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Salvation Comes To A Jailer

 

Acts 16

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

 

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THE PHILIPPIAN JAILER

From: wordforlifesays.com

“There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus; no not one, no not one!” the one that Paul and Silas sang?  No!  But, we can be assured the praises and melodies they were singing before the Lord was just as spiritually moving.

That’s one of the dramatic things about this night.  After being beaten with rods and receiving many stripes these songs of praises could not be silenced. Some of it fell on deaf ears yet, some were listening.  If it were just Paul and Silas, then they could have quietly worshipped and kept it to themselves.  But, they were not alone in this prison, on this night.  Other inmates needed to believe that there is still a reason to rejoice in the midst of these darkest times.

Not everyone was attentive.  The melodious tune was not picked up by all as a listening pleasure.  The jailer, whom earlier was given the charge to keep the prisoners locked up securely (Acts 16:23), was fast asleep.  So deep was his slumber it took the earth to begin to quake to rouse him from his midnight dreams.

Once awakened, the dreams dissipated and the reality of all that appears to have transpired sets in.  The prison doors are not only unlocked, but they are fully opened giving free course of exit to any who wished to leave.  After all, it is a prison and who would rightly want to stay beholden by chains.

The jailer knew the vehement attitude the multitudes had against the two who were bound in the inner prison.  The charge to contain them at all cost was serious.  So serious, the jailer thought, “Since I have fallen asleep on my duty and have given the opportunity of freedom to them that were bound, I must now seal my failure with my own death.  For surely, when the magistrates come and find out my fault, I shall pay with my life anyway.”

Determined not to let this go any further, the jailer drew his sword to perform the unthinkable.  When out of the dark, a voice arose above his desperation and called out, pleading with him to spare his own life.

What would it have been like?  What would it have been like to walk in the Philippian jailer’s shoes on that night?  One moment, he is captured by failure and facing death to sighing audibly a cry of relief at the voice of deliverance.

The law was the law and had he not heard that calling voice, he would surely be dead by now.

Unbelief demands evidence.  Grabbing the closest light, he runs back into the depths of the prison walls and comes face to face with the convicted.  “But, what’s this?  Why didn’t they flee?  The shackles are loosed; the doors are opened, and yet, they remain?”  He thought, “Why?”

The jailer found out that though these men were convicted and sentenced by law, they carried a deeper conviction in their souls.  Beaten, yet they sit.  “Surely, this can’t be possible?” his mind racing, trying to grasp everything at once and take it all in.

Then, as if a new page was turned in a book, a new chapter began in his life.  “Whatever faith and conviction these men have is superior to that which we have learned under Roman rule.”

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

What would it have been like to be the Philippian jailer, you ask?  Though we are not guards during the ancient rule, any of us can associate with the lost state of the jailer on that night.  He was condemned physically because of his failure.  He was condemned spiritually because, as David said, “I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me,” (Psalm 51:5, KJV).  The reality for the need of this salvation these men possessed pressed on the jailer as it did on us.

At one point or another, we have all had to run to the proverbial “altar” seeking, “What must I do to be saved?” as the jailer did.  Therefore, though much time has passed between him and us, the same cry of heart gets the attention of the same God.

How many times had he kept guard of the convicted?  How many times had he led the bound to their deaths?  We don’t know.  But, we do know that it only took one time for him to come face to face with his own mortality to realize there has to be a change in his life.

“Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes.  And immediately he and all his family were baptized,” (Acts 16:32-33, NKJV).  The humbleness of all that happened in those few short hours promoted an attitude of service and repentance.  He was ready to be cleansed and made whole from the inside out.  “Who knows what tomorrow would bring, but tonight, I have to get right with God,” he must have thought as he contemplated it all.  And, the Bible tells us that he was baptized!

You ask, what would it have been like?  My response, “Don’t you know already?”  To be surrounded by death every day, and as quickly as one comes up out of the water, they have crossed the threshold into the newness of life.

That’s the epitome of salvation for the jailer and for us.  “Having believed in God,” (Acts 16:34, NKJV), and have our whole lives turned around.  The jailer may have been the guard on duty that night, but he was the one set free!  For that’s what salvation does for all that come to Him.

What would it have been like?  I think we already know.  The circumstances may be different but the salvation is the same.

In the end, it all worked out.  The jailer may have wondered what tomorrow would bring.  After all, he wouldn’t feel right about locking these men back up, would he?  At the same time, their freedom still meant his death.  The Bible tells us, “When it was day, the magistrates sent officers, saying, ‘Let those men go,’” (Acts 16:35, NKJV).

Could it be that God allowed Paul and Silas to go through all of that to save one soul, one household?  Using pure speculation here, I’d say, “Could be!”  To the reader it would appear so for the Bible doesn’t talk about anyone else making a life changing conversion on that dramatic night.

The jailer may have sighed with relief when hearing the voice call out in the night, but now he really experiences what it feels like to be free.  God spared his life physically (again) and spiritually (forever).

The Bible doesn’t tell us what happened after the jailer received new life.  Does he stay on working as a guard?  Did he give it all up to spread his testimony of what God had done in his life?  We don’t know.  But, what we do know is that like us, his life was never the same again.

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Joy Beyond Amazing

by David Jeremiah,inspiration.org

One of my favorite Bible stories is the story of Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail. They were beaten; they were imprisoned; and who knew what would happen to them the next day? “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).

The kind of joy that gets you singing in jail at midnight with your back bleeding and your life hanging by a thread that’s joy worth cultivating!

In our culture of instant gratification and constant amusement, it’s hard to understand the suffering the apostles endured for the sake of the Gospel. We’ll do anything to avoid trials and tribulations.

But often, in an attempt to keep anything uncomfortable from touching us, we miss the very thing God wants to use to lead us to greater joy in Him. We can’t avoid difficulties, but in the midst of all our troubles, there is God and His effervescent love.

This doesn’t mean we are to deny or disguise our feelings. Nor does it mean we can or should shrug off pain or disappointment, or try not to feel sorrow when we have good cause. It means we place our trust in God, and He opens the door to a joy beyond anything we can know on our own: the joy of knowing we are in His hands forever.

Our Joyful Savior

When we’re in a right relationship with God, He rejoices. And it’s only through that relationship that we experience joy in its fullness.

Jesus was completely comfortable at joyous events. In fact, Jesus’ first miracle took place at a wedding celebration. It was performed in a setting of rejoicing, not a setting of mourning; it was a wedding, not a wake or a funeral.

Throughout the New Testament, the Lord generously imparted His joy to others. One day He healed a crippled woman. She stood straight up and began praising the Lord (Luke 13:13). The Samaritan leper healed by Jesus returned to thank him, “praising God in a loud voice” (Luke 17:15 NIV). When the lame man at the Beautiful Gate was healed, he got up and went into the temple, “walking, leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:8).

We must get better at living life joyously!

Describing joyous moments like these, Paul wrote: “The kingdom of God is…righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17) Many Christians have the righteousness part down and maybe even the peace part. But they’re clueless when it comes to joy. Instead of enjoying the Christian life, they seem to merely endure it.

The Day God Has Made

I speak for many who are Christ-followers: We must get better at living life joyously! Jesus experienced and expressed joy in life, and so should we.

When I wake up in the morning, I often repeat these words of the psalmist, taking liberty to replace we with I: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

Try it. Write down this verse, and keep it by your bed so it’s the first thing you see in the morning. Say it aloud or in your heart to yourself and to God.

Trust me. This one small act will begin opening your heart to joy.

 

God Has A Better Plan

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

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When God Interrupts Your Plans

By: Christina Fox, .desiringgod.org

We were recently on a vacation when God interrupted my plans. My family and I had traveled hundreds of miles to stay at a hotel on the beach. I had made arrangements to spend one day visiting with friends. But then, in the middle of the night, the night before my scheduled day out, one of my kids woke up sick. I spent the whole next day stuck inside, staring out the hotel window at the long stretch of beach that was just outside of my reach.

An Interrupted Life

My life is filled with interruptions, inconveniences, frustrations, and unexpected events. Things break. Accidents happen. The phone rings just as I climb into bed. Traffic makes me late. Just when we don’t need another added expense, an appliance breaks. Unexpected illnesses change my carefully crafted plans. I could go on and on. You probably could too.

The problem is, I usually handle these interruptions to my life poorly. I react with frustration and anger. Like a young child, I want to stomp my feet and say, “It’s not fair!” I blame others for inconveniencing me. I’ll even throw my own pity parties.

“Small frustrations and interruptions give us opportunities to rely on God.”

Though these interruptions are unexpected and catch me off guard, they do not catch God off guard. They are not random, meaningless events. In fact, these interruptions are divinely placed in my path for a reason. God uses these interruptions to change me to be more like Christ.

Slow traffic, a sick child, or a costly home repair may not seem like important tools in our sanctification, but they are. We often overlook these interruptions and inconveniences and instead expect God to work in our lives through huge life-changing circumstances. But the reality is, we often won’t have major events in our life that cause us to trust God and obey him in some deeply profound way. We won’t be called to build an ark or take an only child up Mount Moriah. Rather, it’s in these small frustrations and interruptions, the little things in our life, where we are given opportunities to rely on God, to obey him, and to bring him glory.

Paul Tripp puts it like this:

You and I don’t live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We don’t careen from big decision to big decision. We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn’t set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in ten thousand little moments of everyday life. It’s the themes of struggles that emerge from those little moments that reveal what’s really going on in our hearts. (Whiter Than Snow, 21)

Interruptions of Grace

These ten thousand little moments come in the form of our children asking us to play a game with them when we are tied up with something else. They are moments like when we get stuck behind a school bus when we’re already late to an appointment, or when we have a flat tire on the way to work. They are in all those moments all throughout the day when things don’t go our way, our plans fail, and our life is interrupted.

It’s these moments where the rubber meets the road — where our faith is stretched and we look down to see whether we are standing on rock or sand. Do we really believe that God is in control of all the details of our life? Do we really believe that his grace is sufficient to get us through the day? Do we really believe that the gospel of Christ is powerful enough not only to save us for eternity, but also to sustain and strengthen us in the midst of life’s interruptions? Do we really believe that Christ is enough to satisfy all the deepest needs of our heart?

These interruptions are acts of God’s grace. They force us to work through these questions. They make us face our sin. They are God’s way of taking off our blinders and making us see that we need the gospel in every moment of the day. They are a light that shines on the darkest recesses of our heart, revealing the truth of what’s really there — the sins and idols that we’ve pushed off into the corner, thinking that if we can’t see them, they must not exist.

The Reminder We Need

These interruptions remind us that we don’t have life figured out and that we can’t do it on our own. They are like the Shepherd’s rod, pulling us back from our wandering ways, back to our Great Shepherd. We need these interruptions. Like nothing else, they push us to the cross of Christ where we must remember the gospel and receive his grace and forgiveness.

“Christ cares more about our transformation than about our daily comfort.”

It’s hard to see all the little frustrating events and interruptions in our day as divinely placed opportunities to grow in grace, but they are. And seeing them as such helps us take our eyes off ourselves and put them on Christ, who cares more about our transformation than about our daily comfort. Rather than giving us a life of ease, he interrupts our lives with grace and shows us what we need most of all: himself.

How about you? Is your life filled with interruptions? Do you see God’s hand at work in them?

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God Has Not Forgotten You

By Leslie Barner, familylife.com

Facing tragedy, or life storms of any kind, can be extremely difficult. But in the midst of heartache and pain, you can find the hope and courage to go on. With God’s help, the help of caring family members and friends, and the encouragement found in the Bible and other resources, you will receive the necessary strength to overcome.

You may be thinking, I don’t know how I could ever get through this. Or you may be battling powerful feelings of despair, suffering, confusion, fear, worry, and even anger. These are all normal responses to tragedy.

But as difficult as this life storm may be, you are not alone. God is with you always. He loves you, and cares about what is going on in your life. He hears your cries and sees your pain. Moreover, He understands.

The Bible says, “And it was necessary for Jesus to be like us, his brothers, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God, a Priest who would be both merciful to us and faithful to God … For since He himself has now been through suffering … He knows what it is like when we suffer … and He is wonderfully able to help us” (Hebrews 2:17-18 TLB). Whatever we endure, His care is certain, His love is unfailing, and His promises are secure.

God Has Not Forgotten You is a 31-day devotional with inspirational readings that contain life application steps to draw you closer to God and to encourage you to rely on Him to bring you safely through this present “storm” in your life. The following 7-day devotional is a portion of the full version; if you find this free sample encouraging, we recommend you work through the entire resource, which you can find by visiting our online store and searching for: God Has Not Forgotten You.

It is our prayer that this devotional will provide comfort, strength, encouragement, and healing for you and your family, and that through its pages you will discover extraordinary hope and the blessing of victory that only He can give. May God bless you and keep you always in His care, on this journey and beyond.

Day 1: You Are Not Alone

For he himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5c)

On the morning of October 29, 2012, hundreds of thousands of people in portions of the Caribbean and the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States faced their worst nightmare … “Superstorm Sandy.” This post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds and its unusual merge with a frontal system affected 24 states, including the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine and west across the Appalachian Mountains to Michigan and Wisconsin, leaving death, injuries, and utter destruction in its wake. Families everywhere, especially in hard hit New Jersey and New York, were jolted out of normalcy and the comfort and security of the homes and communities they once knew. They were thrust suddenly and unwillingly into the darkness and despair of loss.

If you and your family have ever been affected by a natural disaster like this, you may feel as if you’ve been abandoned by God. However, if trouble has hit your life in some other disaster or form of tragedy—the death of a loved one, a dreaded medical diagnosis, the loss of home and property, or the loss of your job, you are experiencing your own superstorm. You may feel as if your whole world has been turned upside down and wonder how you can possibly survive the loss. In times like these, you can feel very much alone.

But you are not alone. In the midst of unspeakable sorrow, God is with you. Even if you do not feel Him near, God is there. He promises to never leave you alone. Therefore, wherever you are, God is. He is with you before, during, and after the storm, never losing sight of you, or your suffering. Even as you ponder how you will begin picking up the pieces of your life, God is there … loving you beyond understanding, holding you up, and making a way where it seems there is no way. Reach out for Him today. He is a very present help in times of trouble (see Psalm 46:1).

Jesus Is The Light Of The World

 John 8

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”

14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”

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Light of the World

By: Paul Linzey, 1cbn.com

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When the queen of England knighted Sir Isaac Newton, it was the first time a scientist was honored this way. He was a brilliant scholar with a wide range of interests: from mathematics to natural philosophy, from the laws of motion to the laws of gravity, from the study of optics to the study of theology.

His first series of lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge, was on optics. Other scientists had begun the scientific revolution, and the study of light was a central theme. Newton made significant contributions to the scientific understanding of white light and color. He even built the first reflecting telescope.

Light is indeed a fascinating topic, and because it’s so significant, Jesus used it as a metaphor for himself when he made the statement,

“I AM the light of the world” (John 8:12).

There are at least five reasons why light is important, and these factors provide insight as to what the Lord was saying.

First, light is essential for vision. Have you ever noticed as the sun goes down late in the day, shadows grow darker, and it’s more difficult to see? If the moon and the stars aren’t in the night sky, by the time it’s pitch black you see nothing.

Light is also essential for color. As the light dims, colors fade. For this reason, light is a necessary ingredient for beauty in the world.

Third, the earth’s food chain depends on light. Photosynthesis is the process whereby plants use the energy of light to produce food. In other words, without light, there is no life.

It’s also worth noting that for a lot of people, light is a key element of happiness. Many studies have shown higher levels of depression where there is less natural light. This seems to be true for some who work indoors, as well as for those who live in areas where there are seasonally shorter days.

One more observation is that light can drive away fear. When our son was five years old, we’d put him to bed at night, singing a song and praying with him before turning out the light. In a few minutes, we’d hear him yelling, “There’s a wolf!”

“No, son. There’s not a wolf.”

“Yes, there is. Would you leave the light on?”

When the light was on, he could see, so he wasn’t afraid. But in the dark, his imagination went into gear, and he was afraid.

The impact when Jesus comes into a person’s life is similar to what light does in the natural world. He opens our eyes, giving us vision. He adds color and beauty to our lives. He brings life and happiness, and drives away fear. Our Creator already knew what Sir Isaac Newton and other scientists took years to figure out, because he created light.

In Matthew 5:14, he who is the Light of the World turns to his disciples and in a stunning plot twist tells them, and us,

“You are the light of the world” (HCSB).

We are called to be Christ to our world. The effect of our interacting with people and the planet should add vision, beauty, life, and happiness. And, wherever there’s a Christian presence, there should be less fear.

In the same way “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world,” but to save. John 3:17 (NKGV), he sends us into the world with the same mission. When we represent the Lord the way he hopes we will, that’s when the church is at its best, becomes most productive, remains relevant, and changes the world.

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Looking unto Jesus

“They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.” Psalm 34:5

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1-7

See there he sits in heaven, he has led captivity captive, and now sits at the right hand of God, for ever making intercession for us. Can your faith picture him today? Like a great high priest of old, he stands with outstretched arms: there is majesty in his demeanour, for he is no mean cringing suppliant. He does not beat his breast, nor cast his eyes upon the ground, but with authority he pleads, enthroned in glory now. There on his head is the bright shining mitre of his priesthood, and look you, on his breast are glittering the precious stones whereon the names of his elect are everlastingly engraved; hear him as he pleads, hear you not what it is?—is that your prayer that he is mentioning before the throne? The prayer that this morning you offered before you came to the house of God, Christ is now offering before his Father’s throne. The vow which just now you uttered when you said, “Have pity and have mercy,”—he is now uttering there. He is the Altar and the Priest, and with his own sacrifice he perfumes our prayers. And yet, mayhap, you have been at prayer many a day, and had no answer; poor weeping suppliant, you have sought the Lord and he has not heard you, or at least not answered you to your soul’s delight; you have cried unto him, but the heavens have been as brass, and he has shut out your prayer, you are full of darkness and heaviness on account of this, “Look to him, and be lightened.” If you do not succeed, he will; if your intercession be unnoticed, his cannot be passed away; if your prayers can be like water spilt on a rock which cannot be gathered up, yet his prayers are not like that, he is God’s Son, he pleads and must prevail.

For meditation: The prayers of the true seeker and of believers are not a waste of effort; they are not like letters lost in the post, but reach the throne of God (Acts 10:4Revelation 5:8). But only praying in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is accepted; prayers addressed to saints, to false gods or to the dead are always turned away—“not known here.”

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Streams In The Desert

By: L.B.Cowman

At their wit’s end, they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out” (Ps. 107:27, 28).

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner,”
Christian, with troubled brow?
Are you thinking of what is before you,
And all you are bearing now?
Does all the world seem against you,
And you in the battle alone?
Remember–at “Wit’s End Corner”
Is just where God’s power is shown.
Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner,”
Blinded with wearying pain,
Feeling you cannot endure it,
You cannot bear the strain,
Bruised through the constant suffering,
Dizzy, and dazed, and numb?
Remember–at “Wit’s End Corner”
Is where Jesus loves to come.
Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner”?
Your work before you spread,
All lying begun, unfinished,
And pressing on heart and head,
Longing for strength to do it,
Stretching out trembling hands?
Remember–at. “Wit’s End Corner”
The Burden-bearer stands.
Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner”?
Then you’re just in the very spot
To learn the wondrous resources
Of Him who faileth not:
No doubt to a brighter pathway
Your footsteps will soon be moved,
But only at “Wit’s End Corner”

Is the “God who is able” proved.
–Antoinette Wilson

God Is With You During Hard Times

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Matthew 6:25-34

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 
27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 
29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 
30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 
32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

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Why is Life so Hard Sometimes?

 From: 1cbn.com

We can all certainly relate can’t we?  Let’s face it many times that’s exactly what life can be…THE PITS!

The truth of the matter is at this precise moment a universal “battle of the wills” is going on. And if you happen to be one who is insisting on having your “own will” then your world is the way it is, because it’s the world you have, in a sense, asked for.

Remember the story of Adam and Eve? God instructed them to only eat from the Tree of Life, and not partake of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?  So what did they do?  They ate the forbidden fruit in spite of His warning. They “willfully” partook of that fruit with the idea that they could ignore what He said and strike out on a life apart from Him.

Adam and Eve figured that they could become like God…without God! They were of the notion that there was something more valuable in existence than God himself, something more valuable than having a personal relationship with God. And this world system, as we know it today, with all of its faults and evils, is a direct result of the choice they made.

Their story is the story of all of us isn’t it?  Who hasn’t at some time said, (if not out loud) at least in their heart, “God, I think I can take it from here.  I’ll just go this one alone. I appreciate your offer, but I think I have a good handle on things now.”  And off we go, trying to make our life “work” without any help from God.

And what is God’s response?  He allows it.

He lets us have the very thing we insist upon. All the while, like a loving Father becomes deeply pained and grieved, as He is forced to watch his head-strong child walk directly into one disastrous situation after another, knowing full well what lies ahead.

The result?  We end up experiencing the very painful consequences of others’ or our own willful actions that run contrary to God’s will. Things such as killing, stealing, lying, greed, adultery, sexual abuse, murder, hatred, war and on and on it goes, this being the direct result of people refusing to give God access and influence over their lives. They go about living life as they see fit, and end up suffering terribly because of it.

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” (The Bible, Isaiah 53:6)

So what is God’s solution to mankind’s awful dilemma?  He sent His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ to show us the way “back” to Himself.

“For God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:17, 16).

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

In the midst of our difficulties, we can have the peace of knowing that Christ is with us — and He gives us strength to overcome the challenges, and His joy and peace in the midst of the storm.

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

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4 things God wants you to remember when life is hard.

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We’ve all had days (and maybe even years) when life just doesn’t seem to be going our way!

I’ve had long seasons of life where I felt like nothing was working and everything was out of whack, and I’ve had frustrating days where I just can’t seem to get anything accomplished. This morning was one of those times…

I was getting all three of our boys ready for school which is a massive undertaking and makes me respect my wife even more because she is normally the one doing it! Amidst the screaming infant and complaining gradeschoolers, there was a mess in the kitchen, a dirty diaper on the floor, toothpaste on the sink and stress in the air. When we FINALLY got out the door, Connor had forgotten something and had to run back in. The door was open just long enough for (I’m not making this up) a bird to fly in the house.

Now, I’ve got to figure out a way to get the bird out of the house and all the kids loaded up as fast as I can. I eventually got the bird out (unharmed) and the kids loaded and just before I pulled out onto the main road, a garbage truck cut me off and started driving about five miles per hour and stopping at every other house. I wasn’t sure whether to scream or laugh at the irony of it.

In the grand scheme of things, a stressful morning doesn’t impact life or eternity all that much, but in those longer seasons of joblessness, sickness, financial stress, marriage strain and other ongoing life events, the stress and frustration can seem overwhelming. Below are four things I’ve learned to remember in those challenging seasons of life that have helped me and I pray they help you as well!

Struggles in life are inevitable, but destruction is optional. Remembering these four principles can make all the difference.

For ongoing encouragement, please connect with me on Facebook by clicking here and sign up for our emails. 

1. Remember that your Character should always be stronger than your Circumstances.

We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can always control how we choose to respond. In those moments when I choose to stop complaining and instead give thanks to God for the good in my life, the parts that seem bad start to seem much less significant. Choose to keep a positive attitude and thankful heart regardless of what you’re going through.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for

youChristJesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

2. Remember that your Struggles always lead to Strength.

Every difficulty in your life, whether big or small, is something God will use to produce more strength, faith and perseverance in you if you let Him! All your pain has a purpose.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”Romans 8:28

3. Remember that God’s timing is always perfect.

God’s plans are almost always different from our plans, but His plans are always perfect! Have the patience to wait on His timing instead of forcing your own.

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

4. Remember that God will never leave your side.

You may feel like you’re going through this struggle all alone, but from the moment you ask Jesus to bring you into God’s family, He will be by your side to the end so never lose hope!

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

 

Awaking In Heaven In His Likeness

“As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”- Psa 17:15

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He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth: there is nothing false about him. John 7:18 the words of Jesus

Abimelech and Isaac were two leaders of tribal families meeting to settle squabbles over wells of life-supporting water, a precious commodity. When Abimelech approached Isaac about making a peace treaty between them, one of his comments was, “We clearly saw that the Lord was with you” (Genesis 26:28).

Abimelech and his advisors saw how God blessed Isaac with a large inheritance, a wife, twin sons, many servants, livestock, and great wealth. Abimelech’s words remind me of a longtime friend and mentor many lovingly called “Nannie.” As newlyweds, my husband and I first met this silver-haired widow while we were looking for a church home. She quickly became my friend who, with her pattern of good works, taught me many things. Two particular life-lessons came from her example.

When she spoke to women’s class about the death of her husband, many of us younger women clearly saw that the Lord was with her. “Nannie” and her husband were on vacation in Hawaii when he died in his sleep. Before summoning for help, she knelt by their bed and gave thanks to God for their marriage. Far from home and relatives, prayer came before she reached out to others for comfort.

A second strong impression of her devotedness to God was a phrase she used in praying at a women’s luncheon meeting. In her prayer, “Nannie” included a profession of faith. I remember her words, “And, Lord, I confess to you that I believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” Her refreshing verbal affirmation of Christ as Lord serves even today as a reminder to revere Christ with words and actions.

Abimelech’s words “[w]e clearly saw . . .” also made me think about weather forecasting. When my children were at home and Mama wasn’t happy, they sometimes forecasted a warning, an “emergency broadcast” to seek shelter before the storm. Blustery outbursts and stormy households can change, and should. For Christ-followers they need to change to clear and sunny where observers can clearly see lives yielding to the Holy Spirit.

As I grow older, I often wonder what my family and others observe in my life. Do they see me honoring the Lord? Do my friends expect to hear stories of God’s intervention in my life? Do they hear whining about what went awry in my schedule?

I am still on the playing field. People are watching my actions, and I’m wondering what the view is from the bleachers.

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A Sermon
(No. 25)
Delivered on Sabbath Evening, May 20, 1855, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
At Exeter Hall, Strand.

“As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”- Psa 17:15

IT WOULD be difficult to say to which the gospel owes most, to its friends or to its enemies. It is true, that by the help of God, its friends have done much for it; they have preached it in foreign lands, they have dared death, they have laughed to scorn the terrors of the grave, they have ventured all things for Christ, and so have glorified the doctrine they believed; but the enemies of Christ, unwittingly, have done no little, for when they have persecuted Christ’s servants, they have scattered them abroad, so that they have gone everywhere preaching the Word; yea, when they have trampled upon the gospel, like a certain herb we read of in medicine, it hath grown all the faster: and if we refer to the pages of sacred writ how very many precious portions of it do we owe, under God, to the enemies of the cross of Christ! Jesus Christ would never have preached many of his discourses had not his foes compelled him to answer them; had they not brought objections, we should not have heard the sweet sentences in which he replied. So with the book of Psalms: had not David been sorely tried by enemies, had not the foemen shot their arrows at him, had they not attempted to malign and blast his character, had they not deeply distressed him, and made him cry out in misery, we should have missed many of those precious experimental utterances we here find, much of that holy song which he penned after his deliverance, and very much of that glorious statement of his trust in the infallible God. We should have lost all this, had it not been wrung from him by the iron hand of anguish. Had it not been for David’s enemies, he would not have penned his Psalms; but when hunted like a partridge on the mountains, when driven like the timid roe before the hunter’s dogs, he waited for awhile, bathed his sides in the brooks of Siloa, and panting on the hill-top a little, he breathed the air of heaven and stood and rested his weary limbs. Then was it that he gave honour to God, then he shouted aloud to that mighty Jehovah, who for him had gotten the victory. This sentence follows a description of the great troubles which the wicked bring upon the righteous, wherein he consoles himself with the hope of future bliss.; As for me,” says the patriarch, casting his eyes aloft; As for me,” said the hunted chieftain of the caves of Engedi-“As for me,” says the once shepherd boy, who was soon to wear a royal diadem-“As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness, I shall be satisfied, when I awake with thy likeness.”

God Calms the Storms Of Life

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Stuck with a Thorn?

By: Joe Stowell, Strength For the Journey

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” 2 Corinthians 12:9

A small, older, hunched-over lady greeted us with a glowing smile at the doorway of our little son Matthew’s Sunday school room. She was one of the most effective Sunday school teachers at our church, and Matt loved her. I’ll never forget the time she told me, “Pastor, God made me small and bent over so that I can be right down here where the children are! If I weren’t like this, I couldn’t relate to them so well.” I was blown away by her perspective on her plight in life—her “thorn in the flesh.”

A thorn in the flesh is any affliction in our lives that, if we aren’t careful, can defeat us with a good dose of self-pity and embitter us toward God. But the important thing to know about our thorns is that Satan desires to use them to defeat us, while God is determined to use them for our good and His glory.

The apostle Paul is probably the most famous example of someone who was stuck with a thorn in the flesh. Paul knew right where the thorn had come from. He referred to it as a messenger of Satan. And though Paul never tells us what his thorn was, I think it’s clear that it was a serious problem to Paul. He said: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me” (2 Corinthians 12:8). God didn’t answer his prayer with a miraculous healing, but rather assured Paul that, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

It’s important to know that when God permits a thorn to remain, He gives us grace to accept it and sometimes even the grace to understand the purpose for which the thorn is intended. Paul came to realize that God permitted his affliction “to keep me from becoming conceited” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Paul was a gifted person and could have easily become proud in his abilities and accomplishments. That proud spirit would have been a disaster to his usefulness for God. So God took what Satan had intended to defeat Paul and turned it into a smashing victory by enabling him to stay appropriately humble and therefore useful.

Getting a grip on why God permits our afflictions, weaknesses, or disabilities to remain has a powerful effect on our attitudes. Instead of shaking his fist at God and grumbling about his thorn, Paul realized that God’s power was being made perfect in his weakness. That insight produced an upbeat spirit of delight and satisfaction. As Paul said, “for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

We normally don’t think of being strong in weakness, but that’s just how God works. He knows that if we think we are strong in and of ourselves, then we will become proud and self-sufficient. And when we feel that way, we are in reality very weak and unable to accomplish much of anything except for thinking how cool and capable we are. God has a better plan. When He needs to accomplish really great things through us, He sometimes needs to get our twisted view of ourselves out of the way. So He takes Satan’s intrusions into our lives and beats Satan at his own game! You may see it as a thorn, but God sees it as a triumph!

You don’t have to be Paul to start seeing what God is doing through your thorn. Rejoice that He cares enough to keep you from getting in the way of the great things that He wants to do through your life!

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The hope of future bliss

By: Charles Spurgeon

“As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” Psalm 17:15

Suggested Further Reading: Revelation 7:13-17

He will be satisfied, the Psalmist says, when he wakes up in God’s likeness. Satisfaction! This is another joy for the Christian when he shall enter heaven. Here we are never thoroughly satisfied. True, the Christian is satisfied from himself; he has that within which is a well-spring of comfort, and he can enjoy solid satisfaction. But heaven is the home of true and real satisfaction. When the believer enters heaven I believe his imagination will be thoroughly satisfied. All he has ever thought of he will there see; every holy idea will be solidified; every mighty conception will become a reality; every glorious imagination will become a tangible thing that he can see. His imagination will not be able to think of anything better than heaven; and should he sit down through eternity, he would not be able to conceive of anything that should outshine the luster of that glorious city. His imagination will be satisfied. Then his intellect will be satisfied.

“Then shall I see, and hear, and know, All I desired, or wished, below.”

Who is satisfied with his knowledge here? Are there not secrets we want to know—depths of the secrets of nature that we have not entered? But in that glorious state we shall know as much as we want to know. The memory will be satisfied. We shall look back upon the vista of past years, and we shall be content with whatever we endured, or did, or suffered on earth.

“There, on a green and flowery mount, My wearied soul shall sit,
And with transporting joys recount, The labors of my feet.”

Hope will be satisfied, if there be such a thing in heaven. We shall hope for a future eternity, and believe in it. But we shall be satisfied as to our hope continually.

For meditation: The difference between now and then is beyond our finest imaginations (1 Corinthians 13:121 John 3:2).

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Joy and peace in believing

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘Joy and peace in believing.’ Romans 15:13

Suggested Further Reading: Ezekiel 13:1–16

You must take care, while valuing joy and peace, that you do not overestimate them; for, remember that joy and peace are, though eminently desirable, not infallible evidences of safety. There are many persons who have great joy and much peace who are not saved, for their joy springs from a mistake, and their peace is the false peace which does not rest upon the rock of divine truth but upon the sand of their own imaginations. It is certainly a good sign that the spring is come, that you find the weather to be so warm, but there are very mild days in winter. I must not therefore infer because the heat of the sun is at such and such a degree, that therefore it is necessarily spring. And, on the other hand, we have had very cold days this week—cold days which, if we had to judge by such evidences, might have indicated to us that we were rather in November than in May. And so, joy and peace are like fine sunny days. They come to those that have no faith, that are in the winter of their unbelief, and they may not visit you who have believed; or, if they come, they may not abide, for there may be cold weather in May, and there may be some sorrow and some distress even to a truly believing soul. Understand, that you must not look upon the possession of joy and peace as being the absolutely necessary consequence of your being saved. A man may be in the lifeboat, but that lifeboat may be so tossed about that he may still feel himself exceedingly ill, and think himself to be still in peril. It is not his sense of safety that makes him safe; he is safe because he is in the lifeboat, whether he is sensible of this or not.

For meditationLuke 16:25; the Christian may have a tough time in this life, but the best is yet to come (Romans 8:182 Corinthians 4:17Hebrews 12:111 Peter 5:10). The unbeliever may have a good time in this life, but the worst is yet to come (Psalm 73:3–5,17–20).

There Is Room In Heaven For You

John 14

Jesus Comforts His Disciples

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

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In My Father’s House Are Many Rooms

Kristine, a vibrant 18-year-old, was involved in all the normal activities of a senior in high school when she became critically ill. She was admitted to the hospital and within a few days, she was diagnosed with a fatal disease.

Kristine’s parents were devastated when doctors said, “There’s nothing more we can do except keep her comfortable.” They asked for help from the hospital staff to break the news to their daughter.

A woman named Donna is part of a hospital team that works with critically and terminally ill patients and their families. “When Kristine heard the prognosis, she was naturally quite upset, but when I went to see her the next day, her demeanor was completely changed,” she said.

“Kristine had in her hand a collection of swatches from a paint store, those little strips of various shades of color,” Donna said. “She fanned them out like a deck of cards and said, ‘Pick a color.’”

“I didn’t know what was going on,” Donna said, “but I played along. I chose a bird’s egg blue. Then Kristine explained:  ‘Since I’m going to heaven before you, I want to paint your room your favorite color.’ Anytime a different person came into Kristine’s room after that, she had them choose a color for their room in heaven.”

Donna said, “I have worked with critically and terminally ill patients for years, but I was bowled over by the spiritual maturity of an 18-year-old who was so certain of her place in heaven. Kristine knew without a doubt that this world is just a ‘passing-through place.’ It’s not the final destination. She used those paint swatches as tools to witness about eternal life and also to help the people around her accept her physical death.”

Kristine was a living witness to the promise in John 14 as Jesus tried to prepare his disciples for his impending death:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:1-3 NIV

When Kristine passed away, she continued to witness to people at the funeral because those paint swatches were in the casket with her. Kristine’s story was repeated to everyone who passed by.

“As Christians, we have the certainty of eternal life,” Donna said. “How wonderful it was for Kristine and her family to be able to frame death in such a beautiful way.”

Thank you, Lord, for the promise of eternal life. Help us to learn from Kristine’s example of faith in your Word.

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Devotional

By: Chris Brown.  first15.org

Pentecost marks the powerful beginning of a global movement of the power of God’s presence sweeping across the earth. As we read the account of what happened as the Spirit descended with power on God’s people, place yourself in their midst. Imagine what it would look like, sound like, and feel like to witness firsthand such a powerful movement of God’s Spirit:

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine” (Acts 2:1-13).

The Holy Spirit is our greatest gift. When the disciples received the Spirit they began living as Jesus did. They began speaking to, healing, and transforming a world that had known no restored relationship with their Creator since Adam and Eve. And Scripture makes it clear that our lives are to follow their example. We’ve been given the same Spirit as the disciples, who moved so powerfully in revealing our loving heavenly Father to a world in desperate need of relationship with their Creator. I feel that there are three areas in which the Spirit would anoint us more powerfully today as he did the disciples at Pentecost. Let’s boldly seek out all that the Spirit would do in our hearts and lives today.

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XIV.

(1) Let not your heart be troubled.—The division of chapters is unfortunate, as it breaks the close connection between these words and those which have gone immediately before. The prophecy of St. Peter’s denial had followed upon the indication of Judas as the traitor, and upon the announcement of the Lord’s departure. These thoughts may well have brought troubled hearts. The Lord had Himself been troubled as the darkness drew on (John 12:27John 13:21), and He calms the anxious thoughts that He reads in the souls of the disciples.

Ye believe in God, believe also in me.—It is more natural to take both these clauses as imperative—Believe in God, believe also in Me. Our English version reads the first and last clauses of the verse as imperative, and the second as an indicative, but there is no good reason for doing so; and a sense more in harmony with the context is got by reading them all as imperatives. As a matter of fact, the present trouble of the hearts of the disciples arose from a want of a true belief in God; and the command is to exercise a true belief, and to realise the presence of the Father, as manifested in the person of the Son. There was a sense in which every Jew believed in God. That belief lay at the very foundation of the theocracy; but like all the axioms of creeds, it was accepted as a matter of course, and too often had no real power on the life. What our Lord here teaches the disciples is the reality of the Fatherhood of God as a living power, ever present with them and in them; and He teaches them that the love of God is revealed in the person of the Word made flesh. This faith is the simplest article of the Christian’s creed. We teach children to say, we ourselves constantly say, “I believe in God the Father.” Did we but fully grasp the meaning of what we say, the troubles of our hearts would be hushed to silence; and our religion would be a real power over the whole life, and would be also, in a fulness in which it never has been, a real power over the life of the world.

It’s Important To Get Along

Romans 8

More Than Conquerors

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us,who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns?No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Getting Along

By: Joe Stowell, Strength for the Journey

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3

I’m guessing that even astronomical gas prices won’t stop many parents from packing up the car and taking the kids on a road trip for vacation this summer. And if the trip is more than 50 miles, you can already imagine the scene in the backseat: “Mom, he’s on my side!” or “Dad, tell her to stop doing that!”  When the kids don’t get along, it drives their parents nuts and takes the joy out of the journey.

I often wonder: Does God feel that way about His kids? He has asked us to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), and yet differences in gender, color, gifts, temperaments, roles, perspectives, preferences, and denominations threaten to wreck the unity that He intends for us to enjoy on the road to paradise. The psalmist had it right when he declared, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

A close look at Jesus’ prayer in John 17:1-26 sheds some light on how to grow up and get along. Just before His ultimate demonstration of love on the cross, Jesus prayed that His followers would be unified (John 17:11) and that they would be set apart by the truth of God’s Word (John 17:16-17). He continued, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one” (John 17: 20-21).

We can’t miss the connection between truth and unity. In fact, truth is the key ingredient of biblical unity. Truth is what unites us as believers: Truth about His deity. Truth about the message of salvation that comes by grace through faith in Christ alone. Truth that the Scriptures are the sole authority for faith and practice, and that they are without error and completely trustworthy.

Jesus goes on to indicate that unity is also built around righteousness. “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (John 17: 15-16). As His followers, unity comes when together we cling to the distinction between good and evil and seek to reflect the goodness of God in all that is pure and right.

What we know to be true about God’s Word and what we know to be true about how to live gives us a lot in common! And since Jesus is at the center of it all, He becomes the glue that makes us one. I might not be particularly drawn to you—your culture and background may be different than mine—but when I find out that you too are a follower of Jesus, His Word, and His Way, I find myself saying, “You too? Hey, let’s walk together!”

Being one in Jesus gives us the joy of bearing one another’s burdens, praying for one another, overlooking class distinctions, and casting the log out of our own eyes rather than focusing on the weaknesses of others. When we let the grand things we have in common override our petty differences, the backseat will be a happier place, and we can all enjoy the journey in peace!

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What to Do With Tough Relationships

NOVEMBER 3, 2016

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6 (NIV)

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Ever feel like relationships are hard to navigate sometimes? Are you in the midst of trying to figure out a situation that’s complicated, messy and unpredictable?

Sometimes I try so hard to figure out just the right words to say and talk through a situation. While talking is good, sometimes the conversations start running in a circle, and there aren’t any productive words left to say. When this happens, it can make a girl feel like giving up. But before I give up, I’ve learned to hush up.

Spending time getting quiet can really be the best remedy for tangled situations. Taking a step back from all the emotion, frustration and exhaustion to sit quietly with Jesus will do more to untangle a mess than anything else I’ve ever found.

Here are five beautiful things that can happen in the quiet:

1. We can feel safe enough to humble ourselves.

In the heat of a mess, the last thing I want to do is get humble. I want to get loud and prove my point. I’ve learned I have to step out of the battle and humbly ask God to speak truth to my heart for things to start to make sense. Never have I had a relationship issue where I didn’t contribute at least something to the problem. Usually, I can only see this something in the quiet.

1 Peter 5:6a, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand …” (NIV).

2. God will lift us up to a more rational place.

When we are in the heat of a tangled relationship, crazy emotions can drag us down into a pit of hopelessness. The only way out of the pit is to make the choice to stop digging deeper and turn to God for a solution.

1 Peter 5:6b, “… that he may lift you up in due time” (NIV).

3. Anxiety gives way to progress.

We can pour our anxious hearts out to Jesus who loves us right where we are, how we are. And because His love comes without judgment, we can feel safe enough to humbly admit we need Jesus to work on us. Trying to fix another person will only add to my anxiety. Letting Jesus work on me is where real progress can happen.

1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (NIV).

4. We see our real enemy isn’t the person with whom we’re in conflict.

The truth is, we have an enemy, and it’s not each other. Satan’s influence on me and the person offending me is the real culprit. I can’t realize this in the heat of the moment. But in the quiet, I become alert and can gain a strategy for acting and reacting in a more self-controlled manner.

1 Peter 5:8-9a, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith …” (NIV).

5. I can rest assured God will use this conflict for good — no matter how it turns out.

If I make the effort to handle this conflict well, I can be freed from the pressure to make everything turn out rosy. Sometimes relationships grow stronger through conflict. But other times, relationships end. Because I can’t control the other person, I must keep focusing on the good God is working out in me through this and leave the outcome with Him.

1 Peter 5:10-11, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

(NIV)

In the end, this struggle can be used by God to make me stronger and more capable in my relationships. If I am humble enough to receive from Him in the quiet what He wants to teach me through this, I can rest assured with whatever the outcome is.

We Are In God’s Hands Of Love

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In God’s Hands

APRIL 22, 2009

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Psalm 56:3 (NIV)

As I aroused from sleep, my first thought was, “Uggg. It is going to be cold outside.” But to be honest, my anxiety wasn’t so much about the cold mountain weather, but about my teenage daughter’s safety that day.

We had been planning the trip for weeks and the girls were so excited that their snowboarding day had finally arrived. The wind was cold and the snow was slippery, but the sun was shining, the mountains were beautiful, and the enthusiasm of three teenage girls outweighed their shivers. We had arranged for them to take a one-hour snowboarding lesson that morning, as this was their first time on the slopes. Once we got them bundled up in their coats, scarves and protective gear, we parted ways as they walked off with the rest of the group to begin their lesson.

Suddenly, I felt this little rush of panic come over me. It was a familiar feeling, because for the past 15 years I have mastered the art of worrying about the safety of my children. When there is even the most remote possibility one of them could be hurt, my mind floods with irrational thoughts about what could happen in the worst of circumstances.

What if she has trouble getting onto the ski lift properly, and slips and hits her head? What if she can’t get off the lift quick enough at the top of the mountain, and falls off and gets hurt? What if she falls off the lift seat while hoisted five stories up in the air? What if she gets too close to the edge of the slope and falls off the side of the mountain? What if she gets separated from her friends and panics all alone? What if she breaks her arm/leg/neck? What if …

As I said, irrational thoughts. Unwarranted panic.

Since I could not run up the ski slope after her, looking like a crazed, over-protective mother, I headed back to the lodge. There I found myself praying a simple prayer something like this: Oh, Lord, I cannot be with her today. I cannot protect her. I cannot watch after her. She will be out of my sight, at the top of a mountain, far from my reach. Only You can see her. Only You can protect her now. Please keep her safe. Instantly I felt God’s reassurance, and heard Him quietly speak to my heart, “Put her in My arms Tracie. Entrust her to Me.”

Although I secretly preferred to hold her in my own arms and keep her safe, just like when she was a little girl, I knew I had to entrust her fully to God – just not on the ski slope, but every day of her life. I am a mere human, but God is a sovereign and powerful God. Any physical protection I could offer her pales in comparison to the spiritual protection given from our Savior.

As each of my children grow and live, I know they will face new dangers. Peer pressure will be heavy, temptations will prowl, people will hurt their feelings, dangers may cross their path and life may be hard. Our modern culture will cause them to face challenges and decisions that I did not have to deal with as a child. My comfort must come from believing that they will be in God’s hands, and that He will always be with them, no matter where they go. Not just on the top of a mountain, but every minute of every day in every circumstance.

Do you know that the word “children” appears over 450 times in the Bible? Our children matter to God, and He loves them, even more than we love them. Being a parent allows us a window to see God’s amazing perspective of that love.

Dear Lord, forgive me for forgetting how much You love my children and that You are always with them. Thank You for surrounding us with Your angels. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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God’s Hand in Your Life

Forget not all his benefits.

 Psalms 103:2

It is a delightful and profitable occupation to mark the hand of God in the lives of ancient saints and to observe His goodness in delivering them, His mercy in pardoning them, and His faithfulness in keeping His covenant with them. But would it not be even more interesting and profitable for us to observe the hand of God in our own lives? Should we not look upon our own history as being at least as full of God, as full of His goodness and of His truth, as much a proof of His faithfulness and veracity as the lives of any of the saints who have gone before?

We do our Lord an injustice when we suppose that He performed all His mighty acts and showed Himself strong for those in the early time but does not perform wonders or lay bare His arm for the saints who are now upon the earth. Let us review our own lives. Surely in these we may discover some happy incidents, refreshing to ourselves and glorifying to our God. Have you had no deliverances? Have you passed through no rivers, supported by the divine presence? Have you walked through no fires unharmed? Have you had no manifestations? Have you had no choice favors? The God who gave Solomon the desire of his heart, has He never listened to you and answered your requests? That God of lavish bounty of whom David sang, “who satisfies you with good,”1 has He never filled you up to overflowing? Have you never been made to lie down in green pastures? Have you never been led by the still waters?

Surely the goodness of God has been the same to us as to the saints of old. Let us, then, weave His mercies into a song. Let us take the pure gold of thankfulness and the jewels of praise and make them into another crown for the head of Jesus. Let our souls produce music as sweet and as exhilarating as came from David’s harp while we praise the Lord whose mercy endures forever.

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What’s That in Your Hand?

by Inspiration Ministries

I meet a lot of Believers who feel like they simply don’t have what it takes. They say they would do great things for God if they just had more money…more time…more energy…or more people to help them.

The mistake such people are making is that they’re focusing on what they DON’T have, when the Lord wants them to realize what they DO have. By simply shifting our focus, we can trade in our frustration and receive a life filled with miracles and abundance instead.

Look at God’s incredible question to Moses in Exodus 4:2:
“What’s that in your hand?”

When the Lord asked this question, the only thing in Moses’ hand was a crude shepherd’s rod. It wasn’t much. Just a piece of wood. An inanimate object. A tool of
Moses’ trade.

God was commissioning him for the daunting task of delivering over a million Israelites from slavery in Egypt. And all Moses had in his hand was the wooden staff he had used for 40 years to tend his flocks of sheep.

Do you see how powerful this message is for you and me? Like Moses, we’re being called to do great things…supernatural things…things much bigger than we could ever accomplish without divine assistance.

Yet too often we think our problem is that we lack some important ingredient or resource needed for success. “If only I had this or that…” we complain.

But notice that God wasn’t asking Moses to give Him something he didn’t already have. Instead, He asked Moses, as He is asking us today…

“What’s that in your hand?”

Moses had been carrying around that ordinary piece of wood for many years, and nothing dramatic had happened as a result. But after Moses surrendered the wooden rod to the Lord, it amazingly became “the rod of God” instead of merely the rod of Moses (Exodus 4:20). No longer a mere piece of wood, this rod enabled Moses to part the Red Sea, bring water out of a rock, and defeat enemy armies.

What is in YOUR hand, my friend? Money? Time? Possessions? Influence? Some kind of special God-given aptitude?

If you’re honest, the thing in your hand probably seems totally inadequate to meet the needs around you. However, you’ll be amazed by what can happen when you surrender it to the Lord.

Lawlessness

  • 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7
    And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 
     
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12
    The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 

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THE SPIRIT OF LAWLESSNESS

David WilkersonJanuary 3, 2017

“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7).

The Greek word Paul uses for iniquity in this passage literally means lawlessness. Therefore, the mystery is one of lawlessness — acting without law or restraint.

Yet, this lawlessness is not simply a rebellion against the rule of man. It’s not about rebelling against civil authority or committing a violent crime. These things do provoke God’s wrath, but the mystery of lawlessness goes much deeper. It is an outright rejection of the truth that is in Christ — a casting aside of God’s Holy Word and His commands.

This spirit of lawlessness is rampant in our nation today. It is the very force behind the legislation that seeks to banish God from our society; the same spirit that Satan used to deceive Eve when he told her, in so many words, “God won’t punish you for disobeying. You can eat the fruit and you won’t have to pay for it!”

Satan is using the same lie on Christians today; day after day, he convinces masses of believers that they can sin without paying any penalty. It is a demonic scheme to pervert Christ’s gospel of grace.

Tragically, many lukewarm Christians are succumbing to this spirit of lawlessness. Paul says the Antichrist will rise to power because people will be blinded and deceived by their own sin (see 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10).

Satan will deceive masses of people, just as he did Eve, by convincing them of a subtle but powerful lie: “God doesn’t punish for sin!”

Paul says this deception will come “because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (verse 10). He then adds, “For this [reason], God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (verse 11).

The apostle is saying, “Those who refuse to obey or respect God’s Word will fall under a powerful delusion. At first they’ll wink at their sin, justify it. But soon they’ll actively seek out a message of easy grace. In fact, they will invent a grace that is far beyond what God intended. His grace never leads to license and always leads to repentance!”

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 How We Must Fight for Holiness

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)

There is a practical holiness without which we will not see the Lord. Many live as if this were not so.

There are professing Christians who live such unholy lives that they will hear Jesus’s dreadful words, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). Paul says to professing believers, “If you live according to the flesh you will die” (Romans 8:13).

So, there is a holiness without which no one will see the Lord. And learning to fight for holiness by faith in future grace is supremely important.

There is another way to pursue holiness that backfires and leads to death. Paul warns us against serving God any other way than by faith in his enabling grace. God is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). Any effort to serve God that does not, in that very act, depend on him as the reward of our hearts and the power of our service, will dishonor him as a needy pagan god.

Peter describes the alternative to such self-reliant service of God, “Whoever serves, [let him do so] as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11). And Paul says, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me” (Romans 15:18; see also 1 Corinthians 15:10).

Moment by moment, grace arrives to enable us to do “every good work” that God appoints for us. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

The fight for good works is a fight to believe the promises of future grace.

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Lawlessness

by Inspiration Ministries

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 NASB

False teachings regarding the Second Coming of Jesus were causing Paul great concern. To correct these errors, he explained that this day couldn’t come unless “the man of lawlessness is revealed” (v. 3).

The word “lawlessness” reveals a central characteristic of this man, and the conditions that would exist when Jesus returned. This man would demonstrate his attitude by taking the place of God and even “displaying himself as being God “(v. 4).

The Bible clearly warns against this spirit of lawlessness. The Greek word was used 18 times in the New Testament! For example, Jesus used it to describe the coming judgment: “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness” (Matthew 13:41). He also used it to describe those who tried to fool others with appearances but who were inwardly “full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:28).

Lawlessness is a characteristic of people who reject the Gospel, who don’t care about what God has said, and who refuse to consider His Word. They reject His plans, His principles, His influence, His standards, and His authority. Despising His rule, they elevate themselves to take His place in their lives.

The Bible reminds us that God always must be first. We must have “no other gods” before Him (Exodus 20:3), and His Word must provide our standard. Otherwise, we are guilty of lawlessness.