Shadow and Light

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Shadow and Light

I’m not an artist, but I love to go to museums and look at paintings. Sometimes as I walk through the galleries, I see groups of schoolchildren with their sketchpads, trying to copy a great work. I glance over their shoulders and try to catch a glimpse of their pint-sized masterpieces. Usually, the shapes and sizes that the children have drawn are similar to those on the framed canvas, but somehow, they’re not the same. In fact, their inexperienced images remind me of my own.

Every Friday throughout elementary school, I had art class with Ms. Floyd. At the end of the week, when I presented my mother with my most recent creation, she taped it to our refrigerator door and lovingly asked, “What is it?” Eventually, it became apparent that although I enjoyed beauty, I wasn’t very good at creating it. Kind teachers used words like “interesting” to describe my work, but in reality, my paintings were flat and lifeless. Recently, I reconnected with a friend who is an amateur artist. I sat in her studio sipping tea while she crafted a simple still life of scarlet geraniums in a copper pot. As I watched her painting come to life, I noticed that she saw things differently than I did. Whereas I only saw lines and shapes, she saw shadows and light, and I noticed that, as she carefully dabbed darkness onto the image, the flat, unrealistic forms gained authenticity and depth.

Sometimes as Christians we’re afraid of what will happen if shadows temporarily surround us. We fear difficulties. And yet, because we live in a fallen world, at some point, we will find ourselves in darkness. It may be the result of a sinful choice, a spiritual discipline, a demonic attack, or a divine test. However, just like in a work of art, shadows add substance to our lives — by deepening our intimacy with God.

When we walk through seemingly impossible circumstances — a devastating illness, a personal loss, or challenging finances — we gain depth and authenticity in our relationship with God. Although we are not defined by the shadows, they do give us shape, and scripture promises,

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 (NIV)

God’s light is always there, but sometimes we can’t see it due to life’s circumstances.

Without challenges, our Christian walk can become flat and lifeless, just like immature art. Art does imitate life, and before the foundation of the world, God created each of our individual canvases with the perfect amount of shadow and light. Everything He has created for us is good. Isaiah 45:3 promises,

“I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness — secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.” Isaiah 45:3 (NLT)

God is creating a masterpiece in each of His children, and He wants the world to see His light as well as the depth of His relationship with His children — depth that is created in the shadows of life.

 

What Will Your Legacy Be?

By Debbie Holloway, crosswalk.com

 

One of the most spiritually provocative songs I’ve ever heard is called War Sweater by the band Wakey!Wakey!.

“New York is dangerous, littered with thieves
We’ve no morals here, we just do as we please…”

…sings the narrator in the opening lines. He continues:

“But I don’t want to go home where they all stare at me
‘Cause I’m tattooed and fired up and drunk and obscene.”

I’m sure many of us can picture a similar “wayward” family member or friend. But why exactly does this narrator feel so uncomfortable with this scrutiny? He explains in the following chorus:

“You wear your religion like a War Sweater
You ask for the truth, but you know you could do so much better
And you sat on your fences, and you’ve screamed “no retreat!”
…So what will your legacy be?”

Every time the singer repeats that phrase, “what will your legacy be?” I get knots in my stomach. Because I know my actions and my words will create whatever legacy I leave behind. Reputations are not created by beliefs – rather they come about by observed behavior. No one will remember me simply for getting all my doctrine right or wrong.

They will remember, though, if I wear my religion like a War Sweater. If I thrash my faith about like a flag and scream in the faces of unbelievers. Sadly, many Christians have created such legacies for themselves. Emperor Constantine created the legacy of Christianity’s ties to the government. The Crusaders connected Christianity with war. Even today there are self-professing Christians who stand on street corners and picket funerals, wearing their religion like a War Sweater.

But my faith, my religion, informs me of something better. My religion tells me to do what the Word says, not merely listen to it (James 1:22). My religion does not allow me to sit on a pedestal and judge; it says to to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13). My religion tells me (Psalms 149:4) that salvation cannot come through pride. My religion does not stand for violently demanding all people bow to my standards; rather, it tells me that, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

So take a look at the words you speak, at the people you mock, at the bumper stickers adorning your car.

Are you wearing your religion like a War Sweater?

What will your legacy be?

 

Concern for the Helpless

by Inspiration Ministries

“How blessed is he who considers the helpless; the Lord will deliver him in a day of trouble.” – Psalm 41:1 NASB

God delights to bless us. He wants to provide what we need and much more. The question is what we will do with these blessings.

He blesses us so that we might bless others. We are not to hoard our possessions or just use them for our own pleasures, but we are to look for opportunities to help others.

The Bible emphasizes helping those who are in need – the poor, elderly, sick, and vulnerable. We are to “defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). The Bible describes how visiting orphans and widows is central to “pure and undefiled religion” in God’s sight (James 1:27).

Jesus stressed that our actions toward the “least” is a direct reflection of our attitude toward Him (Matthew 25:45). How we respond to those in need is a good indication of our priorities and the condition of our hearts.

David realized that special blessings are promised for those who are concerned for the helpless: “The Lord will protect him and keep him alive, and he shall be called blessed upon the earth” (v.2). They will be sustained during times of sickness and restored to health.

Think about the ways God has blessed you with time, talents, and resources. Ask Him to show you how you can use these blessings to bless others. Be ready to share out of the abundance God has given you. God remembers when you are a good steward.

 

Perfectly Broken

Streams in the Desert

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

When it rises up, the mighty are terrified, at its thrashing about they withdraw. (Job 41:25)

 

God uses most for His glory those people and things which are most perfectly broken. The sacrifices He accepts are broken and contrite hearts. It was the breaking down of Jacob’s natural strength at Peniel that got him where God could clothe him with spiritual power. It was breaking the surface of the rock at Horeb, by the stroke of Moses’ rod that let out the cool waters to thirsty people.

 

It was when the 300 elect soldiers under Gideon broke their pitchers, a type of breaking themselves, that the hidden lights shone forth to the consternation of their adversaries. It was when the poor widow broke the seal of the little pot of oil, and poured it forth, that God multiplied it to pay her debts and supply means of support.

 

It was when Esther risked her life and broke through the rigid etiquette of a heathen court, that she obtained favor to rescue her people from death. It was when Jesus took the five loaves and broke them, that the bread was multiplied in the very act of breaking, sufficient to feed five thousand. It was when Mary broke her beautiful alabaster box, rendering it henceforth useless, that the pent-up perfume filled the house. It was when Jesus allowed His precious body to be broken to pieces by thorns and nails and spear, that His inner life was poured out, like a crystal ocean, for thirsty sinners to drink and live.

 

It is when a beautiful grain of corn is broken up in the earth by DEATH, that its inner heart sprouts forth and bears hundreds of other grains. And thus, on and on, through all history, and all biography, and all vegetation, and all spiritual life, God must have BROKEN THINGS.

 

Those who are broken in wealth, and broken in self-will, and broken in their ambitions, and broken in their beautiful ideals, and broken in worldly reputation, and broken in their affections, and broken ofttimes in health; those who are despised and seem utterly forlorn and helpless, the Holy Ghost is seizing upon, and using for God’s glory. “The lame take the prey,” Isaiah tells us.

 

O break my heart; but break it as a field 

Is by the plough up-broken for the corn;

O break it as the buds, by green leaf seated, 

Are, to unloose the golden blossom, torn;

Love would I offer unto Love’s great Master,

Set free the odor, break the alabaster.

 

O break my heart; break it victorious God, 

That life’s eternal well may flash abroad;

O let it break as when the captive trees, 

Breaking cold bonds, regain their liberties;

And as thought’s sacred grove to life is springing,

Be joys, like birds, their hope, Thy victory singing.
—Thomas Toke Bunch

Listen To God’s Voice

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When God Speaks Personally

woman looking hopeful sitting in an office chair

 

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1b NIV)

My mother and I were sitting on the couch when a fierce storm came up. As the storm raged, with wind howling, thunder banging, and lightning flashing, I became panic-stricken. My mother was terribly frightened of storms, and as a small child, I caught her overwhelming fear.

Suddenly, in the midst of the horrendous thunder and fierce lightning, I heard a voice say, “Don’t be afraid.” That voice filled me with joy, and I squealed with delight. I turned to Mother. “Did you hear that?”

When she said, “No,” I realized it was a voice within me, and I believed it was God’s voice.

I often think back to that time whenever I am afraid—a memory so powerful and real that I can never forget it. That was the beginning of tuning in to God’s voice to know His will for my life.

Jesus confirmed this when He said,

“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27 NIV)

When in high school I attended a youth camp, where I heard an international missionary speak and show slides of her work as a teacher in Pakistan. I heard God speak, “Pat, this is how I want to use your life.”

When I went home, I shared this with Daddy. His reaction was, “God wouldn’t do that.” I struggled to hold back the tears, but I was convinced that God had called me to be an international missionary. With time Daddy grew to accept this as God’s calling for my life.

After 35 years as a missionary teacher in the Middle East, I settled in a retirement community. The first day in exercise class, as I saw a man walk in, the thought popped into my mind, This is the man you are going to marry. I had no intention or desire at this stage of my life to marry. I pushed that thought away and forgot it. Not until much later, after spending time with him and accepting his marriage proposal, did I remember that thought.

That fits the pattern of my life—the way God lets me know His will and plan and confirms it through His Word and other people.

Can God speak to you? How can you know it is God who’s speaking? There are many ways He leads us: through His Word, circumstances, and other people. God assures us in Psalm 32:8:

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go …”

 

Be Yourself

Be Yourself
by Stephen Sanders, crosswalk.com

Have you ever had someone tell you to, “Just be yourself and everything will work out”? It sounds so simple doesn’t it?  “Be Yourself.”  What does that even mean? After all, if we could simply “be ourselves,” then wouldn’t the world that surrounds us be a lot different?

I often wonder what friendships would be like if we could simply be who we are inside; to not feel so much pressure to be less or more of an individual than we think we are supposed to be. One thing I’ve begun to focus on in recent months is being the same person everywhere I am no matter who I’m around; but that’s a lot easier said that done.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I totally realize that none of us are exempt to sin. 1 John 1:8-10 says this: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

 

Can you see how not dealing with sin appropriately keeps us from being ourselves?  Behavior like this causes us to trick ourselves into thinking we are someone who we really aren’t. When we ignore or hide sin, it breeds all kinds of issues, not only in us, but also in the body of Christ.

So how should sin be handled?  How can you “be yourself?”  Well, here are 3 things that will certainly get us going in the right direction: Confession, confrontation and forgiveness.

We all know that we are supposed to confess our sins to God, but what about confessing our sins to one another?  Where does that fit into the picture?  The answer lies within James 5:16, which instructs us to, “…confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”  Why isn’t the confession of sins more of a focus in the church today?  Shouldn’t we be doing this every chance we get if it results in “healing and righteousness?”

Secondly, there is confrontation.  Jesus says in Matthew 18:15-17 that, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.  But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church…” Notice that this scenario starts with someone taking the initiative to point out the sin.  Also notice that this person risks not only putting his friend in an uncomfortable situation, but also being humiliated in front of others if he is wrong about his assessment. It’s easy to see why the church struggles with this; it’s not a simple solution.

Lastly, we have forgiveness.  After discussing confrontation and confession, doesn’t forgiveness make a lot more sense now?  There is a very good reason why Jesus instructed us to forgive, “seventy times seven times ” in Matthew 18:22.  Jesus knew we were going to be surrounded by sinful people because we live in a sinful world.  Rather than avoiding it, we need to be brave enough to be the one who chooses to forgive sin unconditionally and infinitely.  Our reaction to sin determines the impact it is able to have on us.  Who knows?  Our reaction may even be so powerful that it may stop that sin in its tracks before it affects others too!

 

Dealing With Guilty Feelings

From: intouch minstries

John 5:24-26Believers in Christ often wrestle with discouragement and shame over past sins. This could then prompt doubt about God’s love, because they feel unworthy to be His child. As a result, their guilty feelings weigh them down, sap their energy, dampen their hope, and draw them away from the Lord.

Both the conscience and the Holy Spirit produce feelings of guilt within us when we sin, thereby prompting us to confess and repent. However, if we’ve trusted Jesus as Savior, there is no reason to hang on to remorse after repentance because Jesus bore the guilt for all our sins when He died on the cross.

Now we are forgiven, reconciled to the Father, and credited with Christ’s righteousness. Although we will still sin, God has given us a path to restoration and cleansing through confession (1 John 1:9). Although it’s natural to feel regret for sin, we don’t have to wallow in it. In fact, to do so is a denial of the sufficiency of Christ’s death as payment for all sin.

If you are dealing with feelings of shame, confess your sins, and meditate on the redemption Christ purchased for you with His blood. Then believe God and let His truth set you free.

 

Bogged Down

by Inspiration Ministries

“I waited patiently for the Lord … He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth.” – Psalm 40:1-3 NIV

David felt like he was in a “slimy pit,” as if he was bogged down in “mud and mire.” He cried out for stability and a “firm place to stand.”

All of us can relate to conditions like these. Our world is filled with slimy pits, mud, and mire! We think of disreputable salespeople, corrupt politicians, shifty lawyers, and crooks who prey on innocent people. At times, it can seem that no one can be trusted. Many people make promises they do not keep – even Christians and friends can be like this.

If we find ourselves in this midst of the slime, mud, and mire of life, we need to remember that God is our solid rock. If we turn to Him, He promises to hear our cry and lift us out of the slimy pit. He will give us stability. As David discovered, “He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” He will give our feet a firm foundation as well.

God also can put a new song in our mouths, a hymn of praise. And when He does this, “many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord” (v. 3).

We may have to wait patiently, but God is faithful. He is ready to give us firm ground when we place our trust in Him.

The Word Gives You The Truth

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The Words in Red

 

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV)

Yesterday my world changed.

Though I’m not sure how exactly, I know for right now – my world is different.

I’ve been through tests for multiple sclerosis before, but before it was just one part of my body. So when my eye began to twitch constantly I thought, ”Wow. I really AM that stressed out.” When my nose and mouth and chin joined in, I realized maybe this wasn’t simply from the fact that I am the woman of no sleep, too much caffeine, and not enough patience.

When the doctor told me it was back to the MRI drill, and the spinal tap talk started again, I have to tell you I cried all the way home. I looked in the mirror at my twitchy face, now a sure-fire match for Tabitha on Bewitched. Then I had a little mental breakdown on my husband’s shoulder.

Then I did what I hate to do, what I try so hard to never do – I got angry. I saw red … with the one person it seems so sacrilegious to put on your grudge list – God.

I think from time to time when the big things in our lives sneak up in the midst of the trivial stuff; we all get so comfortable in the everyday that we simply cannot fathom the thought of the extraordinary circumstance.

”Why me? Why now? I’m a good person.” These are words of a Christian who just realized the world isn’t fair.

While it takes something pretty hefty to make me see red with Him, when I do see red, I’m completely self-absorbed. I can’t fathom why bad things happen to me; why they happen to the people I love. What on earth could the cause of suffering be when you live in expectancy for a God who never fails?

If I told you I understood it, I’d be a liar.

But what I do understand is this: I’ve already been blessed beyond compare – a husband who has loved me since I was just a kid, kids who love me even when I don’t deserve it, and a Savior whose blood washed my sins white with red … even though He knew sometimes I would see red with Him even though He didn’t deserve it.

I think God is a God we can be honest with. The truth shall set you free He says. But in the truth of our circumstances we must also look for the Truth of the words of our Father. “Do not fear for I am with you.” (Isaiah 41:10) He says: “If I be for you who can be against you.” (Romans 8:31) “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) “Call to me and I will answer thee. I will show you great and mighty things that you know not.” (Jeremiah 33:3)

The words in red – they mean the most.

When life doesn’t make sense, when the world is crashing down on your rooftop and the wolf is at your door, take heart. Baby, He’s got you … no fear.

Take your sickness and your sadness, take your worry and your regret, take your blame and guilt and totally-broke-down/falling-in-a-rabbit-hole life, and let the red you are seeing … be transformed by the words in red.

 

Meant for More

Meant for More
by Kelly Givens, crosswalk.com

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

The other day I watched a video on YouTube that totally pulled at my heart. It showed two dozen ducks being introduced to a pond for the first time; the ducks had been “pets” of a hoarder who had kept them in pens all their lives. After being rescued and brought to a pond, the frightened ducks kept their distance from the water, unwilling to go in. The rescue workers herded them into the pond, but the ducks immediately got out. Finally, the workers gently tossed them in one at a time. That seemed to do the trick- they began tentatively swimming, then diving under and splashing themselves in the cool water. Eventually, they were all vigorously grooming themselves- probably feeling more refreshed, clean, more like ducks than they had ever felt before.

I wonder what thoughts the ducks might have had while they were in those pens. Did they ever wonder – “Why do I have these wings- what are they for? And why are my feet so awkward?” The joy they must have felt when their webbed feet first glided through water and their wings spread out with room and air to soar, when those unnamed desires- to swim, to fly– were first named and fulfilled. And then I think of how much they resisted getting in the water in the first place.

We are so similar to these ducks. We too have unnamed longings, unanswered questions about our lives here on earth. The world doesn’t satisfy us, it lets us down, but we don’t know where to look for more. We see this in the football champion who wakes up after the biggest game of his life and all he feels an empty, “What’s next?” Or in the young executive who climbs the corporate ladder, believing the next job title will finally make him significant. We see it in the teen who does harder and harder drugs on a never ending quest to reach a high that will erase all the lows of her life. We all have an emptiness inside we want to fill, a purpose in life we want to find, questions we want someone to answer.

The Christian narrative gives us these answers. Christ fills us up, he gives us purpose- but we have to be willing to “get in the water”- believe in him- to experience these things. We yearn for more because we were created for more- for eternal life in the presence of our Lord and Savior. Through faith in Jesus, we’re given purpose for today and in the days to come, and satisfying joy when we live for God’s glory and not our own. Sadly, we resist believing this good news because we think the world can give us what we yearn for. To think this way is pointless, a “chasing after the wind.” (Ecc. 1:14)

C.S. Lewis wrote about our longings for more so exquisitely. My favorite of his writings comes from the Chronicles of Narnia, in the Last Battle, when those who have faithfully fought for Aslan and Narnia are finally entering the “New Narnia,“ Lewis’ version of the new heavens and new earth. The Unicorn summed it up beautifully: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that is sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!”

 

Let Nothing Disturb You

 

“Let nothing disturb you, let nothing disturb you, let nothing disturb you,” I chanted in my head as I stepped out of the kitchen and into the garage to call my husband Rob with the news.

“It’s in both lungs,” I uttered when he answered his office phone.

“Okay,” he said, “I figured it was.” Rob guarded his heart by preparing for the worst outcome when it came to our son Zach’s bone cancer. “Are you doing okay?” he asked.

I tended to hope for the best – the chemo was working and scans would be clear,  so it took me a little longer to steady myself when the bad news came — and came often during Zach’s battle. But I was getting better at it with each blow; I was learning to trust God instead of fearing the uncertain future that lay ahead.

“I’m good,” I replied. “God’s grace will get us through. It has so far.” There was a peace that came with the words.

Over the years of Zach’s battle with cancer I had learned that detachment, the spiritual exercise of letting go of the created in favor of the Creator — the finite in favor of the infinite, was essential in learning to trust God.

As physical beings, we easily become attached to things that bring us comfort like our homes, possessions, financial stability, relationships, time, and our reputation. While these are all good things, they become an obstacle to trusting God with our lives when they become the focus and the end goal in life. Our attachment to them blocks God’s grace from entering our hearts and transforming them.

I wanted to have a big family filled with healthy children. I liked having two boys and two girls who each brought their own secret sauce to our family and I looked forward to the day when each would grow into adults, make their mark on this world and have children of their own.

My greatest fear was to have a child die because I knew I didn’t have the strength to survive that kind of a loss and would end up broken.

Then Zach was diagnosed with a deadly bone cancer and I was forced to make a decision: I could choose to tighten my grip on how I thought my life should look and fall into despair when it was taken away, or I could choose to let go of my life and allow God’s grace to transform it into something completely different.

I chose to let go and every day since I wrestle with making that same decision over big and small things. What am I going to hold onto and get angry over when things don’t go my way? When I find myself getting tense, is it because I think I’m in control? What is it I’m afraid to lose? My reputation, how I look, financial stability, my time?

This poem, written by St. Teresa of Avila, a Spanish nun who lived in the 1500s, has become my mantra and was especially comforting in the last years of Zach’s life.

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

Turning our attachments over to God is almost always disturbing, frightening and heartbreaking. And it’s hard work that never ends. It means being content when a barking dog disrupts a quiet morning on the patio. It means letting go of an argument in favor of backing off and praying for humility and understanding. And it means trusting God to give the right words of comfort to share with your child when he tells you he’s afraid to die.

When we let go of our plans and make space for God’s grace to work, we can be certain that we will lack nothing.

St. Paul writes about this mystery in his letter to the Philippians.

…for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in Him who strengthens me. — Philippians 4:11b13

Zach died just days after his eighteenth birthday. That wasn’t my plan for him or for myself. But God, through His grace, strengthened me and transformed Zach’s suffering into something beautiful that touched millions of lives across the globe.

I still hold on too tightly to things and plans that get in the way of God’s grace, but I’m still chanting those beautiful words, “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing disturb you, let nothing disturb you.” And every time God shows up and reveals to me that He alone suffices.

God Renews Us and Gives Us Strength

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Embracing Resistance

One afternoon while running an errand near the oceanfront in Virginia Beach, I decided to go an extra block and take a peek at the ocean. The air was cold, in the 40s, and cloudy, with a slight drizzle. It was a typical off-season day. The boardwalk was deserted. So with my pick of the benches, I sat on a choice one, stretched out my legs, stuck my hands in my jacket pockets, and looked out over the water.

It was windy and the rough waves crashed ashore making that unmistakable sound of the sea. Looking up at the seagulls flying, I noticed the drizzle had stopped. So I decided to enjoy the fresh sea air for a while, and maybe even get a little inspiration from the nature God created.

Sitting there in the cold, my attention was drawn to a seagull flying above the boardwalk, about 10 feet in front and above me. Hovering perfectly still, his wings gave a slight flutter as he faced the strong wind.

At first, I felt sorry for him as he was getting nowhere in this wind. But by facing that wind, he was kept aloft by its force. For a few moments, he opened his wings without flapping them and remained stationary, directly in front of me, suspended in mid-air.

As I observed this remarkable sight, the Lord spoke to my heart and said, “I’m not keeping you back, I’m keeping you up.”

Maybe like me, you can relate to that seagull. Have you ever felt stuck in your life? Seemingly held back and not going forward? The Lord let me know that He’s not holding us back; He’s holding us up.

As I pondered that thought and watched the seagull closely, I realized that if the seagull had flown away from the wind, he would have been blown down to earth. But by facing the resistance of the wind, with a slight flutter of his wings, he was lifted up. So when resistance comes against you, if you face it, put your nose into the wind and flap your wings. You’ll be lifted up and not cast down. Resistance will lift you higher!

“… You make the clouds your chariot; you ride upon the wings of the wind.” (Psalm 104:3, NLT)

When you pursue your goals and dreams in life, at some point you will inevitably encounter resistance. Think of King David in the Bible. He was chosen to be King as a young man, but the current King Saul put unrelenting pressure on him by trying to destroy him. Through the years of persecution from King Saul, David honed his skill as a guerrilla fighter, a strong leader of men, and a man of character and honor. Resistance lifted him to become the King he had been chosen to be.

Think of the early church. Great persecution came against the early church. Many were martyred for refusing to deny Christ and many had to flee for their lives. But this unrelenting pressure of persecution caused the church to become firm in the faith and spread far and wide in order to survive. Resistance lifted the church throughout the known world in 300 years, becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire.

If you turn from resistance and run, it will smash you to the ground. You’ll be crushed and your flight, as well as your dreams, will be over. So instead of looking at the winds of resistance as something formidably holding you back, look at it as something God is using to hold you up and make you strong. Embrace resistance, and it will raise you to the heights you dream of reaching!

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31, NIV)

 

Childlike Trust in the Lord

Child-Like Trust in the Lord 
by Shawn McEvoy, crosswalk.org

 

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
Psalm 131:1-2, NAS

This song, like many of the Psalms, was written by David – the man who would be Israel’s greatest king. Is David who comes to mind when you think of someone “not involved in great matters” (kingdom conflicts, maybe)? Or unbothered by “things too difficult” (slaying a giant, anyone)? No, to me, this doesn’t really sound like David. Doesn’t really sound like me most of the time either.

Let’s take a quick look at three things that stand out about this little Psalm:

1) Attitude. David’s “heart” – his inner being, his spirit, is not proud… of things he’s done, of where he’s been and where he’s going… but neither is he beating himself up. He is just… content.

2) Appetite. David’s “eyes” – his senses – are not haughty. He’s not seeking to please them. He doesn’t have the look of arrogance. He knows Whose he is, and that his needs are met not of himself. He is not restless to feed like an infant, he is not stalking around asking to eat out of boredom like my 2-year-old.

3) Aptitude. David places the responsibility for this peaceful state upon himself. Not circumstances, not achievements, not even on God. “Surely I have quieted my soul,” he says.

Taken all together, this shows us what trust looks like, and helps us understand why trusting God brings such soothing peace. Jesus said we must have faith like children to come to Him. Apparently, trust is also best exemplified in little ones.

David’s “talk” is of not being proud; his “walk” then backs it up by what he “involves” (or doesn’t involve) himself in. This doesn’t mean God hasn’t given him – or you – important stuff to get done, just that David has “declared himself free from excessive ambition” (Ryrie study notes).

To sing not of self, to seek not to fill the senses, to seek the will only to be quiet before God – that is trust. A “weaned child” knows instinctively where to find trust. By extension, and through the example of “the man after God’s own heart,” so do we.

 

Streams in the Desert – October 12

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

Joseph’s master took him and threw him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. So he was there in the prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him kindness. He granted him favor in the sight of the prison warden. The warden put all the prisoners under Joseph’s care. He was in charge of whatever they were doing. The warden did not concern himself with anything that was in Joseph’s care because the Lord was with him and whatever he was doing the Lord was making successful. (Gen 39:20-23)

When God lets us go to prison because we have been serving Him, and goes there with us, prison is about the most blessed place in the world that we could be in. Joseph seems to have known that. He did not sulk and grow discouraged and rebellious because “everything was against him.” If he had, the prison-keeper would never have trusted him so. Joseph does not even seem to have pitied himself.

Let us remember that if self-pity is allowed to set in, that is the end of us—until it is cast utterly from us. Joseph just turned over everything in joyous trust to God, and so the keeper of the prison turned over everything to Joseph. Lord Jesus, when the prison doors close in on me, keep me trusting, and keep my joy full and abounding. Prosper Thy work through me in prison: even there, make me free indeed.
—Selected

A little bird I am,
Shut from the fields of air,
And in my cage I sit and sing
To Him who placed me there;
Well pleased a prisoner to be,
Because, my God, it pleaseth Thee.

My cage confines me round,
Abroad I cannot fly,
But though my wing is closely bound,
My soul is at liberty;
For prison walls cannot control
The flight, the freedom of the soul.

I have learnt to love the darkness of sorrow; there you see the brightness of His face.
—Madame Guyon

 

Immovable

by Inspiration Ministries

“A man will not be established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will not be moved.” – Proverbs 12:3 NASB

When the Bible talked about security, the word “established” is often used. The Hebrew word suggests standing firm, being prepared, being ready to face any situation, and refusing to compromise. This stability allows us to be confident regardless of what is happening. But how do we achieve this security? This confidence?

Many people feel that they will be secure when they become successful when they have accumulated more wealth or achieved fame. To achieve these things, some develop devious plans or form alliances with unprincipled people. Others think they can justify anything to attain their goals. But the Bible warns that we “will not be established by wickedness” (v. 3).

What is the root condition of security? Being “righteous” (v. 3). This means concentrating on doing what is right in God’s sight. As we obey God and please Him, we can be freed from shaking, slipping, and instability. Then, we “will not be moved” (v. 3).

To achieve this stability, we need to be anchored in God’s Word. Trust in Him. Be driven by a passion to serve Him. Be sensitive to His Spirit. Be concerned about eternal things. Be dedicated to His kingdom.

God wants you to be secure, but this world is unstable. The way to achieve security is to trust completely in Him. Fill your mind with His Word. Focus on doing what is right. Then you will have an immovable root.

Be Like Christ

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10/23/16: “Being Like Christ” by Pastor Dave Gordon | Trinity Baptist  Church, Indio
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Identity Crisis

I have to admit, I love finding out more about the personality types, but I honestly think I need to quit cold turkey.

When finding yourself in some self-analyzing test becomes an obsession, well it’s time to re-prioritize. In my voracious search for self I bought every personality book I could find and I have taken every possible test. I have found out what kind of leader I am, what animal I most resemble, what color best fits my personality, and on the spiritual end, even what Bible character I am most like.

But what’s next? What shape I am? What vegetable? It could conceivably continue infinitely.

What’s ironic is that the search for better self-understanding only led me into confusion and depression. The results didn’t match up. One survey said I was an introvert; another confirmed I was an extrovert. One swore that I was a bold leader; the other seemed to think I would rather hang back in the crowd. And on and on. I would put the book down and still wonder who I really was.

You know what I think? I think human nature is just too complex to get down on paper, and the more we try to find ourselves in some arbitrary categories, the more miserable we shall become. I can attest because eventually we always want to become what we are not.

The answer to the continual search for an identity is always Jesus Christ. What does God say about you and me? Well, He might not tell you whether you are a sanguine or an intuitive thinker or an influential leader, but what He will tell you means more than all the secular books on self-understanding.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a place for such analysis. Just don’t place your whole value there. God tells us that we are His children. We are co-heirs with Christ. We are in fact new creations. This is our true identity.

I like God’s personality test best. All I have to do is give myself to the Lord, and He makes me more like Jesus Christ every day. My personality quirks and foibles are now His business. He takes care of the rest.

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3 (NIV)

 

Feeding the Fire

Feeding the Fire
by Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.org

Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. – 1 Chronicles 16:11

Earlier this year I went fishing with my family up in the boundary waters of Minnesota. Ironically, the first day we pushed out onto the lake in our canoes, the weather was ideal. The sun was shining, the sky was clear, and it was warm but with a nice breeze to take the edge off. Then, like something out of a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, the weather made a sudden shift. The next morning we got up to find a cloud had descended over the lake.

It wasn’t raining per say, it was more like all the moisture in the area had gotten together and decided to smother our campsite. It was cold, it was damp, and all we could really do was huddle together for warmth. Finally I couldn’t stand it any longer, I was going to build a fire. We had all tried earlier that morning, but the damp wood was nearly impossible to burn. With no lighter fluid and only a couple of matches, I realized I was going to have to do this the hard way.

First I started off with small kindling, pine needles, leaves, twigs. Then I moved on to sticks and paper. It took a long time, but at last I got a decent sized flame that would burn the big logs despite the fact that they were damp. You can be sure, now that we finally had a roaring fire there was no way we were going to let it go out. I bring this up because I believe the concept of building a fire is similar to building a relationship with God.

When a friend of mine recently said he didn’t want to lose “the fire” God had given his spirit, I couldn’t help but remember that cold morning in Minnesota. The Holy Spirit will give us the passion and endurance to live Godly lives, but like a campfire, it will eventually burn down to embers if not supplemented by our own actions. It can be hard work at times. You’ll need to start with kindling like daily prayer and scripture reading, follow up with something bigger like volunteering at Church, and then maybe apply a large commitment like ministry. It won’t be easy, and there will be times when it all seems useless, but in the end the Holy Spirit will burn all brighter.

Remember the words of Matthew,

 

Citizenship in heaven

By: Charles Sourgeon

‘For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Philippians 3:20

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Timothy 4:1–8

You know I am no prophet. I do not know anything about 1866; I find quite enough to do to attend to 1862. I do not understand the visions of Daniel or Ezekiel; I find I have enough to do to teach the simple word such as I find in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and the epistles of Paul. I do not find many souls have been converted to God by exquisite dissertations about the battle of Armageddon, and all those other fine things; I have no doubt prophesyings are very profitable, but I rather question whether they are so profitable to the hearers, as they may be to the preachers and publishers. I conceive that among religious people of a certain sort, the abortive explanations of prophecy issued by certain doctors gratify a craving which in irreligious people finds its food in novels and romances. People have a panting to know the future; and certain divines pander to this depraved taste, by prophesying for them, and letting them know what is coming by and by. I do not know the future, and I shall not pretend to know. But I do preach this, because I know it, that Christ will come, for he says so in a hundred passages. The epistles of Paul are full of the advent, and Peter’s too, and John’s letters are crowded with it. The best of saints have always lived on the hope of the advent. There was Enoch; he prophesied of the coming of the Son of Man. So there was another ‘Enoch’ who was always talking of the coming, and saying ‘Come quickly.’ I will not divide the house tonight by discussing whether the advent will be pre-millenial or post-millenial, or anything of that; it is enough for me that he will come, and ‘in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.’

For meditation: The ‘whens’, ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ of the Lord’s second coming were no business of the apostles (Matthew 24:36John 21:22Acts 1:7) and they are none of our business either. Our business is to serve him and be prepared for his return whenever that may be (Matthew 24:44–46). See also notes for 8 September.

The Great Supper In Heaven

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My Formal Dinner Party

formal dining table

 

Hosting a formal dinner party at the ripe young age of 19 should be easy, right?

I returned home after my freshman year of college to spend the summer with family, friends, and a job. My parents loved weekend camping and told me in advance when they’d be gone. So on a weekend when I knew I’d be “Home Alone,” I decided to throw a formal dinner party.

Menu? Beef Wellington sounded perfect. I hadn’t exactly fixed it before, but it’s easy, right? Just a little meat and puff pastry!

On party day, I pulled out the linens, china, candlesticks, goblets, and silver. Bummer! The silver pieces were tarnished and I didn’t have time to clean them. Cooking like Julia Child was taking way too much time. So I called my lifetime friend next door, and she agreed to clean the silver—at her house. I had a “no peeking” rule in place.

Venue? The downstairs ping pong table and ten mismatched chairs would be perfect! I found two large tablecloths that remotely matched, and they almost covered the behemoth table. The china, silver, goblets, and napkins looked beautiful as I properly arranged them at each setting. Emily Post would be proud! I nearly dropped the black candlesticks as I stumbled to reach across the Goliath-size table to place them.

Serving my friends was a pleasure, and they insisted on doing the clean-up. The formal dinner was an accomplishment, and doing it all without my mom’s knowledge was a wonderful feeling (that “Home Alone” thing again).

Or so I thought.

I was at work when my parents returned. I received a terse phone call from my mom—I thought I’d be grounded for life! I didn’t realize that the china, pans, and utensils weren’t properly washed and were put in the wrong places. I didn’t know the china was their wedding china, the linens and silver were fragile family heirlooms, the goblets were crystal, and the candlesticks were black onyx.

My hope for a milestone gift to my friends and a learning experience on how to throw a formal dinner party ended in disappointment and rebuke. Reflecting on the experience now, I contemplate two things.

Preparation

Esther endured twelve months of beauty treatments with oil of myrrh and cosmetics (Esther 2:12) before meeting her future husband, King Xerxes. That’s preparation! At the time, I believed I adequately prepared for the party. Her twelve months compared to my seven days? Not even close. My party missed the mark.

Do we miss the mark with Jesus? Acts 2:42 says,

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (NIV)

This scripture describes more than merely adequate preparation to enter God’s presence. Are we devoted to walking with Jesus? Do we practice spiritual disciplines? Will God rebuke us if we’re not prepared?

Treasures

I didn’t recognize that the items I used at the dinner party were precious family heirlooms. I just saw linens, dishes, glasses, flatware, and candlesticks.

Do we recognize Jesus? Do we treat Him as ordinary, or as the precious treasure above all treasures? Is His presence richer than the finest china and crystal, more precious than onyx, shinier than polished silver, and more beautiful than heirloom linens?

Jesus is “a chosen and precious cornerstone.” (1 Peter 2:6 NIV)

Paul wrote that his goal was that the people would know “Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3 NIV)

Do we daily invite God to feast with us? Do we see Jesus as the One in whom the treasures of wisdom and knowledge reside? Do we prepare the feast table on our knees—memorize scripture, meditate, and desire quality time with the One who always loves and never fails?

I want to crave my Jesus—the treasure above all treasures—for all the days of eternity with Him.

 

The Blessing of Boundaries

OCTOBER 6, 2020

“The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” Proverbs 17:27 (NIV)

I understand. It’s all so very hard.Have you ever found yourself having an out-of-control reaction in response to someone else’s out-of-control actions?

When I share biblical discernment with someone I love, but then they go away and do the opposite, it’s maddening. My bottled-up wisdom in the midst of their chaos produces extreme anxiety. My resulting reaction is not me being dramatic or overly emotional … I’m simply trying to save us both from the impending train wreck I can see so obviously headed our way!

A perfect example would be the two gallon-sized baggies stuffed full of ripped-up papers currently sitting on my dresser. Why do I have baggies of ripped papers? So glad you asked.

Some important documents came in the mail one day. In my defense, my name was included on the envelope. But the minute I opened the envelope and started reading through the contents, my blood pressure skyrocketed. One of my people was moving forward with something I deeply disagreed with. I had absolutely vocalized my many reasons to shut down this idea. I couldn’t believe they weren’t listening to me.

In hindsight, I should have simply reminded my family member of my boundary to not bail them out financially if this decision was as detrimental as I thought it would be.

Instead, I just stood there in my kitchen and slowly tore those papers into as many tiny pieces as I could. And when every last paper was torn, I decided that wasn’t good enough. I also tore the folders they were in and the mailing envelopes as well. I quietly stuffed all the mess into the baggies and sat them on the counter with a note that read, “This is all I have to say about this situation.”

It felt so good in that moment. But the next morning, I woke up and was like, Really, Lysa?! Really?! All my family member said back to me was, “Wow, you’ve made quite a statement.” Now I was the one who needed to apologize and figure out a way to tell the company needing to resend the papers I accidentally, on purpose, in a crazed moment, shredded. And when I did, the lady who worked at that company told me she’d recently read one of my books. Perfect. Wonderful. Ugh.

Controlling ourselves cannot be dependent on our efforts to control others.

I know I have hyperextended my capacity when I shift from calm words to angry tirades. I shift from blessing to cursing. I shift from peace to chaos. I shift from discussing the papers to ripping them to shreds and putting them in baggies. I shift from trusting God to trying to fix it all myself.

What do I need to do in response to situations that feel so out of control that they make me lose my self-control?

Establish boundaries. Boundaries aren’t to push others away. Boundaries are to help hold me together.

The truth is, without good boundaries, other people’s poor choices will bankrupt your spiritual capacity for compassion. Not to mention the fact that at some point, you’ll get so exhausted and worn down that you’ll lose your self-control because they are so out of control.

You’ll sacrifice your peace on the altar of their chaos. Soon you will get swept into a desperate urgency to get them to stop! Right! Now! And we all know acts of desperation hold hands with degradation. I’m preaching to myself because I’ve got the tendency to downgrade who I really am in moments of utter frustration and exhaustion when I don’t keep appropriate boundaries.

It all makes me think of today’s key verse: “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered” (Proverbs 17:27).

When we understand that only God can bring about true change in another person’s heart and life, it frees us from all of our panic-induced attempts to control them. We can love them. Pray for them. Try to share godly wisdom with them. But we don’t have to downgrade our gentleness to hastily spoken words of anger and resentment. We don’t have to downgrade our attitude of reconciliation to acts of retaliation. We can use our words with restraint and stay even-tempered because we’re ultimately entrusting them to the Lord.

I know this isn’t easy, sweet friend. But it is wise.

It’s for the sake of our sanity that we draw necessary boundaries. It’s for the sake of stability that we stay consistent with those boundaries. And it’s with a heart of humility that maintaining those boundaries becomes a possibility.

 

God’s Correction

by Inspiration Ministries

“Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.” – Psalm 38:21-22 NIV

David had made mistakes, and he knew it. He felt the wounds of his “sinful folly” (v. 5). He knew he deserved God’s correction and discipline. He felt his guilt had become “too heavy to bear” (v. 4).

The impact had been intense. He had “no health,” groaning in the anguish of his heart; he felt “feeble and utterly crushed.” (v. 7-8) His heart pounded, and he felt no strength. “There is no soundness in my bones because of my sin” (v. 3). He had trouble seeing and hearing.

Everyone could see this. Even friends avoided him. His adversaries sought to take advantage of his weakened condition. As his enemies increased, his condition continued to deteriorate. “I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me” (v. 17).

He regretted his mistakes and realized, “all my longings lie open before you” (v. 9). Having been chastened and humbled, he cried out to God, “Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior” (v. 22). No longer depending on himself, he waited on God, confident that He would answer.

Many of us have gone through situations in which we feel the impact of our mistakes. The spiritually sensitive realize that God disciplines, corrects, and seeks to purify us.

How should we respond? Admit our sins. Seek forgiveness. Cry out for restoration. Cooperate and learn from God’s correction. Ask Him to take away our burdens and give us His peace.

 

Streams in the Desert – October 10

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

Do not fret when wicked men seem to succeed! Do not envy evildoers! —Ps 37:1 NET

This to me is a Divine command; the same as “Thou shalt not steal.” Now let us get to the definition of fretting. One good definition is, “Made rough on the surface.” “Rubbed, or worn away”; and a peevish, irrational, fault-finding person not only wears himself out, but is very wearing to others. To fret is to be in a state of vexation, and in this Psalm we are not only told not to fret because of evildoers, but to fret not “in anywise.” It is injurious, and God does not want us to hurt ourselves.

A physician will tell you that a fit of anger is more injurious to the system than a fever, and a fretful disposition is not conducive to a healthy body; and you know rules are apt to work both ways, and the next step down from fretting is crossness, and that amounts to anger. Let us settle this matter, and be obedient to the command, “Fret not.”—Margaret Bottome

OVERHEARD IN AN ORCHARD

Said the Robin to the Sparrow:
“I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so?”

Said the Sparrow to the Robin:
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me.”
—Elizabeth Cheney

Come To God and Receive Mercy

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A Crown without Jewels

A Crown without Jewels
by Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.org

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

Like most kids who grew up in the church, I was enrolled in Awana the moment I had the ability to memorize John 3:16. Not that I’m complaining, I enjoyed the evenings of games and Bible stories. However, like every Bible club for small children, Awana had its share of speed bumps. One such bump appeared during a lesson where a young woman was sharing her testimony. She had just finished telling everyone the story of how her grandfather accepted Christ on his deathbed when a hand shot up in the back of the audience.

“Does this mean we can do whatever we want as long as we say sorry before we die?” asked the child. I can vaguely remember the look of panic that came into the woman’s eyes when she discovered her class was trying to cheat the system. Torn between theology and a group of minors, she opted for the easiest answer.

“Well, yes, God will forgive you if you ask him,” then reaching down to her jacket, she pulled out the tiny crown pin reserved only for the best children in the club, “but it also means you will have fewer jewels in your crown when you get to heaven.” I’m not bothered that our leader chose to use this explanation; it’s hard to describe the grace of God to a room full of third graders hopped up on gummy bears. What does bother me is the number of adult Christians who still believe this idea to be true.

“I grew up in a Christian household.”

“I accepted Christ when I was only seven.”

Many Christians will take these statements and present them as proof of their superiority. Proof that the person who just gave their life to Christ is somehow “Second Class.” Thankfully, Jesus didn’t see it that way, and said as much in the parable of the vineyard

“So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” – Matthew 20:10-16

It does not matter if you spend your entire life ignoring God or trying to build a stairway to heaven, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of Christ. But when we accept him as our savior that all changes, regardless of how old we are or how we’ve spent our past. The whole, wonderful point of grace is that it cannot be earned. How else could it be called grace?

 

When You Get Off Track

When You Get Off Track
By:SHARON JAYNES, crosswalk.org

 

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25 (NIV)

Rachel and I sat on weatherworn steps leading down to a pristine beach. We had a front-row seat as the morning sun stretched its arms over the horizon. Rachel was hurting. I was attempting to love her back to health. Salty air. Salty ocean. Salt-of-the-earth friend. It is hard to beat that combination when you’re soul sick.

Rachel’s life had taken some unexpected turns. Let me rephrase that. It wasn’t that her life “had taken” some unexpected turns, as if she had nothing to do with it. She had strayed from God’s path, and she had taken some unexpected turns. She had given in to sexual temptation, and as a result, lost her marriage as well as the trust of her children and many of her friends. Rachel had lost her true self.

As we sat on the bottom step with our toes buried in the cool sand, we stared out at the glassy ocean. It was as if Jesus had spoken, “Peace, be still,” and the wind and waves obeyed. The sand, airbrushed smooth by the night breeze, had not yet been disturbed by vacationers’ feet, kids’ buckets and sunbathers’ chairs.

“We all make mistakes,” I breathed out. “Just different ones.”

Rachel turned her eyes from the ocean to a set of tire tracks running close to the water’s edge. Two shallow ruts. Parallel indentations. Ruts that never deviated in distance one from the other, as far as the eye could see. If one swerved, the other swerved in union.

“I wish life were like that,” she whispered.

“Like what?” I asked.

“Like those tire tracks,” she replied. “Us and God. Me and God. Always moving in tandem. Side by side. Hooked together. Moving in the same direction. Connected. Easy. Perfectly aligned.”

We sat in silence, staring at the tracks, both knowing the reason why most deviate from God’s path. They detach themselves from the Master and make tracks of their own. They willingly let go of God’s hand and walk away.

The Christian life is often referred to as our spiritual walk. “for we walk by faith, not by sight,” Paul encouraged the Corinthian church (2 Corinthians 5:7, NASB). Another version translates this same verse, “For we live by faith, not by sight” (NIV).

Paul wrote to the Galatians, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. … If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25, NKJV). Again, the NIV says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (verse 25, emphasis added).

I love the idea of keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. What a wonderful way to live: walking in step and keeping time with the Holy Spirit’s pace in everyday life.

Rachel and I rose from the steps, placed our feet in the tire ruts in the sand and walked in their path. Singing, worshipping and praising God that no matter how far off His path we may veer, He always welcomes us back to walk with Him.

 

Streams in the Desert – October 9

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

Therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you (Isa. 30:18).

Where showers fall most, there the grass is greenest. I suppose the fogs and mists of Ireland make it “the Emerald Isle”; and whenever you find great fogs of trouble, and mists of sorrow, you always find emerald green hearts; full of the beautiful verdure of the comfort and love of God.

O Christian, do not thou be saying, “Where are the swallows gone? They are gone; they are dead.” They are not dead; they have skimmed the purple sea, and gone to a far-off land; but they will be back again by and by.

Child of God, say not the flowers are dead; say not the winter has killed them, and they are gone. Ah, no! though winter hath coated them with the ermine of its snow; they will put up their heads again, and will be alive very soon.

Say not, child of God, that the sun is quenched, because the cloud hath hidden it. Ah, no; he is behind there, brewing summer for thee; for when he cometh out again, he will have made the clouds fit to drop in April showers, all of them mothers of the sweet May flowers.

And oh! above all, when thy God hides His face, say not that He hath forgotten thee. He is but tarrying a little while to make thee love Him better; and when He cometh, thou shalt have joy in the Lord, and shalt rejoice with joy unspeakable. Waiting exercises our grace; waiting tries our faith; therefore, wait on in hope; for though the promise tarry, it can never come too late.
–C. H. Spurgeon

“Oh, every year hath its winter,
And every year hath its rain–
But a day is always coming
When the birds go north again.

“When new leaves swell in the forest,
And grass springs green on the plain,
And alders’ veins turn crimson–
And the birds go north again.

“Oh, every heart hath its sorrow,
And every heart hath its pain–
But a day is always coming
When the birds go north again.

“‘Tis the sweetest thing to remember,
If courage be on the wane,
When the cold, dark days are over–
Why, the birds go north again.”

 

Practical Examples

by Inspiration Ministries

“Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables.” – Matthew 13:34 NLT

Bruce Catton was known as a storyteller. Some wrote dry, dull history, but Catton mastered the art of writing memorable stories. He listened carefully to men and women and then sought to capture the drama and details of their experiences.

Born on this day in 1889, Catton employed this approach while listening to veterans of the American Civil War. This process helped him produce factual books that were also fascinating, filled with vivid events and characters.

For example, his account of the Battle of Fredericksburg focused on the time when the rival armies camped on opposite sides of the Rappahannock River. He didn’t just describe the fighting, but he also explored the human dimension.

He told how men on both sides exchanged food and gossiped about events. Soldiers united in spontaneous song with Northerners singing songs of the South, and Southerners singing Northern favorites. Bands from both armies together played “Home, Sweet Home.” In those unforgettable moments, the war seemed to mean little to these 150,000 soldiers as they sat in an emotional silence. In the pen of a master like Catton, stories like these added color and depth to his accounts.

Jesus knew the importance of stories. Stories were central to His ministry. He sought to communicate principles in practical ways.

He provides an example for us of sharing the Gospel, so people understand what is important. Seek to tell the story of Jesus in ways that impact lives.

We Should Love One Another

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Are You in the Same Boat?

Picture a beautiful sunny day with a cool breeze blowing. Imagine a little old rowboat that you often take to a small lake to get away. You sometimes stop by the shoreline to read, maybe fish, or just relax. If you were to take that same boat down to the beach, put it in the ocean, and begin paddling with the oars, before long your arms will tire. After going some distance, you will wish you had not ventured so far from your original destination. You need a different boat!

There is always room for change and new ventures in life. It is time to set your sails. If you were going to venture out into the ocean, you may need a motorboat or a sailboat to go to new places, see and experience new things. Life does not have to be so humdrum day after day, but only you can make the choices to change your circumstances.

Like having the right boat or changing your normal routine from getting in a rowboat in a lake or taking a sail on the ocean, we can change our situations by the way we respond to life’s difficulties. How can we do this? By the words we speak. They play a key role. Pay attention to what people say and see what kind of life they have. Often they make their own problems if they are constantly negative. If people say, “God is bringing me through this and I am looking to Him and trusting Him,” their situations often turn around a lot quicker.

If you say, “I can’t stand my life, it is boring,” or “I always have troubles, I have no money, no friends, etc.,” the odds are that you have exactly what you are proclaiming over your life. If you speak God’s word over all your problems, His word will not return void. God says it will accomplish what it is set out to do.

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8)

I try to live each day to the fullest and I thank God for giving me opportunities. I actually have a fruitful life. Maybe at times it is too full and I need to drop an activity or two. But I do what I can to change my situations and make the best out of some unavoidable ones. It usually works out. I do different things, so there are no ruts. I take mini-vacations and find quiet moments to get refreshed by venturing out and enjoying all the benefits of God’s kingdom. But most of all, I decree and declare good things over my life, family, and friends.

I realize we have trials. They come in seasons because we are not promised those sunny and cool breezes every day, sailing along without a care. We are promised that Jesus will hold our hand and walk with us when the sunshine turns to rain, when instead of feeling good we are in pain. He will carry you in His arms.

Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms. (Psalm 68:19, NLT)

The only thing we can do in difficult moments is ask the Lord for His help, go to His Word and begin to speak life into what seems to be a hopeless situation. You can chase those clouds off your mind and set sail for a different journey. If you’re in the same boat day after day, purpose to do something different. Speak good things from God’s word over your life and expect a turnaround.

 

The New Commandment

"Love one another as I have loved you" - John 13:34

 

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. — John 13:34

My high school chemistry teacher used to always talk about the “acid test.” The acid test is a sure-fire way to identify a substance. The Bible reveals that the acid test of the Christian life is love. Love is not simply a virtue of the Christian life; it is the Christian life. It is the oxygen of the Kingdom. There is no life without it. Everything — the spiritual gifts, prophecy, knowledge, wisdom — will come to an end, but love knows no end. It goes right on through the portal of death and into eternity. Paul said that if we

have not love, it profits [us] nothing. — 1 Corinthians 13:3

On the very evening before His crucifixion, our Lord gave us a “new commandment” that supersedes the others not only in attitude, but also in action.

A New Rule

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you”

A casual reading of this text might tempt the reader to pass over two very important words. For one, this is a commandment. It is not a suggestion or a mere option. It has behind it all the authority of the Godhead. And it is a new commandment. Although the language of the New Testament reveals that this commandment is not new in time (God’s love has been around forever), this commandment is new in its expression. It is fresh; it is the opposite of worn out.

Until now, on the very eve of the crucifixion, the best we could do was to live on the level of the old commandment. This old commandment is found in Leviticus 19:18 and referenced in the Great Commandment. That is, we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This self-love is a love with limits. It is often conditional on such matters as time or conduct, situations or social standing. It can lend itself to selfishness because it speaks of a self-love. It can also be changeable and fickle.

But real love is expressed by a new rule. For thirty-three years Jesus gave us a picture of how real love was to be evidenced. Up until then, the best we could do was to live on the level of the old commandment of self-love. In essence, Jesus said, “For over three decades now I have shown you real love. I am about to leave you, so before I go, a new

commandment I am giving you. No longer are you to love one another as you love yourself, but ‘as I have loved you.’”

A Natural Reaction

“as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

We are totally incapable of loving like this on our own. The only way this can become a natural reaction for us is to experientially know the love of Christ in our own hearts. This new commandment changes things. No longer are we to love on that self level. Now, we are to love as Jesus loved us — unconditionally. Once we receive His love, we are to release it to others in the same way He loves us. Talk about revolutionary thinking, here it is personified.

In order to love others on this level, we must know the kind of love Jesus loves us with.

His love is unlimited. Paul said to the Romans that nothing

…shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 8:39

To the Ephesians, he expressed it as the “width and length and depth and height” of God’s love (Ephesians 3:18). Not only is Christ’s love to us unlimited, but it is also unconditional. It is not conditioned upon time or conduct or situations that may be in play. In fact,

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. — Romans 5:8

His love is also unselfish, so much so that it took Him all the way to the cross. And of course, we should note that His love is also unchangeable.

As the writer of the Hebrews said,

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. — Hebrews 13:8

Thus, as we beat out our love relationships on the anvil of our own personal experience, we will love others with a love that is unlimited, unconditional, unselfish, and unchangeable. That is, if we love others as Jesus has loved us.

What is the result of this type of love? The very next verse is explicit:

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. — John 13:35

Perhaps John put it best when he said,

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. — 1 John 4:7–8

This longtime recipient of Christ’s love added,

We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. — 1 John 3:14

Yes, love is the Christian life. It is the oxygen of the Kingdom. It is the acid test of our own discipleship. God did not write in the sky or send a tract in order to reveal His love toward us. He sent His Son. Love did that. He demonstrated His love to us.

As you memorize this verse, meditate on the fact that the Bible reveals a picture of real love to us in everything Jesus said and did. Our challenge is now to obey the “new commandment” by loving others on this higher level of love, in the same way that Jesus loves us.

 

Being a Godly Influence

From: Intouch ministries

Daniel 1You don’t have to be prominent in the world’s eyes to be an influential person. Through your example and testimony, you can help others understand who Jesus Christ is and what it looks like to live for Him.

Scripture includes many examples of righteous men and women who were influential in their generation. One of them was Daniel, who was a godly influence not only on his friends but also on kings. Even as a youth, he was committed to obeying God’s law. Consequently, when Daniel was offered food from the Babylonian king’s table, he requested vegetarian meals instead, to comply with Jewish dietary restrictions. His commitment to the Lord outweighed any fear of reprisal for rejecting the royal provisions. And God protected Daniel by giving him favor with his overseer.

Although most of us won’t have an opportunity to influence global leaders, our example can impact a workplace, neighborhood, home, or future generations. As was true of Daniel, a godly example is rooted in obedience to Scripture because it’s the source of wisdom. In a world that is tossed about by upheaval, fear, and uncertainty, our confidence in the Lord stands out and influences those around us.

Do Not Fear, God Is With You

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Elephant String

I remember reading about how they train young elephants in India. The trainer would tie one of their hind legs to a tree with a thick rope. Naturally, the elephant, feeling bound by the rope, would try to break free. Eventually, he realizes that his attempts are useless and gradually gets accustomed to being held captive.

As the elephant ages, his restriction of movement will modify his behavior until even a simple string will be sufficient to keep him captive without resistance. The elephant could easily break the string but has convinced himself that the restraining force of the rope is greater than his own strength. So he gives up in defeat.

For many people, past events are like elephant strings. Mistakes, failures, sin, or tragedy which once bound us like thick rope, still hold us captive to the past. If we would only look again, try again, we would find that it is only string that binds us. We have the power, through Christ Jesus, to easily break free. The Apostle Paul wrote,

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 NLT)

When you find yourself in one of life’s ruts, stop, look down at the string that holds you, and break free. Even when we receive forgiveness for past sin in our life, often we are not so quick to forgive our self. The sin is forgiven but we allow the guilt to remain.

That string of guilt will hold us back from a deeper relationship with God. So forgive yourself, break the string of guilt and shame for God has removed the rope long ago!

We all have failures and make mistakes in our lives. Learn from them, yes, but don’t allow a string of failures or a string of mistakes to hold you. Break free! Try again! You can do it!

Sin can become an old habit. If you lose the struggle to fight it, you can feel hopelessly bound. This is no way to live, so break free from the string of habitual sin. The Bible says,

“… let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” (Hebrews 12:1 NLT)

Rip off those strings and be free in Christ! Freedom from guilt is yours.

There are times in every life when we experience tragedy. The loss of a loved one or a relationship, even the loss of a job can have a debilitating effect on us. We can become so bound by the triple threaded rope of grief, sorrow, and regret that, like the elephant, we become accustomed to being held captive. Efforts to break free may seem fruitless and pointless.

But remember that there is hope in Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul wrote,

“… I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:13-14 NLT)

So try again! Press forward! Move ahead with your hopes and dreams. Break that elephant string!

 

Wisdom from Above

By: Debbie Holloway, crosswalk.org

Recently I participated in a small group discussion on Christ-like humility. Our discussion leader had pulled up several Scripture passages for us to reflect upon, and one of them has been racing around in my brain ever since:

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy (James 3:17).

Christ (such as in Mark 1:35) always sought wisdom from above before speaking and acting. Thus, as Christians (Christ-followers) we should be constantly seeking this godly wisdom and applying it to our lives and relationships. But that verse is a big verse. What does it look like to have this wisdom from above?

1. It is first of all pure. Our motives for doing anything should reflect a desire to live like Christ and be in right relationship with God. If our earthly “wisdom” tells us to approach a situation with impure motives such as greed, selfishness, or pride – that is not wisdom from above.

2. It is peaceable. Sometimes we get preoccupied with the imagery of Spiritual Armor and treat everyone we meet like an enemy solider. We must remember that Ephesians 6:10 says this battle is “not against flesh and blood.” Our Lord is a Prince of Peace, and we have a duty to act as citizens of peace.

3. It is gentle. Proverbs 15:1. If we speak gently, others are more likely to accept and understand God’s work and wisdom. But gentleness is not just about tone of voice. Remember the gentleness and patience with which Jesus dealt with children, sinners, and his apostles. Gentleness is a way of life.

4. It is reasonable. Another translation of this reads “willing to yield to others” – and both are absolutely crucial elements of wisdom. It may seem impossible to live a pure lifestyle while being reasonable and willing to yield, but the Bible says we must. We were given an astounding level of intellect and reason – let us use it! We mustn’t buy in to the lie that “reason is the enemy of faith.” It is necessary to yield to God daily with every decision we make. But it is also possible (and necessary, and wise) to yield to others. Whether it’s a matter of selfless giving or resisting the urge to have angry, theological debates, we are called to yield.

5. It is full of mercy. That parent who abused their authority? That government leader who makes you cringe? That blogger who sounds heretical? Wisdom from above tells us to look on them with mercy. After all, has not God shown us the greatest mercy of all?

6. It is full of good fruits. I’m sure many of us can list Galatians 5:22 of the Lord’s Spirit. When we use godly wisdom to discern what we should do, we will consider the fruits of our choices. Do we strive to make choices that result in the fruits of the Spirit manifested in our lives?

7. It is unwavering. Perhaps it might be strange to think that wisdom from above can be both “willing to yield” and “unwavering.” But don’t think of them as opposites. Perhaps think of it like a marriage or a friendship. Each person in the relationship must listen to reason and be willing to yield to the other. But the relationship itself must be unwavering. We must be bold enough to live unwaveringly as followers of Christ and good stewards of the earth, no matter the opposition.

8. It is without hypocrisy. If something seems like wisdom to you but causes you to be double-minded or deceitful, it cannot be wisdom from above. What we believe must match what we say. What we say must match how we behave. Otherwise, we misrepresent Jesus and the lifestyle we claim to live.

 

The sons of God

By: Charles Spurgion

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together.” Romans 8:16,17

Suggested Further Reading: Ephesians 1:11-23

The believer is to be the heir, I say, not merely of God’s works, not simply of God’s gifts, but of God himself. Do we not talk of his omnipotence?—his almightiness is ours. Do we not speak of his omniscience?—all his wisdom is engaged in our behalf. Do we not say that he is love?—that love belongs to us. Can we not glory in that he is full of immutability, and changes not?—that eternal unchangeablenesss is engaged for the defence of the people of God. All the attributes of divinity are the property of God’s children—their inheritance is built upon them. He himself is ours. Oh what riches! If we could say this morning, that all the stars belong to us; if we could turn the telescope to the most remote of the fixed stars, and then could say with the pride of possession, so natural to man, “That star, a thousand times bigger than the sun, is mine. I am the king of that inheritance.” If we could then sweep the telescope along the milky way, and see the millions upon millions of stars that lie clustered together, and cry, “All these are mine,” yet these possessions were but a speck compared with that which is in the text. Heir of God! He to whom all these things are but as nothing, gives himself up to be the inheritance of his people. Note yet a little further concerning the special privilege of heirship,—we are joint heirs with Christ. That is, whatever Christ possesses, as heir of all things, belongs to us. Splendid must be the inheritance of Jesus Christ. Is he not very God of very God, Jehovah’s only begotten Son, most high and glorious?

For meditation: The prayers of our glorious joint heir regarding our glorious joint inheritance (John 17:9,10,24).

 

Life’s Battles

by Inspiration Ministries

“Shudder, you complacent ones; tremble, you overconfident ones! Strip yourselves bare and put sackcloth around your waists.” – Isaiah 32:11 CSB

Historian Shelby Foote called Shiloh “the first great modern battle.” It was intense, fought in a relatively small area, and “resembled Armageddon.”

The fighting began on the morning of April 6, 1862, when Confederate troops struck unprepared Union soldiers camped near the Tennessee River. The attack appeared successful, but eventually the Union troops rallied, and a stalemate resulted.

The violence continued with the death toll mounting until the Confederate forces withdrew. The two-day battle produced more than 23,000 casualties. It was the bloodiest battle in American history up to that time.

Going into battle, many Confederates brimmed with confidence, expecting victory. But the results were more complex and less successful than they expected. Their past successes made them overconfident.

Some found their confidence waning as it became clear that a decisive victory had eluded them. As Foote concluded, many soldiers “lost their awe of great men.”

It was a reminder of the horrors of war and the fickle ways of battle. It was the price of overconfidence and the many factors that can influence an outcome. It also was a reminder that even great generals are human.

As we face life’s battles, we need to stay humble and not be overconfident. We need to continually pray about the matters we face and remain committed to God’s wisdom. We need to seek His plans and strategies and trust in Him.

Ruthless People Are In Danger Of Judgement

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Ruthless American Elections and Scripture: What We Can Learn

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3 ESV)

Politics are a ruthless enterprise. And here we go again. Let’s look back at the American presidential election of 1800. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were friends who ran against each other. It became one of the most vicious elections of all time.

Mud-flinging went on left-and-right. Thomas Jefferson accused Adams of being a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

Adams’s campaign fired back and said Jefferson was “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

Jefferson got the last word, though. He hired someone to lie about Adams, saying he wanted to attack France. It proved effective. Many Americans believed it and Jefferson won the election. Adams was so upset that he refused to show up at Jefferson’s inauguration. The two friends didn’t talk for 12 years.

Despite the falling out, the two men eventually desired to renew their friendship. In 1812, Adams wrote to Jefferson and wished him a happy new year. Jefferson responded, recalling memories of their friendship. They remained pen pals for 14 years and exchanged 158 letters.

In a twist of irony, the friends and former rivals died on the same day: July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, which they both helped write. The two men went through it all together, including the bitter pains of division caused by self-ambition. Too bad they couldn’t avoid it.

In Philippians 2:3, God’s Word warns us about divisions that come from our own selfish ambitions and instructs us to avoid them. Here, Paul was writing to the Philippian church where there was rivalry going on among some of the believers (Philippians 1:15-18). Paul was giving practical advice about how to end these rivalries. He says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition …”

The Greek word for “selfish ambition” is eritheia. It means “strife,” “contentiousness,” and “rivalry.” Aristotle used eritheia in his work, Politics, to describe candidates getting into office using unethical means. It means to use any method necessary to one-up someone.

Paul is telling us that this doesn’t ensue only in politics. It happens in the church. Believers compete at each other’s expense in order to achieve positions of leadership, celebrity, and prominence. They were to stop at once.

There’s simply no room for rivalry in the church because it causes strife and division. Christ’s Body must not be divided (1 Corinthians 1:10, 13). Instead of campaigning for ourselves, we are to serve one another the way Christ served us.

Have you ever done something out of selfish ambition that cost one of your brothers or sisters in Christ? While it’s likely you haven’t run a public smear campaign, maybe you have smeared someone’s name so that you could benefit from it. Whatever it is that you are after, it’s not worth competing if you have to divide God’s people to get it.

If you’ve been competing with others, why not try a new approach to promotion? Instead of putting people down, why not serve them? The outcome will be a win-win for both parties.

This beats having to deal with the misery that comes from running a crooked campaign.

 

Downsize Me – Crosswalk the Devotional

Down-size Me
By: John UpChurch

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.– Matthew 5:3ESV

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. – Matthew 5:3, MSG

Let’s try to regain the shock value in the way Jesus opened His Sermon on the Mount. We’re too familiar with the statements and too far removed from the time to hear it like the original listeners. Imagine going to a fast food restaurant, ordering an enormous value meal, and the cashier hitting you with this question: “Would you like to down-size your meal for a dollar less?” Or imagine a car salesperson pausing before you sign the papers and saying, “You know what? That extended warranty is overpriced. Let’s get rid of it.”

Now you have an idea how much impact Jesus had and why the audience was so astounded. Just like we expect people to push us to buy more, the Jews at the time expected their rabbis to tell them the things they needed to do, the rules they needed to abide by. They came expecting to learn the ten steps required to earn God’s favor, but Jesus crumpled up that idea and threw it out. Instead, He revealed that God’s favor and blessings come to those who are poor in spirit.

There’s more to it, however, than simply feeling beaten down or contrite. The poor in spirit—the ones at the end of their ropes—are those who realize they’ve gone as far as human effort can get them. In terms of salvation, that’s not very far. Here’s how John Gill puts it:

The greater part of mankind are insensible of this their condition; but think themselves rich, and increased with goods: there are some who are sensible of it, who see their poverty and want, freely acknowledge it, bewail it, and mourn over it; are humbled for it, and are broken under a sense of it; entertain low and mean thoughts of themselves; seek after the true riches, both of grace and glory; and frankly acknowledge, that all they have, or hope to have, is owing to the free grace of God. (John Gill, commentary on Matthew 5:3)

The poor in spirit don’t just feel bad; they feel bad because they realize how destitute their condition. When we truly understand that “karma points” and charitable acts amount to nothing more than drops of food coloring in the ocean, then we’ve gotten the point: We can’t even approach the kingdom of God, let alone enter it, through our own efforts.

But those who look down and see the filth (and pre-salvation, our spiritual appearance is just that) are those who realize the need for God. And with that realization comes the increase of God in our lives and the decrease of self.

A Relevant Faith

by Inspiration Ministries

“For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; and reproofs for discipline are the way of life.” – Proverbs 6:23 NASB

Some seem eager to criticize, share opinions, and give advice, whether or not it was requested. But according to a recent study, criticism alone rarely inspires people to take action. What makes the difference? Practical insights, relevant perspectives, and proven principles.

We see these patterns in our spiritual lives. People want reality and faith that changes lives. They don’t want empty promises but real peace and joy. They don’t want criticism or opinions but real meaning and real fulfillment.

How do we experience such a dynamic, real faith? We start by making a radical commitment to follow Jesus, to be His disciple, to know God’s Word, and to live according to its principles. We are to be filled with the Spirit and people of prayer.

The Bible reminds us that God’s Word provides a lamp to guide us. Its teachings provide us with light. The more we know the Word, the more clearly God can lead us. The more His Word saturates our minds and hearts, the more He can speak to us. And when we sin or make mistakes, God guides us through “reproofs of discipline.” He corrects us when we need correction.

Ask God to help you be more sensitive to His Spirit. Fill your mind with His Word. Be ready to step out in faith. Believe that His power is real and available to you. Miracles still are possible. Put His Word into action.

 

Bearing Misunderstandings – Streams in the Desert – October 6

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

He opened not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7).

How much grace it requires to bear a misunderstanding rightly, and to receive an unkind judgment in holy sweetness! Nothing tests the Christian character more than to have some evil thing said about him. This is the file that soon proves whether we are electro-plate or solid gold. If we could only know the blessings that lie hidden in our trials we would say like David, when Shimei cursed him, “Let him curse;… it may be… that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day.”

Some people get easily turned aside from the grandeur of their life-work by pursuing their own grievances and enemies, until their life gets turned into one little petty whirl of warfare. It is like a nest of hornets. You may disperse the hornets, but you will probably get terribly stung, and get nothing for your pains, for even their honey is not worth a search.

God give us more of His Spirit, “who, when he was reviled, reviled not again”; but “committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” “Consider him that endureth such contradiction of sinners against himself.”
–A. B. Simpson

“Before you” He trod all the path of woe,
He took the sharp thrusts with His head bent low.

He knew deepest sorrow and pain and grief,
He knew long endurance without relief,

He took all the bitter from death’s deep cup,
He kept not a blood-drop but gave all up.

“Before you” and for you, He won the fight
To bring you to glory and realms of light.

–L.S.P.