Monthly Archives: September 2018

Unlocking A Mystery

Psalm 27:10-14 

10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
    the Lord will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, Lord;
    lead me in a straight path
    because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
    for false witnesses rise up against me,
    spouting malicious accusations.

13 I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.

Mystery: Why were these homes abandoned.  Sometimes with all belongings present.
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Unlocking a Mystery

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel. Ephesians 3:6

When I came home from work one day and saw a pair of lady’s high-heel shoes next to the driveway, I was sure I knew whose they were. So I put them in the garage to give to my daughter Lisa when she returned to the house to pick up her children. But when I checked with Lisa, I found they didn’t belong to her. In fact, no one in our family claimed them, so I put them back where I’d found them. The next day, they were gone. Mysterious.

Did you know that the apostle Paul wrote of a mystery in his letters? But the mystery he described was so much more than some kind of “whodunit.” In Ephesians 3, for example, Paul spoke of a mystery that “was not made known to people in other generations” (v. 5). This mystery is that, while in the past God revealed Himself through Israel, now, through Jesus, Gentiles—those outside of Israel—could be “heirs together with Israel” (v. 6).

Think about what this means: all who trust Jesus as Savior can love and serve God together. We can all equally “approach [Him] with freedom and confidence” (v. 12). And through the church’s unity the world will see God’s wisdom and goodness (v. 10).

Praise God for our salvation. It unlocks for us the mystery of unity as people of any and all backgrounds become one in Jesus.

Thank You, Jesus, for the unity all believers can enjoy in You. Help us to serve together as equal members of Your body.

Unity in Christ breaks down barriers and builds the church.

 

Sword of Praise

From: Our Daily Journey

Sword of Praise

Read:

Exodus 17:8-16
Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means “the Lord is my banner”) (Exodus 17:15).

With my focus on my computer screen, I was vaguely aware of the worship music playing softly in my headphones. But after the first chords of a powerful song began to play, I could suddenly feel the strength of God’s presence filling my heart just as it had the first time I’d heard it. My soul was like parched ground, cracked from the trials of ministry, and the delicate notes and powerful lyrics refreshed me during a season when I felt like giving up.

Typically discussed as a story to remind us of the importance of standing alongside others in prayer, as Aaron and Hur do for Moses (Exodus 17:12), the battle at Rephidim also illuminates the power of living under the banner of God’s covering. While we may not have experienced the physical deliverance of God on an actual battlefield, God’s power realized in our spiritual battles is no less significant.

Exodus 17 details a heated battle between the Israelites and their Amalekite neighbors (Exodus 17:8,10). As a sign of God’s delegated power, Moses raised his staff (Exodus 17:11). Many years prior, he had taken off his sandals in the presence of a holy God. Now, far from the burning bush and far into the wilderness, he still worshiped. Though there was no music to be sung, no responsive readings to be heard, Moses’ worship was in his recognition of God’s worthiness, his very claim to God’s authority, strength, and power.

A seemingly simple staff became the sword of praise as the people of Israel routed their enemy (Exodus 17:13-14). How very beautiful and appropriate then that the same worship that ushered in victory found its expression before the altar of Yahweh-Nissi, “the Lord is my banner” (Exodus 17:15). May we too worship God in the midst of the battles we face today!

 

Love to Jesus

From: Charles Spurgeon

“O thou whom my soul loveth.” Solomon’s Song 1:7

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 103

The Christian, if he had no Christ to love, must die, for his heart has become Christ’s. And so if Christ were gone, love could not be; then his heart would be gone too, and a man without a heart is dead. The heart, is it not the vital principle of the body? And love, is it not the vital principle of the soul? Yet there are some who profess to love the Master, but only walk with him by fits, and then go abroad like Dinah into the tents of the Shechemites. Oh, take heed, ye professors, who seek to have two husbands; my Master will never be a part-husband. He is not such a one as to have half of your heart. My Master, though he be full of compassion and very tender, hath too noble a spirit to allow himself to be half-proprietor of any kingdom. Canute, the Danish king, might divide England with Edmund the Ironside, because he could not win the whole country, but my Lord will have every inch of thee, or none. He will reign in thee from one end of the isle of man to the other, or else he will not put a foot upon the soil of thy heart. He was never part-proprietor in a heart, and he will not stoop to such a thing now. What saith the old Puritan? “A heart is so little a thing, that it is scarce enough for a sparrow’s breakfast, and ye say it be too great a thing for Christ to have it all.” No, give him the whole. It is but little when thou weighest his merit, and very small when measured with his loveliness. Give him all. Let thy united heart, thy undivided affection be constantly, every hour, given up to him.

For meditation: The members of the Godhead are the only joint-owners of the Christian. May God teach us his way—that our hearts may be united and wholly for him (Psalm 86:11-12).

 

Opening Doors to the Messy Places

By: J.A. Marx, Author

woman shocked at messy bedroom

A while back, my three-year-old granddaughter, Grace, faced a harsh disturbance. No, she didn’t come down with any sickness, nor did she break a bone. Neither had her brothers taken her toys, heaven forbid.

This time, Grace was denying passage into her bedroom. Sitting on the tiled floor in the hallway, the door shut behind her, she stretched her little arm across the entrance and pressed her hand against the door frame. The youngest protester.

Every quarter or so, her dad blesses the family by hiring a husband and wife team to professionally deep clean the house. This day, Grace said, No, and her adorable pout could’ve softened Attila the Hun. Her reasoning? She feared these strangers would touch her sheets and blankets.

Who doesn’t need a deep clean once in a while?

“I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit … that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in.” Ephesians 3:16 (MSG, emphasis mine)

The Apostle Paul prayed for believers to be strengthened and to know the height, width, length, and depth of God’s love, a growth process that involves bravely inviting a Holy God into the most vulnerable and messy parts of us. Into the intimate places where we make our bed. Where, in the dark of night, we dream and wrestle with the aftermath of that day’s affairs. Where we cry ourselves to sleep and occasionally suffer nightmares. A place where some use their imagination to conceive unholy ambitions that will hinder their maturity.

Jesus longs to come in and do a deep clean. Is there a “room” He cannot enter? Like the unknowing three-year-old, how often do we protest God’s deep clean that would restore a pure environment for refreshment and increased intimacy with the Lord?

When I take time to search my heart, I encounter that vulnerable area that I think I’ve got under control. I manage it through worrying and over-thinking. Unwittingly, or perhaps knowingly, I stretch my arm across the door to that room in my heart and resist Love. Just as little Grace, who thinks as a child, I misinterpret God’s intentions toward me. But when nothing gets better, I complain, “Lord, why did You let this happen?”

“For God is at work within you, helping you want to obey him, and then helping you do what he wants. In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing,” Philippians 2:14-15 (TLB, emphasis mine)

In everything. That’s a tall order. When I’m complaining and arguing, I’m not believing or obeying. My protesting then sabotages my maturity process.

Friends, I’m done with complaining and arguing. I desire a clean room. The Holy Spirit is here to help me to will and do the Father’s pleasure. Knowing Jesus is making Himself at home in me, I can rejoice in everything.

How did Grace’s story end? She took six dolls with her on an outing while the work was being done at home, sparing her prized possessions from the cleaners’ scrutiny. Upon returning to her bedroom, she cautiously looked around to assure herself everything was in place, then she took a nap in peace. Yes, a nap, in the cherished bed and blanket she’d tried in vain to “protect.” She now understood her father had plans for her well-being, not for bad. Her room was clean, and all was well with her soul.

When a season of the Lord’s cleansing and purifying our hearts comes to an end, we’ll probably feel like napping, too.

Is there an area of your heart you’ve been blocking? Jesus wants in.

Are your prayers more like complaints? Remember Who is at work within you.

…in everything.

God Can Set You Free

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.     Galatians 5:1 |

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.    Galatians 5:13 

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.   2 Corinthians 3:17 

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.   John 8:36 

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Freedom’s Chains

Freedom’s Chains

Read:

Romans 6:14-23
You are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living (Romans 6:18).

The notion of freedom seems like the ultimate noble pursuit. And it might seem to mean absolute, autonomous individuality. We can think that if we’re to achieve our full potential, we require unlimited choices, no external restrictions, and minimal authority over us. We can view ideas like commitment and responsibility as oppressive things. One of my friends feels anxious if he has to commit to dinner with us without knowing every competing option first.

The apostle Paul, however, tells us that true freedom actually requires an authority to whom we submit. In fact, we will submit to some authority somewhere (none of us are so free as we think). Thankfully, we have a choice here. Paul puts the question to us straight: “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?” (Romans 6:16).

Left to our own devices, our delusions about what freedom is actually enslave us. “Offer yourselves to sin,” Paul insists, “and it’s your last free act” (Romans 6:16 msg). We either surrender to sin that enslaves us or we “live under the freedom of God’s grace” (Romans 6:14). True freedom requires a loving and powerful God reigning over our life. If we surrender to Him, a vast space breaks open around us.

However, if we insist on our own autonomy, our life actually grows smaller and smaller. Eventually, we find ourselves chained in a small, confining space of our own making.

It can be easy to completely twist this truth. We can fear that surrender to God means we’ll be shackled and constricted. God’s leading, however, is the way we discover true freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). A life that resists God always traps us in restrictive, miserable spaces. But a life with God always releases us to goodness and joy.

 

The Awareness of the Call

By Oswald Chambers

The Awareness of the Call

We are inclined to forget the deeply spiritual and supernatural touch of God. If you are able to tell exactly where you were when you received the call of God and can explain all about it, I question whether you have truly been called. The call of God does not come like that; it is much more supernatural. The realization of the call in a person’s life may come like a clap of thunder or it may dawn gradually. But however quickly or slowly this awareness comes, it is always accompanied with an undercurrent of the supernatural— something that is inexpressible and produces a “glow.” At any moment the sudden awareness of this incalculable, supernatural, surprising call that has taken hold of your life may break through— “I chose you…” (John 15:16). The call of God has nothing to do with salvation and sanctification. You are not called to preach the gospel because you are sanctified; the call to preach the gospel is infinitely different. Paul describes it as a compulsion that was placed upon him.

If you have ignored, and thereby removed, the great supernatural call of God in your life, take a review of your circumstances. See where you have put your own ideas of service or your particular abilities ahead of the call of God. Paul said, “…woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” He had become aware of the call of God, and his compulsion to “preach the gospel” was so strong that nothing else was any longer even a competitor for his strength.

If a man or woman is called of God, it doesn’t matter how difficult the circumstances may be. God orchestrates every force at work for His purpose in the end. If you will agree with God’s purpose, He will bring not only your conscious level but also all the deeper levels of your life, which you yourself cannot reach, into perfect harmony.

 

Rise Up! It’s Not Over!

Shadia Hrichi, Author

wheelchair silhouette

I love the beauty of God’s Word. It’s precision, order, and purpose. God sees everything and is orchestrating events within human history and our individual lives – all for His great glory.

When Hagar and her son Ishmael are cast out into the barren wilderness, the Angel of God calls to Hagar from Heaven. Though her son lay dying, God comforts her with His Presence and then gives her a command:

“Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand. . . . ” Genesis 21:18 (ESV)

The Hebrew verb translated “Up!” is qumi, which means to arise or stand up.

Fast forward to the New Testament. Jesus is traveling from town to town, healing people and even raising some from the dead. The same command that God spoke over Hagar, Jesus speaks to a paralytic, to the dead son of a grieving widow, and again to a little girl who had died: “Arise!” (egertheis in Greek)

God is outside of time and sees everything from an eternal perspective. God saw Hagar and Ishmael’s future. Jesus saw the paralytic’s faith. He demonstrated the hope of the resurrection … just moments before His arrest, Jesus commands His sleepy disciples, “Rise!”—the exact same verb He uses to foretell His resurrection soon to come.

Hagar, rise! Young man, rise! Child, rise! It’s not over!

Beloved, it’s not over! Right where you are, God is calling to you: rise!

In every scenario, the situation looked hopeless. Hagar’s son is dying, the man is paralyzed, the child is dead, and the King of Glory is about to be arrested, tried, and killed. But God looks down from heaven and sees Behind the Seen. He sees what no one else could believe: they … will … rise!

Ephesians 2:4-6 assures us that,

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

The verbs “raised” and “seated” in Ephesians 2:6 are presented in Greek as a statement of fact. To Him, we are already raised and seated with Christ in the heavenly places, and nothing in all creation can change this truth. This is the foundation of our Christian hope! Our hope of heaven is not wishful thinking or fairy tales, but a fixed, eternal fact.

Rise! “It is finished!” (John 19:30)

Praise the Lord! Jesus Christ has won the victory! The Cross demonstrates His great love for us. His resurrection reveals His power over death and the grave. He did it all so that we could become children of God, holy and beloved in His sight.

Which of these truths do you need to be reminded of today?

Teach The Bible To Your Children

Proverbs 22:6

Train up a child in the way he should go,
[a]And when he is old he will not depart from it.

 

Deuteronomy 6:7

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

 

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Start Today

From: Our Daily Journey

Start Today

Read:

Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up (Deuteronomy 6:7).

When I was growing up, my mother established a wonderful pattern for our family. Every night before bed, she would gather us around her, open the Bible, and have us take turns reading a few verses. Afterwards we would all briefly discuss the passage, and then we would pray together. No matter how tired she was, my mother would always bring us to the Scriptures.

The experience my mother created for us is similar to what Moses asked the Israelites to do for their children in the book of Deuteronomy. They were on the Plains of Moab, getting ready to take possession of Canaan—the Promised Land. Moses repeated the Law that was given to the prior generation after their exodus from Egypt, while adapting and expanding it for a new generation of Israelites.

Moses set the priorities straight by highlighting the importance of passing on God’s Law to their children. First, they were to realize that their relationship with God should come before rules. He said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Second, their commitment was to be unwavering (Deuteronomy 6:6). Finally, they were to teach God’s wisdom to their children even in the most mundane activities, such as “when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up” (Deuteronomy 6:7).

Professor Don Whitney wrote, “God deserves to be worshiped daily in our homes by our families. And for that reason, start today.” May we, like the Israelites, make use of daily opportunities to worship God with our family. That time set aside will honor God and create a spiritual bond that will help us to stand united even when difficulties come.

 

The great Supreme

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Ascribe ye greatness unto our God.” Deuteronomy 32:3

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:1-9

In Protestant countries there is a very strong tendency to priestcraft still. Though we do not bow down and worship images, and do not professedly put our souls into the hands of priests, yet, I am sorry to say it, there is scarce a congregation that is free from that error of ascribing greatness to their minister. If souls are converted, how very prone we are to think there is something marvellous in the man; and if saints are fed and satisfied with marrow and fatness, how prone we are to suppose that the preacher has something about him by which these wondrous things are done; and if a revival takes place in any part of the vineyard, it matters not in what denomination, there is an aptness in the human mind to ascribe some part of the glory and the praise to the mere human agency. Oh, beloved, I am sure that every right-minded minister will scorn the thought. We are but your servants for Christ’s sake. We speak to you, as God helps us, what we believe to be God’s truth; but ascribe not to us any honour or any glory. If a soul is saved, God from first to last has done it. If your souls are fed, thank the Master; be respectful and grateful to the servant as you will be, but most of all thank him who puts the word into the mouths of his servants, and who applies it to your heart. “Oh, down with priestcraft!” even I myself must down with it. “Down with it!” I cry. If I myself like Samson fall beneath its roof, let me fall myself and be crushed, well content in having pulled down or contributed to remove one solitary brick in that colossal house of Satan. Take care, friends, that you put no honour upon any man that you ought to have ascribed unto his Sovereign. “Ascribe ye greatness unto our God.”

For meditation: Why are you using these daily readings? We should thank God for Spurgeon, but many go too far and venerate Spurgeon himself. He reminds us that he too was a man (Acts 10:26) and that the glory belongs not to him but to his and our God (Psalm 115:1).

 

Our Distinct Advantage

By: Joe Stowell

“The LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Have you ever felt that if God were to show up today as often as He did in the lives of the people in Bible times, you too could be a spiritual hero? It’s easy to think that people like Abraham, Moses, Paul, and others had a distinct edge because God showed up in spectacular ways to talk with and tell them exactly what to do. We think that if Jesus would just appear and give us the lowdown on life face-to-face, we could all be the smashing success for Him that we always wanted to be.

But it’s not just the people of the Bible who leave us thinking that we must be second-rate Christians. All you have to do is go to a prayer meeting where someone gives a glowing report on the way in which God dramatically answered their prayer, while your prayer list remains full of unanswered prayers. Let’s face it. It’s easy to grow discouraged and sometimes even disillusioned with our less-than-spectacular Christianity. And when that happens, our walk with Christ becomes ritualistic and unenthusiastic.

But before you get depressed, it’s possible that your expectations and perspectives are out of whack. When we think that all Bible people had it good, we should note that God “showed up” in Abraham’s life only about once every 15 years! Abraham had no Bible, no small-group fellowship, and no exhilarating worship experiences, yet his steadfast faith is celebrated in Hebrews 11:8-19. And even though Joseph was unrelentingly faithful to God against great odds, for many years God didn’t “show up” to rescue him from his plight. Yet he hung in there because he knew that “the Lord was with him” (Genesis 39:21). Paul had only two direct encounters with Jesus. You can count on it, the rest of their lives were pretty ordinary, a lot like yours and mine.

It’s easy to think that Joshua and God’s people in the Old Testament were unusually blessed because God promised to be with them (Deuteronomy 31:6-8Joshua 1:9). But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the same promise is given to us in the New Testament (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus Himself promised that He would not leave us as “orphans” but would send the Holy Spirit to be in us and with us (John 14:16-18). In fact, if anybody has an edge, we do! God dwells within us in the person of the Holy Spirit to convict, comfort, guide, and encourage. His 24/7 presence is waiting to be tapped and used no matter where we are or what we are facing. We have the full revelation of Scripture that the Holy Spirit uses to teach and direct our lives. No Bible hero had the privilege of having a Book that could be carried, read, memorized, and used in transforming ways to tell them everything they needed to know about God and themselves—but you and I do!

You may still be saying, “Yeah, but God hasn’t done anything for me lately!” If so, remember that if He does nothing more than save us from sin, cancel hell, and guarantee heaven, He has already done far more than we deserve and enough to keep us happily praising Him for the rest of our lives!

Now’s a good time to start rejoicing. You’ve been blessed with all you need for growth and glory! Tap the resource.

When We Are Weary

Matthew 11:28-29

28 Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

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When We’re Weary

From: Our Daily Bread

Read: Galatians 6:1–10 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 3–4; Galatians 6

Let us not become weary in doing good. Galatians 6:9

Sometimes trying to do the right thing can be exhausting. We may wonder, Do my well-intentioned words and actions make any difference at all? I wondered this recently when I sent a prayerfully thought-out email meant to encourage a friend, only to have it met with an angry response. My immediate reaction was a mixture of hurt and anger. How could I be so misunderstood?

Before I responded out of anger, I remembered that we won’t always see the results (or the results we desire) when we tell someone about how Jesus loves them. When we do good things for others hoping to draw them to Him, they may spurn us. Our gentle efforts to prompt someone to right action may be ignored.

Galatians 6 is a good place to turn when we’re discouraged by someone’s response to our sincere efforts. Here the apostle Paul encourages us to consider our motives—to “test our actions”—for what we say and do (vv. 1–4). When we have done so, he encourages us to persevere: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people” (vv. 9–10).

God wants us to continue living for Him, which includes praying for and telling others about Him—“doing good.” He will see to the results.

Dear God, thank You for the encouragement we receive from Your Word. Help us to persevere in doing good.

We can leave the results of our lives in God’s hands.

The mysteries of the brazen serpent

From: Charles Spurgeon

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believe in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:14,15

Suggested Further Reading: John 12:20-36

Let each of us who are called to the solemn work of the ministry remember, that we are not called to lift up doctrine, or church governments, or particular denominations; our business is to lift up Christ Jesus and to preach him fully. There may be times when church government is to be discussed, and peculiar doctrines are to be vindicated. God forbid that we should silence any part of truth: but the main work of the ministry—its every day work—is just exhibiting Christ, and crying out to sinners, “Believe, believe, believe on him who is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.” And let it be remembered, that if the minister preaches Christ plainly, that is all he has to do; if with affection and prayer he preaches Christ fully, if there were never a soul saved—which I believe would be impossible—he would have done his work, and his Master would say, “Well done.” I have gone away from this hall, after preaching upon various doctrines, and though many have complimented me, foolishly, I have said to myself, “I can but groan that I had such a subject at all.” And at another time, when I have been faltering in my delivery, and committed a thousand blunders in my speech, I have gone away as happy as a prince, because I have said, “I did preach Christ.” There was enough for sinners to be saved by; and if all the papers in the world should abuse me, and all the men in the world should say ‘cry him down’; he will still live and still breathe as long as he feels in himself, “I have preached to sinners, and Christ has been preached to them, so as they could understand and lay hold on him and be saved.”

For meditation: “We would see Jesus” (John 12:21) is not just something to say to the preacher, but something to pray for the preacher (Colossians 4:3,4).

 

Simple Steps

By: Eddie Jones

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed.’ So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.” 2 Kings 5:13-14

My Toyota Celica suffered from the shakes. Each time I hit the brakes the front end trembled and pulled to the right. I drove to our normal repair shop, walked in and asked for John.

“John doesn’t work here anymore,” the new manager replied. “How can I help you?”

I explained the problem. He put it on the rack and told me to wait. A few minutes later he told me the car needed over $3,000 in repairs. I balked. We’d already replaced the hubs, joints and a number of the other items listed on the repair order.

“Not on this vehicle you haven’t.”

I didn’t feel like arguing. Plus, I wasn’t going to spend that kind of money on a ten-year-old car, anyway. I thanked him for his time and went to my car. As I was backing out of my space the manager trotted out with a printout showing our repair history.

“Right here,” he said pointing. “This is all the work we’ve done on this car. And this sheet,” he waved another printout in front of my face, “are the repairs to your van. It shows where we fixed your van’s front end last summer.”

I told him thanks for pointing out my error. Then I shifted into first and drove away. Some months later I sold the car, but I’ve yet to return to that shop.

Often, the simple steps are the hardest to take. Stepping aside to let another take your place. Walking away from a fight. Saying, “I’m sorry.”

I’m allergic to apologies. Can’t hardly give one without shaking all over. Makes my cheeks go flush, my voice quiver. I’d rather have a tooth filled than say, “You’re right. My mistake.”

Drives me crazy to back off and let someone else have their way. Takes both hands clamped over my mouth to keep me from getting in the first and last words, plus the ones in between.

Naaman suffered from leprosy of the skin but, as is often the case in Scripture, his condition also pointed to a spiritual affliction. Pride.

With a sense of pride we claim our rights, prove to others we are right, and hop onto our soapbox to waggle our finger in the face of others. “You can’t… You shouldn’t… You won’t enter heaven if you…” Simple steps that lead others—not to Christ—but lead us away from God.

Leprosy begins when the bacteria, Mycobacterium leprae, multiplies. Muscles become weak, especially in the hands, feet and eyes. As the skin hardens, the victim loses feeling in his fingers and toes. He becomes blind. Severe pain grips his body. There is no cure.

Like the bacteria, pride spreads throughout our lives, weakening our resolve to put the concerns of others before us. We become numb to their pain, blind to the poor around us and hardened to souls perishing for lack of love. The only way to kill pride is die to self.

Naaman sought to spend his way to a healing, but God’s man refused his money. Naaman thought his position would curry favor, but God’s man turned him away. Naaman thought some grand and great effort would save him, but God’s man offered a simple solution. “Go wash in the river Jordan and you will be cleansed.”

Simple steps with large results. Go. Repent. Forgive. Ask to be forgiven.

Through Christ we receive the promise of new life, new skin. Wholeness and cleansing. This is not our “right” but God’s grace.

“Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.: Ephesians 2:9 NLT.

None is clean, no not one. No one is right except Christ. Today if you feel your rights have been violated, consider Christ. He stepped off his throne and down to your level for love. Go, and do likewise.

In All Things Give Thanks

Psalm 118

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

Let Israel say:
    “His love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say:
    “His love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say:
    “His love endures forever.”

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In All Things

From: Our Daily Bread

In All Things

Read:

Colossians 3:1-25
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people (Colossians 3:23).

Driving home one evening, I noticed I was low on fuel. Icy rain began striking the windshield, and I groaned at the thought of getting out of my warm car to fill up the gas tank on such a miserable night. But I reluctantly pulled into the next gas station I came to—and promptly did a double take! Through the pouring rain, I saw a woman dancing in the gas station. I sat for a moment and stared in wonder. Why would anyone dance with such joyful abandon on an awful night like this? A rather sad, cold, and lonely moment was instantly transformed by a woman who refused to be defined by her circumstances.

I regularly return to that image of the lone woman dancing in the gas station. I don’t know if she was a believer in Jesus, but her exuberance certainly reflected the joy He brings. What a beautiful illustration of what it can look like if believers choose to bring hope and light and Christ’s joy to those we meet instead of succumbing to the darkness of this world. We have new life in Him and He’s given us a heavenly perspective that should affect everything, including our work (Colossians 3:1-4).

The apostle Paul reminds us that if Jesus lives within us and is the One we live for, then, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can put to death our sinful nature as we put on our new nature. We can “be renewed” into Christ’s nature as we “learn to know [our] Creator and become like him” (Colossians 3:10).

Whether in word or deed, as He provides the strength and perspective we need, let’s choose to honor Jesus. As Paul wrote, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Colossians 3:23). That may even lead you to dance as you work for Him.

His name—the Counselor

By: Charles Spurgeon

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor.” Isaiah 9:6

Suggested Further Reading: Proverbs 8 (which was read earlier in the same service)

Tried child of God, your daughter is sick; your gold has melted in the fire; you are sick yourself, and your heart is sad. Christ counsels you, and he says, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, he will sustain thee; he will never suffer the righteous to be moved.” Young man, you that are seeking to be great in this world, Christ counsels you this morning. “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.” I shall never forget my early years. I was ambitious; I was seeking to go to college, to leave my poor people in the wilderness that I might become something great; and as I was walking that text came with power to my heart; “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.” I suppose about forty pounds a year was the sum total of my income, and I was thinking how I should make both ends meet, and whether it would not be a great deal better for me to resign my charge and seek something for the bettering of myself, and so forth. But this text ran in my ears, “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.” “Lord,” said I, “I will follow thy counsel and not my own devices;” and I have never had cause to regret it. Always take the Lord for your guide, and you shall never go amiss. Backslider! You that have a name to live, and are dead, or nearly dead, Christ gives you counsel. “I counsel thee to buy of me, gold tried in the fire and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed.” And sinner! You that are far from God, Christ gives you counsel. “Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Depend on it, it is loving counsel. Take it.

For meditation: God has promised to guide his children and to keep an eye on them (Psalm 32:8). His guidance has a sure foundation and a great advantage over the thoughts and intentions of men (Psalm 33:10,11). We can seek his guidance right where we are; isn’t it strange that we can so often go to him last of all?

 

Taking Out The Trash

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[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

My wife usually has to remind me to take out the garbage on trash pick-up days. It’s not one of my favorite jobs, but I muster up the determination to get it done and then just do it. Afterward it’s a nice feeling to have it out of the house, and I forget about it till the following week.

Just as we need trucks to pick up the garbage that accumulates in our homes, we need to let Jesus remove the “trash” that inevitably accumulates in our hearts. When we forget to take out the trash, it’s not a pretty picture. Jesus wants us to dump it regularly at the foot of the cross. In fact, He has promised to remove it and forget it.

But wait a minute! Could we be rummaging through the cans, trying to find that thing we weren’t quite ready to part with? A sinful habit we don’t want to give up, a fantasy we want to cling to, a revenge that we still want to ignite? Why are we wanting to hang on to the garbage?

Taking out the trash begins with confession, and then counting on Jesus to get rid of it. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Today is garbage day. Take it out and then leave it there!

Lord, help me not to cover sin,
Those secret wrongs that lurk within;
I now confess them all to Thee;
Transparent I would always be. —D. De Haan

Confession is the key that opens the door to forgiveness.

God Makes Beautiful Things

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Many Beautiful Things

She has done a beautiful thing to me. Mark 14:6

Just before her death, artist and missionary Lilias Trotter looked out a window and saw a vision of a heavenly chariot. According to her biographer, a friend asked, “Are you seeing many beautiful things?” She answered, “Yes, many, many beautiful things.”

Trotter’s final words reflect God’s work in her life. Not only in death, but throughout her life, He revealed much beauty to her and through her. Although a talented artist, she chose to serve Jesus as a missionary in Algeria. John Ruskin, a famous painter who tutored her, is said to have commented, “What a waste,” when she chose the mission field over a career in art.

Similarly, in the New Testament, when a woman came to Simon the Leper’s house with an alabaster jar and poured perfume on Jesus’s head, those present saw it as a waste. This expensive perfume was worth a year’s common wages, so some of the people present thought it could have been used to help the poor. However, commending this woman’s deep devotion to Him, Jesus said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mark 14:6).

Every day we can choose to let Christ’s life shine in our lives and display His beauty to the world. To some, it may seem a waste, but let us have willing hearts to serve Him. May Jesus say we have done many beautiful things for Him.

Dear Father, help me express my love to You in beautiful ways.

May our lives display the beauty of God.

 

A divided heart

“Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty.” Hosea 10:2

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:4-12

If we would provoke the anger of the Most High and bring down trying providences on the churches, we have nothing to do but to be divided in our hearts and all will be accomplished. If we wish that every vial may empty out its ill, and that every vessel may withhold its oil, we have but to cherish our bickerings till they become animosities; we have but to nurse our animosities till they become hatreds, and all the work will be fully completed. And if this be the case in the church at large, it is peculiarly true in those various sections of it which we now call Apostolic Churches. Oh, my brethren, the smallest church in the world is potent for good when it has but one heart and one soul; when pastor, elders, deacons, and members, are bound together by a threefold cord that cannot be broken. Then are they mighty against every attack. But however great their numbers, however enormous their wealth, however splendid may be the talents with which they are gifted, they are powerless for good the moment they become divided amongst themselves. Union is strength. Blessed is the army of the living God, in that day when it goes forth to battle with one mind, and when its soldiers as with the tramp of one man, in undivided march, go onwards towards the attack. But a curse awaits that church which runs to and fro and which, divided in itself, has lost the main stay of its strength with which it should batter against the enemy. Division cuts our bowstrings, snaps our spears, houghs our horses, and burns our chariots in the fire. We are undone the moment the link of love is snapped. Let this perfect bond be once cut in twain and we fall down, and our strength is departed. By union we live, and by disunion we expire.

For meditation: Believers are not to try to create “unity” with those who preach another gospel, but we are urged to maintain the unity that already exists between true believers (Ephesians 4:3Philippians 1:27). What would somebody have to report about your church (and your own contribution in it)?

 

Why go I mourning?” (Psalm 42:9).

Canst thou answer this, believer? Canst thou find any reason why thou art so often mourning instead of rejoicing? Why yield to gloomy anticipations? Who told thee that the night would never end in day? Who told thee that the winter of thy discontent would proceed from frost to frost, from snow and ice, and hail, to deeper snow, and yet more heavy tempest of despair?

Knowest thou not that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter? Hope thou then! Hope thou ever! for God fails thee not.
–C. H. Spurgeon

“He was better to me than all my hopes;
He was better than all my fears;
He made a bridge of my broken works,
And a rainbow of my tears.

“The billows that guarded my sea-girt path,
But carried my Lord on their crest;
When I dwell on the days of my wilderness march
I can lean on His love for the rest.

“He emptied my hands of my treasured store,
And His covenant love revealed,
There was not a wound in my aching heart,
But the balm of His breath hath healed.
Oh, tender and true was the chastening sore,
In wisdom, that taught and tried,
Till the soul that He sought was trusting in Him,
And nothing on earth beside.

“He guided by paths that I could not see,
By ways that I have not known;
The crooked was straight, and the rough was plain
As I followed the Lord alone.
I praise Him still for the pleasant palms,
And the water-springs by the way,
For the glowing pillar of flame by night,
And the sheltering cloud by day.

“Never a watch on the dreariest halt,
But some promise of love endears;
I read from the past, that my future shall be
Far better than all my fears.
Like the golden pot, of the wilderness bread,
Laid up with the blossoming rod,
All safe in the ark, with the law of the Lord,
Is the, covenant care of my God.”

Walking God’s Way

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Walking God’s Way

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

“We’re going this way,” I said as I touched my son’s shoulder and redirected him through the crowd to follow his mom and sisters in front of us. I’d done this more often as the day wore on at the amusement park our family was visiting. He was getting tired and more easily distracted. Why can’t he just follow them? I wondered.

Then it hit me: How often do I do exactly the same thing? How often do I veer from obediently walking with God, enchanted by the temptations to pursue what I want instead of seeking His ways?

Think of Isaiah’s words from God for Israel: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’ ” (Isaiah 30:21). Earlier in that chapter, God had rebuked His people for their rebelliousness. But if they would trust His strength instead of their own ways (v. 15), He promised to show His graciousness and compassion (v. 18).

One expression of God’s graciousness is His promise to guide us by His Spirit. That happens as we talk to Him about our desires and ask in prayer what He has for us. I’m thankful God patiently directs us, day-by-day, step-by-step, as we trust Him and listen for His voice.

Father, You’ve promised to guide us through the ups and downs and decisions we face in life. Help us to trust and follow You, and to actively listen for Your guiding voice.

God patiently directs us as we trust Him and listen for His voice.

 

A sermon from a rush

From: Charles Spurgeon

‘Can the rush grow up without mire? can the flag grow without water? Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb. So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish.’ Job 8:11–13

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 12:22–2943–45

You have cleansed the house, you have swept it, you have decorated it, and the evil spirit is gone; but if the Holy Spirit has not driven him out, if this has not been a work of power on the part of God, that evil spirit will come back, and he will take unto himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they shall enter in and dwell there, and your last end will be worse than the first. Better not to have known the way of righteousness than, having known it, to be turned back again. I believe in the doctrine of the final perseverance of every true child of God; but there are in all our churches certain spurious pretenders who will not hold on their way, who will blaze and sparkle for a season, and then they will go out in darkness. They are ‘wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.’ Far better to make no pretension of having come to Christ, and of having been born again, unless through divine grace you shall hold fast until the end. Remember the back door to hell. There is a public entrance for the open sinner; but there is a back door for the professed saint; there is a back door for the hoary-headed professor, who has lived many years in apparent sincerity, but who has been a liar before God. There is a back door for the preacher who can talk fast and loudly, but who does not in his own heart know the truth he is preaching: there is a back door to hell for church members, who are amiable and excellent in many respects, but who have not really looked unto the Lord Jesus Christ and found true salvation in him.

For meditation: Sometimes those pretending to be Christians are exposed by their present behavior (1 John 3:10) or by steps they take later (1 John 2:19); at other times the pretence can be maintained (Matthew 7:21–23). But God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7); he knows who his people are (2 Timothy 2:19).

 

The Truth . . . for Jesus’ Sake

By: Joe Stowell, Author

“One of the Pharisees . . . said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.'” Luke 7:39

I’m a little tired of hearing angry Christians running around the world saying “We’ve got it right, and everyone else is wrong!” Granted, the clear teachings of God’s Word are indeed right and anything that contradicts them is wrong. But what bothers me is the extent to which we give equal standing to God’s Word and to our sometimes-twisted attitudes and opinions. I hear us talking all the time about “those people” who are causing moral decline and the politicians who are legislating God out and “do-whatever-you-want” in. We sound so long on mad and so short on mercy.

Sure, there are serious problems in the world. But behind those problems are real people who need the same Jesus that all of us needed when we came to the cross. It’s important to note that in the course of Jesus’ ministry He had more harsh words of reproof for the self-righteous religious folk than He did for the outright sinners whom He came to save. And it should be remembered that He took a big hit from the “good” people for spending time with the religious and social outcasts.

On a nightly cable news show not long ago, a TV preacher made some Bible-thumping statement about AIDS being judgment from God on the gay rights movement and that anyone who is gay doesn’t deserve to live. I was embarrassed, upset, and heartsick all at the same time. Sadly, too many people believe that’s what real Christianity is all about. But nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, that kind of angry rhetoric does not reflect the heart and teachings of Jesus. Jesus said, “I am . . . the truth” (John 14:6), so in order for me to confidently speak like I have the truth, I need to be sure that I am in sync with Him.

When Jesus came into Jerusalem for the first time after beginning His ministry, He wept over the city’s brokenness. He spent time with sinners and told stories about God’s compassion for prodigals and prostitutes. The heart of Jesus is marked not only with clarity about sin, but is also filled with compassion—not hatred—for those who do not yet believe and understand the truth. As His followers, our hearts should be broken for those who are broken and bent by sin. That means spending a whole lot less time acting like we are the truth and getting busy about pointing people to Jesus who is the Truth. And the best way to point people to Jesus is to start living like He lived.

The apostle James wrote to believers undergoing some tough opposition, instructing them not just to hear the truth but also to do the truth (James 1:22). In other words, we need to let Truth transform us before we try to articulate it to others.

Let’s face it: Sometimes we have to show up for Jesus before we can speak up for Him. We need to show we care by reaching out and meeting the more difficult and not-so-easy-to-deal-with needs of people around us. To tutor an underprivileged kid, to care for a man dying from AIDS, to sit in silence with someone at a nursing home, to visit a widow and help her with her laundry. Maybe, just maybe, after that, we can tell them the truth about what we know to be true in Jesus.

Believe me, a heart that knows you really care might just be ready to care for the Jesus who made you care for them in the first place.

Not A Weakness

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Not a Weakness

From: Our Daily Journey

Not a Weakness

Read:

Ruth 1:8-18
May the Lord, the God is Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done (Ruth 2:12).

If my mother could have chosen a super-power, it would have been invisibility. Mom did things the right way every time. She didn’t want anyone to notice anything amiss. Then again, she didn’t want anyone to notice anything at all! Mom was a textbook introvert.

Due to her quiet ways, it might have appeared to some that my mother wasn’t a worshipful person. But that would’ve been totally untrue. She worshiped God with all her heart—through her faithful Bible reading each morning, through her unfailing prayers for her family, but mostly through her selfless service to others. She never looked for attention or praise, and she couldn’t wait to be with Jesus. She fully lived out her faith with the personality God gave her.

God often chooses the quiet, unassuming types to fulfill His plans. Ruth may have been one of those. We never see her doing anything flashy. She never sought attention or did anything that might be construed as noisy. All we see is faithfulness and a fiercely unrelenting loyalty.

When Naomi and her two daughters-in-law were left widowed in Moab, Naomi, a Jewish woman, chose to return to Israel alone. “But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi” (Ruth 1:14). A crucial part of Ruth’s decision was spiritual: “Your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth proceeded to live out this faith in quiet acts of service that provided for her mother-in-law (Ruth 2:2-3). Ultimately, her quiet loyalty would provide for all of us: In a plot twist only the Master Storyteller could write, Ruth became an ancestor of Jesus (Matthew 1:5).

An introverted personality isn’t a weakness. Quiet or exuberant, our confidence should always reside in Jesus.

 

God Spoke To Job

Job 40:6-8 (NIV) 6Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm: 7“Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 8“Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?

Once Job had finished justifying himself, his three friends said no more. A younger man then spoke up. He told Job the thing that he had done wrong was to justify himself rather than God. The young man, Elihu, insisted that God’s character was unquestionable.

Then God showed up. He had a few questions to ask Job. His questions served one purpose, to show that God is all-knowing and we are not. We can’t question what He allows because we have so few facts. He sees every aspect in the past, present, and future. How dare we question the character of the Almighty who moment by moment gives us life!

If there was a sin in Job’s response to his condition, it was to justify himself and thereby accuse God. In justifying himself, he was saying that God had made a mistake. True, his friends drove him to it, but he yielded to the temptation to make himself look good, and by contrast said that God was doing something wrong. “Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” God asked.

In times of difficulty, when we cannot understand the reason or purpose for the struggle in our lives, we can count on the integrity and justice of God. The one thing we dare not do is say God is unjust in His dealing with us. Would you discredit His justice? We must proceed in faith, knowing that our understanding is limited and His is infinite.

Remember: God can take it when we question Him. He understands our weakness. Just don’t push it too far, especially as a poor testimony before others. God may question you.

 

Struggles of conscience

From: Charles Spurgeon

“How many are mine iniquities and sins? Make me to know my transgression and my sin.” Job 13:23

Suggested Further Reading: John 8:21-47

“Tell me how I can feel the need of my Saviour.” The first advice I give you is this: Particularise your sins. Do not say “I am a sinner;” it means nothing; everybody says that. But say this, “Am I a liar? Am I a thief? Am I a drunkard? Have I had impure thoughts? Have I committed unclean acts? Have I in my soul often rebelled against God? Am I often angry without a cause? Have I a bad temper? Am I covetous? Do I love this world better than the world to come? Do I neglect prayer? Do I neglect the great salvation?” Put these questions and you will soon convict yourself much more readily as being a sinner. I have heard of a hypocritical old monk who used to whine out, while he whipped his back as softly as he could, “Lord, I am a great sinner, as big a sinner as Judas;” and when someone said, “Yes that you are—you are like Judas, a vile old hypocrite,” then he would say, “No I am not.” Then he would go on again, “I am a great sinner.” Some one would say, “You are a great sinner, you broke the first commandment;” and then he would say, “No I have not.” Then when he would go on and say, “I am a great sinner,” some one would say, “Yes, you have broken the second commandment,” and he would say, “No I have not;” and the same with the third and the fourth, and so on right through. So it came to pass he had kept the whole ten according to his own account, and yet he went on crying he was a great sinner. The man was a hypocrite, for if he had not broken the commandments, how could he be a sinner at all? You will find it better not to dwell on your sins as a whole, but to pen them, count them over, and look at them individually, one by one.

For meditation: Christ did not die for a theoretical concept of sin, but for actual sins committed by practising sinners (Matthew 1:2126:281 Corinthians 15:3Galatians1:4Hebrews 1:39:281 Peter 2:241 John 2:2Revelation 1:5).

License Plate Lessons

By: Missy Butler, Author

I answer e-mails for a living. I am blessed to be a part of a wonderful ministry outreach that ministers to thousands of hurting people on a daily basis.

At the end of the day, many times I go home with a certain sense of satisfaction knowing that perhaps in some small way, I was able to encourage someone by bringing them a renewed hope in their life circumstances.

One particular morning, I received a rather long and detailed e-mail from a woman who was in a deep state of depression. She went into great length to explain how very disappointed she was with her life, and proceeded to describe in great detail every wrong that had ever befallen her. She was very disappointed with all of her family, friends, and especially her church Pastor. She made no apologies that she was totally disgusted with people and described how disillusioned she had become with life overall.

After I finished reading through her correspondence a second time, I quietly asked God to give me the right words to say to her that could somehow reach her. I felt like I heard Him say, “Begin to move back from the letter and then look at it again.”  So I did just that.

Almost instantly all the words began to slightly fade, and I began to focus in on one very small word that had dominated the entire e-mail message. That word was “I.”  Just about every sentence she wrote contained the word “I”.  Then I heard God say:“That’s her problem.” 

I knew from my own experience exactly what He meant. I had my own bout with depression, some 20 years before. It wasn’t until I heard a well known Christian Physiologist, who gave the reasons for many types of depression that I began to understand.

He said the reason most people become depressed is that all their attention is on themselves. They are focused inward! Everything points back to me.  “Me this, me that, look what this person did to me or look what life has done to me.” On and on it goes.

All of a sudden it was like a light bulb went off. I thought, as much as I hate to admit it … he’s right! From that moment on, I began to step out of myself and my world quickly began to turn around. This is not to dismiss or be insensitive to cases of depression where a possible chemical imbalance is involved. That’s a different story entirely.

I drove home that afternoon on my usual 40-mile commute, and as always, the traffic began to slow down right before the downtown tunnel entrance. I gradually approached a car that had one of those license plates that spelled out a message. As I looked closely, I couldn’t help but smile the moment I realized what it said.

The plate spelled out, “2MANYIZ” (Too many “I’s”). I knew in that instance God was confirming to me, that when the “I’s” and the “Me’s” dominate our lives,  we very often end up self-focused and self-absorbed to the point that we are no longer capable of giving out of ourselves.

We can all learn a powerful lesson from the Apostle Paul as he himself struggled with the problem of the almighty “I.” In the book of Galatians, he very poignantly penned the following words:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 (KJV)

 

Spirit-Led Worship

1 Kings 18:12

“It will come about when I leave you that the Spirit of the LORD will carry you where I do not know; so when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have feared the LORD from my youth.

Psalm 139:7-10

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, read more.

Luke 4:1

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness

Matthew 4:1

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Mark 1:12

Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness.

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Spirit-Led Worship

From: Our Daily Journey

Spirit-Led Worship

Read:

Luke 2:36-52
She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone (Luke 2:38).

Facing transition in my current job, I’ve been diligently asking God for direction. Feeling called to take a leap of faith, I wonder how others will respond to my decision. As I was ruminating over the circumstances with my son, he said, “Mom, you are a Lucy,” referring to the Prince Caspian segment of The Chronicles of Narnia. “She could see Aslan when the others couldn’t, and he told her to follow him regardless.”

A fictional presentation of the kingdom of heaven, C. S. Lewis’ iconic work reminds us that following Jesus requires faith (Hebrews 11:1,3). Anna, a prophetess, intimately experienced this engagement with the unseen (Luke 2:36). Staying in the temple, she worshiped God night and day “with fasting and prayer” (Luke 2:37). She likely knew the voice of the Holy Spirit, and her life of dedication to God gave her a distinctive view into His plans.

While we do not know her daily routine, Anna would certainly have known the festivals, the prayers, and the Scriptures that encompassed life within the temple. Similar to Anna’s experiences, the life of Jesus teaches us that the set and predictable rhythms of worship can serve to ready us for the spontaneous movement of the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus and His parents returned years later to the temple, they were following the customs of the Jewish Passover (Luke 2:41-42). Because His life was surrendered in worship to the will of the Father, however, Jesus allowed the unseen leading of the Spirit to determine His steps, and He remained in the temple long after His parents had started their journey home (Luke 2:43,49).

May we too be so connected to the voice of the Holy Spirit in our worship that we obey, even when others don’t understand (Luke 2:50).

 

“And the Lord said . . . Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:31-32).

Our faith is the center of the target at which God doth shoot when He tries us; and if any other grace shall escape untried, certainly faith shall not. There is no way of piercing faith to its very marrow like the sticking of the arrow of desertion into it; this finds it out whether it be of the immortals or no. Strip it of its armor of conscious enjoyment, and suffer the terrors of the Lord to set themselves in array against it; and that is faith indeed which can escape unhurt from the midst of the attack.

Faith must be tried, and seeming desertion is the furnace, heated seven times, into which it might be thrust. Blest the man who can endure the ordeal!
–C. H. Spurgeon.

Paul said, “I have kept the faith,” but he lost his head! They cut that off, but it didn’t touch his faith. He rejoiced in three things–this great Apostle to the Gentiles; he had “fought a good fight,” he had “finished his course,” he had “kept the faith.” What did all the rest amount to? St. Paul won the race; he gained the prize, and he has not only the admiration of earth today, but the admiration of Heaven. Why do we not act as if it paid to lose all to win Christ? Why are we not loyal to truth as he was? Ah, we haven’t his arithmetic. He counted differently from us; we count the things gain that he counted loss. We must have his faith, and keep it if we would wear the same crown.

 

Taking the First Step

By: Tim Bishop

child with father learning to ride a bicycle

Everyone starts somewhere

If you’re like me, contemplating a new endeavor can cause self-doubt and sometimes fear. However, making progress on any facet of life isn’t automatic. Whether learning a special skill, pursuing a business venture or searching for a life mate, everyone must start somewhere. Taking the first step brings us closer to the desired outcome.

I learned how to ride a bicycle outside our home in Houlton, Maine, at age seven. Dad had purchased a used bike for $5. With a brother and a friend standing close by to offer instruction and reassurance, Mom captured my “first step” in a photograph that I treasure to this day.

I can still remember the fear! The bicycle would have fit someone twice my size. Despite the excellent coaching and encouragement, until I hopped on the seat and was willing to fall, I couldn’t learn how to ride it. Decades later, I’m so glad I embraced the challenge. My lovely wife, Debbie, and I have cycled over 11,000 miles throughout America, with some life-changing adventures to show for it.

No matter the undertaking, we cannot make headway without taking a risk and delving into the unknown. For example, no one can drive an Indy racecar without some driver’s education, driving the parents’ car, or practicing atop a tractor on the family farm.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 says,

“He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.” (NKJV)

Fear of the unknown has the power to freeze us in place – if we let it. And let’s face it: “wind and clouds” can take on any form in any situation to hold us back. Perfect circumstances will never arrive. Waiting for them merely keeps us grounded indefinitely. Had God intended circumstances to dictate our destiny, He would never have given us the urge to act in the first place. He provides the courage to step forward in faith when we answer the call.

Growing pains in life are mandatory. We learn success through failure, with its embarrassment and disappointment. Yet the price we pay pales in comparison to the rewards that await us. Receiving assistance and encouragement from others and not giving up ensure progress.

I’ve been a writer long enough to know how challenging it is to succeed at it. Yet, with enough persistence, I expect to develop more skill and make better decisions. In time, I hope to take this endeavor to higher levels than seemed possible at the outset. It’s easy to forget that God is pleased simply with my obedience, diligence and desire to help others. Forging ahead and leaving the results to Him help me pursue this new venture with more contentment and less anxiety.

Take the first step today.

Instead of allowing fear and uncertainty to slow us down, we can follow the example of the Apostle Paul:

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:12-14 (NKJV)

Despite his difficulties in advancing the Gospel amid hostility, Paul pursued “the upward call.” He did so by anticipating a better future rather than dwelling on past failures.

Achieving a goal may eventually take on more importance than beginning to pursue it. Nevertheless, the journey itself epitomizes sweet satisfaction with life. Whatever the challenge, conquering it will elude us until we chart a course, jump on the saddle, and push the pedal. Fearing the elements – or failure itself – needn’t keep us from the adventure. A destiny worthy of our momentary discomfort beckons.

Pharisees: Self-Righteous and Over righteous

The Missionary’s Predestined Purpose

By Oswald Chambers

The Missionary’s Predestined Purpose

The first thing that happens after we recognize our election by God in Christ Jesus is the destruction of our preconceived ideas, our narrow-minded thinking, and all of our other allegiances— we are turned solely into servants of God’s own purpose. The entire human race was created to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Sin has diverted the human race onto another course, but it has not altered God’s purpose to the slightest degree. And when we are born again we are brought into the realization of God’s great purpose for the human race, namely, that He created us for Himself. This realization of our election by God is the most joyful on earth, and we must learn to rely on this tremendous creative purpose of God. The first thing God will do is force the interests of the whole world through the channel of our hearts. The love of God, and even His very nature, is introduced into us. And we see the nature of Almighty God purely focused in John 3:16— “For God so loved the world….”

We must continually keep our soul open to the fact of God’s creative purpose, and never confuse or cloud it with our own intentions. If we do, God will have to force our intentions aside no matter how much it may hurt. A missionary is created for the purpose of being God’s servant, one in whom God is glorified. Once we realize that it is through the salvation of Jesus Christ that we are made perfectly fit for the purpose of God, we will understand why Jesus Christ is so strict and relentless in His demands. He demands absolute righteousness from His servants, because He has put into them the very nature of God.

Beware lest you forget God’s purpose for your life.

Comfort proclaimed

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” Isaiah 40:1

Suggested Further Reading: Acts 12:6-11

To angels, first of all, I believe this command is addressed: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.” You often talk about the insinuations of the devil; I frequently hear you bemoaning yourselves because you have been attacked by Apollyon, and have had a hard struggle with Beelzebub; you have found it hard to resist his desperate thrusts which he made against you; and you are always talking about him. Allow me to remind you that there is another side of that question, for if evil spirits assault us, doubtless good spirits guard us; and if Satan can cast us down, doubtless it is true God gives his angels charge over us, to keep us in all our ways, and they shall bear us up in their hands lest at any time we dash our feet against a stone. It is my firm belief that angels are often employed by God to throw into the hearts of his people comforting thoughts. There are many sweet thoughts which we have by the way, when we sit down, and when we rise up, which we scarcely dare attribute immediately to the Holy Spirit, but which are still beautiful and calm, lovely, and fair, and consoling; and we attribute them to the ministry of angels. Angels came and ministered unto Jesus, and I doubt not that they minister unto us. Few of us have enough belief in the existence of spirits. I like that saying of Milton’s, “Millions of spiritual creatures walk this earth, both when we sleep and when we wake.” And if our minds were opened, if our ears were attentive, we might hold fellowship with spirits that flit through the air every moment. Around the death-bed of saints, angels hover; by the side of every struggling warrior for Christ the angels stand.

For meditation: The verses Spurgeon goes on to quote—Psalm 34:7 and Hebrews 1:14.

Do you ever thank God for the ministry of his angels?