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Jesus Redeeming Us On The Cross

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The Cross of Christ

By: James McDonald, Pastor, Author

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Monday, October 15, 2012

20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God . —2 Corinthians 5:20-21

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
—Romans 6:23

The cross of Jesus Christ is the signature symbol of the central event in the history of civilization. Yet today we depict the cross as common. Jewelers pound it into all sorts of finery so we can staple crosses to our ears and wear them around our necks. Merchandisers manufacture this symbol of unlimited atonement into fuzzy things for our rearview mirrors or decorations for our gardens. From teacups to t-shirts, people have used the cross to corner the market on crassness. Department stores hawk chocolate-covered crosses for Holy Week. Baseball players and businessmen cross themselves before a big moment. The cross itself has become big business, but it was never intended to be some lucky trinket. Making the cross common or cheap is profanity in the truest sense. Is it any surprise we have lost the wonder of what happened on Calvary?

The resurrection of Christ was the event that accomplished salvation and verified Christ’s victory over death, but it was the cross of Jesus Christ that showed us the grace of God. Everything that God wants us to know about Himself comes together in those crossbeams.

Our entire purpose in life is to elevate the Cross. Think on Jesus Christ nailed to the wood. In your mind’s eye, picture Him stretched out against the sky. What’s He doing up there? Answer: He’s subbing for you and me. He’s taking God’s wrath for your sin. He’s satisfying the just demands of a holy God. He’s paying the price that God’s holiness requires so that you and I can be forgiven. In the place where our blood should have stained the ground, Jesus hung as our substitute.

You can’t understand the Gospel until you understand this idea of substitution. Jesus’ death was in the place of every person who has ever lived. I am in that line. You are too. Each of us deserves to die in punishment for our own sin, but Jesus stepped in and took that penalty for each of us.


  • When was the last time I deeply contemplated what Christ did for me on the cross?
  • Do I cheapen or make common the cross? How?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, I could never repay You for what You gave for my salvation. How is it then, that I can lessen the meaning of the cross? Forgive me when I don’t elevate the cross, or worse, when I cheapen it, or minimize its meaning. Thank You for the priceless gift of Your Son. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Passing on the Legacy

Passing on the Legacy

Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise. Psalm 79:13

My phone beeped, indicating an incoming text. My daughter wanted my grandmother’s recipe for Peppermint Ice Cream Pie. As I thumbed through the yellowed cards in my aged recipe box, my eyes spotted the unique handwriting of my grandmother—and several jotted notes in the small cursive of my mother. It occurred to me that with my daughter’s request, Peppermint Ice Cream Pie would make its entrance into a fourth generation within my family.

I wondered, What other family heirlooms might be handed down generation to generation? What about choices regarding faith? Besides the pie, would the faith of my grandmother—and my own—play out in the lives of my daughter and her offspring?

In Psalm 79, the psalmist bemoans a wayward Israel, which has lost its faith moorings. He begs God to rescue His people from the ungodly and to restore Jerusalem to safety. This done, he promises a restored—and ongoing—commitment to God’s ways. “Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise” (v. 13).

I eagerly shared the recipe, knowing my grandmother’s dessert legacy would enjoy a new layer in our family. And I prayed sincerely for the most lasting hand-me-down of all: the influence of our family’s faith on one generation to the next.


The Burning Heart

By Oswald Chambers

 The Burning Heart

We need to learn this secret of the burning heart. Suddenly Jesus appears to us, fires are set ablaze, and we are given wonderful visions; but then we must learn to maintain the secret of the burning heart— a heart that can go through anything. It is the simple, dreary day, with its commonplace duties and people, that smothers the burning heart— unless we have learned the secret of abiding in Jesus.

Much of the distress we experience as Christians comes not as the result of sin, but because we are ignorant of the laws of our own nature. For instance, the only test we should use to determine whether or not to allow a particular emotion to run its course in our lives is to examine what the final outcome of that emotion will be. Think it through to its logical conclusion, and if the outcome is something that God would condemn, put a stop to it immediately. But if it is an emotion that has been kindled by the Spirit of God and you don’t allow it to have its way in your life, it will cause a reaction on a lower level than God intended. That is the way unrealistic and overly emotional people are made. And the higher the emotion, the deeper the level of corruption, if it is not exercised on its intended level. If the Spirit of God has stirred you, make as many of your decisions as possible irrevocable, and let the consequences be what they will. We cannot stay forever on the “mount of transfiguration,” basking in the light of our mountaintop experience (see Mark 9:1-9). But we must obey the light we received there; we must put it into action. When God gives us a vision, we must transact business with Him at that point, no matter what the cost.

We cannot kindle when we will
The fire which in the heart resides,
The spirit bloweth and is still,
In mystery our soul abides;
But tasks in hours of insight willed
Can be through hours of gloom fulfilled.

More Than A Gamble Over Clothes

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More than a Gamble over Clothes

Is there a higher gamble that one can make in life?

After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there. A sign was fastened to the cross above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews”(Matthew 27:35-37 NLT).The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”(Matthew 27:54).

The soldiers on Jesus’ crucifixion detail cast lots and gambled for his clothes as he bled and died on the cross. The crowd mocked Jesus while he slowly died in unspeakable agony and open humiliation.

Soldiers gambled over Jesus’ clothes as he died.

How does that strike you?

Are you repulsed? Are you deeply saddened? Does it make you angry?

Think about the scene at this cross a little longer. Let the enormity of what is happening sink into your heart. Think about what is at stake here. Consider the gamble that is made at this cross — not just the gambling of these soldiers over Jesus’ clothes, but the bigger gamble over what is happening here. Those who reject Jesus’ death as God’s plan to share grace, show love, and redeem sinful humanity are gambling with much more at stake than just the clothes of a dying man.

Our hearts can be changed just
like the hearts of the soldiers!

The soldiers were not just throwing dice for Jesus’ clothes, they were also gambling that he was just another piece of criminal scum that it was their job to execute. As they inflicted this brutal death sentence on Jesus, they were also gambling that what others had told them about Jesus was correct — that he wasn’t the Christ, wasn’t the Son of God, wasn’t the King of the Jews, and wasn’t their Savior.As the crucifixion began, what evidence did they have to believe Jesus was anything more than just another common criminal? Very little, until the crucifixion scene was finished and Jesus breathed his last words. Then, after seeing all the things that had transpired at Jesus’ cross — how Jesus faced their cruelty and the cruelty of the mocking mob — they came to a different conclusion: “This man truly was the Son of God!”

Those who reject Jesus today, not only reject the judgment of the soldiers, but they also reject the transformation of Jesus’ apostles — those frightened and hidden disciples who did not expect Jesus’ resurrection, but then became world-changers after they had seen their resurrected Lord. They reject the testimony of millions of believers over the centuries whose lives have been changed by the power of the cross, have been given hope because of the resurrection, and have been empowered by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. They reject the witness of Scripture which has endured centuries of ridicule and countless attempts to eliminate its influence, only to inspire more and more believers.

Jesus died for sinners. Jesus died for you. Jesus died for me. Every time we take these words lightly, reject them, or simply remain unmoved by them, then we are gambling at the foot of Jesus’ cross. We are wagering that Jesus’ death wasn’t God’s gift of grace to provide our salvation — that it doesn’t really matter, that it was just a good guy’s death that made no difference in the grand scheme of things. Such a wager makes the soldiers’ wager seem pretty tame, doesn’t it?

But, our hearts can be changed just like the hearts of the soldiers who had seen countless men killed in shame on crosses. Something in this story — in Jesus’ identity and demeanor, in the Lord’s shameless honoring of the Father’s will, and in our Savior’s willingness to do this for us — has an inexplicable power to grab our hearts. This is the power of the cross. This is why the cross was chosen. This is why Jesus endured its pain and shame to redeem us.

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18 NLT).

Father, I confess that I have sometimes not appreciated the enormity of what your Son endured at Calvary. I have not always been gripped with what all was at stake as he suffered and died. But now, as I see what was done to him and the calloused way in which his death was treated, I am shocked and horrified. I realize more now what was at stake when Jesus went to the cross and bore my sin so I could become your righteousness. With all my heart, I want to live the rest of my life scorning sin and rejoicing in your grace. In Jesus name I offer my thanks and praise. Amen.


Walking on Water

Walking on Water

Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Matthew 14:27

During an especially cold winter, I ventured out to Lake Michigan, the fifth largest lake in the world, to see it frozen over. Bundled up on the beach where I usually enjoy soaking up the sun, the view was breathtaking. The water was actually frozen in waves creating an icy masterpiece.

Because the water was frozen solid next to the shore, I had the opportunity to “walk on water.” Even with the knowledge that the ice was thick enough to support me, I took the first few steps tentatively. I was fearful the ice wouldn’t continue to hold me. As I cautiously explored this unfamiliar terrain, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus calling Peter out of the boat onto the Sea of Galilee.

When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, their response was also fear. But Jesus responded, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:26–27). Peter was able to overcome his fear and step out onto the water because he knew Jesus was present. When his courageous steps faltered because of the wind and waves, Peter cried out to Jesus. Jesus was still there, near enough to simply reach out His hand to rescue him.

If you are facing a situation today where Jesus is calling you to do something that may seem as impossible as walking on water, take courage. The one who calls you will be present with you.

Dear Lord, thank You for the assurance that You are always with us.

When we call out to God, He hears.

A Joyful Finish

From: Our Daily Journey

A Joyful Finish


2 Corinthians 6:3-10
Our hearts ache, but we always have joy (2 Corinthians 6:10).

Brazilian runner Vanderlei de Lima went to Athens to compete in the Olympic marathon. On the last leg of the race, he was in first place. But suddenly a spectator bolted from the crowd and attacked de Lima. He didn’t injure the runner, but the assault lost him precious time and ultimately his hopes for a gold medal. Despite the unfortunate incident and ache in his heart, de Lima finished the race well, even winning the bronze medal. He crossed the finish line with joy—exhibiting a wide smile and dance moves.

In a similar way, though his heart ached with sorrow, the apostle Paul chose joy—something that nothing and no one could take away from him (2 Corinthians 6:10). As he ministered among and agonized over the spiritual welfare of the church at Corinth and other churches, some Corinthians questioned his commissioning, doubted his integrity, and criticized his conduct (2 Corinthians 6:8).

To give no one a reason to vilify his ministry and the gospel, Paul conducted himself as a true servant of God. And to authenticate his ministry, he didn’t hesitate to admit that it had been filled with sorrows—beatings, imprisonment, attacks by angry mobs, exhaustion, sleepless nights, lack of food, as well as being despised, ignored, and called an imposter (2 Corinthians 6:5,8-9). But the apostle didn’t lose heart. Despite personal attacks, he persisted, declaring, “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy” (2 Corinthians 6:10; see also Colossians 1:24).

As we run the race of life, whether from external struggles or the treatment of others, our hearts will inevitably ache with sorrow. Instead of quitting, grumbling, or feeling sorry for ourselves, may we depend on the Holy Spirit to empower us toward a joyful finish (Romans 5:3-5).



Nailed To The Cross

25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

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 Nailed To The Cross

From: Our Daily Bread

Read: Colossians 2:9-17 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 3-4; Galatians 6
[Jesus] has made [you] alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses. —Colossians 2:13

It was a touching church service. Our pastor talked about Jesus taking our sins upon Himself and dying in our place to take our punishment. He asked if anyone still felt guilt over confessed sins and was therefore not enjoying the forgiveness of God.

We were to write the sin or sins on a piece of paper, walk to the front of the church, and nail the paper to the cross that was placed there. Many went forward, and you could hear the pounding of nails for several minutes. That act didn’t give us forgiveness, of course, but it was a physical reminder that Jesus had already taken those sins on Himself as He hung on the cross and died.

That’s what the apostle Paul taught the church at Colosse. The people were being influenced by false teachers who presented Christ as less than adequate for their needs. But Paul explained that Jesus paid the price for our sins. He said, “The handwriting of requirements that was against us, . . . He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:14).

If we confess our sin to God, seeking His cleansing, He will forgive (1 John 1:9). We don’t need to hold on to the guilt. Our sins have been nailed to the cross; they’ve been taken away. Jesus has forgiven them all.

Lord, give me courage to confess, To bare my sinful heart to Thee; Thy full forgiveness I would know And from this weight of guilt be free. —D. De Haan
Guilt is a burden God never intended His children to bear.


A Good Season

From: Our Daily Bread

A Good Season

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Today is the first day of spring in the northern half of the world. If you live in Australia, it’s the first day of autumn—the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere and the autumnal equinox in the southern hemisphere. Today, the sun shines directly on the equator, and the hours of daylight and nighttime are nearly equal around the world.

New seasons are important for many people. Some count down the day because of what they hope the new season will bring. Perhaps you’ve been marking off a calendar for spring in Wisconsin to signal the end of another winter. Or maybe you live in Melbourne, and you can’t wait for autumn to bring relief from the Australian sun.

We also go through seasons of life that don’t have to do with the weather. The author of Ecclesiastes told us there is a season for every activity under the sun—a time appointed by God during which we live our lives (3:1–11).

Moses spoke of a new season in his life after he led the people of Israel through the wilderness (Deuteronomy 31:2), and he had to give up his leadership role to Joshua. And Paul faced a lonely season while he was under house arrest in Rome—asking for visitors but realizing that God was “at my side” (2 Timothy 4:17).

Regardless of the season of life, let’s give thanks to God for His greatness, His help, and His companionship.

Thank You, Father, for the promise of Your care during this season of my life. You have allowed this circumstance for a good reason. Help me to use this time appointed by You in a way that deepens my trust in You.

Every season brings a reason to rejoice.


Friendship with God

By Oswald Chambers

 Friendship with God

The Delights of His Friendship. Genesis 18 brings out the delight of true friendship with God, as compared with simply feeling His presence occasionally in prayer. This friendship means being so intimately in touch with God that you never even need to ask Him to show you His will. It is evidence of a level of intimacy which confirms that you are nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you have a right-standing relationship with God, you have a life of freedom, liberty, and delight; you are God’s will. And all of your commonsense decisions are actually His will for you, unless you sense a feeling of restraint brought on by a check in your spirit. You are free to make decisions in the light of a perfect and delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong He will lovingly produce that sense of restraint. Once he does, you must stop immediately.

The Difficulties of His Friendship. Why did Abraham stop praying when he did? He stopped because he still was lacking the level of intimacy in his relationship with God, which would enable him boldly to continue on with the Lord in prayer until his desire was granted. Whenever we stop short of our true desire in prayer and say, “Well, I don’t know, maybe this is not God’s will,” then we still have another level to go. It shows that we are not as intimately acquainted with God as Jesus was, and as Jesus would have us to be— “…that they may be one just as We are one…” (John 17:22). Think of the last thing you prayed about— were you devoted to your desire or to God? Was your determination to get some gift of the Spirit for yourself or to get to God? “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). The reason for asking is so you may get to know God better. “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). We should keep praying to get a perfect understanding of God Himself.

Away With This Man

John 18:31
30  “If He were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed Him over to you.” 
32  This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to indicate the kind of death He was going to die.
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Away With This Man!

From: Missey Butler, Author

“Away with this man!” Those were the very words so vehemently shouted by the assembly as they stood before Pontius Pilate on that day… the day we have all come to know as Good Friday.

“And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas.” Luke 23:18

It almost seems like a sacrilege to refer to the darkest day of mankind as somehow being good. Yet, even the saddest commemoration reminds us that in the face of sin, our goodness avails nothing!  There is only One who is good, and His name is Jesus Christ.

Every Good Friday, the Christian world sets her gaze upon the cross at Mt. Calvary. We try to comprehend the immeasurable cost that Jesus paid in order to redeem us back from the death sentence handed down by way the fall of Adam.

It is the one day, where a holy silence is reverently held within the hearts of all mankind throughout the world. There is no mass held in any Church or Cathedral. The organs and instruments usually sounded in praise and worship are silenced. All candles are snuffed out, while the religious ornaments are quietly removed from the altars, and the Cross is solemnly shrouded in a black veil.

Although our emphasis on this day is to focus on the death of Jesus Christ, it is not the mode of a funeral liturgy that we recognize. Instead, we approach this day with thankful hearts, because we know that the death we are venerating was not the end of the story …not by a long shot.  Let us go now, and return in our mind to that day, 2,000 years ago.

The scene is a very ominous one. The ninth hour darkly approaches, as Jesus labors to inhale what will prove to be His last breath … His ebbing spirit rushes out with one last cry…

“It is finished!”

The sky, responding to what it sees, blackens thickly and shamefully over the earth, as the ground violently quakes. The sacred form of a tortured man, now suspended between heaven and earth, becomes very still. The moment is a Holy one.

Suddenly, within the Temple, a loud “tearing” sound is heard.

All eyes watch as the sacred veil dramatically rips from top to bottom, and at that very moment, the divine scales of justice dramatically “tip” in favor of man.

Hallelujah!  Every human soul is now graciously awarded the distinct privilege of having access into the very Holy of Holies … the glorious presence of our Living God.

The magnitude of the moment is an incredible one. Legions of “Heavenly Witnesses” thunder forth torrents of deafening praise, as heralds of joy erupt spontaneously throughout the hallways of Glory! Upward and upward the rise to the very throne room of the Father.

‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” John 1 :29

All Glory to our Savior!

So, while our hearts are heavy because Jesus had to die that day, and in that way … we are no less filled with awe and overwhelmed with inexpressible joy, at the display of pure love that God so graciously poured out to all mankind.

For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”John 3:16

And so it is with grateful hearts that we recognize that there really is no other adjective that could best describe this particular day … the day we have all come to know and love as… Good Friday.

“Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished. With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” John 19:28

The Art of a Grateful Heart

From: Our Daily Bread

The Art of a Grateful Heart

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 118:1

On our wedding day, Martie and I gladly vowed to be faithful “in good times as well as in bad, in sickness as well as in health, for richer or for poorer.” In a way it may seem strange to include vows about the bleak reality of bad times, sickness, and poverty on a cheerful wedding day. But it underscores the fact that life often has “bad” times.

So what are we to do when we face life’s inevitable difficulties? Paul urges us on behalf of Christ to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As difficult as that may sound, there is good reason why God encourages us to embrace a spirit of gratitude. Gratitude is grounded in the truth that our Lord “is good” and “his love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1). He is present with us and strengthens us in the midst of trouble (Hebrews 13:5–6), and He lovingly uses our trials to grow our character into His likeness (Romans 5:3–4).

When life hits us with hard times, choosing to be grateful focuses our attention on the goodness of God and gives us the strength to make it through our struggles. With the psalmist, we can sing, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 118:29).

Lord, I realize that focusing on my troubles causes me to forget that even in the midst of trials You are good. Teach me the art of a grateful heart.

Thanksgiving is a virtue that grows through practice.


Wrestling and Restoration

From: Our Daily Journey

Wrestling and Restoration


Genesis 32:22-32
“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won” (Genesis 32:28).

Whenever I counsel couples considering divorce, I always start by asking them this question: What kind of relationship did your parents have? Children whose parents divorce are far more likely to do so themselves—in fact, men whose parents are no longer married are 35 percent more likely to divorce, and for women the likelihood is a startling 60 percent. Sometimes in order to heal our broken relationships, we have to look back at the relationships in our past.

Jacob had many broken relationships but perhaps none more wounded than the one with his twin brother, Esau. After gaining his brother’s birthright and blessing through trickery (Genesis 25:29-3427:1-29), Jacob decided to flee his brother’s murderous wrath (Genesis 27:41). Much of his life story was lived out in the context of his attempts to stay away from his brother. But later in his life Jacob finally faced his brother once more (Genesis 32:5).

But before that happened, he had to confront “another” with whom he shared a broken relationship—God Himself. Jacob had become alienated from God through his constant and selfish scheming, and so he first had to literally wrestle with God, an experience that changed not only his heart but his name: “You will be called Israel” (Genesis 32:28). It was only after this transformation that his relationship with his brother could be restored (Genesis 32:4).

The sad reality is that many of us have broken relationships we want to heal. But perhaps the first relationship that needs to be healed is the one with our heavenly Father. When we’re reconciled to Him, we can experience the eternal peace and perspective necessary to seek reconciliation with others.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the ordeal that has come to test you… you are sharing what Christ suffered; so rejoice in it (1 Peter 4:12-13).

Many a waiting hour was needful to enrich the harp of David, and many a waiting hour in the wilderness will gather for us a psalm of “thanksgiving, and the voice of melody,” to cheer the hearts of fainting ones here below, and to make glad our Father’s house on high.

What was the preparation of the son of Jesse for the songs like unto which none other have ever sounded on this earth? The outrage of the wicked, which brought forth cries for God’s help. Then the faint hope in God’s goodness blossomed into a song of rejoicing for His mighty deliverances and manifold mercies. Every sorrow was another string to his harp; every deliverance another theme for praise.

One thrill of anguish spared, one blessing unmarked or unprized, one difficulty or danger evaded, how great would have been our loss in that thrilling Psalmody in which God’s people today find the expression of their grief or praise!

To wait for God, and to suffer His will, is to know Him in the fellowship of His sufferings, and to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. So now, if the vessel is to be enlarged for spiritual understanding, be not affrighted at the wider sphere of suffering that awaits you. The Divine capacity of sympathy will have a more extended sphere, for the breathing of the Holy Ghost in the new creation never made a stoic, but left the heart’s affection tender and true.
–Anna Shipton

“He tested me ere He entrusted me” (1 Tim. 1:12, Way’s Trans.)

Take Up Your Cross

Take Up Your Cross

Matthew 10:38-39

37  Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me;

38  and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.

39  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.…

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Cross Bearing

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From: Joe Stowell, Author

“Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38

Right now it’s summer! When I’m wearing flip-flops to the grocery store and running the air conditioner in my car. It’s hard to remember the frigid days of January, and still harder to imagine a climate colder than Grand Rapids, Michigan in the dead of winter. But of course there are many places that are colder, more remote, and far more harsh—such as Siberia!

During the height of the Communist rule in the former Soviet Union, Pastor Ivan Minailo was exiled to prison in Siberia. His crime? He refused to betray Jesus and his five small congregations by becoming a stealth informant for the secret police. As he and nine hundred other “criminals” were marched to a remote prison camp, Ivan’s feet became severely frost-bitten and swollen to the point where he almost needed to have them amputated, yet he willingly carried his cross through the snows of Siberia.

As Ivan demonstrated, our willingness to pay the price of a cross is the pivotal issue when it comes to our devotion to Jesus. Jesus put this in cement when He said, “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38). I guess that means, if we refuse to bear the cross we are given, then we can’t really call ourselves followers of Christ.

Since the stakes are so high, let me take a minute to clarify what it means to bear a cross for Christ. Cross-bearing is when I am willingly inclined to endure suffering that comes as a result of following Christ. It requires a willing heart. As it did for Ivan, our experience on earth will bring us to crossroads where we must choose: Christ or comfort, Jesus or ease, and even, sometimes, worship or wealth. Followers of Jesus make the hard choices because of who Jesus is—the Son of God, eternally worthy of our whole existence.

Sometimes I wonder why Jesus drew such a hard line in the sand when it came to cross-bearing. I mean, why couldn’t the Christian life just be a bit more of a cakewalk? And then I think it’s because He knew that living to please our Father in heaven would be a rough assignment in a world that is under the control of the archenemy of God. During His ministry on earth, Jesus endured a lot of things—painful rejection, cruel and unfair criticism, marginalization, physical torture, the betrayal of a dear friend, and finally crucifixion—all to be faithful to His Father. Spiritually speaking, this world is a tough and sometimes hostile place to live if you’re following Christ.

Of course, cross-bearing does not exclude us from the grace of good times and the enjoyment of things He has provided for us. Thank God for the grace of seasons where our crosses are rather light. But cross-bearing does mean that, like Ivan and millions of others, when push comes to shove we choose the “Jesus way” even if it means loss and suffering.

So here’s the rest of the story: Ivan suffered under the brutal elements of Siberia and the cruel taskmasters of the prison camp for 10 years before he was released. But regardless of his suffering, he sought to use the season of difficulty to lift Jesus up. As he worked in villages as a prisoner, he led people to Jesus and, get this, today there are churches throughout Siberia that were established by the witness of prison laborers who exalted Jesus in the midst of their suffering.

I wonder—is Jesus worth everything and anything to you? What will you decide the next time you have to choose between carrying your cross and laying it down for a more comfortable existence? Here’s the bottom line: Authentic followers of Jesus are glad to pick up a cross to prove to our leader that He is more important to us than anything else in our lives!

Abundance in Dependence

From: Our Daily Journey

Abundance in Dependence


Psalms 126:1–127:2
It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones (Psalms 127:2).

After months of intense stress at my job, as well as a busy season with family and ministry, I was exhausted—and more than just physically. Reflecting on the prior six months, I realized that, although I had tried to be consistent in my work ethic, I didn’t consistently take time to rest. Responsibility is an important part of life, but disorder sets in when responsibilities become the chain holding us captive to self-reliance.

As Psalm 126 and 127 reveal, God wants us to experience the abundance that comes when we depend on Him. His promise to take care of us includes our work lives. While we may experience the result of sin’s curse in the frustrations and exhaustion that comes with work (Genesis 3:17-19), working hard isn’t a sin. As ones who were made in God’s image, we were imprinted with the ability to plant, build, and create. We were made for work (Genesis 1:26-28).

But we were also made for rest (Hebrews 4:10).

Believing our future provision rests in our own hands or seeking to find our worth in our work causes us to miss the point of our lives—living in God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:31-33). But even when we drift away from God, He remains faithful, ready to bring renewal, restoration, and blessing into our lives (Psalm 126:1-4).

Surrendering our work lives to Him means more than leaning on Him when we are distressed. To depend on Him with the entirety of who we are requires us to invest our time and energy only where He’s leading (Psalms 127:1). Following His lead requires believing that it’s His provision, not our own, that makes us secure (Psalms 127:2). Then, even when we “plant in tears, [we] will harvest with shouts of joy . . . [and] sing as [we] return with the harvest” (Psalms 126:5-6).

 Jehovah Nissi: The Lord is My Banner

From: Leah Adams


How well do you remember names? This is something that many people struggle with and I am one of them. I am seeking ways to be intentional about remembering people’s names when I meet them, because remembering someone’s name is a sign that you value them as a person. I would suggest to you that name remembrance is a learned habit and I’m trying hard to learn this habit!!

As I was dressing one morning, I glanced at a flip calendar that sits on my dresser and it happened to be recounting some of the names of God. These names struck a chord within my heart and I sensed the Holy Spirit urging me to delve deeper into some of the names of God. Why? In antiquity, a person’s name revealed much about their character. This is no less true when you study the names of God, for His names tell us a great deal about the person and character of God.

The first name that we will focus on is Jehovah Nissi – The Lord is my Banner. This name for God is found in Exodus 17:15 (HCSB). Take a peek at the context with me from verses 9-16.

Moses said to Joshua, “Select some men for us, and go fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the hilltop with God’s staff in my hand.” Joshua did as Moses had told him, and fought against Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. While Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, but whenever he put his hand down, Amalek prevailed. When Moses’ hands grew heavy, they took a stone and put [it] under him, and he sat down on it. Then Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other so that his hands remained steady until the sun went down. So Joshua defeated Amalek and his army with the sword. The Lord then said to Moses, “Write this down on a scroll as a reminder and recite it to Joshua: I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and named it, “The Lord Is My Banner.” He said, “Indeed, [my] hand is [lifted up] toward the Lord’s throne. The Lord will be at war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

In this passage Moses held God’s staff in his hand and as long as his hands and God’s staff were raised, Joshua and the Israelites won the war with the Amalekites. What I want us to pay particular attention to is that this battle was all about God. Joshua, Moses, Aaron, Hur, and the Israelite armies were simply vessels God used, but the battle itself was orchestrated by God. Moses knew this and wanted to make certain the Israelites knew it and remembered it. Nothing that he or they did in the physical realm brought about victory. God’s presence and power took them into the battle and assured the victory when the battle was done.

What battles are you fighting today?

Is the battle you are in one that the Lord has chosen for you? Strange question, isn’t it? Scripture is very clear in this particular passage that the Lord, in fact, chooses certain battles for us to fight. Does He lead the way as Jehovah Nissi in your current battles?

Perhaps the battle you are in is a battle that you have chosen, one that is outside the will of God? Are you fighting in your own strength? Are you struggling to be victorious in the battle? If Jehovah Nissi is leading the way in your struggle, then you are assured success, but if you are fighting your battle in your own strength, your defeat is imminent.

Where in your life do need God to show Himself strong as Jehovah Nissi – the Lord my Banner – and go before you so that you may know victory?


Will I Bring Myself Up to This Level?

By Oswald Chambers

 Will I Bring Myself Up to This Level?

“Therefore, having these promises….” I claim God’s promises for my life and look to their fulfillment, and rightly so, but that shows only the human perspective on them. God’s perspective is that through His promises I will come to recognize His claim of ownership on me. For example, do I realize that my “body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,” or am I condoning some habit in my body which clearly could not withstand the light of God on it? (1 Corinthians 6:19). God formed His Son in me through sanctification, setting me apart from sin and making me holy in His sight (see Galatians 4:19). But I must begin to transform my natural life into spiritual life by obedience to Him. God instructs us even in the smallest details of life. And when He brings you conviction of sin, do not “confer with flesh and blood,” but cleanse yourself from it at once (Galatians 1:16). Keep yourself cleansed in your daily walk.

I must cleanse myself from all filthiness in my flesh and my spirit until both are in harmony with the nature of God. Is the mind of my spirit in perfect agreement with the life of the Son of God in me, or am I mentally rebellious and defiant? Am I allowing the mind of Christ to be formed in me? (see Philippians 2:5). Christ never spoke of His right to Himself, but always maintained an inner vigilance to submit His spirit continually to His Father. I also have the responsibility to keep my spirit in agreement with His Spirit. And when I do, Jesus gradually lifts me up to the level where He lived— a level of perfect submission to His Father’s will— where I pay no attention to anything else. Am I perfecting this kind of holiness in the fear of God? Is God having His way with me, and are people beginning to see God in my life more and more?

Be serious in your commitment to God and gladly leave everything else alone. Literally put God first in your life.


Suffering and Healing

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”Mark 9:23 

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.Psalm 147:3 

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.Mark 10:52 

Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” Luke 8:50 

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.   James 5:16 

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 Suffering and Healing

From: Our Daily Journey

Suffering and Healing


1 Peter 2:19-25
God called you to do good, even if it means suffering (1 Peter 2:21).

The 1986 film The Mission narrates the story of Father Gabriel and Rodrigo Mendoza, a former slave trader, who served together in the jungle bordering Argentina and Paraguay. The two moved into this remote country to befriend a tribe with little contact to the outside world. When powerful slavers descended on the village, Gabriel and Mendoza determined to stay. They were called to suffer with—rather than escape from—the tribe’s agonies and violence. Mendoza and Gabriel lost their lives, though their witness echoed with resounding force.

It’s a great temptation to put safety and pain avoidance as our highest priorities. Scripture tells us, however, that we’re “called . . . to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for [us]” (1 Peter 2:21). Jesus, Peter reminds us, “never sinned”—yet He “personally carried our sins in his body on the cross . . . [so that] by his wounds [we] are healed” (1 Peter 2:22,24). He refused to return abuse with vengeance or to meet evil with more evil. The Savior surrendered His life for the healing of the world.

Jesus’ posture isn’t only noble—it’s our model. Christ “is [our] example,” Peter says, “and [we] must follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). In some beautiful and powerful way, our suffering alongside others participates in Jesus’ healing work.

What would it be like if we—by God’s strength—refused self-protection and self-absorption and instead abandoned our lives for the sake of love? What if we trusted Him with our children, our future, and our deepest desires? What if we refused to fear loss as we found comfort in Him? What if we believed that even our suffering isn’t meaningless but can be used by God for the healing of our world?


Celebrate Like Patrick

From: Cathy Irvin, Author

green clover girl jumping for joy

If you read the story of St. Patrick, you will find that at age 16 he was kidnapped and taken to a land he did not know – Ireland. Now he could have been angry, despondent and eventually given in to defeat; but Patrick did not do this. He became an overcomer as he persevered in his trials and tribulations.

He was taken and told to tend the sheep. It was there that he prayed, grew in his faith, and walked in love. What do we do when we find ourselves in captivity? We can stay in it or choose the latter.

The history about St.Patrick goes on to tell us that he did get away on a ship to return once again to his homeland, but he was different then. He had found Christ in Ireland through his prayers. Later, he heard the voice of God to return to the very place of evil where he was held captive.Patrick went on to become a Bishop. While he was living in Ireland he taught about the trinity by using the three-leaf clover.

There is a lost and dying world wherever we are planted. Do we hear the call of their captivity? Can we enter that place of darkness from which we too were once enslaved? Can we hear the lost crying out for help?

We are not all called to be in the five-fold ministry or to be a missionary to a foreign land; but we are all called to be witnesses and to evangelize. The Lord puts people in our paths every day, if we are looking; or we can pray and ask Him to place someone in our sphere of influence.

I may like to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, but more than that I want to know the history of why we celebrate this holiday. This man was a hero; he changed a nation. He lived out his faith. He had a message; and like Patrick, maybe we can tell his testimony to our family and friends and spark a new meaning in that holiday for them.

If we think about it, most of us would either be angry or depressed if we found ourselves having been kidnapped and never knowing if we would see our loved ones again. Patrick, even though he was a teenager when he was captured, had allowed Christ to change his heart so completely, that he felt compassion for the people who made him a slave. Once he had gotten away from them, he could have stayed away, but God had a different plan for him.

Obedience is better than sacrifice, the Bible says in 1 Samuel 15:22b:

“But Samuel replied, ‘What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.'”

Patrick heard the call and he knew these people were without hope. Freedom in Christ means we can and should find our place of ministry and it should involve passing on the good news to someone whether it is our youth or adults.

St. Patrick ministered in Ireland for 29 years, baptized over 100,000 people and built 300 churches. If we can get it in our minds that we can be world-changers too, by ministering to others, either bringing them to the Lord or helping others grow in their faith, then we will also have a legacy to pass on.

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)


The Servant’s Primary Goal

By Oswald Chambers

 The Servant’s Primary Goal

“We make it our aim….” It requires a conscious decision and effort to keep our primary goal constantly in front of us. It means holding ourselves to the highest priority year in and year out; not making our first priority to win souls, or to establish churches, or to have revivals, but seeking only “to be well pleasing to Him.” It is not a lack of spiritual experience that leads to failure, but a lack of working to keep our eyes focused and on the right goal. At least once a week examine yourself before God to see if your life is measuring up to the standard He has for you. Paul was like a musician who gives no thought to audience approval, if he can only catch a look of approval from his Conductor.

Any goal we have that diverts us even to the slightest degree from the central goal of being “approved to God” (2 Timothy 2:15) may result in our rejection from further service for Him. When you discern where the goal leads, you will understand why it is so necessary to keep “looking unto Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2). Paul spoke of the importance of controlling his own body so that it would not take him in the wrong direction. He said, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest…I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

I must learn to relate everything to the primary goal, maintaining it without interruption. My worth to God publicly is measured by what I really am in my private life. Is my primary goal in life to please Him and to be acceptable to Him, or is it something less, no matter how lofty it may sound?


When Rejection Comes

John 1:11-13

11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Rejection hurts.  Jesus was rejected. When you suffer rejection remember Jesus cares and He will help you. He knows you, and how you hurt.

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When Rejection Comes

From: Our Daily Journey

When Rejection Comes


Psalm 27:1-14
Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close (Psalm 27:10).

“Would you say ‘stay’ when God says ‘go’?” Eliza Davis George asked the leaders of the Texas Baptist Convention in 1913. Two years earlier this woman, a daughter of former slaves, was called by God to be a missionary to Africa. Because she was an African-American woman, however, the leaders discouraged her from going, even publicly humiliating her. Yet, buoyed by prayer, Eliza eventually sailed to Liberia. And thousands of villagers learned about Jesus during her years there. The legacy of her work continues today.

David also experienced rejection from people in addition to many other trials in his life. In Psalm 27 we get a taste of some of the ups and downs he experienced. Yet in each situation, whether he was facing evil people (Psalm 27:2), an entire army (Psalm 27:3), or even rejection from family (Psalm 27:10), David handled these difficulties by finding His confidence in God.

He began the psalm by asserting God’s foundational significance in his life, “my light and my salvation . . . my fortress” (Psalm 27:1). He had complete confidence in God’s character, based on how He had saved him in the past (Psalm 27:9). No matter what happened, David knew he didn’t have to be afraid. Instead, he found confidence through seeking the presence of God. This pursuit was not a mere duty. Instead, it was the deepest desire of his heart to “live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord ’s perfections and meditating in his Temple” (Psalm 27:4).

When we feel we need to perform a certain way or face rejection, like David, we can remind ourselves to “wait patiently for the Lord ” (Psalm 27:14). He has promised us mercy and grace when we need it most (Hebrews 4:16).


Wonders in Focus

From: Our Daily Bread

Wonders in Focus

For from him and through him and for him are all things. Romans 11:36

Some of us are inclined to look at the world and see only what’s wrong. DeWitt Jones is a National Geographic photographer who has used his profession to celebrate what’s right about the world. He waits and watches until a shaft of light or turn of perspective suddenly reveals a wonder that had been there all along. He uses his camera to find beauty in the most common faces of people and nature.

If anyone had reason to focus on the wrongs of the world, Job did. After losing all that had given him joy, even his friends became his accusers. Together their voices taunted him for not admitting that he was suffering for sins he was hiding. When Job cried out to the heavens for help, God remained silent.

Finally, from within the chaos of a whirlwind and the darkness of a storm, God asked Job to consider wonders of nature that reflect a wisdom and power far beyond our own (Job 38:2–4).

Would He now ask us? What about something as natural as the ways of a dog, cat, fluttering leaf, or blade of grass? Could a shaft of light, or a turn of perspective, reveal—even in our pain—the mind and heart of a Creator who has been with us and for us all along?

Father in heaven, we’ve spent too much time thinking only about what is wrong and broken with our world. Please help us to see evidence of Your presence in the wonder of what only You could have done.

In the faces of nature there are wonders that never cease.


Impetuous Peter and Me

From: Gail Casteen, Author

Imagine facing the worst event of your life, knowing exactly what is coming and how very difficult it will be. Now imagine, while struggling through that dark moment, helping a friend and a foe in one selfless move. It is hard to fathom, but it happened and is well documented.

It was in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had been betrayed with a kiss and was being led away into the night to stand a mockery of a trial. In his best effort to protect his Messiah, Peter pulled his sword and severed an ear from the head of a soldier. Then Jesus made a highly unpredictable move. He touched and healed the man’s ear!

When Jesus restored the ear of that soldier, He changed the lives of two men forever. Of course, being the man of compassion that He was, Jesus certainly saw this soldier suffering and in agony from such a brutal wound. Even though the soldier was a ‘bad guy’, the love and compassion of Jesus reached beyond what the man was doing to the fact that he was hurting and needed healing.

When I was a child, I could not understand why Jesus would help someone who was there with the intention of hurting Him. I knew I could never be as loving and forgiving as Jesus and was not certain I wanted to try. As an adult, I am thankful for the grace and mercy He extends to me when I am the bad guy.

Another man’s future was changed that night. Jesus courageously rescued Peter that night. There Peter stood, bloody weapon in his hand, somewhat frustrated that he had missed his mark … the soldier’s head. Yet, his pride was perhaps somewhat pacified by the fact that he had made a notable statement of his allegiance to the Lord. He was more than willing to fight to protect Jesus.

In the moment between landing the blow and Jesus restoring the ear, Peter realized the consequences he would have to pay for that action. He probably saw what Jesus did for him the instant it happened. When Jesus healed the soldier’s ear, the evidence that would have supported prosecution for the attempted murder of an officer of the law vanished. There would be no argument in court against Peter regarding that incident. He was acquitted before he was accused!

Much in the same way Peter did that night, I commit a punishable offense, yet Jesus steps in and rescues me. It is after I have done the damage that I see His action on my behalf has removed the evidence against me. My slate has been cleared.

In Lamentations 3: 21-23 the Bible says,

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I hear Jesus’ voice ringing in my head and heart, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” Here I stand, undeserving, wrong, yet loved completely. He reaches out with compassion and mercy to heal and deliver me. His acts of love and compassion effectively restore and renew me.

When I am called to step up to the Judge’s bench, there will be no evidence to hold against me … “Just as if I had never sinned.” He declares me “NOT GUILTY!”


There Is Power In Humility

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom.

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

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Revealed to Be Healed

From: Our Daily Bread

Revealed to Be Healed

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Psalm 25:4

As a boy, I watched my father plow fields that had never been cultivated. On the first pass the plowshare would turn up large rocks that he hauled away. Then, he would plow the field again, and then again, to further break up the soil. With each pass the plow turned up other, smaller rocks that he cast aside. The process continued, requiring many passes through the field.

Growth in grace can look like a similar process. When we first become believers, some “big” sins may be exposed. We confess them to God and accept His forgiveness. But as the years pass by, and as God’s Word passes through us and sinks into our innermost being, the Holy Spirit brings other sins to the surface. Sins of the spirit once thought to be mere peccadilloes—small, seemingly unimportant offenses—are revealed as ugly, ruinous attitudes and actions. Sins like pride, self-pity, complaining, pettiness, prejudice, spite, self-serving indulgence.

God reveals each sin so He can cast it aside. He reveals to heal. When harmful hidden attitudes come to the surface, we can pray as the psalmist David did, “For the sake of your name, Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great” (Psalm 25:11).

Humbling exposure, though painful, is good for the soul. It’s one of the ways in which He “instructs sinners in his ways.” He “guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (vv. 8–9).

Thank You, Lord, that You remember us according to Your love. Instruct us and guide us. Teach us to live as those who have been forgiven much.

Jesus takes us as we are and makes us what we should be.

Ageless Love

From: Our Daily Journey

Ageless Love


1 Timothy 5:3-8
Those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers (1 Timothy 5:8).

It’s been said that more is caught than taught. That was true for my siblings and I as we witnessed our parents caring for their parents. My grandmothers, both widows, lived in homes adjacent to our own—purchased by my father and mother. And in time, a grandmother’s sister-in-law also came to live in our little community. All three were doted on by Mom and Dad.

During Paul’s day, widows were desperately dependent upon their families. He wrote, “If [a widow] has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God” (1 Timothy 5:4). Paul revealed that it wasn’t merely right to care for aging parents and other family members, but that it reflected God’s own heart (James 1:27).

Paul continued, “Those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers” (1 Timothy 5:8). It’s plain to see that caring for the aged, particularly those in our own family, is a way to bless God and to also experience His blessing (Deuteronomy 5:16Ephesians 6:2-3).

As my father and mother battled the challenges of old age, it wasn’t always easy for us or for them. My siblings and I wrestled with questions, limited time and resources, and guilt as we strived to best meet their needs. My parents, both affected by dementia, dealt with physical, mental, and emotional challenges.

But in His grace, God helped us care for and “carry” our parents during the final season of their lives (Isaiah 46:4). As much as it is possible, may we compassionately care for the aging loved ones in our lives by His wisdom and strength.


First Fruits

From: Pauline Hylton, Author

fresh fruits and vegetables

“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you as a special possession and you have conquered it and settled there, put some of the first produce from each crop you harvest into a basket and bring it to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored. Deuteronomy 26:1-2(NLT)

Running into the farmhouse I shouted to Tom, “They’re up! They’re up!”

Tom looked alarmed. “What, Pauline, what are up?”

“Our squash seeds, they have green leaves poking out!”

We both ran to the field in front of the farmhouse to examine this miracle.

“Sure enough,” Tom said as he bent over low, eyes moist. “Sure enough.”

That day was our first successful farm day. The first fruits of months of labor in our new life in North Carolina. Even though it was almost five years ago, I can still remember the joy.

When we start tiny seeds in plastic trays under hot lights, we both check morning and night for the first signs of life. We oooh and aaah like gazing at a newborn when the first sign of life appears. After they are planted our anticipation grows and our mouth waters when we think of that first bite of a perfect heirloom tomato. And when our purple and green asparagus launch, it is always cause for a celebration.

So, when today’s Bible reading in Deuteronomy speaks of bringing the first fruits of the harvest to the Lord, both Tom and I can relate.

Let me share how I try to bring the first fruits of my life to the Lord.

The first fruit of my time. My husband and I have marked this year as the year of prayer. Sure, I have a somewhat designated prayer time. I even have prayer cards for people. Knowing God is best through His Word and prayer, most days, I get up, have two cups of real strong coffee, get out my Bible, my prayer cards, and a notebook with 40 days of prayer that I downloaded from the Internet. Since Easter is right around the corner, I desired to really take my time with this sacred season and savor it instead of letting it sneak up on me.

As I give the Lord the first fruits of my day, I tend to bare more fruit during the day. Try it.

The second way Tom and I bring our first fruits is the first fruits of our tithe. We don’t resent giving our money, we are grateful to give. We have found we can never out-give God. He doesn’t need our money, but He does desire our trust.

In America, we tend to view our security in 401K’s, or health insurance, or life insurance. Those things are not bad, they just are not stable.

God owns everything, is all-powerful, all-knowing, and in the end, He wins.

Let’s just say, investing in heaven is a sure bet.

The last of my first fruits is the first fruit of my worship.

I’m not talking about Sundays and Wednesdays. I am talking about where your heart is. Where your mind is. What you talk about most.

That is what you worship.

For me, worshipping the Lord and Him alone is a daily challenge. But it is so worth it. He is so worth it. The more I meditate on Jesus, His life, death, and resurrection, the sweeter He becomes and the more I desire to worship.

Romans 12:1 (NLT) states, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”

Think of your first fruits, especially during this sacred season. And bring them to the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.

You’ll be glad you did.

Giving The Gift Of Prayer

Hebrews 5:7

In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.

Luke 3:21

Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened,

Matthew 14:23

After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.

Mark 6:46

After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.

Luke 6:12

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.

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Giving the Gift of Prayer

From: Our Daily Bread

Giving the Gift of Prayer

You help us by your prayers. 2 Corinthians 1:11

“I didn’t realize what a gift prayer was until my brother was sick and you all prayed for him. I cannot tell you what a comfort your prayers were!”

Laura had tears in her eyes as she thanked me for the prayers of the people in our church for her brother, who was facing a cancer diagnosis. She continued, “Your prayers have strengthened him in this difficult time and have been an encouragement to our entire family.”

One of the best ways to love others is to pray for them. Jesus is our ultimate example in this. The New Testament tells us about Jesus praying for others on many occasions, and even shows us that He continues to come to the Father on our behalf. Romans 8:34 says that He “is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Even after showing such selfless love at the cross, the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ continues to express His care for us by praying for us at this very moment.

All around us are people who need us to follow Jesus’s example and love them with our prayers, inviting God’s help and intervention in their lives. We can ask God to help us pray for them, and He will! May our loving Lord strengthen us to generously give the gift of our prayers for others today.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for praying for me. Help me to serve You and others through faithfully praying today.

Submit your prayer request and pray for others at YourDailyBread.org.

Prayer is a gift to be shared.


Honest in Our Pain

From: Our Daily Journey

Honest in Our Pain


John 11:1-44
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).

An article titled “Jacob and Our Wrestling Match with God” reflects on the significance of God changing Jacob’s name, arguing that the name change points to a character transformation. “Jacob,” which means “crooked,” becomes “Israel,” which likely means “One who wrestles with God [and] One who is straight (direct, honest) with God.”

Scripture often uplifts such raw honesty with God, as evident in the psalms. As Pamela Greenberg writes, “The first and most obvious thing about the psalms is that they awaken us to the possibility of speaking honestly about our pain. So many distortions rise up when we react to our emotional lives rather than expressing our sorrows and hurts in a transformative way.”

After their brother Lazarus’ death, both Martha and Mary honestly expressed their pain to Jesus. While their brother was still alive, they’d sent Jesus a message that his “dear friend [was] very sick” (John 11:3). But Jesus mysteriously “stayed where he was” (John 11:6), only coming after Lazarus had died. When He finally arrived in Bethany, Martha went out to meet Him, and the first words out of her mouth were “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). In response, “Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying’ ” (John 11:25).

Martha then went to get her sister. When Mary met Jesus, she echoed Martha’s statement (John 11:32). Seeing her pain, Jesus wept (John 11:35). Then He “shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ ” (John 11:43). And Lazarus came out alive (John 11:44).

In return for their confusion and pain, Jesus gave these sisters encouragement, comfort, and restoration.

May we too bring our wounds to Jesus and experience His healing.


A Risky Relationship

From: Christian Broadcasting Company


My brother used to hate my wife. And when I say hate, I really mean hate. He adored her before we got married; but when we announced our new found faith in God and our engagement, he let it clearly be known how much he disliked her and our decisions. He loudly cursed both of us, and although he came to the wedding, he said absolutely nothing to me the entire time.

Choosing between my brother and the woman God had given me was the hardest, most hurtful thing I had ever been made to do. Here I had two people I loved dearly; the brother I had known and loved all my life and the godly woman who had stolen my heart. The ultimatum to choose one or the other was not an easy task.

After a lot of tears, prayer and anger, I chose my wife. I married her despite the opposition. Although I was confused and hurt, I decided to place my trust in the fact that God was the center of my life and this marriage, and that I was making the right decision, even if that meant losing my brother forever.

The scriptures I depended on during this time were Matthew 10:35-37 which talk about Christ’s dividing of mother and daughter, father and son, and of our need to make Him first priority even over family members.

But what really got me was verse 38. After talking about all of this division, it says:

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (NIV).

Well, in humility, I let the Lord know that I was definitely losing my life (or at least a major part of it) for His sake, and that if He would, I needed His help to find it.

Here’s the testimony: about a year and a half into our marriage and after seeing how whoever this God that we served was prospering my wife and I, my brother came around. He lost all of his hostility and let me know how scared he was, that I had made a rash decision and that it was hard for him to let me go. He even apologized (something my brother does not do), to both me and my wife. Today, they spend more time talking than him and I do. He is constantly telling her how glad he is to have her as a sister-in-law and how she is the best thing that ever happened to me.

This is what can happen when God becomes the radical priority in our lives. I lost time –  a year and a half of a relationship – because I wasn’t willing to compromise my faith or love for my wife. But because of that dedication to Christ, He helped me to “find my life,” giving me the relationship with my brother I desired.

Now every situation may not conclude like this one, but the Word of God says that if we put God and His Kingdom in the forefront of our lives, He will supply all the things we need (Matthew 6:33).

Wow. Losing a life in order to find one. Putting Christ first in order to gain the righteous desires of my heart. Amazing concept. How do I know it works? Because I can now keep my faith, my wife and still give my brother a call.

Sealed For Service

 Joshua 24:15

” And if it seem evil unto to you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

5. John 12:26

“If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shallow also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.”

 Hebrews 9:14

“How much more shall the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

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Sealed for Service

From: Christian Broadcasting Network


A little crack – that’s all it was. But over a period of eight hours, that hardly perceptible space had a huge impact on my olfactory senses.

Phew! I tried to hold my breath upon entering the house after work. What was that awful smell? And why?

I clearly detected the strong scent of spoiling vegetables. It couldn’t be the trash. It was the middle of winter and the house wasn’t hot enough to produce that kind of pungent smell from one-day’s garbage.

The next obvious deduction was the refrigerator. Something made me really scrutinize the door seal. That’s when I saw that the suction of the seal wasn’t working probably and the door was open ever so slightly. From head-on I would never have seen that and would have assumed everything was fine. It was only because I directed my attention to the side that I saw the reason for the unpleasant fragrance in the kitchen.

And that little crack meant I had to throw away several items. All because of a little crack!

How is it that it’s often the small things that can make a big difference in our lives? Small sins, if left unchecked, will eventually leave gaping holes in our souls. If we don’t check and recheck the seal around our hearts, rottenness can enter in. Mix in a little time for that sin to marinate, and we have ourselves a nasty mess.

How do we keep a watch on our hearts and keep ourselves from spoiling? One really good way is to read God’s Word every day. We might not know what is in our hearts, but God does. Reading the Bible helps us to stay sealed in the Holy Spirit and away from the offensive odors of sin. Prayer too keeps us tightly suctioned so that we are held continually in the things of the Lord and not giving way to the air of other pleasures, our flesh, or the deception of the devil.

If you don’t know if that seal around your heart is getting loose or gaping, make this wonderful prayer from David your prayer today:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)


They sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: “Great and astounding are your deeds, Lord God, the All-Powerful! Just and true are your ways, King over the nations! (Rev 15:3)

The following incident is related by Mrs. Charles Spurgeon, who was a great sufferer for more than a quarter of a century:

“At the close of a dark and gloomy day, I lay resting on my couch as the deeper night drew on; and though all was bright within my cozy room, some of the external darkness seemed to have entered into my soul and obscured its spiritual vision. Vainly I tried to see the Hand which I knew held mine, and guided my fog-enveloped feet along a steep and slippery path of suffering. In sorrow of heart I asked,

“’Why does my Lord thus deal with His child? Why does He so often send sharp and bitter pain to visit me? Why does He permit lingering weakness to hinder the sweet service I long to render to His poor servants?’

“These fretful questions were quickly answered, and through a strange language; no interpreter was needed save the conscious whisper of my heart.

“For a while silence reigned in the little room, broken only by the crackling of the oak log burning in the fireplace. Suddenly I heard a sweet, soft sound, a little, clear, musical note, like the tender trill of a robin beneath my window.

“’What can it be? surely no bird can be singing out there at this time of the year and night.’

“Again came the faint, plaintive notes, so sweet, so melodious, yet mysterious enough to provoke our wonder. My friend exclaimed,

“’It comes from the log on the fire!’ The fire was letting loose the imprisoned music from the old oak’s inmost heart!

“Perchance he had garnered up this song in the days when all was well with him, when birds twittered merrily on his branches, and the soft sunlight flecked his tender leaves with gold. But he had grown old since then, and hardened; ring after ring of knotty growth had sealed up the long-forgotten melody, until the fierce tongues of the flames came to consume his callousness, and the vehement heart of the fire wrung from him at once a song and a sacrifice. ’Ah,’ thought I, ’when the fire of affliction draws songs of praise from us, then indeed we are purified, and our God is glorified!’

“Perhaps some of us are like this old oak log, cold, hard, insensible; we should give forth no melodious sounds, were it not for the fire which kindles around us, and releases notes of trust in Him, and cheerful compliance with His will.

“’As I mused the fire burned,’ and my soul found sweet comfort in the parable so strangely set forth before me.

“Singing in the fire! Yes, God helping us, if that is the only way to get harmony out of these hard apathetic hearts, let the furnace be heated seven times hotter than before.”

The Song Of The Saints

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. . . . Your judgments have been manifested. —Revelation 15:4

We’ve all heard the expression, “I don’t get mad; I just get even.” Reading about the judgments described in Revelation, one might assume that God will get “even” with sinners for their phenomenal offenses throughout the history of mankind.

The truth is that God’s final judgment is a necessary expression of His holy justice. He can’t turn a blind eye to sin. In fact, if He doesn’t finally carry out justice as described in Revelation, it would be a denial of His holy character. That’s why in the midst of His judgments, the saints will sing His praise: “Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. . . . Your judgments have been manifested” (Rev. 15:4). Those who know God best do not judge Him for His judgments; rather, they worship and affirm His actions.

What should surprise us is not the massive scale of God’s judgments, but that He’s waiting so long! Desiring that none should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), God is now mercifully restraining His judgment and giving maximum space to His marvelous mercy and grace. Now is the time to repent and take advantage of His patient love. And when we do, we’ll join the saints in praising Him for all eternity!

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song. —Lehman
© Renewal 1945, Nazarene Publishing.

When God’s justice is finally and fully revealed, His praises will resound!