Tag Archives: travel

Don’t Be Afraid, God’s In Control

 

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.

 

 

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When Fear Overcomes Me

June 14, 2017

 

Tessa Afshar June 14, 2017
When Fear Overcomes Me
TESSA AFSHAR

From: Crosswalk.com

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” Romans 8:35 (ESV)

The alarm clock glows green in the darkness. It seems stuck on 3 o’clock. Sleep eludes me, although I feel shattered with exhaustion.

I started a new project and it’s weighing heavy on me because I know I am fallible. I may leave gaps, forget important details, make mistakes and hurt others in the process. It’s quite possible that I will fall short of other people’s expectations. I may prove insufficient or just plain bad.

In an odd way, this scenario reminds me of soldiers of old.

Ancient Roman soldiers sometimes used a short sword they called the makhaira for eliminating their enemies. Because of its compact length, the soldier had to draw very near to his victim, almost like an intimate embrace, as he delivered the final strike. In that moment, all the victim could see was the face of his assassin. He forgot the world, he forgot hope and lost his fragile grasp on any remnant of a fight lingering in his heart. He saw only that hard, unflinching face bent on his destruction.

It is this particular word for “sword” that the apostle Paul uses when he asks the questions found in our key verse: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” The makhaira?

Clearly, I have never been a Roman soldier. But I think I know what it’s like to have a makhaira pointed at my jugular. Its name is Fear.

Like that short Roman sword, when fear comes, it is as if the world disappears so I can only taste and smell and see one thing: The ugly face of fear.

In my mind, Jesus fades, and fear becomes a giant.

Perhaps one of the greatest areas of fear is our work. The work of our hands has so many complex, emotional threads connected to it. We long to be useful. To make a difference. To meet expectations. Add to that the reality that in our world, one’s stability is often attached to work.

We can’t pay the rent unless we get paid. Whether you’re a mother, doctor, loan officer, teacher, receptionist or work in any other field, we all face a multitude of pressures regarding our work. There are layers of fear running through our jobs, layers that, to some degree, remain beyond our control.

The prophet Isaiah said, “You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear” (Isaiah 54:14b, ESV). In other words, fear causes oppression.

In all its iterations: anxiety, worry, agitation, trepidation, panic, fear of failure, of rejection, of letting people down, of abandonment, of not measuring up, of being sick, of ending up alone, of the calamity that might visit our loved ones, financial fears, fear of death — every manner of fear is a chain that binds. Oppresses. And one day, Isaiah says, that oppressive fear shall cease. It shall cease because the Messiah will overcome it.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall fear? Certainly not.

And yet there are days when I see the face of fear more clearly than I do the face of my precious Savior.

On those days, I try hard to hold on to Jesus’ words on the cross: “It is finished” (John 19:30b, ESV). He meant, of course, that His work was accomplished.

So therefore, all the work my soul needs — its redemption and restoration and forgiveness, its renewal and re-creation and salvation — all this is finished. The most important work in the world has been completed.

But I sometimes fancy that the completed work of the cross casts its shadow on other parts of my life, too. Because Christ has finished the most crucial work on earth, something of that completion covers all the unfinished parts of my life.

Even small tasks find their rest in Jesus. They shrink to the right size. The lips that ordained my work spoke the words, “It is finished.” My work will finish and be completed according to the will of the One who called me to do it. It will be fulfilled through His strength and counsel.

As I learn to hear God’s voice more clearly than the voice of fear, I become more like Him. Something in me shifts. Grows.

This is the irony of our present lives: In the process of the wounding, bloody battle with fear, we become more whole.

Because in that process, we learn to trust our God.

Dear Jesus, thank You that You have broken the oppression of fear over my life. Please remove from my heart the fear of failure, of rejection, of financial insufficiency, of being somehow not enough. Help me remember I can rest in Your finished work. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

Get Moving! (1)

From: Utmost.org

Get Moving! (1)

In the matter of determination. The Spirit of Jesus is put into me by way of the atonement by the Cross of Christ. I then have to build my thinking patiently to bring it into perfect harmony with my Lord. God will not make me think like Jesus— I have to do it myself. I have to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). “Abide in Me”— in intellectual matters, in money matters, in every one of the matters that make human life what it is. Our lives are not made up of only one neatly confined area.

Am I preventing God from doing things in my circumstances by saying that it will only serve to hinder my fellowship with Him? How irrelevant and disrespectful that is! It does not matter what my circumstances are. I can be as much assured of abiding in Jesus in any one of them as I am in any prayer meeting. It is unnecessary to change and arrange my circumstances myself. Our Lord’s inner abiding was pure and unblemished. He was at home with God wherever His body was. He never chose His own circumstances, but was meek, submitting to His Father’s plans and directions for Him. Just think of how amazingly relaxed our Lord’s life was! But we tend to keep God at a fever pitch in our lives. We have none of the serenity of the life which is “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

Think of the things that take you out of the position of abiding in Christ. You say, “Yes, Lord, just a minute— I still have this to do. Yes, I will abide as soon as this is finished, or as soon as this week is over. It will be all right, Lord. I will abide then.” Get moving— begin to abide now. In the initial stages it will be a continual effort to abide, but as you continue, it will become so much a part of your life that you will abide in Him without any conscious effort. Make the determination to abide in Jesus wherever you are now or wherever you may be placed in the future.

 

Famously Anxious

From: Our Daily Journey

Famously Anxious

Read:

Luke 2:41-52
[Son,] why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic (Luke 2:48).

Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman’s father said jokingly to his daughter, “I’m more famous than you are.” His comment was based on the media’s coverage of him and his wife Lynn’s nervous reactions as they observed Aly’s Olympic routines. Their emotions on display became an engaging sideshow. The couple swayed and rocked as they anticipated Aly’s complex flips and twists. Lynn reached over and clenched Rick’s arm and fearfully peered out from between her fingers. There’s nothing quite like the anxiety of a loving parent!

Mary and Joseph also experienced fear and concern when Jesus disappeared as they were heading home from a festival in Jerusalem. After checking with friends and relatives, three days later they found Him in the temple dialoguing with religious teachers (Luke 2:46-47). Mary questioned Him: “Why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere” (Luke 2:48). Jesus responded, “But why did you need to search? . . . Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). Given Jesus’ divine nature, it wasn’t wrong for Him to pursue His purpose—even at a young age. But in doing so, He asserted His independence from His parents.

Like Mary and Joseph, we may feel anxiety when our children or other kids we know and love begin to mature and exhibit independence. Our control lessens, and their control over their own lives increases. While some concern is normal, unless we believe that God is aware of the challenges our children will encounter, we may have difficulty letting them go. But if we release them into God’s care when the time is right, they’ll have the chance (like Jesus did) to grow “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all people” (Luke 2:52).

Saying No Takes Courage

 

Do Not Love the World     I john 2:16

15   Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16   For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride

of life — is not from the Father but from the world.

17   The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God remains forever.…

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(It takes courage to say no to the world)

A Boost of Courage

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. —Hebrews 12:2

When my son Joe was a child, I took him to the local YMCA for swimming lessons. I could almost see an Olympic gold medal swinging around his neck.

To my chagrin, Joe didn’t “wow” the class. Instead, he took one look at the water, one look at the instructor, and started bawling.

I thought, Oh, no, I’ve fathered a coward! To make matters worse, the instructor motioned for me to take Joe back to the locker room. In the midst of his sobs and pleas to go home, I gave him a little pep talk: “You can do it, Joe! I’ll come to all your lessons, and we’ll have a signal. When you get scared you can look up at me, and when I hold my thumb up you’ll know it’s going to be okay because I’m here cheering you on.” Joe finally agreed, and today he can swim circles around me.

How often we too face situations that seem overwhelming and impossible. It’s in those times that we need to find our confidence in Jesus. Our first instinct may be to back away in fear. But that’s exactly when we need to look to Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2), who will raise His nail-scarred hand and say, “Stay with it. Run the race. I’ve run it before you, and in My power you can win. You can do it!”

Hold fast to Christ and He will give
The will to see you through;
And if you keep on keeping on,
Your strength He will renew. —D. De Haan

Christ’s victory in the past gives courage for the present and hope for the future.

 

An Appeal of Love

From: Our Daily Journey

An Appeal of Love

Read:

Philemon 1:8-21
I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love (Philemon 1:9 NIV).

Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables opens with the struggles of Jean Valjean, a man ostracized by society because he was an ex-convict. Myriel, the town’s bishop, gave him shelter one night, but Valjean fled with Myriel’s silverware. When Valjean was caught by the police, however, the bishop said that he had given the silverware to Valjean. He then gave Valjean two silver candlesticks, as if he had meant to give them as well. After the police set Valjean free, Myriel told him that he should use money from selling the candlesticks to make an honest man of himself.

Onesimus was a fugitive slave who is believed to have stolen from his master (Philemon 1:16-19). He met Paul in prison and had become a believer in Jesus. With his life turned around, he had served well as Paul’s personal aide (Philemon 1:10-13). But Paul sent Onesimus back to be reconciled with his master, Philemon, a leader in the Colossian church.

The apostle asked Philemon to forgive and receive Onesimus back—not as a slave but as a fellow believer in Jesus (Philemon 1:15-16). Paul could have invoked his authority as an apostle and demanded Philemon’s compliance (Philemon 1:8,14), but he didn’t. Instead, Paul humbly and respectfully “[appealed] to [him] on the basis of love” (Philemon 1: NIV). The apostle sought willing and loving cooperation, not grudging acquiescence (Philemon 1:14). It was an appeal of fatherly love and brotherly affection for the reconciliation of two estranged siblings (Philemon 1:12,16).

In a world where “rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them” (Mark 10:42), Paul’s appeal of love is countercultural. May we also be different, learning to “love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude” by God’s power (1 Peter 3:8).

 

Getting There (3)

From: Utmost.org

Getting There (3)

Where our individual desire dies and sanctified surrender lives. One of the greatest hindrances in coming to Jesus is the excuse of our own individual temperament. We make our temperament and our natural desires barriers to coming to Jesus. Yet the first thing we realize when we do come to Jesus is that He pays no attention whatsoever to our natural desires. We have the idea that we can dedicate our gifts to God. However, you cannot dedicate what is not yours. There is actually only one thing you can dedicate to God, and that is your right to yourself (see Romans 12:1). If you will give God your right to yourself, He will make a holy experiment out of you— and His experiments always succeed. The one true mark of a saint of God is the inner creativity that flows from being totally surrendered to Jesus Christ. In the life of a saint there is this amazing Well, which is a continual Source of original life. The Spirit of God is a Well of water springing up perpetually fresh. A saint realizes that it is God who engineers his circumstances; consequently there are no complaints, only unrestrained surrender to Jesus. Never try to make your experience a principle for others, but allow God to be as creative and original with others as He is with you.

If you abandon everything to Jesus, and come when He says, “Come,” then He will continue to say, “Come,” through you. You will go out into the world reproducing the echo of Christ’s “Come.” That is the result in every soul who has abandoned all and come to Jesus.

Have I come to Him? Will I come now?

Chains: Real And Imaginary

 

The Rescue of Peter      Acts 12:7

6   On the night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, with sentries standing guard at the entrance to the prison.

7   Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists.

8“Get dressed and put on your sandals,” said the angel. Peter did so, and the angel told him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”…

 

Can God rescue you?   yes

Can God  show you the way?    yes

Has God helped others?    yes

You are God’s precious child. He will do what is best.

 

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 Do your circumstances feel like chains?

 

 

June 12, 2017
When Your Circumstances Feel Like Chains
KATY MCCOWNFrom: Crosswalk.com

“But Naomi said, ‘Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?’ … Then they lifted up their voices and wept again.” Ruth 1:11, 14a (ESV)

I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. The nurse’s words rang in my ears, “The doctor wants you in the bed.”

My doctor ordered me to park myself in bed for the sake of my unborn child. His life and mine depended on it. But as I gazed at the four smiling little faces in the chairs next to me I panicked, Who will take care of them, God?

In an out-of-body type moment, I looked at the nurse and declared, “God will provide,” although I’m not positive I believed it.

We pulled into the driveway, and I settled my energetic bunch for a moment before I crawled into bed and broke down. I argued with God: How can this possibly honor You more, God? How can I possibly serve You better from this bed than on my feet?

I felt chained to that bed, unable to participate in God’s plans and purposes. But it was from that bed that God showed me, sometimes what we call imprisoned, God calls positioned.

In today’s key verse we meet three widows on a road lined with the chains of death and poverty. After several years in a foreign land, Naomi embarks for her home in Israel and pleads with her two daughters-in-law to stay. Orpah and Ruth, both Moabites, had married Naomi’s sons yet were widows, just as Naomi was. “But Naomi said, ‘Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?’ … Then they lifted up their voices and wept again” (Ruth 1:11, 14a).

Naomi knew she could not provide husbands for Orpah and Ruth, and she knew the reality of a widow with no sons. Her future looked bleak, so she begged her daughters-in-law not to come with her.

Orpah listened and eventually yielded to Naomi’s push. Ruth, however, did not. “But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God’” (Ruth 1:16, ESV).

No matter how hopeless the situation seemed, Ruth made a decision to trust God on that road … and she didn’t stop there. Chapters 2 and 3 in the book of Ruth detail her determination to be faithful with each day.

We see her set out to glean in the fields behind the harvesters — a provision God made in the Law to care for the poor people of Israel. We read of how Ruth cared for Naomi and supported her, not thinking of herself or her own needs.

And as we watch her story of faithfulness unfold, we see God do something only God Himself could orchestrate, “So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife” (Ruth 4:13a, ESV).

In her faithfulness to serve God and others, Ruth landed in a field belonging to Boaz. And Boaz happened to be legally able to marry her, which he did. Ruth gave birth to a son they named Obed — a man God included in the lineage of His own Son — Jesus.

When we dance to the rhythm of daily faithfulness, God can turn our situational prisons into supernatural positions.

After much resistance, God convinced me His plan for me included bed rest. Friends and family moved through like a revolving door to assist with my daily duties. My kids spent time every day playing in our room, and we even held a weekly women’s Bible study in the living room once my doctor cleared me to rest on the couch.

During those days, I learned a lot about myself, my shortcomings and God’s fullness.

After five months of bed rest, God resolved my condition and the pregnancy went on like normal. In the spring, I birthed our feisty fifth child — who still holds the title as our biggest baby at birth. And today, his smile reminds me God never wastes a challenge.

Dear God, sometimes I wish life weren’t so full of trials. But I know it’s the trials that draw me nearer to You. Help me be faithful today, no matter what I face. And as I live in the rhythm of daily faithfulness, do for me what only You can do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Nothing Is Useless

From: Our Daily Bread

Nothing Is Useless
 s

Nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. 1 Corinthians 15:58 nlt

In my third year battling discouragement and depression caused by limited mobility and chronic pain, I confided to a friend, “My body’s falling apart. I feel like I have nothing of value to offer God or anyone else.”

Her hand rested on mine. “Would you say it doesn’t make a difference when I greet you with a smile or listen to you? Would you tell me it’s worthless when I pray for you or offer a kind word?”

I settled into my recliner. “Of course not.”

She frowned. “Then why are you telling yourself those lies? You do all those things for me and for others.”

I thanked God for reminding me that nothing we do for Him is useless.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul assures us that our bodies may be weak now but they will be “raised in power” (v. 43). Because God promises we’ll be resurrected through Christ, we can trust Him to use every offering, every small effort done for Him, to make a difference in His kingdom (v. 58).

Even when we’re physically limited, a smile, a word of encouragement, a prayer, or a display of faith during our trial can be used to minister to the diverse and interdependent body of Christ. When we serve the Lord, no job or act of love is too menial to matter.

Jesus, thank You for valuing us and using us to build up others.

Do what you can with what you have and leave the results to God.

 

With Us in the Waters

From: Our Daily Journey

With Us in the Waters

Read:

Exodus 14:10-29
Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. . . . The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm (Exodus 14:13-14).

During the school holidays, we drove out to the seaside town of Scarborough on the northeast coast of England. As we walked along the beach, we were fascinated by the sight of all the boats stranded in the harbor. The tide was out and the boats stood upright in the sand. Anyone wanting to navigate one of them would have to wait for the powerful, surging waters of the tide to come in again.

The Israelites were deeply relieved to see the waters of the Red Sea recede by God’s power, enabling them to step onto dry land and cross safely to the other side (Exodus 14:22). As they faced the raging waters, they looked back and saw the Egyptian army in pursuit. Pharaoh had obviously changed his mind about allowing his massive workforce to leave (Exodus 14:5-9).

Fearing they’d be slaughtered, they cried, “Why did you bring us out here to die? . . . It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!” But Moses encouraged them, saying: ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. . . . The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm’ (Exodus 14:11-14). As Moses raised his hand over the sea, God opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind, turning the seabed into dry land. “So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!” (Exodus 14:22).

The Israelites chose to trust in God and His power. It was their only hope. Today you might be feeling like a ship stuck in the sand or you could be happily sailing through life. Wherever you are, take to heart that God is with you and you can call out to Him anytime. His power and presence will help you navigate life’s ever-changing waters.

How Beautiful Is Your Heart

 

I Samuel 16:7

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

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Revelation 7:9

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

 

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Arlene Pellicane June 9, 2017
Lasting Beauty
ARLENE PELLICANE

From: Crosswalk.com

“Before a young woman’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics.” Esther 2:12 (NIV)

I looked in the mirror with concern and disappointment. My left eye had turned very red. I had conjunctivitis — often known as “pink eye.”

I began using eye drops to treat my eye. To stop the spread of the infection, you aren’t supposed to wear any makeup or use contact lenses. Well, I use both to improve my appearance!

I thought about where I would be seen in public over the next few days, and must confess I considered staying home from church Wednesday night because I didn’t want to go without makeup and wearing glasses. Thankfully, I didn’t skip church, but I did feel embarrassed about my appearance.

Our culture places great emphasis on looks, but this isn’t anything new. When King Xerxes was looking for a new wife in ancient Persia, outward beauty was the first requirement. Before being considered by the king, a young woman completed “Beauty Camp” — a yearlong period of beauty treatments with oil, myrrh, perfumes and cosmetics. Young Esther’s outward beauty helped her gain the favor of the king, but I think Esther had a lot more going for her than smooth skin and sweetly scented hair.

The Bible says during the yearlong preparation, Esther gained favor from Hegai, the custodian of all the candidates for queen. Hegai gave Esther extra beauty preparations in comparison to the others, provided seven choice maidservants from the king’s palace and moved her to the nicest part of the house (Esther 2:9). I imagine all the women chosen for this royal harem were attractive. What made Esther stand out?

We know she was respectful because she honored her cousin Mordecai’s charge to keep her Jewish identity a secret. She shows her respect for authority and also reveals a humble spirit.

After being treated lavishly during the year of preparation, it was finally her turn to appear before the king. Each young woman could bring whatever she desired to take with her from the women’s quarters to the king’s palace. (Picture giddy young women packing several bags of the finest silks, spices, cosmetics and jewelry.)

But Esther didn’t do that. When it was her turn, she requested nothing except what Hegai, her custodian, advised. She could have asked for anything she wanted in the Royal Harem. She didn’t insist on more makeup, jeweled necklaces or fancy fabrics. Instead, she respected Hegai’s authority and advice. As a result of this humble attitude, which perhaps stood in contrast to the other candidates, Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her, including the king.

Esther was not a likely choice for a queen — far from it! She was an orphan and a Jewish exile, being raised by her cousin Mordecai.

But she was exalted to unusual authority in a kingdom which valued neither women nor Jews. She didn’t become prideful with her new power. She continued to be faithful to God and honor the advice of Mordecai. The spotlight and focus on her outward beauty did not change who she was inside, and eventually, she became the next queen.

Esther was a living example of the words the Apostle Peter wrote centuries later: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4, NIV).

This doesn’t mean we have to sell our jewelry and hair accessories next week. It simply means we no longer think of outward appearances as our main source of beauty.

I suppose there’s an upside to getting pink eye and not wearing makeup. It’s been a visual reminder to me that lasting beauty is found in character, words and actions — not a makeup bag.

Lord, may I clothe myself with humility and gentleness today, like Esther did. Thank You that You continually make beautiful things out of my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

Postures of the Heart

From: Our Daily Bread

Postures of the Heart

[Solomon] knelt in front of the entire community of Israel and lifted his hands toward heaven [and] he prayed. 2 Chronicles 6:13–14 nlt

When my husband plays the harmonica for our church praise team, I have noticed that he sometimes closes his eyes when he plays a song. He says this helps him focus and block out distractions so he can play his best—just his harmonica, the music, and him—all praising God.

Some people wonder if our eyes must be closed when we pray. Since we can pray at any time in any place, however, it might prove difficult to always close our eyes—especially if we are taking a walk, pulling weeds, or driving a vehicle!

There are also no rules on what position our body must be in when we talk to God. When King Solomon prayed to dedicate the temple he had built, he knelt down and “spread out his hands toward heaven” (2 Chron. 6:13–14). Kneeling (Eph. 3:14), standing (Luke 18:10–13), and even lying face down (Matt. 26:39) are all mentioned in the Bible as positions for prayer.

Whether we kneel or stand before God, whether we lift our hands heavenward or close our eyes so we can better focus on God—it is not the posture of our body, but of our heart that is important. Everything we do “flows from [our heart]” (Prov. 4:23). When we pray, may our hearts always be bowed in adoration, gratitude, and humility to our loving God, for we know that His eyes are “open and [His] ears attentive to the prayers” of His people (2 Chron. 6:40).

Lord, direct my focus always toward You and teach me to follow You in obedience and love.

The highest form of prayer comes from the depths of a humble heart.

 

One Day, Every Nation

From: Our Daily Journey

One Day, Every Nation

Read:

Malachi 1:6-14
All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name is great among the nations (Malachi 1:11).

One summer I spent a month in Bolivia, living with missionaries at a fledgling Bible school. Different jobs awaited me each day. Sometimes I cooked, cleaned, or did laundry. But every day I worked on construction projects. I loved learning all of the different tasks (okay, not the laundry!). One day, a pair of missionaries from another religion came to the school to tell us about their beliefs and to challenge ours. The thought of answering their questions intimidated me. I put my head down and kept working while a friend talked with them. I remember thinking, “I’m glad I don’t have to do that job!”

The prophet Malachi also had a task most would not envy. His job was to speak to Judah about their complacency and sin. Who wouldn’t love to do that?! Judah had returned from exile, and although they were back in their homeland they had begun to separate themselves from God. They openly questioned His love for them (Malachi 1:2), only to show their own waning affection by offering sacrifices that dishonored Him (Malachi 1:6-10). They were supposed to represent God’s love to the world. Instead, they were lazy and corrupt.

Today’s passage is an unhappy one. It explains how Judah dishonored God and broke their covenant relationship with Him. But these verses contain a truth about God that offers us hope: He’s committed to being known and worshiped in every nation (Malachi 1:11).

God wants a relationship with all people: “God our Savior . . . wants everyone to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). Though we often hear of violence and war around the world, and though we’re likely to meet others who will challenge our faith, we can give our worries to God. Malachi reminds us that one day He will indeed be worshiped by every nation.

 

 

Getting There (1)

From: Utmost.org

Getting There (1)

Where sin and sorrow stops, and the song of the saint starts. Do I really want to get there? I can right now. The questions that truly matter in life are remarkably few, and they are all answered by these words— “Come to Me.” Our Lord’s words are not, “Do this, or don’t do that,” but— “Come to me.” If I will simply come to Jesus, my real life will be brought into harmony with my real desires. I will actually cease from sin, and will find the song of the Lord beginning in my life.

Have you ever come to Jesus? Look at the stubbornness of your heart. You would rather do anything than this one simple childlike thing— “Come to Me.” If you really want to experience ceasing from sin, you must come to Jesus.

Jesus Christ makes Himself the test to determine your genuineness. Look how He used the word come. At the most unexpected moments in your life there is this whisper of the Lord— “Come to Me,” and you are immediately drawn to Him. Personal contact with Jesus changes everything. Be “foolish” enough to come and commit yourself to what He says. The attitude necessary for you to come to Him is one where your will has made the determination to let go of everything and deliberately commit it all to Him.

“…and I will give you rest”— that is, “I will sustain you, causing you to stand firm.” He is not saying, “I will put you to bed, hold your hand, and sing you to sleep.” But, in essence, He is saying, “I will get you out of bed— out of your listlessness and exhaustion, and out of your condition of being half dead while you are still alive. I will penetrate you with the spirit of life, and you will be sustained by the perfection of vital activity.” Yet we become so weak and pitiful and talk about “suffering” the will of the Lord! Where is the majestic vitality and the power of the Son of God in that?

Expecting Christ’ Return

 

Isaiah 53: 10-11

10    Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

11    He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

 

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Now Appearing . . . Jesus!

From: Get More Strength

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

If I were God—and I know a lot of people including my wife who are deeply grateful that I’m not—I might very well have planned a stealth arrival to our planet to keep people guessing about who I really was.

Think of how cool it would have been for God to be here and for no one to know it was actually Him. With the old sunglasses, fake nose, and moustache trick, He could sneak into a lot of places without being noticed. The advantage of being able to check up on religious folk to see what they were really like when they thought He wasn’t looking is almost too tantalizing of an option to refuse! He could do the Santa routine: making a list and checking it twice. And to most people that would make a lot of sense since masses of us assume that God considers it great sport to spend his time finding out who’s naughty and nice. Then, after getting the scoop, He could quietly disappear and plan His sting operation against our wayward ways.

But you’ve got to give God a lot of credit. He resisted the temptation and arrived on our planet in the person of an unshrouded and wide-open Jesus. And most surprisingly, He didn’t come to find out who is naughty and nice. He already knows that. Instead, He came to shock us about God. To prove once and for all that God was not a stingy-hand-wringing-grimacing-out-of-touch-with-reality God who can’t wait to pull the trigger. But rather a God who generously disperses the rare items of grace and mercy to all who have at one time or another slipped up. And that’s all of us! A God whose love was not the mushy kind but tough enough to risk a life-threatening rescue mission so that all of us might recover and experience the ultimate satisfaction that He promises—guaranteed!

And, it must be admitted, masses in our day have found the real Jesus to be anything but elusive. In fact, they have found Him to be compellingly available. And, for the suspicious among us, it is not just the feeble and weak who flee to Him for rest and comfort (though He gladly grants rest and comfort to those who find themselves shoved to the bottom of the heap). Many highly placed, intelligent, prosperous, and privileged people have found—in the midst of their abundance and instant access to thrills and stuff—that they are still hanging out the vacancy sign on the door of their hearts. It is these people who are finding that Jesus does exactly what He says He will: cancel the smoke-and-mirrors show and fill the hollow recesses of life with hope, purpose, and the pursuit of all that is truly significant!

So, here’s the good news. If you embrace the real Jesus, you will find Him to be deeply rewarding and wonderfully different. Wonderfully different from anyone you have ever known. Wonderfully full of grace and truth!

 

Entering into God’s Rest

Our Daily Journey

Entering into God’s Rest

Read:

Hebrews 4:1-13
God’s rest is there for people to enter (Hebrews 4:6).

My son and I spent a few days with friends at their home in the beautiful northern region of New England in the US. Our visit followed my ninth consecutive year of fruitful but intense ministry in East Africa. Depleted and in need of recharging, I was grateful for the physical rest my friends’ hospitality provided.

Ultimately though, it was the spiritual refreshment I experienced that did the most to renew my heart, mind, and strength. As my host Michelle and I dug into Hebrews 4 together, she encouraged me to meditate on the passage and to reflect on the rest, wisdom, comfort, and direction that are offered through Jesus alone.

I was particularly struck by verses 1-6, which explain how God’s promises of rest still stand. This rest has been prepared since He made the world. We have proof God cares about rest because He Himself rested on the seventh day; and God’s rest is available for people to enter.

Yet “even though this rest has been ready since he made the world” (Hebrews 4:3), the writer of Hebrews declares that many fail to enter into spiritual rest because of faithless hearts that refuse to believe God created rest for His people and because we disobey God, as the people of Israel did (Hebrews 4:1-3,11).

While physical rest can be obtained in many ways, spiritual rest can only be achieved through faith in Christ. The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to “do our best to enter that rest” He’s provided for us (Hebrews 4:11). Those with hardened hearts toward God won’t experience His rest (Hebrews 4:3,7). But those with hearts softened to Him and His Word, who listen to His voice, and who place their faith in Him will experience the peace and restoration only He can offer.

 

And After That What’s Next To Do?

From: Utmost.org

And After That What’s Next To Do?

Seek if you have not found. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss…” (James 4:3). If you ask for things from life instead of from God, “you ask amiss”; that is, you ask out of your desire for self-fulfillment. The more you fulfill yourself the less you will seek God. “…seek, and you will find….” Get to work— narrow your focus and interests to this one thing. Have you ever sought God with your whole heart, or have you simply given Him a feeble cry after some emotionally painful experience? “…seek, [focus,] and you will find….”

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…” (Isaiah 55:1). Are you thirsty, or complacent and indifferent— so satisfied with your own experience that you want nothing more of God? Experience is a doorway, not a final goal. Beware of building your faith on experience, or your life will not ring true and will only sound the note of a critical spirit. Remember that you can never give another person what you have found, but you can cause him to have a desire for it.

“…knock, and it will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9). “Draw near to God…” (James 4:8). Knock— the door is closed, and your heartbeat races as you knock. “Cleanse your hands…” (James 4:8). Knock a bit louder— you begin to find that you are dirty. “…purify your hearts…” (James 4:8). It is becoming even more personal— you are desperate and serious now— you will do anything. “Lament…” (James 4:9). Have you ever lamented, expressing your sorrow before God for the condition of your inner life? There is no thread of self-pity left, only the heart-rending difficulty and amazement which comes from seeing what kind of person you really are. “Humble yourselves…” (James 4:10). It is a humbling experience to knock at God’s door— you have to knock with the crucified thief. “…to him who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:10).

There Will Be Singing In Heaven

 

Psalm 100

100 Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endures to all generations.

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A Reason to Sing

From: Our Daily Bread

A Reason to Sing

Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. Psalm 47:6

Singing changes the brain! Some studies show that when we sing, our bodies release hormones that relieve anxiety and stress. Other research indicates that when a group of people sings together, their heartbeats actually synchronize with each other.

The apostle Paul’s writing encourages the church to speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19). And the Bible repeats, “Sing praise” more than fifty times.

In 2 Chronicles 20, we read a story of God’s people demonstrating their trust in God by singing as they marched into battle. Enemies were heading toward the people of Judah. Alarmed, King Jehoshaphat called everyone together. He led the community in intense prayer. They didn’t eat or drink, but only prayed, “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (v. 12). The next day, they set out. They weren’t led by their fiercest warriors, but by their choir. They believed God’s promise that they would be delivered without having to fight at all (v. 17).

While they sang and walked toward the conflict, their enemies fought each other! By the time God’s people reached the battlefield, the fighting had ended. God saved His people as they marched by faith toward the unknown, singing His praises.

God encourages us to praise Him for good reasons. Whether or not we are marching into battle, praising God has power to change our thoughts, our hearts, and our lives.

God, we praise Your everlasting love and faithfulness! You protect and guide us, and we trust You with our lives.

Hearts in tune with God sing His praises.

 

Then What’s Next To Do?

Utmost.org

Then What’s Next To Do?

Ask if you have not received. There is nothing more difficult than asking. We will have yearnings and desires for certain things, and even suffer as a result of their going unfulfilled, but not until we are at the limit of desperation will we ask. It is the sense of not being spiritually real that causes us to ask. Have you ever asked out of the depths of your total insufficiency and poverty? “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…” (James 1:5), but be sure that you do lack wisdom before you ask. You cannot bring yourself to the point of spiritual reality anytime you choose. The best thing to do, once you realize you are not spiritually real, is to ask God for the Holy Spirit, basing your request on the promise of Jesus Christ (see Luke 11:13). The Holy Spirit is the one who makes everything that Jesus did for you real in your life.

“Everyone who asks receives….” This does not mean that you will not get if you do not ask, but it means that until you come to the point of asking, you will not receive from God (seeMatthew 5:45). To be able to receive means that you have to come into the relationship of a child of God, and then you comprehend and appreciate mentally, morally, and with spiritual understanding, that these things come from God.

“If any of you lacks wisdom….” If you realize that you are lacking, it is because you have come in contact with spiritual reality— do not put the blinders of reason on again. The word ask actually means “beg.” Some people are poor enough to be interested in their poverty, and some of us are poor enough spiritually to show our interest. Yet we will never receive if we ask with a certain result in mind, because we are asking out of our lust, not out of our poverty. A pauper does not ask out of any reason other than the completely hopeless and painful condition of his poverty. He is not ashamed to beg— blessed are the paupers in spirit (see Matthew 5:3).

 

In the Details

From: Our Daily Journey

In the Details

Read:

John 4:1-42
“I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband” (John 4:17).

Afriend opened up to me about the sexual abuse he suffered as a boy. Prompted by God to face what he had buried for decades, he courageously began to unpack tragic memories of seduction and exploitation, events that shattered his innocence and left him drowning in an ocean of shame.

For decades my friend mostly kept the abuse a secret. He feared that if people knew the details, they would turn away in utter disgust. Like all victims of abuse, it was in the details that he carried his deepest shame.

As he unfolded his story, the closing line from the book Dangerous Territory by Amy Peterson kept running through my head—“You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.” Later that same day, I emailed him those words. He read them over and over, and wept. Letting someone see his greatest shame allowed love to enter in and begin to touch what it alone can heal.

A woman once opened up to Jesus about where her life was most broken. In her case, it was a string of failed marriages and living with a man who wasn’t her husband (John 4:16-18).

Jesus asked her to “go and get [her] husband” (John 4:16). She initially tried to avoid the pain and disgrace of her past by saying “I don’t have a husband.” Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!” (John 4:17-18).

Not the response she expected.

In love, Jesus didn’t turn away in disgust. Instead, He led her to the details of her greatest shame—and it radically changed her life. The love of Christ can heal our shame when we bring it to Him and others who can lovingly help us work through it.

Trust In The Lord

Revelation 21:5

5   He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write
this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
  • Daniel 6:23

    23   The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
  • John 14:1

    1   “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.

 

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Complete Trust

From: Our Daily Journey

Complete Trust

Read:

1 Samuel 1:1-28
I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request (1 Samuel 1:27).

Soon after I came to the US as an international student, I realized that I couldn’t get along in the country without a car. So I relied on the generosity of friends to give me rides. In time I began praying to God, expressing my belief that He would provide when He knew I most needed a vehicle. Amazingly, on my birthday before my senior year of college, a family I knew gave me their used car as a gift!

Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel brings inspiration for us to be persistent in our prayer life. Such practice doesn’t guarantee God will give us what we want, but we can be sure He’s there and that He cares. The journey Hannah went through before she received what she asked for was perhaps more important than her request.

Hannah had a painful problem. She couldn’t have children, which in that culture was considered a divine curse (1 Samuel 1:5-6). And if that wasn’t enough, she was being mocked for it as well (1 Samuel 1:6). But in spite of her challenges, year after year she joined her family to worship God at the tabernacle (1 Samuel 1:7). She didn’t give up on God.

On one occasion when she went to worship, Hannah was in such distress that she poured out her heart “in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord ” (1 Samuel 1:10). She could have cursed Him, could have become angry and bitter, or could have stopped praying. Yet she continued to trust in God’s goodness. And in His perfect timing He answered her plea (1 Samuel 1:20).

God is actively engaged in our lives today, and “he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him” (1 John 5:14). May we trust in His goodness even when the answers don’t come or aren’t what we desire

 

What’s Next To Do?

From: Utmost.org

What’s Next To Do?

Be determined to know more than others. If you yourself do not cut the lines that tie you to the dock, God will have to use a storm to sever them and to send you out to sea. Put everything in your life afloat upon God, going out to sea on the great swelling tide of His purpose, and your eyes will be opened. If you believe in Jesus, you are not to spend all your time in the calm waters just inside the harbor, full of joy, but always tied to the dock. You have to get out past the harbor into the great depths of God, and begin to know things for yourself— begin to have spiritual discernment.

When you know that you should do something and you do it, immediately you know more. Examine where you have become sluggish, where you began losing interest spiritually, and you will find that it goes back to a point where you did not do something you knew you should do. You did not do it because there seemed to be no immediate call to do it. But now you have no insight or discernment, and at a time of crisis you are spiritually distracted instead of spiritually self-controlled. It is a dangerous thing to refuse to continue learning and knowing more.

The counterfeit of obedience is a state of mind in which you create your own opportunities to sacrifice yourself, and your zeal and enthusiasm are mistaken for discernment. It is easier to sacrifice yourself than to fulfill your spiritual destiny, which is stated in Romans 12:1-2. It is much better to fulfill the purpose of God in your life by discerning His will than it is to perform great acts of self-sacrifice. “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice…” (1 Samuel 15:22). Beware of paying attention or going back to what you once were, when God wants you to be something that you have never been. “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know…” (John 7:17).

 

Lysa TerKeurst June 8, 2017
Great Sermons Aren’t Preached, They’re Lived
LYSA TERKEURST

From: Crosswalk.com

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

What if someone followed me around with a video camera all day documenting my every move? Catching all my words, facial expressions, actions and reactions on camera. And then what if someone packaged it all together and played it on some sort of reality TV show for all the world to see? What would be the glaring message of my life?

I’m convicted thinking about this.

You see, if someone were to ask me, What are you all about? I would have some nice-sounding answers. But what actually happens during the strains of everyday life can sometimes betray my best intentions.

I want to be a loving wife and mom. But my family seems to know the exact buttons to push that send me into a tailspin of emotion and exhaustion.

I want to be a strong witness for Christ. So why is it I can read my Bible first thing in the morning and then find myself honking at the person who cuts me off in traffic just an hour later?

I realize there is a place for God’s tender mercies for me in all this. But I also know that while no TV cameras are following me around, my life is speaking a message about what I really believe, and I want that message to honor Jesus.

I once heard, “Great sermons are not preached, they are lived.” Oh how I long to live a message that speaks loud and clear, “Jesus is true and the principles found in His teachings work!”

Let’s just be honest: It’s tough being a sold-out soul for Christ stuck in a body that’s so tempted to sin. That’s why it’s essential I view my time with God each morning as a preparation and an invitation.

• Preparation: Our key verse reminds us, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work,” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Every verse I read is part of God’s preparation for me that day. So, instead of just rushing to check off my to-do list that I spent a few minutes with God, I must allow His teachings to seep into my heart and mind. Then, I can prayerfully ask God to interrupt my natural flesh response and remind me throughout the day of the truths He taught me that morning.

• Invitation: The next essential view of my quiet time each morning is recognizing I’ve just invited Jesus to do life with me, so I need to look for His activity throughout my day. My minute-by-minute theme becomes, “Not my will God, but Yours be done.”

So if something happens that causes my flesh to want to rear up and act ugly, I can say, “Not my will God, but Yours be done.” This slight pause and acknowledgment of God redirects my frustration and replaces it with grace. And most wonderful of all, it helps me connect my time with Jesus to everyday life choices. Making that connection is one of the ways we personally hear from and experience God.

I know sometimes it’s hard to spend time with Jesus first thing in the morning. And I’m certainly not trying to make this just another demand on our time. But Jesus’ invitation to us to sit with Him is such an incredible gift. He loves us so much He wants to help us. He knows what each day holds, and He longs to prepare us for every single thing He sees coming our way.

Let’s accept His invitation to sit with Him. Let’s listen to Him intently. And let’s ask Him to intervene before our natural reactions to things betray our best intentions. Then we will be able to live lives that speak to the fact that we have spent time with Jesus … and without saying a word, our imperfect lives will be a God-honoring sermon.

Dear Lord, please teach me how to reveal more and more of You through the way I live my life. I want to tell the whole world about You using words only when necessary. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

God Is All Powerful

 

The Great Commission          Matthew 28: 18
17   When they saw Him, they worshiped Him, but some doubted.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,…

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The Greatest Source of Power

From: Utmost.org

The Greatest Source of Power

Am I fulfilling this ministry of intercession deep within the hidden recesses of my life? There is no trap nor any danger at all of being deceived or of showing pride in true intercession. It is a hidden ministry that brings forth fruit through which the Father is glorified. Am I allowing my spiritual life to waste away, or am I focused, bringing everything to one central point— the atonement of my Lord? Is Jesus Christ more and more dominating every interest of my life? If the central point, or the most powerful influence, of my life is the atonement of the Lord, then every aspect of my life will bear fruit for Him.

However, I must take the time to realize what this central point of power is. Am I willing to give one minute out of every hour to concentrate on it? “If you abide in Me…”— that is, if you continue to act, and think, and work from that central point— “you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). Am I abiding? Am I taking the time to abide? What is the greatest source of power in my life? Is it my work, service, and sacrifice for others, or is it my striving to work for God? It should be none of these— what ought to exert the greatest power in my life is the atonement of the Lord. It is not on what we spend the greatest amount of time that molds us the most, but whatever exerts the most power over us. We must make a determination to limit and concentrate our desires and interests on the atonement by the Cross of Christ.

“Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do….” The disciple who abides in Jesus is the will of God, and what appears to be his free choices are actually God’s foreordained decrees. Is this mysterious? Does it appear to contradict sound logic or seem totally absurd? Yes, but what a glorious truth it is to a saint of God.

When the Going Gets Tough

From: Get More Strength

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.” James 1:12

There I was driving along, half hypnotized by the steady flow of traffic. I glanced at the car ahead of me. The bumper sticker read, “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping!” I chuckled. But then I thought: Could you really call yourself “tough” if you headed for the mall every time life went sour? As I drove, I pondered how to really finish that sentence, “When the going gets tough, the tough . . . do what?”

A quick Internet search on the phrase returned endless possibilities for completing the thought. Here are some of the wackiest endings: “When the going gets tough, the tough “go to Asia,” or, the tough “start knitting.” One even said, “The tough lighten up!”

All of these alternative endings are humorous in their own way. But, they also represent ways to deal with “tough going.” For example, shopping could symbolize immediate gratification. Racing off to Asia might mean you’re running away from the problem. Starting to knit is a picture of distracting yourself from the trouble at hand. And if you simply lighten up, or laugh it off—that’s kind of like denial.

I don’t think any of us would get very far in life if we repeatedly chose those responses to trouble. They all contradict the traditional ending to the phrase. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” The tough hang in there; they persevere. James 1:12 says: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life.”

In the Greek language, the word perseverance is literally made up of two words. One means “to remain.” The other word means “under.” That tells us that perseverance is the ability to remain under the pressure of difficulty with a good spirit. As Christians, we have a responsibility to bear the stress until God accomplishes His purposes. This gives us the assurance that our suffering has meaning.

In fact, God intends that we, in time, will blossom under the pressure. That’s why James exhorts us to submit to the trial and let perseverance finish its job of sanctification. In James 1:4, the text tells us, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” And, check out Romans 5:1-21 where Paul says that perseverance produces character!

In addition to the blessings that God brings to us when we persevere, perseverance also allows others to see Christ at work in our lives. With the growing interest in spirituality today, people are watching us more than ever before. They are looking to see if there is anything of value in our walk with Jesus. Or, are we just like anyone else when the going gets tough? They want to know, would a Christian use a string of four-letter words if she lost the big sale? Would a Christian booze it up after a crazy stressful day at the office? What would it take for a Christian to throw in the towel on his marriage? When we invite God to help us through situations like these, He furnishes the power to persevere so that onlookers can see that our Jesus is worth being faithful to regardless of the stress.

The next time a problem comes up and you’re tempted to go shopping, gallivant off to Asia, or knit yourself into oblivion, remember: Since God has a purpose in your problem, it’s worth hanging in there! So, if you are a follower of Jesus, your bumper sticker announces, “When the going gets tough, the tough hang in there!”

 

What Comes First

From: Our Daily Journey

What Comes First

Read:

Exodus 16:24-32
So the people did not gather any food on the seventh day (Exodus 16:30).

When I was a young child, I thought that thunder and lightning were separate phenomena that just happened to occur at the same time. It was only years later that a science teacher explained to me that lightning and thunder are directly connected to one another—that the rapid heating and cooling of the air during a lightning strike causes a massive atmospheric boom which we hear as thunder. In other words, you would never have thunder if lightning didn’t strike first.

Much like lightning and thunder, the ancient Israelites couldn’t have had a Sabbath rest if manna hadn’t been provided the day before (Exodus 16:29). It’s easy to think that the Sabbath was a stand-alone event, where God simply commanded the people of Israel to refrain from working on a given day. But we often overlook the fact that the first Sabbath observed by the people of Israel occurred a day after manna fell from heaven to feed them—a form of providence so surprising and mysterious that they would call it “What is it?” food (Exodus 16:15).

This was no coincidence. In fact, the whole reason Israel could rest from their work was because God is the One who faithfully provided for their needs: “They must realize that the Sabbath is the Lord ’s gift to you” (Exodus 16:29). Their ability to rest comes directly from God’s willingness to provide. As Moses said, “It is the food the Lord has given you to eat” (Exodus 16:15).

So often I have a very shallow conception of rest, thinking all it means is to take some time off from work. But the whole reason I can rest in the first place is because of God’s provision. His faithfulness makes my rest possible. So when resting, I shouldn’t just stop working, I should start giving thanks—praising the One who provides for us!

Run Your Race With God’s Blessing

 

Preach the Word         II Timothy 4: 6-8
6   For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.

7   I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

8   From now on the crown of righteousness is laid up for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but to all who crave His appearing.…

 

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Finish Lines

From: Crosswalk.com

Verse: John 19:28-37

Recommended Reading

2 Samuel 22:32-23:5; Colossians 2:6-15; 2 Timothy 4:1-8; Hebrews 12:1-2

Climb inside the mind of a marathon runner. Listen to his thoughts.

You’ve run this race countless times in your mind and hundreds of times in practice. But none of those resemble the real thing. The course takes you cross-country, and the running surface changes constantly. You could stumble at any step. Every change in terrain brings new challenges. Each race offers a different combination of obstacles and difficulties. And even though there are people at the roadside water stations to refresh your body, and crowds of individuals standing by to revive your spirit with their encouragement, it’s still just you out there—you, your two legs and your two feet. No matter which race you’re running, all of them have at least two things in common: the pain and the finish line.

Ah, the finish line! It makes all the pain bearable. Sometimes you forget the idea of winning the race in your all-consuming effort just to reach the finish line. You face the challenge and embrace the pain of running for over 26 miles, and a surge of joy fills your heart as you see the tape stretched across the journey’s end. Every last ounce of strength drives you across the finish line.

Jesus understood that intense drive to finish. With one of his last breaths, he cried out, “It is finished!” In the language of the New Testament, that’s a one-word exclamation: “Done!”

Jesus had joined the human race for a very special and specific reason—to finish God’s plan to provide forgiveness, salvation and eternal life for a fallen humanity. When Jesus shouted “Finished!” he was declaring that he had endured the judgment of sin on behalf of all humankind. He’d crossed the finish line for each of us. And in order to finish, he had to seal the arrangement with his life.

The cross represented the last hours in a long race marked out for Jesus. Even though he knew exactly how the race would end—with his sacrificial death—he still ran. Even though he had his disciples around him to provide companionship and support, not one of them knew exactly what he was going through in his final hours. Jesus knew that he’d experience excruciating pain. He knew that many would never accept his sacrifice, but he also knew that many would, and for us he ran. And finished. For this we’ll spend eternity in grateful appreciation.

 

Fool’s Errand

From: Our Daily Journey

Fool’s Errand

Read:

Luke 15:11-32
When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, “At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!” (Luke 15:17).

In my Nigerian boarding school, students loved to indulge in a practical joke. An older student would send an unsuspecting younger one on an errand to get the “rainbow bucket” from another older student. The latter would then ask the young student to get it from another older student. On and on it went until someone took pity on the unsuspecting student and revealed that the bucket didn’t actually exist!

In a far more significant way, the prodigal (or wasteful) son in Jesus’ parable set out on his own fool’s errand searching for fulfillment though embracing a destructive lifestyle (Luke 15:12-14). He disgraced his family by asking for his inheritance while his father was still alive. Worse still, he squandered that money.

Later, at his wits’ end, the young man took a job feeding pigs—one with such meager compensation that he found himself envying the pig feed. Eventually the scales fell from his eyes and he went home in hopes of attaining servant status in his father’s household (Luke 15:16-19).

His father’s generous welcome of him not as a servant but as a beloved son must have made his earlier quest seem foolish indeed. Everything he’d been searching for—acceptance, importance, and independence—had been his all along (Luke 15:22-24).

All too often, we may find ourselves in the prodigal son’s shoes. Only after our best-laid plans and efforts have proven futile do our thoughts turn to our heavenly Father. Seeking self-worth and satisfaction outside of God is the supreme fool’s errand. As we embrace our identity in Jesus, however, we’ll experience true fulfillment that can only come from God—the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).

 

“Work Out” What God “Works in” You

From: Utmost.org

Your will agrees with God, but in your flesh there is a nature that renders you powerless to do what you know you ought to do. When the Lord initially comes in contact with our conscience, the first thing our conscience does is awaken our will, and our will always agrees with God. Yet you say, “But I don’t know if my will is in agreement with God.” Look to Jesus and you will find that your will and your conscience are in agreement with Him every time. What causes you to say “I will not obey” is something less deep and penetrating than your will. It is perversity or stubbornness, and they are never in agreement with God. The most profound thing in a person is his will, not sin.

The will is the essential element in God’s creation of human beings— sin is a perverse nature which entered into people. In someone who has been born again, the source of the will is Almighty God. “…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” With focused attention and great care, you have to “work out” what God “works in” you— not work to accomplish or earn “your own salvation,” but work it out so you will exhibit the evidence of a life based with determined, unshakable faith on the complete and perfect redemption of the Lord. As you do this, you do not bring an opposing will up against God’s will— God’s will is your will. Your natural choices will be in accordance with God’s will, and living this life will be as natural as breathing. Stubbornness is an unintelligent barrier, refusing enlightenment and blocking its flow. The only thing to do with this barrier of stubbornness is to blow it up with “dynamite,” and the “dynamite” is obedience to the Holy Spirit.

Do I believe that Almighty God is the Source of my will? God not only expects me to do His will, but He is in me to do it.

God Supplies All Our Needs

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

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What Do We Want?

From: Our Daily Bread

What Do We Want?

He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Romans 8:11

“I went from the horse-and-buggy to a man walking on the moon,” said the elderly man to his granddaughter, who shared this story with me recently. But then he mused, “I never thought it would be so short.”

Life is short, and many of us turn to Jesus because we want to live forever. That’s not bad, but we don’t comprehend what eternal life really is. We tend to crave the wrong things. We long for something better, and we think it’s just ahead. If only I were out of school. If only I had that job. If only I were married. If only I could retire. If only . . . And then one day we catch an echo of our grandfather’s voice as we wonder where the time has flown.

The truth is, we possess eternal life now. The apostle Paul wrote, “The law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). Then he said, “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (v. 5). In other words, our desires change when we come to Christ. This naturally gives us what we most desire. “The mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (v. 6).

It’s one of life’s great lies that we need to be somewhere else, doing something else, with someone else before we start truly living. When we find our life in Jesus, we exchange regret over life’s brevity for the full enjoyment of life with Him, both now and forever.

Lord, You said You came to give us life to the fullest, but so often we have our own agenda and the wrong goals in mind. Please forgive us, and help us desire what You want.

To live forever we must let Jesus live in us now.

 

God’s Assurance

From: Utmost.org

God’s Assurance

My assurance is to be built upon God’s assurance to me. God says, “I will never leave you,” so that then I “may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear’ ” (Hebrews 13:5-6). In other words, I will not be obsessed with apprehension. This does not mean that I will not be tempted to fear, but I will remember God’s words of assurance. I will be full of courage, like a child who strives to reach the standard his father has set for him. The faith of many people begins to falter when apprehensions enter their thinking, and they forget the meaning of God’s assurance— they forget to take a deep spiritual breath. The only way to remove the fear from our lives is to listen to God’s assurance to us.

What are you fearing? Whatever it may be, you are not a coward about it— you are determined to face it, yet you still have a feeling of fear. When it seems that there is nothing and no one to help you, say to yourself, “But ‘The Lord is my helper’ this very moment, even in my present circumstance.” Are you learning to listen to God before you speak, or are you saying things and then trying to make God’s Word fit what you have said? Take hold of the Father’s assurance, and then say with strong courage, “I will not fear.” It does not matter what evil or wrong may be in our way, because “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you….’ ”

Human frailty is another thing that gets between God’s words of assurance and our own words and thoughts. When we realize how feeble we are in facing difficulties, the difficulties become like giants, we become like grasshoppers, and God seems to be nonexistent. But remember God’s assurance to us— “I will neverforsake you.” Have we learned to sing after hearing God’s keynote? Are we continually filled with enough courage to say, “The Lord is my helper,” or are we yielding to fear?

National Pride

From: Get more Strength

“You are a chosen generation, . . . a holy nation . . . that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness. ” 1 Peter 2:9

My wife, Martie, and I have grown to love England—its history, culture, and people. One of our favorite activities when we visit is going to outdoor concerts (also known as proms) on the sloping lawns of ancient estates. “The Last Night of the Proms” event is the best, with fireworks and hundreds of nationals waving little British flags to rousing patriotic tunes.

We loved joining the celebration—until the summer our children came with us. When we started waving our flags with all the enthusiastic Brits, our kids were aghast. I can still hear them shouting over the music, “What are you doing?! You’re Americans!”

God must often feel like that when we blend in and live like the “locals” around us. I can almost hear Him saying, “What are you doing living like that?! You belong to My nation!”

Peter reminds us that we are different from the locals—we are a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). Being holy means that we are unique, set apart for Jesus, becoming like Him, and reflecting His countercultural ways of living. It means that we are forgiving in the face of cruel offenses; and merciful, gracious, truthful, and loyal to our promises. It means being just like Him.

So let’s start waving the flag of holiness as members of the “Jesus nation”!

O child of God, guard well your life
From anything that stains the heart;
Forsake those things that soil the mind—
Your Father wants you set apart.  —Fasick

Our loyalty to Jesus should be seen and heard in our lives.