Monthly Archives: October 2021

Put On The Armor of God

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Costume Yourself in God’s Armor

Knight armor

 

Halloween’s origins go back to the festival of Samhain, celebrated by the Celts in ancient Britain and Ireland on the evening before All Saints Day.

They believed the souls of the dead returned to visit their earthly homes on November 1. The Celts built bonfires to offer sacrifices, relight hearth fires, and scare away evil spirits. The people sometimes wore masks to keep from being recognized by ghosts.

The Romans conquered the Celts in A.D. 43 and combined Samhain with their two autumn festivals. Although the church later made November 1 a holy day, people retained some old pagan customs.

Early American colonists were mostly forbidden to celebrate Halloween, but large numbers of immigrants from Ireland and Scotland brought Halloween customs with them, and it became a popular holiday by the mid-nineteenth century.

When it comes to evil spirits, we can make one of two serious mistakes. Some people dismiss the existence of supernatural beings as legends left over from a time of ignorance and superstition.

Then there are people who go to the other extreme and see evidence of demons in things better attributed to nature, psychology, or consequences of their own actions.

The Bible shows many examples of evil spirits at work in the world and in people.

In Ephesians 2:2, Paul identifies Satan as:

“the commander of the powers in the unseen world.” (NLT)

The Gospels demonstrate that Jesus had control over Satan and his demons, or fallen angels. Luke 4:36 says,

[The people said,] “What authority and power this man’s words possess! Even evil spirits obey Him, and they flee at His command!” (NLT)

Paul explains that we need the armor provided by God because we are fighting against

“… evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world” and “evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NLT).

Halloween may be considered a children’s holiday, but evil spirits are real and we need the armor of God every day.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

October 31

Psalms 127:1-2 1Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. 2In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for he grants sleep to those he loves.

One of the most repeated messages in the Bible is our helplessness without God. I can build a dwelling. I can create a family. But if God is not in it, all my work is without meaning. It is utterly unproductive. Man has the idea that if he relies on himself, he will surely get things done. The Gospel message tells us that without the LORD we will accomplish nothing (John 15:5).

We can’t even protect ourselves. Unless God is watching over us, we are clear targets for the enemy of our soul. Consider the infant in the manger. If God were not watching over that helpless baby, what chance would he have had of surviving Herod’s extermination of every infant in the area? The Destroyer is held at bay by God. We forget to thank God for that daily protection.

The psalmist speaks of a house and a city. The New Testament uses both as an analogy to the church. Today we have many men building churches. There are formulas that work to gather large numbers of people. If God is not the builder, if the work is the work of man and not the Holy Spirit, we will see it end in vanity. Is the LORD building the church you attend? Is the leadership following the Holy Spirit? Encourage that by letting your household be built by God. Let God build your home by faithfully hearing from God and following through on His leading.

You can work eighteen hours every day. You can do your best as if all success depended on you, but success comes from the LORD. He doesn’t drive His sheep. He calls to them to follow Him. He promises them rest.

Consider: Are you cognoscente of the fact that success in God’s eyes is not dependent on how hard you labor, but on your obedience in the little things? As you obey in the little things, He works out the big issues, and the fruit of that cooperation is eternal.

Streams in the Desert – October 31

  • 202131 Oct

 

Likewise also the Spirit helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what to pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

This is the deep mystery of prayer. This is the delicate divine mechanism which words cannot interpret, and which theology cannot explain, but which the humblest believer knows even when he does not understand.

Oh, the burdens that we love to bear and cannot understand! Oh, the inarticulate out-reachings of our hearts for things we cannot comprehend! And yet we know they are an echo from the throne and a whisper from the heart of God. It is often a groan rather than a song, a burden rather than a buoyant wing. But it is a blessed burden, and it is a groan whose undertone is praise and unutterable joy. It is “a groaning which cannot be uttered.” We could not ourselves express it always, and sometimes we do not understand any more than that God is praying in us, for something that needs His touch and that He understands.

And so we can just pour out the fullness of our heart, the burden of our spirit, the sorrow that crushes us, and know that He hears, He loves, He understands, He receives; and He separates from our prayer all that is imperfect, ignorant and wrong, and presents the rest, with the incense of the great High Priest, before the throne on high; and our prayer is heard, accepted and answered in His name.
–A. B. Simpson

It is not necessary to be always speaking to God or always hearing from God, to have communion with Him; there is an inarticulate fellowship more sweet than words. The little child can sit all day long beside its busy mother and, although few words are spoken on either side, and both are busy, the one at his absorbing play, the other at her engrossing work, yet both are in perfect fellowship. He knows that she is there, and she knows that he is all right.

So the saint and the Saviour can go on for hours in the silent fellowship of love, and he be busy about the most common things, and yet conscious that every little thing he does is touched with the complexion of His presence, and the sense of His approval and blessing.

And then, when pressed with burdens and troubles too complicated to put into words and too mysterious to tell or understand, how sweet it is to fall back into His blessed arms, and just sob out the sorrow that we cannot speak!
–Selected

The Shulamite’s choice prayer

“Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm; for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave; the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.” Solomon’s Song 8:6-7

Suggested Further Reading: Ephesians 3:14-21

“Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm. Love me, Lord. Help me, Lord. Let thy heart move towards me; let thine arm move for me too. Think of me, Lord; set me on thy heart. Work for me, Lord, set me on thine arm. Lord, I long to have thy love, for I hear it is as strong as death, and thou knowest I am chained by Satan, and am his bond-slave. Come and deliver me: thou art more than a match for my cruel tyrant. Come with thy strong love and set me free. I hear that thy love is as firm as hell itself. Lord, that is such a love as I want. Though I know I shall vex thee and wander from thee, come and love me with a love that is firm and everlasting. O Lord, I feel there is nothing in me that can make thee love me. Come and love me, then, with that love which finds its own fuel. Love me with those coals of fire which have a ‘vehement flame.’ And since many waters cannot quench thy love, prove that in me; for there are many waters of sin in me, but Lord, help me to believe that thy love is not quenched by them; there are many corruptions in me, but Lord, love me with that love which my corruptions cannot quench. Here, Lord, I give myself away; take me; make me what thou wouldst have me to be, and keep and preserve me even to the end.” May the Lord help you to pray that prayer, and then may he answer it for his mercy’s sake.

For meditation: Omnipotent God loves his people with an omnipotent, all-conquering love (Romans 8:35-39) which surpasses all knowledge and imagination. Can you say with assurance that he “so” loves you (John 3:161 John 4:11)?

God Teaches Us To Obey His Will

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Unwrapping a Sweet Lesson

Halloween candy

I opened the front door. “Yikes! You scared me,” I screamed feigning fright. “Who’s that?” I peered down at the three-foot little person.

He wore a mask framed with wild hair, black and purple. A huge lumpy nose, droopy eyes, and a mouth revealing jagged teeth gave a new meaning to the word ‘ugly’.

A muffled, “Trick or treat” wafted from behind the mask.

“Goodness, you really scared me.” I chuckled as I dropped hard candy into the orange plastic pumpkin.

Those are memories of times my little boys also dressed in strange costumes and dashed from house to house with their daddy trailing behind. I stayed home greeting the neighborhood trick-or-treaters.

But now, years later, Halloween masks resemble those I try to slip on. They come in handy to cover the real me.

When people ask me how I lost my sight, I give the routine answer: “A retinal disease deteriorated my retina and took my sight.”

A simple answer to a simple question.

When asked about how I dealt with the unexpected tragedy, that’s a different story. I’m tempted to pull down the mask over my heart and give a bland answer.

“It was tough at first, but in time, I adjusted.”

But underneath that mask is a whole different script with the real answers: “I wanted to die, I hated my life, I wanted to give up, and wondered if my little boys would survive with a mommy who couldn’t see.”

Then God’s Word nudged me to remove that mask and allow the glow of truth to shine through.

The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth. Proverbs 12:22 NLT

In obedience, I resolved that when asked a question, I would give information reflecting what truly stirred in my heart.

Here are the results:

  • When my words are strung with honesty without omissions, deletions, or embellishments, I can breathe easier.
  • When the mask is off, the air is fresher and the view is clearer.

When it comes to sharing my feelings or relating events in my life, I’ve developed a motto: Don’t omit the negative nor squelch the positive.

Not long ago, a good friend called and asked about my writing. I started to blurt out that it was great, moving along fabulously, and my agent is working on my behalf.

Gulp. Masks are stuffy, binding, and often ugly. Instead, I decided to slip the mask off. And with conviction, the truth shines—although my agent is working for me, I’m furiously laboring on the first edit. Writing a novel is grueling. It’s demanding. And at times, the work is so hard it makes me wonder if I’m really supposed to be doing this.

Ah! The feeling of telling the real scenario with honesty is like opening the window to a stuffy room; letting the fresh Spring breeze come in and caress your face.

While our little ones dip into that candy, the sweetest thing we can unwrap for them is the lesson to speak the truth. The trick is to obey God’s Word and the treat is the image reflected in the mirror that sparkles with honesty.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

October 30

Psalms 119:67, 71 67Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.

71It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

There are times when we need affliction, be it physical, mental, or emotional. If it is indeed good for us, as the psalmist here declares, we should be careful not to ask to be delivered from it too soon. We are to pray for the healing of one another, yet we need to discern God’s timing for that healing. Some would consider all afflictions the work of Satan that must be rebuked and immediately healed. There are times when Jesus healed all, that is, all that came to Him (Luke 6:19). There are other times when He walked through a crowd of sick folks to pick out one person who was to be healed (John 5:3).

When we are afflicted we should look for a lesson to be learned or an insight to be gained. We learned from Job that even though Satan may bring the affliction, God uses it to reveal Himself to us. It may be a time of stretching your faith and trust in God. It may be an opportunity to be still and learn in what way your decisions have varied from God’s leading.

In this passage the psalmist implies he was not obeying the Word of God. His illness was due to his straying from God’s Word. So, when we are ill, we should look to see if our lives are lined up with the Word of God. In the second verse he said the affliction was good for him because through it he learned what God had decreed. Our lives often get in such a busy state that we tend to run on autopilot. An affliction stops us in our tracks and shows us that life goes on even when we stop our busyness. If we are too busy to hear, God may, in His mercy, stop us with affliction so that we will take time to get His direction. Which would you prefer, a week of the flu, or a fatal head-on?

Remember: Next time you are afflicted, first ask what God wants to work in your life through the affliction. Recognize it is good for you. Then, after you have heard God’s answer, pray for healing.

Streams in the Desert – October 30

  • 202130 Oct

Let us run with patience (Hebrews 12:1).

To run with patience is a very difficult thing. Running is apt to suggest the absence of patience, the eagerness to reach the goal. We commonly associate patience with lying down. We think of it as the angel that guards the couch of the invalid. Yet, I do not think the invalid’s patience the hardest to achieve.

There is a patience which I believe to be harder–the patience that can run. To lie down in the time of grief, to be quiet under the stroke of adverse fortune, implies a great strength; but I know of something that implies a strength greater still: It is the power to work under a stroke; to have a great weight at your heart and still to run; to have a deep anguish in your spirit and still perform the daily task. It is a Christlike thing!

Many of us would nurse our grief without crying if we were allowed to nurse it. The hard thing is that most of us are called to exercise our patience, not in bed, but in the street. We are called to bury our sorrows, not in lethargic quiescence, but in active service–in the exchange, in the workshop, in the hour of social intercourse, in the contribution to another’s joy. There is no burial of sorrow so difficult as that; it is the “running with patience.”

This was Thy patience, O Son of man! It was at once a waiting and a running–a waiting for the goal, and a doing of the lesser work meantime. I see Thee at Cana turning the water into wine lest the marriage feast should be clouded. I see Thee in the desert feeding a multitude with bread just to relieve a temporary want. All, all the time, Thou wert bearing a mighty grief, unshared, unspoken. Men ask for a rainbow in the cloud; but I would ask more from Thee. I would be, in my cloud, myself a rainbow — a minister to others’ joy. My patience will be perfect when it can work in the vineyard.
–George Matheson

When all our hopes are gone,
‘Tis well our hands must keep toiling on
For others’ sake:
For strength to bear is found in duty done;
And he is best indeed who learns to make
The joy of others cure his own heartache.

More Giants

by Inspiration Ministries

“Sibbecai the Hushathite struck and killed Saph, who was among the descendants of the giant … There was war at Gath again, where there was a man of great stature … he also had been born to the giant.” – 2 Samuel 21:18, 20 NASB

David emerged as a hero when he killed the giant Goliath. As a result, he was asked to lead the army of Israel. Under his command, Israel experienced many victories. Yet Israel never was freed completely from threats. Even after the death of Goliath, there were more giants in the land.

David and his men learned to stay vigilant. They had to be prepared to face these giants as well as other foes. They would have ongoing battles and always needed to be alert and ready to fight.

This is a picture of the spiritual warfare we face each day! We may feel relieved after winning a victory, but we cannot let down our guard.

In David’s time, they learned there were many kinds of giants. In similar ways, today we face many adversaries. Our enemy, the devil and his demons, never stops attacking or looking for weaknesses to exploit.

In Jesus’ name and through the power of the Holy Spirit, you have authority over all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19). But you still can be attacked. You still need to be prepared. Make sure you are on guard and alert all the time.

Remember that our adversary “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Stay vigilant, armed, and ready for battle. You are protected by the armor of God and the shield of faith. Stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-18).

God Sets The Captives Free

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Setting the Captives Free

kids-halloween_si.jpg

 

Every October, many Americans are bewitched by Halloween. They dress their kids like cute little witches, devils and goblins … but there’s really nothing cute about Satan.

Matthew, Mark and Luke* give horrifying descriptions of a demon-possessed man who lived naked in a cemetery, gashing himself with stones — so wild that no chains could restrain him, and so violent that no one could safely pass by.

But even the strongest demons are no match for God’s power! Jesus looked beyond that man’s revolting appearance and saw a pitiful human being, made in the image of God but held captive by Satan.

When Jesus cast out the man’s demons,

“They began screaming at Him, ‘Why are you interfering with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before God’s appointed time?’” (Matthew 8:29 NLT)

The demons referred to God’s timetable, knowing they are limited in how long they can roam the earth, trying to deceive and trap people with lust, alcohol, drugs, crime, and false beliefs like New Age — attempting to destroy souls by leading them away from God. But when their time is up — and that may be very soon! — they face eternal torture. Satan knows it, Jesus knows it, and we ought to know it, too.

Jesus sent the demons into some pigs, which instantly went crazy and rushed down a steep hill to drown themselves.

The whole city came to see the demonized man clothed and miraculously sane. But instead of being happy for him, they were outraged about their pigs — and rudely sent Jesus away!

Similarly today, it’s sad how some folks care more about their pets and possessions than suffering people. I’ve been to places in Africa and around the world where men, women and children live in abject poverty, afflicted with hunger, thirst and disease. What joy to bring them nourishing food, clean water, essential medicine — and above all, the life-giving Gospel.

In God’s eyes, just one human life is worth far more than any earthly treasure — and Jesus showed that divine love on the cross.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

October 29

Psalms 119:9-11 9How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. 10I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in our Bible. It is believed to have been written by Ezra during the restoration period, when the Jews returned to Israel from Babylon. The entire psalm is about the Word of God. Each section is entitled with a Hebrew letter, and each verse in that section begins with that letter. Every verse mentions the Word of God in some form.

Ezra asks how it is possible for young men to keep their way pure. Youth are changing physically and have little experience to know how to deal with those changes. The world today is of no help. It encourages them to sin against God and not consider it wrong to do so. What would your advice be to young men who wanted to serve God in all their ways? The Holy Spirit says that the one way is by living according to God’s Word. There must be time spent in God’s Word and the contemplation of what it is saying. That must be accompanied by desire to keep what one hears from the Word. But that alone is not enough. The next verse shows us that even though we seek God with all our heart, we need to ask God to keep us obedient to what we have heard. “God, don’t let me stray from your commands. I understand what You are saying, but I need Your help. I recognize that without Your help I would not be able to do it.”

But the author didn’t just leave it at that. He memorized what God was saying to Him. He kept the words like a hidden treasure locked in his heart, brought out to enjoy and examine often. Each day you can take a treasure from your morning time with God and place it within your heart to help guide you through the day. Carry those verses in your mind. Share them with friends. Let the Word be the thought that is the backdrop of your whole day. Sin will keep you from the Word, or the Word will keep you from sin.

Challenge: Young or old with a young heart, take time to gather treasure to take with you through each day. Make some of them a part of your permanent collection by committing them to memory.

Satanic hindrances

‘Satan hindered us.’ 1 Thessalonians 2:18

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Corinthians 11:1–15

How may I tell when Satan hinders me? I think you may tell thus: first by the object. Satan’s object in hindering us is to prevent our glorifying God. If anything has happened to you which has prevented your growing holy, useful, humble, and sanctified, then you may trace that to Satan. If the distinct object of the interference to the general current of your life has been that you may be turned from righteousness into sin, then from the object you may guess the author. It is not God who does this, but Satan. Yet know that God does sometimes put apparent hindrances in the way of his own people, even in reference to their usefulness and growth in grace, but then his object is still to be considered: it is to try his saints and so to strengthen them; while the object of Satan is to turn them out of the right road and make them take the crooked way. You may tell the suggestions of Satan, again, by the method in which they come: God employs good motives, Satan bad ones. If that which has turned you away from your object had been a bad thought, a bad doctrine, bad teaching, a bad motive—that never came from God, that must be from Satan. Again, you may tell them from their nature. Whenever an impediment to usefulness is pleasing, gratifying to you, consider that it came from Satan. Satan never brushes the feathers of his birds the wrong way; he generally deals with us according to our tastes and likings. He flavours his bait to his fish. He knows exactly how to deal with each man, and to put that motive which will fall in with the suggestions of poor carnal nature. Now, if the difficulty in your way is rather contrary to yourself than for yourself, then it comes from God; but if that which now is a hindrance brings you gain, or pleasure, or emolument in any way, rest assured it came from Satan.

For meditation: Satan’s devices during his attempts to hinder the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:1–1116:21–23). Jesus was aware of Satan’s devices (Luke 22:31). You need to be aware of them too, if Satan is not to take advantage of you (2 Corinthians 2:11).

Not Everyone

Scripture Reading — Matthew 7:21-23

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. . . .” — Matthew 7:21

Out of the entire Sermon on the Mount, this might be the most challenging of Jesus’ teachings.

The wide gate and the broad road are full of people who have rejected God and have gone their own way (Matthew 6:13). But there are also people on that road who think they are right with the Lord—people who, from the outside, appear to be doing all the right things. But it can turn out that they’ve actually been far from Christ all along.

The most important thing about us isn’t how many times we have gone to church. It’s not how much money we have given or how often we have volunteered. We’re not saved because we avoid R-rated movies or do not steal.

Instead, the most important thing is knowing, and being known by, Jesus. This means losing our lives in him and putting our agenda aside so that we can honestly say, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). People who try to follow Jesus from a distance risk his rejection because he demands our whole hearts and our whole selves.

If that doesn’t make you a little nervous, it should. Jesus is calling everyone, both in and outside of the church, to do some self-examination: Is my faith genuine? Am I on the right path? Do I really know him? And does he really know me?

Prayer

Father, I place my whole life in your hands. Help me to know you, and to be known by you. Show me where I may be holding back, and help me to serve you wholeheartedly in all I do. Amen.

Jesus Calms The Storms Of Live

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Waiting for the Calm After the Storm

OCTOBER 28, 2021

“But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:38-39 (ESV)

On a recent trip to the coast, my family and I witnessed a massive tempest one evening. As the wind whipped my face, I watched bulbous clouds rise high into the eggplant sky. Thunder and lightning tangoed, delighting our eyes and ears. The sea churned and lashed with such ferocity that it looked like it would never return to serenity.

But the following day, we awoke to a bright calm. Peace settled over the deep blue water as it quietly lapped against the shore once again. Such a sight had seemed impossible just hours prior.

While I love thunderstorms, I’m far less fond of the metaphorical storms that roll into our lives and turn them upside down:

The wind of broken relationships that batters the heart.
The water of unmet expectations that floods the soul.
The waves of broken dreams that pummel the mind with thoughts like this will never pass.

When these storms hit, sinking seems inevitable and hope lost. I’m sure you’ve had your own share of storms in your life. Maybe you’re in one now.

As I watched the calm waters that morning, God brought to my mind a story from Mark’s Gospel when Jesus and His disciples set sail across the Sea of Galilee. A massive storm swept over them out of nowhere, leaving the disciples utterly terrified and convinced they would drown. Yet Jesus rested peacefully:

“But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:38-39).

I have echoed the disciples’ question in my most honest moments — Lord, do You not care that I’m hurting? How am I supposed to live in the middle of this chaos?

Because when the waters rise, fear easily overwhelms the soul, doesn’t it? Our human response, just like the disciples’, replaces trust in Jesus with all-out panic and doubt.

But dear one, there is a better way to wait out the storm! Unlike the disciples, we have the advantage of time and perspective. We know the end of the story. We know their sleeping Savior possessed resurrection power. Therefore, we don’t have to succumb to fear amid our storms.

Instead, we can draw hope from Scripture and anchor ourselves in three essential truths:

1. The storm is never outside God’s control. Jesus didn’t sleep because He was indifferent to the disciples’ plight. Instead, He held a calm trust that flowed from His divine dominion over creation. Indeed, He commands this power over every tempest we face. All things fall under His sovereign protection and watchful care — including your storm.

2. The storm won’t last forever. It may feel like calm will never come again. But just as physical thunderstorms surely pass, so Jesus will bring us through our storms. Jesus spoke peace over the wind and waves, bringing them to a standstill. Today, He speaks that same peace into your storm. His peace is your inheritance, even in the midst of rough waters.

3. The storm can deepen our faith. Our storms inflict pain, but they also churn up false beliefs, idols and other hindrances to our sanctification. With these obstacles removed, faith can flourish, and trust can deepen. Our eyes may see only wreckage, but God sees His tireless work of redemption on our behalf. On the Sea of Galilee, Jesus used the storm to call His disciples into a life of deeper trust. From the eye of the storm, He calls us into the same.

When we feel battered and Jesus appears silent, may we cling to these truths and allow perseverance to complete its work in us. Today, may we confidently trust that God is with us in the storm and patiently await the calm that’s coming on the other side.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

October 28

Psalms 118:6-8 6The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? 7The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. 8It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.

We have come to the center of the Bible. Here is the core of it all. The LORD is with those who call on Him in truth. If the Creator of heaven and earth is with you, what have you to fear? Throughout Scripture, God’s promise to those who sought Him was, “I will be with you.” As long as the LORD is with us, we can be certain that things will turn out in the end. Emmanuel, God with us. It is an incredible thing that God would dwell with man, but He has since creation and He always will, for He has set His love on us.

The world will always look to man, man’s wisdom, man’s counsel, and man’s strength. That often sets believers at odds with the world. But why fear or be concerned? What is the worst man can do to you? As the Apostle Paul said, (forgive my loose paraphrase) “If you kill me, I get to go home to be with Jesus. If you beat me, I just keep laying up treasures in heaven. Take your pick, either way the LORD is with me and I get blessed.”

The enemies of the LORD will be defeated, but even now, I am more than a conqueror. I’m a mega-conqueror, because the LORD is with me! Because He is with me, I have the victory in life and in death. You can trust in men if you want, but that is a losing bet. He will lose in the end, guaranteed. Or you can trust in the LORD. That is a guaranteed win. What is your situation in life today? Where are you placing your trust? I hope it is not in man and man’s best, even if that man is you. The old expression, “You can only trust yourself,” is pathetic.

Remember: Trust in God! Let Him be your helper. Let go of fear and watch the God of all creation show you His ways.

Small Kindness, Big Impact

OCTOBER 27, 2021

“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:15-17 (NIV)

The smell of coffee beans and cinnamon rolls wafted through the crowded terminal. Impatient passengers congregated near the gate, waiting for the airline employee to announce their boarding group. I was thrilled to be heading to a writers’ retreat, but flying is not my favorite activity.

I was already starting to feel anticipatory nausea (it’s a thing), and the loud shrieking nearby wasn’t helping. I looked over and saw a mom and toddler in front of a vending machine. The little boy stomped his feet until his mom handed him a bag of cookies.

Cookies at 8 a.m. aren’t going to help anyone! I thought.

Immediately, a pang of conviction trumped my snap judgment. Surely I have not been above doling out sugary snacks to my own kids to buy myself a few minutes of peace and quiet.

Lord, forgive me for being quick to judge. Please bless this mama with someone kind and loving to sit next to on the plane. Help her to see You in her day. Amen.

When we finally boarded the plane, I was surprised to find my entire row empty. As I shoved my backpack under the seat, I had a glorious vision: three hours of uninterrupted rest and productivity. With extra space, I’d be able to concentrate on preparing for the retreat and then catch a little snooze. I’d land ready and refreshed for all God had planned! I adjusted the air vent and closed the shutter. Deep breath. This might actually be a great flight.

Then there they were. A woman and a little boy with cookie crumbs on his chin, crawling into the seat next to me.

“I just want to apologize in advance,” his mother said softly.

And I knew. I knew God was answering my prayer for her. Be the blessing.

“Don’t even worry about it,” I said. “I have three boys. I know confined spaces can be tough.” She smiled weakly.

The next three hours were punctuated by screaming and squirming. When his mom tried to get the toddler to rest in her lap, his feet kicked against my thigh. When the cartoon on her phone ended, when she offered the wrong snack, when he dropped his toy car for the 14th time, the boy wailed. His mom stayed calm.

“You’re OK,” she said.

“You’re OK,” he repeated.

Somewhere between the complimentary pretzels and the woman in front of us glaring back again, I struck up a conversation. Typical questions: How old is your son? Do you have other kids? Are you headed home or going on a trip? The boy’s name was Jack. He just turned three and had two older step-siblings. They were on their way home.

“It’s not easy flying with a little one,” I said. “You’re doing a really great job.”

“Thanks”, she answered. “This is way better than last time. Jack got diagnosed with autism a couple of months ago. He’s not very verbal and gets easily frustrated. But he started therapy, and it’s really helping.”

I had hoped this flight would be a quiet space for me to work and rest. That didn’t happen. But I did catch a glimpse of Jesus.

The engines hummed louder as we made our final descent. Jack nuzzled closer to his mama. With a stranger’s tiny toes pressed against me, all I could think was: What if sometimes we’re supposed to be the answer to our prayer? What if we changed the way we prayed?

Instead of just “Lord, bless them,” we could also pray, “Lord, prepare me to be a blessing.”
Instead of just “Lord, show them kindness,” we could also pray, “Lord, empower me to be kind.”
Instead of just “Lord, provide,” we could also pray, “Lord, give me eyes to see and a willingness to give.”

In the book of James, we receive clear instructions not only to wish others well but to do something to meet the needs in front of us. James writes, Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:15-17).

The Message Bible says it like this: “Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?” (James 2:17).

“Outrageous nonsense.” That might sound harsh, but I actually love how it strips off the filter of our nice words and good intentions and shines the light on what’s really important — how we live.

God gave us His Word to read and His Spirit to whisper to ours. But it’s not enough just to hear. Our faith grows legs for change when we turn that hearing into doing.

The small shift from self-focused to others-focused, from perception to action, is the beginning of the simple difference.

The standard uplifted in the face of the foe

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.’ Isaiah 59:19

Suggested Further Reading: Ephesians 6:10–18

Christian, you are in the land where foes abound. There are enemies within you; you are not clean delivered from the influence of inbred sin. The new nature is of divine origin, and it cannot sin because it is born of God; but the old nature, the carnal mind, is there too, and it is not reconciled to God, neither indeed can it be; and therefore it strives and struggles with the new nature. The house of Saul in our heart wars against the house of David, and tries to drive it out and despoil it of the crown. This conflict you must expect to have continued with more or less of violence till you enter into rest. Moreover, in the world without there are multitudes of foes. This vain world is no friend to the principle of the work of grace. If you were of the world the world would love its own, but as you are not of the world but of a heavenly race, you may expect to be treated as an alien and foreigner, no, as a hated and detested foe. All sorts of snares and traps will be laid for you; those who sought to entangle the Master in his speech will not be more lenient towards you. Moreover there is one whose name is called ‘the enemy,’ the ‘evil one;’ he is the leader among your adversaries; hating God with all his might, he hates that which he sees of God in you. He will not spare the arrows in his infernal quiver; he will shoot them all at you. There are no temptations which he knows of—and he understands the art well from long practice—there are no temptations which he will not exercise upon you. He will sometimes fawn upon you, and at other times will frown; he will lift you up, if possible, with self-righteousness, and then cast you down with despair. You will always find him your fierce, insatiable foe. Know this then, and put on the whole armour of God.

For meditation: Self, society and Satan are an unholy trinity to follow (Ephesians 2:2–3) and an unholy trinity to fight, but, in Christ, self (Romans 7:24–25), society (Galatians 1:3–4) and Satan (John 17:15Hebrews 2:14–15) can all be overcome (Hebrews 2:18).

God Binds Up Our Wounds

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A Pow in the Gut

two young women playing basketball in uniforms

 

I stood at the three-point line on the basketball court. Our team was playing defense under the other team’s goal. One of their players shot the ball, but it didn’t go in. Instantly I started running. As point guard, I needed to get to our side of the court in case one of our girls caught the rebound.

Tiffany was built for sports. She could throw the ball with amazing power. When she caught the rebound, she launched the basketball in my direction. When it reached me, it had such power it went through my hands and landed in my gut. “Pow!” The noise reverberated through the whole gym, and as if on cue, the crowd said in unison, “Oooh!”

I couldn’t think for a minute. I noticed that the referee was just standing there. The other team wasn’t charging me. I turned to look at the clock. It was still going. Something clicked in my head, and I knew what to do. I pivoted toward the goal, dribbled a couple of feet, and shot. Much to my surprise, it went in! The crowd cheered in amazement.

Later I heard that the parents of both church youth teams expected me to fall to my knees. The sheer energy of the ball could have ended our team’s offensive efforts, but it didn’t. That pow in the gut turned into a goal for the team.

As we go through life, we may get a pow in the gut from time to time. Some things happen that catch us off guard, hurt us, or cause us to wonder if we can keep going. But that’s when God reassures us that this is not the end of the “play.” He can turn difficult things into good (Romans 8:28). He can turn them into a goal for us, and for the team.

In 2 Timothy 1:8, Paul urged Timothy not to back down from the fight when persecution came. He helped him to be prepared for any “pows” that would come his way.

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:8 NKJV)

Don’t be ashamed. The fear of rejection can make us afraid to take a stand. Criticism and gossip can embarrass us to the point that we hesitate to say anything about Jesus in public.

Paul knew how severe the persecution against Timothy would be. Paul himself had been “beaten with rods … stoned; three times … shipwrecked; a night and a day … in the deep” (2 Corinthians 11:25 NKJV) and much more. Yet his advice to his beloved son in the faith was this—don’t let suffering stop you. Share in it. The result of your hard work is worth the trouble it brings. But don’t try to endure suffering in your own strength. Endure it in God’s.

We can endure suffering by drawing on God’s power which includes a new mindset.1 As we take in God’s Word, our minds are transformed (Romans 12:2). We begin to see things from God’s viewpoint. A changed perspective empowers us to rise above the pain of suffering so that it doesn’t overwhelm us. When we understand that we’re being mistreated for something that will help people’s eternal well-being, suffering loses some of its sting.

God is working to redeem the world to Himself, and we have a role in that redemptive work. So don’t let life’s “pows” stop your forward progress. Endure them in the power of God.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

October 27

Psalms 116:12-13 12How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me? 13I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.

God is good! When I am in touch with reality enough to see how good God has been to me, I am convicted to respond in some way. A vision of the goodness of God comes only by the grace of God. Left to ourselves, we would only focus on what was not pleasing us at the moment. Our old nature is extremely negative and loves to be critical. But when the grace of God opens our eyes for a moment, when He breaks through that veil of darkness that our carnal nature casts over our vision, then we see His great goodness. Once we see it, we are overwhelmed with wonder that He could be so good to rebellious creatures like us.

Then we start to think about the appropriate response. If someone lavished sacrificial goodness upon you after you have ignored his or her attention a thousand times before, if your heart is somehow enabled to see the love that prompted all that goodness, you would want to respond. Take a moment to look at the cross. Can you see Him hanging there in agony for YOU? Now open the eyes of your spirit and see Him standing in front of you with His nail pierced hands stretched out to receive you into His loving embrace. How will you respond?

Take the cup of salvation! Drink it to the last drop. Call on His name, Jesus/ Yeshua, salvation of Jehovah! “Save me, cleanse me, make me wholly Yours. Fill me, change me, use me as You will. I give you this life that has lived selfishly up till now, to do with as You will.

Consider: That is my only appropriate response to all the goodness the Lord has lavished upon me. “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.”

Give a Little Grace

by Debbie Holloway, crosswalk.com

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters (Romans 14:1).

Winter weather is pretty bipolar in the great Commonwealth of Virginia. One day it can be warm and sunny, and the next day you curse your bad luck for not wearing earmuffs and gloves when you walk out the door. However, when bad weather is forecast, local reactions are solidly predictable, specifically when it comes to “preparation” and driving in abnormal road conditions.

“Snow? SNOW? IT’S GOING TO SNOW?!”

People around here freak out and buy a lot of bread and milk when storms are predicted. If your significant other suggests, “Hey, we’re out of ____, can you stop by Wal-Mart?” on the evening a snowstorm is predicted to hit: forget about it; society is on crazy pills. Additionally, nobody around here can drive in the snow either. Obviously greater caution is called for with icy and slippery road conditions, but people see white stuff and generally throw out every rule they ever learned about How to Be a Good Driver.

Such reactions generate a lot of scorn from imported northerners. After all, children in Michigan attend school daily in the wintery months in upwards of a foot of snow. Why do Richmond kids get classes canceled at the forecast of snow? There is definitely impatience and indignation – and no doubt it is well-deserved!

After doing a fair amount of grumbling during our recent snows, I thought, Hmm, this seems familiar… spiritually…

Isn’t it easy to find ourselves being “northerners” when we find ourselves around those at different points in their spiritual walks? We find it easy to look down upon, mock, or judge people who have difficulty living with restraint, modesty, chastity, gentleness, or a host of other spiritual virtues. We roll our eyes at people unfamiliar with the Bible, who can’t rattle off verses by memory as quickly as their ABCs.

Essentially, we are impatient with those who have less (or different) theoogical, spiritual, or biblical exposure and knowledge. But how is that fair? In reality, many people are ill-prepared simply because of their upbringing. Many come to Christ as adults, out of nonbelieving families. Many people don’t have much time (or the inclination!) to devote to in-depth biblical or theological study. Many people grew up in a church where only the most basic of Gospel truths were touched on, and become paralyzed when more complex life situations rear their ugly heads.

Should all Christians have an intense drive to make themselves as knowledgeable and as spiritually “prepared” as possible? Well, yes. But we live in a busy, imperfect world full of busy, imperfect people. Everyone’s experience is different; everyone is part of a unique story.

So when the “snowstorms” of life come, don’t mock the “southerners” in your midst who freak out. Instead, be there for them. Extend grace, love, and friendship. Not everyone can be prepared for what seems like No Big Deal to you. Everyone’s hard place deserves validation in a Kingdom of God marked by compassion, equality, forgiveness, and love.

Two Gates

 A.J. Gretz, author, Today Devotions

Scripture Reading — Matthew 7:13-14

“Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” — Matthew 7:14

Jesus lays out a clear choice that each of us must make. There is a wide, easy road that leads to destruction. And there is a harder, narrower road of discipleship that leads to life.

It can be easy to assume that the broad road includes only people who do not believe in God, or maybe people of some other faith who do not know Jesus. So we might ­assume that Jesus is drawing a contrast between people in the church and those who are completely outside of it.

But in light of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, there’s another way to think about this passage. Jesus has been showing his listeners that they need to move from outward religion and ritual into a true relationship with God. We need to go beyond merely behaving ourselves to ­actually walking in union with the Father.

So as we read this passage, we need to realize that Jesus is describing not only a choice between faith or no faith. There’s also a choice between empty, surface-level religion and genuine discipleship.

The call of this passage is to move beyond rituals or cultural faith and to truly enter a full-life relationship with God, marked by dependence and submission to his will.

 

God Helps Us With Our Decisions

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Halloween Decisions

children sitting on the steps of a house with pumpkins

 

Beth Patch – Senior Producer, cbn.com

“You’re either on one side of the fence or the other,” Pastor Chip said. “No straddling the fence. Think about it. It will hurt!” he said as he lifted one of his legs over an imaginary fence, raised to his tippy toes, and grimaced as he placed the leg down. “You need to pick a side.”

He was speaking about having one foot in the world and the other in Christ — a less than all-in Christian posture.

But, I’ve come across many (what I call) gray areas in Christianity that cause me to straddle the fence (i.e. pagan origins of Easter celebration, how theologians differ on “the end times” [eschatology], and the many divisive Christian denominations … to name a few). And regarding Halloween, I’ve got to admit — I’ve become a fence-straddler.

I spent my childhood loving Halloween, going trick-or-treat, dressing up as whatever I wanted. It was fun! I knew nothing about its origins.

Fast forward 20 years — I was a newly-rededicated Christian mom — a freshly squeezed-out Jesus sponge, soaking up all I could to understand and honor God. I was careful what I let into my home and into my life as I became aware of godless influences around us in TV, movies, and friends. I was naïve about so many spiritual dangers. One October day, our babysitter handed me a print-out when I picked the children up from her house — “The Truth about Halloween.”

We were shocked to learn how deeply rooted it is in evil. It is truly a dark and pagan ritualistic event for witchcraft and satanism. My husband and I felt we had been naive all these years, leaving all of us vulnerable to demonic attacks. It wasn’t innocent fun. We decided our family would no longer celebrate Halloween.

Needless to say, our children who had already celebrated Halloween for several years, were floored by our decision. We explained our heartfelt reasons and that we were protecting them from evil and taking a holy stance that would show which side of the fence we stood on — God’s side! We didn’t want to offend God. We would honor God.

Our four children went along with us, reluctantly. We got them lots of candy and took them out to dinner each year. But that didn’t matter. They missed dressing up in costumes and going trick-or-treating together. Their friends probably did a lot of eye-rolling too.

Fast forward another 20 years. Our grown children dress up in costumes and go to parties. Our grandchildren are superheroes who go door to door on Halloween night. The ban on Halloween ended with us.

Although I believe we were acting on our best understanding and pure hearts, I’m not sure we handled this the best. We didn’t participate. We lost an opportunity to be light in our dark world. And that is why I consider myself a fence-straddler. I still don’t like what Halloween stands for but I think we can honor God on the one night of the year that our neighbors come out to our homes. I do see the positive results of kind neighbors, candy-givers, and children excited about the event.

We don’t get do-overs with parenting. We were so focused on protecting our family and avoiding evil, that we failed to recognize the power of the Holy Spirit residing in us to overcome the darkness. As my grandmother used to say, “we choked on a gnat but swallowed a camel” (Matthew 23:24).

Maybe we’re not fence straddlers – maybe it’s time for our fence to be removed.

So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen. 2 Timothy 2:10 NLT

Father, help us all to focus on what’s most important about each day you allow us to have here on earth. Your Word says to love you with all our hearts, minds, and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Help each of us to know what that looks like on October 31. And help us to refrain from judging others about their Halloween decisions.

The Need of Perfect Solitude – Streams in the Desert – October 26

  • 202126 Oct

He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when evening was come, he was there alone (Matthew 14:23).

The man Christ Jesus felt the need of perfect solitude–Himself alone, entirely by Himself, alone with Himself. We know how much intercourse with men draws us away from ourselves and exhausts our powers. The man Christ Jesus knew this, too, and felt the need of being by Himself again, of gathering all His powers, of realizing fully His high destiny, His human weakness, His entire dependence on the Father.

How much more does the child of God need this–himself alone with spiritual realities, himself alone with God the Father. If ever there were one who could dispense with special seasons for solitude and fellowship, it was our Lord. But He could not do His work or maintain His fellowship in full power, without His quiet time. Would God that every servant of His understood and practiced this blessed art, and that the Church knew how to train its children into some sense of this high and holy privilege, that every believer may and must have his time when he is indeed himself alone with God.

Oh, the thought to have God all alone to myself, and to know that God has me all alone to Himself!
–Andrew Murray

Lamertine speaks in one of his books of a secluded walk in his garden where his mother always spent a certain hour of the day, upon which nobody ever dreamed for a moment of intruding. It was the holy garden of the Lord to her.

Poor souls that have no such Beulah land! Seek thy private chamber, Jesus says. It is in the solitude that we catch the mystic notes that issue from the soul of things.

A MEDITATION

My soul, practice being alone with Christ! It is written that when they were alone He expounded all things to His disciples. Do not wonder at the saying; it is true to thine experience. If thou wouldst understand thyself send the multitude away. Let them go out one by one till thou art left alone with Jesus… Has thou ever pictured thyself the one remaining creature in the earth, the one remaining creature in all the starry worlds?

In such a universe thine every thought would be “God and I! God and I!” And yet He is as near to thee as that – as near as if in the boundless spaces there throbbed no heart but His and thine.

Practice that solitude, O my soul! Practice the expulsion of the crowd! Practice the stillness of thine own heart! Practice the solemn refrain “God and I! God and I!” Let none interpose between thee and thy wrestling angel! Thou shalt be both condemned and pardoned when thou shalt meet Jesus alone!
–George Matheson

Our stronghold

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.’ Proverbs 18:10

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 20:1–9

It is useless for me to attempt to describe the various ways in which your trials come; but I am sure they that know Jehovah’s name will put their trust in him. Perhaps your trial has been want, and then you have said, ‘His name is Jehovah-jireh, the Lord will provide;’ or else you have been banished from friends, but you have said, ‘His name is Jehovah-shammah, the Lord is there;’ or else you have had a disturbance in your family; there has been war within, and war without, but you have run into your strong tower, for you have said, ‘His name is Jehovah-shalom, the Lord send peace;’ or else the world has slandered you, and you yourself have been conscious of sin, but you have said, ‘His name is Jehovah-tsidkenu, the Lord our righteousness,’ and so you have gone there, and been safe; or else many have been your enemies; then his name has been ‘Jehovah-nissi, the Lord my banner;’ and so he has been a strong tower to you. Defy, then brethren, in God’s strength, tribulations of every sort and size. Say with the poet,

‘There is a safe and secret place The least and feeblest here may hide
Beneath the wings divine Uninjured and unawed.
Reserved for all the heirs of grace; While thousands fall on every side,
That refuge now is mine. I rest secure in God.’

But, beloved, besides the trials of this life, we have the sins of the flesh, and what a tribulation these are; but the name of our God is our strong tower then. At certain seasons we are more than ordinarily conscious of our guilt; and I would give little for your piety, if you do not sometimes creep into a corner with the poor publican and say, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’

For meditation: The name of the Lord Jesus Christ is a strong tower: the unrighteous run into it, and are saved (Matthew 1:21Acts 4:1210:431 John 5:13). Have you ‘fled for refuge’ (Hebrews 6:18)? Are you ‘in Christ’?

 

Rejoice and Give Glory To God

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Joy Comes in the Morning!

sunrise-mountain-light_si.jpg

 

Recently, I visited Colorado Springs for a speaking engagement and a few meetings with my publisher – and learned an amusing lesson. Steve, who works for my publishing company, and his wife picked me up from the airport on the evening that I arrived, and took me to dinner. We then headed to Glen Eyrie Castle and Conference Center, where I’d be staying during my trip. Before arriving, I had received a generous invitation from a staff member at Glen Eyrie to stay at no expense in the biggest and nicest room at their Christian retreat center nestled in the foothills near picturesque Pike’s Peak. The property, a castle built by a civil war general for his wife, established the city of Colorado Springs in the late 19th century.

I’d been told the location was beautiful, but it was dark when we arrived and upon proceeding through the gate, I began to feel a bit apprehensive. We drove along a winding road with no street lights and small, dark cottages sprinkled here and there. It seemed like the scene just before something crazy happens in a scary movie. We pulled up to the home I’d be staying in. It was just after 10:00 pm. One light was on in the house and I thought I saw a man sitting at a desk near a front window. We walked up to the large, ornate wood door with a heavy metal knocker. Taped to the center of the door was a note with “Valorie” scribbled on the outside and a key inside. It instructed me to the location of my room inside this bed-and-breakfast style cottage.

We walked through the foyer, then a long, stately dining room with a fireplace and seating for 14 people, and finally a vast living area with paintings of people I imagined were long gone. The lighting was nearly non-existent and as we proceeded through the house, I thought, “Where am I? Who else is in this house? Are the former inhabitants still ‘with us’?” I knew I was being silly, but the thoughts and questions were gaining speed. We arrived at my room – a spacious pink bedroom with a long, hall entryway, an antique canopy bed, living area, work area and a huge bathroom. Steve saw the apprehension on my face. And his wife looked a little apprehensive about leaving me there, too.

“You don’t have to stay here,” he assured me. “We can go to the Hilton right now if you want.” I gazed through one of the dozen, 10-feet high windows in the room. It was pitch black outside so I couldn’t see a thing. But I wasn’t feeling excited about staying.

“It was such a generous offer that I would feel terrible about coming here and then leaving to check into a hotel,” I said.

Just then, I heard a motherly voice call out, “Val-or-ie?” I turned to find a lovely, older couple – the home’s hosts – enter the room.

The husband, perhaps sensing a little tension by the way we were scoping out the room, said lightly, “Don’t worry. There are no ghosts here. It just looks like this because you came at night.”

A little embarrassed, I said, “Oh, I’m sure it’s lovely in the daytime,” hoping I was right.

The host’s wife proceeded to tell me a few things about the room and the house. She said something about an unconventional wake-up call at 5:30 am, but I thought she was kidding. “Good night,” they said before retiring to their room.

“Well,” I said to Steve and his wife. “I’ll stay tonight and let’s see how it goes.”

“I’ll be back to pick you up in the morning,” he offered, “Just pack your bags if you want to check into a hotel tomorrow, and we’ll take them when I pick you up.”

Uneasy, but undeterred, I readied for bed and decided that my apprehension was unfounded (but left the hallway light on for good measure).

Around 5:20 am, I was suddenly awakened by the sound of a woman laughing – well, kind of cackling. It was almost a giggle – little short, choppy bursts of laughter. The first time I heard it, I thought it was a bit strange. The second time, I thought, “Boy, something must really be funny.” I tried to go back to sleep, but she wouldn’t stop her funny little giggles.

“What could be that funny this early in the morning!?” I thought, now feeling a bit annoyed.

Then it occurred to me, the hostess warned me the night before that I would get a wake-up call around 5:30 in the morning – from wild turkeys gobbling outside. I jumped out of bed and looked outside, only to see huge, wild, black turkeys shuffling about on the lawn. In the background was a spectacular mountain view and I could see the edges of a large, stone castle peeking from behind the tall, evergreen trees on the property. The scene from the 12, expansive windows in my room was captivating. I took a deep breath of gratitude and inhaled the divine beauty of nature. Then I laughed at myself for my reaction the night before.

During my three days at Glen Eyrie, I took walks, meditated and enjoyed the scenic landscape and peaceful environment that surrounded me.

I gleaned a simple lesson from this story:

Sometimes, you have to persevere through the uncertainty of darkness to experience the beautiful vision that comes when light is shed on a situation. Things aren’t always as they seem, especially when we have a limited view.

In what area of your life are you apprehensive because you can’t see what’s coming? Are you ready to bail out quickly before you can see the whole picture? This week, I offer you a challenge: Refuse to allow irrational fears to pressure you into making hasty decisions – whether in your personal or professional life.

“… Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning,” Psalm 30:5 promises.

Stick around and see what God has in store before you take it upon yourself to “fix things.” When you finally see what morning looks like, you may just find you were in the right place all along.

Please Receive Him as Myself – Streams in the Desert – October 25

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Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full (John 16:24).

During the Civil War, a man had an only son who enlisted in the armies of the Union. The father was a banker and, although he consented to his son’s going, it seemed as if it would break his heart to let him go.

He became deeply interested in the soldier boys, and whenever he saw a uniform, his heart went out as he thought of his own dear boy. He spent his time, neglected his business, gave his money to caring for the soldiers who came home invalid. His friends remonstrated with him, saying he had no right to neglect his business and spend so much thought upon the soldiers, so he fully decided to give it all up.

After he had come to this decision, there stepped into his bank one day a private soldier in a faded, worn uniform, who showed in his face and hands the marks of the hospital. The poor fellow was fumbling in his pocket to get something or other, when the banker saw him and, perceiving his purpose, said to him: “My dear fellow, I cannot do anything for you today. I am extremely busy. You will have to go to your headquarters; the officers there will look after you.”

Still the poor convalescent stood, not seeming to fully understand what was said to him. Still he fumbled in his pockets and, by and by, drew out a scrap of dirty paper, on which there were a few lines written with a pencil, and laid this soiled sheet before the banker. On it he found these words:

“Dear Father: “This is one of my comrades who was wounded in the last fight, and has been in the hospital. Please receive him as myself. –Charlie.”

In a moment all the resolutions of indifference which this man made, flew away. He took the boy to his palatial home, put him in Charlie’s room, gave him Charlie’s seat at the table, kept him until food and rest and love had brought him back to health, and then sent him back again to imperil his life for the flag.
–Selected

Light at evening time

By: Charles Spurgeon

“It shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.” Zechariah 14:7

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 24:13-2128-35

God very frequently acts in grace in such a manner that we can find a parallel in nature. For instance, God says, “… as the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, … so shall my word be, …it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” We find him speaking concerning the coming of Christ, “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.” We find him likening the covenant of grace to the covenant which he made with Noah concerning the seasons, and with man concerning the different revolutions of the year—“Seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” We find that the works of creation are very frequently the mirror of the works of grace, and that we can draw figures from the world of nature to illustrate the great acts of God in the world of his grace towards his people. But sometimes God oversteps nature. In nature after evening comes night. The sun has had its hours of journeying; the fiery steeds are weary; they must rest. Lo, they descend the azure steeps and plunge their burning fetlocks in the western sea, while night in her dark chariot follows at their heels. God, however, oversteps the rule of nature. He is pleased to send to his people times when the eye of reason expects to see no more day, but fears that the glorious landscape of God’s mercies will be shrouded in the darkness of his forgetfulness. But instead, God overleaps nature, and declares that at evening time, instead of darkness there shall be light.

For meditation: The text has only ever been true on one occasion in a physical sense (Joshua 10:12-14), but God, to whom even the darkness is light (Psalm 139:12), is always repeating the event spiritually in the lives of his people.

Victory Everywhere

by Inspiration Ministries

“The LORD helped David wherever he went.” – 2 Samuel 8:6 NASB

David had the kind of results most people can only imagine. Everywhere he went, the Lord helped him. Whatever he did, the Lord gave him success.

When he was attacked, God provided protection. David was victorious when he was outnumbered – even when his obstacles seemed overwhelming. He received hope when situations seemed hopeless. He was guided when he did not know what to do or where to go.

Why was he so successful? David had developed an intimate relationship with God and knew that He was with him. He believed His Word and approached each challenge with complete trust in Him.

This is the kind of life that God can give to all of us. It is a life of protection, safety, and constant victory. But we are not guaranteed to experience this level of success. As David found out later, we have choices to make. If we turn away from God and disobey Him, we cannot expect His blessings.

The Bible assures us that God is ready to help you in every situation you face. But you cannot have this kind of success if you trust in yourself or your resources. Be sure that you pray and commit your way to Him. Seek His wisdom. Be faithful with the resources you have been given. Obey His Word. Trust completely in Him. Have faith that He will give you victory in everything you do.

God Is Rich In Mercy and Love

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This Halloween, Give Grace a Chance

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With a hammer in one hand and a large scroll under his arm, Martin Luther approached the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He paused to take a couple of nails from a pouch hidden in the folds of his dark woolen habit then began pounding his 95 theses to the church’s heavy wooden doors.

The date was October 31, 1517 and the event changed the course of human history.

Luther’s protest was not against ghosts and goblins or children dressing up to trick-or-treat. He chose All Hallow’s Eve because it was the night before All Saints’ Day, a day when most of Wittenberg’s inhabitants would be in church. It was good advertising.

This was not the United States of America where freedom of speech is protected as a Constitutional right. The Catholic Church was the supreme authority in the land: those who went against the Church did so at the peril of their lives.

What prompted this act of courage and defiance on Luther’s part?

As Luther studied Scripture, his eyes were opened to a new concept: the concept of God’s grace. Passion burned inside him as he read verses like Ephesians 2:8-9:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (NIV)

The established Church in Luther’s day misled people into thinking they could be saved by their own works through pilgrimages, confessions and by purchasing indulgences, which were basically “get out of hell free” cards. It became clear to Luther that men could not purchase God’s grace: it was freely given. This conviction led him to write out 95 main points of contention with the Catholic Church, his “theses,” which he ended up nailing to the door of the church in Wittenberg.

Today many Christians debate the proper stance to take toward Halloween. Some believe that the holiday glorifies witchcraft and evil, while others see it simply as innocent fun. One of Satan’s most successful tactics is to incite Christians to fight each other on matters of doctrine. Perhaps we would do better this October 31 to focus on what is most important to God, just like Martin Luther did on that fateful day in history.

Luther was determined. He was passionate. He was willing to sacrifice his credentials, social status, even his life for the sake of sharing the news about God’s saving grace. The words of Romans 10:14 struck him at the core:

“… And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (NIV)

Are you willing to make similar sacrifices to bring people from darkness to light?

Taking It to the Streets

Here are some ideas for taking God’s grace to the streets this Halloween.

  • Organize a prayerwalk around your neighborhood. Before the night falls and costumed children begin their quest for candy and fun, walk around your neighborhood alone or with friends, praying that the children will be protected from physical and emotional harm inside and outside their homes. Pray that the people in your neighborhood might be brought from darkness to light.
  • Be a Witness. How will they hear unless they are told? Halloween provides a great chance to plant seeds for the Gospel. It’s like door-to-door witnessing in reverse: the lost come to you! Try slipping in a kid-friendly tract along with any candy you distribute. And be friendly: these are likely to be kids from your neighborhood. You may not recognize them out of costume tomorrow but they’ll sure recognize you!
  • Organize a Neighborhood Party. Provide a “holy” alternative celebration for children and adults in your neighborhood. Consider hosting a “Reformation Day Celebration” in commemoration of Martin Luther’s brave act or a “Harvest Party” that celebrates the things we love most about fall.
  • Lend a Hand. Many churches organize Halloween alternatives but need help from volunteers to decorate, bring candy, or to help out at the event. Join in their efforts to provide good, clean fun.

Luther’s brave act was like a bolt of lightning rending the midnight sky. Now it’s your turn to do something revolutionary: give someone the gift of God’s grace this Halloween.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

October 24

Psalms 103:10-12 10he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

These songs of praise are rich with teaching. In this psalm the writer tells us a fact we need to remember. We never get what we deserve. Never ask for justice, or you may get it. We always forget our sins and remember our good deeds with a little embellishment. If we got what we deserve, we would all be cast into the Lake of Fire. We are by nature rebels against the loving goodness of our Creator. Instead of giving us what we deserve, God lavished His love upon us by sending His one and only Son to take what we deserved. Only Jesus could bear it.

How did we ever learn to fear Him, that is, to reverence His just nature that will not let sin go unpunished? It is only an undeserved gift of grace! It is an expression of His great love. That love is much greater than you or I could ever muster. What is your attitude toward those who have betrayed your love for them? God just continues to love us to the fullest extent of His love.

Satan would try to get us to dwell on all our failures and past mistakes. God doesn’t, so why should we? Satan’s accusations are true, but so is the fact that those sins are covered by the sacrifice of Jesus. They are removed from us as far as east is from west. That is a long ways! Next time the enemy tries to get you down about a past sin, remind him of this verse. The future is as bright as the promises of God. You are a work in transition, but the debris that has been chiseled away is already cleaned up and hauled off.

Remember: Look forward, not back, and praise God for loving you so! Praise Him for sending Jesus to bear what you deserved.

Streams in the Desert – October 24

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I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument (Isa. 41:15).

A bar of steel worth five dollars, when wrought into horseshoes, is worth ten dollars. If made into needles, it is worth three hundred and fifty dollars; if into penknife blades, it is worth thirty-two thousand dollars; if into springs for watches it is worth two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. What a drilling the poor bar must undergo to be worth this! But the more it is manipulated, the more it is hammered, and passed through the fire, and beaten and pounded and polished, the greater the value.

May this parable help us to be silent, still, and longsuffering. Those who suffer most are capable of yielding most; and it is through pain that God is getting the most out of us, for His glory and the blessing of others.
–Selected

Oh, give Thy servant patience to be still,
And bear Thy will;
Courage to venture wholly on the arm
That will not harm;
The wisdom that will never let me stray
Out of my way;
The love that, now afflicting, knoweth best
When I should rest.

Life is very mysterious. Indeed it would be inexplicable unless we believed that God was preparing us for scenes and ministries that lie beyond the veil of sense in the eternal world, where highly-tempered spirits will be required for special service.

“The turning-lathe that has the sharpest knives produces the finest work.”

Do Not Worry

A.J. Gretz, author, today devotions

Scripture Reading — Matthew 6:25-34

“Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” — Matthew 6:31

Jesus’ early disciples lived with war, violence, disease, and famine in a way that is foreign to many of us. On any given day, people could lose a child or lose their harvest or be robbed by a Roman tax collector. And, unlike today, there were no safety nets. There were no stimulus payments, no social security checks, no food stamps, and no hospitals.

This is not to say that our struggles in 2021 aren’t real, or that they somehow don’t matter. But it’s helpful to understand that even in the harsh environment of the ancient world, Jesus had the audacity to tell his followers not to worry about their lives. He was reminding them that God called them into a relationship with him. And if God watches over plants and provides for animals, if these other parts of creation have what they need, then we can trust that God will provide everything we need. Why wouldn’t we expect our Father in heaven to provide for his children?

Jesus is showing us how to find relief from our worries and anxieties, no matter what they are. For God is our loving Father. If there’s something we need, we can ask him to provide it. If there’s a struggle that we face, we can ask God for help. If we feel totally lost or confused about what we should do, we can ask him for clarity. And as we pray these things, we can trust not only that God can provide what we need, but also that he will.

Prayer

Father, no matter what challenges I face, help me to remember your love and your faithfulness to me. Amen.

You Are Special To God

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You Are Special

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

Jeremiah 1:4-5

Is it not remarkable that when God began to talk to this young man and send him to his ministry, the first thing he did was to sit down and share with him that, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Is not that what he is saying? This is the preparation of God. The remarkable thing is that this preparation began long before Jeremiah was even conceived. In other words, God said, I started getting you ready, and the world ready for you, long before you were born. I worked through your father and your mother, your grandfathers and grandmothers, your great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers. For generations back I have been preparing you. What a remarkable revelation to this young man — that through the generations of the past God had begun to work!

When people face a crisis, they always start looking for a program, some method with which to attack the crisis. When God sets out to solve a crisis, he almost always starts with a baby. All the babies God sends into the world, who look so innocent and so helpless — and so useless — at their birth, have enormous potential. There is nothing very impressive in appearance about a baby, but that is God’s way of changing the world. That is what God said to Jeremiah: I’ve been working before you were born to prepare you to be a prophet, working through your father and your mother, and those who were before them.

If you read this account as though this were something extraordinary which applied only to Jeremiah the prophet, you have misread this whole passage. I often hear people say of some noted person, When God made him, he broke the mold. That is true, but what we fail to see is that this is true of each one of us. God never made another one like you, and he never will. God never made anyone else who can fill the place you can fill and do the things you can do. This is the wonder of the way God forms human life — that of the billions upon billions who have been spawned upon this earth there are no duplicates. Each one is unique, prepared of God for the time in which he is to live. That is the word which came to Jeremiah, to strengthen him. Look, God said, I have prepared you for this very hour, as he has prepared you and me for this time, for this world, for this hour of human history.

I heard this week a story concerning the death of a young man, a pastor. When he was dying of cancer, his father and uncle, who are twin brothers, came to see him. After visiting with them both a short while, he asked his uncle, Would you mind if I talk to my Dad alone? His uncle was glad to wait in the hall. When his father came out, he said to his brother, I want to tell you what David did while we were alone. He called me over to his bed and said, Can I put my arms around you? I stooped over as best I could and let him put his arms around me. And now, Dad, would you put your arms around me? I could hardly keep control of my emotions, but I put my arms around him. Then, with his arms around me, he said, Dad, I just want you to know that the greatest gift God ever gave me, outside of salvation itself, was the gift of a father and mother who love God and taught me to love him, too.

That is what God is saying to Jeremiah. What a gift you have! How I have prepared you for this moment, through the generations which lie behind you, that you might live and speak and act in this time in history.

 

What Does Jeremiah 1:5 Mean?

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah was a man who was born into the priestly line of Levi and was called to be a prophet of the Lord. He was a man who would have to endure much hardship during his life and he even witnessed the shocking ransacking of his beloved city of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and wept as he watched the destruction of the Temple of God, when his people were taken into captivity.

It is likely that Jeremiah was about 20 years old when he was called and received his commissioned to be a prophet of God, “Before I formed you in the womb,” Jeremiah was told, “I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you. I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah had a long ministry which spanned the reign of a number of kings of Judah… the first of which was king Josiah who was crowned at the age of eight and had been on the throne of Judah for 5 years when the Lord spoke to his servant.

Although we all have an assurance that the Lord knew each one of us before we were born and has scheduled each day of our lives, very few prophets were consecrated by God before they were born and appointed to be a prophet to the nations.

Jeremiah did not aspire to become a prophet or attend a school of prophets to learn the skills of ‘profiteering’ as is the case with many false prophets. He was not a prophet because of his ancestry nor did he receive it as an honorary entitlement.

Despite doubting his own ability to speak and showing concern about his age, Jeremiah had a calling on his life which was given to him by divine revelation. Although the call on Jeremiah’s life was devoid of great visions of heaven like Isaiah, or revealed to his parents like John the Baptist, the knowledge that he had been singled out by God and set apart for an important prophetic ministry must have been a great encouragement to this young Levite.

Jeremiah may have been divinely chosen and empowered by God for his prophetic ministry, but he was a man who was humanly hesitant and reluctant to take up this God-ordained role… and he was a man who had to endure much hardship during his ministry because of his God-ordained position.

Although he was a man who had to experience much hardship, loneliness, pain, and rejection, and became known as ‘the weeping prophet’, Jeremiah was a man who was greatly used by the Lord in the furtherance of God’s redemptive plan throughout his ministry and enjoyed much intimate fellowship with the Lord he served.

Just as God had a call on Jeremiah’s life, He has a call on the life of all who trust in Christ by faith, and God can use anyone in the furtherance of his redemptive plan if we are willing to submit to Him and be used by Him.

Treasure

A.J. Gretz, author, Today Devotions

Scripture Reading — Matthew 6:19-24

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” — Matthew 6:21

You might think of yourself as a well-adjusted grownup. But what happens when someone puts a scratch on your new car? What happens when the dog gets a hold of your new shoes? What happens when the market drops?

When things like that happen, we can get upset. And even if we stay calm and collected on the outside, on the inside we might get really angry, grow bitter, and even fall apart. Because that thing that we treasured has suddenly been taken away.

There’s nothing wrong with caring for your stuff, or saving for retirement. But Jesus wants to guard us from the temptation to turn material things into idols. If we’re not careful, we can make decisions based on the size of our paycheck or the gains in our portfolio instead of following God’s leading.

So Jesus rightly warns us when he says that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. Our time, attention, and resources can easily be given over to our money and our stuff if we aren’t paying attention.

Jesus’ desire is that we come to see our relationship with God as our most valuable treasure. Full life with God, the source of our joy and comfort and purpose, is greater than we can even imagine.