Monthly Archives: November 2020

God Keeps His Promises

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‘Tis the Season!

opening-christmas-gift

 

“Merry Christmas!” says one. “Happy Holidays!” says another. “‘Tis the Season” is proclaimed and posted everywhere this time of year. But what do we really mean when we refer to this “season”?

In general, a season can be a particular time of year, such as winter, spring, summer, and fall. It can also refer to a time characterized by a particular circumstance, like in a “season of awakening.” Some may use this word to describe a suitable or natural time, like when their “season” comes. Or it could mean an indefinite period of time; for example, a person on assignment for a “season.”

However you want to look at it, we all need to be reminded of Paul’s words to Timothy:

“Be ready in season and out of season.” (2 Timothy 4:2)

Before the great flood, in the days of Noah, everyone was carrying on as usual, having a good time. All the way up to the day Noah and his family boarded the ark, the people knew nothing (and cared little) about the things which were to take place. Although Noah preached righteousness to a mocking generation, none were saved except eight souls. The flood hit and swept everything away (Matthew 24:37-392 Peter 2:5).

The arrival of Jesus will be like that:

“Two men will be working in the field – one will be taken, one left behind; two women will be grinding at the mill – one will be taken, one left behind. So stay awake, alert. You have no idea what day your Master will show up. But you do know this: You know that if the homeowner had known what time of night the burglar would arrive, he would have been there with his dogs to prevent the break-in. Be vigilant just like that. You have no idea when the Son of Man is going to show up.” (Matthew 24:39-44, Message)

Therefore, be ready in your season – whatever it may be.

You may be in a season you are ready to see end. Or perhaps you are in the best season of your life, hoping it will never end. While still others may be altogether oblivious to the season around them. In any case, seasons come and seasons go, but our instruction remains the same: Be ready in season and out.

Serious athletes prepare year-round for their season. If they were to wait and begin preparing at the start, not only would much time be lost but they would be at great risk of being cut or suffer the consequences of loss. Are we really much different in this game of life? We are told to “be ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1), “be ready to give a defense for the hope within you” (1 Peter 3:15), and if need be, “be ready to suffer for the sake of the Gospel” (2 Timothy 1:8).

The point is, there will be no excuse for our conduct or readiness despite our season. George Washington once said,

“Bad seed is a robbery of the worst kind: for your pocket-book not only suffers by it, but your preparations are lost and a season passes away unimproved.”

Every one of our actions is a seed. And every seed will produce in its season. We should learn from those who have preceded us. Mother Teresa is noted for saying,

“Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.”

Even out of adversity, Charles Spurgeon humbly said,

“It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary.”

“… whether the opportunity seems to be favorable or unfavorable, whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether welcome or unwelcome …”, stand by, be at hand and ready (2 Timothy 4:2, Amplified).

‘Tis the season!

God’s Reminder to Us This Christmas Season

By Debbie McDaniel, crosswalk.com

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy the will be for all the people.” Luke 2:10

Four times in the Christmas story, angels appeared at appointed times to give a message to key individuals who were a part of Jesus’ life and birth. And every time, those to whom they appeared were greatly “troubled,” “afraid,” or even “gripped with fear.” And every time the angels said these powerful words, “Do not be afraid…”

To the shepherds: “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy the will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

To Mary: “But the angel said to her, Do not be afraid Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus.” Luke 1:30-31

To Joseph: “…an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you are to give him he name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

To Zechariah: “But the angel said to him, Do not be afraid Zechariah, your prayer has been heard, Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you are to give him the name John.” Luke 1:13

Just like these in the Christmas story so many years ago, we’re often people who can easily become fearful, troubled, even gripped with fear. It’s a natural human emotion, but God never intends for us to stay stuck there. And His powerful words and message to us is still the same, for He never changes. He says, “Do not fear,” over and over in His Word, reminding us that He is with us. And He made sure it was part of the message given to each of those to whom an angel appeared to announce His Son’s birth.

“Do not be afraid.”

For perfect love casts out all fear.

Jesus came bringing peace that the world could never give.

Jesus came bringing light that the darkness could never overcome.

Jesus came bringing freedom from the barrier of sin and brought victory over death, once and for all.

The opposite of fear is not really simply “courage,” but it is peace, faith, love, the assurance that we are held by a God who is Mighty and Sovereign and Strong.

Many of you have faced deep loss this year, the hurt of losing a loved one too soon, illness, cancer, financial troubles, or job loss. Others are struggling through the pain of broken relationships. Many are fighting depression and despair, facing addictions and giants that seem too big.

Whatever you might be battling this season, I pray that you will find deep peace in Him. The One who loves you so much and says, “Do not fear…”

He is greater. Always. He came to overcome it all. And He is with us.

 

The Power of Worship Through God’s Word

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth.” John 4:24 (CSB)

With hands lifted and eyes watering, I kneel in awe of God as the music from my speakers turns my prayer closet into a place of praise.

Voices like instruments change the atmosphere around me. I’m delighted to worship, eager even, and I imagine God is pleased by the joyful noise.

Fast forward 10 minutes.

Kids are awake. Two are fighting. One believes he’s starving. And the scent spewing from the little one makes the rotten leftovers in the fridge not smell so bad after all.

Oh boy.

Have you ever had the perfect quiet time with God, and then five minutes later felt just as frustrated and discouraged as before?

That was me. I figured I must not have been as good of a Christian as I thought. Otherwise, how could I go from worshipping Jesus to being frustrated with a toddler in mere minutes? Yikes!

That wasn’t true, though. It turns out I didn’t fully understand worship.

While God loves our fervent expressions of gratitude, He also wants us to worship Him in another way. John 4:24 tells us, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth.

I understood the first part. The Holy Spirit allows us to connect with God personally. We can pray to Him quietly or praise Him while driving as if He belongs to us alone.

But what about the other part of the verse — “in Spirit and in truth”? What did Jesus mean when He spoke those words to the woman at the well? What truth?

When we look at John 14:6, we see Jesus was actually talking about Himself. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (CSB, emphasis added).

To know Jesus is to know truth. He was telling her real worship is only possible when we know Him.

To make this more practical, let’s insert His name into the key verse: “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in [Jesus].”

Interesting, but it doesn’t really make sense until we look at how John 1:14a describes Jesus, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (CSB).

Not only is Jesus truth, but He is also Word! He represents the Word of God. Putting this together, we get, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in [Word].”

This opened my eyes to see worship must involve both the Spirit of God and the Truth of God’s Word. I couldn’t just spend a few moments in passionate prayer and expect that to carry me through my day. Surely prayer has value, but when we worship through God’s Word, we’re empowered to face challenges using Scripture.

Ephesians 6:17 says it this way: “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit — which is the word of God” (CSB). Here, there’s no separation between the Spirit and the Word of God.

This means in addition to prayer and praise, I must also dive into the Bible, write down verses when they really speak to me and memorize them when I can.

Now, when I find myself in yesterday’s coffee-stained pajamas, wiping up squished blueberries and chicken nugget crumbs, I can remember, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, …” (Psalm 127:3, NIV) and to “count it all joy …” (James 1:2, ESV).

Though this isn’t an instant cure-all for bad moods, it equips me to combat tough times with God’s Word. And, most importantly, it pleases Him.

There’s a place of worship that looks like singing songs and praising God. But there’s also a place of worship that looks like Bible study and seeking God.

When we only spend time in one of those places, worship can feel tiring and ineffective. But when we combine them, as God intended, we get to experience the fullness of worship and feel our hearts more submitted to His will.

Is Jesus First In Your Life

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Jesus In First Place… Over Everything

Editor’s note: It’s the first day of Advent and the start of something new! The Jesus Over Everything by Lisa Whittle is our brand-new community Online Bible Study starting tomorrow, November 30th and you do not want to miss it! Oh, do we need this study now more than ever! I need Jesus to be my #1 in this season, to put Him in His rightful place: First. Over everything. How about you?

You’re going to love Lisa Whittle’s writing and Bible teaching… she’s funny yet convicting, real and honest! Here she is with a special Advent message for us and learn more about accessing the Jesus Over Everything free videos and downloads when you sign up here! ~ Laurie McClure, editor at Devotionals Daily (and OBS Leader!)

 

Happy Advent season to you. I want to share with you for a few minutes a message God has put on my heart.

I was talking with someone the other day and I asked her how she was, and she said to me, “the holidays are historically a difficult season for me,” and I know that’s true. The holidays are often difficult for a lot of people.

And even more so, this holiday season is tough for people I know. We’ve all been quite worn down from a difficult 2020.

But here’s what I want you to know.

It is a strategy of the enemy – who we know is real – to keep us in a state of discouragement, disarray and complication.

It says in John 10:10,

Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy.

Those are his goals.

What does he come to steal, kill and destroy? The physical body? That also may be true but maybe even more so I believe he comes to steal, kill and destroy our hope, our mental health, and our sense of peace. And, he’s tried to do that in a big way this past year, hasn’t he?

But. In that very same verse, Jesus reminds us of the solution that is found in one source — Him. In John 10:10, He says,

 I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly.

I believe He added that last part, the word “abundantly,” so we would know it isn’t just about existing. It is about a good life. A life lived in fullness, even in the midst of deep difficulty.

You may say yes, Lisa I’m on board with this idea. But I just can’t seem to get there. I understand. I’ve often said, “the struggle is real but so is the help of God.” Jesus is ready to help us. But we have to do our part. He has to be in charge of our lives. In the #1 priority spot, in order to make our lives work right. It’s the only way it can.

His arrival. The birth of Jesus thousands of years ago was for THIS moment right now. He came for 2020 and 2021.

The hope who will not disappoint. According to Romans 5:5, Jesus is OUR only hope right now and forevermore.

Friend, there is a battle going on for you right now. Satan wants to keep you hopeless. He wants to keep you unsettled and your life complicated because if you stay there, you stay ineffective for the Kingdom of God. You stay worried. You stay without meaning or peace.

Jesus fights for and with you to believe and trust – but today He’s asking to have that seat of authority in your life that He deserves. That is how you will be able to do this because the priority of Jesus brings order to the chaos of our lives. It’s a job only He is big enough to do.

That is why I so want to invite you to join me for the Jesus Over Everything study with the community here at FaithGateway. It gets started tomorrow, and it’s not too late for you to jump right in for the Advent-to-New-Year 2021 season. The study isn’t a traditional Christmas study, but it will help you get things in order to fight your anxiety and hopelessness and take your life back.

That Baby born in a manger was and is our hope. He hasn’t lost a bit of power. We just need to give the power in our lives back to Him.

As you journey through this season and into the new year, I hope you’ll remember the power of some of my favorite verses – In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. In him was life and life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. 

 Amen and amen. Jesus over everything. He is the great light of this world – our light – until the end.

As we light our candles for advent, I invite you to join me in asking Jesus to be first, be #1 in our lives. Jesus over everything.

 

Sowing Faith Seeds

grandmother and child making heart sign together with their fingers

 

And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. 2 Peter 1:15

If Wall Street measured spiritual wealth, my childhood portfolio was a bust.

Unlike many of my friends who were second, third, or even fourth generation Christians, I wasn’t reared in a spiritual home. Santa sat right next to baby Jesus on the Christmas mantle. Our church attendance was spotty. And no one ever explained how Jesus fit into my Easter basket with the chocolate eggs and jelly beans.

But as I look back on my early years, there were a few deposits in my spiritual bank account.

One day my dad sketched the story of Noah and the flood. The story and stick figure drawings fascinated me. I’d never heard the story before. I had no idea it was true, nor that it came from the Bible.

When I was six, I attended Vacation Bible School with a friend. A week later the minister and two blue-haired ladies presented me with a black King James Version Bible. On the inside someone had neatly inscribed my name and written a verse—John 3:16.

I thought of my paltry nest egg of spiritual assets when I read 2 Peter 1:12-15.

God had revealed to Peter that his death was imminent. The bold apostle had survived much persecution for his faith, but now the day of his departure was at hand. As many do when they know their lives are ending, Peter wanted to leave a legacy for his children—an inheritance to ensure their future success.

But unlike many who bequeathed houses, businesses, and land, Peter wasn’t concerned with leaving a financial legacy. He wanted to leave a spiritual legacy.

I want to leave a spiritual legacy for my children too. I want to make every effort for my children (both biological and spiritual) to remember the truths I based my life on. Whether or not we have children of our own, we should all be investing in and discipling someone younger than us. Especially young believers who didn’t grow up in a Christian home.

How do we disciple others? Here are a few ideas:

Memorize Scripture and teach it to others. When we hide God’s Word in our hearts, He promises it will always accomplish the purpose He has for it.

Personalize a One Year Bible for someone. As you read through the Bible, write notes, insights, and prayers in the margins. Claim promises in prayer for them and note the date you prayed.

When you reach the end of the Bible, present it on a special occasion (birthday, graduation, marriage) as a gift. I gave a Bible to each of my daughters on their sixteenth birthdays.

Live a life of integrity and authenticity. You don’t have to be perfect—only Jesus never sinned—but you do have to be humble and transparent. If you sin, confess it, repent of it, and ask whomever you sinned against to forgive you.

Keep a journal. Like the apostle Peter, write down meaningful Bible verses, truths you’ve learned about God, and answers to prayers. Write prayers for your loved ones, recording promises and the hope God gives you. Compose psalms of praise.

When Peter died, he left behind a legacy of Scripture, wise counsel, faith, and authenticity that has influenced countless generations. We can do the same.

 

Saying “Yes” to God

by Debbie Holloway, crosswalk.com

 

It seems like every day one hears about all kinds of troubling behavior from people who ought to know better. A family friend leaves his wife and children for his secretary. A pastor resigns from his parish after his drug addiction is discovered. A CEO is caught with his hands on company money. We see it in the news. We hear about it from friends. It invades our households. Destructive, self-centered, sin. And so often the guilty party seems completely blind to his error, or unable to fathom how he ever made such a huge mistake.

As a recent member of what most would consider the “adult” world, I have often pondered how seemingly well-adjusted, often God-fearing members of society can justify such actions in their minds. In fact, in my more panicky moments, I have had a fear of suddenly lapsing into some dreaded sin myself – like these perfectly capable people I see all around me.

After all, does my righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees? How can I claim to have more wisdom than my parents or my pastor? Do I know more about the world than my professors? Could I possibly have a better understanding of morals and truth than my government leaders? If I watch them stumble into seemingly obvious moral blunders, how could I possibly escape the same fate?

After recently confiding this dread to a loved one, I was reminded that drastic sin or extreme lifestyle choices don’t just appear out of nowhere. Adultery doesn’t just happen. Divorce doesn’t just happen. Heartless slander and libel don’t just happen. Sin must begin as a small seed, creep in, take root, and grow. We can choose to feed it …or starve it.

The hard part is that often our sin nature is just as appealing as the prompting of Holy Spirit. Far too often we know right away what the godly course of action would be. Humility. Purity. Hard work. Compassion. Faithfulness. But we still get tired, exasperated, lustful, and proud. So we start making decisions which violate our consciences. Tiny decisions that seem meaningless. But those tiny choices grow and grow. Eventually, our life becomes a messy sin explosion and we cry out, “Where did I lose control?”

The comforting part is that it’s a process. I won’t wake up one morning and all of a sudden think it’s totally OK to steal someone’s car or send nasty, gossipy emails about people I don’t like. 1 John 1:7 says that,

“If we walk in the light, as [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

If I say “yes” to God when he shows me how I can remain faithful to him in my lifestyle, in the little things, that will strengthen me to say “no” to life-wrecking choices.

Love God In Good and Bad Times

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Thanksgiving: For Richer or Poorer

By Shawn McEvoy, crosswalk.com

“Christians who are poor should be glad, for God has honored them.” – James 1:9

The rich eat ham,
The poor eat tuna.
Doesn’t take as long to cook,
So we eat soona.
–Jay Henze

The words of that heretofore unknown poem were uttered by my lifelong best friend sometime around our senior year of high school. He conjured it out of thin air while I was spending the night at his house. It was the result of one of those “I’m so tired I’m laughing at anything” sessions you’d often experience with close friends around midnight.

It was also the result of Jay’s enduring awareness of the socio-economic differences between himself and many of his friends, like me, from the affluent north side of town. So whenever I think of ham, tuna, or Jay, I often think of richness and poorness as well.

Recently, thanks to a fantastic tour around the Missionary Learning Center, I was thinking about missions and outreach. It struck me as interesting that whenever a mission of mercy or evangelism is commissioned, it tends to be to an area where there is a high concentration of poverty, whether it’s to India, Mexico, or inner-city Philadelphia. Well, yes, as it should be.

After all, Christ commanded us, if we loved Him, to tend to His lambs (John 21:15-17). James 2:15-16 admonishes us not to ignore those in need of food or clothing. Paul and the Apostles started churches among those who were poor (Acts 9:3610:4). Poverty was crippling in the time of Christ and so it continues to be now. The very fact that Jay had a roof over his head and the fish he despised came in a can rather than him having to catch it made him one of the wealthiest persons on the planet. So the holidays are certainly a time to think about – nay, physically assist – those less fortunate than ourselves (2 Corinthians 9:9).

Then again, are we missing something?

Consider James 1:9 – “Christians who are poor should be glad, for God has honored them.” There are lots of ways to be poor, and Jesus told us they brought about blessing in the long run (Matthew 5:3-12). Those poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of heaven. Those mourning loved ones will be comforted. Those who make peace rather than seeking their own profit will be called sons of God, Who chose the poor of this world to be rich in faith (James 2:5). 2 Corinthians 6:10 states: “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”

And what about the rich?

That’s the hard part, literally. Jesus said it’s very difficult for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of heaven. Those who love their life too much find it hard to lose it. James reminds us it’s the rich who “oppress us and drag us into court, blaspheming the fair name by which we’ve been called (James 2:6-7).” The word “miserable” has at its root the word “miser.” The love of money isn’t just the source of evil, but also of depression and dissatisfaction.

So… doesn’t that mean that the rich have just as many spiritual needs, if not more, than the poor? Who will go to them? Who will train them in the joy of giving their money away and not living by comparison to others? What mission trips are planned?

I contend that untold legions of us are making such a trip this very month, back home to our families and friends, where a big ham might fill the center of the table, people will put on their fineries, and a lot of the talk will focus on the daily drudgeries of keeping our precious lives in working order to cover up the hole that’s getting bigger in the soul.

We might spend a few minutes at the table saying how we’re thankful we’re not like others, or that we have our health, or that our family is with us – before we stuff ourselves, stare blankly at the Dallas Cowboys or Detroit Lions to avoid looking at each other, or fall asleep. Of course, you probably know someone for whom Thanksgiving is an unwelcome chore, a painful experience of dodging rejection, annoyance, questions of future or romance, and Uncle Jimbo.

Or, if you’re truly rich, as I am for marrying into a godly family, there will be genuine thanks, true giving, heartfelt prayers, and corporate worship.

Whatever the case in your gathering, let me encourage you to take the love of Christ with you and accept the difficult challenge of bringing it to the wealthy this Thanksgiving. Jesus said a camel fitting through a needle’s-eye was difficult, not impossible (thank goodness for most of us).

What if the Person I’m Struggling To Forgive Is Me?

LYSA TERKEURST, author, crosswalk.com

 

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” Psalm 32:5 (NIV)

Do you ever feel like the hardest person to forgive is actually yourself?

I understand this. Deeply. I so wish we were sitting together having a conversation right now instead of you just reading these words on a screen.

When I was in my early 20s, I made a decision I wished with everything in me I could go back and change. I had an abortion. Knowing nothing could be done to reverse the decision I had made filled me with the deepest grief I’d ever known. Then every time something made me think of the baby, I was so horrified by the lie I’d been sold that this was just cells dividing … and not life that began at conception.

And then every time I would hear others talking harshly about abortion, I was filled with shame. It felt like a life sentence I would never be healed from.

I would say, “I can’t forgive myself.” What I meant was, “I don’t think forgiveness is possible for a person like me. And I don’t think I’ll ever be free from the shame of what I’ve done.”

Maybe this is where you are right now — struggling to overcome feelings of shame and regret from choices you wish you could go back and change.

That’s why it feels so important to share what I’ve learned with you. When I researched the concept of forgiving ourselves, I was a little shocked to discover it’s not in the Bible. I started to realize, just like we can’t accomplish salvation apart from God, we can’t bestow upon ourselves forgiveness. Forgiveness starts with God.

Since we are not the judge, we can’t pardon ourselves. So, when we feel like we are struggling with forgiveness for ourselves, what’s really happening is a struggle to fully receive the forgiveness of God.

Jesus gave His very life to provide forgiveness for our sins, which isn’t just a part of the Christian faith … forgiveness is the very cornerstone of the Christian faith. Forgiveness for our sins isn’t just a hope we have; it is the greatest reality for all who choose to receive salvation through accepting Jesus as the Lord of their lives.

Often what keeps us from walking as forgiven people is the struggle with feelings of shame and regret. These are very heavy burdens to bear. In my own life, I’ve carried many burdens. But the weight of shame is by far the heaviest I’ve ever known.

It’s a burden God doesn’t want any of us carrying. And I’m so thankful for these three things that eventually helped me fully receive His forgiveness and get out from underneath shame’s condemning weight:

1.I needed to have a marked moment confessing, repenting and asking God for forgiveness.

Psalm 32:5 reads, “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” I couldn’t do this by myself, because I wanted someone, a witness, who could forever remind me I had asked for God’s forgiveness and was, therefore, forgiven. I also verbalized out loud that I received God’s forgiveness, so I could have a definite memory of me acknowledging His gift of mercy.

2. I had to remember that shame and accusation come from the enemy.

Satan will do everything possible to try and keep us from sharing a testimony of the forgiveness and redemption of Jesus. And the enemy loves to hold people hostage to shame by keeping what they did hidden in the darkness. I was terrified to tell people what I’d done. But I did tell God I would share my story if ever there was a young girl in danger of making the same uninformed decision as I did. When I eventually let God use my painful choice for good, I started to see glimpses of redemption. Seeing God take what the enemy meant for such evil and use it for good didn’t take away my grief, but it did start to heal my shame.

3. I let my experience make my heart tender.

Knowing what it feels like to make a terrible mistake has given me more compassion when others make terrible mistakes. This isn’t excusing behavior we shouldn’t do in the name of compassion. But at the same time, having an attitude of compassion helps us to not shame others. I don’t ever want another human to carry the awful weight of shame, and I probably would not be as sensitive to others as I am now if I hadn’t ever carried that weight myself.

Shame and condemnation aren’t from God. Confess what you’ve done. Ask for God’s forgiveness. Receive His forgiveness. And then walk in His freedom. You can live the greatest testimony of truth there is … redemption.

 

Throw Your Cares On The Lord

From: Adevotion.org

1 PETER 5:6-7 NET 6 And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand 7 by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you.

Worry is associated with pride, as these verses reveal, for being humble is the opposite of pride. And pride will, sooner or later, cause you to fail, instead of lifting you up.

A person who worries is proud because their action shows they think they are better and more compassionate than God. When you analyze it, the thinking behind worry is really “God is not doing a good enough job taking care of me, so I better take over and figure something out on my own.”

Pride makes us think we can handle things on our own — apart from God. Jesus said that without Him we can do nothing — at least nothing that amounts to anything. (We certainly can mess up all by ourselves.)

One way to humble ourselves is to just put our lives in God’s hands and trust Him. It’s like getting in a car someone else is driving. You don’t want to get in the car of a stranger who may be untrustworthy. But God loves you more than you love yourself and desires the best for you, so you can trust Him.

God knows how to drive and what is needed to get you where you need to go. Since He loves you enough to die for you, surely you can trust Him with smaller issues.

The word “casting” in 1 Peter 5:7 means “to throw.”

Whatever is a burden to you, is troubling you, weighing you down, causing you concern, or tempting you to worry is included in what you are to throw over on the Lord. God wants us to throw all those things over on Him, trusting Him to work it all out for the best.

Then once you really throw them over to Him, you’ll have peace in your heart even though the problems still exist, because you know the Lord is working.

Throwing something is not the same as pushing it aside a little bit. Throwing something pictures getting rid of it completely. When you throw something you don’t have it anymore.

Instead of throwing the concern of the things they face over to God, many just try to push them away a little at a time. They ask God to help them, but they keep trying to solve things on their own.

Yes, we have a part to play, and we can’t just lock ourselves in a room and expect God to go out and live our lives for us. But the part we have to play is obedience. When God directs us to do something we are to do it. But worrying ahead of time about what will happen does no good.

You may find it helpful to perform a symbolic physical act like writing all your “cares” on a paper that you then throw into the trash. Symbolizing your faith by an act like this may make it more real to you

Worship The Lord Your God

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God’s Favorite Christmas

happy girl opening christmas present

 

Who doesn’t love Christmas and the memories it brings? As you think of your favorite Christmas, what makes it memorable for you? Was it where you spent it, who you spent it with, or the gift you received? Maybe it was unforgettable because of the gift you gave to someone special.

My favorite Christmas was the time I put my name on every gift under the tree. I have a large family with five sisters plus my mom and dad. My aunt and uncle came over Christmas Eve to stay the night with us. While everyone was busy preparing for Christmas Day, I sat on the floor by the Christmas tree with wrapping paper, scissors and a pen, making new gift tags with my name on each one. I added those to every gift under the tree. The next morning, while my uncle handed out the gifts, the pile in front of me grew larger and larger as I got most of them. The expressions on everyone’s faces were priceless. My mom knew something was not right and as she looked around the room, her eyes stopped on me. I confessed my deed, and she gave the packages, unopened, to their rightful owners. We all laughed and my family still reminds me of that Christmas. It is a fun memory for us all.

Have you ever thought about God’s favorite Christmas? Which parts do you think He most fondly remembers?

God created us to have fellowship with Him. But, sin penetrated His perfect world and separated us from Him. We could no longer experience life with God, only death without Him. Alone. Heaven must have been lonely with only the Godhead and a mere myriad of angels, and not one human being in sight. He wanted us to live with Him in His home.

God knew the Way to make that happen.

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

The Father entrusted a young girl with His only Son—a human carrying deity. She wasn’t the richest or the most experienced or even married. But, Mary loved God, and she was the perfect mother for His Son. Even knowing His Son’s life would be threatened before He was two; God sent Jesus to be born in a dirty cave and laid in a manger of straw in the company of sheep and shepherds. Imagine how proud He must have been on that day and how bittersweet it was when Heaven became even lonelier.

God watched as the angels rejoiced at His perfect plan. Their instructions were to proclaim the good news to the lonesome shepherds in a field guarding their sheep that night. God didn’t tell the wealthy or the well-known. Instead, He sent His angels to the shepherds, the ones who protected their sheep and looked for the lost lamb. They would understand His King. How the Father must have loved the expression on their faces when His angels ignited the dark sky! I imagine His eagerness for them to behold His Gift.

God looked forward to the day His Son returned Home ushering men, women and children to live with Him forever. Yet, how grievous the sting God felt knowing what Jesus must endure so we could be welcomed into Heaven.

God put His name on His present, too—Immanuel, God with us. All He wants is for us to accept His gift. Don’t leave this precious One unopened. God’s favorite Christmas is the most unforgettable because of Who He gave us.

Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15 ESV)

 

What Are You Thankful For?

by Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.com

“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” – Psalms 69:30

A while back, there was an episode of The Simpsons in which the family is celebrating Thanksgiving. When the time came to say grace, Bart Simpson bowed his head and said,

“Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.”

The first time I saw this clip on TV I remember feeling a mix of emotions. On one hand, I was angry that such cynicism was being shown toward God and a day celebrating thankfulness. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but relate to Bart a little. I was at a time in my life when everything seemed out of control. I had no money, my life felt like it was stuck in neutral, and my future was looking pretty bleak. Why should I be thanking God for anything?

If you’ve ever been in my situation, I want to point you toward a passage of scripture that helped me put things in perspective,

“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’”  – Luke 17:11-19

It’s easy to spend our lives worrying and obsessing over the problems of life. It’s also easy to overlook a blessing in times of need, or forget to be thankful when troubled times have been put to rest. Be sure you don’t become one of the nine lepers, who were so happy to be cured that they forgot who cured them. This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to spend time remembering what God has done in your life.

 

Streams in the Desert 

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

For with God nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37).

Far up in the Alpine hollows, year by year God works one of His marvels. The snow-patches lie there, frozen with ice at their edge from the strife of sunny days and frosty nights; and through that ice-crust come, unscathed, flowers that bloom.

Back in the days of the by-gone summer, the little soldanelle plant spread its leaves wide and flat on the ground, to drink in the sun-rays, and it kept them stored in the root through the winter. Then spring came, and stirred the pulses even below the snow-shroud, and as it sprouted, warmth was given out in such strange measure that it thawed a little dome in the snow above its head.

Higher and higher it grew and always above it rose the bell of air, till the flower-bud formed safely within it: and at last the icy covering of the air-bell gave way and let the blossom through into the sunshine, the crystalline texture of its mauve petals sparkling like snow itself as if it bore the traces of the flight through which it had come.

And the fragile thing rings an echo in our hearts that none of the jewel-like flowers nestled in the warm turf on the slopes below could waken. We love to see the impossible done. And so does God.

Face it out to the end, cast away every shadow of hope on the human side as an absolute hindrance to the Divine, heap up all the difficulties together recklessly, and pile as many more on as you can find; you cannot get beyond the blessed climax of impossibility. Let faith swing out to Him. He is the God of the impossible.
Selected

Hope

by Inspiration Ministries

“You are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault … Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News … This is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.” – Colossians 1:22-23, 27 NLT

In many ways, hope seems like a very human concept. Some theological concepts can seem complex and hard to grasp. But we all can understand hope.

When we face discouraging circumstances, we still can have hope. When we find it hard to believe, we still can hope. When our faith seems distant, we still can have hope. Just as we all can experience various problems, we all can have hope – the young or old, rich or poor. As Paul said, “We were given this hope when we were saved” (Romans 8:24).

But Paul told the Colossians that the hope he discussed was a mystery: Christ in us. He is among us. Inspired, encouraged by hope, we can “continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it” (v. 23). We may face challenges but still know that, in God’s sight, we are “holy and blameless.”

We may be weak and make mistakes. We may not experience instant, overwhelming success. But we still can have hope. We can trust in Jesus and hope in the future that He described. We can hope in the promises in His Word.

Do you have reasons to be afraid? Worried? Uncertain? Discouraged? These are times to place your hope in the Lord. Hang on to your hope, even when the world around you may think there is no hope. Remember that Jesus is with you – right now.

Happy Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving Benefits

 

It’s the time of year that we think about Thanksgiving, with turkey, dressing, and all the trimmings. On good days, we might even remember to take time to give thanks. After all, we have much to be thankful for. Besides, God said,

“It is good to give thanks to the LORD And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High” (Psalm 92:1 NASB).

I’m grateful for a season where we are reminded to give thanks and praises to our God. It’s good to have an annual reminder because it’s easy to become lax and take our blessings for granted. In addition, too often trials in life steal our gratefulness. It’s good to be reminded.

I recently had a trial that taught me benefits of being grateful. In the midst of a struggle, I found myself on edge and easily angered for weeks.

The problem started when I got a new computer. I had more than my share of frustrations dealing with the new system. Stress was heightened because I was trying to finish a book and standardize its layout.

Every day I encountered several challenges and spent half my time trying to solve computer problems rather than accomplishing my goal. The days of aggravation turned to weeks, and I became more and more frustrated.

One day, I was ready to throw the thing out the window, when a quiet inner voice said, “You’re not very grateful for your computer, are you?”

I thought, “Of course I’m grateful. I work on the computer all the time. I’ll take a computer over a typewriter any day. I’m glad I can delete, copy and paste, and move things around. Besides, my old computer was dying. I’m grateful I could get a new one.”

“Grateful?” echoed the little voice.

“Well, I’m grateful when it acts like I want it to … sometimes I’m grateful.”

I finally relented. I wasn’t grateful. Indeed, I was ready to throw my computer out the window.

The more I thought about how my computer facilitates communication and how much I rely on it, the more grateful I was. As I became grateful, frustration and turmoil were replaced with calm.

It didn’t solve my problems. I continued to have issues where my new computer didn’t work like I expected. I still had to learn the new system. But the change was like night and day.

When I was grateful instead of angry, my insides didn’t go into knots when I ran into challenges. My mind didn’t freeze and my emotions didn’t flare. Instead, I was able to look at the problem calmly and find a solution. Because of the change in me, it seemed that my computer quit giving me problems.

The trouble was in my heart. When I got my heart straightened out, my brain and emotions didn’t short-circuit with anger. Consequently, I was able to work through challenges in much shorter time.

My frustration with my new computer was minor compared to many problems we all face. However, God tells us,

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASB).

Whatever we face, when we give God thanks in the midst of the problem, it aligns our hearts with His. In addition, it opens our hearts so we can receive His grace to walk through it.

“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15 NASB).

When it is hardest to give thanks, it is probably the time we most need to give it.

Have a blessed Thanks-giving.

 

How to Have a Thankful Heart Through Difficult Times

by Veronica Neffinger, crosswalk.com

For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:15-16)

Colorful, feather-shaped pieces of construction paper sit on the kitchen table, along with cut-outs of turkey-shaped bodies and body parts–beak, feet, etc. My mother brings over the magic markers and we are ready to begin making our yearly Thanksgiving turkeys.

This was a tradition my mother started when I was very young, and we participated every year that I remember until I left for college. We would assemble our turkeys and then write one thing we were thankful for on each feather.

Looking back, I remember it being so simple, especially in the early years: family, friends, pets, God, food, a warm house. In high school things became a bit more theological, but yet they still flowed fairly easily off my pen: salvation, God’s mercy, spiritual mentors.

Holiday traditions like these are fun. They build memories and focus on the blessings of life; but sometimes, especially as adults, it is harder to easily list what we are thankful for. Either it seems too cliche, or we can find it difficult to be sincere about our thankfulness when perhaps times are very hard.

My Thanksgivings after high school have been much less carefree. Adult thoughts of school, jobs, finances, and traveling can weigh heavy on us even as we attempt to drum up feelings of thankfulness on its namesake holiday.

Crosswalk.com contributor Debra Fileta shares her story of recognizing that Thanksgiving is about more than merely lisiting your blessings. “What if being thankful meant surrendering our struggles, too?” she asks.

“I am proclaiming right now that in times of suffering, a heart of gratitude means more than just saying ‘thank you,’” Fileta says. It means believing that God is who he says he is. Believing that he is good, that he is love, and that he is for me. Believing that he never changes, that he never fails, and that he is working all things for what is good.”

God understands that thankfulness is not always (or usually) a gut-reaction for us. Even Jesus struggled to thankfully accept God’s Plan of salvation while He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, preparing to go through the agony of the cross.

“‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him,” Luke 22:42-42 records.

This passage tells us two things:

First, there is value in going through the motions even if the feelings aren’t there. Choosing to thank God even if you don’t feel like it and are actually more stressed than thankful can be an important first step in having your heart opened to true gratitude.

Secondly, the passage says angels ministered to Christ and helped strengthen Him for what he was about to undergo. We have someone even better than God’s entire host of angels to aid us–Jesus Himself.

Though life may bring us trials, we are not alone. And though offering up thanksgiving in the midst of those trials may be a sacrifice, it is a rewarding one.

“When I look at those pieces of my life that look overwhelmingly difficult or disappointing and can thank God for whatever good He plans to bring out of them, I am offering a sacrifice of praise,” says Crosswalk.com conributor April Motl. “When I can entrust what looks like something that is broken beyond repair to my heavenly Father’s goodness and love, I am offering a sacrifice of praise.”

This world and the life we live in it is often a thankfulness-stealer. But in Christ, we know that we can “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) because the trials and hard times are not a test, but another reason to trust God who is working all for our good and has already given us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

 

Thanksgiving’s Sacrifice

by Inspiration Ministries

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving … He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.” – Psalm 50:14, 23 NASB

The Bible reminds us of why it is important to be thankful. A spirit of thankfulness changes our attitude toward everything. It demonstrates that we recognize all God has done for us. We are thankful for how He has transformed our lives. We are thankful for His Word and His Spirit. We are thankful for salvation and eternal life. We are thankful for the joy of knowing Him and His peace.

If we want to be victorious, we need to be thankful in all circumstances. Thankfulness is an important way we honor and praise Him. This shows that we don’t take Him for granted, and we appreciate all He has done. When we offer thanks, we prepare our hearts to receive more blessings.

The sacrifices of thanksgiving are even more meaningful. These acts cost us something. Because they are sacrifices, it means that we have other options. We could focus on our pleasures and ourselves. Instead, we choose to give up something to honor God. This kind of sacrifice shows that we value Him and place Him first in our lives.

Think of all the reasons for being thankful to God. Allow your heart to be filled with thanks. Thank Him with your voice. Be willing to offer sacrifices to Him. Do something that costs you something. Do it joyfully. Willingly. And demonstrate your thankfulness by dedicating your time, talents, and treasures to Him.

 

Encouragement for Today

Kay W. Camenisch, author, crosswalk.com

“When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will
that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!’” John 21:21-22 (ESV)

“I can’t wait to get a gumball! And I promise, mom, I’m going to be happy with whatever color I get!”

My daughter’s big, blue eyes sparkled as we headed into our favorite pizza restaurant — one with a gigantic, old-school gumball machine. Try as they might, my children were unsuccessful in controlling what color that bright-red machine spit out, which regularly led to epic meltdowns.

But on this day, I was pleasantly surprised by my daughter’s resolve to avoid such a meltdown and gratefully accept whatever color she got. And, when a shiny blue treat wound its way down, she did indeed happily accept it and start chomping away.

All was calm … until her little sister’s quarter produced the prized and highly coveted reward among little girls: a glistening, pink gumball.

Cue the water works. As my youngest danced with glee, her big sister wailed like her heart might break in two: “But I wanted piiiiiink!”

I spent the next 30 minutes consoling her while also concealing the frustration I felt. Wasn’t it just a gumball? But on the quiet ride home, the Lord spoke deeply to my heart: When it comes down to it, you’re really no different.

For isn’t this just like us? We’re content and grateful … until we start looking around. We give thanks for what we have … until we scroll social media and see what others have. Suddenly, our “gumball” doesn’t look so appealing.

Comparison begins its ugly churn inside our hearts. We start thinking life would be a whole lot better if only we had her job, marriage, children, house, looks, etc. Before we know it, we too are wailing about what someone else has.

The Gospel of John records a similar situation among Jesus’ disciples. In Chapter 21, we see Jesus reinstate Peter by granting him a fresh commission after he’d tragically denied his Savior.

The bad news was this commission came with a less-than-desirable ending: While Peter would have an incredible, decades-long ministry, he would ultimately follow in his Savior’s footsteps and experience death on a cross.

In our key verse, we see Peter comparing his lot to those around him. Even though Peter had been given the steadfast love and forgiveness of his Savior and the promise of a fruitful ministry, he honed in on the fate of John, the “beloved” disciple:

“When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!’” (John 21:21-22).

Ouch. In His gentle yet unwavering way, Jesus directed Peter’s gaze and gratitude back to Himself. He gave Peter the reminder we desperately need, too: God’s job is being God. Our job is faithfully following Him on the path before us — bumps and all.

When we, like Peter, take our eyes off Jesus and focus on the gifts we see others receiving, we fall smack into the enemy’s trap. Like my young daughter, we lose sight of the good and gracious gifts God has given us. Instead, we begin believing the lie that everyone else has it better.

Dear one, God is unflinchingly good to each and every one of His children. He is not unjust, unkind or prone to favoritism. We must let Him be God while we simply follow after Him with a grateful, trusting heart.

The difficult but liberating truth is it’s irrelevant what color “gumball” someone else has. Keeping our gratitude vertical sets us on a path of peace and contentment.

Today, let’s fix our gaze on our loving, generous Father and lift up praise for all He has done. Let’s cling to the truth that, “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145:9, NIV).

There is so much to be grateful for if we have eyes to see it.

Everything Is A Gift

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Everything Is a Gift

 

I watched a film recently that began with the quote: “Everything is a gift from the universe.” Non-believers can grasp at straws when it comes to acknowledging higher powers, but as Christians, we know God through a relationship with Jesus Christ. So when that quote was lingering in my mind long after the movie was over, I got to thinking about God as the ultimate gift-giver and how different those gifts look when we know what they are and where they came from.

We commonly think of gifts when it comes to birthdays and special occasions. If we were to make a list, it might include the car in the driveway with the giant red bow on it, the diamond tennis bracelet, or even a greeting card full of cash. Who doesn’t like a tangible display of affection, especially if it was a little expensive? I can tell you one person who doesn’t … a small Southern woman I happen to know and love.

My mother was the first one who got me out of thinking like a material girl every time a gift-giving holiday came around. For her birthday, she would write a short wish list. One item on her list was volunteering to make dinner. Another was giving her a hug every morning before we left for school. It was the simple things that she treasured and it taught us the things with the greatest value are often without a price tag.

When you think along those lines, the idea of God being the giver of gifts isn’t too far-fetched. And it goes beyond the big-ticket items of life like getting married or having children. If you count the small things, you are surrounded by presents every day.

One day, from morning until night, I’d like you to count your blessings. Carry around a little notepad and write them all down. For example, today, I woke up gently without an alarm in my warm, fluffy Queen-sized bed. That’s one. My breakfast of almond crepes with lemon curd turned out perfectly tasty. That’s one. A wise, wonderful friend came over for coffee later on in the morning. That’s three blessings in the first hour and I hadn’t even left the house yet.

You see where I’m going with this? If you note every moment of happiness placed in your life, you’ll see that you unwittingly unwrap hundreds of gifts throughout your day.

King Solomon understood rejoicing in the little things. Sure, he had a vast kingdom with more toys to play with than anyone could enjoy in two lifetimes; however, he was quick to note that it was all “vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). If anything, he found joy in much of what anyone can indulge.

“So I think we should get as much out of life as we possibly can. There is nothing better than to enjoy our food and drink and to have a good time.” (Ecclesiastes 8:15a, CEV)

“Be happy and enjoy eating and drinking! God decided long ago that this is what you should do. Dress up, comb your hair, and look your best. Life is short, and you love your wife, so enjoy being with her. This is what you are supposed to do as you struggle through life on this earth.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9, CEV)

Part of the fall of man is a predisposition to focus on the negative, and let’s be real, there’s plenty of that to go around. One bad minute can ruin your whole day. But what would it look like if we collected all the good and see how it outweighs the bad? Just the little things. If you need inspiration, think of the character, Maria, from The Sound of Music. When trying to cheer up the frightened von Trapp children during a storm, she sings about her favorite things that include raindrops on roses and warm woolen mittens. It’s cheesy as musicals are supposed to be, but the point of the song is finding joy in simplicity.

Everything is a gift from God, and knowing that He loves us this much leads us to nothing less than gratitude and deep devotion.

 

Why Being Thankful Is a Powerful Way to Live Free

By Debbie McDaniel, crosswalk.com

The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.” Psalms 28:7

We have so much to be grateful for in this life, every single day. But reality is that sometimes constant life demands, battles, and worries give more room to defeat than to a heart of thanks. Or we forget, in the midst of busyness and pressures, just to pause and give thanks for all that God has done and continues to do in our lives.

Sometimes it really is a sacrifice to offer praise and thanks. We may not feel like it. We’re struggling. We’re weary. Or maybe, we feel like He let us down. We think God seems distant, like he’s far away, or doesn’t really care about what’s troubling us. Painful life blows and losses might have recently sent us spiraling.

But here’s what can make a lasting difference. We have a choice, every day, to give him thanks. And with a heart of thanksgiving, we realize that no matter what we face, God doesn’t just work to change our situations and help us through our problems. He does more. He changes our hearts. His power, through hearts of gratitude and focused minds on Him, releases the grip our struggles have over us. We’re strengthened by His peace, refueled by His joy.

No matter what our current situation, or the struggles we may be facing, here’s what choosing to be thankful does:

  • It gets our eyes off ourselves, and helps us to focus back on God.
  • It reminds us we’re not in control, but that we serve a Mighty God who is. It keeps us in a place of humility and dependency on Him, as we recognize how much we need Him.
  • It helps us to recognize we have so much to be thankful for, even all the little things, which often we may forget to thank Him for. It takes our attention off our problems and helps us instead to reflect on the goodness of His many blessings.
  • It reminds us that God is the Giver of all good gifts. We were never intended to be fully self-sufficient in this life. A grateful heart reminds us that ultimately God is our Provider, that all blessings and gifts are graciously given to us by His hand.

Here are just a few more truths to remember about thankfulness:

  • A heart of gratitude leaves no room for complaining. For it is impossible to be truly thankful and filled with negativity and ungratefulness at the same time.
  • It makes the enemy flee. The forces of darkness can’t stand to be around hearts that give thanks and honor to God. Our praise and thanksgiving will make them flee.
  • It opens the door for continued blessings. It invites His presence. God loves to give good gifts to His children. He delights in our thankfulness and pours out His Spirit and favor over those who give honor and gratitude to Him.

    Assimilation

    by Inspiration Ministries

    “The king ordered Ashpenaz … to bring in some of the sons of Israel … He ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.” – Daniel 1:3-4 NASB

    From our perspective, Babylon might look like a massive, united, national machine. But history reminds us that nothing was stable for the people in that region. Tribes continually competed for dominance. Change could take place swiftly. We see that after the death of Nebuchadnezzar as control shifted to Belshazzar and then Darius and Cyrus, and a new tribe became dominant.

    Aware of this reality, men like Nebuchadnezzar never took control for granted. We see this concern in their attitude toward Daniel and other Jews.

    The Babylonian rulers wanted these men to be assimilated into their culture and to be loyal. As a result, many young Jews were trained with the goal of getting them to act and think not like Jews but Babylonians and Chaldeans.

    We see this concern in the reaction to the image of gold set up by Nebuchadnezzar, as everyone was told to “fall down and worship” the king (Daniel 3:5). When Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego would not bow down, Nebuchadnezzar reacted with rage. Yet ultimately, these men were allowed to retain their faith.

    The challenge for us is to realize that we, too, can feel forced to assimilate and be pressured to think like everyone else. We feel compelled to lay aside our beliefs and faith in God. Like Daniel and his young friends, we need to have the boldness to stand for what we believe and retain our relationship with God.

    Preaching! Man’s privilege and God’s power!

    By: Charles Spurgeon

    “For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.” Mark 6:20.

    Suggested Further Reading: James 1:19-25.

    If you would hear the word to profit, you must hear it obediently. You must hear it as James and John did, when the master said “Follow me,” and they left their nets and their boats and they followed him. You must do the word as well as hear it, yielding up your hearts to its sway, being willing to walk in the road which it maps, to follow the path which it lays before you. Hearing it obediently, you must also hear it personally for yourselves, not for others, but for yourselves alone. You must be as Zaccheus, who was in the sycamore tree, and the Master said, “Zaccheus, make haste and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.” The word will never bless you till it comes home directly to yourself. You must be as Mary, who when the Master spoke to her she did not know his voice, till he said unto her, “Mary”, and she said, “Rabboni.” There must be an individual hearing of the truth, and a reception of it for yourself in your own heart. Then, too, you must hear the truth penitently. You must be as that Mary, who when she listened to the word, must needs go and wash the feet of Jesus with her tears, and wipe them with the hairs of her head. There must be tears for your many sins, a true confession of your guilt before God. But above all you must hear it believingly. The word must not be unto you as mere sound, but as matter of fact. You must be as Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened; or as the trembling gaoler, who believed on the Lord Jesus with all his house and was baptized immediately. You must be as the thief, who could pray, “Lord, remember me,” and who could believe the precious promise given, “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”

    For meditation: To want to hear the preaching of God’s Word and to enjoy hearing it are good things as far as they go, but by themselves they do not go far enough (Ezekiel 33:30-32).

Fools For Christ

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Fools for Christ

By Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.com

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. – 1 Corinthians 1:27

I was leaving the grocery store and had just started my car, when I was approached by a man pushing a stroller. I assumed he was going to ask for directions, but it turned out that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

“Hey man, I really need some help. My daughter and I just got evicted from our apartment.” He proceeded to rattle off his story as I listened uncomfortably. He had contacted Social Services but they wouldn’t be able to help him until tomorrow. His wife had left when things got tough. He was afraid of losing his daughter. He’d found a cheap motel to stay in, but he still needed seventeen dollars to pay for the room.

Now, several things began to buzz through my head as he talked. The first was how I didn’t trust a thing he was saying. In Asia, I’d seen female beggars use their children to garner sympathy from passing strangers. In South America, older men would hold Bibles or crosses, not because they were Christians but because it encouraged people to give more generously. Everything about his story felt rehearsed, staged, right down to the toddler in his stroller.

The second thing was that the man had said he needed $17, which was the exact amount I had in my wallet. I had been hoping to use that money to grab a lunch out or maybe see a movie, but could I really justify being so selfish if this guy really needed it? I considered giving him a few bucks just to make him go away, but withholding the rest didn’t seem any better than giving him nothing. It felt like I was trapped between two choices, would I be stupid or heartless? Eventually, I considered what Christ would have me do, and handed over the money along with my best wishes.

I don’t know what became of that man. Maybe he was telling the truth, maybe he was lying, and to be honest, I don’t really care. God has called us to love, and you cannot love others if you are afraid of looking foolish. Remember what the Bible says in the book of Matthew:

“‘You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.’” – Matthew 5:38-42.

 

Just a Little Sin

LYSA TERKEURST, author, crosswalk.com

 

“So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.” Genesis 37:17c-18 (NIV) 

Today, there will be a moment. No one will snap a picture of it. It probably won’t make it into the journals of those who journal. Or linger in the thoughts we carry with us to sleep tonight.

It will come.

It will go.

It will slip by seemingly unnoticed. But its effects won’t slip. They’ll stay. And if fostered, grow to epic proportions.

This moment where something creeps into our heart and pulls our focus from right to wrong. It will be just a hint of distortion. The smallest amount. But a slight and seemingly insignificant amount of skewed thought will take root.

And grow.

Beyond what we can even imagine.

What is this distortion? The thought that “this” bitterness is okay … justifiable … no big deal.

Which brings us to one of my favorite stories in the Bible. The one where Moses goes to Pharaoh and sings that song, “Oh, Pharaoh, Pharaoh, whoa, whoa, gotta let my people go.”

Totally a loose translation, but if you’ve ever attended vacation Bible school as a child, you probably know what I’m talking about.

There’s an astounding chain of events that led up to God having to deliver His people from Pharaoh’s fierce grip that I want us to trace and consider. It starts with this question: Why was the entire nation of Israelites — all of God’s people — all 12 tribes — enslaved in Egypt?

As I trace this story backward, I find it’s because of one seemingly insignificant moment.

The course of history was changed because a few family members got angry and jealous of their brother Joseph. Bitterness slipped in. And that bitterness eventually grew into hatred.

Hurt that sits unattended to in the human heart over time can so easily turn to hate.

Our key verse reveals the moment the seed of bitterness and anger magnified into a full-blown murderous plot: “So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him” (Genesis 37:17c-18).

While they didn’t wind up killing Joseph, they did sell their brother and regarded him as dead.

Years went by.

Years of heartbreak and confusion passed.

Eventually, Joseph landed in a position of great power in Egypt and had authority to provide food for his family. So, all 11 of his brothers and their families moved to Egypt. Joseph and his 11 brothers make up what became the 12 tribes of Israel. As these tribes multiplied, they became the nation of Israel.

What the brothers meant for evil, God used for good. He saved the Israelites from the famine. But there were still lasting effects of the brothers’ choices that came out years later.

After Joseph died, “Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. ‘Look,’he said to his people, ‘the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.’ So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh” (Exodus 1:8-11, NIV).

So, the entire nation of Israel suffered oppression and slavery for centuries. Why?

Because a few brothers on an ordinary day got a little jealous … and allowed bitterness and anger to slip in.

And the moment these emotions slipped in, the course of history changed.

In a moment.

May we never assume our moments don’t matter. The decisions we make every second of every day matter.

There are no little moments or little sins.

There’s a domino effect to it all, and it reaches far beyond what we can even know.

Please understand, no part of this is meant to heap more hurt on you or condemn you in any way. But awareness and conviction are good.

Moments matter. And future generations will be impacted by our choices today.

Let’s watch for any moment today where we have the choice to let anger, envy or something else negative slip in. And when one shows up, let’s recognize it. Refute it. And replace it with God’s spirit of love.

 

Complications

by Inspiration Ministries

“If you do nothing in a difficult time, your strength is limited.” – Proverbs 24:10 CSB

We often desire to sail through life like a ship drifting on a calm sea. We want to arrive at the distant shore without complications. But our journeys may bring us face-to-face with unforeseen obstacles.

The question is how can we prepare for these complications? How will we respond? Will we falter or struggle? Will we cave in under the pressure? Or will we be confident in God, sure that He is with us?

When we encounter complications, it can be difficult to concentrate. Often our minds are preoccupied. Our emotions can be stirred up. It’s hard to hear God or even have faith in Him. That’s why we need to prepare for complications before they take place.

What does this mean practically? Today is the day to prepare for the future, seeking to become spiritually stronger. Commit yourself to reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word, so it is hidden in your heart. Spend quality time in prayer, so you have a more intimate relationship with the Father.

People may fail to look ahead. Friends may be preoccupied. Unexpected things may occur. But God is already in the future. And He is ready to provide whatever you need.

Make sure you trust in God today. Spend quality time in prayer today. Talk with Him throughout the day. Fill your mind with His Word. Practice thinking His thoughts and confessing His promises. Gain strength and peace through your relationship with Him.

Be Thankful For all God’s Blessings

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Please Pass the Blessings

jesus blessing children in a church painting

By: Gordon Robertson – President and CEO, CBN

The story of Jacob sounds like a soap opera, yet God was in the midst of it. Jacob and Esau were the twin sons of Isaac and grandsons of Abraham. Before their birth, God told Rebekah,

“Two nations are in your womb … and the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23).

Jacob tried to be first from the beginning, grabbing Esau’s heel as he was born; thus his name means heel-grabber.

Jacob was also a good cook, and it was for a bowl of his stew that Esau traded away his birthright as the eldest son. Later, Esau took two Hittite wives who were a grief to his parents. Rebekah then helped Jacob trick Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau. When Esau planned to kill Jacob, Rebekah convinced Isaac to send Jacob away to find a wife among her relatives.

Genesis 28:10 tells us, Jacob went out from Beersheba. Often, when you take that first step of faith on a journey, God meets you there. Jacob dreamed of a ladder from earth to heaven—and there God spoke to him.

Although he fell in love with Rachel, Jacob the trickster was tricked by his Uncle Laban into marrying her older sister first. The two wives were bitter rivals, involving their servants in a race to have children—twelve sons total. When Jacob finally headed home with his family, he didn’t know if Esau still wanted him dead.

He wrestled all night with God, who said,

“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28).

If life had been easy, would he have persevered and prevailed?

The key is that Isaac had blessed Jacob:

“May God Almighty bless you and give you many children. And may your descendants multiply and become many nations! May God pass on to you and your descendants the blessings he promised to Abraham” (Genesis 28:3-4 NLT).

This was God’s plan. The blessings God gave Abraham were passed to Isaac, who bestowed them on Jacob. Through him came the twelve tribes of Israel, then the Messiah.

So this Thanksgiving, give thanks for what God has done, then pray over your family and bless them all. Pass along the wonderful blessings that God has freely given to you. As Galatians 3:14 says,

“Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham” (NLT).  God bless you.

 

The Time for Radical Action Is Now

by Alex Crain, crosswalk.com

“…if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”- Romans 8:13 

Aron Ralston’s grisly experience during a climbing expedition illustrates a spiritual truth that makes me wince. If you aren’t familiar with the story, take a look at his book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place (© 2004 Simon & Schuster), which is a detailed tell-all of his ordeal that occurred in late April 2003.

The experienced 27-year-old outdoorsman jumped into his truck that spring morning, bringing just enough food and water for the day. He took off by himself, driving 150 miles south of Salt Lake City to his favorite spot—a remote canyon area that used to be the hideout for wild-west outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

By afternoon, he was suspended seventy-five feet high off the canyon floor—climbing in a crevice that was just a few feet wide. It was a near perfect day. But then without warning, a boulder suddenly broke loose from the rock wall above him, hurtled down and trapped Ralston’s right arm against the wall, completely crushing his hand. At that instant, Aron’s hand—one of his greatest assets—had now become his greatest liability.

Five whole days passed as he tried various ways to free himself—all to no avail. His efforts to chip away at the boulder with a pocket knife only made a small dent. Rigging up a pulley system to move the boulder proved fruitless.

Finally, a moment of decisive clarity came. The thoughts came fast and furious: he could break his forearm, cut through the muscle with his dirty pocket knife, detach his arm, and use a piece of rope as a tourniquet.

Aron explains that he was driven by “some sort of autopilot” as he went about the gruesome task of amputating his own right arm just below the elbow. After he was finished, Aron lowered himself down and began trudging slowly in the direction of his truck. Later, he stumbled across two hikers who used a mobile phone to call in a rescue helicopter. Amputating his right arm was a radical act, but it was one that saved his life and reunited him with his family.

God calls us to deal with sin in our life in a way that is surprisingly similar. The Bible doesn’t offer a laid-back, live-and-let-live approach at all. It’s so radical, that we don’t really like hearing about it or talking about it. Recall what Jesus said in Matthew 5:30, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” While Jesus was not literally talking about physical amputation, He was saying that sin’s deadly effects call for extreme measures. Even though it hurts, we must rid sin from our lives. In fact, our eternal destiny hinges on how we deal with sin.

Really? Well, why else would Jesus talk about hell in the same breath that He talks about how we are to deal with sin if He didn’t mean to teach that our eternal destiny hangs in the balance? Clearly, it’s a matter of preferring one destiny over the other. Outward behavior indicates what the heart primarily loves. If Aron Ralston had stayed there on the canyon wall with his hand pinned down by the boulder, he would have died. But because he was willing to kill his hand, his life was saved.

The same goes with us as we deal with sin. It really comes down to what we value most. Colossians 3:5 says, “Put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” The world may tell us to laugh about sin, to lighten up about it, to tolerate it, and just let it be… that it’s not idolatry; it’s not an issue of worship. God says the opposite is true.

Streams in the Desert – November 23

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

Thou hast shewed thy people hard things (Ps. 60:3).

I have always been glad that the Psalmist said to God that some things were hard. There is no mistake about it; there are hard things in life.

Some beautiful pink flowers were given me this summer, and as I took them I said, “What are they?” And the answer came, “They are rock flowers; they grow and bloom only on rocks where you can see no soil.” Then  I thought of God’s flowers growing in hard places; and I feel, somehow, that He may have a peculiar tenderness for His “rock flowers” that He may not have for His lilies and roses.
Margaret Bottome

The tests of life are to make, not break us. Trouble may demolish a man’s business but build up his character. The blow at the outward man may be the greatest blessing to the inner man. If God, then, puts or permits anything hard in our lives, be sure that the real peril, the real trouble, is what we shall lose if we flinch or rebel.
Maltbie D. Babcock

Heroes are forged on anvils hot with pain,
And splendid courage comes but with the test.
Some natures ripen and some natures bloom
Only on blood-wet soil, some souls prove great
Only in moments dark with death or doom.
God gets his best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.

 

Functioning as a Body

by Inspiration Ministries

“The workers served faithfully … Other Levites … were put in charge of the laborers of the various trades. Still others assisted as secretaries, officials, and gatekeepers.” – 2 Chronicles 34:12-13 NLT

The people of Israel were divided into twelve tribes with many families and individuals – all with many opinions. Yet, as this passage reminds us, they functioned as one at times.

We see how each tribe had specific functions. And each performed their assignments without resistance. Individuals accepted their roles and worked diligently without complaining.

This was possible in part because there were “energetic” leaders (TLB) who could motivate the people to do their part without rivalry or competition. These men could unite the people and encourage them to function to the best of their abilities.

Having been led and directed by wise leaders, the people in each tribe then found it easier to focus, to do what they did best, and to do their specific assignments.

This is a picture of how the body of Christ should function. Each person should recognize that he or she has unique skills, has been given unique gifts and abilities, and has unique responsibilities.

Believers should respond without any sense of competition or rivalry. We should not resist the work we have been called to do, but we should function with energy and excellence. Encouraging leaders can foster efficiency, cooperation, and unity with proper direction.

Ask God to show you clearly your specific mission in the body. Be ready to use the resources and gifts He has given you to serve Him. Seek to fit together with other believers.

Honoring God

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The Unexpected Thanksgiving Feast

thanksgiving-turkey

 

“Lord,” prayed Linda, “show me some way to demonstrate your love to these women this Thanksgiving season.”

Linda works in an office near a women’s prison. Several prisoners come to clean her office building each week, so Linda got acquainted with them.

“I had a burden from the Lord to do something special for those women,” said Linda. “He answered my prayer in a conversation with my daughter. We knew without a doubt that we were supposed to plan a surprise Thanksgiving dinner for them, complete with all the trimmings. I wanted it to be special with my best tablecloth, china, and silver.”

Special rules apply to prisoners who work outside the prison walls, so it was difficult to get permission. Normally, they aren’t allowed to use “real” silverware. But Linda jumped through all the hoops and permission was finally granted.

“My biggest concern,” said Linda, “was not the details, but that the Lord would reveal to me how to let them know that this was ‘of the Lord’ and not of myself. I can cook for anybody, but I wanted them to know that the reason I did this was because of Jesus Christ and what He did for me.”

When the big day arrived, the women walked into that office and saw the beautiful table loaded with food. They assumed it was a Thanksgiving meal for the employees.

“No,” said Linda. “It’s for you.”

They were speechless for a moment, but then they couldn’t get the words out fast enough.

“This can’t be for real!” exclaimed one of the ladies.

“Look at that real turkey, not that pressed meat we’re used to!”

Another said, “Homemade yeast rolls and three kinds of pie to choose from!”

As one woman broke into tears, she said, “Those smells bring back so many memories. What I miss most is the feeling of family during the holidays.”

The ladies sat down at the table, amid tears and excited conversation. “I can’t believe someone cared enough to do this for us,” said one woman.

Just as Linda was about to lead them in prayer, one of the ladies spoke up and said, “Let’s all hold hands and pray.” She opened with prayer and others followed. Some prayed for forgiveness, some prayed for their families, and others thanked the Lord for the bountiful meal, an unexpected Thanksgiving feast.

Linda said, “My prayers were answered. All the glory went to the Lord for His provision. With no prompting from me, those precious ladies gave God the credit. God revealed Himself to them that day in ways I could not have done on my own.”

Linda lived the words Jesus spoke in Luke 14:

“When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)

Jesus Christ makes a place for all of us at his table.

 

The Last Days

by Sarah Phillips, crosswalk.com

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:25

Most of us don’t love to wait. We want to get on with things. Tie things up neatly so we can move on to the next thing. We often forget that in some cases, the opportunity to wait is an expression of God’s mercy.

You see, this Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. It came quickly this year. I was so busy preparing for Thanksgiving, I almost forgot about Advent. Thankfully, our reliable pastor will be decked out in purple this Sunday, scripture readings and hymns ready to go.

Advent isn’t really an event so much as a season set aside to wait for an event. We can choose how we want to practice Advent. We can see it as a burden, an afterthought, or a hindrance. Or we can see its greater application to all of life. We can recognize it for what it is: a reminder to stop, clear away some of the normal “stuff” of life, and remember that throughout our life here we are waiting for something big, something that needs our attention and preparation: The second coming of Christ.

Many times I’ve heard fellow Christians express the desire for the day to just get here already. Can’t we just end the wars and suffering… the waiting… and get on with Christ’s return? Many pick apart the Scriptures, looking for details, for signs, that Christ is coming soon. Groups form and debates rage about the finer details of the end times.

While I am sure God appreciates our interest in and desire for his arrival, I am not so sure we really know what we’re asking for when we say we wish he would hurry up and appear.

Think about it. Are we really ready? Is the world really ready? If you had to stand before Christ tomorrow, would you be ready? I don’t mean “ready” as having correctly predicted the dramatic events that would unfold during the end times. I mean would your life reflect service to him? Love of him? Submission to him?

Mine wouldn’t. At least not to the extent that it should. I’d like a few days, or um decades, to straighten things out. And to the best of my humble abilities, help a few more of those living in the dark find the light.

Suddenly, waiting doesn’t seem too bad. God’s plan to give me and the rest of the world a little more time doused with a lot of his grace doesn’t seem so frustrating.

After reading the above dramatic passage from Luke at an Advent Sunday service past, our pastor did not delve into prophecy or speculation about the last days. He backtracked a little, and instead opted to focus on the here and now. He challenged us to avoid the “drowsiness” that comes with our everyday cares and concerns. He challenged us to become disciplined people, Christians whose lives are truly transformed by Christ instead of by the seductive “spirit of the age.” He held up examples of fellow Christians who came before us and conquered their own contemporary challenges.

He reminded us that we will each have our own “last day” even if our lives here do not witness the Last Day.

That’s what Advent is really about… grace today for whatever may come tomorrow. It’s about God’s incredible patience and love for children who have much to learn and need plenty of precious time to allow for stumbling along the way. As for the final days, set aside the speculation and leave that to God’s perfect timing. He’ll know when we’re ready.

 

Sheltered in the Midst of the Storm

TRACIE BRAYLOCK, author, crosswalk.com

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2 (ESV)

We were standing in the children’s section of the bookstore when the sirens went off.

I paused, looking around for answers from the other unsuspecting customers.

None of us seemed to know what was going on.

There was no sign of a storm when I entered the store with my little one several minutes earlier. But the beautiful, cloudless summer day didn’t tell the full story about what was to come.

A startling voice came over the loudspeaker, announcing that a tornado warning had been issued, and we were to take shelter immediately.

Taking my little one out of the stroller, I held him in my arms as we sat leaning against the towering shelves of books, waiting for the storm to pass.

But before it did, all of the customers were told to leave the building.

A bit stunned by the swift evacuation, we all found ourselves outside with an even greater awareness of the rapidly changing weather. Some simply stood there, staring at the approaching storm, while others scattered in all directions to escape it.

We made it home safely in the midst of the sirens and increasingly darkening sky, and all I could do was thank God for His presence and protection.

So much happened so quickly — from the loud, unexpected sounds of the alarms, to the realization we were in the path of the impending storm, to the sudden loss of perceived shelter.

In that moment, my dependence upon God, my need for His presence and the value of hiding His Word in my heart were ever so clear.

In that moment, I prayed, asking God to continue to keep us safe and thanking Him for doing that already.

In that moment, I chose not to rehearse that shaky voice who spoke to us over the loudspeaker and, instead, listen closely to the One who promised never to leave or forsake us.

Oftentimes, when life is coming at us quickly, we can become overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

When we only use our natural senses to experience what’s taking place while we’re in the midst of troubling situations, we miss the opportunity to rely solely on God and trust all He has promised us.

We’re reminded in Colossians 3:2 to “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

So, friend, be aware of — but not distracted by — the storms you’re experiencing.

They don’t change God’s presence, power, protection or provision.

He is indeed with you, showing you which way to go and offering you shelter in the midst of the storm.

The Power Of Gratitude

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The Power of Thanksgiving

 

It’s that season again, when we’re reminded to be thankful — and to express thankfulness. God has told us,

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

Even though we know it’s God’s will, for most of us, a reminder is a good thing, because in the midst of busyness and challenges of life, we often forget to be grateful for our many blessings.

I always think of a particular incident when I think of giving thanks. Many years ago, our friend Paul noticed that his young daughter Susannah had a ritual with her bedtime prayers. She always prayed, “God, bless Mommy, and Daddy, and …” She went down her list, asking God for her all her wants.

At prayer time one night, he said, “Susannah, you have a lot to be thankful for. I’d like you to start your prayers with thanksgiving.” Susannah agreed, but Paul left on a trip the next morning and wasn’t able to reinforce his instruction.

When he returned, her prayers had not changed. He said, “Susannah, what did I ask you to do when you pray?”

She hesitated before answering. “Uhhh. Start my prayers with Halloween?”

She remembered the request—but didn’t understand what thanksgiving was and got mixed up with which holiday he had said.

Unlike Susannah, I understand what it means to give thanks and that it’s good to express appreciation, but I often get so busy that I don’t take note of what I’m grateful for, much less express it to others. I’ve resolved to do better after recently experiencing the blessing of being on the receiving end.

My husband is a pastor of a church of amazing people who regularly communicate their thanks. It makes it a joy to be part of them. However, we were recently showered with love and many expressions of appreciation. I must admit, it felt good. It deepened our love and our commitment to give more of ourselves. It also made me want to be more faithful in expressing my thanks.

But that was just the beginning of the day. After church and the dinner that followed, our home filled with out-of-town family who came to celebrate Dad’s 89th birthday. We visited, celebrated, and enjoyed being together. After the meal, while still around the table, I was once again struck with what an impact it makes to speak words of appreciation.

Robert’s youngest brother said, “Dad, at our house, we have a tradition that we do on birthdays, and we’d like to do it now.” He went on to explain that we wanted to each share something with Dad that we appreciated about him, starting with the youngest and moving up.

Seven-year-old Elena went first, and one at a time, each of ten people shared something they were grateful for, something Dad had done that had blessed his or her life. Most shared two or three things that had made an impact — and all sounded sincere.

At least once, Dad’s eyes filled with tears. Others were touched too. It was a precious time and a much bigger blessing than the simple gifts given earlier.

It was also powerful. Dad wasn’t the only one blessed. We all left the table encouraged, strengthened, and closer to one another because of words of gratefulness. All we did was say thanks — but we don’t make a point to do that often enough. I basked in the blessing and power of the time around the table for several days.

I wish we had practiced that tradition in our home as our children were growing up. In fact, I’m wondering how to stimulate more giving of thanks in other settings — of open, sincere, thoughtful expressions of appreciation. If you have ideas, I’m interested.

However, after some thought, I’ve decided that the best place to begin is with myself. I might not impact the whole community, but I could encourage some.

Meanwhile, I hope your Thanksgiving is blessed with gratefulness—and with thanksgiving.

 

When God Whispered

by Fred Alberti, crosswalk.com

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

My four-year-old son had to learn 2 Timothy 3:16 for AWANA. One of the leaders was concerned and stated that there was just no way the children could grasp the idea of Scripture being “God-breathed.” So we decided to ask my son to explain what “God-breathed” meant.

You know I think we are sometimes too quick to underestimate a child’s ability to understand the truths of the Bible. We are so quick to dismiss their abilities yet this is what Jesus had to say in Matthew 11:25, “At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”

Jesus knew what children could understand.

I recently was walking through a nature trail. The leaves rustled underfoot and the sun shone out over the lake next to the trail inviting me to stop and reflect on God’s glory. I found a bench and while I sat there I heard the breeze whispering through the tops of the trees. Just a slight hushed sound and my thoughts. That’s when I pondered on my son’s words.

What did my son say?

He said, “Well, God-breathed means that…” and here he lowered his voice, “God whispered it.”

Wow… God whispered His Word.

Peter said, “…you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Our Bible isn’t just some compilation of stories. It is the very Word of God whispered into the hearts and minds of men who were selected to be his special vessels to communicate His good news.

How about you?

Have you, like Elijah, heard the “still small voice” of the Lord bringing you comfort, encouragement, and guidance?

If not, maybe you need to spend some time to just be still and maybe in His time you’ll hear His whisper in your heart too.

 

Streams in the Desert – November 21

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

“Roll on Jehovah thy way” (Ps. 37:6, margin).

Whatever it is that presses thee, go tell the Father; put the whole matter over into His hand, and so shalt thou be freed from that dividing, perplexing care that the world is full of. When thou art either to do or suffer anything, when thou art about any purpose or business, go tell God of it, and acquaint Him with it; yes, burden Him with it, and thou hast done for matter of caring; no more care, but quiet, sweet, diligence in thy duty, and dependence on Him for the carriage of thy matters. Roll thy cares, and thyself with them, as one burden, all on thy God.
R. Leighton

Build a little fence of trust
Around today;
Fill the space with loving work
And therein stay.

Look not through the sheltering bars
Upon tomorrow;
God will help thee bear what comes
Of joy or sorrow.
Mary Butts

We shall find it impossible to commit our way unto the Lord, unless it be a way that He approves. It is only by faith that a man can commit his way unto the Lord; if there be the slightest doubt in the heart that “our way” is not a good one, faith will refuse to have anything to do with it. This committing of our way must be a continuous, not a single act. However extraordinary and unexpected may seem to be His guidance, however near the precipice He may take you, you are not to snatch the guiding reins out of His hands.

Are we willing to have all our ways submitted to God, for Him to pronounce judgment on them? There is nothing a Christian needs to be more scrutinizing about than about his confirmed habits and views. He is too apt to take for granted the Divine approbation of them. Why are some Christians so anxious, so fearful? Evidently because they have not left their way with the Lord. They took it to Him, but brought it away with them again.
Selected

 

A Quiet Life

by Inspiration Ministries

“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NLT

What is your goal? Paul provided the Thessalonians with thoughts about their ambition that may seem surprising. Paul recommended that they “live a quiet life, minding [their] own business and doing [their] own work” (TLB).

This is an exceedingly practical approach to life. He knew that as other people watched believers, they would see that the Christian life really works! Their lives would be a real testimony, in some ways more powerful than their words.

In your life, remember that the Bible is packed with principles that apply in every area. These principles apply in your finances and relationships, in your family and community. Paying attention to your own work or school is the goal. Work on your own diet and health. His Word can help you make decisions and have discernment.

Yes, the Christian life has many other aspects. We are called to be people of prayer, to fellowship with other believers, to witness and share how Jesus has changed us, and to study the Word. But Paul reminds us of the importance of practice Biblical principles and the impact they can have on our own lives and others.

People all around are looking for answers. You have the opportunity to be an example to them. Show them how the principles in God’s Word really work and how faith in Jesus has changed you and how He can change them, too.