Turn To God When Changes Happen

2/27/2020

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.    1 John 1:9

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Changes: God’s Opportunity to Bless

We all have changes in our lives. From day to day we need God to help us get through whatever may come our way. Some days we may be shouting, “Praise God!” while other times we may be crying out, “I need a miracle!” Whatever the day may bring, changes will come and we need to have a godly mindset in order to handle them.

I was in a chapel service recently, and I kept thinking about all the changes that were going on in my life. Between the daily challenges that my husband and I have in our home with raising two teenagers, the constant transitions with our jobs, and the world around us in general — they all speak of changes.

As I thought about it, I felt God drop this pearl into my heart. It is the acronym for the word changes:

Christ
Has
A
New
Gift
Each
Second

Wow! We can look at each new day and even each second as an opportunity for God to bless us! Each moment contains a gift from God if we want to look for it. It can be in a smile from someone at work, an encouraging word from a friend, God’s Word speaking to our hearts, or a pat on the back from our bosses. The list is endless. Let’s not overlook the obvious ones like a promotion, good report cards from our children, a Sunday school child who calls us his or her hero, an unexpected financial blessing, a whole week without something breaking in the house, and good health.

In Malachi 3:6God says, “For I am the Lord, I change not.” Isn’t that comforting? With all the changes, there is one thing that cannot change — GOD. This includes His great love for us.

He also says in His Word,

“So God has given us both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can take new courage, for we can hold on to his promise with confidence”Hebrews 6:18

What has God promised you? He has promised to never leave you nor forsake you, no matter what.

“For the Lord will not cast off His people, neither will He forsake His inheritance” Psalm 94:14

“…for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” Hebrews 13:5

So let the changes come. We will not walk in fear, but in faith! We will trust God with all the changes, and know that He is more than able to help us and that He even has plans to bless us.

Every second, if need be, we can find a blessing. Changes can be our friend. Let’s look for God in them.

Can God change your life?

 

When God Interrupts Your Plans

Guest Contributor

We were recently on a vacation when God interrupted my plans. My family and I had traveled hundreds of miles to stay at a hotel on the beach. I had made arrangements to spend one day visiting with friends. But then, in the middle of the night, the night before my scheduled day out, one of my kids woke up sick. I spent the whole next day stuck inside, staring out the hotel window at the long stretch of beach that was just outside of my reach.

An Interrupted Life

My life is filled with interruptions, inconveniences, frustrations, and unexpected events. Things break. Accidents happen. The phone rings just as I climb into bed. Traffic makes me late. Just when we don’t need another added expense, an appliance breaks. Unexpected illnesses change my carefully crafted plans. I could go on and on. You probably could too.

The problem is, I usually handle these interruptions to my life poorly. I react with frustration and anger. Like a young child, I want to stomp my feet and say, “It’s not fair!” I blame others for inconveniencing me. I’ll even throw my own pity parties.

“Small frustrations and interruptions give us opportunities to rely on God.”

Though these interruptions are unexpected and catch me off guard, they do not catch God off guard. They are not random, meaningless events. In fact, these interruptions are divinely placed in my path for a reason. God uses these interruptions to change me to be more like Christ.

Slow traffic, a sick child, or a costly home repair may not seem like important tools in our sanctification, but they are. We often overlook these interruptions and inconveniences and instead expect God to work in our lives through huge life-changing circumstances. But the reality is, we often won’t have major events in our life that cause us to trust God and obey him in some deeply profound way. We won’t be called to build an ark or take an only child up Mount Moriah. Rather, it’s in these small frustrations and interruptions, the little things in our life, where we are given opportunities to rely on God, to obey him, and to bring him glory.

Paul Tripp puts it like this:

You and I don’t live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We don’t careen from big decision to big decision. We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn’t set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in ten thousand little moments of everyday life. It’s the themes of struggles that emerge from those little moments that reveal what’s really going on in our hearts. (Whiter Than Snow, 21)

Interruptions of Grace

These ten thousand little moments come in the form of our children asking us to play a game with them when we are tied up with something else. They are moments like when we get stuck behind a school bus when we’re already late to an appointment, or when we have a flat tire on the way to work. They are in all those moments all throughout the day when things don’t go our way, our plans fail, and our life is interrupted.

It’s these moments where the rubber meets the road — where our faith is stretched and we look down to see whether we are standing on rock or sand. Do we really believe that God is in control of all the details of our life? Do we really believe that his grace is sufficient to get us through the day? Do we really believe that the gospel of Christ is powerful enough not only to save us for eternity, but also to sustain and strengthen us in the midst of life’s interruptions? Do we really believe that Christ is enough to satisfy all the deepest needs of our heart?

These interruptions are acts of God’s grace. They force us to work through these questions. They make us face our sin. They are God’s way of taking off our blinders and making us see that we need the gospel in every moment of the day. They are a light that shines on the darkest recesses of our heart, revealing the truth of what’s really there — the sins and idols that we’ve pushed off into the corner, thinking that if we can’t see them, they must not exist.

The Reminder We Need

These interruptions remind us that we don’t have life figured out and that we can’t do it on our own. They are like the Shepherd’s rod, pulling us back from our wandering ways, back to our Great Shepherd. We need these interruptions. Like nothing else, they push us to the cross of Christ where we must remember the gospel and receive his grace and forgiveness.

“Christ cares more about our transformation than about our daily comfort.”

It’s hard to see all the little frustrating events and interruptions in our day as divinely placed opportunities to grow in grace, but they are. And seeing them as such helps us take our eyes off ourselves and put them on Christ, who cares more about our transformation than about our daily comfort. Rather than giving us a life of ease, he interrupts our lives with grace and shows us what we need most of all: himself.

How about you? Is your life filled with interruptions? Do you see God’s hand at work in them?

 

A Prayer to Keep it Together When Your Life is Falling Apart 

By”  Cindi McMenamin, crosswalk.com

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” (Romans 8:28-29)

The drama that life brings is inevitable. Yet how we respond to it determines whether or not it will be fruitful in our lives in conforming us to the image of Christ. Our response to the drama also determines whether God gets the glory or we shine the spotlight on our frailties, insecurities, and emotional instability.

 

With help from God’s Word, plus some practical guidance, you and I can be drama free – even when the unthinkable happens. Even when you are clearly a victim. Even when life takes an unexpected turn and you are caught in an overwhelming whirlwind of circumstances that would make any person lose it. Even then.

Here are four ways that you can keep it together when it feels like your life is falling apart. (These four steps spell the word “CALM” which is what you can be if you practice them.)

C – Consider the bigger picture. 

Life – and therefore every circumstance you encounter – is meant to conform you to the image of Christ. Once you consider this, you can relax and realize God knows what He’s doing in the circumstances He’s allowing. And you can focus on passing the test, rather than failing it through unnecessary drama.

A – Acknowledge God is in control. 

You are going to trust the God of miracles and whatever He decides to do or not do, for your greater good. Try taking a look at God’s track record in the stories of the Bible. People went through trial after trial, but when they acknowledged God’s control and remained faithful to Him in spite of their circumstances, they experienced deliverance, protection, comfort, and peace. God has an excellent track record of honoring those who trust Him.

L – Look for the lesson. 

Ask God to show you what He wants you to see in the moment, and then stay tuned to His instruction. I find it is helpful, and a reminder to me that God is working in my life, when I say aloud, “God, show me what You want me to see in this situation” or, “Mold me through this, God,” or, “Open my eyes to the truth of Who You are through this situation and my pain.” Maybe your short prayer is simply, “Change me through this, Lord Jesus.” By acknowledging that God is doing something through our situation, we won’t miss the lesson.

M – Make it a point to praise. 

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we are instructed to “give thanks in all circumstances: for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Note that command says in all circumstances, even the unexpected, uncomfortable, and unwanted circumstances. As we thank God for our circumstances – and for whatever He determines to do through them – it will change our perspective and make us people who anticipate His provision, rather than dread the worst.

 

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.

Submit Yourself To God

2/26/2020

Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.       Proverbs 25:28

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Lent: What Is It Good For?

The days of Lent are marked as a time of faith-filled meditation, fasting, and repentance from Ash Wednesday (today) until Easter. With Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection in full view, observers, in a sense, put a real focus on waging war against their human desires that may be contrary to God’s Word.

For 40 days and nights (not counting Sundays), Christians around the world take on a mantle of spiritual discipline as a way of deepening their faith in God. Observing Lent looks different for every believer, though fasting is usually a major factor. Some choose to fast in the traditional way, giving up a meal or certain types of foods. Others, after evaluating their lifestyle, determine to give up luxuries in order to focus more on their walk with our Heavenly Father, such as turning off the television or radio for Lent or cutting back on their sleep to devote the early morning hours to prayer and Scripture reading.

The options are endless. The important thing is to be obedient to the moving of the Holy Spirit and follow through on exercising self-control in the area God is touching His finger on in your life. Whatever you decide to give up make sure you are in line with what the Bible says about fasting. In the book of Matthew, we are encouraged to fast in “secret”.

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18ESV)

Be careful that your motivation for fasting, and observing Lent for that matter, is to honor God and not to stoke your self-righteousness.

Just as the Son of Man resisted sin in the wilderness, purpose in your heart to remain steadfast during this time of consecration to God. Temptations come each day and will continue through this season, as it did during Christ’s wilderness testing, as recorded in the New Testament book of Mark.

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the Good News of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the Good News.” (Mark 1:12-15 NRSV)

The Bible records many times when Jesus went away by himself and focused his attention on His Father, in Heaven. Lent is a set aside time for us to do the same. As we fast and meditate on God’s Word, take hold of Joel 2.

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. (Joel 2:12-13 NRSV)

Fasting is an integral part of observing Lent. For us, our self-pleasing nature will wage against our desire to deny ourselves. Stay strong to the calling you have in this season. God’s blessings are greater than the momentary pleasures we are giving up.

Mourning is part of the process as we remember Jesus’ death on the Cross, but it’s also a joyous time as we reflect on His resurrection. Our joy is found in Him. Let that be the lesson we all learn during this time of consecration.

Lent, what is it good for? Absolutely everything… that matters.

God’s goodness is better than what our human minds and hearts could ever imagine.

 

God’s Bigger Plan

Scripture Reading — Jeremiah 29:10-1

“When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.” — Jeremiah 29:10

Our reading today includes a verse that parents and teachers often use to encourage young Christians: “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” It’s a beautiful promise, but it needs a bit of context.

God’s words just prior to that verse help us see that God is saying this while his people, the Israelites, are going into exile. So before these hopeful plans go into effect, the people will have to endure 70 years of captivity. And their bright future will hinge on earnestly seeking God, who longs to bring them back.

While we endure seasons of suffering, we ask the Lord to deliver us, to bring us out of exile. But often God’s answer is that we must wait patiently as we settle into this place for now. God will eventually release us, either through healing in this life or by a compassionate transfer to the next. Sometimes God’s plan is for short-lived suffering, and other times God allows us to take a “scenic route” that builds our perseverance and character.

In my case, it’s been six years of melanoma hanging over my head—but never without hope in God. We can make our plans, but the outcome is in God’s hands.

 

Victory in Jesus

by Inspiration Ministries

“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4 NKJV

Job’s trials began with an encounter between God and Satan (Job 1:6-12). But even though this was a spiritual encounter, Job himself never seemed to approach his challenges from a spiritual perspective. It is intriguing to consider how he might have approached these trials had he been equipped with the spiritual gifts and discernment of the believer.

The Bible makes clear that life changes when we are born again, when we follow Jesus and are filled with His Spirit, when we employ the spiritual weapons He has given us, and when we exercise the authority He has given us “over all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19).

As Christians, we have the blood of Jesus, the Word of God, and the power of the Spirit at our disposal. Job seemed to know nothing about these weapons. But believers have so much more knowledge and more powerful weapons.

Now we can use His blood to bind Satan’s ability and power in our lives. Now we can be aggressive and proactive when we experience spiritual attacks.

Today, as you face the challenges of life, remember the reality of spiritual warfare. Remember the power that God has given you. You don’t have to be “ignorant” of the devices of Satan (2 Corinthians 2:11). Even before you face attacks, put on the “whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-18). Be bold in Jesus’ name. Declare victory!

 

A blast of the trumpet against false peace

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” Jeremiah 6:14

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Many of the people of London enjoy peace in their hearts, because they are ignorant of the things of God. It would positively alarm many of our sober orthodox Christians, if they could once have an idea of the utter ignorance of spiritual things that reigns throughout this land. Some of us, when moving about here and there, in all classes of society, have often been left to remark, that there is less known of the truths of religion than of any science, however obscure that science may be. Take as a lamentable instance, the ordinary effusions of the secular press, and who can avoid remarking the ignorance they manifest as to true religion. Let the papers speak on politics, it is a matter they understand, and their ability is astonishing; but, once let them touch religion, and our Sabbath-school children could convict them of entire ignorance. The statements they put forth are so crude, so remote from the fact, that we are led to imagine that the presentation of a fourpenny testament to special correspondents, should be one of the first efforts of our societies for spreading the gospel among the heathen. As to theology, some of our great writers seem to be as little versed in it as a horse or a cow. Go among all ranks and classes of men, and since the day we gave up our catechism, and old Dr Watts’ and the Assemblies’ ceased to be used, people have not a clear idea of what is meant by the gospel of Christ. I have frequently heard it asserted, by those who have judged the modern pulpit without severity, that if a man attended a course of thirteen lectures on geology, he would get a pretty clear idea of the system, but that you might hear not merely thirteen sermons, but thirteen hundred sermons and you would not have a clear idea of the system of divinity that was meant to be taught.

For meditation: The unconverted by themselves cannot understand the truths of the Gospel when they hear them unless God enlightens them (1 Corinthians 2:142 Corinthians 4:4). But there are parts of the country where they would find it very hard to hear the truths of the Gospel being preached (Amos 8:11,12).

Streams in the Desert – February 26

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

But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. (2 Cor 12:9)

The other evening I was riding home after a heavy day’s work. I felt very wearied, and sore depressed, when swiftly, and suddenly as a lightning flash, that text came to me, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” I reached home and looked it up in the original, and at last it came to me in this way, “MY grace is sufficient for thee”; and I said, “I should think it is, Lord,” and burst out laughing. I never fully understood what the holy laughter of Abraham was until then. It seemed to make unbelief so absurd. It was as though some little fish, being very thirsty, was troubled about drinking the river dry, and Father Thames said, “Drink away, little fish, my stream is sufficient for thee.” Or, it seemed after the seven years of plenty, a mouse feared it might die of famine; and Joseph might say, “Cheer up, little mouse, my granaries are sufficient for thee.” Again, I imagined a man away up yonder, in a lofty mountain, saying to himself, “I breathe so many cubic feet of air every year, I fear I shall exhaust the oxygen in the atmosphere,” but the earth might say, “Breathe away, O man, and fill the lungs ever, my atmosphere is sufficient for thee.” Oh, brethren, be great believers! Little faith will bring your souls to Heaven, but great faith will bring Heaven to your souls.
C. H. Spurgeon

His grace is great enough to meet the great things
The crashing waves that overwhelm the soul,
The roaring winds that leave us stunned and breathless,
The sudden storm beyond our life’s control.

His grace is great enough to meet the small things
The little pin-prick troubles that annoy,
The insect worries, buzzing and persistent,
The squeaking wheels that grate upon our joy.

Annie Johnson Flint

There is always a large balance to our credit in the bank of Heaven waiting for our exercise of faith in drawing it. Draw heavily upon His resources.

God Always Takes Care Of You

February 25, 2020

Philippians 4:19

19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 

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How to Discover God’s Abundance When You’re Broke

Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com

Financial pressures – from unemployment to unexpected bills – can cause a tremendous amount of stress in your life. When you don’t have enough money, you’re not just broke, but also broken from the stress of living in a financial crisis.

Something surprising can happen when you’re broke, however. When you seek God in your brokenness, you can find riches that go beyond money, enriching your soul even if your bank account runs low. Here’s how:

Look beyond how God answers your prayers to his presence with you.

Although God may not be answering your prayers for financial provision the way you’d like right now, you can count on the fact that God is with you nevertheless. Make an effort to notice the various signs of God’s constant presence in your life. Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you sense God’s presence with you so you can feel comforted by it.

Discover the meaning of praying for daily bread.

You may think about the famous phrase “give us this day our daily bread” from the Lord’s Prayer when you’re praying for God to provide the money you need to live each day. Realize, though, that praying for daily bread isn’t so much about receiving the actual thing you need – money – as it is about deepening your trust in God, who faithfully provides whatever you need. By inviting God to meet your needs rather than trying to meet them apart from God, you’re building a closer relationship to God that will lead to blessings you couldn’t imagine asking God for, but which he gives you unexpectedly as rewards for seeking him.

Embrace the mystery of how God works.

God may not choose to tell you why he has allowed you to go through a financial crisis, or when or how he plans to lead you out of it. But if you embrace the mystery of your situation, you’ll be motivated to keep seeking God, and in the process he will strengthen your faith.

Be open to make whatever lifestyle changes God calls you to make.

If you sense the Holy Spirit’s nudging to do something specific that can significantly improve your financial situation – such as selling items you don’t need, switching your kids from private school to public school, or taking on a side job to earn extra cash – be ready to say “yes” to whatever God calls you to do.

Confess and repent of your financial sins.

Honestly consider how you’ve made mistakes or been selfish with financial decisions that have impacted your current financial crisis. In prayer, confess any sins that have affected your finances, and repent of them by committing to change your habits as God leads you to do so (such as cutting back on the amount of money you spend each month, or creating a plan to pay off your debt).

Learn from the suffering that God allows you to go through.

Trust God to redeem whatever suffering he lets you go through while you’re broke to accomplish valuable purposes in your life. Let your pain lead you to contemplate the Cross, where Jesus’ sacrifice for humanity’s sins showed how God’s love redeems all suffering. As you pray to Jesus for wisdom, you’ll learn whatever God wants to teach you through the suffering that your financial crisis has brought into your life.

Participate in generous relationships with other believers.

When you’re broke, allow yourself to receive help from your brothers and sisters in Christ if God leads them to help you in any specific ways – from giving you grocery store gift cards, to passing along job leads. When you’re past your financial crisis, respond to God’s leading to help other believers with their needs. As you give and receive through relationships with those in your spiritual family, you’ll represent Jesus to one another and see God’s kingdom at work here on Earth.

Choose to believe even when you can’t sense God how God is working in your situation.

During the times when you don’t notice any evidence of God’s work in your crisis, let your mind be the place that clings to God by reminding yourself of His promise to always be with you – and trusting that he is faithful to fulfill that promise, even when you’re not faithful to him or can’t sense him with you.

Let yourself be dazzled by sacred serendipities.

Expect that God may surprise and dazzle you by giving you some unexpected blessings in the middle of your financial crisis, just because he loves you. If that happens, don’t dismiss those blessings as mere coincidences, but recognize that God sent them into your life to encourage you.

Pay attention to your imagination.

What you imagine about your financial future reflects the desires in your heart, which God has placed there. Pray about those desires and ask God to grant them at the right time, in the right ways.

Be open to whatever God wants to teach you in the different seasons of your journey with him.

Whether you’re experiencing a season of financial poverty or financial riches, God is with you and has something to teach you. Ask God to reveal what he wants you to learn in every type of financial circumstances you go through.

Never stop giving.

Don’t let any financial crisis cause you to stop giving to support your local church, charities that help people in need, and any other ways that God leads you to give to others. Even though you’ll have less money to give when you’re in a crisis, it’s important to still maintain the habit of giving, because that’s a way of worshipping God and deepening your trust in Him. God wants to know that you love him more than your money, and when you show him that by obeying his command to give as generously as you can in all circumstances, he will enrich your soul by transforming you into a person who grows more like Jesus every day.

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Let’s Be Rich Toward God

By: John Piper

Jesus and the apostles considered money hazardous and helpful. And they taught us how to minimize the hazard, and maximize the helpfulness. And that’s what I hope to do today. I would like to spare you the tragedies that money can bring, and I would like to maximize your joy in the way you make your money helpful.

Money Represents Value

Now let’s make clear immediately that money in itself is simply pieces of metal and pieces of paper. And the reason they are of any concern to us at all is that in our culture we have established that these pieces of metal and paper will function as currency. They will represent value. So money is significant for us simply because we exchange it for what we value. What you do with your money shows what you value with your heart.

We value life and taste, so we give money for food. We value education, and so we give money for books and tuition. We value entertainment (probably too highly), and so we give money for Netflix and ballgames and concerts. We value the ministries of the church and the spread of the gospel, and so we give money to the church and other ministries.

“The movement of your money signifies the movement of your heart.”

Jesus said here in Luke 12:34, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The movement of your money signifies the movement of your heart. Where your money goes, your heart is going. You exchange money for what you value, what you treasure.

So when I say that money is hazardous and helpful, what I mean is that the pieces of metal and paper that you have in your pocket or purse have the capacity to show that you value things more than God (which is hazardous), or that you value God more than things (which is helpful). The paper is nothing, but its expression of the treasures of your heart is everything.

The Conviction of This Message

The conviction behind this message therefore is threefold: (1) that where a people (I’m thinking of you now — this church) treasures God above all that money can buy; and (2) where a people understands the biblical teaching that the movement of your money expresses the movement of your heart; and (3) where a people grasps that the local church is crucial for God’s work in the world, that people — that church — will have what it needs to pursue God’s mission of mercy and evangelization, and to build up the body of Christ; and all the while every member and family in it will be cared for.

So my job, week in and week out, is to point you to the supreme value of God in Christ, and to reveal how the heart moves with its money, and to highlight the preciousness of this local church in our lives.

My approach today will be to give an exposition of this text, Luke 12:13–21, and a longer application using my own experience as a testimony to God’s faithfulness.

Confronted with a Choice

Someone approached Jesus and said in Luke 12:13, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Now Jesus is confronted with a choice — just as we pastors are from time to time. Will he get down into the nitty-gritty of the inheritance dispute, or not? Just a few weeks ago I was drawn into such a dispute. I found Jesus’s approach here instructive.

He says in verse 14, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” In other words, my calling is different from what you are asking of me. I do have something relevant to say to you, but I am not the one to be drawn into the details of this dispute. And then he gives a warning about how hazardous this inheritance is. He says in verse 15, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

He sees a man losing his grip on his portion of the inheritance. And he sees in him some evidence that the hazard of the inheritance is deceiving the man. This is why Jesus refers to “the deceitfulness of riches” in Matthew 13:22. This inheritance was lying to the man. This is why money is so hazardous. It lies to us. It tries to deceive us. What was it saying?

How Money Lies

It was saying: “If you lose me, you lose a very large part of your life. If you lose me, you lose what life can be for you. I am your life. Do you realize how big I am? Life will be real life — truly life — if you have me.” That’s what the inheritance was saying.

And Paul knew that’s what riches say. Which is why he told the rich in 1 Timothy 6:18–19, “Be rich in good works . . . be ready to share . . . take hold of that which is truly life.” In other words, don’t be deceived by the message of money that woos you with the words: “I give you life. Your life will be drab and boring and empty and meaningless and unhappy without me. I am your life.”

And to this Jesus says in verse 15, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” In other words. It’s a lie. Don’t listen. “Take care, and be on your guard.” This lie will awaken covetousness, and covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5), and therefore the hazard here is huge. Not only is this inheritance not your life. It is about to take your life.

Which is exactly what Paul said about the hazard of money in 1 Timothy 6:9, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” Beware! Be on your guard! This inheritance is about to kill you. This is more or less what I said in the dispute a few weeks ago: the issue here is not mainly whether you get your fair share, but whether wanting it so much will destroy you.

What Life Really Is

Oh, how vulnerable the fallen human heart is — mine is — to feeling that having lots of things equals being really alive. And Jesus is urgent and passionate (verse 15): your life does not consist in having lots of things. Life consists in knowing God. John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Life is not having things. Life is knowing God. Now Jesus is coming to that.

So Jesus tells them a parable. Not just for the man who asked the question, but for all of us. We are all listening in. So it says in verse 16, “He told them a parable.”

“Life is not having things. Life is knowing God.”

The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?” And he said, “I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.

It is not a bad thing when your “land produces plentifully” (verse 16). It is not a bad thing when your business prospers. It is not a bad thing to receive a promotion and with it a pay increase. It is not a bad thing when your investments increase in value. That is not the evil in this parable. He is not called a fool for being a productive farmer. God knows this broken world needs productive farmers and profitable businesses.

 

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.”

Christ Can Make You Free

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Overcoming Anxiety, Worry, and Tension

From: cbn.com

Breaking Free From The Crippling Effects of Stress

Anxiety, worry and tension are some of the most destructive forces we can face. They sap our strength and slowly undermine our faith, keeping us from maturing in the Lord (Luke 8:14). If we are to grow in our relationship with Jesus, we must discover God’s plan for freedom from the crippling cycle of stress.

Stress’ Source of Power

Anxiety, worry and tension occur when we face a situation and choose to rely upon our own strength rather than upon God and His Word. Maybe we have forgotten that God can handle any problem. Or perhaps we let our carnal nature persuade us that we can do a better job handling the situation ourselves.

By doing this, we are actually engaging in a subtle form of idolatry. Consider the first commandment God spoke to Moses: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3Deut. 5:7). In other words, we should trust God alone.

But when we choose to lean on our own understanding instead of God’s promises, we are placing ourselves or the overwhelming situations we are facing, before the Lord. The moment we step into that place of self-reliance, we open our emotions to a flood of anxiety, worry and tension. But there is hope and freedom for anyone caught in this snare.

Breaking Free

God wants us to be free from worry. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). But to enter that rest we have to cut off stress’ source of power: our unbelief (Heb. 3:19).

In one of the greatest passages of Scripture, Jesus confronts our futile anxiety (Matt. 6:25-34). He tells us to look at how God feeds the birds of the air and arrays the lilies of the field. How much more will He care for his children?

Then Jesus says, “Do not be anxious” about the things of this world. Instead, give God the proper priority in our lives. “Seek first the kingdom and His righteousness” and He will take care of the rest.

As we grow in our understanding of God’s love for us, we will soon realize that nothing in this world can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39) … no financial burden, family crisis, job situation, sickness … nothing in the past and nothing in the future. Because He cares so deeply for us, we can cast our anxiety upon Him (1 Peter 5:7)

Casting Our Cares On Him

Every day will bring new opportunities to cast our cares upon Him. One of the best ways we can do this is by replacing our worry and tension with prayer and thanksgiving. “Be anxious for nothing,” the Bible says, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6). This command is followed by a wonderful promise: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).

It is also important to begin incorporating God’s pattern for rest into your own life. You should set aside one day a week as the Lord’s day taking a break from your work routine so you can enter into His rest.

As we learn to take God at His Word, walk in His favor and trust in His strength, our worries will melt away, replaced by a precious peace that is known only by those who rest in God’s loving arms.

As You Pray

Are you walking in His peace? Or are you weighed down by anxiety, worry and tension? There’s a simple solution: tell God you are sorry for not believing His promises, begin to give Him first place in your life, and then enter into His rest.

Take a few moments right now to enter into the rest God has for you: “Father, forgive me for my unbelief. I no longer want to trust in my own strength. Thank You for caring so deeply for me. I give You all my worries. I know I can trust You with these situations. I accept Your rest. Please teach me how to walk in Your rest each and every day. In Jesus’ name. Amen”

God’s Word On Anxiety

“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span? And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; thy do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith? Do not be anxious then saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:26-34)

 

God’s Truth Sets Us Free

“To the jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’” John 8:31-32 (NIV)

The accusations were unsettling – the suspected infidelity of a husband, who was also in full-time ministry. Some called for his resignation, while others stood by him – his wife, Trisha*, was one of them. She chose to believe her husband when he denied the rumors.
The controversy swirled, no proof was ever uncovered, but this man stepped down from his position. His wife, although eaten up inside by the turmoil and suspicions, continued to support her husband. She refused to believe the rumors and stood firm on what she believed to be true about the man she had committed to love and honor so many years before.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long after he resigned, that Trisha’s husband claimed to have lost his love for her and moved out. Divorce papers followed a few months later.
Confused and hurt, Trisha sought answers in prayer and God’s Word. She wanted to know the truth and asked that God bring it to light. She read the Bible with a revived hunger and wrote down Scriptures that brought peace and hope. She printed them out on index cards and carried God’s Word with her throughout the day. Although her heart was heavy with grief and filled with questions, my friend chose to turn to God for comfort. God was faithful and filled her with peace.
Trisha accepted the situation, but continued to pray for truth to be revealed. It bothered her to not know the whole truth of what happened, until one day when God spoke to her through John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” In the quiet of her heart, Trisha realized that God had been showing her the truth all along – only it wasn’t the truth about what happened, it was His truth.
With each Scripture she read, God planted His truth in her heart … truth about her value, God’s character and His great love for her. God’s truth was setting Trisha free from the bondage of needing to know the truth about her husband.
There’s so much we may never know for sure in this life. Worry and fear can hold us captive. Yet Jesus promised freedom when we know the truth. In order for that to happen, we have to read God’s word for ourselves and allow God to plant it in our hearts. Then, like my friend Trisha, we can move on in life, free from the bondage of uncertain circumstances and standing firm on the rock of God’s truth.

Renewed

by Inspiration Ministries

“The Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before … The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.” – Job 42:10, 12 ESV

Abraham Lincoln was carrying the weight of the world that summer day in 1863. After visiting the War Department, he told his wife, “It is dark, dark everywhere.” America was mired in a tragic Civil War. It seemed like a hopeless time for people on both sides.

Many thought they knew Lincoln. But Elizabeth Keckley had a unique perspective. A freed slave, she had become a seamstress for Lincoln’s wife and shared many intimate moments with the family. She knew that those “were sad, anxious days to Mr. Lincoln, and those who saw the man in privacy only could tell how much he suffered.”

That day, Elizabeth watched Lincoln while she fitted a dress on Mrs. Lincoln. His face was sad. “He was a complete picture of dejection.” Then, Lincoln “took a small Bible” and “soon was absorbed in reading.” He read silently for more than fifteen minutes, reading “with Christian eagerness.” Gradually, his appearance was transformed. His face “seemed more cheerful. The dejected look was gone, replaced by “new resolution and hope.” He looked like “a new man.”

What made such a difference? She discovered that Lincoln was reading from Job. She was overwhelmed, realizing how this “ruler of a mighty nation” found such “comfort and courage.”

The book of Job has had this impact on many throughout history. It gives us perspective and hope in our darkest hours.

 

Streams in the Desert – February 24

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

Many came to him and began to say, “John performed no miraculous sign, but everything John said about this man was true!” (John 10:41)

You may be very discontented with yourself. You are no genius, have no brilliant gifts, and are inconspicuous for any special faculty. Mediocrity is the law of your existence. Your days are remarkable for nothing but sameness and insipidity. Yet you may live a great life.

John did no miracle, but Jesus said that among those born of women there had not appeared a greater than he.

John’s main business was to bear witness to the Light, and this may be yours and mine. John was content to be only a voice, if men would think of Christ.

Be willing to be only a voice, heard but not seen; a mirror whose surface is lost to view, because it reflects the dazzling glory of the sun; a breeze that springs up just before daylight, and says, “The dawn! the dawn!” and then dies away.

Do the commonest and smallest things as beneath His eye. If you must live with uncongenial people, set to their conquest by love. If you have made a great mistake in your life, do not let it becloud all of it; but, locking the secret in your breast, compel it to yield strength and sweetness.

We are doing more good than we know, sowing seeds, starting streamlets, giving men true thoughts of Christ, to which they will refer one day as the first things that started them thinking of Him; and, of my part, I shall be satisfied if no great mausoleum is raised over my grave, but that simple souls shall gather there when I am gone, and say,

“He was a good man; he wrought no miracles, but he spake words about Christ, which led me to know Him for myself.”
George Matheson

“THY HIDDEN ONES” (Psa. 83:3)

“Thick green leaves from the soft brown earth,
Happy springtime hath called them forth;
First faint promise of summer bloom
Breathes from the fragrant, sweet perfume,
Under the leaves.

“Lift them! what marvelous beauty lies
Hidden beneath, from our thoughtless eyes!
Mayflowers, rosy or purest white,
Lift their cups to the sudden light,
Under the leaves.

“Are there no lives whose holy deeds—
Seen by no eye save His who reads
Motive and action—in silence grow
Into rare beauty, and bud and blow
Under the leaves?

“Fair white flowers of faith and trust,
Springing from spirits bruised and crushed;
Blossoms of love, rose-tinted and bright,
Touched and painted with Heaven’s own light
Under the leaves.

Trust God In The Storms

February 23, 2020

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.Mark 16:15
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Suffering Through Storms

Remember when the disciples were on the Sea of Galilee and a storm struck? (Read Matthew 14.) The wind and waves began in the evening and continued all night long.

Meanwhile, Jesus was on a mountaintop praying, far away from the impending disaster. I’m convinced the disciples were praying for the storm to stop, or at least to be able to make it to the other side of the Sea and find safety on dry land. Jesus didn’t answer those prayers. Instead, He met them out on the Sea, walking on the water. Why?

This age-old question has kept millions at an arms-length away from their Creator. Why does human suffering occur and why does God not stop it? When we are going through trials and tribulations, we can hang our hats on this truth: God has a divine purpose in the pain. Our job is to trust Him through it and wait to see the spiritual fruit that accompanies it in the future.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

God has not promised us an easy life. Far from it! He has promised His children that he will be with us through those trials. Jesus meets us in the middle of the storm to build our faith and to teach us to worship Him in truth and spirit.

Suffering produces a reliance on God in the heart of the faithful. Suffering pushes others further from the Lord when their souls are unfaithful and bitter. In essence, tough times separate the wheat from the chaff. As we grow spiritually, God begins to show us His power and comfort as we go through the curve balls in life.

The comfort we receive from Him can be used to bring people into the Kingdom of God. When non-believers experience trouble, it’s the perfect opportunity for the believer to comfort them, love them, and understand them. When we show others God’s love through our lives, they will be prodded to consider Jesus as their own Lord and Savior.

We live on a fallen planet where sin and suffering is the natural order of things. Suffering will continue until sin disappears; and that will not happen until the Second Coming of our Lord.

Notice some key words in the verse 5: abundantly and abounds. The word abounds comes from the Latin word abundāre, meaning to overflow. Imagine a river after a rainstorm. The water overflows its banks because it cannot be contained. There’s too much water! In the same way, God provides a mechanism through the power of the Holy Spirit to bring an overflowing amount of comfort when times turn difficult.

That comfort is available in very large quantities when we humble ourselves before the Lord. This builds our faith and helps us shine a brighter light into a darkened world. One of the greatest evangelism tools we have is our testimony. Every powerful testimony contains copious examples of God’s grace and comfort when the wind threatens to tear us down. Seek God’s comfort today. You will not only be helping yourself, but you will also be providing a wonderful weapon for your Lord to use to see others come into His glorious kingdom.

 

The Wonderful Gift of… Suffering?

Author: John Upchurch, crosswalk.com

 

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” (Philippians 1:29-30)

Philippians 1:29 is one of those verses that makes me stop and shake my head in disbelief. Paul tells the readers of this letter that suffering has been granted to them. Granted? Really? As in, “Here you go. Here’s a big ol’ heaping helping of suffering”?

 

If you dig into the Greek behind that phrase, you’ll uncover the word charizomai. This word usually implies something that’s freely given for someone else’s benefit. In fact, Paul uses this same word to talk about how God forgave our sins (Colossians 2:13Ephesians 4:32); how we are to forgive others freely (2 Corinthians 2:7, 10); and how God bestows gifts or titles because of His love and power (as in Philippians 2:9). In Luke 7:21, the same word shows how Jesus gave sight to the blind. Free, beneficial gifts.

All those are well and good. So, why would Paul add something crazy like suffering to these other good things? Surely, he has to see that suffering doesn’t fit in the same category as healing the blind and forgiving sin. They don’t even share the same zip code. Right?

Well, Paul’s example shows us that they do. Right near the end of Acts (chapter 27), Paul gets stuck with a stubborn centurion who can’t wait to get to Rome and a ship’s pilot who’s happy to oblige. Paul warns that such a trip will end badly. They ignore him (word to the wise: never ignore Paul). When they run into a storm, things look really, really bad. People are throwing supplies overboard, faces are green, and hope goes buh-bye.

About that time, Paul gets to give his “I told you so” speech, and in that speech, he uses our old friend charizomai. An angel had appeared to Paul and told him, “God has granted you all those who are sailing with you” (Acts 27:24). God had granted him seasick sailors (who wanted to kill the prisoners, mind you) and a stubborn centurion who refused to listen to sense. What kind of gift is that? God could have granted him a miraculous trip to a nearby island—perhaps somewhere warm and not so stormy.

But if that had been the case, Paul wouldn’t have done the other part of this verse: “you must stand before Caesar.” If Paul had been whisked away, in fact, we wouldn’t have the books of Acts or Luke (that chapter is filled with “we” from our good doctor friend who also survived the storm); the sailors and centurion wouldn’t have seen God’s mighty act to save every single one of them; and Paul wouldn’t have taken the gospel to the most important city in the Roman Empire. God gave Paul the gift of their lives so that the gospel would bulldoze on.

And that brings up back to Paul’s suggestion that suffering is granted—a gift. Quite likely, Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians not long after being smashed into the rocks. Despite the messy trip (or perhaps precisely because of it), the message of Christ spread throughout the royal guard and people all over Rome. Other Christians got some backbone to speak more boldly (Philippians 1:13-14). Things went boom all over.

Intersecting Faith & Life: The gift of suffering, for Paul and for us, doesn’t seem much like a gift—at first. But the vantage point makes all the difference. Suffering that comes for the sake of Christ always produces a harvest of awesome. That’s because, in addition to the suffering, God also grants us the strength to endure and the chance to see the gospel take root.

And that’s why Paul can truthfully say, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things” (Philippians 3:8). That’s not empty boasting from a beaten down man. That’s the triumphant cry of someone who sees what lies ahead.

 

Five Purposes for Suffering

For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

We seldom know the micro reasons for our sufferings, but the Bible does give us faith-sustaining macro reasons.

It is good to have a way to remember some of these so that, when we are suddenly afflicted, or have a chance to help others in their affliction, we can recall some of the truths God has given us to help us not lose hope.

Here is one way to remember: 5 R’s (or if it helps, just pick three and try to remember them).

The macro purposes of God in our sufferings include:

Repentance: Suffering is a call for us and others to turn from treasuring anything on earth above God. Luke 13:4–5:

“Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Reliance: Suffering is a call to trust God and not the life-sustaining props of this world. 2 Corinthians 1:8–9:

We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

Righteousness: Suffering is the discipline of our loving heavenly Father so that we come to share his righteousness and holiness. Hebrews 12:610–11:

“The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” . . . He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Reward: Suffering is working for us a great reward in heaven that will make up for every loss here a thousandfold. 2 Corinthians 4:17:

This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

Finally, Reminder: Suffering reminds us that God sent his Son into the world to suffer so that our suffering would not be God’s condemnation but his purification. Philippians 3:10:

. . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings.

So, it is understandable that the Christian heart would cry out in suffering, “Why?” since we don’t know most of the micro reasons for our suffering — why now, why this way, why this long? But don’t let that ignorance of the micro reasons cause you to overlook the massive help God gives in his word by telling us his macro purposes for us.

“You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11).

 

Streams in the Desert – February 23

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

And there came a lion (1 Samuel 17:34).

It is a source of inspiration and strength to come in touch with the youthful David, trusting God. Through faith in God he conquered a lion and a bear, and afterwards overthrew the mighty Goliath. When that lion came to despoil that flock, it came as a wondrous opportunity to David. If he had failed or faltered he would have missed God’s opportunity for him and probably would never have come to be God’s chosen king of Israel.

“And there came a lion.” One would not think that a lion was a special blessing from God; one would think that only an occasion of alarm. The lion was God’s opportunity in disguise. Every difficulty that presents itself to us, if we receive it in the right way, is God’s opportunity. Every temptation that comes is God’s opportunity.

When the “lion” comes, recognize it as God’s opportunity no matter how rough the exterior. The very tabernacle of God was covered with badgers’ skins and goats’ hair; one would not think there would be any glory there. The Shekinah of God was manifest under that kind of covering. May God open our eyes to see Him, whether in temptations, trials, dangers, or misfortunes.
–C. H. P.

God Keeps His Promises

February 22, 2020

God Keeps His Promises

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

Luke 9:24

 

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Completely Trusting Our God of Completion

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9 (ESV)

Is there a desperate cry within your heart that you’re longing with every fiber of your being to see come to pass?

I know what that’s like.

In my own life, I’ve watched minutes turn into days and weeks into years, as I’ve tried to learn to make some sort of spiritual peace with seasons of waiting.

On my good days I stand assured, “It’s just not God’s timing yet.” But on my less stellar days I crumble, afraid and hurt, “God, why? When? You know how much my heart is aching.”

What is that hurt, that desire, that prayer you’ve brought to God countless times?

If we turn back to the Old Testament in our Bibles, specifically the book of Zechariah, we find the Israelites in a place of crying out in desperation for the arrival of their great and glorious King and His Kingdom. While they have returned from Babylonian exile, discouragement has set in as they look at the state of their lives. Their enemies remain unpunished. The temple has yet to be fully rebuilt. And the partially rebuilt city of Jerusalem feels like a mere shadow of what God has promised it will one day be. (Zechariah 1:14-17)

The words from the prophet Zechariah in our key verse are a declaration to the children of God that hope is on its way: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

Hope that is reiterated in passage after passage of Scripture that refers to the coming King and His Kingdom — Isaiah 62:11; Jeremiah 30:9; Daniel 2:44-45; 7:27; Micah 4:1-8.

The promise is sure. Their story isn’t over. Their King is on His way.

But the salvation they are expecting? The ultimate deliverance they truly need? It won’t show up for another 500 years. A fact we see when we look ahead in our Bibles to the exact moment the Zechariah 9:9 prophecy is fulfilled.

It’s a moment recorded in all four Gospels as Jesus enters Jerusalem on a colt during the last week of His life. (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-38; John 12:12-16) As Jesus rides down the Mount of Olives toward the Eastern Gate, the crowds rejoice and shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9) These shouts reveal both their desperation and their expectation.

They long to be set free from Roman rule — expecting Jesus to become their king on earth and right the political injustices they face. But there’s a vast difference between the people’s expectations and Christ’s purpose. If He were merely a political king, the Messiah probably would have ridden a horse or stallion. However, when Jesus enters, He enters on a donkey! This significance is immense.

Not only was Jesus riding on a donkey fulfilling prophecy, it also signaled Jesus had a different plan and purpose. He didn’t come to bring a temporary victory by becoming an earthly king through battle. He came to bring an everlasting victory by becoming the eternal King who died on a cross to save His people.

What a powerful reminder that God’s ways are sometimes opposite of what we want and expect. We need to remember to consider what God’s purposes are and align our expectations and desires around His.

Zechariah never saw the fruit of the prophecy. And Jesus’ own disciples didn’t see the significance of His triumphal entry until much later. Knowing this helps me when I start to struggle with the timing of circumstances in my own life. I often want to immediately see the good that God promises, but sometimes God’s good answer is “not yet.” There is a timing to everything.

You may be living under a promise of God but not yet see the fruit of that promise. You might pray for something that hasn’t happened yet and even see no hope of it ever coming to pass. Though we may not understand, we must trust God’s timing is perfect.

Our God is a God of completion. He makes promises and then He fulfills them. Even if we don’t see it in this life — He will complete what He has set out to complete.

 

The Never-Forgetting, Always Promise-Keeping God

A day doesn’t go by when someone forgets the promises they made — to their employees, to the ones who elected them, to us.

A business owner promises there will be no more layoffs, and then six months later another round of your friends are sent packing. The president promises no new taxes, and two years later you’re giving more of your paycheck to Uncle Sam.

Or how about something more personal: your friend promises to keep your deepest struggle to herself, yet a week later you catch wind that everyone in your circle knows what haunts you; you believe your husband’s promise to stop his Internet habit once and for all, only to discover the same smutty websites back in his web browser history.

People fail us left and right, and one of the main reasons is because they forget their promises—no, they break their promises.

Not God, not the Mighty One!

He is the never-forgetting, always promise-keeping God. And that’s something to jump up and down with joy over, isn’t it?

Mary sure does. She sings about her joy because she’s ecstatic, she overflows with praises to God, her spirit bursts with joy over her life-giving God. One of the reasons she sings this way is:

“because [the Mighty One] can never forget to show mercy, he has helped his chosen servant, Israel, keeping his promises to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” Luke 1:54-55 (TPT)

Our God never forgets to show mercy. Israel had sung about this mercy for generations with several Psalms, like Psalm 36:

“But you, O Lord, your mercy-seat love is limitless, Reaching higher than the highest heavens. Your great faithfulness is so infinite, stretching over the whole earth. Your tender care and kindness leave no one forgotten, not a man nor even a mouse. God, how extravagant is your cherishing love!” Psalm 36:5-7(TPT)

For generations, God had helped his chosen servant, Israel. Despite the countless times they turned their backs on him, God didn’t give them what they deserved. That’s enough for anyone to jump up with joy!

But God’s love for His people doesn’t stop there. Because not only does he never fail to show mercy, God never, never forgets. No matter how big the promise, no matter how old the promise, our God is the never-forgetting, always promise-keeping God. To the point of making good on a promise he gave way back to the very first of his chosen people, Abraham.

In Genesis 12, God promised to make a great nation out of Abraham; to bless those who blessed him and curse those cursed him; to bless all peoples on the planet through him and his offspring. And Mary recognized that this was the moment God was making good on his promise — not only to the Jewish people, but to all peoples. Through her Son, God finally made good on his promise.

Because God is a never-forgetting, always promise-keeping God, we have forgiveness from sins, release from shame and guilt, and all the blessings of this life and the next.

If that’s not reason to join with Mary in jumping up and down in ecstatic, overflowing, soul-bursting joy—then I don’t know what is!

 

God’s Promises – God’s Love at Work

By: Margaret D. Mitchell, crosswalk.org

 

God’s Promises

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”  ~Hebrews 10:36

God purposes the timing and manifestations of His promises.  Though some seem a long time coming, they are not.  Though the wait may feel like God has forgotten, He has not.  God’s timing is perfect, and His patience is great.

Consider Elizabeth and Mary.  Despite their great difference in age, both women were pregnant with promised sons simultaneously.  The timing of each pregnancy was purposed according to God’s plan as was their children’s destinies.

What has God promised you?  Has He delivered yet?  How’s your faith?

2 Peter 3:8 says, “a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

Perseverance in obedience is the key to receiving the promises of God.  And when we get off track, repentance is key.

In Psalm 119, we see that God gives us hope through His promises (vs. 49).  He preserves our lives through His promises (vs. 50).  He supplies us with grace according to His promises (vs. 58).  And we are to meditate on and rejoice in His promises (vs. 148, 162).

God’s heart within us and the fulfillment of His promises allow us to forgive those who disappointed us on a greater level.  When we expect people, not God, to fulfill promises only God can fulfill, we must repent and release them to Him.  False expectations can hold us in bondage and cause us to miss God’s very best for our lives.

What have you expected and have not yet received?  How are you handling the situation?  Are you praising God throughout the process?  Has your mind been on Him or on your circumstances?  How about your heart?  Do you know that God loves you enough to bring fulfillment, to be true to His word.  Do you trust Him enough?

Have you asked God what His will is?  Have you asked Him what you are supposed to complete before He fulfills His promise?

The fulfillment of God’s promises points toward Him as the one true God.  David’s prayer in 2 Samuel 7:25-26 says, “And now, Lord God, keep forever the promise You have made concerning Your servant and His house.  Do as You promised, so that Your name will be great forever.  Then men will say, ‘The Lord Almighty is God over Israel!’  And the house of Your servant David will be established before You.”

When God fulfills His promises, do we give Him all the glory?  Is it all about Him?  Is He first on our hearts?

Psalm 145:13 says, “The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made.”

Jeremiah 32:19 says, “great are Your purposes and mighty are Your deeds.  Your eyes are open to all the ways of men; You reward everyone according to his conduct and as his deeds deserve.”

May we receive the full measure of God’s promises by being obedient to His will.

 

Streams in the Desert – February 22

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

If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth (Mark 9:23).

Seldom have we heard a better definition of faith than was given once in one of our meetings, by a dear old colored woman, as she answered the question of a young man how to take the Lord for needed help.

In her characteristic way, pointing her finger toward him, she said with great emphasis: “You’ve just got to believe that He’s done it and it’s done.” The great danger with most of us is that, after we ask Him to do it, we do not believe that it is done, but we keep on helping Him, and getting others to help Him; and waiting to see how He is going to do it.

Faith adds its “Amen” to God’s “Yea,” and then takes its hands off, and leaves God to finish His work. Its language is, “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him; and he worketh.”
–Days of Heaven upon Earth

I simply take Him at His word,
I praise Him that my prayer is heard,
And claim my answer from the Lord;
I take, He undertakes.

An active faith can give thanks for a promise, though it be not as yet performed; knowing that God’s bonds are as good as ready money.
–Matthew Henry

Passive faith accepts the word as true
But never moves.
Active faith begins the work to do,
And thereby proves.
Passive faith says, “I believe it! every word of God is true.
Well I know He hath not spoken what He cannot, will not, do.
He hath bidden me, ‘Go forward!’ but a closed-up way I see,
When the waters are divided, soon in Canaan’s land I’ll be.
Lo! I hear His voice commanding, ‘Rise and walk: take up thy bed’;
And, ‘Stretch forth thy withered member!’ which for so long has been dead.
When I am a little stronger, then, I know I’ll surely stand:
When there comes a thrill of heating, I will use with ease My other hand.
Yes, I know that ‘God is able’ and full willing all to do:
I believe that every promise, sometime, will to me come true.”
Active faith says, “I believe it! and the promise now I take,
Knowing well, as I receive it, God, each promise, real will make.
So I step into the waters, finding there an open way;
Onward press, the land possessing; nothing can my progress stay.
Yea, I rise at His commanding, walk straightway, and joyfully:
This, my hand, so sadly shrivelled, as I reach, restored shall be.
What beyond His faithful promise, would I wish or do I need?
Looking not for ‘signs or wonders,’ I’ll no contradiction heed.
Well I know that ‘God is able,’ and full willing all to do:
I believe that every promise, at this moment can come true.”
Passive faith but praises in the light, When sun doth shine.

Active faith will praise in darkest night– Which faith is thine?
–Selected

The Lord Is With You

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Is Jesus Enough for You?

Let me ask you a really important question: What if, on this earth, you suffered day and night till God called you home – would you still follow Jesus? Would your Salvation alone be enough to follow Him?

Now, before you answer, let me share with you some things happening in the world today.

There are many preachers teaching that if you do certain things then prosperity will come to you. There is no place in the Bible that says that. If anything, following Jesus Christ costs something – sometimes your very life.

Then there are those who say to God, “I will follow you as long as … but take my child and I am done with this Christianity thing.”

So my question again is, Is Jesus Christ enough?

In the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, a lot of the Israelites were taken to captivity in Babylon. We know the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. But there is also another story that is very important.

There were three young Israelite men who, along with Daniel, vowed to only worship the true God, not the false gods of King Nebuchadnezzar. The three men were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They would not bow down to a statue that the people made for the king. So they were thrown into a fiery furnace. You know the ending – an angel was with them and they came out not even smelling of smoke. But what you may not know is a statement that any of us could live by till God calls us home. This is the story:

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18 NIV

That’s it! But even if I get cancer, if I lose my job, if I can’t pay my rent, if my spouse leaves me, … I WILL STILL FOLLOW YOU. WHY? Because our love of God should not be about what we think God should be doing for us. He already did it all. Why do we want more conditions to follow Jesus Christ? I think we all better stop this idea that we will follow God when it suits us.

This is why third world countries flourish in the gospel – they have nowhere else to go. We do, and that is the problem.

It is time for all of us to lay prostrate on the floor, yes prostrate, and ask God for forgiveness. We have sinned and we have chosen the world’s luxuries over God. Would you give up all you have to follow Jesus? If you hesitate, then you have a problem.

Lord, the time has come for us to come back to you alone, naked and without anything. Please help us to desire You and You alone God. When we take our last breath it will ONLY be You before us. Please forgive us for putting conditions upon You and for putting so many other priorities before you. Help us THIS DAY Lord to come back to You, broken in your presence. May we seek you again first, before we do anything else in this world. Please, Lord, help our heart’s desire to be You. Amen.

This is the beginning of revival in your heart. A revival, if only one person, is better than none. Let it start with you and I. If God does not come through the way you want Him to, will you still follow Him? – I pray that you do.

 

A Vision for Reconciliation

 

Truth can be told in an instant, forgiveness can be offered spontaneously, but reconciliation is the work of lifetimes and generations. ~ Krista Tippett in Speaking of Faith

On a recent visit to Rwanda, I was speaking to a man who was an advisor to the Rwandan government and a Christian leader before and after the genocide. He was telling me about the reality of the church in Rwanda. He told me that the Sunday before the genocide, 92 percent of Rwandans were in church. After it was all over, he wondered how he would ever preach again. What could the Church say? How could they gather people in churches that had been part of and complicit in such a great injustice? But it wasn’t long before he understood what they needed to say. The possibility of a new future soon dawned on them.

Rwandans needed a place to go with their grief. With their sorrow. They needed a place of healing. Someone to help them carry their suffering. Other Rwandans needed a place to go with their shame. With their guilt. With the blood on their hands. They needed to find some forgiveness. Where can people go for that? What can reach that depth of pain and stain of guilt? This is when the church in Rwanda began to discover the relevance and power of what Christians believe to be the center of their faith: the Cross. They began to preach the Gospel by telling people about what Jesus had done on the Cross.

This is so important for us right now. It’s not the Church that is the answer, and we know that now. We watch in dread as church leaders are named and shamed and church structures and attitudes side with oppression. We watch in shame as those who are guilty are shunned from the very places they might find forgiveness and restoration. We’re stunned as Christian leaders have been exposed as complicit in the destruction of healthy relationships between women and men.

The Church without the centrality of the Cross is just a community group.

But the Cross, that is where true power is on display for the deepest wounds of the world. The deepest wounds in us. When it comes to deep-seated injustices, there is only one place to go that might lead to healing and unravel the oppression that has held us all. There is only one place to go that might spur us to the hope of a different future, to change, to repentance and forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s the Cross.

Jesus embraced the Cross as a demonstration of love and power personified. It is power to break the back of sin, shame, guilt, fear, and death. And it is love to soothe and heal shame, suffering, abuse, and pain. It is the place of transformation.

No matter who we are, the oppressor or the oppressed, we will find what we need to get free from oppression’s tragic cycle. We will find this freedom in the person of Jesus on the Cross. On the Cross Jesus reconciled the whole world to Himself. C. S. Lewis described how when Jesus died on the cross, time itself began to move backward.1 What he meant was that Creation could now be restored to everything God had originally created it to be. When we think of the consequences of humans acting selfishly, we can follow a trajectory that began in the Genesis story of broken relationships. First between humanity and God. Then between men and women. Then between siblings, then between tribes, and this repeats itself until we find ourselves at this point in time, in a world tragically divided. What is the remedy?

It’s a transformational idea to suggest that our restored relationship with God would begin to restore our relationships with everything and everyone else. Indeed, it’s the Gospel.

A good description of the Gospel itself is the “ministry of reconciliation.”2 Can we imagine a reconciled world? I think right relationships are good news for this life.

To be reconciled means that our relationships are made right. But relationships that are broken need repair. And repair takes effort and time. The righting of broken relationships (reconciliation) needs some guidance. Too often we think that powerful spiritual things happen by “magic.” But they don’t. They happen through grace and loads of work.

 

Justifying Ourselves

by Inspiration Ministries

“Would you really challenge my justice? Would you declare me guilty to justify yourself?” – Job 40:8 CSB

Plagued by troubles, Job sought to defend himself. His responses made sense, until he heard the words of God Himself and realized the weaknesses of his arguments. By condemning God, Job sounded completely innocent, like he was blaming God.

God placed Job’s actions in context by giving examples of His sovereignty. Job realized that he was in no position to question God. He realized the truth of the perspective God provided to Isaiah: “As heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).

Job saw his situation in a new light. All he could do was repent. Many people are like Job, quick to blame God for their problems. In their own eyes, they feel completely innocent. How little they understand about themselves and about God!

The lessons God taught Job apply to each of us as we consider our own lives and events in the world. Our starting point should be absolute trust in God, complete reverence for Him. And we must never pretend that we know more than He does.

In every situation you face, realize that His ways are “perfect”; His words are “pure” (2 Samuel 22:31). “All His work is trustworthy” (Psalm 33:4). Humble yourself anew before Him. Declare Him Lord of your life. Be sure to trust Him. He is faithful. You can depend on Him.

 

Patience in Prayer – Streams in the Desert – February 21

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

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him (Psalms 37:7).

Have you prayed and prayed and waited and waited, and still there is no manifestation? Are you tired of seeing nothing move? Are you just at the point of giving it all up? Perhaps you have not waited in the right way? This would take you out of the right place the place where He can meet you.

“With patience wait” (Rom. 8:25). Patience takes away worry. He said He would come, and His promise is equal to His presence. Patience takes away your weeping. Why feel sad and despondent? He knows your need better than you do, and His purpose in waiting is to bring more glory out of it all. Patience takes away self-works. The work He desires is that you “believe” (John 6:29), and when you believe, you may then know that all is well. Patience takes away all want. Your desire for the thing you wish is perhaps stronger than your desire for the will of God to be fulfilled in its arrival.

Patience takes away all weakening. Instead of having the delaying time, a time of letting go, know that God is getting a larger supply ready and must get you ready too. Patience takes away all wobbling. “Make me stand upon my standing” (Daniel 8:18, margin). God’s foundations are steady; and when His patience is within, we are steady while we wait. Patience gives worship. A praiseful patience sometimes “long-suffering with joyfulness” (Col. 1:11) is the best part of it all. “Let (all these phases of) patience have her perfect work” (James 1:4), while you wait, and you will find great enrichment.
–C. H. P.

Hold steady when the fires burn,
When inner lessons come to learn,
And from this path there seems no turn
“Let patience have her perfect work.”

–L.S.P.

Obey God’s Call

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Jesus, the Carpenter

“’… Isn’t he the carpenter, the son of Mary? Aren’t James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon his brothers? Don’t his sisters still live here in our town?’ The people were very unhappy because of what he was doing.” (Mark 6:3, CEV)

When Jesus started His ministry, it was difficult for people to see Him as anything more than a carpenter. His family, neighbors, and friends watched Him grow up making and fixing things. Back then, “Jesus the Rabbi” took a little getting used to.

However, what people didn’t know then and what we need to discover now is that Jesus’ earthly occupation as a carpenter was the perfect prep for His ministry. He would spend the next three years working with the broken.

“’Healthy people don’t need a doctor — sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.’” (Mark 2:17, NLT)

We are all living inside the consequences of a sin cycle, being that of our own or someone else’s. It’s an unpleasant result of the fall. Life on this side of Eden carries pain and suffering; eventually, everyone has their heart broken. Whether it’s a failed relationship, lost opportunity, sickness, or the death of a loved one, it happens to the best of us. If you decide to care about anything in this life, somewhere along the way it will break your heart.

One day, I was writing in my prayer journal about my own heartache. Filled with an earnest need to get frustrations off my chest, at one point, I scribbled down and underlined: “I am broken!” Somehow I thought that God was afraid of my pain. I had to get loud about it in order for Him to hear me and find me. The next day in my meditation time, I realized that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

“Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.” (Psalm 51:16-17, The Message)

God doesn’t take a detour when He sees the traffic cones around the demolition of our hearts. He gets right in there. He inspects the damage. He points out the areas that were eaten away by an infestation of sin. He carefully inspects the places where you tried and failed to fix it yourself. He tears down to build back up, and He goes the extra step to make it better and stronger than it was before. By the time He’s finished, every detail down to the last nail is accounted for and in its proper place. He does thorough work.

The Bible isn’t clear if Jesus did any carpentry work after his ministry began; however, He spent the remainder of His earthly years and then all of eternity fixing the brokenness of humanity. He is offering you a chance today to invite Him into your disaster zone. Trust His skilled and steady hand. Soon, He will unveil His handiwork, and you will see that the Jewish carpenter from Nazareth was the only one who could put you back together again.

 

Choosing Calling Over Comfort

FEBRUARY 20, 2020

“ … Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’” John 21:15a (NIV)

Have you ever felt God stirring you to do something that’s terrifyingly outside of your comfort zone? Something completely opposite of what you think you want to do?

I confess that left to my own choosing, I want to take the safe, certain and comfortable route. And then Scriptures march right up to my limited perspective and challenge me to walk a path I’d never choose on my own.

A question forms in my heart. One that forces me to stop and reconsider the path that terrifies: Do you love Jesus and want Him more than anything else?

It’s this question the resurrected Jesus asked one of His disciples, Peter, at a crucial crossroad in Peter’s life. And goodness gracious, do I ever relate to Peter.

He’d been following Jesus for years when things got hard. Jesus was crucified, and Peter took his eyes off the hard path of continuing in ministry he’d been called to. He went back to what felt safe, certain and comfortable … his original occupation of fishing.

When the resurrected Jesus appeared in the flesh, He ruined Peter’s justifications to stay safe. Peter’s destiny wasn’t to be a fisherman for the rest of his life. He was to be a shepherd of God’s people.

“ … Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’” (John 21:15a).

For Peter, the “these” which Jesus referenced might have been the large number of fish he’d just caught. Or “these” could have been anything else pulling Peter away from his calling. We all have our own “these” areas in life — things we sometimes choose over Jesus.

Thankfully, Jesus continues to invite us to a life of more. A life where we refuse to settle for less than all He’s called and designed us to do and to be.

That’s why I love the directives Jesus gives Peter in John 21:15‑17. I find it fascinating that Jesus asks Peter to do three things which mirror how shepherds actually care for their sheep in Israel even today.

Jesus commands Peter:

“FEED MY LAMBS” (John 21:15) — In the morning, the shepherd gets up early in the sheepfold and feeds the little lambs first. He picks up the little lambs. He holds them and checks them to make sure they are OK. He calls them by name because he knows the lambs intimately.

“TAKE CARE OF MY SHEEP” (John 21:16) — After feeding the lambs, the shepherd carefully leads the sheep down to a place where they can be fed. He leads them and cares for them.

“FEED MY SHEEP” (John 21:17) — The last step, once he’s fed the lambs, cared for the sheep and led them to a good pasture, is to feed the sheep.

So why is it so important to note that Jesus is giving these directives to Peter?

I believe Jesus is trying to turn Peter from a quick-judging fisherman into a caring shepherd. Fishermen quickly judged and counted the fish they caught. They threw out the small fish because they’d have to pay more in taxes than the fish was actually worth. They would look at the fish and say, “This one’s in, this one’s out, this one’s in, this one’s out.” Unlike a shepherd, a fisherman would never pick up the fish, love the fish, make sure the fish is OK or name the fish.

Yes, Peter has finished his season of being a fisherman of fish. Jesus is asking Peter to love Him more than the life Peter has known. Now He is calling Peter to be a shepherd for the people.

Jesus is also asking us to love Him more than the life we’ve known. And just like He equipped Peter by sending His Holy Spirit to fill and empower Peter for his calling (Acts 2), He willingly equips us. We have the gift of His Holy Spirit inside us and His written Word to continually guide us.

Sweet friends, let’s not rush past how amazing it is that the Lord wants to work through us — even with all our fears and failings. Let’s not allow fear or comfort to convince us to stay stuck in our same old ways. Let’s simply say to Jesus, “Yes, Lord. I love You more than these,” and follow His lead.

 

Loyalty

by Inspiration Ministries

“Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable?” – Proverbs 20:6 NLT

Traditionally, loyalty has been foundational in many cultures. This has been expressed in a commitment to homelands, family heritage, special friendships, and schools.

Many have been loyal to particular brands and stores. Knowing this dedication, retailers could count on loyal customers to drive sales. But increasingly consumers are abandoning this commitment. In fact, more people are no longer motivated by loyalty and primarily are concerned with doing what they feel is best at the moment, regardless of past experiences.

These results were confirmed by a recent study that revealed “only 8% of global consumers are loyal to the brands and products they’ve always bought.” Researchers concluded that these changes had “staggering” implications.

With many consumers no longer motivated by loyalty, the market is being flooded with new products. And many established brands are in trouble. These tendencies can be seen throughout society. They are apparent in interpersonal relationships and other areas of life.

This also has been applied in the realm of faith. More people reject the beliefs handed down by previous generations and adopt attitudes and behavior once considered unacceptable. The Bible reminds us that loyalty is important in our relationships with others and God. He promises to protect “those who are loyal to him” (Psalm 31:23). And Jesus praised those who “remained loyal” (Revelation 2:13).

In your life, remember the importance of loyalty. Those who are loyal are trustworthy, reliable, and ready for greater blessings.

Streams in the Desert – February 20

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

Nothing shall be impossible unto you (Matt. 17:20).

It is possible, for those who really are willing to reckon on the power of the Lord for keeping and victory, to lead a life in which His promises are taken as they stand and are found to be true.

It is possible to cast all our care upon Him daily and to enjoy deep peace in doing it.

It is possible to have the thoughts and imaginations of our hearts purified, in the deepest meaning of the word.

It is possible to see the will of God in everything, and to receive it, not with sighing, but with singing.

It is possible by taking complete refuge in Divine power to become strong through and through; and, where previously our greatest weakness lay, to find that things which formerly upset all our resolves to be patient, or pure, or humble, furnish today an opportunity — through Him who loved us, and works in us an agreement with His will and a blessed sense of His presence and His power — to make sin powerless over us.

These things are DIVINE POSSIBILITIES, and because they are His work, the true experience of them will always cause us to bow lower at His feet and to learn to thirst and long for more.

We cannot possibly be satisfied with anything less — each day, each hour, each moment, in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit — than to WALK WITH GOD.
–H. C. G. Moule

We may have as much of God as we will. Christ puts the key of the treasure-chamber into our hand, and bids us take all that we want. If a man is admitted into the bullion vault of a bank, and told to help himself, and comes out with one cent, whose fault is it that he is poor? Whose fault is it that Christian people generally have such scanty portions of the free riches of God?
–McLaren

The Reality Of God

February 19,2020

Revelation 22:21

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

Image result for picture verses of the reality of GodImage result for picture verses of the reality of God
Image result for picture verses of the reality of GodImage result for picture verses of the reality of God
Image result for picture verses of the reality of GodImage result for picture verses of the reality of God

The Grip of Reality and Grace

 

When calamity, tragedy, and devastation come into our lives, there is usually an initial shock. Much like the earthquake that caused a 30 foot tsunami to hit ashore the small fishing village of Ryoishi, Japan, people were caught off guard. They stood spellbound as the wave brought its terrible destruction. Then came the after shock and with it was the reality that gripped them to the very core of their being. The questions afterwards included, “What now? How will I survive?”

As in the death of someone you love, you may find yourself numb at first. Then as you go through the everyday motions, you may at some point feel the loss again because something triggers the memory of that hurtful time. Perhaps a song, a place, or a holiday will stir your emotions and bring back a realization that you have a life without them.

In the grip of reality, you can find God’s grace that carries you through these moments. This is the way it will be for those who have not only lost their loved ones, but all they owned. Everyday they are reminded of the horror as they view the sights of destruction in their homeland, and the ruin that lies in front of them, all caused by the tsunami.

This is a very different kind of shock and aftershock. The problem is that this kind of shock will not last just for a moment, or even a day, but will last for months and years to come.

During times of grief and loss, we are reminded that we are not promised tomorrow. Life is but a vapor. What can you hold on to in this life? We can only hold on to the Lord as we exercise hope and faith that there will be a brighter tomorrow and a new beginning.

As the lands are cleared of debris and rebuilding begins, the most important thing is the rebuilding of lives. The Bible says to build ourselves up in our most Holy faith. The sure foundation, the solid Rock in our lives is Jesus Christ. In Him alone is the security we need for any circumstance. We must understand that He will carry us through it.

Looking back over the years, we have all had our share of trials. We have experienced loss in one form or another. But as the years ended, it was always like a chapter in a book. It would end and a new one would begin that says – I awoke to a new day, one that is filled with hope for a better future … one that is beyond the horizon.

His mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23) This is our reminder to live life one day at a time. God did not say every year, but he said every morning. So look with anticipation to His grace that is sufficient for today and tomorrow will take care of itself.

This is reality. We are in the grip of God’s grace and mercy that will keep our hearts and minds. Let us run and not get weary, walk and not faint, (Isaiah 40:31) because our help is in the name of the Lord.

 

Making the Christian Life a Reality

“God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” I Corinthians 1:9 (NIV)

For a long time I was confused about the Christian life. After I trusted Christ to be my personal Savior, life didn’t change as I had hoped.

At first, I was filled with genuine joy and passion. I couldn’t get enough of God and His Word. I prayed a lot, attended church a lot, shared my faith a lot, and spent a lot of time reading my Bible. But somewhere along the way, I grew weary. My attempt to live the Christian life in my own strength quickly gave out. Why didn’t it last? I wondered.

I’m not alone in my struggles. Many believers I meet are just as confused as I was. Guilt ridden, some give up while others choose to just pretend. Then, there are those that still desire but question, “Is a changed life even possible? If so, why isn’t it a reality in my life?” It’s often why we came to Christ in the first place – for freedom, forgiveness, peace, and purpose. Yet, instead of living an empowered life, many of us are living an exhausting one.

I could sense there was something more, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was missing. Discouraged, I’d speculate…Could it be that God isn’t holding up His end of the agreement? Or, is it me? Maybe you’ve asked yourself the same questions.

It took a long while before I realized that the Christian life isn’t about following a bunch of rules. It’s not even about trying my best to be good. The Christian life is all about relationship. It’s about knowing and loving the God who already knows and loves us. It’s about being a friend of God. This changes everything.

Friendship requires commitment. The same is true in our companionship with the Lord. We often neglect vital portions of our relationship with Him. Sometimes that neglect is due to a lack of understanding in how to commune with Him. Other times it is sin or apathy in our lives causing us to overlook our need to fellowship with God.

In order to stay passionate about our faith, and live an empowered life free from sin, you and I must participate in our friendship with God by:

1.) Abiding in Christ. (John 15:4, NIV)

2.) Praying daily. (Mark 1:35, NIV)

3.) Meditating on God’s Word. (Joshua 1:8, NIV)

4.) Putting off the old and putting on the new. (Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV)

5.) Being continually filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18, NIV)

6.) Exercising God-given gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, NIV)

7.) Actively sharing the gospel with others. (Mark 16:15, NIV)

Which of these areas are you lacking in? Could that be the key to jump-starting your empowered-by-the-Spirit life?

The Christian life is real, satisfying, and available to all who are willing to have an on-going daily relationship with the Lord. Once I came to understand my role and participate in the relationship, I found the empowered life I was looking for. I’m convinced you can too.

The Reality of God’s Presence

From:  Crosswalk.com

Weekly Overview:

God’s presence is real, full of love, and completely transformational. It takes what was broken and brings healing. It takes what was lost and guides us to our rightful place in the Father. It satisfies the weary, brings light to the darkness, and pours out the refreshing rain of God’s love on the dryest, deepest parts of the soul. Scripture contains story after story of God coming down to meet God’s children where they are, and your heavenly Father has the same heart for you as he did them. He longs to make the reality of his presence known to you. He longs to refresh you with his nearness. You were created for encountering God, and you will never be satisfied until you continually live in the experience for which you were created. Allow your desires to be stirred up to encounter the living God this week as we read powerful stories of God’s people encountering his manifest presence. May you respond to God’s word by seeking out that for which you were made: continual encounter with your heavenly Father.

Scripture:“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” Psalm 139:7-8

 

Streams in the Desert – February 19

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

And every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit (John 15:2).

A child of God was dazed by the variety of afflictions which seemed to make her their target. Walking past a vineyard in the rich autumnal glow she noticed the untrimmed appearance and the luxuriant wealth of leaves on the vines, that the ground was given over to a tangle of weeds and grass, and that the whole place looked utterly uncared for; and as she pondered, the Heavenly Gardener whispered so precious a message that she would fain pass it on:

“My dear child, are you wondering at the sequence of trials in your life? Behold that vineyard and learn of it. The gardener ceases to prune, to trim, to harrow, or to pluck the ripe fruit only when he expects nothing more from the vine during that season. It is left to itself, because the season of fruit is past and further effort for the present would yield no profit. Comparative uselessness is the condition of freedom from suffering. Do you then wish me to cease pruning your life? Shall I leave you alone?”

And the comforted heart cried, “No!”
–Homera Homer-Dixon

It is the branch that bears the fruit,
That feels the knife,
To prune it for a larger growth,
A fuller life.
Though every budding twig be lopped,
And every grace
Of swaying tendril, springing leaf,
Be lost a space.
O thou whose life of joy seems reft,
Of beauty shorn;
Whose aspirations lie in dust,
All bruised and torn,
Rejoice, tho’ each desire, each dream,
Each hope of thine
Shall fall and fade; it is the hand
Of Love Divine
That holds the knife, that cuts and breaks
With tenderest touch,
That thou, whose life has borne some fruit

May’st now bear much.
–Annie Johnson Flint