fall far short if we are using God’s standards of perfection—the only true measure—as our gauge.  The more we look at God’s perfect Law and the perfection shown in the life of his Son, the more we see the helplessness of our situation.   Thousands of years ago, King David reflected on this.  “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell.  The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.” (Psalm 5: 5-6, NIV).  As a young friend of mine sometimes says when faced with his own guilt, “Oh-oh.  I’m dead meat.”   Thankfully, God, full of grace, does not leave us there.  David’s song of praise goes on to say, “But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple.” (vs. 7)   Being better than our siblings, our neighbors, an our co-workers doesn’t allow us to enter God’s presence.  The Apostle Paul counted his background and numerous worthy accomplishments to be rubbish in the quest for attaining God’s favor. (See Phil. 3:4-8.)  It is only God’s mercy through the sacrifice of Christ that allows us that privilege.   And that is “good news” indeed! – Lisa Stackpole

Still Writing

by Upper Room Administrator on Monday, May 26, 2014
During the last two weeks, my writing and exercise routines were disrupted, but for a very good reason: the marriage of our oldest daughter. The honey-do list for chores around our home was extensive and my time away from work was spent trying to reduce that list!   For me writing really comes down to self-discipline and taking the time to develop an idea. Our local newspaper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, runs a Faith and Values column each Saturday. Anyone can submit a column for consideration to be published in the paper. After several unsuccessful attempts, three of my submissions were published in February, March, and April. I took three timely topics:  the Super Bowl, the NCAA basketball tournament, and the opening of baseball season, and developed a spiritual thread in each one.   Additionally, in Richmond Christians Who Write, I submitted a proposal for our group to write and develop our own Advent devotional booklet to be ready for Christmas 2014. Another member and I worked to compile the requirements and timeline, and we are optimistic about the opportunity this will give both seasoned writers and the non-published writers an outlet to showcase their skills.   I’m also approaching the final phases of getting a second book for children ready to publish for the upcoming Christmas season. Careful reading and editing are taking place along with coordinating the illustrations with the artist so that the drawings support the telling of the story.   Finally, my devotional in this edition of The Upper Room represents an unexpected challenge that really knocked my wife’s family off their feet. Even at this writing today, we still wonder what triggered this tragic loss. It only serves to illustrate that we can appear to be fine on the outside, but inside a person can be tangled in an emotional turmoil that is filled with a deep darkness. I’m guessing that darkness holds no opening for any light of hope. With time, and the assistance of family, friends, and the strength of their faith our family has adjusted to the loss of a daughter, sister, wife, mother, and friend. – Bill Pike

Be The Best Through Christ

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The Good or The Best?

From: My Utmost for His HIghest

As soon as you begin to live the life of faith in God, fascinating and physically gratifying possibilities will open up before you. These things are yours by right, but if you are living the life of faith you will exercise your right to waive your rights, and let God make your choice for you. God sometimes allows you to get into a place of testing where your own welfare would be the appropriate thing to consider, if you were not living the life of faith. But if you are, you will joyfully waive your right and allow God to make your choice for you. This is the discipline God uses to transform the natural into the spiritual through obedience to His voice.

Whenever our right becomes the guiding factor of our lives, it dulls our spiritual insight. The greatest enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but good choices which are not quite good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best. In this passage, it would seem that the wisest thing in the world for Abram to do would be to choose. It was his right, and the people around him would consider him to be a fool for not choosing.

Many of us do not continue to grow spiritually because we prefer to choose on the basis of our rights, instead of relying on God to make the choice for us. We have to learn to walk according to the standard which has its eyes focused on God. And God says to us, as He did to Abram, “. . . walk before Me. . .” (Genesis 17:1).

MAY 23, 2014

From: Biblegateway

Enjoying the Seasons of Parenting
Tracie Miles

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)

“Are they going to laugh all night long?” my husband jokingly asked. “I don’t know,” I said, chuckling at his question. “But I hope so. It’s a sound that makes my heart happy.”

My teenage daughter had invited her entire cheerleading squad to sleep over at our house after a basketball game. When they arrived, the house immediately filled with laughter and conversations as they gobbled up pizza and chocolate chip cookies.

Later that night, sleep seemed to escape me. Not because of the cheerful noise billowing down the stairs from a house full of girls, but because I wondered how many more laughter-filled sleepovers I might have the blessing of hosting. Knowing my children are growing up quickly, I couldn’t help but face the reality I was entering a new season of life.

I began to ponder all I would miss with two daughters living away at college this fall, instead of just one. Although my son still has a few years left at home, I had to face the reality that this season of my parenting was coming to a close. And my heart felt heavy.

I remember feeling these same emotions when my babies outgrew their cribs and moved to big-kid beds. When my daughters tucked away baby dolls and hair bows and focused on nail polish and fashion. When my son grew too old for his teddy bear. When they left elementary school behind and entered the scary world of middle school. When they stopped riding their bikes and instead, got behind the wheel of a car.

As I lay in the dark pondering this changing season of my life, a warm tear trickled down my face. Yet I felt God’s sweet comfort and His reminder that although life is ever-changing, He is constant. I started to pray and sensed God was showing me the importance of treasuring the current season of parenting, rather than mourning the ones already passed, because every moment with our children is a blessing.

The idea of seasons of life is found in the book of Ecclesiastes, authored by King Solomon. After becoming king of Israel following his father King David’s death, God appeared to Solomon in a dream and offered him anything he wanted. Instead of asking for riches or victories, Solomon asked God for wisdom and received the blessing of understanding life (1 Kings 3:510-13).

Although Solomon doesn’t directly speak about parenting in Ecclesiastes, his wise advice certainly applies to this subject.

Today’s key verse reminds us life is a progression of seasons, with everything happening in God’s timing and under His control: “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Then Ecclesiastes 3:2-8 highlights many of life’s experiences that we find in the seasons of parenting, such as times to plant and uproot. Times to cry, laugh, grieve and dance. Times to embrace and turn away. Times to search and quit searching. Times to tear and to mend. Times to speak and to keep quiet. Times to keep and to let go.

We find pieces of our parenting experiences scattered between the lines of this passage. As we accept there will be different seasons of parenting, we allow God to whisper specific encouragement to our hearts, fill our spirits with perseverance and understanding, and pierce our minds with the spiritual wisdom needed not only to make it through the seasons, but to appreciate them as gifts from God.

No matter which season we find ourselves in, let’s treasure it and bask in the blessings it brings. Embracing each season as it comes brings peace because we know we are right where God wants us to be and that He is preparing us for the season to come.

My house may not always be filled with laughter in the middle of the night, but if I trust God is with me, I will always have joy in my heart.

Lord, thank You for the privilege of being a parent, grandparent or caregiver to the little ones You’ve entrusted into my care. Help me enjoy every day of every season and lean on You when my heart aches for seasons gone by. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

TO SIR HENRY WILLINK, whose wife had just died: On bereavement and grieving.

From: CS Lewis

3 December 1959

Dear Master,

I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt one, those who keep silence hurt more. They help to increase the sense of general isolation which makes a sort of fringe to the sorrow itself. You know what cogent reason I have to feel withyou: but I can feel for you too. I know that what you are facing must be worse than what I must shortly face myself, because your happiness has lasted so much longer and is therefore so much more intertwined with your whole life. As Scott said in like case, ‘What am I to do with that daily portion of my thoughts which has for so many years been hers?’

People talk as if grief were just a feeling—as if it weren’t the continually renewed shock of setting out again and again on familiar roads and being brought up short by the grim frontier post that now blocks them. I, to be sure, believe there is something beyond it: but the moment one tries to use that as a consolation (that is not its function) the belief crumbles. It is quite useless knocking at the door of Heaven for earthly comfort: it’s not the sort of comfort they supply there.

You are probably very exhausted physically. Hug that and all the little indulgences to which it entitles you. I think it is tiny little things which (next to the very greatest things) help most at such a time.

I have myself twice known, after a loss, a strange excited (but utterly un-spooky) sense of the person’s presence all about me. It may be a pure hallucination. But the fact that it always goes off after a few weeks proves nothing either way.

I wish I had known your wife better. But she has a bright place in my memory. . . . She will be very greatly missed—on her own account, quite apart from any sympathy with you—by every fellow of this College.

. . . I shall not be at the funeral. You can understand and forgive my desire, now, to spend every possible moment at home. Forgive me if I have said anything amiss in this letter. I am too much involved myself to practise any skill.

Morning

From: Biblegateway

“Forsake me not, O Lord.”
Psalm 38:21

Frequently we pray that God would not forsake us in the hour of trial and temptation, but we too much forget that we have need to use this prayer at all times. There is no moment of our life, however holy, in which we can do without his constant upholding. Whether in light or in darkness, in communion or in temptation, we alike need the prayer, “Forsake me not, O Lord.” “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.” A little child, while learning to walk, always needs the nurse’s aid. The ship left by the pilot drifts at once from her course. We cannot do without continued aid from above; let it then be your prayer today, “Forsake me not. Father, forsake not thy child, lest he fall by the hand of the enemy. Shepherd, forsake not thy lamb, lest he wander from the safety of the fold. Great Husbandman, forsake not thy plant, lest it wither and die. Forsake me not, O Lord,’ now; and forsake me not at any moment of my life. Forsake me not in my joys, lest they absorb my heart. Forsake me not in my sorrows, lest I murmur against thee. Forsake me not in the day of my repentance, lest I lose the hope of pardon, and fall into despair; and forsake me not in the day of my strongest faith, lest faith degenerate into presumption. Forsake me not, for without thee I am weak, but with thee I am strong. Forsake me not, for my path is dangerous, and full of snares, and I cannot do without thy guidance. The hen forsakes not her brood; do thou then evermore cover me with thy feathers, and permit me under thy wings to find my refuge. Be not far from me, O Lord, for trouble is near, for there is none to help.’ Leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation!'”

“O ever in our cleansed breast,

Bid thine Eternal Spirit rest;

And make our secret soul to be

A temple pure and worthy thee.”

Evening

“And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem … and they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them.”
Luke 24:33-35

When the two disciples had reached Emmaus, and were refreshing themselves at the evening meal, the mysterious stranger who had so enchanted them upon the road, took bread and brake it, made himself known to them, and then vanished out of their sight. They had constrained him to abide with them, because the day was far spent; but now, although it was much later, their love was a lamp to their feet, yea, wings also; they forgot the darkness, their weariness was all gone, and forthwith they journeyed back the threescore furlongs to tell the gladsome news of a risen Lord, who had appeared to them by the way. They reached the Christians in Jerusalem, and were received by a burst of joyful news before they could tell their own tale. These early Christians were all on fire to speak of Christ’s resurrection, and to proclaim what they knew of the Lord; they made common property of their experiences. This evening let their example impress us deeply. We too must bear our witness concerning Jesus. John’s account of the sepulchre needed to be supplemented by Peter; and Mary could speak of something further still; combined, we have a full testimony from which nothing can be spared. We have each of us peculiar gifts and special manifestations; but the one object God has in view is the perfecting of the whole body of Christ. We must, therefore, bring our spiritual possessions and lay them at the apostle’s feet, and make distribution unto all of what God has given to us. Keep back no part of the precious truth, but speak what you know, and testify what you have seen. Let not the toil or darkness, or possible unbelief of your friends, weigh one moment in the scale. Up, and be marching to the place of duty, and there tell what great things God has shown to your soul.

Be Happy In The Lord

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The Delight of Despair

From: My Utmost for His HIghest

It may be that, like the apostle John, you know Jesus Christ intimately. Yet when He suddenly appears to you with totally unfamiliar characteristics, the only thing you can do is fall “at His feet as dead.” There are times when God cannot reveal Himself in any other way than in His majesty, and it is the awesomeness of the vision which brings you to the delight of despair. You experience this joy in hopelessness, realizing that if you are ever to be raised up it must be by the hand of God.

“He laid His right hand on me . . .” (Revelation 1:17). In the midst of the awesomeness, a touch comes, and you know it is the right hand of Jesus Christ. You know it is not the hand of restraint, correction, nor chastisement, but the right hand of the Everlasting Father. Whenever His hand is laid upon you, it gives inexpressible peace and comfort, and the sense that “underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27), full of support, provision, comfort, and strength. And once His touch comes, nothing at all can throw you into fear again. In the midst of all His ascended glory, the Lord Jesus comes to speak to an insignificant disciple, saying, “Do not be afraid” (Revelation 1:17). His tenderness is inexpressibly sweet. Do I know Him like that?

Take a look at some of the things that cause despair. There is despair which has no delight, no limits whatsoever, and no hope of anything brighter. But the delight of despair comes when “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells . . .” (Romans 7:18). I delight in knowing that there is something in me which must fall prostrate before God when He reveals Himself to me, and also in knowing that if I am ever to be raised up it must be by the hand of God. God can do nothing for me until I recognize the limits of what is humanly possible, allowing Him to do the impossible.

God Had Spoken

From: Streams in the Desert
Sarah bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him (Gen. 21:2).

The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of His heart to all generations” (Psalm 33:11). But we must be prepared to wait God’s time. God has His set times. It is not for us to know them; indeed, we cannot know them; we must wait for them.

If God had told Abraham in Haran that he must wait for thirty years until he pressed the promised child to his bosom, his heart would have failed him. So, in gracious love, the length of the weary years was hidden, and only as they were nearly spent, and there were only a few more months to wait, God told him that “according to the time of life, Sarah shall have a son.” (Gen. 18:14). The set time came at last; and then the laughter that filled the patriarch’s home made the aged pair forget the long and weary vigil.

Take heart, waiting one, thou waitest for One who cannot disappoint thee; and who will not be five minutes behind the appointed moment: ere long “your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

Ah, happy soul, when God makes thee laugh! Then sorrow and crying shall flee away forever, as darkness before the dawn.
–Selected

It is not for us who are passengers, to meddle with the chart and with the compass. Let that all-skilled Pilot alone with His own work.
–Hall

“Some things cannot be done in a day. God does not make a sunset glory in a moment, but for days may be massing the mist out of which He builds His palaces beautiful in the west.”

Some glorious morn–but when? Ah, who shall say?
The steepest mountain will become a plain,
And the parched land be satisfied with rain.
The gates of brass all broken; iron bars,
Transfigured, form a ladder to the stars.
Rough places plain, and crooked ways all straight,
For him who with a patient heart can wait.
These things shall be on God’s appointed day:
It may not be tomorrow–yet it may.

Haven’t you forgotten something?

From: Worthydevotions

Monday, March 24, 2014 (7:50 am)

Psalms 111:4 He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

A farmer was showing his visiting citydwelling friend around his farm. “Watch this!” he said. He gave a whistle and his little dog came running from the house, herded the cattle into the corral, then latched the gate with her paw. “Wow, that’s some dog — what’s her name?” The forgetful farmer thought for a minute and then asked, “What do you call that red flower that smells good and has thorns on the stem?” “A rose?” “That’s it!” The farmer turned to his wife. “Hey Rose, what do we call this dog?”

Funny how we forget things, isn’t it? But I’m not so sure God finds it all that funny! When we read about the children of Israel and their journeys through the wilderness for forty years, we see how God provided wonderful miracles for them, feeding them daily with manna, guiding them by a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day, parting the Red Sea!

How is it, then, that they became so very hard hearted toward Him? Over time, I think those miracles just became commonplace and they began to take them for granted!

But then again when I look back on my life, I can’t really blame them. It happens to the best of us! God has done miracles in our lives and I’m sure he’s done many in each of yours as well! But we still get anxious when things aren’t going quite the way we hoped, don’t we?

Recall a miracle of God in your life. Remember the joy you felt? We need to relive that joy today! The miracle of God’s new birth in us and the many other miracles God has done are not ones to be quickly forgotten. We need to relive them daily!

We never want to become cold toward God! Let’s spend some time remembering the miracles He has done in our lives and strive to trust Him for the trials we face today!

Righteousness

by Upper Room

            I was the youngest of three children.  Like many of their time, my folks had to delay marriage until after World War II—or in their case even later, following Dad’s return from Japan where he served as part of the Allied occupation forces.  My parents were married in June 1948, and (as Dad was known to remark) nine months and fifteen minutes later their first daughter was born.  Bill made his appearance 22 months after his older sister, and I brought up the end of the parade about a year and a half after Bill.

 

Raising three children who were so close in age must have been challenging, though surviving the rigors of World War II had probably been good training.  As the youngest I sometimes felt at a disadvantage, often running to Mom for sympathy, carrying with me tales of things a devious older sibling had done to injure me.  In many cases I felt victimized, though truth be told I felt a certain satisfaction with the act of tattling in and of itself.  My mother’s answer was always the same: “Don’t worry about what they are doing; worry about what you are doing.”

At the time, this message didn’t make sense to me.  If I noticed that I was doing something wrong, I certainly wouldn’t run to Mom to announce it!  Only years later did I figure out that she was urging me not to judge my own goodness in comparison to others that I knew had missed the mark, but to consider what I might do to improve my own behavior (which you have probably guessed was not flawless).

 

As a Christian I have come to realize that whenever we prayerfully participate in such self-examination, we realize we fall far short if we are using God’s standards of perfection—the only true measure—as our gauge.  The more we look at God’s perfect Law and the perfection shown in the life of his Son, the more we see the helplessness of our situation.

 

Thousands of years ago, King David reflected on this.  “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell.  The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.” (Psalm 5: 5-6, NIV).  As a young friend of mine sometimes says when faced with his own guilt, “Oh-oh.  I’m dead meat.”

 

Thankfully, God, full of grace, does not leave us there.  David’s song of praise goes on to say, “But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple.” (vs. 7)

 

Being better than our siblings, our neighbors, an our co-workers doesn’t allow us to enter God’s presence.  The Apostle Paul counted his background and numerous worthy accomplishments to be rubbish in the quest for attaining God’s favor. (See Phil. 3:4-8.)  It is only God’s mercy through the sacrifice of Christ that allows us that privilege.   And that is “good news” indeed!

 

– Lisa Stackpole

The Heavenly Reward for Faithfulness

More Than We Deserve

From: Our Daily Bread

Sometimes when people ask how I’m doing, I reply, “Better than I deserve.” I remember a well-meaning person responding, “Oh no, Joe, you deserve a lot,” to which I replied, “Not really.” I was thinking about what I truly deserve—God’s judgment.

We easily forget how sinful we are at the core of our being. Thinking of ourselves more highly than we should diminishes our sense of deep indebtedness to God for His grace. It discounts the price He paid to rescue us.

Time for a reality check! As the psalmist reminds us, God “has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities” (Ps. 103:10). Considering who we are in light of a holy and just God, the only thing we truly deserve is hell. And heaven is an absolute impossibility—except for the gift of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. If God never does anything more than redeem us, He has already done far more than we deserve. No wonder the psalmist says, “As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him” (v.11).

Knowing ourselves for what we are, we can’t help but say, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!” He gives us so much more than we deserve.

Lord, thank You for not dealing with me according
to my sins. I am indebted to You for the love and
grace that You demonstrated on the cross to
purchase my pardon and forgiveness—far beyond what I deserve!
If God never does anything more than redeem us, He has already done far more than we deserve.

Today’s Devotions

From: Through the Bible

Morning

May 23

1 Samuel 23:16-17 (NIV) 16And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. 17″Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.”

David was going through a difficult time in his life. He had done nothing wrong or even with any impure motives, yet King Saul was hunting him down to kill him. Not only had he done nothing wrong, but he had been a faithful servant of the king, one of the best. He had fought the King’s battles and soothed him when he was troubled. He was the King’s son-in-law. There was no explanation but jealousy. David never said an evil word toward the King in response to all the evil the King intended upon David.

After some time of being an exile, David was discouraged. Jonathan had made a covenant of friendship with David. He risked his own standing to go out and find and encourage David. He helped him find strength in God. This is the best thing you can do for your discouraged friends. Help them find strength in God. He is the source of any genuine strength to endure.

Jonathan gave him the often-repeated Biblical message, “Do not be afraid.” Many times we think all our effort is in vain. If you are being obedient to God, it is never in vain. God will see you through. Your enemies will not triumph in the end. Jonathan told David of his convictions that one-day David would reign. He could sense it was to be. Perhaps you have a discouraged friend who needs help to find strength in God. You can encourage them not to fear. You can encourage them with what you see coming in their lives. They need to look forward to what God is doing and not get bogged down in the present turmoil.

Consider: Who can I encourage today?

Evening

May 23

Luke 24:38-40 (NIV) 38He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.

The disciples were still hiding for fear that they would be crucified next. Behind a locked door they wondered what to do. Had everything they hoped been completely dashed? And what was this strange report that the ladies brought back of an empty tomb. Then the two that were on the road to Emmaus declared they had seen and talked with Jesus. What could it all mean?

Suddenly Jesus stood among them! “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” Why are we so reluctant to believe? After all they had witnessed, one would think this would not be so difficult to accept. His first sign to help them believe was to look at His hands and feet. They were the signs of what extent He would go for them, for us. He presented them first, displaying the fact that we are engraved upon His hands.

Then Jesus challenged them to touch Him to get rid of their doubts. He told them to see that He was flesh and bone. His blood had been poured out for them. He was not a spirit floating about; He was a transformed and resurrected man whose life source was no longer blood. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to watch the faces of the disciples as they turned from doubt and fear to utter wonder and worship?

To look at His hands and feet has the same affect on us. Every time we take communion we should look at His hands and feet and remember those wounds are still there because of His love for us. That gives us hope that our life source will no longer be blood. The life of flesh is in the blood, but one day our bodies will live by the Spirit.

Meditation: Whatever you are going through this day, or at this point in your life, hear Jesus’ ask you, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” Look at His hands and feet, and be at peace.

Matthew 15:21-39 (Good News Translation)

From: American Bible Society

God’s Word: Renewing Us in Faith

Introduction

Matthew 15:21-39: Jesus heals the daughter of a Canaanite woman, heals many people, and feeds four thousand people with seven loaves of bread and a few fish.

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 15:31

The people were amazed as they saw the dumb speaking, the crippled made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they praised the God of Israel.

Today’s Reading

21 Jesus left that place and went off to the territory near the cities of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman who lived in that region came to him. “Son of David!” she cried out. “Have mercy on me, sir! My daughter has a demon and is in a terrible condition.” 23 But Jesus did not say a word to her. His disciples came to him and begged him, “Send her away! She is following us and making all this noise!” 24 Then Jesus replied, “I have been sent only to the lost sheep of the people of Israel.” 25 At this the woman came and fell at his feet. “Help me, sir!” she said. 26 Jesus answered, “It isn’t right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27 “That’s true, sir,” she answered, “but even the dogs eat the leftovers that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 So Jesus answered her, “You are a woman of great faith! What you want will be done for you.” And at that very moment her daughter was healed. 29 Jesus left there and went along by Lake Galilee. He climbed a hill and sat down. 30 Large crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the dumb, and many other sick people, whom they placed at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them. 31The people were amazed as they saw the dumb speaking, the crippled made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they praised the God of Israel. 32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I feel sorry for these people, because they have been with me for three days and now have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away without feeding them, for they might faint on their way home.” 33 The disciples asked him, “Where will we find enough food in this desert to feed this crowd?” 34 “How much bread do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven loaves,” they answered, “and a few small fish.” 35 So Jesus ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks to God, broke them, and gave them to the disciples; and the disciples gave them to the people. 37 They all ate and had enough. Then the disciples took up seven baskets full of pieces left over. 38 The number of men who ate was four thousand, not counting the women and children. 39 Then Jesus sent the people away, got into a boat, and went to the territory of Magadan.

Reflect

In today’s reading, Jesus heals the daughter of a Canaanite woman. This woman was not Jewish, and her ancestors had lived in the area before the tribes of Israel settled there hundreds of years earlier. What did Jesus say to her at first? How did she respond? For what did he commend this woman? In what ways do you demonstrate your faith?

The Explanation For Our Difficulties

 

 

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The Explanation For Our Difficulties

From: My Utmost for HIs Highest

If you are going through a time of isolation, seemingly all alone, read John 17 . It will explain exactly why you are where you are— because Jesus has prayed that you “may be one” with the Father as He is. Are you helping God to answer that prayer, or do you have some other goal for your life? Since you became a disciple, you cannot be as independent as you used to be.

God reveals in John 17 that His purpose is not just to answer our prayers, but that through prayer we might come to discern His mind. Yet there is one prayer which God must answer, and that is the prayer of Jesus— “. . . that they may be one just as We are one . . .” (John 17:22). Are we as close to Jesus Christ as that?

God is not concerned about our plans; He doesn’t ask, “Do you want to go through this loss of a loved one, this difficulty, or this defeat?” No, He allows these things for His own purpose. The things we are going through are either making us sweeter, better, and nobler men and women, or they are making us more critical and fault-finding, and more insistent on our own way. The things that happen either make us evil, or they make us more saintly, depending entirely on our relationship with God and its level of intimacy. If we will pray, regarding our own lives, “Your will be done” (Matthew 26:42), then we will be encouraged and comforted by John 17, knowing that our Father is working according to His own wisdom, accomplishing what is best. When we understand God’s purpose, we will not become small-minded and cynical. Jesus prayed nothing less for us than absolute oneness with Himself, just as He was one with the Father. Some of us are far from this oneness; yet God will not leave us alone until we are one with Him— because Jesus prayed, “. . . that they all may be one . . . .”

 

Matthew 14:22-36 (Good News Translation)

From: American Bible Society

God’s Word: Renewing Us in Faith

Introduction

Matthew 14:22-36: After feeding more than five thousand people, Jesus made his disciples cross the lake in a boat. While the boat was far out into the lake, Jesus appeared to them hours later, walking on the water. When they arrived on the other said of the lake, many people brought those who were sick to Jesus, and Jesus healed them.

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 14:33

Then the disciples in the boat worshiped Jesus. “Truly you are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

Today’s Reading

22 Then Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people away. 23 After sending the people away, he went up a hill by himself to pray. When evening came, Jesus was there alone; 24 and by this time the boat was far out in the lake, tossed about by the waves, because the wind was blowing against it. 25 Between three and six o’clock in the morning Jesus came to the disciples, walking on the water. 26 When they saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and screamed with fear. 27 Jesus spoke to them at once. “Courage!” he said. “It is I. Don’t be afraid!” 28 Then Peter spoke up. “Lord, if it is really you, order me to come out on the water to you.” 29 “Come!” answered Jesus. So Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water to Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he was afraid and started to sink down in the water. “Save me, Lord!” he cried. 31 At once Jesus reached out and grabbed hold of him and said, “What little faith you have! Why did you doubt?” 32 They both got into the boat, and the wind died down. 33 Then the disciples in the boat worshiped Jesus. “Truly you are the Son of God!” they exclaimed. 34 They crossed the lake and came to land at Gennesaret, 35 where the people recognized Jesus. So they sent for the sick people in all the surrounding country and brought them to Jesus. 36 They begged him to let the sick at least touch the edge of his cloak; and all who touched it were made well.

Reflect

How did the disciples react when they saw Jesus walking on the water? What did Peter do? What happened to him? Why did Jesus say to Peter, “Why did you doubt?” Have you ever had doubts in matters of faith?

Even a Great Husband Makes a Very Poor God
LYSA TERKEURST

From: Crosswalk.com

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

I’ve often wished I could travel back 21 years ago and give my “young bride self” some advice. But since that’s not possible, I love sharing what I’ve learned with others.

Not so long ago, I had dinner with a friend in her twenties who would love to be married one day. During our time together, the conversation flowed freely about all sorts of things. Blogs. Writing. Leaving your comfort zone because God said so. You know, girl stuff. And then we moved on to the subject of relationships and marriage.

I shared with my friend that when I was single, I thought marriage was all about finding the right partner. I thought if you found “the one,” you’d be happy, secure and fulfilled.

I do think it’s good to have a list of standards you desire in a spouse. However, it can never be with the expectation that if you find that special someone, he’ll right all your wrongs and fill up all your insecurities. The problem with this thinking is the pressure it will eventually put on your spouse.

To expect another person to make you feel happy, secure and fulfilled will leave you disappointed at best and disillusioned at worst. Even a great husband makes a very poor God.

Only God Himself can settle those deep heart-needs. Our key verse, Philippians 4:19 reminds us of this, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

If a husband could meet every need his wife had, we’d have no need for God. Therefore, instead of just focusing on finding the right partner, let God work on your heart to help you become the right partner. The time to start working on becoming a wife is now. Before the white dress, delicate bouquets, unity candle, bacon-wrapped shrimp and reception punch, there is some heart stuff to consider:

Getting married doesn’t instantly make you selfless … it makes you realize how very selfish you can be at times.

Getting married doesn’t make you feel loved … it makes you realize love is more of a decision you make than a feeling you feel.

Getting married doesn’t take away loneliness … it makes you realize true companionship comes not when you demand it, but rather when you give it to another person.

So, what does marriage give? A beautiful chance to make the choice to …

Laugh whether or not the jokes are funny.

Love by folding his collar over his tie every morning.

Talk things through by addressing issues rather than attacking him personally.

Cheer him on through both failures and successes.

Look for a positive quality in him each day and take the time to tell him.

Thank God for the privilege of being his wife.

After our time together, my friend thanked me for our talk. She said it gave her a lot to think about. To be honest, it gave me a lot to think about as well.

Dear Lord, only You can fill my heart, right my wrongs, and make me feel loved. I pray that You would show me how to keep my expectations of my husband in check. Help me be the wife he desires. And help me remember that marriage was never meant to make me happy all the time. Marriage is a decision to honor You by honoring the one you’ve entrusted to me to be my husband. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

May 22

From: Our Daily Bread

Leave It To God

“Roll on Jehovah thy way” (Ps. 37:6).

Whatever it is that presses thee, go tell the Father; put the whole matter over into His hand, and so shalt thou be freed from that dividing, perplexing care that the world is full of. When thou art either to do or suffer anything, when thou art about any purpose or business, go tell God of it, and acquaint Him with it; yes, burden Him with it, and thou hast done for matter of caring; no more care, but quiet, sweet, diligence in thy duty, and dependence on Him for the carriage of thy matters. Roll thy cares, and thyself with them, as one burden, all on thy God. –R. Leighton

Build a little fence of trust

Around today;

Fill the space with loving work

And therein stay.

Look not through the sheltering bars

Upon tomorrow;

God will help thee bear what comes

Of joy or sorrow. –Mary Butts

We shall find it impossible to commit our way unto the Lord, unless it be a way that He approves. It is only by faith that a man can commit his way unto the Lord; if there be the slightest doubt in the heart that “our way” is not a good one, faith will refuse to have anything to do with it. This committing of our way must be a continuous, not a single act. However extraordinary and unexpected may seem to be His guidance, however near the precipice He may take you, you are not to snatch the guiding reins out of His hands. Are we willing to have all our ways submitted to God, for Him to pronounce judgment on them? There is nothing a Christian needs to be more scrutinizing about than about his confirmed habits and views. He is too apt to take for granted the Divine approbation of them. Why are some Christians so anxious, so fearful? Evidently because they have not left their way with the Lord. They took it to Him, but brought it away with them again. –Selected

 

See Ya In Heaven

heaven : beautiful clouds heaven : stairs in sky Stock Photoheaven : Heavens Gate - Eternity Afterlife Stock Photo
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heaven : Spring landscape in mountains with Flower of a rhododendron and the sky with cloud Stock Photoheaven : Cosmic clouds of mist on bright colorful backgroundsheaven : Majestic sunset in the mountains landscape. Carpathian, Ukraine, Europe.

See Ya in Heaven

“You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Luke 12:40

Periodically, current world events stir up discussion about the endtimes. While I believe in the importance of being ready for Christ’s return, I don’t put much stock in date setters who think they have the timing all figured out. After all, it has been over 20 years since the book, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988 was published! In America, the book took Christians by storm, and, as the president of Moody Bible Institute at that time, I received dozens of copies from well-meaning saints who wanted us to spread the word through Moody Radio that Jesus was coming back on September 18. Since Jesus said that no one knew the time of His return, I dismissed the book as another Bible crackpot publication.

But to this day I’ll never forget getting up on the morning of September 18th. As skeptical as I was, I couldn’t help but wonder,What if the guy who wrote this book is right? What if this is my last day on earth? Our family talked about it at the breakfast table. And as my daughter walked down the driveway on her way to school, she turned around and said with a smile, “Hey, Dad—see ya in heaven.”

I couldn’t help but think how right that sounded. I found myself thinking that I should live every day as though this were my last day here—the day that He returns to take me home; the day that I will at last see Him face-to-face! I thought about how differently I would treat people, how interested I would be to share the gospel with friends and colleagues, how I would want to clear up past offenses and live to be really pure and ready. As Jesus said in Luke 12, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home . . . . Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes” (Luke 12:35-37).

So here are four habits of hearts that are fixed on heaven:

  • Be confidently riveted on His sudden return. Remember, He will come “like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2).
  • Be pure. Throughout the New Testament, the strongest motivation for purity was always connected to the return of Jesus (1 John 3:3).
  • Refuse to get stuck here. After all, as people of faith, we are “strangers and exiles” here (Hebrews 11:13).
  • Invest in eternity. Commit your time and resources to kingdom gain and values (Luke 12:33).

God wants heaven to be the fire in your heart. As a friend of mine says, our lives here should be a sneak preview of the really big show to come!

See ya in heaven!

 

Today’s Devotions

From: Through the Bible

Morning

May 21

1 Samuel 18:3-4 (NIV) 3And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. 4Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.

One of the ancient covenants that remained from tribal days was this one that Jonathan entered into with David. Jonathan had the same heart of faith in God and His ability to defeat the enemies in life. When he heard David speak, his soul resonated with the same tone of faith and courage in God. He loved him as himself. He saw his own heart toward God in David. You may have felt something like this when you heard a brother or sister share their testimony.

This covenant took the form of the exchange of clothing and weapons. It was, in symbolic style, saying that my possessions are yours and your enemies are mine. It is not recorded that David gave his clothes and weapons to Jonathan, but as a person of lower class and wealth, he had already committed himself to the royal family. They had entered into a covenant to defend and provide for one another.

It is a wonderful gift of God when you find someone that shares your heart for ministry. They come along side you with understanding and encouragement, and you do the same for them. This is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, who became a man, the last Adam, in order to come along side us. He took off his robe of glory and weapons of power to be with us. We give Him our weak and meager allegiance and He gives us His clothing of glory and weapons of light. We have entered into a friendship covenant, promising to fight side by side against our common enemy.

Prayer: Lord, help me be as faithful to You as David was to Jonathan! Thank you for those who share my heart for You.

Evening

May 21

Luke 17:20-21 (NIV) 20Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation,21nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”

The Jews believed the Messiah would lead them to victory over all their enemies and set up a Jewish nation like that of David’s. If Jesus was this Messiah, their natural question would be when He would begin this kingdom. Jesus’ answer shows that His perspective of the Kingdom of God is very different from theirs. As usual, they are thinking on very physical and temporal terms, whereas Jesus is speaking about spiritual realities that are eternal.

Jesus told them that we would not be able to carefully watch as things changed step by step. It is not an outward event. You won’t be able to point to a specific battle or political maneuver. The Kingdom is something that takes place within a person. The Kingdom of God is established in a heart when the King of kings reigns in that heart. Then that person is a subject of the King and has entered into the Kingdom.

You can see the transformation in the life of the person because he serves a new master. Jesus began His ministry preaching the same message as John. “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Since the resurrection of Jesus, the Kingdom is preached. We often hear a compromising form of the Gospel that implies you get a free ticket to heaven and go on being your own king. Is that really entering the Kingdom? The Kingdom has come to every heart in which the King reigns.

Consider: Is He reigning in you?

Twice Over Blessings

by Upper Room Administrator on Saturday, May 17, 2014

The four-year-old boy who dropped his ice cream is now an established physician. The teen-aged aunt who helped him get a replacement cone has now retired to Florida. The years sail by, do they not? And in their wake—if we look carefully—we can see the generosity of God, washing over our losses and replenishing us with more than we dared to hope.

 

 

 

For example:  When I got cancer more than two decades ago, I thought life would be permanently diminished.  I assumed I would live in a smaller world, confined by fears of recurrence and hedged in by innumerable doctor visits. I thought I would always live with a sense of loss.

 

Over the years I’ve realized that rather than diminishing me, the cancer experience has broadened my world. By God’s grace, my spirit is bolder and brighter. My heart is more empathetic. I write and speak more freely. I laugh more and worry less.

 

I have received the Lord’s generous promise to his children:

“Now I tell you that I will repay you twice over with blessing for all you have suffered.”

(Zechariah 9:12 TEV)

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.”

(Joel 2:25 NIV)

 

Having been a beneficiary of these hope-filled words, I now pray them for others who are in hard places of grief and loss. The Lord is able to restore lost hopes and lost years.

 

I would love to read your stories of “twice over” gifts from our generous God!

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

The Escape Plan

by Upper Room Administrator on Wednesday, May 21, 2014

 

I grew up in a small Rhode Island town, and I felt odd.  I was chubby, studious, and in love with Jesus. All I thought about was getting out of my small town to see the world. Since I loved Jesus, I figured God was the perfect escape plan. I raised my hand every time a visiting missionary asked if anyone was willing to travel to foreign lands for Jesus. I attended every church mission event for a hundred miles, hoping God would call me to serve anywhere but where I lived.

In college, I volunteered for a summer missionary trip teaching English as a second language in Japan. It was an amazing experience where God taught me many lessons, including the fact that I was not designed for foreign missions. I returned to Rhode Island, disappointed, but with a deeper confidence that I could trust God with my future. That was 34 years ago. I’ve been in Rhode Island ever since.

Three years ago, the same year my husband and I moved into a house directly across the street from where I grew up, I learned that the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention had declared Rhode Island an unreached people group. I laughed when I realized that while I was trying to get out of Rhode Island to serve God, a mission field was literally growing up around me! All those times I volunteered to go wherever God would send me, I didn’t know God would be sending me home!

Though my life and my physical work are in Rhode Island, God also made me a writer. My words travel around the world. Through articles, devotions, my blog, and in December, a book, I have, via my words, served the Lord in foreign lands as well.

Maybe you’re like me. You don’t fit in where you are. You love the Lord and dream about going to a place where God can use you, a place you’ll feel you belong. What I know now, that I didn’t realize as a young girl is that there is a place like that but we won’t arrive there until we’re home with the Lord. Until then, every place is just an outpost, and in every outpost, there are opportunities for adventure awaiting everyone who trusts their days to God.

Yes, I’ve lived an incredible adventure without ever moving out of Rhode Island. I’ve seen God move, work, and change lives. Life with Jesus is rich, full, and satisfying even now that I’ve returned to the small town I tried so hard to escape. And I can finally appreciate that God chose to place me, right from the start, in a little place aptly named, Hope Valley.

Seek God right where you are. Some are called travel far in the name of Jesus but many are called to build God’s kingdom without ever leaving home. God determines our geography, so rest in that. The greatest adventure for any one of us is that of knowing the deep heart of God.

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” Acts 17:26-28 (ESV)

Learning Spiritual Courage

 

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courage : Teamwork concept with running businessman with laptop Stock Photocourage : Equilibrist businessman over a hot air ballooncourage : Female rock climber struggles to reach her next grip as she battles her way up a steep cliff.
courage : One person stands holding the word Courage, having conquered his fear, while others around him succumb to Fear and are defeated and crushed by the word Stock Photocourage : A man jumps over the word fear on an arrow, illustrating the bravery and courage needed to overcome and conquer ones fears and anxietiescourage : Angelfish jumbing to other bowl, Good Concept for new love, new Opprtunity and challenge concept.
courage : Rock with the word Couragecourage : beautiful caucasian girl wearing a head scarf due to hair loss from chemotherapy fighting cancer courage : A guy climbs on a rock against the sky with a sunset
courage : The words Leadership, Vision, Fearless and Bold on a speedometer racing in a new direction to achieve a group or organizations mission or goalscourage : Beautiful woman super hero flying through the sky Stock Photocourage : Inspiring seagull soaring over mountain sunrise
courage : Young woman is jumping above the clouds, a symbol for courage, self confidence and success: yes you can!courage : Medieval knight with sword and shield against stone wall Stock Photocourage : Soldiers of the armed forces marching

Taking Possession of Our Own Soul

When a person is born again, there is a period of time when he does not have the same vitality in his thinking or reasoning that he previously had. We must learn to express this new life within us, which comes by forming the mind of Christ (see Philippians 2:5). Luke 21:19 means that we take possession of our souls through patience. But many of us prefer to stay at the entrance to the Christian life, instead of going on to create and build our soul in accordance with the new life God has placed within us. We fail because we are ignorant of the way God has made us, and we blame things on the devil that are actually the result of our own undisciplined natures. Just think what we could be when we are awakened to the truth!

There are certain things in life that we need not pray about— moods, for instance. We will never get rid of moodiness by praying, but we will by kicking it out of our lives. Moods nearly always are rooted in some physical circumstance, not in our true inner self. It is a continual struggle not to listen to the moods which arise as a result of our physical condition, but we must never submit to them for a second. We have to pick ourselves up by the back of the neck and shake ourselves; then we will find that we can do what we believed we were unable to do. The problem that most of us are cursed with is simply that we won’t. The Christian life is one of spiritual courage and determination lived out in our flesh.

 

Matthew 12:38-50 (Good News Translation)

From: American Bible Society

God’s Word: Renewing Us in Faith

Introduction

Matthew 12:38-50: The religious leaders demand that Jesus perform a miracle, which demonstrates their resistance to Jesus’ teachings. The passage concludes with Jesus offering a definition of what constitutes family in God’s Kingdom.

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 12:50

“Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants is my brother, my sister, and my mother.”

Today’s Reading

38 Then some teachers of the Law and some Pharisees spoke up. “Teacher,” they said, “we want to see you perform a miracle.” 39 “How evil and godless are the people of this day!” Jesus exclaimed. “You ask me for a miracle? No! The only miracle you will be given is the miracle of the prophet Jonah. 40 In the same way that Jonah spent three days and nights in the big fish, so will the Son of Man spend three days and nights in the depths of the earth. 41 On the Judgment Day the people of Nineveh will stand up and accuse you, because they turned from their sins when they heard Jonah preach; and I tell you that there is something here greater than Jonah! 42 On the Judgment Day the Queen of Sheba will stand up and accuse you, because she traveled all the way from her country to listen to King Solomon’s wise teaching; and I assure you that there is something here greater than Solomon! 43 When an evil spirit goes out of a person, it travels over dry country looking for a place to rest. If it can’t find one, 44 it says to itself, “I will go back to my house.” So it goes back and finds the house empty, clean, and all fixed up. 45 Then it goes out and brings along seven other spirits even worse than itself, and they come and live there. So when it is all over, that person is in worse shape than at the beginning. This is what will happen to the evil people of this day. ” 46 Jesus was still talking to the people when his mother and brothers arrived. They stood outside, asking to speak with him. 47 So one of the people there said to him, “Look, your mother and brothers are standing outside, and they want to speak with you.” 48 Jesus answered, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49 Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look! Here are my mother and my brothers! 50Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants is my brother, my sister, and my mother. ”

Reflect

How does Jesus respond to the religious leaders who demand that he perform a miracle? Jesus compares the time he would spend in the grave with the time Jonah spent inside a big fish. Why did he say this? What does Jesus say is the basis for belonging to the family of God (verse 50)?

 

Today’s Devotions

From: Through the Bible

Morning

May 20

1 Samuel 17:45,46b,47 (NIV) 45David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied

. 46b…the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

Goliath hurried to meet David. When he saw he was just a boy, he mocked him and made boasting threats. David responded with the facts. Goliath had physical weapons upon which he relied. David declared that he fought as a representative of LORD of the armies of heaven and the armies of Israel. “The outcome of the battle,” he declared, “will show that there is a God in Israel.” David fought that the world might know God.

He declared one more reason that God would bring the victory, that everyone gathered would know that the LORD does not save by sword or spear. He is the One who determines the outcome of battle. It is His battle. “He is about to give you, Goliath, into my hands,” David was saying.

What faith David had in his God! He was so certain that he ran to meet Goliath. For David it was a chance to proclaim the greatness of his God. Saul needed to be reminded the battle was not about physical weapons. The fearful army of Israel needed that reminder. We do too. Though it is not a physical war we fight, we often try to solve our spiritual wars through natural solutions like man made reasoning, instead of prayer and faith. Are you declaring that the outcome of your battle will show God is alive and well? Do you know it is not up to man to win it, for it is the Lord’s battle?

Consider: Are you fighting for self or God’s testimony?

Evening

May 20

Luke 18:11-14 (NIV) 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13″But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14″I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus told this parable to those who were confident about their own righteousness and looked down on others. Spiritual pride is a devastating disease of the soul. It is like the continual use of painkillers making us unaware of the problems going on within us. How can we know if we are afflicted with it? Consider the attitudes in these two men that prayed.

The Pharisee prayed about himself. He thanked God that he was not like other people that he considered evil. It is good to thank God for His grace in your life, but the Pharisee is making the great blunder of comparing himself with fallen men. The standard is not men but God. In comparing himself with men only, he has missed his great sin of pride. He goes on praying about his righteousness, declaring to all in the range of his voice that he fasts and tithes. Whoops, there goes his heavenly reward. Jesus said when men praise you, their praise is your reward.

The other man just beat his breast, recognizing he was a sinner. His request was for mercy from God. Jesus said it was this second man that went home right with God. God was his standard. The great distance between his righteousness and God’s caused him anguish. He had the true picture of his condition. Prayer is about seeing God for who He is, and in the light of that reality we see our great need. God lifts up the humble. He gladly gives mercy and grace to those who recognize their need, to those who are brokenhearted about their sin. To the proud, He will prepare a path of humiliation. That, too, is grace and mercy.

Prayer: Lord, grant us eyes to see our real spiritual condition that we might enter into Your presence in prayer instead of praying about our self.

May 20

Quicken Us

From: Streams in the Desert

“Thou, who hast showed us many and sore troubles, wilt quicken us again” (Ps. 71:20, RV).

God shows us the troubles. Sometimes, as this part of our education is being carried forward, we have to descend into “the lower parts of the earth,” pass through subterranean passages, lie buried amongst the dead, but never for a moment is the cord of fellowship and union between God and us strained to breaking; and from the depths God will bring us again.

Never doubt God! Never say that He has forsaken or forgotten. Never think that He is unsympathetic. He will quicken again. There is always a smooth piece in every skein, however tangled. The longest day at last rings out the evensong. The winter snow lies long, but it goes at last.

Be steadfast; your labor is not in vain. God turns again, and comforts. And when He does, the heart which had forgotten its Psalmody breaks out in jubilant song, as does the Psalmist: “I will thank thee, I will harp unto thee, my lips shall sing aloud.” –Selected

***

“Though the rain may fall and the wind be blowing,

And old and chill is the wintry blast;

Though the cloudy sky is still cloudier growing,

And the dead leaves tell that the summer has passed;

My face I hold to the stormy heaven,

My heart is as calm as the summer sea,

Glad to receive what my God has given,

Whate’er it be.

When I feel the cold, I can say, ‘He sends it,’

And His winds blow blessing, I surely know;

For I’ve never a want but that He attends it;

And my heart beats warm, though the winds may blow.”

 

Trusting God

 

Trusting God
From: Streams In The Desert

Though he slay me, yet will I trust him (Job 13:15).

For I know whom I have believed (2 Tim. 1:12).

I will not doubt, though all my ships at sea
Come drifting home with broken masts and sails;
I will believe the Hand which never fails,
From seeming evil worketh good for me.
And though I weep because those sails are tattered,
Still will I cry, while my best hopes lie shattered:
‘I trust in Thee.’

I will not doubt, though all my prayers return
Unanswered from the still, white realm above;
I will believe it is an all-wise love
Which has refused these things for which I yearn;
And though at times I cannot keep from grieving,
Yet the pure ardor of my fixed believing
Undimmed shall burn.

I will not doubt, though sorrows fall like rain,
And troubles swarm like bees about a hive.
I will believe the heights for which I strive
Are only reached by anguish and by pain;
And though I groan and writhe beneath my crosses.
I yet shall see through my severest losses
The greater gain.

I will not doubt. Well anchored is this faith,
Like some staunch ship, my soul braves every gale;
So strong its courage that it will not quail
To breast the mighty unknown sea of death.
Oh, may I cry, though body parts with spirit,
‘I do not doubt,’ so listening worlds may hear it,
With my last breath.

“In fierce storms,” said an old seaman, “we must do one thing; there is only one way: we must put the ship in a certain position and keep her there.” This, Christian, is what you must do.

Sometimes, like Paul, you can see neither sun nor stars, and no small tempest lies on you; and then you can do but one thing; there is only one way. Reason cannot help you; past experiences give you no light. Even prayer fetches no consolation. Only a single course is left. You must put your soul in one position and keep it there.

You must stay upon the Lord; and come what may–winds, waves, cross-seas, thunder, lightning, frowning rocks, roaring breakers–no matter what, you must lash yourself to the helm, and hold fast your confidence in God’s faithfulness, His covenant engagement, His everlasting love in Christ Jesus.
–Richard Fuller

April 1, 2014

Am I On Camera?
Chrystal Evans Hurst

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them …” Matthew 6:1a (ESV)

My eldest son recently turned nine. Like most kids, he was excited to be officially “bigger.” He walked around on his special day with his chest pushed out and his head held high.

After a full day of justifiably being the center of attention, my son told me that because he was nine, he was going to wash the dishes.

His dishes.

He proceeded to go to the sink, squeeze the dish detergent and squirt a generous amount of soap on a dirty plate. He then proceeded to rub and scrub with vigor.

I grabbed a glass of water and rested my hip on the side of the kitchen counter to watch my birthday boy work. He scrubbed on that dish for more than a minute.

That dish wasn’t just clean, it was sterile, sanitized and thoroughly decontaminated.

Then my sweet boy turned to me, cocked his head slightly to one side, donned a puzzled face and asked, “Aren’t you gonna take a picture of me and put it on Instagram?”

I almost spit my water in his face with laughter, shock and a bit of confusion.

My son was doing a good thing with the desire to broadcast his good thing to the world. Apparently, being “on camera” was an important part of his good works.

So I took a few minutes to explain the importance of doing things for the right reasons and not performing for the applause of others.

And then I was convicted.

Convicted because sometimes I do the same thing.

How many times have I served others, not just because it was the right thing to do, but because it also lent claim to a bit of self-righteousness as others watched me do it?

How many times have I put forth more effort to show kindness or compassion to people inside the walls of my church than to those living within the walls of my home?

How often do I aim for excellence when someone is watching but forget to aim consistently for excellence simply because my God is always watching?

And He’s always most interested in my heart.

The Bible is clear. God doesn’t want my good deeds to be aimed at gaining the applause of people. He wants me to have a pure heart and motives undergirded by a desire to live a life pleasing to Him.

Even if no one else is watching.

When my little boy got busy washing his dish, my heart was overjoyed because I thought he was showing growth and maturity by doing a good thing — simply because it was the right thing to do!

When his true motives were made clear, I realized there was still mothering work to be done. My precious son still has room to grow and mature. And that’s OK.

In my Christian journey there will be times when I will need work. There will be times where my heart is not quite right or my motives are not necessarily pure. I still have room to grow and mature. And it’s OK.

And that’s OK if you do, too.

The good news I’ve learned as I grow in Christ is that my heart can change. God is a loving Father who is interested in my heart and willing to take the time to teach me. He’s willing to go the distance, guiding me along the path to spiritual maturity.

The interaction with my son reminded me to do a “heart check.”

Even if no one is watching, when I’m not “on camera,” I should always be conscious of the story my actions tell about my heart.

Dear Lord, I desire to have a pure heart and pure motives, but if I’m honest, sometimes I miss the mark. Help me be aware that You are ever present and to live as though You are watching. Where I have developed the habit of keeping up appearances, teach me what it means to live for an audience of One. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Don’t Be an April Fool

The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’ Psalm 14:1.

Warning! It’s April Fools’ Day!

I’ve had a lot of AF jokes pulled on me, and I must admit that I’ve pulled off a few pretty good ones myself. But one thing I’ve noticed. No one likes being called a fool, much less being made to look like a fool. We like to think of ourselves as savvy, wise, and sharp—not easily tricked or duped. But when we measure ourselves by God’s standards, we might be surprised at how much we deserve the title.

Did you know, for example, that the Bible says we are fools if we . . .

Of course, the ultimate definition of a fool is found in today’s verse. The ultimate fool is one who lives as though “there is no God.” Notice that the verse does not say that a fool says with his mouth “there is no God.” It’s a matter of the heart attitude. In fact it would be quite possible to say with your lips that there is a God but then to have your heart think and act as though God does not factor into your dreams and choices at all. When our heart says that there is a God, we readily obey Him and surrender to His will and ways in our lives. Though it’s not always easy, a God-honoring heart is willing to begin the process of forgiving those who have deeply hurt us; to think of others as more important than ourselves; to choose generosity over greed; and to be sensitive to the needs of the poor and oppressed.

One of the most penetrating “fool” passages in Scripture is recorded in Luke 12:13-21. Jesus told the parable of a rich businessman who had more wealth than he knew what to do with. After signing the papers for corporate expansion (bigger barns), he congratulates himself and decides to throw himself a party. Everyone in his town would have said he was a smashing success. But God had a different take on him: “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:20). Jesus concluded with the point: “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21 ESV). It is indeed foolish to be satisfied with our own wealth and to have given no thought to becoming rich toward God by preparing for eternity, or as Jesus said to become rich toward God by giving our money away to the poor and to those in need (Luke 12:33).

When we recognize the rightful place of God in our hearts, our lives are wonderfully transformed to enjoy the rewarding results of wisdom—life from God’s point of view—rather than the embarrassing outcomes of a godless, foolish heart.

I hope you get to pull off a good April Fools’ joke today. In fact, you may even have a good-natured laugh at having one pulled on you. But, while all that is going on, don’t forget to honor God’s will and ways in your heart. Life is too short and too serious to live it as a fool!

 

Psalm 33 (Good News Translation)

God’s Word: Giving Us Hope

Introduction

Psalm 33: Today’s reading opens with an exhortation to shout for joy, to praise and thank the LORD, and to sing a new song to him. Assurance of the LORD’s constant love comes from trusting in and obeying the LORD.

Today’s Scripture: Psalm 33:5

The LORD loves what is righteous and just; his constant love fills the earth.

Today’s Reading

1 All you that are righteous,shout for joy for what the LORD has done; praise him, all you that obey him.2 Give thanks to the LORD with harps,sing to him with stringed instruments.3 Sing a new song to him,play the harp with skill, and shout for joy!4 The words of the LORD are true,and all his works are dependable.5 The LORD loves what is righteous and just;his constant love fills the earth.6 The LORD created the heavens by his command,the sun, moon, and stars by his spoken word.7 He gathered all the seas into one place;he shut up the ocean depths in storerooms.8 Worship the LORD, all the earth!Honor him, all peoples of the world!9 When he spoke, the world was created;at his command everything appeared.10 The LORD frustrates the purposes of the nations;he keeps them from carrying out their plans.11 But his plans endure forever;his purposes last eternally.12 Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD;happy are the people he has chosen for his own!13 The LORD looks down from heavenand sees all of us humans.14 From where he rules, he looks downon all who live on earth.15 He forms all their thoughtsand knows everything they do.16 A king does not win because of his powerful army;a soldier does not triumph because of his strength.17 War horses are useless for victory;their great strength cannot save.18 The LORD watches over those who obey him,those who trust in his constant love.19 He saves them from death;he keeps them alive in times of famine.20 We put our hope in the LORD;he is our protector and our help.21 We are glad because of him;we trust in his holy name.22 May your constant love be with us, LORD,as we put our hope in you.