Monthly Archives: September 2020

God’s Grace Comforts Us Each Day

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Your Trial, Your Trophy

But he said to me, “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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)

Today, I glance at a trophy on my bookshelf given to me in jest. The trophy emblem reads, “Largest Ulcer of 2017.” I had undergone major surgery for a bleeding ulcer the doctor reported was, “the largest I’ve seen all year.” While recovering at the hospital, a friend presented me with the tongue-in-cheek trophy. And though an ulcer is generally not something to boast about, I look at that trophy today with a grin of contentment. Through faith, our pain and trials become our trophies.

God allowed the apostle Paul to undergo a very trying affliction. He repeatedly implored the Lord to take away the tormenting “thorn” in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7). Yet the Lord had a greater purpose in store. He would discover that his weakness was, in fact, an occasion to “boast in the Lord.” There is comfort in knowing the Almighty is in control and on our side. God often uses hardship to mold us into the person He wants us to be in Christ. Was the apostle Paul better off on account of his distress? Indeed, that the power of God might be made manifest in the midst of his weakness. God is glorified as we are transformed through suffering.

Believers are compared to jars of clay. Though inexpensive and easily broken, God has deemed fit to display His glorious light in our midst, in spite of our weakness:

For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (NRSV)

Our frailty and brokenness encase the very glory of the living God. Though we fragment, God’s light emanates through the cracks in our lives. Our imperfections emit the radiance, splendor, and intensity of Almighty God.

God is at work in the midst of weakness in ways that may escape our immediate purview. Indeed, God’s light shines through the crevices of our weakness for those around us to see. When we endure pain and trials in the strength Christ provides, others gain a fuller picture of the reason for our hope.

When He showcases His power in our weakness; our trials, sickness, and pain, become our trophies. Hold the trophy of your suffering up high today, knowing that through your difficulties, God is winning victory on your behalf and unveiling His glory for all those around to see.

When Sin Bubbles Up
By:  Kelly Givens, crosswalk.org

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of Life has set me free from the law of sin and death.”  Romans 8:1-2

A few weeks ago, after realizing I had somehow missed reading this children’s classic as a child, I found myself speeding through the entire Anne of Green Gables series. The books captivated me, and for good reason. Written in the early twentieth century by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery, the series chronicles the life of red-headed Anne Shirley, an orphan adopted by a brother and sister pair who really wanted a little boy to help on their farm. Eventually, they learn to love the little girl brought to them, as do all readers of Montgomery’s classic. Anne is a true literary heroine. We identify with her weaknesses: her spiritedness, quick-temper and vanity, and we strive for her strengths: bravery, generosity, and a heart overflowing with love for life and people.

As I read through the books, I was struck with the number of times Montgomery used Anne’s character to illustrate deep truths about the human condition. There were many examples, but one stood out in particular to me.  After being picked up from the train station by Matthew, Anne begins describing her life in the orphanage. Realizing she was exaggerating just how bad things were, Anne apologizes, saying, “It’s so easy to be wicked without knowing it, isn’t it?”

Indeed, it is. Throughout the Green Gables series, Anne repeatedly found herself unexpected moments of “wickedness,” forced to repent to neighbors, family and friends for some fiery retort, vain action or other impulsive sin. We can all relate to Anne- I know there are days I have to apologize over and over for the same sin- it just somehow keeps “bubbling up” in me.

The Apostle Paul dealt with this too. In his letter to the church in Rome, he wrote “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19). What causes us to do the very things we don’t want to do? Why does our sin seem to bubble up in us—overflowing like a pot of boiling water? Paul understood: it is our indwelling, sinful nature fighting against our desire to do what is good. He goes on to say:

“For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

Thankfully, Paul’s question is rhetorical; he knows the answer. “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  After acknowledging God to be our ultimate rescuer from sin, he writes some of the most encouraging verses of scripture found in the Bible, reminding us that through Christ’s death on the cross we have all we need to fight the wickedness that bubbles up in us.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Praise God! Our sinful nature is no match for the redemptive power of the cross.  Yes, as Anne said, it is easy to be wicked- in fact, it’s unavoidable. Thankfully, Christ has already taken the punishment for our wickedness, and even more- he has credited his righteousness to us, giving us all the means we need to conqueror the sin in our lives.

Trusting God

by Inspiration Ministries

“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! … Those who fear him will have all they need … those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.” – Psalm 34:8-10 NLT

The Bible makes this amazing promise: If we trust God, we “will lack no good thing.” The message is clear: God does not want us to suffer or be in want. He wants us to prosper in all things (3 John 1:2). Think about it: God wants you to prosper! In all things!

If we want this prosperity, we need to realize that everything we have comes from God in the first place. We prepare our hearts for blessings by focusing on Him in every situation. We look to Him as our Provider. We should not hope in our jobs, money, other people, or anything else.

Our task is to be good stewards of these resources. We are not to hide or bury them or hoard the things He provides but to invest them. But rather, we are to sow seeds with the time, talents, and treasures we have been given. We need to realize that we have been blessed so that we might bless others.

Today, don’t doubt but believe God’s promise that He desires to bless you spiritually, physically, financially, and healthfully. Start down the path to greater blessings by declaring your faith in Him. Seek God about your needs and problems. And sow seeds with the resources you have been given. As you trust Him, be confident that you will never lack any good thing.

Comfort proclaimed

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

Suggested Further Reading: Acts 12:6-11

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

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

God Gave His Only Son

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What’s the Point?

Have you ever had the thought, “What’s the point?” “What am I doing here?” “Is what I’m doing even making a difference?”

I have to imagine you said yes. Who hasn’t wrestled with those thoughts? We can look back in time and find such questions being asked over two thousand years ago because it’s part of being human.

What I mean is, in our humanity, we’ve been given the ability to choose our own course of action— our destiny. Yet you don’t have to look far to begin wondering about life, choices, destinies — before that random thought flits across your mind: What’s the point?

This is exactly what happened to Solomon. And his thoughts are recorded in the Book of Ecclesiastes.

I remember the first time I read these passages and thought, poor guy, he sure had a bad attitude. But 30 years later, with a little more life under my belt, I read his words and could relate.

“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
 What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun? One generation passes away, and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever. The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose. That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-5,9 NKJV)

The word vanity here isn’t referring to excessive pride, but instead is a reference to things done in vain. Solomon is calling life trivial or pointless. He reached a point where neither his wisdom nor his wealth satisfied anymore. He walked about his gardens observing how trees grow, produce fruit, drop their fruit, and then do it all over again— year after year. And he began to observe this was true of humanity too— a cycle of repetition — and he asked himself, “What’s the point?”

I think his question is valid for the person without Christ. It is vanity to chase riches and fame (for no other purpose than to achieve riches and fame), for in the end, they bring no real satisfaction. A person is born, grows, hopefully does something good with their life, and then they die — this is the cycle of a godless life. And if that’s all there is, then I agree with Solomon: What’s the point?

But thankfully, I have found the reason for my existence— the purpose of it all. It is the story of Jesus. As He came to the earth to point us to the Father, so now our lives are purposed with the same task. But it’s not redundant or trivial or pointless.

Jesus told Nicodemus that we must be born again (John 3:3). Nicodemus didn’t understand this concept until Jesus said,

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

In other words, whoever puts their faith and trust in (clings to) Jesus doesn’t have to live a pointless, lost life. No, we understand now, there is more!

Eternal, everlasting life doesn’t start when we die. Eternal life starts the moment we give our hearts to Jesus. And this new, born again life has purpose. Despite the cycle of seasons and generations, our hearts look to the Creator of time and life, willingly laying aside everything else with the understanding that we are called to a greater purpose than just existing— we now carry a responsibility of bringing as many as possible with us into an eternal life — not just a life that cycles and ends.

Thankfully, Solomon discovered this same truth after all his wanderings:

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NKJV)

And this is both enough and satisfying.

 

On the Lack of Lightning Bolts

By: Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.org

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

I memorized these verses years and years ago, along with John 3:16 and other verses that good little children in Sunday School learn. In my five-year-old mind, I associated the proverb with a mental picture of a road stretching out for miles until it merged with the horizon. That was the “straight road” that I could so easily understand – clearly marked, unswerving, and, most importantly, unchanging. All I had to do was trust God and keep following that path. Little did I know, right?

At times the journey has felt more like an anecdote that Abraham Lincoln told of a man traveling through a thunderstorm. Through the mud and the sheets of rain, the poor traveler felt that he would lose his way entirely. The thunderclaps seemed right overhead, jolting his senses every few moments. Only the flashes of lightning helped him keep to the road. Finally, after a particularly loud crash, the man fell to his knees and cried, “O, Lord God, if it’s all the same to you, I would like a little more light and little less noise!”

The major and minor uncertainties I’ve encountered – and will encounter in the future – often leave me with that sentiment. I think back to the promise of paths made straight and grumble that the signposts would be a lot easier to follow if they were in neon. We all ask, is this the career path you want me to take, God? Is this the man you want me to marry? Should I buy this house? Are we supposed to settle at this church? In what kind of school should we enroll the kids? God, I could really use a lightning bolt to clarify things!

It’s easy to forget that the proverb reserves the promise until the last quarter of the verse, not the first. Review the wording of verse 6 with me. “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

I memorized this verse years ago, but I’m still learning it by heart. Task-oriented person that I am, it’s easier to visualize myself making “progress” towards a goal than it is to stop and refocus on inner attitudes. It doesn’t occur to me that part the plan is simply standing still, waiting, and listening. I demand lightning bolts to see God’s working rather than taking responsibility for the part assigned to me. My part lies in the trusting, the repudiating of self, and a settled confidence that he will work all things for his purpose. Then… the path is straightened. We may not even realize it this side of heaven, but the promise is that he guides our feet when our eyes are on him.

I fully believe that the Lord guides us in specific ways – through the Word, through the counsel of godly mentors, through nudges of the Holy Spirit – and yet we get caught up in the road metaphor a little too much. We’re so distracted looking for the path that we forget a lifestyle of worship. To an extent, it matters less what we’re doing than how we’re doing it. As Paul wrote, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

The wonder of God’s plan for us lies in this – in taking our eyes off the road at our feet and looking to him, God finds our way for us.

The Believer’s Valley Experiences

From: Intouch ministries

 

Psalm 23

Have you ever had heartache so deep or hardship so difficult that it’s almost impossible to stand? Like a giant wave crashing on the shore, some trials threaten to overwhelm us.

We all experience valleys in life. They might be of our own making—for instance, when we choose to disobey God and our fellowship with Him grows cold. Or perhaps other people cause our suffering, in situations such as job termination, marital infidelity, or betrayal by a friend. And sometimes our heavenly Father Himself leads us into the valley. Although He could steer us around suffering, He chooses not to because He has a specific purpose in mind.

Psalm 23 uses four words to describe these valley experiences: shadowdeathfear, and evil. These terms evoke images of oppressive circumstances, grievous affliction, and deep discomfort, and there is no way to hurry through them. That’s because both the depth and length of the trial are determined by the Lord.

Thankfully, God promises to be with us and to use every valley—even those of our own making—for our benefit (Rom. 8:28). It is our job to walk steadily, attuned to His presence and trusting in His promises.

 

In a Hurry?

by Inspiration Ministries

Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” – Proverbs 19:2 ESV

The pressures of daily life can be enormous. Our minds can be dominated by a relentless series of deadlines – work projects, bill due dates, and assignments.

Even the most responsible people can find themselves dominated by these pressures. How can we make wise decisions? What should be our priorities? What factors should we consider?

The Bible presents practical guidelines in dealing with these matters. First, we are to build our lives on our relationship with the Lord and seek Him continually (1 Chronicles 16:11). We are to apply Biblical principles and seek to have a more intimate relationship with God. We are to have an active prayer life, trust Him, commit our ways to Him, and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). As we trust Him, we can be confident that our plans will be established (Proverbs 16:3).

But even the most mature believers can succumb to pressure. In our urgency to meet deadlines, we tend to rush without considering carefully the options. The Bible warns us, “if you act too quickly, you might make a mistake” (NCV).

As you face decisions, resolve to follow the patterns God provided in His Word. Seek Him daily, continually crying out for His wisdom. Commit your ways to Him, and aim to be sensitive to His Spirit. Be careful not to rush. Remember what David urged us: “Wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

 

The warrant of faith

By: Charles Sourgeon

‘And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ.’ 1 John 3:23

Suggested Further Reading: Acts 16:16–34

If we heartily trust our soul with Christ, our sins, through his blood, are forgiven, and his righteousness is imputed to us. The mere knowledge of these facts will not, however, save us, unless we really and truly trust our souls in the Redeemer’s hands. Faith must act in this wise: ‘I believe that Jesus came to save sinners, and therefore, sinner though I be, I rest myself on him; I know that his righteousness justifies the ungodly; I, therefore, though ungodly, trust in him to be my righteousness; I know that his precious blood in heaven prevails with God on the behalf of them that come unto him; and since I come unto him, I know by faith that I have an interest in his perpetual intercession.’ Now, I have enlarged the one thought of believing on God’s Son Jesus Christ. ‘Believing’ is most clearly explained by that simple word ‘trust.’ Believing is partly the intellectual operation of receiving divine truths, but the essence of it lies in relying upon those truths. I believe that, although I cannot swim, yonder friendly plank will support me in the flood; I grasp it, and am saved: the grasp is faith. I am promised by a generous friend that if I draw upon his banker, he will supply all my needs; I joyously confide in him, and as often as I am in want I go to the bank, and am enriched: my going to the bank is faith. Thus faith is accepting God’s great promise, contained in the person of his Son. It is taking God at his word, and trusting in Jesus Christ as being my salvation, although I am utterly unworthy of his regard. Sinner, if you take Christ to be your Saviour this day, you are justified.

For meditation: Abraham is our example of saving faith (Romans 4:11–12). In his head he was convinced that God could do what he had promised (Romans 4:21); in his heart he trusted God (Romans 4:20); God accepted his trust and attributed righteousness to him (Romans 4:22). This is how we are to trust in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 4:23–25). But is this what you mean by ‘faith’?

God Loves Us

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Who Are You Calling Jealous?

I admit I’ve been jealous. It’s that feeling that comes when the gold medal is lost by 2/100ths of a point. This fickle emotion can drive a man to punch someone who tries to kiss his wife. I understand those scenarios, but I have trouble attaching this attribute to the Lord.

“They [the Israelites] angered God … they made Him jealous with their idols.” (Psalm 78:58 NLT)

Jealousy sounds out of character for a perfect and generous God. And yet even the Apostle Paul said,

“For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself, …” (2 Corinthians 11:2 NLT)

So, I asked, “Lord, help me understand this strange jealousy.”

He then took me down memory lane.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I had planned on going back to work after he was born. What was there to do at home with a baby anyway? Change diapers. Feed them. Change more diapers. But my 8-pound-2-ounce bundle of solid boy stole my heart. Within a month of bonding, I was jealous.

I was very jealous.

I would be the one to see his first smile. No stranger was as worthy as I of viewing even this tiny miracle.

I would be there when he crawled, when he took his first step, and to hear his brilliant first word, “Doggie.”

Who carried him for 9 months? Who sang to him while he was in the womb? Who endured the pain of his birth and later on stayed by his side in sickness? I did!

No one else deserved the privilege of witnessing his first feats.

When he turned to his friends to learn about male/female relationships, he provoked my jealousy. What could one eight-year-old teach another eight-year-old about sex? Nothing but foolishness! I had the answers he needed. “Come to me, child. I will not misguide you.”

No one else deserved the privilege of teaching him right from wrong.

No one else deserved the right to instill moral values.

He learned to worship while sitting on my lap.

He listened to the stories I chose with his heart in mind.

His character was my responsibility. Our time together was short, and I did not waste a single minute.

Five years old. I activated the school-crossing signal for a four-lane road. The cars stopped, and we walked our bikes across the first lane, then the second lane. Halfway across, I noticed the 4th lane was empty but the approaching car was not slowing. My beloved son, unaware of the danger and out of my reach, continued on across the 3rd lane. He had started across with complete trust in me not to misguide him. He now headed toward unseen disaster.

Jealous for his life, I cried, “Luke, stop!”

He knew my voice and stopped instantly. A foot in front of him, the car sped through the red light. First-time obedience saves lives—a value I’d instilled in him for that very purpose.

Yes, I was jealous for my children. A shameless jealousy. They are of my blood, of my body, of my heart, and they resemble me. This is not possessive or excessive. This is heaven’s passion, and it is radical.

I get it now.

God, my Father, is jealous for me. He alone knitted me together in my mother’s womb and made me in His image. He alone heard my first word and empowered me to crawl. To walk. To run.

He cries with me and laughs with me. Like a hen gathers her chicks, He gathers me under His wing (Matthew 23:37). He sings over me (Zephaniah 3:17). He wants my full surrender. He wants my first-time obedience. And He justly deserves the honor of “raising” me as His own.

He wants me to learn His voice and practice yielding to His nudges to avoid disaster, to discover special blessings, and to convey His love to others.

When I turn to earthly things to ease my pain, turn to mortal man for wisdom, or rely on my worldly wealth to sustain me, I provoke His jealousy.

“You must worship no other gods, for the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.” (Exodus 34:14 NLT)

He is a jealous God! And He’s radically in love with you and me.

Ask Him to show you how jealous He is for you, and may His answer surprise you. May His answer cause you to fall deeper in love with our Jealous God.

Gospel Value

By: Liz Kanoy, crosswalk.org

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”  – Matthew 13:44-46

What did Jesus mean when He said the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field that when found should be re-hidden and then bought? Here’s what He did not mean. Jesus did not mean that the gospel should be hidden and not shared, and He did not mean that the gospel could be bought.

The parable was meant to show the value of the gospel that it is in fact the most valuable thing you could ever possess. That if you found it, you would sell everything you owned so you could have it.

However, the gospel is so valuable that it can never be bought. You could never have enough fine things to sell or offer that would equal the value. But that’s the beauty of the gospel! It is the most valuable thing in existence…but it’s also free!

This means that God knowing your inferiority, your inability to come close to His standards, came down to earth as a humble baby, lived a perfect life on earth despite temptation, and died a sacrificial and substitutionary death even though He was innocent, just so you could receive the gift He offers.

What is the value of the gospel? It is like a field with the finest buried treasure; you’d be willing to sell everything you had – not just yard sale type things, but everything even the things you need to sustain your life – just so you could look upon it. The good news is that you don’t have to, and even if you wanted to you couldn’t.

The good news is that Jesus died and rose again, so that you could have the most valuable thing in the world for free. The gospel had a high price, one that you and I could never pay. There was only ever One who could pay it, and He finished that payment once and for all on the cross. He did this so that those He calls can accept His grace and become His children and heirs forever.

As believers, do we really treat the gospel like it’s the most valuable thing we have? Do we speak of it to others like it’s the most valuable thing they can have? And do our lives reflect that the grace of Jesus Christ is free, or do our actions show others that we are still trying to earn something?

 

A New Beginning

by Inspiration Ministries

“Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity … You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” – Micah 7:18-19 NASB

Today is Rosh Hashanah (also known as the Feast of Trumpets). This Jewish New Year starts a ten-day period that ends on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This was one of God’s special feasts. His people were to search their souls and seek to make things right with him.

On this day, some Jewish households carry on the tradition of Tashlich (“cast off”). This tradition involves going to a body of water, tossing breadcrumbs into the water as they pray, and asking God for forgiveness.

This action is a reminder of God’s promise to forgive and have compassion on us. The purpose is to remind us that He does not retain His anger forever. In fact, He casts our sins “into the depths of the sea.”

Right now, God offers you the opportunity for a new beginning. Start by cleansing your heart. Confess your sins, worries, and problems. Are there things blocking the flow of His blessings? Are you anxious or worried? Have you allowed sin or bad habits to grab a hold in your life?

The Bible is clear: God is ready to forgive all your sins. Be honest and lay every burden and sin at His feet. And accept His forgiveness! Remember, God wants to bless you in new ways. Experience the joy of forgiveness and being clean. Then start celebrating. Let this be a day of new beginnings!

 

Listening Hard for God

From: Streams In The Desert

Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29 :18).

Waiting upon God is necessary in order to see Him, to have a vision of Him. The time element in vision is essential. Our hearts are like a sensitive photographer’s plate; and in order to have God revealed there, we must sit at His feet a long time. The troubled surface of a lake will not reflect an object.

Our lives must be quiet and restful if we would see God. There is power in the sight of some things to affect one’s life. A quiet sunset will bring peace to a troubled heart. Thus the vision of God always transforms human life.

Jacob saw God at Jabbok’s ford, and became Israel. The vision of God transformed Gideon from a coward into a valiant soldier. The vision of Christ changed Thomas from a doubting follower into a loyal, devout disciple.

But men have had visions of God since Bible times. William Carey saw God, and left his shoemaker’s bench and went to India. David Livingstone saw God, and left all to follow Him through the jungles of dark Africa. Scores and hundreds have had visions of God, and are today in the uttermost parts of the earth working for the speedy evangelization of the heathen.
–Dr. Pardington

There is hardly ever a complete silence in the soul. God is whispering to us well-nigh incessantly. Whenever the sounds of the world die out in the soul, or sink low, then we hear the whisperings of God. He is always whispering to us, only we do not hear, because of the noise, hurry, and distraction which life causes as it rushes on.
–F. W. Faber

“Speak, Lord, in the stillness,
While I wait on Thee;
Hushed my heart to listen
In expectancy.

“Speak, O blessed Master,
In this quiet hour;
Let me see Thy face, Lord,
Feel Thy touch of power.

“For the words Thou speakest,
‘They are life,’ indeed;
Living bread from Heaven,
Now my spirit feed!

“Speak, Thy servant heareth!
Be not silent, Lord;
Waits my soul upon Thee
For the quickening word!”

Fight Like A Saint

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Fight Like a Saint

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4 NIV)

We raised our children for many years on a large piece of land that had once been farm property. We built a home, put in a garden, and created a pond behind the house.

The pond had a dock and the Extension Service helped us to stock the pond with bass, catfish, and bluegill. The kids loved to fish. One time our daughter caught two fish on one lure!

But with the joy came some issues. One of them was algae growth. Oh my, it was concerning to see the green “globs” increase and threaten to overtake our beautiful fishing spot.

My husband went to the feed store and talked with one of the men there. He recommended a product that, with just a small amount poured into the water, could swiftly destroy the algae.

The product was amazing. Within short order, every bit of algae was gone. No more masses of green organisms choking the pond. The water was clear and pristine again.

I thought of this recently in relation to ministering to people with difficult emotional problems. I spend time with recovering addicts, helping them to get free. The life they have led, the pain experienced through personal choices, and the harsh things that have been done to them often result in a spectrum of spiritual attacks on their minds. Feelings of rejection, shame, isolation, abandonment by God and others, and many more distorted thoughts threaten to suffocate the clear living water of the Spirit and the presence of Christ for them.

Just as the algae attempted to overcome the clear water of our pond, so these thoughts, alien to God’s thoughts, threaten to suffocate the hearts and minds of people oppressed by them. Even many mature Christians struggle.

But we have a “product” too, that can, even with a small amount, slip into the clouded waters of our thoughts and eat away the lies. That product is the word of God. The Lord has reminded me recently that though it is unpleasant to have to do spiritual warfare and get up and fight yet again, the truth of the matter is the One who will really do the fighting is Him. When we feel beset by cloudy, hurtful, or unhealthy feelings, all we need to do is run to His arms, pick up the Word, and once again drop some of it into our circumstances. So we decree:

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1 NIV)

I am “accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6)

“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV)

I say, “I am loved and I belong to God. I am righteous in God’s sight always as a believer in Christ Jesus.” These new, true thoughts begin to consume and drive out the lies.

When we just put a drop of truth into our minds by decreeing the Word instead of giving into the relentless attack from the enemy, (which we think is simply our emotions) the waters of our mind’s thinking begin to clear.  God fights for us and we get back up on our feet, reinvigorated, hope restored.

Fight like a saint!!

 

Here Be Leaders
by John UpChurch

You wouldn’t know it from the outside, but this place is full of leaders. Sure, the boarded up windows and sloppy graffiti might be cause for concern. And the challenging glares of those crossing the street might make you want to drive faster. But make no mistake: church leaders, pastors, elders, and missionaries make their home here, amid the squalor, amid the sun-creased faces.

I drive this way every day, up a side road that leads out of the heart of Richmond, Virginia. With all the potholes and missing concrete, you can be sure it hasn’t been paved in years. This path is no shortcut, but it takes almost twice as long to get onto the interstate through the rush-hour snarl. I’ll take the potholes, thank you very much.

I don’t know the history of this area, but my guess is that it’s similar to most other places that get bypassed by the major highways. Interest moved with the roads and left a fading beauty in its wake—local restaurants filled in for chains, corner stores staggered in with bars over the windows, grays and browns spread from house to house. The only touch of modernity is a sleek courthouse and expanding police station on the corner.

In any case, this isn’t the type of place where you want to have a flat tire. And that may be the very reason I had one… right there… right in the middle of the smoke-damaged houses and shattered windows. After pushing aside a broken bottle under my feet, I wrestled with the jack, which I’d never had to manhandle before. I confess that a bit of anxiety did reach my fingers and perhaps that’s what made the process take so long.

No one stopped to help, and I was fine with that. I just wanted to be finished without having to explain how I’d opened a huge gash in my tire.

But I wasn’t completely alone. A young man strutted up the sidewalk and stopped to watch for a moment. Then, he strutted closer.

I’d seen this movie; it never ended well. Instead of terror, though, a wave of calm smacked into me. Even when the guy said he’d just gotten out of jail and needed to call his ride, the expected panic didn’t come. Peace… that dreadful peace wouldn’t leave. So, I handed over my phone. And, yes, that’s a dumb move, but listening to his call showed me more in a minute about the nature of this place than a hundred trips through this section of the city ever did.

The bravado masked uncertainty; the swagger plastered over need. And me giving him my phone to use was probably one of the few acts of charity this guy had ever experienced. “Good news” to him was me simply getting out of my car and seeing him as a person and not a potential road hazard on the way home.

 

The backslider’s way hedged up

‘She said, I will go after my lovers … Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns … that she shall not find her paths. And she shall follow after her lovers … but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now.’ Hosea 2:5–7

Suggested Further Reading: Jeremiah 3:1–25

By the mouth of Jeremiah God speaks these words—‘Turn … for I am married unto you.’ I do not know anything which should make the backslider’s heart break like the doctrine of God’s immutable love to his people. Some say that if we preach that ‘whom once he loves he never leaves, but loves them to the end,’ it will be an inducement to man to sin. Well, I know man is very vile, and he can turn even love itself into a reason for sinning, but where there is as much as even one spark of grace, a man cannot do that. A child does not say, ‘I will offend my father because he loves me;’ it is not even in fallen nature generally, unless inspired by the devil to find motives for sin in God’s love, and certainly no backsliding child of God can say ‘I will continue in sin that grace may abound.’ They who do so show that they are reprobates, and their damnation is just. But the backslider, who is a child of God at the bottom, will, I think, feel no cord so strong to hold him back from sin as this. Backslider, I hope it will also be a golden chain to draw you to Christ. Jesus meets you, meets you this morning. You were excommunicated. You were driven out from among God’s people with shame, but Jesus meets you, and pointing to the wounds which he received in the house of his friends at your hands, he nevertheless says, ‘Turn … for I am married unto you.’ It is a relationship which you have broken, and it might legally be broken for ever if he willed it; but he does not will it, for he hates to put away. You are married to Jesus. Come back to your first husband, for he is your husband still!

For meditation: Backsliding is a real problem amongst God’s people (Hosea 11:7), but not incurable (Hosea 14:4). The remedy is to state the obvious—‘return unto the Lord’ (Hosea 6:114:1).

 

A Song in Your Heart

by Inspiration Ministries

“Bless the Lord … Who pardons all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases … Who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” – Psalm 103:1-5 NASB

By trade, Oliver Holden was a carpenter and real estate dealer. He spent most of his life in the Boston area, where he was born in September 1765. He also was an active musician and pastor, combining these gifts to compose hymns, many of which still are sung.

One of his most memorable compositions was called “Coronation” written in 1792. This became the melody for the hymn “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.”

Even toward the end of his life, his mind continued to be filled with music resounding for God’s glory. His last words are said to have been, “I have some beautiful airs running through my head if I only had the strength to note them down.”

In contrast, many people (even Christians) spend much of their lives discouraged and downtrodden. They have forgotten all that God has done for them and allow themselves to be weighed down by the cares of the world. But God wants us to be victorious and to have hearts filled with His praises.

Right now, remember the words of David. Let everything within you bless the Lord! Remember all that He has done for You. He has forgiven your sins, healed your diseases, and saved your soul. Think of all the prayers He has answered and the many ways He has helped you! Let your heart and mind sing His praises!

God Does Not Change

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What If …?

Opening our mailbox, I held my breath and prayed, Please God, not today. No bills today.  

After months of unemployment, our bank account had dwindled to nothing. We’d survived by living on a shoestring while my husband worked a series of odd jobs — positions well below his qualifications. Recently, he’d faced a dozen refusals, and now our situation was dire. What if we lose our home? I thought. What if he can’t find a job? What if…? 

My mind wandered to several years earlier when my husband ventured into business for himself. He traded the security of a dull but lucrative government job for the opportunity to do what he’d always wanted — build energy-efficient luxury homes. I supported him in his decision. We knew it was risky, but we had plenty of savings — or so we thought — and we knew he would be successful. And he was until the economy turned. Now, my mind bent backward. What if he hadn’t gone out on his own?  What if we still had the safety net of his retirement? What if…?

What if…? Two words that throw you fearfully into the future or imprison you with regret. Two words that fit nowhere within the framework of faith. Two words that deny God’s sovereignty, goodness, and love.

In Exodus 3, when Moses encounters God in the burning bush, Moses asks the Lord, “What is [your] name?”  The Lord replies,

“I AM who I AM.” Exodus 3:14 (NIV)

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “am” as “the first person singular present of be.” Present. Not future. Not past.

Theologically, we know God is not defined by time. He is eternal, with no beginning or end.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (NIV), and He is “from everlasting to everlasting …” Psalm 90:2 (NIV).

And yet we, His children, are constrained by time. The enemy of our souls knows that and tries to use the burden of time against us as he tempts us to focus on a future filled with fear or a past ruined by regret. What if…?

In Hebrews 13:5, God promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (ESV)

When our minds drift ahead toward worry and fear or behind to shame or regret, we forget God’s eternal faithfulness. Satan wants to get our minds off God and onto our circumstances. He strives to steal the stability we have in Jesus Christ.

This is why we must refuse to follow the enemy’s leading into an imaginary future or an unfortunate past. When we find ourselves being lured into Satan’s lies, we need to stop and “take our thoughts captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5) by confessing the truth of God’s Word.

Living in the present — focusing on the here and now — doesn’t mean you don’t set goals or you ignore your mistakes. Knowing God is the great I AM means you rest in His eternal sovereignty, goodness, and love, and you trust that …

“… in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)

My husband didn’t have a steady job for three long years. It was a difficult season, but God was faithful. When the enemy deceives you into focusing on what if, give him the what for. Take your thoughts captive, and remind yourself that God is the great I AM. He is always in the present. And that’s where He wants you. Because, simply put, God is not the God of what if. God is the God of what is.

 

Seventy-Seven
by Ryan Duncan

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:17-18

In a perfect world, Christians would be people without any disagreements. Unfortunately this isn’t a perfect world, it’s a fallen one, and even the Church sees its share of conflict between members. Pastors argue, Churches split, and professed Christians hold grudges against their brothers and sisters. This last one is something I particularly struggle with. A few years ago I was in a really bad place; I was feeling hurt and angry because of something some other Christians had said to me.

When I finally confided this to one of my friends, I can remember saying,

“I just hate them so much.”

It wasn’t until later that I learned the disciple Peter had been in a similar situation. Look at what Jesus said to him,

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. – Matthew 18:21-22

But Jesus didn’t stop there, he continued by telling the parable of the Servant and the Master. It begins with a kind man who dismisses his servant’s enormous debt,

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” – Matthew 18:28-35

As Christians, we are commanded to forgive those who wrong us. Not just because God wants us to love one another, but because he first loved us.

 

Hiding Place

Streams in the Desert – September 16

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

Hide thyself by the brook Cherith (1 Kings 17:3).

God’s servants must be taught the value of the hidden life. The man who is to take a high place before his fellows must take a low place before his God. We must not be surprised if sometimes our Father says: “There, child, thou hast had enough of this hurry, and publicity, and excitement; get thee hence, and hide thyself b the brook–hide thyself in the Cherith of the sick chamber, or in the Cherith of bereavement, or in some solitude from which the crowds have ebbed away.”

Happy is he who can reply, “This Thy will is also mine; I flee unto Thee to hide me. Hide me in the secret of Thy tabernacle, and beneath the covert of Thy wings!”

Every saintly soul that would wield great power with men must win it in some hidden Cherith. The acquisition of spiritual power is impossible, unless we can hide ourselves from men and from ourselves in some deep gorge where we may absorb the power of the eternal God; as vegetation through long ages absorbed these qualities of sunshine, which it now gives back through burning coal.

Bishop Andrews had his Cherith, in which he spent five hours every day in prayer and devotion. John Welsh had it–who thought the day ill spent which did not witness eight or ten hours of closet communion. David Brainerd had it in the woods of North America. Christmas Evans had it in his long and lonely journeys amid the hills of Wales.

Or, passing back to the blessed age from which we date the centuries: Patmos, the seclusion of the Roman prisons, the Arabian desert, the hills and vales of Palestine, are forever memorable as the Cheriths of those who have made our modern world.

Our Lord found His Cherith at Nazareth, and in the wilderness of Judea; amid the olives of Bethany, and the solitude of Gadara. None of us, therefore, can dispense with some Cherith where the sounds of human voices are exchanged for the waters of quietness which are fed from the throne; and where we may taste the sweets and imbibe the power of a life hidden with Christ.
–Elijah, by Meyer

 

Shaping Your Worldview

by Inspiration Ministries

“They gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, ‘You are to say, “His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.”’” – Matthew 28:12-13 NASB

Octavian was determined to shape history. After becoming Rome’s first emperor, using the name Caesar Augustus, he wanted future generations, to believe only his accounts of events, particularly concerning Mark Antony.

For a time, Antony and Octavian had ruled Rome with Lepidus before becoming rivals. While preparing for war with the Parthians, Antony fell in love with Cleopatra, the powerful ruler of Egypt. After losing to the Parthians, Antony’s forces were defeated by Octavian. In the following days, both he and Cleopatra committed suicide.

This story has been retold for two thousand years through plays, films, and books. But few realize that the “facts” have been distorted. Octavian ordered the destruction of thousands of documents. The only records remaining support his version of events.

A similar distortion of facts took place when the chief priests didn’t want people to know that Jesus had risen from the dead. They bribed soldiers to spread a false story.

History is filled with examples like these. We still see it all around us as people using various means to spread their opinions about the Bible, Jesus, and the Christian faith. They tell stories that support their theories and may sound true.

How can you know what is fact and what is false? Don’t allow the world to shape your opinions. Stand on God’s Word. Make Jesus your Lord. Seek an intimate relationship with Him. Seek His wisdom and the discernment of the Holy Spirit.

The Promised Land

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Step into Your Promised Land Today!

“And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29 KJV)

Just the other day, I was thinking about the Israelites and the long trip they made to the promised land of Canaan. A covenant God made with Abraham long before the trip, victory was promised before they even struck out for the land of milk and honey. It just needed to be claimed. However, it would have only taken 10 days at the most to reach Canaan from where they were. So why did it take 40 years to reach the Promised Land?

A lot of times I find myself in 40-year mode. A journey that could take me 10 days presses on and on, all because God just can’t get me to listen up! “Hey, Brooke.” God calls. “Pay attention! You missed the Canaan exit yet again!” (Oddly enough, God sounds a little like me when I do my best backseat driving.)

Do you ever find yourself there too? Missing the exit to the good things God has in store for you? If so, you know it’s not our feet that keep us from Canaan. It’s our minds.

The Bible says “For as he [a man] thinks in his heart so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7)

If we are stuck in a sour mindset, our lives are going to produce sour fruit. If we are focused on the negative, no matter how in tune with God we are, we are going to miss that exit time and time again until we get our thinking in line with God’s.

God could have easily given up on the Israelites. He could have looked down and said “Sheesh, people. This is getting old. Canaan is 10 days away and this is plain ridiculous.” But He didn’t give up on His promise no matter how off course they were.

What are the thoughts you are dwelling on today? Are you living the kind of life that gets you to the Promised Land in days or years? If you’ve been struggling to get ahead for years and you haven’t seen much luck, maybe you are just going about things the wrong way, maybe you are in a 40-year mentality mode.

There have been moments in my life when my thinking has been so out of tune with God that I felt like I was on a carousel! I would get so close to the Promised Land exit, God would just about have me right where I needed to be and then I would get distracted with negative thinking. Alas, there I’d sit on that up-and-down pink horse just watching my exit pass by.

If you are so far stuck in negative thinking that you think God doesn’t have a promised land for your life, go back and read Jeremiah 29:11.

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

Note the ninth word of that verse: YOU! “For I know the plans I have for YOU!”

God has a promised land in store for all of His children and He wants to see us enter into that covenant He has with each of us. Your Canaan could be the renewing of your marriage, the salvation of your children, being set free from the bondage of illness, or just all-around freedom from negative thinking in general. Only God knows what that Canaan is for you. He wants to see you through to the Promised Land!

The first step to leaving Egypt will be the same step that carries you into Canaan — you have to get your thinking in line with God’s. But how do we do that? The amplified version of 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us this,

“[Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One)…” (AMPC)

God tells us right there in black and white that if we are going to be obedient to our Father and stand up to the whiles of the devil, we have to take every thought, every reasoning (doubt, unbelief, excessive figuring things out) captive and then turn it around to match His Word.

When you are walking through Egypt and pressing for Canaan don’t let your feet get weary. God will carry you safely in His arms. He only asks your mind to do the walking. If you are battling unforgiveness, doubt, fear, anger, illness — whatever is taking your thoughts captive, remember, just like the Israelites, God has promised you freedom from that captivity. When Jesus hung His head on the cross, you were set free. You only have to claim your freedom.

Don’t spend 40 years in the wilderness. God wants you to step into your promised land today!

 

The Happiest Place on Earth
by Ryan Duncan

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

When I was in the fourth grade, my parents decided it was time for that rite of passage all families must one day undertake. On Friday morning, as my sisters and I prepared for school, they informed us that we would be leaving class an hour early today. Naturally, my sisters and I were excited to get a jump start on the weekend, but we also couldn’t help but wonder why.

“It’s a surprise,” was all my parents would say. That gave us pause. In my family, a “surprise” could mean anything from a baseball game, to getting our Hepatitis B shots at the doctor’s office. So it was with more than a little trepidation that we entered our family van that afternoon and began speeding toward the city. After about forty minutes of driving, my Dad pulled off the road into a crowded parking lot.

“Where do you think we’re going?” he asked with a huge grin on his face. We looked around at the city, the solid concrete parking lot, and the planes soaring overhead.

“Camping?” guessed one of my sisters. My mother reached into her pocket and produced several tickets that all bore the unmistakable image of Mickey Mouse. That’s when it hit us, WE WERE GOING TO DISNEYWORLD! Normally I avoid talking about Heaven, I feel like it distracts Christians from living in the here and now, but I can’t help seeing a glimpse of our final home in that old vacation. There was so much awe, wonder, and sheer joy at just being a child in Disneyworld.

Best of all, we had no idea what was waiting for us. We all knew of Disneyworld, but we had never experienced anything like it until that trip. In much the same way, Jesus has prepared a place for us in a world we cannot begin to comprehend. Just look at this verse from Revelation,

 “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.’” – Revelation 22:3-7

I’m going to restrain myself from using a “Whole New World” joke. Rather, I’ll simply close with this message: This world is not our home. God made us to be a part of this world, but it is not where we truly belong. One day we will go home, and when that day comes, it will be quite the adventure.

 

Sweet Hour of Prayer

by Inspiration Ministries

“Pray without ceasing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17 NASB

Although born blind, William Walford was determined to lead a productive life. He memorized large sections of the Bible and quoted the Word whenever called upon to preach. He also wrote poetry.

When he met Walford in England, New York native Thomas Salmon described how Walford shared a few phrases he had written. Walford didn’t think they were particularly memorable, but Salmon immediately recognized their value and copied the lines.

After returning to the US, Salmon submitted the words to the New York Observer. Eventually Walford’s words were published as a poem called “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” which became a hymn that’s still sung worldwide.

Walford described how that sweet hour “calls me from a world of care, and bids me at my Father’s throne make all my wants and wishes known.” His soul found relief in God’s presence. This helped him escape “the tempter’s snare.” In his time of prayer, “The joys I feel, the bliss I share, of those whose anxious spirits burn with strong desires for thy return!”

He hastened “to the place where God my Savior shows His face.” God waited for him, and he realized how much he looked forward to spending an eternity with the Father when his blindness would no longer matter.

Don’t let other priorities squeeze prayer out of your time. Long to be in God’s presence. Spend quality time with Him. Let Him take away your burdens and change your life.

 

Storming the battlements

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Go ye up upon her walls, and destroy; but make not a full end; take away her battlements; for they are not the Lord’s.” Jeremiah 5:10

Suggested Further Reading: Galatians 5:25-6: 5

We sometimes trust too much in evidences and good works. Ralph Erskine did not say amiss when he remarked, “I have got more hurt by my good works than my bad ones.” That seems something like Antinomianism, but it is true; we find it so by experience. “My bad works,” said Erskine, “Always drove me to the Saviour for mercy; my good works often kept me from him, and I began to trust in myself.” Is it not so with us? We often get a pleasing opinion of ourselves; we are preaching so many times a week; we attend so many prayer meetings; we are doing good in the Sabbath-school; we are valuable deacons; important members of the church; we are giving away so much in charity; and we say, “Surely I am a child of God—I must be. I am an heir of heaven. Look at me! See what robes I wear. Have I not indeed a righteousness about me that proves me to be a child of God?” Then we begin to trust in ourselves, and say, “Surely I cannot be moved; my mountain stands firm and fast.” Do you know what is the usual rule of heaven when we boast? Why the command is given to the foe—“Go up against him; take away his battlements; for they are not the Lord’s.” And what is the consequence? Why, perhaps God suffers us to fall into sin, and down goes self-sufficiency. Many a Christian owes his falls to a presumptuous confidence in his graces. I conceive that outward sin is not more abhorred by our God than this most wicked sin of reliance on ourselves. May none of you ever learn your own weakness by reading a black book of your own backslidings.

Our Duty Is To Obey God

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Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice

When I was growing up, my sisters and I had to take turns washing the dishes. When it was my turn, I always tried to get the dishes washed as soon as the meal was over, since dishes are easier to wash if you don’t let the food dry on the plates. The sooner I finished, the sooner I was free to do as I pleased. I had hours of freedom to enjoy whatever I wanted to do, instead of having the chore hanging over my head or suffering punishment such as loss of freedoms, because I failed to obey my parents.

Our spiritual life is not that different. According to Proverbs 21:3 (KJV),

“To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.”

Obedience brings peace, joy, and satisfaction because God’s commands are meant for our good. When we are quick to obey, we reap the benefits, but when we are disobedient, we have to endure the consequences of our behavior.

For example, God commanded King Saul to utterly destroy everything that belonged to the kingdom of Amalek, but Saul disobeyed, keeping the best of the flocks for himself and sparing King Agag (1 Samuel 15). Taking the enemy king and the flocks as spoils of war were common, but God had specifically ordered the destruction of everything. Saul knew what was expected of him, but he didn’t obey God. When Samuel confronted him about his disobedience, Saul claimed the animals were spared to be used as a sacrifice to God.

Samuel quickly countered Saul’s excuse with a question:

“Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22 KJV, emphasis mine).

God wanted obedience, not sacrifice. This wasn’t Saul’s first act of disobedience; it had become a pattern. Disobedience has consequences, and in Saul’s case it cost him his place as king. God told Samuel to anoint David as Saul’s replacement.

In King Saul we have an example of the negative consequences of disobedience, but in King David we have an example of a man after God’s own heart. David was not perfect, but when he failed, he was quick to repent and return to God. Like David, we should be quick to be obedient to God’s commands out of love and gratitude for all He has done for us. Then we can have peace because we are in a right relationship with God and others. We can have joy because we have done what God asked and we don’t have to dread the consequences of disobedience.

Obedience has rewards that we can receive on a daily basis, not the least of which is pleasing our heavenly Father. That alone is worth every effort on our part. With that in mind, let’s strive to be obedient in each moment so that we can enjoy the benefits of peace, joy, and satisfaction. Then the only sacrifice we need offer is the sacrifice of praise.

 

That Verse before ‘All Things’ 

by John UpChurch

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12

I’d rather live a Philippians 4:13 type life. But that verse before it always gets me. I’d rather jump right into the “doing all things through him who gives me strength” without slogging through the “content in any and every situation” part. The second verse makes for such great posters, but now, when I read it, all I can think is “whether living in plenty or in want.”

Talk about a buzzkill.

But God’s plans come in a larger size than my earthly satisfaction. He wants my sanctification, my being-made-more-like-Jesus-ness. He wants me to see that His riches don’t come with dour-looking presidents or expiration dates or limited warranties. They aren’t earned by the sweat of my brow. Instead, His riches come pouring down in my contentment.

Paul told Timothy that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6), and he’s driving at the same thing here in Philippians. “Strength,” according to the world, boils down to laying claim to the most stuff—power, model spouses (emphasis on the plural), houses, and influence. But those who think that way can never be content no matter the situation. When their “strength” disappears, they wilt. Some do whatever it takes to get back to where they were; some end up in rehab; and some see no reason to live. Some strength, huh?

Jesus doesn’t play by our rules, though. His Beatitude bunker busters make that pretty clear (see Matthew 5). The weak, the poor, the hungry—those are the ones who receive the treasures. You see, Jesus does want us to get to Philippians 4:13, but to do that, He has to demolish our strongholds by taking us through Philippians 4:12. We’re strong through Him only when we’ve learned to clear the detritus of what we think we need in this world and see Him for the all-sufficient treasure that He really is (Colossians 2:3).

We can do all things through Him who strengthens us. But to get to that point, we have to learn satisfaction in His “all things,” the plans He has for us. That’s because it’s His strength, not ours.

 

Ignoring God’s Voice

From: intouch ministries

Hebrews 4:12-16

Believe it or not, many people who attend church choose to ignore God’s truth because they don’t like hearing sermons that convict or demand a change. But we tend to be guilty of doing the same thing when we pick and choose what to read in the Bible.

When you open God’s Word, do you read only verses that encourage, comfort, or promise blessings? Are you reluctant to tackle the more difficult passages, which prick your conscience and call for obedience? Do you avoid sections that make you feel guilty about the way you are living?

If you find yourself reacting strongly to a passage of Scripture or a sermon, then you ought to take an honest look at yourself. God’s Word is meant to cut into the deepest recesses of our soul and spirit. But the hope is that we then run to Jesus, our High Priest, in confession and repentance in order to receive forgiveness and cleansing.

Christ sympathizes with our weaknesses and invites us to draw near to God to receive grace and help. The convicting passage of Scripture may cause momentary discomfort, but those who listen and take their burden to Jesus find sweet relief.

 

Our Inner Reality

by Inspiration Ministries

“The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy.” – Proverbs 14:10 NASB

The heart symbolizes everything internal about our lives – our deepest thoughts and feelings. We may share some heart issues with others. Yet, for various reasons, some issues remain private. Perhaps they are buried by hurt, by concerns of how others would react, or by fears and worries.

Sometimes we develop these same attitudes toward God Himself by burying our deepest feelings in our interaction with Him, by being reluctant to be honest, or by being afraid and wondering what He would do if we told Him the complete truth of all we feel and have done.

But the Bible reminds us that He already knows everything about us – every action and every thought. Aware that He is both omnipresent and omniscient, we can be afraid to share with Him, or even acknowledge the facts about our heart and lives.

Remember, He loves us. He desires honesty – not to punish us, but to help us learn and grow. He wants us to mature in our relationship with Him. We need to recognize when we have sinned, so we might be forgiven and free. We can be confident that He wants the best for us, and we really can trust Him.

Others may reject or mock us, spread rumors about us, violate our confidences, take advantage of us, or prove themselves not trustworthy.

But we can trust in God. Share your intimate thoughts, concerns, worries, and questions. Trust in Him.

Thank God For Good Teachers

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Grandparenting Greatness

“Grandparents, like heroes, are as necessary to a child’s growth as vitamins.” Joyce Allston

As a little girl, I remember my grandma being around a lot. She and my grandpa owned a radiator business where she worked energetically keeping books, answering phones, managing collections and even making deliveries. She was a female force of nature in a man’s world, and she always let me “help.”

When I was a teenager, life began to get more complicated, especially when my parents divorced. Grandma always listened and sympathized. I knew she understood when no one else did.

As an adult, our relationship grew even closer. She praised me, complimented me, and cheered me on. I always felt prettier, smarter, and more capable in her presence than with anyone else. I was her favorite. Or so I thought.

In 1993 I blew out my knee in a skiing accident; and back then ACL repair was pretty difficult surgery. The day after I got out of the hospital, Grandma Mamie went in to have heart surgery. It didn’t enter my mind that she could ever really die. At my husband’s urging, I mustered my strength and went for a pre-op visit.

We prayed and held hands. She said, “No matter how this turns out it will be OK because I’ll either feel better on earth or a lot better in heaven … and God will take care of both of us.” She felt a lot better … with Jesus the next day. I did not. But I clung to her words, knowing that she wanted me to rely on the Lord for comfort.

I am now a grandma to three toddlers and feel richly blessed to have had my grandmothers as well as my mother and step-mom to model this role for me so beautifully.

I am a rookie, so won’t offer personal advice but according to some of the wisest grandmas I know (including my mother-in-law) these are the things Godly grandparents do:

  • Pray for them to continually be immersed in the knowledge and love of God at an early age and even to finding mates of God’s choosing.
  • Perceive and reflect their worth and affirm God’s calling on their lives.
  • Listen to them any time they want to talk.
  • Gently offer wise counsel to encourage them in their faith and character development.
  • Love them unconditionally … don’t be afraid that you’ll “spoil” them.
  • Be creative, fun, and affectionate.
  • Respect their parents and never undermine their authority.

Proverbs 17:6 says that,

“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged…”

No wise person would ever neglect their “crown” or what they value most. Being a God-honoring grandparent is a huge job and when you get it, you’re the one who can do it best. It is, however, your decision.

If you are fortunate enough to have a grandparent still living, take advantage of what they have to offer. Share your heart, ask their advice, and listen to their stories filled with a wealth of experiences. Appreciate their humor, affection, and wisdom. Tell them what they mean to you and how they’ve influenced your life.

“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life…” says Proverbs 10:11.

My grandmother spoke encouraging words of life, love, and comfort. I know her secret was that she made each of her grandkids believe they were her favorite. What an auspicious legacy to carry on, possibly even with children who have no one to call Grandma or Grandpa.

 

Walking the Floodwall

By: Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.org

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” – Luke 2:52 

I have a confession to make; last Sunday I skipped church. I actually had a very good excuse: I wanted to spend more time with God. I know that sounds pretty strange, and I’m certainly not saying Christians should start ditching on Sundays, but that morning as I was getting ready to leave I couldn’t help feeling (much to my surprise) that the Holy Spirit didn’t want me to go to Church that day.

So instead, I stayed home and started reading the Bible. I’d only planned on reading two chapters that morning, but I ended up reading eight. Occasionally I’d re-read passages to let the words sink in or underline verses that stood out to me. After I’d finished, I went outside and started walking. There’s a floodwall near my apartment that acts as a kind of jogging trail, and as I made my way across it, I talked with God.

I just started praying, telling God about the things going on in my life. My worries, my hopes, what I was grateful for, I let it all pour out as I made my way to the end of the trail. To be honest, it was the closest I’d been to God in a long time. Looking back on it now, I can see God has a sense of humor. Not only did I spend three hours meditating with God, (an hour and a half longer than my usual Church service) but the first chapter I read that morning was Luke 2, which contains one of Jesus own experiences with our Heavenly Father.

“After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.” – Luke 2: 43-50

Sometimes, Church can become a ritual. We go, we sing the songs, we sit through the sermon, and then forget everything once we’ve left. We allow our Sunday services to become our faith, and our time with God starts looking more like something out of a self-help seminar. But God doesn’t just want our attendance on Sundays, he wants us. I think this story in Luke to shows us what our time with God should really be like.

For Jesus, his Father’s house was a place of safety, a place where he could grow and mature, a place to listen and at the same time be heard. So the next time you go to Church, don’t go out of habit, but apply the lessons to your life, and when you sing, sing for Christ.

 

Personal Miracles

by Inspiration Ministries

“With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God.” – Acts 3:8-9 NASB

For many people, Christianity is just a religion, an option to be considered, a philosophy of life, or a set of teachings that may or may not be true.

But everything changes when we have a personal encounter with God by experiencing a supernatural work or witnessing a miracle. When we know the joy of being forgiven and born again and realize that everything in the Bible is true, we are transformed! We realize that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life! He is alive and still answers prayer.

Consider the reaction of a cripple in first-century Jerusalem. He “had been lame from his mother’s womb” (v. 2). It seemed like a hopeless situation.

Then Peter spoke to him, and instantly the man stood up and could walk. Unable to contain his joy, he entered the temple “walking and leaping and praising God.” God emerged from the pages of history and became very real.

The amazing thing is that miracles like this still take place today. We receive answers when answers seem impossible; we receive supernatural healing and wisdom from above. Our sins are forgiven, and we experience the fruit and gifts of the Spirit.

How real is God to you? Remember that He desires to have an intimate relationship with you. He is ready to be involved in your life, to answer your prayers, to provide everything you need.