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Pleasing God

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Pleasing God

boy doing schoolwork

 

Vernell Windsor – cbn.com

Have you ever been called upon to explain your misbehavior? I remember being in grade school and Sister Susie (changed to protect her identity) poked me in the head to turn around and pay attention. I was humiliated by her actions, but I have no recollection of what distracted me in the back of the room. My lack of attention to her teaching upset her.

One common thread in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is to give God the greatest respect and obey Him by keeping His commandments.

The writer of Ecclesiastes said it this way,

The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you. And that’s it. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 MSG).

From the beginning of time, people have gotten off course from following God’s commandments and paying attention to what He says is important. In Galatians 1, the Apostle Paul admonishes believers for getting distracted from the true teachings of Christ and believing a distorted version of the Gospel:

“I can’t believe how you waver—how easily you have turned traitor to him who called you by the grace of Christ by embracing an alternative message!” (Galatians 1:6).

In his passion for them to understand the seriousness of their ways and why he cares so much about the true Gospel message, Paul says,

“Do you think I speak this strongly in order to manipulate crowds? Or court favor with God? Or get popular applause? If my goal was popularity, I wouldn’t bother being Christ’s slave. Know this—I am most emphatic here, friends—this great Message I delivered to you is not mere human optimism. I didn’t receive it through the traditions, and I wasn’t taught it in some school. I got it straight from God, received the Message directly from Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:10-12).

Pleasing the Lord made all the difference for Paul and he wanted the same for the Galatians. He poked them on the back of their heads with his strong words to get them to pay attention to the true Gospel message. We can all benefit from the reminder to focus on Christ regardless of life’s challenges.

Streams in the Desert – September 22

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“And the Lord said . . . Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:31-32).

Our faith is the center of the target at which God doth shoot when He tries us; and if any other grace shall escape untried, certainly faith shall not. There is no way of piercing faith to its very marrow like the sticking of the arrow of desertion into it; this finds it out whether it be of the immortals or no. Strip it of its armor of conscious enjoyment, and suffer the terrors of the Lord to set themselves in array against it; and that is faith indeed which can escape unhurt from the midst of the attack.

Faith must be tried, and seeming desertion is the furnace, heated seven times, into which it might be thrust. Blest the man who can endure the ordeal!
–C. H. Spurgeon.

Paul said, “I have kept the faith,” but he lost his head! They cut that off, but it didn’t touch his faith. He rejoiced in three things–this great Apostle to the Gentiles; he had “fought a good fight,” he had “finished his course,” he had “kept the faith.” What did all the rest amount to? St. Paul won the race; he gained the prize, and he has not only the admiration of earth today, but the admiration of Heaven. Why do we not act as if it paid to lose all to win Christ? Why are we not loyal to truth as he was? Ah, we haven’t his arithmetic. He counted differently from us; we count the things gain that he counted loss. We must have his faith, and keep it if we would wear the same crown.

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Repentance unto life

“Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Acts 11:18

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 3:1-14

Can they be sincerely penitent, and then go and transgress again immediately, in the same way as they did before? How can we believe you if you transgress again and again, and do not forsake your sin? We know a tree by its fruit; and you who are penitent will bring forth works of repentance. I have often thought it was a very beautiful instance, showing the power of penitence which a pious minister once related. He had been preaching on penitence, and had in the course of his sermon spoken of the sin of stealing. On his way home a labourer came alongside of him, and the minister observed that he had something under his smock-frock. He told him he need not accompany him farther; but the man persisted. At last he said, “I have a spade under my arm which I stole up at that farm; I heard you preaching about the sin of stealing, and I must go and put it there again.” That was sincere penitence which caused him to go back and replace the stolen article. It was like those South Sea Islanders, of whom we read, who stole the missionaries’ articles of apparel and furniture, and everything out of their houses; but when they were savingly converted they brought them all back. But many of you say you repent, yet nothing comes of it; it is not worth the snap of the finger. People sincerely repent, they say, that they should have committed a robbery, or that they have kept a gambling-house; but they are very careful that all the proceeds shall be laid out to their hearts’ best comfort. True repentance will yield “works meet for repentance;” it will be practical repentance. Yet farther. You may know whether your repentance is practical by this test. Does it last or does it not?

For meditation: As with faith, repentance without works is dead. Jesus could tell that the repentance of Zacchaeus was practical and real (Luke 19:8-9).

Today’s Devotions

Morning

September 22

Job 31:24-25, 28 24“If I have put my trust in gold or said to pure gold, ‘You are my security,’ 25if I have rejoiced over my great wealth, the fortune my hands had gained,

28then these also would be sins to be judged, for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.

Job continued his defense before his friends. He told how he always helped the needy and took good care of his workers. He said that he was consistent to do those things because he had a fear of God. He knew God required it of him, and that he would be judged if he did not. As we look at Job’s defense, few of us can say that our lives come anywhere close to Job’s. Yet the real standard is not Job but Jesus Christ. Thank God for sending His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins.

In the passage for today Job says that he did not trust in his great wealth. Jesus told us it was very hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God. Job seems to have been one of the few who could be trusted with wealth but not rely on it for security. He recognized that provision came from God. Though he labored to earn income, he knew God is the Provider. How many of us can be just as secure when our bank accounts are bottoming out as when they are bulging? That can only come when we see God is our security regardless of how much we possess.

He did not even rejoice over his wealth. It is one thing to be thankful and another to find joy in something. Our joy should always be the presence of God in our lives. When wealth becomes our reason for rejoicing we are turning it into an idol that takes God’s place. Job said that both trusting in wealth for security and finding your joy in wealth were both sins to be judged. Both are unfaithfulness to God.

Dear reader, pause and consider if wealth has taken God’s place in your heart as the reason you rejoice. Let us guard our hearts so that we are not seduced by wealth to worship another god. In this passage he groups this sin with worship of the sun and moon, other gods. If you have fallen in this area of making wealth a god, confess your sin, and put God back in His rightful place in your heart. See that He alone is your security and your greatest joy.

What Hurt the Most

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What Hurt the Most

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Emmanuela Delsion – National Director – OB Haiti

February 2020 remains one of the hardest times in my life. I suffered physically, morally, and especially, spiritually. After a caesarean section in February 2020, I had complications. I was in very bad shape. Physically, I was very ill, experiencing extreme pain, swelling, and severe acute anemia. The pain was so terrible that I could not work or move by myself. I needed help to move from one side of the bed to the other and to use the restroom. I became dependent on others for everyday tasks. That dependency hurt me a lot. I always considered myself a strong person who always does her best to deal with life’s difficulties, and to find solutions. But during that time, even though I deeply wanted to be strong, I could not. I cried a lot. Not only because of the pain, but mainly because of my weakness. I depended on people for everything; I could not even carry my newborn, and that made me very sad.

But sadness was not the worst emotion that I felt. I was filled with anger. I was angry at God. I used to say that I was God’s favorite child, and I meant it. He had always been good to me despite my faults. He provided what I did not expect, protected me against danger, and He surrounded me with His grace. That is how God always blessed me—until February 2020. I got angry because of the trust that I put in Him, because of how I used to brag about my relationship with God. I felt betrayed by my awesome God who I completely trusted, and that hurt me more than my health status and the loss of my autonomy. I could not pray. I kept blaming God until the day my husband prayed with me. God used Him to talk to me through Psalm 34. Verse 19 says:

The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all. (NIV)

I can’t find the correct way to explain it, but that verse brought me peace and I started begging God to forgive me. I realized that my sickness did not mean that God stopped caring about me. I trusted that He still loved me and that He would heal me. My reconciliation with God was the best thing that happened to me! The doctors did their best, including two surgeries and plenty of medicines, but at the end of the day, none of them could explain how I was healed, and how I could walk again. My God who continued to protect and love me, healed me in His perfect timing. I was discharged on March 02, 2020, a few days before the COVID-19 lockdown.

Today I feel ashamed about how I behaved, but I believe it was a good lesson that I needed to share with others. Being loved by God does not mean that we will never face difficulties—for we are living in a world influenced by the devil—but rather that our Savior will always protect us. As it is stated in Proverbs 24:16:

For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.

If you are going through a bad time, do not behave like I did, but instead, know that God loves you! He has everything under control and continues to protect you from even tragedies that you might never be aware of. Because God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!

Today’s Devotions

Morning

September 15

Job 1:20-22 20At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” 22In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing

We can scarcely imagine all that calamity striking in one day, though some readers will no doubt have experienced the one thing that was dearest to them taken. Losing all is losing all regardless if it is little or much. Surely Job’s greatest loss was that of his children. To lose even one child is worse than imaginable. How do you react to adversity?

When we read Job’s reaction, we see that God was correct in His assessment of Job. I’ve never seen anyone react without even a “Why God?” Job will come to that later. If you are wondering why Satan allowed his wife to live, it is because she told him to curse God and die. It was about to get even worse, as Satan does not wish to admit defeat and longed to turn Job against God.

Job’s response was to worship. His answer is quoted at funerals, but it should be considered throughout our lives. We came into the world without anything and we will leave with nothing. There has never been a moving van following a casket. The Egyptians tried, but all their treasures sit in museums. If our children go first, we will meet them one day, but our earthly treasures will go to others. Praise the name of the LORD. Praise Him for His wisdom in bringing us to the eternal and separating us from the temporal. How attached are you to the things that you will leave behind?

Consider: When we have a realization of the little value of the temporal, it is much easier to share with others at the leading of God.

Scent of the Rose – Streams in the Desert – September 15

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Blow upon my garden that the spices may flow out (S. of Sol. 4:16).

Some of the spices mentioned in this chapter are quite suggestive. The aloe was a bitter spice, and it tells of the sweetness of bitter things, the bitter-sweet, which has its own fine application that only those can understand who have felt it. The myrrh was used to embalm the dead, and it tells of death to something. It is the sweetness which comes to the heart after it has died to its self-will and pride and sin.

Oh, the inexpressible charm that hovers about some Christians simply because they bear upon the chastened countenance and mellow spirit the impress of the cross, the holy evidence of having died to something that was once proud and strong, but is now forever at the feet of Jesus. It is the heavenly charm of a broken spirit and a contrite heart, the music that springs from the minor key, the sweetness that comes from the touch of the frost upon the ripened fruit.

And then the frankincense was a fragrance that came from the touch of the fire. It was the burning powder that rose in clouds of sweetness from the bosom of the flames. It tells of the heart whose sweetness has been called forth, perhaps by the flames of affliction, until the holy place of the soul is filled with clouds of praise and prayer.

Beloved, are we giving out the spices, the perfumes, the sweet odors of the heart?
–The Love-Life of Our Lord

Bread From the Ravens

Julia Prins Vanderveen , Today Devotions

  1 KINGS 17:1-6

“You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”

—  1 Kings 17:4l

In the Bible there are many stories about God’s people disobeying God’s instructions to do certain things—and all of those things were designed to help the people learn to trust in God. God loves and cares for his people, and he always wants what is best for us. But we often like to do things our own way—so instead we disobey God, and that leads to trouble and eventually to ruin, unless God rescues us.

In 1 Kings 17, Elijah demonstrated complete trust in God, even when it didn’t seem to make sense. God told Elijah to go to a place that was unfamiliar to him, and Elijah trusted that God would provide for him there—even though it wouldn’t have seemed possible in the midst of a drought. But, amazingly, Elijah was able to drink from a fresh stream, and he ate bread and meat brought to him each day by ravens—birds that the Israelites were taught to view as unclean and off limits! As strange as it was, Elijah received the gift of bread and good care by trusting that God would sustain him.

Can you trust that God will provide for you even in ways that may seem surprising?

Can you recognize God’s call in your life, prompting you to do right instead of wrong, to obey his Word and follow his way instead of going your own way?

Lord, guide our hearts to trust that you will provide for us in ways that we would not even imagine. Amen.

God Is Our Strength

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God Is Our Strength

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Maria Stockman – Digital Copywriter, cbn.com

Have you ever been in a situation where you feel like things are piling up on top of you, one after another? As one issue resolves, another one comes. Or maybe nothing is fixed, and you feel like problems are crashing down on you like waves to the shore.

In times like these, I’ve heard many say the common phrase, “God only gives you what you can handle.” And hearing this makes me want to scream. This is so far from the truth we read in the Bible.

Scripture is clear that God wants us to lean on Him because we are not strong. We always fall short when we try to do things through our own strength. Paul says,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).

My friend Judy has colon cancer and has been actively fighting it for years. I love getting updates after her doctor’s appointments because no matter the news or next steps, she always says, “Praise Jesus! He’s carrying me through this!” Judy understands that while not every scenario resolves quickly or every illness is instantly healed, she can put her trust in Jesus to carry her through. She never depends on her own strength but always on His.

In our weakness, when we lean on Jesus for our help, we glorify Him.

If we could walk through trials and troubles and overcome them through our own strength, then why would we need Jesus? However, the Gospel is clear that we cannot do things alone and need Jesus to be our strength. I love that He always goes before us, and we can always rely on Him!

In Psalm 107, the psalmist writes over and over how God’s people were in danger or trouble, cried out for God’s help, and He delivered them. He urges the reader to give praise and thanksgiving to God:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever (Psalm 107:1 NLT).

Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them (Psalm 107:8).

Unconditional Love

“The LORD said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet is committing adultery, as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods.’” – Hosea 3:1 NASB

When God asked Hosea to marry a harlot, he became a symbol. Through his example, God was demonstrating that He wanted a love relationship with His people. He wanted their hearts. He wanted them to give themselves to Him voluntarily. He was grieved they had gone after other lovers.

No matter what they had done, God still loved them. He bought them. They no longer needed to be prostitutes but could enter a new relationship with Him. Eventually they would realize just how much He loved them and how much He wanted them to return to Him.

Because of love, God reaches out to us, to everyone, even those who reject and deny Him. Because of love, he forgives our sins and corrects us when we make mistakes. He trains and disciplines us. Why? Because “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Our lives change when we enter that love relationship. Through this relationship, love becomes our motivation. It inspires us and changes our attitude.

Think about the lessons from the life of Hosea and how much God loves you. Allow that love to transform your life, deliver you from fear, give you the right motives, open your eyes to spiritual truths, motivate you to reach out to others, and show everyone His love.

Faith illustrated

By: Charles Spurgeon

“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 6:13-20

Joab, when he fled from the sword of Solomon, laid hold on the horns of the altar, thinking that surely when he had laid hold on the altar he was safe. His was vain confidence, for he was dragged from the horns of the altar and slain. But if you can lay hold on the horns of the altar of God, even Christ, you are most surely safe, and no sword of vengeance can ever reach you. I saw the other day a remarkable picture, which I shall use as an illustration of the way of salvation by faith in Jesus. An offender had committed a crime for which he must die, but it was in the olden time when churches were considered to be sanctuaries in which criminals might hide themselves and so escape. See the transgressor—he rushes towards the church, the guards pursue him with their drawn swords, all athirst for his blood, they pursue him even to the church door. He rushes up the steps, and just as they are about to overtake him and hew him in pieces on the threshhold of the church, out comes the Bishop, and holding up the crucifix he cries, “Back, back! Stain not the precincts of God’s house with blood! Stand back!” and the guards at once respect the emblem and stand back, while the poor fugitive hides himself behind the robes of the priest. It is even so with Christ. The guilty sinner flies to the cross—flies straight away to Jesus, and though Justice pursues him, Christ lifts up his wounded hands and cries to Justice, “Stand back! Stand back! I shelter this sinner; in the secret place of my tabernacle do I hide him; I will not suffer him to perish, for he puts his trust in me.”

For meditation: We should never be ashamed to be seen hiding behind Jesus (Mark 8:38).

Keeping In Step With the Spirit

By: Evan Heerema

  GALATIANS 5:16-26

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

—  Galatians 5:22-23

The apostle Paul teaches the Galatian believers to “walk by the Spirit,” be “led by the Spirit,” and “keep in step with the Spirit.”

Though I have never been in a marching band, I am always impressed by how a marching band keeps in step. The players’ steps are orderly and coordinated, and they keep both the music and the band moving forward.

Paul warns about what happens when our steps in life are not in coordination with the Spirit. There is immorality, impurity, conflict, selfish ambition, jealousy, discord, rage, and more. That is a dangerous place to be, and if we live that way, we will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Being in step with the Spirit, however, produces “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Life in Christ is designed to be harmonious. It involves a community loving and serving each other, just as the Trinity—God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—love each other.

These verses can serve as a litmus test of your own life. Do you exhibit selfishness, pride, and conflict? Or do you live with love, goodness, and self-control? How about the community you are a part of? If any of you are out of step with the Spirit, be sure to humble yourselves and be led by the Spirit.

Triune God, help me to love and serve you and my neighbors, including my enemies. Let my life shine as an example of your love. Amen.

 

Trusting God During Grief

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Trusting God During Grief

holding-hands-grief

 

Several years ago, more than 10 close family members, friends, co-workers, and ministry team members died in less than 24 months. It was a difficult time. At times, the grief was tremendous and, in my exhaustion, all I could do was cry out to God. The psalmist David shared a similar experience as he lamented,

“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress, my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing” (Psalm 31:9-10 ESV).

During this time, I began to wonder how long my season of grief would last. As I walked through my mourning, I asked God to lead me and be my strength as I processed my emotions and slowly moved forward with my life, dreams and goals. The words of the psalmist David once again echoed my own experience as he wrote,

For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me. Psalm 31:3

Often the Lord would lead me to Scriptures, and even to people, that encouraged me through empathetic words, prayers, meals, housework help, and errands. All of this encouraged me to trust in God even more as my healing continued.

Through my time of grief, I also experienced God’s peace and comfort. As He comforted me, he reassured me through His Word that grief was a normal human reaction to loss. I also came to the realization that losses of many kinds can lead to grief. Whether it is a job loss, a relationship loss, or even loss of a favorite regular routine such as many of us experienced during the pandemic, a form of grief often follows.

Trust God in hard times. Even when times are hard and grief seems to be a constant companion, trusting God is possible. In my time of loss, I chose to trust that God was still with me and still had a glorious plan for my life. As David said in Psalm 31:14,

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”

With tears streaming down my cheeks, sometimes I would just whisper, “I trust in You, God.” Those words encouraged me to continue to trust God, and they were also my way of saying to God that I still trusted Him even when I did not understand why I was experiencing such tremendous loss.

May the following prayer encourage you if you find yourself experiencing grief of any kind.

 

Today’s Devotions

Morning

July 22

1 Chronicles 16:8-11 8Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 9Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. 10Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. 11Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.

Chronicles records the story of the ark coming to Jerusalem. The first time they tried to bring it their own way, and Uzzah died. The second time they did it according to the Word of the LORD. There was great rejoicing. David danced so all-out that his wife despised him. Musicians were appointed to play before the ark on a regular basis. David gave gifts of food to everyone. It was truly a festive occasion.

At that time David committed a psalm to his worship leader, Asaph. He didn’t just give it to him, but committed it to him. Asaph had this Spirit inspired song and was now responsible to see it sung. Is that how we feel about Spirit inspired music? It is committed to our worship leaders so that they see it is sung to the LORD.

In this psalm David commands us to give thanks to the LORD, to call on His name and to tell the nations what God has done. He is commanding us to send out missionaries. We are to sing to Him! We often sing about Him, telling of His wonderful acts, but we need to sing to Him also. We are to glory in His holy name. His name is the sum of His attributes. Glory in all that God is! If you seek the LORD, your heart should rejoice.

Then David told a lesson that was just reinforced. He sought God when the Philistine army came against Israel. The first time God directed them one way to victory. The second time God directed them in a different way, and they defeated the enemy again. Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always. That is something Saul did not do, but David was determined to do.

 

Seeing and not seeing, or men as trees walking

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘He took the blind man by the hand …; when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, … and he … saw every man clearly.’ Mark 8:23–25

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 5:11–14

Be not satisfied, my dear friends, with being saved; desire to know how you are saved, why you are saved, the method by which you are saved. It is a rock on which you stand, I know, but think upon the questions—how you were put upon that rock, by whose love you came there, and why that love was set on you. I would to God that all the members of this church were not only in Christ Jesus, but understood him, and knew by the assurance of the understanding whereunto they have attained. Recollect there are many grave distinctions in Scripture which will save you a world of trouble if you will know and remember them. Try to understand the difference between the old nature and the new. Never expect the old nature to improve into the new, for it never will. The old nature can never do anything but sin, and the new nature never can sin. These are two distinct principles; never confound them. Do not see men as trees walking. Do not confuse sanctification and justification. Recollect that the moment you trust in Christ you are justified as completely as you will be in heaven, but sanctification is a gradual work, which is carried on from day to day by God the Holy Spirit. Distinguish between the great truth that salvation is all of God, and the great lie that men are not to be blamed if they are lost. Be well assured that salvation is of the Lord, but do not lay damnation at God’s door. Be not ashamed if men call you a Calvinist, but hate with all your heart Antinomianism. On the other hand, while you believe human responsibility, never run into the error that man ever turns to God of his own free will. There is a narrow line between the two errors; ask for grace to see it.

For meditation: Recently born again believers cannot be expected to be experts in doctrine, but long-standing converts ought to know better (1 Corinthians 3:1–213:1114:20Ephesians 4:14–15).

Wait on the Lord (for He Waits for You) – Streams in the Desert – July 22

  • 202222 Jul

And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you… blessed are all they that wait for him (Isaiah 30:18).

We must not only think of our waiting upon God, but also of what is more wonderful still, of God’s waiting upon us. The vision of Him waiting on us will give new impulse and inspiration to our waiting upon Him. It will give us unspeakable confidence that our waiting cannot be in vain. Let us seek even now, at this moment, in the spirit of waiting on God, to find out something of what it means.

He has inconceivably glorious purposes concerning every one of His children. And you ask, “How is it, if He waits to be gracious, that even after I come and wait upon Him, He does not give the help I seek, but waits on longer and longer?” God is a wise husbandman, “who waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it.” He cannot gather the fruit till it is ripe. He knows when we are spiritually ready to receive the blessing to our profit and His glory. Waiting in the sunshine of His love is what will ripen the soul for His blessing. Waiting under the cloud of trial, that breaks in showers of blessings, is as needful.

Be assured that if God waits longer than you could wish, it is only to make the blessing doubly precious. God waited four thousand years, till the fullness of time, ere He sent His Son. Our times are in His hands; He will avenge His elect speedily; He will make haste for our help, and not delay one hour too long.
–Andrew Murray

Arguments Happen

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Arguments Happen

arguing couple

 

Vernell Windsor – Prayer Center Coach, cbn.com

I had a heated argument with my boyfriend over the phone in college. I stood directly in front of a mirror as I spoke very loudly. I saw that terrifying look of anger on my face and thought, Who are you, and what have you done with Vernell?

It sounds funny now, but that experience taught me that I got too angry. While reading Acts 15, I pondered their argument about the need to circumcise the Gentiles for salvation. Did these men of God exhibit more restraint than I did? Paul, one of my heroes, probably let them know precisely what he thought about them and their ideas!

Acts 15:2 says,

“And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders.”

We have a modern saying, “Go big or go home!” So, Paul and Barnabas went to the top authorities of their day for resolution as the magnitude of the argument warranted it.

The spirited debate continued in Jerusalem. Peter intervened to bring forth the wisdom of God. It must have sounded like a modern-day mic drop! Let’s read what Peter said to them,

“And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Acts 15:8-11).

Clearly, confrontations can occur at any level. Peter’s manner of speech brought silence to those gathered. James was able to make his recommendation to the council after hearing about all the wonders the Lord had done through Paul and Barnabas. There is nothing like the wisdom of God to get to the heart of a matter.

Paul, Barnabas, and Peter recognized the grace of God upon the Gentiles. They boldly spoke the mind of Christ to those gathered. The Lord did not ask anyone for permission to pour out His Spirit upon the Gentiles. Peter was an eyewitness to the Holy Spirit’s visitation upon Cornelius and his whole family in Acts 10. This same outpouring reached all the way through time to me! After college, I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and boldly proclaimed the name of Jesus as well!

As believers, God invites us to come to Him for His wisdom in those difficult situations with others. Of course, arguments happen, but God prevails when we yield to Him.

Words Matter

By Rev. Kyle Norman, crosswalk.com

“Open my lips, LORD, and my mouth will declare your praise.” (Psalm 51:15)

Each morning begins the same. I rise from my bed and stumble into to the kitchen to brew my morning coffee. I pass my phone, my computer, and the television. Normally, I am the only person awake, so all is silent. After the coffee (and my energy) begins percolating, I go to my office, close the door, and begin my time of morning prayer. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and begin, “Lord, open our lips, and our mouths shall show forth thy praise.” I say this verse slowly, but audibly.

There is something profound about beginning the day with such a declaration. I find it significant that the first words out my mouth are addressed to the Lord. This small act of humble praise sets the course of the day. Praying that God “open my lips’ reminds me that my voice matters. As a follower of Jesus, I am called to use my voice in a certain way. Will I use my words for praise, for adoration, for blessing? Or will the words of my mouth flow in an opposite direction?

Scripture has a lot to say about how we speak to one another. As much as we teach children that “sticks and stones my break our bones but words will never hurt us” we know this is not the case. Our words matter. What is more, our words matter to God. Paul exhorted the Ephesians to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up” (Ephesians 4:29). In case they missed the point, Paul repeats himself several verses later, writing “nor should there be any obscenity, foolish talk, or course joking, which are out of place” (5:4). God’s love, poured into our hearts, is to flow from our mouths.

From “do not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16) to “bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14), the Bible continually discloses God’s desire for our words. Our speech is to bear the mark of Christ’s love and grace. When we use vile and degrading language, or tell demeaning jokes and sarcasms, we step out of the Lord’s will for us. What is more, when such unholy speech is directed to another, either in judgement or ridicule, these words become a stumbling block to someone’s acceptance of the gospel. In fact, the book of James states that the failure to keep a rein on our tongues renders our faithful witness worthless (James 1:26). Words matter.

Our mouths should be filled with praise. As Christian people, dedicated to living our lives in the presence of the Spirit, we ought to use our voices for thanksgiving, intercession, and adoration. Of course, opening our mouths in praise is not simply about the words we use. Opening our lips in praise is also about the intention of our hearts. Our praise flow from what lies deep within our soul. It is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). This means that using our voice for praise is more a matter of the heart than the tongue.

Jubilee!

  LEVITICUS 25:8-13

“Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.”

—  Leviticus 25:10

As we noted yesterday, God’s gifts of daily bread and Sabbath invited everyone to trust in him. And God poured out abundant blessings to be shared. All of this was designed to prevent poverty. Leviticus 25 explains more about debts being forgiven, freedom for slaves, and property being restored to owners who had sold it to pay off debts. These laws reveal God’s concern for social relationships and the well-­being of the community.

Imagine what it was like for people who had lost their land, or who had labored under a burden of debt, to suddenly be able to start again with a clean slate. Millions of people in ­poverty today long for a fresh beginning like that.

As the year 2000 approached, Christians around the world proposed a kind of modern Jubilee for low-income countries that had been burdened with crippling debt for decades. The proposals were bold and countercultural, but by God’s grace they had a measure of success. Some of the world’s poorest nations were forgiven parts of their debt. And money was freed up to build education and health-care programs.

Early in his ministry, Jesus explained that he was anointed “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” a Jubilee—and, more than that, to fulfill that vision (Luke 4:18-19). In Jesus, we all get a chance to start over.

Encouraging Your Pastor

From: Intouch Ministries

How can you appreciate and serve your pastor?

Hebrews 13:15-18

If you attend church, then God has given you a pastor to care for your soul by modeling godliness, preaching the Word, and training and exhorting you in righteousness—even when you might not feel like listening. He cares about your spiritual well-being and needs to know you care for him too.

Many believers neglect giving encouragement to the pastor because they forget that he too is a member of the body of Christ. It can be lonely and discouraging to selflessly sacrifice for the congregation without ever receiving honor and appreciation from them.

Today’s passage says that we should obey and submit to our leaders so they can faithfully do their job as shepherds with joy instead of groaning.  Paul said elders who rule well and work hard at preaching and teaching should be given double honor (1 Timothy 5:17).

When was the last time you expressed appreciation to your pastor? This week, look for ways to demonstrate your love to him. And above all, pray for him. Don’t assume that he needs no intercession; the opposite is true. Every pastor needs to know that his congregation values him.

Why The Word?

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Paul says: “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

“Jesus is the Word because through him all things are made,” says Jonathan, 8. “What he said became. Through the words of Jesus, the Earth and man were made. So, he is the Word.”

Why the Word?

Bible and people

 

Terry Meeuwsen – Co-Host – The 700 Club, cbn.com

When I first made a commitment to Christ in the early 70s, the Word of God cut through the hardness of my heart and caused me to recognize my need for the Savior. I had been singing professionally and was a self-sufficient, self-centered, cynical young woman. I thought I knew what I wanted and what it would take to make me happy. I had set about trying to achieve those goals with fervor. Spurning God wasn’t a conscious effort on my part. He simply wasn’t part of the equation.

I grew up in Wisconsin and attended church regularly, knew catechism, could verbalize church doctrine, and was baptized and confirmed. But I had never read the Word of God. I knew nothing about it. In our home, we went to church regularly, prayed before meals and at bedtime, and observed Christian holidays. I knew about God but I didn’t know Him.

Many years later when a young girl asked me if I was a Christian, I wasn’t sure how to answer. She gave me a little pamphlet called The Four Spiritual Laws, and that night, alone in my hotel room; I read the biblical plan of salvation. As I read the pamphlet, the Scriptures practically leaped off the page at me. I recognized how far away from God I was. I was also drawn to a sense of purity and righteousness in the Scriptures. I wasn’t sure if God was real. But I knew that if what I was reading was available, I needed it. The Word of God convicted me of my sin and at the same time revealed God’s love to me.

I’d had preconceived ideas about the Bible even though I’d never read it. I thought it was impossible to understand and that it contradicted itself. Fortunately, the young girl who had given me that little pamphlet also gave me a modern translation of the New Testament. I grudgingly agree to read a chapter a day. To my amazement, I couldn’t put it down. It was all totally new to me.

I didn’t know the Old Testament from the New Testament. I didn’t realize that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were four accounts of the life of Christ. As I read some of the same gospel accounts I was irritated because I thought someone was moving my bookmarker. I had no idea that Jesus was coming again. But I began to understand how much God loved me, and I began to walk with Him.

What an incredible journey it’s been. Through it all, His Word has been a steady, unfailing compass. God’s Word says,

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6 (NKJV)

Yet God’s great love letter to us is at our fingertips. He’s given us the instruction manual for all creation, and it’s filled with advice, principles, and promises. I encourage you to get into the Word yourself. As you read these jewels of Scripture taken from God’s Holy Word, I am praying that your faith will be built and your heart encouraged. May He touch you right where you are with His grace and His love.

Excerpted with permission from Near to the Heart of God, by Terry Meeuwsen ©1998

Today’s Devotions

Morning

July 5

2 Kings 4:32-34 32When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. 33He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. 34Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy’s body grew warm.

A wealthy woman asked her husband to make a room for Elisha so that whenever he and his servant came to that town they would have a place they could stay. In return Elisha asked God to grant her desire to have a son. She was very concerned when he made the promise, because she did not want to have false hopes. Sure enough, a year later she had a son. Don’t be afraid to believe that God can bring to pass the desire He has placed in your heart.

One day the boy had a headache and then died. The woman ran to Elisha and told him, “Didn’t I tell you not to raise false hopes in me?” Then Elisha knew something was wrong with the boy. He immediately sent his servant to run and lay his staff on the boy while he followed. When the servant laid the staff on the boy, there was no change. There are times when we do what we believe the LORD is directing but we do not see results.

Then Elisha went into the room alone with the boy and prayed. If our first leading does not bring results, pray. Ask the LORD what to do next. Apparently, at the LORD’s direction, he did what sounds like artificial resuscitation. He did this not once but twice. The first time brought some results, but then he repeated what the LORD had showed him a second time. Then the boy awoke from death.

Remember: If the LORD takes away what He has promised you, trust Him. Even when you have acted at His direction and seen no results, trust Him. Do just what Elisha did. Pray! Ask God what to do next. Then keep doing that until He directs you otherwise or you see the answer.

The Source of Wisdom

When we seek the Lord’s wisdom in His Word, a harvest of blessing follows.

July 5, 2022

Proverbs 3:13-26

Would you rather have riches or wisdom? The Lord considers wisdom much more precious than wealth, and today’s passage says nothing we desire compares to it (Prov. 3:15). The reason it’s so valuable is because this passage is talking about God’s wisdom, not man’s.

The Lord created wisdom, so the best way to gain it is to know Him—His character, works, ways, and perspective. When we make it the pursuit of our life to know Him through His Word, we’ll discover the blessings that accompany wisdom.

The primary blessing is knowing God more intimately. As we see Him in His Word, we’ll begin to understand His viewpoint and recognize how He’s working in our life. Then our response to life’s circumstances will be aligned with His viewpoint. The Lord sees everything with complete accuracy, and every decision of His is right. He knows exactly what is needed to accomplish His will in our life and to conform us to His Son’s image.

All the other blessings of wisdom flow out of knowing God. Why? Because when our confidence is in the Lord instead of our own understanding, we can walk securely and boldly without stumbling into sin.

Bible in One Year: Psalms 132-138

 

Spurgeon at the New Park Street Chapel: 365 Sermons

Duration: 365 days

Christ lifted up

“And I, if I be lifted upfrom the earth, will draw all men unto me.” John 12:32

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Christ preached his own truth, and the common people heard him gladly, and the multitude flocked to listen to him. My good ministering brother, have you got an empty church? Do you want to fill it? I will give you a good recipe, and if you will follow it, you will, in all probability, have your chapel full to the doors. Burn all your manuscripts, that is number one. Give up your notes, that is number two. Read your Bible and preach it as you find it in the simplicity of its language. And give up all your latinized English. Begin to tell the people what you have felt in your own heart, and beseech the Holy Spirit to make your heart as hot as a furnace for zeal. Then go out and talk to the people. Speak to them like their brother. Be a man amongst men. Tell them what you have felt and what you know, and tell them heartily with a good, bold face; and, my dear friend, I do not care who you are, you will get a congregation. But if you say, “Now, to get a congregation, I must buy an organ.” That will not serve you a bit. “But we must have a good choir.” I would not care to have a congregation that comes through a good choir. “No,” says another, “but really I must alter my style of preaching a little.” My dear friend, it is not the style of preaching, it is the style of feeling. People sometimes begin to mimic other preachers, because they are successful. Why, the worst preachers are those who mimic others, whom they look upon as standards. Preach naturally. Preach out of your hearts just what you feel to be true, and the old soul-stirring words of the gospel will soon draw a congregation.

For meditation: Are we brave enough to do it? We ought not to expect the world to be attracted to Christ when we obscure him by our reliance on gimmicks and by being second-rate mimics of things they can find done better elsewhere. But the unbeliever cannot find the true Gospel and a crucified Christ anywhere else!

Salvation Is By Faith In Christ Alone

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By His Grace Alone

woman reading

 

Tori Troncone – Email Analyst, cbn.con

When I first got my dog, I was determined to teach him all kinds of tricks. We’d spend summer evenings out in the backyard with my pockets full of little training treats. I taught him to sit, shake, lay down, and roll over. I never taught him anything more extravagant than that, but now he’s really good at the basics. Actually, maybe too good at the basics.

Nowadays, anytime anyone is anywhere near his treat jar, or even just snacking on something that he’d like a bite of, he starts running through all of the tricks he knows. Without being asked he’ll sit, offer his right paw to shake, followed by his left, he’ll lay down, and finally roll over. He does whatever he thinks will please you enough to earn him a treat.

Unfortunately, this is a lot like what my relationship with God used to look like. Instead of walking in loving relationship with my Creator, I was just constantly trying to please Him, running through all of the “tricks” I knew. I thought if I could just please God enough, if I could prove myself to Him, then He would love me and bless me.

God is our loving Father. He does not desire this type of transactional relationship with us! We cannot earn or bribe our way to His love and blessings.

Simon the magician learned this lesson when he ran into the apostles in Samaria. When he saw the works that the apostles were doing by the power of the Holy Spirit, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power!” (Acts 8:18-19). But Peter said to him:

“May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.” (Acts 8:20-21)

I never tried to bribe God with physical money, but my heart was in the same place as Simon’s. God cannot be bribed with money, actions, good intentions, or anything else that we think will gain us His favor and blessing. As Jesus reminds us in John 14:6, HE is the way. HE is the truth. HE is the life. No one comes to the Father except through HIM!

May God bless us with the wisdom and humility to remember that we are saved by His grace alone. There is nothing we can do to earn or purchase our own way into the Lord’s favor. The price for our salvation has already been paid by Jesus Christ. Lord, help us to trust in You fully!

A home mission sermon

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” Ecclesiastes 9:10

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 22:24-27

George Washington, the commander-in-chief, was going around among his soldiers. They were hard at work, lifting a heavy piece of timber at some fortification. There stood the corporal of the regiment calling out to his men, “Heave there, heave ahoy!” and giving them all kinds of directions. As large as possible the good corporal was. So Washington, alighting from his horse, said to him, “What is the good of your calling out to those men, why don’t you help them yourself and do part of the work.” The corporal drew himself up and said, “Perhaps you are not aware to whom you are speaking, sir; I am a corporal.” “I beg your pardon,” said Washington; “you are a corporal are you; I am sorry I should have insulted you.” So he took off his own coat and waistcoat and set to work to help the men build the fortification. When he had done he said, “Mr Corporal, I am sorry I insulted you, but when you have any more fortifications to get up, and your men won’t help you, send for George Washington, the commander-in-chief, and I will come and help them.” The corporal slunk away perfectly ashamed of himself. And so Christ Jesus might say to us, “Oh, you don’t like teaching the poor; it is beneath your dignity; then let your commander-in-chief do it; he can teach the poor, he can wash the feet of the saints, he can visit the sick and afflicted—he came down from heaven to do this, and he will set you the example.” Surely we should each be ashamed of ourselves, and declare from this time forward whatever it is, be it great or little, if it comes to our hand, and if God will but give us help and give us grace, we will do it with all our might.

For meditation: Our Master knew how to be humble (Philippians 2:6-9); he also knows how to deal with people who are proud or humble (1 Peter 5:5-6).

Unbelief – Streams in the Desert – June 26

  • 202226 Jun

For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? (Rom. 3:3).

I think that I can trace every scrap of sorrow in my life to simple unbelief. How could I be anything but quite happy if I believed always that all the past is forgiven, and all the present furnished with power, and all the future bright with hope because of the same abiding facts which do not change with my mood, do not stumble because I totter and stagger at the promise through unbelief, but stand firm and clear with their peaks of pearl cleaving the air of Eternity, and the bases of their hills rooted unfathomably in the Rock of God. Mont Blanc does not become a phantom or a mist because a climber grows dizzy on its side.
–James Smetham

Is it any wonder that, when we stagger at any promise of God through unbelief, we do not receive it? Not that faith merits an answer, or in any way earns it, or works it out; but God has made believing a condition of receiving, and the Giver has a sovereign right to choose His own terms of gift.
–Rev. Samuel Hart

Unbelief says, “How can such and such things be?” It is full of “hows”; but faith has one great answer to the ten thousand “hows,” and that answer is–GOD!
–C. H. M.

No praying man or woman accomplishes so much with so little expenditure of time as when he or she is praying.

If there should arise, it has been said–and the words are surely true to the thought of our Lord Jesus Christ in all His teaching on prayer—if there should arise ONE UTTERLY BELIEVING MAN, the history of the world might be changed.

Will YOU not be that one in the providence and guidance of God our Father?
–A. E. McAdam

Prayer without faith degenerates into objectless routine, or soulless hypocrisy. Prayer with faith brings Omnipotence to back our petitions. Better not pray unless and until your whole being responds to the efficacy of your supplication. When the true prayer is breathed, earth and heaven, the past and the future, say Amen. And Christ prayed such prayers.
–P. C. M.

Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which lies outside the will of God.

Beautiful Community

  ACTS 2:42-47

By:  Rebecca Jordan Heys, Today’s Devotions

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

—  Acts 2:42

God has redeemed us in Jesus and called us to live beautiful lives of gratitude and joy.

Each of us can do that alone in some ways. Alone, I can pray to God, read Scripture, and enjoy and care for God’s creation.

However, God also calls us to live beautiful lives of gratitude and joy together, as a community.

The first followers of Jesus provide us a model of how to do this well. Their ordinary, everyday habits helped to make this community beautiful. They committed their time to doing ordinary things like learning from their teachers, spending time together, eating together, and praying together. They didn’t worry about accumulating money and possessions; they shared with anyone who was in need. They celebrated the Lord’s Supper and shared celebratory meals together.

Participating in a local church is the best way to live out this kind of beautiful Christian community today. And if that isn’t possible, perhaps you can connect with a Christian ministry online or by phone or mail. Join with others in correspondence and prayer, and try to participate in Christian community as much as possible, expressing the beauty of life together in the name of Jesus.

God, thank you for the gift of Christian community. Show us opportunities to follow you in the way we live our lives together. Shape us into a beautiful community, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

His Sovereign Hand

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His Sovereign Hand

hopeless to hopeful

 

Kenneth Porter – Prayer Center Assistant Coach, cbn.com

When I came to Virginia in 2019, CBN wasn’t on my radar. I didn’t have any direction or purpose at that time. I had been falsely accused and fired from my teaching position. I interviewed everywhere but to no avail, there were no openings. I did Lyft driving for a while until I couldn’t afford to do it anymore. At my lowest point, I was looking on CBN’s website for encouragement and I saw job openings. I told myself, I can at least pray for someone.

Eventually, CBN’s human resources department contacted me. I was interviewed by a representative and soon hired.

When I came on as a new hire, I prayed for a woman from California who had an outreach ministry. Toward the end of the call, she asked me if I had something in the courts. (FYI: I never told her about my situation. And I was not a firm believer in prophecy at that time.) I told her yes. She prophesied over me. She mentioned that the decision will be overturned. A week later, my attorney called me. He told me that I was exonerated from all charges concerning my former employer. I was ecstatic!

God has blessed me ten times over since being at CBN. In 2019, I was a broken man who lost his teaching position because of false accusations. Now, in 2022, I am a revived man in Christ. I’ve also been promoted while serving at CBN. And, exonerated!

I am reminded of a Scripture in Job:

After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said: “May the day of my birth perish, and the night that said, ‘A boy is conceived!’ That day—may it turn to darkness; may God above not care about it; may no light shine on it” (Job 3:1-4).

He was so frustrated that he wanted to curse the day that he was born. I was there in 2019. Job had a problem trying to comprehend his circumstances. His circumstances appeared to be very bad. But He did not know what was happening from God’s perspective. Job did not know that there was a commotion in the heaven between God and Satan, that Satan was challenging God about Job’s faith. He could not recognize God’s sovereign hand.

When we are faced with hardship and difficult situations, they can overwhelm us. When we look at God from the middle of our circumstances, we will have a distorted understanding of Him. We may say a statement like “God doesn’t love me” or “God is unfair.” It can easily come out of our mouths. However, it is vital to understand our painful circumstances through God’s perspective to understand His character and His will. He can turn everything around for good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

We must recognize God’s hand in our circumstances. He can do exceedingly and abundantly above what we ask or think

 

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

By Veronica Neffinger, crosswalk.com

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14)

Did you ever realize how good things nearly always take time?

As children, waiting can seem like agony. We don’t want to think about the hours that must slowly slip by until school lets out, until summer comes back around, or until our favorite uncle comes to visit again. As adults, our impatience is little lessened, albeit perhaps better concealed.

In our culture of immediacy, having patience is even more difficult and out of reach. We are used to multitasking and packing each day with so much busyness that we seldom have time to hear our own voices.

This impatience for results, for productivity is, I believe, something that we, as Christians, must learn to surrender, will have to learn to surrender if we are going to keep growing.

Have you ever noticed that good things nearly always come about because of a process; oftentimes, a long process?

Conversely, it seems many bad things are those that happen in an instant: a car crash that turns your life upside down, a quick word hurled out in anger which breaks a relationship, a split-second decision to give in to peer pressure.

Now, of course, not all split-second decisions lead to negative consequences, but there is a striking parallel here:

As we are jumping from one thing to the next on a continual cycle of busyness, spiraling away from deep understanding and hovering on the periphery of thought, God is seeking to work against the entropy we have created, making the disparate parts of our life into something beautiful.

God is very comfortable working slowly (or what appears as slowly to us).

We all want this transformation God promises us in His Word, but are we willing to wait for it?

After the moment of salvation, God desires to sanctify us–to make us holy–but this takes time and daily repentance, submission, and prayer, all things that themselves require us to be in for the long haul if we hope to see fruit.

God does not take His sweet time making us more like Himself because He enjoys seeing our impatience; He is patient in perfecting us because, for any truth to truly take hold in us, takes time.

Although we are creatures who have no problem proclaiming an opinion in an instant, we also recognize that dearly-held beliefs are not easily relinquished.

In His infinite mercy, God takes upon Himself the process of gently wrestling our most dearly-held but harmful, selfish, and just plain false beliefs from the intense grip we have on them.

Our stubbornness to begin the growing process is often a reason why we do not spring forward in our Christian life in leaps and bounds.

But that is okay. God knows our frame, and His patience and lovingkindness never fails, even when ours does.

The sound in the mulberry trees

By: Charles Spurgeon

“When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the Lord go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines.” 2 Samuel 5:24

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Timothy 2:14-19

If any of your acquaintance have been in the house of God, if you have induced them to go there, and you think there is some little good doing but you do not know, take care of that little. It may be God has used us as a foster mother to bring up his child, so that this little one may be brought up in the faith, and this newly converted soul may be strengthened and edified. But I’ll tell you, many of you Christians do a deal of mischief, by what you say when going home. A man once said that when he was a lad he heard a certain sermon from a minister, and felt deeply impressed under it. Tears stole down his cheeks, and he thought within himself, “I will go home to pray.” On the road home he fell into the company of two members of the church. One of them began saying, “Well, how did you enjoy the sermon?” The other said, “I do not think he was quite sound on such a point.” “Well,” said the other, “I thought he was rather off his guard,” or something of that sort; and one pulled one part of the minister’s sermon to pieces, and another the other, until, said the young man, before I had gone many yards with them, I had forgotten all about it; and all the good I thought I had received seemed swept away by those two men, who seemed afraid lest I should get any hope, for they were just pulling that sermon to pieces which would have brought me to my knees. How often have we done the same! People will say, “What did you think of that sermon?” I gently tell them nothing at all, and if there is any fault in it—and very likely there is, it is better not to speak of it, for some may get good from it.

For meditation: If you must have the sermon for Sunday lunch, beware of devouring someone’s faith along with it (Mark 4:4,15).

The Truth Will Set You Free

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The Truth Shall Make You Free

prayer circle of people holding hands

 

Lina Johnson – Prayer Center Coach, cbn.com

Have you ever heard of the sinner’s prayer? It’s not found in Scripture, but it’s an introductory prayer that many use to lead someone to Christ. Typically, the prayer may look like this:

Lord Jesus, I ask you to come into my life. I want to turn from living my life under my control. Come now and live in me. Cleanse me from my sins. I receive you as my Lord and Savior. I will live for you and serve you all the days of my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I have led people in such prayer and will continue to do so. However, that prayer is not the end of the matter, but rather the beginning!

Jesus never told us to go and make converts. Instead, he commanded us to make disciples:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matthew 28:18-20).

So, what’s the difference between converts and disciples? John 8:31-32 tells us how to be a disciple:

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

As we share the good news of Jesus, let us remember that while the moment of salvation comes by believing and confessing (Romans 10:9), God wants so much more. He wants us to grow. He wants us to learn. He wants us to be disciples, and just like with the first twelve, He wants our fellowship and friendship. And He also wants us to be free. Remember John 8:32:

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

As His disciples, we grow in freedom. What a blessing! I know there have been many times when I felt bound to a sin or a mindset that caused me pain. God does not want us to remain in pain. We receive freedom from pain, sin, hopelessness, and shame when we allow His truth in our lives.

My hope for you today is that you will allow God, through His word and through His Spirit, to lead you into all truth so that you may indeed be His disciple and reap every benefit He has for you. (John 16:13)

Lord, help us be your disciples and help us to make disciples. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

May 24

1 Samuel 24:5-7 5Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” 7With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.

After all that Saul had done to David, trying to kill him with a javelin three times, promising one wife and not delivering, giving away his wife to another, and having David’s priestly friends killed, David will not do a thing against him. In fact, just cutting off the corner of his robe caused his conscience to be stricken. He recognized Saul as the one on whom the anointing of God had been placed. Even though the anointing is on David now, he still respects Saul. Perhaps David realizes that what he does to Saul will set an example for others behavior toward him when he becomes king.

All of your brothers and sisters in Christ has been anointed. Do you treat them with as much respect and fear of the LORD as David did with Saul? It is no different. We are given opportunities to slander our brothers, even speak the truth that would damage their reputations. Are you convicted to take even a corner from their robe, so to speak? Has any of them done even half the wrongs that Saul did toward David? No? Then consider the example of David here. Remember your brothers and sisters have the same anointing you have. They may be side-tracked, but that is for God to deal with. They may be in your hand, so to speak, but that is a test for you. Will you come away with a testimony like David’s? His action and words were a rebuke to his soldiers.

Streams in the Desert – May 24

  • 202224 May

Sarah bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him (Gen. 21:2).

The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of His heart to all generations” (Psalm 33:11). But we must be prepared to wait God’s time. God has His set times. It is not for us to know them; indeed, we cannot know them; we must wait for them.

If God had told Abraham in Haran that he must wait for thirty years until he pressed the promised child to his bosom, his heart would have failed him. So, in gracious love, the length of the weary years was hidden, and only as they were nearly spent, and there were only a few more months to wait, God told him that “according to the time of life, Sarah shall have a son.” (Gen. 18:14). The set time came at last; and then the laughter that filled the patriarch’s home made the aged pair forget the long and weary vigil.

Take heart, waiting one, thou waitest for One who cannot disappoint thee; and who will not be five minutes behind the appointed moment: ere long “your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

Ah, happy soul, when God makes thee laugh! Then sorrow and crying shall flee away forever, as darkness before the dawn.
–Selected

It is not for us who are passengers, to meddle with the chart and with the compass. Let that all-skilled Pilot alone with His own work.
–Hall

“Some things cannot be done in a day. God does not make a sunset glory in a moment, but for days may be massing the mist out of which He builds His palaces beautiful in the west.”

Some glorious morn–but when? Ah, who shall say?
The steepest mountain will become a plain,
And the parched land be satisfied with rain.
The gates of brass all broken; iron bars,
Transfigured, form a ladder to the stars.
Rough places plain, and crooked ways all straight,
For him who with a patient heart can wait.
These things shall be on God’s appointed day:
It may not be tomorrow–yet it may.

Learning to Forgive

Forgiveness means sharing the same gift Jesus extended to us—regardless of the offense.

Colossians 3:12-15

We’ll often try to justify an angry, unforgiving heart by thinking, Well, the Lord knows what that person did to me. So He gets why I feel this way. Certainly Jesus—who was fully God and fully man—knows human emotions inside and out. In fact, He Himself experienced betrayal and abandonment, so it’s true that He understands our pain. Nevertheless, He does not approve of an unforgiving attitude.

Through the Savior, we see how God views forgiveness, even when it comes to the vilest offenses. And consider this: We are the ones who continually betray Him. How? We’ve denied Him His rightful place in our life, doubted His Word, and ignored His instruction. There are times we kick Him out of our daily activities and decisions so we can pursue things more to our own liking. What’s more, we have sinned against both Him and other people.

And what is Jesus’ disposition towards us? “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Now, do you really believe He will justify our unforgiveness? No, He wants us to instead look at the cross. There we will discover the price that was paid for our own forgiveness. Just as we have been forgiven, so we must now become forgivers (Col. 3:13).

Bible in One Year: Ezra 5-7

Following Christ

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Following Christ

following Christ

 

John Struzzo – Prayer Center Assistant Coach/Recruiter

I know what it is like to follow Christ. When we follow Him, we show that we trust Him and believe He will provide for us and fulfill His promises.

I know a thing or two about following Christ. Regarding my wedding and marriage, God let me know that the lady I was dating was someone He had in mind for me. He even let me know when we would be married and who He wanted as the pastor to marry us.  I am so glad we followed Christ’s lead because I had the peace of knowing that God was for this marriage. Beyond having this peace, by following Christ we were able to experience the fruit of following Christ—the pastor at our wedding shared the Gospel during the ceremony and we believe that at least one person accepted the Lord Jesus into her life that day.

I also experienced what it is like to follow Christ when I went back to school to get a Master of Divinity degree at Regent University. God let me know this was the school He had in mind for me. Although it was not revealed at first when this would happen, it did happen after about 28 years of waiting. I tried to go a year before God wanted me to go, but I didn’t have God’s peace. So, I decided to wait. The following year things seemed to fall into place for me and my wife to go. And we had peace about moving forward. We had to get rid of enough of our belongings (except for two items we sent ahead of us by mail) to be able to travel across country in our car. It turned out well because we were doing what Jesus tells us to do: let go of what we are holding onto here on earth to put Him first and follow Him (Luke 18:22).

We learned about trusting in the Lord and how God makes our paths straight in a very real way. It brought to life my favorite Scriptures in the Bible, Proverbs 3:5-6:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV).

We were completely dependent upon God to provide everything.

Thankfully, going to Regent was what He wanted, so He had everything prepared for us. Just like He has prepared for you. We just need to move forward in faith and follow Christ. And when we move in faith, God will move on our behalf to provide everything we need to serve Him. How true is the Scripture:

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Today’s Devotions

Morning

April 24

Joshua 6:16-17 16The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! 17The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent.

What an unconventional battle plan the Commander gave to Joshua! We need to get our battle plans from the Lord. He knows how to go about it in a way that will bring Him all the glory. When other enemies of Israel heard of how God brought victory over Jericho, it gave Israel a psychological advantage.

In Israel’s case the shout was an expression of praise to God. In the battle Gideon led, they shouted, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon.” They probably shouted something similar here. When they shouted, the walls fell inward and the army marched straight in.

Since this was the first city (firstfruits), and God was giving the victory, everything in it was to be dedicated to God. The gold and silver were to go into the treasury, and everything else was to be burned. The spies’ promise to Rahab was carefully kept.

When you go into battle be sure and to get your battle plans from the Commander. Give Him the praise and the glory for the victory. The honor is due Him. His way is the best way. Keep those promises you made along the way. Give to God what is God’s.

Consider: Are you getting your battle plans from man or from the Commander in Chief? We need to hear from Him for each battle we face.

Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle

By: Charles Spurgeon

General and yet particular

‘Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.’ John 17:2

Suggested Further Reading: Ephesians 5:21–33

You know that passage: ‘Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it.’ How did he love the church? He loved the church with a special love, far above that which he gives to others, or else according to that metaphor a husband ought to love his wife and love every other woman just as much. That is the natural inference of that text; but you clearly see there must have been a special love intended in the husband towards the wife, and so there must be a special love in Christ. He loved the church and gave himself for it. Now do you not think, brethren, as there are two sets of texts in the Bible, the one of which very clearly speaks about the infinite value of the atonement (e.g. 1 Timothy 2:61 John 2:2), and another which very evidently speaks about the intention of that atonement being for the chosen and for the chosen only (e.g. John 10:11Ephesians 5:25Revelation 14:4), that the best way is to believe them both, and to say, ‘Yes, I see it—as the result of Christ’s death all men are put under the system of mediatorial grace so that Christ has power over them; but the object of his doing this is not that he may save all of them, but that he may save out of these all which he now has in his own hand—those whom the Father has given him.’ The farmer trusts me with all his sheep in order that I may sever from them twenty which he has marked. A father tells me to go into the midst of his family, his whole family, in order that I may take out of it one of his sons to be educated. So God gives to Christ all flesh, says the text, but still always with this definite and distinct purpose that he may give eternal life to those whom he has given to him.

For meditation: As ‘the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe’ (1 Timothy 4:10), God displays common grace to all people and special grace to his chosen people. Christians should likewise ‘do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith’ (Galatians 6:10).

A Hopeful Curiosity, Today Devotions

  ACTS 17:24-32

When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”

—  Acts 17:32

In our reading today from Acts 17, the apostle Paul was preaching in Athens, Greece, about Jesus and the resurrection. Paul told the people that he could tell they were very religious because there were statues and shrines and temples to gods in every part of the city. There was even “an altar with this inscription: ‘to an unknown god’” (Acts 17:16-23). So Paul used that idea to tell his listeners about God the Father and Jesus the Son, whom the people of Athens did not know yet.

In this way Paul shared the good news that God, who created everything, now calls on people everywhere to repent of their sin, because he sent his Son, Jesus, to pay the price for all our sin. Jesus gave up his life on a cross for our sake even though he had committed no sin. And then God proved his power over sin and death by raising Jesus from the dead.

Though Paul’s words were dismissed by some of the people who heard him, others were curious and wanted to hear more.

The gospel can be sneered at—or, with a hopeful curiosity, we can ask to hear more about the wonderful things God has done for us by raising Jesus from the dead.

Lord of life, though we do not understand every­thing about the resurrection, give us a hopeful curiosity about all that it means for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.