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Obey The Voice Of God

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Hearing Clearly

by Inspiration Ministries

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7 ESV

The entire city of Cremona, Italy, recently was ordered to keep quiet. Everyone was urged to avoid any “sudden and unnecessary sounds.”

The purpose was to record accurately the sounds of instruments made by Antonio Stradivarius and other craftsmen. Elaborate procedures assured an atmosphere of absolute silence and pristine conditions to record each instrument.

This care was necessary because over time, the distinctive sound of these instruments had been fading.

The curator of the Cremona museum devoted to musical instruments observed that each Stradivarius had “its own personality.” But their distinctive sounds “will inevitably change,” and could even be lost within just a few decades. “After they reach a certain age, they become too fragile to be played and they ‘go to sleep,’ so to speak.”

The dedication of the people of Cremona illustrates the importance of having ears to hear. They created conditions so sounds could be heard clearly and each instrument was allowed to speak in its own voice.

These principles apply in our spiritual lives. The world can be a noisy place. How critical it is that we find times and places when we can fellowship with God to clearly hear His still, small voice. Only then can we learn from Him and receive the guidance and direction He has prepared for each of us.

Today, seek to make time for God, a time to hear from Him and the words He has just for you.

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How to Hear God’s Voice Above the Noise

 

Have you ever wondered how to hear God’s voice above the noise of daily life?

Sometimes we hear people say, “God told me such-and-such,” and we secretly wonder, How did you know that was God?

Elizabeth Alves wrote,

‘God spoke to me’ is one of the most misunderstood phrases among His people; it can create misunderstanding, confusion, hurt, rejection, jealousy, pride and other negative responses. Perhaps you have run into someone who feels he or she has an edge on hearing from God . . . If you are unfamiliar with the phrase ‘God told me,’ or you do not understand how to hear God’s voice, you might feel inferior, thinking God never speaks to you.

If you’ve never heard God speak to you through the Holy Spirit, don’t worry. I believe you’ll begin to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit as your prayer life becomes more active and powerful. You may hear the Spirit speak within your mind and heart as your communion with God deepens. The development of active listening skills and a quiet, expectant spirit are keys to hearing from the Lord.

We battle busyness and distractions as well as emotional stresses, such as exhaustion, depression, fear, anger, grief, and anxiety. Satan loves to ratchet up the emotional chaos in our lives to keep us from walking in fellowship with God. He jam-packs our days with noisy distractions in his efforts to get us to tune God out.

 

Why are we so addicted to activity and noise?

Because we’re afraid to be alone with our own thoughts. We’re afraid of quiet and solitude. We avoid peaceful fellowship with our Savior because we fear that we might not be good enough without all our “stuff.” We’re afraid of what God might say to us or ask us to do if we sit still long enough to hear Him speak. We’re not quite sure how to handle the sacred responsibility of being still and knowing that He is God (see Psalm 46:10).

At certain times in Scripture (especially in the Old Testament), God spoke clearly and audibly to His people. According to Job 40:6, God once spoke to Job out of a whirlwind. Habakkuk knew the sound of God speaking to him (Habakkuk 2:2). Elijah described the sound of God speaking as “a still small voice” in 1 Kings 19:12.

God has already spoken to us through natural revelation (His creation) and through special revelation (His Word). He may also choose to communicate with us at times through other methods, such as books, movies, videos, sermons, our conversations with other people, and our personal experiences.

When we’ve been faithfully praying for God’s answer, we may hear that answer in the most unexpected way, at a spontaneous and surprising time. Sometimes God speaks to us in what seem to be the strangest and most chaotic moments. His “voice” (the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking within our hearts) cuts through the noise inside our souls as He makes His will and His message clear.

I’ve never heard God’s voice audibly, but I’ve heard the Holy Spirit “speaking” within my heart. It’s unmistakable.

Hearing God’s voice has happened to me most often when I was in the middle of a period of waiting, praying about an important issue in my life or the lives of my children, or transitioning from one life stage to the next.

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Hearing God’s Voice

From:  allaboutprayer.org

 

Hearing God’s Voice – Are You Ready to Listen?
Hearing God’s voice is something we all long for-but did you know that it’s not hard to do? In fact, God wants you to hear His voice! He doesn’t speak to us through a quiver in our liver or through vibes or mediums. Hearing the voice of God is as natural as hearing your best friend talk to you. What’s more, we can hear Him everyday and not just on special occasions or by chanting special incantations. He speaks to us in the natural moments of life. Do you want to hear God’s voice? Then you must be ready to listen.

 

Hearing God’s Voice – Why Do You Want to Hear Him?
Why do you want to hear God’s voice? That may sound like a silly question, but motives are important in anything we do. The Bible says this about God’s Word: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Do you want to hear God’s voice? If you do, it’s possible you’re hearing Him already, for He may be the one giving you the longing to hear Him.

Hearing God’s Voice in the Bible
In his book Knowing God, J. I. Packer says, “God has spoken to man, and the Bible is His Word, given to us to make us wise unto salvation.”

The Bible itself declares, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). In another place, we read: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16).

You may hear people say that the Bible is just a book written by men, but the Bible itself claims to be God’s Word! Can we rely on it? The evidence of history, archaeology, fulfilled prophecy and personal testimony over thousands of years is overwhelming that the Bible is, indeed, God’s Word. Do you want to hear God’s voice? Then read the Bible. Find a good daily reading plan, and stick to it.

Hearing God’s Voice through Prayer
When you want to have a conversation with someone, how do you begin? Do you stand in front of the person and hope they will talk to you? That might work, if the other person is outgoing enough, but usually we begin a conversation by opening our own mouths and talking, engaging the other person’s attention. It’s the same with God! He loves to hear us talk to Him, and it’s in those moments that we prepare ourselves to hear the voice of God. Prayer is like saying, “Hello, God, it’s me. I believe You created me and that You know way more about how I should live my life than I do. I’d like to get to know You better. Here’s what’s going on in my life, and I’d sure like Your thoughts on how to handle it. Would You please speak to me about this today?”

In an ordinary conversation, we speak, then listen for the response of the other person. It’s the same with God! Once we’ve prepared our hearts to listen through prayer, we’re more likely to hear the voice of God. Does He speak to us through an audible voice? Some claim He does, but usually that’s not the case. We may not actually “hear” the voice of God, but He speaks to us in many ways. Here are some of them:

  • God speaks through His Word
  • God speaks through our thoughts
  • God speaks through conversations with others
  • God speaks through circumstances

Jesus Teaches About Life After Death

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The Accused

By: Anne Ferrell Tata, cbn1.com

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Jesus answered, “You’re mistaken because you don’t know the Scriptures or God’s power.” Matthew 22:29 (GW)

When I think about the many years I spent beating myself up for just about everything, I want to cringe. For years, I marched to the drumbeat of voices in my head telling me: “I’m not good enough. I’m a terrible person because I have terrible thoughts. God would not love me because of the choices I made. God could not forgive me because of the things I had done.”

On and on the self-condemnation went. I believed God loved others, but I simply could not believe He loved me.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I understood I had an enemy. I knew his name. What I did not quite comprehend was the accusations I heard loud and clear were essentially from my enemy. Satan must have been delighted knowing one of God’s Covenant daughters was being consumed daily by the weight of a self-imposed guilty verdict.

When Jesus declared to the Sadducees in Matthew 22:29, “You’re mistaken because you don’t know the Scriptures or God’s power,” His declaration was meant for me as well. I was mistaken about the way God thought of me. I did not know the Scriptures nor God’s power.

In the Matthew 22:23-32 passage, Jesus was speaking to the Sadducees about resurrection and the afterlife. The Sadducees were trying to trap Jesus. They didn’t quite understand whom they were talking to. Jesus’ point was appropriate for my situation. How many times do we believe the loud and lying voices we hear in our head? How many times do we worry or fear or fret because we either don’t know or don’t believe in God’s power?

God gave us His Word. He sent His son Jesus Christ to die for our sins. He made covenants and promises, but if we don’t get to know Him by spending time with Him or in His word, we may live out our lives believing lies.

Things began to change for me when I met a more mature Christian sister. She walked alongside me and encouraged me to get to know God personally by studying His word. The more I studied, the more my eyes opened to truths.

I was overjoyed when I learned the truth of what God thinks about me.

I am “His beloved daughter in whom He is well pleased,” Matthew 3:17 (NLT)

“I am accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:6 (NKJV)

I am “the apple of His eye.” Psalm 17:8 (NLT)

As the “apple of His eye,” I am greatly cherished and thoroughly protected.

I found new freedom when I learned “there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…” Romans 8:1 (NKJV)

Over time I learned my battles were not “of flesh and blood,” and I must fight with the weapons of God’s word!

When I was assaulted with a reminder of some sin, I responded to the thought with, “yes, that is true, but the Blood of my Savior Jesus Christ redeemed me, and He told me in Isaiah 43:25, …”

“I–yes, I alone–will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.” (NLT)

I witnessed “when my enemy came in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord raised up a standard against it.” Isaiah 59:19 (NKJV)

When voices try to tell me, I am unworthy or unwanted, I now say, No! I reject that thought! I remember the truth,

“Even before God made the world, God loved me and chose me … and decided in advance to adopt me into his own family through Jesus Christ … and it gave Him great pleasure.” Ephesians 1:4,5 (NLT)

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Proving the Resurrection

Matthew 22: 33  The Sadducee’s question Jesus about life after death.

By: .biblegateway.com

This story line would make some sense in a variety of cultures. Levirate marriage (Deut 25:5-6; compare Gen 38:8-26) and widow inheritance (see Belkin 1970; as in Ruth 3:12-13) perpetuate the name of the deceased and serve to provide for widows in many traditional societies where women cannot earn sufficient wages for sustenance (for example, Mbiti 1970:188-89). Yet many ancient hearers would assume a woman who had outlived seven husbands was dangerous (Mart. Epig. 9.15; t. Sabbat 15:8). The Sadducees borrow the story line of a woman with seven husbands from the popular Jewish folktale in Tobit 3:8; they want to illustrate the impossible dilemmas they believe the doctrine of resurrection creates.

The Sadducees were known for their opposition to the doctrine of the resurrection (Acts 23:6-8; perhaps Jos. Ant. 18.16; War 2.164-65). When Jesus declares that they deny the power of God (compare 2 Thess 3:5), he may evoke the traditional Jewish view that God expresses his power most visibly in the resurrection of the dead, a view attested in the second of the regularly prayed Eighteen Benedictions (abbreviated as “Power”; compare m. Ros Hassana 4:5; see also Rom 1:4).

Most Jewish people agreed that angels did not eat, drink or propagate (1 Enoch 15:6-7; Test. Ab. 4, 6A; ARN 1, 37A). Some Jewish traditions also compared the righteous after death with angels (1 Enoch 39:5; 104:2-4; 2 Baruch 51:10-11). Since angels did not die (unless God destroyed them), they had no need to procreate. Jesus’ statement about lack of marriage and procreation in heaven (Mt 22:30) follows largely from the logic of the resurrection, to which he now turns (vv. 31-32).

Early Jewish teachers regularly argued apart from the Bible with Gentiles or scoffers, but from Scripture for those who knew Scripture (Moore 1971:2:381). When debating the views of Sadducees who doubted the resurrection and demanded proof from the law of Moses, later rabbis found ample proof for this doctrine in the Bible’s first five books (Sipre Deut. 329.2.1; b. Sanhedrin 90b). One later rabbi went so far as to say that all texts implied the resurrection if one simply had the ingenuity to find it (Moore 1971:2:383; Sipre Deut.306.28.3); however, this often meant reading it into the text! As an expert Scripture interpreter, Jesus here exposes his opponents’ lack of Scripture knowledge with his standard formula, have you not read . . . ? (v. 31; see 12:3; 19:4; 21:42, 46).

Jesus may be arguing for God’s continuing purposes with an individual after death, which for many Palestinian Jews would imply ultimate resurrection. He implies that God would not claim to be the God of someone who no longer existed (compare Doeve 1954:106; Longenecker 1975:68-69); he also evokes God’s covenant faithfulness to his people, which Palestinian Jewish prayers regularly associated with the “God of the fathers,” Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Jeremias 1971:187). If God was still God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and if his power was unlimited, then he would ultimately fulfill his promise to them-not only corporately through their descendants, but personally to them. The crowds are again astounded by Jesus’ quick wit (compare 7:28; 22:22), just as they are by his signs (8:27; 9:8; 12:23).

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The God of the Living: Past & Present – Matthew 22:23-33

From:  gracebibleny.org

 

Matthew 22:23-33

This morning we continue our study of Matthew 22 and come to the second of three questions posed to Jesus in His confrontation with the Jewish religious leaders. The Chief Priests and Elders began the day by challenging Jesus’ authority to do all the things He has done, including cleansing the temple from the merchants and money changers as well as teach with such authority and perform so many miracles. Jesus’ responded with three scathing parables that demonstrated the wicked hearts of these men. They feigned to be followers after God and the teachers of righteousness, but in fact were followers only of themselves and the teachers of self-righteousness. They were not only the blind leading the blind, but rebellious too in killing the prophets of God throughout the ages past and currently plotting how they might destroy God’s Son.

Previously we saw the Pharisees attempt to discredit Jesus by sending their disciples, along with the Herodians, (See: The Secular and the Sacred) to pose a question that was sure to get Jesus in trouble with either the people or the Romans. “Is it lawful to pay the poll-Tax?” If Jesus says, “yes,” the people will reject Him for they despised the poll-tax. If Jesus says, “no,” the Herodians would accuse Him of insurrection against Rome. They thought they could entrap Jesus, but you can not trap God. Jesus answer not only astounded them, but clarified for all of us the relationship we have with human government and God.

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” To Caesar belongs submission, civil honor and taxes for that is His due. It is God that sets up human governments for the restraint of evil and so it is only fitting that the people pay for the benefits received and follow the laws set up. The power of God is seen in that He can even use wicked people and systems of government for His own purposes. However, we are not to give to human governments that which does not belong to it. Our obedience is not necessary when it commands us to do or not do things contrary to God’s commands. We can not submit to laws that command us to do evil or prohibit us from walking in righteousness. We submit to human government, but our allegiance is only to God Himself. Jesus’ response was a double edged sword to the Pharisees because they did not want to submit to the government nor was their allegiance to God.

We must be mindful ourselves to make sure we understand the Scripture’s command in this area. Christians should be the best citizens of any country having the greatest patriotism and love for their nation and be even willing to lay down their lives for its preservation. They should be among the greatest supporters of the government by obeying its laws and defending its right to exist and rule since they understand that those rights and authority come from God Himself. At the same time, Christians should be the most independent force within any nation because their allegiance is not to man, but God. Their true citizenship is in heaven and they are more than willing to suffer whatever may come in order to promote godliness within that nation.

How does such a thing work out in our own country? We pay our taxes without grumbling, we obey the laws that have been set forth, but at the same time we work hard to promote laws that reflect Godliness and repeal laws that do not. We give to those holding government offices the proper honor and respect do them as those in authority, while at the same time we boldly speak out for righteousness and will even rebuke those in authority as needed, but always speaking the truth in love (And remember, love can be bold as was Nathan to David). Obviously President Clinton is not popular with Christians because he has so openly promoted that which the Bible calls evil. We know were the policies he is promoting will lead us and our children and that causes fear and anger to well up inside us. But how do we react? If we descend into name calling and vilification of the man we are not following the Scriptures commands and so are no better than he. Do we pray for his soul and the salvation of those in his administration? Do we focus on the issues and show to people how and why Biblical principles should be applied, or do we regress into accusations. Do we promote godliness in what we do, and how we present our views or do we become simply another demonstration of the degenerate nature of man. Fulfill your duty to pay Caesar what belongs to him, but even more importantly, fulfill your responsibility to obey God first and foremost in everything.

 

Learn To Share Your Faith

Matthew 28:19-20

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

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Making Your Mission Field

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13 (NIV)

My two sisters and I always wanted brothers.
Prayed for brothers.
Begged our parents for brothers.
So when the decision was made to adopt two boys from Africa, my sisters and I were in awe the miracle was happening! Our mom and dad assured us it was real and God was behind it all-He had tugged at their hearts, He had prepared these boys and our family, and He had called us all to say “yes.”
Our saying yes to God as a family to adopt our brothers made me want to say yes to Him in all areas of my life.
That’s when I promised God my life would be His mission field and I’d be sold out to serving anywhere He sent me.
When I was 14 years old, I went on my first mission trip to Nicaragua. I fell in love with the whole experience. Even though I had happily said yes, the trip was difficult. I was totally outside my comfort zone. But any initial craziness and chaos gave way to great joy and peace.
The following summer I went to Ethiopia where I got to see a different way of life on the other side of the world. I experienced jitters being in a foreign land with a language, culture, and food I didn’t understand, but the adjustment time was short and my passion grew great.
Since that trip I have taken several more to Nicaragua, including one where I helped run a foot-and-shoe clinic. We welcomed everyone who visited the clinic, washed their feet, prayed for them, and then helped them choose a pair of shoes. It was incredibly humbling to serve the people from these two countries.
They are grateful for their lives. Very few have anything of material value, yet their gratitude and joy flows without ceasing. They laugh, sing, dance, and give generously without holding back … even to a stranger like me. I went to give. Yet, I was the one who received.
I’ve found that when I say yes to God, a joy fills me and motivates me to be close to Him and to walk in His will. It makes me want to keep asking Him how He can use my life as a mission field, any where from my home to my hometown to around the world.
We don’t have to go overseas to do missions work. Opportunities are all around. Who has God placed in front of you that needs help? Who in your family needs support? Which friend has been struggling with a temptation or a broken heart?
When God works through us to meet the needs of others-that’s missions.
Let’s turn our everyday life into God’s mission field. I think we’ll be amazed at what He does as we step out of our comfort zone and partner with Him!
Dear Lord, I want You to use me to love and bless someone today. Show me exactly how I can serve Your people, even if it’s in the smallest way. I’m trusting You to move in my heart and in the hearts of those around me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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May We Look Upon the World as Our Parish

By: Anne Ferrell, cbn1

In the early 1700s, a small group of religious fugitives formed a village in a part of Germany called Moravia. They named their village Herrnhut which means “The Lord’s Watch.” While Herrnhut had become a community of religious exiles, many spoke different languages and creeds. There were Lutherans, Separatists, Reformed, and others, living side by side. Disagreements developed. Relationships deteriorated.

The community was on the way to ruin when the people decided to “give themselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (see Acts 6:4) They began to study the Bible, hold all-night prayer vigils, and confess their sins to one another.

On August 13, 1727, an amazing miracle happened. There was a baptism and communion service, and the Holy Spirit moved through the room. A spirit of love came over the attendees. Differences dissolved, and they all embraced one another in love and forgiveness.

They established a 24-hour around-the-clock prayer vigil which lasted 100 years. Their vision was based on the passage in Isaiah 62:1-7.

“O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray day and night, continually. Take no rest, all you who pray to the Lord.” Isaiah 62:6 NLT

The influence of the continual prayer was far-reaching. Their burden for mission work was birthed. Missionaries were sent all over the world. Many people were influenced by the dedication and commitment of the Moravians including John and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodist Church and William Carey, missionary to India.

The early church understood continuous prayer was necessary because spiritual warfare is continuous. Prayer became their priority. Shortly after Pentecost, the number of disciples multiplied as did their obligations. It became clear the disciples needed help with responsibilities like taking care of the widows. Instead of sacrificing the ministry of prayer, deacons were chosen to care for the church and its people. The ministry of prayer was paramount, and as the church grew, they understood even more prayer was needed.

The same is true for us today. The ministry of prayer and the ministry of the Word should be a top priority. Can you imagine if we all made prayer a priority? Can you imagine if we all committed to the ministry of the Word? What would our families or communities look like if we all “gave ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word?”

Knowing Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever inspires me to look back and see the work of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am encouraged and motivated to continually pray and seek opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

John Wesley said, I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation.”

Let us adopt the calling, “all the world is our parish.” The world is hurting. The world needs the good news of Jesus Christ. Continual prayer and ministry of the Word is the answer. We can learn from the early church. We can grow as the Moravian Church. We are here for such a time as this, and the more we continually seek God through prayer, the more He will accomplish His purpose through us.

The Apostle Paul reminds us of our responsibility in 2 Corinthians 5:20,

“So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (NLT)

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The Three R’s In Evangelism

By: Charles Spurgeon

A few months ago, I led my church in a community evangelism effort. Our outreach was a little old-fashioned: we knocked on doors and talked to people, hoping the Lord would draw some to himself through the gospel.

Executing door-to-door, “cold call” evangelism has many challenges in the modern context. Rejections of the gospel run the gamut from angry to flaky: One man told me that he hated religion, hated religious “zealots” like us, and believed hell was built especially for those of our ilk. Another woman said that she adhered to Jewish religion in which her father taught her that faith in any object, “even a rock,” would punch her ticket to heaven. None of my questions about the monotheism of the Old Testament and the Torah’s prohibition of worshiping idols made a dent in her rejection of Christ. I even told her that the Scripture called Jesus the rock, but she at last politely said goodbye and returned inside the door to her cats.

Still, I am thankful that God’s gospel can subdue the rebellious heart, whether seething or silly.

Use of Means 

For training purposes, Christian leaders have long sought a good outline to help us recall the gospel when we are witnessing to lost people. Indeed, many thoughtful, careful, and biblical outlines have been used effectively—Two Ways to Live and Evangelism Explosioncome immediately to mind, and I know there are others.

But recently, in my regular reading of C. H. Spurgeon’s sermons, I have discovered an excellent and pithy approach to the gospel, one that is fully biblical and establishes both man’s universal dilemma and God’s antidote in Christ: Spurgeon’s “Three R’s”: ruin, redemption, and regeneration. I like Spurgeon’s outline for several reasons: it is simple, the alliteration makes it easy to remember, the biblical texts all surround the number three (another aid to memory for the throes of nerve-busting, face-to-face evangelism).

Also, the three R’s cover three things a gospel presentation needs to establish: the problem, the solution, and the response. Spurgeon told young students in his pastor’s college that these three doctrines must permeate their evangelism and preaching. I agree and thus commend it to modern readers. Spurgeon was a gifted, tireless evangelist whom God used to win untold thousands to Christ.

Three Core Doctrines of Evangelism 

Spurgeon called them “three doctrines that must be preached above all else,” and he drew as texts for them “three third chapters (of Scripture) which deal with the things in the fullest manner.” Let’s consider Spurgeon’s three R’s.

Ruin (Gen. 3:14-15). This is what man has done. “How did man get in this miserable condition?” Spurgeon asks. R. C. Sproul frames it another way, and his question is one I hear often in gospel conversations: “Saved from what?” In our post-postmodern culture, we must begin here with creation and the fall. Biblical illiteracy appears to be spreading, thus many have never considered that there is something desperately wrong in our world. Beginning here establishes the problem into which God has launched his rescue mission: Man has rebelled against his maker, broken his law, and now lives under a curse that will one day incur the white-hot, unmediated wrath of God. But in the second half of verse 15, we hear the faint promise of God’s solution, one that will grow louder as history advances and as the redemption story of the Bible unfolds. The seed of the woman will crush the head of the seed of the serpent. The serpent will bruise the heel of the woman’s offspring, but this promised one will deal the death blow to the snake, killing him as one must a serpent: a smashed head. As Spurgeon pointed out, this background leads quite naturally to the good news of God’s rescue mission.

Redemption (Rom. 3:21-26). This is what God has done. This is the good news that trumps the bad news. In the scope of five verses, Paul articulates what some commentators have called the thesis of Romans or the magna carta of salvation. In these glorious verses, Paul establishes the demands of God’s law, the futility of salvation by works, the law’s definition of sin, the righteousness of God received by faith in Christ, justification by faith through the redemption of Jesus Christ, and his satisfaction of God’s wrath against sin. This paragraph contains the entire matrix of the work of Christ that he accomplished on the cross, work that provided full pardon from the guilt of sin for every sinner who believes. It is perhaps the most glorious paragraph in human history.

Regeneration (John 3:1-8). This is what God must do in sinners to enable them to believe. Spurgeon, along with Reformed evangelicals throughout the ages, taught that regeneration precedes faith. In other words, God changes the sinful human heart, sets it free from bondage to sin, and enables it to believe that Jesus is indeed the way, the truth, and the life. Regeneration, like the entire work of salvation, is a unilateral work of grace. It was a central theme of Spurgeon’s preaching and evangelism, and it must be foundational to ours as well, particularly as we think through issues of “results” in evangelism. The reality of regeneration urges us to call sinners to repentance and faith while resting in the work of God who alone opens blind eyes and unstops deaf ears. It removes the pressure from us and frees us to boldly share the gospel while knowing that the results are in the hands of a sovereign, benevolent God. Out of a biblical understanding of regeneration, we may call on sinners to repent and be reconciled to God while leaving the results to him. Thus, I hold out hope for the lady with the Jewish background and all others whom I have engaged over the years.

Spurgeon’s “Three R’s,” whether you use them or not, should undergird all our evangelism. And like Spurgeon, pastors today should make certain that these three doctrines regularly appear in the diet of biblical exposition they feed to hungry sheep.

The Cure For Envy

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The Cure for Our Envy

A friend sent a text to share with me about an amazing restaurant she went to. She described the wonderful meal she enjoyed and included a photo. I began to text back, “I’m so jealous!” but paused, then hit delete and changed it to “I’m so envious!” before hitting “Send.”

Jealousy vs. Envy

Jealousy and envy. They are two words that I’ve often used interchangeably. Whether I admired a friend’s new purchase from the mall, compared my rambunctious children to a friend’s well-behaved children, or wished my ministry was as successful as another’s, I’ve often considered my responses to be a form of jealousy. But they are not.

You might think, “What does it even matter?” Let me first say that I’m not part of the police squad for how we use the English language. This isn’t just a matter of semantics. There is a subtle, yet real difference between jealousy and envy and it’s a difference that matters to us spiritually. When we understand the difference, it helps us better identify and repent of the sin in our lives. But more importantly, knowing the difference helps us understand the love of Jesus who has saved us.

But first, let’s look at jealousy. In his book Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges defines jealousy as “intolerance of rivalry” (149). A common reason for jealousy might be if someone were to try and win your spouse’s affections. This type of jealousy is right. A husband and wife ought to protect their marriage from intruders. An example of sinful jealousy is when Saul was jealous of David’s military success. If you remember, the women sang in the streets, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). Saul responded in angry jealousy because David’s popularity had grown in the eyes of the people. They honored David above Saul, making David a rival in Saul’s eyes.

Envy on the other hand occurs when we are resentful of an advantage someone else has. We look at the job, car, house, wealth, experience, or success of another and resent that they have something we don’t. When envy’s roots dig deep and are well nourished, it grows into covetousness. This is when we want and desire the advantage of another, such as a friend’s car, well-behaved kids, or success in ministry. Such covetousness is what God forbids in the tenth commandment (Deuteronomy 5:21).

But the biggest difference between jealousy and envy is this: God is often jealous but never envious.

A Jealous God Pursues Our Envious Hearts

Our God is a jealous God. “Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath” (Zechariah 8:2). He is jealous for our affections. He is jealous for our love, our worship, and our heart. This is why the greatest commandment says we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He wants all of us. When our hearts are turned to other things, looking to them to take the place of God, using them as substitute loves, God responds in a righteous and holy jealousy. Scripture actually calls God jealous by name in Scripture, “For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14).

“God is jealous for our love, our worship, and our heart.”

In the Old Testament, Israel was often compared to a Bride and God as her husband. Over and over in the Old Testament, Israel wandered from God. She envied the lives of other nations. She envied their gods and their sinful ways. She flirted with the other nations and played the harlot with other gods. In his holy jealousy, God sent her away into captivity.

But God promised there would be a day when Israel would return as his bride. He promised to make her pure and radiant and restore her back to him as his bride. “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord” (Hosea 2:19–20).

God fulfilled his promise in Jesus. In his jealous love, Jesus pursued, redeemed, bled, died, and rose again for his Bride, the Church. He is now sanctifying her, making her holy and pure and readying her for her wedding day. And one day he will return and gather us all together, from the four corners of the earth to celebrate his grace in the Great Wedding Feast. “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7).

Constant and Unwavering

When we are envious of what others have, when we desire something that doesn’t belong to us, it’s because our hearts have turned from our one true love. We think that if we just had the success, opportunities, experiences, or fortune of another, we’d be happy. In our envy, we are chasing after the inferior pleasures of his world instead of looking to Jesus. In effect, we’ve forgotten whose we are.

Only the righteous jealousy of Jesus can cleanse our envious hearts.

The only cure for our envy is the love and grace of our jealous Husband as found in the gospel. Only the righteous jealousy of Jesus, seen in the redeeming grace of the cross, can cleanse our envious hearts. Time and again, he forgives our wandering ways. No matter how far our hearts might go, his grace can go farther. While our love for him ebbs and flows and is often fickle, his love is constant and unwavering. When we find our heart wandering in envy, we need to remember and return to him, the One who is always jealous for his Bride.

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 The Cure for Envy

APRIL 17, 2015

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

I was a member of a professional association for just two weeks when I attended their national convention. Since my name badge didn’t sport a single special ribbon, people barely glanced at me.

Alone in my hotel room, I ended each day in tears, feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. I told myself I wasn’t envious. Simply, uh … discouraged.

Years passed, and doors began to swing open. Ribbons dangled from my name badge, and people smiled in my direction.

Soon I found myself dealing with a new set of feelings. How come she’s moving ahead faster than I am, Lord? Why did they honor her instead of me? I wasn’t jealous, of course. Merely, uh … competitive.

The awful truth revealed itself one rainy morning when I received an announcement from a colleague who’d been blessed with an opportunity I was convinced should have been mine. I tossed her letter across the room in an angry huff. “It’s not fair, Lord!”

His response was swift. “Have I called you to succeed or to surrender, Liz?”

Clearly, jealousy and envy were alive and well in my jade-green heart. When I reached out to my writing and speaking sisters – women who love and serve the Lord – I discovered they, too, wrestled with this issue. One said, “I understand competition in the secular marketplace. But I grieve over it in the body of Christ. What are we doing, setting one person’s work above another, if not absorbing the world’s way of doing things?”

Her words echo the Apostle Paul’s: ” … For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” (1 Corinthians 3:3b, NIV). Sadly, we are.

Today’s verse reminds us that envy takes a toll: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30). For all of us who struggle, here’s the way out:

Confess. Healing begins when we acknowledge that envy is a sin: “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth” (James 3:14, NIV). Humble admission is the single best antidote for prideful ambition.

Avoid comparison. Consider the words of Jesus, when Peter fretted over John’s place in Jesus’ ministry, and asked, “‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘ … what is that to you? You must follow me'” (John 21:21b, 22b, NIV).

Rejoice. Feeling overlooked? Look up and celebrate with others. Send an email or text on the spot, and chase away those negative feelings. “Rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15a, NIV).

Be patient. Many a career or ministry has collapsed under too much, too soon. Embrace the tasks you’ve been given, rather than longing for something bigger, better or faster. Success isn’t money or fame – it’s love for one another. By definition, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV).

Befriend your rival. As one of our sisters explained, “A woman was brought in on a fast track executive management program at my corporation. At our first meeting, I thought, ‘Well, here’s my rival.’ Then I heard God say, ‘She is smart, energetic and sharp – just like you. You could become best buddies.'” And, they did.

Count the cost. Behind every successful woman is a host of sacrifices we never see.

The truth? We’re seldom jealous of all the work a person does – just the outcome. Whether building a tower or building a career, the Bible cautions us, ” … Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money” ? or time or energy ? “to complete it” (Luke 14:28b, NIV).

Lean on the Lord. He stands ready, willing and able to overcome our weaknesses through the power of His Spirit. “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11, NIV).

Heavenly Father, we know envy and jealousy are no match for Your mercy and grace. Forgive us when we grumble over how You bless others, and help us be grateful for all the ways You have kindly blessed us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Envy

By:  Henry Kranenburg,  today.reframemedia.com

 

Scripture Reading — 1 Samuel 18:1-9

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.
Proverbs 14:30 —

When you compare yourself to others and decide that you don’t measure up, you can easily fall into envy. And that can make you rotten inside.

Envy is not the same as jealousy, in which a person has no tolerance for rivalry or unfaithfulness. In fact, I can be rightly jealous for my wife’s love, just as God is rightly jealous for the faithfulness we owe him. But not all jealousy is right.

Envy comes in when we feel we have a right to something that someone else has—and we feel they shouldn’t have it at all. Envy has led people to steal or kill to make sure the thing they wanted was not enjoyed by someone else.

Saul was envious of David. David was more successful, and he received more praise. When that happened, Saul—who had his own successes—no longer heard the songs sung for him, but only the songs sung for David. And it made him rot on the inside.

I know some envious people. They have a hard time praising others and hearing praise for those they envy. In the end, it can hurt them more than anyone else, for it can rot the soul.

In contrast with envy, wisdom calls us to rejoice in the good that others do, and to praise God for the blessings and gifts he provides others.

Prayer

Lord, sometimes I fall into envy when I make comparisons. Help me to be joyful about the gifts you give to others, and to appreciate all you have given me. Guide me to serve you faithfully. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Getting Closer To God

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Getting Closer to God

By: Joe Stowell, Strength For The Journey

“If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness.” Isaiah 58:10

With e-mail and text messages, the joy of letter writing—and, better yet, receiving letters—is almost a lost commodity. I love getting mail, especially from someone I deeply admire and appreciate. My dad used to write to me regularly, and at the bottom of each letter he would include his “life verses,” Isaiah 58:10-11.

In the broader context of this passage, the Israelites were feeling disconnected from God, although, in their minds, they were doing all the right things. So they filed a complaint. “Why have we fasted . . . and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?” (Isaiah 58:3).

God replied to their self-righteous grumbling by pointing out that though they were into all the rituals, they had neglected the things that were dear to His heart. So He tells them, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice . . . to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked to clothe him?” (Isaiah 58:6-7).

The point is clear. When we are actively doing what God really cares about, extending His love and compassion to the disadvantaged, we will find His favor and experience His presence. He assures us, “If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness” (Isaiah 58:10)

These verses were more than just a footnote on my dad’s letters. They guided his life and ministry.  I watched him pour himself out for those who were hungry and homeless, caring for their physical needs as well as nurturing the hunger of their souls that were longing for an eternal home. Even on holidays, he would take the time to visit the widow who lived down the street. For my dad, ministering to the needs of people was not a job. It was his way of loving God and living out Isaiah 58:10-11.

If you wonder why God seems far away, could it be that you have ignored caring for those He cares about?

 

Streams In The Desert

By; L. B. Cowman

You will hear a word spoken behind you, saying, “This is the correct way, walk in it,” whether you are heading to the right or the left. (Isa 30:21)

When we are in doubt or difficulty, when many voices urge this course or the other, when prudence utters one advice and faith another, then let us be still, hushing each intruder, calming ourselves in the sacred hush of God’s presence; let us study His Word in the attitude of devout attention; let us lift up our nature into the pure light of His face, eager only to know what God the Lord shall determine—and ere long a very distinct impression will be made, the unmistakable forth-telling of His secret counsel.

It is not wise in the earlier stages of Christian life to depend on this alone, but to wait for the corroboration of circumstances. But those who have had many dealings with God know well the value of secret fellowship with Him, to ascertain His will.

Are you in difficulty about your way? Go to God with your question; get direction from the light of His smile or the cloud of His refusal.

If you will only get alone, where the lights and shadows of earth cannot interfere, where human opinions fail to reach and if you will dare to wait there silent and expectant, though all around you insist on immediate decision or action—the will of God will be made clear; and you will have a new conception of God, a deeper insight into His nature and heart of love, which shall be for yourself alone a rapturous experience, to abide your precious perquisite forever, the rich guerdon of those long waiting hours.
—David

 

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit

By: Charles Spurgeon

“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.” Acts 10:44

Suggested Further Reading: Micah 3:5-8

There is a necessity that the preacher himself, if souls are to be saved, should be under the influence of the Spirit. I have constantly made it my prayer that I might be guided by the Spirit even in the smallest and least important parts of the service; for you cannot tell if the salvation of a soul may depend upon the reading of a hymn, or upon the selection of a chapter. Two persons have joined our church and made a profession of being converted simply through my reading a hymn—“Jesus, lover of my soul.” They did not remember anything else in the hymn; but those words made such a deep impression upon their mind, that they could not help repeating them for days afterwards, and then the thought arose, “Do I love Jesus?” And then they considered what strange ingratitude it was that he should be the lover of their souls, and yet they should not love him. Now I believe the Holy Spirit led me to read that hymn. And many persons have been converted by some striking saying of the preacher. But why was it the preacher uttered that saying? Simply because he was led thereunto by the Holy Spirit. Rest assured, beloved, that when any part of the sermon is blessed to your heart, the minister said it because he was ordered to say it by his Master. I might preach today a sermon which I preached on Friday, and which was useful then, and there might be no good whatever come from it now, because it might not be the sermon which the Holy Spirit would have delivered today. But if with sincerity of heart I have sought God’s guidance in selecting the topic, and he rests upon me in the preaching of the Word, there is no fear but that it shall be found adapted to your immediate wants. The Holy Spirit must rest upon your preachers.

 

How Can I Grow Closer to God?

JANUARY 4, 2018

“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” Luke 9:23 (NIV)

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I would love to tell you that I have a long and impressive list of goals for 2018. But I’m not really into writing out my goals for the new year. Honestly, I just want to follow hard after the Lord every day and let Him renew me and shape me into the woman I need to be this year.

I want to grow ever closer to God — pressing into Him so He makes the deepest impression on me.

So that’s my goal. Maybe it’s one of your goals too. Growing closer to God.

But how do we do that? How can we position ourselves to grow closer to God this year?

In Luke 9:23b, Jesus tells His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

His words seem surprising at first. The disciples had already given up everything to follow Jesus. Or so it seemed …

Family. Friends. Jobs. The comforts of home.

Yet, in our key verse today, we find Jesus telling them the cost is going to be even higher than they had originally anticipated. The disciples aren’t being asked to lay down some things. They are going to need to lay down everything. Their plans. Their agendas. Maybe even their own lives.

And while it may sound like a lot to ask, because of their willingness to continue following hard after Jesus they will get to experience a level of closeness with Him unlike anyone else.

God Is Our Strength

 When God has a Plan for our Weakness

“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)

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“What if God is inviting you to serve out of your weakness instead of your strength?”

We were sitting on a saggy couch surrounded by clamoring kids when my friend posed the question.

Our preschoolers were singing, and our toddlers were shrieking. The baby on my lap was whimpering, and the phone in my purse was ringing. But those words soared above the clatter and landed in my heart with quiet clarity.

I’d been offered an opportunity to serve the Lord in a new way, and I felt completely unqualified for the challenge. The position didn’t line up with my natural gifting or maximize my strengths. It didn’t plant me in my sweet spot or ignite my personal passions.

Yet, after weeks of prayer, I felt like God was asking me to say yes to the assignment. I wanted to walk in obedience, but it didn’t make much sense. I could think of a dozen other people more equipped for the challenge.

Then my friend’s wise words reminded me of a truth I don’t often consider:

God has a script for our strengths, but He also has a plan for our weaknesses.

That thought is uncomfortable, don’t you think?

We’d rather build God’s kingdom through our gifts, not our gaps.

We’d prefer to serve our Savior from our savvy, not our shortcomings.

Yet, in today’s key verse, we’re reminded that when our weaknesses are infused with God’s grace, they don’t foil His plans. Instead, they frame His power.

“Each time he said ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

My friend’s words were running through my mind as we followed the kids to the backyard where a swing set beckoned their play.

My 4-year-old daughter climbed on the swings while her 6-year-old brother climbed to the top of the monkey bars.

We all applauded as he glided across the silver rungs with ease.

My daughter watched with wide eyes, then climbed up the ladder and reached for those monkey bars, too.

She took hold of the first bar and let her slender frame dangle free. She shrieked with delight and stretched to take hold of the next rung. She kicked her legs and wiggled her hips, but the bar exceeded her reach. Instead of gliding across the monkey bars, she merely dangled, stuck.

Soon, her little arms grew tired, and her lips began to tremble. “I guess I can’t do it,” she whimpered.

In an instant, her big brother was at her side. He wrapped his arms around her swaying torso and steadied her flailing frame. “It’s okay,” he soothed. “I’m right here. Try again.”

With her brother’s hands holding her up, my girl crossed the monkey bars with a yelp of joy. When she dropped to the ground, she stepped back and studied her brother with 4-year-old admiration. “I never knew you were so strong!” she declared with a sigh of wonder.

We laughed as my son took a sheepish bow.

My friend caught my eye with a wordless wink, and I returned her gaze with a knowing nod. Right then and there, I gave God my humble yes.

Perhaps God was asking me to serve in weakness so I could more fully know His strength.

Maybe He was inviting me out of my comfort zone so I could find my comfort in Him alone.

I didn’t know where my yes would lead, but I knew I’d been called to trust in God’s sufficiency, not mine.

It still felt awkward. And vulnerable. Frightening and risky. But I knew God was asking for my surrender, not my strength. And I knew His arms would hold me every step of the way.

My daughter was climbing back up that silver ladder, her hands reaching for the monkey bars once again. And right below, her brother stood with a giddy grin and arms lifted high.

Dear Jesus, thank You for inviting me to partner with the King of Heaven, even when my knees are quaking here on earth. Take all of me — my weaknesses and my strengths — to use for Your story and for Your gloryIn Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Strength and Weakness

By: Harvey Blink, today.reframemedia.com

 

Scripture Reading — 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

When I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10 —

The Corinthian church thought about strength in much the same way we do today. They assumed that believers are to be strong and should show their strength in demonstrations of power. That assumption was encouraged by the teachings of false apostles who claimed superiority to Paul and who derided him for his apparent weaknesses. The foundation of Paul’s apostleship was being attacked by members of the congregation who demanded signs and wonders. They claimed that anyone who wanted to provide leadership in the church needed first to prove their power.

We assume that strength and weakness are opposites. We think that first we are to be as strong as we can be on our own, and then we need to add God’s strength. On a good day, we think we can do all that needs to be done. On a poor day, we may need some help from God.

But Paul suggests that the relationship between strength and weakness is much more complex. In fact, as he learned from the Lord, God’s strength is revealed through our own weakness.

Paul had many reasons to boast, but he counted all those things as nothing for the sake of Christ’s excellence and strength.

Where is your strength found? Have you discovered the power of God’s strength through weakness?

Prayer

Father, may your great strength show itself in our weakness as we let go and see your power at work. Help us trust you to do amazing things by your strength. Amen

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Our Weakness Reveals His Worth


“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”(2 Corinthians 12:9)

God’s design for suffering is that it should magnify Christ’s worth and power. This is grace, because the greatest joy of Christians is to experience Christ magnified in our lives.

When Paul was told by the Lord Jesus that his “thorn in the flesh” would not be taken away, he supported Paul’s faith by explaining why. The Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God ordains that Paul be weak so that Christ might be seen as strong on Paul’s behalf.

If we feel and look self-sufficient, we will get the glory, not Christ. So, Christ chooses the weak things of the world “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:29). And sometimes he makes seemingly strong people weaker, so that the divine power will be the more evident.

We know that Paul experienced this as grace because he rejoiced in it: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).

Living by faith in God’s grace means being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus. Therefore faith will not shrink back from what reveals and magnifies all that God is for us in Jesus. That is what our own weakness and suffering are meant to do.

Overcoming Fear

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Victory over Fear

By: Brooke Espinoza, 1cbn.com

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Black Bart, who robbed 29 Wells Fargo stagecoaches between 1875 and 1883, managed to strike fear in the hearts of his victims. Bart used his evil demeanor to ignite fear in anyone unfortunate to be on or around a Wells Fargo stagecoach during a robbery. Bart used fear to get his victims eyes on their circumstances. He knew distracting his victims from what was true was his only hope for a successful robbery and get away. The truth about Black Bart was in the 29 robberies history documents; he never once fired his gun or took a hostage. I wonder if the victims of his later robberies would have been as afraid, when robbed, if they had just set their mind on that truth. Like Black Bart, Satan uses fear as a tool to distract us from what is true.

Satan’s understanding of who we are in Christ is evidenced by his repeated attempts to get us to submit to fear. When we are fully aware of the truth of who we are in Christ, we will not be afraid. The only thing Satan can do is to distract us from this truth. He does this by attempting to re-direct our focus, from our riches in Christ, onto our seemingly fearful circumstances. Satan knows he can’t rob us of our riches in Christ, so he has no choice but to encourage us to lose sight of all we have and all we are in Christ.

Though we may lose sight of this, at times, God continues to prove Himself faithful in our lives. Remember when the Armenian army surrounded the Israelites camp? (2 Kings 6:15-17) A fear-struck servant came to Elisha with the disheartening news. However, Elisha assured the servant.

So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16 NKJV)

Elisha prayed and instantly the servant’s eyes were opened to see the hills, all around, covered with horses and chariots of fire. The truth was that God had provided the Israelites more than enough protection from the Armenians. Elisha’s eyes were on what was true while the servant’s gaze had been distracted by the surrounding enemy. I wonder if the servant would have seen God’s army from the start had he not allowed the enemy to distract him from what was true.

Though, in Christ, I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37), on occasion, I allow intimidating circumstances distract me from this truth, and I submit to fear. Just as the turbulent waves of the sea distracted Peter from Jesus’ invitation to walk on water, causing Peter to be consumed by the waves, when I focus on the waves in my life, overwhelming feelings of helplessness rob me of doing the impossible through Christ. Like Peter, when I fix my eyes on Jesus I am able to confidently rise above my fears and miraculously walk to Jesus, by faith, on what previously were my fears.

All throughout the Bible, God instructs people to not fear. Though we may feel sometimes this is easier said than done, it is no coincidence that when you add up all the instances in Scripture where it instructs, “do not fear,” “fear not,” and “be not afraid” they total 365 occurrences — one occurrence for every day of the year. Perhaps this is God’s way of telling us we will never face a day that we will have a valid reason to be afraid. May our faith in Jesus shine so bright, extinguishing all ungodly fears, that those who don’t know Jesus will marvel at our boldness and know, as the Sanhedrin did after witnessing the boldness of Peter and John, that we have been with Jesus. (Acts 4:5-13)

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Overcoming Fear

by Inspiration Ministries

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident.” – Psalm 27:1-3 NASB

David had many opportunities to be afraid. As a boy, he faced attacks from wild animals. As a young man, he confronted the giant, Goliath, and the armies of Israel’s enemies.

Then David faced the wrath of King Saul, who came to view him as a rival to be eliminated. But, in every situation, David found that he could trust in the Lord and that this trust took away his fears.

There are many reasons why each of us might experience fear. We can be afraid because of the situations we face or the forces that are coming against us. We might feel overwhelmed or unsure of what to do. We might be asked to do something that is difficult. Yet, as David learned, we can be delivered from fear by focusing and depending on the Lord.

David declared that he realized God was his light and salvation. This means that the Lord gives us the right perspective on life. We don’t need to fear wars or opposition, personal problems or uncertainties. We don’t need to be afraid if we make mistakes, have weaknesses, or don’t know what to do.

As we trust in the Lord, He will light our path and provide everything we need. If we focus on Him instead of on our problems, He will give us strength and take away our fears.

Is there any fear in your life? Look to God. Meditate on His promises and confess them as true.

Trust in Him. Let Him be your light and salvation. Make Him your stronghold. You can be safe and secure in Him.

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Streams In The Desert

By: L.B. Cowman

Therefore, strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but be healed. (Heb 12:12-13)

This is God’s word of encouragement to us to lift up the hands of faith, and confirm the knees of prayer. Often our faith grows tired, languid, and relaxed, and our prayers lose their force and effectiveness.

The figure used here is a very striking one. The idea seems to be that we become discouraged and so timid that a little obstacle depresses and frightens us, and we are tempted to walk around it, and not face it: to take the easier way.

Perhaps it is some physical trouble that God is ready to heal, but the exertion is hard, or it is easier to secure some human help, or walk around in some other way.

There are many ways of walking around emergencies instead of going straight through them. How often we come up against something that appalls us, and we want to evade the issue with the excuse:

“I am not quite ready for that now.” Some sacrifice is to be made, some obedience demanded, some Jericho to be taken, some soul that we have not the courage to claim and carry through, some prayer that is hanging fire, or perhaps some physical trouble that is half healed and we are walking around it.

God says, “Lift up the hands that hang down.” March straight through the flood, and lo, the waters will divide, the Red Sea will open, the Jordan will part, and the Lord will lead you through to victory.

Don’t let your feet “be turned out of the way,” but let your body “be healed,” your faith strengthened. Go right ahead and leave no Jericho behind you unconquered and no place where Satan can say that he was too much for you. This is a profitable lesson and an intensely practical one. How often have we been in that place. Perhaps you are there today. ”
—A. B. Simpson

Pay as little attention to discouragement as possible. Plough ahead as a steamer does, rough or smooth—rain or shine. To carry your cargo and make your port is the point.
Maltbie D. Babcock

God’s Instruments Providing Victory

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Becoming a Special Instrument

by Inspiration Ministries

If anyone purifies himself from anything dishonorable, he will be a special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 2 Timothy 2:21 CSB

The Bible makes it clear that God has a plan for each life, and He wants to use us to accomplish His purposes. At the same time, as Paul expressed to Timothy, some are “special instruments,” particularly prepared and “useful to the Master.” What makes these people so special?

The distinguishing feature is a deeper level of personal commitment, not being passive but proactive by evaluating our choices and priorities and how we spend our time and resources. Do what is necessary to be available for God and more sensitive to His leading. Be more committed to His Word.

We demonstrate this commitment by purifying ourselves, making a conscious decision to cleanse our minds and hearts, and eliminating “anything dishonorable.”

No one magically becomes a special vessel. This requires preparation. Paul talked about being cleansed. He described how we have choices regarding the ideas we think about, the things we do, and the words we speak.

If we want to be vessels prepared for every good work, we will cleanse ourselves. We will make every effort to do and say things that are pleasing to God, avoid the wrong people and situations, monitor our words, always seek to honor God, and be serious about the faith.

Today, seek to do your part in the decisions you make and the things you do. Demonstrate that you want to be one of God’s special instruments.

 

The axe at the root—a testimony against idolatry

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.’ John 4:23–24

Suggested Further Reading: Philippians 3:1–8

Let me give a sketch of this worship as it actually exhibits itself. A man may have been to a place of worship from his youth up, and he may have fallen into a habit of repeating a sacred form every morning and every evening; he may even have been a tolerably diligent reader of the Word of God, and yet though this may have continued for sixty years and more, he may never once have worshipped God after the fashion prescribed in the text. But see him! The Father seeks him, truth comes home to his soul, and in the light of that truth he feels himself a sinner, and feeling himself so, he cries, ‘Father, I have sinned.’ That is his first true worship. See, brethren, his spirit feels it, he means what he says. All that he said before was as nothing, but that first cry ‘I have sinned’ has in it the vitality of worship. He hears the story of the cross, the full atonement made by God’s appointed sacrifice, and he prays, ‘Lord, I believe in Jesus, and I trust him;’ here is another specimen of true worship; here is the spirit resting upon God’s appointed sacrifice, and reverencing God’s way of salvation by accepting it. Being saved by the precious blood of Jesus, he cries, ‘Father, I bless thee that I am saved, I thank thee that my sins are washed away.’ This is true worship. The whole of the Christian’s life, consisting as it must do of dealings with the invisible God through Jesus Christ by his heart, is a life of worship, and when at last he comes to die, you perceive that his worship will not cease with death, because it has always been spiritual, and did not depend upon the body.

 

The power of the Holy Spirit

By: Charles Spurgeon

“The power of the Holy Ghost.” Romans 15:13

Suggested Further Reading: Acts 2:1-21

In a few more years—I know not when, I know not how—the Holy Spirit will be poured out in a far different style from the present. There are diversities of operations; and during the last few years it has been the case that the diversified operations have consisted in very little pouring out of the Spirit. Ministers have gone on in dull routine, continually preaching—preaching—preaching, and little good has been done. I do hope that perhaps a fresh era has dawned upon us, and that there is a better pouring out of the Spirit even now. For the hour is coming, and it may be even now is, when the Holy Spirit shall be poured out again in such a wonderful manner that many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased—the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the surface of the great deep; when his kingdom shall come, and his will shall be done on earth even as it is in heaven. We are not going to be dragging on for ever like Pharaoh with the wheels off his chariot. My heart exults and my eyes flash with the thought that very likely I shall live to see the out-pouring of the Spirit; when “the sons and the daughters of God again shall prophecy, and the young men shall see visions, and the old men shall dream dreams.” Perhaps there shall be no miraculous gifts—for they will not be required; but yet there shall be such a miraculous amount of holiness, such an extraordinary fervour of prayer, such a real communion with God and so much vital religion, and such a spread of the doctrines of the cross, that everyone will see that verily the Spirit is poured out like water, and the rains are descending from above. For that let us pray: let us continually labour for it, and seek it of God.

Happy Father’s Day

Psalm 103:13

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

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Dare to Call Him “Dad”

By: Joe Stowell, Strength For The Journey

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” Romans 8:15

Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis has a beautiful, stately auditorium. I’ll never forget the time I preached there. I was taken with the beauty of it all—the chimes of the carillon, the poetry of the liturgy, and even the majestic robes that the pastor Dr. Sandy Willson and I were wearing. It was all very ornate and regal.

I was soaking in the experience as I climbed the steps up to the platform, when I noticed something surprising—something that seemed strangely out of place. Perched on Dr. Willson’s robed lap was his four-year-old daughter! In the midst of all this majesty, my friend had welcomed his little girl to sit on the platform with him, right there in public. Incredible!

That wonderful picture is still etched in my mind.

I think about it when I read through our passage in Romans 8: 1-15. The apostle Paul has just reminded us that we are free from condemnation—that sin and death no longer have a claim on us if we have surrendered to Jesus (Rom. 8:1-2). Our minds are no longer held captive by sin and we are free to set them on what God desires (Rom. 8:5-8). And with the Holy Spirit now living within us, we are truly alive, able to live a life that better reflects Christ (Rom. 8:9-11). Then we get to the picture Paul paints in Rom. 8:15.

We no longer have to be slaves to fear, Paul says. Look at your world. People all around us are gripped by fear—fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of the future, and the fear of death. But in Jesus it’s all gone. Paul says that the Holy Spirit, living within the followers of Jesus, sets us free from our bondage to that fear.

And if that weren’t good enough, there’s more.

Paul then makes the staggering claim that we have the “Spirit of sonship.” We’ve been adopted into the family of God! He makes the claim explicit by giving us permission to call God—the Creator of the Universe—“Abba, Father.” In the language of Paul’s day, “Abba” was really the equivalent of “Daddy.” Imagine that! God says to you and to me, “You know what? Now that you’re my son (or daughter), I want you to call me Daddy!” Or, if you want a slightly more masculine metaphor, picture a father affectionately calling his son over and saying, “Give me a high five!” It’s intimate, close access with the Father because you’re a privileged child. He loves to be close to you. His own Son, Jesus, died to give you the privilege of being able to call the most important Person in the universe “Abba, Father”!

That’s why the picture of Dr. Willson with his daughter on his lap was so moving to me. Dr. Willson’s position hadn’t changed. He had a position of authority, of respect, and of honor. Nothing about that moment changed his position. But this little girl had immediate access to her father, and she felt safe with him. She was welcomed to his lap, and he was proud to be her daddy.

God’s position doesn’t change when we obey Scripture and call him our “Dad.” He is the ultimate authority, infinitely worthy of our honor and our respect. That never changes. But it makes the privilege of intimacy with the Father all the more incredible and all the more wonderful. Don’t waste another minute sensing that you are too small and insignificant to merit a special relationship with God. Jesus died to make you God’s child. Climb up on His lap and feel safe with Him.

Dare to call Him “Dad”!

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Joyful Mourning

From: crosswalk.com

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“Karen, your dad has taken a downturn.” This message from my husband was waiting for me when I checked into a hotel after a trip to the mountains.

Suddenly my joyful mood turned somber. I could sense the end was near. My father had been suffering for a long time and his decline over the past few months was apparent. I decided on the spot to go directly to the nursing home.

I zipped down the freeway, preoccupied with thoughts of all the ups and downs our relationship had undergone over the years. I was filled with memories — of the time he and I sang a duet at a Girl Scout father/daughter dinner! Of the time we rode horses together at a dude ranch in Arizona. Of the time he stopped talking to me for six months because we had some fundamental disagreements about religion. Of the time he and I prayed together for God’s forgiveness. Of the time he held his first grandchild and then his first great-grandchild with the same tenderness.

I arrived at 1:30 that afternoon and my sister June and her husband Harry rushed in a couple of hours later. We joined our mother at Dad’s bedside. He had slipped into a coma and could no longer squeeze my hand when I reached for his.

The head nurse entered the room, then told us quietly at the doorway that our father was in the final moments of his life.

I could barely stand to watch my father struggle so. Each breath was labored. Dear God, release him, I prayed. He has waited so long for the touch of your healing hand. I give him back to you, O Lord.

Suddenly a passage from Scripture came to mind. Quickly, I flipped to the Concordance in the back of my Bible and there I found the keyword that took me to the verse I wanted.

In that moment, I had an entirely new understanding of what was occurring in front of my eyes. I read the passage aloud:

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14 (NIV)

Dad was pressing on towards the goal! He was in the final sprint of the race of his life. Of course he couldn’t squeeze my hand. Of course he couldn’t turn and acknowledge our presence. Of course he was preoccupied with what was happening to him. And of course he was breathing hard and fast. That’s what runners do — especially when they are coming down to the line. They press on towards that goal.

It was a private moment between the Lord and my father. And I had the privilege of observing it. My somber mood began to lift. Little tendrils of peace — even bits of joy — crept to the surface. I couldn’t explain it. My father was about to die and I was feeling happy!

My sister and I kissed our mother and father good-night at 9:00, intending to return at 7:00 the next morning. Later that evening the phone rang. It was the nurse.

“Your father is gone,” she said.

Reality. Finality. Dad had died.

He had crossed the finish line — and now he was in full possession of the prize for which he ran so long and hard — the call of God from above. What a moment — for us both. Praise the God who comforts us in grief by turning our mourning into joy!

“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” Psalm 126:5-6 (NIV)

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Devotions for Father’s Day

 

June 11, 2019 •

By:  Jeff Bulthuis, today.reframemedia.com

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

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

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

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

 

Working With God

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Thou Shalt Not Be a Bystander

By: Joe Stowell, Strength For The Journey

“He upholds the cause of the oppressed.” Psalm 146:7

In 1955, an African-American Christian woman in her 40s refused to surrender her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. As a result, many now view Rosa Parks as the mother of the civil rights movement and consider her act one of courage. But Rosa called her decision an act of faith. She said, “I felt the Lord would give me strength to endure whatever I had to face. It was time for someone to stand up—or in my case, to sit down. I refused to move.”

As followers of Jesus, we must be willing to stand, or sit, for what is right and just. Sadly, when life is good inside the “believer’s bubble,” very few voices cry out in protest against injustice.

Take a glance back through history with me for just a moment. Remember the Christians who lived in ancient Rome? They were tortured and killed for entertainment in the coliseums of Rome. Centuries later, generations of Africans were forced into slavery in America and kept in bondage until they were legally set free in 1865. But it didn’t end there. Sadly, our world has witnessed countless other atrocities, resulting in the tragic loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.

Something should go “tilt” deep down inside us when we think about these detestable actions against the dignity of fellow humans. And if it doesn’t, we need to check our spiritual pulse! God hates injustice and has a special place in His heart for the oppressed. In Psalm 146:7, the text tells us, “He upholds the cause of the oppressed.” It moves me to think about how His heart must break when He sees people who are precious to Him victimized by corrupt thinking and twisted morality.

God hates injustice so much that He gave us a living model for raising the standard of justice against oppression. That model is Jesus Christ!

Take, for instance, the time when He “cleaned house” in the temple where the merchants and moneychangers were in cahoots. They were requiring poor pilgrims who had come to worship to change their money for temple currency at exorbitantly unjust rates and, on top of that, they were forced to pay several times the market value for the cow, lamb, or dove that was to be used as an atonement for their sin!

Obviously, Jesus despised this unjust practice so much that He used a whip to drive the money changers from the temple, overthrowing their money tables and calling them thieves! He reacted so strongly because the merchants were taking advantage of people’s desire to serve and obey God. Injustice in the name of a just God is a serious offense to our God, who is perfectly just. In fact, throughout the Gospels Jesus took it upon Himself, at great risk, to be an advocate for the maligned and the oppressed.

One of history’s most tragic offenses to justice was the Holocaust. In Washington D.C., at the Holocaust Museum, there is a plaque with these words, “Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”

Although the silence from the Christian community is often deafening when it comes to helping the oppressed, it is never too late to start. You and I need to link arms with the people who are taking justice to our unjust world by rescuing those who are victims of injustice.

The Old Testament prophet Micah said that when it comes to pleasing God, we must “act justly and love mercy” (Micah 6:8). Maybe, that’s why I would like to see the eleventh commandment be: “Thou shalt not be a bystander.”

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Understanding

by Inspiration Ministries

Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 2 Timothy 2:7 NASB

Paul told Timothy that if he wanted “understanding in everything,” he needed to do something. It wasn’t enough just to read Paul’s letters or listen to the Law and Prophets. Timothy needed to go a step further and “consider” these words.

Paul used a word that means exercising the mind. In other words, he wanted Timothy to think. To seek. To dig deeper.

Paul was giving Timothy a challenge: If he wanted to receive understanding, he had to put in extra effort. This involved absorbing the words he had heard and read, mulling them over, praying and seeking God, and being sensitive to the leading of the Spirit.

If he did those things, Paul promised that Timothy would gain “understanding.” The Greek words here indicate that Timothy might have grasped bits and pieces of information, but this did not mean that he had understanding. God wanted to help him put the pieces together, so he would have true understanding “in everything.”

This same challenge applies to you. Remember the power and importance of reading God’s Word and hearing anointed messages. But if you want a deeper understanding, you need to dig deeper. If you want all the pieces to fit together, you need to exercise your mind, study, probe, and pray.

God is ready to reward your faithfulness and your desire to learn and grow. He is ready to put more of the pieces together for you.

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Streams in the Desert – June 15

By: L.B. Cowman

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

He named the second child Ephraim, saying, “Certainly God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering. (Gen 41:52)

The summer showers are falling. The poet stands by the window watching them. They are beating and buffeting the earth with their fierce downpour. But the poet sees in his imaginings more than the showers which are falling before his eyes. He sees myriads of lovely flowers which shall be soon breaking forth from the watered earth, filling it with matchless beauty and fragrance. And so he sings:

“It isn’t raining rain for me, it’s raining daffodils; 
In every dimpling drop I see wild flowers upon the hills. 
A cloud of gray engulfs the day, and overwhelms the town; 
It isn’t raining rain for me: it’s raining roses down.”

Perchance some one of God’s chastened children is even now saying, “O God, it is raining hard for me tonight.

“Testings are raining upon me which seem beyond my power to endure. Disappointments are raining fast, to the utter defeat of all my chosen plans. Bereavements are raining into my life which are making my shrinking heart quiver in its intensity of suffering. The rain of affliction is surely beating down upon my soul these days.”

Withal, friend, you are mistaken. It isn’t raining rain for you. It’s raining blessing. For, if you will but believe your Father’s Word, under that beating rain are springing up spiritual flowers of such fragrance and beauty as never before grew in that stormless, unchastened life of yours.

You indeed see the rain. But do you see also the flowers? You are pained by the testings. But God sees the sweet flower of faith which is upspringing in your life under those very trials.

You shrink from the suffering. But God sees the tender compassion for other sufferers which is finding birth in your soul.

Your heart winces under the sore bereavement. But God sees the deepening and enriching which that sorrow has brought to you.

It isn’t raining afflictions for you. It is raining tenderness, love, compassion, patience, and a thousand other flowers and fruits of the blessed Spirit, which are bringing into your life such a spiritual enrichment as all the fullness of worldly prosperity and ease was never able to beget in your innermost soul.
—J. M. McC.

SONGS ACROSS THE STORM

“A harp stood in the moveless air,
Where showers of sunshine washed a thousand fragrant blooms;
A traveler bowed with loads of care
Essayed from morning till the dusk of evening glooms 
To thrum sweet sounds from the songless strings;
The pilgrim strives in vain with each unanswering chord, 
Until the tempest’s thunder sings,
And, moving on the storm, the fingers of the Lord 
A wondrous melody awakes;
And though the battling winds their soldier deeds perform, 
Their trumpet-sound brave music makes
While God’s assuring voice sings love across the storm”