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Judas Betrays Jesus With A Kiss

6 Bible verses about Betrayal, God Never Will150 Betrayal Quotes, Sayings about Love, Friendship and Family
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If You’ve Ever Felt Betrayed

By Debbie McDaniel, crosswalk.com

“While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me–one who is eating with me.” – Mark 14:18

Betrayal. Chances are, if we’ve lived long enough, we know very well what this feels like. To be betrayed or wronged by one who was trusted is a difficult hurdle to get over. It can sometimes leave us stuck right where it happened, we spin it over in our minds a million different ways, asking all the why’s, but there’s usually no adequate answer to even satisfy.

He knows. He understands.

Judas Iscariot, one who walked with Jesus and knew him well, paid simple money to betray our Savior. 30 pieces of silver, given in exchange for His life. It seems almost incredible that he would fall for such a trap or be so wrapped in greed. Money can’t be placed on any life. But on the very One who did so much for him, who offered such love and forgiveness?

The ultimate betrayal of a friend.

Yet Jesus knew it was part of a larger plan. And He still chose to say “yes” and walk that difficult road. Because He understood at the very core of it all, was our need to be set free.

Our need for forgiveness.

The crowd, who had just days before been praising His name as He rode into Jerusalem, suddenly changed. The tide had turned, things had shifted in the other direction. Jesus, once loved and followed by the multitudes, became the person the crowds turned hatred and insults upon.

His own disciples scattered, out of fear for their own lives. They ran. Away from him. In the darkest hours. Peter, one of his bravest, closest friends, even denied knowing him, 3 different times.

The deep hurt Jesus must have endured, the pain, the loneliness, is hard to imagine.

So often in this life when we are wronged, betrayed, offended, or treated unfairly, we want to rise up. To defend our rights and on our own point of view. Or we fight hard to get even. Or even stew in silence while nursing our wounds and getting more angry. It’s hard to extend the same grace and compassion that Christ Himself extended to others in the midst of his own pain. Yet He set the example, the way for us to walk.

He knew the trap of betrayal and unforgiveness, he saw through its lies, the deep wounds of the soul that it could cause. He chose the better way, stepped over its grasp, and chose to love, to forgive.

Unforgiveness, even towards ourselves, will keep us prisoner to the past, to the wrong, to the betrayal, to the offender. It will never allow us to move forward in the freedom of where God wants us to live. And even hidden resentments, the ones we think no one sees, or knows about, safely tucked away into a secret place in our souls, will weigh us down, trapping us in the very place we wish to let go of.

But we don’t have to live there. We can make the choice to move forward.

Though forgiveness may never “feel” right, it will always “be” right. Because in it you will be set free. Choosing to forgive doesn’t mean that the wrong never happened, it just means you refuse to allow it to control your life anymore.

Christ forgave. Huge love covering all the wrong, all the sin, all the barriers that block our way to God. He whispered these words up to His Father, grace words, breathing out love, through the suffering and the pain. He spoke them out loud. For those that persecuted Him. For us. For the world. Father, forgive them…”

And He forgives. Still.

Grace.

Amazing love.

That covers a multitude of sin.

Let go. Give it to Him. He carried all the hurt for you. He understands your pain.

In Him, we are set free.

The Betrayal Kiss

 Today Devotional, Arie Leder

Scripture Reading — Psalm 41; Luke 22:47-53

Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me. — Psalm 41:9

Jesus and his disciples left the security of the upper room and walked outside the city to the Mount of Olives. And there, away from the crowds, he was betrayed. A kiss from Judas, one of his own chosen disciples, one who had learned from Jesus for the past few years, betrayed him to the officials who were seeking to destroy him. Jesus confronted Judas with his treason: Are you going to use the kiss of friendship to hand me over to the powers of darkness?

A kiss is not a sign of friendship when the one who delivers it is your enemy. Psalm 41 reminds us that false friendship is an ancient problem, especially among brothers: Cain killed Abel, Jacob deceived Esau, and Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery.

The disciples’ reaction is understandable: put the opposition to the sword. But Jesus heals the cut-off ear, salving the wound made by a zealous disciple. In receiving Judas’s treasonous kiss, Jesus took on himself all the false friendships that embittered his people. The disloyalty of one who shared his table took him to the cross.

In dark Gethsemane, we see a king we don’t expect to see. Instead of a pompous ruler on a throne, we see our suffering Lord, who faces the humiliation of a bitter betrayal.

And we must remember that he suffered all this for you and me so that we might live.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for enduring all this suffering and death for me. I am eternally grateful. Please help me be faithful, Lord. I pray in your name. Amen.

 

I shall rise again

By: Charles Spurgeon

“But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.” 1 Corinthians 15:35-38

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 21:25-33

The seasons are four evangelists, each of them having his testimony to utter to us. Does not summer preach to us of God’s bounty, of the richness of his goodness, of that lavish generosity with which he has been pleased to supply the earth, not simply with food for man, but with delights for both ear and eye in the beauteous landscape, the melodious birds, and the flowers of various hue? Have you never heard the still small voice of autumn, who bears the wheatsheaf, and whispers to us in the rustling of the withered leaf? He bids us prepare to die.“All we” saith he, “do fade as a leaf,” and “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Then comes winter, crowned with snow, and he thunders out a most mighty sermon, which, if we would but listen to it, might well impress us with the terrors of God’s vengeance, and let us see how soon he can strip the earth of all its pleasantries, and enrobe it in storm, when he shall come himself to judge the earth with righteousness, and the people with equity. But it seems to me that spring reads us a most excellent discourse upon the grand doctrine of revelation. This very month of April, which, if it be not the very entrance of spring, yet certainly introduces us to the fulness of it; this very month, bearing by its name the title of the opening month, speaks to us of the resurrection. As we have walked through our gardens, fields, and woods, we have seen the flower-buds ready to burst upon the trees, and the fruit-blossoms hastening to unfold themselves; we have seen the buried flowers rising from the sod, and they have spoken to us with sweet, sweet voice, the words, “Thou too shalt rise again, thou too shalt be buried in the earth like seeds that are lost in winter, but thou shalt rise again, and thou shalt live and blossom in eternal springs.”

For meditation: Only a fool ignores the lessons of creation (Romans 1:20-22).

Jesus Cleanses The Temple

Jesus Got Angry

While on an outing with two special little friends, we went to a gift shop that had a basket of colorful hair clips displayed near the floor. It was like a magnet to Megan, the 18-month-old. Her four-year-old sister, Mollie soon joined her.

My correction, “No, no. Don’t touch” had no effect in getting little hands out of the basket, even when repeated. Finally, I spoke a little stronger, “Obey.” Immediately, both girls withdrew their hands and backed away. Mollie’s eyes filled with hurt and confusion.

I’d been studying anger in the Bible for several months, and I realized that Mollie reacted, as if to anger. I didn’t feel angry. Nor, did I think I was angry. Yes, my voice became harsh for the final word, but I reasoned that I needed to be firm to let them know I meant business. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that my actions showed all the signs of using anger to get what I wanted. Their reaction told me that I must have been angry, whether I thought I was or not. I had manipulated the girls with harshness.

Obedience is important. If they don’t learn to obey earthly authority, they won’t obey God. It would be irresponsible not to address the issue. However, what appeared to be sound logic and justification did not erase the memory of both girls pulling away from me. They obeyed, but I had alienated them to gain obedience.

But Jesus got angry when He drove the traders and the livestock out of the temple. Therefore, it’s okay for me to get stern when I have just cause. Right?

When I looked more closely at the passage, I discovered that is not right.

Anger is generally a reaction rather than a response of action. However, because Jesus only did what He saw His Father doing, we know that His demonstration in the temple was not a reaction to the moneychangers. It was action in response to His Father.

Furthermore, if we are around someone who has an angry outburst, we want to fight back or withdraw and run. But that is not how people responded to Jesus.

  1. The disciples were reminded of a verse from Psalms. (Mark. 11:17)
  2. The multitude was listening to Jesus, making the chief priests and scribes afraid. (Mark 11:18)
  3. The blind and lame came to Him for healing.(Matthew 21:14)
  4. He taught in the temple the rest of the day and “the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things He did.”(Matthew 21:15)
  5. The children were crying “Hosanna to the Son of David.” (Matthew 21:15)

People were drawn to Jesus after His “angry” outburst. Nobody pulled back like Mollie and Megan. The chief priests and scribes allowed Him to continue teaching and healing in the temple, and then reacted because of the response of others to Him. Could it be that rather than reacting in anger, Jesus was acting under authority?

Was He also taking authority – authority which was rightfully His as the Son of God? After questioning Him, the chief priests allowed Him to teach because He was acting as One under authority.

I’m grateful my relationship with my young friends was not permanently damaged, and that they have continued to learn and grow. I am especially grateful because I believe in this incident God’s purpose was for me to learn something.

Thanks to them, my eyes were opened to see that I was angry more often than I thought. I also saw how easily anger affects relationships. My harshness came from defending my own authority, not from a motivation to train in righteousness. I was seeking conformity to my way, not following the leadership of God. While trying to make them come under authority, I was out from under mine.

I still believe it is important to teach obedience, and that there needs to be consequences for disobedience. However, I’m learning to do it under authority so it will draw people to me — and to Jesus — rather than driving them away.

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

ligonier.org, source

John 02:13-25, “Christ Cleanses the Temple” | Ezra Commentary

“Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons” (v. 12).

– Matthew 21:12–13

Messianic expectations were at a fever pitch after Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matt. 21:1–11), and the next action He performed only added fuel to the fire. We will today look at our Lord’s cleansing of the temple in Matthew 21:12–13 and examine what it teaches us about the Christ.

Of Herod’s building projects, none were greater than the Jerusalem temple, which he expanded. It sat on what we now call the Temple Mount, an area of some thirty-five acres. Only priests could enter the temple itself, which took up a small part of the mount and was surrounded by three courts: Israelite men could enter the court closest to the temple. Israelite men and women could occupy the next court. But the Court of the Gentiles, which was the court farthest from the temple, was the closest any non-Jew could get to the sanctuary.

From around the world, first-century Jews came to the temple at Passover to sacrifice to the Lord (Ex. 12:1–28Lev. 23:4–8). It was impractical to bring sacrificial animals long distances; so, they were available in Jerusalem — for a price. Most Jews also paid the temple tax at Passover, and money-changers were there to convert Roman coinage into appropriate currency: pagan mottoes on Roman money made it unacceptable for Yahweh’s house. Though not inherently evil, these practices became occasions for sin. Pilgrims paid exorbitant rates to change money, and sellers exploited those in poverty, overcharging for the poor man’s offering of pigeons and doves (Lev. 5:7). To make things worse, these merchants set up shop in the Court of the Gentiles, making it useless as a place of prayer due to the hustle and bustle the buying and selling created.

Therefore Jesus drove out the sellers (Matt. 21:12). These merchants, and the priests who allowed their presence, cared nothing for true worship as long as they could make money and keep up the rituals. Our Savior hated this sacrilege, which kept the nations from learning about the living God in His sanctuary.

We cannot underestimate the importance of this act. It showed Jesus as having authority to purify and take charge of the temple, a messianic task (Ezek. 43:1–12) that only put Him more at odds with the Sanhedrin.

Cleansing the Temple (1)

learnreligions.com, source

Cleansing of the Temple - Wikipedia

Scripture Reading — Matthew 21:12-17

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there.
Matthew 21:12 —

Let’s take some time over the next few days to discover what Jesus is teaching us by his cleansing of the temple. When Jesus entered the temple area after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he began driving out everyone who was buying and selling there.

What had stoked the fires of his divine wrath and anger? We know from Scripture that the “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Jesus knew that too. Jesus became angry because religious hucksters were using God to make extra money. You see, people traveling into Jerusalem for the Passover needed to buy animals for the sacrifices they would offer to God during this festival. Most of those people also needed to exchange their money for temple currency in order to buy the animals. The trouble, though, was that the money changers and sellers were often dishonest and took advantage of those travelers.

I have met people who were turned off by the church. When I once asked a neighbor why he no longer attended church, he said he had quit because the church didn’t care for him—they just wanted his money. I don’t know if that was true or just an excuse. But I do know that many people have been turned off because they’ve been fleeced by some unscrupulous person who claimed to be a Christian. When that happens, Jesus gets angry.

Prayer

Lord, what needs to be cleansed in our lives? Is it a love for money? Is it a desire to exploit people for our own purposes? Lord, cleanse what is offensive in me. In your name, Amen.

Secret Plots

by Inspiration Ministries

“Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked … they talk of laying snares secretly … God shall shoot at them with an arrow … He will make them stumble over their own tongue … All men … shall declare the work of God.” – Psalm 64:2, 5, 7-9 NKJV

David had been the victim of secret plots and wounded by words spoken from deceptive hearts. He had been deceived by men who promised to act honorably but who were preparing to trap him.

As David discovered, some people make a habit of acting in secretive ways. They feel that this secrecy allows them to mask their true motivations and makes it easier to deceive and fool others. This willingness to be secretive can lead to a lifetime of engaging in gossip, spreading rumors, lying, and deceiving.

As believers, we can feel vulnerable to these types of secretive plots. They can fill us with fear and uncertainty. Others may plot against us, but, as David learned, we always can trust God. We can be confident that He knows the “secret plots of the wicked.” We can know for sure that He will take care of us and defend us.

At the same time, we can be tempted to engage in secretive actions ourselves against others. We are often tempted to be like the world around us. But God calls us to be different. We are not to be deceptive, but rather transparent and honest. We must keep our promises and always act with integrity.

Today, seek to live in the light before God. Seek to have a pure heart. Make a practice of telling the truth. Be faithful and trustworthy.

Simple Faith In Christ Saves You

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Give Me Simple

fancy remote control

This remote control nearly takes my breath away. Complicated. That’s the only word I can think of when I look at it. Sixty-two buttons. And four of the buttons are color codes, which, in various combinations with other buttons, vastly increases the possible functions. A killer remote. That’s what this is. It will wreak havoc on the brain functions of the poor soul who tries to make sense of the whole thing. On the other hand, some people would probably love it because it does so much.

Complicated. This remote tells me that life is too busy and stuffed, that we want every conceivable electronic function—or every conceivable thing or activity. We fill up our lives the way the manufacturer loaded buttons on this remote. And if I ask ten people if their life is too complicated, probably nine will say it is.

Simple. This remote inspires me to long for more simplicity in life—both mine and the world I live in. Simplicity of less stuff and less busyness, of focus on what’s important, and of the freedom that follows.

A key factor in pursuing and maintaining simplicity is my values and calling. They give me clarity in every area of life on what’s most important and what’s secondary.

Jesus did this his entire time on earth. When word spread that he was a miracle man, and crowds came to receive a touch from God, he got up and left. Left! He walked away and said,

“I must announce the good news of God’s kingdom to the other towns also. That is why I was sent” (Luke 4:43 NIRV).

He could have done a gazillion things, but he focused on why he was here.

And when he visited Martha and Mary’s house, Martha was living the complicated life and doing all the work needed to serve the meal, and I appreciate Martha. It would have been a miserable supper without her. But Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and focused in simple attention to what was most important (Luke 10:38–42).

Jesus said, “… only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better. And it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42 NIRV).

Many things are good but not needed. Mary’s focused hunger for God put everything else in its proper secondary place in a life of blessed simplicity.

What is that worth to you?

 

Through The Bible Devotions

Deuteronomy 7:7-8 (NIV) 7The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Why does the LORD set His love on certain ones? In the case of Israel, we see that He simply chose to love them, and it was in keeping with the oath He made to their forefathers. That oath began with the man of faith, Abraham. Our relationship with God can affect future generations that follow us.

God chose to love the world. He set His love upon the world because of what Jesus did. The result of Jesus’ life of faith is the same type, but it is the ultimate fulfillment of the shadow in Abraham. We, too, were delivered from the land of slavery, slavery to our old nature. We, too, are delivered from the master of this world, Satan. He no longer has a claim to our lives. He has no right to our souls. God made a promise to crush the head of Satan so that we could be redeemed and out from under the power of the enemy.

This verse applies to us today. God has set His affection on you and chosen you. Thank Jesus for making that possible. Live in the knowledge of the truth that God has set His affection on you because of Jesus’ life of faith and death in your place.

Consider: You are delivered from the power of the enemy. Don’t let him tell you anything else. You are loved, and you are free!

 

Streams in the Desert – March 28

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

And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon a heap. (Joshua 3:13).

Brave Levites! Who can help admiring them, to carry the Ark right into the stream; for the waters were not divided till their feet dipped in the water (ver. 15). God had not promised aught else.

God honors faith. “Obstinate faith,” that the PROMISE sees and “looks to that alone.” You can fancy how the people would watch these holy men march on, and some of the bystanders would be saying, “You would not catch me running that risk! Why, man, the ark will be carried away!” Not so; “the priests stood firm on dry ground.” We must not overlook the fact that faith on our part helps God to carry out His plans. “Come up to the help of the Lord.”

The Ark had staves for the shoulders. Even the Ark did not move of itself; it was carried. When God is the architect, men are the masons and laborers. Faith assists God. It can stop the mouth of lions and quench the violence of fire. It yet honors God, and God honors it.

Oh, for this faith that will go on, leaving God to fulfill His promise when He sees fit! Fellow Levites, let us shoulder our load, and do not let us look as if we were carrying God’s coffin. It is the Ark of the living God! Sing as you march towards the flood!
–Thomas Champness

One of the special marks of the Holy Ghost in the Apostolic Church was the spirit of boldness. One of the most essential qualities of the faith that is to attempt great things for God, and expect great things from God, is holy audacity. Where we are dealing with a supernatural Being, and taking from Him things that are humanly impossible, it is easier to take much than little; it is easier to stand in a place of audacious trust than in a place of cautious, timid clinging to the shore.

Like wise seamen in the life of faith, let us launch out into the deep, and find that all things are possible with God, and all things are possible unto him that believeth.

Let us, today, attempt great things for God; take His faith and believe for them and His strength to accomplish them.
–Days of Heaven upon Earth

A Total Commitment

by Inspiration Ministries

“When the large crowd … heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took the branches of the palm trees … and began shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord.’” – John 12:12-13 NASB

Eager with anticipation, the crowds greeted Jesus as He approached Jerusalem, shouting loud praises! He had done amazing things, most recently raising Lazarus from the dead. This was a moment of celebration. It could have seemed like a great triumph for Jesus. But He understood what really was taking place and what really was important.

During the feast that would be taking place in Jerusalem, Jesus was approached by some Greeks. His words might have surprised them. He did not talk like a conqueror or king. He did not speak about power, overthrowing Roman rule, or building a movement. Instead, He spoke about being a servant. Instead of talking about life, He talked about death.

He had committed everything to doing the Father’s will and completing His work – even if this meant death. If these Greeks wanted to bear much fruit, they, too, needed to commit everything to serve God. They needed to obey Him without reservation, no matter the cost and to understand that He honors servants and rewards those who give up everything to serve Him.

We are reminded of these truths today, on this Palm Sunday. This day reminds us of the importance of praising Jesus and committing everything to follow Him. Always seek first God’s Kingdom. Be a servant. Focus on serving God. Fill your life with praise and worship. Seek to be a living sacrifice, pleasing to Him.

God Is Our Strength and Shield

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Shower Curtain Security

My neighbor, Edna, found a stray kitten on her porch a few months ago. She already had three grown cats, all of which hated the kitten, so she called me and asked me to take him. I love cats, but hadn’t had one in several years and didn’t think I wanted another one. However, when I heard his baby meow over the phone line, my heart melted.

I don’t know where he had been before Edna’s, but he came to me full of insecurity. He keeps looking for places to hunker down where he can feel secure. One of his favorites is under the shower curtain. I have a curved shower rod and when not in use, the curtain hangs outside the tub, bowing out in the center with the hem dangling a few inches above the floor.

The kitten, Theodore, crouches under the center section. The funny thing is the shower curtain only covers his ears and eyes, leaving his whole body exposed and his whiskers poking out. But he feels safe under the flimsy fabric.

I am reminded of how we can be like Theodore. We look for security in flimsy things, too. My husband and I, seriously concerned about providing enough money for our retirement, invested in the stock market. Having money socked away makes us feel better about the future. But markets have a history of softening, declining and bursting like a bubble. We really don’t know how much money we will end up with.

Some people collect things, even when they can’t afford to. I am reminded of the commercial in which a man who has a huge, fake smile plastered on his face lists all the possessions he owns. At the end he says, still smiling, “Can’t somebody help me? I’m in debt up to my eyeballs.” Surrounding ourselves with a lot of things may feel good for a while, but even if we can afford them, we can’t take them with us when our life is over. We’re simply covering our eyes and ears to the truth that they can’t provide the kind of security that lasts.

A job seems like the answer for many. They spend years training and preparing for their dream job – the one that will make them rich and famous. Someone said fame is fleeting. They were right and jobs can be, too, in our world of layoffs, outsourcing and corporate corruption.

Some search for security in relationships. My mother felt secure in her marriage until it fell apart after 33 years. Marriage is great, and we should feel secure in our marriage relationships, but we are not guaranteed tomorrow. My husband and I have been married almost 29 years and if there ever was a solid marriage we have it, but our health is not promised to last forever. One of us will probably pass away before the other. If marriage were the only thing lending me a sense of security, I might one day be lost without it.

Some people live in war-torn countries and believe if they only had peace, they would feel secure. Unfortunately, military peace doesn’t always bring personal security.

In the parable of Matthew 7:24-27 Jesus said if we build our houses on the sand, then when the rain comes, everything will be washed away. But if we’ve built on the rock, our house will hold up against the worst of storms. Jesus is the rock and the house is our life. Whatever plans we make for our future need to be prayed over and Spirit led. When we hunker down on Jesus our Rock, we really are secure. Anywhere else is behind a flimsy shower curtain.

Through The Bible Devotions

Exodus 40:34-35 (NIV) 34Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

Once the tabernacle was set up according to the instructions Moses received on the mountain, the cloud that had been leading them settled upon it. The glory of the LORD so filled the Tent of Meeting that he could not enter.

Today the tent of meeting is your spirit. God desires to so fill you that your life is overflowing with Him, and little room is left for self to enter in. That is complete Christ likeness. He is taking us all to that place, individually and corporately. One day the work will be done and everything in place, and the glory of the LORD will completely fill us, the tabernacles, and the Tabernacle. He has always been in the process of making a dwelling place for Himself.

The day of completion is the wedding feast of the Lamb. When we see Him we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:1-2). When we are like Him, He can fill us completely. We have a deposit now, a deposit of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). That is deposit of what will someday be in all His fullness. We experience it more and more as we grow in Him.

“Heaven is my throne and earth is my footstool; what house will you build me?” says the Lord, “and what shall be the place of my rest?” (Acts 7:49)” Upon this rock I will build my church…” (Matthew 16:18) They that believe have entered into rest (Hebrews 4:3a).

Meditation: I am the temple of the living God!

Starved for Faith and Vision

by John UpChurch, crosswalk.com

“Son of man, what is this proverb you have in the land of Israel: ‘The days go by and every vision comes to nothing’? Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am going to put an end to this proverb, and they will no longer quote it in Israel.’ Say to them, ‘The days are near when every vision will be fulfilled.” Ezekiel 12:22-23

For me, Dave was that boss. The guy could make every triumph into misery, every completed project into a diatribe for what didn’t go right. Not chewing you out was his way of complimenting a job well done. And, no, I’m not joking. The guy would fire someone I worked with and then come to me the next day to say, “I fired your little friend.”

And yet, for some reason I never understood, Dave liked me from the beginning. He would never have said that, of course, never admitted to not hating someone. But he did. Even as a lackey intern, he put me in charge of projects way above my pay grade. Even as the newbie, he’d let me in on the big stuff we’d be working on in a few months. My position was only supposed to last 30 days, but Dave kept me there for months by making excuses to his bosses about why I should stay.

To be honest, I hated the work. Here I was an English major who was supposed to be editing and writing and changing the world through prose. But I was afraid of trying for that world-changing job. Instead, I got pushed into IT project management for hospitals, which is really just a nice way of saying that I moved computers and loaded software. Over and over.

But it’s funny what happens between a boss and a peon when you’re wearing scrubs and snatching computers from the ICU. For Dave, those moments brought clarity. In a place where alarms signal dying, he’d tell me about his one-time plans to be an architect and the reasons why it couldn’t happen. His rage would disappear with the code blues and rushing nurses. He dreamed for just a moment.

And then we’d be pushing our carts of equipment to a new wing of the hospital, and the sarcasm flooded in to cover the regret. He’d snap back to the snappiness as if the ICU never happened.

Maybe that’s why Dave liked me. He knew I didn’t want to be in those sterile halls either. He knew this detour felt more like a dead end. I was his earlier self.

When I finally quit, Dave didn’t say goodbye. In fact, he avoided me for much of my two-week notice period. His only words about me were to berate the rest of the team with how the “only competent worker” was leaving.

With him, that meant he approved.

Celebrate!

by Inspiration Ministries

“Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.”’” – Exodus 5:1 NASB

God asked Moses to deliver a message to Pharaoh: He wanted His people to “celebrate a feast.” The desire to celebrate was emphasized often. Later, He instructed Moses that they were to celebrate a feast to the Lord. They were “to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance” (Exodus 12:14).

When they were freed from bondage, He told them, Three times a year you shall celebrate a feast to Me” (Exodus 23:14). The Hebrew word here describes moving in a circle, observing a festival, dancing, even being giddy. This was to be a real celebration!

This emphasis demonstrates clearly that celebration is important to God. There is a time for everything, including a time to celebrate (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4). Yet it can be easy to be overwhelmed with our problems. We tend to focus on obstacles and the troubles we face and feel discouraged.

But, as God reminded the Israelites, there are times to stop and celebrate. We need to remember the miracles we have experienced, think about how God has met our needs, reflect on His promises, and praise Him instead of complaining or worrying.

Are you burdened? Weary? Worried? For a moment set these thoughts aside. Just concentrate on God. Think about His goodness! His mercy! Salvation! Healing! Wisdom! And His promises! There may be problems in your life and the world. But remember. God is on the throne! He is sovereign! And He wants you to celebrate!

Dear Lord Heal Our Land

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Heal My Land

usa flag in the background and little girl praying with eyes closed

Are you, like me, weary from all the bad news from around our country and the world? Natural disasters and disease have devastated millions. Financial disasters have wiped out fortunes, retirement accounts, and businesses. Political upheavals are pitting brother against brother and value system against value system. And yes, as the Bible predicted, there are wars and rumors of wars.

What is going to happen to us! How will all this play out? Have we, as some suggest, brought about God’s judgment upon our nations because of our sin and disobedience? Questions, worry, and fear fill our hearts and minds.  What are we to do? Simply stated, the answer is prayer.

Recently at my church’s Men’s Fellowship Breakfast, jovial conversation turned from sports to our world’s economic woes. We shared our thoughts with each other about how these times are affecting our families. One Brother asked, “Why us?  Why now?”

An elderly gentleman who has served God all his life stood up, and with confidence that overshadowed his humble voice proclaimed, “The Lord has never let me down. If we pray, He will help us make it through.”

The word of the Lord says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV).

How can our nations be saved and survive the many disasters in our midst? Do you share my frustration because it seems like our society will not do as God instructs and pray, repent, and humble ourselves before Him? How can we expect His favor when we live any way that we want, with little regard to the word of God? Is there hope for those who follow Christ according the word of God and not pop culture? Yes! Yes, there is hope!

Remember, scripture applies to us individually, and not just corporately as nations. As God honors His word to each obedient individual, then a portion of that nation is blessed. The more individuals who appropriate God’s word, the more that nation that will be blessed. However, it all starts with one. So I ask you to personalize the scripture as I did, and allow God to bless you and heal your land.

“If (Gene) _____, who is called by my name (Christian), shall humble himself, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from his wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive (Gene’s) _____’s sin, and heal (Gene’s) _____’s land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 Personalized).

Though the entire world around us crumbles, the Lord will honor His word to us, if we will heed it. Put your name in the blank, in the scripture. Seek out what you must do to heed His word and God will fulfill His promise for you!

If you align yourself with the freewheeling secular world, then you shall reap with them, suffer, and share in their despair. But if you align yourself with the truth of God’s word, then He will give you peace, and see you through the tough times that try men’s souls. He will make a way for you where there is no way. Your house shall be an oasis in the desert, an ark of safety in a world flooded with crisis.

“Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10 KJV)

The Scars Are All Part of a Beautiful Story

By Debbie McDaniel

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

If you’ve ever been wounded, or have felt like you needed to hide the scars away from painful times in life, know that you’re not alone. Even Jesus faced great insults, wounds, and pain more than we could ever imagine. And He carried His scars right back into that little room where He met his disciples after the Resurrection. Sometimes I’ve wondered why He didn’t choose to let the scars fade away. He’d gained victory over death. He’d made all things new. Yet He still had scars in his hands, His side. (Read the whole story here in John 20:19-29)

Maybe He knew we’d need to be reminded of this truth throughout our own lives: His scars, and ours too, are all part of His beautiful story at work.

He redeems.

He heals.

He sets free.

He restores.

He gives great purpose even through seasons of brokenness and grief.

And the scars are left there to prove it.

We have victory through Christ Jesus, our Savior and Lord.

Don’t ever doubt, He knows your way, He understands your pain. He promises to use your every scar and broken place to share his message of hope to a world that needs healing and grace.

Peace to you today.

You are held by a Mighty God, and He has good still in store…

 

The blood-shedding

“Without shedding of blood is no remission” Hebrews 9:22

Suggested Further Reading: John 6:52-59

Here is a garden dark and gloomy; the ground is crisp with the cold frost of midnight; between those gloomy olive trees I see a man, I hear him groan out his life in prayer; hearken, angels, hearken, men, and wonder; it is the Saviour groaning out his soul! Come and see him. Behold his brow! O heavens! Drops of blood are streaming down his face, and from his body; every pore is open, and it sweats! but not the sweat of men that toil for bread; it is the sweat of one that toils for heaven—he sweats “great drops of blood!” That is the blood-shedding, without which there is no remission. Follow that man further; they have dragged him with sacrilegious hands from the place of his prayer and his agony, and they have taken him to the hall of Pilate; they mock him; a robe of purple is put on his shoulders in mockery; and mark his brow—they have put about it a crown of thorns, and the crimson drops of gore are rushing down his cheeks! Ye angels! the drops of blood are running down his cheeks! But turn aside that purple robe for a moment. His back is bleeding. Tell me, demons, who did this. They lift up the thongs, still dripping clots of gore; they scourge and tear his flesh, and make a river of blood to run down his shoulders! That is the shedding of blood without which there is no remission. Not yet have I done: they hurry him through the streets; they fling him on the ground; they nail his hands and feet to the transverse wood, they hoist it in the air, they dash it into its socket, it is fixed, and there he hangs the Christ of God. Blood from his head, blood from his hands, blood from his feet! In agony unknown he bleeds away his life; in terrible throes he exhausts his soul. “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani.” And then see! they pierce his side, and forthwith runneth out blood and water. This is the shedding of blood, sinners and saints; this is the awful shedding of blood, the terrible pouring out of blood, without which for you, and for the whole human race, there is no remission.

For meditation: Even with the shedding of Christ’s blood there is still no forgiveness of sins unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood (John 6:53); that is by coming to him and trusting in him (John 6:35).

Lighter than Vapor

by Inspiration Ministries

“Surely men of low degree are a vapor, men of high degree are a lie; if they are weighed on the scales, they are altogether lighter than vapor … if riches increase, do not set your heart on them … power belongs to God.” – Psalm 62:9-11 NKJV

Trusting in other people can seem so natural, so inevitable. We trust in banks and businesses, governments and experts, neighbors and relatives. But the Bible reminds us that even the most stable things and people can change. Even the smartest, best-intentioned people are imperfect.

David said that no one is immune. First, people “of low degree are a vapor.” Just like a vapor, they can vanish quickly. But people “of high degree” are no better. They “are a lie.” In fact, “they are altogether lighter than vapor.”

Many people react to this unstable world by throwing themselves into work. They seek to gain more power, possessions, and money. In this pursuit, some are willing to resort to stealing, cheating, or deception to get ahead.

But David reminded us not to “trust in oppression, nor vainly hope in robbery” (v. 10). Remember how quickly possessions and money fade away: “If riches increase, do not set your heart on them” (v. 10). David said that God told him repeatedly that power belongs only to Him.

In your life, remember that other people may disappoint you. But God never disappoints. The Bible encourages us to look at Him as our rock, our salvation, our stronghold. The things of this world may vanish like a vapor, but He is eternal. You can “trust in Him at all times” (v. 8).

God Prepares His Children’s Heart

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God Prepares the Heart to Answer His Call

 

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

I gave a speech at a church in Indianapolis where they requested one of my speeches titled, “You Want Me to Do What?!  God’s Call and Your Response.”

I had not given that speech in several years, so it brought back many memories. It’s my story of when God called me 11 years ago to leave a teaching job I loved, to go into full-time Christian writing, speaking, and teaching.

When I first felt the call, I was in a total panic. I called my pastor in tears and said, “I think God wants me to leave my job! I don’t want to do that! I love my job!”

She calmed me with these words:  “If you have no desire to leave your job right now, then I don’t think God is calling you to do that YET.”

I must be pretty slow on the uptake because that little word tacked on at the end of her sentence, YET, didn’t register. The dictionary definition of that three-letter word is:  “at a future time.”

I pretended for months that I didn’t understand what that meant. After all, I told myself, I was certain God had called me to the teaching job I loved. (I’m still certain of that.) But slowly over the next nine months, an amazing thing happened. God changed my heart. It was like the nine-month gestation period preparing a baby to be born. Eleven years ago I was literally an infant in Christ, not YET spiritually ready for such a drastic life change. But God graciously provided an incubation period to prepare me.

God showed me the perfect Bible passage to express this idea. The Apostle Paul addressed the church at Corinth with these words:

“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.” 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 (NIV)

There’s that little word again:  YET.  Paul was saying the church members at Corinth were still too attached to the world and not mature enough in their faith. Therefore, they needed to be fed like infants. They were not YET ready for solid food, but with the implied promise that they would be ready at a future time.

I still cried when I wrote my resignation letter. I grieved at leaving something I loved, but at the same time, I experienced great joy. God changed my heart until I wanted what He wanted more than anything else in the world. Finally, I was ready to take solid food instead of infants’ milk.

His plan was for me to go in a new, different and exciting direction. In that process, I discovered something wonderful:  God’s call on your life can change. After all, Scripture promises:

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

God’s Will: So Simple It’s Hard

by Shawn McEvoy, crosswalk.com

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“God’s will for my life”… how often have you pondered that notion? Studied it? Read untold books about it? Know people who torture themselves trying to locate it?

Well, here we have an obvious chunk of it, even compact and useful just as we like things to be, tucked away at the close of Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica. “This is God’s will for you…,” it says.

Well, yes, it says that, and it sure is pretty – almost poetic – but is it deep enough? Shouldn’t there be more? Is it practical?

Okay. Then let’s go Old Testament. Prophetic. Action-oriented. Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It’s still simple, still bunched in a group of three, still indicating that there’s no big mystery way far out there which must be solved before we know how to act or decide, or how God wants us to act or decide.

So why do we seek for more?

I think it’s because the ridiculously simple, paradoxically enough, is ridiculously hard, and we know it. G.K. Chesterton famously said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”

We could spend a lot of time discussing the ins-and-outs of how easy or hard God’s will is, and where else in His Word we can find snippets of it. One woman from my Bible fellowship class is fond of asking during our lessons, “What does that look like?” Let’s ponder on that for a minute here.

The situation is this: you’ve been sent on a missionary journey via a clear calling from God. The resources were there, the people willing. You are leading your group through a city when you encounter a psychic who keeps taunting you. After a while, through calling on the name of Jesus you cast out the evil spirit within her. Hooray! Score one for the Lord, and your group! But alas, there is no praise here, because those who had been making some cash off the now-set-free woman’s powers aren’t happy with you. They drag your group before local law enforcement, have you beaten, and thrown into prison. Hey now!

At this point, I am saying, “God, this is NOT your will. YOU made it very clear we were to come on this trip, and we even did a miracle for you! Now we’re injured, in jail… I don’t even know how I’m going to get home much less continue to be effective for you from here! I want a telephone, I want a lawyer, and I want you to reveal your ACTUAL will, right now, and suffer no more discomfort while doing what you sent us to do!”

And with that, my missionary journey would come to a close. But not the Apostle Paul’s, not as we have it recorded in Acts 16:16-40  which is one of my all-time favorite passages. Paul, who knew God’s will better than I, and practiced it, knew to “rejoice always.” And so, bloodied and with his feet in stocks, he sings. Seriously, he sings hymns of praise. He also knew to “pray without ceasing,” and so, in verse 25, that’s exactly what you find – Paul and Silas praying… at midnight, even.

The missionaries on this journey got out of God’s way by doing the simple things that God had willed for them to do, so that God was free to let fly with His own big, complex, miraculous will for everyone else. An earthquake shakes open the prison, snapping chains in the process. Prisoners, however, stay where they are. A jailer, about to kill himself, holds his sword, and moments later accepts Jesus into his heart. Then his family joins the flock, all because those he had persecuted chose to “love kindness.”

At every step of the journey, Paul, Silas, and their companions chose to walk humbly, give thanks, and do what was just (speaking of which, once officially released, Paul did have some words of justice regarding their citizenship and treatment for the magistrates).

It’s absolutely amazing to me the ways that God plans to accomplish His Will (big “W”) on earth. His will in my life has already been decided. It is my job to walk humbly, get out of the way, always be in prayer, always rejoicing no matter what situation I’m in. But how often do we come back to the same situation, sitting in my car, simple traffic jam, me needing to be somewhere, telling God, “Did you not ordain that I should do such and such today? Or get this amount of work done so I can spend this amount of time with my family? Then this is on you unless you make such-and-such happen now!”

Sigh… how many miracles have I missed?\Patience in Prayer – Streams in the Desert – February 21

Streams In The Desert

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

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him (Psalms 37:7).

Have you prayed and prayed and waited and waited, and still there is no manifestation? Are you tired of seeing nothing move? Are you just at the point of giving it all up? Perhaps you have not waited in the right way? This would take you out of the right place the place where He can meet you.

“With patience wait” (Rom. 8:25). Patience takes away worry. He said He would come, and His promise is equal to His presence. Patience takes away your weeping. Why feel sad and despondent? He knows your need better than you do, and His purpose in waiting is to bring more glory out of it all. Patience takes away self-works. The work He desires is that you “believe” (John 6:29), and when you believe, you may then know that all is well. Patience takes away all want. Your desire for the thing you wish is perhaps stronger than your desire for the will of God to be fulfilled in its arrival.

Patience takes away all weakening. Instead of having the delaying time, a time of letting go, know that God is getting a larger supply ready and must get you ready too. Patience takes away all wobbling. “Make me stand upon my standing” (Daniel 8:18, margin). God’s foundations are steady; and when His patience is within, we are steady while we wait. Patience gives worship. A praiseful patience sometimes “long-suffering with joyfulness” (Col. 1:11) is the best part of it all. “Let (all these phases of) patience have her perfect work” (James 1:4), while you wait, and you will find great enrichment.
–C. H. P.

Pour Out Your Heart

by Inspiration Editor

“Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” – Psalm 62:8 NASB

Throughout his life, David developed relationships with various people whom he trusted. Sadly, there were times when these trusted people let him down. Some failed to keep their promises. Some betrayed him for personal gain. Some simply forgot their commitments.

But through every circumstance, he realized that God always was faithful. He wrote, “My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him” (v. 5). God provided stability and a sure foundation: “He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken” (v. 6). He was his “refuge” and “the rock of [his] strength” (v. 7).

The Bible reminds us that we can trust God no matter what others do or say! It can be beneficial to confide in friends or family members, but it is most important to pour out our hearts before God.

This involves spending time with Him, confident in our relationship. It means being willing to share every detail of our needs – every thought, every feeling, every concern. Part of that process involves waiting before Him. David commanded his soul to “wait in silence for God only” (v. 5).

Pour out your heart to God. Release every concern to Him. Tell Him every detail of your needs. Receive His peace. Make Him your rock, your salvation, your stronghold. He is waiting, ready to hear from You. You can trust Him.

Honoring God

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18 Bible Verses-Honoring God - Everyday Servant20 Bible verses about Honouring God\
Pin on Truth!30 Powerful Bible Scriptures on Honoring God – ConnectUS
Honor God. Amen...Mildred Williams | Aw tozer quotes, Scripture quotes,  Quotes about godA Simple Tool to Help You Honor God | thosewhowaituponthelord

 

The Unexpected Thanksgiving Feast

thanksgiving-turkey

 

“Lord,” prayed Linda, “show me some way to demonstrate your love to these women this Thanksgiving season.”

Linda works in an office near a women’s prison. Several prisoners come to clean her office building each week, so Linda got acquainted with them.

“I had a burden from the Lord to do something special for those women,” said Linda. “He answered my prayer in a conversation with my daughter. We knew without a doubt that we were supposed to plan a surprise Thanksgiving dinner for them, complete with all the trimmings. I wanted it to be special with my best tablecloth, china, and silver.”

Special rules apply to prisoners who work outside the prison walls, so it was difficult to get permission. Normally, they aren’t allowed to use “real” silverware. But Linda jumped through all the hoops and permission was finally granted.

“My biggest concern,” said Linda, “was not the details, but that the Lord would reveal to me how to let them know that this was ‘of the Lord’ and not of myself. I can cook for anybody, but I wanted them to know that the reason I did this was because of Jesus Christ and what He did for me.”

When the big day arrived, the women walked into that office and saw the beautiful table loaded with food. They assumed it was a Thanksgiving meal for the employees.

“No,” said Linda. “It’s for you.”

They were speechless for a moment, but then they couldn’t get the words out fast enough.

“This can’t be for real!” exclaimed one of the ladies.

“Look at that real turkey, not that pressed meat we’re used to!”

Another said, “Homemade yeast rolls and three kinds of pie to choose from!”

As one woman broke into tears, she said, “Those smells bring back so many memories. What I miss most is the feeling of family during the holidays.”

The ladies sat down at the table, amid tears and excited conversation. “I can’t believe someone cared enough to do this for us,” said one woman.

Just as Linda was about to lead them in prayer, one of the ladies spoke up and said, “Let’s all hold hands and pray.” She opened with prayer and others followed. Some prayed for forgiveness, some prayed for their families, and others thanked the Lord for the bountiful meal, an unexpected Thanksgiving feast.

Linda said, “My prayers were answered. All the glory went to the Lord for His provision. With no prompting from me, those precious ladies gave God the credit. God revealed Himself to them that day in ways I could not have done on my own.”

Linda lived the words Jesus spoke in Luke 14:

“When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)

Jesus Christ makes a place for all of us at his table.

 

The Last Days

by Sarah Phillips, crosswalk.com

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:25

Most of us don’t love to wait. We want to get on with things. Tie things up neatly so we can move on to the next thing. We often forget that in some cases, the opportunity to wait is an expression of God’s mercy.

You see, this Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. It came quickly this year. I was so busy preparing for Thanksgiving, I almost forgot about Advent. Thankfully, our reliable pastor will be decked out in purple this Sunday, scripture readings and hymns ready to go.

Advent isn’t really an event so much as a season set aside to wait for an event. We can choose how we want to practice Advent. We can see it as a burden, an afterthought, or a hindrance. Or we can see its greater application to all of life. We can recognize it for what it is: a reminder to stop, clear away some of the normal “stuff” of life, and remember that throughout our life here we are waiting for something big, something that needs our attention and preparation: The second coming of Christ.

Many times I’ve heard fellow Christians express the desire for the day to just get here already. Can’t we just end the wars and suffering… the waiting… and get on with Christ’s return? Many pick apart the Scriptures, looking for details, for signs, that Christ is coming soon. Groups form and debates rage about the finer details of the end times.

While I am sure God appreciates our interest in and desire for his arrival, I am not so sure we really know what we’re asking for when we say we wish he would hurry up and appear.

Think about it. Are we really ready? Is the world really ready? If you had to stand before Christ tomorrow, would you be ready? I don’t mean “ready” as having correctly predicted the dramatic events that would unfold during the end times. I mean would your life reflect service to him? Love of him? Submission to him?

Mine wouldn’t. At least not to the extent that it should. I’d like a few days, or um decades, to straighten things out. And to the best of my humble abilities, help a few more of those living in the dark find the light.

Suddenly, waiting doesn’t seem too bad. God’s plan to give me and the rest of the world a little more time doused with a lot of his grace doesn’t seem so frustrating.

After reading the above dramatic passage from Luke at an Advent Sunday service past, our pastor did not delve into prophecy or speculation about the last days. He backtracked a little, and instead opted to focus on the here and now. He challenged us to avoid the “drowsiness” that comes with our everyday cares and concerns. He challenged us to become disciplined people, Christians whose lives are truly transformed by Christ instead of by the seductive “spirit of the age.” He held up examples of fellow Christians who came before us and conquered their own contemporary challenges.

He reminded us that we will each have our own “last day” even if our lives here do not witness the Last Day.

That’s what Advent is really about… grace today for whatever may come tomorrow. It’s about God’s incredible patience and love for children who have much to learn and need plenty of precious time to allow for stumbling along the way. As for the final days, set aside the speculation and leave that to God’s perfect timing. He’ll know when we’re ready.

 

Sheltered in the Midst of the Storm

TRACIE BRAYLOCK, author, crosswalk.com

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2 (ESV)

We were standing in the children’s section of the bookstore when the sirens went off.

I paused, looking around for answers from the other unsuspecting customers.

None of us seemed to know what was going on.

There was no sign of a storm when I entered the store with my little one several minutes earlier. But the beautiful, cloudless summer day didn’t tell the full story about what was to come.

A startling voice came over the loudspeaker, announcing that a tornado warning had been issued, and we were to take shelter immediately.

Taking my little one out of the stroller, I held him in my arms as we sat leaning against the towering shelves of books, waiting for the storm to pass.

But before it did, all of the customers were told to leave the building.

A bit stunned by the swift evacuation, we all found ourselves outside with an even greater awareness of the rapidly changing weather. Some simply stood there, staring at the approaching storm, while others scattered in all directions to escape it.

We made it home safely in the midst of the sirens and increasingly darkening sky, and all I could do was thank God for His presence and protection.

So much happened so quickly — from the loud, unexpected sounds of the alarms, to the realization we were in the path of the impending storm, to the sudden loss of perceived shelter.

In that moment, my dependence upon God, my need for His presence and the value of hiding His Word in my heart were ever so clear.

In that moment, I prayed, asking God to continue to keep us safe and thanking Him for doing that already.

In that moment, I chose not to rehearse that shaky voice who spoke to us over the loudspeaker and, instead, listen closely to the One who promised never to leave or forsake us.

Oftentimes, when life is coming at us quickly, we can become overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

When we only use our natural senses to experience what’s taking place while we’re in the midst of troubling situations, we miss the opportunity to rely solely on God and trust all He has promised us.

We’re reminded in Colossians 3:2 to “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

So, friend, be aware of — but not distracted by — the storms you’re experiencing.

They don’t change God’s presence, power, protection or provision.

He is indeed with you, showing you which way to go and offering you shelter in the midst of the storm.

Cherish and Believe God’s Word

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The Blessings of Loving God’s Word

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8 (NIV)

During the pandemic, I have been watching a show from time to time. Daytime, nighttime, lunchtime, anytime! You might say I have become obsessed with catching up on all the seasons I have missed — and there are several.

I’m reading episode synopses and finding fresh things to talk about with my friends who have been die-hard fans for years. When I wake up in the morning, I am often thinking about the last episode I saw and wondering how it will resolve. It used to be that shows were only available once a week, and you had to wait to have your fill of your favorite sitcom or drama. But now, with streaming services, you can watch an entire season if you’re willing to stay awake.

Isn’t it crazy how something I’m watching, that has nothing to do with my life, can take so much of my time and mental energy? It’s like I’m meditating on the show. Thinking about the characters. Relishing the beginning of romance. Pondering the mysteries of the storyline.

We can get stuck on streaming, meditating on storylines that have little to do with real life. It’s so easy to get distracted with what our devices offer so easily. We gravitate toward entertainment, just like kids do. But the Bible directs us to a different path than modern media does. As today’s key verse says, we are to:

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).

Ideally, what is supposed to be filling our minds and the topics of our conversations? What should be influencing our behavior? The Word of God. Not Netflix, Hulu or YouTube. Although you can find the Word of God in these places, you’re more likely to find something else.

The words in the key verse were spoken to Joshua as he was about to assume leadership from Israel’s man of God, Moses. Joshua was about to become the CEO of Israel, Incorporated. He was going to have more work than he had hours in the day, yet he was told to meditate. He was supposed to take time to understand the Book of the Law — and we are too.

The Word of God is to shape what comes out of our mouths. The orders and judgments from Joshua’s leadership had to be consistent with the Book of the Law. We may not be heading up a nation, but we are influencing people around us. We are told to meditate on the Word of God.

Let’s get real. This takes more effort than kicking back and streaming our favorite shows. Streaming services offer us endless choices that captivate our imaginations. It’s all about us and our preferences.

The Bible, however, is about God and His preferences. When we choose to love God’s law and delight in what He delights in, we unlock a “prosperous and successful” life. Psalm 37:4 says it this way, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (NIV).

One thing that has helped me meditate on God’s Word during this pandemic is reading through Psalms and Proverbs with my daughter. It’s amazing how relevant these books are today. More than ever, with so many channels screaming and streaming to capture our attention, we’ve got to focus on the Word of God. Inside the pages of the Bible, there’s not only romance, drama, war and comedy — there is the path to everlasting life. That’s something that binge-watching can never deliver!

 

More Than Dust and Bone

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31 (ESV)

Remember who you are.

These are words I spoke to my children countless times when they were younger. I wanted them to remember they are children of the Almighty God. I knew if they remembered this truth, they would be better able to live this truth.

Genesis 1 and 2 read like this kind of reminder to me. A reminder I needed when my heart was broken and I could feel everything good slipping away from me. I felt so insignificant. I was trying to move forward after the deep pain of betrayal. I kept asking, “Is it even possible to heal from something like this?” As we navigate a world full of hurt and hearts so often full of shame, these first two chapters of the Bible feel like God whispering to us: “Remember who you are. Remember how I designed you. Remember all I’ve called you to be.”

When God formed, shaped and painted this world and its creatures into being, His goodness seeped in with every thought and touch. And when He was done, Genesis 1:31a says, God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”

I love that God declared Adam and Eve to be exceedingly and abundantly good, even though the actual ingredients He used to make them were seemingly so very humble and basic. Dust and broken-off bone don’t seem like the most promising of beginnings.

Left on their own, these ingredients would amount to nothing. Insignificant. Unacceptable.

But chosen by God and then breathed on and touched by God, they became the only part of creation made in the image of God. They were “nothing,” turned into the most glorious “something.” They were made to be a reflection of the image of God. These image bearers made an invisible God’s image, visible.

And I don’t want us to miss the significance of Genesis 2:18 when God says He will make a helper suitable for Adam.

The Hebrew word for suitable is נֶגֶד neged, meaning “what is in front of you, in your sight, before your face in your view.” So, this word “suitable” gives meaning to the kind of help Adam needed. Beyond just needing help to work the garden or someone uniquely designed to be able to carry children so they could bring forth life, Adam needed a visual — something in front of him to view.

This seems to me to be a reflection. Not like a mirror reflecting only what you place in front of it. No, this is more like a reminder that what is standing in front of him is a reflection of God’s image.

It seems Eve, in being a helper suitable for him, was to be a reminder of who Adam was — a human made in God’s image. A reflection of the glory and goodness of God. It’s a reminder Eve would have needed as well. And together, they were to fill the earth with the glory of God. Not to just be fruitful and multiply it with children. But to multiply evidence of God Himself. (Genesis 1:28)

Their design in the image of God declared to the world, “God is worthy of praise!”

And their design declared to each other, “Remember who you are. You are of God. From God. Made in His image. Loved from the depth of God’s unfathomable Father’s heart. Treasured beyond imagination.”

This is the Divine Echo. This is what Adam and Eve were called to, and it’s what we’re called to as well. Not just married people, but every person with a beating heart. And the more we remind each other of who we really are, the more God’s goodness and glory will echo throughout the earth.

We aren’t just dust and bone.
We aren’t what we’ve done or what’s been done to us.
We aren’t the worst of what others have said about us.

We are the very breath and touch of God. Designed and loved by God. A reflection of the glory and goodness of God.

These are the truths I needed to remember about who I am. I am so much more than the sum total of my hurt and pain and insecurities. Maybe it’s what you need as well … so let me whisper to your soul, “Remember who you are.”

 

What We Value

by Inspiration Ministries

“How dark the gold has become, how the pure gold has changed … The precious sons of Zion, weighed against fine gold, how they are regarded as earthen jars, the work of a potter’s hands!” – Lamentations 4:1-2 NASB

Sometime around 1663, Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer finished a painting now known as Woman Holding a Balance, one of only thirty-six paintings he completed.

A Vermeer specialist recently described how this painting provides glimpses into seventeenth-century life. The only person pictured is a woman thought to be Vermeer’s wife. Holding a balance, she prepares to weigh gold and silver coins. Weighing coins was common at that time, the only way to learn their real value.

To understand Vermeer’s symbolism, we must consider a painting about the Last Judgment seen behind the woman. While the woman and her balance might seem dominant, the painting within the painting reminds us that God is weighing our lives. Counting gold also was important in Bible times. Gold could be used to honor God but also to form idols. And it symbolized worldly riches and wrong pursuits.

In the time of Jeremiah, many people focused on gold and forgot about God. In imagery similar to Vermeer’s symbolism, they once were “worth their weight in fine gold” but had become mere clay (v. 2 NLT). All their value had faded away.

God continues to weigh people and nations in His balance, to evaluate what we value and what is important to us. He measures where we invest our time and resources.

Make sure that you seek first the Kingdom that will never fade. Invest in the riches that cannot tarnish. Focus on God and His Kingdom.

God Can Forgive and Cleanse You

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The Speeding Ticket

The reflection of blue lights flashed in my rear-view mirror. Embarrassed, I pulled over.

“Ma’am, can you explain why you were speeding?”

“I wasn’t paying attention.” I knew not knowing my speed was no excuse. I was responsible for operating my vehicle safely. The officer ticketed me and I went my way.

When I got home, I looked up the potential consequences: one-year revocation of license, lawyer costs, court costs. I felt nauseous.

Rather than worrying further, I bowed and put the situation in God’s mighty hands. Father, You gave me the license, so it is Yours to take or to give as You desire. I release this situation to You. I called my husband, and he called our attorney.

“I can possibly get the charges reduced by 10 miles per hour,” the lawyer said, “or if we’re lucky the charges could be reduced to ‘improper equipment.’”  He explained his rates, court costs, and potential insurance rate hikes. “Do you have questions I can help you with? And try not to worry about this. I’ll do my best to get this matter resolved.”

“When I go to court, will you be with me?”

“No.”

“What?”

“I am going in your place. You stay home. I will speak to the judge on your behalf, and I will represent you.”

A few days later, my lawyer called. “Your case has been dismissed.”

“Dismissed? As in, forgiven?” I was shocked.

“Not exactly. It’s better than that.”

“Better?”

“Dismissed means we are acting as if this never happened. It will not appear on your record at all. You’ll owe no court costs, and this will not be reported to your insurance. Your slate is wiped clean.”

“Thank you for representing me. How much do I owe you?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing? Are you sure?”

“That’s right. My services are gratuitous.”

The next morning, the scripture I read during my quiet time was,

“For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. (Psalm 86:5 KJV)”

God is good, and even if my license had been revoked, I would still have reason to believe this is true.

Father God loves us so much He sent His Son Jesus to die in our place and to take the punishment for our transgressions—even the ones that are more serious than traffic violations. Every way we’ve messed up, Jesus has already paid for.

Father God has made it possible through belief in His Son Jesus, for our record of sins to be wiped away. Colossians 2:14 KJV reads,

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”

Jesus erases the charges that are against us with His own shed blood. It is as if we have never sinned, even though we were the guilty ones. The work Jesus accomplished is beyond forgiveness; the charges against us have been dismissed.

When we get to heaven, no one will say, “Remember when you were speeding?” Not only are we forgiven, we are made new. 2 Corinthians 5:17b NLT reads,

“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

Thank You, God, for sending Jesus to wipe my record clean.

 

The Power of Forgiveness

Debbie Przybylski , crosswalk.com

“We have been sent into the world to implement the rule of God on earth. Where there is discord we are to replace it with harmony. Where there is hatred we are to replace it with agape. Where there is an offense simmering into a murderous conflict, we are to replace it with forgiveness. When we choose to forgive, we invade the realm of darkness and defeat those dark forces with the power of a resurrected life.” – Dudley Hall

Dear intercessors,

Forgiveness is one of the most powerful responses that we could ever have, yet the steps in forgiving others may be difficult. Forgiving others is very hard. The love of Christ is the only way we can set free those who have deeply wounded us. The love of Christ gives us the only context we have for believing God has forgiven us.

There is perhaps no greater gift you can offer God than a heart that knows the power of forgiveness and decides to set others free. Forgiving shows that the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus are operating in our lives. It is time to access this life-changing grace of forgiveness.

Is there someone who has offended you? Are you able to release the person in forgiveness? God gives us divine power to forgive. We who have received the freedom of forgiveness have the power to set one another free. This is a power that truly sets the captive free and can affect the whole world. Forgiveness defeats darkness on a massive scale because it involves the resurrection power of Jesus. Nothing can defeat the greatness and glory there is in one act of forgiveness.

The need for forgiveness can be seen in a story of a father and his son in Spain. They had become angry and bitter toward one another. The son finally left home and ran away. His father began to search for him but was unable to find him anywhere. After months of frantically searching, the father came to the end of his resources and sat down sadly in a coffee shop. Suddenly he had an idea!

He put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad said something like this: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the men’s clothes shop at 2 p.m. on Friday. You are forgiven. I love you. Your father.” On Friday at 2 p.m., eight hundred Pacos showed up! They were all looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers. How important it is that we seek forgiveness and offer forgiveness to one another. It is critical to our lives in every dimension—spiritually, physically, emotionally, and relationally.

“Would you like to see the Lord shatter the spiritual prisons in your life, the areas where you feel trapped? Then forgive those who put you there, for surely the walls of your imprisonment are made of your own anger and unforgiveness toward others.” Francis Frangipane

Steps in Forgiving Others

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).

Here are some basic steps toward extending and receiving forgiveness:

  • Recognize and call sin what God calls it – Be specific and thorough. Remember that forgiveness is not excusing and approving of inappropriate behavior or saying that an offense isn’t important. Be honest with yourself 
and recognize your emotional response. You may feel angry, sad, let down, or disappointed. It isn’t wrong to have emotions. They are natural. It’s what you do with your emotions that can be sinful. Make sure there is no offensive way in you.“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
  • Share with God honestly and let Him heal you – Tell God what happened to you and how you feel. Look at His evaluation of the situation. Focus on Him and His faithfulness. Spend time with Him, and let Him restore where sin has destroyed. Forgiveness releases God’s divine healing power.“O lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me” (Psalm 30:2).
  • Set the offender free, understanding that it is a process –  Declare forgiveness. Say, “I forgive [name the individualor group] for [name the offense].”Don’t say, “I wantto forgive.”It takes time to go through the process of forgiveness. The hurt can come up at different times, 
and we must choose to forgive again. It doesn’t mean we automatically forget the offense.“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
  • Release the offender to God – Repent of your desire to punish or take revenge. Let God deal with the offense. Focus on today rather than the past. Let the offender off the hook. Declare God as judge over the person and the situation.“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the lord” (Romans 12:19).
  • Bless the offender – Apply God’s forgiveness. Trust and reconcile when possible, but realize that forgiveness does not always mean we have to relate to the person in the future. In some cases, this is not possible. Know God’s protection and justice. We are God’s called-out people, who know who we are in Christ and walk in love with God and one another. We become partakers of His resurrected life. Forgiveness is essential if we want to walk in personal and corporate revival.“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14). 

God will give us the grace to fully set everyone free. May we be like Jesus, who was the first one to love. When God forgives us, He gives us the power to forgive. May the river of God’s life flow through us in that we bless everyone we meet. May we remind people of how much they are loved by God. As we give our lives away in love and forgiveness, we become free ourselves. Many of us don’t realize the power there is in truly forgiving one another. It is much greater and has a far greater consequence than any of us have ever realized.

 

True prayer—true power

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Mark 11:24

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 6:5-13

Allow me to quote what an old preacher said upon the subject of prayer, and give it to you as a little word of advice—“Remember, the Lord will not hear thee, because of the arithmetic of thy prayers; he does not count their numbers. He will not hear thee because of the rhetoric of thy prayers; he does not care for the eloquent language in which they are conveyed. He will not listen to thee because of the geometry of thy prayers; he does not compute them by their length, or by their breadth. He will not regard thee because of the music of thy prayers; he doth not care for sweet voices, nor for harmonious periods. Neither will he look at thee because of the logic of thy prayers, or because they are well arranged. But he will hear thee, and he will measure the amount of the blessing he will give thee, according to the divinity of thy prayers. If thou canst plead the person of Christ, and if the Holy Ghost inspire thee with zeal and earnestness, the blessings which thou shalt ask, shall surely come unto thee.” Brethren, I would like to burn the whole stock of old prayers that we have been using this fifty years. That “oil that goes from vessel to vessel,”—that “horse that rushes into the battle,”—that misquoted mangled text, “where two or three are met together, thou wilt be in the midst of them, and that to bless them,” and all those other quotations which we have been manufacturing, and dislocating, and copying from man to man. I would that we came to speak to God, just out of our own hearts. It would be a grand thing for our prayer meetings.

For meditation: There is a world of difference between performing prayers and real praying (Luke 18:10-13).