Category Archives: aging

Loving Strangers

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Loving Difficult People


It was only a three-minute escape. Listening to my name being chanted over and over, louder and louder, with greater urgency, along with pounding on the door, you might imagine me to be a rock star.

But in reality, I’m the mother of a toddler who has decided he is only content when he is in my arms. My escape was merely a trip to the bathroom in which I took a deep breath behind the locked door before re-entering my world of diapers, blocks, and Daniel Tiger. And even though I love this little guy with all my heart, at times he can definitely be a difficult person to keep showing love to, especially in the midst of tantrums and tears.

Difficult People Are Everywhere

It probably isn’t hard for you to think of a difficult person in your own life. In our broken, sin-filled world, they are everywhere. The coworker who is willing to do anything to get ahead, including taking credit for your ideas. The in-laws who always seem to be peering over your shoulder, critiquing your parenting skills, and offering “suggestions” for improvement. The child who knows exactly how to push your buttons to leave you exasperated and flustered again. The person in your ministry who is constantly complaining about your leadership, who thinks he has better ideas and communicates them with a sharp and biting tongue. The passive-aggressive friend who is kind one moment and gives you the cold shoulder the next. The list can go on and on.

So, what do we do with these people? With constant strained relationships? Our natural tendency is to want to run the other way, to avoid them as much as possible. But is that what honors God in these hard situations?

Difficult People Have Been Around Forever

“Difficult people are exactly the people we need to intentionally move toward.”

Moses was no stranger to leading a group of difficult people. Even after rescuing them out of slavery and leading them safely away from the Egyptians, the Israelites were not happy with him. Instead of being grateful for their new freedom and provision from God, they were shedding tears over the menu (Numbers 11:4–6), grumbling about not having water (Numbers 20:2–3), wishing they had died in Egypt and could choose another leader (Numbers 14:2–4). Even Moses’s own siblings were jealous of his leadership (Numbers 12:2) and complained to God about their brother and his Cushite wife.

Yet what amazes me about Moses is that he didn’t retaliate against this annoying group of people. He didn’t even defend himself against the harsh accusations. Instead, he demonstrated amazing humility and compassion on those he led, repeatedly interceding for them.

Moses pled with God to heal Miriam’s leprosy (Numbers 12:13). He begged God to forgive Israel’s unbelief when it was time to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:19). He lay prostrate before God, fasting forty days and nights after Aaron and the Israelites had made the golden calf to worship (Deuteronomy 9:13–18).

Admittedly, there were moments when the Israelites’ constant complaints drove Moses to the brink of despair (Exodus 5:22Numbers 11:14–15), yet by God’s grace he persevered. And even at the very end of his life, he was still lovingly leading the disobedient Israelites.

Keep on Loving

Moses remained steadfast to his last days and made sure God had another leader in place to take over. He didn’t want his wandering sheep to be without a shepherd (Numbers 27:16–17). Moses never stopped loving them, even at their worst.

“Ask God for grace not to run away, but to keep engaging in love that hard-to-love person.”

By God’s grace, we too can keep loving the difficult people God has placed in our lives. The easy thing is to cut the troublesome person out of your life when possible, or just avoid them at best.

But I suggest we are more like our patient and loving Savior when we bear with each other and seek to show mercy and kindness, no matter how we are treated.

Here are six practical ways, among many others, to show love to a difficult person God has placed in your path.

1. Pray for your own heart.

Ask God to soften your heart towards this person, to put off anger and irritability, to put on meekness and kindness, to understand this person’s struggles and meet them with compassion (Colossians 3:12–14).

2. Pray for them.

Ask God to be at work in their hearts, drawing unbelievers to himself and sanctifying believers to become more like Jesus (Philippians 1:9–11).

3. Move toward them, not away from them.

Although our tendency is to want to steer clear of people with whom we have strained relationships, they are exactly the people we need to be intentionally moving toward. Find ways to engage them in conversation, meet them for coffee, send them a text.

4. Find specific ways to bless and encourage them.

Write them a note of appreciation. Buy them a book that has been an encouragement to you. Tell them you are praying for them.

5. Give them grace, just as God extends grace to you.

Remember God’s lavish grace poured out for your own daily sins. Ask God to help you bear with them, forgiving them, as he has forgiven you (Colossians 3:13).

6. Realize that you too could be the difficult person in someone else’s life!

You might not even realize that you are a thorn in the flesh for someone close to you. Don’t be oblivious to your own shortcomings and sins.

So, when that child has you on the brink of tears, or you’ve just received a harsh and critical email about your ministry, or you’re confronted with that extended family member who drives you up the wall, ask God for grace not to run away, but to keep engaging that hard-to-love person in love.

God will be honored and our hearts will find deeper satisfaction as we seek to love people just as Christ loved us when we were his enemies.


Loving Strangers


Weekly Overview:

Loving others is one of the most important and difficult commands Jesus gave us. We are a messy, broken, needy, and sinful people. We constantly deal with our own wounds and those of others. Because there is no perfect person, the foundation for loving others must be based outside of the merit or worth of others. The foundation for love must come from the God who is love. As believers we must be constantly tapped into the love and grace of our heavenly Father so that we can love others selflessly and powerfully. May you receive the love of your Father and be empowered to love others this week as we look to grow in our obedience of Jesus’ command to love people.

Scripture:“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” >Hebrews 13:2


Matthew 25:34-40 gives insight into God’s passionate love for the lost, broken, and alienated. Scripture says,

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

The world around you is living every day apart from the saving and freeing knowledge of God’s love for them. They try to find hope in the created rather than the Creator and discover that the world contains nothing to help them. Relationship with Jesus is the sole source of hope for the earth. And God longs to use us to love the strangers around us so that they might enter into relationship with our Lord who longs to sustain them, provide for them, help them, and offer them eternal hope.

I am not by nature an outgoing person. The concept of talking to complete strangers scares me to death. Apart from God, my natural propensity is to go from place to place without interacting with anyone. But that is not the life my heavenly Father is calling me to. We are not called to keep this free gift of salvation for ourselves, but to share it with all those God is beckoning to himself. God longs to fill each of us with the courage to love the unloved. He longs to fill us with passion to see the world around us awakened to the goodness of Jesus. Every time we set foot outside our homes, we are entering into a mission field filled with countless people who need what we have to give.

Galatians 5:14 says, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” You were created to receive the love of your Father and go out to share that love with a lost and dying world. God is calling you to a lifestyle of sacrifice, courage, adventure, and passionate pursuit of lost sheep who desperately need a Shepherd.

Seek Out Strangers This Sunday

I still remember moving to a new city and the ordeal of “church shopping”: in and out every week, feeling the pangs of not having consistent community, displacement from a body of believers, desperate to settle. Now, I work with people who want to connect with our church. Some of these people complain that they show up to our gathering for weeks and no one says a single word to them. My heart breaks when I hear that.

When I consider the relational distance many of us feel when we enter corporate worship, I wonder if we might experience a greater sense of connectedness if we rethink how we welcome others on Sunday morning — regardless of whether we’re brand new or have been around for decades.

Let me use two terms — strangers and members — to describe how this might look. Whether you are a stranger at a church, or a resident member, the call to seek out relationships and do the hard work of community is an invitation into joy for everyone involved.

In Search of Community

“Pray and ask God for eyes to see whom you might welcome at church, whom you might linger with in conversation.”

Strangers — Christians who do not yet belong to a local body of believers — often leave a church feeling painfully disconnected. Many of us point the finger and say that no one tried or even bothered to see us. But beneath this accusation is often a consumerist mind-set, a mind-set that looks to church as an opportunity to satisfy a personal need, rather than as an opportunity to serve the needs of others.

Strangers are not wrong to desire inclusion. But as strangers, we should grow to see how our participation in worship can help create the experience we desire. Take the risk to seek community, and do your best to play your part in Romans 12:13: “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

Pray that God will use this Sunday to fold you deeper into this particular body. And look for opportunities to strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know. You might meet someone who needs to remember that new people like you are in their midst. Alternatively, you might end up meeting another stranger like yourself — someone yearning for the same kind of connection you are.

Love the Stranger

If you are a member, someone planted and firmly rooted in a church family, remember that you were once a stranger. Even those who were born and raised in the church they attend must recall that we were once aliens, separated from God’s family (Colossians 1:21).

The Bible calls God’s people to love strangers. Moses wrote that God’s people must “love the sojourner . . . for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19). Peter reminds his readers, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10).

Like unbelieving Israel, many of us struggle to welcome those who don’t look and act like us. But our mission of outreach calls us to bring light to the darkness, and that includes bringing strangers into our church body. This call includes strangers who are Jesus’s disciples as well as strangers who do not know Jesus.

When Christ’s body extends Christ’s love to strangers, it is a gospel miracle, a small but real reflection of Jesus’s own welcome to us: “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you” (Romans 15:7). Our hearts can rejoice to follow such commands when we view our gatherings as an opportunity to serve others rather than be served. This Sunday, be the hands of Jesus by reaching out and welcoming others. Pray and ask God for eyes to see whom you might welcome at church, whom you might linger with in conversation, and whom you might invite over to your home for a meal.

A Different Liturgy

“Corporate worship — coming together on a Sunday morning — is not about you. It’s about Jesus.”

Stranger, it is a great gift to be welcomed into a community. But that invitation only points us to the greatest gift: an invitation into God’s own family through the blood of Jesus. Member, extend the costly mercy you have been given so freely. It is costly to be a part of this beautiful, diverse body of Christ: a free gift, but one that calls us to come and die and be raised.

Corporate worship — coming together on a Sunday morning — is not about you. It’s about Jesus. Reject the cultural liturgy of consumerism, and see your act of worship this Sunday as one where even the smallest parts of the service become ways to obey the two greatest commandments: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:29–31).

Trust God, He Loves You


John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. + Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.


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But I Really Want This, God …

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

On paper, everything seemed to make perfect sense. There was an opportunity I’d wanted for a long time. In my best estimation, this seemed to line up perfectly with my ministry, my calling and my desires.

The only problem was the deep-down knowing it wasn’t my assignment.

I’d asked God for this opportunity, but then I had worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure I’d get it. This opportunity was the product of my trying really hard, not truly trusting God. And I felt the weight of all my hustle. I was anxious, exhausted and weighed down by an emotion I couldn’t quite understand — dread.

It felt so right. It seemed like such a good fit. It made perfect sense when I’d said yes. But the closer the due date came for this opportunity, the more regret I felt. Instead of running in the freedom of being assured God had called me to this, so He’d definitely lead me through it, I felt like I was pushing a boulder uphill.

There is a weight to our every want.

And when God says no or not yet, it’s often because He can see what the weight of this want will do. Make no mistake, we will eventually realize what our choices outside of God’s will cost us.

The truth is, God has expectations for how humanity, whom He created in His image, is to live and act. Yet, sadly, humanity is prone to wander, and this is the repetitive story we see throughout Scripture. Yes, God is in control. But He doesn’t control our choices. God has given responsibility and freedom to humans to choose Him, His way and His best.

As I said before, we will eventually realize what our choices outside of God’s will cost us. And that moment of realization leads us right back to what God tried to tell us before we ever made those choices. There isn’t ever a time when God has been wrong.

Not ever. And how gracious of God to be patient with us as we learn that lesson over and over. God is trustworthy. Our obedience to God is an indication of whether or not we trust Him.

We see this tension between obedience and trust played out with God’s people and the first king who ruled them — Saul.

Saul certainly looked the part of a king. Scripture describes him as both taller and more handsome than any of the other Israelite men. (1 Samuel 9:2)

The prophet Samuel tried to warn the people of Israel about what they were losing by establishing a human king instead of following God as their one true King. They were displacing God’s best for the weight of their own choice. (1 Samuel 10:17-19; 1 Samuel 12:14-19) They would be held accountable for the choice of a king they would not be able to control. When this king went astray, the people would suffer.

And not only would the people suffer, but God would also eventually have to tear the kingdom from Saul’s hands. This king who looked the part would end up letting fear and distrust lead him to walk in disobedience to God. (1 Samuel 15) Because of Saul’s disobedience, God would find another king who was more suited than Saul to lead His people — David. This king was a man after God’s own heart, and his throne would be established forever.

How much suffering would the Israelites have avoided if only they had trusted and waited on God? Where are we signing up for suffering, all because we are too often “wise in our own eyes”? (Proverbs 3:7)

Oh, sweet friend. I know what it’s like to want something so badly that you feel you would do just about anything to have it. But I also know that sometimes, God lets us push past His better plan to experience the consequences of our headstrong attitude. I have lived with the burden of extreme stress, fear, anxiety and an overwhelming sense of regret … all because I refused to trust God’s timing and His ways.

I don’t want that for you.

Let’s trust that God’s plans truly are best. Let’s remember there is a weight to our every want. And let’s choose to live out the easy-to-quote-but-sometimes-hard-to-live reminder of Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”


All Shook Up

By: Karen Friday,

As we pulled into the parking lot, all 17 pounds of her started shaking.

Our dachshund, Sadie, required shots and an annual exam at our local vet. She recognized the building and tried to make a beeline for the exit during the visit, then stayed all shook up until we arrived home.

Decades ago, a song by Elvis conveyed a time he was all shook up. Why? A closer look at the lyrics and we solve the mystery. Falling in love shook up Elvis Presley. Needless to say, his famous words relayed a kind of shook up we view in a positive light.

On the downside, life gives us plenty of not-so-good reasons for an all-shook-up experience. We lose a job. Our dear loved one passes away. Our child turns wayward. We receive a troubling medical diagnosis. Broken relationships or a hurting marriage rob our joy. An injury inflicted upon our soul seems to never go away.

Each of these and other factors leave us shaking in our boots or whatever our choice of footwear.

Yet, in 20 short words, God’s Word shows us how to overcome in the shaken-up department. It’s not by combing through lyrics to a love song. But this Scripture offers a two-fold plan to keep us stable and grounded.

“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8 (ESV)

With a closer look at the words of David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, we solve the mystery. Here’s how to transform from our all-shook-up mentality to God’s I-will-not-be-shaken mindset.

I set the Lord always before me. 

Not just sometimes or when I feel like it. And not if I have time — always.

The book of Hebrews assures we have received …

“a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” Hebrews 12:28 (ESV)

This is how we set the Lord before us. We come into His presence daily and often to offer acceptable worship.

God is set before us and not the world. Our focus is on Him.

You see, the choice is ours whether He is before us or on the sidelines of our life. Or, if we are all shook up.

I keep the Lord at my right hand.

The adage, He was my right-hand man, means someone who helps and supports us the most. (

David makes it clear. God is his right-hand God. And He’s our right-hand God.

The Lord gives us the most help. If we seek the Lord and keep Him near, we discover He’s our best support system. And it’s the because-factor in Psalm 16:8Because the Lord is at our right hand, we will not be shaken.

For present and future times when life threatens to shake you up, remember the two steps.

Set the Lord always before me. Keep the Lord at my right hand.


What Do You Want Me to do For You?


Scripture Reading — Mark 10:46-52

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” — Mark 10:51

Bartimaeus was in the dark, a blind man who had to beg—until the day Jesus came by on his way to be crucified in Jerusalem (Mark 10:32-34).

Shouting above the crowd, Bartimaeus calls to the Savior, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” People tell him to be quiet, but he shouts all the louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Graciously Jesus responds: “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus had just asked James and John the same question (Mark 10:36). They had said they wanted places of honor in heaven with Jesus. And he had replied, “You don’t know what you are asking.”

But Bartimaeus only pleads, “Rabbi, I want to see.” And Jesus does not disappoint.

Bartimaeus knew what he needed; Jesus’ followers were the ones in the dark. They wouldn’t see the light of Jesus until later.

This incident has raised a question ever since: Who is truly blind, anyway? And after Jesus restores Bartimaeus’s sight and sends him away, the man sees what he must do next. Bartimaeus is a model disciple. No longer blind, he follows Jesus.

Christ’s question echoes through history: “What do you want me to do for you?”

As we worship together today, can we say, “Rabbi, we want to follow your way”?


Son of David, like Barti­maeus we cry, “Have mercy on us!” Give us eyes to see your way and ears to hear your Word so that we can live as your disciples. In your holy name, Amen.


Shepherding Skills

by Inspiration Ministries

The shepherds have become stupid and have not sought the Lord; therefore, they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered. – Jeremiah 10:21 NASB

What does it take to be a good leader? Many would say that key characteristics include intelligence, experience, being articulate, understanding the times, being in tune with people, and having ideas that promise success. Over time, many men and women have displayed these characteristics, only to find that they are not enough. What is most important? Acting with His wisdom, being sensitive to His will, being led by His Spirit, and knowing His Word.

The prophet Jeremiah lived at a time when many leaders seemed to have the right background and skills. They had been able to gain and keep power. On the surface, they seemed to be good leaders. But they failed in the most important area: They had “not sought the Lord.” Lacking His wisdom and insight, they literally had “become stupid.” What about leaders in our time? What kind of shepherds are we depending on to lead our flock, our church, business, city, state, and nation?

These questions also apply to each of us as individuals. As we face the issues of life, it is important to have experience and intelligence. But what is most important is having God’s wisdom and blessing. We need to be people of prayer who listen to Him, have experience being led by Him, and are in tune with His Spirit. We need to know His Word and be committed to seek first His kingdom and trust in Him.


Be Courageous! God Is With You

Daniel 6

21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

As Daniel was protected in the lion’s den, you have God helping you each day.


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Do Not Be Afraid! Be Courageous! God Is With You!

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. – Mark Twain

Brian is an incredibly smart, strong, and confident individual. With a decade of tenure at his company, a robust staff, and the experience and knowledge to substantiate his value to the organization, Brian seemingly had nothing to fear. He was next in line for the executive suite. On the outside looking in, you would assume that Brian was completely confident.

He knew how to create a polished exterior that projected self-assurance. Brian and I worked down the hall from each other. It never occurred to me to ask him if he ever wrestled with fear until the day he was handed the pink slip and ushered out the door. In a struggling economy, the company he was loyal to couldn’t be loyal to him.

Over lunch a few weeks later, I probed a bit: “Did you see this coming?” His response was casual but measured: “I always feared it could happen. Not because I wasn’t performing but because I’ve always lived with a fear that I’m not enough. I’ve always had an underlying fear that someday I wouldn’t be enough. I would make one too many mistakes. I’d miss an important detail. But I didn’t expect to be dismissed this way. It makes me question, why wasn’t I valuable enough to keep?

Brian’s fears and questions are significant. They represent an underlying tension that challenges our clout every day. Am I enough?

The question is overwhelming because of the numerous fears that underlie it. Our fears are so diverse and so extreme that we’re more apt to avoid and ignore them rather than acknowledge that they’re there.

Fear is the front-runner of the clout killers. As we begin to unpack these inhibitors to our confidence and influence, we’ll see a consistent theme of fear. Fear tends to coerce its tentacles into all our issues. We fear that who we are is not enough, so we deal with jealousy. We fear not having enough, so we live out of scarcity. We fear not being good enough, so we live with insecurity.

We fear not being strong enough, so we cover it up with pride. We fear not measuring up to others, so we wrestle with comparison. We fear chaos, so we grapple for control. This fear that we can’t handle it, that we’re not enough, rings true in each of these enemies that impact our influence. What we’ll discover is that our greatest fear is true, but there is an even greater truth to replace it.

DNot BAfraid

You don’t have to be afraid. Easier said than done, right? Again and again in the Bible God told His children not to be afraid.

Through a vision, God said,

Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward. – Genesis 15:1

When Hagar and her son Ishmael were banished from Abraham’s land, an angel told Hagar,

Do not be afraid; God has heard. – Genesis 21:17

When Isaac was expelled from his land by the Philistines and forced to move from place to place, God appeared to him and reminded him,

Do not be afraid, for I am with you. – Genesis 26:24

When Jacob was fearful of traveling in his old age, God told him,

Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation. – Genesis 46:3

Numerous times Moses reminded the Israelites not to be afraid because God was with them and would fight for them. And after Moses’ death, God made the same commitment to Joshua as he encouraged him to be strong and courageous:

Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9

From David to Elijah, from Isaiah to Jeremiah, God continuously reminded his people not to fear. When Joseph considered canceling his engagement to Mary, an angel appeared to him, telling him not to be afraid (Matthew 1:19-20). When Jesus charged the twelve disciples with their responsibility, He told them not to be afraid of those who would seek to harm them for proclaiming the truth (Matthew 10:26-28). From the women gathering at the empty tomb to the disciples seeing the resurrected Jesus, the message was the same: do not be afraid (Matthew 28:5Matthew 28:10).

In every instance, people faced legitimate fears. But each time God’s message remained consistent. It seems God understood that we would wrestle with fear.



God is With Us

DECEMBER 24, 2014

“‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).'” Matthew 1:23 (NIV)

I woke to the cooing of my 8-month-old son in need of a dry diaper and a bottle. By the time I got to his room, I was fully awake to my reality. It was Christmas morning. Sigh. I had dreaded the arrival of this day.

It was the first Christmas after my husband’s death.

Most of my days consisted of loneliness and grief. I knew facing the holidays would be worse. I felt so alone.

My heart was joyless. There was no one to wish a Merry Christmas. No gifts to open. No celebration. For me, it was just another ordinary day of going through the motions. I’d care for my son and try to survive the grief and loneliness.

Have you ever been this lonely? Your situation may not be like mine, but I do know during difficult times God often feels distant. Uncaring. Unresponsive. Unaware. And yet, Psalm 139:7 challenged my feelings that Christmas Day.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (NIV)

The Psalmist was clear. God is everywhere. There is nowhere I can go that God is not already there.

As I pondered this truth, hope began to rise in my heart. I am never alone because God is with me in every situation, good or bad.

Isn’t this the message of Christmas — God is with us? Isn’t this the essence of our faith — God is with us?

Perhaps this is what inspired Matthew to write our key verse: “‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means, ‘God with us.’)” (Matthew 1:23).

That name, Immanuel, holds great significance for you and me.

This Name tells us Christ didn’t come that holy night to say “well done.” He didn’t come to pat us on the back or encourage us for just a time. He came to stay. God came to dwell among us and to reside within us forever.

Sure, God has always been with us, but this truth took on a whole new meaning when Jesus was born. The astounding truth of Christmas is that God put on human flesh and became one of us. A babe, lying in a manger, was proof He had come and His name was the message. God is with us in human formImmanuel became one of us and suffered as we suffer so that He might understand our pain. So that He might know how to comfort and help us.

That’s not all. This baby Jesus didn’t come only to walk among us. He came to deliver us and set us right with God. The coming of Jesus meant God the Father had now sent His Son to deliver the world from sin.

What does this mean for you and me? It means no matter the challenge, you are not alone. Whatever your need — deliverance, strength, hope — Immanuel is present. He is not some far-off God. He is right there beside you this very moment.

My days grew brighter as I looked for God’s company amidst my pain. Eventually, I no longer trudged through ordinary days because my extraordinary God met me at my point of need. The secret is this. The more I learned to acknowledge His presence, the more of His presence I experienced. You can, too.

No matter where you are this Christmas Eve, you are not alone.

You may feel alone. It may appear that you are alone. But Christ is there with you. He sees you. He understands. And He can help you.

Tomorrow can be different. You can celebrate Christmas morn with new joy because He — God Himself — has come to be with you. In His magnificent company, though you may be down and out, you are not without. You are not without His love or His all-sufficient strength. You are not without His safety. You are not without His care or provision. And you are not without His presence.

This is the best news of all. Immanuel, God is with us!


God Is Always With You


Hebrews 13:5-6Craig Stowe served on a naval ship during World War II. As his vessel prepared for an attack, the commanding officer lined up the men. As usual, a volunteer was needed to ride out the battle in the crow’s nest and send pertinent information to the captain. No one stepped forward. Then, Stowe heard the Lord speak to his heart: I’ll be with you up there, as I am down here. The young man volunteered, and he endured without a single scratch. In fact, he reported that no harm even came near him.Years later, Mr. Stowe told this story to his Sunday school class of teenage boys. The truth in that adventure made a profound difference to one of the students, who came from a difficult and chaotic home situation. He never forgot the life-changing message: “God is always with you no matter where you are.”

I was that young man. As I matured in my faith and studied Scripture, God confirmed what Mr. Stowe had taught me. I saw that Jesus stressed His abiding presence to His disciples. He knew how quickly a sense of rejection would settle in after the crucifixion. Moreover, potentially discouraging hardship awaited them as they carried the gospel to the rest of the world. So the Lord promised a Helper who would remain with Christians forever—the Holy Spirit.

Every day of a believer’s life is lived in the presence of Christ through His Holy Spirit. He comforts during hardship, encourages amidst difficulty, and strengthens in times of weakness. The benefits of a relationship with God are not postponed until heaven; we walk with Him now and always.

Salvation Is by faith through grace

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A Godly Grip on Life

By: Michael Cooper,

I once met a man who was frustrated in seeking a new career. He had gone to dental school to become a dentist, but after spending time and money getting the education, he discovered he lacked the dexterity to be a good dentist. For whatever reason, he lacked the strength and skill in his hands to use the dental instruments.

This problem can affect a person in numerous other endeavors. You can learn all about carpentry but lack the ability to hammer a nail straight. You can learn a sport and not have the ability to perform it well. The coach will tell you, “I cannot put in what God left out; no matter how much you want to play.”

Singing, the arts, and a number of other things can be loved and desired, but never attained because certain natural abilities are missing.

The law was given through Moses but the law did not provide the ability to perform the principles it demanded. It left the devotee frustrated and defeated. Paul’s frustration with the law is indicated in Romans 7:18 (KJV):

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” [emphasis mine]

Paul wanted to paint the picture of the glories of God’s precepts, but he lacked the artistic talent. He wanted to score high in the competition against his base nature, but he was uncoordinated and unskilled. The “how to perform” element was missing.

He lacked a grip on the law of God.

Jesus was also a law-giver, establishing a new covenant. However, distinct from Moses, along with His truth He provided grace. In Christ, truth or law is complemented by grace. In Christ, there is a resource by which truth can be performed. That resource provides the ability to grip truth and to live it out.

If we use the analogy of a sword for truth, then grace provides the grip to wield it effectively. Grace provides the strength and the skill to victoriously use truth in the battles of life. The ministry of the Spirit that Jesus inaugurated enables the truth-seeker and the lover-of-the-law to grip truth for life and living. When we hear the sermon, read the Bible, or read a book with important biblical principles, we can grip the truths that we received and begin living by them. We need not be frustrated by a loose or slippery grip.

“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” Hebrews 2:1 (KJV)

For Paul, God’s grace was more than something given, idly sitting somewhere; it was something at work within him. He indicates this when he stated,

“… by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:10 (KJV)

It was God’s grace that gave him the ability to grip God’s calling and purposes, holding onto them and laboring by the grace of God.

Memory may slip and character may be weak, but the grace of God will give you the grip you need on His truth — the truth that sets you free and overcomes the bondage of Satan’s lies.

Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.


The Power of God’s Grace


Romans 5:1-5

Grace is one of God’s most amazing gifts. It provides us with everything we need to live in perfect freedom: pardon for our sins, healing for our heart, the companionship of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit, and access to freely cultivate our relationship with Him. We work, worship, and enjoy life, surrounded by His unconditional love. His grace upholds us, fills us, and sustains us.

Since we are forgiven people, the Lord responds to us not as enemies but as His dearly loved children (Rom. 8:15Eph. 5:1). He hears our prayers, speaks to us, and acts on our behalf. The knowledge that we live under the covering of God’s grace gives us…

Security about our position. No one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28).

Boldness to live for Christ. Our adequacy comes from the Lord and who we are in Him, so we can live in confidence.

Peace for today because we can fully trust in His sovereignty. The Lord is carrying out His perfect will—and we can be sure that nothing is able to thwart His plan. When we cooperate with Him, we cannot fail.

Hope for the future. This life is just the beginning. One day we will see Jesus face to face, be perfected as the individuals He created us to be, and live with Him in our true home forever.

The Lord is committed to transforming each of us according to His special plan for our lives. Even His correction is an expression of His loving favor (Heb. 12:10). When we falter or fail, we can rest assured that His amazing grace hems us in and always offers us redemption.

Unexpected Grace

“God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.” Romans 5:20 (NLT)

He appeared out of nowhere. Blue lights burst on right about the time I laid eyes on his intimidating, unmarked SUV.

Immediately I checked the speedometer. It confirmed what the officer knew: I was speeding. A sinking feeling knotted my stomach as I prepared to receive the punishment for my inadvertent disobedience of the traffic laws.

I watched in my rear view mirror as the police car crept up behind me. With driver’s license and registration in hand, my fingers tapped in irritation on the steering wheel. My scowl deepened as I impatiently waited for the policeman to walk to my window. “Ma’am, I stopped you for speeding. Driver’s license and registration please.”

Then it happened. The unexpected. The unwarranted. The undeserved.

The policeman glanced into my car and checked out my passengers (including my three deer-in-the-headlights kids in the back seat). Then he startled us all by blurting out a big ol’ Southern “Hey!” to my husband, calling him by name.

Apparently they had grown up in church together and proceeded to spend a couple of friendly minutes reacquainting. He handed back my license and registration and gave me a smile. “Slow it down please, and have a good day.”

We sat stunned and breathed a collective sigh of relief as I drove away – slowly, I might add.

I had not paid attention to the guidelines set forth. My guilt was obvious, and I had no excuse. I deserved to suffer the consequences, but instead I was given grace.

Grace is undeserved favor or pardon. We can’t earn it or buy it. It’s something the giver bestows out of the goodness and love in their heart. The Bible tells countless stories of people who received grace, including prostitutes, unfaithful marriage partners, deceivers, thieves, liars and more. Their sins deserved a punishment, but when they asked God for forgiveness, His grace wiped their guilt away. They were treated as pardoned offenders – just as I was.

In today’s key verse, Paul is reminding the people of Corinth that despite their sin, God is good, and the Giver of grace. It serves as a reminder that God not only offers grace – He offers it in abundance. The more we need, the more we get.

Although God hates sin because it separates us from Him and ushers pain into our lives, His grace is available no matter how big our offense may be. And when we receive the pardon that was paid through the sacrifice of His Son, and begin a relationship with Jesus Christ, we receive grace, forgiveness and mercy.

As much as I appreciated the grace extended to me from the officer that day, it paled in comparison to God’s grace. You see, the officer’s grace was one of kindness, but not one of redemptive love. It was a grace of compassion, but not the life-saving grace Jesus gives.

The truth is, I deserved a speeding ticket that day but grace was given. In the same way, although we deserve punishment for sin, God’s forgiveness and favor are offered anyway… through the gift of His unexpected, unwarranted and undeserved grace.

The Joy Of God’s Presence

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An Overwhelming Presence

NOVEMBER 11, 2019

“And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’” Exodus 33:14 (CSB)

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Overwhelmed. We all know this feeling. A few definitions include, “to bury or drown beneath a huge mass, defeat completely, give too much of a thing to (someone); inundate.”

This used to be my constant state of being. The weighted feeling of life, the persistent pressure. The inundation of it all, oftentimes pressing down so intensely it was difficult to breathe. Maybe you can relate?

As a child, life came at my family pretty fast and heavy. I quickly learned to sift through it, manage it and tuck it away. As I became an adult, being overwhelmed was a part of my everyday. I had learned how to cope through the feeling. I knew what to do and became my own coach when needed.

If my heart was overwhelmed, I suppressed the feeling — because who has time to deal with a defeated heart? If my mind was overwhelmed, I made myself busy. If I could just forget why I was overwhelmed, ignore it somehow, it would be fine. I ended up adding on to my overwhelmed mind and heart with more doing.

If I were physically overwhelmed with the doing, I would just tell myself it was a part of life to feel this way. I would excuse this feeling as part of my responsibility as someone who gets things done.

All of this was a sign of an overwhelmed soul in deep need of a loving God.

In the midst of one of my most challenging seasons, I learned His overwhelming presence was where my weary soul would find refuge and rest. With Emmanuel, God with us, I would encounter the peace and wisdom a tired soul required.

The most common Hebrew term for “presence” in the Bible is panim, which is also translated “to face,” implying a close and personal encounter with the Lord. Closeness with the Father … a face-to-face encounter with the King of kings that brought His overwhelming love to an underwhelmed people.

I used to believe His presence wasn’t an ever-present help. That rest wasn’t something promised in our day-to-day. This may be how you’ve felt as well — that His presence isn’t tangible and therefore out of reach when life seems out-of-control. But His presence is real, and we experience it through our trusting that He is a good God, that He is God with us.

In the Old Testament, God told Moses His presence would be with Moses as he was sent into a mission that was hard but holy: “And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’” (Exodus 33:14).

Moses was to find his rest in God’s presence. This is where his overwhelmed soul met God’s overwhelming love and faithfulness. The same presence is given to us through Christ Jesus — He gives us access to abundant life through trusting and resting in His love for us.

A desire to rely on our doing versus God’s faithfulness will diminish our experience of God’s presence. God, however, doesn’t want us to live led by the rush of life. Instead, He’s inviting us to trust in His overwhelming presence to guide us.

As we move through our day and invite Him into the spaces that need Him so desperately, let us remember that as we draw near to our God, we are inviting His presence to guide us with love.

This is abundant life: God with us, a mighty and overwhelming presence.

Heavenly Father, thank You that Your overwhelming presence of love not only follows us but is with us. Lord, we ask that in the times when life tries to overwhelm us, we would be reminded that You, Father, are the very thing that brings light and calm to the dark and heavy. Help us to remember that Your presence holds the power for us to keep going, and we will trust You in it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


‘I Never Knew You’

Fatal Dreams of the Religious Lost

Article by

Staff writer,

Is any lostness worse than remaining lost while believing you’re found?

Of all those who finally travel the broad way to destruction, are any so wretched as those who sang Christian songs, prayed Christian prayers, and sat under countless Christian sermons along the way? The man sipping sand in the desert, because he thinks he holds a cup of water, is the most tragic and pitiable of sights. To plunge thoughtlessly into the next life is one horror; to play the saint, and still be deceived, is another.

There was a time I wouldn’t have believed such people existed — least of all, that I was one of them. Certainly, all who audibly called upon Jesus as Lord would be saved — why else would anyone show up every Sunday? But there it stood before me, glowing as if engraved in fire, Jesus’s own words giving us a transcript of some on judgment day:

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21–23)

I read it again. And again. No verse had ever made me lose sleep before.

I realized that I must be one of the “many.”

Three Fatal Dreams

I was like so many sermon-hearers, Bible-readers, and synagogue-attenders of Jesus’s day: lost in a dream, traveling toward hell in church clothes. “As when a hungry man dreams, and behold, he is eating, and awakes with his hunger not satisfied, or as when a thirsty man dreams, and behold, he is drinking, and awakes faint, with his thirst not quenched” (Isaiah 29:8), I merely dreamt of eternal safety .

But God, as I pray for many who read this, woke me up through his word. At the end of the greatest sermon ever preached, Jesus exposed three fatal dreams that I dreamt as one of the religious lost: dreams that mere intellectualism, mere emotionalism, and mere activism are solid grounds for the hope of my salvation.

Correct Doctrine Is Insufficient

First, Jesus shows the insufficiency of intellectualism — of the one who would say, “I know and, thus, I am saved.” Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” These men and women were addressing him with the appropriate term, “Lord” (Greek kyrios), the characteristic title for God in the Old Testament — and so he was.

“Knowing the right mantras, solas, verses, or doctrines is not sufficient for eternal life.”

Calling him Lord proved their orthodoxy, they may have thought. They knew something every child of God knew to say. They did not approach him as a mere prophet or religious teacher; they addressed him as exalted majesty. They knew the Scriptures, the books to read, and which podcasts to follow. But calling on him as Lord did not open the kingdom of heaven to them. As the scene shows in full sobriety: knowing the right mantras, solas, verses, or doctrines is not sufficient for eternal life.

Emotions Are Inadequate

Second, Jesus shows the inadequacy of mere emotionalism — of the one who would say, “I feel and, thus, I am saved.” Addressing him as “Lord, Lord” shows that this wasn’t spoken dryly. They spoke enthusiastically, expectantly, confidently. They spoke emphatically to convey a sense of familiarity with who they perceived to be their Lord.

No doubt, this was the product of lives filled with great sensations toward Jesus. Certainly, they had a relationship with him, they thought — he was not “Unknown judge” or “Distant deity” but “Lord, Lord.” If asked whether they felt affection toward Jesus, all would have answered, “Of course.” Yet, they heard in reply, “I never knew you; depart from me,” proving that positive emotions toward Christ are not in themselves an adequate response to his word.


Learning To Trust, All the Way Home


The trouble is that relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing has yet been done. ~ C. S. Lewis, Letters To Malcolm, Chiefly On Prayer

She approached me after a speaking engagement, her face lit up with a big smile:

“Oh, don’t you worry, honey,” she said, patting my arm. “God’s not going to let anything happen to you. You have too much good work left to do!”

I appreciated her kindness and her absolute confidence that everything would turn out a-okay in the end.

The only problem? She was wrong. And I knew it.

I smiled in return, thanked her for her encouragement. She meant well, even if I didn’t agree. Behind her words sat a distorted theology: As long as I work hard for God, God is on the hook to give me a good life.

I knew better. Life and faith don’t work that way.

I walked away whispering a prayer of reminder: Live or die, God, I trust You.

Nine years ago, when I was still a young wife and mom, I was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue — cancer, of a rare and personal kind. In the years since, I’ve had two serious recurrences, each more aggressive than the last. As a result, I’ve endured multiple surgeries and procedures including the removal of two-thirds of my tongue, chemotherapy and radiation on my head and neck, and countless doctor’s appointments, lab tests, and follow-up scans. Although I’m cancer-free at the moment, I will never be free of a doctor’s care. And I will live with permanent functional disabilities, making the daily tasks of speaking, eating, drinking, and swallowing difficult. And painful.

Beyond the physical repercussions, however, I wrestle with the emotional and spiritual wounds from such a life-altering loss. I’ve loved Jesus all my life and, for fifteen years, I’ve done my best to serve Him as a Bible study leader, author, and speaker. Moreover, during my illnesses, thousands of people prayed for my healing, including me and my family. But now, in spite of those prayers and years of service, the very means of my ministry — my speech — is compromised.

For me, life comes at a steep cost.

It helps me to know I’m not the only one who can’t always make sense her God. The pages of my Bible are filled with the stories of men and women who didn’t always receive what they hoped for. Although they loved Him, they couldn’t always unravel the mystery of Him.

Moses. Elijah. Jeremiah. David. John the Baptist. As well as the Twelve Disciples and early church.

After Jesus ascended to Heaven, the Gospel spread like fire. Those who had been witnesses of Jesus’ death and life couldn’t stop talking about Him, couldn’t stop sharing about the One who’d conquered death once and for all.

But, in the middle of all that good news, Acts 12 delivers a little bad news:

It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also… — Acts 12:1-3

At a time when the Gospel needed every available voice to help it spread, two of the loudest voices were silenced. This was the time for a God-sized miracle. The church had too much good work yet to do.

Instead, one was thrown in prison. And another was murdered.

This must’ve baffled the believers. According to Acts, the early church “was earnestly praying to God” for Peter, and no doubt they did the same for James. On the other side of those prayers, Peter experienced a miraculous deliverance from jail. And James died by the sword. The same prayers to the same God. But two completely different results.

Even so,

the word of God continued to spread and flourish. — Acts 12:24

Why? Because the early church remembered an important truth we too often forget:

What is most at stake in our lives isn’t our freedom, our families, or even the number of our days.

What is most at stake is our faith.

Years later, Peter would once again face an arrest and imprisonment. This time, however, in spite of prayers for deliverance, God did not deliver him in miraculous fashion. Instead, He delivered him to Heaven. Before he died a martyr’s death, however, Peter himself wrote these words:

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, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

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.” —1 Peter 5:8-11 (emphasis mine)

I don’t know why some get their miracle while others die before it comes. I don’t know why some prayers receive spectacular answers while other prayers — just as fervent and faithful — seem to solicit nothing but silence.

But this I do know.

God is where the pain is.

His presence is with those who question and with those who cry, with those who suffer and with those who die. And although cancer might wound a life, it has no say over a soul. Even better, a day is coming when God himself will restore all that’s been lost, either in this life or the one to come.

Live or die, God, I trust You.

What is your pain? What is your prison or sword? Keep praying for your miracle, friend. Our God is still the God of the impossible. But whether or not you receive it, decide now where you’re going to put your trust.

In your circumstances and ability to control? Or in the God who will Himself make all things whole?

Jesus Is Your Truest Friend

John 13

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.



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True Friends Are Hard to Find

By: ,

True friends are hard to find.

They stick closer than family, and often know you better. They pray bigger things for you than you pray for yourself. They believe with you when your faith is weak. They make space for you when life falls apart, and they rejoice with you when all is well. Most importantly, true friends remind you in every encounter who and what is most important.

The essence of Christian friendship is companionship forged in the fire of two convictions: 1) Jesus alone can satisfy the soul and 2) his kingdom alone is worth living for.

Enemies in Disguise?

Christian friendship is a treasure because it helps us cling to our greatest Treasure.

Jesus is our Bread of Life, our Living Water, our Pearl of Great Price, our Light, our Resurrection, our very Life. The greatest danger to our souls is that we might abandon abiding in him, following him, and finding our joy in him. Therefore, the best gift a friend can give is a commitment to fight for our joy in and communion with Christ.

Conversely, the worst distortion of friendship arises when a friend encourages us, consciously or unconsciously, to place our affections elsewhere. The apostle Peter unwittingly acts out this kind of distortion in Matthew 16. Jesus tells his disciples that he will die and rise again (Matthew 16:21). Peter rebukes Jesus with what was surely a well-intentioned comment from a loyal friend: “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22).

It looks like the deepest, most genuine, most beautiful form of friendship, but Peter’s words put him between Jesus and his obedience to the Father. His ignorance made a friend into an enemy, at least for a moment. “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (Matthew 16:23). What Peter thought was helpful, Jesus called a hindrance. What Peter assumed was godly friendship, Jesus called satanic opposition.

Five Marks of Christian Friendship

So, how can we avoid Peter’s mistake in our friendships? How can we be a friend who preserves and strengthens the faith of others? Here are five distinct ways that true Christian friendships bolster our love for Christ through our love for one another.

1. True friends heighten our joy in God.

Companionship always deepens joy. My favorite movie is good when watched alone, but it’s better with a friend. Somehow a great meal is more satisfying when shared. We naturally drag our friends into what we enjoy: “You have to see this movie!” “You have to come to this restaurant with me!”

But of all the joys of life, God is the greatest! We were made for him — to enjoy him and center our hearts and lives on him. And like any other joy, our joy in God will be fullest when we share it with other people. Christian friends help us enjoy God by enjoying him with us.

It’s tempting to flip and distort this formula by using God as a means to enjoy people more. If we only go to him to ask for spouses, friends, or kids to enjoy, it reveals we see God as the means to someone else. We should be doing the opposite: looking for more of him in other people. Ironically, we will enjoy our friends more, the more our friendships become a means of enjoying God.

2. True friends expose sin in us that keeps us from God.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6)

Sin deceives us. It darkens our understanding and makes us fools. So much so that we may be walking in sin and convinced that we are obeying God (think of the Pharisees). This is why we desperately need friends.

We need friends to lovingly show us our sin. We need friends to help us see our blind spots. We need friends to speak with brutal honesty (Matthew 18:15) and tender compassion (Galatians 6:1), telling us the truth about ourselves even when we don’t want to hear it (Ephesians 4:15).

This is a vital function of community that few people want. We’d much rather have friends who always tell us what we want to hear, who show us the false grace of excusing sin and give us false hope that we can grow closer to God without repentance. But because sin is a poison to our souls and a thief of our joy in God, we cannot afford to forsake this kind of friendship.

3. True friends encourage us to obey God.

Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24; see also Hebrews 3:13)

While it is true we need friends to help us see any disobedience, we also need them to spur us on to obedience. Often, obedience to God takes more courage than we can muster alone. Without the faithful cheerleading of Christian friends, we easily shrink back into stagnant apathy, not wanting to willfully disobey, but also too afraid to step out in faith.

The encouragement we are told to give isn’t flattery, or superficial inspiration. En-courage-ment is giving courage and strength to others for the intimidating task before them. We cast a bigger vision for why their obedience matters for God’s kingdom. We affirm that their obedience glorifies God and counts in eternity.

Whatever form it takes, encouragement motivates others to continue running the specific race God has marked out for them.

4. True friends bring us to God in our weakness.

Behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. (Luke 5:18–19)

Walking through life in a God-belittling world, with our sin-ridden flesh, against a hell-bent enemy, is too hard to be attempted alone. Alone, we easily believe the lies of Satan. Alone, we buckle under the weight of our sin. Alone, we grow discouraged and weary. Like the paralytic, we need the help of other believers to carry us to God.

So, how can we bring others to God? We listen to a sister confess a hidden sin and wash her with the truth that Christ has cleansed her and made her whole. We can meet the practical needs of those enduring intense suffering in Jesus’s name. Or we can simply bring our friends to God in prayer, asking him to do greater things in their lives than we can do for them.

5. True friends love us for the glory of God.

Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

The world’s idea of intimacy in friendship is making much of one another: “I can’t live without you!” Compliments and pledges of devotion quickly give a brief and false adrenaline rush of importance and significance. We certainly need to encourage and affirm one another, but Christian friends should be far more focused on God’s weight and significance — not their own or their friend’s.

Like everything else, the end goal of our friendships should be God and his glory. Since our hearts are prone to wander away and worship other things, we need these constant reminders of his glory and his worth in our friendships.


False Promises

by Inspiration Ministries

They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace. – Jeremiah 6:14 NLT

People were worried and afraid. There were threats from powerful neighbors, family and economic problems, and widespread immorality. The country was hungry for answers and peace. In this environment, some spoke up promising hope. To a troubled nation urgently needing peace, these people promised peace.

But in reality, nothing changed. Their promises proved to be empty. Their claims were false. Their solutions did not work. The treatments they recommended were just “superficial,” not making any substantive changes. As a result, a discouraged people became even more discouraged.

What was particularly noticeable was that the people making promises were filled with covetousness. They were most concerned about themselves and doing what was best for themselves. And they were not sorry for mistakes they had made: “They don’t even know how to blush” (v. 15).

How did God respond? He asked them to put aside their selfish desires, to stop walking on “the road we want.” Then they were to return to His ways. “Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it” (v. 16).

The Bible reminds us that God is ready to give us His peace, to bless us, to meet our needs, and to take away our fears and burdens. We simply need to turn to Him, do things His way, apply His principles, repent of any sins, and humble ourselves before Him. We can be confident then that we “will find rest for your souls” (v. 16).


The certainty and freeness of divine grace

‘All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.’ John 6:37

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Timothy 1:12–17

It says, ‘Him that cometh,’ and this shuts out no comer. John Newton was a blasphemer of so gross a kind, that even the sailors in the vessel in the storm said that they should never get to port with such a sinner as John Newton on board; but he came to Christ and was not cast out, but lived to preach the Word. John Bunyan was so foul a blasphemer, that even a woman of the street, who passed him by and heard him swear, said that he was enough to corrupt the whole parish; and he was astonished that a woman of so bad a character should so rebuke him. John Bunyan came to Jesus, and he was not cast out; he lived to have the honour of suffering for his Master, and to be the winner of multitudes of souls. Saul of Tarsus had stained himself with the blood of saints; he was a very wolf after Christ’s sheep. He was not satisfied with worrying them in his own land, so he obtained power to persecute them in Damascus; but when he fell upon his face and cried for mercy, he was not cast out. Manasseh was blood-red with the murder of God’s prophets. It is said that he cut the prophet Isaiah in two with a saw; and yet, when out of the low dungeon he cried for mercy, he was not cast out. So that any kind of ‘him’, though he may have been a persecutor even unto blood, though he may have been exceeding mad against God till he could not speak without blasphemies against the name of Christ, though he hated everything which is good, and despised everything held precious by believing men and women, yet if he comes to Christ, he shall not be cast out.

For meditation: Even the most scandalous of past sins will not be held against those who come to Christ for forgiveness and cleansing (1 Corinthians 6:9–11). They are the ones who go to heaven, not those who think that they are good enough as they are (Matthew 21:31–32). Those who assume that their ‘goodness’ guarantees them a place in heaven are the sinners who will be ‘cast out’ (Matthew 8:11–12).


Streams In The Desert

By: L. B. Cowman

“I have chosen him so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Then the Lord will give to Abraham what he promised him.” (Gen 18:19)

God wants people that He can depend upon. He could say of Abraham, “I know him, that he will command his children … that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken.” God can be depended upon; He wants us to be just as decided, as reliable, as stable. This is just what faith means.

God is looking for men on whom He can put the weight of all His love and power and faithful promises. God’s engines are strong enough to draw any weight we attach to them. Unfortunately the cable which we fasten to the engine is often too weak to hold the weight of our prayer; therefore God is drilling us, disciplining us to stability and certainty in the life of faith. Let us learn our lessons and stand fast.
A. B. Simpson

God knows that you can stand that trial; He would not give it to you if you could not. It is His trust in you that explains the trials of life, however bitter they may be. God knows our strength, and He measures it to the last inch; and a trial was never given to any man that was greater than that man’s strength, through God, to bear it.

Jesus Will Soon Return

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Jesus Will Be Arriving

By: Beth Patch,

sky with sun rays

But when we die we will be face-to-face with Christ, the One who experienced death once for all to bear the sins of many! And now to those who eagerly await him, he will appear a second time; not to deal with sin, but to bring us the fullness of salvation. (Hebrews 9:28 TPT)

“JESUS WILL ARRIVE IN 3 DAYS” displayed on my vacation rental manager app. I smiled. I never had a guest with the first name Jesus before. The message sparked my imagination.

What would I do if I knew Jesus Christ, my Savior, was returning in three days? [Please forgive the break from reality – I know none of us will know ahead of time (Matthew 24:36).]

Imagine with me — Jesus arrives in 3 days. My first reaction is joy. I’m going home. I will be with Jesus, my closest friend! God’s son who suffered torture and death to bear the penalty for my rebellious sinful life is coming to get me. The faithful one who stayed with me in times of deep sorrow, who carried my burdens and changed my life for the better is on his way. I will be taken away from this place riddled with death, hatred, evil, and unfairness. The epic day, the huge change in life as we know it, is happening in three days.

Amid all my excited visions of trumpets blasting, the sky filled with angels, and praises to the Lord Jesus coming from all those around me who are being drawn to him, I hit a moment of despair.

What about those who never believed they were sinners? Those who never reconciled with God the Father? I know some of them. I love them. Their future will be much different. They will receive God’s judgment for their sins. They didn’t believe the Father loves them. They only believed what they thought was right. They never humbled themselves to God and admitted they had sinned against the great I AM. They thought it was all foolishness. They didn’t believe they needed forgiveness or mercy. And now, in three days, their souls will reap what they’ve sown. They will be judged. And the prince of this world, Satan, will laugh at them and torture them forever … there will be screaming and crying and begging for mercy.

My spirit grieves for them. All of a sudden, I’m not elated anymore. Time’s up. The judgment is coming. In three days.

It’s not enough time. I don’t want anyone to spend eternity separated from Father God. And, the truth is, it could be today.

Lord, please help us to remember those who are lost and spend the rest of our time here doing all we can to be vessels that you will use to build your kingdom. Help us to live so surrendered to you that others want to know you because they are attracted to the light of your great love. The signs are everywhere that your return is soon. Please pour out your spirit. Have mercy on us, oh Lord. 

The Ultimate Destiny

by Inspiration Ministries

An appalling and horrible thing has happened … prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority, and My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it? – Jeremiah 5:30-31 NASB

The land was filled with false prophets, men inspired not by God but their own thoughts and desires. Even priests ruled “on their own authority.” They did not submit to God or seek His will. Instead, they focused on their own personal interests.

What made matters worse was that God’s people loved the actions of these priests and prophets! To God, this was “an appalling and horrible thing.” These religious leaders might have enjoyed exercising their personal power, but eventually, they would realize their own pleasures would not last into eternity.

God asked them, “What will you do at the end of it?” They failed to realize that the day was coming when their pleasures, power, and even their lives would come to an end. They would look back and see clearly how they had served themselves, but forgotten about God. They would see how they had done things that brought them immediate benefit, but for which they would pay the consequences in eternity.

You have the opportunity to learn from these men and their short-term perspective. Are you just living for today, or are you remembering the eternal consequences of your actions? Are you placing a higher emphasis on your personal interests and desires, or on serving God? Remember, one day you will face God and give an account of your life. “What will you do at the end of it?”


Light, natural and spiritual

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.’ Genesis 1:3–5

Suggested Further Reading: Ephesians 5:8–14

‘God saw the light, that it was good.’ Light is good in all respects. The natural light is good. Solomon says, ‘Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun.’ But you did not need Solomon to inform you upon that point. Any blind man who will tell you the tale of his sorrows will be quite philosopher enough to convince you that light is good. Gospel light is good. ‘Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see.’ You only need to travel into heathen lands, and witness the superstition and cruelty of the dark places of the earth, to understand that gospel light is good. As for spiritual light, those that have received it long for more of it, that they may see yet more and more the glory of heaven’s essential light! O God, thou art of good the unmeasured Sea; thou art of light both soul, and source, and centre. Whether, then, we take natural light, gospel light, spiritual light, or essential light, we may say of it, as God did, that it was good. But we are speaking now of light spiritual. Why is that good? Well, it must be so, from its source. The light emanates from God, in whom is no darkness at all, and, as it comes absolutely and directly from him, it must be good. As every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, so everything which comes from above is good and perfect. The Lord distributes no alloyed metal: he never gives his people that which is mixed and debased. Thy words, O God, are pure; as silver tried in the furnace of earth purified seven times. The light of the new nature is good when we consider its origin.

For meditation: Light is good, because God is light (1 John 1:5) and the Father of lights (James 1:17). Not surprisingly the evildoer hates the light (John 3:19–20). Have you become a child of light by following the light of the world (John 8:12) and trusting in him (John 12:35–36)?


With the King for His Work – Streams in the Desert – November 12, By: L.B. Cowman

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

These were the potters, and those that dwelt among plants and hedges: there they dwelt with the king for his work (1 Chron. 4:23).

Anywhere and everywhere we may dwell “with the king for his work.” We may be in a very unlikely and unfavorable place for this; it may be in a literal country life, with little enough to be seen of the “goings” of the King around us; it may be among the hedges of all sorts, hindrances in all directions; it may be furthermore, with our hands full of all manner of pottery for our daily task.

No matter! The King who placed us “there” will come and dwell there with us; the hedges are right, or He would soon do away with them. And it does not follow that what seems to hinder our way may not be for its very protection; and as for the pottery, why, that is just exactly what He has seen fit to put into our hands, and therefore it is, for the present, “His work.”
–Frances Ridley Havergal

Go back to thy garden-plot, sweetheart!
Go back till the evening falls,
And bind thy lilies and train thy vines,
Till for thee the Master calls.

Go make thy garden fair as thou canst,
Thou workest never alone;
Perhaps he whose plot is next to thine
Will see it and mend his own.

The colored sunsets and starry heavens, the beautiful mountains and the shining seas, the fragrant woods and painted flowers, are not half so beautiful as a soul that is serving Jesus out of love, in the wear and tear of common, unpoetic life.

The most saintly spirits are often existing in those who have never distinguished themselves as authors, or left any memorial of themselves to be the theme of the world’s talk; but who have led an interior angelic life, having borne their sweet blossoms unseen like the young lily in a sequestered vale on the bank of a limpid stream.
–Kenelm Digby


The Lord Fights For You

 Remembering Veterans On Veterans Day

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When Life Is Hard: 9 Reminders that “The Lord Fights for You”

Debbie McDaniel is a writer, pastor’s wife, mom to three amazing kids (and a lot of pets). Join
her each morning on FresMore

Whether we recognize it or not, this truth daily confronts us, we face an enemy here in this life. It’s more than what we can see before us. It’s more than another person who we think has wronged us. It’s more than our own struggles and weaknesses we deal with, or the negative self-talk we sometimes battle.

This enemy is real and fierce. He will stop at nothing to try to bring you defeat and destruction. Maybe you’ve noticed too. Because if you’re a believer who is living like salt and light in a dark world, you won’t go for long without encountering obstacles and attacks he’ll hurl your direction. We can be assured, this enemy hates Truth. So if we’re living by it, standing on it, seeking after it, we will be targeted. God’s words are true, this battle is real, many times it feels intense.

But here’s the powerful hope that keeps us strong: God is greater than whatever we face here in this world, and He fights for us still today!

If you’re in the heat of the battle right now, or if the enemy feels hot on your trail, please know you’re not alone, not ever. Neither are you left to fight on your own. Many of us are in the battle with you, and God is the One who fights on our behalf, constantly shielding, protecting, strengthening, even when we’re unaware. We never have to struggle to fend for ourselves, but He’s with us, always, covering us, in all of our days.

He’s given us His words that are powerful and true, so that we’ll have the wisdom to stand strong against the enemy. As I read these verses this morning, the reality struck me again that Paul wrote them while in chains, in prison. Yet the truth is – the enemy, no matter how vicious his schemes, can never chain our spirits that have been set free by Christ. Paul was not silenced by the cruel attacks from dark forces. Neither should we be.

Focusing here today, putting on His armor, staying alert, and praying, that God will equip believers everywhere to “stand strong.” Press on – courageous and free – never held back by fear or defeat.  For God has the final victory over our lives…

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” Eph. 6:10-18

Remember, your battle today may be more about what is unseen than what you see before you. And when you resist the enemy, God’s word reminds us in James 4:7 that he has to flee.

Stand strong my friends, grace to you this day.

You’re never alone.

He loves you. He fights for you. He is with you.

9 Reminders from God’s Word that “The Lord Fights for Us” Today:

“For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” Deut. 20:4

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Rom. 8:31

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Josh. 1:9

“Through You we will push back our adversaries; Through Your name we will trample down those who rise up against us.” Ps. 44:5

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matt. 10:28

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

“Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you.” Deut. 3:22

“Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” Is. 40:31

“One of your men puts to flight a thousand, for the LORD your God is He who fights for you, just as He promised you.” Josh. 23:10


Veterans Day: Shield of Strength


Captain Russell Rippetoe was serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003. Previously, while serving in Afghanistan, Rippetoe saw men die, which brought a renewal to his Christian faith and a new passion for the Bible.

On the chain around his neck, he wore a “Shield of Strength,” a one-by-two-inch emblem displaying a U.S. flag on one side and words from Joshua 1:9 on the other.

On April 3, 2003, Rippetoe’s company was manning a nighttime checkpoint near the Hadithah Dam when a vehicle approached. Suddenly, a woman jumped out and cried, “I’m hungry. I need food and water!” Protecting his men, Rippetoe gave the order to hold back as he moved toward the woman to see how he could help. When she hesitated, the driver detonated a car bomb that killed Captain Rippetoe, Sergeant Nino Livaudais, and Specialist Ryan Long and wounded several others.

Rippetoe believed the ancient words of Joshua 1:9: “The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Rippetoe, who died trying to help someone, was the first casualty of the Iraq conflict to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? — Psalm 27:1

For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.  — Psalm 30:5

The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him. — Psalm 28:7


He Will Fight Your Battles

As we headed south from Banner Elk, North Carolina, there was a long steep grade curving through the Blue Ridge Mountains. We saw a sign that said, “runaway truck ramp one mile.” We wondered how in the world a ramp could be built that would stop a truck with no brakes as it barreled down the mountain. Then in a moment we saw it, branching off to the right like a spur on the road and slanting only slightly uphill and maybe 50 yards long. But it was all sand. One big mound and then a series of small mounds. It was the soft, deep sand that would stop the truck.

The first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles are like a runaway truck ramp. They stop us when we ought to be trucking right on through the Bible. I wonder how many people resolve to read through the Bible, but instead grind to a stop in the sandy genealogies of 1 Chronicles 1–9. They are very hard to get over.

But the irony is that the highway through 1 and 2 Chronicles is dotted frequently with scenic overviews of God’s gracious purpose. If we can get through the sands of chapters 1–9, these scenes are a tremendous refreshment to our faith. Here’s one example to encourage you to dig yourself out and keep going in the Blue Ridge Parkway of God’s revelation.

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, came up against Jerusalem when Hezekiah was king. So Hezekiah gathered the people and the commanders together in the square at the gate. If you memorize what he said to them you will know the power of God in a new way. He said:

Be strong and be courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with them; for there is one greater with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.

Then the writer adds, “And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah, king of Judah” (2 Chronicles 32:7–8).

I want it to be said of me, “The people took confidence from the words of John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church.” That’s my goal: “the advancement and joy of your faith” (Philippians 1:25). What is the “King of Assyria” in your life? Whatever it is, remember: “there is one greater with you than with him!” If you trust him, the LORD almighty is on your side and will fight your battles! “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. . . . The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still” (Exodus 14:13–14).

Prayer In Jesus Name Is Powerful


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In Jesus’ Name


“… I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name.” (John 16:23 NLT)

A new prayer-priority emerged for me: to remember my High Priest Jesus interceding throughout the day. After reading Ruth Gibson’s Chipped Dishes, Zippers & Prayer, I longed to be aware and give thanksgiving for the different ways Jesus helped me each day.

When Ms. Gibson’s children were young, she had a difficult decision to make. She wanted to return to graduate school, and she closed her prayer for guidance, “In memory of Jesus, whose mother never went to college.”

Ms. Gibson’s prayers prompted soul-searching for me. The typical closing phrase after my prayers was “In Jesus’ name.” Over the years, those final words became a habitual prayer component. Instead of acknowledging the way Jesus life-supported me on any given day, I merely repeated a phrase heard since childhood.

To recognize the hand of the Savior in my daily life became very important to me. Paul understood the abiding presence of Jesus and wrote about the spiritual boosts he received,

“That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.” (Colossians 1:29 NLT)

I began to notice that on some days Jesus became my Prince of Peace. On others, he revealed himself as Counselor. And one particular night, he crossed stormy seas to climb into my rocking boat.

Nave’s Topical Bible lists over 200 names and titles for Jesus. Here are a few: Servant of Rulers, Faithful and True Witness, Good Master, Finisher of faith, Captain of the Lord’s Host, Righteous Judge, Sanctuary, Vine, Door, Fountain, Arm of the Lord and a Friend of Sinners.

The Hebrew writer’s instructions to “fix your thoughts on Jesus,” and “consider him” became a daily goal. After a time, for I’m a slow-learner, I began to recognize Jesus’ care to be constant, conformed to my need, and energizing.

Ruth Gibson was a link in bringing me to a deeper relationship with my Savior. One day, I spoke with her and expressed my thanks because her written prayers led me to holy ground.

Father, You spoke to Moses, Joshua, and the priests about holy places. Now I’m remembering the barefoot Christ and his sacrifice for me. Please, forgive me the careless times I’ve tagged the name of Jesus at the end of my prayers. I ask in the name of the seventy-times-seven forgiving Savior. Amen.

Jesus, Name Above All Names

Hernandes Lopes, Author:

Scripture Reading — John 1:1-14

To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
John 1:12 —

Christmas tells the story of the birth of the greatest person who ever lived. That baby, born in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth and died in Jerusalem.

But that wasn’t the end.

He rose again, returned to heaven, and is now ruling at God’s right hand. His name is Jesus Christ.

After his humiliation and death on the cross, he was exalted “above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:9-10). All angels, demons, and human beings must bow to his glory.

Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He sits on the throne of the universe and holds the reins of history in his hands.

He triumphed over the devil and his hosts and holds the keys of death and hell.

Before him, kings and servants, serfs and masters, powerful and meek need to bow down and recognize that he is Lord.

Jesus has all the authority and power in heaven and on earth. His power is irresistible, his kingdom is eternal, and his glory is incomparable.

To him be all glory forever and ever!


Lord, as this year ends, may I bow down and worship the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Jesus, name above all names, thank you for saving me. In your name I pray. Amen.


The Powerful Name of Jesus


John 16:7-24

The disciples must have felt bewildered when Jesus said it was to their advantage that He leave—for three years He had guided and protected them. The Lord could say this, though, knowing that His Spirit and His name would powerfully guard and direct them until they were reunited in heaven.

In the same way, we’ve been saved and promised heaven, but there is still a long road to walk before we arrive. Yet in the name of Jesus, we have everything we need to complete our course, no matter what obstacles and challenges we face. Just consider the following ways Jesus comes to our aid:

Advocate (1 John 2:1-2). Although we are called to live righteously, there will be occasions when we sin. Jesus is our Advocate, who stands as our defender because His blood continually cleanses us from sin.

Authority (Matt. 28:18). We live under the divine authority of Christ. Nothing touches us without first going through His hands. And He empowers us to do all that He calls us to accomplish.

Assistance (John 16:13-15). Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit as our Helper, who comforts, guides, teaches, and empowers us to live holy, obedient lives.

Answer (John 16:23-24). When we ask in Jesus name—that is, according to what He desires—we will receive answers to our prayers.

Do we realize what an amazing privilege it is to belong to Christ? God’s hand moves at the name of Jesus when we have a holy and pure heart before Him. Therefore, let’s make it our ambition to live in complete dependence on this powerful name. Therefore, let’s make it our ambition to live in complete dependence on this powerful name—not just on Christmas but every day of our life.

Prayer Changes Things

 God promises that people who pray are far better off than people who don’t; things do change for the better through prayer (James 4:2-3 and Matthew 7:7-11). (simply Bible .com)


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The Lord’s Prayer

By: Eddie Jones,

Matthew 6:9-13 The Lord’s Prayer

In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
[a]For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

“Lord, how can I pray for you today?” the email began.

I re-read text, convinced it contained a typo. “Lord, how can I pray to you today?” Yeah, that’s what the writer meant to say. As in: “Lord, I’m beat and worried. The stress is too much. I can’t take (her, him, it) anymore. But here I am, anyway. On my knees, praying to you as if everything’s fine. But thing’s aren’t fine. So, how can I pray to you today?”

I called my friend to see if she was all right and learned she had, in fact, typed the line correctly.

“How many people pray for God?” she asked. “Not many, I bet. I just figured it was time to ask God what He needed for a change, instead of me telling Him what I wanted.”

Her prayer got me thinking — a thing I rarely do without the help of my wife (“I think, at the very least, you would want to read the instructions,” she’ll say, as my latest home repair project lies in pieces on the kitchen floor. “Dear, I think a different pair of pants would look better,” she’ll say, as I head off to church in jeans and boat shoes. “I’d think by now, after twenty years of marriage, you would be able to remember our anniversary.” And so it goes).

So I pondered on my friend’s prayer and this is what I thought. We pray for the sick, hurt or lost, for help with global warming and the containment of an oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico. We plead to God for a job, beg for good health and ask Him to protect our kids. But praying for God? How’s that possible? And why would we?

When Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, he told them to: Praise God for who He is, rejoice in what God has done, ask how we should respond to His nudging, and yield to His leading regardless of the circumstances.

Does God need our prayers? I doubt it. But He wants them. Perhaps that is what my friend was really trying to say: that the act of praying for God, for having a true “Lord’s Prayer” with His well-being… and will in mind, is the essence of prayer.

Study the persons God brings into your life. Observe their circumstances, feel their hurt. Help, hear and hold them when they weep. Then praise God that He’s allowed us to be His hands and ask, “Lord, how can I pray for you, Lord?” Chances are, you already have.

But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 1 Peter 4:13-14 (Today’s New International Version).

Be Devoted to Prayer


My simple and humanly impossible goal this morning in this message is that you would all be devoted to prayer. This is my goal because this is what the Bible calls us to be. My text is Romans 12:12 which is part of a longer chain of exhortations. It says we are to be “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted (proskarterountes) to prayer.”

Your version might say, “constant in prayer” or “faithful in prayer.” Those all get at aspects of the word. “Devoted” is a good translation. The word is used in Mark 3:9 where it says, “[Jesus] told his disciples to have a boat ready (proskartere) for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him.” A boat was to set apart — devoted — for the purpose of taking Jesus away in case the crowd became threatening. “Devoted” — dedicated for a task, appointed for it.

Now, boats just sit there. But people are not dedicated that way. When the word is applied to a person it means devoted or dedicated in the sense not only of designation and appointment but of action in the appointed task, and pressing on in it. So for example in Romans 13:6 Paul talks about the role of government like this: “You also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.” That is, they are not only designated by God for a task, but are giving themselves to it.

What’s remarkable about this word is that five of the ten New Testament uses apply to prayer. Listen, besides Romans 12:12 there are:

  • Acts 1:14 (after the ascension of Jesus while the disciples were waiting in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Spirit): “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
  • Acts 2:42 (Of the early converts in Jerusalem): “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
  • Acts 6:4 (The apostles say): “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
  • Colossians 4:2 (Paul says to all of us): “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.”

So we may say from the New Testament Scriptures that the normal Christian life is a life devoted to prayer. And so you should ask as you turn from 2002 to 2003, “Am I devoted to prayer?”

It does not mean that prayer is all you do — any more than being devoted to a wife means all the husband does is hang out with his wife. But his devotion to her affects everything in his life and causes him to give himself to her in many different ways. So being devoted to prayer doesn’t mean that all you do is pray (though Paul does say in another place, “pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

It means that there will be a pattern of praying that looks like devotion to prayer. It won’t be the same for everyone. But it will be something significant. Being devoted to prayer looks different from not being devoted to prayer. And God knows the difference. He will call us to account: Have we been devoted to prayer? Is there a pattern of praying in your life that can fairly be called “being devoted to prayer”?

“Praying only as crises enter your life would not be a pattern of devotion to prayer.”

I think most of us would agree on some kinds of praying that would not be called “being devoted to prayer.” Praying only as crises enter your life would not be a pattern of devotion to prayer. Praying only at meal times is a pattern, but does it correspond to Paul exhorting the church to “be devoted to prayer”? A short “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer at the end of the day is probably not “being devoted to prayer.” Hit and miss “Help me, Lord” in the car as you need a parking place is not “being devoted to prayer.” All those are good. But I think we would agree that Paul expects something more and different from followers of Christ when he says, “Be devoted to prayer.”

Let us not forget in all of this, as we saw last week, that the cross of Christ — his death in the place of sinners — is the foundation of all prayer. There would be no acceptable answer to why or how we pray if Christ had not died in our place. That’s why we pray “in Jesus name.”

As I have weighed the obstacles to prayer that I could address, some of them fall under the question, why pray? And some of them fall under the question how pray. I want to focus this morning on the how. Not that the question why is unimportant, but it seems to me that we can have all our theological answers in place as to why pray and still be very negligent and careless in the life of prayer. So I will give a short answer to the question why, and then focus on practical how questions that I pray will stir you up to venture new levels of “being devoted to prayer” in 2003.


A Passionate Prayer

By: George Vink,


Scripture Reading — John 17:13-26

“[Father,] my prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” — John 17:15

On the night he was arrested, Jesus prayed this prayer to his Father, interceding for his disciples and all believers. This prayer is filled with compassion, revealing Christ’s mission for himself and his followers.

Does he ask that we may never face hardships? No, he asks that we may persevere. It’s a prayer for unity among believers so that others will believe. It’s a prayer of deep love, asking that all people may grow to believe in him.

Reflecting on this prayer of Jesus, we can see that as believers we have a mission—and we will accomplish it only by remaining in him who is the vine (John 15:5). The Bible’s message is designed to draw us into relationship with our Creator, who has revealed himself in his Son, Jesus Christ, and by his Holy Spirit.

It is appropriate that we close this month of lessons with this closing prayer of the Canons of Dort: “May God’s Son Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God and gives gifts to humanity, sanctify us in the truth, lead to the truth those who err, silence the mouths of those who lay false accusations against sound teaching, and equip faithful ministers of God’s Word with a spirit of wisdom and discretion, that all they say may be to the glory of God and the building up of their hearers. Amen.”

Following Jesus’ example, let’s be faithful in prayer. May we love as God loves—and share his good news everywhere.


Father, Son, and Holy Spirit guide us in truth so that we may walk with you now and forever. Amen.


Prayers that Matter

by Inspiration Ministries

“There was a prophetess, Anna…advanced in years…a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” – Luke 2:36-38 NASB

Do our prayers really matter? Even Believers who pray regularly may have doubts, wondering if God really cares about them or hears their prayers.

We can wonder if Anna ever had these thoughts. If she candidly evaluated herself, she might have wondered if her life really mattered to anyone, or even to God.

Although a “prophetess,” Anna did not seem to have credibility in the eyes of the world. She did not seem to be well known or have connections with political or religious leaders. In fact, her life had been marked by personal tragedy, as a longtime widow.

The only noteworthy fact about her was her commitment to God. She always was in His house, totally dedicated to prayer, fasting, and giving thanks. It did not seem to matter what other people thought. She simply focused on God and devoted herself to serving Him.

Anna might not have mattered to anyone else, but it was clear that she mattered to God. He honored her, allowing her to be among the few to see the baby Jesus. He had heard her prayers and seen the commitment of her heart. And He rewarded her for her faithfulness.

Over history, others have had a similar testimony. These men and women of all ages and all backgrounds have had this in common: They weren’t concerned with their reputations but simply were devoted to serving God. Their lives were focused on serving Him…praising Him…and thanking Him. They were committed to prayer, and they prayed with faith and persistence. They interceded for the needs of others and for the advance of God’s Kingdom throughout the world.