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America: The Home I Love

eagle flying with an American flag

 

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

What makes America home to you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Devotions

 

July 1

2 Kings 2:9-11 9When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. 10“You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours–otherwise not.” 11As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.

Elijah had done as the LORD commanded him and called Elisha to be the prophet in his place. The time had come for Elijah to depart this world and Elisha knew it. He would not leave the side of Elijah even though Elijah asked him to stay behind. He must have known by the Spirit of God that if he stuck close to Elijah he would be blessed.

When they arrived at the place to which the LORD had led them, Elijah asked if there was anything he could do for Elisha. Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. The spirit of a man is his relationship and zeal for God. Elijah left it in God’s hands by saying that if he saw him when he was taken up from him he would know his request was granted. Sure enough, he saw it happen.

When Elijah called Elisha he threw his cloak over him. Now he left his cloak behind for him. When we look through the ministry of Elisha, we find twice as many miracles recorded as were recorded in the life of Elijah. He did receive the double portion he asked for.

What would you have asked for? This reminds us of Solomon’s request for wisdom to rule. What we ask for depends on the calling the LORD has placed on our lives. The desire behind our request should be that our calling be effective and influential for the sake of the Kingdom of God. If our heart is to serve in the most God honoring way possible, I believe God is willing to grant our request. If our request is to be equipped to please our King, we should expect it to be granted.

Consider: We need to show the tenacity that Elisha showed in not leaving Elijah’s side until the LORD equips us for our calling.

Dependence Day

by Shawn McEvoy crosswalk, com

So now, come back to your God! Act with love and justice, and always depend on him. ~ Hosea 12:6, NLT

The ‘Fourth of July’ devotional.

It fell to me this year.

And whoa if I didn’t have a firecracker of a time coming up with what to write.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not riding on the trendy bandwagon of American self-loathing. I love my country. I dig personal and religious freedom. Without a free press I’d be out of a job, and without free speech I’d be locked up somewhere. But not here!

So why the long face on red-white-and-blue, take-a-day-off, fire-up-the-grill day?

Because Christianity has so little yet too much to do with the American Dream.

Because I get sad when I consider the evolution ‘Freedom’ has undertaken just in my lifetime – from “allowed to act responsibly” to “if it feels good do it” to “absolutely anything goes and don’t even try to suggest otherwise, or we might just take away your freedom.”

Because “Independence Day” is a disconnect for me, devotionally speaking, from things I know to be true: that independence has never served me well where family or friends or work colleagues or society or the Church or the Lord are concerned.

And so, left without the trite and tried-but-true for today’s devotional, I settled on the short, bittersweet, and eternal…

Neither politics nor religion nor any mixing of the two will save me.

Some things really are messed up. Many valuable things are really not mess-up-able. A few things that are require only repentance or the granting of forgiveness to restore.

The necessity of increased faith

By: Charles Spurgeon

“And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.” Luke 17:5

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 4:13-25

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” They went to the right person. They did not say to themselves, “I will increase my faith;” they did not cry to the minister, “Preach a comforting sermon, and increase my faith;” they did not say, “I will read such-and-such a book, and that will increase my faith.” No, they said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” Faith’s author can alone increase it. I could inflate your faith till it turned into presumption, but I could not make it grow. It is God’s work to feed faith, as well as to give it life at first; and if any of you desire to have a growing faith, go and take your burden this morning to God’s throne, crying, “Lord, increase our faith!” If you feel that your troubles have been increased, go to the Lord, and say, “Increase our faith!” If your money is accumulating, go to the Lord, and say, “Increase our faith;” for you will want more faith as you get more prosperity. If your property is diminishing, go to him, and say, “Increase our faith,” so that what you lose in one scale you may gain in the other. Are you sickly and full of pain this morning? Go to your Master, and say, “Increase our faith, so that I may not be impatient, but be able to bear it well.” Are you tired and weary? Go and supplicate, “Increase our faith!” Have you little faith? Take it to God, and he will turn it into great faith. There is no hot-house for growing tender plants in like a house that is within the curtains—the tabernacle of God, where his glory dwells.

 

 

God Is The Loving Father

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Devotions for Father’s Day

73 Bible Verses about Obedience - DailyVerses.net

June 11, 2019 • Jeff Bulthuis

What comes to mind when you hear the term Father’s Day? Maybe you think about stereotypical gifts like neckties or #1 Dad t-shirts. Perhaps you have memories of the sights and smells of grilling together. Or maybe—like many people—the holiday provides an opportunity for you to celebrate your Father in heaven.

Whatever the case may be, we wanted to provide a Father’s Day gift for you: 5 devotionals for Father’s Day.

  1. Honoring Parents by Henry Kranenburg. This devotion answers two key questions: 1) is there an age when we’re no longer required to honor our parents? and 2) how are honoring our parents and honoring God connected?
  2. Learning from Examples by George Vink. The apostle Paul famously tells others to follow his example. Especially on Father’s Day, consider what kind of example you’re providing for others.
  3. The Runaway Son by Art Schoonveld. The story of the Prodigal Son speaks just as clearly today as it did 2,000 years ago. God’s fatherly love is a reassurance for us, whether we know a runaway or are one.
  4. A Holy Hug by David Den Haan. Recalling the dramatic reunion between a father and his estranged daughter, the author encourages us to embrace hurting people.
  5. Coming Home by Bob Heerspink. Take the opportunity to remember that—like a loving, patient father—God welcomes us home to him when we’ve wandered away.

On Father’s Day—and every day—we pray that your spirit would be refreshed, refocused, and renewed as you “see what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).

 

Putting Faith into Action

by Inspiration Ministries

“How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you? Appoint three men from each tribe. I will send them out to make a survey of the land.” – Joshua 18:3-4 NIV

Joshua seemed impatient, even exasperated. Several tribes had taken possession of the land they had been promised, but others had not acted yet. Why had they failed to claim their inheritance? What was preventing them from experiencing victory?

Perhaps they were overwhelmed by the size of the challenge or discouraged by the obstacles they faced. They may have felt inadequate as if they did not have enough resources. They may have lacked confidence. Perhaps they were waiting for a breakthrough or development. They may have been hoping that the challenge would become easier or that their adversaries might give up. Or they simply did not have faith in God.

Joshua told them that the time had come to lay aside their excuses and put their faith into action. They needed to move forward and take possession of the land God had given them.

Think about the parallels in your life. God has given you exceedingly great promises. He had promised to bless and protect you, to give you victory in every area. You may be waiting, afraid, or feel inadequate or unsure of yourself. The obstacles may seem overwhelming. These are times to be like Joshua, believing God’s promises, banishing fear and doubt, and boldly taking action.

Today, ask God to help you move forward. Trust Him. Put your faith into action. Don’t wait any longer. Believe Him for victory.

 

Streams in the Desert – June 19

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

Grain is crushed, though one certainly does not thresh it forever. The wheel of one’s wagon rolls over it, but his horses do not crush it. (Isa 28:28)

Many of us cannot be used to become food for the world’s hunger until we are broken in Christ’s hands. “Bread corn is bruised.” Christ’s blessing ofttimes means sorrow, but even sorrow is not too great a price to pay for the privilege of touching other lives with benediction. The sweetest things in this world today have come to us through tears and pain.
—J. R. Miller

God has made me bread for His elect, and if it be needful that the bread must be ground in the teeth of the lion to feed His children, blessed be the name of the Lord.
—Ignatius

“We must burn out before we can give out. We cease to bless when we cease to bleed.”

“Poverty, hardship and misfortune have pressed many a life to moral heroism and spiritual greatness. Difficulty challenges energy and perseverance. It calls into activity the strongest qualities of the soul. It was the weights on father’s old clock that kept it going. Many a head wind has been utilized to make port. God has appointed opposition as an incentive to faith and holy activity.

“The most illustrious characters of the Bible were bruised and threshed and ground into bread for the hungry. Abraham’s diploma styles him as ’the father of the faithful.’ That was because he stood at the head of his class in affliction and obedience.

“Jacob suffered severe threshings and grindings. Joseph was bruised and beaten and had to go through Potiphar’s kitchen and Egypt’s prison to get to his throne.

“David, hunted like a partridge on the mountain, bruised, weary and footsore, was ground into bread for a kingdom. Paul never could have been bread for Caesar’s household if he had not endured the bruising, whippings and stonings. He was ground into fine flour for the royal family.”

“Like combat, like victory. If for you He has appointed special trials, be assured that in His heart He has kept for you a special place. A soul sorely bruised is a soul elect.”

 

RUN TO THE FATHER

MaryAshton Floyd | Jun 13, 2021

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

DEVOTION

I am really passionate about running and being outside. I know, I know … a lot of you might roll your eyes thinking, “Why would someone ever willfully choose to run?” But, hear me out.

It is one of the very best things I can do for myself mentally, spiritually, and physically. When I run, something crazy happens and I just find space to think clearly. As my body moves, my brain relaxes, and this creates the perfect quiet space for me to hear from God and process the things going on in my life. When I run, and calm my heart and mind, I hear from him more clearly than in any other place in my life.

Recently, I was really stressed about many different areas in my life and they were all colliding in my brain. I began to feel overwhelmed and anxious. The Lord kindly reminded me a long quiet run with him might help.

As I ran and talked with the Lord, I began to realize the stress and anxiety I was feeling was coming from me trying to hold a tight grasp on things that needed to be laid down at his feet. They were things that were not mine to carry and needed to be surrendered to the one who is in control of them anyway.

The Lord reminded me of Hebrews 12:1-2, one of my favorite passages, that says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

In my conversation with the Lord, I felt like he was using that passage I’d memorized long ago to remind me that I really can—and should—throw off the weights of fear, worry, and doubt that were making my heart so anxious. He reminded me I’m able to surrender to him the sins that so easily entangle me. He reminded me to just put one foot in front of the other and run with endurance, keeping my eyes locked in on him. Jesus is truly the author and perfecter of our faith. Because he endured the cross and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God, we can actually trust him with our hearts and lives.

I think about this often when I get overwhelmed or stressed or scared. I try to remember what a loving father would say to me, and in my brain, it sounds a lot like: “One foot in front of the other, kiddo. Eyes on me—we got this.”

The Lord is kind and longs to know us closely and talk with us, whether we’re working through hard things on a run, sitting in the carpool line picking up kids, in the elevator on our way up to the office, doing yard work, or folding laundry. The Lord is near, and he cares deeply about all of it.

I’d challenge all of us to lean in and go with him instead of trying to do this life on our own each day.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

We thank you that you hear us, see us, know us, and are for us. Thank you that you’re closer than we’ll ever fully know, and we can trust you even when we don’t see or understand what you’re doing or why you’re doing it.

Thank you for meeting us where we are and going with us on our way. Thank you that we get to talk to you whenever we want. I pray we would tap into that and remember that because of Jesus, we have access to you at all times. We love you so much and ask you to help us remember you today.

Love God With All Your Heart

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Beach Lessons

Pin on Quotes & favorite sayings

by Katherine Britton, crosswalk.com

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  –Luke 7:47, ESV

How do you explain to a child who’s never been to the ocean what waves are like? You might fill a bathtub with water and splash it back and forth. That could teach action of waves – but what about the look? You might take the child to a nearby river with a few rapids, and show them how the foam collects at the bottom of a fall “like on top of a wave.” You might show them a 4×6 inch photograph. You might try to show them what waves sound like with a conch shell. But what about their vast dimensions along the shore? What about their unending nature? What about the undercurrent of a wave going back to sea?

No substitute can convey the scale and true nature of waves continually breaking on the shore. No analogies or to-scale models prepare children for their first trip to the beach. They can’t grasp the greatness until they’ve seen it for themselves.

Have you seen the greatness of God’s forgiveness yet?

No measure of teaching, preaching, and analogizing can make us really grasp what God’s forgiveness means. Even after we reach adulthood, we’re still creatures of experience. It takes a firsthand experience – recognition of how vast our sins really are – before we can appreciate how vast God’s mercy is to cover them.

Jesus gave Simon the Pharisee the example of two men who owed another money – one owed him five hundred days’ wages, one owing him fifty. The moneylender forgives both debts, but, as Simon empathizes, the one forgiven the larger sum has a greater reason to love the one who canceled his debt. But all Simon heard were Jesus’s words. He failed to realize what a vast stretch of sand he stood on, and what a great tide it would take to overtake all of those grains of sand. As a result, it’s the woman Jesus recognizes for her great love of her Savior.

 

Don’t Stay Stuck in a Chapter of Disappointment

35 Bible Verses about Love - Bible Verse Images

rough the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5b (NLT)

One Saturday afternoon several years ago, I found myself needing a project — something to occupy my hands but also reroute my thoughts from falling into an epic self-pity party.

So I wandered upstairs to the hot attic, breathed in the musky, damp smell and began scanning the room for a project. Two cardboard boxes spilling over with forgotten items caught my attention. I plopped down on the bare wood floor and began sifting through the contents.

I smiled as I pulled out various long-forgotten items one by one. Photos of my children’s cute little faces when they were young, vacation photos with sweet memories, pottery pieces with my children’s initials in the clay, painted handprints on construction paper and more sports team photos than any parent should ever have to purchase.

But when I moved a few other things around, a big white book shifted and peeked out from under the pile. My smile instantly faded.

The wedding album.

A book which used to be a treasured keepsake now held the power to evoke immense heartache. I reached over and pulled it out of the box, blowing off a cloud of dust that had settled on it over the years. I opened it up and began flipping through the pages, and with each photo my eyes fell upon, my heart sunk.

Life hadn’t turned out the way I thought it would. Wedding vows weren’t kept. Dreams were shattered. Hearts were hurting. A family was broken. Disappointment overload began to consume my thoughts yet again … until God brought a favorite Scripture verse to mind.

Over the years, I’ve often thought of Psalm 30:5b, which says, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” This verse is a great reminder that despite how disappointed or sad we may feel, it won’t last forever. We don’t have to let that disappointment keep us stuck in grief or regret, trapped in a chapter of life we don’t want to live in. Instead, we can choose to trust that God has our best interests at heart, our lives under control and good plans for our future.

Disappointment and sorrow are powerful emotions that can keep us stuck in a pattern of focusing on what we lost or mourning dreams that didn’t come true. They prevent us from believing God has good plans for us and stifle our ability to let go of what we thought was supposed to be.

We can allow disappointment to be a hindrance to our happiness, or we can trust God has good plans for us. Disappointment will lessen when we change our perspective of it, considering it a redirect from God rather than His neglect.

Trudging back downstairs from the attic, I took a deep breath and let out a heavy sigh. I realized that day that I was tired of being stuck on a torn-up page of life. As hard as I knew it would be, my heart and mind were finally ready to let go of disappointment, move forward, turn the page and trust God.

I have shed many tears over the past few years, but over time, God dried those tears. My weeping stopped, and my disappointment was gradually replaced with joy as I intentionally tried to be positive and trust God with whatever the future might hold.

God is always up to something new, yet we have to let go of past disappointments in order to embrace what is yet to come. The life that awaits us is far more important than the life behind us. It took me a while to understand this because it was hard to accept what had happened to my family, but when I finally allowed myself to believe it, life changed for the better, as did I.

 

Streams in the Desert – June 11

34 Bible Verses about Forgiveness - KJV - DailyVerses.net

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

And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient, (2 Tim 2:24)

When God conquers us and takes all the flint out of our nature, and we get deep visions into the Spirit of Jesus, we then see as never before the great rarity of gentleness of spirit in this dark and unheavenly world.

The graces of the Spirit do not settle themselves down upon us by chance, and if we do not discern certain states of grace, and choose them, and in our thoughts nourish them, they never become fastened in our nature or behavior.

Every advance step in grace must be preceded by first apprehending it, and then a prayerful resolve to have it.

So few are willing to undergo the suffering out of which thorough gentleness comes. We must die before we are turned into gentleness, and crucifixion involves suffering; it is a real breaking and crushing of self, which wrings the heart and conquers the mind.

There is a good deal of mere mental and logical sanctification nowadays, which is only a religious fiction. It consists of mentally putting one’s self on the altar, and then mentally saying the altar sanctifies the gift, and then logically concluding therefore one is sanctified; and such an one goes forth with a gay, flippant, theological prattle about the deep things of God.

But the natural heartstrings have not been snapped, and the Adamic flint has not been ground to powder, and the bosom has not throbbed with the lonely, surging sighs of Gethsemane; and not having the real death marks of Calvary, there cannot be that soft, sweet, gentle, floating, victorious, overflowing, triumphant life that flows like a spring morning from an empty tomb.
—G. D. W.

“And great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33).

By Faith Stand Strong For The Lord

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Please Hang in There

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“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 (NLT)

If Jesus said to me, “Brad, Brad, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” I would be thinking, “Jesus, I don’t want to be sifted. Stop Satan from this sifting stuff. I have been sifted too many times already.” Jesus makes no offer to help; only that Simon’s faith may not fail and then when he has turned back he can strengthen his brothers.

Many of us have been beaten up by the world and the schemes of the devil. We have been beaten up so much that we can start believing lies that we aren’t good enough, that we have to pass more tests – that we will never get past the next test because we have failed this one so many times. The Lord impressed this thought upon me:

“It isn’t about passing the test; it is about staying in the faith whether you have passed the test or not.”

We beat ourselves up when we fail. We look lustfully at a person and beat ourselves up the rest of the day and make everyone else miserable. We can’t stop an addiction and we think God will never forgive us, so we give up trying. Our kids aren’t turning out as we planned and we think that we have done something wrong. We keep being passed over for a promotion and we feel that we are not faithful enough in Gods eyes to get the blessing to move forward.

STOP! Jesus could stop all the chaos in your life right now, but here is why He will not: Jesus loves you. He loves you enough to allow you to be refined. We can only be refined when trials come. It isn’t if we fail, it is when. It isn’t just one time, but thousands of times we fail. We have some weird notion that we need to be perfect to enter the kingdom of heaven.

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:23 NLT

We will sin until God calls us home. The most important statement that Jesus says to Simon (Peter) is, “That your faith may not fail.”

Are you getting close to giving up on this Christianity thing? Are things not turning out as you have planned? Satan wants you to give up. We are not on this earth for long. PLEASE hang in there. God loves you and desires that your faith will not waiver even though your circumstances may tell a different story.

Just remember your circumstances do not dictate the way you are living your Christian life. You may be failing in every category, but that doesn’t mean that God will not reveal to you something miraculous out of the pain and defeat. Believe in Jesus who desires that you find strength in the storms of life so that your faith will be refined. Don’t let the evil one give you a lifeline to an easy way out. That lifeline may seem an ea’sy way out now, but you will regret it. Just keep hanging on everyone. Jesus WILL save YOU.

 

Armed with a Bow

Christian Perseverance Quote | Quote Number 570956 | Picture Quotes

Jim Poelman From: Reframemedia .com

Scripture Reading — Revelation 6:2

There before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow. . . . — Revelation 6:2

What does it mean that the rider on a white horse “held a bow”? Are we to imagine a soldier who has the training to kill with a bow and arrow? Or perhaps we picture a hunter, with bow in hand, standing over a downed deer.

It is tempting to read God’s ­story that way. But if we did, we would think the first rider is all about bringing death and destruction. To read the story that way would miss the surprising good news that the One who is skilled with a bow is God. He has worked with a bow for a long time.

In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we find a promise that God gave to Noah after the great flood. “I have set my bow in the clouds” God said, “and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Genesis 9:13, NRSV). We usually understand the bow in the Genesis story as being a “rainbow.” But it is the same word that is used in this story in Revelation.

In other words, the first horseman, Jesus, is armed with God’s covenant promise. His goal is to bring God’s promises for the renewal of creation to every part of creation.

Prayer

Lord, our Lord, you surprise us with your promises and your determination to bring life and healing to your creation. Thank you for so loving this world that you gave your one and only Son to give us life. Amen.

Regeneration

Top 20 Bible Verses-Perseverance - Everyday Servant

“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 13:22-30

“Angels, principalities, and powers, would you be willing that men who love not God, who believe not in Christ, who have not been born again, should dwell here?” I see them, as they look down upon us, and hear them answering, “No! Once we fought the dragon, and expelled him, because he tempted us to sin! We must not, and we will not, have the wicked here. These alabaster walls must not be soiled with black and lustful fingers; the white pavement of heaven must not be stained and rendered filthy by the unholy feet of ungodly men. No!” I see a thousand spears bristling, and the fiery faces of a myriad seraphs thrust over the walls of paradise. “No, while these arms have strength, and these wings have power, no sin shall ever enter here.” I address myself moreover to the saints of heaven, redeemed by sovereign grace: “Children of God, are you willing that the wicked should enter heaven as they are, without being born again? You say you love men, but are you willing that they should be admitted as they are?” I see Lot rise up, and he cries, “Admit them into heaven! No! What! Must I be vexed by the conversation of Sodomites again, as once I was!” I see Abraham; and he comes forward, and he says, “No; I cannot have them here. I had enough of them whilst I was with them on earth—their jests and jeers, their silly talkings, their vain conversation, vexed and grieved us. We want them not here.” And, heavenly though they be, and loving as their spirits are, yet there is not a saint in heaven who would not resent, with the utmost indignation, the approach of any one of you to the gates of paradise, if you are still unholy, and have not been born again.

For meditationMatthew 13:41-43Luke 16:23-26 — at best the unsaved will have a distant view of heaven which will only add to their torment.

 

God’s Desire

by Inspiration Ministries

“If only they had such a heart to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that they and their children would prosper forever.” – Deuteronomy 5:29 CSB

God wanted the very best for His people. He specifically desired that these Israelites and their children would “prosper forever.” But this endless prosperity didn’t just happen. It required having a heart that revered and honored Him and a life spent keeping His commandments.

Looking at His people, God remembered what they promised. But He also knew that, eventually, they would forget these commitments. Yet He yearned for them to remember, stay faithful, and realize that obedience was the way to experience maximum success.

He encouraged the Israelites to fill their lives with His Word – to learn the Word, think about the Word, and practice the Word. His Word contained reminders of things they needed to do and say. Applying His Word would help them avoid problems and experience His fullest blessings.

God has the same concerns about us. He hears our promises, but He also knows that we might forget. We may make excuses or fail to follow through. He knows that we can be distracted and abandon our commitments, despite our good intentions. That’s why He gave us His Spirit to remind us (John 14:26) and guide us into all truth (John 16:13).

Today, submit your life to God. Seek Him through prayer. Stay sensitive to His Spirit. Seek the power of the Spirit to help you stay spiritually strong. Fill your mind with His Word, and put His principles into practice. Seek to please Him.

Judas Betrays Jesus With A Kiss

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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.