Category Archives: Health

Be Wise And Not Foolish

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Fools Rush In

Did you know that April Fools’ Day is a holiday that is celebrated in many countries?

The custom of playing practical jokes on friends has been part of our traditional celebration dating as far back as ancient Rome. It is said to be related to the vernal equinox and the coming of spring – the time when nature fools us with the sudden changes between showers and sunshine.

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “fool” as a person who lacks good judgment or prudence. Another notable characteristic of a fool is that he can sometimes be rather gullible. A few humorous examples of past “tomfooleries” have been well documented.

The BBC television program Panorama ran a famous hoax in 1957, showing the Swiss harvesting spaghetti from trees. A lot of people wanted spaghetti trees of their own.

A report on television about the invention of dehydrated water was broadcast, claiming that all you had to do was shine ultraviolet light onto a powder and it turned into water.

As humorous as some of those past April fool’s jestings are, the Bible has some fairly strong words to say about fools. The book of Ecclesiastes tells us:

“A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time.” (Ecclesiastes 7:4 NLT)

So too, the Book of Proverbs records many of the unfortunate plights of the foolish.

A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth invites a flogging. (Proverbs 18:6).

Fools die for lack of sense. (Proverbs 10:21).

Honor is not fitting for a fool. (Proverbs 26:1)

A fool is hotheaded and reckless (Proverbs 14:16).

Fools mock at making amends for sin. (Proverbs 14:9)

But the most disturbing words spoken in Scripture about a fool are found in the Book of Psalms when it says:

“The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)

For God said to [the rich man], ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God. (Luke 12:20-21)

Before we go around condemning others, we must humbly admit that we all (at one time or another) have played the fool. We have fallen victim to doing foolish and unwise things. The result? Our lives had become enmeshed in the consequences of the domino effect of reaping that which we had sown.

So Lord, our prayer to you is, “Please help us to always be wise in all that we do and in all that we say,” because your word tells us:

The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception. (Proverbs 14:8).

The Foolish Wise Man

By: Greg Laurie, crosswalk.com

 

I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind. – (Ecclesiastes 1:14)

When Solomon set out to research the roots of human behavior, he started by getting the finest education available in his day. Despite that fantastic education, however, there was still an emptiness in his life. He wrote, “So I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly. But I learned firsthand that pursuing all this is like chasing the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:17). Why was that? Because Solomon sought wisdom without God, and that left him empty. It always will.

Academic pursuit wasn’t doing it for Solomon, so he decided to check his brains at the door and just party. He concluded, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?” (Ecclesiastes 2:2). Then Solomon became a wine connoisseur and got into every kind of alcoholic drink he could think of. But he saw how empty that was too.

Solomon shifted gears again. With unlimited resources at his disposal, he decided build the coolest palaces and the most lavish homes ever seen. But even that, he concluded, was empty.

Like Solomon, so many people today think God doesn’t know what He’s talking about. They have to go out and learn everything the hard way. How many more people will have to make this mistake? How many more marriages will be destroyed? How many more children will be deprived of both parents? How many more lives will be destroyed by substance abuse? How many more people will choose to simply chase after material things and never think of others?

Don’t waste your life as Solomon did. He self-destructed, but in the end he came around. That is why he had something to say to all of us in Ecclesiastes. It is his account of what he learned the hard way. Solomon was indeed the foolish wise man.

 

God Doesn’t Play Red Light, Green Light

 

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:2-5 (ESV)

I hear a lot of people in faith communities talking about doors, like God is a concierge at an apartment building. “He opened the door” or “He closed the door” gets tossed around a lot. Yet I’ve come to realize that although God orders all our steps, we have agency over the moves we decide to make, too.

We turn to God for answers, direction and purpose in our lives, and He gives us Jesus all over again. Our faith isn’t a puzzle to be solved, it’s a path to be followed. But how?

Sure, I get the concept about open and closed doors. I’m just not sure I accept the premise that God is playing “red light, green light” games, telling us to advance or go back, in every situation.

While I do think God cares intimately about our hearts and ambitions when they’re His, I don’t think He’s necessarily the guy standing at the door, opening and closing it. If you’re a musician and sing bad songs, I wouldn’t be too quick to say “God shut the door on my career.” It’s a hard truth, but maybe it’s time to get better at singing.

If you’re an author like me and write uninspiring words, as has happened often to me, let’s aim to bring it to Jesus and not blame Him for it. What I’m saying is that it’s easy to conjure up divine intervention for poor performance. Let’s not fall for it. And instead, we can get busy getting better.

Does God engage in our lives in unseen ways? Certainly. Who knows how many guardian angels have put themselves between you and a bad outcome? Hitting a couple of road bumps doesn’t always mean God is trying to send a secret, encrypted message. Maybe what we tried just didn’t work out the way we hoped.

What I’ve come to really believe is that in God’s economy, nothing is ever wasted. Not our pain, nor our disappointments, nor our setbacks. These are tools that can be used later as a recipe for our best work. Quit throwing the “batter” away.

Today’s key verse says it best. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:2-5).

Thankfully, God isn’t tapping His pencil on a scorecard, scrutinizing our every move until we get it right. He is with us while we navigate life’s difficulties. We all mess up — often. So let’s keep moving ahead. With our eyes on Jesus rather than caring how we look to everyone else. If we keep it about Jesus, He promised we’d come to know more about Him while we’re figuring out a few more things about ourselves.

Some things we try will work; others won’t. It’s that simple. So, I’m making it my goal to learn what I can from the successes or setbacks and move on.

Our failures don’t name us — God does. If you’re not hearing the name “beloved” whispered over your shoulder when you have a major face-plant or a setback, just remember, it’s not Jesus doing the talking.

 

God pleading for saints, and saints pleading for God

By: Charles Spurgion

‘O Lord, thou has pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life.’ Lamentations 3:58

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 126:1–6

A man went to preach for seven summers on the village green, and good was done. Joseph sometimes listened to the preacher, but he remained as hard as ever. A certain John who had felt the power of truth, worked with him in the barn, and one day, between the strokes of the flail, John spoke a word for truth and for God, but Joseph laughed at him. Now, John was very sensitive, and his whole soul was filled with grief at Joseph’s banter; so after he had spoken, he turned to the corner of the barn and hid his face, while a flood of tears came streaming from his eyes. He wiped them away with the corner of his smock-frock, and came back to his flail; but Joseph had noticed the tears though the other tried to hide them; and what argument could not do, those tears through God the Holy Spirit did effectually, for Joseph thought, ‘What! does John care for my soul, and weep for my soul? then it is time I should care and weep for it too.’ Beloved, witness thus for Christ! Be it mine to weep for the sins of the times, and prophesy against them. Be it yours in your own private walk and conversation to rebuke private sin; and by your loving earnestness to make Jesus Christ dear to many souls! Tell them that Jesus Christ came to save sinners; that he is able to save to the uttermost all who come to him, and that ‘whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life;’ and in this way you shall plead the cause of God, who has pleaded the causes of your soul.

For meditation: Apparently insignificant people often have a disproportionately significant role to play in God’s work. The curing of Naaman’s leprosy resulted from his obedience to the word of the famous prophet Elisha (2 Kings 5:10,14); but this would not have happened without him being invited by a little maid (2 Kings 5:2–4) and being followed up by his servants (2 Kings 5:13) after he had initially poured scorn upon Elisha’s message (2 Kings 5:11–12).

A Joyful Heart Is Good Medicine

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King of Hearts

In the famous children’s novel, Alice in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts is an interesting character. Overseeing the kingdom with the King of Hearts, she changes from pleasant to enraged every other minute. At the slightest offense, she shouts, “Off with their heads!” It seems ordering executions is one of her hobbies. However, as the story goes, very few were actually beheaded. The kind King of Hearts quietly pardoned many of his subjects while his foul-tempered wife wasn’t looking.

This story makes me wonder about how people see God. Do they view Him as a quick-to-judge King who enjoys shelling out punishment like the Queen of Hearts? Or do they see Him as the kind King of Hearts pardoning the offenses of His subjects?

The Apostle Paul asked,

“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” Romans 2:4 (NLT)

It’s hard to determine exactly how people form their opinion of God – maybe they had a hard father or a moody mother. If those cases, you can almost understand a misguided view of God since our earthly parents are sometimes the only example we have – right or wrong.

When I was growing up, I had a friend who was raised in a very strict Christian home. She often wanted to spend the night at my house because our rules were quite different and she could do what she wanted without consequence. Years later, when we were in college and I had become a Christian, we bumped into each other and I was very excited to share my new-found faith with her. To my surprise, she had abandoned her beliefs. She explained that if God was as hard as her parents made Him out to be, she’d rather spend this lifetime enjoying herself. I didn’t know the harsh “God” she spoke of, so I left our conversation very sad.

The God I met and fell in love with is a King of Hearts. Despite all my failures and extreme sins, He pardoned me. And the more realization I had of how much He actually pardoned, the more I loved Him and wanted to serve Him.

“Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But — when God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:3-5 (NLT)

If I were to compare someone to the Queen of Hearts, it sure wouldn’t be God. I’ve yet to hear Him say, “Off with their heads!” His kindness is generous and His love is unfailing.

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8 (NLT)

However, if I were to reject His kindness and remain hard-hearted, there would come a day when instead of standing before the King of Hearts, I would have to give an account before the Judge of Hearts. And in His righteous judgment, He would have to declare me guilty and cast me from His presence. What a sad day that would be! Some have said, “If God is so kind, then why would He send people to hell?” These are mistaken… Because God is kind, He provided a way for people to AVOID hell and eternal separation from Him. He is the King of Hearts and

… with undeserved kindness, He declares that we [who put our trust in Him now] are righteous. [paraphrase mine] “He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty of our sins.” Romans 3:24 (NLT)

There was a penalty. But there was also a payment. When the order should have been, “Off with their heads!” – a new and superior order was made: “Restore them to Me!” The King spoke it, and the Word was fulfilled. Not based on anything we have or have not done, His grace covers a multitude of sin.

“And since it is through God’s kindness [that we are saved], then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is–free and undeserved.” Romans 11:6 (NLT)

He is the King of kindness and for that reason, He is also the King of my heart.

 

How’s Your Heart?

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

“How’s your heart?” This is the question he asked me almost every time we talked, which was often. But I will not hear these words from him anymore in this life.

Recently after a 2-1/2 year battle with cancer, Scott – my friend and coworker – went to be with Jesus. I miss him, and selfishly, I need to hear his loving question: “Boyd, how is your heart?”

To me, Scott was a spiritual doctor who cared about my heart’s condition. He knew the quality of my life depended on the health of my heart. He reminded me of my need for the Great Physician.

Today’s key verse says everything flows from your heart – your hopes, your dreams, your fears, your anxieties, your anger, your forgiveness, your humility, your peace, your greed, your generosity, and your love. Yes, everything that makes you who you are is in your heart. So above all else, your heart needs a guard – and God is your guard.

When the Holy Spirit fills your heart by faith, He flushes out sin and leaves enough room for the Fruit of the Spirit. Only a heart guarded by God can bear up under the influence of ungodliness. A heart submitted to Christ in prayer is protected by Christ with peace.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, NIV).

Unhealthy heart conditions include:

    • Faintheartedness
    • Loss of heart
    • A broken heart
    • A foolish heart
    • A hard heart

The remedy for these spiritual ailments is a whole heart for Jesus.

You may feel fainthearted today – weary in your faith and work. If so, take time to slow down,

rest and allow the Holy Spirit to restore your heart to wholeness.

A loss of heart is a reflection of hope deferred, which creates a sickly soul condition. But hope in

Christ gives your heart peace and reassurance.

Perhaps your heart is broken by past hurt or present rejection. Seek your heavenly Father to be

forgiven and to forgive.

Be on guard! A foolish heart forgets God or even stops believing God. Excessive worry can act

like a form of atheism. When we are paralyzed by fear and anxiety, we sometimes behave as if

God does not exist. So, we must guard against a foolish heart by gaining a heart of wisdom.

Most disturbing is a hard heart – someone jaded by injustice and/or the lack of integrity in

others. Fortunately, by faith in Jesus a hard heart can be replaced by a heart born from above. A

heart from the Lord gives us a heart for the Lord.

So, in honor of Scott, let me ask you, friend, “How is your heart?”

A Heart Like Jesus

What if, for one day, Jesus were to become you? What if, for twenty-four hours, Jesus wakes up in your bed, walks in your shoes, lives in your house, assumes your schedule? Your boss becomes His boss, your mother becomes His mother, your pains become His pains? With one exception, nothing about your life changes. Your health doesn’t change. Your circumstances don’t change. Your schedule isn’t altered. Your problems aren’t solved. Only one change occurs.

What if, for one day and one night, Jesus lives your life with His heart?

Your heart gets the day off, and your life is led by the heart of Christ. His priorities govern your actions. His passions drive your decisions. His love directs your behavior.

What would you be like? Would people notice a change? Your family – would they see something new? Your coworkers – would they sense a difference? What about the less fortunate? Would you treat them the same? And your friends? Would they detect more joy? How about your enemies? Would they receive more mercy from Christ’s heart than from yours?

And you? How would you feel? What alterations would this transplant have on your stress level? Your mood swings? Your temper? Would you sleep better? Would you see sunsets differently? Death differently? Taxes differently? Any chance you’d need fewer aspirin or sedatives? How about your reaction to traffic delays? (Ouch, that touched a nerve.) Would you still dread what you are dreading? Better yet, would you still do what you are doing?

Would you still do what you had planned to do for the next twenty-four hours?

Pause and think about your schedule. Obligations. Engagements. Outings. Appointments. With Jesus taking over your heart, would anything change?

Keep working on this for a moment. Adjust the lens of your imagination until you have a clear picture of Jesus leading your life, then snap the shutter and frame the image. What you see is what God wants. He wants you to “think and act like Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

God’s plan for you is nothing short of a new heart.

“You were taught to be made new in your hearts, to become a new person. That new person is made to be like God – made to be truly good and holy” (Ephesians 4:23-24).

God wants you to be just like Jesus. He wants you to have a heart like His.

I’m going to risk something here. It’s dangerous to sum up grand truths in one statement, but I’m going to try. If a sentence or two could capture God’s desire for each of us, it might read like this:

God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.

If you think His love for you would be stronger if your faith were, you are wrong. If you think His love would be deeper if your thoughts were, wrong again. Don’t confuse God’s love with the love of people. The love of people often increases with performance and decreases with mistakes. Not so with God’s love. He loves you right where you are. To quote my wife’s favorite author:

God’s love never ceases. Never. Though we spurn Him. Ignore Him. Reject Him. Despise Him. Disobey Him. He will not change.

Our evil cannot diminish His love. Our goodness cannot increase it. Our faith does not earn it any more than our stupidity jeopardizes it. God doesn’t love us less if we fail or more if we succeed.

When my daughter Jenna was a toddler, I used to take her to a park not far from our apartment. One day as she was playing in a sandbox, an ice-cream salesman approached us. I purchased her a treat, and when I turned to give it to her, I saw her mouth was full of sand. Where I intended to put a delicacy, she had put dirt.

Did I love her with dirt in her mouth? Absolutely. Was she any less my daughter with dirt in her mouth? Of course not. Was I going to allow her to keep the dirt in her mouth? No way. I loved her right where she was, but I refused to leave her there. I carried her over to the water fountain and washed out her mouth. Why? Because I love her.

God does the same for us. He holds us over the fountain. “Spit out the dirt, honey,” our Father urges. “I’ve got something better for you.” And so He cleanses us of filth: immorality, dishonesty, prejudice, bitterness, greed. We don’t enjoy the cleansing; sometimes we even opt for the dirt over the ice cream. “I can eat dirt if I want to!” we pout and proclaim. Which is true – we can. But if we do, the loss is ours. God has a better offer. He wants us to be just like Jesus.

Isn’t that good news? You aren’t stuck with today’s personality. You aren’t condemned to “grumpydom.” You are tweakable. Even if you’ve worried each day of your life, you needn’t worry the rest of your life. So what if you were born a bigot? You don’t have to die one.

Where did we get the idea we can’t change? Jesus can change our hearts. He wants us to have a heart like his. Can you imagine a better offer?

Rising On Wings Of Faith

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Rising on Wings of Faith

I enjoy feeding wildlife in my garden. One evening, I noticed a bluejay sitting alone after the other birds had gone. I eased up to it. The bluejay was alive but barely moving.

The bluejay seemed comforted by my presence, so I sat on the ground near the bird until mosquitoes swarmed around me. I hated to leave the bird alone but needed to go inside. I’d never rehabilitated a wild bird before. I decided I’d call the local wildlife office in the morning.

In the meantime, I prayed, “Lord, I place this bluejay in your hands.”

The next morning, I slid on my garden shoes and walked outside to where the bird had been the night before. It was gone! Based on the bird’s condition, I doubted it flew away. Had a predator taken it? Maybe the neighbor’s cat or an owl?

My husband sensed my concern. “Where did you place the bird?” he asked. “I placed the bluejay in God’s hands — but this isn’t what I expected God to do!”

Deep inside, I knew that if I couldn’t believe God would take care of the bird, there was no way I could believe He would take care of me.

While speaking about worry, Jesus gave us a comparison between the importance of our lives and the importance of birds.

“Look at the birds of the air. . . your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26 (NIV)

The Lord gently holds us. Not a day goes by that we have to worry, wonder, or fear the sovereignty of His answers. He hears our prayers and knows the concerns of our hearts. Guess who I saw drinking from my bird fountain two days later? The bluejay!

How do I know it was the same bird? Its feathers were rumpled, it hopped with a limp, and it lingered behind the other birds. The bluejay looked at me just before it flew away. I looked at my husband. Faith rose in my heart. I looked back out the screen door and smiled.

“It’ll be just fine,” I said. “This time, I’ve learned not only to place the bluejay in God’s hands, but my whole heart, too.”

What’s concerning you today? Is there a situation that you’re apprehensive about? Do you long for the reassurance of heaven? If so, you can place your worries in God’s great hands.

Remember, Jesus’s hands were pierced with nails on Calvary’s cross so that you can walk free, forgiven, and be without burden. There on the cross, Jesus paid the ultimate price to win your love. Consider that. Jesus remained confident in God even as He hung on the cross dying in mockery and seemingly forsaken.

Where did Jesus’ confidence come from? According to the book of Luke, He understood the capable and mighty hands of God.

“Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When He had said this, He breathed His last.” Luke 23:46 (NIV)

If Jesus, who was gloriously raised from the dead and now sits at the right hand of God in heaven, trusted his well being in the hands of his father — despite how bleak the situation looked — won’t you also trust in God?” (See Luke 24:7 and Acts 2:24)

Here’s a suggested prayer:

Lord, I’m broken today. The struggles of life have weighed me down. Yet, I agree with David, the psalmist who wrote that you do not despise a broken and contrite heart (Ps. 51:17). You welcome me into your presence just as I am. I know that your desire is to restore, build up, heal, and cleanse. I offer my life to you afresh. I believe by faith that you are more than able to take what is broken in me, repair it, and mend me again. How I need you, Lord. I’m dependent upon your great grace that reaches down to touch the point of my need. I give you my praise today. There is none like you. Only you take that which is empty and cause it to be full to overflowing. Will you do that in my heart right now? I ask that you would cause great joy to bubble up—not circumstantial happiness, but rather the rich, resonating inner wholeness that comes as the result of Jesus’s abundant love living in me. Amen.

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” Psalm 16:11a (NIV)

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:6-10 (NIV)

 

The Long, Hard Journey of Faith

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

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When I became a Christian, I thought all my problems would go away, and God would take care of everything with a snap of His fingers.

The truth is, my life fell apart within weeks of being baptized. Suffice it to say, accepting Jesus and asking Him to be Lord of my life didn’t obliterate the garbage I’d pressed down in the compactor of my heart.

In His mercy and grace, God didn’t bring up all my sins, sinful habits and sinful ways of thinking at one time. I’d have likely despaired if He had.

Instead, He opened my eyes over time. Through His Holy Spirit, I saw the painful truth. I agreed with God about my sins. Even before I was a Christian, I knew when I did wrong. My conscience told me. But the heart is deceitful, and the mind can rationalize and justify any behavior. And we tend to surround ourselves with like-thinkers. I can’t cast blame. Wrongs are done to us by others, but that never excuses us from doing wrong ourselves.

Thankfully, God created us as His masterpiece — His work of art — and He has destined us to accomplish great things in our lifetimes: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10). God knows who and what we are. He offers one way to be saved for all eternity: Accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. No other way. While seeing and acknowledging the truth about myself, I also experienced the amazing grace and love of God.

Coming to Jesus opened my eyes to who I am. I am a sinner. I am human. I am weak. I stumble and fall, even now that I am saved. I am also a daughter of the King. I am loved by God. And He is strong. He is faithful. He keeps His Word. He will never abandon me. He helps me stand again. He gives me the will to keep walking in the steps of Jesus.

But honestly, it can be very hard, working out our salvation. By working, I mean living it, not earning it. As the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 2:12b, we are to “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.” (NLT)

Friends, the faith journey isn’t easy. Believing is only the first step onto the narrow pathway. The next steps put a believer on the road of trial and blessing as we walk out a new life as a disciple of Christ. We must stick close to Jesus, read His Word, lean in and listen. We need to obey, even when it means personal, painful sacrifice. That’s the long, hard journey of transformation. That’s the kind of faith that impacts the world.

 

The Power of Trusting the Lord with All Your Heart

By Debbie McDaniel, crosswalk.org

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”Proverbs 3:5-6

If the future feels uncertain right now, and worry keeps occupying too much room in your heart, in your mind, remember this: God is already in all of our tomorrows. He knows our way, and He has a plan. And we can be assured it’s always the best one for us.

God never asks us to figure it all out on our own. He just asks us to trust Him, to recognize His leadership and Sovereignty in our lives. And He promises to make our pathways straight.

– “Trust (be confident in, be bold, be secure)

– in the Lord with all your heart (seat of emotions, inclinations, mind, soul),

– and do not lean (trust, support)

– on your own understanding (discernment).

– In all your ways acknowledge Him (know, recognize),

– and He will make your paths straight (pleasing, right, smooth).” Proverbs 3:5-6

We may not always see what’s ahead, but He does.

There’s great power in trusting Him. For it clears the way for our security to be based solely on Him, not on our circumstances, or other people, not on ourselves, or our own ways of thinking.

He is faithful to lead us and He sees the big picture. He brings clarity and light through foggy times. He knows what’s around the other side of the bend where we can’t fully see. His timing is perfect even when we start to feel like we’ve been forgotten. No matter how we feel or what our current situation may be, we can be confident that God’s Presence will go before us, paving out pathways, guiding and guarding our steps.

Keep choosing trust. Let go of worry, hold on to Him.

Peace.

 

Streams in the Desert – July 7

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

He hath made me a polished shaft (Isa. 49:2).

There is a very famous “Pebble Beach” at Pescadero, on the California coast. The long line of white surf comes up with its everlasting roar, and rattles and thunders among the stones on the shore. They are caught in the arms of the pitiless waves, and tossed and rolled, and rubbed together, and ground against the sharp-grained cliffs. Day and night forever the ceaseless attrition goes on–never any rest. And the result?

Tourists from all the world flock thither to gather the round and beautiful stones. They are laid up in cabinets; they ornament the parlor mantels. But go yonder, around the point of the cliff that breaks off the force of the sea; and up in that quiet cove, sheltered from the storms, and lying ever in the sun, you shall find abundance of pebbles that have never been chosen by the traveler.

Why are these left all the years through unsought? For the simple reason that they have escaped all the turmoil and attrition of the waves, and the quiet and peace have left them as they found them, rough and angular and devoid of beauty. Polish comes through trouble.

Since God knows what niche we are to fill, let us trust Him to shape us to it. Since He knows what work we are to do, let us trust Him to drill us to the proper preparation.

O blows that smite! O hurts that pierce
This shrinking heart of mine!
What are ye but the Master’s tools
Forming a work Divine?

Nearly all God’s jewels are crystallized tears.

Healing Emotional Wounds

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Dirty Gauze and Sticky Tape: Healing Emotional Wounds

He wore it like a badge of honor. Medals for valor and bravery in the face of battle couldn’t hold more significance for a 7-year-old. He had, after all, vanquished some foe or performed some death-defying act of fearlessness while in his outside playtime world. Unfortunately, with all this bravado came the inevitable skinned knee and shin.

My youngest son, Curt, sat before me on the edge of the bathroom sink as I cleaned the soiled wound. “Blood … real blood!” His deep, dark brown eyes sparkled through the dirt and grime on his face, showing his childish delight at the sight of the red fluid. His momentary winces of discomfort gave way to wide-eyed smiles that revealed the significance of this event.

“Cool!” his satisfied expression said.

Through his pain, his pride swelled. Sure, he was hurting — but it felt good! In his mind, this moment was really special!

I was preparing to send him on his way after a thorough cleaning when he suddenly stopped and realized that daddy had not given him his full reward. With a trembling lip, he reminded me that he needed a bandage — a recognition of his conflict, a reminder of his conquest, and a centerpiece of conversation for all of his friends.

The scrape on his knee and shin was several scratches that ran in an odd three-inch lengthwise pattern from his knee toward his foot. The inch-wide sterile strips we normally used for “ow-ies” would not easily cover this wound. After rifling through the bathroom cabinets for larger strips, I came across two four-inch square gauze pads in their waxpaper-like protective wrappings. “Too big,” I thought. This would certainly be too much bandage for such a minor wound. Yet there were no other sterile strips to be used.

After a brief moment of indecision over which kind of bandage to use, I finally squeezed some antibiotic ointment on the square of gauze and pressed it to his leg. I cut two generous strips of white medical sticky tape and wrapped them around the gauze and the boy’s leg at the top and bottom of the square.

Finally! Now he was able to relax and enjoy the notoriety this badge of honor would soon become. After returning to the yard, he was already walking straighter and taller than he ever had before. Confidence and pride filled his being.

Two days later, after avoiding a thorough bathing for long enough, it was time for me to remove the now dirty gauze square and the sticky tape that had faithfully held the gauze in place. As the bath water began to fill, I sat Curt down and began to carefully peel off the bandage. On the outside, the gauze reflected the grime of two days of school playgrounds and evening playtimes. On the inside, two pink dots were the only reminders of the blood that flowed days before. Even the wound was now a light pink discoloration on the boy’s leg. After a cleansing bath, even that reminder would soon fade.

I stood up in the bathroom and chuckled to myself at how filthy the bandage had become, and I remembered all the fuss made to dress the wound. It was at that moment that I sensed God’s feedback on my musings, “That’s how My people treat the wounds of their hearts.”

At that moment, I began to catch a small glimpse of God’s perspective on those minor hurts, small offenses and relational breakdowns among His children. I could sense His frustration when His people treat minor hurts, scrapes, and bruises like major, gaping mortal wounds.

We all have felt justified in demanding the gauze and sticky tape for our minor soulish scratches. After days of parading around our “badges of honor”, we suddenly realize how dirty our self-righteousness has become. To bathe in God’s forgiveness and cleansing, our dirty gauze must be removed.

In a split-second, I perceived a healing strategy from God’s Word for those who have endured wounds of the soul:

Keep a grace perspective! Wounds of the soul are just as real as wounds of the body. Lies, deceit, slander, selfishness, verbal and emotional abuse, misunderstanding — regardless of the cause, these wounds cut deep and have a profound and lasting effect on the believer.

I am reasonably sure that you have been the target of cruelty and mean-spiritedness, just as I have. The first step to victory and healing of soulish wounds is to realize that Jesus is the Healer of your emotional wounds, just as He clearly is the Healer of our bodies. His healing virtue is only appropriated by grace through faith, so our only “action,” when we have been wounded, is to believe — to accept His healing grace by faith.

“He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” Psalm 107:20 (KJV)

Nothing is happening to you that is personal or unique: it’s occurring in all the rest of the Body of Christ as well (see 1 Peter 5:9).

Keep it accountable! A key to healing lies in the sharing of the need, the widening of the circle of trust.

“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church … confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” James 5:14,16 (NKJV)

Don’t stifle or trivialize hurts or emotional wounds. Share them with a trusted friend or minister, and ask for this prayer of healing promised to the local church. By verbalizing hurts, we help keep the healthiest perspective on life issues. Keep pressing into praise until joy wins out! The power and majesty of praise and worship help to diminish the hurt and magnify the Healer! A former pastor of mine said, “Worship is establishing the relative positions between God and man.” Therefore, the act of “trading our sorrows” helps to release the “oil of joy for gladness.”

“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” Proverbs 15:13 (NKJV)

By applying these truths to our prayer life, we can overcome hurts and soulish wounds. Just like Curt found his wounds had healed, when we remove the dirty gauze and sticky tape from our emotional hurts, and then cleanse the wounded area, we are able to relish the healing grace of Jesus Christ. May God give you boldness to obtain His promised freedom!

 

Healing for the Deepest Wounds

She just needed a little money to finish college.
The price was steep, but she reasoned to herself that she wouldn’t pay it for long. She was only ten units away from earning her degree.

But the price is always steeper than expected when the Enemy is offering the solution to our problems. Before she knew it, she was the one wearing a price tag.

When she finally escaped the man who had trafficked her, she still didn’t have the money for college. Instead, she was completely broken and had a baby on the way. It was difficult to believe that anyone or anything had the power to heal her heart’s deepest wounds.

Then Jesus stepped in.

“He helped me to see that I could never be too far gone and that He came to die for people just like me,” she said.

“When I thought He had given up on me, I look back now and realize that in my darkest moments, He was right there next to me.”1

I don’t know what wounds you carry, but maybe you have doubts about whether they can be healed, like this young woman did. Am I too far gone? Has God given up on me?

Maybe your heartbreak is so overwhelming that you can’t imagine healing and relief. I understand. I’ve been there.

But this truth is eternal: nothing is too hard for God.

God wanted to be sure you knew this was true, so He included in Scripture countless stories of shattered lives that He made whole.

David had a child through adultery and had his lover’s husband murdered, yet he went on to become known as a man after God’s own heart. Mary Magdalene was possessed by demons, yet she was delivered from them and, later, was the first to see the risen Christ! The Samaritan woman had a long line of broken relationships, and her bad reputation made her a social outcast. But after she met Christ, she became the first missionary to her village.

We could go on and on to make this point: God restores people.

What about you? Do you want to know that God’s healing power is enough for you too? Come into His presence and risk asking this question: “My God, can You heal the deepest wounds of my heart?”

Then open your heart to hear His sweet response:

All things are possible with [Me]. — Mark 10:27

There is no place so dark that the love of Christ can’t find you and heal you.

 

Healing Past Wounds and Forgiving Present Scars

From: Crosswalk.com

 

Weekly Overview:

Offering forgiveness to others is one of the most difficult and important aspects of the Christian life. The Bible clearly commands us to forgive others. God longs to fashion us into his likeness that we might model the love we’ve been shown to a world with no concept of mercy. He longs for us to offer grace and forgiveness to the undeserving as we have been offered grace and forgiveness when we were undeserving. May you be filled with courage and boldness to offer forgiveness to those in desperate need of grace. And may God’s love shine through as you enter into your calling as a minister of reconciliation.

Scripture:“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” >1 Peter 2:24

Devotional:

All of us have experienced trial and pain. All of us are living life wounded and scarred. We learn to deal with our wounds and press forward, but whether we acknowledge it or not, wounds and scars change us. There are no perfect parents. There are no perfect friends. There are no perfect siblings or spouses. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect humans. We lash out and hurt others because we are broken and in need of healing.

One of the most critical spiritual exercises we can undergo is allowing God to heal our past wounds and guide us to a lifestyle of forgiving present scars. Without healing and forgiveness, other people’s mistakes will affect our future. Without the inner working of the Holy Spirit, we will live in continual suffering from the sins of others.

Our God is a God of healing. Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 103:2-4 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.” >1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” Your heavenly Father longs to speak to the wounded places in your life and heal them with his love.

What past experience, trial, hurtful word, or person is still harmfully affecting your life today? Where do you need the Holy Spirit to come and speak healing over you? Where do you need to cry out to God in anger or frustration over a wound? Opening the wounded places of our hearts is an emotional and difficult process, but until we allow God into the harmful events of our pasts we will never experience true freedom and restoration from them. Until we allow ourselves space to deal with what for some have been harmful and defining moments, we will never experience the entirety of the abundant life available to us.

And as the Lord begins to heal our wounds, we must allow him to guide us to a lifestyle of forgiveness for our present scars. We must forgive those people who hurt us so the scars in our lives become symbols of God’s redeeming love rather than reminders of painful events. James 2:13 says, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Show mercy to those who are undeserving of it just as your heavenly Father has shown you mercy. Love your enemies as Jesus did so that you can experience triumph instead of pain, freedom instead of enslavement to negativity, and joy instead of anger. May your heavenly Father be allowed to love you, hold you, and care for the places in your heart that need his healing touch the most.

Salvation In The Soup Line

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Salvation in the Soup Line

Melinda Means, Author, cbn

Right Now We Have Longest Soup Lines In History of America, You Just Can't  See Them… | The Last Refuge

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, …” 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)

I was hungry and in a hurry. My eight-year-old son was doing his best Energizer Bunny impersonation, while my weary body, on the other hand, was ripe for a recharge. I wasn’t interested in small talk. I just wanted food – fast. But as we waited for my soup at the local deli, a stranger kept eyeing me curiously. At first, I kept my head down and tried to ignore his gaze. Finally, I glanced up and offered a strained smile.

“I see you voted today,” he said, spying the conspicuous “I Voted” sticker on my lapel.

“Oh, great,” I thought. “This is worse than small talk. This guy wants to discuss politics!”

“They were holding early voting at the library today,” I replied politely, hoping to put an end to the subject.

Instead, he launched into a diatribe about the candidates. Before I knew it I had been sucked into a spirited discussion about troops, terrorism, and the terrible state of society.

Finally, he said, “I just think that if we all meditated more and focused on peaceful thoughts that would help everyone get along a lot better.”

I sensed an opportunity.

“Well, if you look at history, our problems escalated when this country began to take God out of the equation,” I countered.

“Hmmm… what do you mean by that?” he said with genuine interest.

With the deli staff as my captive audience, I explained how moral absolutes originated with our Creator, which led to a fairly deep exploration of the spiritual. It ended with me inviting my new friend to church.

“If your church discusses these types of issues, I just might visit,” he said.

Just then a man standing nearby piped up, “What church are you talking about? Maybe I’ll come, too.”

I shudder when I consider how many soup-line experiences I’ve probably missed over the years because I’ve been more concerned about the soup than the souls of those around me. As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility “to give the reason for the hope” (1 Peter 3:15) that is ours in Him. Jesus was a Master at weaving the extraordinary into everyday experiences. Here are a few ways we can move closer to His example:

  • Live deliberately. Jesus was not unconcerned with immediate needs; however, he was always driven by His Father’s agenda. A consistently chaotic schedule drowns out the subtle promptings of the Holy Spirit and causes us to view others simply as barriers to our productivity.
  • Confront the controversial. Jesus boldly tackled sensitive subjects, including legalism and adultery, but always with the “gentleness and respect” also mentioned in 1 Peter 3. Rather than cower from confrontation, we can bring truth and light into potentially divisive discussions by listening, asking insightful questions and sharing the transforming work God has done in our own lives.
  • Reserve judgment. Tax collectors, poor fishermen, prostitutes … Jesus saw past society’s labels and straight to people’s need. His free gift of salvation is for everyone. We are His conduit for extending the invitation.

Although I haven’t yet spotted my deli friends at church, I trust God will use my words to make a difference.

“My word … will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)

 

Salvation: The First Step

From: InTouch, ministries

Acts 16:19-40

After a baby takes his first steps, the parents call loved ones. They excitedly announce the awesome accomplishment, which is the beginning of a new life of greater mobility and maturity. In the same way, the Christian life begins with a first step—salvation. But it’s only the start of a new life of increasing spiritual growth.

When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” they answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31). It’s simple enough that even a child can do it, and after salvation, we are all like babies taking our first steps. A new believer doesn’t understand all the doctrines of salvation any more than a toddler knows all the mechanics of walking. However, once we are saved, we have a responsibility to learn what God has done for us and to take more steps of obedience in the Christian life.

Genuine salvation always results in transformation. When we receive Jesus as our personal Savior, He comes to live within us through the Holy Spirit. Our old way of life no longer fits our new identity, and the Spirit works within us to make us more like Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

Has there been a particular point in your life when you recognized your sin and then asked Jesus to forgive you and become your Savior? If so, how has your life been transformed since then? Spiritual growth is one of the ways we can know that we are saved.

 

The Miracle of Salvation

“We’re not sure Dad’s going to make it this time,” Linda said to her family.

Linda’s father had been in the cardiac intensive care unit for ten days. He was dying of congestive heart failure. The most recent crisis was that his kidneys stopped working. Now he was on dialysis.

Linda said, “I had a crushing burden to witness to Dad before he died. He wasn’t a believer, and I didn’t think I had done everything I could for his salvation. I went to see him early in the morning so other visitors wouldn’t be there. Another man was moved into his room, and a curtain was pulled between their beds. I prayed for Dad and told him how much God loved him and wanted to receive him.”

Linda still did not receive assurance of her dad’s salvation. “But I felt at peace about it,” she said. “I told him what I felt God wanted me to tell him. The Great Banquet is prepared for everyone, but sometimes they turn it down.”

Linda was referring to the story in Luke 14.

Jesus replied, “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses.” Luke 14:16-18 NIV

The Great Banquet signifies the Kingdom of heaven. Everyone is invited, but sometimes people make all kinds of excuses for not accepting the invitation.

As Linda went in and out of her dad’s room during the day, she could see that the man in the next bed was dying. He was only 42-years-old and his name was Joey. Toward evening, Joey’s mother was there with him.

“Mother,” said Joey, “Will you please go to the lady sitting in the chair on the other side of the curtain? I want to talk to her.”

Linda walked around the curtain to Joey’s bedside. “I overheard you praying with your dad. Will you pray for me? I want to receive Jesus into my life.”

Linda led him in the prayer of salvation and asked him to repeat these words:

Dear Father, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I am a sinner, and I am very sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived. I repent of my sins and ask your forgiveness. I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross and shed His blood for my sins. I confess Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. I invite you to come into my heart and become my Lord and Savior. Amen.

“It was so beautiful,” said Linda. “I could see that he had a sense of peace after he accepted Christ.”

Joey died later that night.

“I thought it was my dad who was supposed to receive salvation that day, but it was Joey. My dad and Joey shared that room for only one night, but it was long enough for this miracle of salvation. Dad got better and was able to go home from the hospital, something we never expected. Now he attends church with us and I continue to pray for his salvation.”

 

Streams in the Desert – July 5

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

I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness…And I will give her her vineyards from thence (Hosea 2:14-15).

A strange place to find vineyards–in the wilderness! And can it be that the riches which a soul needs can be obtained in the wilderness, which stands for a lonely place, out of which you can seldom find your way? It would seem so, and not only that, but the “Valley of Achor,” which means bitterness, is called a door of hope. And she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth!

Yes, God knows our need of the wilderness experience. He knows where and how to bring out that which is enduring. The soul has been idolatrous, rebellious; has forgotten God, and with a perfect self-will has said, “I will follow after my lovers.” But she did not overtake them. And, when she was hopeless and forsaken, God said, “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.”

What a loving God is ours!
–Crumbs

We never know where God hides His pools. We see a rock, and we cannot guess it is the home of the spring. We see a flinty place, and we cannot tell it is the hiding place of a fountain. God leads me into the hard places, and then I find I have gone into the dwelling place of eternal springs.
–Selected

Happy 4th of July

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A Magnificent Fireworks Display

Naomi loved her Daddy. They always enjoyed spending time together. When he’d return home from work, she would welcomed him with a big hug. She’d sit in his arms on the front-yard grass and watch the cars whizz by. Their time together was priceless.

Her first Fourth of July fireworks, Naomi and Dad watched as neighborhood families celebrated in front of their houses. Fathers lit sparklers and everyone watched how each sent off brilliant, captivating colors into the air. Naomi was enthralled. Smiling from ear to ear, she clapped her hands in the excitement of the moment. She had never seen anything so spectacular.

As Dad settled down under a large oak tree near the lake, he took Naomi’s hand and set her in his lap. They surveyed the sparkling stars in the heavens, as Dad told Naomi about God’s glorious creation.

Others from the neighborhood came down to the shore with blankets and chairs. Naomi wondered what was happening. A few moments later, as she snuggled into her father’s arms, she figured it out.

Boom! Pop-pop-pop! “Ooooo!” Claps and shouts of laughter rang out among the crowd. Magnificent fireworks painted the quiet sky.

Although the loud blasts scared Naomi, her eyes quickly widened with excitement as bright colors flew toward the heavens.

Just as Naomi, loud “booms” often distract me. At times, I allow my attention to be swayed. My overactive imagination starts to work. Yet, distractions, such as disbelief and unforgiveness, are fleeting. He is forever.

Each day God reveals His presence, power, grace, and love. And He continues to amaze me. He answers my long-awaited prayers. When I am discouraged, he is my encouragement. He gives me blessings in abundance.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3 NIV)

God is a magnificent fireworks display and He holds nothing back from us. Don’t focus on the “boom”, distractions because you’ll miss the wonderful plans He has for your life.

 

The Ultimate Freedom-Giver

A tired WWII veteran looked up from his recliner and made eye contact with me. The time had finally come to share vivid memories of the war: “I heard my friend, only 19-years-old like me; he screamed, ‘My legs are gone!’ Then I stepped on a mine. I felt it tear into me. I prayed … not so much for myself, but for my family … my mom, my dad. I lived … but [my friend] died.”

Such sacrifice deserves our appreciation. Let’s recognize that freedom isn’t free. Today, let’s pause and pray for our veterans.

Freedom from sin and death wasn’t free either: Jesus paid the price for you and me. Yes, Jesus died for us to be set free from sin. But, in order to trade our sin for a Heavenly win, we must come to the Giver of true life: Jesus Christ.

“Just as the Son of Man came not to be waited on but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [the price paid to set them free]” (Matthew 20:28, AMP).

Jesus fought our battle for freedom when He took our capital punishment on the cross. He bled so we wouldn’t. He paid what we couldn’t. He conquered the enemy – including sin and death.

On the 4th of July, a lot of drinking occurs. But nothing drowns our sorrows forever. We need true spiritual water. Consider this amazing Scripture combo:

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1).

Jesus quenches the thirst:

“But whoever takes a drink of the water that I will give him shall never, no never, be thirsty any more. But the water that I will give him shall become a spring of water welling up (flowing, bubbling) [continually] within him unto (into, for) eternal life” (John 4:14, AMP).

Yet we often ignore whom we should most adore: Jesus. Will you personally invite Jesus into your heart today? Will you receive His gift of eternal life and turn from trying to do things your way?

His battle-scarred hands reach out to you now. His beautiful, loving heart invites you to know true love and life in Him. Will you open your heart to His? Will you ignore or adore Him today? Remember: Jesus alone holds the power to set you free.

“So if the Son liberates you [makes you free men], then you are really and unquestionably free.” (John 8:36, AMP).

This 4th of July, let’s thank veterans. But let’s not forget our ultimate freedom-giver: Jesus Christ.

 

Walking in Freedom

by Inspiration Ministries

“I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.”
– Psalm 119:45 NLT

The Gospel is about walking in freedom—being freed from sin and every kind of bondage. That’s why, early in His ministry, Jesus quoted Isaiah’s Old Testament prophecy that He had been sent to “set free those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18 NASB). Jesus made clear that this freedom begins with our relationship with Him.

Many Believers (and even non-Believers) quote Jesus as saying, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” But we can forget that there was a condition to this freedom. Jesus said this only is available to those who “continue in My Word,” to those who are “truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31-32).

The Old Testament stresses this same principle. We read how the Psalmist could walk in freedom because he had “devoted myself to your commandments,” basing his life on God’s Word.

Many in the world think that freedom means doing whatever they want. But the Bible urges us to remember that freedom begins with a loving, obedient relationship with God. He is our Creator, and He knows us better than we know ourselves. He desires to bless us physically, financially, and spiritually. He wants to enrich our lives in every way and free us from all fears and worries.

We only experience real freedom after we make Jesus our Lord, devote ourselves to God’s Word, and are filled with the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to direct our lives.

Today, remember that “the truth will make you free.” You don’t have to be dominated by sin or bad habits, worry or fear. Make Jesus your Lord. Renew your commitment to base your life on God’s Word.

This is His plan to give you real freedom, real victory, and real peace. You can be confident and secure, guided by His wisdom.

 

Freedom from the Bonds of Sin

by Alex Crain, Crosswalk.com Contributor

 

“…if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13

While reading this week in chapter eight of Francis Schaeffer’s True Spirituality where he is speaking about freedom from the bonds of sin, I was reminded of the story of an experienced, 27 year-old rock climber named Aron Ralston. One beautiful spring morning in 2003, he jumped into his truck with just enough food and water for the day. He took off by himself and drove a hundred and fifty miles south of Salt Lake City to his favorite spot—a remote canyon area that used to be the hideout for wild-west outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

By afternoon, he was suspended seventy-five feet high off the canyon floor—climbing in a crevice that was just a few feet wide. It was a perfect day. But then without warning, a boulder suddenly broke loose from the rock wall above him, hurtled down and trapped Ralston’s right arm against the wall, completely crushing his hand. At that instant, Aron’s hand—one of his greatest assets—had now become his greatest liability.

Five whole days passed as he tried various ways to free himself—all to no avail. His efforts to chip away at the boulder with a pocket knife only made a small dent. Rigging up a pulley system to move the boulder proved fruitless.

Finally, a moment of decisive clarity came. The thoughts came fast and furious: he could break his forearm, cut through the muscle with his dirty pocket knife, detach his arm, and use a piece of rope as a tourniquet.

Aron explains that he was driven by “some sort of autopilot” as he went about the gruesome task of amputating his own right arm just below the elbow. After he was finished, Aron lowered himself down and began trudging slowly in the direction of his truck. Later, he stumbled across two hikers who used a mobile phone to call in a rescue helicopter. Amputating his right arm was a radical act, but it was one that saved his life and reunited him with his family.

God calls us to deal with sin in our life in a way that is surprisingly similar. The Bible doesn’t offer a laid-back, live-and-let-live approach at all. It’s so radical, that we don’t really like hearing about it or talking about it. Recall what Jesus said in Matthew 5:30, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” While Jesus was not literally talking about physical amputation, He was saying that sin’s deadly effects call for extreme measures. Even though it hurts, we must rid sin from our lives. In fact, our eternal destiny hinges on how we deal with sin.

Really? Well, why else would Jesus talk about hell in the same breath that He talks about how we are to deal with sin if He didn’t mean to teach that our eternal destiny hangs in the balance? Clearly, it’s a matter of preferring one destiny over the other. Outward behavior indicates what the heart primarily loves. If Aron Ralston had stayed there on the canyon wall with his hand pinned down by the boulder, he would have died. But because he was willing to kill his hand, his life was saved.

The same goes with us as we deal with sin. It really comes down to what we value most. Colossians 3:5 says, “Put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” The world may tell us to laugh about sin, to lighten up about it, to tolerate it, and just let it be… that it’s not idolatry; it’s not an issue of worship. God says the opposite is true.

America The Home I Love

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America: The Home I Love

I’ve hiked in the Alps and jumped waves in the French Riviera. I’ve been to the top of the Eiffel Tower and peered into the Roman Coliseum. I’ve walked in the “favelas” (poor neighborhoods) of Brazil and avoided the potholes in Ukraine. But even with all these international adventures, something special ignited in my heart every time my family landed on American soil. Whatever airport we stepped into—in New York, Atlanta, Dallas, or Miami—my heart knew I was home.

What makes America home to you?

To me, America is the place that freedom lives. The place where we still crave independence from oppression. It’s home to family and friends who love God and strive to make the world a better place. America is hope in the midst of tragedy, of good people reaching out to others who need shelter, healing, or a voice.

America is Caucasian police officers bringing candy and toys to predominantly African-American neighborhoods and building a rapport with the children of those communities. It’s an African-American grandmother stopping in the park to pray for a local fair-skinned cop. America is churches of different denominations gathering together for worship and prayer. America is retired nurses and doctors driving hours across state lines to take care of COVID-19 patients. To me, the true “American” spirit is a spirit of strength, kindness, and sacrifice.

On this July Fourth weekend, we may not be able to celebrate as we normally would, gathering in huge crowds to watch fireworks or sing anthems. But we can celebrate in our hearts, homes, and elsewhere what makes America home to us. I celebrate the good I see Americans doing, and “good” is exactly what God has directed us to do.

“As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10 NKJV)

God’s call to “do good” is tailored for every generation. Some “good” never changes, like showing love, spreading kindness, and sharing the gospel. But how we do those good things is tailored for our present-day circumstances. Today we have resources that America’s first leaders didn’t have, like radio, television, and the internet. Our reach today is broader, and that means our light can shine farther than ever before. We can do good with the resources we have and adapt our message for every person seeking independence.

The founding fathers saw it as good to declare independence from tyranny and oppression. Today let us declare independence from the tyranny of fear and prejudice. Let us declare independence from worry and despair. We can seek God’s help to stay free from harmful habits or detrimental ways of thinking. We can strive to make a difference so others may experience freedom in Christ. And God calls us to never stop doing good.

“Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9 NKJV)

Don’t lose heart, America. Let’s be a part of the good that we want to see happen in this country that we call home. Let’s declare that our hearts belong to Jesus and we want everyone possible to know Him as Savior and Lord. Jesus is the greatest good we can share at home and around the world. If we are faithful in our generation, with God’s help we can reap a harvest of great good.

 

Choosing Peace Over Chaos

 

When we first moved into our current home, I was less than impressed with the overall architecture and aesthetics of the space. It took me a little while to gather my emotions and settle in to the fact that the only way I’d truly be at peace would be to turn lemons into lemonade and start making this place a home. Our home. I knew what God had already placed in my heart for this home. I knew we wanted it to be a place where people felt welcome and accepted. It would be a place that wasn’t only aesthetically pleasing to those who entered but would speak to their weary souls in more ways than one. Those were the things that were important to me, and, on many occasions, God and I talked about it. It was a sincere and earnest prayer of my heart that became a reality as I trusted Him and not the things I chose to bring into the house.

I’ve also learned the hard way that when I choose to do the opposite, it yields nothing but confusion and chaos. What is the point of that unrest, and what price am I willing to pay for peace? To avoid being distracted in this way, I have often had to remind myself of what is amazing about our home; and the answer is never what we sit on or walk on, but the people who fill it.

Sometimes that peace for me has come in the form of choosing to step away from distractions around me like extra social events (as much as I love a good party), overcommitting to hosting events, or volunteering for too many projects with church or the kids’ schools. Sometimes that peace looks like disconnecting from reading things that don’t help invigorate or revive my creative process.

Try taking a moment to evaluate your level of peace, and edit some things in your life that may be sucking the life right out of you. Chances are, without my mentioning a word, you already know what those things are.

Think about Mary and Martha. Give me a woman alive who hasn’t cringed at that story a little. I bet you know it, and the moral of the story: that our time with God is the most important thing. This is what Mary chose.

Jesus even said to Martha:

Martha, Martha… you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. — Luke 10:41-42

Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and make Him her restful and peaceful place for that time.

But again, cringe. Of course, time with God is most important. We know this, but we also know everyone has to eat, so food has to be prepared, dishes and pots and pans need to be washed, and kids have to be cared for. Choosing God over all of the things we have to do isn’t the easiest feat. It’s not easy to break away from all the e-mails, the overtime, the friends, the piles of laundry, the never-ending meal planning, or the shuttling of kids. Life calls, and most times, depending on the season of life, it screams obnoxiously until we answer.

Mary, however, didn’t consider the time that Jesus was there to be an interruption. Instead, it was a time to reflect, relate, and be still, knowing that she could trust God to ensure that the other things that needed to be taken care of would ultimately be handled.

There’s a lot of discussion around this popular Bible story, especially among many women who tend to lean more toward a Martha mentality. (Don’t worry, girls, I am right there with you.)

I tend to concern myself too much with what’s not done in my home or what needs to be done. And I find that the more and more I choose to do that, the softer the voice of God becomes in my life. It then becomes easier and easier to do instead of just be.

In our homes, we are meant to live — no doubt. But there is so much more to how we live in our homes with the people we love than what we do alone.

A Place for Detox

I’d like to think Mary was doing the most needed type of detox and perhaps the best kind of all — detox for her soul. She found it by sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Sometimes this is just what we need. Well, maybe more than sometimes. We need it all the time, but life is fast-paced. Our schedules are weighted by tasks and our brains overloaded by the incomplete and the yet to begin. I don’t think God is as concerned with those things as we tend to become. He wants us, beckons even, to come and sit at His feet for a while. Somehow when we choose that needed thing, everything else seems to melt away and those lists are the least of our concerns. It frees up our souls to soar and be more productive in our days and more purposeful in the way we live. It’s what we were created for, and there’s no peace in this world like it that any temporary fix can give.

I want to encourage you to create a space in your home for sitting at Jesus’ feet.

This should be a space you can’t wait to get away to — somewhere reserved for communing with God and maybe reading your favorite books or whatever you choose to do at that time. I always think I can have quiet time anywhere (and I can if I try hard enough), but when I’m sitting at the kitchen table my mind wanders to the dishes in the sink or the grocery shopping I need to do later. Ditto with the living room and the basket of kids’ toys that need to be put away and the basket of laundry I need to fold.

It’s easier to take the time we need with God when we are intentional about setting the stage to do so.

This spot should be cozy and beautiful — even if it’s just a comfy chair with a side table to hold your Bible and a pretty houseplant. Place the chair toward a lovely view out the window or facing a piece of art you’ve always loved. Make it the spot in the house you long to be, and you’ll find yourself there often. Remember that you’re not striving for perfection here; this is a place where you come to shed that and all the other weights you carry. But it should be a space that fits you and fits you well.

 

The Decision

by Inspiration Ministries

“Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served … the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15 ESV

James Russell Lowell was a respected poet. Although he graduated from Harvard with a degree in law, he ultimately pursued a career as a writer, frequently speaking out against slavery. As the son of a pastor, he also was inspired by Biblical ideas.

In 1845 as the country faced war with Mexico, Lowell wrote a poem called, “Once to Every Man and Nation.” Later his words became the basis for an oft-sung hymn.

Lowell described the key moment for individuals and nations. The moment “to decide” and to realize that a decision was needed about their direction and what they really believe.

Lowell argued the importance of siding with truth, regardless of the outcome or opinions of others. It always was proper and brave “to be just” and to do what was “right.”

Looking back at history, Lowell reflected on the “light of burning martyrs.” He considered the example of Jesus who went to the cross and never turned back. Following His example, we face “new occasions,” times when we need to make life-changing decisions.

It may appear that evil will prosper, but we need to be confident that “the truth alone is strong.” God is with us, “keeping watch above His own.”

Lowell echoed the stand taken by Joshua, reminding us that we all have choices. These are moments to take a stand. We need to make a commitment to serve the Lord and to trust Him.

 

Streams in the Desert – July 3

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

Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? (Isa. 28:24).

One day in early summer I walked past a beautiful meadow. The grass was as soft and thick and fine as an immense green Oriental rug. In one corner stood a fine old tree, a sanctuary for numberless wild birds; the crisp, sweet air was full of their happy songs. Two cows lay in the shade, the very picture of content. Down by the roadside the saucy dandelion mingled his gold with the royal purple of the wild violet. I leaned against the fence for a long time, feasting my hungry eyes, and thinking in my soul that God never made a fairer spot than my lovely meadow.

The next day I passed that way again, and lo! the hand of the despoiler had been there. A plowman and his great plow, now standing idle in the furrow, had in a day wrought a terrible havoc. Instead of the green grass there was turned up to view the ugly, bare, brown earth; instead of the singing birds there were only a few hens industriously scratching for worms. Gone were the dandelion and the pretty violet. I said in my grief, “How could any one spoil a thing so fair?”

Then my eyes were opened by some unseen hand, and I saw a vision, a vision of a field of ripe corn ready for the harvest. I could see the giant, heavily laden stalks in the autumn sun; I could almost hear the music of the wind as it would sweep across the golden tassels. And before I was aware, the brown earth took on a splendor it had not had the day before.

Oh, that we might always catch the vision of an abundant harvest, when the great Master Plowman comes, as He often does, and furrows through our very souls, uprooting and turning under that which we thought most fair, and leaving for our tortured gaze only the bare and the unbeautiful.
–Selected

Why should I start at the plough of my Lord, that maketh the deep furrows on my soul? I know He is no idle husbandman, He purposeth a crop.
–Samuel Rutherford

Christ Sets You Free

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Stars and Stripes

Every year our country celebrates the fourth of July by proudly displaying our beloved banner of red, white, and blue, also known as “Old Glory.”

But there is an even more popular name associated with this patriotic pennant, one that many affectionately know as “the Stars and Stripes.”

Americans of all ages look to our flag with a deep sense of pride, while at the same time, oohing and ahhing as she majestically unfurls against the fountains of fireworks and booming explosions of sparkling color … a dazzling sight to behold!

Another set of stars and stripes constitutes our yearly celebration of independence as well. It is found within the pages of Holy Scripture and was spoken of some 2,000 years ago, long before our nation even existed.

We begin with the stars.

Matthew 2:2 says,

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (NIV)

The birth of Jesus was the promise of a Savior, One who would save His people from their sins. He faithfully walked the Via Delarosa (the path of suffering), so that you and I might know what true liberty really is.

Let us consider now, the stripes. 1 Peter 2:24 says,

“Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” (NKJV)

By the very stripes (wounds and scourging) that Jesus took upon Himself, you and I have been made completely whole. What a glorious truth this present-tense reality holds.

“For by His stripes we are healed,” (not were healed, not will be healed) … but are healed!

He paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we could now, today, (this 4th of July) live in complete liberty from everything that would try to hold us captive and bound. That is, anything that would try to keep us from the glorious liberty that Christ has already purchased for us!

So you see, we not only celebrate our nation’s independence from a monarchy of oppressive rule, but we commemorate our sacred stars and stripes as the divine representations of our future hope as a nation.

As our grand old flag, sown together with the beautiful symbols of the “Stars and Stripes proudly waves across our shores, she will always, graciously, humble herself and give honor where honor is due.

She will give honor to the one who died, in order that we as a nation might live.

Philippians 2:10 proclaims,

“… every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (NKJV)

Until we are all set free within this sweet land of liberty, we will rejoice in our salvation, and in the name of our God we will fly our banner, high and lifted up … for all the world to see!

“You have given a banner to those who fear You, that it may be displayed because of the truth.” (Psalm 60:4, NKJV)

 

Instilling the Meaning of Independence Day

By: David Crowe, Author, crosswalk

What does the Fourth of July mean to contemporary Americans? For many it means a day off from work and little more. To others it means an opportunity to “party,” roast hot dogs, drink beer and watch fireworks.

But to the Founders of our nation, it meant far more. Upon the completion of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Samuel Adams, known as the “Father of the American Revolution” said,

“We have this day restored to Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His Kingdom come.”

Adams was a man of no small stature in the colonies. His views are widely known and he was not closet Christian. He formed the Committees of Correspondence that unified the colonists preceding the Revolution; signed the Declaration of Independence; and served as Lieutenant Governor and Governor of Massachusetts.”

It was Adam’s view that in declaring their independence from Great Britain, the colonists were placing themselves under the only true “sovereign”, the King of Kings and the LORD of lords. Adams believed that as God “reigns in Heaven” it was His desire to further His Kingdom in the New World “from the rising to the setting of the sun.”

On July 3, 1776, the day following Congress’ approval of the Declaration of Independence – John Adams – a signer of the Declaration and later our president wrote the following to his wife Abigail:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.

To John Adams, it was to be remembered as a “Day of Deliverance” from the control and oppression of tyrants, and it should be marked by acts of devotion to the God who delivers! To Sam Adams, and to his cousin John, the spiritual implications were significant. As God, the author of our liberty has “declared” us free from the power, dictates and cruel authority of the arch “tyrant”, the colonists were declaring themselves “free” to serve the King of Kings, and not an earthly tyrant. Their understanding of the event was theologically based, in a desire to serve the only true “sovereign”, Christ Himself.
It is difficult in light of the current state of America for the next generation to gain an understanding or appreciation of these spiritual implications. The enemy is using ignorance, complacency, and revisionism to disengage Christians from their civic duties.

While we celebrate “Independence” this fourth of July, remember that the greatness of America is knowing that our liberty comes from Him who died for us,.and that our “freedoms” spring from the love of God.

 

Depending on the Lord

“This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (v. 2b).

– Isaiah 66:1–2

If we were to describe the proper attitude that we must have toward God in prayer, we would likely use the word faith. Of course, as we saw yesterday, that would be an entirely appropriate way to indicate how we must approach the Lord of heaven and earth. However, we could use another term that is almost a synonym for the biblical concept of faith, and that term is dependence.

This does not mean a mere feeling of dependence, as some liberal theologians have described the essence of Christianity. Instead, it is a recognition that we rely on our Creator for all things, including our salvation. Otherwise, we come before the Lord arrogantly, demanding that He hear us and answer us as we pray. The author of Hebrews does tell us to come before the throne of grace confidently, but confidence is not arrogance. The confidence of which Hebrews speaks is rooted in the awareness that we can stand before God not because we deserve to, but because Jesus has merited perfect righteousness for us (Heb. 4:14–16). It is the certain knowledge that we may stand in the presence of God unafraid because we rest and rely on Jesus and His righteousness alone. God-pleasing boldness flows from absolute dependence on Christ.

We are to have an attitude of dependence in prayer because we recognize that we are unworthy in ourselves of even speaking to God, let alone of being near His majestic holiness. The Lord has a positive regard only for those who acknowledge their sin, seek forgiveness in humility, and depend on His grace alone and not anything in or from themselves. This is what God revealed to the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 66:1–2), which is why answer 117 of the Heidelberg Catechism says that the only kind of prayer that pleases the Lord is prayer from those who recognize their need and misery before God. Only if we wholeheartedly rely on God’s favor toward sinners in Christ Jesus can we pray in a manner that will delight Him.

The dependence that God demands confesses that the Lord will hear and answer prayer according to His will, not because of something good in us but because we are in Christ and because Christ promises to intercede for us and with us by His Spirit (Rom. 8:26–27). Depending on Jesus and no other, we have a firm foundation on which to stand when we offer our concerns to the Lord.

 

An earnest invitation

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” Psalm 2:12

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 1

Those that trust in him are blessed; and I would observe, first, that they are really blessed. It is no fiction, no imaginary blessing; it is a real blessedness which belongs to those who trust in God: a blessedness that will stand the test of consideration, the test of life, and the trial of death; a blessedness into which we cannot plunge too deeply, for none of it is a dream, but all a reality. Again, those that trust in him have not only a real blessedness, but they oftentimes have a conscious blessedness. They know what it is to be blest in their troubles, for they are in their trials comforted, and they are blest in their joys, for their joys are sanctified. They are blest and they know it, they sing about it and they rejoice in it. It is their joy to know that God’s blessing is come to them not in word only but in very deed. They are blessed men and blessed women.

“They would not change their blest estate
For all the world calls good and great.”

Then, further, they are not only really blessed, and consciously blessed, but they are increasingly blessed. Their blessedness grows. They do not go downhill, as the wicked do, from bright hope to black despair. They do not diminish in their delights, the river deepens as they wade into it. They are blessed when the first ray of heavenly light streams on their eyeballs; they are blessed when their eyes are opened wider still, to see more of the love of Christ; they are blessed the more their experience widens, and their knowledge deepens, and their love increases. They are blessed in the hour of death, and, best of all, their blessedness increases to eternal blessedness,—the perfection of the saints at the right hand of God. “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”

For meditation: How often do you take time to count your blessings in Christ?

Christ Helps You Overcome

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True Freedom

When you think about July 4th, what comes to mind?

Perhaps you think about a day off from work with picnics, fireworks, and those red, white, and blue flags displayed in front yards along your neighborhood.

This is all good, but the one word that comes to my mind is freedom.

It is a fact that we live in the United States of America where we can voice our opinions freely and can vote for the people of our choice. These are very good reasons why we should never take our freedom for granted.

Each year, I notice that some people really go all out decorating for every holiday. For the 4th of July, I display my flag in the yard for the entire month. The flag means a lot to me because of those in my family who have been in wars. I have also had friends who served our country, and I have known some who did not come home in the past and present war.

My father served in World War II. My mother was a Red Cross volunteer during that war. My niece and her husband served in Desert Storm. I also have had loved ones in the Vietnam War and a friend recently in Afghanistan.

Because of their contributions in keeping us all free, I proudly display the flag.

Have you thought about the American flag and all that it stands for? This emblem of the greatest nation on earth is placed on graves of our honored dead who fought for us to remain a free nation, and it flies high during times of peace, as well as war. “Old Glory” is its name.

There is another real freedom we can have. We can display it every day of the year, and that is our freedom “In Christ” to live a life to glorify Him, so that His banner of love, truth, and peace can be seen by all.

It is a flag flown high in the castle of my heart (taken from a song). We can be free in our spirit to serve the Creator of the whole universe and that my friends, is True Freedom.

Romans 8:2 says,

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.”  (ASV)

Just like the flag that represents freedom, Jesus is a banner over us, protecting and shielding us. He is the “Glory and the Lifter of our heads” at all times. Let freedom ring out in your heart today.

 

Overcoming the World

“Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5).

– 1 John 5:4–5

In our day, as in the past, the book of Revelation remains one of the most studied and controversial books in all of the Bible. Many people spend years looking at the details of this fascinating piece of inspired literature in order that they might understand what seems to be its perplexing message. In good faith, Christians of all kinds put forth all sorts of positions on things such as the dating of the book and the nature of Christ’s millennial reign.

Whatever position a person may take on these issues, it is clear that Revelation was written in order to encourage Christians to overcome the world. The letters to the seven churches in chapters 2–3 repeatedly promise rewards to “the one who conquers.” The majestic portrayal of the exalted Jesus throughout the book is clearly given to encourage continued faithfulness on the part of believers.

It is no surprise the theme of conquering, or overcoming, the world is also very important in John’s first epistle. We read in today’s passage that everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world and that the one who overcomes the world is the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God (5:4–5). John concludes his summary of the three tests of assurance by bringing us back to the essential confession of the identity of Jesus he gave us in verse 1.

This confession involves believing Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God. In other words, it is believing the divine Son of God became incarnate. This is the only confession that can enable us to have victory over the forces of darkness, for only the God-man Jesus Christ is worthy of our ultimate allegiance, and His intercession alone can guarantee His victory over sin will become real in our own lives (Heb. 9:13–14).

First John 5:1–5 reminds us primarily that the three tests of assurance are inseparable. True confession of the God-man Christ Jesus reveals us as born of God and leads to true love of God. This love leads us to obey commandments we do not consider burdensome because we overcome the world by our faith in God incarnate whose work makes us children of the Father (John 1:12–13).

 

Overcome by Love

“I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” 2 Samuel 6:21b-22a (NIV)

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something zip by me. What was that? A minute later, I saw it again. Someone was running up and down the side aisle of the church.

Joyful voices filled the church that Easter Sunday morning as we sang, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus,”*

Although I tried to focus on the words of the song, my thoughts were distracted by the runner. I looked inquisitively at the woman next to me, hoping for an explanation.

She whispered an answer to my unspoken question: “He was a drug addict. A couple of months ago he surrendered his life to Christ and is now free from his addiction. He’s overcome by love for Jesus!”

About that time an elderly woman and man started to dance with him. They were his grandparents. For years, this couple had steadfastly prayed for their grandson.

Watching this freed man and his joyful grandparents worshipping reminded me of King David returning to Jerusalem. David explodes with love for his Lord. He couldn’t contain his awe and gratitude for all God had done for him: winning a huge battle, restoring the ark of the Lord and appointing him king. Coming down the road, everyone could see “King David leaping and dancing before the LORD” (2 Samuel 6:16 NIV).

Stories of people being overcome by love for God are awesome. But there is one example of love that tops them all: the gift of the cross. I know John 3:16 is a familiar verse to most of us and can be easy to skim. But let’s read it again with the view of God’s love for us.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)

The young man and his grandparents probably gave up some self-consciousness to display their love for the Lord through dance. In our key verse, we learn that King David admitted he let go of pride to show his love through worship: “I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes” (2 Samuel 6:21b-22a). He sacrificed his dignity for the Lord.

And God the Father sacrificed a most precious gift, His Son, Jesus. And Jesus surrendered His very life for us!

Why? They were overcome by love.

As a mama of five daughters, I’m hit hard by the depth of God’s love to offer His Son in our place. It seems impossible for me to even think about giving up my children for the sake of someone else. Let alone sacrificing my own life!

Yet out of unfathomable love, God sent Jesus to death on a cross to pay our debt of sin. By this sacrifice, Jesus secured eternal life for those who surrender their lives to Him. That truth makes my heart overcome by love!

When we’re overcome by love for God, the way we show that will look different for everyone. For some, it’s quietly praising the Lord in their hearts. For others, it is worshipping at the top of their lungs or dancing in the aisles.

However you express your praise to God, take a moment to reflect on all the Lord has done in your life and give thanks for His overcoming love. You may just find your toes tapping and your feet moving!

How We Overcome

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37 (NIV)

I’d been in a spiritual wilderness season for quite some time. Having resigned from my job, I walked by faith, but as the days, weeks and months went on, God felt more and more distant.

I wasn’t hearing His voice clearly, and I wondered if I’d misstepped or made a mistake. After year three of unanswered prayers with hope deferred and no job in sight, I asked myself, Would this heart-sick feeling stick with me the rest of my days? Would “Defeated” be my new name?

We will not feel like conquerors every day.

In the seasons and years we feel weary, unseen and tired, it’s important to not rename ourselves in the middle of a storm. We’re meant to be more than conquerors, and “Overcomers” will be a part of our new name — if we don’t give up.

I never felt like the phrase “more than conquerors” applied to me. After being abandoned by my biological parents, losing extended family members, facing financial independence as a teenager and bei