Rejecting God’s Word for Wealth

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Rejecting God’s Word for Wealth

By: Terry Meeuwsen, cbn.com

A story that haunts me is Jesus’ encounter with a nameless, wealthy young man as he made his final journey toward Jerusalem.

Here was an important civic leader, a youthful climber with a prestige, bearing, and bank account that would have been the envy of many older men in Judea. But there was a hollowness in his chest that led him ever so close to the God adventure of a lifetime.

For all his status and personal wealth, this man had a hungry heart. The gospel of Mark tells us that he ran to Jesus, falling on his knees in the dust before him. You know the story. He asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life. He knew the commands, and he’d kept them all since he was a boy.

But there was something more, and he knew it. He deeply wanted that something. But with all his heart? Not quite.

Mark tells us that Jesus looked at him and loved him.

“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

It was a wide-open invitation into a God adventure from the lips of God’s Son. “Your mission, should you choose to accept it….” We know that he didn’t accept the mission. We know that he “went away sad.” The original language seems to indicate that this was something more than feeling a little down. He grieved. His heart was very heavy. Everything in him told him he was making a wrong choice…but he made it anyway. Jesus wasn’t asking him for his money. He wanted to change his identity. He was inviting him into a new way of life. It’s quite a picture isn’t it? That invitation is still extended to each of us today.

But what if he’d made a different choice? What if this young man whom Jesus loved so dearly had taken a deep breath, agreed to the Lord’s terms, went back to his beautiful villa and sold everything he owned, except the clothes on his back. What if he had turned those assets over to a steward with the instructions to distribute everything, right down to the last denarius, to the poor people in towns and villages across Judea. Then, let’s imagine he came running back to Jesus, fell at His knees again, and said, “Teacher, it’s done. Everything’s gone. Everything’s sold. Lead me, Lord!”

What would his life have been like from that point on?

We can’t know that, of course. Since we’ll never know…the wise choice is to always follow God, no matter what He asks, no matter where He leads. Even if it’s to a cross.

Always Trusting – Streams in the Desert – March 6

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. Not only this, but it is now the third day since these things happened (Luke 24:21).

I have always felt so sorry that in that walk to Emmaus the disciples had not said to Jesus, “We still trust”; instead of “We trusted.” That is so sad—something that is all over.

If they had only said, “Everything is against our hope; it looks as if our trust was vain, but we do not give up; we believe we shall see Him again.” But no, they walked by His side declaring their lost faith, and He had to say to them “O fools, and slow of heart to believe!”

Are we not in the same danger of having these words said to us? We can afford to lose anything and everything if we do not lose our faith in the God of truth and love.

Let us never put our faith, as these disciples did, in a past tense—“We trusted.” But let us ever say, “I am trusting.”
—Crumbs

The soft, sweet summer was warm and glowing,
Bright were the blossoms on every bough:
I trusted Him when the roses were blooming;
I trust Him now…

Small were my faith should it weakly falter 
Now that the roses have ceased to blow; 
Frail were the trust that now should alter, 
Doubting His love when storm clouds grow.
—The Song of a Bird in a Winter Storm

Through The Bible Devotions

Numbers 12:1-3 (NIV) 1Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2“Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the LORD heard this. 3(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)

Moses family didn’t approve of his marriage. We don’t know what happened to Zipporah, his first wife. The new wife was an Egyptian, probably one of the multitude that came out with the Israelites to worship the God of the Hebrews. I think Moses was big enough to make his own decisions, and godly enough not to be second-guessed. The real issue is leadership. Who has the final say? “Shouldn’t we vote on whether or not this is the right decision? God speaks to us too! Why should he remarry at his age (80+yrs)?”

Yes, He does speak to them. We just saw in the last chapter how His Spirit was placed upon the elders. The question remains, who will have the final say? It is a power struggle, and not the last one we will see in the desert. The power belongs to God. He’s in charge. He is leading through his servant Moses, but helping him with the elders. This most humble of men does not defend himself and his decision to marry, but God will defend him.

We can know that if we are walking with the LORD, in humble submission to Him, that we need not defend ourselves. The office of the prophet as the intermediary between God and man has since ceased (Luke 16:16). The Holy Spirit communes with each of us, and we have His Word. Still, the principle is the same. We will often be questioned, and sometimes our whole family will be against us (Matthew 10:36). We should know that we need not argue our case. If it is a righteous decision, the LORD will defend us. If it is not a godly decision, we will see by the fruit and learn from our mistake. That is genuine humility.

Meditation: Can I trust God to defend my godly decisions?

Perception

by Inspiration Ministries

“So may the Lord be with you, when I let you and your little ones go! Watch out, for evil is on your mind.” – Exodus 10:10 NASB

Moses had no doubts. He had no hidden motivations or secret agendas. He really had heard from God. This was not a personal matter. He simply was delivering God’s message: “Let My people go” (v. 3).

But Pharaoh was not convinced. He accused the Israelites of being lazy (Exodus 5:8). To Pharaoh, Moses’ request was a spiritual attack. His perception was that they were motivated by evil. He thought it represented a rejection of Egypt’s fundamental beliefs. He felt his conclusions were justified, certain he was defending their way of life.

In some ways, Pharaoh was right. This was a spiritual issue, a conflict between the one true God and the gods of Egypt. To agree with Moses’ request was to acknowledge that the Israelites were right that their God was more powerful. To reject Moses’ request continued the argument that the Egyptian gods represented the correct religion.

Similarly, we should not be surprised when people in the world develop their own perceptions of our beliefs about God and the Bible. They think differently about what it means to be born again and follow Jesus. They may project their philosophy and develop explanations that make sense to them. From their point of view, our actions may be contrary to their best interests – even wrong.

Ask God to help you be sure about what you believe. Be confident in your relationship with Him. Stand on His Word. Don’t compromise.

Jesus Will Be Arriving

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Jesus Will Be Arriving

sky with sun rays

 

By: Beth Patch , cbn.com

“JESUS WILL ARRIVE IN 3 DAYS” displayed on my vacation rental manager app. I smiled. I never had a guest with the first name Jesus before. The message sparked my imagination.

What would I do if I knew Jesus Christ, my Savior, was returning in three days? [Please forgive the break from reality – I know none of us will know ahead of time (Matthew 24:36).]

Imagine with me — Jesus arrives in three days. My first reaction is joy. I’m going home. I will be with Jesus, my closest friend! God’s son who suffered torture and death to bear the penalty for my rebellious sinful life is coming to get me. The faithful one who stayed with me in times of deep sorrow, who carried my burdens and changed my life for the better is on his way. I will be taken away from this place riddled with death, hatred, evil, and unfairness. The epic day, the huge change in life as we know it, is happening in three days.

Amid all my exciting visions of trumpets blasting, the sky filled with angels, and praises to the Lord Jesus coming from all those around me who are being drawn to him, I hit a moment of despair.

What about those who never believed they were sinners? Those who never reconciled with God the Father? I know some of them. I love them. Their future will be much different. They will receive God’s judgment for their sins. They didn’t believe the Father loves them. They only believed what they thought was right. They never humbled themselves to God and admitted they had sinned against the great I AM. They thought it was all foolishness. They didn’t believe they needed forgiveness or mercy. And now, in three days, their souls will be forever separated from Almighty God and headed for hell. They will be judged. And the prince of this world, Satan, will laugh at them and torture them forever … there will be screaming and crying and begging for mercy.

My spirit grieves for them. All of a sudden, I’m not elated anymore. Time’s up. The judgment is coming. In three days.

It’s not enough time. I don’t want anyone to spend eternity separated from Father God and suffering in hell. And, the truth is, it could be today.

But when we die we will be face-to-face with Christ, the One who experienced death once for all to bear the sins of many! And now to those who eagerly await him, he will appear a second time; not to deal with sin, but to bring us the fullness of salvation. (Hebrews 9:28 TPT)

Lord, please help us to remember those who are lost and spend the rest of our time here doing all we can to be vessels that you will use to build your kingdom. Help us to live so surrendered to you that others want to know you because they are attracted to the light of your great love. The signs are everywhere that your return is soon. Please pour out your spirit. Have mercy on us, oh Lord.

How Can I Hear From God?

by Adam Weber, crosswalk.com

My wife says sometimes I talk too much.

It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I know it’s true. If you have a pulse, I can and will talk with you. A lot.

“You need to give others a chance to talk and just listen,” she’ll tell me.

Just listen.

This is good advice for having a conversation with a friend, coworker, or stranger. I mean, it’s a basic social norm and a common courtesy that one acquires by the age of 5. It’s important to listen to others. To give others a chance to speak and share. To give each other a turn to talk.

But it’s also good advice when it comes to prayer and talking with God.

To give Him a turn.
To give God a chance to speak.
To listen to Him.

While many of us, especially us extroverts, are good at talking with people, we often struggle when it comes to speaking with God. Prayer can be overwhelming for many because we don’t know the words to speak. That said, when it comes to prayer, the most important part isn’t speaking. It’s listening!

Listening and giving God a chance to speak isn’t just good advice, it’s necessary and vital to having a true conversation with God.

Now, we can hear from and listen to God at any place and at any time, but we must know what the voice of God sounds like.

The best place to start knowing His voice is by opening up the B-i-b-l-e. #SundaySchool. By seeing His words come alive. As we read, we come to understand the character and heart of God. We come to know His promises and truths. His ways. We see what God has said in the past, which gives us a good idea of what He’ll say to us today. And what He won’t say to us. We come to know what His voice sounds like.

Unlike we naturally assume, when God speaks in the Bible, it’s often not in a loud booming voice from heaven that stops traffic. Instead when God speaks, He does so using a still small voice.

Instead of brashly breaking into our lives, He stands at our front door and gently knocks.
Instead of shouting when we don’t listen, we’re told that He draws us to Himself with His kindness, not His anger.

When it comes to hearing from God, often the main question that we need to answer is the most basic one: Do we want to hear from Him?

If we do, we need to give God the space and room to speak.

More practically, invite God to speak and then be quiet.
Turn off the noise. Instead of checking Twitter between meetings, be still for three minutes and listen.
Get into the Bible. Again, we have to be able to recognize God’s voice if we want to hear it.
Declutter your life. Is every ounce of your day full (including every evening and weekend)? Good luck hearing from a God who whispers and quietly knocks.

If we want to hear from God, we need to give Him time.

Time to share.
Time listening.
Time and availability to speak into our lives.

We need to.

Just listen.

Jesus about his Father’s business

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” John 4:34

Suggested Further Reading: John 18:33-40

Satan took him to the brow of a hill, and offered him all the kingdoms of this world—a mightier dominion even than Caesar had—if he would bow down and worship him. That temptation was substantially repeated in Christ’s life a thousand times. You remember one practical instance as a specimen of the whole. “They would have taken him by force and would have made him a king.” And if he had but pleased to accept that offer, on the day when he rode into Jerusalem upon a colt, the foal of an ass, when all cried “Hosanna!” when the palm branches were waving, he had needed to have done nothing but just to have gone into the temple, to have commanded with authority the priest to pour the sacred oil publicly upon his head, and he would have been king of the Jews. Not with the mock title which he wore upon the cross, but with a real dignity he might have been monarch of nations. As for the Romans, his omnipotence could have swept away the intruders. He could have lifted up Judaea into a glory as great as the golden days of Solomon: he might have built Palmyras and Tadmors in the desert: he might have stormed Egypt and have taken Rome. There was no empire that could have resisted him. With a band of zealots such as that nation could have furnished, and with such a leader capable of working miracles walking at the head, the star of Judaea might have risen with resplendent light, and a visible kingdom might have come, and his will might have been done on earth, from the river unto the ends of the earth. But he came not to establish a carnal kingdom upon earth, else would his followers fight: he came to wear the thorn-crown, to bear our griefs and to carry our sorrows.

For meditation: Of what profit would it have been to any man, if Christ had gained the whole world and lost all our souls?

Incomplete Maps

by Inspiration Ministries

“Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12 NASB

Christopher Columbus sailed westward from Spain, hoping to reach the Far East. He reached new lands but not his original destination. Ferdinand Magellan and others later proved China could be reached by sailing westward but the route was long and perilous.

Many, like John Cabot, believed there was a shorter route, a northwest passage through or around North America. It was on this day in 1496 that Cabot was commissioned by England’s King Henry VII to explore the new world, hoping among other things to find that passage.

Risks were high, and Cabot was forced to rely on incomplete maps, drawn largely out of speculation. Like many other voyages of his time, the result was a failure.

Gradually, maps became more accurate. Finally in 1854, the Northwest Passage was discovered – but by land. The sea route was not discovered until 1906. Cabot would have been surprised to learn that the passage was located north of the Arctic Circle – not where he expected it to be.

In similar ways, we all depend upon various maps to chart our way. But all human maps are incomplete and flawed. As Paul wrote, we just “know in part” and see things imperfectly. But God has given us the Bible, a timelessly true map, packed with principles to help us make decisions.

Depend on the sure map that can guide you. Know the Word. Study the Word. Live by the Word.

Prayer

The Backyard Disaster

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Pin on Verses ... +14 Bible verses about Disasters

The Backyard Disaster

 

Have you ever thought that something was so terrible, that it could never be the same again? Let me tell you a true story.

Last year there were four big, old, oak trees that had to be removed from my backyard. Their limbs were breaking from each storm we encountered. During the last hurricane, one of those branches fell straight through a small shed in the yard and the roof had to be replaced.

It was wonderful to see those branches finally down. However, the only problem was they were not removed from the yard as soon as I would have liked.

It was a very long time that they lay there. I made a deliberate choice to not go out in the yard for months. My son cut the trees up into smaller sections to clear them and found a small snake. I could not even enjoy sitting out there.

Finally, the day arrived when the men came to remove the fallen trees. When I arrived home, I was excited. I ran to my window and flung open the curtains. I thought of the poem, “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore.

As the poem says: “Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.”

What do you think I saw? No, there were no reindeer. My once beautiful backyard had been dug up by a tractor with big clamps.

The whole yard had been tilled, and all I could think about is the prospect of one gigantic mud hole by the next rainfall. I did not feel like we should rake the yard to get it level, nor did I think that we should buy grass seed to plant because I had more important matters to heed to, such as preparing for my daughter’s wedding.

Sometimes you just have to let go. The Bible says we aren’t to worry or be anxious. I decided right then and there to forget about it, like the kids always say, “It’s not that serious,” and it isn’t.

I think I had forgotten I had a yard until one morning, I opened the bathroom window to look out at the weather. I was totally taken back. There was beautiful, green grass all over the yard, and only one small, sunken place in the middle of the yard where there had been a pond years ago.

Now it was full of muddy water, but it seemed so small in comparison to the once giant mud hole that covered the whole yard. It was now fixable.

It seemed as if angels literally came and poured new grass seed overnight, perhaps heavenly seeds since it looked so different!

Doesn’t the Lord promise to take care of things in our life when we just give it to Him? I had a hard time believing that the original disaster which seemed so devastating could now be something so delightful. The amazing thing to me is that I did nothing to make the change. The Lord created the earth, so He surely knows how to put it back together.

He used all the rain in my muddy yard to speed up the process for new grass to grow. I thought it was ruined, and so did the neighbors.

Next time that you think something is too big of a mess in your life, it really isn’t. It may take some time to get corrected, but it will. Believe God, cast your burdens on Him, and let Him see you through it.

“Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NASB)

“And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Mark 9:23 (NASB)

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NAS)\

 

Through The Bible Devotions

Numbers 11:21-23 (NIV) 21But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ 22Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?” 23The LORD answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”

The people were whining about not having meat to eat. Moses was very discouraged. God promised meat for a month along with some valuable lessons. Moses just couldn’t see that it was possible. He looked out over the camp and couldn’t imagine how God could do it. His response to God was an exaggeration. Certainly all the fish in the sea could have fed them. Even the flocks they drove before them could have fed them. When we are discouraged, even the practical looks impossible.

God’s response is worth memorizing and keeping at hand when you think He has promised more than can be delivered. Has the omnipotent God lost some of His power? Can’t the One who created the world and everything in it provide anything at anytime He chooses? Is any thing out of His reach? Don’t limit the Eternal One! He can do whatever He says He will do in keeping with His perfect character.

This was going to be a lesson for Moses and for you and me. You and I have seen what God can do when we read these true stories. We have seen what He has done in the lives of people we know and in our own life. We have seen that God can do what we considered impossible. Never doubt God’s capability to do what He has promised. He is able! You have seen it. You will see it again. Trust Him, and climb out of your pit of doubt up into the sunlight of faith.

Meditation: Do I truly consider God capable of doing anything in keeping with His character?

 

Streams in the Desert – March 4

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

Followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Heb. 6:12).

They (heroes of faith) are calling to us from the heights that they have won, and telling us that what man once did man can do again. Not only do they remind us of the necessity of faith, but also of that patience by which faith has its perfect work. Let us fear to take ourselves out of the hands of our heavenly Guide or to miss a single lesson of His loving discipline by discouragement or doubt.

“There is only one thing,” said a village blacksmith, “that I fear, and that is to be thrown on the scrap heap. “When I am tempering a piece of steel, I first beat it, hammer it, and then suddenly plunge it into this bucket of cold water. I very soon find whether it will take temper or go to pieces in the process. When I discover after one or two tests that it is not going to allow itself to be tempered, I throw it on the scrap heap and sell it for a cent a pound when the junk man comes around.

“So I find the Lord tests me, too, by fire and water and heavy blows of His heavy hammer, and if I am not willing to stand the test, or am not going to prove a fit subject for His tempering process, I am afraid He may throw me on the scrap heap.”

When the fire is hottest, hold still, for there will be a blessed “afterward”; and with Job we may be able to say, “When he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold.”
–Selected

Sainthood springs out of suffering. It takes eleven tons of pressure on a piano to tune it. God will tune you to harmonize with Heaven’s key-note if you can stand the strain.

Things that hurt and things that mar
Shape the man for perfect praise;
Shock and strain and ruin are
Friendlier than the smiling days.

Ready to Respond

by Inspiration Ministries

“About this time tomorrow I will cause very heavy hail to fall, such as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now.” – Exodus 9:18 ESV

Storms can be frightening. But the storm God sent n Egypt was unique. It was a storm “as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now.” The lightning was relentless. The winds, intense and overpowering. The hailstones hit with devastating impact. No wonder people were terrified!

There was massive damage: “The hail struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field.” Those heeding God’s warning were spared. But those who refused to listen paid the price.

Pharaoh had not responded to the previous plagues, but this was different. Considering this awe-inspiring demonstration, he finally relented and agreed to let the Israelites go. Eventually, Pharaoh would change his mind, but God was not surprised. Moses also knew that Pharaoh did not fear the Lord. More pressure would be needed.

In light of the troubles they face, how many people make promises to God and seem willing to do anything for relief. Yet many of these people eventually change their minds or forget their promises. They simply aren’t serious about obeying God.

All the while God looks for people who really listen and respond and will do His will. Eventually, Pharaoh became one of those people, but it took more than a violent storm.

Pay attention to God’s warnings. Only make promises that you will keep. Live according to His Word. Listen. Be ready to change, to do His will.

Burning Your Ships

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Burning Your Ships

by Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.com

“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:33

Every now and then, when I’ve got some time to spare, I’ll turn on the History Channel and let myself get lost in the past. Recently, I started watching a documentary on the Age of Exploration, when the kingdoms of Europe were sending out ships to explore the Americas. To the Europeans, the New World was a place of limitless promise but also great danger. Faced with new cultures, strange animals, and deadly plagues, many explorations returned home in failure.

Then in February 1519, an explorer named Hernando Cortez was commissioned by the Spanish Crown to sail to the Yucatan and conquer it in the name of Spain. Cortez and his army set out at once, and when they reached the shores of the Yucatan, Cortez turned to his men and said,

“Burn the boats.”

Cortez refused to let turning back be an option. For the sake of his mission, it would be all or nothing. To many of us, this may sound a bit extreme, but as it turns out, Jesus had the same principle when he started his ministry.

“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” –Luke 9:57-62

Being a true Christian is something bold and dangerous. We live in a world that loves compromises, and teaches us that we are free to pick and choose what parts of religion we want to follow. Christ is different. When we become his followers, he tells us to take up our crosses and never look back. To follow him is all or nothing. So take some time today and renew your relationship with Christ, because God never claims a victory until he finally gets it all.

 

God’s Provision in Our Moment of Greatest Need

EMILY G. STROUD, author, crosswalk.com

“He does not ignore those who need help. He does not hate them. He does not turn away from them. He listens when they cry for help.” Psalm 22:24 (ERV) 

My mom has Alzheimer’s.

It’s rare for me to say it out loud. The label. The diagnosis. This was not the plan for my parents’ golden years in retirement. This is a shattered dream.

Alzheimer’s is a slow, painful process of dying that forces family members to continually grieve each and every stage of loss. There is no ripping off of the proverbial “Band-Aid.” And just when you think you have figured out your new normal, it changes again.

For many years, my approach to my mother’s Alzheimer’s was to try to “fix” her. I’m a financial advisor by trade, and people come to me to create plans to “fix” and manage their financial lives.

I treated my mom’s diagnosis just like a client case study. I had action plans and spreadsheets listing the contact information for the very best people to care for her emotional, physical and financial needs. I thought if I worked hard enough, we could change the trajectory of her future health.

But none of it worked the way I thought it would, leaving me devastated. I begged God to explain to me why she had to continue to suffer. Like David in Psalm 22, I cried out to Him, and as David testifies in Psalm 22:24, God stepped in to my moment of greatest need: “He does not ignore those who need help. He does not hate them. He does not turn away from them. He listens when they cry for help.”

God told me through His Holy Spirit that my job was not to fix her. My job was to love her well through every stage and to listen. Don’t correct her when she repeats herself or asks the same question over and over. Do help her live as comfortably as possible with the correct care. But don’t think for one minute that I needed to fix her.

God is the only one in the business of “fixing” people. Even then, He loves us well through every stage of our lives — through the messes and confusion and in our moments of greatest need.

And you know what else I soon realized? My mom doesn’t need the fixing I can provide. She knows exactly who her heavenly Father is and that her salvation is real and her eternity in heaven is secure. She would love to tell you all about it. This is a truth that she still knows, understands and lives out each and every day. She is at peace.

Helping care for her has changed me — making me a better friend, parent and advisor to others. I am more empathetic and authentic. It has drawn me closer to my heavenly Father and kept me on my knees praying for wisdom and guidance, dependent on Him.

God has also reminded me over and over that He loves us through the helpers He’s brought to our family. We are reminded often that He “… does not ignore those who need help” (Psalm 22:24) through the care my mom receives from nurses, therapists and other caregivers at her nursing home. They are truly acting as the hands and feet of Jesus.

God will provide for all of our needs. It may look different than what we ever imagined or even planned for. It certainly may not be glamorous, but God will provide.

For example, my parents bought long-term care insurance many years ago just after my father had triple bypass heart surgery. We thought he might be the one who would need long-term care one day. That insurance has been a monumental financial blessing to our family. We never imagined my mom having Alzheimer’s or being the recipient of the insurance when it was purchased many years ago. However, she now benefits financially and is very well taken care of.

Friend, while I don’t know your specific situation or what your “greatest need” is right now, God does. He is intimately acquainted with your struggles, and He sees the ways you may be trying to fix them on your own. Choose to surrender those struggles and the fixing to Him today … and then watch how He draws you close and provides just what you need at just the right time.

 

Refusing to Listen

by Inspiration Ministries

“Take handfuls of soot … The ashes will spread like fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, causing festering boils to break out on people and animals throughout the land.” – Exodus 9:8-9 NLT:8-9 NLT

God asked Pharaoh to let His people go. It seemed like a simple request. But Pharaoh refused. In response, God sent a series of plagues. The first plagues were inconvenient and irritating to Pharaoh, but he found them relatively easy to resist.

Then came the sixth plague, as boils broke out on people and animals throughout the land. Boils are known to be particularly uncomfortable. For the Egyptians, these would have been horribly painful. We get some idea of the impact when we consider the suffering of Job, who was struck with “terrible boils from head to foot” (Job 2:7).

We can be sure that God had no delight in sending boils. But Pharaoh remained stubborn and refused to listen or change. He was prepared to let his people suffer rather than yield and respond to God.

Many people are like this, refusing to listen to God. They continue to go their own way, blind to the impact of their disobedience. The Bible makes clear that God desires to bless us and help us make the right decisions. But this means cooperating with Him, not insisting on our own ways but listening to Him. It means obeying His Word and being sensitive to His correction.

Learn from Pharaoh’s experience. Submit your ways to God. Let Him direct your path. As He leads, be ready to change. Always seek to do things His way and listen to Him.

What’s In Your Heart?

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What’s In Your Heart?

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“Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.” Mark 7:14-15 (NLT)

While preparing to go to work today, thoughts of malice and pride oozed out in my thoughts as I drove the back roads of the North Carolina foothills. I’m glad I am not like them, and They don’t really know how hard I work played like a warped record through my head. It seemed as if I couldn’t stop these thoughts from erupting out of my heart.

In the last part of Mark 7, Jesus goes on to teach how a heart can be filled with all kinds of wicked stuff. I realized that was the condition of my heart. Once I realized that, I repented. The idol of my heart had been others’ opinion of me, rather than God’s.

Sometimes when people think badly of me, it is deserved since I am a sinner saved by God’s grace. Other times, it’s not deserved. In fact, sometimes people might think badly of me when I do what is right. You may have experienced this, too.

Let’s consider our Lord. People were so disturbed by Him — what He said and did — they crucified Him. And unlike prideful me, He was without any sin.

I guess that is the startling thing when I truly begin to grasp the Gospel. It is undeserved and unmerited. God became man. Jesus lived a sinless life and died a horrific death for someone like me. Like you.

Scripture says this in Romans 5:6-8,

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (NLT)

Understanding the Gospel causes utter humility and profound thankfulness. The God of the universe loved me enough to visit this sin-sick planet for me.

Amazing grace. Amazing love. Amazing God.

 

Through The Bible Devotions

Numbers 11:4-6 (NIV) 4The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”

They started wailing again. It’s easy to join a pity party. The rabble and troublemakers are always among us. They point people toward the temporal and not to Jesus, the eternal. They point to the things that you do not currently possess and not to the blessings at hand. They crave the things of the world and not the things of God.

Did the manna cost? Here they are with miraculous provision and they are whining for something more exotic. It would be hard to have the same meal day after day, and a miracle loses its awe to us when we see it daily. How we remember the good but not the bad! Their babies were fed to the crocs and their backs to the whips, but they want to go back for a nice dinner.

The real problem is that they are not hungry for God. Jesus said that He is the manna that comes down from heaven. They are tired of focusing on one thing. They’d like a little worldly diversion. It shows they had not grown spiritually, and though they were out of Egypt, Egypt was not out of them. Watch out for the allurement of the world. It promises its delicacies but neglects to tell you of the price you will pay for them or how temporal their satisfaction is. The Promised Land has plenty to satisfy, but you must be prepared by learning to put first things first. Which will it be for you, forward, or backward?

Prayer: Lord, keep my heart satisfied with You, the true bread from heaven.

 

A sight of self

‘But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. ‘ Isaiah 64:6–7

Suggested Further Reading: Acts 26:9–20

When you really feel your sinfulness, and mourn it, do not stop here; never give yourself any rest till you know that you are delivered from it, for it is one thing to say ‘Ah, I do sin,’ but it is quite another thing to say ‘He has saved me from my sin.’ It is one thing to have a repentance which makes you leave the sin you loved before, and another thing to talk about repentance. Ah, I have sometimes seen a child of God when he has sinned, and I have seen his broken-hearted actions, and heard his piteous confessions, and I can say that my heart goes out toward the man in whom there are tears of repentance of the right kind. It is one of the fairest sights that is seen under heaven when a believer who has gone wrong is willing to say, ‘I have sinned,’ and when he no more sets himself proudly up against his God, but humbles himself like a little child. Such a man as that shall be exalted. But I have seen—and it is a fearful sight to see—I have seen one who can sin and repent, and sin and repent. O that dry-eyed repentance is a damnable repentance! Take heed of it, brethren. I have known a man who professed to have been converted years and years ago, who, ever since that pretended conversion, has lived in a known sin, and yet he thinks he is a child of God because after he has fallen into the sin he has a little season of darkness arising from his conscience, but he quiets that conscience after a time, and presumptuously says, ‘I will not give up my hope.’ Oh, that is an awful thing. God deliver you from dry-eyed repentance, for it is no repentance.

For meditation: Repentance is a change of mind; are you tempted to repent of your repentance? That would be an attempt to short-change God and can easily develop into a vicious circle. For God’s attitude to such behaviour see Jeremiah 34:12–17.

Treasured Memories

by Inspiration Ministries

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it … How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” – Psalm 137:1-4 NKJV

Bedřich Smetana became a champion of his people. Born on this day in 1824 in what today is the Czech Republic, he thought of becoming a pianist but eventually turned to composition. These efforts came with a price. He frequently struggled financially and experienced tragedy with the death of his wife. Nonetheless, he continued to compose, certain this was his calling.

He experienced a milestone in 1879 while writing his masterpiece “My Country.” Particularly memorable was the section depicting the Moldau, a river beloved by his people.

Similar stories are echoed by people throughout the world, who are stirred by native folk songs in many ways. Special stories and traditions surround important and memorable rivers and mountains all around the world.

We see the impact of treasured memories in the response of Israelites who had been taken into captivity in Babylon. They just couldn’t sing happy songs while trapped in a foreign land. They wept as they remembered Zion, filled with emotional memories about their home.

For them, Jerusalem was more than a city. It symbolized their relationship with God as well as His presence.

Are there places with special attachments for you? Do you get emotional thinking about people who have impacted you? Do you respond with fondness thinking about the moments when you had a particularly precious encounter with God or when you had a spiritual breakthrough?

Treasure these moments and memories.

The River Of God’s Will

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The River of God’s Will

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Do you ever wonder where you stand in the will of God? Every day we make decisions concerning our life, and in many cases, the lives of our family. How do we know we are making the right decisions? What about the consequences if we are wrong? How can we know we are right? 

A bad decision at the wrong time could have an earth-shattering effect on our lives, and the lives of those close to us, if we are wrong.

The Bible tells us,

“All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own.” Isaiah 53:6 (NLT)

However, we know that a correct decision can culminate in a cascade of blessings for our family and us. I was an 18-year-old Air Force Airman stationed far from home for the first time when I first seriously sought God’s will for my life. My high school sweetheart was awaiting my return as we had plans to marry.  We both wanted God’s will in our life, not wanting to make a mistake that could end in divorce.

So on one hot Texas Sunday morning, I knelt in an altar and submitted my will to God’s will. I placed our plans in God’s hands and with a sincere heart asked His will in our lives. I told God that if He had other plans for our lives, or even wanted me to remain single and become a missionary, I would do it. I found out later, that at the same time, she was in the altar at our home church back in Virginia, asking God the same thing. We both submitted our wills to God, and He let us know that our marriage was His will. Thirty-six years later, we’re still blessed by staying in the center of His will.

It is imperative that we find God’s will in our life, for His will is actually what’s best for us.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

Being in the will of God is like being in the center of a fast-flowing river.

In the center of the river the flow is strongest and fastest. The further away from the center of the river you drift, the slower and less directed the flow. You’re still in the flow, but it’s not as strong or sure.

In the center of God’s will, His guidance is strongest and most sure. But the further away from the center of God’s will you drift, the slower you move, and the guidance, direction, and protection you would have received from Him is weaker and less effective, almost indiscernible. You move from His perfect will into His permissive will, and then out of His will altogether.

Wading to the edge of the river, you eventually step out and find yourself on the shore of your pride and independence, and the river flows on without you. Likewise, stepping out of God’s will, you are on your own, left to your own devices as the will of God moves on without you. Out of the river, you try to make your way, but it’s more difficult to move forward, because there are obstacles.

You try to move parallel to the river, keeping it in sight, but there are obstacles in the path, forcing movement around them. This causes you to travel in a different direction than the river, which is now so far away that it can’t even be seen. Trying to serve or even follow God when you are out of His will becomes frustrating because of the obstacles that force movement further away from God’s plan for your life. Bad relationships, wrong career choice, poor health, lack of education, and finances are only some of the wrong roads on which you might find yourself. Subsequently, your life ends up on a wrong path or stuck at a dead end going nowhere.

My old friend decided one day to wade out from the center of the river of God’s will. He found himself interested in another woman as he waded to the edge of the river. Then he stepped out of the river of God’s will and left his wife and family. He wandered about for many months until he came to his senses and decided to return. He came back to the river, saw his place, and dove in. He swam back into the center of God’s will, returning to his family, his church, and his God. And there he remains to this day.

Now, you could make your way back to where you left the river of God’s will, try to re-enter, and find the place that was originally meant for you, but that’s not always practical. Maybe your spot in the river has already moved on, or your place was filled with another.

Do not despair! There is another place for you in the river. God’s will and plan for your life yet waits!  Make your way directly to the river of God’s will at whichever point along life’s journey you now find yourself.

Get back in the river. Wade out from the shore and into the flow. Don’t be satisfied with an ankle deep, knee deep, or waist deep place in the river of God’s will.

Remember God’s Word,

“Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Revelation 22:1 (NLT)

Abandon yourself, head over heels, to the center of the river where the flow is strongest and most sure, flowing in the will of God.

Streams in the Desert – March 1

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked (Eccles. 7:13).

Often God seems to place His children in positions of profound difficulty, leading them into a wedge from which there is no escape; contriving a situation which no human judgment would have permitted, had it been previously consulted. The very cloud conducts them thither. You may be thus involved at this very hour.

It does seem perplexing and very serious to the last degree, but it is perfectly right. The issue will more than justify Him who has brought you hither. It is a platform for the display of His almighty grace and power.

He will not only deliver you; but in doing so, He will give you a lesson that you will never forget, and to which, in many a psalm and song, in after days, you will revert. You will never be able to thank God enough for having done just as He has.
–Selected

We may wait till He explains,
Because we know that Jesus reigns.
It puzzles me; but, Lord, Thou understandest,
And wilt one day explain this crooked thing.
Meanwhile, I know that it has worked out Thy best–
Its very crookedness taught me to cling.
Thou hast fenced up my ways, made my paths crooked,
To keep my wand’ring eyes fixed on Thee;
To make me what I was not, humble, patient;
To draw my heart from earthly love to Thee.
So I will thank and praise Thee for this puzzle,
And trust where I cannot understand.
Rejoicing Thou dost hold me worth such testing,

I cling the closer to Thy guiding hand.
–F.E.M.I.

Rahab’s faith

“By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” Hebrews 11:31

Suggested Further Reading: James 2:18-26

Rahab’s faith was a sanctifying faith. Did Rahab continue a harlot after she had faith? No, she did not. I do not believe she was a harlot at the time the men went to her house, though the name still stuck to her, as such ill names will; but I am sure she was not afterwards, for Salmon the prince of Judah married her, and her name is put down among the ancestors of our Lord Jesus Christ. She became after that a woman eminent for piety, walking in the fear of God. Now, you may have a dead faith which will ruin your soul. The faith that will save you is a faith which sanctifies. “Ah!” says the drunkard, “I like the gospel, sir; I believe in Christ:” then he will go over to the Blue Lion tonight, and get drunk. Sir, that is not the believing in Christ that is of any use. “Yes,” says another, “I believe in Christ;” and when he gets outside he will begin to talk lightly, frothy words, perhaps lascivious ones, and sin as before. Sir, you speak falsely; you do not believe in Christ. That faith which saves the soul is a real faith, and a real faith sanctifies men. It makes them say, “Lord, thou hast forgiven me my sins; I will sin no more. Thou hast been so merciful to me, I will renounce my guilt; so kindly hast thou treated me, so lovingly hast thou embraced me, Lord, I will serve thee till I die; and if thou wilt give me grace, and help me so to be, I will be as holy as thou art.” You cannot have faith, and yet live in sin. To believe is to be holy. The two things must go together. That faith is a dead faith, a corrupt faith, a rotten faith, which lives in sin that grace may abound. Rahab was a sanctified woman.

For meditation: Faith has to be seen to be believed (Joshua 2:17-21).

A Real Difference

by Inspiration Ministries

“On that day I will deal differently … where my people live … so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people.” – Exodus 8:22-23 NIV

In many ways, believers are just like nonbelievers. We all are human beings and go through the same kinds of challenges. As Jesus said, God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).

The message is simple: Believers are not superhuman. We all are just “jars of clay.” All our abilities are gifts from God (2 Corinthians 4:7).

This is true so nonbelievers can look at our lives and see the difference that God makes and turn to Him. Faith and belief sustain us. We can be transformed by Biblical principles. Anyone can know God. Anyone can be forgiven. Unbelievers can also see why we need to be born again.

Yet, as He sent plagues in Egypt, God promised to “deal differently” with regions where His people lived. This was to “make a distinction” between His people and others, making sure there was no question that He was God, and they were His.

He was demonstrating that there are ways in which God treats His people “differently.” The fact is that we are different because of our relationship with Him. He makes the difference.

Today, seek the differences that God can make in your life. Apply the principles in His Word. Pray. Commit your needs to Him. Get to know Him more intimately. Be filled with His Spirit. Trust Him.

God Gives Us Light Not Darkness

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God’s Darkness

planet and outer space

 

Have you ever pondered God’s originality? There’s no need for Him to duplicate. People, snowflakes, fingerprints, all share His uniqueness. This genius carries over into His interactions with us. I’ve discovered something wonderful about Him. He loves to work in the dark.

“Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.” Psalm 139:12 (NASB)

I’ve spelunked America’s caves, and without artificial light, you can experience thick darkness. The kind that existed before God commanded light to shine. Because these elements are part of His toolbox, He maneuvers through darkness without difficulty. Just like light. While we fumble and stub toes, He’s busy answering our prayers and comforting us; performing the miraculous in our darkest moments.

As often happens under the right circumstances, people are known for igniting conflict. When the Hebrews were forming their new government following their freedom and “dry” water baptism through the Red Sea; problems arose with whose tribe would serve God directly in His tabernacle. The Lord’s solution was darkness. Each tribe submitted their rod to Moses, who placed all 12 in the tabernacle. God informed He would select the rod of His choice and everyone went off to sleep. In the quiet darkness with a dozen sticks, God famously went to work.

“Now on the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.” Numbers 17:8 (NASB)

In complete darkness, God did the miraculous for His children. Like us, they sought direction and He made it unmistakable. A severed branch came alive and bore buds, blossoms, and ripe almonds. An impossibility became reality in three separate lifecycles. God condensed the growing season when displaying His desires in darkness.

We can likely relate to seasons of uncertainty, experiencing fruitlessness, or feeling severed ourselves. The Almighty gently teaches that being cut off, out of season, or left alone is not the end. While we are limited by the natural, He’s limitless as our Creator. We often question while struggling in the dark, while He moves about unencumbered.

God has no hindrances. Nothing prevents Him from helping or finding us. It’s easy to keep our eyes on the waves instead of Him, and sinking rather than walking results. Fortunately, our Savior is right there to rescue us with a mighty arm.

I’ve found misunderstanding Him will assuredly happen along with forgetting He can operate outside of our boundaries. How reassuring to identify His movements in the darkness; even performing miracles for us there.

Imagine Moses’ joy when entering the tabernacle on the morrow. Stepping inside to find 11 smooth sticks next to one teeming with life though wholly disconnected from it. That single rod pointed the way for generations yet to come; including ours.

Now when faced with decisions that require the Lord’s pristine oversight for my life, I readily take a page from Scripture to point me in the correct direction. God can answer me from anywhere He finds me, and in that cocooned darkness, He quietly prepares my answer.

Perhaps we need to take our concerns to this undisturbed haven more often. A safe place where we can lay our greatest needs before Him in the darkness of His tabernacle before going to sleep. Then share the delight of Moses in finding Heaven’s directives in three different categories.

For in God’s economy, He commands the lifeless to come forth from darkness—and it is so.

 

Through The Bible Devotions

Leviticus 19:18 (NIV) 18“‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

Love…keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4 (NIV) Jesus said that this was one of the Laws that summed up all the others (Matthew 22:39,40). I’ll bet when you read that verse, the ‘bear a grudge’ part pricked your heart, or at least provoked a memory. We seem so ready to be offended in this day and age. Jesus warned us that this would be true (Matthew 24:12).

We have lauded self-esteem but forgotten to warn of pride. Pride sets itself above others and demands that others give us respect and honor. If we hear a word spoken against us, we readily forget all the words we have spoken against others and excommunicate that person from our love and grace. In the worst cases, we play the offense over and over in our minds until it festers and becomes an infection in our memories. Just to touch on it brings pain.

Believe it or not, the cause of all that is self, not the one who offended you. If we esteem others better than ourselves, we will examine their words to see if there is truth in them. If there is, we will apologize and adjust our life. If there is not, we will give those words to God and go on loving that person. How many times have we offended God? Does He harbor each offense and bring them up to you every time you want to pray?

Jesus said (paraphrase) that God will treat you as you treat others. It sounds like we better be very generous in our forgiveness, don’t you think?

Meditation: Who do I need to forgive and resume loving?

 

Streams in the Desert – February 28

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually (Heb. 13:15).

A city missionary, stumbling through the dirt of a dark entry, heard a voice say, “Who’s there, Honey?” Striking a match, he caught a vision of earthly want and suffering, of saintly trust and peace, “cut in ebony”–calm, appealing eyes set amid the wrinkles of a pinched, black face that lay on a tattered bed. It was a bitter night in February, and she had no fire, no fuel, no light. She had had no supper, no dinner, no breakfast. She seemed to have nothing at all but rheumatism and faith in God. One could not well be more completely exiled from all pleasantness of circumstances, yet the favorite song of this old creature ran:

Nobody knows de trouble I see,
Nobody knows but Jesus;
Nobody knows de trouble I see–
Sing Glory Hallelu!

Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down,
Sometimes I’m level on the groun’,
Sometimes the glory shines aroun’
Sing Glory Hallelu!

And so it went on: “Nobody knows de work I does, Nobody knows de griefs I has,” the constant refrain being the “Glory Hallelu!” until the last verse rose:

Nobody knows de joys I has,
Nobody knows but Jesus!

“Troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” It takes great Bible words to tell the cheer of that old negro auntie.

Remember Luther on his sick-bed. Between his groans he managed to preach on this wise: “These pains and trouble here are like the type which the printers set; as they look now, we have to read them backwards, and they seem to have no sense or meaning in them; but up yonder, when the Lord God prints us off in the life to come, we shall find they make brave reading.” Only we do not need to wait till then.

Remember Paul walking the hurricane deck amid a boiling sea, bidding the frightened crew “Be of good cheer,” Luther, the old negro auntie–all of them human sun-flowers.
Wm. G. Garnett

Taking a Stand

by Inspiration Ministries

“Stand before Pharaoh … ‘Thus says the Lord: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me … In that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell … that you may know that I am the Lord.”’” – Exodus 8:20, 22 NKJV

Ready to deliver His people, God asked Moses to be His messenger, to speak His words to Pharaoh and all of Egypt. Initially, Moses resisted, telling God he was the wrong man. Finally, he agreed.

As Moses prayed, God gave him the words to say to Pharaoh. God also listened to Moses’ pleas on behalf of the Egyptians. Over time, Moses realized that he had no reason to fear as long as he stayed faithful and depended on God.

Today, some believers don’t seem ready to make the same kind of uncompromising commitment. Like Moses’ initial response, they seem reluctant. Hesitant. Uncertain. The Bible reminds us that God has a plan for each life. He calls and equips us to accomplish His purposes. He looks to see how we respond and whether we trust Him and are ready to move forward by faith.

Today, let God know that you are ready to do His will. Dedicate yourself to His timeless truths. Fill your mind and heart with His Word. Pray and listen to His voice. Declare His promises to be true in your life. Seek to live according to His principles. Be bold in your faith, trusting Him.

Do not give in to the pressure to compromise or worry about popular approval. You may face opposition but if you are faithful, you can trust God to protect and provide for you and use you to accomplish His purposes.

What Is The Way To Heaven?

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Our Spiritual Passport to Heaven

customs person stamping a passport

 

Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. —Romans 5:1

What is the spiritual passport we need to get into heaven? It’s not a heart stamped “Catholic.” If your heart is stamped “Catholic,” you are not going to make it into heaven. It’s not a heart stamped “Baptist.” If your heart is stamped “Baptist,” you are not getting into heaven. Nor are you going to be welcomed into heaven if your heart is stamped “Church of Christ,” or any other denomination. Only a heart stamped “Forgiven” will be welcomed into heaven. That’s all that matters: being forgiven of our sins. No other stamp makes a difference in the presence of God. The Bible has a word for being forgiven. It’s the New Testament word justified, which means “to be declared righteous.” Justified is a legal term that refers to what God does for us when we trust in Christ as Savior. When we put our faith in Christ alone for our salvation, God justifies us—He declares us “not guilty” based on what Christ did for us on the cross. Romans 5:1 says, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The only way we are allowed into heaven is by being forgiven of our sins.

There are not many ways to heaven; there is only one way to heaven, and that is through faith in Christ. I realize that is an unpopular statement today. Many people think there are other routes to heaven. Billionaire Warren Buffett donated 85 percent of his net worth to charity, saying, “There is more than one way to get to heaven, but this is a great way.”  I commend Buffett for his generosity, but he will be surprised when he discovers that he cannot donate his way to heaven. There is only one way to heaven, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ.

What “stamp” is on your spiritual passport? Have you been forgiven of your sins through your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior?

God, thank You for making it clear in Your Word that the only way to be welcomed into heaven is through faith in Your Son, Jesus Christ. Give me the courage to speak Your truth and opportunities to share the gospel today.

Left Alone – Streams in the Desert – February 27

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day (Gen. 32:24).

Left alone! What different sensations those words conjure up to each of us. To some they spell loneliness and desolation, to others rest and quiet. To be left alone without God, would be too awful for words, but to be left alone with Him is a foretaste of Heaven! If His followers spent more time alone with Him, we should have spiritual giants again.

The Master set us an example. Note how often He went to be alone with God; and He had a mighty purpose behind the command, “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray.”

The greatest miracles of Elijah and Elisha took place when they were alone with God. It was alone with God that Jacob became a prince; and just there that we, too, may become princes–“men (aye, and women too!) wondered at” (Zech. 3:8). Joshua was alone when the Lord came to him. (Josh. 1:1) Gideon and Jephthah were by themselves when commissioned to save Israel. (Judges 6:11 and 11:29) Moses was by himself at the wilderness bush. (Exodus 3:1-5) Cornelius was praying by himself when the angel came to him. (Acts 10:2) No one was with Peter on the house top, when he was instructed to go to the Gentiles. (Acts 10:9) John the Baptist was alone in the wilderness (Luke 1:90), and John the Beloved alone in Patmos, when nearest God. (Rev. 1:9)

Covet to get alone with God. If we neglect it, we not only rob ourselves, but others too, of blessing, since when we are blessed we are able to pass on blessing to others. It may mean less outside work; it must mean more depth and power, and the consequence, too, will be “they saw no man save Jesus only.”

To be alone with God in prayer cannot be over-emphasized.

If chosen men had never been alone,
In deepest silence open-doored to God,
No greatness ever had been dreamed or done.

A jealous God

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘For the Lord, whose name is jealous, is a jealous God.’ Exodus 34:14

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Kings 10:15–31

How careful should we be when we do anything for God, and God is pleased to accept of our doings, that we never congratulate ourselves. The minister of Christ should unrobe himself of every rag of praise. ‘You preached well,’ said a friend to John Bunyan one morning. ‘You are too late,’ said honest John, ‘the devil told me that before I left the pulpit.’ The devil often tells God’s servants a great many things which they should be sorry to hear. Why, you can hardly be useful in a Sunday School but he will say to you ‘How well you have done it!’ You can scarcely resist a temptation, or set a good example, but he will be whispering to you ‘What an excellent person you must be!’ It is, perhaps, one of the hardest struggles of the Christian life to learn this sentence—‘Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory.’ Now God is so jealous on this point that, while he will forgive his own servants a thousand things, this is an offence for which he is sure to chasten us. Let a believer once say, ‘I am,’ and God will soon make him say ‘I am not’. Let a Christian begin to boast, ‘I can do all things,’ without adding ‘through Christ which strengtheneth me,’ and before long he will have to groan, ‘I can do nothing,’ and bemoan himself. Many sins of true Christians, I do not doubt, have been the result of their glorifying themselves. Many a man has been permitted by God to stain a noble character and to ruin an admirable reputation, because the character and the reputation had come to be the man’s own, instead of being laid, as all our crowns must be laid, at the feet of Christ. You may build the city, but if you say with Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Behold this great Babylon that I have built!’ you shall be smitten to the earth. The worms which ate Herod when he gave not God the glory are ready for another meal; beware of vain glory!

For meditation: The temptation to pat ourselves on the back should be the cue for us to recall how the Lord Jesus Christ instructs us to think and speak about our good deeds (Luke 17:10). Any glory resulting from them should go to God (Matthew 5:16).

Simplicity of Obedience

by Inspiration Ministries

“You shall speak all that I command you.” – Exodus 7:2 NKJV

Moses faced a complex situation. God had called him to return to Egypt to free the Israelites from bondage. After his arrival, he and his brother Aaron told the Israelite elders the words that God had given them. They were encouraged that He had seen their affliction, and they believed.

But their hopes quickly turned to disappointment. When Moses and Aaron shared God’s words with Pharaoh, instead of cooperating and letting them go, he increased their burdens.

Moses was confused. Describing to God what had happened, Moses might have expected some new message. But instead, God just repeated His previous direction. The instructions were simple: “You shall speak all that I command you.”

The simplicity of this command became the guiding light for Moses in the days to come. He discovered that he did not need to worry about how anyone else reacted. The only thing that mattered was being obedient to God.

God expects the same thing from each of us. He does not want us worrying about the reactions of other people or our own reputation. He simply asks us to obey Him, speak the words He gives us, and do what He wants us to do.

What situations do you face today? Are you concerned about how others might react? Your reputation? As Moses discovered, events might not proceed as you imagine. God simply expects your obedience and faithfulness.
Obey God. Trust God. Stay faithful.

The Hope Of Righteousness brings joy

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Rejoicing in All Seasons

by Debbie Holloway, crosswalk.com

“The hope of the righteous brings joy” (Proverbs 10:28).

I’m currently in the process of moving – but only a few miles away. During the intense first weekend of driving back and forth constantly from the old house to the new apartment, I was always amused when I passed by one curious little house. We began moving in on Valentine’s Day weekend, and this little brick house by the roadside was decked in red and white lights and glowing hearts dotting their lawn. During the daylight it was easy to miss the house, but come nightfall it stood out like a beacon of Valentine’s Day glory.

A few days after Valentine’s Day passed, however, the hue emanating from the house transformed from red to chipper Irish green as the occupants geared up for St. Patrick’s day – complete with shamrocks instead of hearts. My initial reaction to this was something like, Wow. These folks really love their holidays.

As I would drive past the house over the following days and weeks, it got me thinking something else, though. Very few of us embrace change so exuberantly as these (I imagine) quaint little homeowners. Very few of us throw ourselves wholeheartedly into the season of right now. It’s tempting for many of us to leave the Christmas lights up past New Years, simply because it’s hard to let go of the nostalgia of that warm, fuzzy time. Many of us are picky about what we celebrate. Not these folks, though! They seem delighted just to be able to revel in the fact that we have holidays.

That’s an attitude I could probably learn from. I think of Jesus turning water to wine, of all the celebrations, holidays and jubilees that God instituted for the Jews, and I think – God loves an excuse to have joy and celebration! If I can smile, rejoice, and bring attention to a thing of beauty and excitement, I think I should. Just like the people who use every holiday as an excuse to dress up their little house and share a little light with the neighbors.

 

Is This the Right Decision?

LYSA TERKEURST, author, crosswalk.com

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” Philippians 1:9-10 (NIV)

Have you ever had that deep-down knowing of what to do in a situation but ignored it? I understand.

I was home alone one day when a large box was delivered to my doorstep.

The delivery man graciously brought it inside. But I figured it might be a bit much for me to ask him to take it past the foyer, up the stairs, down the hall, and into the den.

So there it sat, this mysterious, heavy box.

Deep inside, I knew this was nothing but some product someone in my family had ordered.

But I didn’t listen to that awareness. I ignored it and listened to my fears instead. You know you’ve watched one too many mystery TV shows when your first thought about a mysterious box sitting in your foyer is that a person with scary intentions could fit inside.

So I kicked the side of the box to see if there was any kind of reflex action from a living thing inside of it. There wasn’t, of course. But then I decided just to be sure, I would stand around the corner from the box to see if I could step out of its line of sight and possibly hear something: a cough, a sneeze, anything.

I could leave no room for doubts, no room at all for any possible bad outcome from this box — a box that I eventually opened with a knife. Just in case. Only to discover a dorm-room refrigerator that someone had ordered.

I wasted half my day worrying about a box that contained a dorm fridge.

But we do this sometimes. We have a decision to make and we have that deep-down knowing. We know what to do. We know what the answer is. But we don’t go with that knowing. We over-process the what-ifs and the maybes until we find ourselves standing around a corner listening to see if a cardboard box containing a refrigerator might sneeze.

Now, there are certainly some decisions that need to be processed. But then there are other decisions we just simply need to say yes or no to and move on.

Find that courageous yes. Fight for that confident no. Know it. State it. Own it.

Sometimes it just comes down to that deep whisper within that says, “Uh-huh, yes.” Or a simple, “No, not that.”

God has woven into us the ability to discern what is best as we closely follow Him. Philippians 1:9-10 says, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (NIV).

Discerning what is best is something we’re capable of doing as we layer knowledge and depth of insight into our lives. Read those verses again and see that gaining knowledge and depth of insight will allow us to develop a trustworthy discernment.

Knowledge is wisdom that comes from acquiring truth.

Insight is wisdom that comes from living out the truth we acquire.

Discernment is wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit’s reminders of that knowledge and insight.

I know a young mom who has really been struggling with the decision of whether to let her 2-year-old go to preschool a couple of half-days each week. As I listened to her, I felt compelled to ask her three questions:

1. Have you been reading and praying through God’s Word?

2. Have you been applying God’s Word to your mothering?

3. Have you sought godly counsel and insights from wise people who know specifics about your situation?

The answer to all three of those simple questions was yes, so I reminded her that she was assigned by God to be this child’s mother. If she had done these three things, then she had the ability to discern what was best.

It’s not about trusting ourselves. Rather, it’s about trusting the Holy Spirit to do what Jesus promised us in John 14:26“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (NIV).

When we’ve done what we need to do to acquire the knowledge and insight of truth, then the discernment of that truth is there. We must learn to trust and use that discernment because the more we do this, the more wisdom we acquire to make God-honoring decisions.

The Good News About Death

From: InTouch, ministeries
1 Corinthians 15:50-58

The Bible teaches that death is only the beginning for believers. God has prepared an eternal home for us, and the condition for entry is clear: Believe that Jesus died for your sins, and receive His forgiveness. Some people consider this narrow-minded and unfair. But God set up that condition for a reason.

Way back in the garden of Eden, the Lord established a rule to protect His creation: Do not disobey Me. Sin was such a serious matter in His eyes that He determined it deserved the death penalty. Yet ever since Adam and Eve’s transgression, we’ve been bound to slip up because we’re flawed human beings. And God knew that. So, to save us from the consequence of sin, He sent His Son to die in our place. Jesus fulfilled the law while taking our punishment. And three days later He rose again.

God promised in His Word that those who receive Jesus as Savior share in His resurrection. When a believer dies, the heavenly gates open, and he or she has the same triumph over death that Jesus did. In other words, when we leave this world, we do not simply disappear. We continue to worship the Lord in heaven.

How Others See Us

by Inspiration Ministries

“Because they are lazy, therefore they cry out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’” – Exodus 5:8 NASB

When Moses asked to let the Israelites go, Pharaoh evaluated this request in light of his own experience and worldview. To him, Moses’ explanation seemed absurd. He could not conceive that the God of the Hebrews could be real and make this request. The only possible explanation was that the Israelites simply did not want to work.

Pharaoh had his own agenda. He was counting on the Israelites to provide the labor for his designs. Moses’ request conflicted with his agenda. And he didn’t believe the explanation.

Many people react in similar ways to God’s Word. The Bible reminds us that the things of the Spirit are folly in the natural. People can’t “understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV).

As you ponder the way some people respond to the Gospel, remember that this is a spiritual issue, discerned in the Spirit in ways people in the natural may never understand. They are likely to project onto us their own expectations and worldview. Or they may judge us or question our motives.

Remember these facts as you interact with people in the world. Remember how foolish and unrealistic your beliefs and actions might seem.

Ask God to give you discernment about your life and testimony. Pray for His anointing. Seek to apply His principles. Pray for those you know who need the Lord. Pray that He might open their eyes that they might see.

I Want To Stay With You

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I Want to Stay with You

teen boy hugging his mother

Reverend Phil seemed seven feet tall to me when I was a child. He could have been a captain at sea or a firefighter or a police chief, but he was a pastor. One Sunday night, his deep voice caught my attention as he unfolded the story of a wild and violent man whose encounter with Jesus changed everything.

A demon-possessed man roamed the tomb-filled hills of the Gadarenes. Everyone feared him, and no one could tame him. They managed to shackle him, but he broke the chains. Then Jesus came to the area—the one Man who could unshackle his heart.

When the man saw Jesus, he said,

“What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me” (Mark 5:7 NKJV).

Jesus didn’t hurt him; He helped him. The man had many demons, and Jesus sent them all out of the man into a nearby herd of pigs. The pigs “ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned” (Mark 5:13 NKJV).

When the people of the area came out to see what had happened, the man who had been demon-possessed was sitting, clothed, and in his right mind. That made the people afraid. They learned what happened to the pigs and wanted Jesus to leave.

Reverend Phil’s characterization of their attitude toward Jesus, was memorable. It was as if they said to Him, “We don’t care where You go or what You do, as long as You leave here.” The healed man’s reaction was just the opposite: “I don’t care where You go or what You do, as long as I can go with You.”

Does your heart want to stay with Jesus, no matter what? Have you come to love and trust Him so that you could say with the healed man, I don’t care where You go or what You do, as long as I can go with You?

In the book of Ruth, we find someone who inspires us to have a wholehearted devotion to God. Ruth wanted to stay with her mother-in-law, Naomi, even when Ruth’s husband had died. This is what Ruth said when Naomi made plans to leave Moab and go back to Judah.

“Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17 NKJV)

Have you ever loved someone so much that you felt this way about him or her? Have you ever loved God so much, that you said something like this to Him? Wherever You go, I will go. Wherever You stay, I will stay. I am Yours, and You are mine. I will not let go.

Are we willing to give up anything and everything for God? Are we willing to leave behind all of the things that distract us from following Him closely? The more we know Him, the more certain we become that we can trust His heart and rest in His goodness and wisdom. We find that God satisfies our souls and gives us good things. He is a Father who loves us and a Best Friend who shares all of life’s adventures with us. Our hearts will say to Him, “I will stay with You.”

 

Streams in the Desert – February 25

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

I am handing over to you every place you set foot, as I promised Moses. (Josh 1:3)

Beside the literal ground, unoccupied for Christ, there is the unclaimed, untrodden territory of Divine promises. What did God say to Joshua? “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you,” and then He draws the outlines of the Land of Promise—all theirs on one condition: that they shall march through the length and breadth of it, and measure it off with their own feet.

They never did that to more than one-third of the property, and consequently they never had more than one-third; they had just what they measured off, and no more.

In 2 Peter, we read of the “land of promise” that is opened up to us, and it is God’s will that we should, as it were, measure off that territory by the feet of obedient faith and believing obedience, thus claiming and appropriating it for our own.

How many of us have ever taken possession of the promises of God in the name of Christ?

Here is a magnificent territory for faith to lay hold on and march through the length and breadth of, and faith has never done it yet.

Let us enter into all our inheritance. Let us lift up our eyes to the north and to the south, to the east and to the west, and hear Him say, “All the land that thou seest will I give to thee.”
A. T. Pierson

Wherever Judah should set his foot that should be his; wherever Benjamin should set his foot, that should be his. Each should get his inheritance by setting his foot upon it. Now, think you not, when either had set his foot upon a given territory, he did not instantly and instinctively feel, “This is mine”?

An old colored man, who had a marvelous experience in grace, was asked: “Daniel, why is it that you have so much peace and joy in religion?” “O Massa!” he replied, “I just fall flat on the exceeding great and precious promises, and I have all that is in them. Glory! Glory!” He who falls flat on the promises feels that all the riches embraced in them are his.
Faith Papers

The Marquis of Salisbury was criticized for his Colonial policies and replied: “Gentlemen, get larger maps.”

Through The Bible Devotions

Leviticus 6:9, 12-13 (NIV) 9“Give Aaron and his sons this command: ‘These are the regulations for the burnt offering: The burnt offering is to remain on the altar hearth throughout the night, till morning, and the fire must be kept burning on the altar.

12The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. 13The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.

Exodus 29:39f God lit the fire. We must guard that flame carefully and tend it well. Keep it on the altar. It is for God that it burns. Don’t be zealous for any other thing. God has a flame in His heart for us, the same one that took Jesus to the cross. To not have one for Him in our heart is the height of ingratitude and selfishness.

The sacrifice was performed both morning and evening. It remained on the altar through the night. We should send up our prayer sacrifice at least this often and always be a living sacrifice. Ex 39:42 “There I will meet you and speak with you.”

Three times in 5 verses we are told to keep the fire burning. The spiritual picture is clear. You probably remember the children’s song, “Don’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine. Let is shine, let it shine, all the time.” I bet you didn’t realize that song goes all the way back to Leviticus. If the fire goes out, the one that God lit, there is always the temptation for man to relight it. We need the fire of God in our sacrifice, not the fire of man. Man’s fire is zealous but ends up glorifying man and not God. The altar of our hearts should always be prepared for sacrifice on the flame that God lit in us.

Meditation: Is the fire on the altar of my heart burning with God’s fire?

 

Knowing the Lord

by Inspiration Ministries

“Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” – Exodus 5:2 NASB

Approaching Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron positioned themselves as messengers for “the Lord, the God of Israel” (v. 1). Pharaoh was to “Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness” (v. 1). Pharaoh’s response indicated that he had no idea what they were talking about or who they meant by “the Lord.”

This response was not surprising; the Egyptians had their own religion and gods. Yet the sad fact was that Pharaoh did not know God or even know who He was. This admission shows the importance of knowing the Lord and telling others about Him. Moses and Aaron knew Him and were willing to risk everything.

But Pharaoh did not know Him at all. Without a reference to God, Pharaoh developed his own explanations and theories. One goal of the plagues God sent was that Pharaoh and others in the land would “know that I am the Lord” (Exodus 7:5).

This parallels the experience of many people today! They rule their own kingdoms and do not know the Lord. In a variety of ways, God, in His love and compassion, allows them to go through experiences that might open their eyes. These experiences might help them know Him, turn to Him, and declare Him their Lord!

What is your relationship with God? Seek to know Him more intimately. Be His witness, helping others realize that He is real. He is the Lord!