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Take Time To Find God

 3/25/2020

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17

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Take Time to Find God

daisy flowers laying across a book

 

God desires to be a part of our everyday lives. He longs to show His love for us in special ways. If we will take the time, He will surprise us with special gifts of His love throughout our day.

Recently, this happened to a friend of mine. She took the time to find God. No, she didn’t just get up early in the morning and go outside to sit under a large, budding oak tree. She didn’t just stop and smell the fresh spring breeze and listen to the birds singing their songs of praise to God. She didn’t meditate all day while the warmth of the sun caressed her smiling face. She began her day as she always does — she spent time in the Word and then allowed God to show up in any part of her day that He chose. She went to work, and there were special surprises for her.

The Scripture she read that morning was from the Song of Solomon [Song of Songs in some versions]. It was a precious Scripture that she took with her in her heart. As she entered the building where she works, she saw something on the table in the lobby. She decided that she would pick up the small object and throw it away. She took pride in the area where she works and simply wanted to keep things looking nice. But to her surprise, it was a small flower. Now you say, “What’s the big deal?” Well, here is the Scripture that God gave her that morning:

“For the winter is past, and the rain is over and gone. The flowers are springing up, and the time of singing birds has come, even the cooing of turtledoves” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12, The Book).

It meant so much to her. She giggled and said, “Thank you, Papa” (as she always did when speaking to her heavenly Father) and kept right on walking. God was speaking to her heart about His great love for her. He was sharing with her that just as it was beginning to be spring in the natural realm, in the spiritual realm she was starting into her own springtime. And as we all know, flowers are a sign of spring.

God had allowed someone to leave a special, little flower on that table so that as she entered the building she would discover it and feel His great love for her. Her heart was greatly touched by this incident, and I felt so blessed to be a part of it. I had been right behind her when she walked into the building that morning.

As I thought of how special that moment seemed to her (not knowing about the Scripture God had given her), I knew something very wonderful was happening. As I stepped into the elevator, God spoke to my heart and said, “She took the time to find ME.” She had taken the time to find God. She was continuing the day as we all have to do, working and taking care of family, yet this moment did not escape her.

“Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him! Then he will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring” (Hosea 6:3, The Book).

Needless to say, I took the rest of the day to look for God. I made sure I gave eye contact to everyone I met and shared a kind word and a smile. I wanted to find God in my day, and I wanted to be God’s love to someone who might need to see Him in a tangible way.

We can find God. We can feel His love in wonderful ways. We don’t need to think that He is millions of miles away and too busy to care about our special needs each day.

Take time to find God.

 

Time To Pray

“Never stop praying.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT)

GUILT. Many Christians I talk to equate this word with their prayer life, and I can relate.

I used to feel guilty. People would ask me to pray, or I would volunteer to when I heard they were going through something difficult. With a heart of compassion, I’d reply, “Oh, I’ll pray for you!” And I fully intended to. But then I’d forget … get busy … say that to five other people … and often never get around to doing it despite my good intentions.

I’d put off praying in the moment, in favor of waiting until I had a big chunk of time. Then life would happen and that chunk of time wouldn’t materialize. By the time I carved some out, I couldn’t remember all I’d intended to pray about.

One perception I had was that I needed to spend a lot of time in prayer in order to do it “right.” I thought short prayers wouldn’t have much power or impact. Then I noticed something that shifted my thinking. In Matthew 6, Jesus is teaching about prayer. He says, “When you pray, don’t talk on and on as people do who don’t know God. They think God likes to hear long prayers. Don’t be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask” (Matthew 6:7-8, CEV).

Wow, so I don’t have to talk for hours, coming up with eloquent ways to phrase my petitions? It was freeing to see this coming from Jesus’ own lips.

That was followed by another ah-ha moment. In the next verse, Jesus said: “You should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, help us to honor your name. Come and set up your kingdom, so that everyone on earth will obey you, as you are obeyed in heaven. Give us our food for today. Forgive us for doing wrong, as we forgive others. Keep us from being tempted and protect us from evil” (Matthew 6:9-13, CEV). This is often called “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Pause, look at the clock, and recite the Lord’s Prayer aloud. Check the clock again. How long did that take? This was Jesus’ illustration of how to pray—what does that tell us about feeling we need to pray l-o-n-g prayers to be effective?

Hear me on this, there are needs that call for extended time in prayer (see Jesus’ time in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26:36-46 for instance). But many things can be prayed for in short prayers as we move throughout our day.

Now, when a friend sends me an email with a troubled story, I rarely respond by saying, “I will pray for you.” Instead, I pause and pray for her, and then I reply, “I have prayed for you.” If someone calls me, or tells me in person about their prayer need, more often than not I’ll offer to pray with them right then.

If I encounter a reason to pray while reading the newspaper or scripture, I do it in the moment. My aim is not to be lengthy and elaborate with these prayers, but rather to do it while my mind is on it.

If I feel the need to pray for someone repeatedly over time, I follow through with my carefully considered plan as I’ve gotten intentional about prayer. Deciding several years ago to pray short, in the moment prayers, was key for me. It’s a doable way of “praying continually” and it helped relieve feelings of failure, pressure and guilt.

Most importantly, this ensures that people’s needs are in fact being prayed for—which is the ultimate goal, right?

As I read the Bible, I see instructions to pray frequently, to pray with faith and persistence, and to pray over all our cares and concerns. But I do not see that we must talk for hours over each request for God to hear them.

I hope that does for you what it did for me—replaces feelings of guilt with a renewed passion to pray.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Streams in the Desert – March 25

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

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6).

We all need faith for desperate days. The Bible is full of such days. Its record is made up of them, its songs are inspired by them, its prophecy is concerned with them, and its revelation has come through them. The desperate days are the stepping-stones in the path of light. They seem to have been God’s opportunity and man’s school of wisdom.

There is a story of an Old Testament love feast in Psalm 107, and in every story of deliverance the point of desperation gave God His chance. The “wit’s end” of desperation was the beginning of God’s power.

Recall the promise of seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sands of the sea, to a couple as good as dead. Read again the story of the Red Sea and its deliverance, and of Jordan with its ark standing mid-stream. Study once more the prayers of Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah, when they were sore pressed and knew not what to do. Go over the history of Nehemiah, Daniel, Hosea, and Habakkuk. Stand with awe in the darkness of Gethsemane, and linger by the grave in Joseph’s garden through those terrible days. Call the witnesses of the early Church, and ask the apostles the story of their desperate days.

Desperation is better than despair. Faith did not make our desperate days. Its work is to sustain and solve them. The only alternative to a desperate faith is despair, and faith holds on and prevails.

There is no more heroic example of desperate faith than that of the three Hebrew children. The situation was desperate, but they answered bravely, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” I like that, “but if not !”

I have only space to mention Gethsemane. Ponder deeply its “Nevertheless.” “If it is possible…nevertheless!” Deep darkness had settled upon the soul of our Lord. Trust meant anguish unto blood and darkness to the descent of hell–Nevertheless! Nevertheless!

Now get your hymn book and sing your favorite hymn of desperate faith.
–Rev. S. Chadwick

When obstacles and trials seem
Like prison walls to be,
I do the little I can do
And leave the rest to Thee.
And when there seems no chance, no change,
From grief can set me free,
Hope finds its strength in helplessness,
And calmly waits for Thee.

God Loves His Children

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The Day God Hugged Me

After enduring a series of emotionally draining weeks, feeling unloved and in need of reassurance, I cried out to the Lord, “I know that You say You love me, but I don’t KNOW that You love me. God, help me understand that You really do love me.” I was desperate to understand this simple concept that kept confounding me.

I knew that God loved me from an intellectual standpoint. I knew He would think well of me when I did right and would somehow tolerate me when I did wrong. But somehow I couldn’t understand the unconditional love the Bible says defines my Lord and Savior, the kind with no strings attached, the kind that doesn’t depend on good behavior or a perfect report card.

For about a week, I prayed that prayer going to and from work. Then one particular day, I came home feeling very harried. I struggled to get the groceries in from the car and remain pleasant to my neighbor Tiffany and her 4-year-old son Jaelon, who were preparing to leave.

And then it happened.

After several trips to the house, I was finally down to my last few bags of groceries. I was heading for the door when I heard little Jaelon ask in his gentle voice, “Can I give you a hug?”

I was flabbergasted that a child who didn’t even know my name, who had never spent time at my house, who I had passed day after day without saying “hello” wanted to hug ME. Who am I that I deserve a hug?

Despite my initial hesitancy, deep down I was thrilled. I actually couldn’t wait to get hugged! So, I put my groceries down, walked over to that sweet little boy, knelt down, and received God’s wonderful blessing.

It was so simple, and yet such a pure act of love. A hug from a little child — no pretense, no hidden motives. Just a kid who saw a worried adult struggling and figured a hug would make it all better.

And he was right. I could barely fight back the tears of joy as I contemplated that brief gesture of acceptance. I quickly realized God had just answered my prayer in the most tangible and personal way.

If you need His touch, as I did, ask the Lord to show Himself to you. And then, wait expectantly for His outstretched arms to bring you comfort, safety, and provision.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3, NLT)

After enduring a series of emotionally draining weeks, feeling unloved and in need of reassurance, I cried out to the Lord, “I know that You say You love me, but I don’t KNOW that You love me. God, help me understand that You really do love me.” I was desperate to understand this simple concept that kept confounding me.

I knew that God loved me from an intellectual standpoint. I knew He would think well of me when I did right and would somehow tolerate me when I did wrong. But somehow I couldn’t understand the unconditional love the Bible says defines my Lord and Savior, the kind with no strings attached, the kind that doesn’t depend on good behavior or a perfect report card.

For about a week, I prayed that prayer going to and from work. Then one particular day, I came home feeling very harried. I struggled to get the groceries in from the car and remain pleasant to my neighbor Tiffany and her 4-year-old son Jaelon, who were preparing to leave.

And then it happened.

After several trips to the house, I was finally down to my last few bags of groceries. I was heading for the door when I heard little Jaelon ask in his gentle voice, “Can I give you a hug?”

I was flabbergasted that a child who didn’t even know my name, who had never spent time at my house, who I had passed day after day without saying “hello” wanted to hug ME. Who am I that I deserve a hug?

Despite my initial hesitancy, deep down I was thrilled. I actually couldn’t wait to get hugged! So, I put my groceries down, walked over to that sweet little boy, knelt down, and received God’s wonderful blessing.

It was so simple, and yet such a pure act of love. A hug from a little child — no pretense, no hidden motives. Just a kid who saw a worried adult struggling and figured a hug would make it all better.

And he was right. I could barely fight back the tears of joy as I contemplated that brief gesture of acceptance. I quickly realized God had just answered my prayer in the most tangible and personal way.

If you need His touch, as I did, ask the Lord to show Himself to you. And then, wait expectantly for His outstretched arms to bring you comfort, safety, and provision.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3, NLT)

 

If You Don’t Get Flowers Today

FEBRUARY 14, 2020

I carefully lifted my windshield wiper to retrieve the frozen pink rose that cold Valentine’s Day years ago. A freshman in college, I had stopped by my car to eat a snack between my morning classes and excitedly wondered who sent me this surprise. My heart pounded in anticipation.

Starting up the engine for warmth, I rubbed my palms together before opening the attached card. The rose was from … my mom. Her words in the card were kind and encouraging. So why did I still feel empty inside?

The truth was, I wished the rose was from a secret admirer. A young man, not my mom. Since my last date had been an embarrassing dud, spaced far after the previous one, I longed for a new romance to fill me up. My guilt and loneliness combined into a frustrating mixture.

I felt like a cup with no bottom.

No matter what I put inside the cup, I didn’t feel full. Roses, chocolate, books, TV shows, fantasies and even relationships couldn’t fill it. Loneliness seemed to be the only thing filling that bottomless space, and I was weary of its constant, haunting presence.

My parents divorced when I was 4 years old, and the day my daddy left was the day loneliness took up permanent residence in my heart and mind. Though I wished it would go away, I had no power to push it out the door. Loneliness lingered every time I craved love and attention that was in such short supply.

Then in high school, I developed resentment over the flowers and gifts I saw lined up in the cafeteria every February 14. None of them were for me. I believed the devil’s whispered lie — None of them will ever be for you. You’ll always be lonely.

About 15 years after that frozen-rose morning, I sat in a counselor’s office. After listening to my stories of constant loneliness, he observed, “Relationships are very important to you, aren’t they?” His simple, judgment-free question was a pivotal point in my spiritual journey.

A few days after the counseling session, God nudged me with a new idea: Perhaps relationships were too important to me. Though I was a wife, mother of three and friend to many, I still felt lonely. But God was showing me a truth I needed to learn from His Word: “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people” (Psalm 118:8).

For far too long, I had looked to people to fill me. But my husband, children, best friend and small group companions couldn’t remove my loneliness. They were never designed to completely fill my needs. I began to realize only God could serve as my refuge, my safe place and my salvation.

Though people are wonderful, they are not infinite. They aren’t always available when we need them, and none of them provide perfect understanding.

However, God is infinite (Revelation 1:8), ever present (Deuteronomy 31:6) and all-knowing (1 Chronicles 28:9). As we study His ways, we learn God is ready, able and willing to fill us up with His love. We learn this best by hiding away with Him in a place of refuge.

The more time I spent in God’s presence, the less I depended on relationships to meet all my needs. Time with loved ones became bonuses on top of the loving intimacy I enjoyed with Jesus. I no longer required proof of human love on Valentine’s Day — or any other day. God is our refuge in lonely times, and that’s more than enough proof He loves us.

God, the all-seeing One

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Hell and destruction are before the Lord: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?” Proverbs 15:11

Suggested Further Reading: Jeremiah 17:9,10

God knows the heart so well that he is said to ‘search’ it. We all understand the figure of a search. There is a search-warrant out against some man who is supposed to be harbouring a traitor in his house. The officer goes into the lower room, opens the door of every cupboard, looks into every closet, peers into every cranny, takes the key, descends into the cellar, turns over the coals, disturbs the wood, lest anyone should be hidden there. Up stairs he goes: there is an old room that has not been opened for years,—it is opened. There is a huge chest: the lock is forced and it is broken open. The very top of the house is searched, lest upon the slates or upon the tiles some one should be concealed. At last, when the search has been complete, the officer says, “It is impossible that there can be anybody here, for, from the tiles to the foundation, I have searched the house thoroughly; I know the very spiders well, for I have seen the house completely.” Now, it is just so God knows our heart. He searches it—searches into every nook, corner, crevice and secret part; and the figure of the Lord is pushed further still. “The candle of the Lord,” we are told, “searches the inward parts of the belly.” As when we wish to find something, we take a candle, and look down upon the ground with great care, and turn up the dust. If it is some little piece of money we desire to find, we light a candle and sweep the house, and search diligently till we find it. Even so it is with God. He searches Jerusalem with candles, and pulls everything to daylight. No partial search, like that of Laban, when he went into Rachel’s tent to look for his idols. She put them in the camel’s furniture and sat upon them; but God looks into the camel’s furniture, and all.

For meditation: God does not need a search-warrant or a torch to search your heart (Hebrews 4:13). What does he see there?

 

Streams in the Desert – February 14

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

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4).

It is a good thing to “rejoice in the Lord.” Perhaps you have tried it but seemed to fail at first. Don’t give it a second thought, and forge ahead. Even when you cannot feel any joy, there is no spring in your step, nor any comfort or encouragement in your life, continue to rejoice and “consider it pure joy” (James 1:2). “Whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2), regard it as joy, delight in it, and God will reward your faith. Do you believe that your heavenly Father will let you carry the banner of His victory and joy to the very front of the battle, only to calmly withdraw to see you captured or beaten back by the enemy? NEVER! His Holy Spirit will sustain you in your bold advance and fill your heart with gladness and praise. You will find that your heart is exhilarated and refreshed by the fullness within.

Lord, teach me to rejoice in You – to “be joyful always” (1 Thess. 5:16).
–selected

The weakest saint may Satan rout,
Who meets him with a praiseful shout.

Be filled with the Spirit… Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.
Ephesians 5:18-19

In these verses, the apostle Paul urges us to use singing as inspiration in our spiritual life. He warns his readers to seek motivation not through the body but through the spirit, not by stimulating the flesh but by exalting the soul.

Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings.

Let us sing even when we do not feel like it, for in this way we give wings to heavy feet and turn weariness into strength.
–John Henry Jowett

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and signing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
Acts 16:25

O Paul, what a wonderful example you are to us! You gloried in the fact that you “bear on [your] body the marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:17). You bore the marks from nearly being stoned to death, from three times being “beaten with rods” (2 Cor. 11:25), from receiving 195 lashes from the Jews, and from being bloodily beaten in the Philippian jail. Surely the grace that enabled you to sing praises while enduring such suffering is sufficient for us.
–J. Roach

Oh, let us rejoice in the Lord, evermore,
When darts of the Tempter are flying,
For Satan still dreads, as he oft did before,
Our singing much more than our crying.

The Lord Restores My Soul

Psalm 23  (NKJV)

The Lord the Shepherd of His People

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not [a]want.
He makes me to lie down in [b]green pastures;
He leads me beside the [c]still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

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 goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will [d]dwell in the house of the Lord
[e]Forever.

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He Will Restore Your Soul

Article by

Staff writer, desiringGod.org

King David wrote Psalm 22 and Psalm 23, but if we weren’t told that, we might not believe it. These two ancient songs of the faith are about as different as they could be. The first few verses of each psalm capture its tone. Here are the first two verses of Psalm 22:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1–2)

Now, read the first three verses of Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:1–3)

In Psalm 22, David feels forsaken by an unresponsive God. In Psalm 23, David feels shepherded by an ever-attentive God. In Psalm 22, David’s soul is in restless agony. In Psalm 23, David’s soul is restored to a trust-fueled rest in the Good Shepherd’s care.

Two Perspectives on Reality

It is a beautiful and merciful providence that these two starkly different psalms are placed right next to each other, authored by the same person. Because they illustrate the diverse ways we experience the strange reality that is the life of faith in our world. If we live long enough, we all experience the occasional agonizing phenomenon of God’s apparent silence. And we all will also experience God’s kind restoration, peace, and protection. In fact, we eventually come to realize that what felt like abandonment was a merciful nearness and shepherding of a kind we hadn’t previously understood or perceived. We discover that God’s promises are infinitely more substantial and reliable than our perceptions.

But there’s an even deeper beauty and mercy in this poetic and thematic juxtaposition. Both psalms are messianic — they foreshadow and prophesy of Jesus. And in this profound realization, we discover that the order in which these psalms appear is no accident.

Jesus Was Forsaken

We know Psalm 22:1. Its first sentence is among the most famous in the Bible. For Jesus screamed them out while in unfathomable agony on the cross: Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? (Matthew 27:46).

Stop and think over this sentence. Delve into it as deep as you can. You will never get to the bottom of it.

There was a moment, at the crux of history, when God was God-forsaken. To we who are not God, and who are only able to experience a few dimensions of reality, this is mysterious. But it was not a mystery; it was horrifyingly real. God the Son, the eternal delight of the Father, the radiance of the Father’s glory, the exact imprint of the Father’s nature, and the Father’s earthly visible image (Hebrews 1:3Colossians 1:15) became in that incomprehensively dark moment unholy sin — our unholy sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). And while that moment lasted, the holy Father and the Holy Spirit could not abide the holy Son made unholy. God became the object of God’s wrath. A terrible, once-for-all-time fissure rent open between the Father and Son.

For Jesus, it was a truly hellish moment, which is why, in the words of R.C. Sproul, Jesus’s Psalm 22:1 scream “was the scream of the damned. For us.” Out of a love for us we have hardly begun to fathom, he took upon himself our damnable curse, becoming the propitiation for our sins (Galatians 3:131 John 4:10). And he did it for us so that our curse would be eternally removed and we might become the objects of God’s eternal mercy, clothed forever with the holiness and righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Psalm 22 does far more than give us words to pray during our seasons of spiritual desolation. It gives us words to grasp the desolation God the Son experienced to purchase our peace and restoration.

So That You Will Never Be Forsaken

This restoration, the great messianic restoration, is what made David sing for joy in Psalm 23. The Good Shepherd, having laid his life down for the sheep (John 10:11), gives his sheep eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will be able to snatch them out of his hand (John 10:28).

No one. Not “death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” the great Shepherd of the sheep — even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Romans 8:38–39Hebrews 13:20Psalm 23:4).

Our great Shepherd has walked through this valley before us and for us. In this valley, he was stricken and afflicted, betrayed, beaten to a bloody pulp, and brutally crucified by evil. He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). He was smitten and forsaken by God (Isaiah 53:4Psalm 22:1).

And he did this for us so that he might say to us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

He Will Restore Your Soul

In this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33). The Bible’s portrayal of tribulation is realistically horrible. Psalm 22 is a description of David’s tribulation, and it was severe. But it is also a description of Jesus’s tribulation, which was infinitely more severe than David’s — or ours.

Do you feel forsaken by God? Jesus understands. He truly understands more than you know. We can feel forsaken by God; Jesus was forsaken by God. We feel lonely; Jesus was, for a horrible moment, truly alone. As our Great High Priest, he is able to sympathize with us in all our weaknesses, since he was tempted in every way that we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

But Jesus does far more than sympathize with us. As our great sacrificial Lamb, he atoned for every sin we commit in all our weak, faithless stumbling, removing our curse forever by becoming our curse. And as our great Shepherd, he is leading us through every tribulation — no matter how severe — to eternal restoration.

That is the promise of Psalm 23, purchased by the price of Psalm 22: your Good Shepherd will restore your soul forever. He was forsaken by God, scorned and mocked by men, and his hands and feet were pierced (Psalm 22:16–716) for your sake. So that he could guide you through every evil valley, honor you before every evil enemy, pursue you with goodness and mercy every dayof your earthly life, and bring you to live with him in his house forever (Psalm 23:4–6).

Psalm 22 may be your song for a brief night, but Psalm 23 will be your song for an eternal morning (Psalm 30:5).

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Full Restoration

By: Rob Jansons, today.reframemedia.com

  

Scripture Reading — Luke 15:17-24John 8:31-36

“A slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” — John 8:35

The depth of God’s grace is startling. He is not a reluctant forgiver, stingy with grace. God is eager to wipe the slate clean of sin and fully restore his lost children. In the parable of the lost son, everything the father does from the moment he sees his son returning is a clear sign of not only forgiveness but also complete restoration.

The father interrupts his wayward son’s speech by saying, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.” All these things are signs of full restoration to the family. The son will not become a slave, a servant, or a hired worker. He will live with the father as his son, with all of the inherent privileges of being part of the family. The son is welcomed back to the family not as a slave or a hired worker but as a fully restored son.

The guilt and shame of our childish rebellion was transferred to Jesus on the cross. He provided the way out for us. By his suffering and death for our sake, we are spared the sentence of death for our sin and offered forgiveness—full and free. When we receive Christ as our Savior, we become fully restored as children of God. Jesus was crucified with open arms because the Father’s arms are wide open, waiting for us to come home.

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God Can Restore What’s Been Lost and Broken

MARCH 13, 2018

“… the LORD restored his fortunes. In fact, the LORD gave him twice as much as before!” Job 42:10b (NLT)

In a short period of time, and due to circumstances beyond my control, life changed dramatically.

As a result, the financial situation for my three children and me went from secure and life-giving to unsecure, unpredictable and insufficient to sustain even our basic needs. Desperate fears of how to provide for my family pulled me into a pit of fear and despair.

But one night I had a dream, and all that changed.

In this dream, I was slumped over. Tears pouring down my face. Sobbing out loud. Rubbing my eyes. Completely broken and spent. My waking emotions playing out in my sleeping subconscious. Then I noticed a figure slowly entering the room. Yet I wasn’t alarmed; in fact, I felt totally at peace.

Rather than fear, a strange sense of calm and safety washed over me. I immediately knew in my spirit it was Jesus. He spoke softly and gently with a deep, yet tender, and loving voice: “Why didn’t you come to Me earlier? I will restore all that has been lost and broken.”

Hearing His voice startled me into consciousness, and I abruptly awoke — fully believing I’d experienced a divine encounter with my heavenly Father. His words kept echoing over and over in my mind, “I will restore all that has been lost and broken.” Words I had longed to hear. Words that reaffirmed He saw me and was watching over me. Words that gave me great hope and reassured me He not only had the power to restore all that had been taken from my life, but indeed He had plans for it.

But what about hearing Jesus whisper, “Why didn’t you come to Me sooner?”

This was perplexing, because I honestly believed I had come to Him. A million, gazillion times in fact. However, what I had not brought to Him was my total surrender and trust. Instead of surrendering my problems to Him, I just told Him about them constantly then continued trying to solve them on my own.

Rather than trusting for miraculous provision, I fretted and worried whether He would come through or not. I continually felt crushed and hopeless under countless adversities — much like Job in the Bible when he faced great loss and calamity.

In one day, Job lost his 10 children along with all his possessions and wealth. Shortly after, he was afflicted with a horrible skin disease. (Read chapters 1-2 in the book of Job to get the full story.)

Job didn’t understand why he had to suffer so much. So, throughout the book of Job, we see him expressing heartache and anger at the pain and suffering God was allowing. We also see evidence of his impatience regarding how long it was taking God to bring about restoration.

Yet through it all — and despite his human emotions — Job never doubted that full surrender and trust was necessary. In Job 1:21b he even says, “The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!” Despite his suffering, he trusted God’s will for his life and continued to praise Him. As a result, not only did Job’s faith soar, but his life did as well.

Eventually in Job 42, we read how God blessed Job and his faithfulness in every way. Today’s key verse, Job 42:10b, says, “… the LORD restored his fortunes. In fact, the LORD gave him twice as much as before!” God gave Job a double portion of all he’d lost, restored his marriage and many relationships, gave him a new household of children and allowed him to live happily to a ripe old age.

Whether it’s our hearts, finances, relationships or lives that need mending, God always has a plan to heal and restore. Although I don’t know God’s exact plans for my future, I do know He is good, and I fully believe restoring my heart and my life are on His holy to-do list.

Total surrender and faithfulness will always open the door for God’s restoration to begin.

Matthew 22:37-38

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

 

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Are You a Fan or Follower of Jesus?

By: Chris Carpenter, cbn1.com

Are you a follower of Jesus?

Before you rush to judgment and declare an immediate, “Yes!” just sit for a moment and really think about it.  Are you a true blue, unashamed, unabashed follower of Christ or do you do you sometimes conveniently leave your faith at the door depending on the circumstance?  Fan vs. follower … that is the question.

In his bestselling book, Not a Fan (Zondervan), first-time author Kyle Idleman calls you to consider the demands and rewards of being a true disciple.  Do you live the way Jesus lived?  Do you love the way He loved?  Do you pray the way He prayed?

CBN.com Program Director Chris Carpenter recently sat down with Idleman to discuss the difference between being a fan vs. a follower, how to convert fans of Jesus into committed followers, and whether being a fan of Christ is enough to get you to heaven.

The title of your book, Not a Fanis really quite an eye catcher. How can someone not be a fan of Jesus?

The journey that led to my realization of this probably helps. I went to start a new church in Los Angeles when I was about 22. Didn’t really have any idea what I was doing, so I thought I’ll read some business books, some marketing books, and I started to treat a church plan as if it were a business, which led to some kind of dangerous results.  You start to equate success with how many people come.  You become numbers driven, and if you’re not careful, then the Gospel becomes more of a product, and Jesus becomes something that you sell. I kind of slipped into that mentality unintentionally, and what I discovered in this journey, the “Not a Fan,” journey, is that when that happens it creates fans. It creates people who are admirers of Jesus, and they’ll put the Jesus fish on their bumper, and they’ll make their phone’s ring tone a worship song. They’re happy to do that. And they’ll come to church on the weekends.

There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but what we can do is use those as measurements for what it really means to follow Jesus.  I think in our celebrity-driven, sports-driven culture, we can start to treat Jesus as if we were a fan.  So I just wanted to compare our culture and what it says about following Jesus to what the Gospel says about following Christ.

What’s the difference between being a fan of Jesus and a committed follower of Jesus? Obviously, there is a polarity there.

One of the things I try to use in the book is show Biblical examples to make that distinction. An example would be, John 6 where Jesus feeds the 5,000. He has this huge group of people and then, the next day they come looking for more food and Jesus says, “Look, no more free food. I am the bread of life, and if I’m enough and let’s go.” And the Bible says in John 6:66, “From that point on many who had been traveling with Him, no longer followed Him.” They turned and went home. So there’s this distinction between those who were traveling with Jesus and those who were following Jesus. In other words, those who were in it for the free bread and the inspirational teaching, and those who were saying Jesus is enough. There are really quite a number of examples where there’s this distinction made. I use Nicodemus and the rich young ruler, in the book. Also, Simon the Pharisee where people who knew all about Jesus. They knew all the messianic prophecies, but they didn’t necessarily know Him. Those examples make that distinction clear as you study the Gospel accounts. In a sentence, I would say, fans want to be close enough to Jesus to be associated with Him. You want to be close enough to get the benefits, but not so close; they don’t want to follow so close that it requires sacrifice. That requires commitment.

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Would-Be Followers of Jesus

By: Roger Greenway, today.reframemedia.com

 

Scripture Reading — Luke 9:57-62

A man said to [Jesus], “I will follow you wherever you go.” Luke 9:57 —

One day several people said they wanted to follow Jesus, and they sounded sincere. Yet each one turned away from the cost of discipleship.

The first man said, “I will follow you wherever you go.” But his enthusiasm waned when Jesus said, “Foxes have holes … but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Jesus was saying that following him meant doing without the comforts of home.

The second man seemed interested but said he first wanted to go and bury his father. If his father had already died, however, the man would have been doing that. Apparently he wanted to wait to follow Jesus until after his father died. So Jesus implied that the spiritually dead should bury the physically dead, while the spiritually alive should proclaim God’s kingdom.

The third person said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” Doesn’t this seem reasonable? But Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” By this Jesus meant that discipleship means focusing on things that promote God’s kingdom, without distraction.

Jesus practiced what he preached, giving his all for the kingdom of God. May we follow where he leads us today, without excuse.

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“SANCTIFIED BY GOD THE FATHER.” – JUDE 1

“Sanctified in Christ Jesus.”

– 1 Corinthians 1:2

“Through sanctification of the Spirit.”

– 1 Peter 1:2

Mark the union of the Three Divine Persons in all their gracious acts. How unwisely do those believers talk who make preferences in the Persons of the Trinity; who think of Jesus as if he were the embodiment of everything lovely and gracious, while the Father they regard as severely just, but destitute of kindness. Equally wrong are those who magnify the decree of the Father, and the atonement of the Son, so as to depreciate the work of the Spirit. In deeds of grace none of the Persons of the Trinity act apart from the rest. They are as united in their deeds as in their essence. In their love towards the chosen they are one, and in the actions which flow from that great central source they are still undivided. Specially notice this in the matter of sanctification. While we may without mistake speak of sanctification as the work of the Spirit, yet we must take heed that we do not view it as if the Father and the Son had no part therein. It is correct to speak of sanctification as the work of the Father, of the Son, and of the Spirit. Still doth Jehovah say, “Let us make man in our own image after our likeness,” and thus we are “his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” See the value which God sets upon real holiness, since the Three Persons in the Trinity are represented as co-working to produce a Church without “spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” And you, believer, as the follower of Christ, must also set a high value on holiness-upon purity of life and godliness of conversation. Value the blood of Christ as the foundation of your hope, but never speak disparagingly of the work of the Spirit which is your meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light. This day let us so live as to manifest the work of the Triune God in us.

We have Peace With God Through Christ

 

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Painting Pictures of Peace

By: Joe Stowell, Strength For The Journey.com

“First, go and be reconciled to your brother.” Matthew 5:24

The Last Supper, painted by Leonardo da Vinci, is one of the great Renaissance masterpieces. It took da Vinci 3 years to complete, and during this time in frustration his temper flared, and he lashed out with bitter words to a man who had deeply offended him. When he tried to resume his work, it was time to paint the face of Jesus, but he was so bothered by the situation that he couldn’t continue. So, he went to look for the man and ask his forgiveness. It was only after he was right with God and his friend that he felt the freedom to continue his work and paint the face of Jesus.

This legend makes an important point: our relationships with other people affect our relationship with God. That’s why Jesus said, “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there . . . . First go and be reconciled to your brother” (Matthew 5:23-24). So how do we handle the “creative differences”—or any conflict for that matter—with the people in our lives?

In Matthew 5:1-48, Jesus gave us a palette of instructions on how to craft our relationships into masterpieces. He wants us to avoid interactions that will lead to sin and to be sure that our attitude is right toward others. His advice for resolving our differences came down to a handful of key thoughts: settle disagreements quickly, keep your promises, and turn the other cheek.

First, don’t let the paint dry—address relational problems before mistakes become permanent. Jesus talked specifically about this in relation to going to court. In Matthew 5:25, He said, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court.” If you are guilty of offending Bob, and he serves you with papers, give him back his easel and throw in some paintbrushes for good measure. Jesus said that if someone wants to sue you and take your shirt, give him your coat as well.

Second, don’t let colors clash. When you disagree with someone, you have two choices: either stand and fight or, as Christ suggested, turn the other cheek. While it’s normal to want revenge when we are wronged, a Christian would rather be slapped twice than to repay the evil by whacking the person back. In Matthew 5:41, Jesus said, “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” While this response may seem lopsided, the alternative would involve sin on our part, and would just deepen the hostilities.

Finally, when striving to paint a picture of peace, apply the finishing touch—finish strong and finish what you start. This means following through with commitments and keeping your promises. To Christians, a promise has meaning because it carries the weight of our integrity. Matthew 5:33says, “Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.”

One interesting fact about The Last Supper is that da Vinci created all angles and lighting in the painting to draw attention to Christ. It’s kind of the same way with our relationships—at any angle or in any light, they should all point to Christ.

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Peace in a Day of Trouble

365 Devotions for Peace

Peace in a Day of Trouble

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high! — Psalm 20:1 NASB

Unemployment, wars, terrorism, natural disasters, leaders’ poor decisions — times are hard.

But as our older relatives will tell us, hard times are nothing new. Flip through old family photo albums or history books, and see how difficult life was. Against the background of diseases, droughts, and financial depression, we see men and women of deep and abiding faith.

Turn in the Bible to the book of Psalms. There we hear the cries of God’s people in times of trouble. We also hear echoes of our own frustration, our own fears, and our pleas for help from the only One who understands, the One who can best respond.

When the troubles of this world crash in around you, flip through the pages of that photo album to gain some perspective. Then open the Psalms and find words of encouragement and peace for your weary soul. God is faithful, He understands, and He hears your prayers.

God, thank You for believers in ages past who struggled in times of trouble yet held fast to their faith. Help me to be able to hold fast to my faith. Amen.

 

When a Bucket’s Not Enough

I leave you peace; My peace I give you. I do not give it to you as the world does. So don’t let your hearts be troubled or afraid. — John 14:27 NCV

Imagine being in the middle of a lake. The boat you’re sitting in has sprung a leak. The lake is deep, the shore is distant, and your boat is filling fast. You know what it feels like to be “troubled or afraid”!

What you need is a bucket to bail the water out — or do you? A bucket will only do so much. Sooner or later the water will come in faster than you can bail it out. You realize that if you want to stay afloat, you need to fix the hole in your boat.

When life is difficult, much is out of our control, and we feel ourselves sinking, we need to recognize that we aren’t able to bail ourselves out. We won’t find peace, much less our way back to shore, on our own. We need to fix the problem at its source—and only Jesus can do that. The peace as well as the guidance and help He offers will keep us afloat.

So the next time you reach for a bucket, consider reaching out for Jesus instead.

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PEACE THROUGH CHRIST

From: shortdailydevotions.com

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7 ESV

We all want peace.

We want peace in the world, and sometimes we fight for it.

We want peace in our countries, so we vote for the person we think will do the best.

We want peace with our friends, so we do what we can to not offend them.

We want peace in our family, so we work hard to provide for their needs.

Lastly, we want peace in ourselves, so we compare ourselves to others and say we are much happier with what we have.

People spend their whole lives working for peace. Unfortunately, true peace is not something that can be achieved, it can only be received.

True peace can only come from God (John 14:27). This peace doesn’t affect our surroundings, it affects our inner souls. Paul says that it will go deep into our hearts and minds.

It isn’t something that can be explained in a self help book or with a few simple steps, it is only something that can be received from God.

Ironically he brought us peace through an act that was not peaceful at all, the death of His son (Romans 5:9).

As a follower of Jesus, we should be the ones looked to when others need peace. Not because our surroundings are peaceful, but because our hearts and minds are at peace with God through the death of Christ on the cross.

We no longer fear deathhunger, or not having enough possessions.

We know that our treasure is in heaven and we will one day reign with the one true Peace Maker.

 

True Freedom Comes Through Jesus Christ

Happy 4th Of July, Independence Day.

 

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My Country, ‘Tis of Thee: The Story behind the Song

By: Kenneth W. Osbeck, cbn1.com

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“Men must be governed by God or they will be ruled by tyrants.” — William Penn

Moved deeply by the desire to create a national hymn that would allow the American people to offer praise to God for our wonderful land, a 24-year-old theological student, Samuel Francis Smith, penned these lines on a scrap of paper in less than 30 minutes in 1832. Yet even today many consider My Country, ‘Tis of Thee their favorite patriotic hymn and call it our “unofficial national anthem.”

The easily singable words of the song are matched with a popular international melody used by many nations, including England, where it accompanies “God Save the King/Queen.” The emotionally powerful ideas that Smith expressed had an immediate response. The hymn soon became a national favorite. The stirring tributes to our fatherland in the first three stanzas lead to a worshipful climax of gratefulness to God and a prayer for His continued guidance.

Following his graduation from Harvard and the Andover Theological Seminary, Samuel Smith became an outstanding minister in several Baptist churches in the East. He composed 150 hymns during his 87 years and helped compile the leading Baptist hymnal of his day. He was also editor of a missionary magazine through which he exerted a strong influence in promoting the cause of missions. Later he became the secretary of the Baptist Missionary Union and spent considerable time visiting various foreign fields. Samuel Smith was truly a distinctive representative of both his country and his God.

My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing:
Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From ev’ry mountain side let freedom ring!

My native country, thee, land of the noble free, thy name I love:
I love thy rocks and rills, thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture thrills like that above.

Let music swell the breeze, and ring from all the trees sweet freedom’s song:
Let mortal tongues awake, let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break, the sound prolong.

Our fathers’ God, to Thee, author of liberty, to Thee we sing:
Long may our land be bright with freedom’s holy light;
Protect us by Thy might, great God, our King!

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Prayer for Unity in Our Nation

By Debbie McDaniel, from: Crosswalk.com

“I in them and you in me–so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:23

Often in times of greatest need, we may find ourselves giving way to the stress and strain by battling one another, and forgetting who the real enemy is. Harsh words spoken, friendships broken; we choose sides and draw lines. Feelings get hurt. Betrayal runs deep. It gets harder to forgive and keep moving forward. And sometimes we get stuck, right there in the muddy mess of it all.

Yet it’s in those very times of tension and struggle, that we need, more than ever, to come together as one, unified, and strong.

And we can be assured, it’s in those times, that Satan is fighting the hardest. For he knows that’s when we have the greatest potential to make a difference in this world.

He knows that we’re stronger together as we encourage one another on. He’s aware that we’re courageous and brave when we’re covering one another in prayer. He understands that the unity of believers through the power of Jesus Christ, is a force that can’t be reckoned with. For it’s hard to tear apart a cord of three strands, which can’t be easily broken.

That’s why he’s determined to fight harder. And he’s there, in the midst of it all, cheering on the battle. He loves it when we target one another. He laughs at evil, riots, and violence. He gains momentum when we forget that he’s the cause.

Don’t be unaware.

His schemes are cunning and cruel. He’ll twist words and truth, trading them for lies, and stirring up fires.

Let’s say “No more.”

Let’s choose to set aside our differences and look to the greater purpose in this life. To honor Christ as King. We’ll never agree on everything. And that’s never been the goal anyway.

Let’s choose to live out the Truth that says, “Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14

All that you do. All that you say. All that you stand for. Let’s do it with love. For perfect love, which comes from Christ, casts out all fear. And that is what gives us power to move forward, propelled with His strength, surrounded in peace, eyes on the One who gives us breath each day, filled with greater unity in our land.

May God bless us with His peace and unity in our Nation.

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Praying for Your Country

by Inspiration Ministries

I urge that entreaties and prayers…be made on behalf of…all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness…This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. 1 Timothy 2:1-3 NASB

In May 1797, the young American republic faced a possible war with France. Once instrumental in America’s fight for independence, France had become a thorn in their side. Many felt that war was inevitable. But President John Adams was not convinced. Compelled to seek God, he called for a day of fasting and prayer. A recent biographer describes how many people were critical of this call. In fact, Adams “was roundly mocked in the press.”

But believers throughout the country agreed that God was the answer. On the designated day, “the churches were filled.” As people sought God, the crisis diminished and war was averted.

Today our world is filled with wars and rumors of wars and problems that don’t seem to have solutions. There are divisions and clashes of ideas. As in the situation John Adams faced, it is time to turn to prayer and seek God. When we seek Him, some may mock and ridicule. But we must realize that He is our only answer!

Make sure that you are doing your part in this spiritual battle. Follow the direction Paul gave to Timothy and pray for your leaders. Whether or not you agree with their edicts, pray for your local leaders. Pray for your national leaders and the decisions they make. Commit yourself to pray diligently for your country. Seek God. Ask for His help, His wisdom, and His mercy.

Keep Your Treasure Safe In Heaven

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A Collector’s Heaven

By: Joe Stowell, Strength For the Journey

July 3, 2019

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Matthew 6:19-20

People love to collect things—from baseball cards to stamps to coins. And while collecting can be a fun hobby, it is sobering to think that once we leave this earth, everything we own becomes part of someone else’s collection. What value would it be to have collected much on earth but little or nothing for eternity?

Jesus had something to say about this. Speaking to His disciples, He said: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:20).

Eternal treasures never lose their worth. They can never be spoiled or stolen. And just think—we can actually stockpile them! How? Through acts of service. Through leading others to Jesus. By being compassionate to those in need. By living according to the will and ways of Jesus. In the gospel of Mark, we read that the Lord tested the rich young ruler’s heart when He asked him to sell all that he had, give it to the poor, and follow Him. The ruler’s response revealed what he really valued (Mark. 10:21-22).

It’s easy to become enamored with earthside stuff, but when you make the choice to follow Jesus, He’ll show you the joy of collecting eternal treasures. Nothing on earth can compare!

The treasures of earth do not last,
But God has prepared us a place
Where someday with Him we will dwell,
Enjoying the riches of grace.  —Branon

Hold tightly to what is eternal and loosely to what is temporal.

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The Final Say

By: Lynn Cowell, Proverbs 31.com

“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Luke 6:45 (NLT)

You can still hear them today: words spoken by a teacher, parent or coach. Someone who should have spoken good, kind and encouraging words, but didn’t.

For me, those words were “too loud.”

My report cards carried some combination of “talks too much” and “needs to be quiet.” In fact, my fifth grade teacher moved my desk to within arm’s reach of his own to try to get this accomplished. How embarrassing!

In junior high, I chose a Christian school. However, since my behavior didn’t change, neither did the reports. I was put on probation for insubordination … yes, for talking! If I didn’t change, I was getting kicked out! If only they had a vision for what I would do for a living one day — become a speaker — how could they have encouraged me?

Watching those “other” girls, the ones who seemed to be naturally gentle, quiet and self-controlled, I longed to be like them. If only I were different. Those thoughts lingered, as I believed I couldn’t change. It was just the way I was wired.

Maybe you have had thoughts created by words spoken to you, spoken over you. Powerful words from those who could have developed your potential. They could have used their words to draw good out.

But that’s not what happened.

I wondered as I read Abigail’s story, how she overcame negative words.

First Samuel 25:3 introduces us to a very wealthy couple: “The man’s name was Nabal, and his wife’s name, Abigail. The woman was intelligent and beautiful, but the man, a Calebite, was harsh and evil in his dealings” (HCSB).

We might think that rich plus ravishing should equal the real deal. But we can doubt that this was true, because if Nabal “was crude and mean in all his dealings” (as the NLT version describes him), most likely that would have included Abigail.

In this chapter, David and his troop of 600 are in the desert. He heard wealthy Nabal lived nearby, so he sends 10 men to request food. Without being asked, David’s men had been protecting Nabal’s flocks, and they were hungry. Nabal rudely responds — essentially saying, “No.”

Upon hearing this reply, David headed toward Nabal’s estate to teach him a lesson. When Abigail hears trouble is brewing, she gathers some gifts and gets moving. “When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed low before him.She fell at his feet and said, ‘I accept all blame in this matter, my lord …’” (1 Samuel 25:23-24, NLT).

Are you as stunned as I am? This woman, who would have felt the brunt of Nabal’s pride and insecurity, takes the blame when she deserves none of it. Out of her mouth flows humility and wisdom, saving her entire family.

Abigail responded like a woman who knew who she was: a woman with God-esteem, not a woman who was afraid to speak her mind after years of marriage to her “crude and mean” husband. (Please note that her response never excuses verbal or physical abuse from someone.)

Why did Abigail display unshakable confidence when facing this harrowing situation?

Luke 6:45 reveals the secret:

“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”

In your heart.

If we look at the words which flowed from Abigail’s mouth, we can see how she stored up a treasury of good in her heart, for good is what flowed. Whatever words Nabal may have spoken to her, she did not let her heart hang on to those words.

Abigail teaches us this truth: God’s confidence flows from our mouth when we fill our heart and mind with God’s truth.

Our God has the final say on who we are. His words are what we will treasure in our heart.

Holy Spirit, empower me to treasure Your words about who I am over all others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Streams in the Desert

By: L. B. Cowman

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rescue The Spiritually lost

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Operation Rescue

By: Joe Stowell, Strength For The Journey

“The Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials.” 2 Peter 2:9

I recall counseling a woman who had just come to know Christ. She was interested in becoming God’s kind of woman, so we were studying passages of Scripture that had to do with what a biblical wife is like and talking about the whole matter of gracious cooperation with her husband’s leadership. She came to me one day and said, “Pastor, I’ve got a major problem. I have been saving up my money for a dining room set. I love the one my mother-in-law has, and I’m looking for something just like it. After I’ve gone through the used furniture ads in the paper, my husband and I drive around and look at them. But he doesn’t seem to be real interested. He’s so insensitive. We’ve been to a couple of places where I really liked the furniture, but he just says, ‘No, I don’t like those. And besides, it’s my money.’ He couldn’t care less what kind of furniture we have in the house. He doesn’t know if we have French Provincial or Early Salvation Army! He’s basically interested in his newspaper, easy chair, and the TV.”

A couple of weeks later she came back and said, “You’re not going to believe this, but my mother-in-law called me and said that she had bought a brand-new dining room set and wanted to know if I wanted hers.”

God does not always work like that. But it’s clear that when we submit to doing things His way and wait on His timing, we’ll get a chance to see how He works. And while shopping for furniture with an uncooperative spouse doesn’t exactly qualify as a trial, the principle of waiting for God to work in our difficulty remains an important part of dealing with difficulty.

King David understood this. He knew that he was to be the next king of Israel. Rather than staging a dramatic takeover, he faithfully served in the army and played his harp in the palace to soothe King Saul’s stress. Things were going great until Saul developed an insane jealousy that drove him to try to kill David. When David was being hunted by Saul, he found himself in a cold cave crying out to God, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2 NASB).

Like David, when we feel that God has forgotten us we are prone to plan our own escape. We say, “I know what I’ll do. I’ll—no, that won’t work. Here’s what I’ll do—no, I don’t think that will work either.” It’s the total despair of seeming to be locked in with no apparent way out.

Take courage. God already knows how He is going to deliver you. In fact, He is in the business of making ways of escape! Peter assures us, “the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials” (2 Peter 2:9). So you can count on it: When you are faithful and patient through trouble, God will, in His time, exercise options of deliverance that are far beyond what you ever dreamed!

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Seeing is not believing, but believing is seeing

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ 1 Peter 1:8

Suggested Further Reading: John 20:19–31

Carnal people will imagine that if there could be something to touch or smell they should get on, but mere believing and loving are too hard for them. Yet such thought is not reasonable, and I can show you so. Occasionally one meets with an illiterate working man who will say to those whose occupation is mental, ‘I work hard for my living,’ insinuating that the mind-worker does not work at all. Yet I ask any man who is engaged in a mental pursuit, whether he does not know that mental work is quite as real work—and some of us think more so—as working with the hand or the arm. The thing is mental, but is none the less real. Just transfer that thought. Coming into contact with Christ by touch looks to most people to be most real; that is because their animal nature is uppermost; coming into contact with Jesus by the spirit seems to them to be unreal, only because they know nothing of spiritual things. Mere animal men will often say, ‘I can understand the headache, I can understand the pain of having a leg cut off;’ but the pain of injured affection, or of receiving ingratitude from a trusted friend, this is by the rough mind thought to be no pain at all. ‘Oh,’ says he, ‘I could put up with that.’ But I ask you who have minds, is there any pain more real than mental pain? Is it not the sharpest when the iron enters into the soul? Just so the mental operation—for it is a mental operation—of coming into contact with Christ by loving him and trusting him is the most real thing in all the world, and no one will think it unreal who has once exercised it.

For meditation: Unlike Thomas we cannot touch the Lord to bolster our faith (John 20:27–29). Claiming that unscriptural religious acts are not articles of faith but visual aids to faith is carnal, not spiritual, in both origin and outcome (John 3:6). Finding it ‘helpful’ to confess sins to a human ‘priest’ ignores the existence of the Great High Priest in heaven who makes such a go-between surplus to requirements (Hebrews 4:14,168:1).

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MATTHEW 14:30-31 – WALKING IN FAITH

From: shortdailydevotions.com

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:30-31 ESV)

We have all dreamt of doing something great for God. These dreams might involve some form of sacrifice or great leap of faith. We see others around us who have sold everything to follow Jesus as a missionary in some far corner of the world and view them as a person of great faith. We maybe even aspire to be like them.

Consider this, if we had been sitting in that boat with Peter, we would have thought he was brimming with faith as he began to climb out of the boat and walk toward Jesus. But suddenly, something even stranger happened and Peter began to sink.That courage and faith he had in Jesus was getting smaller as he saw the wind and the waves getting bigger.

A true measure of a person’s faith then is not just the first step of their faith journey, but the subsequent steps thereafter. We deal with this every time we get excited about something, starting any given project only to stop halfway through because it was much more difficult than anticipated. The same thing happens when we believe Jesus would have us do something. We start doing it and it doesn’t turn out like we thought it would, or the ministry isn’t immediately growing, we begin to sink, losing faith in and sight of Jesus. What we must realize is that if Jesus has called us to make a first step, then he will provide a path for each step toward him after that.

Where is Jesus calling you to walk in faith?

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Streams in the Desert – July 1

By: L. B. Cowman

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

And blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled. (Luke 1:45)

My words shall be fulfilled in their season (their fixed appointed time) (Greek, Luke 1:20).

There shall be a performance of those things
That loving heart hath waited long to see;
Those words shall be fulfilled to which she clings,
Because her God hath promised faithfully;
And, knowing Him, she ne’er can doubt His Word;
“He speaks and it is done.” The mighty Lord!

There shall be a performance of those things,
O burdened heart, rest ever in His care;
In quietness beneath His shadowing wings
Await the answer to thy longing prayer.
When thou hast “cast thy care,” the heart then sings,
There shall be a performance of those things.

There shall be a performance of those things,
O tired heart, believe and wait and pray;
At eventide the peaceful vesper rings,
Though cloud and rain and storm have filled the day.
Faith pierces through the mist of doubt that bars
The coming night sometimes, and finds the stars.

There shall be a performance of those things,
O trusting heart, the Lord to thee hath told;
Let Faith and Hope arise, and plume their wings,
And soar towards the sunrise clouds of gold;
The portals of the rosy dawn swing wide,
Revealing joys the darkening night did hide.

—Bessie Porter

Matthew Henry says: “We must depend upon the performance of the promise, when all the ways leading up to it are shut up. ’For all the promises of God in him are yea (yes), and in him Amen (so be it), unto the glory of God by us.’ (2 Cor. 1:20).

They Have Seen A Great Light

 

 The people kwho walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who dwelt in a land of ldeep darkness,

on them has light shone.


16  vthe people dwelling in darkness

have seen a great light,

and for those dwelling in the region and wshadow of death,

on them a light has dawned.


18 rto open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from sthe power of Satan to God, that they may receive tforgiveness of sins and ua place among those who are sanctified vby faith in me.


I Am the Light of the World

12 lAgain Jesus spoke to them, saying, mI am the light of the world. Whoevernfollows me will not owalk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

 
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