Tag Archives: Sports

Point People To Christ For Salvation

The Way, the Truth, and the Life      John 14:6
5.    “Lord,” said Thomas, “we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way?”
6,    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.No one comes to the Father except
through Me.
7.    If you had known Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on you do
know Him and have seen Him.”…

                                                             People pointing the way
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Join the Revolution

 

“I am the way…” John 14:6

In one of my all-time favorite Peanuts cartoons, Charlie Brown is standing on the deck of a cruise ship with a rather disheartened look on his face clutching his unfolded deck chair. Lucy, who always seems to have it all together, has already unfolded her deck chair and is waxing eloquently about life. She says to Charlie that some people set the deck chairs of life to look at all that has gone by, others set their deck chairs to look at all that is in the here and now, and that still others position their chairs to look at all that is ahead. To which Charlie responds, “I can’t even get my deck chair unfolded.”

My guess is that we’ve all had days when we feel more like Charlie Brown than Lucy. Down deep inside—sometimes way down deep inside—there is this nagging feeling that we don’t quite have life figured out. That when we are really honest with ourselves, life isn’t all we thought it would be. Shouldn’t there be something more than the endless to-do lists? And, why does the pressure to perform and prosper make us feel like the proverbial donkey chasing the carrot dangling forever in front of us? And why is it that when we take life by the throat and pull off a smashing success, it quickly morphs into a mere memory as life trudges on?

Want something more—something different? Then pack up your bags and enlist yourself as a Person of the Way. Join the revolution! The revolution headed by the world’s greatest revolutionary, Jesus. I’m not sure what you think about when the thought of Jesus crosses your mind, but my guess is that the word revolutionary rarely surfaces. Yet that is exactly who He is! Missing the point that Jesus came to spark a revolution in this upside-down world—a revolution to take upside-down people and turn them right side up—is to miss the very heart of why He came and to miss the point of life as it is intended to be.

Jesus’ arrival on our planet was an invasion from another world to overthrow the ruthless regime of King Beelzebub and to set earthbound captives free. But the revolution doesn’t stop there. It’s about freeing us sin slaves from the grip of hell in every aspect of our lives. It’s about setting up a whole new way of thinking and living, about giving freed captives a life of purpose and significance. And I don’t mean that it is a revolution whose end game is to get you to go to church more, to keep more rules, or to get busy doing more jobs for God. We already have too many who are on that bandwagon yet have no clue about the revolution. This revolution is about changing the way we think, act, and react and then raising the torch and taking the way into every aspect of our lives—into every encounter, every relationship, every responsibility, and every commodity we own.

If you see yourself as a follower of Jesus, but you still think about your money like everyone else; react to your offenders like everyone else; think about your career like everyone else; live with “you” at the center of your universe like everyone else; think about sex like everyone else; find life to be an endless string of random unfulfilling events like everyone else, then one thing is clear: You have missed the revolution.

 

 

Jennie Allen January 31, 2017
Tearing Up the Star Charts
JENNIE ALLEN

“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.’” Jeremiah 9:23-24 (ESV)

Our son Cooper was nearly 4 years old the day we first met him. In my head, I was flying to Africa to bring home my cuddly little toddler, only to arrive and realize this was a full-blown kid who had learned how to rule his roost at the orphanage. We’d had no input on any of the 1,400 days of his life so far, then — bam! — just like that, he was our son.

When we brought Coop back to the guest home in Rwanda, words poured out of him without any apparent concern that none of us knew what he was saying.

That first night I cooked “popeyes” for dinner on a tiny skillet. I grew up in Arkansas eating popeyes: over-medium eggs, with the yellow yolk poking out of a little hole in toast. The typical thick porridge he ate in the orphanage didn’t require utensils, but popeyes do. But when I reached to show him how the fork worked, he knocked it away.

My husband Zac quickly corrected him with words Coop couldn’t yet understand but in a tone that he apparently did. That child stood up and started waving his finger and preaching like he was in church. Our strong-willed, gregarious new son was obviously familiar with a good old-fashioned southern scolding.

This was a showdown of wills, and we needed a way to motivate his cooperation. When we got home, Coop had one obsession: a bike. So I printed a picture of the most epic bike any 4-year-old had ever seen, and I made rows of squares with an arrow pointing to the bike. Then, whenever Coop did anything noteworthy — used the potty, used a fork, stayed in bed, shared his toys — he earned a little star sticker toward that bike.

And I will be honest: it worked.

In fact, that star chart still works. He can’t do math to save his life until there is a light saber at the end of 10 stickers. Then he can do long division in second grade.

While this brings out the best in Coop’s behavior and performance, in some ways it also brings out the worst.

My Coop fights shame. Somewhere along the way, Coop decided he was a bad kid. So on the days he earns a star, a grin breaks out, as if this star proved his worth. But if he doesn’t land his star, his head drops, as if the finger-waving scoldings from the orphanage are all true. Yes, Coop wants enough stickers for his light saber, but this ache is bigger. Something in him strives to prove he is enough.

We all have our own version of star charts, something we are trying to get approval for, from our parents, friends, spouses, kids, online acquaintances, coworkers or even from God. Most of us carry that striving feeling all our lives.

But the way we interact with people eventually makes its way into our spiritual lives. So often we try to relate to God through star charts — and we end up feeling shame or disappointment that our performance didn’t bring the outcome we wanted. We try to work harder, achieve more, jump farther, score higher in order to win His approval or blessing. We end up relating to God with an underlying fear rather than full of expectant, childlike, joy-filled faith.

God doesn’t work with star charts. He is not manipulated by our performance. InJeremiah 9:23-24, He says: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

God is not after great performances or great movements. He is after us!

God already knows we aren’t enough, but He’s not asking us to be. We are the ones who have chosen to walk through the desert with enormous packs strapped to our backs full of everything but water. As if the kingdom of God were held up or together by us.

To get to the place where God can be enough, we have to first admit we aren’t. Pretending we are okay is how many of us are making life work. With that illusion gone, we might have to live needing God.

And it might be hard. Strike that. It is hard.

No more performing. No more pretending. No more proving ourselves.

Because we have nothing to prove.

Dear God, I’m realizing it’s not my curse that I believe I’m not enough; it’s my sin that I keep trying to be. Thank You for the reminder that life with You means I can rest, and I have nothing to prove. Will You continue to show me Your freedom, Your power and my need to stop striving to please You and instead just live life with You? In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

A Living Hope

From: In Touch Ministries

JANUARY 31, 2017

 

Believers are born into a living hope, whereas people without Christ have no foundation for their expectations and desires. Many non-Christians live with a false sense of security. They assume that what is important in this life is the physical and material. But there is no safety in things (1 Tim. 6:9). Those who pursue wealth and health rather than God find that their dreams either go unfulfilled or fail to satisfy.

Christians anchor their hope in the solid rock of Jesus Christ. His words are always true and His promises are never broken. I’ll sometimes hear a person project his or her unfulfilled desires on God and then argue that He came up short. But believers who make a request and submit to God’s will always get an answer: yes, no, or wait.

The Lord does not disappoint those who seek His will. Don’t misunderstand that statement. We might feel temporarily let down when something we hope for is not in God’s plan. But He doesn’t go back on the biblical promise to give His children what’s best (Isa. 48:17; Isa. 64:4). When one door closes, there is another about to open with something better behind it. And remember, the Lord cannot be outdone. We can’t even wish ourselves as much good as God has in store.

The best choice a Christian can make is to fix his or her hope on the Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome whatever fits His will for your life, and turn away from all that does not. Circumstances may shift and change, but Jesus never does. He is a living hope who never disappoints.

You Are Not Alone

 

1. “Your God, the Lord himself, will be with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6 

2. “When they call to me, I will answer them; when they are in trouble, I will be with them.”

Psalm 91:15

3. “If the Lord had not helped me, I would have gone quickly to the land of silence. I said, ‘I am falling’; but your constant love, O Lord, held me up.”      2 Timothy 4:16,17

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It’s Not Good to Be Alone

From: Get More Strength.org

“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone’ ” Genesis 2:18

While reading through the creation narratives in Genesis for the umpteenth time, I was struck by God’s commentary on Adam being alone in the garden. What caught my attention was the observation God made after each stroke of his creative power: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Until, that is, He made Adam. At that point, something was not good: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). So He fixed it and did something really good—He made Eve!

A couple of thoughts race through my brain at this point. I couldn’t agree more with God’s assessment—man needs woman! Left to ourselves we would be more like untamed savages than decent, sensitive specimens of humanity. I have no idea how off track my life might be if my wife Martie had not come along. She is a consistent check to my social insensitivities, to my self-serving male perspectives on life, to what color combinations work and which ones don’t, and to making life better for our kids and grandkids. To say nothing of her sensitive heart toward God that stimulates me to want to serve and follow Him with greater enthusiasm. Thankfully, for all of us guys, God didn’t get carried away with how good it all was but saw the single flaw and did something to save the world from men left to themselves! Bravo for that stroke of creative genius. As the French say, Vive la difference!

The other thought that caused me to stop reading long enough to let it sink in, is that being alone is not a good thing for anyone. God made us in His image—which means that we, like Him, are relational beings. In the beginning, it was a literal paradise of fulfilling relationships as God in an unhindered way walked with Adam and Eve in the garden and they enjoyed the fullest experience of intimacy with each other. So, where did loneliness come from? How did the demon of loneliness that haunts many of our hearts today alienate us from the others that we so desperately need?

I want to be clear here and admit that loneliness isn’t always brought on by us or our choices. So this is not a guilt trip. But as the story unfolds, we see the damage of alienation haunting the landscape of life. Adam and Eve hide from God out of fear of getting caught, and Adam blames Eve for his disobedience, which clearly drives a wedge into their flawless intimacy. And the deep fellowship on every satisfying level is now replaced by alienation, blame, distrust, and shame.

Which leaves me wondering, how could people who had it so good end up with everything so out of sync? It all started going south when Eve believed that to live for herself and her own gain was more important than living to love God and Adam. And to make matters worse, Adam followed suit.

The lesson here is huge. Living for what’s “best for me,” while ignoring the needs, wishes, and interests of others always brings alienation and aloneness.

Thank God that He has made a way for us to restore relationships and to recapture a portion of the intimacy of Eden. When we follow the way of Jesus and live to love and serve others, aloneness gives way to intimacy and our self-serving acts of alienation dissolve into a bonding that gets us wonderfully stuck on each other again.

And guys, that should probably start with us since it’s not a good thing for us to be alone!

 

 

God Will Help You

From: Streams in the Desert

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early (Psalms 46:5)

“Shall not be moved”–what an inspiring declaration! Can it be possible that we, who are so easily moved by the things of earth, can arrive at a place where nothing can upset us or disturb our calm? Yes, it is possible; and the Apostle Paul knew it. When he was on his way to Jerusalem where he foresaw that “bonds and afflictions” awaited him, he could say triumphantly, “But none of these things move me.”

Everything in Paul’s life and experience that could be shaken had been shaken, and he no longer counted his life, or any of life’s possessions, dear to him. And we, if we will but let God have His way with us, may come to the same place, so that neither the fret and tear of little things of life, nor the great and heavy trials, can have power to move us from the peace that passeth understanding, which is declared to be the portion of those who have learned to rest only on God.

“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God; and he shall go no more out.” To be as immovable as a pillar in the house of our God, is an end for which one would gladly endure all the shakings that may be necessary to bring us there!
Hannah Whitall Smith

When God is in the midst of a kingdom or city He makes it as firm as Mount Zion, that cannot be removed. When He is in the midst of a soul, though calamities throng about it on all hands, and roar like the billows of the sea, yet there is a constant calm within, such a peace as the world can neither give nor take away. What is it but want of lodging God in the soul, and that in His stead the world is in men’s hearts, that makes them shake like leaves at every blast of danger?
Archbishop Leighton

“They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth forever.” There is a quaint old Scottish version that puts iron into our blood:

Who sticketh to God in stable trust
As Zion’s mount he stands full just,
Which moveth no whit, nor yet doth reel,
But standeth forever as stiff as steel!

 

 

Timeless Savior

From: Our Daily Bread

Timeless Savior

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” John 8:58

Jeralean Talley died in June 2015 as the world’s oldest living person—116 years of age. In 1995, the city of Jerusalem celebrated its 3,000th birthday. One hundred sixteen is old for a person, and 3,000 is old for a city, but there are trees that grow even older. A bristlecone pine in California’s White Mountains has been determined to be older than 4,800 years. That precedes the patriarch Abraham by 800 years!

Jesus, when challenged by the Jewish religious leaders about His identity, also claimed to pre-date Abraham. “Very truly I tell you,” He said, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58). His bold assertion shocked those who were confronting Him, and they sought to stone Him. They knew He wasn’t referring to a chronological age but was actually claiming to be eternal by taking the ancient name of God, “I am” (see Ex. 3:14). But as a member of the Trinity, He could make that claim legitimately.

In John 17:3, Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” The timeless One entered into time so we could live forever. He accomplished that mission by dying in our place and rising again. Because of His sacrifice, we anticipate a future not bound by time, where we will spend eternity with Him. He is the timeless one.

 

 

He’s with You

From: Our Daily Journey

He’s with You

Read:

Zephaniah 3:14-17
The Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior (Zephaniah 3:17).

Friends often remind me, “You’re not alone.” “God is with you,” they say. “Yes,” I answer. “He is.” Yet there are times—mostly when I’m pressed to accomplish a daunting task without anyone physically present to help me, or when I’m alone for extended periods of time—that I wonder, “Is God here with me?” And, if so, “What does His presence truly mean?”

How do we know that, “God is with you,” isn’t a manmade statement conjured up to make people feel better? Is it a motivational quote to spur people on when they’re struggling? A way to politely say, “God is with you, so you don’t need my help”?

We know God is with us, because Scripture promises He’s there. “The Lord your God is living among you,” we read in Zephaniah 3:17. “He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

We don’t need to linger in discouragement or doubt, for God says, “I am with you.” He told His people, “Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

In Isaiah 43:1-3, and throughout Scripture, God offers us truth that can change our lives and give us hope when we truly embrace it. He promises us that when we’re redeemed we’re also summoned by name; we are His. Compassionately, He says, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. . . . I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:2-3).

May we cling to this infinite, unwavering truth: God goes before us and He is with us. Just as He promised Zephaniah, He’s a loving God who “will live among [us]!” (Zephaniah 3:15).

Let God Keep You On Target

Hebrews 12:1-3
12  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
2    fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3   Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
What is your target? What is your goal?
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What Are You Aiming For?

“Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” 1 John 3:3

Let’s talk about heaven. If you’re like me, it’s hard to get your head around it and harder still to let it grip your heart. While most of us believe that heaven exists, we go on with life as though this is the only world that matters.

Nearly every spiritual dysfunction in our lives can be traced back to the fact that heaven does not really have a hold on us. C. S. Lewis had it right when he said: “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

So, how do we “aim at heaven”? First, we recognize that this physical body is not all there is—“what we will be has not yet appeared” (1 John 3:2). In fact, earth is simply a dress rehearsal for the great world to come. All the pain and toil here is temporary. Poverty isn’t permanent. Illness is transient. For followers of Jesus, death is but a door to all that is far better. As we read in Revelation, there shall be no sorrow, no more crying, no more death, and he shall wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4).

Aiming at heaven also involves keeping Jesus in our sights. Looking forward to the day when “we shall see Him as He is” fills us with hope—not a worldly, wish-list kind of hope, but a hope that reflects the certainty of what is to come. It’s the kind of hope that keeps us from distractions and rivets our attention on what really matters in the long run; the kind of hope that purifies us.

Maybe you’ve never thought of it like this before, but one of the strongest motivations for purity is connected to the return of Jesus. Because, let’s face it, there are some places we just wouldn’t want to be when He comes back. We might hope He doesn’t examine the places the Internet has taken us, or that He doesn’t see our attitudes toward others. If we really believed that today might be our last, we might finally be ready to forgive, to ask for forgiveness, or maybe even to share the love of Jesus with someone.

So, how about it? Let’s stop aiming at earth and turn our hearts toward heaven!

 

Elixir of Life

From: Our Daily Journey

Elixir of Life

Read:

John 4:3-15
Those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life (John 4:14).

The elixir of life is a mythical potion that enables those who drink it to live forever. Russian scientists claim to have made a breakthrough in developing an “elixir of life” after discovering bacteria that survived from ancient times in Siberian permafrost. They injected the bacteria into themselves, and claim they no longer get the flu and feel much more healthy and alive.

Designed to live in the paradise God provided, Adam and Eve were permitted by Him to eat from almost every tree in Eden, including the tree of eternal life (Genesis 2:8,16-17). But they willfully ate from the fruit of the one tree they were to avoid (Genesis 2:17, 3:1-7). Because God didn’t want them “to live forever” in their rebellious sinful state, He lovingly prevented them from eating from the tree of life. And all human beings from that time forward were banished from dwelling with Him (Genesis 3:22-24).

The good news is that God still desires that we be with Him. And “by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13-14), we can live with Him forever (Revelation 21:3). “Anyone who believes [in Jesus] has eternal life” (John 6:47).

Eternal life isn’t simply endless existence. It’s quality of life: the adventure of “[knowing] the only true God, and Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). It’s not simply about future existence, but also something we enjoy today (John 5:39; John 6:47-51; Revelation 22:14). The Jewish idea of knowing someone was all about real relationship and complete intimacy (Jeremiah 31:33-34; 1 John 5:20). That’s what we can experience—a life of knowing, loving, and obeying God, both now and forever.

Jesus offers the elixir of life to all who will drink it (John 4:10). Come, drink, and enjoy eternal life with Him! (John 4:14).

 

How Could Someone So Persecute Jesus!

From: Utmost.org

How Could Someone So Persecute Jesus!

Are you determined to have your own way in living for God? We will never be free from this trap until we are brought into the experience of the baptism of “the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). Stubbornness and self-will will always stab Jesus Christ. It may hurt no one else, but it wounds His Spirit. Whenever we are obstinate and self-willed and set on our own ambitions, we are hurting Jesus. Every time we stand on our own rights and insist that this is what we intend to do, we are persecuting Him. Whenever we rely on self-respect, we systematically disturb and grieve His Spirit. And when we finally understand that it is Jesus we have been persecuting all this time, it is the most crushing revelation ever.

Is the Word of God tremendously penetrating and sharp in me as I hand it on to you, or does my life betray the things I profess to teach? I may teach sanctification and yet exhibit the spirit of Satan, the very spirit that persecutes Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Jesus is conscious of only one thing— a perfect oneness with the Father. And He tells us, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). All I do should be based on a perfect oneness with Him, not on a self-willed determination to be godly. This will mean that others may use me, go around me, or completely ignore me, but if I will submit to it for His sake, I will prevent Jesus Christ from being persecuted.

Plant Good Seed And Get Good Food

When your goal is good food plant good seed on good soil.
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A warning which needs to be repeated is that “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches,” and the lust for other things, will choke out the life of God in us (Matthew 13:22)

Look Again and Think

From: Crosswalk.com

Look Again and Think

A warning which needs to be repeated is that “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches,” and the lust for other things, will choke out the life of God in us (Matthew 13:22).

We are never free from the recurring waves of this invasion. If the frontline of attack is not about clothes and food, it may be about money or the lack of money; or friends or lack of friends; or the line may be drawn over difficult circumstances. It is one steady invasion, and these things will come in like a flood, unless we allow the Spirit of God to raise up the banner against it.

“I say to you, do not worry about your life….” Our Lord says to be careful only about one thing— our relationship to Him. But our common sense shouts loudly and says, “That is absurd, I must consider how I am going to live, and I must consider what I am going to eat and drink.” Jesus says you must not. Beware of allowing yourself to think that He says this while not understanding your circumstances. Jesus Christ knows our circumstances better than we do, and He says we must not think about these things to the point where they become the primary concern of our life. Whenever there are competing concerns in your life, be sure you always put your relationship to God first.

“Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). How much trouble has begun to threaten you today? What kind of mean little demons have been looking into your life and saying, “What are your plans for next month— or next summer?” Jesus tells us not to worry about any of these things. Look again and think. Keep your mind on the “much more” of your heavenly Father (Matthew 6:30).

Look Again and Think

From: Utmost.org

Look Again and Think

A warning which needs to be repeated is that “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches,” and the lust for other things, will choke out the life of God in us (Matthew 13:22). We are never free from the recurring waves of this invasion. If the frontline of attack is not about clothes and food, it may be about money or the lack of money; or friends or lack of friends; or the line may be drawn over difficult circumstances. It is one steady invasion, and these things will come in like a flood, unless we allow the Spirit of God to raise up the banner against it.

“I say to you, do not worry about your life….” Our Lord says to be careful only about one thing— our relationship to Him. But our common sense shouts loudly and says, “That is absurd, I must consider how I am going to live, and I must consider what I am going to eat and drink.” Jesus says you must not. Beware of allowing yourself to think that He says this while not understanding your circumstances. Jesus Christ knows our circumstances better than we do, and He says we must not think about these things to the point where they become the primary concern of our life. Whenever there are competing concerns in your life, be sure you always put your relationship to God first.

“Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). How much trouble has begun to threaten you today? What kind of mean little demons have been looking into your life and saying, “What are your plans for next month— or next summer?” Jesus tells us not to worry about any of these things. Look again and think. Keep your mind on the “much more” of your heavenly Father (Matthew 6:30).

Unseen Heroes

From: Our Daily Bread

Unseen Heroes
 

Aaron and Hur held [Moses’s] hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. Exodus 17:12

Stories in the Bible can make us stop and wonder. For instance, when Moses led God’s people into the Promised Land and the Amalekites attacked, how did he know to go to the top of the hill and hold up God’s staff? (Ex. 17:8–15). We aren’t told, but we learn that when Moses raised his hands, the Israelites would win the battle, and when he lowered them, the Amalekites would win. When Moses got tired, his brother Aaron and another man, Hur, held up Moses’s arms so the Israelites could triumph.

We aren’t told much about Hur, but he played a crucial role at this point in Israel’s history. This reminds us that unseen heroes matter, that supporters and those who encourage leaders play a key and often overlooked role. Leaders may be the ones mentioned in the history books or lauded on social media, but the quiet, faithful witness of those who serve in other ways is not overlooked by the Lord. He sees the person who intercedes daily in prayer for friends and family. He sees the woman who puts away the chairs each Sunday in church. He sees the neighbor who reaches out with a word of encouragement.

God is using us, even if our task feels insignificant. And may we notice and thank any unseen heroes who help us.

Dear Father, thank You for creating me and gifting me in my own unique way. Help me to serve You and others faithfully and to appreciate those You have sent to help me.

Unseen heroes are always seen by God.

Prevent Suffering By Consulting God

Judges 18:5-6

 

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

1 Samuel 10:22

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

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

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Choices

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make the best choice. Choose to serve others.

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

Serve God by serving others.

 

 

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

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

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

They didn’t look convinced.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thunder and Lightning

From: Our Daily Bread

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

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

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

We were shaken and awed.

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

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

May the God of peace be with you.

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

Faith connects our weakness to God’s strength.

 

God Comforts Us

From: Streams in the Desert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“God always sends His staff with His rod.”

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

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


Be Courageous In The Lord

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

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Suddenly, the good day was a mess.

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

It’s also not really helpful.

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

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

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

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

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

In both situations, unresolved feelings were stoked and fueled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Timeless Groove

From: Our Daily Journey

Timeless Groove

Read:

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

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

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

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

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

Repentance Brings Rejoicing In Heaven

 

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

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

Pictures of the best food – God gives us the best things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You know, just like Jesus treats us.

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

 

 

Transformed by Beholding

From: Utmost.org

Transformed by Beholding

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

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

 

 

Lack Nothing

From: Our Daily Bread

Lack Nothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Will Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Out of Love

From: Our Daily Journey

Out of Love
 

Read:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Am I Looking To God?

From: Utmost.org

Am I Looking To God?

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

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

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

 

God’s Face

From: Our Daily Bread

God's Face

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Turns Bad News To Good

 

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

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Bad News . . . Good News

From: Get More Strength.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Abandon It All

From: Our Daily Bread

Abandon It All

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no risk in abandoning ourselves to God.

 

God’s Masterpiece

From: Our Daily Journey

God’s Masterpiece

Read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace Changes Everything

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

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Stunned by Grace

From: Get More Strength.org

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From: Crosswalk.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I asked that question, her eyes sparkled.

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

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

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

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

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

A lump of conviction welled in my throat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breath of Life

From: Our Daily Breadd

Breath of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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