Category Archives: Family

Blooms In The Desert

Isaiah 35

Joy of the Redeemed

35 The desert and the parched land will be glad;
    the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
    it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
    the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
    the splendor of our God.

 

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Blossoms in the Desert

From: Our Daily Journey

Blossoms in the Desert

Read:

Luke 14:7-14
“When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, . . . “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (Luke 14:12-13).

The most dangerous place for Christians to be is in comfort and safety, detached from the suffering of others,” argue the authors of Common Prayer, suggesting that following Jesus includes a commitment to the “abandoned places of the empire”—places the world has given up on. In a special way, those places where we might expect only despair are often where we see most clearly the persistent love of a God who nevergives up on His world.

It’s only natural to want protection from suffering and loss. But Jesus taught that, paradoxically, it’s when we “try to hang on” to our lives that we lose them, and it’s when we “give up” on securing our lives that we find real life (Luke 9:24).

Over and over in His ministry, Jesus called for His followers to choose another path than the pursuit of power and security. When He attended a banquet where guests were scrambling for “seats of honor,” He taught that they should instead choose the “lowest” seat at the table (Luke 14:7,10). Then He went even further. Turning to the host, He said our celebrations shouldn’t be events for our “friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors” (Luke 14:12). Instead, they should be feasts for “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. . . . those who could not repay you” (Luke 14:13-14).

We are all poor before God, able only to receive His gifts (1 Corinthians 4:7). It’s only in humble awareness of our need that we can draw near to His heart (James 4:10). And as we follow Jesus’ example of self-giving love in the hardest places of our world, we will also witness new creation where no one thought possible, new life blossoming in the desert (Isaiah 35:1).

Receiving Yourself in the Fires of Sorrow

By Oswald Chambers

Receiving Yourself in the Fires of Sorrow

As a saint of God, my attitude toward sorrow and difficulty should not be to ask that they be prevented, but to ask that God protect me so that I may remain what He created me to be, in spite of all my fires of sorrow. Our Lord received Himself, accepting His position and realizing His purpose, in the midst of the fire of sorrow. He was saved not from the hour, but out of the hour.

We say that there ought to be no sorrow, but there is sorrow, and we have to accept and receive ourselves in its fires. If we try to evade sorrow, refusing to deal with it, we are foolish. Sorrow is one of the biggest facts in life, and there is no use in saying it should not be. Sin, sorrow, and suffering are, and it is not for us to say that God has made a mistake in allowing them.

Sorrow removes a great deal of a person’s shallowness, but it does not always make that person better. Suffering either gives me to myself or it destroys me. You cannot find or receive yourself through success, because you lose your head over pride. And you cannot receive yourself through the monotony of your daily life, because you give in to complaining. The only way to find yourself is in the fires of sorrow. Why it should be this way is immaterial. The fact is that it is true in the Scriptures and in human experience. You can always recognize who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, and you know that you can go to him in your moment of trouble and find that he has plenty of time for you. But if a person has not been through the fires of sorrow, he is apt to be contemptuous, having no respect or time for you, only turning you away. If you will receive yourself in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people.

 

“Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward” (Exod. 14:15).

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Imagine, O child of God, if you can, that triumphal march! The excited children restrained from ejaculations of wonder by the perpetual hush of their parents; the most uncontrollable excitement of the women as they found themselves suddenly saved from a fate worse than death; while the men followed or accompanied them ashamed or confounded that they had ever mistrusted God or murmured against Moses; and as you see those mighty walls of water piled by the outstretched hand of the Eternal, in response to the faith of a single man, learn what God will do for His own.

Dread not any result of implicit obedience to His command; fear not the angry waters which, in their proud insolence, forbid your progress. Above the voices of many waters, the mighty breakers of the sea, “the Lord sitteth King for ever.”

A storm is only as the outskirts of His robe, the symptom of His advent, the environment of His presence.

Dare to trust Him; dare to follow Him! And discover that the very forces which barred your progress and threatened your life, at His bidding become the materials of which an avenue is made to liberty.
–F. B. Meyer

Have you come to the Red Sea place in your life,
Where, in spite of all you can do,
There is no way out, there is no way back,
There is no other way but through?
Then wait on the Lord with a trust serene
Till the night of your fear is gone;
He will send the wind,
He will heap the floods,
When He says to your soul, “Go on.”
And His hand will lead you through—clear through–
Ere the watery walls roll down,
No foe can reach you, no wave can touch,
No mightiest sea can drown;
The tossing billows may rear their crests,
Their foam at your feet may break,
But over their bed you shall walk dry shod
In the path that your Lord will make.
In the morning watch, ‘beneath the lifted cloud,
You shall see but the Lord alone,
When He leads you on from the place of the sea
To a land that you have not known;
And your fears shall pass as your foes have passed,
You shall be no more afraid;
You shall sing His praise in a better place,
A place that His hand has made.
–Annie Johnson Flint

Whatever You Do

I Corinthians 10: 31-33

31  So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

 32  Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God

33  even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

 

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Whatever You Do

From: Our Daily Journey

Whatever You Do

Read:

John 17:13-19
Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world (John 17:18).

As my friend and I were talking while she was washing the dishes after dinner, I looked up and noticed a wooden plaque above the sink. Engraved on it were the words of 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” After I asked her why she chose to display that verse, she told me it reminds her to honor God through every situation, even when she’s washing dishes!

When Jesus began His ministry, He proclaimed the arrival of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:15). He came to free people from sin and death, model a new way of life, and in this way establish God’s kingdom on earth. And this new kingdom way of life included the call for His disciples to “give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

God’s kingdom includes every aspect of our lives. As we pledge allegiance to King Jesus, our values and perspectives are transformed. Knowing God’s purposes for our lives changes the way we engage with others.

Realizing we don’t just work to make money, but to serve those around us, gives our work new meaning. We begin to reflect the grace and wisdom of God’s kingdom at the workplace through our actions, attitudes, and relationships. Through Jesus’ leading and power we can serve and love others, a small reflection of all He’s done for us.

Of course, not every employee in the workplace is a believer. But all of us play a part in working for God’s kingdom. In every situation, as the Holy Spirit equips us, we can honor God by loving those around us sacrificially, following the example of Jesus, who “came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

 

God’s cure for man’s weakness

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By: Charles Spurgeon

‘Out of weakness were made strong.’ Hebrews 11:34

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 11:1–7

Faith makes the crown of eternal life glitter before the believer’s eye; it waves before him the palm branch. Sense pictures the grave, loss, suffering, defeat, death, forgetfulness: but faith points to the resurrection, the glorious appearance of the Son of Man, the calling of the saints from every corner of the earth, the clothing of them all in their triumphant array, and the entrance of the blood-washed conquerors into the presence of God with eternal joy. Thus faith makes us out of weakness to become strong. Let me remind you that the essential ingredients of faith’s comfort are just these: faith sees the invisible and beholds the substance of that which is afar off: faith believes in God, a present, powerful God, full of love and wisdom, effecting his decree, accomplishing his purpose, fulfilling his promise, glorifying his Son. Faith believes in the blood of Jesus, in the effectual redemption on the cross, it believes in the power of the Holy Spirit, his might to soften the stone and to put life into the very ribs of death. Faith grasps the reality of the Bible; she does not look upon it as a sepulchre with a stone laid thereon, but as a temple in which Christ reigns, as an ivory palace out of which he comes riding in his chariot, conquering and to conquer. Faith does not believe the gospel to be a worn-out scroll, to be rolled up and put away; she believes that the gospel instead of being in its dotage is in its youth; she anticipates for it a manhood of mighty strugglings, and a grand maturity of blessedness and triumph. Faith does not shirk the fight; she longs for it, because she foresees the victory.

 

The desire of the soul in spiritual darkness

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By: Charles Spurgeon

“With my soul have I desired thee in the night.” Isaiah 26:9

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 42

There are times when all the saints can do is to desire. We have a vast number of evidences of piety: some are practical, some are experimental, some are doctrinal; and the more evidences a man has of his piety the better, of course. We like a number of signatures, to make a deed more valid, if possible. We like to invest property in a great number of trustees, in order that it may be all the safer; and so we love to have many evidences. Many witnesses will carry our case in the courts better than a few: and so it is well to have many witnesses to testify to our piety. But there are seasons when a Christian cannot get any. He can get scarcely one witness to come and attest his godliness. He asks for good works to come and speak for him. But there will be such a cloud of darkness about him, and his good works will appear so black that he will not dare to think of their evidences. He will say, “True, I hope this is the right fruit; I hope I have served God; but I dare not plead these works as evidences.” He will have lost assurance, and with it his enjoyment of communion with God. “I have had that fellowship with him,” perhaps he will say, and he will summon that communion to come and be in evidence. But he has forgotten it, and it does not come, and Satan whispers it is a fancy, and the poor evidence of communion has its mouth gagged, so that it cannot speak. But there is one witness that very seldom is gagged, and one that I trust the people of God can always apply, even in the night: and that is, “I have desired thee—I have desired thee in the night.”

Believing God

“And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

John 20:31

but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Mark 11:24

“Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.

John 20:29

Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

 

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Believing God

From: Our Daily Journey

Believing God

Read:

Hebrews 10:38–11:6
This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith (Romans 1:17).

A common belief about God is that if we can “do enough good things,” we earn His favor. Naturally, the next question becomes: How much is enough? When can we be sure we’ve done enough good things? Well, we can’t! But thankfully, such a concept isn’t found in the Bible. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 2:8-9).

We might misunderstand this grace or have an incomplete grasp of what faith means, thinking that because of God’s grace, it doesn’t matter what we do. Or we may believe that once we put our faith in God, we must then live painstakingly cautious lives so that we never sin. Neither of these concepts has biblical support either.

Martin Luther looked for spiritual peace in a monastery. He didn’t find it until he understood Paul’s description of God’s offer of salvation. “This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith” (Romans 1:17). To emphasize the point, Paul quoted the Old Testament prophet: “It is through faith that a righteous person has life” (Romans 1:17Habakkuk 2:4).

It’s easy to believe in God. Most people do. We stumble over believing God—simply taking Him at His Word.

The book of Hebrews reiterates this: “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” The text continues, “Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation” (Hebrews 11:1-2). Through their faith!

Here’s the comforting conclusion. God is pleased by our faith in Him. We’re simply called to “believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

May we believe in Him and also believe Him by His grace.

 

Clear View

From: Joe Stowell, Author

“Offer your bodies as living sacrifices . . . this is your spiritual act of worship” Romans 12:1

I love Wrigley Field in Chicago. But like most old ballparks, it has the necessary but aggravating problem of support posts that obscure the view of the game. Unfortunately, I got stuck behind one of those posts at a game once, and, needless to say, it was disappointing. Without a clear view, I became easily distracted.

It can be like that with worship. Without a clear view of what really counts, we are quickly distracted by lesser things in life. And when that happens, our worship becomes ritualistic and routine. Worship isn’t meant to be a drab experience, but rather an active, ongoing, enthusiastic response to God for His work and worth in our lives.

As I sat distractedly behind the post, I often wondered why everyone was cheering. What had I missed? Losing sight of the real game, God’s wonderful worth to us, will make you wonder why others are so excited about God and why you are only excited about your own dreams, desires, and possessions. Maybe it’s time to look around the obstructions of life to see Jesus clearly again and notice what He is worth to you—personally.

And what would that worship look like? Well, it would be more than singing in church. True worship is a surrender of all that we are and have. Paul told the believers in Rome to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1). Our lives are to be placed on the altar as an act of worship as well! Is He worth that kind of sacrifice? You bet! He gave up everything to set you eternally free. It’s time to tell Him how much He is worth by returning the favor. Being truthful, loving, honest, and forgiving even when it hurts would be a great place to start. And be careful, living sacrifices tend to want to climb off the altar!

Go ahead—get out from behind the support posts so you can get a fresh glimpse of Jesus. He’s the only action worth worshiping in your life!

From: Streams in the Desert

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So he said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind he became afraid. And starting to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:29-30)

Peter had a little faith in the midst of his doubts, says Bunyan; and so with crying and coming he was brought to Christ.

But here you see that sight was a hindrance; the waves were none of his business when once he had set out; all Peter had any concern with, was the pathway of light that came gleaming across the darkness from where Christ stood. If it was tenfold Egypt beyond that, Peter had no call to look and see.

When the Lord shall call to you over the waters, “Come,” step gladly forth. Look not for a moment away from Him.

Not by measuring the waves can you prevail; not by gauging the wind will you grow strong; to scan the danger may be to fall before it; to pause at the difficulties, is to have them break above your head. Lift up your eyes unto the hills, and go forward—there is no other way.

“Dost thou fear to launch away?
Faith lets go to swim!
Never will He let thee go;
’Tis by trusting thou shalt know
Fellowship with Him.”

Fellowship With Jesus

Psalm 55:14

We who had sweet fellowship together Walked in the house of God in the throng.

Acts 2:42

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

1 John 1:7

but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

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Fellowship with Jesus

From: Our Daily Bread

Fellowship with Jesus
Read: Philippians 3:7–14 | Bible in a Year: Esther 6–8; Acts 6

 I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Philippians 3:8

I’ll never forget the time I had the privilege of sitting next to Billy Graham at a dinner. I was honored but also somewhat nervous about what would be appropriate to say. I thought it would be an interesting conversation starter to ask what he loved most about his years of ministry. Then I awkwardly started to suggest possible answers. Was it knowing presidents, kings, and queens? Or preaching the gospel to millions of people around the world?

Before I had finished offering suggestions, Rev. Graham stopped me. Without hesitation he said, “It has been my fellowship with Jesus. To sense His presence, to glean His wisdom, to have Him guide and direct me—that has been my greatest joy.” I was instantly convicted and challenged. Convicted because I’m not sure that his answer would have been my answer, and challenged because I wanted it to be.

That’s what Paul had in mind when he counted his greatest achievements to be of no worth compared to the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). Think of how rich life would be if Jesus and our fellowship with Him was our highest pursuit.

Lord, forgive me for chasing after things that matter far less than my fellowship with You. Thank You that You stand ready to enrich my life with Your presence and power.

To remain faithful where God has placed you, give Christ first place in your heart.

The Unchanging Law of Judgment

By Oswald Chambers

The Unchanging Law of Judgment

This statement is not some haphazard theory, but it is an eternal law of God. Whatever judgment you give will be the very way you are judged. There is a difference between retaliation and retribution. Jesus said that the basis of life is retribution— “with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” If you have been shrewd in finding out the shortcomings of others, remember that will be exactly how you will be measured. The way you pay is the way life will pay you back. This eternal law works from God’s throne down to us (see Psalm 18:25-26).

Romans 2:1 applies it in even a more definite way by saying that the one who criticizes another is guilty of the very same thing. God looks not only at the act itself, but also at the possibility of committing it, which He sees by looking at our hearts. To begin with, we do not believe the statements of the Bible. For instance, do we really believe the statement that says we criticize in others the very things we are guilty of ourselves? The reason we see hypocrisy, deceit, and a lack of genuineness in others is that they are all in our own hearts. The greatest characteristic of a saint is humility, as evidenced by being able to say honestly and humbly, “Yes, all those, as well as other evils, would have been exhibited in me if it were not for the grace of God. Therefore, I have no right to judge.”

Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). He went on to say, in effect, “If you do judge, you will be judged in exactly the same way.” Who of us would dare to stand before God and say, “My God, judge me as I have judged others”? We have judged others as sinners— if God should judge us in the same way, we would be condemned to hell. Yet God judges us on the basis of the miraculous atonement by the Cross of Christ.

 

With Prayer, We Cannot Fail

Author: Eddie Jones

he Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the [Lord’s people]. Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)

“Chaplain, sit for a moment. I want to talk to you about this business of prayer.” George S. Patton stood by the window watching the steady rain. For days the Third Army had been bogged down due to the weather. “Chaplain,” asked Patton, “How much praying is being done in the Third Army?” The Chaplain admitted that lately, not much.

“Chaplain, I am a strong believer in prayer. There are three ways that men get what they want: by planning, by working, and by praying. Any great military operation takes careful planning or thinking. Then you must have well-trained troops to carry it out: that’s working. But between the plan and the operation there is always an unknown. That unknown spells defeat or victory, success or failure. Up to now, God has been very good to us. We have never retreated; we have suffered no defeats, no famine, no epidemics. This is because a lot of people back home are praying for us. We were lucky in Africa, in Sicily, and in Italy: simply because people prayed. But we have to pray for ourselves too. We must ask God to stop these rains. This Army needs the assurance and the faith that God is with us. With prayer, we cannot fail.”

But what if we are forbidden to pray for the protection of our nation, the wisdom of our leaders, and the freedoms of our people? On August 29, 2011, a three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled officials could not pray before public meetings. The ruling, in the case of Joyner v. Forsyth County, admonished public officials to refrain from invoking the name of Jesus.

To pray is to call upon God and to invite Him into conversation.

The Greek word enteuxis is often translated “intercession.” In the New Testament the word is used to describe a petition presented to a king on the behalf of another. A petition is not an unspoken request but a bold supplication that carries with it the signatures of those who dared to come before the ruling authorities.

Jesus told this parable of the persistent neighbor:

“Suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything. I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.'” Luke 11:7-8 (NIV)

God listens to our silent prayers, but He also longs to hear our voices raised to the heavens, demanding justice for the oppressed and assistance for the wounded and hurting.

Between December 12 and December 14, 1944, two hundred and fifty thousand copies of General Patton’s Prayer Card were distributed to the troops. On December 20, the rains ceased. For almost a week, American warplanes bombarded the German army that had been advancing under the cloak of fog. General Patton prayed for fair weather and God sent it.

Perhaps it’s time to gather in our homes, churches, public squares, and courtrooms and ask God to have mercy on us and to forgive our sins. Each year the United States recognizes a national day of prayer. What our country needs is citizens who will pray without ceasing.

Will we embrace that challenge?

 

In Jesus There Is Life

The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.[f] The rich man also died and was buried,

 

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Proof of Life

From: Our Daily Journey

Proof of Life

Read:

Luke 19:1-10
Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham (Luke 19:9).

Families of kidnap victims often refuse to pay ransom without “proof of life,” evidence such as a phone call or video that shows their loved one is well. True believers in Jesus reveal a different kind of “proof of life”—evidence of lives transformed by their new life in Christ.

Zacchaeus exhibited proof of new life after encountering Jesus. He was “the chief tax collector in the region.” That meant he took money from his countrymen, skimmed a lot off the top, and sent the rest on to Rome. He “had become very rich,” which meant he was good at his job (Luke 19:2). He was despised, but not by Jesus who “came to seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus came for people just like Zacchaeus; so when He saw him in the branches above, He invited Himself over for dinner (Luke 19:5).

The crowd grumbled that Zacchaeus was “a notorious sinner,” and he didn’t disagree (Luke 19:7). “Sinner” was who he was, but it wouldn’t define him now. Zacchaeus demonstrated true repentance when he promised to give half his wealth to the poor and pay back four times whatever he had “cheated people on their taxes” (Luke 19:8). Jesus saw the tax collector’s contrite heart and announced, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9).

We’re saved when we repent of our sin and believe in Jesus. One proof of repentance is restitution: Do we right our wrongs when possible? A proof of faith is sacrifice: Does our trust in Jesus inspire us to serve others?

Jesus accepts us just as we are, but He loves us too much to allow us to stay that way. His loving transformation may be a long process, but every step forward is your proof of life.

 

The Ministry of the Inner Life

By Oswald Chambers

The Ministry of the Inner Life

By what right have we become “a royal priesthood”? It is by the right of the atonement by the Cross of Christ that this has been accomplished. Are we prepared to purposely disregard ourselves and to launch out into the priestly work of prayer? The continual inner-searching we do in an effort to see if we are what we ought to be generates a self-centered, sickly type of Christianity, not the vigorous and simple life of a child of God. Until we get into this right and proper relationship with God, it is simply a case of our “hanging on by the skin of our teeth,” although we say, “What a wonderful victory I have!” Yet there is nothing at all in that which indicates the miracle of redemption. Launch out in reckless, unrestrained belief that the redemption is complete. Then don’t worry anymore about yourself, but begin to do as Jesus Christ has said, in essence, “Pray for the friend who comes to you at midnight, pray for the saints of God, and pray for all men.” Pray with the realization that you are perfect only in Christ Jesus, not on the basis of this argument: “Oh, Lord, I have done my best; please hear me now.”

How long is it going to take God to free us from the unhealthy habit of thinking only about ourselves? We must get to the point of being sick to death of ourselves, until there is no longer any surprise at anything God might tell us about ourselves. We cannot reach and understand the depths of our own meagerness. There is only one place where we are right with God, and that is in Christ Jesus. Once we are there, we have to pour out our lives for all we are worth in this ministry of the inner life.

 

The sinner’s advocate

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’ 1 John 2:1

Suggested Further Reading: 1 John 1:5–10

This truth, so evangelical and so divine, should be practically remembered. It should be practically remembered, dear friends, at all times. Every day I find it most healthy to my own soul to try and walk as a saint, but in order to do so I must continually come to Christ as a sinner. I would seek to be perfect; I would strain after every virtue, and forsake every false way; but still, as to my standing before God, I find it happiest to sit where I sat when I first looked to Jesus, on the rock of his works, having nothing to do with my own righteousness, but only with his. Depend on it, dear friends, the happiest way of living is to live as a poor sinner and as nothing at all, having Jesus Christ as your all in all. You may have all your growths in sanctification, all your progress in graces, all the development of your virtues that you will; but still I do earnestly pray you never to put any of these where Christ should be. If you have begun in Christ then finish in Christ. If you have begun in the flesh and then go on in the flesh, we know what the sure result will be. But if you have begun with Jesus Christ as your Alpha, let him be your Omega. I pray you never think you are rising when you get above this, for it is not rising, but slipping downwards to your ruin. Stand still to this—

‘Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling.’

Still a sinner, but still having an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous—let this be the spirit of your everyday life.

Mercy, omnipotence, and justice

By: Charles Spurgeon

“The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.” Nahum 1:3

Suggested Further Reading: Nehemiah 9:9-31

Have you ever observed that scene in the garden of Eden at the time of the fall? God had threatened Adam, that if he sinned he should surely die. Adam sinned: did God make haste to sentence him? ‘Tis sweetly said, “The Lord God walked in the garden in the cool of the day.” Perhaps that fruit was plucked at early morn, maybe it was plucked at noon-tide; but God was in no haste to condemn; he waited till the sun was well nigh set, and in the cool of the day came, and as an old expositor has put it very beautifully, when he did come he did not come on wings of wrath, but he “walked in the garden in the cool of the day.” He was in no haste to slay. I think I see him, as he was represented then to Adam, in those glorious days when God walked with man. Methinks I see the wonderful similitude in which the unseen did veil himself: I see it walking among the trees so slowly—if it is right to give such a picture—beating its breast, and shedding tears that it should have to condemn man. At last I hear its doleful voice: “Adam, where art thou? Where hast thou cast thyself, poor Adam? Thou hast cast thyself from my favour; thou hast cast thyself into nakedness and into fear; for thou art hiding thyself. Adam, where art thou? I pity thee. Thou thoughtest to be God. Before I condemn thee I will give thee one note of pity. Adam, where art thou?” Yes, the Lord was slow to anger, slow to write the sentence, even though the command had been broken, and the threatening was therefore of necessity brought into force.

For meditation: There are good and bad ways of taking advantage of God’s apparent slowness (2 Peter 3:3,4,9).

Be Free From Sin

 

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Free from Sin

From: Our Daily Journey

Free from Sin

Read:

Jeremiah 30:1-24
I will give you back your health and heal your wounds (Jeremiah 30:17).

“You guys need to stay in bed,” I said as I pulled the door closed behind me. I was babysitting three boys, five and under, who shared a room. Between the middle one climbing dressers and the tears of the youngest, I had gone into their room multiple times after putting them to bed.

Shortly after I closed the door the final time, I heard the middle one say to the youngest, “John John, cry so Miss Julie will come in here.” I dropped my head into the palm of my hand and let out an exasperated laugh. A few seconds later, the little one started whining.

When their mom returned home, I told her about their antics. To discipline them, the boys had toys taken away that could only be earned back through good behavior. I felt bad that they had to receive the punishment but relieved they would learn and hopefully behave better next time.

Kids aren’t the only ones who need discipline. In the book of Jeremiah, God describes “a time of trouble” for His people (Jeremiah 30:7), a time when He couldn’t “let [them] go unpunished” (Jeremiah 30:11) but “had to punish” them because their sins were many and their guilt was great (Jeremiah 30:15). Thankfully, God’s plan didn’t stop there. He lovingly promised, “I will give you back your health and heal your wounds” (Jeremiah 30:17). Although God had disciplined His people for their sin, He was working through it to heal and restore, to “bring them home” (Jeremiah 30:3).

Through Jesus, we too have a way to return home to our Father. As a caring Father, God will lovingly guide and discipline in a way that’s “always good for us” (Hebrews 12:10). And in time “there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (Jeremiah 30:11).

 

Have You Come to “When” Yet?

By Oswald Chambers

Have You Come to

A pitiful, sickly, and self-centered kind of prayer and a determined effort and selfish desire to be right with God are never found in the New Testament. The fact that I am trying to be right with God is actually a sign that I am rebelling against the atonement by the Cross of Christ. I pray, “Lord, I will purify my heart if You will answer my prayer— I will walk rightly before You if You will help me.” But I cannotmake myself right with God; I cannot make my life perfect. I can only be right with God if I accept the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ as an absolute gift. Am I humble enough to accept it? I have to surrender all my rights and demands, and cease from every self-effort. I must leave myself completely alone in His hands, and then I can begin to pour my life out in the priestly work of intercession. There is a great deal of prayer that comes from actual disbelief in the atonement. Jesus is not just beginning to save us— He has already saved us completely. It is an accomplished fact, and it is an insult to Him for us to ask Him to do what He has already done.

If you are not now receiving the “hundredfold” which Jesus promised (see Matthew 19:29), and not getting insight into God’s Word, then start praying for your friends— enter into the ministry of the inner life. “The Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends.” As a saved soul, the real business of your life is intercessory prayer. Whatever circumstances God may place you in, always pray immediately that His atonement may be recognized and as fully understood in the lives of others as it has been in yours. Pray for your friends now, and pray for those with whom you come in contact now.

 

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You will hear a word spoken behind you, saying, “This is the correct way, walk in it,” whether you are heading to the right or the left. (Isa 30:21)

When we are in doubt or difficulty, when many voices urge this course or the other, when prudence utters one advice and faith another, then let us be still, hushing each intruder, calming ourselves in the sacred hush of God’s presence; let us study His Word in the attitude of devout attention; let us lift up our nature into the pure light of His face, eager only to know what God the Lord shall determine—and ere long a very distinct impression will be made, the unmistakable forth-telling of His secret counsel.

It is not wise in the earlier stages of Christian life to depend on this alone, but to wait for the corroboration of circumstances. But those who have had many dealings with God know well the value of secret fellowship with Him, to ascertain His will.

Are you in difficulty about your way? Go to God with your question; get direction from the light of His smile or the cloud of His refusal.

If you will only get alone, where the lights and shadows of earth cannot interfere, where human opinions fail to reach and if you will dare to wait there silent and expectant, though all around you insist on immediate decision or action—the will of God will be made clear; and you will have a new conception of God, a deeper insight into His nature and heart of love, which shall be for yourself alone a rapturous experience, to abide your precious perquisite forever, the rich guerdon of those long waiting hours.
—David

“STAND STILL,” my soul, for so thy Lord commands: 
E’en when thy way seems blocked, leave it in His wise hands; 
His arm is mighty to divide the wave. 
“Stand still,” my soul, “stand still” and thou shalt see 
How God can work the “impossible” for thee, 
For with a great deliverance He doth save.

Be not impatient, but in stillness stand, 
Even when compassed ’round on every hand, 
In ways thy spirit does not comprehend. 
God cannot clear thy way till thou art still, 
That He may work in thee His blessed will, 
And all thy heart and will to Him do bend.

“BE STILL,” my soul, for just as thou art still, 
Can God reveal Himself to thee; until 
Through thee His love and light and life can freely flow; 
In stillness God can work through thee and reach 
The souls around thee. He then through thee can teach 
His lessons, and His power in weakness show.

“BE STILL”—a deeper step in faith and rest. 
“Be still and know” thy Father knoweth best 
The way to lead His child to that fair land, 
A “summer” land, where quiet waters flow; 
Where longing souls are satisfied, and “know 
Their God,” and praise for all that He has planned.
—Selected

Passionate Devotion To Jesus

 

Psalm 136:26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

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The Service of Passionate Devotion

By Oswald Chambers

The Service of Passionate Devotion

Jesus did not say to make converts to your way of thinking, but He said to look after His sheep, to see that they get nourished in the knowledge of Him. We consider what we do in the way of Christian work as service, yet Jesus Christ calls service to be what we are to Him, not what we do for Him. Discipleship is based solely on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on following after a particular belief or doctrine. “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate…, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). In this verse, there is no argument and no pressure from Jesus to follow Him; He is simply saying, in effect, “If you want to be My disciple, you must be devoted solely to Me.” A person touched by the Spirit of God suddenly says, “Now I see who Jesus is!”— that is the source of devotion.

Today we have substituted doctrinal belief for personal belief, and that is why so many people are devoted to causes and so few are devoted to Jesus Christ. People do not really want to be devoted to Jesus, but only to the cause He started. Jesus Christ is deeply offensive to the educated minds of today, to those who only want Him to be their Friend, and who are unwilling to accept Him in any other way. Our Lord’s primary obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of people— the saving of people was the natural outcome of His obedience to the Father. If I am devoted solely to the cause of humanity, I will soon be exhausted and come to the point where my love will waver and stumble. But if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity, even though people may treat me like a “doormat.” The secret of a disciple’s life is devotion to Jesus Christ, and the characteristic of that life is its seeming insignificance and its meekness. Yet it is like a grain of wheat that “falls into the ground and dies”— it will spring up and change the entire landscape (John 12:24).

The Right Answer

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[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him”— 1 John 5:1

When Jesus asked a question, it was not because He didn’t know the answer. You can be sure He was making a point.

Jesus and His disciples were in Caesarea Philippi, away from their own territory. It was a place of idolatry and oppression—a threatening place both politically and spiritually. In this environment, Jesus posed two important questions about the perception of His identity. He wasn’t interested in His popularity rating. He wanted His followers to be sure about the One they were following.

Today our culture is just as hostile and opposed to Jesus as when He first asked the question: “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Matthew 16:13). As in Jesus’ day, people offer a long list of inadequate and incorrect ideas about Jesus, ranging from “just a good teacher” all the way to “divisive” and “intolerant.”

The real question was and continues to be: “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Peter boldly declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus said that Peter’s accurate confession was a God-given insight and that he was blessed because of his declaration (Matthew 16:17).

Join Peter in confessing that Jesus is your Savior. Your life will be bolstered and blessed.

O receive Him today who so loved you
That He died on the cross for your sin;
O believe Him and open your heart’s door,
Let the Savior who loves you come in. —Anon.

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. —1 John 5:1

 

Me and My Motivator

By: Bob Noebel, Author

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Motivational research is the study of what influences or causes people to choose or reject a course of action. In the business world, these procedures help companies sell products. In Genesis 3, we find that Satan already knew the three basics for selling his product to man: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life:

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye and desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” (See Genesis 3:6)

The sale was made. The rest is history.

What about God? Since He created us, it is only logical that He would know how to motivate us for good works rather than evil. After all, the Word says that it is not His desire that any should perish, but that everyone would come to the knowledge of His Son, Jesus Christ.

God must love a challenge. Why else would we be born with two strikes against us — free will and a sin nature? How in the world is He going to motivate us? Thank God that He is not the mighty “Casey at the bat” who strikes out. God hits a home run.

First of all, God did the hard part. He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins. The weight of our sins would have been enough to crush us, but that has been dealt with, thanks to Jesus.

If that alone isn’t enough to motivate you, there’s more. When Jesus ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God, He sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to enable us to live a godly life:

You however are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit … (Romans 8:9).

Our motivation to live a life worthy of His calling is because He first loved us. When we didn’t give God the time of day, He was still there waiting patiently for us. When we came to Him with all our problems and hang-ups, He received us with open arms. When we continue to mess up, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (See 1 John 1:9)

God loves me so much that He saved me, cleansed me, and filled me with His Spirit. I don’t need any more motivation than that!

How about you? Are you ready to stand up to the plate and hit a home run for Him? You can do it. I know you can.

Christ’s Truth Will Set You Free

John 8:31-32

The Truth Will Set You Free

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

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Favoring Truth

From: Our Daily Journey

Favoring Truth

Read:

James 2:1-10
Doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? (James 2:4).

Talking with a colleague at a Christian prep school, I was reminded how easy it can be to judge others. Accustomed to the short hairstyles of most of our students, he was offended by the creative haircut of a visiting teen. Challenging his assumptions, I reminded him that our perception of others’ appearance isn’t an accurate way to gauge a mature, spiritual life in Christ.

Made in the image of a God who declared His creation “very good” (Genesis 1:31), we have not only the ability to recognize but the desire to celebrate beauty. But we imitate the world when we trust our perception of appearances instead of seeking the truth (Proverbs 11:22). Whether we intend to or not, when we create our own standards of worth, the way we discern is faulty—leading to wrong views of others and wrong decisions.

James addressed the church’s cultural confusion, one which values worldly success but leaves the heart unchanged, in his letter to the “believers scattered abroad” (James 1:1). James 2:1 identifies the foundation of sure truth: “Our glorious Lord Jesus Christ,” a truth that separates the lifestyle of believers from the world’s favoritism. When Christ is at the center of all we think and do, we begin to see reality, though in part, as He does.

When we’re no longer focused on others’ approval, we can be a part of creating a “kingdom culture” by valuing those who offer us nothing in return (James 2:2-4). Discrimination, especially when based on another person’s appearance, is sin because it not only denies the diversity of all people made in God’s image but it is rooted in a humanistic desire for power and control (James 2:9-10).

Godly discernment, on the other hand, displays both truth and love. And as history and Scripture bear out, we reveal God’s truth best through how we love others (1 John 3:18).

 

Suzie Eller June 18, 2018
Finding Help When We Feel Lost
SUZIE ELLER

“For God has unveiled them and revealed them to us through the [Holy] Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things [diligently], even [sounding and measuring] the [profound] depths of God [the divine counsels and things far beyond human understanding].” 1 Corinthians 2:10 (AMP)

We hiked up the gorgeous trail. My legs ached. I could only imagine how it stretched the legs of the two little guys behind me. The 3-year-old and 5-year-old started the hike with energy and enthusiasm, which was now clearly lagging. Hearing a wail, I turned to check on them. The 3-year-old lay crumpled in a heap.

“You left me!” he wailed.

His father (walking behind him) had eyes on him, but for just a moment our little one lost sight of us. His dad knelt and scooped him up.

I heard him whisper, “Son, if you think you are lost, just stop. Don’t move even a step, and I’ll come to you as quick as I can.”

There are times I have felt like this little guy.

I’m trekking along in my faith, loving the journey, and suddenly I feel alone or uncertain. That can happen when my faith is challenged by those who don’t believe. It can take place when God asks me to do something new, and I want to hold on to the old. It can absolutely sneak up on me when I don’t feel Him holding me as close as I used to.

In the book of First Corinthians, Paul is writing to the church of Corinth. He had planted a thriving church, but things went wrong after he left. Believers were fighting among themselves. They were arguing about what was true … and what was not. The result was that many believers felt a little lost.

In his letter, Paul reminds them of what he has taught them. He reminds them of the foundational truths of their faith. And, in today’s key verse, Paul assures them of a Helper who knows the heart of the Father, and therefore who will help us know what to believe and what to do:

“For God has unveiled them and revealed them to us through the [Holy] Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things [diligently], even [sounding and measuring] the [profound] depths of God [the divine counsels and things far beyond human understanding]” (1 Corinthians 2:10).

Maybe you, too, feel a little lost sometimes. We all do at one time or another.

When that happens, it’s time for us to stop right where we are, so we can listen for the voice of the Helper. Sometimes that comes through Scripture or a godly friend. Sometimes it’s deep inside of us, and when we are still, we can hear that gentle voice.

Paul describes this Helper as a Counselor who knows the plans the Father has for you. He knows what you are trying to say as you cry out. (Romans 8:26-27)

He understands the difference between truth, almost truth, and lies, and He will always lead you toward truth. (John 16:13)

The Helper moves us beyond our own understanding. We are given a glimpse beyond our feelings. Beyond the circumstances. Beyond the chaos.

Whether we’re trekking uphill, loving every minute, or crumpled on the ground in uncertainty, we can trust there is a Helper who knows who we are and where we are going. We may not know the exact destination of our journey, but we can take the next step with assurance.

For God knows exactly where we are, for He has never taken His eyes off us. Not for a second.

Father, when I feel lost, remind me that my safe place is always You. May I come to You first. May I call out Your Name first. Thank You that You are near, and that You have promised a Helper all along the way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Where was God when a two-year-old boy was dragged into the water by an alligator at a Disneyworld resort? Where was God when 49 people were gunned down in a Florida nightclub? And where was God when an Egypt Air jet with 66 persons onboard went down in the Mediterranean Sea last month?

The answer is that God was in the same place as he was when Stephen was stoned to death, John the Baptist was beheaded, Peter was hanged upside down, Abel was killed by Cain and John Huss was burned at the stake. God was there in each horrific situation, just as he was when his only son was crucified. Certainly, God could have stopped each death. He could have intervened and changed what happened. But he did not.

We do not understand. We ask why over and over again. Why did he let all of these people die? We would have done everything humanly possible to prevent the deaths. So why didn’t God? Hearing that “we don’t know why” does not offer any of us any comfort. Instead, it leaves us even more confused, more upset and more distraught. There is no way we can reconcile the fact that a God who is all-powerful and all-loving allowed his own creations to die.

What might help us, though, is to realize we understand life and death only as it is in this world. We know almost nothing about what lies beyond. We can only imagine the wonders of heaven, living in eternity and the thoughts of God. Our trust in him must take us the rest of the way, across the dark chasm of doubt and disbelief. If we trust him, and we have faith in his way, we will at least be able to cope with death.

Death to us seems like the end. But to God, death in this world is just the beginning to a new life. We may still weep because of our loss; even Jesus wept when he heard about the death of his dear friend Lazarus. Recall what Jesus said when Martha exclaimed, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” John 11:21 ESV. Jesus replied, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Through our tears, may we take solace in knowing what he said is true. He is eternal proof that only our bodies die. Our true life in him lives on forever.

Our Safe Place

Matthew 28:19-20

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age

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Our Safe Place

From: Our Daily Bread

Our Safe Place
Read: Psalm 91 | Bible in a Year: Nehemiah 7–9; Acts 3

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2

My very first job was at a fast-food restaurant. One Saturday evening, a guy kept hanging around, asking when I got out of work. It made me feel uneasy. As the hour grew later, he ordered fries, then a drink, so the manager wouldn’t kick him out. Though I didn’t live far, I was scared to walk home alone through a couple of dark parking lots and a stretch through a sandy field. Finally, at midnight, I went in the office to make a phone call.

And the person who answered—my dad—without a second thought got out of a warm bed and five minutes later was there to take me home.

The kind of certainty I had that my dad would come to help me that night reminds me of the assurance we read about in Psalm 91. Our Father in heaven is always with us, protecting and caring for us when we are confused or afraid or in need. He declares: “When they call on me, I will answer” (Psalm 91:15 nlt). He is not just a place we can run to for safety. He is our shelter (v. 1). He is the Rock we can cling to for refuge (v. 2).

In times of fear, danger, or uncertainty, we can trust God’s promise that when we call on Him, He will hear and be with us in our trouble (vv. 14–15). God is our safe place.

Dear Father, thank You for being my Rock and my safe place.

The living God will always be our shelter.

Peace of Christ

From: Our Daily Journey

Peace of Christ

Read:

John 14:23-31
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid (John 14:27).

In the middle of the twentieth century, Japan and the United States were embroiled in a bitter war which only came to an end with the detonation of two nuclear bombs. Yet in the decades that followed, these two countries worked hard to forge peace not only through the ceasing of hostility, but through military and economic cooperation and cultural exchange. Today, the two former enemies are close allies.

When we think about the concept of “peace,” we often think only about the ceasing of conflict or struggle, as in the end of a war. And in this way, our understanding of peace is largely circumstantial—we think we have peace when our situation is no longer difficult or stressful. But Jesus tells us that the peace He leaves is not the same as the world offers: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27).

How do the world’s peace and Jesus’ peace differ? At least one difference is that experiencing Christ’s peace doesn’t depend on our circumstances, but a relationship. The peace of Jesus comes through the Father sending us His Son and Spirit (John 14:23,26). Through Christ’s Spirit, our Counselor and Teacher, we experience His peace in us (John 14:26). This peace doesn’t depend on perfect circumstances, but a perfect and personal triune God—who in Christ has won the victory over Satan and is returning again to restore all things (John 14:28,30).

Jesus cautioned us that we’re certain to face troubling circumstances in our lives (John 16:33). But our peace doesn’t come from avoiding the valleys, but in experiencing even in those moments the presence of God with us (Psalm 23:4).

 

Beware of Criticizing Others

By Oswald Chambers

Beware of Criticizing Others

Jesus’ instructions with regard to judging others is very simply put; He says, “Don’t.” The average Christian is the most piercingly critical individual known. Criticism is one of the ordinary activities of people, but in the spiritual realm nothing is accomplished by it. The effect of criticism is the dividing up of the strengths of the one being criticized. The Holy Spirit is the only one in the proper position to criticize, and He alone is able to show what is wrong without hurting and wounding. It is impossible to enter into fellowship with God when you are in a critical mood. Criticism serves to make you harsh, vindictive, and cruel, and leaves you with the soothing and flattering idea that you are somehow superior to others. Jesus says that as His disciple you should cultivate a temperament that is never critical. This will not happen quickly but must be developed over a span of time. You must constantly beware of anything that causes you to think of yourself as a superior person.

There is no escaping the penetrating search of my life by Jesus. If I see the little speck in your eye, it means that I have a plank of timber in my own (see Matthew 7:3-5). Every wrong thing that I see in you, God finds in me. Every time I judge, I condemn myself (see Romans 2:17-24). Stop having a measuring stick for other people. There is always at least one more fact, which we know nothing about, in every person’s situation. The first thing God does is to give us a thorough spiritual cleaning. After that, there is no possibility of pride remaining in us. I have never met a person I could despair of, or lose all hope for, after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God.

 

God Appeals Through Us

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through
us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.    II Corinthians 5: 20
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We Are Ambassadors

From: Our Daily Journey

We Are Ambassadors

Read:

2 Corinthians 5:11-21
We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

For many years, I held on to the dream of one day adopting a five-year-old boy from Russia. “Why such a specific desire?” a former colleague once asked me. “Because,” I explained, “Close friends adopted a five-year-old orphan from Russia and he’s amazing!” Samuel, the young boy from Russia, continues to be an (unofficial) ambassador for his native country.

The actions and attitudes of citizens, whether positive or negative, can significantly affect how others perceive their country of origin. That’s why it’s so important that those of us who profess to follow Jesus remember—at all times—that “we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’ ” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

As ambassadors, we’ve been given a “fearful responsibility to the Lord,” to represent Him in a manner that persuades others to know Him too (2 Corinthians 5:11). Our motives should not include seeking attention and applause for ourselves or our ministry, but to glorify God through our words and actions (2 Corinthians 5:12).

As ambassadors, may we grasp that we are empowered by Christ’s love, that He died for all, and that we’ve died to our old way of life (2 Corinthians 5:14). In response, by His strength, our aim should be to no longer live for ourselves but instead to live for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15). This is an important charge as others are watching us and will make assumptions about what it means to believe in Jesus based on what our lives reflect.

What an extraordinary gift we have from God! He saved us from our sins, made us right with God through Christ, and permits us to be part of His work of reconciling people to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18). Yes, we are His ambassadors.

 

Glynnis Whitwer June 15, 2018
Does God Even Care About Me?
GLYNNIS WHITWER

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” Matthew 10:29 (NIV)

A good friend’s father abandoned the family when she was young. As a result, she struggled relating to God as her Father. Another friend’s dad was harsh and critical. It took years for her to feel unconditionally loved by God.

As a young Christian, I was thankful I didn’t have major issues with my father. Although my dad wasn’t a Christ-follower, he allowed my mom to take me and my little sister to church. And though he never said, “I love you” nor attended any of my school performances, I knew he loved me in his own way. My father was a good man, hardworking and faithful to his family. However, he was an uninvolved presence in my life.

So if I had a problem, I went to my mother. If I got into trouble, I called my mother. When I wanted advice, well, you can guess whom I called. This didn’t seem odd to me.

For years I congratulated myself on navigating my father’s distant personality with minimal negative impact. I was deeply aware it could have been worse, and I thanked God for a happy childhood. It wasn’t until years later as an adult that I pushed a little deeper into relating to God as my heavenly Father, based on my earthly experience.

Back then I’d heard everyone (even those with great dads) has some kind of “father issue” with God because of their human (and inherently sinful) earthly fathers. While I wanted to dismiss it, I decided to revisit the topic. Could it be true for me? Was there something missing in my relationship with God?

As I dug deep, I discovered that although I was confident of God’s love, I didn’t really trust Him to be there in times of trouble. Would He step in if I had a problem? Does God even care about me?

Every question revealed the same disturbing truth: I didn’t really, truly, deep in my heart, trust God. Believe in? Yes. Love? Yes. But … trust? The words were easy to mouth, but my heart wasn’t singing the same tune.

This realization shed light on so many issues that hadn’t seemed troublesome enough to address. Like why I had trouble praying for myself. And why I had so much fear for myself and my children, or why I neglected to seek God’s wisdom in decision-making.

Seems I really did have “father issues” that affected my intimacy with God. I didn’t know what it was like to have a father to turn to in good or bad times. But I wanted to learn. I desperately wanted to know God as a perfect Father.

So as awkward as it felt, I made some changes.

I intentionally got more personal in prayer, even addressing God as “Dad.” (Mark 14:36) Faced with decisions, even small ones, I asked God for advice. (James 1:5) And when fear started to well up, like when I navigated a fear of flying, I declared, “I don’t trust the pilot, I don’t trust the mechanic who tightened the bolts, I don’t trust the weather, I trust YOU!” (Psalm 91)

Little by little, my faith and trust grew. I took doubtful thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and intentionally exchanged them with thoughts that affirmed God’s trustworthiness to help in times of trouble.

I also took today’s key verse to heart: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (Matthew 10:29). It took years to rewire my thinking with the truth about God’s ability and willingness to be my heavenly Father. And honestly, I’m still a work in progress.

When I slip back into my independent ways, I must choose to believe what’s true: I have a Heavenly Father who wants to be my hero, champion, protector and confidant — if I’ll only let Him.

Dear heavenly Father, You’re perfect in all Your ways. Your Word says You are a loving father, and I long to know You that way. Only You know the gaps in our relationship based on my imperfect understanding of You. Please reveal them to me, and help me work through them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Always Building and Watching

By: Michele Howe

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“The God of heaven will give us success.” Nehemiah 2:20

Lately, I’ve been relating a lot to the Old Testament character Nehemiah who felt physically exhausted, emotionally spent, and spiritually opposed (and I’m not trying to rebuild a wall — just be faithful to the small stuff God has called me to do). As I read about the circumstances surrounding this unflinching soul who labored long and hard despite opposition from many forces, I am struck by this man’s focus on his objective to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (no matter what).

No doubt, Nehemiah, like all of us, caught the glorious vision of restoring what enemies had destroyed, for God’s honor and as a testimony of hope for the future of God’s people. When he realized the depth of destruction that had occurred, Nehemiah sat down and wept. Sound familiar? I wonder how many of us have the same reaction to — the national news, our local news, even to daily reports from our closest friends and family?

Of course, the appropriate reaction to any report of injury, loss, and destruction is to sit down and weep. But Nehemiah didn’t stop with the natural reaction; he took the news of the catastrophe and went straight to God.

Nehemiah’s bold prayer of faith, of great expectation even, is the kind of prayer I’m offering up to the Lord these days because I know my one and only hope lies in the deliverance that God alone can supply.

Reading about the days that followed Nehemiah’s gathering of workers and supplies, I marvel at not only how hard they worked, but how they worked — each one with his weapon in his hand. Nehemiah and his people were always building and watching. In other words, they had a job to do, but they were wise enough to stay on alert to the dangers that always accompany a work of faith (seen and unseen).

“But I (Nehemiah) prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.'” (See Nehemiah 6:9)

Nehemiah, terrific leader that he was, proved himself strong in faith as well as street smarts. He knew instinctively what I often forget. God can call us to a work; but it’s up to us to make sure we have our equipment, our supplies, and our weapons at the ready because opposition is always lurking just outside our line of vision.

For me, when I have a job to do, my best work (for God) comes only after I’ve counted the cost and prepared for the task at hand. For all of us, preparation comes in many guises … and there’ll be a price to pay, a burden we willingly take on, and sacrifices we’ll gladly make the moment God calls us. And yet, we can only complete the job with God’s sovereign intervention.

He puts the burden upon our heart to accomplish for Him something we can only do through Him. Each step of the way, with our hand upon our weapon (of faith), He gives us the gift of conscious reliance upon His moment-by-moment provision. We’re only truly suited for serving well when we truly understand the depth of our dependence upon Him.