Touched By God’s Tattoo

Touched by God’s Tattoo

girl with the word joy tattoo on her forearm

Waiting in line to check out at a grocery store recently, I noticed a skull and crossbones tattoo on the upper left arm of the man in front of me. His tattoo reminded me of when my oldest brother came home on furlough from the navy with a tattoo of a hula girl on his upper left arm. I was 12-years-old and I asked him why he got that thing anyway. He laughingly said, “Every time I flex my biceps, I remember how much I miss Hawaii.”

Since I’ve always been interested in the reason an individual gets a tattoo, I asked the man about his. He pointed to the skull and crossbones and said, “This identified me with my gang when I was in prison.” He snickered a little and added, “I’ll always ’member my behind-bars buddies.”

A biker behind me pulled up his T-shirt to show a rose tattooed on his chest. “It was my old lady’s favorite flower,” he said. He got quiet, rubbed over the rose, and slightly mumbled, “She’s dead now, but I’ll never forget her.”

Listening nearby, an elderly gentleman began rubbing the number tattooed on his arm and said, “I won’t forget Auschwitz.”

“Grandpa,” his grandson asked, “Do you want to forget?”

“Never! And I want your generation to remember also.”

The prophet Isaiah probably had the same idea when he wrote:

“… I [God] will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; …” (Isaiah 49:15, 16a NIV)

According to John MacArthur, he was alluding to the Jewish custom, possibly drawn from Exodus 13:9, of puncturing their hands with a symbol of their city and temple to reassure Israel that God had promised never to forget his people.

Tattooing is becoming more prevalent in our American culture. A 2015 study reported that about 36% of Americans ages 18-29 have at least one tattoo, and they enjoy talking about them.

Last week, I was being helped at a pharmacy by a young lady who had tattoos running from her right shoulder down to her fingertips. I commented, “You sure must like tattoos.”

She replied, “My tattoos remind me of who I am.”

A man behind me said, “I’m into tattooing myself. I’m a father. See this heart with two names in it,” pointing to the top of his right hand. “Every time I look at that heart, it reminds me how much I love my twin boys.”

A young man in line chimed in, “I’ve got ’em all over my body. I get a tattoo every time there’s a new thing to remember.”

Remember — that’s the word these tattoos are painted around. All of these individuals want visual reminders.

When I see these tattoos that are making all kinds of statements, I am reminded that God’s tattoo is also making a statement: “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands so that I will never forget you.” God remembers all the names of the stars he’s created, and he’s reassuring us that he remembers all of our names by reminding us where our names are … in the palms of his hands.

God remembers that we belong to him, he remembers to protect and provide for us, and when we have a need, he remembers to guide us. And also, painful as it may be, when we need correction, he remembers to discipline us.

When the Lord just wants to express his love and devotion to us, his omnipotent hands reach down from heaven and embrace us. We feel him holding us close and then hear him so softly whisper, “See, I have tattooed you on the palms of my hands.”

Streams In The Desert

By: l. B. Cowman

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, (Heb 12:1)

There are weights which are not sins in themselves, but which become distractions and stumbling blocks in our Christian progress. One of the worst of these is despondency. The heavy heart is indeed a weight that will surely drag us down in our holiness and usefulness.
The failure of Israel to enter the land of promise began in murmuring, or, as the text in Numbers literally puts it, “as it were murmured.” Just a faint desire to complain and be discontented. This led on until it blossomed and ripened into rebellion and ruin. Let us give ourselves no liberty ever to doubt God or His love and faithfulness to us in everything and forever.
We can set our will against doubt just as we do against any other sin; and as we stand firm and refuse to doubt, the Holy Spirit will come to our aid and give us the faith of God and crown us with victory.
It is very easy to fall into the habit of doubting, fretting, and wondering if God has forsaken us and if after all our hopes are to end in failure. Let us refuse to be discouraged. Let us refuse to be unhappy. Let us “count it all joy” when we cannot feel one emotion of happiness. Let us rejoice by faith, by resolution, by reckoning, and we shall surely find that God will make the reckoning real.
The devil has two master tricks. One is to get us discouraged; then for a time at least we can be of no service to others, and so are defeated. The other is to make us doubt, thus breaking the faith link by which we are bound to our Father. Lookout! Do not be tricked either way.
Gladness! I like to cultivate the spirit of gladness! It puts the soul so in tune again, and keeps it in tune, so that Satan is shy of touching it—the chords of the soul become too warm, or too full of heavenly electricity, for his infernal fingers, and he goes off somewhere else! Satan is always very shy of meddling with me when my heart is full of gladness and joy in the Holy Ghost.
My plan is to shun the spirit of sadness as I would Satan; but, alas! I am not always successful. Like the devil himself it meets me on the highway of usefulness, looks me so fully in my face, till my poor soul changes color!
Sadness discolors everything; it leaves all objects charmless; it involves future prospects in darkness; it deprives the soul of all its aspirations, enchains all its powers, and produces a mental paralysis!
An old believer remarked, that cheerfulness in religion makes all its services come off with delight; and that we are never carried forward so swiftly in the ways of duty as when borne on the wings of delight; adding, that Melancholy clips such wings; or, to alter the figure, takes off our chariot wheels in duty, and makes them, like those of the Egyptians, drag heavily.

Restoration: Holiness

Matthew 22:39


Fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. — Romans 12:2 The Message

It seems that much of what Christians believe they are called to is a cluster of activities that include regular church attendance, Bible study, giving, and attending the annual retreat. Now — what is all this activity supposed to do in us? If it’s not restoring the whole person, it may be completely missing the point of what God is after in our life: to heal us as human beings.

It might help to contrast this with a couple other popular options out there: the self-help movement’s goal of getting your life working — helping you with your anxiety or your weight problems. It is right and it is wrong. I believe with all my heart that God wants life for us there. But when we focus on fixing problems, the transformation of our character is missed.

Then you have what we’ll call righteousness Christianity, focusing mostly on “sin” and “the loss of morality.” A great deal of energy is spent trying to make people behave. And it is right and it is wrong. Yes, we’re supposed to live godly lives, but where’s the joy and the intimacy with God?

God is restoring the creation He made. Whatever holiness truly is, the effect of it is healing. That’s what it does to a person.

Is the Christianity you are living healing your life? Is it ushering in restoration? If not… you might want to ask Jesus if He has something new for you.



Jesus said, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’… ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ ” — Matthew 22:37,  Matthew 22:39 The Message

Only Jesus could get away with taking all of God’s commands — and boiling them down to two. Two. We’ve missed the brilliance of it, and the immense kindness too.

People seem committed to making things complex. Look at what we’ve done to education and taxation. The Jews of Jesus’ day had so many rules it practically immobilized them. This wasn’t what God intended. The way of holiness was never meant to be a labyrinth of complexity and eventual despair.

High standards are often ignored because we feel we haven’t the slightest chance of meeting them. So why bother? Moral issues remain cloudy as a way of excusing ourselves from ever really facing them.

Jesus cuts through this when He says, “It all comes down to this: Love God, love others. Practice this and you’ll be fine.” He’s not dismissing the many wonderful instructions God has given us in His Word; He is bringing us back to the issue of motive. Okay. If the entire Bible comes down to these two issues, it ought to grab our attention. These are our marching orders: if we make loving God and loving others our motive, we will find the beauty of Jesus’ holiness.

Yes, Lord, I choose Your way of love. I choose love as the goal of my life. Loving You and loving others. I say yes, Lord!



Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His Cross and crucified them there. — Galatians 5:24 NLT

The idea that we are ready to sin at a moment’s notice, incapable of goodness, and far from any glory is a common mind-set. It’s also unbiblical.

The passage people think they are referring to is Romans 7:18, where Paul says,

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing, — KJV

Notice the distinction he makes. He does not say, “There is nothing good in me. Period.” What he says is that “in my flesh dwelleth no good thing.” The flesh is the old nature, the old life, crucified with Christ. The flesh is the very thing God removed from our hearts when he circumcised them by his Spirit, as Paul explains in Galatians.

Yes, you will still battle with sin. You have to choose to live from the new heart, and your old nature doesn’t go down without a fight. But the question on the table is: Does the Bible teach that Christians are nothing but sinners — that there is nothing good in us? The answer is no! Christ lives in you. You have a new heart. Your heart is good, and that good heart is what is true about who you are.

Surrender To God’s Grace

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For My Own Sake

Sarah Limardo, Author,

When I really need to hear the voice of God in my life, I find myself escaping into the words of Isaiah. I’m intrigued by God’s words, His active speaking through dialogue, which always strikes me.

One morning, as I read my Bible before class, I stumbled across what is now my favorite verse, Isaiah 43:25 (NIV),

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

I stared at this verse as my heart dove out of my chest and into these words, deeper and deeper, and swaddled itself in the insane amount of intentional love I found there.

I tend to fall into that category of folks who know they’re forgiven and receive it but still can’t shake the “wretch like me” attitude. As I stared at this verse, God took that attitude, turned it on its head, and shook it until understanding wove itself through every thread of my heart.

I pictured God saying these words to me. Like He was suddenly sitting in my tiny room with me, leaning over my Bible and saying, “For my sake. Forgiving you is about Me, not you. It’s that want you near me. want to be with you.”

This verse comes right after God is telling the Israelites how they haven’t brought Him offerings and didn’t call on Him. Rather they have “burdened” Him with sins and “wearied” Him. (Isaiah 43:25)

How many times had I done the same? How many times had I told God with my mouth that I loved him, but done something contrary to what a love for God looked like? I’d stopped counting, and I was left wanting to prove the love I thought had been overshadowed by my sins. I wanted to draw close to the God I loved.

It was never about me. It’s about God’s love for me. It’s the great story of … everything. It was never about us.

I took my Bible with me everywhere in the days following. I couldn’t part from the love that kept echoing in my heart, “For my own sake.”

We see this same principle echoed throughout everything — God forgiving our sins for His sake because He made us and desires us. Nearly a chapter later, in Isaiah 44:23 (NIV), Isaiah writes,

“Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel.”

Cast off that “wretch like me” attitude, because God has forgotten your sins, redeemed you, and loves you! He frees us to sing for joy and shout it out — we’re commanded to embrace this attitude of joy because we have such a strong foundation for it. If you’ve asked for forgiveness, He’s given it to you. So why not take hold of it?

Our redemption is something to be celebrated and enjoyed. Love the gift He’s given you!

Someone is Listening

OCTOBER 11, 2019

“The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’ When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.” John 1:35-37 (NIV)

Pushing discouragement away, I again prayed the same prayer. I had begun to wonder if the truth I was sharing was making any difference at all. I know, both from God’s Word and from experience, that the troubles we experience in this life have their answers in One: Jesus. But was this truth I was sharing getting through to anyone?

In John 1, we read of the work of John the Baptist. In verses 19-28, John bravely tells the religious people that there is one who stands among them, “the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (v. 27).

The next day, in verses 29-34, John’s proclamation grows stronger as he sees Jesus coming toward him, and John declares, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (v. 29)

Day 3, John again plainly speaks the truth, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (v. 36) Two men hear the words John has boldly, consistently declared, and as a result, they follow Jesus.

Day after day, John the Baptist sowed seeds of truth into the people around him. Whether to those deliberately questioning him or to those merely within earshot, John boldly spoke the truth of Jesus’ identity. He consistently shared who Jesus was and why He came.

You may feel that while you’re stepping beyond your own fears and audaciously sharing who Jesus is, nobody’s listening. Day after day, you keep speaking of who He is and what He has done in your life. You may wonder if any of it matters.

I would guess John the Baptist may have experienced the same thing. Who doesn’t, when they share of the One most precious to them? Yet, John was consistently bold. We don’t know how many listened and had their lives changed, but we do know of these two men mentioned in today’s key verses: “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’ When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus” (John 1:35-37).

These two heard John’s words and followed Jesus.

They heard and followed.

Let’s choose to be on the list of those moved by John’s testimony. Like John, let’s not give up sharing Jesus, who He is and what He has done for us.

Especially don’t give up because of what you don’t see. We won’t always see or know who we are impacting when we share Jesus. Your children, friends and loved ones might roll their eyes, walk away or even say they don’t believe what you believe. The woman at work may seem as hard as stone, but the one around the corner of the cubicle is desperately listening.

Keep speaking up, because someone is listening. You may not know it. You may never know this side of heaven, but God has given us this promise: “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it” (Isaiah 55:11, NLT).

When we share the Truth of God’s Word, He is sending out His Word through us. He promises us that His Word will always produce fruit. It will always accomplish what He wants it to and “achieve the purpose for which [He] sent it” (Isaiah 55:11b, NIV).

So today, be bold. Keep speaking. Keep sharing. Keep trusting that while you may not see what is happening, God is at work and “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).

Heavenly Father, thank You that my work is simply to share Your Word, and Your work is to bring the fruit of change. Help me to stay brave and consistent for the one who is listening. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Streams In The Desert

By: L. B. Cowman

The angel of the Lord came upon him (Peter) and a light shined in the prison; and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off (Acts 12:7).

And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God… And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and every one’s bands were loosed (Acts 16:25-26).
This is God’s way. In the darkest hours of the night, His tread draws near across the billows. As the day of execution is breaking, the angel comes to Peter’s cell. When the scaffold for Mordecai is complete, the royal sleeplessness leads to a reaction in favor of the favored race.
Ah, soul, it may have to come to the worst with thee ere thou art delivered; but thou wilt be delivered! God may keep thee waiting, but he will ever be mindful of His covenant, and will appear to fulfill His inviolable Word.
–F. B. Meyer
There’s a simplicity about God in working out His plans, yet a resourcefulness equal to any difficulty, and an unswerving faithfulness to His trusting child, and an unforgetting steadiness in holding to His purpose. Through a fellow-prisoner, then a dream, He lifts Joseph from a prison to a premiership. And the length of stay in the prison prevents dizziness in the premier. It’s safe to trust God’s methods and to go by His clock.
–S. D. Gordon
Providence hath a thousand keys to open a thousand sundry doors for the deliverance of His own, when it is even come to a desperate case. Let us be faithful; and care for our own part which is to suffer for Him, and lay Christ‘s part on Himself, and leave it there.
–George MacDonald
Difficulty is the very atmosphere of miracle — it is miracle in its first stage. If it is to be a great miracle, the condition is not difficulty but impossibility.
The clinging hand of His child makes a desperate situation a delight to Him.

Life Is A Vapor

I saw a meme on Facebook that said, “Gratitude is our ability to see the grace of God, morning by morning, no matter what else greets us in the course of the day.” One October many years ago, the grace and gratitude connection became very real to me.

The crisp fall evening was perfect for a square dance in the country—starry sky, lively music, hay bales, yummy food, sweet fellowship. A night to remember in so many ways. My husband, our six-year-old daughter, my mom, and I had a delightful time with church members and friends. Shortly before the party ended, we said our goodbyes so we could get Mom home.

A few minutes later, our full-size conversion van lay upside down in a ditch from the impact of a speeding car. A drunk driver. We had planned to deliver Mom to her Pleasant Valley address. Instead, God welcomed her in heaven, and doctors didn’t expect me to live.

In an instant, our lives changed dramatically. I lost my best friend, our kids no longer had their grandma, we had to rely on others’ help at home and with our businesses, and I entered into a several-month period of recovery. Yet in the midst of the shock, healing, and grieving, my husband and I were able to forgive the man whose choices caused this unnecessary tragedy.

As you may know, the ability to forgive doesn’t come naturally. When someone has wronged us, we want to retaliate, or hate the person forever. Many times I’ve thought about how we were able to release those feelings, especially after having to endure the man’s false accusations and a horrible court trial experience. I can honestly say it was only because of God’s grace. During all this, God gave me a glimpse of how much he had forgiven me. To not offer the same gift to another would be like saying I was better than God.

It may seem strange, but extending grace to those who’ve wronged us is an act of gratitude for the grace we’ve received from God. We are, in a way, saying, “Thank you, God, for your kindness and mercy. Thank you for your unmerited favor. Thank you for your unconditional love.”

And whether the person acknowledges our gift—or even has awareness of it—we do it more for ourselves. It’s a gesture that brings freedom. By letting go and pardoning others’ actions, we’re able to move forward with our lives. We’re not stuck in the rut of bitterness, resentment, anger, and all those negative feelings that imprison us.

Over the years I’ve learned that grace can’t be explained; it can only be experienced. And when we realize the amazing gift we’ve received, we can’t help but be grateful. God sees our hearts and smiles when we’re able to extend the same grace to others.

No, it doesn’t make sense, but it feels so good. And that makes me grateful all the more.


Blessed Redeemer

by Inspiration Ministries

When they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. – Luke 23:33 KJV

Avis Burgeson avoided the limelight. Encouraged by her grandmother, she began writing poems when she was just ten. Born in Chicago on this day in 1895, she married Ernest Christiansen who later became a vice president of Moody Bible Institute. Avis kept writing throughout her lifetime. Before her death in 1985, she had written many hymns and published two books of poetry.

One day while listening to a sermon on the subject of Christ’s atonement entitled “Blessed Redeemer,” Harry Dixon Loes, a well-known hymn writer, was inspired to compose a tune that felt appropriate. But the tune needed words.

He turned to Avis, sending her the melody with the suggested title, asking her to write lyrics. She accepted the challenge, and the resulting hymn proved a great blessing. Worshipers have been moved by the hymn’s heart-felt sincerity since then.

Avis described the scene as Jesus walked up Calvary. Ahead was the horror of the cross that He faced for sinners, “that He might save them from endless loss.”

Amazingly, even as He was dying, Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them!” Avis sensed He was motivated by love. She could only respond, “Oh, how I love Him, Savior and Friend, how can my praises ever find end!”

For her this was personal. Jesus was her “Blessèd Redeemer! Precious Redeemer!” He wasn’t just dying for sinners in general. He was “dying for me!”

Yes, He was dying for you, too!


Streams In The Desert

By:  L.B. Cowman

As dying and behold we live (2 Cor. 6:9).

I had a bed of asters last summer, that reached clear across my garden in the country. Oh, how gaily they bloomed. They were planted late. On the sides were yet fresh blossoming flowers, while the tops had gone to seed. Early frosts came, and I found one day that that long line of radiant beauty was seared, and I said, “Ah! the season is too much for them; they have perished”; and I bade them farewell.

I disliked to go and look at the bed, it looked so like a graveyard of flowers. But, four or five weeks ago one of my men called my attention to the fact that along the whole line of that bed there were asters coming up in the greatest abundance; and I looked, and behold, for every plant that I thought the winter had destroyed there were fifty plants that it had planted. What did those frosts and surly winds do?

They caught my flowers, they slew them, they cast them to the ground, they trod with snowy feet upon them, and they said, leaving their work, “This is the end of you.” And the next spring there were for every root, fifty witnesses to rise up and say, “By death we live.”

And as it is in the floral tribe, so it is in God’s kingdom. By death came everlasting life. By crucifixion and the sepulchre came the throne and the palace of the Eternal God. By overthrow came victory.

Do not be afraid to suffer. Do not be afraid to be overthrown. It is by being cast down and not destroyed; it is by being shaken to pieces, and the pieces torn to shreds, that men become men of might, and that one a host; whereas men that yield to the appearance of things, and go with the world, have their quick blossoming, their momentary prosperity and then their end, which is an end forever.

“Measure thy life by loss and not by gain,
Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth.
For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice,
And he who suffers most has most to give.”


Living the Blessing

We get it that many people today are spiritually homeless when it comes to a church or doing much with their faith. But the Blessing is all about getting to know and love Jesus — whose love and blessing we’re going to be living out with others. He modeled loving people well — blessing them. He calls us to be people of blessing as our job and as a key part of our purpose. So we certainly love people who don’t know Jesus or see much value in prayer. But a Blessing Group is one where people are going to pray, just like Jesus, who took time out to pray to his Father and with the disciples. Prayer is like spiritual gravity. It’s a way of connecting and sharing with God. If you haven’t done much praying — alone or in a group — it’s not as hard as you think! Picture one of those really big balls that are super soft. Whoever is praying is picking up the ball and tossing it to the Lord. And then it gets tossed back, and then we toss it to the Lord. It’s like being in a conversation with someone. Even if this spiritual side of things is a little uncomfortable, we ask that you choose to be uncomfortable for a time. Our prayer is that you’ll become more spiritually comfortable in a safe place where people aren’t going to grade you on your prayers. Just be glad there are people around you who are tossing the ball back and forth with the Lord — praying for you and one another.

A Final Blessing Story

We started this book with two stories of people who missed the Blessing, but we’d like to close this book with the story of a couple who decided they were going to keep giving the Blessing — no matter what. That’s our prayer for you, that you’ll find ways to keep reminding yourself that the Blessing is your “job,” and that you’ll lean in and bless others — just as this couple did whose son couldn’t hear a word they said.

Years ago my wife, Cindy, and I were teaching about the Blessing at a conference for physicians and their spouses. That’s when we met little Aaron’s mother. She came up quietly. She shared her story softly. Yet it left a profound impact on our lives — that is, after Cindy and I had stopped crying and thanking God for what we had heard. It seems that several years before, this woman and her husband (both physicians, by the way) had traveled from out of state to attend a similar conference of ours. They left their precious three-year-old son, Aaron, at home with a babysitter. While they were gone, Aaron began to spike a fever. The babysitter called, then called again. But the cell phone reception wasn’t great in the hall, and it took them some time before they could return her call. By the time they did talk, the sitter was terribly worried about their son, particularly because his fever was so high.

Imagine two doctors, thousands of miles from their hurting son, unable to do anything to help. Needless to say, they left for home immediately, but by the time they got there, little Aaron had been diagnosed with viral meningitis and sustained profound hearing loss as a result of the fever. The parents, of course, were devastated when they got this news. But they determined their son’s hearing loss wouldn’t stop them from blessing him — not for a single day.

Up until the day their son lost his hearing, this couple had done something that they had seen in one of our videos. The video showed Cindy and I singing that simple little blessing song we had made up for Kari and Laura when they were little to wake them up in the morning. We would hug them as we sang:

Good morning, good morning, how are you today?

The Lord bless you and keep you throughout the day.

We love you, we love you, we love you, Kari (or Laura).

Aaron’s mom and dad had thought our song was cute and adopted it as a way to bless their son in the mornings. Ever since he was tiny, they had been singing, “We love you, we love you, we love you, Aaron.”

But now Aaron couldn’t hear that good-morning song or blessing. So they immediately set out to learn the words in sign language. That way, as Aaron grew older, he wouldn’t miss a day of them sharing that he was special and valuable to them, that God had a special future for him, and that his parents would always be committed to him.

I think of all the children I have met whose parents never bothered to say “I love you” even once to them, who never told them anything about their future except words like, “Don’t take algebra. That’s for the smart kids.” Parents who would never take the time to write a blessing letter, no matter how much it could mean to their child.

And then I hear stories like Aaron’s — stories about parents who are going to give the Blessing to their child no matter the challenge. And that’s our blessing for you: that you keep the Blessing going. That one million parents like Aaron’s will step up to the plate and hit it out of the park by passing on the Blessing to their own child… and many others.

And may a million more lives be changed in the process.



Don’t Forget Christ Who Died For You

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Trail Tips for Troublesome Days

By: Jeannie Waters,

My leg muscles screamed in protest as I gasped for breath and pulled myself upward to the next rest bench on the mountain trail. I promised myself, Girlfriend, you WILL be in better shape next year! Can you identify?

For several years, our family of four participated in a volksmarch, a German term for “people’s walk.” Beginning at the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail near Helen, Georgia, we walked only five kilometers, but with steep inclines, the distance seemed much further. At the finish line, with relief and perspiration, we accepted our medals as family tradition mementos.

Do you have days that feel like an arduous walk up a mountain and others that are more like a leisurely stroll? I do. On those troublesome days, challenges can feel like rocks in our backpack, slowing progress and discouraging us.

The verb walk in the Bible describes the daily life and behavior of one who has accepted Christ as Savior. Scripture teaches that Christians should align their actions with God’s Word.

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” Colossians 2:6 (ESV)

Paul prayed that believers would

“… walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; …” Colossians 1:10(ESV)

How can we live up to Paul’s description as we navigate the steep inclines of daily difficulties? Consider the following:

Look for markers in the Bible.

On the Appalachian Trail, arrowed signs pointed the way and prevented error when undergrowth obscured forks in the trail. The Bible is like a collection of markers, guiding us in God’s way. Bible study steadies and steers us when trials arise on those “mountain trail” days.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105 (ESV)

Lean on the Lord in prayer. 

My walking stick worked like a lever to push me up the mountain when weak muscles faltered. Communication with God in prayer strengthens us when we meet roadblocks and encounter difficulties. Having an ongoing prayer conversation with God throughout the day not only helps us enjoy His presence but also yields His peace and wisdom to bolster us to the next level on the journey.

“… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 (ESV)

Listen to fellow Christ-followers.

Although I read the signs and used a walking stick, I also needed my family’s encouragement, and at some points, a literal push over the next ridge. Asking for help can be humbling, yet other Christians can remind us of biblical truth and the fact that God is always with us, even on hard days. Have you received encouragement from fellow believers?

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)

How is your walk today? Perhaps printing the verses above on cards and keeping them handy will help in troublesome times. When a day’s journey feels like a steep mountain hike, turn the day into an adventure with God by searching for His direction in the Bible and in prayer as you seek encouragement from fellow hikers.


Don’t Forget


Scripture Reading — Deuteronomy 6

Be careful that you do not forget the Lord. . . . — Deuteronomy 6:12

“He is physically OK, but I am losing him; he does not recognize me anymore.” Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and is the only one of the top 10 such diseases that cannot be prevented or cured. It is also one of the sicknesses most dreaded by a patient’s family. It is so sad to lose more of the patient each day and to watch him or her gradually lose memory and disappear into an isolated, confused world.

Memory is crucial to our daily life. It gives us a bearing on where we are and what we can do and say next. In giving the Israelites the Ten Com­mandments, God began with the words “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of ­slavery” (Exodus 20:2). These words gave the people a helpful reminder to follow God and to have hope for their future in the land he had promised them.

How can we remember the Lord? Like the Israelites, we can learn and talk about God’s Word each day, write it down, and use various methods to help us remember. As the psalmist says, “Blessed is the one . . . whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). In Christ, who fulfills God’s law and his promises for us, we can grow closer to God by treasuring his Word as a light for our pathway through life (Psalm 119:105).



“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lamp stands, say this: ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.'” – Revelation 2:1

Those of us in full-time ministry often have couples show up looking for guidance when their marriages are on the rocks. We hear comments like, “I just don’t love him anymore,” or “The spark is gone,” or “My feelings are dead.”

Guess what? It didn’t happen overnight. A marriage falls into trouble because gradually, over time, the husband and wife stop prioritizing one another as their most important human relationship here on this earth. When that happens, their love can grow cold. One of the things that both Anne and I have learned to ask as we counsel folks struggling in their marriage is to remember what caused them to fall in love in the first place. The responses are always amazing.

It’s really quite similar in our relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s very rare that we suddenly rebel against God, wanting to have nothing to do with Him anymore. What tends to happen is over time, often subtly, we begin to drift away from God. He begins to no longer be the priority of our lives as other priorities creep in. Our hearts begin to grow cold towards the Lord. When that occurs, we find ourselves leaving the One who should be our first love –  Jesus Christ.

Obviously, many of the reasons for leaving our first love, Jesus Christ, are well intended. But sometimes, good things cause us to neglect the best thing: good things like family, a job, or even our ministries. I really believe that perhaps the biggest temptation for anyone who serves in Christian ministry is to begin to confuse their ministry with their relationship with Jesus Christ. After all, what could more important than doing the work of the Lord? It’s a constant temptation.

Nothing and no one is to come before our relationship with Jesus Christ. If you feel as though you’ve wandered away from faith, the starting point is confessing it. Then ask God to help you remember the moment you first gave your life to Jesus.


I Don’t Want to Forget

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3 (NIV)

When I walk through the door he points his finger at me, a confused smile on his face.

“And you are …?”

“I’m your favorite daughter-in-law, and don’t you forget it,” I say, laughing. It’s an old joke, but it’s new to him every single time.

My once strong patriarchal father-in-law has Alzheimer’s disease. It’s been a 10-year journey. Like a chalkboard that is slowly erased, his memories of us have faded away.

Recently we traveled to stay with him. As we were leaving, he pulled my husband, Richard, aside.

“Do I know you?” he asked.

“I’m your oldest son,” Richard said one more time.

His dad pulled a tattered wallet from his pocket and drew out a $20 bill. With tears he said, “Take this. You’ve been a good son.”

Richard left the money with his mom, but took something far more precious with him.

For a moment, his dad remembered.

My father-in-law’s struggle has taught us the power of remembering. Though my father-in-law’s memory has been stolen by disease, there are other things that rob us of that gift.

Sometimes I allow one painful moment to rob me of memories. A friend says something insensitive, or I argue with a loved one, and poof! All the good memories we’ve ever shared disappear, as I concentrate on that incident and build a case against her.

There are times I allow busyness to steal memories. I pile appointments on my calendar, forgetting that it’s just as valuable to play or talk with those around me.

There are seasons where I’ve wished away my memories: I can’t wait until they get older. I can’t wait until it’s spring. I can’t wait until I accomplish that goal. I can’t wait until things get easier.

In every season of life there are memories in the making. Like those of God’s faithfulness. Memories I’ll treasure as I run a finger across a photo. Memories of trusting God in every step of a new adventure.

When the book of Philippians was penned, it was a letter. As was the custom at that time, the first few lines of Paul’s letter was actually the “wrap-up.” A writer would pen the letter, finish it and then go back and write the first few lines as a summary.

This was Paul’s summary of his beautiful letter to the church of Philippi:

“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:1-3, NIV).

Many of the letters Paul wrote aimed to fix problems or remind a church to follow Jesus. This letter is different; Paul is in chains as he writes. The believers in Philippi offered support for Paul’s ministry during his imprisonment. They made a difficult time bearable, and that brought Paul joy.

The wrap-up was to simply say, “I thank God every time I remember you.”

I wonder what might happen in my own life if I focused on the wrap-up first.

Sure, we had an argument, but when I look at the big picture so many good memories are there. Let’s work through this.

Yes, life is busy, but when I look at what matters, memories will trump accomplishments. So let’s slow it down a bit and just enjoy the moment.

Yes, this season is hard, but maybe I’ll consider what God is doing in the midst of this season instead of wishing it away.

When we last saw my father-in-law, he was singing a song from his childhood. It was another rare moment. I’ll never forget his smile when we sang the last line with him.

Remembering is a valuable gift. Help us, Lord, to make, protect and treasure those sweet memories.

Persevere In The Faith

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Streams In The Desert

By: L. B. Cowman

Therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you (Isa. 30:18).

Where showers fall most, there the grass is greenest. I suppose the fogs and mists of Ireland make it “the Emerald Isle”; and whenever you find great fogs of trouble, and mists of sorrow, you always find emerald green hearts; full of the beautiful verdure of the comfort and love of God.

O Christian, do not thou be saying, “Where are the swallows gone? They are gone; they are dead.” They are not dead; they have skimmed the purple sea, and gone to a far-off land; but they will be back again by and by.

Child of God, say not the flowers are dead; say not the winter has killed them, and they are gone. Ah, no! though winter hath coated them with the ermine of its snow; they will put up their heads again, and will be alive very soon.

Say not, child of God, that the sun is quenched, because the cloud hath hidden it. Ah, no; he is behind there, brewing summer for thee; for when he cometh out again, he will have made the clouds fit to drop in April showers, all of them mothers of the sweet May flowers.

And oh! above all, when thy God hides His face, say not that He hath forgotten thee. He is but tarrying a little while to make thee love Him better; and when He cometh, thou shalt have joy in the Lord, and shalt rejoice with joy unspeakable. Waiting exercises our grace; waiting tries our faith; therefore, wait on in hope; for though the promise tarry, it can never come too late.
–C. H. Spurgeon

“Oh, every year hath its winter,
And every year hath its rain–
But a day is always coming
When the birds go north again.

“When new leaves swell in the forest,
And grass springs green on the plain,
And alders’ veins turn crimson–
And the birds go north again.

“Oh, every heart hath its sorrow,
And every heart hath its pain–
But a day is always coming
When the birds go north again.

“‘Tis the sweetest thing to remember,
If courage be on the wane,
When the cold, dark days are over–
Why, the birds go north again.”


Wear the Badge of Perseverance

Perseverance is the badge of true saints. The Christian life is not only a beginning in the ways of God, but also means continuing in those ways as long as life lasts. It is with a Christian as it was with the great Napoleon: He said, “Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me.” So under God, dear believer in the Lord, conquest has made you what you are, and conquest must sustain you. Your motto must be, “Aim higher.” The only true conqueror who shall be crowned in the end is he who continues until war’s trumpet is blown no more.

Perseverance is, therefore, the target of all our spiritual enemies.

  • The world does not object to your being a Christian for a time, if she can tempt you to quit your pilgrimage and settle down to trade with her in Vanity Fair.
  • The flesh will seek to ensnare you and to prevent your pressing on to glory. “Being a pilgrim is weary work and makes me wonder: Am I always to be mortified? Am I never to be indulged? Can I not have at least a holiday from this constant warfare?”
  • Satan will make many a fierce attack on your perseverance; it will be the target for all his arrows. He will strive to hinder you in service: He will insinuate that you are doing no good and that you need to rest. He will endeavor to make you weary of suffering; he will whisper, “Curse God, and die.” Or he will attack your steadfastness: “What is the good of being so zealous? Be quiet like the rest; sleep as others do, and let your lamp go out like the foolish virgins.” Or he will assail your doctrinal sentiments: “Why do you hold to these doctrinal creeds? Sensible men are getting more liberal; they are removing the old landmarks: Fall in with the times.”

So, Christian, wear your shield close to your armor and cry earnestly to God, that by His Spirit you may endure to the end.


Little Strength

By: Jim Poelman, author,


Scripture Reading — Revelation 3:7-13

“I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” — Revelation 3:8

Jesus’ letter to the church in Philadelphia is filled with praises and promises. This is a letter of love and encouragement. Encouragement from Jesus is what this church needed for the long road of faithful obedience.

In the course of my pastoral ministry, I have met faithful followers of Jesus who experienced many disappointments and difficulties. I would often attempt to encourage them with Bible passages like Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd. . . .” But some would respond, saying, “Pastor, the words of Psalm 22—‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’—speak more honestly of my life experience.”

I often wondered what Jesus would say to these hurting friends. The letter to the church in Philadelphia is Jesus’ word to his hurting people. “I know that you have little strength,” he says, “yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” Jesus knows how tired we can get from walking the long road of obedience, “even . . . through the darkest valley,” as Psalm 23 explains.

Like a long-distance runner who needs encouragement for the last part of a race, we need Jesus to cheer us on to keep his word and not deny his name.

May God give you the grace to endure patiently today and to trust that Jesus will do all he promises for the ones he loves dearly.


by Inspiration Ministries

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? … Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? – Romans 6:1-3 NKJV

Paul began Romans 6 with a series of questions. This was no accident. In fact, his entire letter to the Romans is filled with questions. (In the NKJV, Romans has 75 questions!)

Paul knew the impact questions could have. Inserting a question changes the flow of the writing and makes the words come alive for us. Whenever we read a question, we should feel challenged. We are being encouraged to stop and think, to consider the issues and how we might respond.

We see the impact of questions throughout Paul’s ministry. For example, questions were central to what he wrote about the Lord’s Supper: “Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this?” (1 Corinthians 11:22). Each question provides an opportunity for readers to answer Paul for themselves and think about the issues he discusses.

Jesus frequently used questions. The Old Testament, too, is filled with questions, presenting opportunities for us to think about what has been said. Although not a question, the word “Selah” is used over 70 times in the book of Psalms, encouraging us to pause and reflect.

As you read the Bible, remember to think about the questions asked. How would you respond? What is the deeper meaning for you?

God Shelters Us From The Storm


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Your Shelter in the Raging Storms – Do you see the storm clouds on the horizon of your life? Do you know that the Rescuer waits to take your hand so that you are not blown away? There are so many trials, problems, and chaos in families. You shake your head, throw up your hands, and the only prayer you can really utter is “Help, Lord!”

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9, NIV).

Obeying the above Scripture is not always an easy task. Like powerful winds that shake your house, you can feel uneasy and begin to tire just from the anxiety of the unknown. That is what it feels like in the daily hassles of life. Where is the peace and rest? It is under the shadow of the Almighty. He is the secret place, that shelter from all the storms.

When storms are raging in your life, you must grab a hold of The Rock—that is Jesus. He is your refuge, your shelter, the only secure, safe place. He is the bright ray of sunshine in any storm that comes your way.

Think of the enemy as the storm and you are a ship out at sea in the whirlwind of the storm. You are being tossed by the waves, which represent anything that is thrown at you to bring you turmoil. You see a light ahead from the lighthouse, who is Jesus your Rescuer, to guide you to safety. You begin to sense the calm inside of you. The fear leaves, and you have the needed hope to weather this storm and reach your destination. There is no other way to safety. You can’t fight the storms of life without the help of the Lord. He shows you the way. He provides the Holy Spirit for comfort.

Your life might be smooth sailing, but then there might be those who try to make it rough waters. Don’t let any kind of storm rock your boat. Call on the Lord for strength and support. Remind yourself that He is the Captain of your ship.


Shelter from the Storms

SEPTEMBER 11, 2009

“Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8 (NAS)

The thunder and lightning of a powerful storm rattled our house last night. As rain slashed against the windows and lightning lit up the dark sky, I woke up just long enough to make room for my youngest son and yellow lab to join me and my husband in bed. I remember thinking with surprise that I didn’t even know it was going to storm.

What a picture of my life lately. It’s been a year of unexpected rain. Some just drizzles, but others, like the storm hitting me most recently, have rattled windows with wave after wave of thunder and bursts of lightning.

What about you? Is there stormy weather in your life right now? Where are you finding shelter from the storms?

My friends and family have been a shelter for me this year, just like my family was last night as we all huddled together in bed. They’ve encouraged and supported me. And most importantly, they’ve pointed me to the strongest shelter from the storms, my Heavenly Father.

As I’ve turned to Scripture this week, I’m amazed at the number of times it reminds us God is our shelter. God knows that we will encounter hard times and His Word reminds us that the strongest and safest shelter is God Himself.

As always we have a choice: get drenched in the rain or seek shelter. You see, the storms of life can cause us to run toward God, but just as easily they can cause us to turn away. A whole range of emotions can leave us standing in the rain to get drenched: bitterness, anger, confusion, helplessness, or hopelessness. If you can relate to these emotions, you might feel badly for having these emotions, but don’t let these feelings keep you from God.

Read the Psalms and you’ll see that God can handle every emotion. Negative emotions are not a reason to turn away from God. They’re the very reason to turn to Him, desperately wanting the kind of faith and strength only God can provide.

Keep turning to God, continue to tell Him in prayer how you feel, and leave your emotions with Him. As you do, you’ll start to feel His nearness, His hope, His promise, and His comfort. If you find yourself returning to feelings of fear or hopelessness, just go back to God. Be honest in your prayers. Acknowledge that you’re having a hard time, but that you want to trust Him in your circumstances. Know that He loves you and will consistently and constantly be your shelter from the storms.

Dear Lord, “Hear my cry, O God; give heed to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy. Let me dwell in Your tent forever; let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings” (Psalm 61:1-4, NAS). In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

The Shelter of God


You have been a refuge for the poor,

a refuge for the needy in his distress,

a shelter from the storm

and a shade from the heat.

For the breath of the ruthless

is like a storm driving against a wall. — Isaiah 25:4 NIV

Beach storms can arrive quickly, sometimes with devastating consequences. If you’ve ever been caught in one, particularly on a boat, the rain can feel like needles on your skin. Lightning can be deadly. Whether you make it back to your rental house, your car, or even just a covered structure, finding shelter is a priority — your only priority. Once you’re covered, you feel safe. Once inside, you are relieved.

Storms pop up in everyday life too. We can’t predict their arrivals or departures.

So, what does it mean to find refuge in God? What does it mean to find shelter from the heat and the pressures of our earthly lives? Where do we find the practical in such a seemingly ethereal concept?

While it’s true that this verse deals specifically with physical poverty, the passage goes on to describe how those who wait patiently on God will be delivered — a prophecy of what’s to come.

In terms of practicality, the “shelter” God provides may come in the form of another person’s help — a job lead, a contrite heart, an apology. However it arrives, trust that if He’s provided it, relief will follow. We need only step out in faith, honoring and obeying through our actions. But there is a Part II.

Let’s not just think in terms of physical poverty. Consider spiritual poverty, as well. In the Old Testament times, spiritual issues were often addressed before physical relief arrived; God wanted repentance before restoration. This hasn’t changed. But if you think about it, Jesus often met the physical needs of others before He ever addressed the spiritual. Jesus did not heal the sick, drive out demons, or feed the masses — all very practical, physical needs — without pointing to God and the Way to true peace that’s everlasting. Jesus did this so that, even today as we seek shelter and refuge, believers fulfill what was stated in Isaiah 25:9:

And it will be said in that day: ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.’

It’s very practical and very wise to seek refuge from storms and relief from God in all of life’s storms — but don’t expect Him to meet your physical needs without addressing the spiritual, as well. You will be changed, inside and out.

God Help Me!

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God Help Me! A Prayer for Help in Time of Need

  • Lisa Whittle Author, Proverbs 31

God Help Me! A Prayer for Help in Time of Need

I love You, Jesus. Help.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes
from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. PSALM 121:1-2 NIV

I love You, Jesus, help was the first  five-word prayer I ever remember praying. I prayed it one night when I was at a loss for words, distressed over my lack of change and growth, struggling over the same things I’ve struggled with for years. Sometimes I loathe the sound of my own voice, praying the same stale prayers for change that aren’t guttural enough for follow-through. I’m a grown woman, for goodness’ sake, but some days I feel like a child. I say things I don’t want to say. I do things I don’t want to do. I behave poorly when I know better. I know all the calorie counts and still struggle to eat the right foods. My flesh is an albatross and daily I yearn to overcome it. So many things in my life have changed since I was a child, yet so many things have not.

We are a shared human race, so I know you feel my plight. We are a people of hoping, trying our best and lamenting our worst. We have great days and weeks and even some months and years…and then the crash comes, and we are left feeling that all the good we experienced was just a massive fluke. We struggle not to slip into skepticism. It’s tempting to worry away our days and fear ourselves into numbness. And in those real moments, it may be that all we can o er to God are five simple words:

I love You, Jesus. Help.
Those words may be small, but I believe that they are just the same as if they were a spoken novel of all the best heart alliterations, He hears them and responds with all fullness and tenderness of a Savior’s love. This simple prayer calls on heaven. It says to God that though our heart is full of love for Him, it is breaking over the frustrations the world is causing us.

This prayer is an abandoned prayer. It is a needy prayer. It is a sweet prayer from a helpless child to a Father fully in control.

Even in this moment as we struggle, we can lift our eyes to the God who loves us. We can lift our face to see Him in the dark, lift our voice to call out to Him for help. He is tender to
our struggle. He is ready to respond to the need.

I love You, Jesus. Help.

god help me prayer

“God Help Me!” Psalms to Pray

When you don’t know what to pray, Scripture provides the words for you! Use these prayers from Psalms to guide your request for help from God.

H – “Hear me Lord and answer me for I am poor and needy.” Psalm 86:1
The first step is to let God know that you need him and want His help.

E – “Establish my steps in your word.” Psalm 119:133
Second, ask God for His direction and for strength to stand firm in His promises.

L – “Let your compassion quickly meet our needs because we are on the brink of despair.” Psalm 79:8
We often need help because of our past choices and sin. Ask God to help you focus on his compassion and grace to lift you out of your despair and heart ache.

– “Protect me God because I take refuge in You. I say to the Lord, You are my Lord, apart from You I have nothing good.” Psalm 16:1


 God Has Not Forgotten You: A 31-Day Devotional

When life is turned upside down, learn how to turn to God.


Facing tragedy, or life storms of any kind, can be extremely difficult. But in the midst of heartache and pain, you can find the hope and courage to go on. With God’s help, the help of caring family members and friends, and the encouragement found in the Bible and other resources, you will receive the necessary strength to overcome.

You may be thinking, I don’t know how I could ever get through this. Or you may be battling powerful feelings of despair, suffering, confusion, fear, worry, and even anger. These are all normal responses to tragedy.

But as difficult as this life storm may be, you are not alone. God is with you always. He loves you, and cares about what is going on in your life. He hears your cries and sees your pain. Moreover, He understands.

The Bible says, “And it was necessary for Jesus to be like us, his brothers, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God, a Priest who would be both merciful to us and faithful to God … For since He himself has now been through suffering … He knows what it is like when we suffer … and He is wonderfully able to help us” (Hebrews 2:17-18 TLB). Whatever we endure, His care is certain, His love is unfailing, and His promises are secure.

God Has Not Forgotten You is a 31-day devotional with inspirational readings that contain life application steps to draw you closer to God and to encourage you to rely on Him to bring you safely through this present “storm” in your life. The following 7-day devotional is a portion of the full version; if you find this free sample encouraging, we recommend you work through the entire resource, which you can find by visiting our online store and searching for: God Has Not Forgotten You.

It is our prayer that this devotional will provide comfort, strength, encouragement, and healing for you and your family, and that through its pages you will discover extraordinary hope and the blessing of victory that only He can give. May God bless you and keep you always in His care, on this journey and beyond.

 You Are Not Alone

For he himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5c)

On the morning of October 29, 2012, hundreds of thousands of people in portions of the Caribbean and the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States faced their worst nightmare … “Superstorm Sandy.” This post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds and its unusual merge with a frontal system affected 24 states, including the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine and west across the Appalachian Mountains to Michigan and Wisconsin, leaving death, injuries, and utter destruction in its wake. Families everywhere, especially in hard hit New Jersey and New York, were jolted out of normalcy and the comfort and security of the homes and communities they once knew. They were thrust suddenly and unwillingly into the darkness and despair of loss.

If you and your family have ever been affected by a natural disaster like this, you may feel as if you’ve been abandoned by God. However, if trouble has hit your life in some other disaster or form of tragedy—the death of a loved one, a dreaded medical diagnosis, the loss of home and property, or the loss of your job, you are experiencing your own superstorm. You may feel as if your whole world has been turned upside down and wonder how you can possibly survive the loss. In times like these, you can feel very much alone.

But you are not alone. In the midst of unspeakable sorrow, God is with you. Even if you do not feel Him near, God is there. He promises to never leave you alone. Therefore, wherever you are, God is. He is with you before, during, and after the storm, never losing sight of you, or your suffering. Even as you ponder how you will begin picking up the pieces of your life, God is there … loving you beyond understanding, holding you up, and making a way where it seems there is no way. Reach out for Him today. He is a very present help in times of trouble (see Psalm 46:1).

Taking back your life …

  1. Psalm 139:7-10 says, “I can never be lost to Your Spirit! I can never get away from my God! If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, You are there. If I ride the morning winds to the farthest oceans, even there Your hand will guide me, Your strength will support me” (TLB). What assurance can you find in these verses of Scripture when you are feeling as if God has forgotten you?
  2. In Psalm 23, David pictures the Lord as the Great Shepherd who provides for and protects His sheep (His children). In verse 4, he says “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” A shepherd uses his rod to protect his sheep (by using it to beat off wild beasts), and he uses his staff to guide them. What comfort can you find in knowing that God will protect and guide you during this difficult time?
  3. In addition to needing God’s presence in our lives, we also need each other. Talk with your family or friends about the way you are feeling, so that you can share one another’s burdens, and not feel so alone in your suffering


Lord, I Need Your Help

SEPTEMBER 26, 2012

“In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help.” Psalm 18:6a (NIV 1984)

I don’t know exactly when it started, I just remember feeling angry and frustrated with my husband – almost every single day – for weeks.
One evening after a pretty intense “discussion,” J.J. told me that no matter what he did or how hard he tried, it was never enough. He was right. I constantly found fault in him as a husband and as a dad.
But the fact that he implied I was impossible to please … well that sent my already-unreasonable emotions reeling. I grabbed my coat and stormed out the front door. Hot tears streaming down my cheeks, I replayed our conversation in my head.
Determined to figure out what his problem was and get Jesus to fix him, I started telling on J.J. – to God.
As I filed my complaints against my husband, I finally heard myself. All the ugliness that was in my heart. All the anger spewing out of my mouth.
That’s when I realized,I need help.
I needed God to show me what was going on. To help me figure out how, after seven years of a happy marriage, had we gotten to this ugly place?
Instead of just crying, I found myselfcrying outto God for help.
King David was much better at this than I am. He had a habit of crying out to God for help when he was in distress. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible Commentary tells us that in Psalm 18:6, “‘In my distress’refers, most probably, not to any particular case, but rather indicates [David’s] general habit of mind, that when he was in deep distress and danger he had uniformly called upon the Lord, and had found him ready to help.”
That night, when I stopped talking and started listening, I sensed God showing me I wanted J.J. to make up for what my dad had never been as a father to me and as a husband to my mom.
Years as a child in a broken home with a broken heart had led to a significant sense of loss and deep disappointment. Yet, I never grieved the happily-ever-after I longed for, but didn’t have.
Unfulfilled hopes became bitter expectations.
Trying to create my own version of “happily-ever-after,” I became controlling and critical. I thought if I could get J.J. to be the husband and dad I wanted him to be maybe my broken dreams could be put back together.
But I was wrong. Instead of expecting my husband to make up for my losses, I needed to cry out to God with my hurts and call on Him for help.
Are there hurts that hold you hostage? Expectations no one could really ever meet? Been trying to fix someone or a situation? Need some help today?
I know I do, and God is there.
Waiting for us to cry out to Him. Not just once, expecting a quick answer. But like the dependence we see in King David, we need God’s help on a regular basis.
As I processed what had happened in my childhood and how it affected my marriage, I learned to ask God for help through each step of my healing journey.
I asked Him to help me find the security I needed by letting Him be the father I longed for. I asked Him to help me grieve the loss of things I wanted from my dad that I would never have. I asked Him to help me forgive my father and release feelings of anger, abandonment and hurt. I asked Him to help me release my unrealistic expectations of my husband and let go of my fight for a “happily-ever-after.”
It was a process that took time, prayer, and courage, but God was my very present Help who showed me how to let go of my past and my pain, so I could take hold of hope and healing.
By the way, I’m crazy about my husband now. And so very thankful for the day I finally asked the Lord for help.



God Surprises Us With His Blessings


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God’s Surprises

Patricia J. Frost, Author,

After a visit to the Gaza Strip, I left thanking God that He had not called me to Gaza, that dusty,
trash-strewn, third world country. I was so happy to get back to Jordan and thanked God He had
called me to serve as an English teacher there, not in Gaza.

Twenty years later I left Jordan and sought another place to serve. Every mission magazine or brochure I picked up stressed the needs for personnel in the Gaza Strip. As I looked at the list of requests, I decided that the need for English teachers was greatest in Gaza. What a difficult decision, but I knew that I was to go to Gaza.

What a great experience living in Gaza turned out to be. I have never felt so warmly welcomed nor made friends so easily as in the Gaza Strip. God revealed to me the important and beautiful thing about Gaza — the people and relationships. My first impression was so totally wrong. As Isaiah 55:8 (NIV) reminds us,

‘“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.”

Who am I to think that I know what is best for me and where I will be the happiest and most fulfilled? Isaiah reminds us that we do not always know what the Lord has in mind for our lives because we do not think as He does nor know the way that He has planned.

“Oh, I’ll get married after I retire from missionary service,” declared a colleague and close friend.

My thought was, who would want to marry an old man at that age, after living happily for so long as a single, enjoying independence and being free of family responsibilities? I certainly would never do that.

With retirement came a big surprise. On the first day in exercise class, I saw him. I had no idea who he was and felt no attraction, but a strange thought popped into my mind, this is the man you’re going to marry. What a ridiculous thought. Where did that come from? I had no intention or desire to marry. I pushed that unrealistic thought away and forgot it. Not until much later, after my future husband and I had spent time doing things together, I remembered that crazy thought.

At different times in my life, God has revealed to me how some of my long-held convictions and beliefs are not in keeping with His reality.

That fits the pattern of my life — the way God breaks through to let me know His will and plan. My faith is backed up by strong impressions because He does not want me to doubt His will. How great to have a long history of walking daily with a personal God, knowing His heart of love and faithfulness. He has shown me how He can change my desires and work to bring good into all circumstances.

“In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

We may have in mind what we want to do and how to spend our days, but God may have something in mind that we have not considered. Will we have the courage to follow where He leads?

We can become confused and bewildered when God’s plans are not what we expected. Will we trust God’s wisdom and His timing?

Let us trust and praise God even when our plans don’t turn out the way we expect.


You Were Made for This

MARCH 12, 2019

“The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.” Genesis 39:2-3 (ESV)

It’s easy to wonder if we’re missing some mystical, great, noble purpose that’s supposed to squeeze into our ordinary lives. We might feel numb. Or bored. We ask questions like: I’m in. I am all surrendered to God. But now what? What does He wants me to do?

God’s goal for our lives is that we live in complete and utter surrender to and dependence on Him. He built us to need Him. And it’s always His mercy to show us that need, whatever the cost. Living on mission with the Creator of the Universe is the most beautiful, purposeful thing we could do with our short time on earth. This is your purpose: to know God and make Him known. As we read the story of God through Scripture, we know we are to love, without hesitation, every person God puts in our paths. And we are to love God more than anything.

Are you searching for your calling in life? If you’re reading this, you have the opportunity for ministry right under your nose, never needing to move or change a thing. Life is too short to spend time worrying about where on this planet you should be. As Jim Elliott, the great missionary-then-martyr said, “Wherever you are, be all there.”

Rather than becoming paralyzed with fear that you might move when you should stay or stay when you should move, pray and commit your ways to the Lord. And then go do something!

God invites us into His will like a loving dad in a swimming pool, asking his little child to jump. Whether that child jumps really far or barely scoots into the pool, that dad will move to catch him. So don’t be afraid. God’s will is moving, and if we will just jump, His will is going to catch us.

Joseph did this so beautifully. God had shown him that He would do awesome things, and rather than worry about being stuck in prison or as a slave in Potiphar’s house, Joseph did great things with God wherever he was. You can do great works wherever you are. Likewise, don’t be afraid to go — or be afraid to stay.

In heaven, even the most adventurous missionaries among us won’t be rewarded because of an earthly location; they’ll be rewarded for their obedience and faithfulness. Those who spent most of their lives in cubicles and driving in carpool lines will stand beside them receiving similar crowns. It’s not our place of ministry that matters most; it’s what we do in our places.

For Joseph, his calling and God’s purpose for his life took determination and a conscious choice to surrender. He gave everything he had to serve well, even as a slave and a falsely accused inmate. Genesis 39:2-4 reminds us, “The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.”

If we know that no place, no job, no marriage, no child is going to perfectly fulfill us, we can choose to quit fighting for happiness and start fighting for God’s glory instead. It takes determination to trust Him while you’re still in your place, doing the seemingly mundane tasks of life. Let’s assume that if we’re breathing, then we have a purpose for being here. Every one of us with breath in our lungs still has something left to do.



Gerrit  Bomhof, Author,


Scripture Reading — John 20:19-23

He breathed on them. . . . — John 20:22

Breathing air is a sign of being alive. But not just any air will do! Asbestos fibers, nicotine, smog, and other pollutants are harmful and should not be part of the air we breathe. For this reason, our governments set up agencies to regulate air quality.

In today’s passage, the resurrected Jesus suddenly appears to his disciples who were gathered behind locked doors “for fear of the Jewish leaders.” These disciples were alive—that is, they were breathing—yet they were paralyzed with fear. We read that Jesus “breathed on them”—and soon everything would change!

Instead of cowering behind locked doors, they were sent out into the world as the Father had sent Jesus. They received this mission because Jesus not only breathed on them but also commanded them to receive the Holy Spirit, whose name in the original languages of the Bible (Hebrew and Greek) means “breath” or “wind.”

Pictures of breath and life are found throughout God’s story of redemption. When God breathed into the man he had formed, Adam “became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). But later sin came into our lives, and even though we were physically alive, we were “dead in [our] transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Through Christ’s finished work, however, we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), and through the Holy Spirit we produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

May Christ breathe his life-giving Spirit into our lives today!


Freedom From Guilt

by Inspiration Ministries

God, Who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, Who … was raised to secure our justification (our acquittal), [making our account balance and absolving us from all guilt before God]. – Romans 4:24-25 AMPC

After Adam and Eve sinned, they realized that their relationship with God had changed. They were no longer living in harmony with Him. When He approached, they did not welcome His presence. Instead, they “hid themselves” (Genesis 3:8). There was a painful separation, a kind of wall between them and God.

This was the first human experience of guilt. Since that day, guilt has become a common condition for all of us.

Many factors can trigger guilt. We might have disobeyed God or said or done things that violated His Word. This kind of guilt can haunt our minds and hearts. Even Christians can find it difficult to overcome guilt.

God provided a way for us to overcome these guilty feelings. Paul wrote that Jesus “was betrayed and put to death because of our misdeeds” (Romans 4:25 AMPC). So because of His death and resurrection, we can be forgiven and escape the hold guilt has on our hearts and minds.

The Bible promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NKJV). If we acknowledge our sins, we can be free and forgiven! Are you carrying any guilt or other burdens resulting from sin in your life? Confess any sins to God, and then accept His forgiveness. Jesus died and rose again, so you could be free and live in harmony with God.


There Is Happiness In God’s Presence

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The Secret to Happiness

MAY 25, 2018

“Always be joyful.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (NLT)

Pinterest ImageHave you ever felt you had more than your fair share of problems? That everyone else’s life seemed packed with blessings, while yours was buried in burdens? Ever struggled with feeling unhappy as a result? Me too.

For a couple years, my overall happiness and love for life waned. More times than I care to admit, I secretly wished I could go live someone else’s life — someone who seemingly had far fewer problems and adversities than I did.

This attitude caused me to feel weighed down by all the burdens I was carrying, constantly focusing on how many problems I had. I longed to feel happy again, but I wondered if true joyfulness as I once knew it was a thing of the past.

I prayed daily for God to restore my happiness and the joy of my salvation, even if my circumstances remained the same. Then, over a period of many months as I continued to lean into my faith, God did exactly that.

Gradually, I began to feel more empowered to take control of my thoughts and emotions rather than let them control me and my happiness. I became determined not to let the enemy steal or control my joy another day. I chose to intentionally love my life — despite my burdens — because it was the only life I had been given to live. I felt God leading me to make a commitment to begin counting my blessings instead of my burdens.

So, in obedience to that holy prompting, I began keeping a “blessings list.” Every time something good happened, from small, seemingly insignificant things to huge blessings and answers to prayer, I wrote it down.

After a few weeks of doing this, I realized this was a stepping stone to not only reclaiming my joy and happiness, but also learning to love the life God had given me. I was retraining my mind to focus on God’s generosity instead of life’s letdowns. One of the secrets to true joy and loving life is simply being mindful of all God gives.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16, Paul said, “Always be joyful.” Why? Because he knew joyfulness is imperative in order to love the life God has given us. But how do we do that when life stinks? When people hurt us? When circumstances seem hopeless? When our hearts are broken? Paul answers those questions in the two verses that follow.

First Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Never stop praying” (NLT). To be joyful, we need to stay connected to God in prayer, asking Him daily to fill us with joy based on our walk with Him — not our satisfaction with everything in life.

Then, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). During our continued prayers, we are to be grateful for all He has done for us and the life He’s given us. It is His will for us to live with joy, not because life is perfect but because He is.

Being “joyful always” doesn’t mean we have to walk around with a fake smile on our face all the time, ignore reality or suppress every negative emotion. This verse simply implores us to intentionally focus on the good, instead of the bad. To count our blessings rather than our burdens. To let our faith, not our feelings, dictate our joy.

The secret to real happiness isn’t really a secret at all. It’s simply realizing the importance of counting blessings over burdens and understanding that gratitude has incredible power over grumbling.

Lord, I long to feel happy and joyful again. Prick my heart each time I focus on burdens instead of blessings. Help me develop an intentional attitude of gratitude. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


All Men Seek Happiness

Article by

Staff writer,

God means for you to seek the highest happiness there is to experience. The Bible teaches this, and many of the great saints of church history have taught it explicitly. But many twenty-first-century English-speakers stumble over such an idea.

One of the reasons is simply a phenomena of language: it evolves. New words are continually introduced, and old words, once commonly used, drop out altogether. And some words, still in use after hundreds of years, now mean something different than they once did — like the English word “happiness.”

Actually, “happiness” can still cover a broad range of human experience. But for many contemporary English-speakers — particularly Christians, in my experience — the definition has narrowed. They consider “happiness” a transient, even trivial kind of pleasure, usually derived from circumstances. They reserve the term “joy” for deeper, more substantial and durable pleasures. They would affirm the Peanuts philosophers who stated,

Happiness is finding a pencil, pizza with sausage, telling the time.
Happiness is learning to whistle, tying your shoe for the very first time!
Happiness is two kinds of ice cream, knowing a secret, climbing a tree.
Happiness is five different crayons, catching a firefly, setting him free!

But they would say joy comes from more profound things, like God’s salvation (Psalm 51:12). This differentiation would have confused our English-speaking forebears from a couple centuries ago.

Happiness Is Not Trivial

I’ll give you an example all Americans will recognize. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson asserted that all people “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” For Jefferson, “happiness” was something more profound than the pursuit of the pleasures of pizza with sausage. He was dreaming of a nation where people would be free to devote their lives to pursuing what they believed would bring them the deepest, widest, most durable pleasures possible here on earth.

A few decades before this Declaration, a young Jonathan Edwards had far deeper and far more durable experiences of pleasure in mind than Jefferson when he wrote,

Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power; might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.

By “the other world,” Edwards was referring to heaven and then the new creation. This clearly was no trivial pursuit of transient, circumstantially-based experiences.

Our recent narrowing of the meaning of “happiness” both devalues the word and causes unnecessary confusion. We should stop it, Christians especially, because the Bible doesn’t define happiness so narrowly, as Isaiah illustrates:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7)

The Bible, in fact, “is indiscriminate in its pleasure language” using words like happiness, joy, contentment, delight, and satisfaction essentially as synonyms describing the same kinds of experiences.

Happiness is not trivial. Human beings take it very seriously. And we can’t help it.

It’s Serious Business

A Frenchman, Blaise Pascal (1623–1662), actually captured this in one of the most poignant paragraphs in history:

All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves. (Pensées, Loc. 2049)

As soon as we read this, we all recognize this is true of us. When given a choice, all of us pursue a course we believe will result in the most desirable sense of well-being — what the word “happiness” really means. We orient our lives — even end them — according to this pursuit. Our longing for happiness is hardwired into us. By God.

“Happiness is not trivial. Human beings take it very seriously. And we can’t help it.”

God created human beings for happiness. That’s what God provided and promised Adam and Eve. The only thing he originally forbade them was a choice that would destroy their happiness (Genesis 2:16). Even the deception that enticed them to choose what God forbade was a false promise of greater happiness (Genesis 3:4–6).

Seeking happiness is not sinful. Sin is seeking happiness apart from or in defiance of God.

Seek God, Not Happiness?

But doesn’t this make an idol out of happiness? By elevating and encouraging the pursuit of happiness, are we making it a competitor with God?

While a particular pursuit of happiness might indeed be idolatrous, to contrast the experience of happiness itself with God is a confusion of categories. John Piper brings helpful clarity:

When I say I desire happiness, I mean, “I want to be happy.” But when I say, I desire a biscuit, I do not mean, “I want to be a biscuit.” Happiness is not an object to be desired. It is the experience of the object.

So it may not be idolatry to say, I want happiness more than I want any other experience. God is not in the category of “experience,” and so you are not ranking him. You are (know it or not) preparing to find him.

Idolatry is not wanting happiness supremely. Idolatry is finding supreme happiness in anything other than God.

This is why C.S. Lewis said, “It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can” (A Severe Mercy, 189). He, like all the great saints of Scripture and history, knew the “unblushing promises of reward” — of the happiness God holds out to us throughout the Bible. And that these are not invitations to idolatry, but to true worship. For our greatest pleasure is always the measure of our greatest treasure.


Joy: True Happiness

Joy: True Happiness

I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. — John 15:11

Remember Eeyore and Tigger in the Winnie-the Pooh-books? For Eeyore, no matter what amazing circumstance came his way, doom and gloom remained the focus. For Tigger, bouncing through life without a care in the world, he never perceived anything to go wrong. In our daily lives, it is easy to have the attitude of Eeyore while wishing we could have the outlook of Tigger — two quite extreme viewpoints of life.

The biblical brand of joy is not simply overcoming our inner Eeyore, nor is it strolling through life in ignorant bliss; rather, it is to be found in facing each day’s ups and downs through the contentment Christ offers.

KEY QUESTION: What gives us true happiness and contentment in life?

The first order of business is to identify the difference between joy and happiness. For many folks today, being happy is fully dependent on whether life is “all good.” If someone asks, “Rate your life right now on a scale of 1 to 10,” often the number given is based on the number of problems present. Happiness slides up and down the scale, based on the perception of negative issues going on at the time. Problems rise; happiness goes south. Troubles begin to go away; the happy scale starts to climb. Joy, however, is not dependent on circumstances, and, in fact, ironically, can become strongest when trouble comes. The psalmist reminds us of the reality of joy that comes when we rest in God’s presence:

You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. — Psalm 16:11

KEY IDEA: Despite my circumstances, I feel inner contentment and understand my purpose in life.

Joy has more to do with remaining in the presence of Jesus than with avoiding problems and struggles in our lives. Harkening back to John 15, we know that joy is always available to us when we remain in Christ, through whatever life brings. Let these statements guide you to see how true joy differs from mere happiness.

  • Happiness is a state of mind, while joy is a mind-set.
  • Happiness comes and goes, while joy can be constant.
  • Happiness is dependent, while joy is independent.
  • Happiness is conditional, while joy is unconditional.

The apostle Paul had learned the secret to the joy found in Jesus:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. — Philippians 4:11-13

James drives home the definition of joy in the kingdom of God as having nothing to do with eliminating negative outward circumstances, but rather with embracing them as opportunities to strengthen faith and gain resolve:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — James 1:2-4

Note the end result of choosing eternal joy — being mature and complete in Christ. Joy becomes the fuel for the believer on this road to maturity. Only Jesus can make our lives flourish in the midst of trouble. In him, joy is strengthened when life is challenging.

And finally, there is a source of deep joy available from an intimate place of serving Jesus.

Take a look at his teaching in Luke 15:3-7:

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Joy comes when the lost are found! When we join Jesus in His work by sharing and seeing people come to Him, we can be a part of the heavenly celebration right here and right now.