Well Done My Faithful Servant

It would be wonderful to hear God say in Heaven, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
Matthew 25:21  His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
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“Approved to God”

By Oswald Chambers

If you cannot express yourself well on each of your beliefs, work and study until you can. If you don’t, other people may miss out on the blessings that come from knowing the truth. Strive to re-express a truth of God to yourself clearly and understandably, and God will use that same explanation when you share it with someone else. But you must be willing to go through God’s winepress where the grapes are crushed. You must struggle, experiment, and rehearse your words to express God’s truth clearly. Then the time will come when that very expression will become God’s wine of strength to someone else. But if you are not diligent and say, “I’m not going to study and struggle to express this truth in my own words; I’ll just borrow my words from someone else,” then the words will be of no value to you or to others. Try to state to yourself what you believe to be the absolute truth of God, and you will be allowing God the opportunity to pass it on through you to someone else.

Always make it a practice to stir your own mind thoroughly to think through what you have easily believed. Your position is not really yours until you make it yours through suffering and study. The author or speaker from whom you learn the most is not the one who teaches you something you didn’t know before, but the one who helps you take a truth with which you have quietly struggled, give it expression, and speak it clearly and boldly.

 

Christmas Morning Memories

By: Pauline Hylton

mother and children at Christmas with candles

I don’t know what you’re doing for Christmas. The Saturday before, Tom and I are traveling to Atlanta to spend a few days with my daughter and her family. We will eat good food, play some games, take long walks and even longer naps.

But on Christmas morning, I hope we will carry on a tradition that has warmed my heart for decades. You see, my parents served as officers in The Salvation Army. So, the Christmas season flew by.

But Christmas morning was different. It began with a hearty breakfast of fried potatoes, eggs, and bacon. After that, we gathered in the living room around the decorated tree. Underneath the tree rested paper bags with writing in them. There were pillowcases filled up and tied with a ribbon, along with a smattering of wrapped packages. The reason for the tacky presents stemmed from the fact we were so busy serving others, we had no time to shop and wrap presents for ourselves.

It didn’t bother me.

Before we opened any gift, my father opened his King James Bible to Luke 2. Either he would read, or he would assign one of us to read. The story never grew old. Each year, it felt like a breath of fresh air to me. Then he would light a single white candle and we would all sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.

Yeah, I know it’s corny. But it was priceless—like the sweet song of redemption.

Tears almost always came to my eyes. As a teenager, my tears came from a grateful heart because of time spent with family. As I grew older, it deepened.

Now, it is worship. Galatians 4:4-5 states this:

“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.”

The best present of all came wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger. This present won’t rust, doesn’t have payments, and lasts forever.

It’s a no-brainer.

Perhaps you have never embraced this child who became a man to purchase eternal life for mankind. My prayer is that this season you will.

Take a look at these powerful words from the book of Isaiah 9:6-7:

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.

The government will rest on his shoulders.

And he will be called:

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His government and its peace will never end.

He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.

The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

This child is not like any other. God became man and dwelt among us.

I can tell you right now what my favorite part of Christmas 2018 will be. Sure, I’ll bask in spending time with my grandson and my kids. But then my eyes will tear up as we light a candle and sing a simple song.

The sweet song of redemption.

I pray you can hear it, too.

 

Arlene Pellicane December 14, 2018
Fall at His Feet
ARLENE PELLICANE

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.’” Revelation 1:17-18 (NIV)

People aren’t afraid of babies. Now, it might be intimidating to think of caring for a baby, but just meeting a baby isn’t a very terrifying experience to the average person.

Babies are cute, small and helpless. They don’t pose any danger. How amazing that Jesus entered our world as a little baby! Jesus’ mode of arrival reveals God the Father’s humility, kindness and approachability.

The Bible introduces us to Jesus, the baby. This is the beautiful portrait of the Christmas season. But let’s also remember the Bible describes Jesus as the exalted Son of Man whose eyes are as a flame of fire, whose mouth has a two-edged sword, and whose face is like the sun in all its brilliance. (Revelation 1:14,16) That’s a much more intimidating picture!

The elderly Apostle John saw this almighty God while exiled on the tiny island of Patmos. If the saying “Best Friends Forever” existed back then, John might have used it to describe his relationship with Jesus. Among the Lord’s 12 disciples, He had an inner circle of three (Peter, James and John). John described himself in his Gospel as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23b). Clearly, he had a deep relationship with the Savior.

When John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, he heard God’s voice like a trumpet and saw his master and best friend, Jesus.

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17a).

What an impression God made on John! Here’s a disciple who had walked and talked with Jesus, yet when John sees Jesus in all His splendor and glory, he is undone. He is terrified and falls down like a dead man. Pay attention to what Jesus does next.

“Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid’” (Revelation 1:17b).

Jesus didn’t flex His divine muscles and shout with a thunderous voice to heighten fright in John’s heart. He did the opposite. He spoke kindly and placed His hand on John to strengthen him. He chose words of comfort that you can find in the Bible hundreds of times: “Do not be afraid.”

What’s causing you fear today? Allow Jesus’ words to John to bring you comfort and courage. You don’t have to be afraid of any challenge facing you because of who God is. He said:

“I am the First and the Last” (v. 17). He is divine and eternal.

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever!” (v. 18). John had witnessed Jesus’ gruesome crucifixion. There is no hurt on earth that God does not understand. But because of the resurrection, death has been beaten once and for all.

“I hold the keys of death and Hades” (v. 18). God has sovereign dominion in and over the invisible world. He opens and shuts doors that no one else can. Jesus possesses the key to the kingdom of God and the entrance into eternal life.

So when you see the baby Jesus depicted this season, rejoice and be glad! God came down in the least intimidating way — as a baby. But also remember, He shall return as the ultimate victor over the devil and death. We will fall at His feet in worship. God is all powerful and hallelujah, He is on our side!

Lord Jesus, I humble myself before You. Who am I that You should love me? Thank You for coming as a baby. You will return as King. Help me remember Your extraordinary power and honor You as Lord over my life this Christmas season. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Jesus Feeding The Multitude

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Helping and Serving

From: Our Daily Journey

Helping and Serving

Read:

Galatians 5:5-15
Serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).

When a busy mother asks her teenager to clean her room, the daughter replies in an irritated voice, “Can’t you see I’m busy?” The mother retorts, “You are busy. I’m busy too. But you’re busy with your own stuff, while I’m busy with everyone else’s stuff!”

A similar conversation occurs between a husband and wife. “Could you help me with the dishes?” she asks. “Sorry, dear, I’m busy right now,” he replies, while updating his Facebook status.

Reflecting on this, I’m ashamed to admit I too am often “too busy” to attend to the requests of those closest to me. My perspective is that I’m being forced to help them do something, rather than willingly serve them in love.

Someone made these insightful observations about the differences between a helper and a servant: A helper helps others when it’s convenient; a servant serves others even when it’s inconvenient. A helper helps when the work is enjoyable; a servant serves even when the work isn’t enjoyable.

The apostle Paul reminds us “to serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13). Why? Because saving faith always gives rise to love (Galatians 5:6), and love expresses itself in service. Love compels us to not “use [our] freedom to satisfy [our] sinful nature” but to love our neighbor as ourselves (Galatians 5:13-14)—desiring the very best for the other person as much as we would want it for ourselves. Love also prompts us not to use harsh words that destroy (Galatians 5:15).

My sister recently said, “Even while I’m pursuing my own interests and career, I know I need to help out more around the house.” That’s a concrete example of what it can mean to serve one another in love. May God work in us, providing what we need to serve others in love today!

 

The Great Life

By Oswald Chambers

The Great Life

Whenever we experience something difficult in our personal life, we are tempted to blame God. But we are the ones in the wrong, not God. Blaming God is evidence that we are refusing to let go of some disobedience somewhere in our lives. But as soon as we let go, everything becomes as clear as daylight to us. As long as we try to serve two masters, ourselves and God, there will be difficulties combined with doubt and confusion. Our attitude must be one of complete reliance on God. Once we get to that point, there is nothing easier than living the life of a saint. We encounter difficulties when we try to usurp the authority of the Holy Spirit for our own purposes.

God’s mark of approval, whenever you obey Him, is peace. He sends an immeasurable, deep peace; not a natural peace, “as the world gives,” but the peace of Jesus. Whenever peace does not come, wait until it does, or seek to find out why it is not coming. If you are acting on your own impulse, or out of a sense of the heroic, to be seen by others, the peace of Jesus will not exhibit itself. This shows no unity with God or confidence in Him. The spirit of simplicity, clarity, and unity is born through the Holy Spirit, not through your decisions. God counters our self-willed decisions with an appeal for simplicity and unity.

My questions arise whenever I cease to obey. When I do obey God, problems come, not between me and God, but as a means to keep my mind examining with amazement the revealed truth of God. But any problem that comes between God and myself is the result of disobedience. Any problem that comes while I obey God (and there will be many), increases my overjoyed delight, because I know that my Father knows and cares, and I can watch and anticipate how He will unravel my problems.

 

Heaven’s Love Song

From: Our Daily Bread

Heaven’s Love Song
Read: Revelation 5:1–13 | Bible in a Year: Joel 1–3; Revelation 5

We love him because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

In 1936, songwriter Billy Hill released a popular hit song titled “The Glory of Love.” Before long a nation was singing about the joy of doing even little things out of love for one another. Fifty years later, lyricist Peter Cetera wrote a more romantic song with a similar title. He imagined two people living forever, knowing together they did it all—for the glory of love.

Revelation, the last book in the Bible, describes a new love song that will someday lift the voices of everyone in heaven and earth (Revelation 5:9, 13). The music begins, however, in a minor key of mourning. John, our narrator, cries, seeing no answer to all that has gone wrong with the world (vv. 3–4). But his mood brightens and the music builds to a crescendo (vv. 12–13) as John learns the real glory and story of love. Soon he hears all creation praising the powerful Lion-King of Judah (v. 5), who has won the hearts of His subjects by lovingly sacrificing Himself, like a Lamb, for our rescue (v. 13).

In the most moving lyrics ever sung, we see why even simple acts of kindness rise on the wings of a song. The glory we sing about reflects the heart of our God. We sing about Him because He gave us our song.

Father, please help us to see that even the smallest acts of love and kindness can remind us of Your love for us.

In what ways can you thank God today through simple acts of kindness?

We Are Family

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We Are Family

From: Our Daily Journey

We Are Family

Read:

Psalm 133:1-3 
How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! (Psalm 133:1).

During a conference, believers in Jesus discussed differing perspectives on the relationship between Scripture and science. Although we disagreed about important matters, it was obvious the participants on all sides loved Jesus. We didn’t let our differences disguise our bond as members of God’s family. In fact, our unity seemed even sweeter because it shone within our differences.

As Jewish pilgrims walked up to Jerusalem to celebrate one of three annual festivals, they sang of this type of unity: “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” It “is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe” (Psalm 133:1-2). If this happened to me, I’d reach for some shampoo, but an Israelite would have understood. Aromatic oil was used to authorize and empower God’s prophets, priests, and kings. It was a tangible sign the leaders belonged to Him.

Pouring oil on someone’s head isn’t a common practice these days, but the unity it symbolized still authorizes and energizes us. Unity also refreshes, like the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the arid hills of Jerusalem (Psalm 133:3). Most significantly, Jesus said that when believers are united in love, the “world will know” that God loves them as much as He loves Jesus (John 17:23).

Thank God for like-minded believers who agree with us on disputable matters. But thank Him also for brothers and sisters who see things differently. They not only keep us seeking the Scriptures, but our differences supply an opportunity to rally around Jesus. How “wonderful and pleasant” it is to place our focus on Him!

 

Intercessory Prayer

By Oswald Chambers

Intercessory Prayer

You cannot truly intercede through prayer if you do not believe in the reality of redemption. Instead, you will simply be turning intercession into useless sympathy for others, which will serve only to increase the contentment they have for remaining out of touch with God. True intercession involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance. Intercession means to “fill up…[with] what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Colossians 1:24), and this is precisely why there are so few intercessors. People describe intercession by saying, “It is putting yourself in someone else’s place.” That is not true! Intercession is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective.

As an intercessor, be careful not to seek too much information from God regarding the situation you are praying about, because you may be overwhelmed. If you know too much, more than God has ordained for you to know, you can’t pray; the circumstances of the people become so overpowering that you are no longer able to get to the underlying truth.

Our work is to be in such close contact with God that we may have His mind about everything, but we shirk that responsibility by substituting doing for interceding. And yet intercession is the only thing that has no drawbacks, because it keeps our relationship completely open with God.

What we must avoid in intercession is praying for someone to be simply “patched up.” We must pray that person completely through into contact with the very life of God. Think of the number of people God has brought across our path, only to see us drop them! When we pray on the basis of redemption, God creates something He can create in no other way than through intercessory prayer.

 

The Holy Spirit and the one church

By: Charles Spurgeon

“These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.” Jude 19

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 8:5-13

The Holy Spirit when he comes in the heart comes like water. That is to say, he comes to purify the soul. He that is to-day as foul as he was before his pretended conversion is a hypocrite and a liar; he that this day loves sin and lives in it just as he was accustomed to do, let him know that the truth is not in him, but he hath received the strong delusion to believe a lie: God’s people are a holy people; God’s Spirit works by love, and purifies the soul. Once let it get into our hearts, and it will have no rest till it has turned every sin out. God’s Holy Spirit and man’s sin cannot live together peaceably; they may both be in the same heart, but they cannot both reign there, nor can they both be quiet there; for “the Spirit lusteth against the flesh, and the flesh lusts against the Spirit;” they cannot rest, but there will be a perpetual warring in the soul, so that the Christian will have to cry, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” But in due time the Spirit will drive out all sin, and will present us blameless before the throne of his Majesty with exceeding great joy. Now, answer this question for thyself, and not for another man. Hast thou received this Spirit? Answer me.

For meditation: When the Holy Spirit enters a person at the new birth, he begins to change that person for the better; but that involves declaring war on the flesh (Galatians 5:17). An intensified awareness of one’s sinfulness can be very distressing (Romans 7:24), but the believer can take courage in the knowledge that God is at work. Those who know nothing of these experiences since professing conversion should examine their professed faith, no matter what other experiences of the Spirit they may claim to have had.

Be Like Jesus And Not Like The World

Be like Jesus and not like the World. Understand the power of God as He works powerful signs through you as a willing servant.
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Inside Out

From: Our Daily journey

Inside Out

Read:

Matthew 5:43-48
You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

During two different semesters, I taught a “Discipleship Ministries” course to pastors and lay leaders at our local seminary. As we were reading through the Sermon on the Mount, memorizing Romans 12, and reading through Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy, one of my students said he’d been convicted. For the first time, he truly understood how Jesus wanted him to live out his faith in his workplace—a place where he’d often been tempted to harbor contempt toward moody and rude customers.

Throughout the Matthew 5 portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He repeats a variation of these words: “You have heard the law that says . . . But I say” (Matthew 5:21-22,27-28,31-32Matthew 5:33-34,38-39,43-44). Mostly well-intentioned religious leaders of the time had enacted laws and codes to help people follow God more intentionally. The people started believing, however, that following the rules—going through the motions—could make them pure and perfect.

But Jesus protested such theology. He said that if we’re striving to be like our heavenly Father—pure, perfect, holy (Matthew 5:48)—then it’s not enough to go through the motions on the outside. Obedience to God must be on the inside too—in our hearts (see Psalm 15:251:10,16-17). Only then, when our hearts are filled with love for God and others, will we be on our way to becoming pure in our relationships.

My student told our class he knew Jesus was calling him to serve and love customers who mistreated him. It wasn’t enough to be “kind on the outside,” he said. Jesus, through the strength of the Spirit, was calling him to rid himself of internal contempt and bitterness toward others—to be changed from the inside out.

Personality

By Oswald Chambers

Personality

Personality is the unique, limitless part of our life that makes us distinct from everyone else. It is too vast for us even to comprehend. An island in the sea may be just the top of a large mountain, and our personality is like that island. We don’t know the great depths of our being, therefore we cannot measure ourselves. We start out thinking we can, but soon realize that there is really only one Being who fully understands us, and that is our Creator.

Personality is the characteristic mark of the inner, spiritual man, just as individuality is the characteristic of the outer, natural man. Our Lord can never be described in terms of individuality and independence, but only in terms of His total Person— “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). Personality merges, and you only reach your true identity once you are merged with another person. When love or the Spirit of God come upon a person, he is transformed. He will then no longer insist on maintaining his individuality. Our Lord never referred to a person’s individuality or his isolated position, but spoke in terms of the total person— “…that they may be one just as We are one….” Once your rights to yourself are surrendered to God, your true personal nature begins responding to God immediately. Jesus Christ brings freedom to your total person, and even your individuality is transformed. The transformation is brought about by love— personal devotion to Jesus. Love is the overflowing result of one person in true fellowship with another.

 

The “No-Secret” Secret

The “No-Secret” Secret

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Romans 7:15

A coworker confessed to me that he didn’t think he was “Jesus material.” I listened as he described what he called his “comfortable, narcissistic” life, and how it didn’t satisfy him. “But here’s my problem, I’ve been trying to be good, even caring, but it isn’t working. It seems that the very things I want to do, I can’t do, and the things I want to stop doing, I just keep doing.”

“What’s your secret?” he asked me in complete sincerity. “My secret,” I answered, “is that there is no secret. I’m as powerless to live up to God’s standards as you are, which is why we need Jesus.”

I pulled out a Bible and showed him “his” quote as the apostle Paul expressed it in Romans 7:15. Paul’s words of frustration often resonate with both pre-Christians and Christians who find themselves trying to be good enough to deserve God but falling short. Maybe it resonates with you. If so, Paul’s declaration that Christ is the author of our salvation and its resulting changes (7:25–8:2) should thrill you. Jesus has already done the work to free us from the very things that have us so puzzled with ourselves!

The barrier between us and God, the barrier of sin, has been removed without any work on our part. Salvation—and the changes made by the Holy Spirit in the process of our growth—is what God desires for all. He knocks on the door of our souls. Answer His knock today. It’s no secret that He’s the answer!

Without Jesus, salvation and spiritual growth are both gifts beyond our reach.

Confession Heals You

1 John 1:9   ( The Doorway To Healing )

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

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Confession that Heals

From: Our Daily Journey

Confession that Heals

Read:

James 5:13-18
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (James 5:16).

Every Sunday at our church, before we receive communion, we bow our heads and our hearts as we confess our sin. Sometimes we may only repeat these simple words: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. We always include silence so that each of us can offer our particular failures and hopes to God. What I always find most powerful, however, is the confession we do aloud together, in unison, acknowledging how desperate all of us are for grace.

Early in James’ letter, he explained sin’s destructive power: wherever it goes, it leaves ruin. “Temptation comes from our own desires,” he wrote, “which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15). Far from being merely innocent indiscretion, sin destroys, like a cancer seeping into the soul.

Confession offers an antidote to sin’s malignant power (James 5:15). Through it, we open ourselves to freely receive the grace that heals us. Moreover, when we reveal our brokenness to others, we open ourselves to encounter the love that comes from God’s people, the body of Christ (James 5:16). It’s difficult, however, for God to heal us through others if we maintain masks and refuse to own our failures.

Confession heals because it’s the way we abandon our self-reliance and enter grace’s free-flowing stream. Instead of remaining isolated or resistant to the God who loves us, confession allows us to drop our guard, to stop hiding. It’s a way to leave our darkness and enter God’s brilliant light. And as our prayers of confession lay bare our hurting hearts, we can experience God’s mercy and forgiveness flooding in.

 

The man with the measuring line

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By: Charles Spurgeon

‘I…looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then said I, Whither goes thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof. ‘ Zechariah 2:1–2

Suggested Further Reading: Mark 9:38–41

You know, brethren, that there is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer, I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to admit it. But, my dear friends, far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none within her walls but Calvinistic Christians, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views. Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him, that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley. The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one of whom the world was not worthy. I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths, who nevertheless have received Christ into their hearts, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist out of heaven. I thank God we do not believe in the measuring line of any form of bigotry.

For meditation: Christ said ‘He that is not with me is against me’ (Luke 11:23); separation from such is commanded (2 John 7–11). But Christ also said ‘He that is not against us is for us’ (Luke 9:50); schism from such is condemned (3 John 9–10).

 

So Cries My Heart

By: Cheryl Crofoot Knapp

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I read their gut-wrenching words and pound my fists. I walked in their shoes, yet sit clueless how I should take away their agony. I despise “should” because it’s a word of shame. But that’s how I feel — ashamed that I can’t find words to help them. So goes another morning on a social media dementia support group.

Someone needs prayer because her loved one wandered away. Another aches because his loved one passed. Another regrets complaining how hard it was to be a caregiver — now all she wishes for is one more smile or “I love you.” Some feel their sacrifice is killing them and can’t wait until it’s over.

So, my heart cries.

Online support groups were a lifeline during my mom’s Alzheimer’s battle as I tried to balance her needs with mine. But balance is subjective. The disease caused my mom to weave from side to side as she walked down a hallway, and it caused me to emotionally weave from side to side when I responded to emergencies and balanced them with work, marriage, and sleep.

I stay in these support groups hoping to help them all — I was a caregiver! But on this morning, I was clueless. I was an eyewitness to this wretched disease twice. Yet I felt failure, which contradicted my belief that God called me to minister to caregivers.

So God took me for a walk — me, Him and the worship music playing in my ears. Coincidence that Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns played on my playlist? God knows when we feel like we tried again and failed. I heard the lies: I’m no good at ministry or writing, and I can’t help anybody.

He reminded me that He calls us for His purpose (Romans 8:28). He didn’t choose me to do everything for everyone. That’s His job. Mine is to contribute in accordance with the calling He gives me. I can help some of the people some of the time, but I can’t help all of the people all of the time. Only God does that. He has called me to write, point caregivers to God’s grace, and encourage them to find collateral beauty instead of collateral damage. If they rebuke God’s grace, I move on. Even Jesus moved on.

God desires my obedience, not my sacrifices. Obedience is a response to a request to do something. Sacrifice causes or permits injury for the sake of something else. God said,

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, …” Hosea 6:6 (NIV)

and that we are to

“Walk in obedience to all I command you, …” Jeremiah 7:23 (NIV)

Care giving is physically grueling, mentally exhausting, and spiritually depleting. I wasn’t asked to sacrifice my life for it, only be obedient.

Sacrifice is Jesus — sent to earth alone to die broken and alone in order for us to receive eternal life.

Obedience was Abraham’s willingness to kill his son, or Daniel’s concession to spend a night in the lion’s den because he was unwilling to stop praying, or my determination to take Mom’s frantic calls when she didn’t know where she was or what she was doing. Jesus said,

“… whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

That’s collateral beauty. That’s obedience.

God didn’t call me to help everyone, just lead them toward God’s grace. What I gave to my parents and Jesus was obedience (a living sacrifice), not a killing sacrifice (a burnt offering).

“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (NIV)

And the support groups? If God leads me to respond, I will. If God leads me to be quiet, I will. I will rest in obedience to the one who sacrificed it all and share God’s grace and mercy with them through my obedience to Him.

The Offering Of The Natural

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The Offering of the Natural

By Oswald Chambers

The Offering of the Natural

Paul was not dealing with sin in this chapter of Galatians, but with the relation of the natural to the spiritual. The natural can be turned into the spiritual only through sacrifice. Without this a person will lead a divided life. Why did God demand that the natural must be sacrificed? God did not demand it. It is not God’s perfect will, but His permissive will. God’s perfect will was for the natural to be changed into the spiritual through obedience. Sin is what made it necessary for the natural to be sacrificed.

Abraham had to offer up Ishmael before he offered up Isaac (see Genesis 21:8-14). Some of us are trying to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God before we have sacrificed the natural. The only way we can offer a spiritual sacrifice to God is to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice…” (Romans 12:1). Sanctification means more than being freed from sin. It means the deliberate commitment of myself to the God of my salvation, and being willing to pay whatever it may cost.

If we do not sacrifice the natural to the spiritual, the natural life will resist and defy the life of the Son of God in us and will produce continual turmoil. This is always the result of an undisciplined spiritual nature. We go wrong because we stubbornly refuse to discipline ourselves physically, morally, or mentally. We excuse ourselves by saying, “Well, I wasn’t taught to be disciplined when I was a child.” Then discipline yourself now! If you don’t, you will ruin your entire personal life for God.

God is not actively involved with our natural life as long as we continue to pamper and gratify it. But once we are willing to put it out in the desert and are determined to keep it under control, God will be with it. He will then provide wells and oases and fulfill all His promises for the natural (see Genesis 21:15-19).

 

Early and late

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‘The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man … which went out early in the morning to hire laborers … And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle … Again he went out, about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle.’ Matthew 20:1,3,5–6

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Chronicles 33:1–1334:1–3

Some of us in time and in eternity will have to utter a special song of thankfulness to the love which took us in our days of folly and simplicity, and conducted us into the family of God. Look at the grace which calls man at the age of twenty, when the passions are hot, when there is strong temptation to plunge into the vices and the so-called pleasures of life. To be delivered from the charms of sin, when the world’s cheek is ruddy, when it wears its best attire, and to be taught to prefer the reproach of Christ to all the riches of Egypt, this is mighty grace for which God shall have our sweetest song. To be called of the Lord at forty, in the prime of life, is a wonderful instance of divine power, for worldliness is hard to overcome, and worldliness is the sin of middle age. With a family about you, with much business, with the world eating into you as does a canker, it is a wonder that God should in his mercy have visited you then, and made you a regenerate soul. You are a miracle of grace, and you will have to feel it and to praise God for it in time and eternity. Sixty again. ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.’ And yet you have learned; you have had a blessed schoolmaster who sweetly taught you, and you have learned to do well. Though your vessel had begun to rot in the waters of the Black Sea of sin, you have got a new owner, and you will run up a new flag, and you will sail round the Cape of Good Hope to the Islands of the Blessed, in the Land of the Hereafter. But what shall I say of you that are called when you are aged? You will have to love much, for you have had much forgiven.

For meditation: Best to come to Christ early (Ecclesiastes 12:1), but better late than never (Luke 23:39–43).

 

The wailing of Risca

By: Charles Spurgeon

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wailing wall from the Palestinian side 

“Suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment.” Jeremiah 4:20

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 12:35-48

Live while you live; while it is called today, work, for the night cometh wherein no man can work. And let us learn never to do anything which we would not wish to be found doing if we were to die. We are sometimes asked by young people whether they may go to the theatre, whether they may dance, or whether they may do this or that. You may do anything which you would not be ashamed to be doing when Christ shall come. You may do anything which you would not blush to be found doing if the hand of death should smite you; but if you would dread to die in any spot, go not there; if you would not wish to enter the presence of your God with such-and-such a word upon your lip, utter not that word; or if there would be a thought that would be uncongenial to the judgment-day, seek not to think that thought. So act that you may feel you can take your shroud with you wherever you go. Happy is he that dies in his pulpit. Blessed is the man that dies in his daily business, for he is found with his loins girt about him serving his Master; but, unhappy must he be to whom death comes as an intruder, and finds him engaged in that which he will blush to have ever touched, when God shall appear in judgment. Power supreme; thou everlasting king; permit not death to intrude upon an ill-spent hour, but find me rapt in meditation high; singing my great Creator; proclaiming the love of Jesus, or lifting up my heart in prayer for myself and my fellow-sinners.

For meditation: Life contains a final moment when it will be impossible to explain away or cover up something inappropriate.

note: This sermon was occasioned by a mine explosion, in which some two hundred or so miners were killed, at Risca, near Newport in South Wales. Spurgeon had often gone to the Vale of Risca to rest and preach.

Focus On Jesus

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Focus on Jesus

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by Inspiration Ministries

“‘But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.’” Micah 5:2 NKJV

A woman was riding on a bus during the Christmas season. As the story was told by C.S. Lewis, the great writer and Christian apologist, the bus passed a church with a manger scene on display. In disgust, the woman loudly commented, “They bring religion into everything. Look—they’re dragging it even into Christmas now!”

Her reaction demonstrates a transition that has taken place. For many people, the Christmas season has nothing to do with Jesus. Instead, this is purely a time of gift-giving and shopping, parties and celebrations, decorations and holidays. Christmas is even a busy time for many Christians, with a heavy schedule of special services. By themselves, these activities may be fine. But sadly, many people simply don’t want to talk about Jesus.

Think about these examples: A major bank announced that it was closing for “bank holidays,” rather than Christmas. A commercial from a large company edited “God” out of the lyrics of a Christmas carol. Many companies refer to “season’s greetings” or “happy holidays” and refuse to talk about Jesus. One well-known television network specializes in Christmas programming but does not allow anyone to refer to Jesus. The focus entirely is on Santa Claus, gifts, and the secular aspects of the season.

When you think about the Christmas season, what thoughts fill your heart and mind? What are your priorities? Are you preoccupied and busy? Are you focused on the superficial things so important to the world? How often have you paused to think about Jesus? To focus on Him and Him alone? To worship Him?

 

Can, Can’t

From: Our Daily Journey

Can, Can’t

Read:

Exodus 3:1–4:5
It was by faith that Moses . . . chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:24-25).

“I can’t do this math,” the bright little boy declared.

“Yes, I think you can,” his teacher gently countered.

“No, I can’t!” he said, biting hard on the last syllable.

The teacher thought for a moment. She wanted to use an example of something too difficult for him—something that could teach him how to approach a task step-by-step. So she asked, “Liam, do you think you can climb Mount Everest?”

The eight-year-old looked thoughtfully up to the ceiling, then said with confidence, “Yeah, probably.”

With just a little instruction, that third-grader is fully capable of doing fractions. But at this point in his life he can’t even climb Mount Fuji (12,388 feet), let alone Everest! (29,029 feet).

Scaling Mount Sinai is among Moses’ most amazing feats. Sinai’s elevation isn’t remarkable, but its history is unparalleled. That’s where Moses met face-to-face with God and received the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 19:1–20:26). But consider the backstory. Before the exodus, Moses had been watching sheep “coincidentally” at Sinai. God showed up in a burning bush and told Moses to lead God’s people out of Egypt (Exodus 3:1-6). Five times Moses protested against God’s direct command (Exodus 3:11,13Exodus 4:1,10,13). And five times God basically said, “You’re the one I’ve chosen!”

Now consider the backstory to that. Much earlier, Moses had tried to defend his people. But he did it his way—he murdered an Egyptian and was forced to flee (Exodus 2:11-15). Eventually Moses—backed by Aaron but led by God—did challenge Pharaoh. And God used Moses to change the world.

Left to our own strength, we’ll make a mess of things. But when God calls us, He’ll provide what’s needed to complete the mission. Moses is proof of that.

 

One Day We’ll See

By: Carlos Garcia

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Years ago, I made friends with one of the new guys on my Christian college campus. He had such a passion for God, but he was unstable in that he needed much reassurance in his walk with the Lord. I will call him “Johnnie G” from NYC.

Johnnie G made it a point to always show his appreciation for the ministry time bestowed him and one day declared that he would rent a limo and take me to the best places in NYC including tickets to the best seat to watch The Phantom of the Opera. Johnnie said, “Just let me know and I will make it happen.”

The offer would seem tempting to some people, but my focus was so much on ministry and ministering to others that I did not take the time to see the offer as an important way of connecting; instead of seeing this as some “reward” or payback. He ended up going to another Christian university and I would not see him again. I would pray for him from time to time for the next 10 years, but unfortunately, I did not consider connecting with him until 2001, after September 11.

The towers fell in NYC. I remember feeling overwhelmed like many of us, and suddenly my college friend, Johnnie G came to mind. I remember feeling so bad that I had not taken the time to connect with my friend who I had so frequently taken the time to minister to, but I did not avail myself of developing a greater friendship. So I sought him out. Unfortunately, no one knew his whereabouts which only fueled my worst fears. I even wrote someone in upper New York who had his last name in hopes of reaching him, but no reply was given.

Admittedly, during the second 10 years, I would pray for him from time to time hoping that if he were still alive that the Lord would strengthen him in his walk with God, that he would be solid and not faint. Eventually, the hopes of finding him faded and life continued as usual until the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 when the names of all who tragically passed away were being read. I listened intently when the G’s were read to see if his name was read and they moved on to the next letter of names and a huge weight came off my chest.

Two years later, I began yet another search and found someone with his name on a Christian website. I passed on my information in hopes that someone would call me back. A few days later, I receive a huge surprise. I received a call from Bogata, Columbia. It was my old friend Johnnie G. He not only was doing well serving the Lord and standing strong in Christ, but he was celebrating 20 plus years of national and international ministry!

I spent so much time concerned about my friend’s walk with Christ over the years and the Lord made this so clear: He kept Johnnie G – and Johnnie G flourished in his walk with the Lord. He became solid and he has since mentored many others.

In Jude, it says the following: “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy…” Jude 1:24 (NIV)

And Paul writes: “Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, … ” Romans 16:25 (NIV)

My encouragement to those of you who have sown seed into people’s lives is: know that the seed will one day bear fruit. It will produce and the seeds you have sown are not in vain. It is not our responsibility to know how, or when, or if the seeds will grow. It is just our responsibility to sow and water, and it is the Lord who brings the increase. When we reach glory, we will be amazed at the bumper crop the sowing and watering produced. So, my final word to you is… keep sowing and keep watering, one day you will see the results, if not on Earth then in Heaven.

Learning Another’s Song

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Learning Another’s Song

From: Our Daily Journey

Learning Another’s Song

Read:

Acts 11:19-26
The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord (Acts 11:21).

During my master’s degree studies, I attended a church with people from many different nations and ethnic backgrounds, where we often worshiped by singing songs in various languages. One year for Christmas the choir director asked me to teach the other choir members a carol in my native Romanian language. Tears streamed down my face when we sang it on Christmas Eve. I was away from my home country, yet at home with brothers and sisters in Jesus who loved me enough to learn a song in my heart language.

The people in the city of Antioch must have felt similarly moved when Christians from the island of Cyprus and the North African city of Cyrene willingly shared the good news of Jesus with them. These Jewish Christians were refugees from persecution, yet they persevered in sharing the faith, and “the power of the Lord was with them” (Acts 11:21).

Antioch was a center for travel and commerce in the Roman Empire, so its population was ethnically diverse. The church contained Jews, Romans, Syrians, Greeks, and other nationalities. This multinational church demonstrated to the leaders in Jerusalem that the gospel can transcend ethnic boundaries (Acts 11:22-23). It was the beginning of the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that “the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it” (Matthew 24:14).

When believers from diverse backgrounds fellowship together in unity, God receives the glory and those around us can recognize His love. May we find in Him the courage to intentionally love, serve, and worship with brothers and sisters who are different from, and yet “one” with us! (Galatians 3:28).

 

The Impartial Power of God

By Oswald Chambers

The Impartial Power of God

We trample the blood of the Son of God underfoot if we think we are forgiven because we are sorry for our sins. The only reason for the forgiveness of our sins by God, and the infinite depth of His promise to forget them, is the death of Jesus Christ. Our repentance is merely the result of our personal realization of the atonement by the Cross of Christ, which He has provided for us. “…Christ Jesus…became for us wisdom from God— and righteousness and sanctification and redemption…” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Once we realize that Christ has become all this for us, the limitless joy of God begins in us. And wherever the joy of God is not present, the death sentence is still in effect.

No matter who or what we are, God restores us to right standing with Himself only by means of the death of Jesus Christ. God does this, not because Jesus pleads with Him to do so but because He died. It cannot be earned, just accepted. All the pleading for salvation which deliberately ignores the Cross of Christ is useless. It is knocking at a door other than the one which Jesus has already opened. We protest by saying, “But I don’t want to come that way. It is too humiliating to be received as a sinner.” God’s response, through Peter, is, “… there is no other name…by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). What at first appears to be heartlessness on God’s part is actually the true expression of His heart. There is unlimited entrance His way. “In Him we have redemption through His blood…” (Ephesians 1:7). To identify with the death of Jesus Christ means that we must die to everything that was never a part of Him.

God is just in saving bad people only as He makes them good. Our Lord does not pretend we are all right when we are all wrong. The atonement by the Cross of Christ is the propitiation God uses to make unholy people holy.

 

Streams In The Desert

By: L.B. Cowman

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Put on as the elect of God, kindness (Colossians 3:12).

There is a story of an old man who carried a little can of oil with him everywhere he went, and if he passed through a door that squeaked, he poured a little oil on the hinges. If a gate was hard to open, he oiled the latch. And thus he passed through life lubricating all hard places and making it easier for those who came after him. People called him eccentric, queer, and cranky; but the old man went steadily on refilling his can of oil when it became empty, and oiled the hard places he found.

There are many lives that creak and grate harshly as they live day by day. Nothing goes right with them. They need lubricating with the oil of gladness, gentleness, or thoughtfulness.

Have you your own can of oil with you? Be ready with your oil of helpfulness in the early morning to the one nearest you. It may lubricate the whole day for him. The oil, of good cheer to the downhearted one–Oh, how much it may mean! The word of courage to the despairing. Speak it. Our lives touch others but once, perhaps, on the road of life; and then, mayhap, our ways diverge, never to meet again.

The oil of kindness has worn the sharp, hard edges off of many a sin-hardened life and left it soft and pliable and ready for the redeeming grace of the Saviour. A word spoken pleasantly is a large spot of sunshine on a sad heart. Therefore, “Give others the sunshine, tell Jesus the rest.”

We cannot know the grief
That men may borrow;
We cannot see the souls
Storm-swept by sorrow;
But love can shine upon the way
Today, tomorrow;
Let us be kind.
Upon the wheel of pain so many weary lives are broken,
We live in vain who give no tender token.
Let us be kind.

“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love” (Romans 12:10).

Looking For Peace On Earth

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Author: Janet Ruth

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When we think of the Bible and the word ‘peace’ we are likely to picture the scene of shepherds guarding their sheep by night. Suddenly, an angel appears with good news about a baby in a manger, then a multitude of angels join in singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men.” We hear about it every Christmas: peace on earth. We sing about it. We pray for it. Peace on Earth: an end to wars, an end to bitterness and hostility, an end to fear. We even talk about how nice it would be to have Christmas all year long, so we could always focus on Peace and Goodwill to Men (and Women – all of Mankind, in fact).

But the wars go on. Bitter struggles that have lasted for centuries continue. We find new ways to kill, new things to be afraid of. The Christmas ideal of Peace on Earth seems to be nothing more than an oasis in the midst of a violent world – or maybe it’s just a mirage.

When we think about peace, it’s important to remember that Satan and God have been at war since the beginning of time. As Christians we have switched sides in the Great War and joined God’s forces. We are no longer at war with God. He has offered us peace. Unfortunately, peace with God means we are now at war with Satan and all his forces. So our peace is not complete, yet. It won’t be complete until Satan is defeated and removed from the earth or we go home to be in heaven.

Perhaps the angels meant that because of Jesus’ birth we can find peace with God and eventually complete peace will reign when Satan is defeated. But I think there’s something more to the peace God offers than just an end of war and conflict. It involves more than just the lack of commotion and difficulties. It promises something else than the absence of fear. Jesus didn’t come to earth to take our problems away. He came to stand with us in the midst of our problems so we would find that he, himself, is our peace.

The word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’ or ‘good tidings.’ The angel that came to the shepherds said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.” (Luke 2:10) He came to announce the gospel, the good news that Jesus had come into the world. The good news doesn’t end with the Christmas story. Jesus taught us how to know God and how to serve him, he showed us how to love each other, and then he gave his own life as a sacrifice for our sins so we could live with him someday in heaven. But the good news doesn’t end with Easter, either. Jesus is living in heaven right now, watching over us. The Holy Spirit lives within us to help us know God better and to experience his love. God has a plan for your life, and he has a plan for the whole world. In the end, everything will work out according to his plan, and he – and we – will be victorious. That’s good news!

So this Christmas when you think about Peace on Earth, thank God for sending his Son to be our Peace – now and forever.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

 

Repentance

By Oswald Chambers

Repentance

Conviction of sin is best described in the words:

My sins, my sins, my Savior,
How sad on Thee they fall.

Conviction of sin is one of the most uncommon things that ever happens to a person. It is the beginning of an understanding of God. Jesus Christ said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict people of sin (see John 16:8). And when the Holy Spirit stirs a person’s conscience and brings him into the presence of God, it is not that person’s relationship with others that bothers him but his relationship with God— “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight…” (Psalm 51:4). The wonders of conviction of sin, forgiveness, and holiness are so interwoven that it is only the forgiven person who is truly holy. He proves he is forgiven by being the opposite of what he was previously, by the grace of God. Repentance always brings a person to the point of saying, “I have sinned.” The surest sign that God is at work in his life is when he says that and means it. Anything less is simply sorrow for having made foolish mistakes— a reflex action caused by self-disgust.

The entrance into the kingdom of God is through the sharp, sudden pains of repentance colliding with man’s respectable “goodness.” Then the Holy Spirit, who produces these struggles, begins the formation of the Son of God in the person’s life (see Galatians 4:19). This new life will reveal itself in conscious repentance followed by unconscious holiness, never the other way around. The foundation of Christianity is repentance. Strictly speaking, a person cannot repent when he chooses— repentance is a gift of God. The old Puritans used to pray for “the gift of tears.” If you ever cease to understand the value of repentance, you allow yourself to remain in sin. Examine yourself to see if you have forgotten how to be truly repentant.

 

God’s Hidden Hand

God’s Hidden Hand
Read: Psalm 139:13–18 | Bible in a Year: Daniel 5–7; 2 John

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16

My friend was adopted by a missionary couple from the United States and grew up in Ghana. After his family moved back to the US, he began college but had to drop out. Later, he signed on with the military, which eventually helped him pay for college and took him all over the world. Through it all, God was at work, preparing him for a special role. Today, he writes and edits Christian literature that ministers to an international audience.

His wife also has an interesting story. She failed her chemistry exams during her first year of college due to the strong medication she had to take for epilepsy. After some careful deliberation, she switched from studying science to studying American Sign Language, which had a more manageable workload. Reflecting on that experience, she says, “God was redirecting my life for a greater purpose.” Today, she is making His life-changing Word accessible to the hearing-impaired.

Do you sometimes wonder where God is leading you? Psalm 139:16 acknowledges God’s sovereign hand in our lives: “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” We don’t know how God will use the circumstances of our life, but we can rest in the knowledge that God knows everything about us and is directing our footsteps. Though His sovereign hand may seem hidden, He’s never absent.

Dear Lord, help me to trust You even when I don’t understand.

What steps can you take to discern God’s leading or to act on His call for your life?

 

Divine Connection

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Divine Connection

Divine Connection

Read:

John 15:1-17
Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).

After recently changing cable TV service providers, my family struggled to figure out how to view our favorite content. We tried following the same steps we’d utilized with our previous company, but to no avail. Eventually it became clear that a certain connection had to be made in order to gain access to the new provider’s programming archives. The service wasn’t functional without this connection, but once it was in place we were able to unlock its full potential.

Similarly, believers in Jesus are unable to thrive without a deep connection to Him. When Christ described Himself as a vine and His followers as branches, He was illustrating how absolutely dependent we are on Him. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you,” He said. “For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me” (John 15:4). We won’t become everything God intended unless we’re connected to Him. In fact, without an abiding connection to Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:5). But by remaining in and connected to Him, we’ll be able to produce much fruit and bring honor to our heavenly Father (John 15:8).

According to Jesus, the way to remain in His love is to obey His commands by His power (John 15:10). And Jesus’ most important command is love—to love each other in the same way He has loved us (John 15:12). By loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind, and loving our neighbor as ourselves, the entire law and all the demands of the prophets are fulfilled (Matthew 22:37-40).

As we obey God and walk in His love, we enjoy a deep, abiding connection with Him and His Spirit empowers a life that produces living fruit.

“My Rainbow in the Cloud”

By Oswald Chambers

It is the will of God that human beings should get into a right-standing relationship with Him, and His covenants are designed for this purpose. Why doesn’t God save me? He has accomplished and provided for my salvation, but I have not yet entered into a relationship with Him. Why doesn’t God do everything we ask? He has done it. The point is— will I step into that covenant relationship? All the great blessings of God are finished and complete, but they are not mine until I enter into a relationship with Him on the basis of His covenant.

Waiting for God to act is fleshly unbelief. It means that I have no faith in Him. I wait for Him to do something in me so I may trust in that. But God won’t do it, because that is not the basis of the God-and-man relationship. Man must go beyond the physical body and feelings in his covenant with God, just as God goes beyond Himself in reaching out with His covenant to man. It is a question of faith in God— a very rare thing. We only have faith in our feelings. I don’t believe God until He puts something tangible in my hand, so that I know I have it. Then I say, “Now I believe.” There is no faith exhibited in that. God says, “Look to Me, and be saved…” (Isaiah 45:22).

When I have really transacted business with God on the basis of His covenant, letting everything else go, there is no sense of personal achievement— no human ingredient in it at all. Instead, there is a complete overwhelming sense of being brought into union with God, and my life is transformed and radiates peace and joy.

 

The Fiery Furnace

By: Terry Meeuwsen

Is it just me, or does it seem to you that more and more people are being diagnosed with debilitating or life-threatening illnesses?

In the last year, I’ve had close friends diagnosed with breast cancer, melanoma, fibromyalgia, prostate cancer, and lymphoma. Some have survived extreme medical treatments and are recovering; some are still battling for their lives; some have been healed. Affected friends struggle to keep their families intact and their lives balanced. They strive to maintain dignity and hope in circumstances that try to rob them of both.

The words, “Why, God?” passed my lips more than once, but God didn’t reveal any pat answers to me. God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. His Word tells us that His plans give us a hope and a future.

King Nebuchadnezzar dictated that everyone in the land worship a 90-foot gold statue or be thrown into a blazing furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were young Jewish men who worshipped God and God alone. They would not worship the idol. Furious, the king ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. It was so hot that the raging fire consumed the men who bound them and threw them into the furnace.

Just before being thrown in, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego spoke to the king:

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matt. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18 (NKJV)

Sometimes we are not able to control our circumstances or our future. We know that this world and its woes are temporary for us. We know that nothing will happen to us that God won’t give us grace to walk through. We know that when we are too tired to go on, He will personally carry us with tender strength.

O God, we know that You are able to save us and rescue us. We are asking You to heal us for Your glory. But even if You don’t we will serve You and You alone. As we walk through this fire, conform us to You. Strengthen our bodies and our spirits and stay close to us in the darkness.