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Who Determines Your Value?

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What Determines Your Value?

“The Lord takes pleasure in His people …” (Psalm 149:4 NASB)

I am no diva.

My daughter would roll her eyes at this statement and say, “No kidding!” Before every speaking event, Melanie insists on approving my outfit. She is afraid to let me leave the house without fashion supervision. “Put on some mascara,” she urges. “Lipstick will make you appear more professional.” I sigh and try to be obedient to her fashion sense, since I have none of my own.

One spring, on a shopping trip with my cousins, we wandered into a chic makeup boutique. Right away I knew I didn’t belong there as I noted the glamorous women browsing the store. But as I tried to stay inconspicuous and peruse the aisles (so as not to embarrass my cousins), a makeup artist swept over. It was like I had a bulls-eye painted on my forehead. She wanted to give me a makeover. I tried to explain that makeup wasn’t really a huge part of my daily routine. A face like mine would be a waste of her time. She insisted.

I felt sorry for her. She seemed so nice and sincere, so desperate to please. So I put myself into her hands. The woman worked wonders. My eyes looked brighter and my face younger. I wrote down every product she used to perform her magic. Then I went shopping.

Please note: previously, the most sophisticated cosmetic purchase I had ever made was at the drugstore. So as I shopped, I didn’t think to look at prices. How expensive could eye shadow be?

If only I knew.

Eventually, I found myself in line with my little basket of purchases, again noticing the beautiful, stylish women now in line all around me. Obviously, if you cared about your appearance, you bought your makeup in this place. I tried to pretend I was a regular customer and nonchalantly stepped up to the counter.

The young beauty behind the counter rang up my purchases. “Good news,” she enthused. “You have spent over $150! That entitles you to a special gift!” One hundred fifty dollars? For blush and powder? I almost passed out.

Excruciatingly aware of the beautiful people surrounding me in line, I gulped and handed over my credit card, trying to look casual, as if this was a routine purchase for a diva like me. My hand shook as I signed the credit slip. I thought I might possibly throw up, right there in front of a bunch of supermodels. How would I explain this to my husband? How good can makeup really be?

My cousins and I left the store together. I was still shaken. “I j-just spent $150 on eye shadow,” I stammered. “Those people think a lot of their makeup.”

My sister patted my hand. “And you paid their price,” she reminded me. “Apparently, so do you.”

In the real estate market, a home’s value is pretty much determined by what someone is willing to pay for it. Similarly, the signature on my credit card slip indicated this makeup was indeed worth $150. At least to me. Apparently.

We can say the same for our own worth, according to Scripture. Our value has been determined by the price God was willing to pay.

“You were redeemed … with precious blood … the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19 NASB).

Our value to God is unfathomable. He proved it by shelling out an exorbitant, unimaginable price: the life of His only Son.

This middle-aged woman, and you, my friend, are absolutely priceless to God.

 

Toys into Tools
by Shawn McEvoy

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.Luke 12:48

With the start of football season this month, I’ve heard the phrase, “to whom much is given, much is required” used a lot… and that’s a good thing. A great thing. Athletes, profiled on sports shows, have been given chances to explain how they are using their celebrity and money to help mankind, or even spread the gospel.

One prominent football player was interviewed about wanting to use what he’s been given as a platform to further the Kingdom of God. His goals were reminiscent of the parable Jesus told about the difference between faithful and unfaithful servants, stewards of the kingdom. Faithful servants are to be about their master’s will, not doing their own thing, not squandering what they’ve been given. They realize how much they’ve been granted, and understand there are punishments awaiting those who knowingly disobey (and even for those – albeit less severely – who unknowingly disobey. Seem harsh?).

I enjoy verses like our main verse today, where a concept is repeated synonymously for effect. The Bible‘s wisdom literature is ripe with this structure, and Jesus makes use of it here. The phrase “Everyone who has been given much” is echoed by “the one who has been entrusted with much,” and “much will be demanded” becomes synonymous with “much more will be asked.” It drives the point home.

We often hear the first part of this verse quoted, and it works fine by itself: “To whom much is given, much is required.” That concept even works well in the secular world, so much so that non-Christians quote it, perhaps without even knowing it’s biblical in origin, and superhero movies use it as a thematic element.

But this week, after seeing and reading those profiles of Christian athletes, I re-read the verse in its entirety, and it opened up a new level of meaning for me.

Generally, when I think of things I’ve been “given,” or “gifts,” I tend to think of presents, possessions… toys, even. Things that are mine. Things I can hoard, break, forget about, get tired of, use for personal gain, waste, sell, or lose. Some things we are “given” include salvation, spiritual gifts, genetic gifts, talents, financial blessing, testimonies, family, forgiveness, love, and more.

Now, does your perspective shift at all if you think of those things not merely as “things given,” but as “things you are entrusted with”?

For me, the ante gets upped. There’s a new level of seriousness. The steward who has faith must, by definition, be faithful.

My toys, as I grow up, must become my tools – the things the Master has given that He expects will be used to build and further His Kingdom.

 

The Still More Glorious Day

Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27–28)

The day Jesus was born in Bethlehem was, to that point, the greatest day in history for God’s people — greater than the day Israel walked through the Red Sea, greater than the day the temple was dedicated, greater even than the day God formed the earth and filled its oceans. As glorious as it was for God to mold the mountains and carve out each valley, it was all the more glorious for him to step onto those mountains and into those valleys.

The infant cries of Bethlehem sounded like any other child’s, and yet the armies of darkness quivered before them. The day he was laid in the manger was the day the sun finally began to rise for our salvation — “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” in a body, from a womb, on a great and glorious day (Hebrews 1:3).

Horrible Yet Glorious

Then the glory of his birth was outdone on the day, thirty years later, when he laid that life down. It was a dark, horrible, frightening day — an innocent man arrested without cause, condemned without evidence, executed without justice, in the most excruciating and humiliating way possible. And yet it was glorious.

“The day Jesus was laid in the manger was the day the sun finally began to rise for our salvation.”

Those who saw the cross that day may have thought they watched Jesus crumble, defeated and conquered, before his enemies. He was crucified, but not defeated; killed, but not conquered; struck down, but not destroyed. Far from waving the flag of surrender, his death subdued Satan and all his soldiers, forcing them to serve the story of our salvation.

“No one takes [my life] from me,” Jesus said, “but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18). That is the glory of Good Friday. For the sheep he loved, the Good Shepherd laid his life down — where he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted. He chose weakness. He chose suffering. He chose the cross. For us.

Even More Glorious

While Jesus lay in the tomb, the world lay silent. But then, on the third day, morning came — an even more glorious day. After Jesus breathed his last breath, tasting death firsthand, and staying dead all day Saturday, he put death itself to death by rising from the grave.

The cross was not the defeat it had seemed to be. Rather it was a defiant, emphatic, all-powerful victory. “No one takes [my life] from me. . . . I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). Death could not hold him; the grave could not keep him. Of all the glories the world has ever displayed, none compares with the carpenter from Nazareth shedding death like a robe and walking out of the grave.

Having defeated death itself, he defeated death for us, saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25–26). Resurrection Sunday is still, today, the most glorious day in history. But it will not always be so.

Most Glorious Day

The day Jesus rose, he planted an invincible, unshakable flag of hope over the grave. How could anything ever surpass his victory? Only he could author a more glorious day, and he has, a day that is coming soon. “The trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Death was defeated when the stone was rolled away, though it still harasses and plagues the earth — for now. But when Christ returns, we will sing,

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54–55)

No day will be like the day Jesus returns to gather his people: to finish what he started, to put an end to sin, to bring us finally home.

“Jesus chose weakness. He chose suffering. He chose the cross. For us.”

Two thousand years may have dampened or dulled our anticipation for that day, making us wonder if he really will come. But he will come. And he will come for those who are eagerly waiting for him. “Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:27–28).

Has the eagerness slowly dissolved out of your waiting for him? Meditate, again, on just how glorious that great day will be.

Jesus Is Our Healer

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Jesus Christ, M.D.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3 ESV)

The fragility of our humanity is visible from birth. The moment we are born, nurses rush to bundle us in warm blankets, check our vital signs, and make us cry (to assure we can). Anxious parents await our return to their arms. Their hearts burst with joy and fear … this little life now totally dependent upon them.

I’ve learned the hard way that the anxiety of parenting doesn’t end here. It only gets harder. The older they get, the more we worry. The more we worry, the older we get.

With four children, I’ve been through my share of knee scrapes and colds. But I’ve also seen the scarier stuff. Our middle son has asthma and finds it hard to fight off germs. Once, he had strep throat for six months. Our eldest son was once hospitalized with fluid in his abdominal cavity and an extremely serious illness. Our newest baby was born with a hole in his heart (though through prayer and by grace it closed up just weeks after birth).

I’ve seen lots of sicknesses and the doctor’s office isn’t a place I enjoy. In fact, I don’t even think of it when they are healthy, but when my kids get sick, someone breaks out in a mystery rash or someone spikes a fever – I want to know what’s going on. I forget about the movie I’m watching, set aside my agenda, and realize we need the doctor.

When I face these moments, I think of how eloquently Jesus compared our physical lives to our spiritual bodies. Looking across at His listeners, Jesus declared,

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13 ESV)

When things are going our way and anxiety is far from us, we are happy to curl up on the couch of life, read our favorite book, and sip a cup of warm tea. Our ordinary way of life can grow so comfortable we don’t see the signs we need the doctor. Before we know it, we have become too busy to pray, too tired to help others. We stop going in for regular checkups.

When Jesus spoke to the masses it is easy to assume He spoke to the lost. And He did. But He also spoke to those who are found who, like we all do from time to time, forget we are not perfect. Our flaws are many. Our hearts and thoughts fail us. Our bodies become frail and weary.

We all need the Doctor, those with spiritual sniffles and those with “heart” attacks. None of us can turn up our noses at the other – we are all sinners. God wants us to be merciful to one another, remembering we are all products of imperfection.

What shape is your spiritual body in? Whether you need a check-up, a stress test, major surgery, a first-time appointment, or just want to stop in to pick His brain …

The Doctor is in and He always accepts walk-ins!

 

No ‘Sour Grapes’ Excuses
by Doug Stringer

As children, we all had a tendency to excuse our own bad behaviors, or to project or shift blame when we were caught doing something we shouldn’t have been doing. It’s only with maturity that we become willing to accept responsibility for our own actions. As a mentor and friend, the late Dr. Edwin Louis Cole, used to say, “Maturity is not based on age, but on the willingness to accept responsibility.”

I believe it is a lifelong challenge to decide which choices we will make and what our character will be when we are confronted with our own frailty. We all make mistakes, but what do we do after that mistake has been brought to light? If we are honest with God and with ourselves, we can grow in maturity in those moments. Or, like children, we can try to shift blame to someone or something else.

In my early years of ministry, I was intrigued with the meaning and correlation of the following scriptures:

Jeremiah 31:29-30“In those days they shall say no more: The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”

Ezekiel 18:2“What do you mean when you use this proverb… ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?”

For the sake of brevity, I won’t attempt to go line upon line explaining all the surrounding verses that provide the context for these scriptures, though I would encourage you to take the time to read the full chapters.

That being said, I think Ezekiel 18:19-20 gives a good paraphrase of the point being made:

“Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and done them, he shall surely live . . . The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

In other words, we cannot justify, rationalize, excuse or project our own actions or sins upon others. The choices I make cannot be justified because of my parents, or my childhood circumstances, or my past. I cannot change my past, but the decisions I make each day determine my future. Yes, I may have had some challenging and difficult times growing up. Yes, society may try to tell us that we can’t help who we are because we’ve come from a dysfunctional family or difficult circumstances. Yes, there may have been sour grapes along the way, yet the decisions I make each day cannot be excused by the past. As a new creature in Christ, I’m not bound by the actions of others. Regardless of past relationships or circumstances, we are all responsible for our own actions.

When I was in the fitness business, there was a quote often used: “Success requires no apologies and failure permits no alibis.” The quote is from author Napoleon Hill. His words can be applied to just about any facet of our life’s journey. Regardless of my heritage, where I was born, my parents, background, or any other circumstance in life, I do not have to be limited by them. The choices are mine. And Scripture reminds us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

 

True Greatness

From: Intouch ministries

Matthew 20:20-28

There is a great contrast between the world’s value system and the Lord’s. The danger for believers is that we can easily slip into the culture’s way of thinking without realizing that our perspective is out of line with God’s.

This is vividly illustrated in the request of James and John’s mother. She wanted greatness and honor for her sons but sought it in a manner contrary to the Lord’s ways, which caused discord among the disciples. Self-promotion isn’t the way to esteem or harmony with others. Jesus’ life illustrates the exact opposite. He didn’t come to be served but to serve and give up His life to ransom lost sinners (Matt. 20:28).

As Christians, we are to emulate Jesus’ submission to the Father and spirit of servanthood. Whether in ministry or secular employment, we must consider ourselves as servants and our work as being under the Lord’s authority. This means we are to humble ourselves and submit to those who are in charge, valuing them and even overlooking bothersome character traits or habits—we are to serve them as if we were serving Christ Himself. We may never be applauded for our work here on earth, but our reward is in heaven.

 

Purity

by Inspiration Ministries

“To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure … They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him.” – Titus 1:15-16 NKJV

To some, purity is an archaic concept, not something they want to think about. They want the freedom to do what they want, what gives them pleasure.

But purity is an important Biblical concept and a central issue for Christians. In fact, purity has far-reaching implications for our lives.

Being pure changes the way we look at life. As Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). They see His purpose in creation and look at the world the way He wants them to see it. They develop His discernment and insights.

However, those who are not pure look at the world without purpose, direction, or the standards developed by our Creator. They think they have a license to do what they want, feeling that there are no consequences.

But the Bible continually focuses on our attitudes and perspectives. For if we are pure, “all things are pure.” We will see life through this lens. This purity reflects the attitude of our hearts and minds as we allow God to refine us, correct us, purge us of sin, and help us to shine with greater intensity.

Remember the Bible’s call to have a pure heart. Seek God’s help to be free of corrupting influences. Seek to be committed to Biblical truths. Be sensitive to the work of the Spirit. Let Him purify you.

Be Merciful As God Is Merciful

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Surprised by Mercy

The year was 1974. I was 16 years old with a brand new driver’s license. My first car was a gift from my father, and I was driving to visit a friend who lived in the next county. I was scanning my hand-written directions as I wound my way through the woods and hills of rural Alabama. I only took my eyes off the road for a few seconds, but in a heartbeat the car was airborne. I sailed across a ravine to slam into the side of a hill. I was jarred, but uninjured. The car, however, was silent and unresponsive.

This all happened long before the era of cell phones, so I started walking until I found a secluded farmhouse where a friendly family lent me their phone to call my Dad.

“Are you alright, son?”  he asked.

I assured him I was fine, but the car didn’t look so good. He told me to wait where I was. He was on his way. Those long minutes waiting for his arrival were filled with visions of retribution. I had no excuse for the disaster. I deserved to be punished and sentenced to live out my teenage years with no access to an automobile.

When he arrived, I took him to the wrecked car and showed him the damage. The car was totaled. There was no hope for repair.

“Where were you going?” he asked.

I told him the whole story, including my failure to focus on the road while reading my directions. I was broken and dejected as I waited for sentencing. Then my Dad did an amazing thing. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the keys to his car. He held them out to me and said, “Take my car and go visit your friend. I’ll take care of this.”

In that moment, my perspective on Dad changed forever. I deserved his anger, but he gave me mercy. Instead of prohibiting access to a car, he gave me his own keys.

This all happened a lifetime ago, but his response still colors my life. He taught me that mercy really can triumph over judgment. He taught me that my Father could provide grace in a day of trouble, even when I caused all the trouble myself!

This perspective on my earthly Father gave me a clearer understanding of my Heavenly Father. I have taken many wrong turns over the years. I have occasionally rebelled against God’s desires and destroyed beautiful things he gave me. But there has never been a day when his boundless love couldn’t cover me.

“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” (Psalm 145:8 NIV)

Maybe you’ve made mistakes. Maybe your own bad decisions and actions have taken you to a dark place… but you are not in a hopeless place. Run to the Father with all your mistakes and failures. A heart of true repentance unlocks the throne room of God’s grace. He is slow to anger and rich in love. His mercies are new every morning!

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)

 

It’s Good for Your Character

By: Laura MacCorkle, crosswalk.com

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. – Romans 5:3-5, NIV

I grew up in a very special church back in the ’70s and ’80s. It was nondenominational, had tremendous traditional worship and congregational singing and was attended and led by many seminary professors and students.

Seeds that were sown in my life in those early years of my spiritual growth are now sprouting, and I’m drawing upon what I have learned as I make my way through adulthood.

From time to time, I flip through a bound collection of meditations on sayings that my pastor put together. He would regularly refer to these life principles from the pulpit, and today, whenever I hear them being said (or similar concepts) by others, I remember what he preached on them many years ago.

“It’s good for your character,” he would often say. And here’s how he explained that further:

“God uses the routine, the difficult, even the painful to develop in us qualities of Christlike character that can be learned in no other way.”

When we begin to see our lives from this perspective, that’s when we’ve turned a corner. But in order to keep thinking in this way, we have to make daily readjustments, as we don’t always want to see the routine, the difficult and even the painful in this way.

But it is the right way to look at any uncomfortable situation in our lives. The classic passage regarding trials in James 1:2-4 is wonderfully helpful and instructive to us pilgrims traveling life’s road on our spiritual journeys:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Now, let’s break down this outlook:

1. Consider it pure joy. How do you do this when you’re going through a divorce? Or in the aftermath of a departed loved one or the loss of a job? What will it take to see the joy despite the circumstances? Only God can give us this joy and change our perspective (Psalm 16:8-11).

2. Testing develops perseverance. In order to learn how to persevere, we have to go through some trying times. Think back on the trials in your life. What were the results? Did you make changes in your life? Did God help you get through them? Remember that as you continue to serve him (Psalm 25:4-10).

3. Perseverance must finish its work. We can’t go from diapers to dungarees in the snap of our fingers. Living takes time. And there are “pains” that go with it. Sure, it hurts sometimes, but know that the uncomfortable seasons mean that you’re growing (1 Peter 4:12-19).

4. Be mature and complete. When you were a child, you didn’t have a bulging file folder of life experiences to draw from. Now that you’re older, hopefully you can see how you have grown closer to the Lord and how he has changed you. Draw from past lessons as you choose to live and think differently today (1 Cor. 13:10-12).

 

He is Always By Our Side

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” Joel 2:13 (NIV)

When my youngest daughter learned to ride her bike, family rides became a regular occurrence in our home. Our course in the neighborhood was short and easy, and everyone came home smiling.

But soon enough, my youngest became discontent. She believed she was big enough to chart a new course, and a certain corner became the point of contention. She would beg to go right (the longer and hillier route home), but we would go left (the shorter and easier route). And when we went left, she would then proceed to complain the entire way home.

These frustrating shenanigans continued until, finally, I could take it no longer. I didn’t want to explain, yet again, why we would not be going right. So, I didn’t, and I let her go her own way …

Five minutes later: “Momma! You were right. My legs are stress’d  my head’s all sweaty … and I should’na gone that long, long way!”

She thought she was ready. She thought she knew better. But the energy in her little legs did not yet match the enthusiasm of her heart. And unfortunately, the only way home was the long way she had chosen. So, we persisted on. Many sweaty tears were shed, breaks in the shade were taken, and pushes up hills were offered, until finally we made it home.

I can’t help but think of myself and all the times in my life when I thought I was ready, or knew better, so I forged ahead of God with my plans.

I thought I knew what was best for my career.
I thought my timing for a family made so much sense.
I thought I was ready to serve in that ministry.
I thought the financial decision checked all the right boxes.

But I was wrong. Just like my daughter, I soon found myself on paths I regretted, crying aloud, feeling “stress’d,” “all sweaty” and hopelessly lost.

Throughout the Bible, we read of God’s people going off course and finding themselves on paths they regretted too. Various prophets throughout the Old Testament came to warn Israel and Judah of judgment for their sins, urging them to repent.

One such prophet was a man named Joel. He spoke with authority and conviction, forebodingly. But also, he spoke of hope and the grace to be found when one returned to God:

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity” (Joel 2:13).

That same hope and grace is available for us too.

Friends, if we should ever find ourselves stuck amid a path we regret (or perhaps are stuck on one now), we need to remember we have not been left alone. Our heavenly Father walks beside us, and there is no wrong turn big enough to ever separate us from His love!

So, let us heed the call of Joel and cry out to our Lord when we have lost our way. He is there, and He is ever at the ready to dry our tears and guide our hearts and steps back to His redeeming grace.

 

The Path of Light

by Inspiration Ministries

“The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” – Proverbs 4:18-19 ESV

Light is central to creation. We see its importance when God spoke the words, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). Light is central to our relationship with God. He guides us, for He is our light (Psalm 27:1). He provides “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Light is central to the testimony of believers. We are to “let our light shine before others” that they might see that our faith is real and how much Jesus has changed our lives (Matthew 5:16).

In contrast, darkness is associated with everything opposed to God. Darkness provides a cloak, a place where people try to hide.

The Bible encourages us to live in the light and let God’s light shine, so we can see more clearly, what we are doing. We should live in ways that are pleasing to God, obedient to His Word. We should be completely committed to doing what is right, ready for the examination of His Spirit. This path is “like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.”

In contrast, “the way of the wicked is like deep darkness.” They avoid the light and thus don’t have a clear idea of where they are going, what they are doing, or the implications of their actions.

Seek to live in the light. Be transparent and pleasing to God. Always let your light shine.

God Supplies All Our Needs

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My Portion

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria charged over the sea onto land. They huffed and puffed with powerful winds destroying whatever stood in their paths. They poured out huge amounts of water causing flood conditions in many areas. People who could, evacuated. Some returned to great loss. These powerful storms stirred up fear and left behind destruction.

It’s not only hurricanes that come into our lives causing fear or calamity. The Bible records a time when David thought he had lost everything. He crouched in a dark cave hiding from King Saul who wanted him dead. David had to flee for his life, leaving behind his home, family, and friends. Feeling alone and desperate, David cried out to the Lord.

“I pour out my complaint before him; before him, I tell my trouble.” Psalm 142:2 (NIV).

David was in a state of fear and confusion. He visualized the worst; yet in his crying, David had a moment of clarity.

“I cry to you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.'” Psalm 142:5 (NIV).

When he looked beyond his situation, David saw hope. The Lord was his portion, an ample share, a treasure trove of goodness and blessings set aside specifically for him. David may have been alone in a cave, but he had all he needed because he had the Lord.

At times, we may react to a catastrophe like David reacted. We look at what we no longer have rather than seeing what we do have.

Loss comes in many forms. It may be a decline in our health. It may come as a broken relationship that causes major changes in our life. Loss can occur in our career or in our finances. We may be grieving the passing of a loved one. There are many variations in types of losses, but our responses tend to be similar – fear, confusion and eventually depression. We cry out to God and question his plan for our lives.

Most likely we won’t come to clarity until we’ve bemoaned our circumstances, but whatever our loss, it’s important to remember what we still have. It was during his darkest hour that David found clarity. We can do the same by remembering God is our resting place, a refuge in the midst of loss. He will never leave us or forsake us. The Lord more than compensates for anything we’ve lost. He is our eminent blessing. The Lord fills every empty space in our being. With him we are perfect, lacking nothing. He is our abundance. The Lord is our perfect portion.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26 (NIV)

 

Unfulfilled Desire

By: Sarah Phillips, crosswalk.org

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:12-13

“For a long time I have not belonged to myself since I delivered myself totally to Jesus, and He is therefore free to do with me as He pleases.” ~ St. Therese of Lisieux

Do you have unrealized desires? They have a way of burning up our insides, don’t they? Perhaps you wish to be married, but year after year remain single. Or you wish for children, but remain childless. Or maybe you want to write books, but never make any headway.

Confusion and despair over unrealized desires feel the most intense when they seem natural and God-honoring. Doesn’t the Lord want me to be married? Didn’t He place in me this desire to be a pastor? Didn’t God give me these gifts? So why do all the doors remain closed?

I’ve been noticing a theme lately in the stories of revered Christian heroes. Most of them had personal desires that were put on hold or even went completely unfulfilled – at least from the outside observer’s perspective. Some of these desires seemed especially holy.

Take St. Martin of Tours for example. From an early age, this Christian convert’s sole desire was to be a monk. But the laws in 4th century Rome required him be a soldier – an occupation that did not suite him well. Even after the military finally released Martin, his plan to dedicate his life to solitary prayer never played out as he hoped. Martin’s unique spiritual wisdom drew crowds to him and ultimately, the beloved monk was ordained a Bishop against his wishes.

St. Therese of Lisieux is another example. This French beauty from the 19th century longed to be a Carmelite nun and a missionary. While Therese’s first desire came true at the early age of 15, her second never did. At 22, tuberculosis limited her to her French convent.

Why does God allow some desires to go unfulfilled? There’s no simple answer to that question, however, I think it’s fair to say that when good desires lay dormant, God does important work through us that might not otherwise have been possible. Paul articulates this when he is torn between two holy desires: a desire for heaven and a desire to continue to build up the Church on earth. Through eyes of faith, he sees how God can work through both outcomes.

I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith Philippians 1:23-25

The same peace we see in Paul can be found in the stories of countless Christians who set their personal preferences aside.

In her autobiography Story of a Soul, St. Therese reflected, “God cannot inspire unrealizable desires. I can, then, in spite of my littleness aspire to holiness.” Therese recognized that her earthly desires really boiled down to a desire for God, and while her personal limitations frustrated her, they did not limit God’s work in her life. Therese spent her remaining two years on earth “in the mission fields” by praying for and corresponding with missionary priests who drew much strength from her support.

St. Martin of Tours also accepted God’s calling with peace in his heart. He made an excellent Bishop in spite of his introverted ways. The key to his contentment? His love for God enabled him to love needy souls more than his solitary lifestyle.

While it’s hard to accept that our personal desires sometimes have to be put on hold, it’s also incredibly freeing. I think if you had a chance to speak with Paul, Therese, or Martin they’d all agree that life is much more fulfilling when the Creator of the Universe is in control instead of our little selves. What desires can you hand over to Him today?

Angelic Protection

by Inspiration Ministries

“The angel of the Lord encamps all around about those who fear him, and delivers them.” – Psalm 34:7 NKJV

God has wonderful promises for those who fear him. We may face obstacles and challenges, but we have the comfort of knowing that His angel “encamps” around us. He promises to deliver us.

The Hebrew words give a picture of pitching a tent, prepared to stay. God is saying His angel is right by our side all the time.

If you fear God, this promise is true for you. You never need to worry or give in to the threats and attacks of the adversary. Just remember that God is with you. You might not see them, but His angels are encamping around you, prepared to protect and deliver you.

When David wrote this psalm, his heart was filled with encouragement. He gained confidence and felt the joy of the Lord. “I will bless the Lord at all times,” he wrote. “His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (v. 1). He boasted on in the Lord, confident that He heard him and “delivered me from all my fears” (v. 4).

David knew the Lord heard him when he cried out, and “saved him out of all his troubles” (v. 6). What a wonderful promise!

Realize angels are watching over you and your family. Don’t give in to fear, worry, or doubt. Rather, bless the Lord and fill your life with praise. He is with you, and His angels are guarding you!

 

Christ triumphant

“And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” Colossians 2:15

Suggested Further Reading: Isaiah 63:1-6

I might describe the mighty pictures at the end of the procession; for in the old Roman triumph, the deeds of the conqueror were all depicted in paintings. The towns he had taken, the rivers he had passed, the provinces he had subdued, the battles he had fought, were represented in pictures and exposed to the view of the people, who with great festivity and rejoicing, accompanied him in throngs, or beheld from the windows of their houses, and filled the air with their acclamations and applauses. I might present to you first of all the picture of hell’s dungeons blown to atoms. Satan had prepared deep in the depths of darkness a prison-house for God’s elect; but Christ has not left one stone upon another. On the picture I see the chains broken in pieces, the prison doors burnt with fire, and all the depths shaken to their foundations. On another picture I see heaven open to all believers; I see the gates that were fast shut heaved open by the golden lever of Christ’s atonement. I see another picture, the grave despoiled; I behold Jesus in it, slumbering for awhile, and then rolling away the stone and rising to immortality and glory. But we cannot stay to describe these mighty pictures of the victories of his love. We know that the time shall come when the triumphant procession shall cease, when the last of his redeemed shall have entered into the city of happiness and of joy, and when with the shout of a trumpet heard for the last time, he shall ascend to heaven, and take his people up to reign with God, even our Father, for ever and ever, world without end.

For meditation: The victory and triumph (or victory parade) are Christ’s alone; if you are a Christian, your part in his victory procession is to be found in 2 Corinthians 2:14.

Give Praise To Our Redeemer

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Driveway Declarations

The cool spring morning was a welcome change after weeks of blustery winter. Soon, the soft white petals of the Bradford Pear that shaded our front yard would spurt leaves, and summers would become unbearably hot. Determined to enjoy the season while it lasted, I grabbed a light sweater and beckoned the children to follow me.

I plopped a lawn chair on the driveway and emptied a bucket of sidewalk chalk on the adjoining grass. Slurping popsicles with one hand and doodling with the other, they giggled and scribbled excitedly. Soon the concrete canvas would become a masterpiece, a collage, a hodge-podge of imagination and creativity.

Momentarily lost in a book, I lifted my gaze to survey the assortment. A hopscotch outline, stick figures of family members, a sunflower, a tulip, a car that resembled Lightning McQueen, an orange sun, a winding road, a towering mountain, and this:  In large letters shaded pink with a pattern of bright white stars were the words: ANGIE IS AMAZING. “Isn’t it beautiful, Mommy?” she beamed.

I nodded, “Yes!” grinning. I thought so too.

The day ended but the declaration was visible from three houses down. It made my heart happy every time I glanced at it, walked up to the mailbox, or drove up from work. It washed away in a few weeks until the faint resemblance of it was no longer visible. But it stayed in my heart forever.

I wondered if I would be caught writing something like that. Would I scribble it on a driveway for everyone to see, or hire a blimp to float it across the sky? Would I flaunt it, proclaim it, announce it fearlessly? Even if I did, it would be one thing to say it, and another thing to believe it. My seven-year-old didn’t just write it. She believed it. She was convinced. And no one could tell her otherwise.

Do you remember your seven-year-old self? You too believed you were amazing. And you weren’t ashamed to say it. But somewhere at the intersection of growing up and getting real, you stopped believing. But the truth is, you still are. You may not doodle it on your driveway, or blast it on your desktop, but God has written it in your heart. The Psalmist proudly wrote this song about himself not knowing it would echo in the hearts of everyone for millennia to come:

For you formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows very well. When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth, Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in your book they all were written. The days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16 NKJV).

Not only has God created you beautifully, but He has chosen your unique personality, talents, and gifts that make you exclusive. You are irreplaceable. Jesus encouraged His disciples to approach the Kingdom of God like a little child. (Matthew 18:3). There is something about childlike faith that is simple yet powerful. Will you return to that childlike faith today? What you believe about yourself can change your life, especially when it parallels what God believes about you.

The Doorman

by Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.org

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

Once upon a time, there lived a wise and righteous king who cared deeply for his people. In order to ensure that his kingdom prospered, the king summoned one of his servants and gave him this decree,

“Go and stand at the door of the palace. If someone comes and asks to see me, open the door and allow them in so I may speak with them.”

So the servant went and did as the king commanded. People came from far and wide to see the king. Some were rich men, some were great scholars, others were from noble families, and when they asked to see the king the doorman gave them entry. Then one day a poor beggar came to the palace door and asked to see the king. The doorman looked him over and frowned.

The beggar’s clothes were dirty and torn, he wore no shoes and was unpleasant to look at.

“Surely my king would not wish to meet with such a man as this,” the doorman said to himself, and turned the beggar away. Soon the doorman began turning others away; people he deemed too poor, or too sick, or too strange. When the king discovered what was being done he summoned the doorman to him.

“Why have you been turning people away from the palace?” the king demanded angrily. The doorman was surprised and replied meekly, “My king, I was only performing the duty you gave me.”

“Your duty was to open the door for those who would see me,” said the king, “not decide if they were worthy to do so.”

It’s unfortunate when we behave like the doorman in this story. We style ourselves the “Watchmen on the Wall,” and if we see someone who doesn’t quite fit our definition of worthy, we slam the door in his or her face. But God’s grace is not ours to give away, and true forgiveness belongs to Christ alone. Our job is to open the door that leads to Christ, through prayer, through friendship, and through service. Remember, we all stand on equal footing at the door of Christ’s mercy.

 

Waiting on God

by Inspiration Ministries

“Let your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us in proportion to our waiting and hoping for You.” – Psalm 33:22 AMPC

How hard it can be to wait on God! As we wait, it can seem that nothing is happening and that He never will answer us. But the Bible speaks about a “proportion” of our hope. This proportion relates to the time we have spent getting to know and trust Him.

When we trust Him and know Him intimately, we are not worried about delays or temporary problems. We know that He is with us, loves us, and watches over us. And we have the patience to wait on Him. Waiting demonstrates that we trust Him.

Those who do not have an intimate relationship with God can tend to be preoccupied and worried, filled with turmoil, anxiety, uncertainty, and doubt.

But the Bible says that if we wait on the Lord, we will find our strength is renewed. “They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

God wants to have an intimate relationship with us. He wants us to have complete confidence in Him. We are not to panic but are to trust in Him. We are to remember that He loves and cares for us.

Spend time with God. Read His Word. Listen to His voice, and wait on Him. Praise and worship Him. Trust Him to renew your strength and give you His peace. Let Him deliver you from fear and worry.

 

Streams in the Desert – September 2

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

Unto you it is given… to suffer (Philippians 1:29).

God keeps a costly school. Many of its lessons are spelled out through tears. Richard Baxter said, “O God, I thank Thee for a bodily discipline of eight and fifty years”; and he is not the only man who has turned a trouble into triumph.

This school of our Heavenly Father will soon close for us; the term time is shortening every day. Let us not shrink from a hard lesson or wince under any rod of chastisement. The richer will be the crown, and the sweeter will be Heaven, if we endure cheerfully to the end and graduate in glory.
–Theodore L. Cuyler

The finest china in the world is burned at least three times, some of it more than three times. Dresden china is always burned three times. Why does it go through that intense fire? Once ought to be enough; twice ought to be enough. No, three times are necessary to burn that china so that the gold and the crimson are brought out more beautiful and then fastened there to stay.

We are fashioned after the same principle in human life. Our trials are burned into us once, twice, thrice; and by God’s grace these beautiful colors are there and they are there to stay forever.
–Cortland Myers

Earth’s fairest flowers grow not on sunny plain,
But where some vast upheaval rent in twain
The smiling land.
After the whirlwinds devastating blast,
After the molten fire and ashen pall,
God’s still small voice breathes healing over all.
From riven rocks and fern-clad chasms deep,
Flow living waters as from hearts that weep,
There in the afterglow soft dews distill
And angels tend God’s plants when night falls still,
And the Beloved passing by that way

Will gather lilies at the break of day.
–J.H.D.

Return To The Your Redeemer

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Watching the Horizon for Your Prodigal

From: Proverbs31, Sarah Geringer

AUGUST 31, 2020

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20b (NIV)

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The last time I had seen my prodigal family member was in silhouette in late afternoon.

From my car, I happened to spot them walking into the mall, holding hands — a rare good day. My heart broke for the thousandth time as I left the scene, wondering if the situation would ever change.

My prodigal had refused to break up with the person who was causing tremendous pain, and as I watched the downward spiral, I’d cried out to God in confusion. Why isn’t my loved one changing for the good? Are my constant prayers making a difference? Should I just give up hoping for a turnaround? My heart trembled with fear as I desperately searched for signs of my loved one’s return.

Jesus knew many of us would be in a similar situation when He told the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32.  In it, Jesus focuses on three people. First is the prodigal son who ran away. I’m pretty sure every sinner can relate to that one!

Then there was the father who selflessly sacrificed for this son and scanned the horizon for his return.

And last but not least, we see the older brother who was loyal to his father, yet simmering with anger.

I believe Jesus had several purposes for telling this story. One was to encourage those who love a prodigal. The Holy Spirit moved Luke to record this story to remind us we’re not alone. If you’ve ever loved a prodigal, God sees your soul-crushing heartache.

Maybe you’re the one looking for a return, except you’re the mother, sister, daughter, niece, cousin, friend or teacher in Jesus’ story. Longing to see your loved one return to their roots of faith.

Part of what helped me work through that difficult season was worship music. Every morning, I listened to four of my favorite songs in a particular order.

The first song reminded me I just need Jesus on my darkest days. The next prodded me to choose joy. The third song invited me to worship the One who died for me on a hill He created. Finally, another favorite song rallied me to remember how God takes all that’s wrong and makes it right.

This playlist became a musical life raft as my heart nearly drowned in despair, bringing much-needed comfort to my soul. Though I was close to hopelessness, those songs tethered me to God’s truth.

During that difficult time, God’s Word also kept me grounded. I reread the prodigal son story, and the Holy Spirit used this verse to keep me focused on the horizon:

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20b).

The father in this story is our Father God. He watches the horizon every single day for our prodigals. He never stops hoping for them to return. Our loving, compassionate Father longs to welcome your prodigal back home.

It takes courage to watch the horizon and stay focused on your prodigal’s return, courage to keep hoping and praying, despite knowing they’re still a long way off. It takes courage only God can provide to overcome the rage, despair, dread and injustice you feel. Yet, isn’t that what faith truly means? Believing in a future we can’t yet see?

Our Father God is standing on the horizon, holding out His hand. He’s inviting you and me to watch the rising sun with Him, where His mercies are new every morning. On the worst of days, He alone holds us up as helplessness looms large. He’s right there by our side, urging us to keep watching the horizon with hope.

Today, I’m thanking God because my prodigal eventually returned home. I know this isn’t everyone’s story, so I’m praying for those who are still waiting.

Never give up hope. God is standing beside you.

 

Hats, Gloves, and Scarves — Oh My!

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:7

We are quick to take precautions against the cold weather as the summer months end and the fall season begins. As temperatures plummet and breezes begin to blow, we pull out the accessories necessary to achieve and maintain the warmth we crave. We would not knowingly go out into the cold unprepared, so we guard ourselves with hats, gloves, and scarves.

In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul gave them instructions on how to guard their hearts and minds from things such as bitterness, envy, and self-pity. In fact, he mentioned three ways they could protect themselves from those very things. These three levels of protection are like hats, gloves, and scarves for our hearts and minds.

First, Paul said not to be anxious about anything. If you’re anything like me and your default mode is often to worry, it’s hard to imagine not worrying about anything. That diagnosis, that financial need, that painful family situation, that troubling news headline — all of these fall under the category of “anything.” None of it warrants our worry. For me, this often means that I will verbally remind myself, “I don’t have to worry about that.”

Second, Paul said to pray about everything. The best way to stop a bad habit is to replace it with a better habit. So instead of worrying and being anxious, Paul said that our go-to response should be prayer. Our instinctive urge to panic should serve as a reminder to pray. When we stop to pray, we are shifting the weight of that burden off our shoulders and trusting God to handle the situation as He sees fit.

Finally, all our prayers should be filled with thanksgiving. It’s impossible to be bitter, envious, or discontent when we begin counting the many blessings our heavenly Father has bestowed upon us. Gratitude-filled prayers result in a peace that only God can give. Prayers to God result in the peace of God. That peace guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, bringing us more warmth than the best-made fall clothing accessories.

 

The Son Makes You Free

From intouch, ministries

John 8:25-36

We all love the idea of being free to make our own choices about what to do and where to go, but Christ offers a much greater liberty than this. It’s spiritual freedom from the power of Satan and the condemnation of sin. Jesus said the only way to be set free is to know the truth and become His disciple by believing in Him and continuing in His Word.

Are you standing firm in Christ’s freedom, or have you let sinful thought patterns, emotions, attitudes, and habits enslave you once again? Although believers have been granted freedom from the dominion of sin, we must fight to overcome our unrighteous impulses. This is done by taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and putting to death fleshly desires and passions.

The good news is that we are not in this fight alone. When Christ set us free, His omnipotent Holy Spirit came to indwell and empower us. We also have God’s precious Word to guide and protect us. By His grace, we have everything we need to keep ourselves beyond sin’s control (Phil. 4:19). If you haven’t yet experienced what it is to be “free indeed” (John 8:36), put your trust in Jesus, the greatest liberator.

 

Living for Today?

by Inspiration Ministries

“If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” – 1 Corinthians 15:32 NASB

According to a recent study, 31% of US consumers agree with the philosophy, “I live for today because tomorrow is uncertain.” Faced with a world filled with problems, they elect to ignore the future, thinking only about today.

The people in the church at Corinth were filled with similar preoccupations. They focused on having a good time, just wanting to “eat and drink” to escape from the worries and uncertainties of daily life. They did not want to think about serious issues, spiritual matters, “tomorrow,” or eternity. Instead, they threw themselves into temporary pleasures.

But Paul challenged them to stop and reflect on the core issues of life. They needed to realize today’s pleasures are transitory. Instead, they should focus on things that would last.

The Bible encourages each of us to think seriously about our attitude toward life. What is our focus? Are we just living for the moment? Are we really concerned about the eternal consequences of our actions? Our eternal souls? Or are we just thinking about today? The immediate moment?

What about you? Where have you laid up your treasures? On earth, where moth and rust consume them? Or in Heaven? Are you living just for the moment, or living for Him? Ask God to help you evaluate your life. The world may be filled with uncertainties, but you can trust Him for today and the future. Make sure that you invest in His kingdom.

Beware Of AN Uncontrolled Tongue

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Every Bit Counts

We love our joint Harvest/Bible School graduation days — the climax of ten weeks of blending Word and Spirit together in the context of on-the-ground missions. Twice a year we bring in new students and pastors from the remotest bush, along with eager students from all nations of the world who are as zealous for missions and immersed in God as possible.

We love, laugh, and worship together, then head for our local village and the deep bush to seek the lost and see them saved. These are some of the most forgotten people on earth.

As much as possible, we bring cultures together — black and white, east and west, rich and poor. We are a cross-section of the Body of Christ. We want to see it function as it should, every person contributing their gifts from God.

It never ceases to amaze me how Jesus’ Body works. No one has nothing to bring to the table. No one has no gifts. Everyone has something they can bring. Whether that something is small, unseen, and seemingly insignificant or very visible and obvious is neither here nor there. It is irrelevant in God’s Kingdom. All that matters is the whole, diverse, glorious Body working together, each part doing its bit to achieve God’s greater purposes.

Some have the task of carrying gear, setting up the sound system, making sure everything is working, while others have the privilege of sharing the message of God’s grace with the assembled crowd. Some cook or pass out food, while others minister and pray. Various expressions of service to Jesus work together to accomplish His purposes that day.

Never feel that what you have to contribute is too small, not enough, insignificant. It’s not. What you have is needed. Without it, other parts of the Body struggle to function. Bring your offering to Jesus and allow Him to multiply it.

“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” (Romans 12:4-5 NLT)

 

The Forgotten Vital Organ

By: Kathern Britton, crosswalk.org

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. – Proverbs 18:21

I have decided that many, many medical textbooks are wrong. Each and every one of them has actually left out a vital organ. Yes, they’ve remembered the heart and the brain and even that strange thing called a pancreas (I know it’s important, I just forget why sometimes). But look through the books all you want, and you’ll find not one mention of the most obvious vital organ of all: the tongue.

Then again, I myself often choose to ignore the importance of the tongue. I’d rather not believe it has “the power of life and death.” I’d like to pretend my tongue is more like an appendix or a gall bladder – easy to forget about because it’s not that important – but that’s just not the case. Snapping at my family when I’m tired, nagging, and complaining all release a poison from my tongue that works its way through my whole being (James 3:6). Not only that, I infect others with my attitudes and motivations. I begin to spread a disease.

Contrast that with the “words of the wise,” as Proverbs says many times. Their words heal and strengthen as they spread encouragement, wisdom, peace, and the Gospel message. Oh, and – get this – the wise actually use their tongues less than other people. The more powerful the tongue, the less it needs to be used. It’s like the heart of a well-trained athlete – when someone is really in shape, the beats per minute actually decrease as the heart becomes more and more efficient. In the same way, why don’t I condition my tongue to speak fewer words with more meaning?

In Genesis 1, God spoke into the darkness, and there was light. Those “mere words” created something from nothing, showing the power of speaking out. My pastor in college told us that this verse had meaning for us, too, since we are created in God’s image. We are meant to speak out and bring light from the darkness as He did. That’s the power of the tongue in a crazy world. The question is whether we choose to speak light or just add to the darkness.

That little muscle called the tongue holds the power of life and death. That’s no small matter. So let’s be careful how we exercise it.

 

God Is Able

From; InTouh ministries

Ephesians 3:20-21

Jesus knew what it was like to live with limited resources, to have others question His actions (Mark 3:21), and to be rejected by those He sought to serve (John 6:66). Yet in spite of such opposition, He didn’t let circumstances affect His trust in the Father.

We’re called to follow Jesus’ example by believing that God is able to do what He’s promised. For instance, Hebrews 7:25 assures salvation for whoever requests forgiveness in the name of Jesus—His death on the cross satisfied the demands of divine justice for all our sins. God will pardon everybody who has genuine faith in His Son and will make each one a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). No matter what trouble someone may have caused, the Lord invites that person to draw near in faith and receive the gift of everlasting life.

God also promises to establish in truth everyone who trusts in Him (Rom. 16:25). Through His Spirit and the Word, we start to see things as our Father does, which helps us understand what pleases Him.

By believing God keeps His promises, we grow stronger in our faith and gain peace. Hardships that would once have thrown us off course lose their power. Hope replaces discouragement, and trust overcomes doubt. Next time trouble comes, focus on God’s promises and ability to care for you.

 

The Giving Difference

by Inspiration Ministries

I have noticed something else in life that is useless. Here is someone who lives alone … yet he is always working … This is useless, too – and a miserable way to live.” – Ecclesiastes 4:7-8 GNT

Many people devote their lives to gaining possessions, believing that things will increase their satisfaction. Some of these people are workaholics. For them, more is never enough.

Ecclesiastes described a person like this. Yes, he gained wealth, but he was “always working” and “never satisfied” (v. 8). He lived alone and did not share his time or resources with anyone else. Ecclesiastes was right. What “a miserable way to live”!

We should be content with what we have. “It is better to have only a little, with peace of mind” (v. 6). Jesus taught that a key to be satisfied was to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). Doing what is right brings a satisfaction having more stuff cannot match.

The Bible also reminds us that we cannot find joy, fulfillment, or satisfaction by hoarding possessions. To receive the maximum blessings, we must share with others. We need to invest the resources God gives us.

The principle of giving is critical to every area: finances, health, relationships, careers, and our spiritual lives. People around you may focus on wealth or possessions. The world may encourage you to spend more, to buy more. But the Bible teaches the blessings of giving and sharing with others.

Ask God to help you be a more giving person. Seek opportunities to share with what He has given you. As Jesus taught, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8 NKJV).

Be Humble Before Your God

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Little Professors

As kids, a favorite pastime we often played was “Simon Says.” The object of the game was to respond only when those two words preceded a command. For example: If the caller yelled out “touch your elbow” without first saying “Simon says …” and you touched your elbow, you were out of that round of the game.

Lately, I’ve been reminded of another rather curious command … one that was given to us by Jesus Christ. He tells us,

“… unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3 NIV)

Naturally, the question arises, how do we become child-like as full-grown adults? I began to think about the inherent positive characteristics found in most children. They are usually loving, spontaneous, quick to forgive, trusting, uninhibited, and full of belly laughs.

I am blessed on occasion to be in the company of my youngest nephew, Phillip Michael. Several weeks ago, he had a very important secret to share with his grandpa (also known as Pop). He leaned over and said, “Pop, do you wanna know who my favorite Aunt is?”

Even though my dad had a good suspicion of who it might be, he replied, “Why no, I don’t. Who is it?”

The little guy cupped his small hands and whispered, “It’s my Aunt Missey!”

I don’t mind telling you, that upon hearing the news, I promptly stroked a few more proud peacock feathers in my ever-growing, bigger by the day, Auntie hat! I come from a large and loving Irish family, where the competition can be very tough! I undoubtedly left behind a trail of most worthy opponents. Honestly though, I have to confess my secret to success. It’s really very simple. Whenever I am around this little fellow, we are usually sprawled out on the living room floor, busy playing pretend, imagine, finger paints, reading adventures, and we love to giggle!

In the midst of the play, I’m reminded of all the beautiful qualities children bring into the world. Unknowingly, I am being taught many of life’s lessons by a precocious five-year-old. Yep, He thinks I’m kind of special … but I know he’s God sent.

This past weekend, my pint-size buddy and I decided to head out to the beach. We were going to try our hand at mastering some of those scary waves. As we stood side-by-side at the water’s edge, a few moments went by, when all of a sudden Phillip Michael looked up at the sky and with his small voice yelled, “God, can you please send some small ones?” I was trying not to laugh (recognizing that serious business was taking place between a child and his Creator). I thought to myself that it sure feels like I’m caught in the middle of a scene straight from the popular cartoon strip The Family Circle.

I am convinced that the older we get the more we need to recall our innocence. Some of my own moments of recollection involve a box of crayons and a coloring book. I even allow myself to color outside the lines.

We must humble ourselves as little children so that we can again become teachable. Jesus loves the little children. They are always unpretentious, full of wonder, quick to follow, and slow to distrust. Help us, Lord, to find our way back to your lap. Help us to rest in the cradle of your arms as you read to us the story of your kingdom.

The psalmist wrote:

My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. (Psalm 131:1-2 NIV)

Daily we all have the opportunity to learn from the many “little professors” that playfully surround us. We just need to have childlike ears and a carefree heart. It is of utmost importance. After all, the kingdom of heaven is waiting.

 

The Hardest Prayer You Can Pray
by Liz Kanoy, crosswalk.org

“Jesus said, ’Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing’” ( Luke 23:34).

The context of this verse occurs when Jesus is being crucified. Though He was innocent, He carried His cross alongside two criminals to the place where they would be crucified, called The Skull (Golgotha). On the cross, the Son of God—situated between two sinners deserving of death—spoke to His Father and said, ’Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing’” ( Luke 23:34). This was and is the worst crime in the history of the world; the only innocent Man to live on this earth, the only Man undeserving of death and punishment was put to death in the most humiliating and unfair way … and He said what?

This prayer was directed toward the taunting crowd, religious leaders happily observing His death, apathetic Roman soldiers placing bets for His clothing, and the criminals on either side of Him. Could you forgive someone for a terrible crime simply because they do not know God? This is the hardest prayer anyone can pray. To forgive someone undeserving of forgiveness; to forgive someone who does not even recognize their need for forgiveness.

Could you pray this prayer for terrorists, for killers, for gunmen, for bullies, for family members who hurt you deeply, for friends who stab you in the back, for co-workers who use you, for any number of circumstances that cause you or someone you love pain.

On my own, I know I cannot pray this prayer—for I am far too angered by injustice, by acts of evil, by selfish deceit. But with the Holy Spirit as my Helper and my Advocate, I can seek to grow in this prayer. To see people as not just wrong or evil but incredibly lost … and to pray most of all for God to make Himself known to them, for He is the One whom all wrongs are ultimately committed against.

Jesus forgave those who murdered Him not only on the cross but also in their hearts. He saw their state of lostness and just as He had compassion on the crowds who surrounded him during his ministry he had compassion on His persecutors.

 

Streams in the Desert – August 30

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

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep (Ps. 107:23-24).

He is but an apprentice and no master in the art, who has not learned that every wind that blows is fair for Heaven. The only thing that helps nobody, is a dead calm. North or south, cast or west, it matters not, every wind may help towards that blessed port. Seek one thing only: keep well out to sea, and then have no fear of stormy winds. Let our prayer be that of an old Cornishman: “O Lord, send us out to sea–out in the deep water. Here we are so close to the rocks that the first bit of breeze with the devil, we are all knocked to pieces. Lord, send us out to sea–out in the deep water, where we shall have room enough to get a glorious victory.”
–Mark Guy Pearse

Remember that we have no more faith at any time than we have in the hour of trial. All that will not bear to be tested is mere carnal confidence. Fair-weather faith is no faith.
–C. H. Spurgeon

 

Your Fruit

by Inspiration Ministries

“Each tree is known by its own fruit … The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil.” – Luke 6:43-45 NASB

Austrian Gustav Mahler had been acclaimed as a conductor, but generally ignored or rejected as a composer. In June 1902, he stood before the Cologne Orchestra, preparing to conduct the premiere of his Fifth Symphony. He warned, “Every time one of my symphonies has been performed, people have hissed or made a noise.”

He predicted that his new symphony likely would receive a similar reaction. But he urged the musicians to play “as best we can.” Regardless of how the audience reacted, they were to play with excellence.

Mahler realized that criticism did not mean failure. He was committed to writing the music in his heart and not allowing fickle opinions to stop him. He predicted, “My time will come.” He was proven right and received belated honor, but only after his death.

We need to remember that we all have limited understanding and make subjective decisions based on imperfect information. But, as Jesus told us, we learn a lot about people by examining their fruit. “There is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor … a bad tree which produces good fruit” (v. 43).

Ask God to give you discernment as you consider the fruit others produce. Realize that others evaluate you by your fruit. What do they see? Submit your life to the Holy Spirit. Let Him produce His fruit in you. Through everything you do and say, be a witness for the Gospel, and let your light shine!

There Will Be Joy In The Morning

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Get the Ducks!

duck

This morning my yorkie-poo alerted me that something was going on in the backyard. His barking wasn’t the usual yapping to greet a dog walking near our fence. When I went to investigate, I saw him doing manic laps around the pool, looking up frequently to see if I was paying attention. He had discovered invaders and was beside himself with the thrill of it. A pair of mallards had decided to enjoy a swim and Rocky wasn’t sure what to do about it.

After a few minutes of side-splitting laughter, I encouraged him to go swimming to “get the ducks.” This is a funny little dog who loves to swim and retrieve balls so he went for it, even though the ducks were nearly as big as he is. Naturally, the annoyed birds flew off, leaving Rocky behind victorious.

Rocky’s buddy Ziggy, our sweet Rottweiler, went to K9 heaven about a month ago. When Zig was in the yard, ducks and neighborhood cats didn’t venture near. Now things are different — for Rocky and for all of us in my family. We miss Ziggy and when there is a void that big, things change. Rocky has been mopey, he’s taken to making a fast break into the neighborhood when the door is open and dumps the trash can over when he’s left alone.

But then today there were ducks! He was filled with the joy of a new and exciting experience. I’ve started taking him to work with me (at our business) when I have a short day, something that wasn’t feasible with Ziggy. He also gets more car rides and 100% of the doggie love lavished at our house.

For my little mutt and for all of us there is unexpected joy to be found in the wake of grief and disappointment. When there is discord in one relationship, it may forge an even closer bond in another relationship as you seek comfort and direction. If you get sick you have time to appreciate health, which will hopefully come again. In a bad economy, you learn to rediscover simple pleasures and find out that possibly you have been squandering money when it was plentiful. Psalm 126:5 (TLV) tells us,

“Those who sow in tears will reap with a song of joy.”

Are you stuck in a sad, angry, or bored place? Rather than dumping the trash over (and ticking everyone off), start looking for ducks. There is probably unexpected joy ahead in your own backyard. Ask God to remind you of the joy He’s brought in the past or give you a little unexpected joy today.

“He prays to God, and He is favorable to him, so that he sees His face with joy; for [God] restores to him his righteousness (his uprightness and right standing with God—with its joys).” (Job 33:26 AMPC)

 

Sweet Perfume

By: Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.org

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4

Some time ago a stranger visited my church’s Sunday service. He arrived early, while the worship team was still setting up, and the minute I saw him I became nervous. It was clear from his appearance that he’d made a lot of bad decisions in life. His cloths were worn and dirty, while his body had been grossly contorted by years of unhealthy living. I remember doing my best to avoid him as I went about my work, hoping that if I ignored him long enough he’d just go away.

Not exactly my finest moment. In fact, I’d say my attitude was no different than Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7:

“Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.’” – Luke 7:36-40

This is one of the biggest dangers we face as Christians: becoming exclusive with the grace of Jesus Christ. The Church is not a showcase for saints, but a place where people of all backgrounds can come and say “I need Jesus”. Neither is God’s love ours to withhold, nor are we more deserving of His mercy than the stranger off the street. In fact, the Bible is pretty clear that Jesus made a habit of knocking “Holy” individuals down to size:

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” – Luke 7:44-50

As for the man at the service, my friend reacted much more graciously. He struck up a conversation with the man and welcomed him to the service. He even agreed to help him go grocery shopping later on in the week. I learned a valuable lesson that Sunday; you cannot love someone by omission, you can only love them through action.

Independence of Christianity

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.” Zechariah 4:6

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Corinthians 3:17-4: 7

The grand thing the church wants in this time, is God’s Holy Spirit. You all get up plans and say, “Now, if the church were altered a little bit, it would go better.” You think if there were different ministers, or different church order, or something different, then all would be well. No, dear friends, it is not there the mistake lies; it is that we want more of the Spirit. It is as if you saw a locomotive engine upon a railway, and it would not go, and they put up a driver, and they said, “Now, that driver will just do.” They try another and another. One proposes that such-and-such a wheel should be altered, but still it will not go. Some one then bursts in amongst those who are conversing and says, “No, friends; but the reason why it will not move, is because there is no steam. You have no fire, you have no water in the boiler: that’s why it will not go. There may be some faults about it; it may want a bit of paint here and there, but it will go well enough with all those faults if you do but get the steam up.” But now people are saying, “This must be altered, and that must be altered;” but it would go no better unless God the Spirit should come to bless us. You may have the same ministers, and they shall be a thousand times more useful for God, if God is pleased to bless them. You shall have the same deacons, they shall be a thousand times more influential than they are now, when the Spirit is poured down upon them from on high. That is the church’s great want, and until that want be supplied, we may reform, and reform, and still be just the same. We want the Holy Spirit.

For meditation: God doesn’t come to us in the most spectacular ways possible (1 Kings 19:11-12). For his idea of power-evangelism see 1 Corinthians 1:17,18,23,242:1-5, also Romans 1:16.

 

The Joy of Forgiveness

by Inspiration Ministries

“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven … How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity … When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.” – Psalm 32:1-3 NASB

David had sinned, and his sins weighed him down. He found himself unable to get relief. He felt as if his strength was gone, and that his “vitality was turned into the drought of summer” (v. 4). He seemed reluctant to talk to God about these sins. But the impact was so great that he had to do something!

Finally, he could not keep silent and turned to God. “I acknowledged my sin to You … and You forgave the guilt of my sin” (v. 5). After he confessed his sins, everything changed. God forgave his sins and freed him from guilt. The heaviness lifted, and his burdens and guilt were replaced with joy and gladness. He realized that he could trust in God to guide him, protect him, deliver him from danger, and make him feel secure.

Many people do not experience these joys and blessings because they refuse to acknowledge and confess their sins. They hide them. Bury them. Ignore them. Then they suffer from worry, guilt, and burdens because they will not seek God’s forgiveness.

Don’t let the burdens of sin and guilt weigh you down. Don’t run away from God, but let Him search your heart. He wants you to be free and experience real joy. But to know this joy and freedom, you must acknowledge your sins and mistakes. And, you must confess them.

Humble yourself before God. Be clean. Freed. Forgiven. Filled with hope and joy!

Christ Died To Save Our Souls

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The Easy Way Is Not Always the Right Way

“Then the men of David said to him, ‘This is the day of which the Lord said to you, Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you.’” 1 Samuel 24:4 NKJV

Sometimes everything seems to simply line up; doors open, opportunities arise, and the choice seems obvious. Simply receive the opportunity and proceed. Or is it so simple? Are there other factors to consider?

In 1 Samuel 24:1-22, the Bible tells about a time when King Saul took 3000 men to hunt David down to kill him. As circumstances would have it, and unbeknownst to King Saul, it was David who found Saul and his men first.

The Bible says David’s men rejoiced. They suggested it was the Lord who delivered Saul and his men into their hands. They encouraged David to do whatever he wanted to them. As David considered his options, he secretly cut off a corner of Saul’s robe while Saul slept.

Everything seemed perfect. All David had to do was kill his enemy. Instead, he hesitated. The Bible says David’s heart troubled him.

You see, David knew God’s law. He was familiar with God’s instruction about vengeance. It belonged to God alone. David understood if he killed King Saul, he would be killing one of God’s anointed, and he knew it was forbidden.

“And he said to his men, ‘The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.’” 1 Samuel 24:6 NKJV

Can you relate to David? Have you been offered an opportunity but don’t have peace? It may be the Holy Spirit reminding you the opportunity is not God’s best. There may be an undisclosed unethical component, and God wants you to turn it down.

A friend recently confided she and her husband were going through a difficult time in their marriage. Out of the blue, she meets another man. He appeared to offer traits and qualities her husband lacked. She convinced herself it was God who sent the new man. How easy it is for us to rationalize or justify our decisions when an opportunity presents itself at just the right time. It is our human condition and frailty at work when we charge ahead in life without allowing the Holy Spirit to be our guide.

It is no wonder the Bible warns us,

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 NIV

If we familiarize ourselves with the Bible and, like David, know what God desires, we will know how to choose right! It is much easier to obey God and avoid the heartache of bad decisions.

Like my friend, we are all tempted at times. She came to her senses when she remembered the Apostle Paul’s words,

“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face … he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 MSG

We have choices or opportunities that may be appealing in the moment or an easy way out of situations. It is wise to filter those opportunities through Deuteronomy 30:15 NLT,

“Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster.”

Have you been confronted with an opportunity or decision first appearing to be sent from heaven? How did you respond? Did you jump on board or filter your opportunity through God’s Word? Sometimes the easy way is not the right way. The good news is Jesus will help us choose His way if we allow Him!

John 3:16 – The Love of God Through Jesus

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. – John 3:16

If we ever memorize a verse of Scripture, it will most likely be John 3:16. It is the verse most often heard in the simplicity and beauty of a little child’s voice proudly reciting it from memory. John 3:16 is the one verse showing up on large placards at football games and other major sporting events. Those signs are located where television cameras cannot avoid its message. This is the one verse that has been spoken by many older saints as they breathed their final breath.

John 3:16 is the entire gospel in a nutshell.

Angel Martinez, the late evangelist who had memorized the entire New Testament, referred to John 3:16 as salvation’s formula and observed that it contained four very insightful truths. It is the gospel in one verse. John 3:16 reveals to us salvation’s cause, its cost, its condition, and its consequence.

John 3:16 – Salvation’s Cause

“For God so loved the world”

The motivating factor behind God’s redemptive plan for every man and woman is His love for us. He not only loves us, He so loves us! Later, the apostle Paul sought to describe this love by speaking of its “breadth, and length, and depth, and height” (Ephesians 3:18), “God is love” (1 John 4:16), and this deep emotion is what brings about the possibility of our redemption; knowing Him in the intimate relationship of Father and child. God’s love for you is the motivating cause of salvation. “For God so loved…”

John 3:16 – Salvation’s Cost

“that He gave His only begotten Son”

Our salvation, the free pardoning of our sin, and the promise of abundant and eternal life in Christ did not come without cost. Freedom is never free; it is always bought with blood. From the early chapters of Genesis, there is a scarlet thread woven throughout the pages of Scripture revealing the blood atonement. It climaxes in the final and complete sacrifice for sin on a Roman cross outside the city gates of Jerusalem. Jesus not only spoke of His love for us, “but God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Our salvation in Christ came at a great cost: God “gave His only begotten Son.”

John 3:16 – Salvation’s Condition

“that whoever believes in Him”

Salvation is not spelled “d-o,” but “d-o-n-e.” Many people, however, think their own good works are the pathway to eternal life. Consequently, they do this or do that, or they don’t do this or don’t do that, all in order to earn salvation. But our salvation is done. It is already purchased for us with the blood of Christ on the cross. Our part is to believe, to transfer our trust from ourselves and our own efforts to His finished work on the cross of Calvary.

To believe does not mean to simply give intellectual assent to the claims of Christ. It means to transfer our trust to Him alone for our salvation.

The most pointed question in the entire Bible is asked of the apostle Paul by a Philippian jailer:

What must I do to be saved? – Acts 16:30

Paul’s immediate reply follows in the next verse:

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. – Acts 16:31

I believe in George Washington, but I don’t believe on him; I don’t trust my life to him. Salvation’s condition is through faith — and faith alone — in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Living with Suffering – Streams in the Desert – August 28

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

There he proved them (Exod. 15:25).

I stood once in the test room of a great steel mill. All around me were little partitions and compartments. Steel had been tested to the limit, and marked with figures that showed its breaking point. Some pieces had been twisted until they broke, and the strength of torsion was marked on them. Some had been stretched to the breaking point and their tensile strength indicated. Some had been compressed to the crushing point, and also marked. The master of the steel mill knew just what these pieces of steel would stand under strain. He knew just what they would bear if placed in the great ship, building, or bridge. He knew this because his testing room revealed it.

It is often so with God’s children. God does not want us to be like vases of glass or porcelain. He would have us like these toughened pieces of steel, able to bear twisting and crushing to the uttermost without collapse.

He wants us to be, not hothouse plants, but storm-beaten oaks; not sand dunes driven with every gust of wind, but granite rocks withstanding the fiercest storms. To make us such He must needs bring us into His testing room of suffering. Many of us need no other argument than our own experiences to prove that suffering is indeed God’s testing room of faith.
–J. H. McC

It is very easy for us to speak and theorize about faith, but God often casts us into crucibles to try our gold, and to separate it from the dross and alloy. Oh, happy are we if the hurricanes that ripple life’s unquiet sea have the effect of making Jesus more precious. Better the storm with Christ than smooth waters without Him.
–Macduff

What if God could not manage to ripen your life without suffering?