Monthly Archives: August 2022

Father Knows Best

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Father Knows Best

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Vernell Windsor – Prayer Center Coach, cbn.com

One of my younger siblings tells a childhood story about us that I do not remember. Every day after school, she would pick on me, but I was the one to get in trouble for it. Apparently, a day came when I got “sick of her” and threw her across the room. She claims to have seen stars but did not harass me ever again. Please do not judge us. We were tweenagers trying to find our way. Today, we are the best of friends!

The Bible provides clarity about what God expects from us. Consider Psalm 133:1-3,

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.” (ESV)

Unfortunately, my sibling and I did not begin with unity but praise God that He navigated our pathway to it. In our story, the blessing included a great relationship. Imagine our communities and churches joining together in unity! We could all benefit from the “precious oil” upon our heads or “the dew of Hermon” causing fresh springs of mountain water to flow. God would certainly be glorified in our intentional pursuit of unity.

I suspect the enemy tries to keep us divided because he does not want us blessed. The Apostle Paul also identified a dangerous lack of unity in the community of believers concerning Holy Communion. 1 Corinthians 11:18-19 says,

“For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”

Oh, I forgot to mention, my father made sure my little sister went with me everywhere (torturous, right?). I embraced the directive (eventually) and benefited greatly from doing so. Our father loved us both. As we submitted to his authority, we were truly blessed. His vision for us was greater than anything we could have imagined.

He and his brother used to fight daily too (we found out much later). Our families spent weekends together frequently, so they too, became very close. The genuineness of unity surfaced in our relationships just as Apostle Paul described.

We know our spiritual fathers would not give such granular instructions as biological fathers, but what about Holy Spirit? For my sibling and me, submitting to our father’s voice prepared us to hear and obey the voice of the Lord whom we met later. When we recognize Father’s voice, let us go “all-in” for whatever He has for us! After all, Father knows best!

Today’s Devotions

Morning

August 31

Ezra 10:10-12 10Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel’s guilt. 11Now make confession to the LORD, the God of your fathers, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.” 12The whole assembly responded with a loud voice: “You are right! We must do as you say.

When Ezra had heard how the remnant had broken God’s law by marrying the pagan women of the land, he tore his robes and wept and fasted. The people followed his lead and were convicted of sin. It was the people who encouraged him to tell them what to do to set things right with God. Ezra replied with the verses above; confess and do God’s will. Separate yourselves from the people and wives who had those horrible demonic religious practices.

We do not live in Israel and were never forbidden to marry a certain group of people, but the principle remains true. That is why the Apostle Paul told us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). That could apply to marriage or business. When we find we are with people of evil practices, we should not commit ourselves to any type of united endeavor with them. How can two walk together except they be agreed (Amos 3:3)?

But there is a deeper principle. What fellowship does light have with darkness? If we are walking in the light, we will be repulsed by sin and have a desire to show those in darkness the way to be freed from its bondage. Some Christians will play on the edge of the cliff of sin because the allurement is enticing them. Coach Bill McCartney said, “Draw a line where there is a danger of being caught by sin and stay ten yards back.” Don’t walk along the very edge of a cliff.

In this final chapter of Ezra, the men sent their foreign wives and children away. That seems very harsh of God, but the situation existed because of disobedience to God. It was the only remedy. Not dealing with the issue had caused the downfall of Israel in the past. We must cut off from our lives that which is enticing us to sin and send it away from our lives if we are going to go on with God.

Consider: If you want God’s blessing, confess the sin. Do God’s will. Separate yourself from the sin.

Streams in the Desert – August 31

  • 202231 Aug

Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed (John 20:29).

How strong is the snare of the things that are seen, and how necessary for God to keep us in the things that axe unseen! If Peter is to walk on the water he must walk; if he is going to swim, he must swim, but he cannot do both. If the bird is going to fly it must keep away from fences and the trees, and trust to its buoyant wings. But if it tries to keep within easy reach of the ground, it will make poor work of flying.

God had to bring Abraham to the end of his own strength, and to let him see that in his own body he could do nothing. He had to consider his own body as good as dead, and then take God for the whole work; and when he looked away from himself, and trusted God alone, then he became fully persuaded that what He had promised, He was able to perform.

That is what God is teaching us, and He has to keep away encouraging results until we learn to trust without them, and then He loves to make His Word real in fact as well as faith.
–A. B. Simpson

I do not ask that He must prove
His Word is true to me,
And that before I can believe
He first must let me see.
It is enough for me to know
‘Tis true because He says ’tis so;
On His unchanging Word I’ll stand

And trust till I can understand.
–E. M. Winter

Why You Need to Hear the Gospel Again

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Why You Need to Hear the Gospel Again

By: Sarah E. Martin, Crosswalk.com

 

John 10:27 — Hearing God's Voice | by The Lord Is My Shepherd | Medium

 

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” – Deuteronomy 11:18-21

I was again hearing the words spoken to me my whole life. From flannel graphs in Sunday school to today’s sermon preached from Genesis 3. I had heard this story before. I was a guest in my friend’s church which met in an old chapel with all the traditional trimmings—pews, hymnals, and the smell of old wood. The pastor preached on the Fall, the fateful turn of humanity’s tale when man’s faith in God shattered, and so did everything else.

Sin entered the world, and what was formerly home and belonging became unreachable and lost. God’s voice was no longer the only one we listened to. As the pastor told this story, he delivered a powerful presentation of the gospel. He made connections within Scripture that drew out a certain angle of the light of the good news that my heart just happened to need to hear that week.

You would think that after all these years, I would cease to be amazed by the Bible’s message and all the ways we can see it from Genesis to Revelation. You’d think that eventually, I would graduate and perfectly embody all of its truth in each corner of my life and wouldn’t need it poured into my ears over and over again. But, reader, I do. And so do you.

Though the stories never change, the essential message that we are broken and Christ is the answer remains the same, and God continually delivers it anew to us as we walk along the way. He’s made us to need his Word like we need food, to come to life as his Spirit helps us hear what we couldn’t before. Every verse of the Bible tells us that to be alive, to be sustained, to remain vital, with fresh life pouring and flowing through us, we need words.

Though I had heard it countless times, I have a tendency, symptomatic of being human, to let even the most sacred truths sit filed away, archived like a thing I’ve collected rather than the living, breathing thing it is, “dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow” (Heb. 4:12). If this happens to the gospel in your life, you will quickly begin to work and strive for what Jesus has already done for you, placing a yoke that isn’t his, and therefore isn’t freedom, back on your sore shoulders.

But hearing the pastor deliver God’s Word afresh both humbled me and lifted me in the way that only Jesus can do. The truth is that mankind failed, and we continue to fail. But God sent his son, Jesus, to become like us and to do the unthinkable by taking on our curse so we might be free. And looking to him in faith is all it takes to be healed. That’s it. I don’t know about you, but I would be crushed if it wasn’t for this good news sustaining every moment for me.

This is the good news we need to hear and receive every day—that we’re sinners, and Christ is our savior. Whether it’s from a pastor, a minister, a family member or a friend, hearing the gospel spoken out loud, taking shape in another person’s words is life-giving to our faith. When was the last time someone spoke these words out loud to you? When was the last time you spoke them out loud to someone else? Or even to yourself?

When the enemy tempted Jesus with his twisted words, challenging him to use his power to satisfy his hunger, Jesus responded,

“It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt. 4:4)

It is easy to forget the power of words. In the daily onslaught of messaging and information, words can gradually become common, misused, and drained of their worth. But Christians can’t forget our need for the words that come from the mouth of God.

In the beginning, God spoke, and a cosmos of life and light and earth and stars erupted out of nothing, spread across all existing space, and continues to expand to this day. The words of God began life in the most literal as well as spiritual sense. It shouldn’t surprise us then that it is the Word of God that sustains the life in us. When we believe in Christ, God puts a new spirit in us that is living, active, and sustained by God himself. His words and our abiding in them is what feeds that life.

 

Today Devotions

Morning

August 30

Ezra 8:21-23 21There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. 22I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” 23So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.

When Ezra had gathered everyone for the journey, he proclaimed a fast. It was a time to humbly ask the LORD for His protection. He could have asked for armed guards, but he had already told the king that the gracious hand of God was on everyone who looks to Him. It would not be much of a testimony to turn around and ask for the strength of man after trying to share that with the king. Do we think like this? Do we remember what we have shared of the truth of our LORD with unbelievers and then carefully guard the testimony by being faithful to live in demonstration of it? I’m afraid we water down our words by our actions more than we verify our words by our actions.

I wonder if Ezra thought, “I put my foot in my mouth now! I’m going to have to make this trip with valuable possessions but without armed guards because I told the king God’s hand was on us and against our enemies. We had better pray!”

We are not in the habit of dropping everything, especially eating, and going to God until we get an answer. We could certainly learn from their example here. Ezra says God answered their prayer before they left. It was done before they broke camp. They didn’t have to see it to believe it. In some way that is not recorded, they had the assurance that the prayer was already answered. May the LORD teach us to pray with such fervor and hear the answer with this kind of convinced assurance.

Independence of Christianity

By: Charles Spurgeon

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

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

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

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

Bound In Love

“I pulled them along with cords of a man, with ropes of love, and I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; and I bent down and fed them.” – Hosea 11:4 NASB

For John Fawcett and his wife, it was an emotional moment. He had been saved under the ministry of George Whitefield. Called to ministry, he pastored a small church in northern England. Then he was asked to become the pastor of a larger church in London. This seemed like an opportunity he could not pass up, so he accepted the call.

As Fawcett and his wife prepared to leave, their parishioners gathered around them, expressing their appreciation. Pondering this display of emotion, John and his wife had second thoughts about their decision. They decided they just could not go.

John was so moved by this demonstration of Christian fellowship that he wrote a hymn, “Blest Be the Tie that Binds.” He had seen how Christian hearts were bound together “in Christian love” and how this fellowship was “like to that above.”

He realized, in Christ, we all are one and, “before our Father’s throne we pour our ardent prayers; our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, our comforts, and our cares.” He realized we need to “share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear.” Someday, all believers will be united in Heaven where we shall be free from “sorrow, toil and pain, and sin,” and “perfect love and oneness [will] reign through all eternity.”

Remember, you are part of the body of Christ. Worship God together. Pray together. Share each other’s burdens. Together, seek first God’s Kingdom.

Reflection Question: How can you promote unity within the body of Christ?

 

Jesus Is The Master Builder of Our Lives

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Jesus Is The Master Builder of Our Lives

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Rich Miller – Manager, CBN Prayer Center Digital Interactions

Good news: God doesn’t need our help! He is perfectly capable of accomplishing every good thing without us. In fact, He already has. His cry on the cross of “It is finished” is proof. After all, His works were finished before the foundation of the world. (Hebrews 4:3)

However, He does require our obedience. Certain things will not manifest on the earth without us cooperating with the Holy Spirit. Yet, human tendency is to learn what He wants us to do and then try to fulfill it in our own strength and understanding.

God’s promises are Yes and Amen through Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20), but we must be led by His Spirit in how He chooses to bring them to pass.

Consider King David and his son Solomon. While David wrote many of the Psalms, Psalm 127 was written by Solomon. He witnessed firsthand as David wanted to be the one to build the temple in Jerusalem for the Lord. However, God spoke to David that Solomon was the one He had chosen to build it. (1 Kings 8:17-19) David accepted God’s choice and spent years laying out plans and collecting the resources to make it easier for Solomon. It would have been foolish for David to disobey and spend countless hours having a temple built. God didn’t need David’s help in building a temple for Him. David and Solomon had to follow God’s orders for the Lord to make it the place of His dwelling.

King Solomon rightly decreed in Psalm 127:1-2 (NIV):

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Am I the only one who has ever tried to build things that the Lord wasn’t blessing? Or try to carry out His plans in my own strength? There’s a better way, and that is abiding in Him. When we labor outside of His grace, we’re unconsciously saying that we can do a better job building our lives than He can. There’s a reason Jesus was a carpenter while He was on the earth!

May you be renewed today in the knowledge that God is carrying out to completion the work that He has begun in you. (Philippians 1:6) As His son or daughter, you are very precious to Him and He is the Master Builder. He requires our obedience, but He doesn’t need our help!

Today’s Devotions

Morning

August 29

Ezra 7:9-10 9He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. 10For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

Three times in Ezra chapter 7 we have the expression, “the gracious hand of his God was on him”. He did certain things because of God’s hand upon him. He had favor with the king and was given whatever he asked for because the gracious hand of God was upon him. He was on his way with more exiles and finances and sacrifices to assist in the rebuilding of Jerusalem and to offer the sacrifices the king had sent. Ezra must have made some kind of impression on the king, but I think he would say that this came about because the gracious hand of his God was upon him.

Of course, God has no physical hand, so what does this mean? When a few generations pass, the apostles would lay their hands-on others so that they would be healed or filled with the Holy Spirit or sent out into a ministry calling. Their hands represent God’s hand to bring God’s children to the fullness of His call upon their lives. The picture of God’s gracious hand upon us should give us a rush of joy and encouragement. Surely every born-again child of God has the hand of the Lord upon him in some degree. What can bring that out in a greater display like that which we see in the life of Ezra?

In the above verses we have the reason why. He devoted himself to studying, obeying, and teaching the Word of God. It’s a simple, clear and powerful answer clearly seen in the passage. It is available to every reader. It is the call upon every reader, for whatever your calling is, you need to study and observe and, in some manner, teach the Word of God. There are only a few things that Scripture encourages us to be devoted to. One is the study of and obedience to the Word. The others are to be devoted to seeking the LORD (Jeremiah 30:21), to doing what is good (Titus 3:8,14) and to prayer (Colossians 4:2). It is impossible to do one without doing them all.

Consider: Would you like the gracious hand of God upon your life? Devote yourself to study, obedience, and teaching His Word.

Streams in the Desert – August 29

  • 202229 Aug

And he went out carrying his own cross (John 19:17).

There is a poem called “The Changed Cross.” It represents a weary one who thought that her cross was surely heavier than those of others whom she saw about her, and she wished that she might choose an other instead of her own. She slept, and in her dream she was led to a place where many crosses lay, crosses of different shapes and sizes. There was a little one most beauteous to behold, set in jewels and gold. “Ah, this I can wear with comfort,” she said. So she took it up, but her weak form shook beneath it. The jewels and the gold were beautiful, but they were far too heavy for her.

Next she saw a lovely cross with fair flowers entwined around its sculptured form. Surely that was the one for her. She lifted it, but beneath the flowers were piercing thorns which tore her flesh.

At last, as she went on, she came to a plain cross, without jewels, without carvings, with only a few words of love inscribed upon it. This she took up and it proved the best of all, the easiest to be borne. And as she looked upon it, bathed in the radiance that fell from Heaven, she recognized her own old cross. She had found it again, and it was the best of all and lightest for her.

God knows best what cross we need to bear. We do not know how heavy other people’s crosses are. We envy someone who is rich; his is a golden cross set with jewels, but we do not know how heavy it is. Here is another whose life seems very lovely. She bears a cross twined with flowers. If we could try all the other crosses that we think lighter than our own, we would at last find that not one of them suited us so well as our own.
–Glimpses through Life’s Windows

Spurgeon at the New Park Street Chapel: 365 Sermons

Duration: 365 days

The voice of the blood of Christ

“The blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” Hebrews 12:24

Suggested Further Reading: Genesis 4:1-16

There is a cry heard in heaven; the angels are astonished; they rise up from their golden seats, and they enquire, “What is that cry?” God looks upon them, and he says, “It is the cry of blood; a man has been slain by his fellow; a brother by him who came from the bowels of the self-same mother has been murdered in cold blood, through malice. One of my saints has been murdered, and here he comes.” And Abel entered into heaven, blood-red, the first of God’s elect who had entered Paradise, and the first of God’s children who had worn the blood-red crown of martyrdom. And then the cry was heard, loud and clear and strong; and thus it spoke: “Revenge! Revenge! Revenge!” And God himself, upstarting from his throne, summoned the culprit to his presence; questioned him, condemned him out of his own mouth, and made him henceforth a fugitive and a vagabond, to wander over the surface of the earth, which was to be sterile henceforth to his plough. And now, beloved, just contrast the blood of Christ with this. There is Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God; he hangs upon a tree; he is murdered—murdered by his own brethren. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not”, but his own led him out to death. He bleeds; he dies; and then is heard a cry in heaven. The astonished angels again start from their seats, and they say, “What is this? What is this cry that we hear?” And the mighty Maker answers yet again, “It is the cry of blood; it is the cry of the blood of my only-begotten and well-beloved Son!” And God, uprising from his throne, looks down from heaven and listens to the cry. And what is the cry? It is not revenge; but the voice cries “Mercy! Mercy! Mercy!” Did you not hear it? It said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

For meditation: Abel died, but through his faith he still speaks to us (Hebrews 11:4). Christ died and is alive for evermore (Revelation 1:18); He is always speaking for us, if we come to God through him (Hebrews 7:25).

No Coincidence

No Coincidence

holding and reading open Bible

It was 2:00 in the afternoon. I had an hour until the Vive+ television program began, and I had the privilege of answering ministry calls from people who wanted to know more about Jesus. I tried to start the car and I tried again with the same result. I called for a tow truck. It was now 3:00 and the program had already started. I was worried that I wouldn’t be there to answer the calls together with the rest of my colleagues from the Mexico office.

Finally, the truck arrived. The driver said that I had to ride with him in the cab. At that moment, I noticed that he had a statuette of “Santa Muerte”—the cult symbol of death on the control panel of the vehicle. In Mexico, this type of cultic practice is, sadly, common.

At that moment, I understood that God had a purpose for this incident. I prayed for wisdom to present His Word and a conversation began. At first, it was very tense as I asked him if he was a follower of the cult of death. He said yes. I wanted to know how he was doing.

He told me his story, about his job a few years back, how he got trapped in the drugs he used, how he lost his wife and two daughters because of his addiction, and that he had found the statue while he was digging up rubbish in the cellar where an uncle allowed him to sleep. He was grateful that he had overcome addiction and had his family back. I was silent for a long time and paid attention to every detail. I felt a genuine interest in the man. His eyes filled with light when he talked about his two daughters. It was something I could identify with. He attributed everything to the statue of Santa Muerte, but he also knew that the image had no more power than what he gave it.

“If you have faith in this bottle of water, good things will happen because you have faith in it,” he explained, very sure of himself. That afternoon, the traffic was particularly heavy for a Saturday. It gave us time to talk. Listening to him, I thought his reaction was very human. How many times have we missed the opportunity to see God or recognize Him because we are looking for our own explanations? We can miss the blessing by focusing on the reasoning that sounds appealing, but actually draws attention away from God and onto our own desires (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-18).

But this was not the time for reproaches or controversy. I prayed to God to give me love and the Word that He wanted to share with him. At that moment, the Lord brought Romans 10:17 to my mind, where it says

… faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ (NIV).

With that reminder, it was my turn to speak.

I explained that, in reality, God had been with him and had reached out to him at just the right time, by His grace. I told him that I was sure of that because the Bible explains it clearly:

Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 124:8).

We cannot let anything rob God of His glory. Later, I asked him about his relationship with his father and he told me that it was very bad.

“But to those who received him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to be children of God,” (John 1:12) was my response. I told him that God loved him in a way that was immeasurably greater than the love he had for his daughters and that He had given His only begotten Son for him, that Jesus’ blood was shed to pay for sin.

That day, he kindly declined my invitation to receive Jesus into his heart but promised to read the book of Luke that very afternoon. With a new battery, my car started. I asked God that the heart of that man would have a restart while reading His Word.

Later that day, reflecting on this experience, I realized something that I want to emphasize. There are two ways to live life; one is to see the hand of God in everything, and the other is to overlook it and attribute its blessings to other things such as circumstances, luck or chance. When we relinquish control of our lives to Jesus, we can expect Him to always have a purpose for every detail—even a car with a dead battery.

Living with Suffering – Streams in the Desert – August 28

  • 202228 Aug

There he proved them (Exod. 15:25).

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Devotions

Morning

August 28

Ezra 4:1-3 1When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, 2they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.” 3But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”

When the people of God get serious about worshiping God, the enemy of our soul always incites our enemies to try and distract us. We see the same statements today. “We all worship the same god. All religions basically teach the same thing. Let us help you.” It may be possible to work together on some social issue, but when it comes to the temple of God, we have nothing in common. We do not serve the same God! We do not teach the same thing! The temple must be holy. That was the problem that brought about the captivity. The worship of Jehovah was mixed with religions of the nations they had displaced. We must be honest about the differences in our faith. If we believe Jesus is the only way to God, we should not be bashful about it, but instead have a loving boldness to share the truth for the sake of their eternal destiny.

Some pastors are not concerned if all the staff knows the Lord as Savior. They believe everyone has a natural gift and can use those gifts for the church. That idea ignores the spirit of this passage. When it comes to building the temple, we need sanctified servants of God, or we will find the work is corrupted and compromised by the enemy.

Once they were told that they could not help, they hired advisors to do two things. The first was to discourage. The second was to cause fear. That is the enemy’s tactic to this day. If he can’t directly get in, he will try to cause discouragement and fear. Those are attitude problems. Don’t give in to them for a moment.

Encouragement: Be strong in the LORD and in the power of His might and build!

Limiting God

By: Charles Sourgeon

“They… limited the Holy One of Israel.” Psalm 78:41

Suggested Further Reading: Daniel 3:13-28

He is not limited to means—to any means, much less to one of thy choosing. If he deliver thee not by calming the tempest, he has a better way in store; he will send from above and deliver thee; he will snatch thee out of the deep waters lest the floods overflow thee. What might Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego have said? Suppose they had got it into their heads that God would deliver them in some particular way. They did have some such idea, but they said, as if to prove that they trusted not really to their thought about the deliverance—“Nevertheless, be it known unto thee, O king, we will not worship thy gods, nor bow before the image which thou hast set up.” They were prepared to let God have his will, even though he used no means of deliverance. But suppose, I say, they had conferred with flesh and blood, and Shadrach had said, “God will strike Nebuchadnezzar dead; just at the moment when the men are about to put us into the furnace the king will turn pale and die, and so we shall escape.” O my friends, they would have trembled indeed when they went into the furnace if they had chosen their own means of deliverance, and the king had remained alive. But instead of this, they gave themselves up to God, even if he did not deliver them. And, though he did not prevent their going into the furnace, yet he kept them alive in it, so that not so much as the smell of fire had passed upon them. It shall be even so with you. Repose in God. When thou seest him not, believe him; when everything seems to contradict thy faith, still stagger not at the promise. If HE hath said it, he can find ways and means to do it.

For meditation: Our ways are not God’s ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Where our ways can multiply complications, his ways can humble us by their straightforward simplicity (Numbers 11:21-23,312 Kings 5:10-14Luke 9:12-17). How are you limiting God?

Where Does My Help Come From?

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Where Does My Help Come From?

small group with guitar
Emily Barton – Superbook Assistant/CBN Europe, cbn.com

Psalm 121 is a well-known chapter in the Bible. From songs and hymns to conversations in church, it is a psalm that rings familiar for many of us.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth (Psalms 121:1-2 ESV).

It is a truth that we can perhaps recite word for word, but what happens when we really do need help?

I have been a Christian since the age of 11 and, in that time, I have had it relatively easy. That was, until last September. On the day of my brother’s wedding, I had a nervous breakdown (talk about timing!) I had always been known as the bright and bubbly member of the family, always cheery and taking everything in my stride, but on that day, it was like everything went dark. I had been relying on myself and leaning completely on what I understood of the world. I was in a happy relationship, had recently moved to my favorite city and my brother was getting married! I could not understand why I was in hysterics, going from severe panic attacks to trying to shake off suicidal thoughts. And then, that lightbulb moment came.

“I need help,” I finally said to my mother, who had been trying to calm me down. I had realized that up until this point, I knew that God could help me, but I did not think I needed Him to. I thought I could do it alone, that I could work out any issues by myself. Evidently, that was not true.

I confessed that I needed help to my family, and then I took myself to Jesus, repented of my desire to control my life, and laid everything before the Lord and said, “I cannot do this alone.” Since then, it has not been perfect; in fact, some days are still very dark, but I come back to Jesus, I ask Him to step in, and He does so perfectly, every single time.

My challenge to you today is this:
You may know that your help comes from the Lord, you may know that He will keep you from all harm, however, are you willing to let Him do so? Submit yourself to Christ again, confess that His way of helping is greater than yours, and then leave room for Him to move.

Pray this prayer with me:
God, I repent for the times that I have chosen my ways instead of Yours. I thank You that You are my ever-present help in times of trouble. Today, help me to choose You, and lean not on my own understanding. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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

  • 202227 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Basket Overflowing

Evan Heerema, Author, Today’s Devotion

  COLOSSIANS 1:3-14

We continually ask God to fill you. . . .

—  Colossians 1:9

In late August in the area where I live, it’s not unusual to hear about harvesting. Harvest time is near, and what was planted in spring and cared for in summer is almost ready to fill baskets and bins.

Paul knew that the Colossians’ faith, love, and hope were rooted in Christ. And that meant a bountiful harvest would come for the church. Paul said that he and others continually asked God for the Colossians to be filled to overflowing with the knowledge of God’s will through the wisdom and understanding of the Holy Spirit. This knowledge is not mere head knowledge; it is heart knowledge that comes with wisdom and understanding. This involves the process of discerning the will of God, which comes through putting oneself aside and becoming filled with Jesus and the Spirit.

It is not easy to put ourselves in that position. It requires discipline, spiritual discipline. Jesus took time to be alone with his Father in order to remain focused, and we need to do the same, offering ourselves to the Father’s will, not our own.

Like Jesus, we need to develop the habit of seeking after and waiting for the will of God to be revealed to us. God wants us to know his will—and, rest assured, it will always conform to what the Bible teaches.

God of bounteous grace, help us to slow down to know you and your will better, that we may live faithfully for you. Amen.

Sharing Jesus With Others

From: Intouch Ministries

Ask the Lord to make you aware of the people you can love and serve today.

August 27, 2022

Galatians 6:1-2

Jesus told us to continue His work on earth—to share the good news about God’s saving grace (Matthew 28:18-20). Following this command, however, isn’t always easy—especially with people who might be different from us. It may feel easier to befriend someone who shares our values, yet Jesus told us to “make disciples of all” (Matt. 28:19, emphasis added). While some opportunities may look like a waste of time from human perspective, the truth is that we never know who may be led to Jesus through our obedience.

Just look at Jesus’ life: He ate dinner with hated tax collectors (Matthew 9:10Luke 19:5) and gently spoke His message of hope to an adulterous woman (John 4:7-27). And to anyone—disciple or Pharisee—shocked by His associations, He explained that He “did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). We are to tenderly point men and women of all nationalities and backgrounds toward our forgiving God.

If Jesus were on earth today, He’d be ministering to the needy, the addicted, and the downtrodden. To be like our Savior, let’s love others and help them meet Him.

 

God Is Willing To Help Us

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A God Who Is Willing

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By Lynette Kittle, Crosswalk.com

“Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,” He said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him’” – Luke 5:13

Like me, you’ve probably known or know someone praying for God to heal them who is still sick, or worse yet, someone who many prayed to be healed but instead passed away. Scripture is very clear God is willing to heal. So how do we explain when people continue to suffer or even die? We don’t. Instead, we keep our eyes on the truth that God’s will is to heal, and just because we sometimes don’t see it happen doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Although a heartbreaking experience when someone isn’t healed or passes away, God reminds us, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than Your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). It becomes an opportunity where even though we don’t understand or can’t explain why, we choose to say, “But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’”(Psalm 31:14).

How We Know God Is Willing
God tells us over and over in Scripture of His willingness and desire to heal us.

  • Psalm 147:3 affirms, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
  • As well, Psalm 103:3 explains He is a God, “Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.”
  • Likewise, Psalm 107:20 describes how, “He sent out His word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave.”

The Willingness of Jesus
Not one time in the Bible do we read where Jesus was unwilling to heal those who came to Him, and we know God the Father is willing to heal, too, because Hebrews 1:3 explains, that Jesus is the exact representation of God. As well, Jesus often healed whole crowds of people. “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23).

Because He healed entire crowds of people, we can be pretty safe in believing He healed people who didn’t have great faith to be healed, and individuals who hadn’t confessed all their sin, even some who were probably living in sin, and even those who had brought on their own sickness through their actions or lifestyles. All the reasons Christians often offer people as reasons why some people aren’t healed or die. But healing isn’t dependent on our efforts or condition, “For God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:11).

Rather, it is dependent on the One who freely heals and delivers. Again. Matthew 4:24 describes how “News about Him spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and He healed them.”

God Is Willing to Save and Heal
Still, often some of the same individuals who believe Jesus saves don’t believe He heals. Yet how many millions of people pass away without knowing God? Does that mean God doesn’t save? Of course not! Although many men and women are passing away not knowing God, it’s not God’s will.

His will for a dying world is summed up in 1 Timothy 2:4; He is a God, “Who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

Like it is written in His word, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

So why do people doubt God’s desire to heal? Because they are focusing on not seeing it happen around them rather than on the truth that just like God saves, He also heals.

As Jeremiah 17:14 explains, “Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the One I praise.”

The Root is Jesus

 Evan Heerema, Author, Todays Devotions

  COLOSSIANS 1:1-8

We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people. . . .

—  Colossians 1:4

It’s wonderful when someone comes into the kingdom of God. That person receives God’s gift of grace through faith in Jesus, and they begin a new life of walking with the Holy Spirit. The new believer realizes that their old life of selfish pursuits offers nothing that will ever satisfy. They have turned their back on the darkness and are enjoying the light of the world, Jesus. Praise God for his love!

Paul is filled with thanks to hear that the people of Colossae have come to faith in Christ Jesus and are showing their love for all God’s people. He even says, “We always thank God . . . when we pray for you . . .” They have become wonderful examples of living by faith in Jesus. They believe and trust, they love, and they hope in what God has already stored up in heaven for them. Drawing all this together, we can say with Paul that the faith of the Colossian believers is rooted in Jesus Christ.

Friends, my prayer is that you will have faith in Christ Jesus; my hope for you is that in Jesus’ name you are loving others, giving yourself up for them, and growing in hope in all that God has promised and is storing up for you in heaven. Stay rooted in Christ, anticipating the reality of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Gracious God in whom we hope, strengthen our faith in Jesus, the Savior of the world. Increase our love for others and build our hope in what we know is yet to come. Amen.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

August 26

Ezra 3:3 3Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening sacrifices.

Over 40,000 of the captives returned with that first group, led by Jeshua and Zerubbabel. The amazing thing is they returned with over 7000 servants and animals, personal possessions of gold and silver. Captivity had not been that hard on them. Many had prospered.

When they arrived, the first thing they began to do was to build the altar. The temple footings had not been laid. The walls of the city lay in ruins, but they focused first on the altar. It had been seventy years since a priest had offered the morning and evening sacrifices. As they studied the Law and saw the need for the lamb to be slain for their sins, they were most anxious for the sacrifices to begin.

Before we can do anything of value, we need to be right with God. The blood of the lambs did not wash away their sins, but looked forward to the Lamb of God who would be the perfect sacrifice. They wanted to be obedient to the Word of God and do as they were instructed. Unlike most of the world today, they had a fear of God and His wrath upon sin. They feared God more than they did the people around them who threatened to rob and destroy them. Perhaps this was one good lesson they took from the captivity.

Is the sacrifice more important than your temple and city walls? Is the cross and all that it means more important than your church building, appearances, and physical security? If you understand God’s attitude toward sin, His hatred of evil, then it should be. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).

Thank God for the sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!

Law and grace

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Romans 5:20

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Peter 3:10-14

There has always been the salt of grace in the world to counteract the power of sin. The clouds have never been so universal as to hide the day. But the time is fast approaching when grace shall extend all over our poor world and be universal. According to the Bible testimony, we look for the great day when the dark cloud which has swathed this world in darkness shall be removed, and it shall shine once more like all its sister planets. It has been for many a long year clouded and veiled by sin and corruption; but the last fire shall consume its rags and sackcloth. After that fire, the world in righteousness shall shine. The huge molten mass now slumbering in the bowels of our common mother shall furnish the means of purity. Palaces, and crowns, and peoples, and empires, are all to be melted down; and after, like a plague-house, the present creation has been burned up entirely, God will breathe upon the heated mass, and it will cool down again. He will smile on it as he did when he first created it, and the rivers will run down the new made hills, the oceans will float in new-made channels; and the world will be again the abode of the righteous for ever and for ever. This fallen world will be restored to its orbit; that gem which was lost from the sceptre of God shall be set again, yea, he shall wear it as a signet about his arm. Christ died for the world; and what he died for, he will have. He died for the whole world, and the whole world he will have, when he has purified and cleansed it, and fitted it for himself. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound;” for grace shall be universal, whereas sin will be destroyed.

For meditation: The believer’s sure and certain hope of being freed completely from the presence of sin then, is a strong motive for seeking to be as free as possible from it now (1 John 3:2,3).

It Is God Who Blesses Us

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Can You Point Me in the Direction of Blessings Street?

legs walking autumn
Jennifer Scribner – Partner Development Specialist, cbn.com

Ever get lost on a road trip? I certainly have; in fact, if I don’t carefully follow the directions on a map, I might end up completely off course! I occasionally don’t want to read the directions and instead rely on my own logic, which leads to complete frustration and a loss of direction. I’m left wondering why I didn’t care to read the proper instructions in the first place.

The Bible gives us clear and precise instructions for living our best lives possible. Psalm 119 is a beautiful chapter to which we can compare this experience. There are 176 verses in it, and they resemble a confession or a journal entry, in my opinion. In verses 1-8, the psalmist appears to be writing a letter to God, vowing to obey, follow His direction, and keep His commands. We can get a real sense of why God is telling us to walk along the path He laid out for us, to read His Word, and listen to the proper instructions so that our lives will be blessed. I’ll paraphrase:

1. “You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.”

2. “You’re blessed when you follow His directions, doing your best to find Him.”

3. “That’s right, you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road He set.”

4. “You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now You expect us to live it.”

5. “Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set.”

6. “Then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life to Your counsel.”

7. “I thank You for speaking straight from Your heart; I learn the pattern of Your righteous ways.”

8. “I’m going to do what You tell me to do; don’t ever walk off and leave me.”

Note how the writer opens verses 1-3 as if imparting God’s Word to another person; in verse 4, the psalmist then assures God that they understand His directives. In verses 5-7, the author promises to be obedient to the Lord and recognizes the blessings that will follow from doing so. Verse 8 implies that the psalmist commits to following God’s instructions and pleads with God to never leave them.

As I reflect on Psalm 119, I realize my own weaknesses in not making time each day to study and follow God’s path. Although I believe that I have let God down, I am very confident in my faith that He will always support me and forgive me. I’m so very grateful that God never leaves us nor forsakes us; He never gives up on us!

Do Not Be Anxious About Anything

  PHILIPPIANS 4:4-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

—  Philippians 4:6

Life gives us opportunities to enjoy calm and peacefulness. Life also gives us opportunities to be anxious.

We can grow anxious when sickness comes—especially when sickness might lead to death. We can also feel anxious when we run out of money for food or for our monthly bills. Relationships can create times of anxiety when tempers flare and anger burns. I remember a dark, cold, windy night when I had to walk along a lightless street to get home. I was frightened by all kinds of shifting shadows. I raced down the middle of that street as fast as I could till I was safely home.

What do you become anxious about? I heard a good sermon recently about a correlation between anxiety and prayer. When we are anxious, we can turn to the One who is aware of all our circumstances and who will meet us in our times of anxiety. To him we pray, thanking him for who he is and telling him our anxieties. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Being still gives us time to discern God and his love. I repeat the word “Father” over and over until I am at peace with God my Father. Then anxiety has its rightful place; it is in his hands, not mine. The peace of God awaits those whose hearts are set on God.

Streams in the Desert – August 25

  • 202225 Aug

Shut up to faith (Gal. 3:23).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Praying for Change

When we pray, we can trust that our wise and loving Father will give the best answer.

August 25, 2022

James 5:16

Hanging above the door in our house was my mother’s favorite plaque, which read, “Prayer changes things.” From an early age, I witnessed her praying about difficulties and giving God glory for answering her petitions.

Indeed, this is our confidence: Anything we pray for that aligns with the Father’s plan will be granted. And the more time we spend with Him, the more we’ll come to understand His will and how to pray for it.

Some requests are granted immediately, simply because our Father loves to give us good gifts. Other requests may require time or certain preparations before they can be given. We, meanwhile, must patiently persevere, remembering that prayer transforms the believer’s heart.

Whatever the Lord’s response or timing, we should trust He has the best in store for His children. That means we might not receive what we’re asking for—but something even better. God alone perfectly knows each heart’s desire and how best to fulfill it.

Prayer is our most powerful tool for shaping the world around us, and it is always available. And as we give attention, time, and perseverance to conversation with our Father, we find no limit to what He can achieve in people’s hearts and circumstances.

Bible in One Year: Lamentations 1-2

Wait Patiently On God

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Waiting Patiently

Be Patient" Bible Verses: Scriptures on Patience and Trusting God

 

Sergio Bueno – Prayer Center Coach, CBN Mexico

There’s a line from an old song that says, “The waiting is the hardest part.” I’ll be married by December, and it’s totally true: waiting for my wedding day is the hardest part now. I’ve hoped for true love since the age of 12. And after multiple failed relationships, you feel like giving up. And this is not only in our relationships, but in every wish and desire.

When our wishes are not aligned with God’s will, we will be disappointed. I chose to learn this the hard way. And now, counting the days, I remember that about 5 years ago I surrendered my every wish to the Lord. I promised to leave all things to Him, and that I would hear His opinion and word before making a decision. And I have to confess, things did not always go as I would have wished.

When there was an opportunity for me to have something that I desired with all my being, I would bring it up in prayer to the Lord. He knew perfectly well what I wanted and wished, but He closed the door. And it hurt every time. But now, years after all of this happened, I couldn’t be happier with what the Lord has done in my life. As Psalm 116:8 says:

For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling (ESV).

If I had done things my way, I’m pretty sure I would have suffered a lot of pain and sadness, as it’s only in my Lord’s perfect will that I can find joy and peace.

But I had to believe that the Lord would work all things in His time as He had promised. What I have learned after all these years is that my obedience glorifies the Lord, and He will open up the doors.

The precious woman I’m about to marry, I can assure you, is more than I could have asked or wished for. And there were many doubts at first, and we have come a long way. And in my own strength, I’m sure I would have given up already. But I trusted the Lord, and now I have found my reward. Not by my strength, but by what the Lord has done and my obedience to Him, even when it hurt.

So, if you feel like you are losing the battle, if you feel like giving up, talk to our heavenly Father. He has promised to make all things right. And after all the waiting, we will sing:

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live (Psalm 116:1-2).

The Mindset of Christ Jesus

  PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

—  Philippians 2:5

We all have relationships. These may include family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, church members, and especially Jesus. In the city of Philippi, Paul had relationships with a jailer and his household, the city magistrates, Lydia and her household, a female slave who was tormented by a spirit, and the slave girl’s owners. Several of those people became part of the first church in Philippi (see Acts 16:11-40).

Paul had the attitude of Jesus in all those relationships. His mindset was humility, giving up privilege to be a servant like Jesus, putting himself in positions where his service for Christ might even cost him his life. Paul was willing to do that because he was confident of the eternal life that Jesus came to make available for us all.

Jesus, who is Lord and King over all, came to give us eternal life. He humbled himself and paid the price for our sin. By doing that, he made eternal life possible for all who believe in him.

Paul humbled himself and told others about Jesus so that they too would hear the good news and “acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Our attitude toward others should follow the same pattern.

Make yourself a servant to someone today, for Jesus’ sake.

Lord Jesus, you are King of kings and Lord of lords. Forgive me for the times when I have not been a faithful servant to others. Bring glory to your name through me today. Amen.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

August 24

2 Chronicles 35:20-22 20After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, Neco king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah marched out to meet him in battle. 21But Neco sent messengers to him, saying, “What quarrel is there between you and me, O king of Judah? It is not you I am attacking at this time, but the house with which I am at war. God has told me to hurry; so stop opposing God, who is with me, or he will destroy you.” 22Josiah, however, would not turn away from him, but disguised himself to engage him in battle. He would not listen to what Neco had said at God’s command but went to fight him on the plain of Megiddo.

Josiah had been a godly king and restored the temple worship, but the prophet had told him God’s judgments were inevitable. In our passage today, Josiah does what seemed good, but not at God’s leading. God warned him through the mouth of a heathen king. Carchemish must have been an ally of Judah and it seemed to make sense to fight together their common threat, Egypt. The words of the king of Egypt should have given Josiah reason to seek God’s plan. When we step out on our own, with our own reason, we can place ourselves in harms way. God is faithful to warn us, even through the lips of an unbeliever. Remember in Jesus’ day when the High Priest said, “It is better for one man to die than the nation to perish”? Though he did not know it, it was a prophetic word (John 11:49-51).

We shouldn’t ignore what unbelievers say when they are rebuking us. It may be the Lord. I have heard unbelievers say, “I thought you trusted in God.” Ouch. God will use those who are unbelievers to remind us to look to Him.

Josiah was a great king and gave the nation one more chance to turn back to God, but he put himself in a position to be taken out of the scene early by not being sensitive to God’s warnings.

Remember: The rebuke from an unbeliever may come at the Lord’s command.

The loaded wagon

‘Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves.’ Amos 2:13

Suggested Further Reading: Isaiah 53:1–12

See him; like a cart pressed down with sheaves he goes through the streets of Jerusalem. Well may you weep, daughters of Jerusalem, though he bids you dry your tears; they hoot him as he walks along bowed beneath the load of his own cross which was the emblem of your sin and mine. They have brought him to Golgotha. They throw him on his back, they stretch out his hands and his feet. The accursed iron penetrates the tenderest part of his body, where most the nerves do congregate. They lift up the cross. O bleeding Saviour, thy time of woe has come! They dash it into the socket with rough hands; the nails are tearing through his hands and feet. He hangs in extremity, for God has forsaken him; his enemies persecute and take him, for there is none to deliver him. They mock his nakedness; they point at his agonies. They look and stare upon him with ribald jests; they insult his griefs, and make puns upon his prayers. He is now indeed a worm and no man, crushed till you can think scarcely that there is divinity within. The fever gets hold upon him. His tongue is dried up like a potsherd, and he cries, ‘I thirst!’ Vinegar is all they yield him; the sun refuses to shine, and the thick midnight darkness of that awful mid-day is a fitting emblem of the tenfold midnight of his soul. Out of that thick horror he cries ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ Then, indeed, was he pressed down! O there was never sorrow like unto his sorrow. All human griefs found a reservoir in his heart, and all the punishment of human guilt spent itself upon his body and his soul. O shall sin ever be a trifle to us? Shall I ever laugh at that which made him groan?

For meditation: Believers still have problems with sin as a weight impeding progress in the Christian life (Hebrews 12:1), but our struggle with sin on earth has its limits (Hebrews 12:4); the Lord Jesus Christ went beyond those limits and was crushed by our sin to save all who trust in him from being crushed by it eternally (Hebrews 12:2–31 Peter 2:24).

Always Rejoice In The Lord

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Always Rejoicing in Him

couple dog walking

 

Robyn Hattingh – Communications Manager – CBN South Africa

How do we, despite what may be going on in our lives and our communities, adopt an attitude of rejoicing in Him, regardless of circumstance?

Simply put, these past few years haven’t been great for everyone. The pandemic raging across the globe has caused loss of life, loss of livelihoods, and the devastation of economies. The Ukraine-Russia war is causing rising prices worldwide. Countries are going through their own political turmoil. And on top of all of that, we each have personal situations that aren’t always easy.

In South Africa, the pandemic caused unemployment rates to rise rapidly (Trading Economics, 2022). In a country already battling with crime and poverty, more unemployment is something we really don’t need. The evidence of it is everywhere. In the suburb of Cape Town where I live, homelessness increased at an alarming rate with people setting up tents and other temporary structures on the sides of the road, in parks and in storm water pipes.

I’ve realized how easy it is to harden your heart towards them, it becomes so normal to see and dismiss, and starts infringing on your safety as crime increases as the economy declines. Thankfully, I’m a part of a church and team (CBN) that has a huge heart for people. From social justice teams at church that support organizations in the area—and organize regular outreaches in the community—to humanitarian efforts aimed at restoring dignity.

The amazing thing about being surrounded by a community with a heart for the impoverished and lost is that you get to interact with people you wouldn’t have on your own accord. Through these interactions, it’s humbling to hear their hearts of gratitude towards God. Each sandwich they receive, each blanket that gets them through the cold winter, and every kind word spoken to them… they thank God for it despite their obviously forlorn situation.

It often makes me ask myself, how do I respond to God? Do I find myself moaning and complaining more than rejoicing in thanksgiving? Am I lost in anxiety over finances despite all that I have? Do I reject those who are different from me even though God tells me to love them?

My husband and I take our dog on daily walks after work. I love this time together because our energetic dog needs exercise and we need sanity, and my husband and I get to catch up on our days and connect without distractions. More and more we found ourselves complaining about things we should actually be grateful for. We made the conscientious decision to stop ourselves and each other from complaining, and chat about things from a place of gratitude and hope. This way of talking to each other has fed into how we view what we have and the way in which we pray. We’re a lot more grateful to God for His provision, grace and goodness and we find it easier to rejoice in Him, worship at church, and view strangers with softened hearts.

Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:10 NIV)

As we consider the condition of our hearts and look at those around us, let’s ask God to work in is and through us, that we may adopt an attitude and lifestyle of rejoicing regardless of circumstances. Then we will be encouraged and will encourage those around us.

Am I sought out?

‘Thou shalt be called, Sought out.’ Isaiah 62:12

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 4:17–25

You that have ability, and have talents, devote yourselves to God’s cause. Give yourselves up to his ministry. I would to God there were more of those who are successful in professions, men who either in medicine or law would attain eminence, who would consecrate their talents to the ministry; they need not fear that in giving themselves to God he will not take care of them, and as to honour, if it be found anywhere, it is the sure heritage of the faithful ambassador of Christ. If you have been sought out, my brother, I do not blush to recommend you to give up the most lucrative employment to seek out others. If you have the power to stir others’ hearts, if God has given you the tongue of the eloquent, devote it to the plucking of brands from the burning; become a herald of the cross, and let the whole world, as far as possible, hear from you the tidings of salvation. The preaching of the gospel is not the only means; it is a way of seeking out most commonly used, but there are other methods. We are not to preach merely to those who come to listen. We must carry the gospel to where men do not desire it. We should consider it our business to be generously impertinent; thrusting the gospel into men’s way, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear. Let us hunt for souls by visitation. There are thousands in London who never will be converted by the preaching of the gospel, for they never attend places of worship. We may shudder when we say it; it is believed there are thousands in London who do not even know the name of Christ, living in what we call a Christian land, and yet they have not heard the name of Jesus.

For meditation: What lasting good would have been done by the New Testament writers Matthew, Luke, Paul and Peter if they had ignored God’s definite call to the ministry and remained a tax-collector, doctor, tentmaker and fisherman respectively? Even without a call to a specific office, every believer is called into the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12) as an unofficial ‘deacon’ with gifts to minister to others (1 Peter 4:10). How are you advancing Christ’s kingdom?

Streams in the Desert – August 23

  • 202223 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Waiting on God brings us to our journey’s end quicker than our feet.”

The opportunity is often lost by deliberation.

Being United With Christ

 Evan Heerema, Author, Daily Devotions

  PHILIPPIANS 2:1-4

Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

—  Philippians 2:2

In our reading for today, Paul urges all who believe in Christ to live together in unity, showing a like-mindedness that points to Jesus and the love he has for everyone. Christ came so that all people could have life “to the full” (John 10:10), as God has always intended.

Paul lists some of the benefits that we, like the Philippians, have received from God as his children in Christ: encouragement, comfort, tenderness, compassion, humility, and value. Being united with Christ is to live as Jesus did.

Jesus showed love and compassion to everyone. He loved people with God’s unconditional love. He served people selflessly, humbling himself and lifting others up. No one was unimportant or too small or low-down to receive his ­attention.

We are called to live as servants of Jesus, free of selfish ambition and vain conceit. We are called to value others above ourselves, and when we serve others in their need, we are serving Christ himself (see Matthew 25:31-40).

In union with Jesus, you and I have a responsibility to live in such as way that all who come into contact with us will sense that Jesus is leading us. His love and character should flow from of us.

Indeed, we have an awesome responsibility!

 

Have You Grown As A Believer?

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Have You Grown As A Believer?

woman writing in a notebook

 

Brenda Williams – Partner Care Specialist, cbn.com

My pastor often suggests that we take a look at our lives as believers to see how much we have grown in the Lord, or if have we grown at all? Have our lives changed much since coming to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior?

As I recalled the last 20 years, most of the time I seriously pursued the Lord with all my heart and I saw significant growth and change. My prayers were being answered, His joy and indescribable peace was in me. This doesn’t mean that everything was rosy, in fact there were some difficult times, but I knew the Lord was there and that He would help me. Yet, there were also times when for some reason or another, I let “little foxes” creep in (see Song of Songs 2:15) and I wasn’t pursuing the Lord with the same diligence as before. When there were difficulties, I felt uncertain, my faith wavered, my emotions were unsettled, and I wondered, “God, where are You? Don’t You see I need help here?”

Then I read in 1 Corinthians 5:6-7,

A little leaven leavens the whole lump [of dough] (NKJV).

In the Old Testament, leaven was yeast—the raising agent in bread dough. Christ is our daily bread; He is sufficient to meet the needs of our heart—no additives. I knew that due to disobedience, lack of diligence in the Word and prayer, I had let leaven in. Leaven in our lives can be many things: distractions, conversations, what our eyes see or ears hear, relationships or unbalanced priorities, or anything displeasing to Him. They all make an impact on our life and our relationship with Christ, which is the most important relationship we will ever have.

In our journey to Christian maturity, we are always discovering the ways of our amazing God and His will for our lives. His ways and His will are often entirely different than our own but we know His way is always the very best way! I praise God that at any moment we can change our focus, repent of the leaven, and pursue the One who loves us most. His plan for us is far better than anything we could plan for ourselves. By turning again to Him, our peace and faith are restored, our conscience is clear, and we have strong confidence in knowing He is here. He is the One who keeps us growing.

Saying Yes (When We Want to Say No)

When we choose to trust God instead of our feelings, blessings follow.

Jonah 3:1-10Jonah 4:1-11

The book of Jonah doesn’t end the way we might expect. From the belly of a fish, Jonah recommitted himself to the Lord’s purpose. But later, he admitted he didn’t want the job—and the Lord chastised his selfishness. You see, Jonah was sent to the Ninevites, who were a threat to the Jewish people. The reluctant prophet was afraid that if these enemies repented, his merciful God would not destroy them. Jonah confessed he wanted to see the Ninevites wiped out: “Therefore in order to forestall [their salvation] I fled to Tarshish” (Jonah 4:2 NASB 1995).

Sometimes we resist God’s will because we dislike the probable outcome of obedience. Or like Jonah, we focus on our own desires and comfort and lose sight of what’s really important. But our feelings about what might happen are not a reason to resist God’s plan. If the Lord calls us to act, He will take care of the results. Our job is to obey.

What selfish desire is keeping you from obeying the Lord? Maybe you are too angry with your spouse to work on your marriage or too hurt to welcome back a repentant friend. But Christians are not to be ruled by feelings. Obedience is what’s required, and its blessings may surprise you.

Bible in One Year: Jeremiah 46-48

Streams in the Desert – August 22

  • 202222 Aug

And the rest, some on boards, some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass that they escaped all safe to land (Acts 27:44).

The marvelous story of Paul’s voyage to Rome, with its trials and triumphs, is a fine pattern of the lights and shades of the way of faith all through the story of human life. The remarkable feature of it is the hard and narrow places which we find intermingled with God’s most extraordinary interpositions and providences.

It is the common idea that the pathway of faith is strewn with flowers, and that when God interposes in the life of His people, He does it on a scale so grand that He lifts us quite out of the plane of difficulties. The actual fact, however, is that the real experience is quite contrary. The story of the Bible is one of alternate trial and triumph in the case of everyone of the cloud of witnesses from Abel down to the latest martyr.

Paul, more than anyone else, was an example of how much a child of God can suffer without being crushed or broken in spirit. On account of his testifying in Damascus, he was hunted down by persecutors and obliged to fly for his life. but we behold no heavenly chariot transporting the holy apostle amid thunderbolts of flame from the reach of his foes, but “through a window in a basket,” was he let down over the walls of Damascus and so escaped their hands. In an old clothes basket, like a bundle of laundry, or groceries, the servant of Jesus Christ was dropped from the window and ignominiously fled from the hate of his foes.

Again we find him left for months in the lonely dungeons; we find him telling of his watchings, his fastings, and his desertion by friends, of his brutal and shameful beatings, and here even after God has promised to deliver him, we see him for days left to toss upon a stormy sea, obliged to stand guard over the treacherous seaman, and at last when the deliverance comes, there is no heavenly galley sailing from the skies to take off the noble prisoner; there is no angel form walking along the waters and stilling the raging breakers; there is no supernatural sign of the transcendent miracle that is being wrought; but one is compelled to seize a spar, another a floating plank, another to climb on a fragment of the wreck, another to strike out and swim for his life.

Here is God’s pattern for our own lives. Here is a Gospel of help for people that have to live in this every day world with real and ordinary surroundings, and a thousand practical conditions which have to be met in a thoroughly practical way.

God’s promises and God’s providences do not lift us out of the plane of common sense and commonplace trial, but it is through these very things that faith is perfected, and that God loves to interweave the golden threads of His love along the warp and woof of our every day experience.
–Hard Places in the Way of Faith

Toward a Good Harvest

  GALATIANS 6:1-10

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

—  Galatians 6:7

Our theme this month has been about discerning God’s will as we seek to honor and obey him. In our text for today Paul warns us not to deceive ourselves. We should not think more of ourselves than we ought, and we should be faithful in carrying each other’s burdens.

This means caring for one another and doing good to all people, not taking pride in our own position of strength or health in any area. If we have health and strength and we are in a position to help someone, we need to realize that God is the one who has given us that position—so that we may honor him in doing good. If we begin thinking that we have earned that position for ourselves, we are in danger—because God will not be mocked.

Again we are challenged to beware of the path we take in life. We will reap what we sow, so we should sow what is good and true. Paul describes two ways of living. Either we will seek to please our own sinful nature and reap destruction, or we will seek to please the Spirit of God.

In Christ, God has provided the way to eternal life. And because we are given full life in Christ, we can strive to do good to all people. We can love our neighbors by doing good as we have opportunities. And opportunities abound, so we can do good all of the time.

Father in heaven, help us to sow what is good and true, that we can contribute to a harvest that honors you. Give us your wisdom. In Jesus, Amen.