Category Archives: Devotion

Approaching God

The Woman Who Touched Jesus’ Robe

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Luke 8:43-48 English Standard Version (ESV)

43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians,[a] she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter[b] said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

 

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Becoming Entirely His

By Oswald Chambers

Many of us appear to be all right in general, but there are still some areas in which we are careless and lazy; it is not a matter of sin, but the remnants of our carnal life that tend to make us careless. Carelessness is an insult to the Holy Spirit. We should have no carelessness about us either in the way we worship God, or even in the way we eat and drink.

Not only must our relationship to God be right, but the outward expression of that relationship must also be right. Ultimately, God will allow nothing to escape; every detail of our lives is under His scrutiny. God will bring us back in countless ways to the same point over and over again. And He never tires of bringing us back to that one point until we learn the lesson, because His purpose is to produce the finished product. It may be a problem arising from our impulsive nature, but again and again, with the most persistent patience, God has brought us back to that one particular point. Or the problem may be our idle and wandering thinking, or our independent nature and self-interest. Through this process, God is trying to impress upon us the one thing that is not entirely right in our lives.

We have been having a wonderful time in our studies over the revealed truth of God’s redemption, and our hearts are perfect toward Him. And His wonderful work in us makes us know that overall we are right with Him. “Let patience have its perfect work….” The Holy Spirit speaking through James said, “Now let your patience become a finished product.” Beware of becoming careless over the small details of life and saying, “Oh, that will have to do for now.” Whatever it may be, God will point it out with persistence until we become entirely His.

STREAMS IN THE DESERT

(Jesus Helping To Pilot the Ship)

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By:  L.B. Cowman

David cared for them with pure motives; he led them with skill.  Ps 78:72

When you are doubtful as to your course, submit your judgment absolutely to the Spirit of God, and ask Him to shut against you every door but the right one…Meanwhile keep on as you are, and consider the absence of indication to be the indication of God’s will that you are on His track…As you go down the long corridor, you will find that He has preceded you, and locked many doors which you would fain have entered; but be sure that beyond these there is one which He has left unlocked. Open it and enter, and you will find yourself face to face with a bend of the river of opportunity, broader and deeper than anything you had dared to imagine in your sunniest dreams. Launch forth upon it; it conducts to the open sea.

God guides us, often by circumstances. At one moment the way may seem utterly blocked; and then shortly afterward some trivial incident occurs, which might not seem much to others, but which to the keen eye of faith speaks volumes. Sometimes these things are repeated in various ways, in answer to prayer. They are not haphazard results of chance, but the opening up of circumstances in the direction in which we would walk. And they begin to multiply as we advance toward our goal, just as the lights do as we near a populous town, when darting through the land by night express.
—F. B. Meyer

If you go to Him to be guided, He will guide you; but He will not comfort your distrust or half-trust of Him by showing you the chart of all His purposes concerning you. He will show you only into a way where, if you go cheerfully and trustfully forward, He will show you on still farther.
—Horace Bushnell

As moves my fragile bark across the storm-swept sea,
Great waves beat o’er her side, as north wind blows;
Deep in the darkness hid lie threat’ning rocks and shoals;
But all of these, and more, my Pilot knows.

Sometimes when dark the night, and every light gone out,
I wonder to what port my frail ship goes;
Still though the night be long, and restless all my hours,
My distant goal, I’m sure, my Pilot knows.

—Thomas Curtis Clark

 

You Are Beloved

Bobby Schuller July 31, 2018
You Are Beloved
BOBBY SCHULLER

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1a (NIV)

You are not what you do.
You are not what you have.
You are not what people say about you.
You are God’s beloved daughter.
This is your only true identity.

Though we are many things — parents, ministry leaders, entrepreneurs, sinners and saints, God only sees us as one thing: His beloved.

We might believe we are the beloved of God consciously; maybe we hear it all the time. But many of us struggle to truly believe it unconsciously. Deep down there’s a self-talk we don’t always see driving many of our decisions and emotions; there are voices telling us we’re not enough, we need to be more, do more and be better. “Only then” will we be worthy of belonging.

I remember the first time I realized these unconscious voices were swirling around in my heart.

I was telling my wife a story how as a kid I did something clumsy. Consciously, the story was funny to me. It made a family relative freak out and call me a name. I’m laughing as I’m telling her the story and I say, “He got so mad he called me a …” Then something bizarre happened. My face, throat and chest locked up. I couldn’t even get the mean word out and started weeping.

I’m not one to cry often, but this night I cried like crazy, all the way home, and I could barely drive. Though painful, the experience was also cathartic and enlightening.

I realized something amazing. I’d been carrying those words in my heart for so long and had never noticed them. Deep down inside there was this kid, me, who wondered if in the end he was just the worthless name he’d been called.

We all do this. It might have been said by someone we love or someone we hated. Maybe it wasn’t blatantly said but expressed through an unloving action. We might say we are God’s beloved, but there’s often a deeper, self-rejecting voice. It’s this harmful voice we need to bring to the surface, think about, feel and give to the Lord. We can do that through training and replacing that voice with what Henri Nouwen called “the voice of the beloved.”

I once heard him give a speech about how we are not what we do, what we have or what people say about us. We who follow Jesus are God’s beloved daughters and sons. I decided I needed to believe this, deep down. I needed to train this into my heart. So I wrote it as a creed to practice. I said it slowly, as a meditation, every time I would pray. Over time as I spoke this creed over my life, I watched how more than any other discipline, it powerfully transformed my life into Christ-likeness. I’d like to share it with you:

“I’m not what I do.
I’m not what I have.
I’m not what people say about me.
I am the beloved of God.
It’s who I am.
No one can take it from me.
I don’t have to worry.
I don’t have to hurry.
I can trust my friend Jesus and share His love with the world.”

Friend, you are so loved. You do enough. You are enough. God’s Word reminds us to “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1a)

It’s easy to compare our lives to others and think, I’m not like her or him, but that’s not a fair perspective. Anyone you think is perfect certainly is not. (You just need to know them better to see this truth.) In the end, we do our best but then can give it to the Lord. We can relax and walk in the easy rhythms of grace. We can trust we are loved by God. We can let go of our fears of worthlessness and live every moment with joy in friendship with Jesus.

Father, I belong to You. I am the apple of Your eye, Your beloved child. Thank You that You know all my fears, worries and imperfections, yet You call me Your beloved. It’s not what I do, but what Christ did for me. There is no greater love than that. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Loving The Unlovable

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Loving the Unlovable

From: Our Daily Journey

Loving the Unlovable

Read:

Luke 6:27-36
Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:28).

The rows of school desks would soon be filled with energetic teens. Although I was only filling in for their teacher, I took my role seriously. As the first lesson was about to start, the door flung open and in walked a woman who announced herself as my teaching assistant. Fantastic! I thought. I need the help.

What I didn’t realize was the misery she would bring into my life. She undermined me in front of the students and tried to control every lesson. I felt defeated and couldn’t see a way forward until I felt compelled to pray for her. She was the last person I wanted to pray for, but when I did, I began to change. And then she changed. In fact, we became quite a team. When I later left that position, she gave me a gift, and we both cried as we said goodbye.

I had witnessed the power of praying for “enemies”—something I’ll never forget. Jesus has a challenge for those “who are willing to listen . . . love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you” (Luke 6:27-28). How, He emphasized, are His followers different from anyone else if we only love those who love us, if we only do good to those who do good to us? (Luke 6:32-33).

It’s not easy to obey God when He commands us to walk in the difficult way of loving our enemies. But through the power of Christ’s Spirit we can grow spiritually as His children and learn to walk in ever-deeper obedience to Him (Galatians 5:16-17). In this way we will show that we are “children of the Most High” (Luke 6:35).

In God’s strength, let us “do to others as [we] would like them to do to [us],” a reflection of our heavenly Father’s compassion for us (Luke 6:31,36).

July 30

The Temple Of God

1 Chronicles 28:12, 19 (NIV) 12He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the LORD and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things… 19“All this,” David said, “I have in writing from the hand of the LORD upon me, and he gave me understanding in all the details of the plan.”

There is a tendency to think God was more visible and directly involved in Old Testament times in more dramatic ways than in this age. As David was sharing the plans of the Temple with Solomon, he told how he received the inspiration for the plan. He did not have a vision or experience some kind of autonomic writing. He did not have a vivid dream or spirit travel to heaven. The Spirit of God put it in his mind. The hand of the LORD was upon him and gave him understanding of the details of the plan.

The LORD often works with us in the same way. If (and that is a great big “IF”) we are seeking Him and His will with all our heart and have been walking with Him for some time to learn discernment, the Spirit inspires our thoughts. As we walk with the hand of the LORD upon us, we will discern Spirit inspired thoughts.

Thoughts come from one of three sources: suggestions from the demonic, our own soul, or the Spirit of God. As we mature we learn to discern the difference and become more and more attentive and obedient to the Spirit inspired thoughts and quick to reject the enemy’s temptations. When we pray we will notice the thoughts for whom to pray for enter our mind. As we approach daily difficulties, we will notice solutions that we had not thought of. Be careful to give God all the credit and the glory for those. That is what David was doing when he said, “He gave me understanding in all the details of the plan.” “I can’t take credit for one little detail. God inspired my thoughts.” We find the same experience today as we go about working on the temple with living stones.

Remember: Grab those God inspired thoughts and give Him all the glory when you see the good fruit.

Sin slain

From: Charles Spurgeon

“And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.” Judges 4:22

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 12:1-4

Rest not content till the blood of your enemy stains the ground, until he is crushed, and dead, and slain. Oh, sinner, I beseech you, never be content until grace reign in your heart, and sin is altogether subdued. Indeed, this is what every renewed soul longs for, and must long for, nor will it rest satisfied until all this shall be accomplished. There was a time when some of us thought we would slay our sins. We wanted to put them to death, and we thought we would drown them in floods of penitence. There was a time, too, when we thought we would starve our sins; we thought we would keep out of temptation, and not go and pander to our lusts, and then they would die; and some of us can recollect when we gagged our lusts, when we pinioned their arms, and put their feet in the stocks, and then thought that would deliver us. But brethren, all our ways of putting sin to death were not sufficient; we found the monster still alive, insatiate for his prey. We might rout his hired ruffians, but the monster was still our conqueror. We might put to flight our habits, but the nature of sin was still in us, and we could not overcome it. Yet did we groan and cry daily, “Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” It is a cry to which we are accustomed even at this day, and which we shall never cease to utter, till we can say of our sins, “They are gone,” and of the very nature of sin, that it has been extinguished, and that we are pure and holy even as when the first Adam came from his Maker’s hands.

For meditation: We should never underestimate the power of sin, but we can never overestimate the power of the Lord Jesus Christ to conquer sin. Sin may remain, but it need not reign (Romans 6:12).

 

Tears Inside a Prison

From: Bob Segress, Author

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“For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it: You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” Psalm 51: 16-17 NASB

It is often said that to forgive one’s self is harder than it is to accept God’s forgiveness. But that is not the whole story. We never forget anything without organic damage and living memories can just turn into bad memories — as many prisoners have found.

Some experiences are so traumatizing that for the rest of our lives we have a broken heart every time we remember them, but by God’s grace, we can live with them.

One day, when I was still a prison minister, a Russian man stood up after accepting Jesus as his Savior. As tears streamed down his face he sobbed, “I can’t forget what I’ve done to so many people.” Pictures of terrible things he had violently done to many flooded his mind. Confessing his sins to Jesus had opened a floodgate of pain and pictures of blood.

I helped him the best I could by urging him to put the pain and pictures in the hands of the Lord who died a terrible death on the Cross for all his sins. This calmed him down a bit and his sobbing lessened, but I could tell there was still an ocean of pain straining to be set free.

I then remembered something I had learned during my career as a psychologist. Pain often must be released the way we deal with an onion, by unpeeling layer by layer. Cutting abruptly through an onion will often overcome us by what is released.

I still pray for that prisoner that he has learned to not bury those memories when they come up but admit them and place them each time in his Lord’s loving and forgiving hands while living a Psalm 51 life.

Claim the answer to living with painful memories, don’t bury them or they will continue living inside you. A broken and contrite heart that has an honest and humble spirit brings pleasure to God and strength to a servant; this is part of walking in The Spirit and finding contentment.

Dear Father, please help us to understand that no matter our experiences, the answer to living with painful memories is the same as for prisoners: no matter the crime, one layer at a time. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

True Identity

Jesus was God in the flesh. Are you a child of God? Believers say they are a child of God.
Through adoption you are a child of God. By believing in Christ you are adopted into

God’s family.     

Ephesians 1:5

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

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True Identity

7/29th

From: Our Daily Journey

True Identity

Read:

Ephesians 1:3-14
Because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God (Ephesians 1:11).

As I was growing up, I often felt as if I didn’t quite fit in. I was different from even my close friends but couldn’t figure out why. I tried to take an interest in what my friends liked and to talk and act like them. But it wasn’t until I went to college that I decided to stop worrying about what other people thought of me. Knowing that my identity was in Jesus, I didn’t have to try to be the “cool kid” anymore.

Thankfully, our social identity doesn’t define who we are. Paul opened his letter to followers of Jesus in Ephesus by explaining that God “chose us in Christ” and adopted us as children of God (Ephesians 1:4-5). He then wrote, “Because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance” (Ephesians 1:11). Jesus chose to die for us and we’re now united with Him, a part of His family and heirs to His kingdom!

During His time on earth, Jesus assured His followers that, although He had to leave, He would send a Helper—the Holy Spirit—who would be an advocate and guide (John 14:15-2116:5-15). And according to Paul, the Spirit is also “God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people” (Ephesians 1:14).

Believers in Jesus aren’t simply His followers, we’re children of God, adopted into His family. Our social identity may have some value now, but it doesn’t compare to who we are in Jesus and what that means for our future. As Paul wrote, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3). We find true identity in our relationship with Jesus and in our inheritance as a child of God!

 

More Difficult than Tears

From: Our Daily Bread

More Difficult than Tears

Read:

1 Samuel 18:5-11
Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

When a family in our church lost their home to a fire, fellow church members sprang into action with clothes, shelter, and gift cards. Then they helped with the painful process of sifting through the ruins to salvage valuables and memories. Our church put into practice what the apostle Paul instructed: “Weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

As I thought about Paul’s advice, I felt pride in my church. They had wrapped their arms around this family, literally and figuratively.

But then I remembered the first part of that verse: “Be happy with those who are happy.” That gave me pause. As my church wept with a grieving family, I had noticed someone else who was enjoying a run of professional success—right when financial difficulties were hitting our family. Strangely, I found it easier to cry with someone in pain than to rejoice in the blessings of another. Envy is so subtle.

After David took down Goliath with only a sling and stone, King Saul appointed the young shepherd as a military commander. But Saul’s delight at bolstering his army’s leadership soon dissipated. As the army returned home from battle, “women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul.” They sang, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:6-7).

Saul had a choice: he could rejoice in his young superstar who had served him well, or he could envy the fact that David got so much praise. He chose the latter. For Saul, it was the beginning of a tragic end (1 Samuel 28:17-19).

It’s vital to weep with those who weep. But equally important is the ability to rejoice in the blessings others receive.

 

Dependent on God’s Presence

By Oswald Chambers

Dependent on God’s Presence

There is no thrill for us in walking, yet it is the test for all of our steady and enduring qualities. To “walk and not faint” is the highest stretch possible as a measure of strength. The word walk is used in the Bible to express the character of a person— “…John…looking at Jesus as He walked…said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’ ” (John 1:35-36). There is nothing abstract or obscure in the Bible; everything is vivid and real. God does not say, “Be spiritual,” but He says, “Walk before Me…” (Genesis 17:1).

When we are in an unhealthy condition either physically or emotionally, we always look for thrills in life. In our physical life this leads to our efforts to counterfeit the work of the Holy Spirit; in our emotional life it leads to obsessions and to the destruction of our morality; and in our spiritual life, if we insist on pursuing only thrills, on mounting up “with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31), it will result in the destruction of our spirituality.

Having the reality of God’s presence is not dependent on our being in a particular circumstance or place, but is only dependent on our determination to keep the Lord before us continually. Our problems arise when we refuse to place our trust in the reality of His presence. The experience the psalmist speaks of— “We will not fear, even though…” (Psalm 46:2)— will be ours once we are grounded on the truth of the reality of God’s presence, not just a simple awareness of it, but an understanding of the reality of it. Then we will exclaim, “He has been here all the time!” At critical moments in our lives it is necessary to ask God for guidance, but it should be unnecessary to be constantly saying, “Oh, Lord, direct me in this, and in that.” Of course He will, and in fact, He is doing it already! If our everyday decisions are not according to His will, He will press through them, bringing restraint to our spirit. Then we must be quiet and wait for the direction of His presence.

 

More Than a Backstage Pass

By: Paul Daily, Author

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Recently, I made an over two-hour trek from Virginia Beach to “King’s Fest,” a three-day Christian music event at Paramount’s King’s Dominion in Doswell, Va, with some of the teens from our church. For an entire weekend, we jammed and worshiped with some of the premier acts in Christian music. Artists such as Third Day, Rebecca St. James, Pillar, FFH, Newsboys, Thousand Foot Krutch, Audio Adrenaline, and Jeremy Camp took the stage and led us on a journey into the presence of God.

There were thousands of people packed into the amphitheater and the atmosphere was electrified. We were a few of the hundreds “fortunate enough” to be seated on the lawn, so far away from the stage that it was difficult to make out who was performing. In the midst of all the excitement, one of my teens made the comment, “It would be so awesome to get a backstage pass.”

The images of that enormous crowd and those distant figures on stage, as well as that backstage pass comment, came rushing back to me the next morning during my quiet time with the Lord. I was taken away in the glory of God as I knelt there in my tent while the sun crept over the eastern horizon. I began to express to the Lord as eloquently as I knew how that I love Him so much and that I long for real intimacy with Him. Then I said, “Jesus, I don’t want to be just one of the faces in the crowd. I don’t want to just stand there and watch You perform while being robbed of a relationship with You.” I could sense in my spirit all over again the Lord’s desire for more intimacy than I was even willing to accept. Then I felt the Spirit prompting me to ask for “more than a backstage pass.”

That’s pretty much the ultimate thing at a concert. People pay good money to go behind the curtains with their favorite artists, to see the inner workings of these “American Idols.” Though I’ve never gotten a backstage pass to any concert, I can imagine it would be exciting to get a few minutes to meet my favorite artists with only a small group or maybe even get a handshake. But Jesus wants even more than that.

There are three Scriptures that really spoke to me that morning that express God’s desire for intimacy with us:

“One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.” Psalm 27:4-5 (NKJV)

“You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence…” Psalm 31:20 (NKJV)

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” Psalm 32:8 (NKJV)

Nestled gently within those verses are some incredibly delicious morsels of God’s heart. He longs to be close enough to us that He doesn’t even have to wave His hand — we are close enough to see the movement of His eyes; to know what He’s thinking just by the direction He looks. And when He refers to “the secret place” or “the tabernacle” or “pavilion,” those are all pictures of the intimacy shared between a husband and a wife.

If you feel you have been standing in the crowd, lost in a sea of faces, there is hope. Even if you have gotten that backstage pass but your heart tells you there is still more, press in. Isaiah 30:18 is a reminder that in spite of your flaws, the Lord longs to be gracious to you. Slow down long enough to ask the Lord for that intimacy. Address Him the same as you would your spouse or your dearest friend. His ears are open to you and He promises that as soon as you ask, He will answer. He yearns to return to you as the Lover of your soul.

Through The Cross

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The Cross is a reminder of what it cost God to save us. 
Wearing the cross is a sign of our belief in the risen Savior.
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Through the Cross

From: Our Daily Bread

Through the Cross

[Nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:39

My coworker Tom keeps an 8″ by 12″ glass cross on his desk. His friend Phil, who like Tom is a cancer survivor, gave it to him to help him look at everything “through the cross.” The glass cross is a constant reminder of God’s love and good purposes for him.

That’s a challenging idea for all believers in Jesus, especially during difficult times. It’s much easier to focus on our problems than on God’s love.

The apostle Paul’s life was certainly an example of having a cross-shaped perspective. He described himself in times of suffering as being “persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:9). He believed that in the hard times, God is at work, “achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen” (vv. 17–18).

To “fix our eyes . . . on what is unseen” doesn’t mean we minimize the problems. Paul Barnett, in his commentary on this passage, explains, “There is to be confidence, based on the certainty of God’s purposes for [us] . . . . On the other hand, there is the sober recognition that we groan with hope mingled with pain.”

Jesus gave His life for us. His love is deep and sacrificial. As we look at life “through the cross,” we see His love and faithfulness. And our trust in Him grows.

Father, teach us who You are. Increase our trust in You. Fill our minds with Your perspective.

Look at everything through the cross.

 

Substitution

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“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Peter 2:18-25

Of this God in Christ, our text says that he knew no sin. It does not say that he did not sin; that we know: but it says more than that; he did not know sin; he knew not what sin was. He saw it in others, but he did not know it by experience. He was a perfect stranger to it. It is not barely said, that he did not take sin into his heart, but he did not know it. It was no acquantance of his. He was the acquaintance of grief; but he was not the acquaintance of sin. He knew no sin of any kind,—no sin of thought, no sin of birth, no original, no actual transgression; no sin of lip, or of hand, did ever Christ commit. He was pure, perfect, spotless; like his own divinity, without spot or blemish, or any such thing. This gracious person, is he who is spoken of in the text. He was a person utterly incapable of committing anything that was wrong. It has been asserted lately, by some ill-judged one, that Christ was capable of sin. I think it was Irving who started some such idea, that if Christ was not capable of sinning, he could not have been capable of virtue. “For,” say they, “if a man must necessarily be good, there is no virtue in his goodness.” Away with their ridiculous nonsense! Is not God necessarily good? And who dares deny that God is virtuous? Are not the glorified spirits in heaven necessarily pure? And yet are they not holy because of that very necessity? Are not the angels, now that they are confirmed, necessarily faultless? And shall any one dare to deny angelic virtue! The thing is not true; it needs no freedom in order to create virtue. Freedom and virtue generally go together; but necessity and virtue are as much brother and sister as freedom and virtue. Jesus Christ was not capable of sin.

For meditation: It would have been awful for the sinless Christ to suffer just for one sin of one man. But for him to suffer for all the sins of a countless multitude past, present and future must have been appalling beyond all imagination. How God must hate sin! How he must love poor sinners! Did Christ die for you (Galatians 2:20)?

 

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The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? (John 18:11)

This was a greater thing to say and do than to calm the seas or raise the dead. Prophets and apostles could work wondrous miracles, but they could not always do and suffer the will of God. To do and suffer God’s will is still the highest form of faith, the most sublime Christian achievement.

To have the bright aspirations of a young life forever blasted; to bear a daily burden never congenial and to see no relief; to be pinched by poverty when you only desire a competency for the good and comfort of loved ones; to be fettered by some incurable physical disability; to be stripped bare of loved ones until you stand alone to meet the shocks of life–to be able to say in such a school of discipline, “The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?’–this is faith at its highest and spiritual success at the crowning point.

Great faith is exhibited not so much in ability to do as to suffer.
–Dr. Charles Parkhurst

To have a sympathizing God we must have a suffering Saviour, and there is no true fellow-feeling with another save in the heart of him who has been afflicted like him. We cannot do good to others save at a cost to ourselves, and our afflictions are the price we pay for our ability to sympathize. He who would be a helper, must first be a sufferer. He who would be a saviour must somewhere and somehow have been upon a cross; and we cannot have the highest happiness of life in succoring others without tasting the cup which Jesus drank, and submitting to the baptism wherewith He was baptized.

The most comforting of David’s psalms were pressed out by suffering; and if Paul had not had his thorn in the flesh we had missed much of that tenderness which quivers in so many of his letters.

The present circumstance, which presses so hard against you (if surrendered to Christ), is the best shaped tool in the Father’s hand to chisel you for eternity. Trust Him, then. Do not push away the instrument lest you lose its work.

Strange and difficult indeed
We may find it,
But the blessing that we need
Is behind it.

The school of suffering graduates rare scholars.

 

Fear No Evil

From: Jane Samuel, Author

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“… I will fear no evil …” Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)

Have you ever screamed, thinking you stepped on a spider, only to realize it was a stray black thread? Or has your heart ever raced at that phone call from school, only to learn that little Johnny had won an award? Or have you ever panicked when your texts went unanswered, simply to discover your spouse’s phone battery had died?

If you are like me, you probably answered, “Yes!” to at least one or all of these.

Don’t we have a tendency to imagine the worst? We admit a fearful thought; our creative mind chimes in, willingly embellishing details to nonexistent situations. We picture it in vivid color as it flashes across the backdrop of our make-believe set. We choose a comfortable seat and watch it, mesmerized as if it were an award-winning movie. Only when the credits roll, do we realize this made-up scenario was nothing but a far-fetched invention of our fearful fancy.

So is there an antidote to overactive harmful imagination?

I’ve started chewing on this curative capsule from the brave, bold, optimistic Psalmist: I will fear no evil. Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)

What if this cold is more than just a cold?  I will fear no evil.

What if I run out of money? I will fear no evil.

What if something bad happens to my spouse? I will fear no evil.

What if my kids fall in with the wrong crowd? I will fear no evil.

What if someone breaks into my house? I will fear no evil.

What if I get into an accident? I will fear no evil.

How about you? Do you fear evil? Do you combat an unfounded, irrational fear that keeps you from enjoying life? Do you suffer a chronic expectation of the worst?

If so, contemplate with me, David’s reason as to why he said he would fear no evil.

“… I will fear no evil; for You are with me …” Psalm 23:4 (NKJV italics mine)

Let’s read that again.

For You are with me. 

Isn’t the knowledge of our Shepherd’s constant and comforting presence reassuring?

Friend, we are called to live unafraid of evil.

Evil people.

Evil things.

Evil places.

Evil events.

Evil threats.

Evil diseases.

Evil outcomes.

Evil days.

Fearful thoughts will come. We can’t prevent that. And not all those will be unfounded or irrational. Some will be justifiable and shake us to the core. But if we allow the truth of God’s Word to descend into our spirit, we will be able to draw it out at the right moment. Like a warrior armed and ready for battle we will be equipped. We will be prepared to wield it in the face of an alarming report. Brandish it at the news of possible lay off. Believe it at the threat of impending lawsuit. Trust it in the midst of irreparable loss. As long as our Shepherd is with us, we fear no evil.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me. Your rod and Your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely Your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23:5-6 NKJV)

Jesus’ View Of You

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 July 27,2018

 

Jesus’ View of You

Jesus’ View of You

Read:

Genesis 32:1-32
O Lord, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children (Genesis 32:11).

The oldest of eight children, my mom can tell quite a few stories of sibling hijinks, mischief, and rivalries. She became the appointed babysitter and had to learn quickly to hold her own among her energetic charges. To her siblings, she was simply bossy. On occasion, those relational contexts of long ago rise to the surface, so with any advice she offers her beloved siblings today, my mom reminds them the only life she’s in charge of is her own.

Family relationships are complicated. Few experiences can hurt us like the betrayal or rejection we experience at the hands of those who should have loved us most: our family. Old assumptions from years gone by can be difficult because they keep us locked in the past. While others’ beliefs about us can be influential in our lives, the lies we believe about ourselves can be equally powerful.

Driven by the repercussions of his past wrong behavior, Jacob feared not only what Esau believed about him but what Esau would do to him (Genesis 32:3-8,11). It’s certainly no coincidence that Jacob had to own his identity before God before he could face his past with his brother Esau (Genesis 32:9-10,27-28). Jacob discovered (contrary to what our feelings might tell us) that God’s love for us is not synonymous with our family’s approval, and our well-being doesn’t rest in how much we can control our family’s responses to us.

Efforts at familial reconciliation are in order when the opportunity arises (Genesis 32:3-4,13-20) but even then we can accept responsibility only for our own choices. Regardless of others’ responses, we take hope in remembering that God’s view of us stands above anyone else’s—even our family’s (Genesis 32:29-30).

 

The Way to Purity

By Oswald Chambers

Initially we trust in our ignorance, calling it innocence, and next we trust our innocence, calling it purity. Then when we hear these strong statements from our Lord, we shrink back, saying, “But I never felt any of those awful things in my heart.” We resent what He reveals. Either Jesus Christ is the supreme authority on the human heart, or He is not worth paying any attention to. Am I prepared to trust the penetration of His Word into my heart, or would I prefer to trust my own “innocent ignorance”? If I will take an honest look at myself, becoming fully aware of my so-called innocence and putting it to the test, I am very likely to have a rude awakening that what Jesus Christ said is true, and I will be appalled at the possibilities of the evil and the wrong within me. But as long as I remain under the false security of my own “innocence,” I am living in a fool’s paradise. If I have never been an openly rude and abusive person, the only reason is my own cowardice coupled with the sense of protection I receive from living a civilized life. But when I am open and completely exposed before God, I find that Jesus Christ is right in His diagnosis of me.

The only thing that truly provides protection is the redemption of Jesus Christ. If I will simply hand myself over to Him, I will never have to experience the terrible possibilities that lie within my heart. Purity is something far too deep for me to arrive at naturally. But when the Holy Spirit comes into me, He brings into the center of my personal life the very Spirit that was exhibited in the life of Jesus Christ, namely, the Holy Spirit, which is absolute unblemished purity.

 

When Healing Becomes an Idol

By: Glenda Durano

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When my daughter went blind five years ago, our family resolved to stand strong in our faith. Although we didn’t understand God’s purpose in allowing her to become disabled, we knew God was sovereign and able to heal. Amberle had always wanted to be a missionary nurse, and she’d just begun her senior year at college when she experienced a rare allergic reaction that resulted in blindness.

Every day—several times a day—we prayed for healing. After three “experimental” operations, when Amberle’s vision returned, we were overjoyed. Six months later, however, she plunged into darkness again. We sought the best medical help available, and we continued to pray in authority and faith. Because we expected God to heal her, we waited nearly a year before we sought out the practical services Amberle needed to live independently—benefits like transportation and rehabilitative training. We continued to pray.

Five years passed. Eighteen operations later, Amberle was still blind. One day, as I was lifting up my request for Amberle’s healing, I sensed the Lord interrupting me. “There are more important things than healing,” He said. “Things like contentment, joy, and peace—does she have these?”

Yes, she did.

In fact, Amberle was happily married, completing her Master’s Degree, and actively serving God. “You have made her healing an idol,” God gently admonished. “You have made your desire for her healing more important than your relationship with me.”

Although I hadn’t recognized it, over the last five years, my spiritual energy had been devoted to praying for my daughter’s healing rather than praying to God. I had been blinded by what I saw rather than empowered by what I knew—like the Israelites had been in the valley of Elah (1 Samuel 17). And like the Israelites, I had spent so much energy focusing on my Goliath-sized problem I couldn’t see my God-sized problem solver.

Distraction is one of Satan’s primary tools. He tries to damage our relationship with God by having us concentrate on our earthly difficulties instead of our Heavenly Father.

In my case, instead of surrendering the situation to Him and seeking His peace, I just told God about it all the time—and tried to solve it on my own.

Was I wrong to pray for my daughter’s healing? Not at all. Philippians 4:6 states:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

I repented of my idol worship and began bringing my request to God rather than God to my request. I learned to meditate on who God is instead of what He can do and applied the truth of Isaiah 26:3:

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

Did the change result in healing for my daughter? No. She’s still blind. And I still pray for her every day with the authority that the Heavenly Father gives believers. I know God can heal her. But since I’ve started focusing on my relationship with God, I’ve learned to trust Him more. Whether or not healing comes in this earthly realm, God can be trusted with His good and perfect plans.

When you have a problem that seems insurmountable, don’t place the problem between you and God. Place God between the problem and you.

The Privilege of Serving God

 “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Luke 6:38

5. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:45

6. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  1 Peter 4:10

 

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Unselfish Service

From: Our Daily Bread

Unselfish Service

If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness. Isaiah 58:10

A small collection of people stood together, dwarfed by the size of the huge tree lying on the lawn. An elderly woman leaned on her cane and described watching the previous night’s windstorm as it blew down “our majestic old elm tree. Worst of all,” she continued, voice cracking with emotion, “it destroyed our lovely stone wall too. My husband built that wall when we were first married. He loved that wall. I loved that wall! Now it’s gone; just like him.”

Next morning, as she peeked out at the tree company workers cleaning up the downed tree; a big smile spread across her face. In between the branches she could just make out two adults and the boy who mowed her lawn carefully measuring and rebuilding her beloved stone wall!

The prophet Isaiah describes the kind of service God favors: acts that lift the hearts of those around us, like the wall repairers did for the elderly woman. This passage teaches that God values unselfish service to others over empty spiritual rituals. In fact, God exercises a two-way blessing on the selfless service of His children. First, God uses our willing acts of service to aid the oppressed and needy (Isaiah 58:7–10). Then God honors those engaged in such service by building or rebuilding our reputations as powerful positive forces in His kingdom (vv. 11–12). What service will you offer this day?

Thank You, Father, for the acts of others You use to lift us up, and for calling us to do the same.

Selfless service to others brings honor to God.

Like There’s No Tomorrow

From: Joe Stowell

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” James 4:14

I expected some challenges when I took on the presidency of Moody Bible Institute, but I never expected a death threat.

It happened during my first year at Moody. For reasons completely unknown to me, a convicted murderer decided that the world would be better off without me. And so, from prison, he let me know his feelings by sending a death threat. My colleagues and I immediately consulted with the Chicago Police, and they advised me, based on this guy’s past criminal history, that he might very well have the connections and criminal bent to pull it off. We needed to take this seriously.

It’s amazing how quickly news like that reshuffles your priorities. There were lots of tasks planned and my schedule was packed. But suddenly the important meetings didn’t seem quite so important and the urgent, pressing items demanding my attention didn’t seem quite so urgent and pressing. In fact, as I pondered the thought that my life was apparently in danger, my mind moved to two items that I had been trying desperately to avoid: shopping and bowling.

Under normal circumstances, shopping and bowling would be dead last on my task list. I particularly loathe shopping for clothes, especially when it involves standing in a cramped changing room trying on pair after pair of pants. And bowling? Well . . . I’ve just never been a big fan. But both of these activities, in that moment of considering my own mortality, represented opportunities to express love to those who counted most in my life.

My wife, Martie, had been asking me for quite a while to take our school-age son to do his back-to-school shopping. I knew that would involve traipsing from mall to mall, with hours (or what would seem like hours) of helping Matt in the dressing room. I had found every excuse to delay the pain! And Matt had also been asking me for weeks to go . . . you guessed it . . . bowling!

So when I got home that day, with the death threat looming over my head, I proposed that we spend the evening bowling and shopping for school clothes. Matt and mom were both stunned. Matt had no idea why I had experienced such a change of heart; he just happily jumped in the car! And off we went on a productive evening.

Well, obviously—and thankfully—I lived to see another day. And now, if I ever go bowling again, it will no doubt be with my grandkids! But I wish that I would always live as though today would be my last. Priorities get clear real fast when that’s our perspective!

It’s what James is getting at when he says, “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow . . . You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). What difference would it make if we truly grasped the fact that there are no guarantees about what tomorrow holds?

I suspect we would be a lot quicker to forgive. I think we would be much more apt to consider the needs of others around us. We’d say “I love you” more often and prioritize people over things and duties. I think we would spend a lot less time pursuing earth-side stuff and care a lot more about eternity and the lostness of people around us.

Count on it . . . we’d all be a lot better off if we heeded the words of James!

A preacher from the dead

“And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Luke 16:31

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Samuel 28:3-19

Spirit that hath returned from another world, tell me, how are men judged? Why are they condemned? Why are they saved? I hear him say, “Men are condemned because of sin. Read the ten commandments of Moses, and you will find the ten great condemnations whereby men are for ever cut off.” I knew that before, bright Spirit; thou hast told me nothing! “No,” says he, “and nothing can I tell.” “Because I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was sick, and ye visited me not; I was in prison, and ye came not unto me; therefore, inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it not to me. Depart, ye cursed!” “Why, Spirit, was that the word of the king?” “It was” says he. “I have read that too; thou hast told me no more.” If you do not know the difference between right and wrong from reading the Scripture, you would not know it if a spirit should tell you; if you do not know the road to hell and the road to heaven from the Bible itself, you would never know it at all. No book could be more clear, no revelation more distinct, no testimony more plain. And since without the agency of the Spirit, these testimonies are insufficient for salvation, it follows that no further declaration would avail. Salvation is ascribed wholly to God, and man’s ruin only to man. What more could a spirit tell us, than a distinct declaration of these two great truths.—“O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help found!” Beloved, we do solemnly say again, that Holy Scripture is so perfect, so complete, that it cannot want the supplement of any declaration concerning a future state. All that you ought to know concerning the future you may know from Holy Scripture.

For meditation: The rich man in the account (not called a parable) given by Jesus was full of false doctrine—praying to a saint, seeking some kind of second chance after death, rejecting the sufficiency of Scripture (Luke 16:24,30). Note the place from which these doctrines come (1 Timothy 4:1James 3:15).

Sermon no. 143

The Way to Purity

By Oswald Chambers

The Way to Purity

Initially we trust in our ignorance, calling it innocence, and next we trust our innocence, calling it purity. Then when we hear these strong statements from our Lord, we shrink back, saying, “But I never felt any of those awful things in my heart.” We resent what He reveals. Either Jesus Christ is the supreme authority on the human heart, or He is not worth paying any attention to. Am I prepared to trust the penetration of His Word into my heart, or would I prefer to trust my own “innocent ignorance”? If I will take an honest look at myself, becoming fully aware of my so-called innocence and putting it to the test, I am very likely to have a rude awakening that what Jesus Christ said is true, and I will be appalled at the possibilities of the evil and the wrong within me. But as long as I remain under the false security of my own “innocence,” I am living in a fool’s paradise. If I have never been an openly rude and abusive person, the only reason is my own cowardice coupled with the sense of protection I receive from living a civilized life. But when I am open and completely exposed before God, I find that Jesus Christ is right in His diagnosis of me.

The only thing that truly provides protection is the redemption of Jesus Christ. If I will simply hand myself over to Him, I will never have to experience the terrible possibilities that lie within my heart. Purity is something far too deep for me to arrive at naturally. But when the Holy Spirit comes into me, He brings into the center of my personal life the very Spirit that was exhibited in the life of Jesus Christ, namely, the Holy Spirit, which is absolute unblemished purity.

 

Competing For Christ

1 Corinthians 9:23-25

23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

The Need for Self-Discipline

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

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Hebrews 12:1-3

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

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Competing for Christ

From: Our Daily Journey

Competing for Christ

Read:

Matthew 4:1-11 
You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him (Matthew 4:10).

Rocky Seto, a long-time assistant coach for the Seattle Seahawks, left American football behind to become a pastor. Seto was highly respected by his players, and under his leadership, the Seahawks won the American National Football League’s Super Bowl in 2013. But in 2017, at just forty-one years old, Rocky believed he was called by God to leave American football to teach the Scriptures full time. Now serving with a church, the man who once said, “Jesus is better than the Super Bowl,” continues to “compete” for the souls of men and women as a pastor.

Satan was once challenged by Jesus in an attempt to attack God’s plan for the salvation of our souls (Matthew 4:1-11). The “tempter” tried to get Christ to misuse His power and turn from following His Father in obedience—an obedience that would require suffering and death on a cross. But Jesus wouldn’t fall for the devil’s ploy, stating, “Get out of here, Satan . . . . For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him’ ” (Matthew 4:10).

All believers in Jesus are called to contend for the faith. This means basing our decisions on what Scripture reveals and placing our full confidence in God—serving Him alone (Colossians 3:23-242 Timothy 3:16-17). Following Jesus’ example, we can use the power of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit as “God’s mighty weapons” (2 Corinthians 10:4) to live out the victory He won for us (Romans 8:37).

Not all of us will be called to leave our current vocation like Rocky Seto. But we are all called to discern God’s calling for how we can best serve Him. May we each humbly and lovingly live out a Spirit-empowered faith that fights passionately for the souls of others.

Am I Blessed Like This?

By Oswald Chambers

Am I Blessed Like This?

When we first read the statements of Jesus, they seem wonderfully simple and unstartling, and they sink unnoticed into our subconscious minds. For instance, the Beatitudes initially seem to be merely soothing and beautiful precepts for overly spiritual and seemingly useless people, but of very little practical use in the rigid, fast-paced workdays of the world in which we live. We soon find, however, that the Beatitudes contain the “dynamite” of the Holy Spirit. And they “explode” when the circumstances of our lives cause them to do so. When the Holy Spirit brings to our remembrance one of the Beatitudes, we say, “What a startling statement that is!” Then we must decide whether or not we will accept the tremendous spiritual upheaval that will be produced in our circumstances if we obey His words. That is the way the Spirit of God works. We do not need to be born again to apply the Sermon on the Mount literally. The literal interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount is as easy as child’s play. But the interpretation by the Spirit of God as He applies our Lord’s statements to our circumstances is the strict and difficult work of a saint.

The teachings of Jesus are all out of proportion when compared to our natural way of looking at things, and they come to us initially with astonishing discomfort. We gradually have to conform our walk and conversation to the precepts of Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit applies them to our circumstances. The Sermon on the Mount is not a set of rules and regulations— it is a picture of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His unhindered way with us.

Getting Along

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”  Psalm 133:1

I can still remember what it was like to take our family on vacation, only to have the kids in the backseat mar the joy of it all by their bickering and complaining. Who doesn’t remember the disruptive effects of “Dad, she touched me!” or “Mom, he won’t give me a turn!”

If you’ve had that kind of experience, you can imagine how God feels when His children quarrel and complain. Getting along is important to God. Jesus prayed that we would “be one” so that the world would believe He came from the Father (John 17:20-21). And to disciples who were prone to quarreling, He commanded that they love and serve one another (John 13:34-35Matt. 20:20-28). It should also be noted that among the seven things God hates, He includes “one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:19).

So I’m not surprised that the psalmist tells us that when brothers dwell in unity, it’s like “the precious oil upon the head, running down on . . . the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments” (Ps. 133:1-2). In ancient times, the oil of anointing was full of fragrant spices that graced the environment wherever the anointed one went. May the unity that comes from our love and service to one another fragrantly grace our families, churches, and friendships!

When love and kindness rule our lives,
And we are seen as one,
The fragrance of our unity
Has no comparison.  —Sper

Christians who get along with each other spread the sweet aroma of Jesus.

Jesus Knows Why

His Nature and Our Motive

By Oswald Chambers

His Nature and Our Motives

The characteristic of a disciple is not that he does good things, but that he is good in his motives, having been made good by the supernatural grace of God. The only thing that exceeds right-doing is right-being. Jesus Christ came to place within anyone who would let Him a new heredity that would have a righteousness exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus is saying, “If you are My disciple, you must be right not only in your actions, but also in your motives, your aspirations, and in the deep recesses of the thoughts of your mind.” Your motives must be so pure that God Almighty can see nothing to rebuke. Who can stand in the eternal light of God and have nothing for Him to rebuke? Only the Son of God, and Jesus Christ claims that through His redemption He can place within anyone His own nature and make that person as pure and as simple as a child. The purity that God demands is impossible unless I can be remade within, and that is exactly what Jesus has undertaken to do through His redemption.

No one can make himself pure by obeying laws. Jesus Christ does not give us rules and regulations— He gives us His teachings which are truths that can only be interpreted by His nature which He places within us. The great wonder of Jesus Christ’s salvation is that He changes our heredity. He does not change human nature— He changes its source, and thereby its motives as well.

 

How saints may help the devil

“That thou may bear thine own shame, and may be confounded in all that thou hast done, in that thou art a comfort unto them.” Ezekiel 16:54

Suggested Further Reading: Nehemiah 5:1-9

The church of Christ appears to be as worldly as the world itself, and professors of religion have become as sharp in trade and as ungenerous in their dealing as those that have never professed to serve him. And now what does the world say? It throws this in our teeth. If it is accused of loving the things of time and sense, it answers, “And so do you.” If we tell the world that it has set its hopes upon a shadow, it replies, “But we have set our hope upon the selfsame thing in which you are trusting; you are as worldly, as grasping, as covetous as we are; your protest has lost its force; you are no longer witnesses against us—we are accusers of you.” Another point in which the sinner often excuses himself is the manifest worldliness of many Christians. You will see Christian men and women as fond of dress, and as pleased with the frivolities of the age, as any other persons possible could be; just as anxious to adorn their outward person, so as to be seen of men; just as ambitious to win the praise which fools accord to fine dressing, as the most silly fop or the most gaudy among worldly women. What saith the world, when we turn round to it, and accuse it of being a mere butterfly, and finding all its pleasures in gaudy toys? “Oh! Yes,” it says, “we know your cant, but it is just the same with you. Do you not stand up and sing,

‘Jewels to thee are gaudy toys,
And gold is sordid dust’

And yet you are just as fond of glittering as we are; your doctors of divinity pride themselves just as much in their D.D. as any of us in other titles.”

 

Guard Yourself

By: Andrea Merrell

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

I’ve been hacked!

A few years ago this might have meant cut, severed, annoyed, or vexed, but a new definition has been added to Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary: to gain access to a computer illegally. Since hack also means cope, now the word just makes me angry and I can’t hack it.

Several months ago, all my contacts received an e-mail, supposedly from me, begging for money because I was stranded in the Philippines. As if this didn’t cause enough problems and create a huge mess to clean up, a couple of months later my contacts were hit again, this time from both e-mail accounts which had a new, secure password. It seemed I was stranded once again, this time in London. My passport, cell phone, and money had been stolen and there were debts to clear up before the authorities would let me leave the country. All my friends and business associates needed to do was send a money order (anywhere from $800 to $1,800) to Western Union in London and everything would be taken care of. I would be free to go.

As you can imagine, e-mails, texts, and phone calls came in like a flood. Some wanted to alert me that I had been hacked. Others actually believed the bogus information and were attempting to help me. I think a few people who didn’t know me well were trying to figure out why I would ask them for money … period.

Everything was lost—contacts, e-mails, and folders with valuable information. I felt violated. The frustration of contacting my provider through miles of red tape mounted as I created an account with a different provider and attempted to regain some of my lost files. Fortunately, everything was fully restored. Everything, that is, except the time I lost by being the victim of someone’s unscrupulous cyber activity.

Unfortunately, there’s another form of unscrupulous activity we have to be aware of every single day—the lies, temptations, and attacks of our enemy, the devil. He is out to devour us and we are told to: “Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” Attacks come in subtle and deceptive ways and we must be vigilant … watchful … cautious. The Bible instructs us to avoid giving the devil any opportunity to gain a foothold in our life. We must know his tactics and strategies and be ready to resist him with the Sword of the Spirit—the living, powerful, Word of God.

Too many times in my life I have been hacked by the devil and his schemes. Thinking my heart was password-protected, I went about my daily routine unaware—clueless that my enemy was out to kill, steal, and destroy. The great news is that God has given us power, authority, and spiritual weapons of warfare to combat every attack. The priceless, shed blood of Jesus is the only virus protection we need and there is no charge. All we have to do is receive.

Our Great Provider is always available. He is on-call 24/7 and there is no red tape to go through when we need Him. All we have to do is call on Him. When we believe in our heart and ask in faith, He has promised to come to our rescue. He will restore everything we have lost … and then some.

Won’t you call on Him today?

God’s Careful Watch Over Us

 Psalms 91: 9-16

Because you have made the Lordwho is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10 No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall [c]bear you up,
Lest you [d]dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.

14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will [e]set him on high, because he has known My name.
15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With [f]long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”

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Watchful Care

From: Our Daily Bread

Watchful Care
Read: Jeremiah 23:20–24 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 33–34; Acts 24

“Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 23:24

Before he raced out the door to school, I asked my son if he had brushed his teeth. Asking again, I reminded him of the importance of telling the truth. Unmoved by my gentle admonishment, he half-jokingly informed me that what I really needed was a security camera in the bathroom. Then I could check for myself if he had brushed his teeth and he wouldn’t be tempted to lie.

While the presence of a security camera may help remind us to follow the rules, there are still places we can go unnoticed or ways we can avoid being seen. Although we may evade or trick a security camera, we fool ourselves if we think we are ever outside the gaze of God.

God asks, “Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” (Jeremiah 23:24). There is both an encouragement and a warning in His question.

The warning is that we cannot hide from God. We can’t outrun or fool Him. Everything we do is visible to Him.

The encouragement is that there is no place on earth or in the heavens where we are outside the watchful care of our heavenly Father. Even when we feel alone, God is with us. No matter where we go today, may the awareness of that truth encourage us to choose obedience to His Word and receive comfort—He watches over us.

Lord Jesus, thank You that there is nowhere I can go that is outside of Your loving gaze. Knowing You see me, help me to honor You with my words and actions.

We are never outside the watchful care of our heavenly Father.

 

Sanctification (2)

By Oswald Chambers

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The Life Side. The mystery of sanctification is that the perfect qualities of Jesus Christ are imparted as a gift to me, not gradually, but instantly once I enter by faith into the realization that He “became for [me]…sanctification….” Sanctification means nothing less than the holiness of Jesus becoming mine and being exhibited in my life.

The most wonderful secret of living a holy life does not lie in imitating Jesus, but in letting the perfect qualities of Jesus exhibit themselves in my human flesh. Sanctification is “Christ in you…” (Colossians 1:27). It is His wonderful life that is imparted to me in sanctification— imparted by faith as a sovereign gift of God’s grace. Am I willing for God to make sanctification as real in me as it is in His Word?

Sanctification means the impartation of the holy qualities of Jesus Christ to me. It is the gift of His patience, love, holiness, faith, purity, and godliness that is exhibited in and through every sanctified soul. Sanctification is not drawing from Jesus the power to be holy— it is drawing from Jesus the very holiness that was exhibited in Him, and that He now exhibits in me. Sanctification is an impartation, not an imitation. Imitation is something altogether different. The perfection of everything is in Jesus Christ, and the mystery of sanctification is that all the perfect qualities of Jesus are at my disposal. Consequently, I slowly but surely begin to live a life of inexpressible order, soundness, and holiness— “…kept by the power of God…” (1 Peter 1:5).

 

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From: Streams in the Desert

Giving thanks always for all things unto God (Ephesians 5:20).

No matter what the source of the evil, if you are in God and surrounded by Him as by an atmosphere, all evil has to pass through Him before it comes to you. Therefore you can thank God for everything that comes, not for the sin of it, but for what God will bring out of it and through it. May God make our lives thanksgiving and perpetual praise, then He will make everything a blessing.

We once saw a man draw some black dots. We looked and could make nothing of them but an irregular assemblage of black dots. Then he drew a few lines, put in a few rests, then a clef at the beginning, and we saw these black dots were musical notes. On sounding them we were singing,

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below.”

There are many black dots and black spots in our lives, and we cannot understand why they are there or why God permitted them to come. But if we let God come into our lives, and adjust the dots in the proper way, and draw the lines He wants, and separate this from that, and put in the rests at the proper places; out of the black dots and spots in our lives He will make a glorious harmony.

Let us not hinder Him in this glorious work!
–C. H. P.

Would we know that the major chords were sweet,
If there were no minor key?
Would the painter’s work be fair to our eyes,
Without shade on land or sea?
Would we know the meaning of happiness,
Would we feel that the day was bright,
If we’d never known what it was to grieve,
Nor gazed on the dark of night?

Many men owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties.
–C. H. Spurgeon

When the musician presses the black keys on the great organ, the music is as sweet as when he touches the white ones, but to get the capacity of the instrument he must touch them all.
–Selected

God’s Love Is Forever

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. – Deuteronomy 7:9

How precious is your unfailing love, O God! – Psalm 36:7

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. – Psalm 86:5

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. – Psalm 86:15

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

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Love that Endures

From: Our Daily Journey

Love that Endures

Read:

1 Corinthians 12:25–13:13
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (1 Corinthians 13:7).

Nearly 40 percent of singles in a 2013 study described feeling isolated in their churches. One researcher concluded, “[Singles] . . . feel invisible and think about leaving.” That statistic doesn’t surprise me. As a single person, I’ve experienced feelings of isolation in churches composed primarily of couples who socialize primarily with other couples. I’ve also experienced awkward silences when I reveal I’m not dating, married, or even actively seeking a spouse.

It can be easy for churches to embrace mainstream culture’s tendency to idolize romance while seeing friendships and community as optional, superficial, and non-committal. In that worldview, singles can be excluded from being known and loved at a deep level, while couples can sometimes enter marriage with unrealistic expectations.

The apostle Paul described the church, not as a collection of couples and singles, but as an interdependent body meant to share joy and suffering together (1 Corinthians 12:25-26), where each person is uniquely gifted and needed for the good of the whole (1 Corinthians 12:7,21-22). And when Paul described the “way of life that is best of all” (1 Corinthians 12:31), he didn’t describe marriage but the love the community of faith is called to embody (1 Corinthians 13:12-13), a love that “never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

When believers deepen their experience of community and unity through the Spirit, we grow into a love deeper than our own individual needs, one where we’re invited into a calling much bigger than ourselves (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). And we also grow in our witness to the transforming power of Jesus’ love, the love that will last forever (1 Corinthians 13:13).

 

At Just The Right Time

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son. —Galatians 4:4

Why is being on time so challenging for some of us? Even when we start early, something inevitably gets in our way to make us late.

But here’s the good news: God is always on time! Speaking of the arrival of Jesus, Paul said, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son” (Gal. 4:4). The long-awaited, promised Savior came at just the right time.

Jesus’ arrival during the Roman Empire’s Pax Romana (the peace of Rome) was perfect timing. The known world was united by one language of commerce. A network of global trade routes provided open access to the whole world. All of this guaranteed that the gospel could move rapidly in one tongue. No visas. No impenetrable borders. Only unhindered access to help spread the news of the Savior whose crucifixion fulfilled the prophecy of the Lamb who would be slain for our sins (Isa. 53:1-12). All in God’s perfect timing!

All of this should remind us that the Lord knows what time is best for us as well. If you’re waiting for answered prayer or the fulfillment of one of His promises, don’t give up. If you think He has forgotten you, think again. When the fullness of time is right for you, He’ll show up—and you’ll be amazed by His brilliant timing!

Not ours to know the reason why
Unanswered is our prayer,
But ours to wait for God’s own time
To lift the cross we bear. —Anon.

God’s timing is always perfect.

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By: Oswald Chambers

The Death Side. In sanctification God has to deal with us on the death side as well as on the life side. Sanctification requires our coming to the place of death, but many of us spend so much time there that we become morbid. There is always a tremendous battle before sanctification is realized— something within us pushing with resentment against the demands of Christ. When the Holy Spirit begins to show us what sanctification means, the struggle starts immediately. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate…his own life…he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).

In the process of sanctification, the Spirit of God will strip me down until there is nothing left but myself, and that is the place of death. Am I willing to be myself and nothing more? Am I willing to have no friends, no father, no brother, and no self-interest— simply to be ready for death? That is the condition required for sanctification. No wonder Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). This is where the battle comes, and where so many of us falter. We refuse to be identified with the death of Jesus Christ on this point. We say, “But this is so strict. Surely He does not require that of me.” Our Lord is strict, and He does require that of us.

Am I willing to reduce myself down to simply “me”? Am I determined enough to strip myself of all that my friends think of me, and all that I think of myself? Am I willing and determined to hand over my simple naked self to God? Once I am, He will immediately sanctify me completely, and my life will be free from being determined and persistent toward anything except God (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

When I pray, “Lord, show me what sanctification means for me,” He will show me. It means being made one with Jesus. Sanctification is not something Jesus puts in me— it is Himself in me (see 1 Corinthians 1:30).

 

Karen Ehman July 20, 2018
Trying Not to Crash and Burn
KAREN EHMAN

“But I am trusting you, O LORD, saying, ‘You are my God!’ My future is in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.” Psalm 31:14-15 (NLT)

“Mom, quick … look at that lady!” My 14-year-old son shouted as we headed down the interstate on an errand-running Thursday afternoon. “She should not be doing that,” he added for emphasis.

I glanced over at the car next to us, expecting to see someone without her hands at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions like my by-the-rulebook-boy does when he’s training behind the wheel. Instead, I nearly ran off the road while gawking at what my Driver’s Ed patrolman had spotted.

Next to us was a woman cradling her cell phone on her right shoulder, holding an open fast-food salad container in her left hand, ripping open a salad dressing packet with her teeth and her right hand … all while steering her car with her knees!

What in the world!? My boys and I thought surely if she kept up this multitasking method of driving, she was going to cause a crash.

I would NEVER attempt to do all of that when I drive, I smugly thought to myself. Entirely too dangerous and probably against the law. Yep, when it comes to being a safe-driving expert, the apple doesn’t fall far from the “Honey-you-didn’t-use-your-blinker-back-there” maternal tree.

It wasn’t until later that night it hit me. Sure, I might not dangerously multitask when driving, thereby risking collision. But in my day-to-day life? In my schedule? In my “sure-I-can-take-on-one-more-responsibility-so-everyone-will-like-me” way? I sometimes dangerously multitask to the point I am heading for a crash.

Taking on too many responsibilities, no matter how “good” they might appear to be, can often render us ineffective for service to God. Yet, He knows our limits. He understands our capacities. He is willing, if we’ll ask Him, to help us navigate the busyness and activity that often trips us up.

On one of my so-busy-I-couldn’t-breathe days, I opened my Bible and read today’s key verse: “But I am trusting you, O LORD, saying, ‘You are my God!’ My future is in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly” (Psalm 31:14-15).

While I’m sure the psalmist David was talking about actual physical enemies — men who could chase, catch and ultimately hurt you — I realized that day my enemy was busyness. Too many activities and responsibilities outside my four walls were about to do me in. They chased me, cornered me and worst of all, were about to go in for the kill.

Thankfully, God can rescue us from the barren life of busyness. He invites us to hold our too-full plates up to Him, allowing Him to scrape off all the activities and responsibilities. Then, He’ll place only the items HE longs for us to possess back on our plates.

When this happens, we can create space in our calendar to retreat, places of sweet respite in our days where we connect with God. Times when we slow down and sit still to listen and learn from the Creator of time itself.

So, how about it friend? Let’s allow God to scrape off our distractions before we crash and burn!

Dear Lord, forgive me for allowing busyness to overtake my life — crowding out others and worst of all You. Help me as I purpose to place only those items on my plate that You long for me to have. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.