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Faithfully Fishing

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Faithfully Fishing

From: Crosswalk.com

By Rev. Kyle Norman

“Come, follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19)

When I was 9, my family and I visited my uncle during our summer vacation. My uncle lived in a small town in northern British Columbia, the kind that boasted opportunities for hunting and fishing. During our stay, my uncle took us fishing along the Skeena River. I brimmed with excitement over my first-ever fishing trip.

We arrived at my uncle’s favorite spot along the bank of the river. No one else was around; the river was open just for us. We unloaded our gear while my uncle began setting things up. The first thing he did was tie a bell at the top of our fishing rods. He then cast the lines deep into the river and stuck the rods into the sand. With the fishing rods securely in place, and the lines dancing in the river, he sat back in a fold-out chair, cracked a beer, and began flipping through a magazine.

For my uncle, this was fishing. Fishing was a passive activity wherein he enjoyed the comfort and quiet of the shorefront. Fishing was a time for him to be alone, drink his beer, and read his magazines, all the while waiting for some wayward salmon to stumble upon his line.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus invites Peter and Andrew to engage in a new type of fishing. “Follow me,” Jesus says, “I will make you fish for people.” Peter and Andrew were fishermen by trade, so they recognized what Jesus was saying. The image was clear for them. Just as they cast their nets into the water, gathering the fish into their boat, Jesus now asked them to gather people into the community of discipleship. For the fishermen of the day, fishing wasn’t a passive activity. There was no lounging under the sun with a beer in hand. Fishing was arduous and demanding. It took effort and diligence. It also involved a team of people. Peter fished with Andrew. James and John fished with their father.

I sometimes wonder if we make Christ’s call to fish for people more passive than we realize. Do we ever approach the call to fish for people in the way of my uncle? We sit back in the comfort of our churches, awaiting any unsuspecting visitor who might stumble across our line. Perhaps this is the reason why the number of active Christians in North America continually declines. Have we failed to recognize the very activity Jesus asks us to engage in?

Prayer about Growing Fruit

By Jessica Van Roekel, Crosswalk.com

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV)

Snow-covered fields, leafless trees, and skies laden with steel gray clouds describe the view out my window. It’s wintertime, and frost covers everything. It penetrates the ground, and farmers discuss how deep the frost line goes and how it impacts next spring’s fieldwork. The wind drives snowflakes like tiny needles piercing the sky. The cold reaches deep into my bones, and I struggle to stay warm. If I were a bear, I would sleep away winter. But I am not a bear. I am a human, designed to live and bring glory to God through every season.

The power of winter in the physical world allows the ground to rest so that in the growing season, it can do what God designed it to do—produce life. We also produce life. We can speak life with our words and bring life with our actions. But there’s a season for rest too.

Too often, we view the beginning of a new year with an eye to growth and transformation. While this is a noble pursuit, we also ebb and flow with the seasons. Sometimes, we have seasons where it doesn’t seem like any growth or change happens. Our lives look barren. The landscape in our hearts reveals desolation. We can try harder and work smarter, but the emptiness remains.

The emptiness can frighten us if that’s the only thing we focus on. We give up on our transformational journey too soon because we don’t see the results we want to see as quickly as we hoped. But just as winter reveals a tree’s branches, our personal winters reveal our structure too. This can make us feel vulnerable, which is why we sometimes shy away from spiritual winters. There is a time to bear fruit and there is a time to harvest fruit. There is also a time of rest so that more fruit can grow.

The Fruits of the Spirit are the characteristics of a God-centered, spiritually focused lifestyle. The Holy Spirit produces and develops this fruit in Christians who surrender to the direction and influence of God. Through the Spirit’s power, we can enjoy the benefits of our personal relationship with him. Sometimes surrender means we enter a winter season where our hearts experience a preparation for the fruit God will grow in us.

These character qualities—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—take time to develop. They grow as we practice them over and over. Love looks like a willingness to make personal sacrifices for the cause of Christ and the benefit of others. What can you do today to show that kind of love?

Joy is the inner sense of gladness not based on feelings but based on the love and grace given to those who belong to Christ. Peace is the inner calm and contentment of a right relationship with God and knowing that God has everything under control. Patience is the ability to wait without becoming angry or upset. Kindness involves active consideration for others. Goodness is a trait that causes someone to do what is right and beneficial for others. Faithfulness is unwavering loyalty and devotion to following through on one’s commitments. Gentleness acts mercifully and appropriately. Self-control is the discipline of mastering one’s desires and emotions.

We will have seasons where we feel as though we’re missing this fruit in our lives. Instead of gentleness, we respond with harshness. Rather than self-control, we choose to self-indulge. Peace disappears in the face of worries. It can feel like our previous growth faded like autumn colors giving way to the monochromatic colors of winter.

In these moments, we can pause. We can rest and trust that God hasn’t given up on us. He still has fruit to grow in us. When we choose to rest and trust, God works in the soil of our hearts to prepare us for the next harvest of fruit.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

January 28

Exodus 2:5-9 5Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. 6She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. 7Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” 8“Yes, go,” she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 9Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.”

God kept His promise and made Israel a great nation during their 400-year stay in Egypt. In fact, they became so great that the Pharaoh ordered all newborn baby boys thrown into the Nile to keep them from becoming too powerful. There was a spiritual war taking place. The time had come for the LORD to raise up a deliverer, and Satan knew it. He planted fear in Pharaoh’s mind so that he would kill the male babies being born. He used the same tactic when Jesus, the Great Deliverer, was born. But the Divine hand of God works even through the evil of men to save lives, just as we saw in the account of Joseph.

The mother of Moses put him in a basket, and Providence guided the basket to the place where the Princess of Egypt had come to bathe. Baby Moses cried, and her heart melted. God will use the most powerful of nations to give His deliverer an education in all the world’s wisdom. He would have to make a choice between the world and his God.

Who was hired to nurse and care for him but Moses’ own mother. I love the way God so utterly turns Satan’s tactics around to bless the children of God. It may seem like the enemy has brought defeat into your life. Remember that the enemy fights the most vehemently when he senses deliverance is at hand.

Encouragement: Hold on, and trust in the wonderful ability of God to turn your circumstances into a mighty victory.

Watered

From: Today Devotionnals

  1 JOHN 4:7-19

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.

—  1 John 4:13

A fun memory on my Facebook page includes ­videos of my grandsons watering the roses in our backyard. The boys have intent looks on their faces as they hold the hose carefully and walk along the line of rosebushes. They water the roses well and enjoy doing this, but then something changes as they realize that what they have in their hand is useful for more than just watering roses. That is usually when you hear a loud noise on the video because my husband is getting watered instead. And there is laughter and delight all around.

Reflecting on those moments, I realize there is space in the garden for nurturing and giving. The gift of life is all around. When we discover God’s love for us and the gift of the Spirit he has given us, we can stop to reflect and be grateful. In that moment we know God loves us. It is the moment we surrender to his leadership and call. It is the moment we discover we have more in our hands and hearts than we have imagined.

Today is a day to turn what we know into action. Today is a day to join God where he is and to share his love and grace with others. Today is a day to bring delight and joy to God and others as we make use of the gifts and resources we have been given.

Father, thank you for giving us your Spirit. Thank you for nourishing us and calling us to live each day in your presence and love. Help us to use the gifts you have given, sharing with others as we answer your call. Amen.

 

The Value of One

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The Value of One

woman

 

Kimberly Poteet – cbn.com

Panic set in as I realized my wedding ring was missing.

I had put it in my pocket earlier that day for safekeeping. That was a routine for me when I shampooed my hair, prepared messy foods, gardened, or otherwise did anything that might taint the look of my precious ring. It was a valued symbol of a covenant I had made many years earlier.

But later, when I put my hand in my pocket, and realized it was empty, I frantically retraced my steps, hoping to find my ring.

We looked in the bathroom, by the front door, on the porch, in the driveway, in every crevice of the car, and even up and down the aisles at the local grocery where I had shopped earlier that afternoon.

I searched and searched along with my family members and grocery store employees. We prayed and even called the police and posted a notice on a local lost-and-found page. But none of us could find this irreplaceable treasure.

Other times when I had misplaced an item, my searches were not as intense. In fact, a few of those times, I chose just to give up the search as I grew weary. Or I rationalized that I could just replace the lost item when I needed it again.

But the hunt for the ring was not one of those half-hearted searches. In fact, we looked diligently for a few days, with the subject of the lost ring often filling our conversations.

It was my first thought in the morning and my last thought at night.

So, when my husband finally found that ring, we were ecstatic! It was under our bed all along. Apparently, it had fallen from my pocket while dressing.

Yet our rejoicing upon finding this lost wedding ring pales in comparison to the rejoicing in Heaven over a lost soul who turns to God.

In the Parable of the Lost Sheep, in Matthew 18:12-14 (NLT), we read:



“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”

This is the same God who is described in Psalm 50:10 as owning the cattle on a thousand hills.

A God with such provision is not poor. Some might even say he could afford to lose the occasional one that wanders. Yet He is the One who notices and searches for even the one who has gone astray.

The Bible does not describe that “one” except to say they went astray. We don’t have details of how they looked or how others accessed their value.  We just know that the Good Shepherd noticed the one was gone and recognized the need to search for him and bring that one back into the fold.

God is this Good Shepherd who recognizes the value of each one of us. Each was bought with a price—His son’s blood. And He realizes that is irreplaceable. In fact, priceless!.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

January 27

Genesis 50:19-20 19But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Once Joseph’s father had died, his brothers thought Joseph might now get even with them. They pretended that their father’s last words were, “Please forgive your brothers.” The Scripture today is Joseph’s response. Joseph knew that only God could judge and reward men for their actions. He left all judgment to God and assured his brothers that he would not take any action himself.

Then he went on to tell us a wonderful truth. God can take what man intends for evil and use it to save lives. The brothers had malice, envy and greed in their hearts, but God used the action they took to get Joseph into Egypt. He used a lustful wife to get him into prison. He used an ungrateful butler to tell Pharaoh about a man who could interpret dreams. God does not author the evil, or condone it, but He uses the consequences of the actions to serve His purposes. All things do work together for good to those that love God and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28).

In this story we see the omnipotence and sovereignty of God. He can use even the evil in the world to serve His purposes. What an amazing God! We do not need to fear that evil is out of control. God is on the throne of heaven. Though man sins against God and against us, our God can use it to bless our lives and the lives of others. Don’t be discouraged. Our God is over all and will use all things to bring glory to Himself. His glory fills the earth. Trust His all-powerful hand to bring about good in whatever situation you are facing.

Meditation: God is never caught off guard by the evil of man. He causes all things to glorify Him.

Streams in the Desert – January 27

  • 202327 Jan

Stablish, strengthen, settle you (1 Peter 5:10).

In taking Christ in any new relationship, we must first have sufficient intellectual light to satisfy our mind that we are entitled to stand in this relationship. The shadow of a question here will wreck our confidence. Then, having seen this, we must make the venture, the committal, the choice, and take the place just as definitely as the tree is planted in the soil, or the bride gives herself away at the marriage altar. It must be once for all, without reserve, without recall.

Then there is a season of establishing, settling and testing, during which we must “stay put” until the new relationship gets so fixed as to become a permanent habit. It is just the same as when the surgeon sets the broken arm. He puts it in splints to keep it from vibration. So God has His spiritual splints that He wants to put upon His children and keep them quiet and unmoved until they pass the first stage of faith. It is not always easy work for us, “but the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Jesus Christ, after that ye have suffered awhile, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”
–A. B. Simpson

There is a natural law in sin and sickness; and if we just let ourselves go and sink into the trend of circumstances, we shall go down and sink under the power of the tempter. But there is another law of spiritual life and of physical life in Christ Jesus to which we can rise, and through which we can counterpoise and overcome the other law that bears us down.

But to do this requires real spiritual energy and fixed purpose and a settled posture and habit of faith. It is just the same as when we use the power in our factory. We must turn on the belt and keep it on. The power is there, but we must keep the connection; and while we do so, the higher power will work and all the machinery will be in operation.

There is a spiritual law of choosing, believing, abiding, and holding steady in our walk with God, which is essential to the working of the Holy Ghost either in our sanctification or healing.
–Days of Heaven upon Earth

Praise His Name

From; Today Devotions

  PSALM 113:1-9

Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high . . . ?

Psalm 113:5

When I pray with people, I ­often like to give them words of encouragement in the form of challenge. For example, I’ll invite them to begin each morning with praise as the first activity of the day. Like the psalmist, they can shout a hallelujah to recognize who God is.

This psalm was often sung just before people took up the first cup of wine at the Passover meal. They were remembering the goodness and faithfulness of God to the people of Israel.

Saying “Praise the Lord” (Hebrew: “Hallelujah”) is also the perfect way for us to start the day, remembering the goodness and faithfulness of God. It helps to set the tone for the day, and it puts our atti­tude in the right place. It also reminds us that God is bigger than our circumstances and that no one else is like the Lord our God.

We can also sing God’s praises before going to sleep at the end of the day. When we praise someone, it means we know something significant about that person and what they have done. The more we experience the fullness of God in our lives, the easier our praise of God will be.

As we practice, morning and evening, to praise God’s name, we are reminded that we have a heavenly Father and a friend who is always with us and provides everything we need.

Dear God, from the rising of the sun to its setting, may your name be praised. Help us to experience your love daily, and as we give you thanks, may we shout “Hallelujah!” Amen.

The Master Strategist

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The Master Strategist

swim meet and person with stopwatch

 

Vernell Windsor –  cbn.com

Have you ever coached or played a team sport? Or perhaps you planned a major event such as a conference or wedding. Every detail required practice or planning. Some of us are better at these things than others. Did you ever consider that our God is the Master Strategist? The Bible records major events of history—and even records the future that’s been methodically planned.

Whenever I read Exodus 14, I get the same sense of awe I had the first time. Our God positioned all the key participants while they were completely oblivious to what was coming next. Every detail had been planned; every scenario had been covered. How great is our God!

In team sports, the coach works to prepare his team for all the possibilities. I remember being on a local swim team. Our coach made sure we swam lap after lap in preparation for the competitions. He tested us to determine our strengths and weaknesses.

Our God knows all about us. He knew Moses and the Israelites as well as Pharaoh and the Egyptians. More importantly, He had a plan that no one could have imagined. He had prepared for this historical moment.

Predictably, Israel feared for their lives when they saw the fast-approaching Egyptian army. Moses gave sage advice:

Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again” (Exodus 14:13 ESV).

God had already prepared Moses for this day through his execution of the 10 plagues while in Egypt. Those were like practice sessions for the big day.

May I be honest? At my first swim meet, I was terrified. It was amazing that I swam at all. I made a big splash when I dove into the pool. Once in the water, I swam, just like I had been practicing. God is good! And in case you really want to know, I did not win the race (shocker).

Moses had a staff in his hand. He carried the same staff that turned into a snake-eating snake. God did not ask Moses to do anything he could not do. Moses stretched out his rod over the water. Afterward, the angel of God shifted his position and went behind the people as a buffer before the Egyptians. Moses’ obedience set up the miraculous events that followed.

Pharaoh thought he had the victory but Exodus 14:28 tells us that not one of them remained. And in verse 29, we learn:

“But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.”

Do you need a miracle today? What do you have in your hand? Listen for and obey God’s instruction, and you just might see a miracle too!

Let us pray: Lord, take us by the hand and lead us to our Promised Land, in Jesus’ name, Amen!

Today’s Devotions

Morning

January 26

Genesis 40:14 14But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.

41:1 1When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile,

Joseph had dreams from God that predicted his brothers and parents would bow down to him. The dreams and his father’s favoritism caused his brothers to envy him. The brothers sold their 17-year-old brother to slave traders. They concocted a deceptive story for their father saying that a wild animal had killed him. Meanwhile, in Egypt, Joseph was elevated to the chief servant over the household of his first master. When the master’s wife wanted him sexually, he would not betray God or his master by yielding to her. Her false accusation landed him in prison.

In time he rose to second in charge of the prison. The Pharaoh’s butler and baker were confined there, and Joseph interpreted their dreams. The butler’s dream meant that he would be reinstated, and so, Joseph uttered the above Scripture. But when the butler was restored, he forgot his vow to tell Pharaoh about this young man, now 28 years of age. He had served faithfully for years as a slave and for more years in prison. We never read one word of complaint. Just when there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, the butler forgot, and Joseph remained imprisoned.

The darkest hour is just before the dawn. I don’t think he ever doubted the God given dreams, but it sure must have seemed hopeless at times. After these 14 years of servitude, anyone would be discouraged. Yet, this was God’s college for kings. In one day, he went from being a servant of the jailer to the second highest position in all of Egypt, the greatest nation in the world.

Encouragement: Don’t give up on the vision and promises of God. He will bring them to pass in His time and His way. God’s ways are vastly different from mans.

Streams in the Desert – January 26

  • 202326 Jan

I have begun to give;…begin to possess (Deuteronomy 2:31).

A great deal is said in the Bible about waiting for God. The lesson cannot be too strongly enforced. We easily grow impatient of God’s delays. Much of our trouble in life comes out of our restless, sometimes reckless, haste. We cannot wait for the fruit to ripen, but insist on plucking it while it is green. We cannot wait for the answers to our prayers, although the things we ask for may require long years in their preparation for us. We are exhorted to walk with God; but ofttimes God walks very slowly. But there is another phase of the lesson. God often waits for us.

We fail many times to receive the blessing He has ready for us, because we do not go forward with Him. While we miss much good through not waiting for God, we also miss much through over-waiting. There are times when our strength is to sit still, but there are also times when we are to go forward with a firm step.

There are many Divine promises which are conditioned upon the beginning of some action on our part. When we begin to obey, God will begin to bless us. Great things were promised to Abraham, but not one of them could have been obtained by waiting in Chaldea. He must leave home, friends, and country, and go out into unknown paths and press on in unfaltering obedience in order to receive the promises. The ten lepers were told to show themselves to the priest, and “as they went they were cleansed.” If they had waited to see the cleansing come in their flesh before they would start, they would never have seen it. God was waiting to cleanse them; and the moment their faith began to work, the blessing came.

When the Israelites were shut in by a pursuing army at the Red Sea, they were commanded to “Go forward.” Their duty was no longer one of waiting, but of rising up from bended knees and going forward in the way of heroic faith. They were commanded to show their faith at another time by beginning their march over the Jordan while the river ran to its widest banks. The key to unlock the gate into the Land of Promise they held in their own hands, and the gate would not turn on its hinges until they had approached it and unlocked it. That key was faith.

We are set to fight certain battles. We say we can never be victorious; that we never can conquer these enemies; but, as we enter the conflict, One comes and fights by our side, and through Him we are more than conquerors. If we had waited, trembling and fearing, for our Helper to come before  we would join the battle, we should have waited in vain. This would have been the over-waiting of unbelief. God is waiting to pour richest blessings upon you. Press forward with bold confidence and take what is yours. “I have begun to give, begin to possess.”
–J. R. Miller

Marvellous increase of the church

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?” Isaiah 60:8

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 10:5-16

They were not doves by nature; they were ravens; but they are doves now. They are changed from ravens into doves, from lions into lambs. Beloved, it is very easy for you to pretend to be the children of God; but it is not easy for you to be so. The old fable of the jackdaw dressed up in peacock’s feathers often takes place now. Many a time have we seen coming to our church, a fine strutting fellow, with long feathers of prayer behind him. He could pray gloriously; and he has come strutting in, with all his majesty and pride, and said, “Surely I must come; I have everything about me; am I not rich and polite: have I not learning and talent?” In a very little while we have found him to be nothing but an old prattling jackdaw, having none of the true feathers belonging to him; by some accident one of his borrowed feathers has dropped out, and we have found him to be a hypocrite. I beseech you, do not be hypocrites. The glory of the gospel is not that it paints ravens white, and whitewashes blackbirds, but that it turns them into doves. It is the glory of our religion not that it makes a man seem what he is not, but that it makes him something else. It takes the raven and turns him into a dove; his ravenish heart becomes a dove’s heart. It is not the feathers that are changed, but the man himself. Glorious gospel, which takes a lion, and does not cut the lion’s mane off, and then cover him with a sheep’s skin, but makes him into a lamb! O church of God! these that have come like doves to their windows are trophies of regenerating grace, which has transformed them, and made them as new creatures in Christ Jesus.

For meditation: We should expect to be among wolves in the world, but beware of them when they are in the church, undetected and unconverted (Matthew 7:15).

Revisiting Our Covenant Relationship

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Revisiting Our Covenant Relationship

open Bible on a wood table with a young person

 

Jonathan Santiago – cbn.com

Martin Luther is attributed by many as saying: “I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Whether it’s our marriage or ministry, there exists a tendency to minimize the importance of putting our agendas on hold and revisiting the foundation of our relationships—we’re too busy!

After Israel defeated Ai, they had a lot of land left to conquer and could have perhaps used the momentum to push forward quickly—which seems like a logical military strategy. Yet Joshua had them come to Mount Ebal (some 20 miles out of the way, no small task for over a million people), build an altar, sacrifice to the LORD, and re-read the Law. This was what the LORD had commanded prior in Deuteronomy. Joshua gives us the purpose behind this:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (Joshua 1:8 ESV).

God did not want the law to be learned because He is some insecure taskmaster, but so Israel’s way would be prosperous and successful. You and I live under the covenant of a better Moses (Jesus), and a better law (the Law of Christ). And God would still have us revisit the covenant, even if it means putting our plans on hold. In fact, Scripture indicates that we’ll often have to drop other things by faith in order to prioritize God—it is expected of us:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).

God could have easily cleared out the promised land on His own (remember the flood that covered the earth? — same God), but was less concerned about a physical dwelling than with shaping a people to be called after His name, so much so in fact, that God was content to remove them from the land when they neglected the covenant.

It’s important to take time and remind ourselves of what God has already said and promised— what He expects of us and what we can expect of Him. This gives us direction, power, and focus for the battle ahead. In the same way Israel reflected God when they maintained covenant relationship, so we reflect Christ when we do the same. When we make the time to maintain covenant relationship we are in a position to be used and blessed by God because our lives will reflect His glory to the world.

One of the strongest things a married couple can do is reread their wedding vows. This puts the present situation in perspective while renewing love, devotion, and energy. For your devotional time this week, here are some relevant Scriptures to block out time for and revisit:

  • Joshua 8:30-35
  • Mark 12:30-31
  • John 3:16-21
  • John 15:5
  • Matthew 5:14-16
  • Matthew 16:24-25
  • Acts 1:8

    Streams in the Desert – January 25

    • 202325 Jan

    Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (Psalms 23:4).

    At my father’s house in the country there is a little closet in the chimney corner where are kept the canes and walking-sticks of several generations of our family. In my visits to the old house, when my father and I are going out for a walk, we often go to the cane closet, and pick out our sticks to suit the fancy of the occasion. In this I have frequently been reminded that the, Word of God is a staff.

    During the war, when the season of discouragement and impending danger was upon us, the verse, “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord,” was a staff to walk with many dark days.

    When death took away our child and left us almost heartbroken, I found another staff in the promise that “weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

    When in impaired health, I was exiled for a year, not knowing whether I should be permitted to return to my home and work again, I took with me this staff which never failed, “He knoweth the thoughts that he thinketh toward me, thoughts of peace and not of evil.”

    In times of special danger or doubt, when human judgment has seemed to be set at naught, I have found it easy to go forward with this staff, “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” And in emergencies, when there has seemed to be no adequate time for deliberation or for action, I have never found that this staff has failed me, “He that believeth shall not make haste.”
    Benjamin Vaughan Abbott, in The Outlook

    “I had never known,” said Martin Luther’s wife, “what such and such things meant, in such and such psalms, such complaints and workings of spirit; I had never understood the practice of Christian duties, had not God brought me under some affliction.” It is very true that God’s rod is as the schoolmaster’s pointer to the child, pointing out the letter, that he may the better take notice of it; thus He pointeth out to us many good lessons which we should never otherwise have learned.
    Selected

    “God always sends His staff with His rod.”

    “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deut.33:25).

    Each of us may be sure that if God sends us on stony paths He will provide us with strong shoes, and He will not send us out on any journey for which He does not equip us well.

    Gracious renewal

    ‘Renew a right spirit within me.’ Psalm 51:10

    Suggested Further Reading: 2 Thessalonians 2:13–15

    Let us be moved today to renew our covenant with Christ, or rather to ask him to renew our spirit, because every covenant transaction binds us to it. You believe in the doctrine of election. We do not blush to preach it, and you love to hear it. What does election mean? It means that God has chosen you; very well, if it be so, then you will acknowledge it anew today, by choosing his way and word. You believe in a special and efficacious redemption, that you were redeemed from among men; very well, then you are not your own, you are bought with a price. You believe in effectual calling; you know that you were called out; if it be so, recognise your distinction and separateness as a sacred people set apart by God. You believe that this distinction in you is perpetual, for you will persevere to the end: if you are to be God’s for ever, be his today. And are you not looking for a heaven from which selfishness shall be banished? Are you not expecting a heaven where glory shall consist in being wholly absorbed in Christ? Well then, this day, by all that is coming, as well as by all that is past, let your soul be bound as with cords that cannot be broken to the altar of your God. Backsliders, you that have gone astray, pray this prayer today. He bids you pray it, and he will therefore answer it. The text in the margin reads ‘renew a constant spirit within me.’ You have been froward, wayward, unstable, fickle. Poor backslider, he has put this prayer here for you—‘Renew a constant spirit within me.’

    For meditation: While inward spiritual renewal is an ongoing process in the Christian life (2 Corinthians 4:16), it is not to be taken for granted—we are commanded to have our minds renewed (Romans 12:2Ephesians 4:23). Our part in the process of renewal is to wait upon the Lord (Isaiah 40:3141:1).

    Heroes

      COLOSSIANS 2:1-7

    Continue to live your lives in [Christ Jesus], rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

    —  Colossians 2:6-7

    At this time of year, the apple trees in our yard are barren and seemingly have no life in them. They stand frozen, offer­ing little more than a bit of shelter for the birds that land on their branches. I think ahead to when the first pink blossoms will appear in spring—and the fruit that will follow. It’s wonderful, though, that even as I pass judgment on the trees in winter, there is still life inside.

    Maybe you have read (or heard of) the book by Brother Lawrence called The Practice of the Presence of God. Don’t let the size of the book fool you. Though small in its number of pages, it is rich in wisdom.

    Brother Lawrence, a friar who is one of my heroes, came to realize that wherever he was, it was a good place to connect with God, for God is everywhere. Because of God’s presence, even places where Lawrence had felt empty and worthless became rich with a sense of belonging. His place in the monastery where he lived was the kitchen. There he learned to cook meals, do dishes, and run errands with God. What seemed a lowly position to others became a retreat and a haven of relationship with God. The kitchen became Lawrence’s sanctuary, where he worshiped in spirit and in truth.

    Where is your sanctuary?

God’s Encouragement

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Encouragement to Pass the Baton – Crosswalk Devotional

 

Top 10 Bible Verses About Mercy With Commentary

By Laura Bailey, Crosswalk.com

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” – 2 Timothy 4:1-2 NIV

Recognizing the handwriting on the front of the card, a grin quickly spread across my face. The person behind this well-timed letter of encouragement? A wise, older spiritual mentor who had invested countless hours encouraging and spurring me on in various ministry avenues. Often times with notes just like the one in my hand.

It had been one of those weeks, and really, the past few months had been difficult in ministry. Our church was experiencing a time of transition, the congregation constantly changing, causing a deeper strain and commitment on already maxed-out members to keep serving through this uncertain time.

In this particular season, our church experienced great loss among our elderly serving saints, some rejoicing in Heaven while others were confined to their homes. We deeply felt the absence of these spiritual powerhouses, their physical contributions, their rich godly wisdom, and their deep love for the Lord and His people.

As I read over the card from my mentor, a woman I playfully call my “church grandmother,” tears pricked my eyes. She wrote to let me know she was praying for me, that I would have strength and wisdom as I served. She closed the letter with warm regards and unexpected biblical commissioning from 2 Timothy 4:1-2, “I’m passing the baton to you.”

Paul’s letter to Timothy was his way of passing on the honor, privilege, and great responsibility of teaching the church. This charge to Timothy contained the Greek word diamartyromai, meaning obligation. Paul’s word choice implies that he desired Timothy not only to listen but ready himself to obey. In the subsequent verses, Paul urged Timothy to prepare to teach the Gospel in all seasons, to all people, in times of prosperity and adversity.

The inspiration for the final words in my mentor’s letter came from Paul’s final words as he passed the baton to Timothy because his earthly life would soon come to an end. With these words, Paul encouraged Timothy to persevere and remember the gospel as he had modeled. Paul and Timothy had a mentor relationship, a father/son bond, and a deep friendship. Paul loved Timothy and wanted to see him succeed in his earthly ministry, but he knew from experience serving the Lord is filled with opposition and hardship.

Paul’s final words of advice, as he reiterated the passing of his ministry leadership to Timothy, “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5) Paul passed down wisdom from years of experience; keep calm, preserve through the trials, share the Good News, and complete the calling of Christ on your life. As we read through other accounts of Timothy, we see that he did heed Paul’s wisdom. He grabbed the baton of faith, ran the race well, and persevered.

My mentor and the Lord knew I would need encouragement and commissioning to navigate and persevere in ministry. May we strive to be people with arms and hearts open to receiving this great commissioning from the saints who have run their race and finished strong. And may we be faithful in looking for opportunities to pass the baton of faith when the time comes.

Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle

Sermon: Faith and Life

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.’ 2 Peter 1:4

Suggested Further Reading: Colossians 3:1–10

Rejoice in this, brethren, you are made partakers of the divine nature, and all these promises are given to you in order that you may show this forth among the sons of men, that you are like God, and not like ordinary men; that you are different now from what flesh and blood would make you, having been made participators of the nature of God. The other result which follows is this, ‘Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.’ Ah, beloved, it were ill that a man who is alive should dwell in corruption. ‘Why seek ye the living among the dead?’ said the angel to Magdalene. Should the living dwell among the dead? Should divine life be found amongst the corruptions of worldly lusts? A member of Christ’s body found intoxicated in the streets, or lying, or blaspheming, or dishonest! God forbid. Shall I take the members of Christ, and make them members of a harlot? How can I drink the cup of the Lord, and drink the cup of Belial? How can it be possible that I can have life, and yet dwell in the foul tomb of the world’s lusts? Surely, brethren, from these open lusts and sins you have escaped: have you also escaped from the more secret and more delusive temptations of Satan? O, have you come forth from the lust of pride? Have you escaped from laziness? Have you clean escaped from carnal security? Are you seeking day by day to live above worldliness, the love of the things of the world, and the ensnaring greed which they nourish? Remember, it is for this that you have been enriched with the treasures of God.

For meditation: Never treat evangelism as an excuse for worldly behaviour. We must meet unconverted people, but what will make an impression upon them is the fact that we have been transformed by the grace of God. This should be seen both positively (Matthew 5:16) and negatively (1 Peter 4:3–4).

Today’s Devotions

Morning

January 24

Genesis 28:15 15I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Jacob had bought his brother’s birthright and stolen his blessing. As he fled from his brother Esau, he had an encounter with God at Bethel. There, God promised many things to this rascal. Nothing is really asked of Jacob. True, Jacob valued the blessing but went about obtaining it in an ungodly manner. Once God had expressed the blessing and promises to Jacob, Jacob went about cutting a deal. Allow me to paraphrase it. “OK, if you protect, feed, clothe me, and get me back here safely, tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you a tenth and worship you here. Then I’ll adopt you as my god.” (I use the little “g” intentionally.)

How patient God is with us! Jacob had just been told how blessed he was, in spite of his deceptions, received promises he didn’t deserve, and then he talked to God as if God needed him! If we will look deep within our own heart, we will find the same is often true of us and our requests of God. He has given us promises as great as the ones He gave to Jacob, and we still wheel and deal with Him as if He should be grateful for our worship.

Prayer: Oh Lord, open our eyes to who You are and all that You have promised us. Help us to worship and adore You and ask in humble gratitude only the things that are in your will for your glory and honor.

Wow! Glory to God – Todays Devotion

  2 CORINTHIANS 1:18-22

It is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us. . . .

—  2 Corinthians 1:21

I have a wooden “Christmas” tree that stays up all year in my living room. After the Christmas season, because it is a flat tree with shelves, it is my tree of wisdom, and on each shelf there is a sign with an inspiring, clever saying on it. For example, “Sing like no one is listening”; “Dance like no one is watching”; “Love like you have never been hurt before”; “Live like heaven begins tomorrow”; “We do second chances”; and “Today I need a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus.”

My favorite chair sits beside the tree, and when people enter my house, they usually notice the tree and comment on it. The signs remind me to smile or pray or appreciate something about our life, our story, and our family.

I am thankful that 2 Corinthians reminds us of who God is. God’s promises are sealed with the “Yes” of his love for us in Jesus. God’s “Amen” (“So be it”) is to his glory. He has affirmed us as his own, and through the Holy Spirit he has given us full, new life. There is no waffling on God’s part. God’s “Yes” is always “Yes.”

Let this be a “Wow!” thought for your day. God is completing in you what he started.

Dear God, thank you for equipping us to stand firm. Thank you for working in us so that your ­glory can be seen. Thank you for the “Wow!” factors in your promises. Amen.

 

Our Traditions

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Our Traditions

woman holding a calendar and planning

 

Whitney Ballard – cbn.com

This week, I’ve been busy planning my son’s 11th birthday party. The venue isn’t fancy—it will be a backyard ordeal, equipped with a kickball game and a trampoline. The menu isn’t elaborate. A few boxes of pizza and a tub of ice cream will surely take the culinary spotlight. And the guest list isn’t long. The grandparents and neighbors’ kids make up the majority of it.

Yet, I will still find a way to stress over everything. I will probably forget something, such as the candles, and beat myself up over it. I will fixate on cleaning the guest bathroom. I will worry about not having enough seating. I will find some random detail that’s not up to par and derail myself from the joy of the event itself.

I could already feel the tension arising last night. You see, I snapped at my husband, who innocently forgot to invite his sister, and tweaked a detail on the cake order from Publix. I found myself experiencing misplaced rage over something so very silly.

All of this unnecessary worry I had about maintaining tradition caused me to forget about what truly mattered, as I acted in a way I’m now embarrassed about.

Fast forward to this morning, as I read through the 15th chapter of Matthew and was immediately reminded of what Jesus shares with us about tradition:

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?”

In this chapter of Matthew, God reminds the Pharisees that their laws and customs are not above God’s. Jesus shares the important reminder that God’s commandments should come first, before any laws of man, traditions, or anything, for that matter.

This hit hard as I thought about the many details I had allowed to cloud my judgment and take my energy—when in reality, acting kindly and humbly as God intended is far more important than any self-made or traditional expectations of me.

Jesus said unto the Pharisees: “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them” (Matthew 15:17-18).

Let us not use our traditions as an excuse to forget our tongues or manners, even to those closest to us. I personally am working on this every day. This weekend, I choose to focus more on my son’s joy and less about the details that I’ve often deemed too important. Thank you, Jesus, for the reminder that Your commandments are the details in which we should fix our vision.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

January 23

Genesis 25:23 23The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

The unnamed servant of Abraham went to Haran and sought out a wife for Isaac. If we follow the analogy of Isaac being a foreshadow of Christ, then this servant is like the Holy Spirit seeking the bride of Christ. He finds Rebecca and takes her from her father’s house without delay. When Rebecca is joined with her husband, she finds this war within her. Is that not true of us, the bride of Christ. The flesh is warring against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh (Galatians 5:17).

The custom of that day was for the firstborn to receive twice as much as any other heir along with the responsibility and authority of the father. That has carried down to this day in many Eastern countries, but God reversed the order with Abraham’s sons and Isaac’s sons, and others. The picture is that the first born, the flesh, must serve the second born, the spirit. There must be a separation as God predicted to Rebecca. We have to set the flesh aside, crucify it with Christ, and refuse to serve it. Even more than that, we must master it.

Which one is the stronger? If we look physically, by sight, we would say Esau. Notice the prophecy says ‘one people will be stronger’. If we look at the people descended from them, the Jewish people have been stronger spiritually and in persistence. These two are at war, even as I write, through the nations they have become. There is a war within you, Christian brother or sister. You must set the flesh aside. The Spirit is stronger. Don’t for a moment believe the flesh is. The older will serve the younger. See that it is so by yielding to the life of the Jesus in you every day.

Meditation: “For sin shall not be your master.” Romans 6:14a (NIV)

Streams in the Desert – January 23

  • 202323 Jan

Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? (Psalms 10:1)

God is “a very present help in trouble.” But He permits trouble to pursue us, as though He were indifferent to its overwhelming pressure, that we may be brought to the end of ourselves, and led to discover the treasure of darkness, the unmeasurable gains of tribulation.

We may be sure that He who permits the suffering is with us in it. It may be that we shall see Him only when the trial is passing; but we must dare to believe that He never leaves the crucible. Our eyes are holden; and we cannot behold Him whom our soul loveth. It is dark–the bandages blind us so that we cannot see the form of our High Priest; but He is there, deeply touched. Let us not rely on feeling, but on faith in His unswerving fidelity; and though we see Him not, let us talk to Him. Directly we begin to speak to Jesus, as being literally present, though His presence is veiled, there comes an answering voice which shows that He is in the shadow, keeping watch upon His own. Your Father is as near when you journey through the dark tunnel as when under the open heaven!
–Daily Devotional Commentary

What though the path be all unknown?
What though the way be drear?
Its shades I traverse not alone
When steps of Thine are near.

Hey, God

  PHILIPPIANS 4:4-9

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.

—  Philippians 4:9

Many years ago I read an incredible book called Hey God by Frank Foglio. The back cover gives this description: “Mama Foglio, her cantankerous husband, and ten rambunctious kids were poor. In fact, they were so poor that the poor people called them poor. Then one day the Lord burst into their lives, in the form of another, equally poor, equally large and tumultuous Italian–American family that stormed into their home and evangelized them mano a mano.” The book shows how Mama Foglio began to understand the riches of her spiritual Father and to rely on them. It is a powerful witness of what happens when we hand our anxiety over to God and begin to pray.

There are times when anxiety or fear can be paralyzing, and even though we know that to be true, we still go down that path. I love it that Paul, from a prison cell, reminds us to stay focused on the Lord and “rejoice always.” He reminds us that conversation with God is important. He reminds us that we are a witness to ­others when we learn to lean on God rather than our anxieties. He also reminds us to remind ourselves of what is true: God’s provision is always ours.

As we change our thinking, we remember that through Jesus we have full access to the Father, who hears all our requests and gives us all that we need. And we inherit his peace, which “transcends all understanding.”

Lord, we rejoice that you are always with us. Thank you for peace and for all the riches you give us. Amen.

 

Fixing Our Eyes Upon Jesus

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Fixing Our Eyes Upon Jesus

Daily inspiration – Keep your eyes on Jesus | Alex on Faith

 

Gordon Robertson – President and CEO, CBN

With all the problems in the world today, it’s easy to focus on the storms and turmoil. Instead, we should be

looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)

Jesus is the answer to every human need. He will provide. He will deliver victory—not based on what we do, but on what He has done. All we need to do is believe Him.

Peter was the only disciple to step out onto the water while the others stayed in the boat. Even so, when he looked at the wind and waves, he began to sink. Matthew 14:31 tells us that Jesus caught him and asked,

“Why did you doubt?”

We make a big deal about how much faith we have in God; it’s a bigger deal that God has faith in us. He believes we can do what He has called us to do, yet it’s easy to waver and doubt.

When the Israelites refused to enter Canaan because of the spies’ report about giants, Joshua said not to fear them,

“for they are our bread” (Numbers 14:9)

Joshua was a man of faith and of power. His perspective was that with God all things are possible; God has given us the land, and our enemies will be turned into our nourishment.

Forty years later, God encouraged Joshua before leading the people into battle:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed. The Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9)

When God says not to be afraid, He’s preparing us that things may not be easy.

Yet first He says, “Have I not commanded you?” From God’s perspective, when He commands, it’s a done deal. When God says, “Let there be light,” there is light.

Then He promises, “The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

We also hear God’s command and promise in the Great Commission:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations …; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20)

What God has commanded, He will accomplish. We simply need to do our part and proclaim the Good News.

And as we obey Him, we have His assurance in Hebrews 13:5:

I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

God bless you.

Receiving God’s Gifts in Others

“Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:10 (CSB)

Last spring, we found ourselves in a muddy situation — literally.

We had unintentionally created 10 tiny ponds in our backyard and a huge safety hazard for the kids! See, my husband and I had come up with this exciting (and perhaps overly ambitious) idea to start a backyard orchard. On a whim, I ordered 10 fruit trees and started dreaming of picking my own apples.

It was a lovely dream, but in reality, we dug 10 huge holes and then didn’t have enough time to finish planting. It rained so much that week that by the time we got back outside, the holes were completely filled with muddy water.

After trying unsuccessfully to scoop the water out with a 5-gallon bucket and use the hose as a siphon, my tired husband was about to head to the hardware store when I suggested he text our neighbor. We both felt a little silly about it. How often do you get a text saying, “Hey, do you have anything I can use to get water out of the huge holes in my yard?”

But he asked anyway, and to our surprise, our neighbor had the perfect solution! He’s into boats and had a pump that’s typically used to get water out of things like … well, boats. Who knew?! We sure didn’t.

For us, this was a wonderful reminder that God designed us to be in community. First Peter 4:10 says, “Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God.” I often look at verses like this and think only about my responsibility to help, but let’s consider the flip side of it: In community, we also get to be the recipients of God’s gifts in others.

There are skills, crafts and hobbies we simply do not have but someone connected to us just might. While a co-worker’s love for painting or sewing may not come to mind in all situations, it’s there for us to tap into when we do need it. That’s the power of community. We don’t have to individually possess every talent or have access to every resource we may need along the way.

And God, being the good Father He is, loves when we do life with others and benefit from the blessings He’s placed in them. If I’m delighted when my kids help each other with schoolwork and chores, then God, who’s an infinitely better parent than I am, surely takes joy when we help one another.

We’re all made better by the exchange of good ideas and resources. Looking at it this way, we see our individual imperfections give us an amazing opportunity. We get to feel more complete when we thrive alongside others, filling each other’s gaps when needed.

While my husband and I would’ve eventually found a way to empty those holes, our neighbor helped us do it in peace, with half the effort. In unity, we can strive less. Perhaps this is one reason Jesus said, “Take up my yoke and learn from me … and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30, CSB). Being connected to Him also connects us to the greatness He has put in those who follow Him.

Streams in the Desert – January 22

  • 202322 Jan

He withdrew… to a solitary place (Matthew 14:13).

There is no music during a musical rest, but the rest is part of the making of the music. In the melody of our life, the music is separated here and there by rests. During those rests, we foolisly believe we have come to the end fo the song. God sends us time of forced leisure by allowing sickness, disappointed plans, and frustrated efforts. He brings a sudden pause in the choral hymns of our lives, and we lament that our voices must be silent. We grieve that our part is missing in the music that continually rises to the ear of our Creator. Yet how does a musician read the rest? He counts the break with unwavering precision and plays his next note with confidence, as if no pause were ever there.

God does not write the music of our lives without a plan. Our part is to learn the tune and not be discouraged during the rests. They are not to be slurred over or omitted, nor used to destroy the melody or to change the key. If we will only look up, God Himself will count the time for us. With our eyes on Him, our next note will be full and clear. If we sorrowfully say to ourselves, “There is no music in a rest,” let us not forget that the rest is part of the making of the music. The process is often slow and painful in this life, yet how patiently God works to teach us! And how long He waits for us to learn the lesson!
–John Ruskin

Today’s Devotions

Morning

January 22

Genesis 22:7-8,14 7Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

14So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”

And God did provide Himself as the lamb, the lamb of atonement that took away the sins of the world. For almost two millenniums the Jewish people asked the same question. Where is the lamb? Where is the One who will satisfy God? Shepherds could not provide the lamb; He had to come from the Great Shepherd. And in the fullness of time, God did provide the Lamb. God the Father and God the Son went together, the two of them, to Mount Moriah.

Abraham looked forward through time and saw the LORD providing the Lamb of God in that same spot. “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”On that mountain atonement for you and me was provided. In father Abraham’s case, the knife was stopped mid-air, but Father God allowed the piercing of the Son He so greatly loved, to bring many sons to glory. God knew the grave could not hold the One who is Life, but that did not lessen the pain of the Son or the Father in that torturous death on the cross. It did not lessen the separation that took place when the sins of the world were placed upon Jesus and the forces of hell were unleashed upon Him. Child of God, God has provided for you the Lamb to take away your sins.

Consider: Am I living a life of thankfulness for that provision?

God’s Love For You Is Eternal

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The Way of Love

women smiling and talking and having coffee

 

My husband and I were sitting at the kitchen table having a difficult discussion with a close family member. She has very different opinions than the biblical views on abortion, marriage, and transgender issues. Perhaps you’ve had tough talks like this with loved ones. It can be really challenging to show love to people who disagree. We know some churchgoers who try so hard to accommodate those with opposing viewpoints that they simply say, “You’re right and the Bible is wrong.”

Perhaps they are thinking of how Jesus told His followers:

“Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (John 13:34-35 NLT)

As believers in Jesus, my husband and I are eager to show love to everyone so that they may draw closer to the Lord. This means showing His love to those who disagree with us and even to those who may hate us. Even so, showing God’s love mean does not mean approving and affirming views and behavior that contradict His Word.

True love points people to the cross, where Jesus died for the sins of everyone. For we all desperately need a Savior, whether we struggle with same-sex attraction, pornography, addictions, bouts of anger, telling “little” lies, or gossiping. It’s all sin, and—praise God!—it’s all covered by the blood that Jesus shed for us. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 assures us,

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Sometimes I feel like it’s walking on a tightrope, holding onto biblical values while showing love to a person who is far from God. If you’re like me, you don’t want to jeopardize relationships that are near and dear to us.

Loving God and following Him can be costly, as Moses discovered when God called him out of his comfort zone and appointed him to the seemingly impossible task of leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. And John the Baptist paid the ultimate price by giving up his life to obey God, calling people to repent and prepare the way of the Lord (see Luke 3:4).

Yet as we go through these difficult circumstances, we have the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 12:11-12 to encourage us:

“Don’t worry about how to defend yourself or what to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said.”

And as we depend on the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom, let’s also remember the admonition to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). How can we do this? By the mighty power of God that resides within us. For as 1 John 4:16 tells us, God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.

Dear Lord God, please fill us daily with the power of Your Holy Spirit that we may have wisdom and discernment to know what to say to people who do not yet understand the eternal truth of Your Word. Fill us with Your unconditional love for them, that they may come to know You. We pray in the name of our wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Streams in the Desert – January 21

  • 202321 Jan

None of these things move me (Acts 20:24).

We read in the book of Samuel that the moment that David was crowned at Hebron, “All the Philistines came up to seek David.” And the moment we get anything from the Lord worth contending for, then the devil comes to seek us.

When the enemy meets us at the threshold of any great work for God, let us accept it as “a token of salvation,” and claim double blessing, victory, and power. Power is developed by resistance. The cannon carries twice as far because the exploding power has to find its way through resistance. The way electricity is produced in the powerhouse yonder is by the sharp friction of the revolving wheels. And so we shall find some day that even Satan has been one of God’s agencies of blessing.
–Days of Heaven upon Earth

A hero is not fed on sweets,
Daily his own heart he eats;
Chambers of the great are jails,
And head winds right for royal sails.

–Emerson

Tribulation is the way to triumph. The valley-way opens into the highway. Tribulation’s imprint is on all great things. Crowns are cast in crucibles. Chains of character that wind about the feet of God are forged in earthly flames. No man is greatest victor till he has trodden the winepress of woe. With seams of anguish deep in His brow, the “Man of Sorrows” said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation”–but after this sob comes the psalm of promise, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

The footprints are traceable everywhere. Bloodmarks stain the steps that lead to thrones. Sears are the price of scepters. Our crowns will be wrested from the giants we conquer. Grief has always been the lot of greatness. It is an open secret.

The mark of rank in nature.
Is capacity for pain;
And the anguish of the singer
Makes the sweetest of the strain.

The personality of the Holy Spirit

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever: Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him: for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” John 14:16,17

Suggested Further Reading: Acts 2:32-39

Observe here, that each person is spoken of as performing a separate office. “I will pray,” says the Son—that is intercession. “I will send,” says the Father—that is donation. “I will comfort,” says the Holy Spirit—that is supernatural influence. Oh! if it were possible for us to see the three persons of the Godhead, we should behold one of them standing before the throne with outstretched hands crying day and night, “O Lord, how long?” We should see one girt with Urim and Thummim, precious stones, on which are written the twelve names of the tribes of Israel; we should behold him crying unto his Father, “Forget not thy promises, forget not thy covenant;” we should hear him make mention of our sorrows, and tell forth our griefs on our behalf, for he is our intercessor. And if we could behold the Father, we should not see him a listless and idle spectator of the intercession of the Son, but we should see him with attentive ear listening to every word of Jesus, and granting every petition. Where is the Holy Spirit all the while? Is he lying idle? Oh, no; he is floating over the earth, and when he sees a weary soul, he says, “Come to Jesus, he will give you rest.” When he beholds an eye filled with tears, he wipes away the tears, and bids the mourner look for comfort on the cross. When he sees the tempest-tossed believer, he takes the helm of his soul and speaks the word of consolation; he helps the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds; and ever on his mission of mercy, he flies around the world, being everywhere present. Behold how the three persons work together.

For meditation: Salvation is all of God—the work is all done by him. And yet he grants to believers the privilege of being co-opted as his fellow-workers to advertise the gospel on his behalf (2 Corinthians 5:18-6: 1).

Today’s Devotions

Morning

January 21

Genesis 22:1-2 1Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 2Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

Isaac was one of the greatest foreshadows of Christ. Throughout this story, we have pictures of what will happen in the life of Jesus. Isaac’s birth was miraculous. He is the son of promise, the only son, whom his father loved. On the mountain Moriah (the same place Jesus was sacrificed), he carried the wood for his execution. Since Abraham was well over 100, I assume the boy was willingly bound by his father, just as Jesus willingly went to the cross. We will not read of Isaac again until he receives his bride. These are amazing parallels for us to see that God is in the details and knows the end from the beginning.

In this passage, God is said to test Abraham. God does not tempt us, but He does test us (James 1:13). God will test us to strengthen our resolve and to help us realize where we are in our growth in Him. His tests help us get off the fence and stand squarely in the kingdom of God.

He calls us by name. He speaks just as clearly today as He did to Abraham. What seemed like a great burden, and to be inconsistent with God’s character, turned out to be a great blessing. It is now a great badge of honor that Abraham believed God’s promise to the extent that he knew God would raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). He told his servants “WE will return to you (22:5).”

Consider: What has God promised you? Will you lay it down and trust God to bring it about in His way and time? Can you surrender it back to God, like faithful Abraham did?

The God Of The Second Chance

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The God of a Second Chance

 

young woman praying at a coffee table with a Bible on it

 

Terry Meeuwsen – cbn.com

I began working in television in Milwaukee in 1978. While I’d never set out to do talk TV, I felt at home from the beginning, and being in the public eye gave me many opportunities to share my faith. Because it was fairly common knowledge in the community that I was a Christian, the publicity of going through a divorce was difficult. That winter, I went home at the end of each day to a cold, silent house. Emotionally depressed and grieved, I would then climb into bed with my hat, coat, and boots still on and sleep till morning.

I’m not sure when that heavy veil of grief and emptiness began to lift. But sometime that spring, I became aware of the sweet smell of the wet earth beginning to thaw, the songs of promise that were being sung with such abandon from every nest and perch. I began to move on. I had no intention of dating and no interest in pursuing a new relationship. Though I loved children, I had accepted that there would be none in my first marriage. I was in my 30s, and the prospect of marriage and a family seemed remote and unlikely. Yet God had other plans.

I met Andy Friedrich at a retirement celebration for a coworker. He had gone through a divorce a number of years before that, and after much floundering and searching, a friend had led him to Christ. But no one had discipled him, so he had little knowledge of the Scriptures and wasn’t in a church or study group of any kind. Initially we met to talk about the Lord. In time, I grudgingly conceded to a date, but not without apprehension.

Even though Andy was ready for a relationship, I was still gun-shy—so he simply waited. With tenderness and kindness and an incredible amount of patience, he broke down any barriers I’d put up. He was faithful, trustworthy, and committed to the Lord and to me. We were married a little more than a year after we’d begun dating.

The Lord used Andy in many ways to help heal old wounds in me. He offered both of us a new beginning, a clean slate, a hope, and a future. And I’m now a mom—not one, not two, but seven children, each a precious, unique gift from the Lord. God has surely given me more than I could hope for or ask.

The story of Joseph in the book of Genesis is one of my favorites. Sold by his brothers into slavery, taken to a foreign land, unfairly accused and imprisoned, and with little hope or expectation of ever seeing his family again, Joseph was in what seemed an impossible situation. Despite all that, the Bible says, “The Lord was with him.”

God allowed the testing to build character in Joseph. Joseph went through years of waiting and suffering before he saw God’s plan in it all. God used Joseph to save Egypt, the surrounding nations, and Joseph’s own family. God’s plans and purposes are so much bigger and greater than our own.

At the end of his story, Joseph says,

“You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day” Genesis 50:20 (NKJV)

That same truth is reconfirmed in the book of Romans in the New Testament.

“All things work together for good to those who love God” Romans 8:28 (NKJV).

God is indeed, the God of second chances.

Streams in the Desert – January 20

  • 202320 Jan

Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better (Ecclesiastes 7:3).

When sorrow comes under the power of Divine grace, it works out a manifold ministry in our lives. Sorrow reveals unknown depths in the soul, and unknown capabilities of experience and service. Gay, trifling people are always shallow, and never suspect the little meannesses in their nature. Sorrow is God’s plowshare that turns up and subsoils the depths of the soul, that it may yield richer harvests. If we had never fallen, or were in a glorified state, then the strong torrents of Divine joy would be the normal force to open up all our souls’ capacities; but in a fallen world, sorrow, with despair taken out of it, is the chosen power to reveal ourselves to ourselves. Hence it is sorrow that makes us think deeply, long, and soberly.

Sorrow makes us go slower and more considerately, and introspect our motives and dispositions. It is sorrow that opens up within us the capacities of the heavenly life, and it is sorrow that makes us willing to launch our capacities on a boundless sea of service for God and our fellows.

We may suppose a class of indolent people living at the base of a great mountain range, who had never ventured to explore the valleys and canyons back in the mountains; and some day, when a great thunderstorm goes careening through the mountains, it turns the hidden glens into echoing trumpets, and reveals the inner recesses of the valley, like the convolutions of a monster shell, and then the dwellers at the foot of the hills are astonished at the labyrinths and unexplored recesses of a region so near by, and yet so little known. So it is with many souls who indolently live on the outer edge of their own natures until great thunderstorms of sorrow reveal hidden depths within that were never hitherto suspected.

God never uses anybody to a large degree, until after He breaks that one all to pieces. Joseph had more sorrow than all the other sons of Jacob, and it led him out into a ministry of bread for all nations. For this reason, the Holy Spirit said of him, “Joseph is a fruitful bough…by a well, whose branches run over the wall” (Gen. 49:22). It takes sorrow to widen the soul.
–The Heavenly Life

Words of expostulation

By Charles Spurgeon

“And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river?” Jeremiah 2:18

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7: 1

In the life of Madame Guyon, who, though professedly a Papist, one must ever receive as being a true child of God, I have read an anecdote something to this effect. She had been invited by some friends to spend a few days at the palace of St. Cloud. She knew it was a place full of pomp, and fashion, and, I must add, of vice also; but being over-persuaded by her friend, and being especially tempted with the idea that perhaps her example might do good, she accepted the invitation. Her experience afterwards should be a warning to all Christians. For some years that holy woman had walked in constant fellowship with Christ; perhaps none ever saw the Saviour’s face, and kissed his wounds more truly than she had done. But when she came home from St. Cloud, she found her usual joy was departed; she had lost her power in prayer; she could not draw near to Christ as she should have done. She felt in going to the lover of her soul as if she had played the harlot against him. She was afraid to hope that she could be received again to his pure and perfect love, and it took some months before the equilibrium of her peace could be restored, and her heart could yet again be wholly set upon her Lord. He that wears a white garment must mind where he walks when the world’s streets are as filthy as they are. He that has a thousand enemies must take care how he shows himself. He that has nothing on earth to assist him towards heaven should take care that he does not go where the world can help towards hell. O believer, keep clear of fellowship with this world, for the love of this world is enmity against God.

For meditation: Commonsense should tell us that when something clean and something unclean brush against one another, the unclean object is not improved but the clean object is changed for the worse (Haggai 2:11-14).

Come to the Table

From: Todays Devotion

  PSALM 23:1-6

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

—  Psalm 23:5

On our front lawn sits a turquoise picnic table. Behind it is a fence painted with a mural. When the weather turns warm, we use this table to invite our neighbors for coffee chats, street parties, and other fun events. During the winter, we decorate it with snow figures sitting at the table enjoying a meal. The picnic table is a sign of hospitality to our neighborhood. The invitation to come and be part of the gathering is intentional.

Psalm 23 is about intentional care and hospitality. It describes the important work of a faithful shepherd for his flock of sheep. Without a shepherd, the sheep would be hopelessly lost and afflicted by disease or predators. This psalm helps us see how the Lord is our shepherd and we are his sheep.

The mention of a table takes the relationship with God even deeper. The Lord prepares a banquet for us. Our host makes sure that everything is taken care of. When we sit at the table, we acknowledge that we can trust our host to sustain us with all he has provided. Full plates give us all we need while God protects us from the enemies around us.

The picnic table at our home is intended to refresh people’s spirits and give them a smile. May your heart be refreshed and encouraged as the Lord, your shepherd, prepares a table for you today.

Dear God, thank you for preparing a table for us. Thank you for refreshing us and giving us every­thing we need to live through the battles of this day. Amen.

Mess or Masterpiece

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Newness of Life- A New Creature | Answers to Life MinistriesNew creation in Christ

Mess or Masterpiece

From: Crosswalk.com

By Ashley Moore

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” – Ephesians 2:10, NLT

I read recently, “a piece of art doesn’t have to be perfect or finished to be a masterpiece.” The author further observed that w