Monthly Archives: August 2020

Beware Of AN Uncontrolled Tongue

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Every Bit Counts

We love our joint Harvest/Bible School graduation days — the climax of ten weeks of blending Word and Spirit together in the context of on-the-ground missions. Twice a year we bring in new students and pastors from the remotest bush, along with eager students from all nations of the world who are as zealous for missions and immersed in God as possible.

We love, laugh, and worship together, then head for our local village and the deep bush to seek the lost and see them saved. These are some of the most forgotten people on earth.

As much as possible, we bring cultures together — black and white, east and west, rich and poor. We are a cross-section of the Body of Christ. We want to see it function as it should, every person contributing their gifts from God.

It never ceases to amaze me how Jesus’ Body works. No one has nothing to bring to the table. No one has no gifts. Everyone has something they can bring. Whether that something is small, unseen, and seemingly insignificant or very visible and obvious is neither here nor there. It is irrelevant in God’s Kingdom. All that matters is the whole, diverse, glorious Body working together, each part doing its bit to achieve God’s greater purposes.

Some have the task of carrying gear, setting up the sound system, making sure everything is working, while others have the privilege of sharing the message of God’s grace with the assembled crowd. Some cook or pass out food, while others minister and pray. Various expressions of service to Jesus work together to accomplish His purposes that day.

Never feel that what you have to contribute is too small, not enough, insignificant. It’s not. What you have is needed. Without it, other parts of the Body struggle to function. Bring your offering to Jesus and allow Him to multiply it.

“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” (Romans 12:4-5 NLT)

 

The Forgotten Vital Organ

By: Kathern Britton, crosswalk.org

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. – Proverbs 18:21

I have decided that many, many medical textbooks are wrong. Each and every one of them has actually left out a vital organ. Yes, they’ve remembered the heart and the brain and even that strange thing called a pancreas (I know it’s important, I just forget why sometimes). But look through the books all you want, and you’ll find not one mention of the most obvious vital organ of all: the tongue.

Then again, I myself often choose to ignore the importance of the tongue. I’d rather not believe it has “the power of life and death.” I’d like to pretend my tongue is more like an appendix or a gall bladder – easy to forget about because it’s not that important – but that’s just not the case. Snapping at my family when I’m tired, nagging, and complaining all release a poison from my tongue that works its way through my whole being (James 3:6). Not only that, I infect others with my attitudes and motivations. I begin to spread a disease.

Contrast that with the “words of the wise,” as Proverbs says many times. Their words heal and strengthen as they spread encouragement, wisdom, peace, and the Gospel message. Oh, and – get this – the wise actually use their tongues less than other people. The more powerful the tongue, the less it needs to be used. It’s like the heart of a well-trained athlete – when someone is really in shape, the beats per minute actually decrease as the heart becomes more and more efficient. In the same way, why don’t I condition my tongue to speak fewer words with more meaning?

In Genesis 1, God spoke into the darkness, and there was light. Those “mere words” created something from nothing, showing the power of speaking out. My pastor in college told us that this verse had meaning for us, too, since we are created in God’s image. We are meant to speak out and bring light from the darkness as He did. That’s the power of the tongue in a crazy world. The question is whether we choose to speak light or just add to the darkness.

That little muscle called the tongue holds the power of life and death. That’s no small matter. So let’s be careful how we exercise it.

 

God Is Able

From; InTouh ministries

Ephesians 3:20-21

Jesus knew what it was like to live with limited resources, to have others question His actions (Mark 3:21), and to be rejected by those He sought to serve (John 6:66). Yet in spite of such opposition, He didn’t let circumstances affect His trust in the Father.

We’re called to follow Jesus’ example by believing that God is able to do what He’s promised. For instance, Hebrews 7:25 assures salvation for whoever requests forgiveness in the name of Jesus—His death on the cross satisfied the demands of divine justice for all our sins. God will pardon everybody who has genuine faith in His Son and will make each one a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). No matter what trouble someone may have caused, the Lord invites that person to draw near in faith and receive the gift of everlasting life.

God also promises to establish in truth everyone who trusts in Him (Rom. 16:25). Through His Spirit and the Word, we start to see things as our Father does, which helps us understand what pleases Him.

By believing God keeps His promises, we grow stronger in our faith and gain peace. Hardships that would once have thrown us off course lose their power. Hope replaces discouragement, and trust overcomes doubt. Next time trouble comes, focus on God’s promises and ability to care for you.

 

The Giving Difference

by Inspiration Ministries

I have noticed something else in life that is useless. Here is someone who lives alone … yet he is always working … This is useless, too – and a miserable way to live.” – Ecclesiastes 4:7-8 GNT

Many people devote their lives to gaining possessions, believing that things will increase their satisfaction. Some of these people are workaholics. For them, more is never enough.

Ecclesiastes described a person like this. Yes, he gained wealth, but he was “always working” and “never satisfied” (v. 8). He lived alone and did not share his time or resources with anyone else. Ecclesiastes was right. What “a miserable way to live”!

We should be content with what we have. “It is better to have only a little, with peace of mind” (v. 6). Jesus taught that a key to be satisfied was to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). Doing what is right brings a satisfaction having more stuff cannot match.

The Bible also reminds us that we cannot find joy, fulfillment, or satisfaction by hoarding possessions. To receive the maximum blessings, we must share with others. We need to invest the resources God gives us.

The principle of giving is critical to every area: finances, health, relationships, careers, and our spiritual lives. People around you may focus on wealth or possessions. The world may encourage you to spend more, to buy more. But the Bible teaches the blessings of giving and sharing with others.

Ask God to help you be a more giving person. Seek opportunities to share with what He has given you. As Jesus taught, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8 NKJV).

Be Humble Before Your God

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Little Professors

As kids, a favorite pastime we often played was “Simon Says.” The object of the game was to respond only when those two words preceded a command. For example: If the caller yelled out “touch your elbow” without first saying “Simon says …” and you touched your elbow, you were out of that round of the game.

Lately, I’ve been reminded of another rather curious command … one that was given to us by Jesus Christ. He tells us,

“… unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3 NIV)

Naturally, the question arises, how do we become child-like as full-grown adults? I began to think about the inherent positive characteristics found in most children. They are usually loving, spontaneous, quick to forgive, trusting, uninhibited, and full of belly laughs.

I am blessed on occasion to be in the company of my youngest nephew, Phillip Michael. Several weeks ago, he had a very important secret to share with his grandpa (also known as Pop). He leaned over and said, “Pop, do you wanna know who my favorite Aunt is?”

Even though my dad had a good suspicion of who it might be, he replied, “Why no, I don’t. Who is it?”

The little guy cupped his small hands and whispered, “It’s my Aunt Missey!”

I don’t mind telling you, that upon hearing the news, I promptly stroked a few more proud peacock feathers in my ever-growing, bigger by the day, Auntie hat! I come from a large and loving Irish family, where the competition can be very tough! I undoubtedly left behind a trail of most worthy opponents. Honestly though, I have to confess my secret to success. It’s really very simple. Whenever I am around this little fellow, we are usually sprawled out on the living room floor, busy playing pretend, imagine, finger paints, reading adventures, and we love to giggle!

In the midst of the play, I’m reminded of all the beautiful qualities children bring into the world. Unknowingly, I am being taught many of life’s lessons by a precocious five-year-old. Yep, He thinks I’m kind of special … but I know he’s God sent.

This past weekend, my pint-size buddy and I decided to head out to the beach. We were going to try our hand at mastering some of those scary waves. As we stood side-by-side at the water’s edge, a few moments went by, when all of a sudden Phillip Michael looked up at the sky and with his small voice yelled, “God, can you please send some small ones?” I was trying not to laugh (recognizing that serious business was taking place between a child and his Creator). I thought to myself that it sure feels like I’m caught in the middle of a scene straight from the popular cartoon strip The Family Circle.

I am convinced that the older we get the more we need to recall our innocence. Some of my own moments of recollection involve a box of crayons and a coloring book. I even allow myself to color outside the lines.

We must humble ourselves as little children so that we can again become teachable. Jesus loves the little children. They are always unpretentious, full of wonder, quick to follow, and slow to distrust. Help us, Lord, to find our way back to your lap. Help us to rest in the cradle of your arms as you read to us the story of your kingdom.

The psalmist wrote:

My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. (Psalm 131:1-2 NIV)

Daily we all have the opportunity to learn from the many “little professors” that playfully surround us. We just need to have childlike ears and a carefree heart. It is of utmost importance. After all, the kingdom of heaven is waiting.

 

The Hardest Prayer You Can Pray
by Liz Kanoy, crosswalk.org

“Jesus said, ’Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing’” ( Luke 23:34).

The context of this verse occurs when Jesus is being crucified. Though He was innocent, He carried His cross alongside two criminals to the place where they would be crucified, called The Skull (Golgotha). On the cross, the Son of God—situated between two sinners deserving of death—spoke to His Father and said, ’Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing’” ( Luke 23:34). This was and is the worst crime in the history of the world; the only innocent Man to live on this earth, the only Man undeserving of death and punishment was put to death in the most humiliating and unfair way … and He said what?

This prayer was directed toward the taunting crowd, religious leaders happily observing His death, apathetic Roman soldiers placing bets for His clothing, and the criminals on either side of Him. Could you forgive someone for a terrible crime simply because they do not know God? This is the hardest prayer anyone can pray. To forgive someone undeserving of forgiveness; to forgive someone who does not even recognize their need for forgiveness.

Could you pray this prayer for terrorists, for killers, for gunmen, for bullies, for family members who hurt you deeply, for friends who stab you in the back, for co-workers who use you, for any number of circumstances that cause you or someone you love pain.

On my own, I know I cannot pray this prayer—for I am far too angered by injustice, by acts of evil, by selfish deceit. But with the Holy Spirit as my Helper and my Advocate, I can seek to grow in this prayer. To see people as not just wrong or evil but incredibly lost … and to pray most of all for God to make Himself known to them, for He is the One whom all wrongs are ultimately committed against.

Jesus forgave those who murdered Him not only on the cross but also in their hearts. He saw their state of lostness and just as He had compassion on the crowds who surrounded him during his ministry he had compassion on His persecutors.

 

Streams in the Desert – August 30

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

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep (Ps. 107:23-24).

He is but an apprentice and no master in the art, who has not learned that every wind that blows is fair for Heaven. The only thing that helps nobody, is a dead calm. North or south, cast or west, it matters not, every wind may help towards that blessed port. Seek one thing only: keep well out to sea, and then have no fear of stormy winds. Let our prayer be that of an old Cornishman: “O Lord, send us out to sea–out in the deep water. Here we are so close to the rocks that the first bit of breeze with the devil, we are all knocked to pieces. Lord, send us out to sea–out in the deep water, where we shall have room enough to get a glorious victory.”
–Mark Guy Pearse

Remember that we have no more faith at any time than we have in the hour of trial. All that will not bear to be tested is mere carnal confidence. Fair-weather faith is no faith.
–C. H. Spurgeon

 

Your Fruit

by Inspiration Ministries

“Each tree is known by its own fruit … The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil.” – Luke 6:43-45 NASB

Austrian Gustav Mahler had been acclaimed as a conductor, but generally ignored or rejected as a composer. In June 1902, he stood before the Cologne Orchestra, preparing to conduct the premiere of his Fifth Symphony. He warned, “Every time one of my symphonies has been performed, people have hissed or made a noise.”

He predicted that his new symphony likely would receive a similar reaction. But he urged the musicians to play “as best we can.” Regardless of how the audience reacted, they were to play with excellence.

Mahler realized that criticism did not mean failure. He was committed to writing the music in his heart and not allowing fickle opinions to stop him. He predicted, “My time will come.” He was proven right and received belated honor, but only after his death.

We need to remember that we all have limited understanding and make subjective decisions based on imperfect information. But, as Jesus told us, we learn a lot about people by examining their fruit. “There is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor … a bad tree which produces good fruit” (v. 43).

Ask God to give you discernment as you consider the fruit others produce. Realize that others evaluate you by your fruit. What do they see? Submit your life to the Holy Spirit. Let Him produce His fruit in you. Through everything you do and say, be a witness for the Gospel, and let your light shine!

There Will Be Joy In The Morning

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Get the Ducks!

duck

This morning my yorkie-poo alerted me that something was going on in the backyard. His barking wasn’t the usual yapping to greet a dog walking near our fence. When I went to investigate, I saw him doing manic laps around the pool, looking up frequently to see if I was paying attention. He had discovered invaders and was beside himself with the thrill of it. A pair of mallards had decided to enjoy a swim and Rocky wasn’t sure what to do about it.

After a few minutes of side-splitting laughter, I encouraged him to go swimming to “get the ducks.” This is a funny little dog who loves to swim and retrieve balls so he went for it, even though the ducks were nearly as big as he is. Naturally, the annoyed birds flew off, leaving Rocky behind victorious.

Rocky’s buddy Ziggy, our sweet Rottweiler, went to K9 heaven about a month ago. When Zig was in the yard, ducks and neighborhood cats didn’t venture near. Now things are different — for Rocky and for all of us in my family. We miss Ziggy and when there is a void that big, things change. Rocky has been mopey, he’s taken to making a fast break into the neighborhood when the door is open and dumps the trash can over when he’s left alone.

But then today there were ducks! He was filled with the joy of a new and exciting experience. I’ve started taking him to work with me (at our business) when I have a short day, something that wasn’t feasible with Ziggy. He also gets more car rides and 100% of the doggie love lavished at our house.

For my little mutt and for all of us there is unexpected joy to be found in the wake of grief and disappointment. When there is discord in one relationship, it may forge an even closer bond in another relationship as you seek comfort and direction. If you get sick you have time to appreciate health, which will hopefully come again. In a bad economy, you learn to rediscover simple pleasures and find out that possibly you have been squandering money when it was plentiful. Psalm 126:5 (TLV) tells us,

“Those who sow in tears will reap with a song of joy.”

Are you stuck in a sad, angry, or bored place? Rather than dumping the trash over (and ticking everyone off), start looking for ducks. There is probably unexpected joy ahead in your own backyard. Ask God to remind you of the joy He’s brought in the past or give you a little unexpected joy today.

“He prays to God, and He is favorable to him, so that he sees His face with joy; for [God] restores to him his righteousness (his uprightness and right standing with God—with its joys).” (Job 33:26 AMPC)

 

Sweet Perfume

By: Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.org

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4

Some time ago a stranger visited my church’s Sunday service. He arrived early, while the worship team was still setting up, and the minute I saw him I became nervous. It was clear from his appearance that he’d made a lot of bad decisions in life. His cloths were worn and dirty, while his body had been grossly contorted by years of unhealthy living. I remember doing my best to avoid him as I went about my work, hoping that if I ignored him long enough he’d just go away.

Not exactly my finest moment. In fact, I’d say my attitude was no different than Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7:

“Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he 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 7:36-40

This is one of the biggest dangers we face as Christians: becoming exclusive with the grace of Jesus Christ. The Church is not a showcase for saints, but a place where people of all backgrounds can come and say “I need Jesus”. Neither is God’s love ours to withhold, nor are we more deserving of His mercy than the stranger off the street. In fact, the Bible is pretty clear that Jesus made a habit of knocking “Holy” individuals down to size:

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” – Luke 7:44-50

As for the man at the service, my friend reacted much more graciously. He struck up a conversation with the man and welcomed him to the service. He even agreed to help him go grocery shopping later on in the week. I learned a valuable lesson that Sunday; you cannot love someone by omission, you can only love them through action.

Independence of Christianity

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.” Zechariah 4:6

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Corinthians 3:17-4: 7

The grand thing the church wants in this time, is God’s Holy Spirit. You all get up plans and say, “Now, if the church were altered a little bit, it would go better.” You think if there were different ministers, or different church order, or something different, then all would be well. No, dear friends, it is not there the mistake lies; it is that we want more of the Spirit. It is as if you saw a locomotive engine upon a railway, and it would not go, and they put up a driver, and they said, “Now, that driver will just do.” They try another and another. One proposes that such-and-such a wheel should be altered, but still it will not go. Some one then bursts in amongst those who are conversing and says, “No, friends; but the reason why it will not move, is because there is no steam. You have no fire, you have no water in the boiler: that’s why it will not go. There may be some faults about it; it may want a bit of paint here and there, but it will go well enough with all those faults if you do but get the steam up.” But now people are saying, “This must be altered, and that must be altered;” but it would go no better unless God the Spirit should come to bless us. You may have the same ministers, and they shall be a thousand times more useful for God, if God is pleased to bless them. You shall have the same deacons, they shall be a thousand times more influential than they are now, when the Spirit is poured down upon them from on high. That is the church’s great want, and until that want be supplied, we may reform, and reform, and still be just the same. We want the Holy Spirit.

For meditation: God doesn’t come to us in the most spectacular ways possible (1 Kings 19:11-12). For his idea of power-evangelism see 1 Corinthians 1:17,18,23,242:1-5, also Romans 1:16.

 

The Joy of Forgiveness

by Inspiration Ministries

“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven … How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity … When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.” – Psalm 32:1-3 NASB

David had sinned, and his sins weighed him down. He found himself unable to get relief. He felt as if his strength was gone, and that his “vitality was turned into the drought of summer” (v. 4). He seemed reluctant to talk to God about these sins. But the impact was so great that he had to do something!

Finally, he could not keep silent and turned to God. “I acknowledged my sin to You … and You forgave the guilt of my sin” (v. 5). After he confessed his sins, everything changed. God forgave his sins and freed him from guilt. The heaviness lifted, and his burdens and guilt were replaced with joy and gladness. He realized that he could trust in God to guide him, protect him, deliver him from danger, and make him feel secure.

Many people do not experience these joys and blessings because they refuse to acknowledge and confess their sins. They hide them. Bury them. Ignore them. Then they suffer from worry, guilt, and burdens because they will not seek God’s forgiveness.

Don’t let the burdens of sin and guilt weigh you down. Don’t run away from God, but let Him search your heart. He wants you to be free and experience real joy. But to know this joy and freedom, you must acknowledge your sins and mistakes. And, you must confess them.

Humble yourself before God. Be clean. Freed. Forgiven. Filled with hope and joy!

Christ Died To Save Our Souls

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The Easy Way Is Not Always the Right Way

“Then the men of David said to him, ‘This is the day of which the Lord said to you, Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you.’” 1 Samuel 24:4 NKJV

Sometimes everything seems to simply line up; doors open, opportunities arise, and the choice seems obvious. Simply receive the opportunity and proceed. Or is it so simple? Are there other factors to consider?

In 1 Samuel 24:1-22, the Bible tells about a time when King Saul took 3000 men to hunt David down to kill him. As circumstances would have it, and unbeknownst to King Saul, it was David who found Saul and his men first.

The Bible says David’s men rejoiced. They suggested it was the Lord who delivered Saul and his men into their hands. They encouraged David to do whatever he wanted to them. As David considered his options, he secretly cut off a corner of Saul’s robe while Saul slept.

Everything seemed perfect. All David had to do was kill his enemy. Instead, he hesitated. The Bible says David’s heart troubled him.

You see, David knew God’s law. He was familiar with God’s instruction about vengeance. It belonged to God alone. David understood if he killed King Saul, he would be killing one of God’s anointed, and he knew it was forbidden.

“And he said to his men, ‘The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.’” 1 Samuel 24:6 NKJV

Can you relate to David? Have you been offered an opportunity but don’t have peace? It may be the Holy Spirit reminding you the opportunity is not God’s best. There may be an undisclosed unethical component, and God wants you to turn it down.

A friend recently confided she and her husband were going through a difficult time in their marriage. Out of the blue, she meets another man. He appeared to offer traits and qualities her husband lacked. She convinced herself it was God who sent the new man. How easy it is for us to rationalize or justify our decisions when an opportunity presents itself at just the right time. It is our human condition and frailty at work when we charge ahead in life without allowing the Holy Spirit to be our guide.

It is no wonder the Bible warns us,

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 NIV

If we familiarize ourselves with the Bible and, like David, know what God desires, we will know how to choose right! It is much easier to obey God and avoid the heartache of bad decisions.

Like my friend, we are all tempted at times. She came to her senses when she remembered the Apostle Paul’s words,

“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face … he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 MSG

We have choices or opportunities that may be appealing in the moment or an easy way out of situations. It is wise to filter those opportunities through Deuteronomy 30:15 NLT,

“Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster.”

Have you been confronted with an opportunity or decision first appearing to be sent from heaven? How did you respond? Did you jump on board or filter your opportunity through God’s Word? Sometimes the easy way is not the right way. The good news is Jesus will help us choose His way if we allow Him!

John 3:16 – The Love of God Through Jesus

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. – John 3:16

If we ever memorize a verse of Scripture, it will most likely be John 3:16. It is the verse most often heard in the simplicity and beauty of a little child’s voice proudly reciting it from memory. John 3:16 is the one verse showing up on large placards at football games and other major sporting events. Those signs are located where television cameras cannot avoid its message. This is the one verse that has been spoken by many older saints as they breathed their final breath.

John 3:16 is the entire gospel in a nutshell.

Angel Martinez, the late evangelist who had memorized the entire New Testament, referred to John 3:16 as salvation’s formula and observed that it contained four very insightful truths. It is the gospel in one verse. John 3:16 reveals to us salvation’s cause, its cost, its condition, and its consequence.

John 3:16 – Salvation’s Cause

“For God so loved the world”

The motivating factor behind God’s redemptive plan for every man and woman is His love for us. He not only loves us, He so loves us! Later, the apostle Paul sought to describe this love by speaking of its “breadth, and length, and depth, and height” (Ephesians 3:18), “God is love” (1 John 4:16), and this deep emotion is what brings about the possibility of our redemption; knowing Him in the intimate relationship of Father and child. God’s love for you is the motivating cause of salvation. “For God so loved…”

John 3:16 – Salvation’s Cost

“that He gave His only begotten Son”

Our salvation, the free pardoning of our sin, and the promise of abundant and eternal life in Christ did not come without cost. Freedom is never free; it is always bought with blood. From the early chapters of Genesis, there is a scarlet thread woven throughout the pages of Scripture revealing the blood atonement. It climaxes in the final and complete sacrifice for sin on a Roman cross outside the city gates of Jerusalem. Jesus not only spoke of His love for us, “but God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Our salvation in Christ came at a great cost: God “gave His only begotten Son.”

John 3:16 – Salvation’s Condition

“that whoever believes in Him”

Salvation is not spelled “d-o,” but “d-o-n-e.” Many people, however, think their own good works are the pathway to eternal life. Consequently, they do this or do that, or they don’t do this or don’t do that, all in order to earn salvation. But our salvation is done. It is already purchased for us with the blood of Christ on the cross. Our part is to believe, to transfer our trust from ourselves and our own efforts to His finished work on the cross of Calvary.

To believe does not mean to simply give intellectual assent to the claims of Christ. It means to transfer our trust to Him alone for our salvation.

The most pointed question in the entire Bible is asked of the apostle Paul by a Philippian jailer:

What must I do to be saved? – Acts 16:30

Paul’s immediate reply follows in the next verse:

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. – Acts 16:31

I believe in George Washington, but I don’t believe on him; I don’t trust my life to him. Salvation’s condition is through faith — and faith alone — in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Living with Suffering – Streams in the Desert – August 28

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

There he proved them (Exod. 15:25).

I stood once in the test room of a great steel mill. All around me were little partitions and compartments. Steel had been tested to the limit, and marked with figures that showed its breaking point. Some pieces had been twisted until they broke, and the strength of torsion was marked on them. Some had been stretched to the breaking point and their tensile strength indicated. Some had been compressed to the crushing point, and also marked. The master of the steel mill knew just what these pieces of steel would stand under strain. He knew just what they would bear if placed in the great ship, building, or bridge. He knew this because his testing room revealed it.

It is often so with God’s children. God does not want us to be like vases of glass or porcelain. He would have us like these toughened pieces of steel, able to bear twisting and crushing to the uttermost without collapse.

He wants us to be, not hothouse plants, but storm-beaten oaks; not sand dunes driven with every gust of wind, but granite rocks withstanding the fiercest storms. To make us such He must needs bring us into His testing room of suffering. Many of us need no other argument than our own experiences to prove that suffering is indeed God’s testing room of faith.
–J. H. McC

It is very easy for us to speak and theorize about faith, but God often casts us into crucibles to try our gold, and to separate it from the dross and alloy. Oh, happy are we if the hurricanes that ripple life’s unquiet sea have the effect of making Jesus more precious. Better the storm with Christ than smooth waters without Him.
–Macduff

What if God could not manage to ripen your life without suffering? 

Be Careful and Commit Things To God

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Watch Where You Are Going

Distractions abound in this modern futuristic world. People texting on their smartphones while driving…the only thing smart about that is the phone. People hurt and dying because someone is not watching where they’re going.

A man or a woman captured by the allure of a coworker, found in a situation which breaks trust with their spouse or loved one. All because they’re not watching where they’re going.

A business leader enticed by the easy riches of ill-gotten gain, now imprisoned after not watching where he was going.

Politicians, religious authorities, educational activists, and the list goes on and on. Not to belabor the point but did you ever just stop, look around and say to yourself, “ Everybody! Watch where you’re going!”

Hindsight is 20/20 but hindsight always comes when it’s too late. Just ask Adam. God’s created man who carried the future of humanity within him. God gave him a law, a warning to not eat the fruit of that one tree. Now Adam wasn’t stupid. In fact, he was very intelligent, yet what did he do?

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (Genesis 3:6NIV)

Adam didn’t watch where he was going and so subsequently he led his family and all who would come after them to become a fallen race.

There was another man mentioned prominently in the Bible who did watch where he was going. The Lord Jesus, the Son of the living God. His life was devoted to one purpose, to fulfill the calling that Father God had placed before him. To fulfill the law and redeem this fallen race by his sacrifice on a cross. With all the many distractions, obstacles, and temptations, he watched where He was going, pushed towards the will of God, and succeeded. He won us back.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14 KJV)

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV)

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV)

We must fix our eyes on where we are going, and not get sidetracked by the pleasures of this world. For the pleasures of this world are only temporary. But friendship with God is forever!

Lord, help us watch where we are going and keep our eyes on what is important and eternal. Help us keep our eyes upon you.

 

The King’s Table

By: Ryan Duncan

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. – John 14:2

One of my favorite Bible stories is 2 Samuel 2:1. The story begins a few years after David has finally become King of Israel. Before this, his life had been an endless string of running, fighting, and hiding, as he was mercilessly pursed by Saul, who wanted nothing more than David’s head on a spike. Now Saul was dead, and David would have been perfectly justified in dishing up some well-deserved payback on the royal family. Instead, he does something completely different.

David reaches out to Saul’s last living grandson, a poor cripple named Mephibosheth. Despite being Saul’s grandson, Mephibosheth’s life hadn’t been that great. His legs had been broken as a baby, both his parents were dead, and he was living alone in exile. When he heard David was coming, Mephiboseth probably assumed that was it for him. Just imagine his surprise at what followed,

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.) Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons. Mephibosheth had a young son named Mica, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth. And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table, and he was crippled in both feet. – 2 Samuel 9:7-13

The Bible says that David was a man after God’s own heart, and I think here we can see why. The story of David’s compassion to Mephibosheth is in some ways a foreshadowing to God’s compassion for all of us. We are all the broken children of Adam and Eve, people who turned their backs on God. Yet instead of abandoning us, God has made a place for us at his table. He has brought us out of exile and taken us home.

 

Responding to Tough Times

From: InTouch ministries

Proverbs 3:5-6

Tough times have a way of revealing our true nature. If two people were to face the same dilemma, one may grow closer to God and bear fruit while the other becomes anxious and doubts God’s faithfulness. How we respond to trials makes all the difference.

Like it or not, hardship is part of life. Becoming a Christian doesn’t change that fact (John 16:33). What shifts is our understanding of God’s sovereignty—nothing touches our life unless He permits it. Consider David, for example: God allowed a murderous king to pursue him for years (1 Samuel 23:151 Samuel 23:25), but David responded to adversity with faith and called God his stronghold and refuge (Psalm 59:16).

If we let them, challenges can grow our faith, change our perspective, or deepen our compassion. But no matter what, the Lord is available to help us in our affliction (Psalm 46:1). Either we can turn toward Him for comfort, guidance, and support, or we can get angry and resentful that we’re not being rescued from our valley.

When affliction strips away every crutch, one has only the Lord to depend upon. Though some people are destroyed by that kind of situation, others are built into undaunted believers.

Taken Aside by Jesus – Streams in the Desert – August 27

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

And he took him aside from the multitude (Mark 7:33).

Paul not only stood the tests in Christian activity, but in the solitude of captivity. You may stand the strain of the most intense labor, coupled with severe suffering, and yet break down utterly when laid aside from all religious activities; when forced into close confinement in some prison house.

That noble bird, soaring the highest above the clouds and enduring the longest flights, sinks into despair when in a cage where it is forced to beat its helpless wings against its prison bars. You have seen the great eagle languish in its narrow cell with bowed head and drooping wings. What a picture of the sorrow of inactivity.

Paul in prison. That was another side of life. Do you want to see how he takes it? I see him looking out over the top of his prison wall and over the heads of his enemies. I see him write a document and sign his name–not the prisoner of Festus, nor of Caesar; not the victim of the Sanhedrin; but the–“prisoner of the Lord.” He saw only the hand of God in it all. To him the prison becomes a palace. Its corridors ring with shouts of triumphant praise and joy.

Restrained from the missionary work he loved so well, he now built a new pulpit–a new witness stand–and from that place of bondage come some of the sweetest and most helpful ministries of Christian liberty. What precious messages of light come from those dark shadows of captivity.

Think of the long train of imprisoned saints who have followed in Paul’s wake. For twelve long years Bunyan’s lips were silenced in Bedford jail. It was there that he did the greatest and best work of his life. There he wrote the book that has been read next to the Bible. He says, “I was at home in prison and I sat me down and wrote, and wrote, for joy did make me write.” The wonderful dream of that long night has lighted the pathway of millions of weary pilgrims.

That sweet-spirited French lady, Madam Guyon, lay long between prison walls. Like some caged birds that sing the sweeter for their confinement, the music of her soul has gone out far beyond the dungeon walls and scattered the desolation of many drooping hearts.

Oh, the heavenly consolation that has poured forth from places of solitude!
–S. G. Rees

Taken aside by Jesus,
To feel the touch of His hand;
To rest for a while in the shadow
Of the Rock in a weary land.
Taken aside by Jesus,
In the loneliness dark and drear,
Where no other comfort may reach me,
Than His voice to my heart so dear.
Taken aside by Jesus,
To be quite alone with Him,
To hear His wonderful tones of love
‘Mid the silence and shadows dim.
Taken aside by Jesus,
Shall I shrink from the desert place;
When I hear as I never heard before,
And see Him ‘face to face’?

God’s Word Enlightens Us

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a Light unto my path." This is the  first verse I recall learning as a child. It has so much… | Open bible,25 Bible Verses about Light - DailyVerses.net
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Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105  | by Keith McGivern | MediumGod's Word Is a Lamp to Our Feet and a Light to Our Path - Psalm 119:105

 

Step by Step

Recently, my thoughts have been drifting back to a crisp fall evening several years ago. Earlier that day, I had been in Istanbul, Turkey. I rode across the Greek border in a small van, filled with 10 or so missionaries. During our drive, I couldn’t peel my face away from the window. The winding coastal drive had surpassed my every imagination of all things Mediterranean. On one side of the car, vineyards spilled down the massive mountains, which inspired the mythological tales of old. On the other side, a stunning palette that variegated from gold to turquoise, to cobalt blue as the shore melted into the same sea that carried Paul on most of his journeys.

At dusk, we settled into a camp halfway between Istanbul and Thessaloniki. There was just enough light to see olive trees greeting us at the entrance and a small mess hall where our dinner awaited. We were welcomed by the enthusiastic kisses and hugs of the Greek family that ran the camp. Before we knew it, the sun had said goodnight and our camp (being far away from any major cities) was very dark.

Before we turned in, one of our guides said to a small group of us, “Do you want to see something cool?” He handed us a couple of flashlights. We began to weave our way through the thick trees and bushes of the camp. I had to concentrate carefully on each step and the darkness forbid me to see anything other than the few inches in front of me.

Then, our guide led us to a cliff! There was a rough, winding, stairway nestled inside a stone wall. Though I was anxious and unsure, I began to make my way down the steep steps, concentrating on the narrow ray of light cast in front of me. Step. Step. Step. I still couldn’t see where we were going. Step. Step. Step.

However, when we got to the bottom, I no longer needed my flashlight. Beneath me was white sand, across from me was a glassy sea, and hovering above it all was the most sensational display of stars eradicating the darkness with a brilliant explosion of heavenly light. I had never before (and have never since) seen such an awe-inspiring spread of constellations. I had stumbled upon a romantic encounter between sky and earth. It was such a sacred and heavenly moment; it seems a mere mortal should not have been invited. And yet, I was, thanks to a very dark night, my small flashlight … and one obedient step after another. All the while, the scripture that came to mind was,

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

This is how our spiritual journey can be at times. As much as I would like God to reveal his big plan for my life, my journey is comprised of one small, obedient step at a time. I can’t see the 5-year plan. As much as I’d like to start preparing for the unknowns of my future, they remain unknown. As much as I would like for the Lord to prove upfront that He is faithful, kind, loving, and unfailing, there is no faith or adventure in that. God knows that we grow closer to Him by leaning on Him for every moment and every decision. He promises that there are amazing blessings for those who bravely follow Him, without doubting. We just have to learn to trust our guide and take it … step, by step, by step.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

 

Spending Time With God in the Busyness of Life

“Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” Genesis 5:24 (NIV)

As I sat down to read my Bible, my mind was bombarded with an ever-growing to-do list.

Almost immediately, I remembered wet clothes that needed to be transferred to the dryer, the email response I never sent and a project with a looming deadline. The desire to skip my time with God kept tempting me with each gnawing reminder of what I had not done.

Eventually, I succumbed to the pressure of getting things done over spending time with God. I had become Martha instead of Mary, and it all began with what seemed to be a harmless decision.

“Let me just check my email first,” I said to myself.

Soon, one email turned into many and begot a never-ending cycle of tackling everything that appeared to be urgent and pressing.

At the end of the day, I had not spent time with God at all.

I wish I could say this only happened on rare occasions, but the reality is, it has happened more than I care to admit.

Yet, I imagine God is not looking down in disappointment but with an extended hand, offering me an open invitation to come and spend time with Him.

He does this with all of us.

This is an invitation I believe Enoch accepted often because Genesis 5:24 describes him as one who “walked faithfully with God.” Given the fact that Enoch was a mere human being, this is a fascinating verse.

The book of Genesis is the first place where we see the extreme distinction between man and God. Man is considered common and of low degree. God is Elohim, sovereign and omnipotent. Enoch existed before the death and resurrection of Christ, so we know that in addition to his common nature, he was also separated from God by his sin.

Despite all of these barriers, Enoch’s relationship with God was one where he walked in step with his Creator. He did not walk behind God, missing His leading. Nor did he walk in front of God, moving without His authority and backing. Enoch accompanied God.

This would require him to keep pace with God the Father. If it were me, I think I would either be running — out of breath, trying to keep up — or lagging very far behind. Can you imagine keeping pace with God spiritually?

Surely this was cultivated over time. It is possible Enoch and God had regular, frequent conversations. Enoch must have been in the habit of repenting of his sin because sin could not persist in the presence of an omniscient God.

The interaction between Enoch and God was not religious, filled with regimented rituals and routines. What they had was a genuine relationship. God loved Enoch so much that the second half of the verse tells us He simply took Enoch away.

Enoch never had to taste the bitterness of death: “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24). He simply was and then he was no more. This is a beautiful depiction of what a relationship with God can be. We, too, though common and of low degree, can have this same type of relationship with our omnipresent God.

We can walk with Him through our deepest valleys and highest mountaintops. His invitation remains open for you and me. We have the privilege and honor of walking in step with God our Father. This requires that we choose Him over every competing distraction. In doing so, we, just like Enoch, accept the invitation to spend time with our unchanging God.

Dear God, thank You for being Elohim, sovereign and able to do anything. Thank You that Jesus broke down every barrier between You and me so we could have a beautiful and intimate relationship. I want to talk to You and spend time with You every day. Please help me make that a priority in my life, like Enoch did. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.  

 

Never Ashamed

by Inspiration Ministries

“In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed; in Your righteousness deliver me.” – Psalm 31:1 NASB

David was concerned about being ashamed. We might assume he was thinking about sins or questionable actions. But David displayed another perspective.

The Hebrew word here suggests being disappointed. He thought he had not trusted God completely. He thought he had set a bad example that others might follow.

David used the same word to declare how he took refuge in God, knowing He would “put to shame” those who opposed him (Psalm 14:6). David this word used four times in Psalm 25, confirming that he trusted in God, praying that he would not be ashamed.

In Psalm 31, David was concerned with his response to opposition. The shame was possible if he reacted in the wrong way. His cry was, “Let me never be ashamed.” Ultimately, David knew that he would not feel shame because he took refuge in the Lord. He was David’s “fortress” and his “rock of strength” (v. 3-4). He prayed instead, “Let the wicked be put to shame” (v. 17).

We might feel ashamed in many ways. But, as David discovered, we can feel shame if we react to problems with fear and worry rather than faith or when we realize others might follow our example and drift away from Him.

Today, make sure that you trust in Him. Be confident in Him and an example of faith to others, so you will not feel ashamed.

Trust Gods Love and Grace

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God Opens Doors Out of the Blue

What if today, right out of the clear blue sky, or tonight, out under the stars, God placed before you a clear-cut opportunity for an adventure in faith with Him? Are you ready? Ready to lace up your shoes, step through that door, and follow Him?

Why do we shy away from open doors, from the prospect of new adventures in faith? Why do we let opportunity after opportunity pass us by, even though we feel a stirring of desire and a tug on our hearts to respond? What holds us back?

I think many of us are simply too weighed down and tangled up by our past to step into God’s purpose today. How sad. We lose “today” because of “yesterday.” Life flows on by, and age creeps up on us while we remain mired in doubts, fears, and hesitations.

Have you ever met some older person, now physically unable to work or travel, who could only look back on life with regrets? It’s not a happy story. Some older man will say, “Years ago I had the opportunity to serve the Lord overseas—and deep down, I really wanted to go. But I had a good job, and I was climbing the ladder. So I held back. Then the opportunity passed me by—and it never came again.”

Or some older lady saying, “My husband and I couldn’t have children. He wanted to adopt a baby girl from China, but I was afraid, I kept stalling the decision, and we never did. Now my husband’s gone, and here I am with no one in my life. It would be so wonderful to have a daughter.”

Life is too short to live with regrets! Life is too precious to turn away from promising opportunities to serve the King in His kingdom.

The psalmist said,

“I run in the path of your commandments, for you have set my heart free.” (Psalm 119:32 WEB)

That’s what we want. To just run and run and run into His will and the paths of His purpose. With a light heart, a clear eye, and hope rushing bank-high through the channels of our heart.

But we can’t run if we have huge packs on our backs or ropes tangling up our feet that keep us from embracing God Adventures. Be open when God calls, even out of the blue.

 

Oh, the Places God Will Take You!

By:  Veronica Neffinger, crosswalk.org

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  –Proverbs 3:5-6

Looking at my stash of postcards, I can’t help but think of the Dr. Seuss book title, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

I have been a lot of places (within the U.S. anyway): Bayfield, WI for their apple orchards and outdoor concert venue, winding Lombard Street in San Francisco, the mangroves of the Florida Keys, Pike’s Peak in Colorado…and the list goes on.

As I look at the postcards which mark each place I’ve been, I also can’t help but think that rather than the places I’ll go, the theme for my life has been “Oh, the places the Lord will take you!”

Sometimes these are literal, physical places like the ones mentioned above, but more often they are intangible places of spiritual growth.

All Christians seem to love the popular Proverbs verses: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight,” but oftentimes it seems we do not trust in God to lead us down the right metaphorical path, while we do trust our GPS to get us to that scenic overlook, that historical attraction, that famed wonder of nature–all physical realities.

I would wager that many of us have discovered the hard way that when you think you know better than your GPS and you override it, you usually end up lost.

I don’t think it would be a stretch to claim that we often do the same with God as our guide.

It’s easy to think we know best how to direct our own paths and get where we want to go, but the truth is, we probably wouldn’t have many spiritual “postcards” hanging in the room of our hearts if we went our own way.

God is trustworthy. He is always ready to prove that.

I bet many, many of us could look back on the life we have already lived and point to dozens of times when we saw God’s hand orchestrating situations, bringing certain people into our lives, opening certain doors, closing others, bringing us to a place in which we can look back and see his Providence.

Many of us will also probably admit that those paths didn’t look very straight at the time when we were in the valley, but after all, it’s the same on a map: a road may look straight from a bird’s-eye view, but when you walk or drive it, you may find it has many bends and curves.

And yet, we still trust that the road will take us where the map or a GPS said it would take us–what if we did the same in our relationship with God?

 

Mourning into Dancing

by Inspiration Ministries

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, that my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.” – Psalm 30:11-12 NASB

The Bible tells us, “there is a time for every event under heaven.” Both a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and dance (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4).

Yes, there are times when mourning is appropriate. Yet we easily can become absorbed in the emotions of the moment and wallow in sadness. We can become saturated with anger, bitterness, fear, or worry.

David discovered that God had the power to change everything. He could lift his burdens and turn his moments of mourning into times of celebration. He did not have to stay sad or depressed.

Everything might seem dark, but God could shine His light and change hopelessness into hope. Instead of dreading his circumstances, he could be confident. God could fill his life with so much radiance that he would burst out in songs of praise. Instead of wallowing in anguish, he could be filled with thanksgiving.

No matter what is happening in your life, remember that God loves you. He has a plan for you. He is God, and He is still on the throne. Commit every situation to Him, no matter how big or small. No matter what obstacles you face or how hopeless everything may seem, He can give you hope.

Allow God to fill your heart with joy and confidence. Don’t allow circumstances to control you, but trust in Him. Celebrate His goodness! Let Him turn your mourning into dancing!

 

Streams in the Desert

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

Shut up to faith (Gal. 3:23).

God, in olden time suffered man to be kept in ward by the law that he might learn the more excellent way of faith. For by the law he would see God’s holy standard and by the law he would see his own utter helplessness; then he would be glad to learn God’s way of faith.

God still shuts us up to faith. Our natures, our circumstances, trials, disappointments, all serve to shut us up and keep us in ward till we see that the only way out is God’s way of faith. Moses tried by self-effort, by personal influence, even by violence, to bring about the deliverance of his people. God had to shut him up forty years in the wilderness before he was prepared for God’s work.

Paul and Silas were bidden of God to preach the Gospel in Europe. They landed and proceeded to Philippi. They were flogged, they were shut up in prison, their feet were put fast in the stocks. They were shut up to faith. They trusted God. They sang praises to Him in the darkest hour, and God wrought deliverance and salvation.

John was banished to the Isle of Patmos. He was shut up to faith. Had he not been so shut up, he would never have seen such glorious visions of God.

Dear reader, are you in some great trouble? Have you had some great disappointment, have you met some sorrow, some unspeakable loss? Are you in a hard place? Cheer up! You are shut up to faith. Take your trouble the right way. Commit it to God. Praise Him that He maketh “all things work together for good,” and that “God worketh for him that waiteth for him.” There will be blessings, help and revelations of God that will come to you that never could otherwise have come; and many besides yourself will receive great light and blessing because you were shut up to faith.
–C. H. P

Great things are done when men and mountains meet,
These are not done by jostling in the street.

Reclaim The Joy

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Reclaim the Joy

“Wanna come fishing with us, Grami?” asked my grandson, Deacon, as I sat on the veranda enjoying my book, coffee, and the cool morning quiet of the surrounding mountains. He was up early.

I’m not a fan of fishing, but I am a fan of my grandkids. Laying aside my book, I followed Deacon and his sister Eden to the dock where their dad stood baiting the fishing lines. I sat in a lawn chair next to my daughter to watch the activity. Her family was vacationing in the North Georgia Mountains near my home and had asked me to join them.

It wasn’t long before the sounds of excitement signaled someone had a bite. Surprised, I saw it was Eden who is usually more reserved than her brother. She didn’t rival Deacon’s noisiness, but the amazement and joy on her face was something to behold.

Her first catch! A live wiggly fish dangled on the end of her line. As I looked into Eden’s face, I caught the excitement and clapped in delight. I was taken back to my childhood summers when each day unveiled new and wondrous discoveries to be made.

And I had to wonder: When do we stop looking at each day with anything less than joyful anticipation? Why do we resist getting animated about life? Maybe the peer-pressured years of our teens change us. Maybe we hide our emotions because the world tells us we’re unsophisticated for believing there’s anything new under the sun. Maybe we let the disappointments and troubles we encounter rob us of hope.

When we let boredom or cynicism become our default mode, we aren’t experiencing life abundantly as Jesus intends. Consider what Jesus says in Matthew 19:14 (NIV):



”Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Jesus wants all His children, young and old, to enjoy life. And when we show our joy, we serve as witnesses for Him and the abundant life He came to give (John 10:10).

Joy is a response to God’s gifts and to who we are in Him. It’s not difficult to find and express joy.

  • We start by remembering each new day is from God.
  • We express gratitude for this gift.
  • We open our eyes and see signs of God’s love all around us.
  • And just like children, we celebrate.

“This is the day the LORD has made; let’s rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 CSB)

Thank you, Lord, for this day you have made. Make my eyes and heart like those of little children. Help me see the many reasons I have to rejoice and be glad. And remind me not to hide my joy because, by sharing it with others, I am showing them You. Amen.



What do you have to celebrate today?

 

God Is So Much More

by Debbie Holloway, crosswalk.org

For your Maker is your husband–the LORD Almighty is his name–the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth – (Isaiah 54:5).

It is natural and good for us to turn to God for comfort when we are overwhelmed by life. Scripture, prayer, and meditation can help us through anxiety, loneliness, divorce, the death of a loved one, and depression. Divorce rates continue to skyrocket, and many women (including single mothers) struggle to fill the hole in their lives with promises of God’s faithfulness. Many women use Scripture to remind themselves that, like Hosea married Gomer, the LORD said:

“I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy” (Hosea 2:19).

As I have been pondering this notion of God acting as husband to an aging single, a neglected wife, a grieving widow, or a lonely divorcee, something interesting came to mind. Something that maybe changes the way we think about God as a husband figure.

Marriage today is not what it was for biblical authors. Today, in the Western world at least, marriage is a union based on commitment, love, and common interest. We marry someone who shares our worldview, so we can journey through life together. We marry someone to whom we are physically attracted, so that we can enjoy them to the fullest. We marry for romance; we marry for personal fulfillment. Mostly, we marry because we want to – not because we have to. Women who remain single are fully capable of earning a living, doing good works for the Kingdom, and enjoying life.

Women in the ancient near east had a much more complex understanding of marriage. Yes, in Genesis 2, the Song of Solomon, and other places, we see that God’s plan was for marriage to create emotional and physical fulfillment and pleasure. But marriage for ancient Israelite women was more than emotional and physical partnership. It was – literally – a lifesaver. A woman who married gained the chance to have her own home. A woman who married gained the chance to have sons (essentially the life-goal of any ancient near-eastern woman). A woman who married would be provided for, fed, and cared for. If anyone hurt her, she had a legal protector and a place to find safety in much greater measure than if she still lived in her father’s household (or, God forbid, had no father or family).

Kind of makes looking to God as “husband” to fulfill emotional needs seem… pretty shallow, doesn’t it? Check out this passage in Isaiah that really elaborates on the significance of the metaphor:

“Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD. “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. “Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shameDo not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband— the LORD Almighty is his name– the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth” (Isaiah 54:1-5, emphasis mine).

To ancient Israel, saying “God is your husband” meant that God was their redeemer, God was their savior from captivity, their savior from barrenness.

An important realization comes with this fuller understanding of the God-as-husband metaphor. We can realize that, while God is protector and ultimate satisfaction, he is not a cure-all for our momentary pain. God never promises that his relationship with us can –or should– eliminate every negative emotion that we feel. We must have grace for ourselves, and grace for each other, to mourn and work through pain, without guilt or shame for doing so.

 

Always Ready

by Inspiration Ministries

“Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone … Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” – Matthew 24:36, 42 NASB

For centuries, Rome had ruled much of the world, but gradually it had declined and become vulnerable. Then suddenly, on this day in 410 AD, the Visigoths, a tribe of Teutonic people, sacked Rome.

This invasion caught the Roman leaders and military off guard. Procopius, a sixth-century historian, recalled that the emperor in Rome, Honorius, never had “a thought of war in his mind” but simply was happy “if men allowed him to remain quiet in his palace.”

Many people thought an invasion was impossible. Depending on Rome’s reputation, some assumed it always would be safe. Many Christians thought God always would protect Rome since the empire had been Christian for almost one hundred years.

After Rome was destroyed, many wondered why God had allowed this destruction. Grappling with this question helped motivate St. Augustine to write his monumental work The City of God. Remember, God is not bound to explain why He allows anything, but He is always in control; He is always good.

Many people go about their lives, just like Honorius, unconcerned about the future. Others feel confident that they have nothing to worry about. They forget the Bible’s warning that no knows the hour when Jesus may return. We always need to “be on the alert” (Matthew 25:13).

Today, seek to be faithful with the tasks God has given you. Focus on His Kingdom. Make sure you are alert and ready for Jesus’ return.

 

Tomorrow

By: Charles Sourgeon

“Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” Proverbs 27:1

Suggested Further Reading: Proverbs 31:10-25

On one occasion I pleaded for a friendly society, and not knowing a more appropriate text, I selected this, “Take no thought for the morrow, for tomorrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” Some of my hearers, when I announced my text, feared the principle of it was altogether hostile to anything like an insurance, or providing for the future, but I just showed them that it was not, as I looked upon it. It is a positive command that we are to take no anxious thought concerning tomorrow. Now, how can I do that? How can I put myself into such a position that I can carry out this commandment of taking no thought for the morrow? If I were a man struggling in life, and had it in my power to insure for something which would take care of wife and family in after days, if I did not do it, you might preach to me for all eternity about not taking thought for the morrow; but I could not help doing it, when I saw those I loved around me unprovided for. Let it be in God’s word, I could not practise it; I should still be at some time or other taking thought for the morrow. But let me go to one of the many excellent institutions which exist, and let me see that all is provided for, I come home and say, “Now, I know how to practise Christ’s command of taking no thought for the morrow; I pay the policy-money once a year, and I take no further thought about it, for I have no occasion to do so now, and have obeyed the very spirit and letter of Christ’s command.” Our Lord meant that we were to get rid of cares.

For meditation: Are you playing your part to provide practically for the members of your family? (1 Timothy 3:4-5125:4,16). If not, perhaps you should start getting anxious (1 Timothy 5:8).

Grace and Truth Came By Jesus Christ

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Abundant Grace

I receive e-mails, phone calls and texts from people who say, “Pray for me I can’t stop sinning.” Let me share some great news with you today.

” … Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV

Wow, Brad, is that the great news? Let me explain what some preach from this passage, GUILT!

Jesus says in Matthew 5:28 NIV,

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

So, does this keep us out of heaven? Well, if you interpret the above passage with none of God’s grace then yes. I know many drunkards, sexually immoral, slanderers, and swindlers who will be in heaven. Why?

Because of the last part of the passage above in 1 Corinthians 6:11, NIV:

“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

No one can lead a perfect life after they become a believer. It is ONLY by God’s grace that we are saved (see Ephesians 2:8-9).

When we get to heaven, it will not be of ANYTHING we did, but it will be in whom we put our faith and trust. He purchased what we could not. The more we rely on the Holy Spirit the less we will sin, but we will still sin till God calls us home. The sin we do cannot separate us from God, but the sin we do can make our lives miserable here on this earth. We can have dysfunctional families because of our sin. We can have all sorts of abuse from our sin and on and on. But that sin will never separate us from God when we have BY FAITH put our trust in the Lord.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 NIV

If people are constantly bringing up your sin, then they are the older prodigal brother who never loved the Father in the first place. Maybe today, if you are the prodigal older brother, you too may need to be broken into a thousand pieces like the younger brother. The younger brother only loved His Father when he was truly broken. Then, when he was broken, he saw that the Father did not condemn him or bring up his past, but loved him and gave him his inheritance back.

May the Lord bless you in a mighty way for helping us to help others. May we all feel like the younger brother who came over the last hill, and instead of experiencing shame we experience true love, redemption, joy, and hope for a glorious future. Please pray that many more would be written in the Lambs Book Of Life. Thank you again for helping us to keep on keepin’ on.

 

Sick on the Scenic Route

John UpChurch, Crosswalk.org

 

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” – Philippians 3:12 

On my way home from North Carolina, I followed my impulse to jump on the Blue Ridge Parkway that meanders along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains. Late spring had hit, and the trees on that slithering byway had burst into color. And if you know me, you know I can’t resist a scenic detour in spring… or summer…  or anytime I’m sure my car won’t get stuck for some reason.

If you’ve ever had the chance to sling along the Blue Ridge, you’ll find it hard to keep your eyes on the road. Gasp-worthy valley vistas pretty much assault you wherever you turn with their seductive greens and purples and blues. The only problem with a wandering gaze, however, is that many of the turns on that road completely bend back on themselves. So, you’re constantly looking out in awe—and then whipping the car back on the road before you become part of that valley view.

In fact, those stomach-churning curves nearly got the better of me. Never before or since have I suffered from motion sickness while driving. But that road, with all its flipping and flopping, beat me up. By the time I finally escaped that tangled beast of a road, I was actually happy to see the interstate and all its rush-hour traffic (well, for the most part). At least those bumper-to-bumper shenanigans meant I’d be going straight.

For many of us, our pursuit of Christ swings us around in much the same way. We whip around curves that seem to take us the long way round, nearly bumble off the road because something shiny catches our eyes, and let the cares along the way nauseate us. It’s a circuitous route, this Christian life, and one that doesn’t move us from start to finish quickly.

But it’s a path paved by the One who made us His own.

Each bend, each switchback curve, brings us closer to the goal He made possible. His mountain climbing 2000 years ago means we can follow Him all the way, no matter how far away the goal may seem. We’re His, and He’s calling us home.

Streams in the Desert

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

He went out, not knowing whither he went (Hebrews 11:8).

It is faith without sight. When we can see, it is not faith, but reasoning. In crossing the Atlantic we observed this very principle of faith. We saw no path upon the sea, nor sign of the shore. And yet day by day we were marking our path upon the chart as exactly as if there had followed us a great chalk line upon the sea. And when we came within twenty miles of land, we knew where we were as exactly as if we had seen it all three thousand miles ahead.

How had we measured and marked our course? Day by day our captain had taken his instruments and, looking up to the sky, had fixed his course by the sun. He was sailing by the heavenly, not the earthly lights.

So faith looks up and sails on, by God’s great Sun, not seeing one shore line or earthly lighthouse or path upon the way. Often its steps seem to lead into utter uncertainty, and even darkness and disaster; but He opens the way, and often makes such midnight hours the very gates of day.

Let us go forth this day, not knowing, but trusting.
–Days of Heaven upon Earth

“Too many of us want to see our way through before starting new enterprises. If we could and did, from whence would come the development of our Christian graces? Faith, hope and love cannot be plucked from trees, like ripe apples. After the words ‘In the beginning’ comes the word ‘God’! The first step turns the key into God’s power-house, and it is not only true that God helps those who help themselves, but He also helps those who cannot help themselves. You can depend upon Him every time.”

 

The Voice of the Lord

by Inspiration Ministries

“The voice of the Lord is powerful, the voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.” – Psalm 29:4-5 NASB

The Bible describes moments when God spoke to His people. But many wonder if He speaks to people today. For some, the idea of hearing from God seems like a fantasy, like fiction or even a delusion.

David had no doubts that God spoke to His people. In fact, he had experienced God’s voice in several ways. He described His voice as “powerful” and “majestic” (v. 4). His voice “shakes the wilderness” and “strips the forests bare” (v. 9). When God speaks, the impact can change physical objects. But His voice also can foster intimate moments.

The experience of hearing God’s voice can be life changing. As David described, those in His temple say “Glory” (v. 9). They are overwhelmed and filled with praise.

The Bible reminds us that God speaks in many ways. He speaks through His written Word. He can speak through pastors, counselors, and others who are sensitive to His leading.

God speaks through His Spirit (John 16:13). He can speak in loud, earth-shattering ways, but, as Elijah discovered, also in “a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12)

God desires to have a personal relationship with you. He is not a cold, distant deity; He is alive and real. Talk with Him. Share your deepest needs and concerns with Him. But don’t just talk. Take time to listen. Be sensitive to His leading. He might speak in a still, small voice.

Ways To Conquer Fear

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Ways to Conquer Fear

The other day while my fingers danced on my keyboard, suddenly something happened. My muscles tightened. “Cindi, don’t know what’s wrong,” I wrote to my very-wise friend. “I’m stuck, really stuck. My computer says there’s no room on the disk and I’m out of memory.”

Even from far away, she resolved the crisis. “Sometimes,” she wrote gently, “this can happen when you have too many windows open.”

Duh! That’s exactly what had happened. I, the queen of multi-tasking, had so many windows open at once that a mighty draft was most likely blowing my way.

Why do we do that? We open windows in life too—our kids do something off-the-wall for the umpteenth time, and we open the window of worry. When will they ever learn? Money problems don’t let up, so we open the window of anxiety. The doctor’s office leaves a message, “We found something abnormal in the test.” Then we open the window of fear. Our spouse still won’t understand us so we fling open the window of anger.

Then our life gets stuck with no more memory of joy. The file where peace was stored can’t be accessed and the folder of security is empty.

I’ve been there and it’s an ugly place when that folder is empty, when it’s void of confidence, of reassurance or hope. Unable to deal with an unexpected tragedy, I filled the folder of my heart with grief and gloom. At 31, a retinal disease robbed my sight, aggressively, completely, and with no expectation of regaining it again.

That’s when I opened not just a window, but a huge patio door of self-pity. Why me? I asked over and over again. The winds of anxiety and fear blew right through my soul. What will I do being blind, unable to care for my 3, 5, and 7-year-old sons? Where would I find help, answers to my questions, comfort? How could I calm my nagging fears?

In the midst of all those questions, like my friend Cindi, Jesus was gentle to come to my rescue. To remind me and to point to a different kind of fear, the fear that ushers perfect comfort:

“How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world.” Psalm 31:19 (NLT)

And while under His refuge, windows of destructive emotions closed. Doors of wisdom opened instead. They ushered three important truths to conquer fear:

  • The God of the universe is watching. He’s listening and is ready to point the way in the darkness.
  • He will hold us up, give us strength, and begin a new life in us.
  • He will fulfill His promise:

“Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will bring me safely through them.” Psalm 138:7a (TLB)

Father, in the midst of fear that fuels my stress, how comforting it is to know that you, with your mighty power, will bring me safely through all of these frightening emotions. Teach me to trust in you, in your timing and in your ways. Because of you, I will purposefully close each window of negative emotions so I can settle in the freedom from all my fears. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Remember Your Baptism

by Liz Kanoy, crosswalk.org

“And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.'” – Acts 2:38-39

Three years ago on Pentecost, I attended my godson’s baptism. The pastor encouraged parents and godparents to remind their children and godchildren of their baptisms often. He also encouraged all believers to continually remember their own baptism and to remember what baptism means for those in the body of Christ.

When I was baptized at 23, the pastor prefaced my baptism by saying “there is nothing magical about this water,” and he was right. There is no magic in the water and the water itself will not change you, but there is extraordinary power and hope in the One who makes baptism possible – the One who baptizes in the Spirit and transforms the heart.

Whether you lean toward infant baptism or a believer’s baptism theologically, Christians can all agree that baptism is a symbol of eternal hope in Christ. For Christian parents, their baby’s baptism is a symbol of their promise to raise the child to know and love God. For believers, baptism is a symbol of the lasting hope they possess and a reminder of the promise that has been fulfilled.

Remember your baptism, but don’t just remember the day or the act – remember the gospel of Jesus Christ, which gives purpose to all baptisms. Remember that the Lord called you to Himself, and He chose you by name – not by any merit of your own but by His free gift of grace.

Throughout the Bible, we can see that God chose people whom we might consider not so deserving – polytheists, murderers, adulterers, harlots, liars, and all other sorts of sinners and sins combined. His point in showing us the flaws of the people He chose is to remind us that no one is deserving. He can give mercy to anyone He chooses because all have fallen short of His glory, and no one can be justified and sanctified apart from Jesus.

When you remember your baptism, remember that you were nothing and God made you new. You were without hope, but He called you His own. He has adopted you as His child and heir. Remember the sin that caused the world to fall, understand the consequence of sin for every human being, and realize your continual need for the perfect Savior who lived and died and rose for all who would believe.

 

The Judgment of Believers

From: InTouch ministries

2 Corinthians 5:9-10

What do you feel when you think about standing before the judgment seat of Christ—fear or dread? The apostle John says that if we abide in Christ, then when the Lord appears, we can have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame (1 John 2:28). The reason is that we belong to Jesus, who went to on the cross to bear our sins and take the penalty we deserved.

Our future judgment has nothing to do with determining our eternal destiny; that has already been settled. Instead, this judgment is Christ’s evaluation of our deeds—to evaluate “whether [they are] good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). The word bad refers not to evil acts but to those that are of zero value. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 likens Christ’s judgment to a fire that consumes every worthless deed but leaves untouched those worthy of eternal reward. Although our life may look impressive by worldly standards, God alone knows the heart’s motives and which deeds are truly good (1 Corinthians 4:5).

Our actions don’t determine whether we spend eternity with God, but He is gracious to consider them for the purpose of reward. Together, let’s seek to live for Him and His glory each day. And let us also rest, knowing that His righteousness makes us worthy of heaven.

Desperate Moments

by Inspiration Ministries

“To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit. Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy.” – Psalm 28:1-2 ESV

David was desperate. He had prayed but nothing seemed to change. It was as if God was deaf. David had worshiped but still nothing changed.

All the while, it seemed that world conditions were deteriorating and the ungodly were being successful. David’s plea was that God would recognize their ways and reward them accordingly in order to make things right.

Finally, David sensed that God had not really ignored him: “He has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy” (v. 6). With this new confidence, David blessed the Lord. He realized, “the Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him” (v. 7).

His message was, “the Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed” (v. 8). David ended with a prayer that God would save His people, bless His heritage, and “be their shepherd” (v. 9).

Have you had moments like this, when it seems that God is not hearing you? In these moments, continue to seek Him. Even if He seems silent, realize that He really is hearing you. Continue to praise and trust Him. Commit your needs to Him. Be confident that He is aware of the actions of the ungodly.

Rest in Him. Trust in Him. Continue to serve Him and to pray for others