Monthly Archives: August 2020

Identity In Christ

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Identity in Christ

“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me” 1 Corinthians 4:3-4(NIV)

Paul did not care if other people judged him. He knew the Lord judges. When we stop caring about our image but instead care about what the Lord thinks of our character, we eliminate the need to seek external approval. It doesn’t matter what the next-door neighbor believes; God knows the intentions of our hearts. He alone is the judge; we are not.

What relief we feel when we don’t have to “keep up with the Joneses.” Status, fame, and worldly concerns slip away. Instead, we get our approval from one source—God—who loves us enough to send his one and only son to die for us.

Our identity is in Jesus Christ and the sacrifice he made for us. We get off the emotional roller coaster when we do not link our identity to our accomplishments or sins. Christ took our sins upon himself when he died on the cross, so we would be made holy and clean before God. Now we are part of his family:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NIV).

What a relief to know that we will not be condemned when we go to heaven, because Jesus was condemned for us, and he received our punishment.

It doesn’t matter what you think of yourself, because you become transformed as you trust Jesus to take away your sins—to be the sacrificial lamb that died for you. Once you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior and follow him, he becomes your new identity.

“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ …” (2 Corinthians 2:15 NIV).

God even thinks we smell like his son! Ask the Lord to exchange the desire you have for the world’s approval, for his approval.

When we are not concerned with what others think of us, or even what we think of ourselves, but instead focus on what God thinks, we arrive at humility. Timothy Keller, author of The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, wrote,

“The essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.”

Instead of worrying about how you look or focusing on your weight, you should think less about yourself altogether. Focus on who you are in Christ.

 

The Karate Kid – Crosswalk the Devotional – August 21

by Ryan Duncan

But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. – Matthew 5:39

When it comes to old movies, there’s really no beating the 1984 Karate Kid. It’s the classic coming-of-age story of a young boy who finds his potential with the help of a wise, old man. Of course, back then all I cared about were the awesome fight scenes. The first time I saw the movie I must have spent a week doing “Crane kicks” around the house like an inebriated flamingo. Those same action sequences haven’t aged well, and these days The Karate Kid looks downright corny, but the film still contains some valuable lessons for people who listen.

At one point in the movie Daniel grows frustrated with his training. He’s tired of being bullied, tired of being treated like a loser, he wants some payback and karate seems like the best way to get it. Mr. Miyagi listens patiently as his young pupil vents his anger, then pulls him aside and in broken English tries to explain the essence of what he’s teaching.

Pointing to his head, Miyagi says, “Daniel san, karate here.” He then points to his heart and says “Karate here.” Lastly, he points at his fists and say, “karate never, never here.”

The Karate Kid might be a cheesy movie, but I think a lot of Christians could take a lesson from Mr. Miyagi. It bothers me how often I hear pastors and Christian leaders say things like, “We’re soldiers in the army of God”, “We’re fighting a Culture War”, or “The line is being drawn in the sand”. I understand how hard it is to live as a Christian in modern culture, believe me, but that doesn’t mean we start living our faith with our fists. In fact, that sounds almost counter to what Jesus told his disciples to do.

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”– Luke 6:27-31

The truth is Jesus doesn’t need us to fight His battles. Our job is to be reflections of His love and mercy, and we can’t do that when we’re branding people as enemies of the Church. The same principles Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel about karate are true for Christians. God is in our hearts, God is in our minds, but God is never, never in our fists.

 

Accountable to God

From: InTouch ministries

Acts 24:24-25

Are you accountable to anyone? We all need accountability because it serves as a guardrail, keeping us on the right path. Some people act as if they answer to no one, and yet ultimately we’re all accountable to God and will one day stand before Him to be judged.

The Bible describes two separate judgments—one will be for believers (2 Corinthians 5:9-10) and the other, for unbelievers (Revelation 20:11-15). The basis for both is a person’s works, but the outcomes are quite different. Since Christ bore divine judgment for the sins of His followers, they will never be held accountable for transgressions. So when Christians stand before Christ, their works will be evaluated for the purpose of rewards. But unbelievers will be held responsible for sins they committed and will be sentenced to eternal punishment.

What is your first reaction to our future judgment? You might feel scared if you have not trusted Jesus as your Savior. If so, this is an opportunity to consider asking Him into your heart. But for those of us who have placed faith in Him, the thought of evaluation should inspire thanksgiving for Jesus’ sacrifice. It should also motivate us to live in a manner pleasing to God so we can hear Him say, “Well done!”

Who Is God to You?

by Inspiration Ministries

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?” – Psalm 27:1 NASB

What did God mean to David? Serving Him was not just a religious act. For David, the Lord was his light, providing guidance in every situation. He gave him wisdom and discernment. He encouraged him and gave him hope. He lifted his spirits and provided him with joy and peace.

David also realized that the Lord was his salvation. In every kind of situation, God saved him from danger, worry, temptations, and traps – from every enemy.

Because God was his light and salvation, David had no reason to be afraid! As he faced problems, he could depend on God. He did not need to fear enemies or anything they did. He was not even afraid in the face of his own mistakes, weaknesses, or doubts.

David knew that God could do the same thing for anyone who trusted in Him. He can light our path and provide salvation from anything and anyone. When we trust Him, we have no reason to fear any person, any situation, or any problem. God will show us what to do and give us the power and ability to do it. He will save us!

What does God mean to you? Look to Him and let Him be your light. Allow Him to take away your fears, guide you, and protect you. Take refuge in Him, no matter what problems you face. Be confident in Him. Realize He is your salvation in every situation!

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What Could Have Been

One of the thoughts I constantly struggled with earlier in my Christian walk was whether I should wait until my old age to serve God wholeheartedly. To me, Christianity was full of rules and inhibitions, you cannot do this, etc. I felt it would simply deny me of enjoying my life. I was even more worried considering my hormones were raging, and the Bible was clearIy against premarital sex. I was thinking I should rather wait until my old age and then give my life wholeheartedly to God. But I did not consider that the length of my days are numbered and dictated by none other than God and that the whole duty of man is to serve God, hence I had better heed the advice of the sage to serve the Lord in my youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

Nonetheless, I was quickly brought to my senses when I was miraculously saved from drowning. I was at the beach with friends and since I only knew some basic swimming skills, I stayed at the shore, following the advice of the lifeguard. I was jumping in the waves with friends. Everything was ok and I was really enjoying the whole experience. Then once I jumped and this time my feet did not touch the ground! I was trying to swim, but the waves were too strong for my basic skills. I was disoriented and did not know which direction to go. I was trying to shout, but when I opened my mouth I was drinking seawater!

In my desperation, I cried out to God. When I thought all hope was gone, a hand held me and brought me ashore. Like Jonah from the belly of the fish, I realized that the most important factor in this life is God. When I was drowning, my qualifications and credentials, networks, the material things that were competing for my commitment with God, could not help!

When I was ashore I kept wondering, “Is this how fast life can slip away, just one jump?” Just one jump and see where I ended up, so far away from the shore where I thought I was safe! I asked the one who accidentally swam to my end what prompted him to come that far and he said, “Something just made me come that far.” I thanked him for listening to that small voice but thanked God ultimately for coming to my rescue as His grace and mercies found me even when I was doubting Him. Without God, I would be an educated fool, because there is always a way that seemeth right unto a man but the end is death. However, with God, you can access wisdom to navigate the issues of life successfully.

That night as I lay on my bed, I kept staring at the ceiling, knowing that I could have been lying in the morgue or my coffin some few hours earlier. And it has been a fruitful journey thus far and I have come to welcome the twists and turns as He did not promise a life without challenges. When you give your life to God, then you can truly enjoy life abundantly. The thief cometh only to kill and destroy, but in Him is life. As much as I love to socialize, I have also learned to be guided by the counsel … blessed is he who does not sit in the counsel of the ungodly.

Sometimes we may deceptively think we are on the shores of a worldly temptation, but soon realize we are in deep waters and struggling to overcome. His hands are not too short to bring us to the shores of His presence, where there is fullness of joy.

 

Sinners Gonna Sin – Crosswalk the Devotional – August 20

by John UpChurch

“For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” Philippians 3:18-19

 

We should never be surprised by sin. Humans run to it, fill their hands with the dripping filth, and smear it over their bodies. From birth. From conception (Psalm 51:5). It’s the natural state of what it means to be a fallen Homo sapiens.

Often, though, it’s easy to forget our own dip into the slop. Years of following Jesus can make that mud bath indistinct and alien in our memories. We were, but are no longer (Romans 6:6). The times we plunged headfirst into sin no longer seem real. We forget how arduous the road has been that’s brought us here—the struggles, the temptations, the urges to turn around and dive back in. We forget that each victory came with wounds. We forget why we have the scars.

With that newness of rebirth comes the temptation to compare everything and everyone with where we are now. Our filth cleansed, we see clearly. And what we see are those pitiful figures still flailing in the dirt, still covering themselves with sin.

It’s easy to be disgusted. The mud seems much dirtier now than it was when we were in it, more putrid to our nostrils. Certainly we would never do what they do—those still wallowing, those whose god is their every whim and desire. There’s nothing very attractive in the mess.

But when you think of what will become of those who blindly grope in the sludge, when you consider the destiny of those who glory in their own shame, you start to see something else. God looked into just such filth to find a struggling wretch—one that looked just like you. His love wasn’t deterred by all your caked-on grime. His compassion wasn’t stopped by the junk that clung to you. He yanked you from the pit and put your feet on the rock. Then, He washed you clean.

Sin comes naturally to humanity. But love that looks past the grime to share the hope of the gospel? That’s the hard thing. That’s the thing worth doing.

 

Why Jesus Asks Us to Bear One Another’s Burdens

Clarence L. Haynes Jr.Contributing Writer, crosswalk.org

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2 (NKJV)

If you’re like me, you’ve experienced some burdens in your life. They can come in all shapes and sizes. Big, small, bearable, even unbearable…or at least that’s how they feel. Yet within the pages of Scripture we see instructions calling for us to bear one another’s burdens. Why does Jesus ask us to bear burdens? That is the question on the table for today and I think you may like the answer.

What Does it Mean to Bear a Burden?

The word to bear comes from the Greek word bastazo which means to carry, to take up or even to take away or carry off.

The word burden comes from the Greek word baros which means a weight.

When you put those together, to bear a burden means to take away or carry off the weight someone else is experiencing. In essence, you are bringing some form or relief and comfort to someone else’s challenging situation.

For example, let’s say someone lost their job and they are facing the weight of having to buy groceries to feed their family. Bearing their burden may mean buying groceries for the family so they can have food to eat in the house.

By doing this you have carried off their weight for that moment in time.

Why Jesus Asks Us to Bear Burdens

If you are wondering why Jesus asks us to bear burdens, then consider the second part of Galatians 6:2, “and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Let’s go back to two statements Jesus said about the law.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. – Matthew 22:37-40

When you consider this statement, you understand why Jesus would ask us to bear burdens. By doing so you are showing the love of God by loving your neighbor as yourself.

If you were facing a burden would you want help? If you are honest (and not prideful) the answer is yes. Also, if you knew of someone who was facing a burden and you were in a position to help, would you? Hopefully, the answer is yes.

In both of these instances, the law is being fulfilled because you are either being loved or loving your neighbor as you would yourself. When you do this, you are actually being Christ’s hands and arms extended.

3 Practical Areas in Which to Bear One Another’s Burdens

Because burdens come in all shapes and sizes there are literally an unlimited amount of ways to bear burdens. I am going to give you some ideas, but I’m sure you can come up with more.

1. Financial Burdens

– Start a food coop to pool resources together.

– If you belong to a membership retailer share some of the groceries with a neighbor.

– Go to a local food pantry on behalf of someone else, pick up the groceries and deliver them.

– Create a directory of all the available places and resources people can use to get assistance because many times people don’t know what options are available.

– If you can afford it, pay someone’s utility bill for a month.

2. Spiritual Burdens

– If someone is struggling with a besetting sin be willing to be their accountability partner.

– Start a Bible study group to help people study the Bible—there are plenty of devotionals to help you if you are not sure if you are “qualified” enough.

– Be willing to pray for and with people.

– Call someone and let them share their heart with you and just listen.

3. Family Burdens

– Offer to watch the kids so a husband and wife can have a date night.

– Schedule a weekly walk with a friend just to give them a space of rest and someone to talk to.

These are just a few ideas but there are plenty more. The idea is just simply looking for ways to help alleviate the weight people are experiencing. Sometimes you may not be able to take off the whole weight; so do what you can, because every little bit helps.

 

Integrity’s Confidence

by Inspiration Ministries

“Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.” – Psalm 26:1 NASB

David confidently asked God for vindication. He could be so confident about the outcome because he had walked in integrity. He felt he had “trusted in the Lord.” Because of this confidence, he called on God without doubts.

Yet David knew that God still needed to search his life: “Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart” (v. 2). He knew we all could harbor hidden sins. We often do or say the wrong things.

David ended the psalm by stating his determination to walk in integrity, confident that his feet were standing “on a level place” (v. 12). He didn’t want to slip into sin and sought to keep God’s lovingkindness constantly before him.

He was careful about his relationships and would not “sit with deceitful men,” or “go with pretenders” (v. 4). He hated “the assembly of evildoers” and would not “sit with the wicked” (v. 5). He was committed to fellowship with people who genuinely sought to please the Lord.

He focused on serving God, desiring to “proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving and declare all Your wonders” (v. 7). He loved His house, where he would be with other believers, where “I shall bless the Lord” (v. 12).

Focus on serving God. Fill your mind with His Word. Seek His help when you face choices. Stay sensitive to His Spirit. Seek to have a clean heart in His sight.

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A Step of Faith into the Unknown

Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”

I imagine the devil wishes he could’ve connected the dots better before he instigated the crucifixion of Jesus. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he said,

“…we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7-8 NKJV).

In other words, they didn’t know His death would be our life!

And I think this principle helps us in our faith, because how many times have we been nervous to take a step of faith into the unknown? I’ll raise my hand first and say, “Many times!” But here’s what I’ve learned: for every time it felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff with one instruction from God to step out, He met me there.

Things are hidden for two reasons: protection and protection. I repeated myself on purpose because think about the scenario Paul was speaking of — heaven’s agenda was hidden to protect it from being exploited or foiled by the enemy. But it was also hidden to protect God’s precious gift of life to man.

The good news is that things of the Spirit don’t have to remain hidden from God’s children any longer.

“As it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NKJV).

Too often, we stop and marvel at verse 9 that there are innumerable things that God’s children haven’t seen or heard. On the one hand, I think that’s okay because faith marvels. But I love that we aren’t in the dark. God, through His Spirit, wants to share His heart and purpose with us. And it’s done through our relationship with the Holy Spirit.

In the natural, I agree with Steve Jobs. Without faith, we can only connect dots behind us. But we are not operating only in the natural (without faith). The Holy Spirit abides in us, while also intimately abiding with God, knowing His heart and mind. Therefore, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can take steps of genuine faith connecting dots as we move forward with Him.

The Message Translation explains this well:

“The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can’t receive the gifts of God’s Spirit. There’s no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness. Spirit can be known only by spirit—God’s Spirit and our spirits in open communion. Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God’s Spirit is doing, and can’t be judged by unspiritual critics. Isaiah’s question, ‘Is there anyone around who knows God’s Spirit, anyone who knows what he is doing?’ has been answered: Christ knows, and we have Christ’s Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14-16 MSG).

So yes, we can connect future dots when we are led by the Spirit. We hold the thoughts, feelings, and purposes of His heart within us.

It’s just a matter of faith.

The Attractiveness of a Surrendered Life
By Sarah Phillips

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Luke 18:22 NIV

“I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.” St. Francis of Assisi

Have you ever wished you could share your faith with friends or loved ones who do not know Christ? Or have you ever worried that our culture is slipping farther and farther away from God’s truth, but don’t know how to turn it around? In past devotionals, several of us have quoted St. Francis of Assisi’s approach to evangelism: “Preach the Gospel all times and when necessary, use words.”

St. Francis’ entire life was one of radical conversion that led to many giving their lives to Christ. Let’s see what we can apply from his medieval story to modern times.

Francis’ story takes place in the early 1200’s – an era when Christianity enjoyed prominence in Europe. But sadly, even with widespread power and acceptance of the Church, many Christians did not lead lives in keeping with their faith. Francis was no exception. He came from a wealthy Italian family; his father earned a comfortable life as a successful cloth merchant, and his mother was of noble birth. The handsome, witty Francis was spoiled rotten by his parents, showing more interest in playing than in his academics or his father’s career.

Francis’ life of ease and play received a rude but life-changing interruption in 1201. After being captured in a small battle between rival cities, Francis spent a year sick and alone. His time of weakness and contemplation made him realize how useless his life had been up to that point.

But transformation for Francis was slow. After he regained his health, Francis desired personal glory. He signed up for the military, even fancying one day he’d be a great prince. But illness and a sense that God was calling him back to Assisi brought him home again.

It was around this time friends began to notice a lasting change in this attractive, party guy. Friends asked if he had a woman on his mind. He responded, “I am about to take a wife of surpassing fairness.” But this wife was not a mortal woman. Instead, Francis renounced his inheritance, gave what he had to the poor, and wedded himself to “Lady Poverty” (much to his father’s fury).

Not long after taking his vow of poverty, Francis heard Christ speak to him while he was praying in a small, shabby chapel. The voice said, “Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down.” At first, Francis thought he needed to repair the actual building he was praying in. But soon it became clear Francis’ mission was really to restore genuine faith among the church – God’s people.

So Francis began spending most of his time praying, serving the sick and preaching repentance throughout the region. He had no intentions of starting a community of religious, but single men of diverse backgrounds became intrigued by Francis’ humility and wholehearted devotion to the Gospel. And not long after men began joining his mission, a privileged young woman named Clare left her riches behind, bringing women alongside Francis to restore genuine faith among the people.

With so many joining in, Francis realized he was becoming the leader of a monastic movement. So, he sought to keep their focus on Christ by establishing a rule of life on Scripture. In short, the mission of the Franciscan monks and Poor Clare nuns would be to “Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff” (Luke 9:1-3). They imitated the early disciples by traveling in twos, owning few personal possessions, and serving those in need while sharing the Gospel to all. Their spiritual legacy continues with Franciscan and Poor Clare communities in regions all over the world today.

Some other little-known facts of how God worked through this influential Christian:

Did you know Francis once challenged a Muslim sultan to consider the truth of Christianity – and the sultan actually considered it?

Did you know Francis is credited with creating the first living Nativity scene at Christmas?

Did you know that, centuries before the Reformation, Francis taught and wrote about the faith in local dialects so commoners could understand?

Francis’ story gives us encouragement today. After all, we too live in a culture where Christianity was the dominant religion for a long time but sadly, it’s now common for good people to lose sight of the faith. But God worked through a spoiled, wealthy young man to show the surrounding community that even worldly comforts could not satisfy the deepest yearnings of their souls – and He can do the same today.

While most of us are not called to take vows of poverty, it was Francis’ unwavering, single-minded devotion to the Gospel that most attracted others to him. And this is something we can – and should – aspire to imitate. As we seek to surrender our lives to Christ more completely, God will work through each one of us in unique ways to inspire others to join us on the faith journey.

 

Love for the Lonely

by Inspiration Ministries

“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” – Psalm 25:16 NASB

In his book about the American frontier, author Louis Fairchild described how lonely life was for many 19th-century Texas settlers. While land was plentiful, many lived in relative isolation. Overwhelmed and alone.

In 1880 when the first census was taken of the Texas panhandle, only 1,600 people were counted in one 25,000-square-mile region. In fact, six counties had no inhabitants at all.

Settlers could spend months without seeing anyone outside their own family. They readily welcomed visitors, eager for the opportunity to interact.

In this atmosphere, many found hope by turning to God. They discovered that He was with them, even when no one else was there. They longed to gather together to fellowship, to worship God, and to study His Word. On many occasions, revivals broke out.

In our modern world, loneliness still is a major problem. We can escape into our own homes, ignorant of the pains others may suffer behind closed doors. We may try to fill the silences with the media, music, or phone interactions. But our hearts still crave Christian fellowship and the love of Christ.

Ask God to help you be sensitive to the needs of the people around you. Be ready to reach out, give encouragement, and show His love. Let Him use you to change lives. Don’t crowd Him out of your schedule. Spend time alone with Him! Develop a more intimate relationship right where you are.

 

Christ’s first and last subject

By: Charles Spurgeon

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke 24:47

Suggested Further Reading: Philippians 3:1-14

If you are renewed by grace, and were to meet your old self, I am sure you would be very anxious to get out of his company. “No,” say you, “No, sir, I cannot accompany you.” “Why, you used to swear!” “I cannot now.” “Well, but,” says he, “You and I are very near companions.” “Yes, I know we are, and I wish we were not. You are a deal of trouble to me every day. I wish I could be rid of you for ever.” “But,” says Old Self, “you used to drink very well.” “Yes, I know it. I know you did, indeed, Old Self. You could sing a song as merrily as any one. You were ringleader in all sorts of vice, but I am no relation of yours now. You are of the old Adam, and I of the new Adam. You are of your old father, the devil; but I have another—my Father, who is in heaven.” I tell you, brethren, there is no man in the world you will hate so much as your old self, and there will be nothing you will so much long to get rid of as that old man who once was dragging you down to hell, and who will try his hand at it over and over again every day you live, and who will accomplish it yet, unless that divine grace which has made you a new man shall keep you a new man even to the end. Good Rowland Hill, in his “Village Dialogues,” gives the Christian, whom he describes in the first part of the book, the name of Thomas Newman. Every man who goes to heaven must have the name of new-man. We must not expect to enter there unless we are created anew in Christ Jesus.

For meditation: In our testimonies we should own up to what we used to be, but in such a way that we also disown the people we used to be. Don’t be like the biography of a Christian which seems to glory in the sin of the past—reserve all the glory for your Saviour (1 Corinthians 15:9,101 Timothy 1:13-17).

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Angels’ Teardrops

I heard a song titled Ten Thousand Angels Cried, sung by LeAnn Rimes. I could picture heaven the day our Savior was crucified. Those angels were looking at the torture He endured for the salvation of mankind. They must have pondered this senseless way to die. They saw people mocking Him and spitting on Him, lashing at Him with a whip repeatedly, until He was disfigured beyond recognition.

Why would He choose to leave heaven’s splendor to die in our place when we were the sinful ones? We cannot understand this. The fact remains that He chose to lay aside his crown and royalty to take on the form of humanity for you and me.

On Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, people attend services in churches around the world. There is the celebration of Resurrection Sunday, better known as Easter.

We rejoice that Jesus was raised from the tomb and lives, forever making intercession for us. He did this so that one day those who have accepted his death, burial, and resurrection will live in Heaven with Him. For those who have invited the Lord into their hearts, those special services remind us of His supreme sacrifice. We rejoice that Jesus loves us so much He went to the cross, as painful and humiliating as it was for Him. When we think about how the sky became pitch black and the curtain in the sanctuary immediately tore in two that day (Mark 15:33-37Luke 23:44-46), the song about the ten thousand angels crying will seem very real. I imagine there may have been a huge display of lightning, thunder, and a downpour of rain. It will be as if those angels were weeping so profusely their tears resonated heaven’s intense response.

Sometimes I still weep and I am so thankful He did not come down from the cross, because I know He purchased eternal life for me. It helps me know that my tears are a language God understands. The angels must have wondered if there could have been another way. It is in those moments it makes me appreciate that although He was God, He removed His divinity to put on the flesh of man.

Now, whenever thunder roars, the wind blows, and the lightning flashes across the sky, I look out my window. As the raindrops become stronger and louder on the rooftop, I think about the day my Savior was crucified and how the angels cried!

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. Revelation 5:11 (NIV)

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV)

For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Philippians 3:18 (NIV)

 

A Hedge of Clichés

By: Katherine Britton, crosswalk.org

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. – Matthew 6:7

Bible study friend recently encouraged me to rewrite the famous passage on Proverbs 31 woman in my own words, with application to my own life. I took her up on the challenge, thinking the task wouldn’t be too hard for someone who writes for a career.

Crafting a modern application took an hour—much longer than I figured. Getting away from verbatim repetition to explore specific application required much more of my time and energy than I would typically spend journaling on a passage. Stepping back from the verse-by-verse analysis, though, I thought I saw the Proverbs 31 woman’s characteristics a bit more clearly. Rewriting the passage didn’t destroy the original language for me—on the contrary. The “words, words, words” seemed fresh and clear from my new vantage point.

Unfortunately, reading and “hiding Scripture in our hearts” quickly slips into rote recitation for me. It’s like Tim Hawkin’s hedge of protection comedy sketch; the words have power, but we start spouting them off without much thought. Pretty soon, I’m sitting in church and halfway through a hymn before I realize that I’m singing. My heart gets left behind too when my mind is disengaged. Pretty soon, I’m praying a “hedge of protection” for somebody, partially because the phrase sounds good without making me think too carefully about their specific needs.

The Pharisee Jesus described in Luke 18:9-13 had mastered the art of hiding insincerity behind the right phrases. He knew the turn of phrase that would convey holy devotion, regardless of the filth in his heart. “Words, words, words” became meaningless, as Hamlet saw them in the dead books – they became a socially acceptable key to avoid the real attitudes.

Contrast this to the tax collector. He understood that social niceties wouldn’t veil his sins before God, and he didn’t continue with a recitation the way the Pharisee did. His simple prayer was, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” That was it. He knew the impact of his simple phrase far better than the Pharisee did. He didn’t need to “babble” to impress God or those around him; he simply spoke his heart, knowing that ability to pray is itself a mercy.

The beautiful language of Scripture is best adorned with sincerity of heart, not how many words we can string together in holy sentences. After all, consider how simple the Lord’s Prayer is written – and how difficult and miraculous it is to proclaim “Your will be done.”

 

What are the clouds?

“The clouds are the dust of his feet.” Nahum 1:3

Suggested Further Reading: Isaiah 40:12-26

Great things with us are little things with God. What great things clouds are to us! There we see them sweeping along the skies! Then they rapidly increase till the entire sky becomes black and a dark shadow is cast upon the world; we foresee the coming storm, and we tremble at the mountains of cloud, for they are great. Great things are they? No, they are only the dust of God’s feet. The greatest cloud that ever swept the face of the skies, was but one single particle of dust starting from the feet of the Almighty Jehovah. When clouds roll over clouds, and the storm is very terrible, it is only the chariot of God, as it speeds along the heavens, raising a little dust around him! “The clouds are the dust of his feet.” Oh! Could you grasp this idea my friends, or had I words in which to put it into your souls, I am sure you would sit down in solemn awe of that great God who is our Father, or who will be our Judge. Consider, that the greatest things with man are little things with God. We call the mountains great, but what are they? They are but “the small dust of the balance.” We call the nations great, and we speak of mighty empires; but the nations before him are but as “a drop of a bucket.” We call the islands great and talk of ours boastingly—“He taketh up the isles as a very little thing.” We speak of great men and of mighty—“The inhabitants [of the earth] in his sight are as grasshoppers.” We talk of ponderous orbs moving millions of miles from us—in God’s sight they are but little atoms dancing up and down in the sunbeam of existence. Compared with God there is nothing great.

For meditation: Are you experiencing great distress or great success? Try to look at both kinds of circumstances from the viewpoint of God (Zechariah 4:6-7).

 

Diligently Seeking God

by Inspiration Ministries

“This is the generation (description) of those who diligently seek Him and require Him as their greatest need, who seek Your face.” – Psalm 24:6 AMP

What does it really mean to seek the Lord? David indicated that people who truly seek Him are serious about their relationship with Him. They worship and pursue Him. They “require Him as their greatest need.”

They understand that God created all things. Everything belongs to Him. Everything we have comes from Him. We owe everything to Him. As David wrote, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness of it, the world, and those who dwell in it” (v. 1).

They understand that He created the principles that govern everything. To really understand the world, we need this foundation. This must shape the way we approach life, our values, interests, goals, and behavior.

David also understood that God desires to fellowship with His creatures. But intimate fellowship is reserved for those who really approach Him with the right spirit. People with “clean hands and a pure heart” (v. 4). Those who live in this way will receive special rewards: “a blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation” (v. 5). These are characteristics of people “who diligently seek Him” (v. 6).

How serious are you about your relationship with God? Are you seeking to live in ways that please Him? Is knowing Him your greatest need?

Don’t just approach God as a religious duty or through times of casual prayer. Make this a serious commitment – the foundation of your life, shaping your actions and attitudes.

God is your Shield and Protector

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Pandemic Life: Becoming More Like Mary

woman hugging her Bible and wearing a face mask during covid19 pandemic

 

No doubt you’re familiar with the story of Martha and Mary found in Luke 10:38-42.

Martha and Mary opened their home to Jesus as he traveled through town with His disciples. The story contrasts the responses of the sisters. While Martha labored diligently to prepare and serve a meal, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, soaking in His every word.

Martha grew angry because Mary wasn’t helping. Frustrated, she turned to Jesus and asked if He cared that she had to fix the meal alone. She urged Jesus to tell Mary to help her. But rather than follow Martha’s suggestion, Jesus gently rebuked her:

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

Although I longed to be a Mary, I was a Martha. I used to justify my response by telling myself It’s a Martha World. But now, because of lessons learned through the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m becoming a Mary.

Let’s return to the story. It’s important that the Marthas of the world recognize something in this passage. Jesus didn’t reproach Martha for her service but rather for being “worried and upset about many things.”

Serving is a principle of Christianity. The problem occurs when serving distracts us from its purpose. If serving becomes a never-ending to-do list, our eyes are not on Jesus. Our eyes are on what WE are doing. And sometimes on what those around us are not doing.

And Martha, being “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” wasn’t in the moment. She wasn’t cherishing her time with Jesus.

The story of Martha and Mary teaches us it’s better to give our full attention to Jesus. When we enter the presence of God through Bible study or prayer, ideally our awareness is concentrated on Him. We don’t think about checklists. We don’t let our calendar distract us or our email derail us. We sit at His feet, listening to His words.

That’s good news for the Marthas of the world. It doesn’t mean we stop serving, but that we simplify. We stop being a martyr to our busyness. We evaluate what must be done and let the rest go. We find joy in our service to Him as we focus on His presence.

The words Jesus spoke to His disciples are still true today:

“… The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63 NKJV)

These days of semi-isolation are teaching us to gather strength from the only One who can provide it. We can linger in His presence, just like Mary, soaking in His every word more aware of the Spirit within than ever before.

It’s a lesson I vow never to forget.

Stuck with Paul

By: John Upchurch, crosswalk

 

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:14

You can’t escape Paul forever. At some point, every Christian must set aside self-righteousness and drink Paul’s writing, which can be akin to slurping down pickle juice. The sharp bitterness sends shivers through the whole body—and yet hydrates from the inside out (which is really what pickle juice does).

The bitterness, however, isn’t from what Paul says exactly; it’s from our reaction. Each word hurts because it’s true. Sometimes he hits our recklessness, and sometimes he hits our legalism, helping us to clean the glass so that we can see clearly.

Far worse, in my mind, is Paul’s refusal to let us gloat or raise ourselves up. There’s no place for that, no room for a trophy case. Being isolated by my own sense of holiness would be easier; I’d love to slip away into my happy world of playing Christian.

Paul doesn’t even let me close the door.

“Look ‘out there,’” he says. “You see those people? That’s you—each one is just like you. They need the gospel. They need grace. You know all about it. You’ve met the same Jesus I did. They’re not coming in here, bub. So, get out there and do something.”

It’s an uncomfortable feeling, trying to understand how to be like Christ, how to shine through pitch. I want to pursue Him with all I am, but He keeps going out where the tax collectors and sinners are—people like me. The only difference is that I realized how much I needed Him; they haven’t yet. And perhaps the very reason they haven’t is because I’m not out there telling them.

Or as Paul might put it (at least, in my head), “They ain’t gonna hear if you don’t speak up. And they ain’t gonna fall on their knees if you’re too chicken.”

Jesus went to the synagogue—and then took the synagogue to the people who needed it most. He did most of His miracles out in the thoroughfares, tombs, fields, and corners of the world. His loudest messages echoed from hills and street corners. In fact, I didn’t meet Him in a church—or a Bible study or a church event. I met Him where Matthew did: in the middle of my sin.

Some sinners come running to steeples. Some sinners come running to Jesus in the streets.

 

Making light of Christ

By: Charles Spurgeon

“But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise.” Matthew 22:5

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 13:9-17

It is making light of the gospel and of the whole of God’s glorious things, when men go to hear and yet do not pay attention. How many who frequent churches and chapels to indulge in a comfortable nap! Think what a fearful insult that is to the King of heaven. Would they enter into Her Majesty’s palace, ask an audience, and then go to sleep before her face? And yet the sin of sleeping in Her Majesty’s presence, would not be so great, even though against her laws, as the sin of wilfully slumbering in God’s sanctuary. How many go to our houses of worship who do not sleep, but who sit with vacant stare, listening as they would to a man who could not play a lively tune upon a good instrument. What goes in at one ear goes out at the other. Whatever enters the brain goes out without affecting the heart. Ah, my hearers, you are guilty of making light of God’s gospel, when you sit under a sermon without paying attention to it! Oh! What would lost souls give to hear another sermon! What would yonder dying wretch who is just now nearing the grave, give for another Sabbath! And what will you give, one of these days, when you shall be close to Jordan’s brink, that you might have one more warning, and listen once more to the wooing voice of God’s minister! We make light of the gospel when we hear it, without solemn and awful attention to it.

For meditation: Hear—listen—remember—obey (James 1:25). A sleeping congregation is no more use than a sleeping preacher.

 

Loving This World

by Inspiration Ministries

“Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” – 2 Timothy 4:10 NASB

Demas was a “fellow worker,” comparable to Mark (Philemon 1:24). To the Colossians, he was one of Paul’s companions, on par with Luke (Colossians 4:14). He had been a faithful servant, part of Paul’s inner circle.

But by the time Paul wrote to Timothy, Demas had “deserted” him. The Greek word indicates that he had transferred his loyalties elsewhere. What happened? Was he weary? In a relationship? A victim of sin? Attracted by other interests? We only know that his affections had shifted. Rather than seeking first God’s Kingdom, he had become focused on “this present world” with its pleasures.

Think of all that Demas had experienced! The miracles he had seen. The teachings he had heard. The times of prayer. Yet the attraction of the world was so strong that he could walk away from everything he knew. If the world could so pull this man, the same thing can happen to any of us.

Think about your own life – your affections, loyalties, and ambitions. What do you do with your time, talents, and treasures? Do the things of this world have such a hold on you that you might be willing to compromise or say or do the wrong things, even if just for a moment?

Search your heart. Renew your relationship with God. Remember, “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

Trust In God Who Loves Us

When Anxiety Is Great

Intermittent sobs echoed in the hospital waiting room. Silent prayers were interrupted by ringtones from calls and texts offering encouragement or requesting an update. Within an hour, the somber faces of three physicians revealed the news before they spoke the words that no one wants to hear, “We did all we could.” My daughter’s legs shook, and her husband caught her before she fell to the floor. Shock and anxiety erupted in all of us.

Once our family regained composure, we shared the news about my husband with anxious friends and relatives. Emails, texts, and social media posts multiplied. A friend sent a verse that stood out,

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy” (Psalm 94:19 NIV).

The death of a loved one brings anxiety and grief. If death comes unexpectedly, survivors are numb. We shed tears and can’t think straight. Unfamiliar and important decisions need to be made quickly, and we have questions with few answers. And the empty space once occupied by a loved one, looms large. There is no fix or repair for a loss. We desperately need the consolation that my friend’s verse spoke of.

What consolation is needed and welcomed by a grieving family? Human touch, a hug, words expressing memories of how important that person was, and the comfort of prayer are meaningful and comforting. Yet God’s consolation moves to another dimension—assurance of His constant presence, generous grace for pain, and strength to face and process the unthinkable.

Shock and grief leave us feeling lost and alone, but the words in Psalm 94:14 (NIV) remind us of needed truth in loss,

“… He will never forsake his inheritance.”

In irreversible bad news, we cling to His stable presence. God never leaves. When we are about to fall apart, the psalmist identifies with us in verse 18 (NIV),

“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, LORD, supported me.”

That kind of consolation was real.

But my friend’s verse also spoke of joy. Joy? Where is joy in grief and loss? Is it possible? This kind of joy didn’t look like smiles, laughter, and happiness that evening in the waiting room, on the drive home, and in the days that followed.

The joy of consolation came in other forms. As we relived and retold the sudden scenario, I knew the certainty of God’s presence and love and hung onto His inexhaustible grace. I claimed His promise,

“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).

His grace gave me strength I didn’t have, to wake up each morning and face the day.

If you are grieving, seek God’s consolation to fill your empty spaces with His presence and soothe your hurt through the assurance of His unfailing love. He is aware of our tears and reaches out with tender mercies.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8 NLT).

In weeks ahead, when my cares, tears, and anxious thoughts multiplied and a new normal I didn’t choose set in, God’s consolation and joy as the stable rock of my refuge, excelled.

“But the LORD has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.” (Psalm 94:22 NIV)

He keeps His promises.

 

Patient Words

10 Things Never to Say to Your Adult Children

by Debbie Holloway

“But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” – Psalms 86:15

I have a small wooden square (modeled after a scrabble tile) inscribed with the mantra “Patient Words.” But before I tell you about that, let me tell you a story about someone who probably doesn’t have one.

One morning a few weeks back I was driving to work on the ever-bustling 95 South. At one particular point I found myself in the middle lane behind a big truck about the size of a fed-ex truck. The driver was going a little slow, as large trucks tend to. However, enter the sedan in the left lane, which was driving around the same speed . About five over the limit, but decidedly too slow for the bustling left lane during morning rush hour.

Enter second sedan in the left lane, who found himself stuck behind the slower car. I watched with disappointment (but interest, nonetheless) as this driver made the conscious decision to tailgate the slower car, and it was almost a little surreal. He zoomed up behind the slower car, getting so close that he had to apply his brakes two separate times.

I often forget to pay attention to things. “Noticing” is not a strong point of mine. I know tailgating is something that happens, especially in big cities full of impatient drivers. But this was the first time I’d ever noticed it happen. It was kind of appalling.

Meanwhile, back to the story. The big truck in the middle lane was watching too, and he eventually got the drift: people were unable to pass. So he decided to move over to another lane, allowing the tailgating car to pass into the middle lane and race ahead. Through his patience, observance, and understanding, this truck driver made allowances for both the aggression of the tailgater and the carelessness of the slow-moving car.

It was an odd exchange to watch. It made me think about a few things. Mostly about how impatient we are all of the time.

“But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” – Psalms 86:15

It can be hard to assume the compassion and grace of God. They are intrinsic aspects of his nature. But sin has made our patience a much more difficult thing to master!

I was recently in a play with a small group made up of young adults. Most of us have been together for a long time; we’ve grown to learn patience with each other’s quirks. It’s not always easy, though, especially during the harrowing “Tech” experience, which happens the week before Friday night’s opening performance.

During this particular Tech week I kept my small wooden tile with me which I had picked up at church. It has “Patient Words” written on it with sharpie. I made the tile for myself in an exercise during the sermon because I wanted patient words for my life. Little did I know how handy of a reminder it would be for me during Tech! I often found myself running to grab the tile out of my bag to clutch it in my more frustrated, weary moments. Sometimes we even passed it around, recognizing that we all desperately need reminders for patience and grace.

 

Delivered

11 Questions about Heaven Answered by Dr. David Jeremiah

by Inspiration Ministries

“You have carefully followed my doctrine … [and] perseverance … Out of them all the Lord delivered me … all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” – 2 Timothy 3:10-12 NKJV

In his initial attempt to find the fabled Northwest Passage, Alexander Mackenzie traveled throughout Canada but failed to find it. Further study led to the belief that the route was down the Peace River, located in western Canada.

Guided by these conclusions, he and his companions set out in May 1793. After ten days, they entered the Peace River Canyon, twenty miles of terrifying rapids, surrounded by thousand-foot-high cliffs. Their only option was to go ashore, using hatchets and axes to cut a path, battling a huge briar patch.

When they discovered that the Peace River would not take them to the Pacific Ocean, they followed another river, hoping it would lead to the sea. Instead, they encountered violent rapids, and their canoe capsized. Swept downstream, their lives were spared, but they lost most of their supplies. They called this the Bad River.

Finally, they reached saltwater. They did not discover the Northwest Passage, but they still became the first to cross the continent north of the Mexican border.

Paul knew what it was like to face dangers. He had been imprisoned and beaten, stoned and shipwrecked (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). But God delivered him from every danger and was with him in every situation.

In your journey, seek to stay in tune with God. He has given you the Spirit to guide you. Let His Word light your path (Psalm 119:105). Never be discouraged. Move forward boldly by faith.

 

Pride and humility

28 Best Peace Quotes - Inspiration Quotes About Peace and Tranquility

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.” Proverbs 18:12

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 12:3-6

What is humility? The best definition I have ever met with is, “to think rightly of ourselves.” Humility is to make a right estimate of one’s self. It is no humility for a man to think less of himself than he ought, though it might rather puzzle him to do that. Some persons, when they know they can do a thing, tell you they cannot; but you do not call that humility. A man is asked to take part in some meeting. “No,” he says, “I have no ability”; yet if you were to say so yourself, he would be offended at you. It is not humility for a man to stand up and depreciate himself and say he cannot do this, that, or the other, when he knows that he is lying. If God gives a man a talent, do you think the man does not know it? If a man has ten talents he has no right to be dishonest to his Maker, and to say, “Lord, thou hast only given me five.” It is not humility to underrate yourself. Humility is to think of yourself, if you can, as God thinks of you. It is to feel that if we have talents, God has given them to us, and let it be seen that, like freight in a vessel, they tend to sink us low. The more we have, the lower we ought to lie. Humility is not to say, “I have not this gift,” but it is to say, “I have the gift, and I must use it for my Master’s glory. I must never seek any honour for myself, for what have I that I have not received?”

For meditation: Pride can lead us to misuse God’s gifts for selfish ends. A false humility can lead to laziness and disobedience which causes someone else to have to do what we should be doing ourselves. The right balance is to serve the Lord with all humility as the apostle Paul could truthfully claim to have done (Acts 20:19).

A Fruitful Spirit Is A Blessing

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Fruitful Spirit

Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. Ps 92:14(NLT)

Big toes crossed underneath the others, legs thin-skinned, injured from years of hard work in tobacco fields.

“I just love the Lord! He’s been so good to me. I’m ready to go anytime.”

By any global standard, Betty is not rich, not even noticeable in a crowd. But as I view this woman’s crinkled face in her simple kitchen I feel honor for her. She is truly bearing eternal fruit in old age.

My desire is to grow old like her. A worn-out body with a Spirit-filled soul.

Since I am careening down the other side of the proverbial hill, looking back, there is understanding. Not of everything, but events and thoughts and actions and words are colored over with the sage view of time.

But getting old is hard. And painful.

My desire is to finish well. We could take a few cues from Betty.

First, she said loved the Lord. It is easy to say, harder to implement. How I learn to love the Lord more is to make spending time with Him a priority. I can’t say I do this every day, but usually, I devote about 20-30 minutes first thing in the morning to read His Word and talk with Him. There is also time to listen. The more I know Jesus, the more I love Him.

She is grateful. We are a cynical society—and generally ungrateful. As I worked in our fields on our farm a few years ago, my thoughts went to a time of slavery and how they did not have a choice about when and how long they worked. I thanked the Lord for choices and when a cloud covered the blazing sun, I thanked God Almighty for clouds.

Lastly, she said she was ready to go anytime.

Paul said to be absent from the body means to be present with the Lord. In fact, Paul said being with the Lord is very much better!

Being ready to meet Jesus is a win-win situation.

But some of you may be hurting now. Whether it is growing old, or you or your family have been diagnosed with a disease, or a myriad of other reasons.

I am sorry, friend. My heart aches for you.

Meditate with me on these words from the Apostle Paul,

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 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 4:16-18 (NIV)

One last word—don’t let sin get in your way of finishing well.

Let’s pray that for each other.

See you in heaven.

 

It Looked Better in My Head

by John UpChurch,  crosswal.com

 

“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 

Your calling looks better in your head than in real life. Inside, safely tucked away in your synapses, the visions of what God wants to do through you come with puppies, double rainbows, and guilt-free cheesecake. It’s amazing how perfectly our brains can sand down the obstacles ahead, plaster over the voices of dissent, and generally build a future much like the highlights from someone else’s life.

With such a build-up, it’s easy to see why we get disappointed. After all, stories like these are all over:

  • The country preacher has a vision to reach rural America with the gospel, to burn so brightly that a whole community is changed. But the church never grows. He sees nothing dramatic happen and finally moves on.
  • A woman faithfully loves and serves her unsaved coworkers for years. She pours hours of prayer into the thing, hoping that at least one will really absorb what she’s been sharing with them. But all she seems to take with her when she retires are the pictures from her cubicle.
  • A Christian missionary community, after years of serving the poorest in their adopted country, finally has a breakthrough when a local leader professes faith in Jesus. Days later, militants attack the area and murder the new convert, his family, and many of the missionaries.

And maybe something like that has hijacked your calling, too. You started out strong, pushing forward even when turbulence hit. You just knew God would work all things together for your good, and you had that verse, Romans 8:28, firmly planted in your noggin (and maybe scribbled on a Post-It Note on your mirror—just to be sure).

But along the way, the future you had imagined became more and more distant from the slog-it-out reality. You doubt that God was ever really in the thing to begin with, and, so, you try to forget that something ever happened, that something got you excited and charged up in the first place.

Don’t write off your calling just yet.

The thing about God is that He’s big, really big. And He sees much farther, clearer, and better than us. From our perspective, we can’t always see progress. But usually that’s because we’re trying to see the land ahead from a valley.

 

A Life of Faith

From: Intouch ministries

 

Hebrews 10:35-39

Some people take their faith for granted, thinking it opened them up to Christian beliefs but has no current relevance. However, the writer of Hebrews says that once we are declared righteous through placing our trust in Jesus Christ, we should continue to live by faith and not shrink back.

Living by faith is something learned over time as we see God’s faithfulness in both His Word and our own experiences. Consider the various degrees of faith, as illustrated by the following scriptural examples:

Little faith (Matt. 8:23-27)—Jesus’ disciples focused on a dangerous storm and cried out for help, yet Jesus questioned why they were afraid at all. Little faith struggles to believe that God is bigger than the situation.

Great faith (Matt. 8:5-13)—Though concerned about his servant’s ailment, the centurion recognized Christ’s authority over illness and believed He could do the impossible.

Perfected faith (James 2:20-23)—Abraham was so confident in the Lord that he followed through with a very difficult act of obedience. As a result, his initial faith was made complete and mature.

No matter how long you have been a Christian, God wants you to continually grow in faith. The only way to do that is by knowing and believing His Word.

Useless Arguments

by Inspiration Ministries

“Remind everyone of these things, and command them in God’s name to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them.” – 2 Timothy 2:14 NLT

Their enemies didn’t understand them. But neither did their friends. These were the klephts, Greek warriors described as half-bandits, half-rebels. They caused frustration for many opponents, including Alexander the Great when his armies invaded Asia Minor in 334 BC.

What distinguished these warriors? They were a nuisance. Their goal was to confuse and distract their enemies through actions that seemed to make no sense.

Their unique fighting style often was met with ridicule. But many adversaries did not realize that klephts did not necessarily fight to win but often just to delay a decision. Seeking to provoke with taunts and insults, they often just ran when the enemy became close.

Many people today are like these klephts. They love to irritate and stir up trouble. They delight in spreading rumors and causing confusion. They disrupt the lives of others.

Paul warned Timothy that some Christians have this tendency. They tend to argue, to fight endlessly over words. But Paul knew that there was a time to take a stand and that some disagreements are healthy.

We sometimes become involved in disputes with no substantive purpose. Paul said, “such arguments are useless.” In fact, they even “can ruin those who hear them.” These kinds of arguments can split churches, divide friends, and even separate marriages.

Today, ask God to give you discernment into these tendencies. Don’t be devoted to useless arguments. Show love. Build unity. Strengthen the body of Christ.

Rejoice and Give Praise To God

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Switch Off the Autopilot

The human brain is a strange and wonderful thing. Does your brain ever switch over to autopilot? Mine does.

There have been times when I’ve driven home from work and not really remembered the journey. I got there safely, but I didn’t remember most of the roads and turns I had to take to get there.

My morning routine is the same way. I’m convinced that I don’t fully wake up until about 15 minutes after I’ve showered. Up to that point, my brain is on autopilot instructing my body to perform my morning routine without me being fully aware of it. If my toothpaste or shampoo is not in its usual place, watch out! I’ve reached for the shampoo and squeezed shower gel or shaving cream into my hair on more than one occasion.

This phenomenon has never really bothered me until recently. One day during a chapel service it suddenly dawned on me that often I’m in autopilot mode in my spiritual life as well.

During the chapel service, the speaker showed a short video. It was the story of a needy family in Cambodia. That’s really all I can tell you about the video because that’s all I remember. I remember the lights going out, and I remember the video beginning. I guess my mind wandered far away because I don’t recall anything else until the lights came up at the end of the video and I suddenly realized that I was clapping my hands along with the rest of the audience.

How did that happen? I didn’t even remember the video ending, much less engaging my brain and instructing my hands to respond with applause. As I looked down in mid-clap I realized that I had been on autopilot again, simply going through the motions. To the casual observer, it looked like I had watched the video and enjoyed it with the rest of the crowd, but I had actually missed the whole thing.

The incident made me wonder how often I approach my relationship with Christ the same way, functioning solely on autopilot.

Read my Bible today? Check.

Pray? Check.

Attend church this week? Check.

Tithe? Check.

As I go through the motions of my Christian walk, am I really tuned in to the experience? Am I really listening to what God has to say to me each day? Or am I simply showing up and then moving on as I cross that day’s prayer time or church service off my to-do list?

Running on autopilot can be dangerous. In a morning routine, it may be only a slight irritation. When it comes to driving it’s definitely not recommended, but in our spiritual lives it can cause even bigger problems. If I’m not engaged enough to hear what God wants to tell me, how can I know I’m doing His will? I can’t grow closer to Him, or become more like Him, if I’m simply going through the motions.

In a recent Bible study at my church we discussed how God often uses storms in our lives to wake us up and get our attention. Often it isn’t until something interrupts our tranquil world and brings us to the end of ourselves and our comfortable routines that we fully engage in our relationship with God. During a video segment (which I did actually watch!) author Henry Blackaby pointed out that often God uses storms to speak to us because we haven’t gotten the message any other way.

That’s why running our spiritual lives on autopilot is so dangerous. Not only are we missing out on deeper levels of intimacy with Christ, but if we aren’t getting His message, God will find another (and probably less pleasant) way to get our attention.

The video I missed during our chapel service was my wake up call. From now on I want to be fully engaged in all aspects of my spiritual life. I don’t want to wait for God to take more drastic measures to get my attention.

What about you? Has your spiritual life become more of a series of routines than a vibrant and growing relationship with Christ? If so, switch off your autopilot and get ready for a fresh encounter with our Savior.

“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” Psalm 90:14 (ESV)

Strangely Dim

By: John UpChurch, crosswalk.com

Four crumbling stairs leading up the hill from the rock-encrusted sidewalk—that’s all that’s left. If you drove by today, you wouldn’t know that I once smashed honey bees on the driveway with a shovel, or that I did so barefooted until one got a squishy revenge. You also wouldn’t know about the loft in the garage where my brothers would hide away or the window in my room that thieves peeked through before they stole our bikes. You’d never see the stairs leading out the back door where my mom would sit while we brought her giant grasshoppers to examine or plums from the fruit trees.

You see, I had this idea that one day, when I got the chance, I’d take my wife and girls to Marion, Alabama. I’d show them the house where I spent the first five years of my life, regaling them with stories about the giant heating grate in the middle of the hall that my brother used as a bathroom while sleepwalking, and the stove fire that sent my dad to the hospital, and the small square pond with goldfish that our landlady’s cat loved to eat.

But I can’t—at least, not the way I intended. My oldest brother dashed this plan by posting a Google Street View image. The two neighboring houses still stand. Ours is gone. Completely. Considering the size of the trees that now play the stand-in role, I’m guessing the house disappeared years ago (given our experience with electrical issues there, probably in a blaze of glory).

I’ve been told by movies and books that I can’t go home again, and this sad image of an empty lot does make a pretty good case for that. But that house—no matter the memories of watching PBS in the living room or music blaring from my brothers’ stereo—that house was never my home, not really. Nor is the house where I spent most of my youth, nor is the place I live now.

Seeing an empty lot reminded me how easily the things here on earth disappear. One moment you’re settling into a comfortable Alabama life; the next you’re suddenly uprooted for Tennessee. And when you look back, all that’s left is in your head.

 

Faithfulness of Jesus

by Inspiration Ministries

“The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him … if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” – 2 Timothy 2:11-13 ESV

Paul used a maxim to remind Timothy of Christian basics and principles essential to remember. These weren’t theories. Paul knew they were true, for he had applied them himself.

He alerted Timothy that he could expect a variety of problems. But, like a good soldier, he needed to carry out his assignments, regardless of the opposition.

It was important to maintain an eternal perspective. That meant staying focused, always living for Jesus, seeking first His Kingdom, and serving Him, regardless of how others might react. Don’t be sidetracked by any temporary opposition.

We are to focus like champion athletes competing at the highest level. We are to fight to win the spiritual warfare, battling like expert soldiers. We are to be diligent and committed to results, just like a “hard-working farmer” (v. 6). With a spirit of relentless determination, we always must persevere, remembering, “if we endure, we will also reign with him.”

This commitment may require sacrifices. But we will be rewarded for our faithfulness and obedience. Providing an alternate perspective, Paul reminded Timothy, “If we deny him, he also will deny us” (v. 12). But the fact is that Jesus Himself is faithful. We may fall short or make mistakes, but He cannot change. He always remains faithful.

In your life, remember these principles. Be persistent. Endure and be confident in God. Focus on your assignments. Dedicate your life to the Gospel.

 

The way of salvation

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

Suggested Further Reading: Isaiah 12

What a great word that word ‘salvation’ is! It includes the cleansing of our conscience from all past guilt, the delivery of our soul from all those propensities to evil which now so strongly predominate in us; it takes in, in fact, the undoing of all that Adam did. Salvation is the total restoration of man from his fallen estate; and yet it is something more than that, for God’s salvation fixes our standing more secure than it was before we fell. It finds us broken in pieces by the sin of our first parent, defiled, stained, accursed: it first heals our wounds, it removes our diseases, it takes away our curse, it puts our feet upon the rock Christ Jesus, and having thus done, at last it lifts our heads far above all principalities and powers, to be crowned for ever with Jesus Christ, the King of heaven. Some people, when they use the word ‘salvation,’ understand nothing more by it than deliverance from hell and admittance into heaven. Now, that is not salvation: those two things are the effects of salvation. We are redeemed from hell because we are saved, and we enter heaven because we have been saved beforehand. Our everlasting state is the effect of salvation in this life. Salvation, it is true, includes all that, because salvation is the mother of it, and carries it within its bowels; but still it would be wrong for us to imagine that is the whole meaning of the word. Salvation begins with us as wandering sheep, it follows us through all our confused wanderings; it puts us on the shoulders of the shepherd; it carries us into the fold; it calls together the friends and the neighbours; it rejoices over us; it preserves us in that fold through life; and then at last it brings us to the green pastures of heaven, beside the still waters of bliss, where we lie down for ever, in the presence of the Chief Shepherd, never more to be disturbed.

For meditation: Past salvation from sin’s penalty (justification): present salvation from sin’s power (sanctification): prospective salvation from sin’s presence (glorification)—what a great salvation (Hebrews 2:3). Don’t miss it.

Godly Renewal and Service

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Yard Sale Christianity

By: Steven Sanders, crosswalk.com

As many of you know, summer is prime time yard sale time and you can’t drive anywhere in the south on a Saturday without passing at least a few. This past Saturday, we stopped at one not far from our house.

In the past when I’ve been with my wife to these things, I seldom find anything that I get REALLY excited about. I usually just look for old books because that’s the only thing I can find for a buck that I might actually use. But this past Saturday, as I dug through a box of old CDs, I found something that I couldn’t pass up.

When I look back at my childhood and think about music, two names come to mind: Michael Jackson and the Beastie Boys. The very 1st album that my mom ever bought me was “Thriller.” The first album that I ever bought with my own money was “Licensed to Ill” at a Kmart in Mason, Ohio with my cousin Mark. I can still vividly remember driving home that weekend with my parents in our ‘78 Chrysler New Yorker bumping “Fight For Your Right To Party.” We had the cassette adapter for the 8-track player that was in there. I guess this was probably about 1986-87. This tape stayed in my silver boom box until it broke a couple years later.

During my middle school years, I developed a second wind of musical enlightenment. This was when hip-hop was at its peak in the early 90’s. I’d picked up this interest from my good friend Chad, who bought me an NWA tape in 1992. This was, of course, followed by Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” in 1993…then “Enter the 36 Chambers” by Wu-Tang Clan later that year…

The Beastie Boys released “Check Your Head” in 1993 also. They were still just as relevant then as they had been in the 80’s even though the style had changed a bit. They’d evolved from a party rap trio to a 3-piece jam band in what seemed like no time…but it had been 7 years. I loved this CD.

My love for hip-hop slowly but surely vanished as grunge slowly gained my affection and carried me through my high school years. The Nu Metal genre developed as I entered my college years; a movement that was pretty much over almost as soon as it started. I picked up a bass guitar my freshman year at SECC and my love for hip-hop officially died. But my love for the Beastie’s never did…

In 2002, on a couch at a friend’s house, I discovered “Paul’s Boutique” by the Beastie Boys. This album was released in 1989; many consider this to be their finest work. This album soon became my “favorite album to listen to while I played video games with Eddie.” And even still, the Beastie’s were just as relevant in 2002 as they were in 1986… and 1989… and 1993…

Now, flash-forward to 2011… I look into a box of CDs at a yard sale and find “Check Your Head” and “Paul’s Boutique” in perfect condition… for $5. SOLD! As I walked away, all I could think about were the good times I’d had with my cousin Mark, Chad, Eddie; some of the best times of my life. I couldn’t wait to listen to them when I got home.

I got home, went upstairs, turned on my computer to do my homework and hit play…and immediately realized how much Christ has changed me as an individual. It’s not so much the music itself, because it is still just as creative and impressive as it ever was. It’s the message behind the music that causes a separation. It’s just not the same anymore.

Jesus and Paul talked a lot about this sort of thing in the Bible. You know, the difference between who we were before accepting Christ into our hearts versus the new man who has surrendered his life to Jesus. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this played out in my life in such a real way until this episode. There is simply nothing I can gain from this music at this point in my life without turning my back on Christ.

Now let me make a bit of a clarification before I go any further. I’m not talking about legalism here.  I’m not saying that, “Christians cannot listen to secular music because it is sinful.” If that had been the case, I never would have bought these CDs to begin with. Now, the Stephen from 5 years ago with his sheltered, legalistic, judgmental Christian mindset would have been outraged at the idea of a believer being excited about a secular CD or movie or anything else that wasn’t “Christian.” I’d been taught that everything was a black or white issue. If it wasn’t “Christian” then it was sin.

But in recent years, with a change of logic and a new church environment, I’ve realized that my old mindset was a very self-serving mindset to have. In reality, not everything in the real world is a black or white issue. Not all “Christian music” is godly and not all “secular music” is sinful. When I used to believe this way, I would make my walk with God a lot easier, while making it more difficult for everyone else I came in contact with.

What I’m talking about is true relationship with Christ where He deals with me personally while I only focus on how God views me, not those around me.

Believe me when I say that I really wanted to enjoy these CDs when I got home. But there was something inside of me that no longer desired or could allow me to digest them. I fully believe that this is what Christ does to our lives. He draws us close to Him by his Spirit and these desires just naturally fall off. They happen in His timing, not our timing and not in the timing that other believers feel they should happen in our lives.

It’s experiences like these that let me know that I am certainly not who I used to be. Fleshly desires that I used to have simply do not exist anymore. I don’t have to beat down my flesh and force myself to exhibit Christian behavior anymore. Christ’s desires just naturally become mine. True freedom in Christ started when I stopped trying to achieve the unachievable: being a perfect Christian.

 

Whom Will You Serve?

From: intouch.com

1 Kings 18:17-40

During the days of King Ahab, Israel was pulled in two directions. Ahab had instituted Baal worship, but Elijah challenged Israel to follow God. When He pressed the people to make up their minds about whom to serve, they were speechless.

The Old Testament presents idolatry as a serious issue, but in this modern civilized world worship of idols seems archaic and irrelevant. However, we are sometimes just like the Israelites—we can’t make up our minds about whom to serve.

If something or someone has higher value and priority to us than Christ, we are trying to serve two masters, which Jesus says is impossible. We will end up loving one and hating the other (Matt. 6:24). God’s generous gifts of relationships, possessions, and meaningful work should never be cherished more than the Giver.

The way your time is used reveals your heart’s priorities. Is a part of each day devoted to God, or is every minute consumed by the demands of life? Or consider the area of dependence. Is there anyone or anything you rely on more than God? If so, it’s time to stop straddling the fence and give your life wholly to God.

 

The tabernacle of the Most High

By: Charles Spurgeon

“In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:22

Suggested Further Reading: Colossians 1:15-27

At last they come to these stones. But how rough, how hard, how unhewn. Yes, but these are the stones ordained of old in the decree, and these must be the stones, and none other. There must be a change effected. These must be brought in and shaped and cut and polished, and put into their places. I see the workmen at their labour. The great saw of the law cuts through the stone, and then comes the polishing chisel of the gospel. I see the stones lying in their places, and the church is rising. The ministers, like wise master-builders, are there running along the wall, putting each spiritual stone in its place; each stone is leaning on that massive corner stone, and every stone depending on the blood, and finding its security and its strength in Jesus Christ, the corner stone, elect, and precious. Do you see the building rise as each one of God’s chosen is brought in, called by grace and quickened? Do you mark the living stones as in sacred love and holy brotherhood they are knit together? Have you ever entered the building, and seen how these stones lean upon one another bearing each other’s burden, so fulfilling the law of Christ? Do you mark how the church loves Christ, and how the members love each other? How first the church is joined to the corner stone, and then each stone bound to the next, and the next to the next, till the whole building becomes one? Lo! The structure rises, and it is complete, and at last it is built. And now open wide your eyes, and see what a glorious building this is—the church of God. Men talk of the splendour of their architecture—this is architecture indeed.

For meditation: Here, two days before the laying of the first stone of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Spurgeon gave a timely reminder that the word “church” is a description of Christian people, not of any building in which they gather. Are you a living stone, built into the spiritual household of God (Ephesians 2:19-221 Peter 2:4,5)?

 

Distractions

by Inspiration Ministries

“Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life … an athlete … does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.” – 2 Timothy 2:3-5 NASB

Discipline, focus, determination, and obedience are characteristics of effective soldiers. Their efforts result in victory. Why? Because they realize that in battle, their lives constantly are in jeopardy. Enemies can attack in countless ways. Thus, soldiers cannot afford to become distracted.

Soldiers also must remember their specific roles in the military. They need to remember how they are to interact with others. This means submitting to their commanding officer. They must know their assignment and follow it precisely. They must be trained until the skills they need become second nature. They must stay focused at all times.

These also are important principles for Christians. But some fail to have the kind of focus characteristic of effective soldiers. Many simply pursue the wrong goals and think about the wrong things.

Many become distracted. In the process, they lose sight of God’s Word and His call on their lives. When these things happen, their hearts and minds become divided. They concentrate on the opinions of others or on the things of this world.

Today, seek to be a good soldier in God’s army. Don’t be entangled “in the affairs of everyday life” or occupy your time with petty problems, gossip, and other distractions. Stay focused on His call and assignments He has given you. Serve Him wholeheartedly with your time, talents, and treasures. Cooperate with His training and discipline. And let Him prepare you to achieve victory.

God Can Forgive and Cleanse You

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The Speeding Ticket

The reflection of blue lights flashed in my rear-view mirror. Embarrassed, I pulled over.

“Ma’am, can you explain why you were speeding?”

“I wasn’t paying attention.” I knew not knowing my speed was no excuse. I was responsible for operating my vehicle safely. The officer ticketed me and I went my way.

When I got home, I looked up the potential consequences: one-year revocation of license, lawyer costs, court costs. I felt nauseous.

Rather than worrying further, I bowed and put the situation in God’s mighty hands. Father, You gave me the license, so it is Yours to take or to give as You desire. I release this situation to You. I called my husband, and he called our attorney.

“I can possibly get the charges reduced by 10 miles per hour,” the lawyer said, “or if we’re lucky the charges could be reduced to ‘improper equipment.’”  He explained his rates, court costs, and potential insurance rate hikes. “Do you have questions I can help you with? And try not to worry about this. I’ll do my best to get this matter resolved.”

“When I go to court, will you be with me?”

“No.”

“What?”

“I am going in your place. You stay home. I will speak to the judge on your behalf, and I will represent you.”

A few days later, my lawyer called. “Your case has been dismissed.”

“Dismissed? As in, forgiven?” I was shocked.

“Not exactly. It’s better than that.”

“Better?”

“Dismissed means we are acting as if this never happened. It will not appear on your record at all. You’ll owe no court costs, and this will not be reported to your insurance. Your slate is wiped clean.”

“Thank you for representing me. How much do I owe you?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing? Are you sure?”

“That’s right. My services are gratuitous.”

The next morning, the scripture I read during my quiet time was,

“For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. (Psalm 86:5 KJV)”

God is good, and even if my license had been revoked, I would still have reason to believe this is true.

Father God loves us so much He sent His Son Jesus to die in our place and to take the punishment for our transgressions—even the ones that are more serious than traffic violations. Every way we’ve messed up, Jesus has already paid for.

Father God has made it possible through belief in His Son Jesus, for our record of sins to be wiped away. Colossians 2:14 KJV reads,

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”

Jesus erases the charges that are against us with His own shed blood. It is as if we have never sinned, even though we were the guilty ones. The work Jesus accomplished is beyond forgiveness; the charges against us have been dismissed.

When we get to heaven, no one will say, “Remember when you were speeding?” Not only are we forgiven, we are made new. 2 Corinthians 5:17b NLT reads,

“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

Thank You, God, for sending Jesus to wipe my record clean.

 

The Power of Forgiveness

Debbie Przybylski , crosswalk.com

“We have been sent into the world to implement the rule of God on earth. Where there is discord we are to replace it with harmony. Where there is hatred we are to replace it with agape. Where there is an offense simmering into a murderous conflict, we are to replace it with forgiveness. When we choose to forgive, we invade the realm of darkness and defeat those dark forces with the power of a resurrected life.” – Dudley Hall

Dear intercessors,

Forgiveness is one of the most powerful responses that we could ever have, yet the steps in forgiving others may be difficult. Forgiving others is very hard. The love of Christ is the only way we can set free those who have deeply wounded us. The love of Christ gives us the only context we have for believing God has forgiven us.

There is perhaps no greater gift you can offer God than a heart that knows the power of forgiveness and decides to set others free. Forgiving shows that the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus are operating in our lives. It is time to access this life-changing grace of forgiveness.

Is there someone who has offended you? Are you able to release the person in forgiveness? God gives us divine power to forgive. We who have received the freedom of forgiveness have the power to set one another free. This is a power that truly sets the captive free and can affect the whole world. Forgiveness defeats darkness on a massive scale because it involves the resurrection power of Jesus. Nothing can defeat the greatness and glory there is in one act of forgiveness.

The need for forgiveness can be seen in a story of a father and his son in Spain. They had become angry and bitter toward one another. The son finally left home and ran away. His father began to search for him but was unable to find him anywhere. After months of frantically searching, the father came to the end of his resources and sat down sadly in a coffee shop. Suddenly he had an idea!

He put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad said something like this: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the men’s clothes shop at 2 p.m. on Friday. You are forgiven. I love you. Your father.” On Friday at 2 p.m., eight hundred Pacos showed up! They were all looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers. How important it is that we seek forgiveness and offer forgiveness to one another. It is critical to our lives in every dimension—spiritually, physically, emotionally, and relationally.

“Would you like to see the Lord shatter the spiritual prisons in your life, the areas where you feel trapped? Then forgive those who put you there, for surely the walls of your imprisonment are made of your own anger and unforgiveness toward others.” Francis Frangipane

Steps in Forgiving Others

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).

Here are some basic steps toward extending and receiving forgiveness:

  • Recognize and call sin what God calls it – Be specific and thorough. Remember that forgiveness is not excusing and approving of inappropriate behavior or saying that an offense isn’t important. Be honest with yourself 
and recognize your emotional response. You may feel angry, sad, let down, or disappointed. It isn’t wrong to have emotions. They are natural. It’s what you do with your emotions that can be sinful. Make sure there is no offensive way in you.“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
  • Share with God honestly and let Him heal you – Tell God what happened to you and how you feel. Look at His evaluation of the situation. Focus on Him and His faithfulness. Spend time with Him, and let Him restore where sin has destroyed. Forgiveness releases God’s divine healing power.“O lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me” (Psalm 30:2).
  • Set the offender free, understanding that it is a process –  Declare forgiveness. Say, “I forgive [name the individualor group] for [name the offense].”Don’t say, “I wantto forgive.”It takes time to go through the process of forgiveness. The hurt can come up at different times, 
and we must choose to forgive again. It doesn’t mean we automatically forget the offense.“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
  • Release the offender to God – Repent of your desire to punish or take revenge. Let God deal with the offense. Focus on today rather than the past. Let the offender off the hook. Declare God as judge over the person and the situation.“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the lord” (Romans 12:19).
  • Bless the offender – Apply God’s forgiveness. Trust and reconcile when possible, but realize that forgiveness does not always mean we have to relate to the person in the future. In some cases, this is not possible. Know God’s protection and justice. We are God’s called-out people, who know who we are in Christ and walk in love with God and one another. We become partakers of His resurrected life. Forgiveness is essential if we want to walk in personal and corporate revival.“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14). 

God will give us the grace to fully set everyone free. May we be like Jesus, who was the first one to love. When God forgives us, He gives us the power to forgive. May the river of God’s life flow through us in that we bless everyone we meet. May we remind people of how much they are loved by God. As we give our lives away in love and forgiveness, we become free ourselves. Many of us don’t realize the power there is in truly forgiving one another. It is much greater and has a far greater consequence than any of us have ever realized.

 

True prayer—true power

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Mark 11:24

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 6:5-13

Allow me to quote what an old preacher said upon the subject of prayer, and give it to you as a little word of advice—“Remember, the Lord will not hear thee, because of the arithmetic of thy prayers; he does not count their numbers. He will not hear thee because of the rhetoric of thy prayers; he does not care for the eloquent language in which they are conveyed. He will not listen to thee because of the geometry of thy prayers; he does not compute them by their length, or by their breadth. He will not regard thee because of the music of thy prayers; he doth not care for sweet voices, nor for harmonious periods. Neither will he look at thee because of the logic of thy prayers, or because they are well arranged. But he will hear thee, and he will measure the amount of the blessing he will give thee, according to the divinity of thy prayers. If thou canst plead the person of Christ, and if the Holy Ghost inspire thee with zeal and earnestness, the blessings which thou shalt ask, shall surely come unto thee.” Brethren, I would like to burn the whole stock of old prayers that we have been using this fifty years. That “oil that goes from vessel to vessel,”—that “horse that rushes into the battle,”—that misquoted mangled text, “where two or three are met together, thou wilt be in the midst of them, and that to bless them,” and all those other quotations which we have been manufacturing, and dislocating, and copying from man to man. I would that we came to speak to God, just out of our own hearts. It would be a grand thing for our prayer meetings.

For meditation: There is a world of difference between performing prayers and real praying (Luke 18:10-13).