Tag Archives: Fitness

Turn Back or Not?

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Turn Back or Not?

driving a car

 

Merle Mills – Partner Service Representative, cbn.com

Merging onto the interstate was easier than I had expected. It was 8:30 a.m. Without traffic backups, I would arrive in time to pick up my niece at 9:00 for her appointment.

Traffic slowed. This was a perfect time to check my cell phone to ensure there were no messages with last-minute changes from my niece. I reached carefully into the usual spot in my handbag. It was not there. In rushing, I had forgotten it.

Should I turn back? With a 60-mph speed limit, time restraints, and no upcoming exits, there was little choice. I decided to proceed without it.

Have you ever left home without your cell phone? What were your feelings?

I suspect most Americans feel uneasy leaving their phone at home.

For the next few hours, I would have no mobile functions: no calling or texting, GPS navigation, emergency alerts, verse of the day, or lunch menu choices or other notifications… I began to feel “uneasy.” Should I have turned back?

I thought of a few examples in the Bible about those who did not consider turning back, such as the twelve disciples:

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:66-68).

The adulterous woman. Jesus forgave her past and told her,

“Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).

David the psalmist confessed:

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight (Psalm 51:4).

He later declared,

I will praise the Lord all of my life. I will sing praise to my God as long as I live (Psalm 146:2).

The Apostle Paul said of himself:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 1 Timothy 1:15

He later said:

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

I too have received God’s forgiveness from a broken past. No… turning back is not an option:

I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes (Psalm 119:59).

Without my cell phone, all went well. My niece arrived early for her appointment, we used verbal communication (an almost-forgotten skill) to arrange meet up after, and we used her cell phone to help locate her favorite Colombian Blend coffee shop.

Five hours later, I was reunited with my handheld device. On checking, the only communication I had received was a message at 8:57: “Good morning, Aunt Merle. You haven’t forgotten me, right?”

What to Do When Worry Comes

By:  Betsy St. Amant , Crosswalk.com

Colossians 1:16-17 (ESV) For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

My teen daughter went to a concert in Dallas a few nights ago with her best friend and her best friend’s mom. This was a Big Deal, as you probably remember your first “real” concert and how cool it was—and how cool you felt! I was excited for her—but not so much for me. As a mother, I struggle with anxiety, especially when I’m away from my kids. I think we all do in some form because mothers are wired that way—to nurture, to protect.

Sometimes, though, that natural, God-given wiring can glitch a little into full-blown anxiety. When my daughter left on this trip, I expected the worry to come. I anticipated it, even. I knew that having worrisome thoughts did not mean it was a premonition of disaster. It was simply anxiety, it was normal, and it would pass. I was all fired up to walk this out well and overcome my typical patterns of worry. The plan was that after the concert, the three of them would drive back to the friend’s house in town and crash for the night, then I’d pick up my teen the next morning after they’d slept in and recovered.

After the concert was over, they texted me as expected to let me know they were in the car and heading home. It was around 10:30 p.m., and it would be a good three-hour drive. I knew the mom in charge was trustworthy and competent (and a good friend of mine!), and I had no reason to worry. In fact, you might even say I basked in the fact that I wasn’t worrying at all as I tracked my daughter’s progress down I-20 on a phone app. I marveled at how non-panicky I was as I watched them inch their way down the gray highway line on my map. I was doing so great!

At 10:45, they told me they were heading to a well-known truck stop/souvenir shop to gas up and get snacks, and they would let me know when they arrived safe and sound back at the friend’s house. After monitoring their progress on my app for about an hour, I finally fell asleep around 11:30. At 12:30, I abruptly woke up. I immediately checked my app, but it wasn’t updating. No matter how many times I refreshed the page, it simply would not give me my daughter’s location after 11:30 p.m.

That’s when the worry struck. I knew, deep down in the logical part of my heart and brain, that nothing was wrong, that she was probably just in a bad service area, or that her phone had run out of charge after spending hours taking video and photos of the concert. I texted the mom, who was driving and likely not going to see the text anyway and waited. Nothing.

That’s when the not-so-logical part of my heart and brain immediately assumed that surely, they’d all three been kidnapped at the gas station and their phones smashed. That was the only remaining option. (Illogical fears make so much more sense in the middle of the night!) I tried to go back to sleep, but my thoughts refused to stop churning and generating various new disasters that could explain the silence. (Sometimes, it’s really difficult to be a fiction author with a good imagination!)

Finally, I remembered I also had the best friend’s phone number, so I shot her a quick text. Within three minutes, she wrote back. All was well. They were sugared up and halfway home. Oops.

It’s easy to trust God when we feel in control, isn’t it? When the apps are working and we can watch what’s happening from afar when we have information exactly when we want it, and when all is going according to plan. It’s a lot harder to trust when we’re stripped of our resources and suddenly very aware of how much we’re not in control.

I was no longer proud of myself. And then I realized (thank you, Holy Spirit!) that my pride was based on illusion, anyway. All those hours prior, I wasn’t overcoming anxiety—I was simply believing I was in control. Everything was going my way. That’s a huge difference! It wasn’t that I was trusting God—I was trusting myself and technology and communication. Oops again.

Colossians 1 reminds us that in Christ, all things hold together. They’re not held together in smartphones. Or in tracking apps. Or in padded bank accounts or thriving romantic relationships or in corporate ladder climbing. In today’s world of upgraded technology, instant communication, and easy access, it’s tempting to trust in the wrong things. Where is your trust today?

If you struggle with anxiety and worry, you’re not alone. And for believers, there’s no condemnation in Christ, so don’t beat yourself up over those middle-of-the-night fears. Instead, learn from them. Create a resource of Scripture that you can go to when the worry strikes (because it will). Reassure yourself that God is in control, and that’s exactly how it should be. After all, at the end of the day, I don’t think you and I truly want that responsibility! He’s much better at it than us. And He doesn’t even need an app.

Coming to Judge

  MARK 13:24-27

From: Today Devotions

“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”

—  Mark 13:26

The details about Jesus’ second coming are mysterious, and there are differing interpretations of some of the Bible’s statements about end times and the return of Christ. But in teaching about Christ’s return, the Apostles’ Creed simply states this bold biblical truth: “He will come to judge the living and the dead.”

Someday Jesus will return from heaven. He didn’t say when this will be, but he did say that he will return “with great ­power and glory” for all to see.

Jesus’ coming again will be a day of great joy for all his followers, who have been redeemed through his sacrifice on the cross. For them the whole curse of death and hell has been removed (Romans 8).

But Jesus’ return will also be a day of great trembling because, as the Bible warns, he will judge once and for all the people who have rejected him.

Though believers in Christ may not agree on all the details of his return, we certainly can agree on how we should live for him. Jesus calls us to follow him faithfully, dying daily to ourselves so that we can walk in step with his Spirit, using our gifts for God’s glory and bearing fruit in his name (John 15:1-17Galatians 5:22-26). This involves showing God’s love to everyone and sharing his desire that everyone believe in him.

Serving the Lord from Generation to Generation

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L’Dor v’Dor: Serving the Lord from Generation to Generation

father-holding-toddler-hand-walking

 

Sean Lewandowski – Product Manager, cbn.com

Mighty men of valor! Is that us? Is that our children? As parents, we have surely heard the popular Scriptures on raising our children to know the Lord. From Proverbs 22:6, we are told to train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. In Deuteronomy 11:19, we are told to continuously teach God’s Word to our children—sitting at home, walking along the road, lying down and getting up. And of course, the real attention-getter—he who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly (Proverbs 13:24). The Bible is clear that as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and members of a family, both physical and spiritual, teaching the next generation a biblical worldview is an act of obedience. We take our children to Bible class, church, and VBS. We give them rules and tell them about Jesus at home. Is there more that we need to do?

L’dor v’dor translated from Hebrew means “from generation to generation.” This is an important biblical concept that encompasses passing down family traditions, stories, and values to the next generation. As with all of God’s commands, our obedience to His command to pass down His ways to the next generation comes with His promises of blessings, even when the world around us grows more turbulent.

Throughout the Old Testament as the Israelites struggled to remain faithful, there was always a remnant that remained obedient and passed down God’s way from generation to generation. In 1 Chronicles 9:1, we are told that Judah was carried away to Babylonian captivity because of their unfaithfulness. Then verse 9:2 skips the 70 years of captivity and focuses on the return to the Promised Land.

And the first inhabitants who dwelt in their possessions in their cities were Israelites, priests, Levites, and the Nethinim (1 Chronicles 9:2).

Notice which people are called out. The passage specifically mentions the priests and Levites. When the nation of Israel returns and rebuilds, we see the priests and Levites resume their duties. How did they know what they were supposed to do? Starting with the establishment of the priesthood with Aaron at Mt. Sinai and continuing through Babylonian captivity, each generation taught the next generation their role in the service of the Lord. Further down, we see how faithful the priests were in teaching the next generation:

… and their brethren, heads of their fathers’ houses—one thousand seven hundred and sixty. They were very able men for the work of the service of the house of God (1 Chronicles 9:13).

The phrase “very able men” can be translated as “mighty men of valor.” This phrase is used in the Old Testament to describe mighty warriors like King David that fought for the Lord (1 Samuel 9:1). This generation of priests were leaders and warriors for the Lord, and there were a lot of them. The praise is not limited to the priests. In 1 Chronicles 9:20, the Levite Gatekeepers’ work is reminiscent of Phinehas’ zeal for God (Numbers 25:11).

There will be a next generation of mighty warriors for the Lord, and they will be zealous for the Lord in their work. As a physical and spiritual family, we need to, by faith, train up our children in the service of the Lord. Being a servant of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ needs to be who are as family.

Streams in the Desert – May 19

Don’t Be Offended

“Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Luke 7:23).

It is sometimes very difficult not to be offended in Jesus Christ. The offenses may be circumstantial. I find myself in a prison-house — a narrow sphere, a sick chamber, an unpopular position — when I had hoped for wide opportunities. Yes, but He knows what is best for me. My environment is of His determining. He means it to intensify my faith, to draw me into nearer communion with Himself, to ripen my power. In the dungeon my soul should prosper. The offense may be mental. I am haunted by perplexities, questions, which I cannot solve. I had hoped that, when I gave myself to Him, my sky would always be clear; but often it is overspread by mist and cloud. Yet let me believe that, if difficulties remain, it is that I may learn to trust Him all the more implicitly — to trust and not be afraid. Yes, and by my intellectual conflicts, I am trained to be a tutor to other storm-driven men.

 

***

 

The offense may be spiritual. I had fancied that within His fold I should never feel the biting winds of temptation; but it is best as it is. His grace is magnified. My own character is matured. His Heaven is sweeter at the close of the day. There I shall look back on the turnings and trials of the way, and shall sing the praises of my Guide. So, let come what will come, His will is welcome; and I shall refuse to be offended in my loving Lord. –Alexander

Today’s Devotions

Morning

May 19

1 Samuel 17:36-37 36Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.”

David had been going back and forth from playing music for the king to tending his father’s flock. His father asked him to take some food to his older brothers and get their promise that they would share the spoils of war. When he delivered the food, he saw the enemy army send out one giant man who asked for a one on one to determine the outcome of the battle without the two armies clashing. Whoever lost would be servants of the other nation.

David inquired about the reward for fighting Goliath and spoke boldly that someone needed to kill this heathen. It was reported to King Saul who had David brought before him. David told the king not to worry. He volunteered to fight the giant. The king told David that a boy did not have a chance against a seasoned veteran like Goliath. Then David relayed his experiences of killing a bear and a lion to protect his flock.

David had confidence in God because of past victories. He had faith that God would win this battle because this giant was defying the armies of the living God. Experience and faith told David that this lion that threatened God’s sheep would be like the lion he had slain defending his father’s sheep. You have been given victories in your past to help you have confidence in what God can do today. Mix the experience from your past victories with faith in God’s heart and take on the giants of life today.

Meditation: “Go and the LORD be with you!”

The Only Way to Heaven

From: InTouch ministries

In Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have a path to eternal life in heaven.

May 19, 2022

Matthew 7:13-14

One of the most difficult truths of Christianity is that there’s but one way to heaven: Jesus Christ. People would rather believe that all paths lead to God—and that no religion can exclude someone. But in John 14:6, Jesus claimed to be “the way” and explicitly said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

That raises an important question: How do we come to God through Jesus? It’s not by means of religious rituals, good works, or self-effort—because even “our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” before God (Isaiah 64:6). Scripture provides the answer: We are saved by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). And that means we must …

• Hear the message of the gospel. It includes both the bad news of our sinful condition and the good news that God offers forgiveness through faith in His Son (Ephesians 1:7).

• Acknowledge our need of a Savior. This involves repentance and faith. We turn from our sins and believe that Jesus died to pay the penalty for our wrongdoing and then rose from the dead. Trusting in the Savior allows us to stop living for ourselves and to start living for Him instead (Romans 6:10-11).

Truly, the way to salvation is narrow, but it’s the only path that leads away from condemnation and into the eternal glory of heaven.

Fish, Loaves, and Spaghetti?

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Fish, Loaves, and Spaghetti?

person carrying a large covered pot of food

 

Lina Johnson – Prayer Center Coach, cbn.com

My husband and I were hosting a team of people who desired to increase their knowledge of providing ministry.

“Do not eat the spaghetti,” my husband whispered as he pulled me aside. “We will eat peanut butter and crackers once everyone leaves. Let’s feed them first, small servings. Hopefully there will be enough for those who are here for ministry.”

That is exactly what we did—well, almost. We fed everyone. Then, they had seconds. Then, my husband and I ate spaghetti.

The next day, we ate peanut butter and crackers for breakfast, spaghetti for lunch and dinner. This went on every day for a week.

The day we ran out of spaghetti, a friend showed up at the door. She did not know about our lack of food. We had told no one. Yet here she was with three paper sacks full of groceries.

I know it sounds crazy, but it really did happen just like that. My story is not so odd. When we look at God’s Word, we see this has happened before.

John 6:1-15 tells the story of Jesus feeding five thousand men, plus women and children, with nothing but one boy’s lunch: five loaves and two fish. What an amazing miracle!

In 1 Kings 17:8-16 we find Elijah, a widow, and her son in the village of Zarephath. There was a drought, and Elijah was sent by God to the widow. He asked her to make him a little bread before she made any for herself and her son. Because she did as he asked, she and her son always had enough flour and oil throughout the remainder of the famine.

In all three of these stories, no one thought there would be enough food. Yet in each situation, the food was given to others first, then the miraculous happened: God multiplied it.

God is so faithful that even though the owners of the food never asked God to multiply it, He did it anyway. There is no mention of the widow asking or believing for the multiplication. She simply obeyed the prophet. The same is seen when that little boy gave Jesus his lunch. He simply handed it over. Then there’s my husband. He believed we would run out of spaghetti, but we fed everyone to their fill and then we ate.

The result in all three cases was abundance. Each story ends with more than enough. There were twelve baskets of leftovers from the loaves and fish. The widow had oil and flour until the crops grew. The spaghetti fed us until the three paper sacks full of groceries arrived. God provided more than what was needed.

These three stories show us the true character of God. He loves us and wants to bless us. He instructs us to seek Him and obey Him so we can receive from Him. This truth is found in Mathew 6:33 (NLT):

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

When we seek Him, He will give us abundance. God did this for King Solomon. 1 Kings 3:3-14 is the famous story. Solomon sought the Lord asking for wisdom and understanding. God gave him both, and so much more.

I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! vv. 12-13

May we always remember to trust God. Even in times of apparent lack, He is faithful.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

May 18

1 Samuel 16:23 23Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.

The Spirit of God departed from Saul and an evil spirit was sent by God to trouble him. Evil spirits are always waiting to trouble us, but they need permission to attack those who belong to God. A spirit was given permission to oppress Saul. It would put him in a foul mood. Saul invited this spirit through his disobedience and pride. Nevertheless, he did not like the effects the spirit produced. Someone in his court suggested that music would cause the spirit to leave him. David was called in to play the harp. The man who has been anointed the next king was called to help Saul deal with the consequences of his choices.

It worked. Music seemed to bring the king relief. It works for us too. You’ll find that when you are in a foul mood, if you will listen to praise music. You will be uplifted, and your mind will pull out of the rut in which it seems to be stuck. If, by faith, you can sing, you’ll feel much better. I have even made up songs to deal with certain attacks of the enemy. God allows this to strengthen and test us or wake us up to our sin. In many cities you can turn on Christian radio and get instant help through the songs of praise.

Why was David’s music so effective? The Spirit of the LORD had come upon David in power. (1Samuel 16:13) A worshiping saint causes the enemy to cringe and flee. There are accounts of the wonders that praise music has done in asylums. It is a powerful tool. Use it for the glory of God.

Consider: How can I have praise music available for times when I struggle?

Our Eternal Home

Heaven is more than an idea—it is a real place of healing, restoration, and unimaginable joy.

May 18, 2022

John 14:1-6

When Jesus told His disciples He was going away, He promised to return and take them to His Father’s house, where He had prepared a place for them. This confirms that heaven is a real place, not some ethereal cloud where we play harps.

We tend to think of anything heavenly as less tangible than earth, but Scripture suggests the opposite. Hebrews 11:10 tells us that by faith, Abraham “was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” And Revelation 21:10-27 describes this city—called the New Jerusalem—in great detail. Unlike earth, the kingdom of heaven cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:27-28). It exists forever, and we’ll be worshipping and serving the Lord there.

As Christians, we know our citizenship is in heaven. When we die, our spirits immediately go there (2 Corinthians 5:8), into the presence of the Lord, awaiting the immortal body we’ll be given at Christ’s return. That new body will be perfectly suited for heaven and free from the temptations, trials, heartaches, pain, and death that make life on earth so wearying. There will be rest, not from activity and fulfilling work, but from the consequences of sin that plague us here. I believe the joy we’ll experience when we finally see our Savior face to face is beyond our imagination.

Bible in One Year: 2 Chronicles 24-25

 

Streams in the Desert – May 18

  • 202218 May

Unanswered?

“Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily” (Luke 18:6, 7).

God’s seasons are not at your beck. If the first stroke of the flint doth not bring forth the fire, you must strike again. God will hear prayer, but He may not answer it at the time which we in our minds have appointed; He will reveal Himself to our seeking hearts, but not just when and where we have settled in our own expectations. Hence the need of perseverance and importunity in supplication.

In the days of flint and steel and brimstone matches we had to strike and strike again, dozens of times, before we could get a spark to live in the tinder; and we were thankful enough if we succeeded at last.

Shall we not be as persevering and hopeful as to heavenly things? We have more certainty of success in this business than we had with our flint and steel, for we have God’s promises at our back.

Never let us despair. God’s time for mercy will come; yea, it has come, if our time for believing has arrived. Ask in faith nothing wavering; but never cease from petitioning because the King delays to reply. Strike the steel again. Make the sparks fly and have your tinder ready; you will get a light before long. –C. H. Spurgeon

I do not believe that there is such a thing in the history of God’s kingdom as a right prayer offered in a right spirit that is forever left unanswered. –Theodore L. Cuyler

Pray Before Speaking

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Pray Before Speaking

woman praying alone

 

Debby Mendez – Prayer Center Coordinator – Latin America

One night at my church, a lady approached me and said that she had a word from God for me. I quickly heard the voice of the Holy Spirit warning me, “Pray before she speaks!” and I prayed. Her words declared things about me that were far from true. At that moment, I felt very confused—because nothing she said made sense to me or to those who knew me best.

Jesus said:

“If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid. But someone else is also testifying about me, and I assure you that everything he says about me is true” (John 5:31-32).

The Holy Spirit had indeed warned me about this person who was speaking falsely. He knew that my identity in Himself would be confronted by the enemy, but I know that God knows me and confirms my acts done in faith. When we do things according to God’s will, our fruit speaks for itself (see Matthew 7:20).

At that moment, I remembered these words of Jesus,

“And the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face” (John 5:37).

An intimate and genuine relationship with the Father will bear consistent spiritual fruit evident to others. We don’t have to accept someone who wants to speak—on God’s behalf or their own—into our lives just because they do it in a church setting. Someone who genuinely knows our character and maturity will not go where they are not invited.

Perhaps many people have tried to label you according to your past: lazy, a thief, good-for-nothing, liar, crazy, or even unfaithful. Your heavenly Father does not identify you according to what you’ve done. He is always waiting for you to turn back to Him and receive a new identity in Christ. It is important to know and discern what God says about you and hold steadfast to the truth of your genuine relationship with the Father. When needed, God can and does bring loving, humble correction through another; this will always be consistent with biblical truth.

In my daily work at CBN Guatemala, I have the privilege of praying for many people who are going through difficult situations. Others have gone through terrible things and have overcome them. Having a genuine relationship with the Father, and my identity grounded in Him, is my greatest strength to help and guide others.

The good news today and forever is that God loves you so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to die for you on a cross. God has faith in you and has plans for your life. Give your life to the Father today and you will see how false and degrading words toward you will come to nothing. You will see how the roads in the middle of the desert open up and you will see His hand move in your favor. God loves you simply because it pleases Him! And that is more than enough reason to love Him in return. Remember:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

On the Third Day He Rose

From Today Devotions

  1 CORINTHIANS 15:12-23

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

—  1 Corinthians 15:20

Why do we say that Jesus rose “on the third day”? Some people might argue that the number of days he lay in the grave would confirm that he had died. Others point out that this fulfills a prophecy about Jesus’ death (Matthew 16:211 Corinthians 15:4). But the mention of “the third day” isn’t the main point of the creed’s declaration saying, “The third day he rose again from the dead.”

The main point is that at a specific moment in time Jesus rose again from the dead!

Jesus’ resurrection not only stands at the center of the Apostles’ Creed; it stands firmly at the center of the Bible’s teaching. Indeed, Christ’s ­resurrec­tion is the foundation on which our Christian faith rests. For, as the apostle Paul emphasizes, if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, all who hope in him should be the most pitied of all people. For if Jesus didn’t rise, we are all still shackled by the chains of sin and doomed to death forever.

But by his resurrection, Jesus has conquered death, washed away our sins, and covered us with his own righteousness. By his resurrection, Jesus has made us his own and raised us to a new life of walking with him. By his resurrection, Jesus also assures us that one day we too will be raised from the dead.

Alleluia! He is risen indeed!

Jesus, you rose from the grave in triumph over sin and death! We thank you and praise you! Now help us to live for you. In your name we pray. Amen.

Streams in the Desert – May 17

Your Crown of Glory

“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb . . . and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Rev. 12:11).

 

When James and John came to Christ with their mother, asking Him to give them the best place in the kingdom, He did not refuse their request, but told them it would be given to them if they could do His work, drink His cup, and be baptized with His baptism.

 

Do we want the competition? The greatest things are always hedged about by the hardest things, and we, too, shall find mountains and forests and chariots of iron. Hardship is the price of coronation. Triumphal arches are not woven out of rose blossoms and silken cords, but of hard blows and bloody scars. The very hardships that you are enduring in your life today are given by the Master for the explicit purpose of enabling you to win your crown.

 

Do not wait for some ideal situation, some romantic difficulty, some far-away emergency; but rise to meet the actual conditions which the Providence of God has placed around you today. Your crown of glory lies embedded in the very heart of these things–those hardships and trials that are pressing you this very hour, week and month of your life. The hardest things are not those that the world knows of. Down in your secret soul unseen and unknown by any but Jesus, there is a little trial that you would not dare to mention that is harder for you to bear than martyrdom.

 

There, beloved, lies your crown. God help you to overcome, and sometime wear it. –Selected

 

“It matters not how the battle goes,

The day how long;

Faint not! Fight on!

Tomorrow comes the song.”

Spurgeon at the New Park Street Chapel: 365 Sermons

By: Charles Spurgeon

Christ—the power and wisdom of God

“Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:24

Suggested Further Reading: Acts 10:34-43

Christ is the power of God, for he is the Creator of all things, and by Him all things exist. But when he came to earth, took upon himself the fashion of a man, tabernacled in the inn, and slept in the manger, he still gave proof that he was the Son of God; not so much so when, as an infant of a span long, the immortal was the mortal, and the infinite became a babe; not so much so in his youth, but afterwards when he began his public ministry, he gave abundant proofs of his power and godhead. The winds hushed by his finger uplifted, the waves calmed by his voice, so that they became solid as marble beneath his tread; the tempest, cowering at his feet, as before a conqueror whom it knew and obeyed; these things, these stormy elements, the wind, the tempest, and the water, gave full proof of his abundant power. The lame man leaping, the deaf man hearing, the dumb man singing, the dead rising, these, again, were proofs that he was the “power of God.” When the voice of Jesus startled the shades of Hades, and rent the bonds of death, with “Lazarus come forth!” and when the carcase rotten in the tomb woke up to life, there was proof of his divine power and godhead. A thousand other proofs he afforded; but we need not stay to mention them to you who have Bibles in your houses, and who can read them every day. At last he yielded up his life, and was buried in the tomb. Not long, however, did he sleep; for he gave another proof of his divine power and godhead, when starting from his slumber, he affrighted the guards with the majesty of his grandeur, not being held by the bonds of death, they being like green twigs before our conquering Samson, who had meanwhile pulled up the gates of hell, and carried them on his shoulders far away.

For meditation: This very same power of God is mighty to save believers through the gospel (Romans 1:16), is at work within them (Ephesians 1:19) and can enable them to fight the good fight of the faith against all evil powers (Ephesians 6:10-13).

Simple Truths

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Simple Truths

reading Bible

 

Maria Stockman – Digital Copywriter

I had been looking for a suitable apartment for months. I was fresh out of college and still living at home but longing for a life on my own. So I scoured the internet and newspapers and asked everyone I knew about apartments for rent near my workplace.

Every place I looked at was either outside of my budget, in the wrong area, or didn’t fit my needs. I was so disappointed. I had this expectation of finding the perfect place to live so I could officially start this next chapter of life. That’s what people do, right? You graduate from college, move out of your parents’ house, and get a job. I had two of these three secured, so I just needed to find a home to complete the final piece of the puzzle.

God’s timing didn’t align with mine, and I stayed at home for another year before the right location was available. At first, I felt defeated and unsure of what God was doing in my life, but soon realized that what the world says my life should look like is rarely what God has for me.

In John 5, as Jesus healed a man who was disabled for nearly four decades, the Jewish leaders swooped in and began to condemn Him for healing on the Sabbath. Instead of celebrating and standing in awe of what Jesus did for this man, they objected to the healing because of the day of the week.

Sometimes it feels easy to read the Scriptures and say, those leaders had it all wrong; how did they not see what Jesus was doing, or even claim we would never respond that way, but don’t we often lose sight of what’s important?

Aren’t we all too often like the Jewish leaders? We get caught up in how we think or want Jesus to act and lose sight of what He has for us. Are we missing out on what Jesus has for us because it doesn’t look like we think it should?

Jesus says at the end of this chapter:

“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life” (John 5:24).

How simple is this message from Jesus? Just listen to Him and believe, and you’ll have eternal life! Yet, we often look for our way of doing things, not God’s. So, while I often want to do things on my own, like move into the next chapter of my life in my time, this verse reminds me that Jesus is God, and He always does what He says He’s going to do. Therefore, we can hope and trust in Him for all of our needs!

Descended to Hell

  ISAIAH 53:1-12

By oppression and judgment he was taken away. . . . He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.

—  Isaiah 53:8

The Bible teaches about a place called “hell” that is reserved for God’s enemies. The New Testament mentions hell 162 times, and Jesus himself mentions it over 70 times.

People have found it puzzling, though, that the Apostles’ Creed says Jesus “descended to hell.” Appearing in some versions of the creed from the fourth century, this phrase may be based partly on some statements by the apostle Peter, who wrote that Jesus “went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits” (1 Peter 3:19-204:6). Some people have taken this to mean that after he died, Jesus descended to hell to free ancient sinners. Others have said that “descended to hell” refers to the depths of Christ’s anguished suffering throughout his life, crucifixion, death, and burial for our sake.

Whatever the full meaning is, this phrase should not distract from the bedrock teachings about Jesus and the Christian faith. At the very least, the phrase captures in a condensed way Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering servant—our Savior, Jesus, who suffered and died for us. This teaching assures us in our own moments of fear and temptation that Jesus, through his sacrifice for us, suffered in a way that we, by grace, will never have to suffer.

Because of your suffering and death, Lord Jesus, hell has no power over us. Thank you for making sure that nothing can separate us from you. Amen.

Faithful in the Fire

By Kyle Norman, crosswalk.com

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:24-25)

We would love to affirm that faith makes the problems of life disappear. How grand would it be if we could live our lives without hassle, discouragement, or frustration? Sadly, we know this is not the case. We are never removed from the frailty of life. We go through times of burden, hardship, and struggle. There may even be seasons where we feel tossed into a fiery furnace of affliction.

Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego knew about fiery afflictions…literally. These three young Hebrew men, probably no more than 20 years of age, find themselves on the wrong side of the King’s ire. They are arrested and threatened with death, all because they will not violate their allegiance to God. In refusing to bow down before the golden statue, they oppose the royal edict and must suffer the consequences.

What do you think they would be feeling as they are hauled before the king? Do you think they were afraid? Do you think they felt overwhelmed, discouraged, or downcast? And what about when they were bound and brought to the furnace? Do you think they questioned if that would be the end? Have you ever felt this way, or been asked those questions, in your life? Have you ever felt tossed into the fire?

Shadrack, Meschack, and Abednego, as faithful as they are, are not kept from the fiery furnace. There is no grand display of divine might that protects them from this experience. The three men are arrested. They are bound. They are tossed into a furnace.

I’m sorry to say this, but there may be times when we are asked to face a fiery furnace. There may be a season where life seems to turn against us, and where everything that we once knew feels ripped away. Israel was not immune from this. The disciples were not immune from this. Jesus was not immune from this. If we think that our faith in God means that such things don’t occur in our lives, then we will be left feeling condemned when these things befall us. We will feel that our fear, or our discouragement, somehow betrays the fullness of our faith. This is not true.

The truth upon which we stand is not that God shelters us from all struggles, but that God’s love remains with us during those times; God is present within the flames. Our times of hardship and struggle speak not of God’s absence. In fact, these are the times when God draws incredibly near. True, Shadrack Meshack and Abednego aren’t saved from entering the furnace, but they are surrounded by the flames. It was in that oven, and not a moment before, that they meet the presence of the one who appears like the son of God. God dwells amid the fire. God incarnates God’s self in the flames. And it is because God is present in that place, that the power of God extends over the three men, and the flames have no power over them.

God’s response to the fiery furnaces of our lives isn’t to destroy them, but to dwell in them. This is what is shown in this beloved tale in the book of Daniel. More importantly, this is what is revealed on the cross. The cross testifies that there is no place where the loving power of God will not be present. The cross, which is the most extreme example of the world’s rejection, is transformed into the place where Christ’s relentless love is disclosed.

 Standing Firm:  InTouch Ministries

If we want to withstand trials and evil temptations, we must plant ourselves on a foundation of faith.

May 16, 2022

Ephesians 6:10-17

Did you know that you’re in a battle every day of your life? The enemy’s goal is to weaken, deceive, and lead believers astray. God protects all who belong to Him, so wicked forces can never touch our salvation (1 Peter 1:3-5). But they can lead us into sin, cause discouragement, ruin our witness for Christ, and bring about other damage.

The main charge in today’s passage is “Stand firm,” and it’s mentioned three times (Eph. 6:11; Eph. 6:13-14). Paul says the purpose of the armor of God is to enable us to stand our ground in the battle, and his list of armor would not be complete without the footwear mentioned in verse 15. The soles of a Roman soldier’s sandals were studded with iron hobnails, which enabled him to stand his ground against an enemy assault.

Today our anchoring footwear is faith in the gospel, which not only grants us peace with the heavenly Father but also makes us Satan’s adversaries. So plant your feet and anchor yourself on a solid foundation of faith. When we don’t avail ourselves of the protection provided through Christ, we’re more likely to give way in the fight and yield to Satan’s temptations.

Bible in One Year: 2 Chronicles 18-20

 

Don’t Be Distracted

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Don’t Be Distracted

Bible

 

Diane Stevenson – Prayer Center Chaplain/Recruiting Manager

Have you ever set out to accomplish a task only to have a situation come up that distracts you? There are times when I get distracted easily and fail to complete projects on time or even at all. For example, I remember working on an important assignment that needed to be completed by the weekend, and I received a call from a family member asking if I would give them a ride and grab lunch after. I genuinely value spending time with my family, and I was getting hungry, so I put the assignment to the side and went without a second thought. I came back that evening and frantically tried to complete the project on time, but unfortunately, it didn’t happen. I felt awful and was quite disappointed in myself.

Could you imagine what would have happened if Jesus had allowed distractions to keep Him from completing His assignment?

In the Gospel of John, chapter 4, Jesus was on an important assignment that required Him to go through Samaria on His way to Galilee. It was clear that Jesus knew His mission and was always about His Father’s business. Even though He was tired and hungry, He did not allow that to become a distraction. After having the extraordinary encounter with the woman at the well, His disciples came to Him offering food. Jesus’ response was,

“I have food to eat that you know nothing about” (John 4:32).

Of course, the disciples were puzzled by His response; however, Jesus never lost His train of thought as He spoke with them.

Jesus’ response to the disciples came to mind after I returned home late that evening with shopping bags and a full stomach. It is so easy to think we are doing something good but neglect what is important. In Colossians 3:2, we are told:

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

Jesus was always mindful of His assignment and why He came to earth.

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work” (John 4:34).

This was a valuable lesson for me to stay focused on what I have been called to do and accomplish my assignments. We must be disciplined, dedicated, and not distracted as we fulfill God’s purpose and plan for our lives.

It is easy to get caught up in being busy doing good works yet not doing what we have been called to do. Jesus tells His disciples that the fields are ripe for harvest, meaning there are many souls to be saved, and now is the time. We, like Jesus, must be busy with our Father’s business of winning souls for the Kingdom of God. Have you ever found yourself distracted from your true calling from God?

Today’s Devotions

Morning

May 15

1 Samuel 15:13-15 13When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The LORD bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.” 14But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” 15Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

Saul is still blessed of God and empowered by God to defeat the enemies of Israel. He was commanded by God to destroy the Amalekites and do as Joshua did to Jericho. He knew the story of Achan (Joshua 7). Saul has been compromising, thinking that it is not all God but that he is a pretty great guy. He just built a monument to himself. And since he believed himself to be so great, he thought he could change what God has said to fit his desires.

I’ve heard this play out many times in the stories of fallen Christians. “You don’t understand the pressure I’m under. God makes exceptions for me because of my great needs. My circumstances are special.”

Saul saw the good plunder and decided God didn’t need it to be destroyed. Saul wanted it for himself. When confronted by Samuel, Saul justified his sin. Here is the main difference between Saul and David. Both are anointed, both empowered, both successful, both disobeyed, but their reaction when confronted couldn’t be more different. Saul justifies his sin. “My flesh isn’t that bad. I made necessary choices.” David repented with a broken heart. There is the telltale evidence that a heart is either after God, or turned to self as lord.

Passing Clouds – Streams in the Desert – May 15

  • 202215 May

But now, the sun cannot be looked at – it is bright in the skies – after a wind passed and swept the clouds away.Job 37:21

The world owes much of its beauty to cloudland. The unchanging blue of the Italian sky hardly compensates for the changefulness and glory of the clouds. Earth would become a wilderness apart from their ministry. There are clouds in human life, shadowing, refreshing, and sometimes draping it in blackness of night; but there is never a cloud without its bright light. “I do set my bow in the cloud!”

If we could see the clouds from the other side where they lie in billowy glory, bathed in the light they intercept, like heaped ranges of Alps, we should be amazed at their splendid magnificence.

We look at their under side; but who shall describe the bright light that bathes their summits and searches their valleys and is reflected from every pinnacle of their expanse? Is not every drop drinking in health-giving qualities, which it will carry to the earth?

O child of God! If you could see your sorrows and troubles from the other side; if instead of looking up at them from earth, you would look down on them from the heavenly places where you sit with Christ; if you knew how they are reflecting in prismatic beauty before the gaze of Heaven, the bright light of Christ’s face, you would be content that they should cast their deep shadows over the mountain slopes of existence. Only remember that clouds are always moving and passing before God’s cleansing wind.
—Selected

“I cannot know why suddenly the storm 
Should rage so fiercely round me in its wrath; 
But this I know—God watches all my path, 
And I can trust.

Spurgeon at the New Park Street Chapel: 365 Sermons

By: Charles Spurgeon

Holy violence

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of God suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” Matthew 11:12

Suggested Further Reading: Genesis 32:22-32

Frequently complaints are made and surprise expressed by individuals who have never found a blessing rest upon anything they have attempted to do in the service of God. “I have been a Sunday-school teacher for years,” says one, “and I have never seen any of my girls or boys converted.” No, and the reason most likely is, you have never been violent about it; you have never been compelled by the divine Spirit to make up your mind that converted they should be, and no stone shall be left unturned until they were. You have never been brought by the Spirit to such a passion, that you have said, “I cannot live unless God bless me; I cannot exist unless I see some of these children saved.” Then, falling on your knees in agony of prayer, and putting forth afterwards your trust with the same intensity towards heaven, you would never have been disappointed, “for the violent take it by force.” And you too, my brother in the gospel, you have marvelled and wondered why you have not seen souls regenerated. Did you ever expect it? Why, you preach like one who does not believe what he is saying. Those who believe in Christ, may say of you with kind partiality, “Our minister is a dear good man;” but the careless young men that attend your ministry say, “Does that man expect to make me believe that which he only utters as a dry story, and to convince me when I see him go through the service with all the dullness and monotony of dead routine?” Oh, my brethren, what we want today in the churches is violence; not violence against each other, but violence against death, and hell, against the hardness of other men’s hearts, and against the sleepiness of our own.

For meditation: Do you mean business with God or do you just go through the motions? It can make all the difference (2 Kings 4:31-35Mark 9:28,29).

 

Searching For More

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Searching for More

Searching for more

 

Lorie Hartshorn – Co-Host – The 700 Club Canada

Have you ever been so thirsty that you could hardly bear it? The kind of thirst where your throat feels dried up, you can hardly swallow, and your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth that you’re just so desperate for a drink? When I did long-distance running in school, I remember being so thirsty after a long cross-country race that I felt like I couldn’t get enough water.

Just as we get physically thirsty, the Bible tells us that we get spiritually thirsty. I’m reminded of the story of the woman at the well. This Samaritan woman had lived a hard life; in and out of relationships, she was an outcast in her own town. She was thirsty, but she didn’t necessarily know it. This was just another ordinary day for her until she encountered Jesus. Here she was getting water at the local well in the heat of the day. She was alone because no one gathered water at that time of day. All the other women would have come early in the morning, but she was not accepted in that group. She’d been with too many men. Maybe she was known as a “home-wrecker,” but Jesus didn’t see her that way. Although He was a Jew, He had no problem conversing with her and telling her what she was really longing for:

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

Like the Samaritan woman, everyone has a thirst for meaning, true love, and purpose. God created us with this thirst. And like her, we must learn that nothing will satisfy it except the One for whom the thirst was made. Relationships? Success in business or family? The accumulation of stuff? Even when you get that raise or that new car, all these things fall short of what truly satisfies. We discover that what we really long for is not anything material in this world, not even a feeling or experience.

Jesus tells her and us that we don’t have to search the whole world or our whole lifetime to find what satisfies us. In fact, He says the water He gives will never leave us thirsty again. Notice that His water never runs out because the water He offers has a name.

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (John 4:25-26)

Your deepest desire has a name: Jesus, the One we were meant to thirst for. The Spirit of Christ comes and lives in us, and He is the source of this living water that keeps on giving and giving.

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

As we run this race of life, we can be sure that our thirst will be met in Jesus. He promises us that He will give us abundant life! And He is so generous! Are you thirsty and longing for more? Your deepest desire has a name. It’s Jesus. Welcome Him into your life today, and never be thirsty again!

Dear Jesus, I confess I’m thirsty. Only You will truly satisfy my deepest desires. I welcome You into every part of my heart today. Amen.

 

Today’s Devotions

Morning

May 14

1 Samuel 13:11-12 11“What have you done?” asked Samuel. Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, 12I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”

The Philistines were gathering to fight Israel. Their numbers and technology were vastly superior. Samuel had told Saul to wait seven days, and he would come to offer sacrifices before the battle. Saul could see the enemy gathering and the Israelites deserting. He thought he needed to rally the people. The time Samuel promised to come was about up. Saul leaned to his own understanding instead of obeying in faith.

Samuel arrived immediately after the sacrifice was offered and asked, “What is going on?” Saul justified his actions. He sounded very religious. “I had to seek God’s favor before the battle. I felt compelled.” But that was not what he was told to do by God’s prophet. Compelled by whom? By his own fears, reason, and doubt. He took matters into his own hands. This began his pattern of rebellion.

Today we would probably be referring to Jesus as the son of Saul instead of the Son of David, if Saul had remained obedient to God (though of course Jesus had to come through the line of Judah). We have choices of faith throughout our life that have far ranging consequences. Do we trust God even when our eyes see great trouble? Will we take matters into our own hands, because we think God will not or cannot help? Or will we walk in faith and be blessed?

Consider: Do I respond to circumstances or to the Word of God?

Streams in the Desert – May 14

  • 202214 May

In the selfsame day, as God had said unto him (Gen. 17:23).

Instant obedience is the only kind of obedience there is; delayed obedience is disobedience. Every time God calls us to any duty, He is offering to make a covenant with us; doing the duty is our part, and He will do His part in special blessing.

The only way we can obey is to obey “in the selfsame day,” as Abraham did. To be sure, we often postpone a duty and then later on do it as fully as we can. It is better to do this than not to do it at all. But it is then, at the best, only a crippled, disfigured, half-way sort of duty-doing; and a postponed duty never can bring the full blessing that God intended, and that it would have brought if done at the earliest possible moment.

It is a pity to rob ourselves, along with robbing God and others, by procrastination. “In the selfsame day” is the Genesis way of saying, “Do it now.”
–Messages for the Morning Watch

Luther says that “a true believer will crucify the question, ‘Why?’ He will obey without questioning.” I will not be one of those who, except they see signs and wonders, will in no wise believe. I will obey without questioning.

“Ours not to make reply,
Ours not to reason why,
Ours but to do and die.”

Obedience is the fruit of faith; patience, the bloom on the fruit.
–Christina Rossetti

Be Content

Contentment doesn’t depend on what we have or what we lack; it is found in Jesus alone.

May 14, 2022

Hebrews 13:5-6

Contentment is a quality seen in very few people today. Our society is always offering new items, gadgets, upgrades, and conveniences that promise pleasure, comfort, and satisfaction. But no material goods ever live up to that promise long-term. Yet many people keep falling for lies instead of being content with what they have.

The book of Hebrews was written to people who were experiencing discouragement and persecution for their faith in Christ. Those believers faced many hardships, including public reproach, imprisonment, and property seizure (Hebrews 10:32-34). Yet in Hebrews 10:35-36, the writer urges them to endure because they have a better and eternal possession awaiting them in heaven. They may not have had tangible wealth or comforts, but in the Lord, they had all they needed—and He promised never to leave or forsake them, no matter what men did to them on earth.

Most of us today have much more material wealth and security than those early believers did, but contentment is largely still elusive. That’s because the problem has to do with the heart. We love money and all that it provides. So while the Lord “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17), true enjoyment is possible only when our heart is set on Him rather than on worldly things. He alone is our hope.

Bible in One Year: 2 Chronicles 11-14

Trust In The Lord

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Trust His Heart

Terry Meeuwsen – Co-Host – The 700 Club

27 Bible Verses About Trusting God - Scripture to Inspire Trust & Belief

Dealing with death is not easy for any of us. Whether death is sudden and unexpected or whether it is the culmination of a long illness, we all struggle with letting go of our loved ones. In 1986, four tragic deaths tested my faith and alienated me from the Lord.

My cousin, Ray, was a fun-loving young guy in his 20s. He and his wife, Debbie, had a little boy who was nine months old. Ray was driving home from work in the wee hours of the morning. As he descended a hill, the entire electrical system on his car went out. A giant truck crested the hill behind him, but its driver never saw Ray’s car until it was too late. Ray was killed instantly. He left a young wife, a baby, and no life insurance.

Andy Boggs, at 21-years-old, was an extremely gifted musician and composer who was being treated at Mayo Clinic for a rare type of brain cancer. Andy seemed to respond remarkably well to the treatment, and despite the low survival rate of this cancer, doctors were hopeful. I invited Andy to be a guest on my radio program, and my producer and I both felt an immediate rapport with this brave young man and his family.

Early that year, he went to Mayo for a routine checkup. The doctors were shocked to discover the cancer had spread like wildfire. His parents were told to take him home and make him as comfortable as possible. Andy Boggs died with the promise of musical greatness still in him.

Ron Jones owned a hair and makeup salon in Chicago and was my personal friend. When we met in 1972 he helped me prepare for each level of the Miss America Pageant. We stayed in touch regularly over the years. Ron was a kind man who gave generously to others without thought of cost. When he was diagnosed with brain tumors, I was stunned and filled with dread. I watched those tumors destroy him a little bit at a time. It was a slow, terrible way to die. Ron’s family helped him do that with dignity.

Linda Jorerres, a mother of four in her 30s, and her husband, Tom, were friends of ours for a number of years. She was diagnosed with cancer that, because of medical error, had already spread to her liver. She endured chemotherapy, radiation, and unbelievable pain at the same time she was sending her youngest off to preschool for the first time.

She wasn’t doing well, and I called her husband to see if she was open to visitors. I had such a burden to pray for her. He called back to say that Wednesday would be good. On Wednesday morning my husband called from his office and said, “I think you’d better sit down. Lind Joerres died this morning.” I hung up the phone without speaking.

I was so angry with God. I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t read the Bible. I did not want any pat answers or easy Scriptures. Unresolved pain burned inside me. Then one day in my car I could no longer stop my tears or questions. “Why God? Why? Why? Why?” Alone in my car, in the quiet of my heart, came a response so clear it seemed almost audible. I am sovereign. Silence.

I knew what God was saying. Either He is God or He isn’t. If He is, I needed to trust His will in all things – and not just in the things I understood or agreed with. If I was willing to let go of my hurt and my anger and offer it all to Him, in return He would give me His peace and comfort.

Letting go, relinquishing, releasing – give it all to Him. It’s a day-by-day, moment-by-moment challenge. It is never easy to do this, but when we do, it always leads us straight to the heart of God.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

May 13

1 Samuel 12:23-25 23As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. 24But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. 25Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away.”

Samuel had anointed Saul as king. Shortly after, Saul led them in a great victory. Samuel gave them a sign to help them discern what an evil decision they had made in asking for a king. Then he encouraged them to make the best of their wrong choice by seeing that they and their king serve God.

In today’s passage Samuel comforts them with the fact that he will pray for them. He says it would be sin for him not to. We often think of sin as an evil action we commit, but it also the good that we should do but neglect.

He also promised to continue to teach them the good and right way. As Christians, we have an obligation to those under our influence, to teach them the good and right way the LORD has taught us. Israel had seen the hand of the LORD in power. Their attitude of fear, regarding their relationship with God, was a good thing. They realized His might and holiness and their need for instruction.

Be sure to fear the LORD and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. We need that reminder. So many distractions would pull us away from that good frame of heart and mind. Consider the great things He has done for you. That will help you keep a heart of gratitude and put distraction in perspective. Yet if you persist in doing evil, it doesn’t matter how great a king you have, God will sweep you and your hero away.

Consider Calvary, Easter, Pentecost, and your salvation. The LORD has done great things for you!

Onlooker Delay

By Brent Rinehart, Crosswalk.com.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12: 1-2a).

If you are a daily commuter, you’ve undoubtedly heard the unfortunate phrase on the morning or afternoon radio traffic reports: “onlooker delay.” A wreck has happened that has been moved to the shoulder, yet there are still miles of backups due to everyone’s desire to catch a glimpse of what happened as they pass by. We all complain about it, yet I’d venture to say that we are all guilty of “rubber-necking,” as I’ve heard it called. We are distracted by what’s happening around us, and we take our eyes off the road ahead.

Peter knew a few things about being distracted. In Matthew 14, he sees Jesus walking on the water, and he calls out to Him: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14: 28). Peter steps out of the boat and miraculously, is able to walk on the water just like Jesus. That is until he noticed the wind and the waves around him. He took his eyes off of Jesus, and he began to sink.

Peter experienced onlooker delay. His eyes were drawn to other things – things of this world – and it diverted him from his path to Jesus. It’s easy for us to criticize Peter for his split-second loss of faith. But, how often do we let the things of this world distract us from our walk with Christ? As a result, we experience countless delays in our spiritual growth.

The Apostle Paul knew this, as well. In Hebrews 12, he encourages the reader (while writing also for himself, I might add, since he uses personal plural pronouns) to “throw off everything that hinders” and the “sin that so easily entangles…fixing our eyes on Jesus.” Paul recognized that even in his own life, he was drawn to be distracted from what mattered most.

In Psalm 119, the author writes about the importance of staying focused on God’s Word. He uses similar language: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways” (Psalm 119:9, 15).

In our current vernacular, to fix your eyes on something, or to become fixated on something, almost has a negative connotation. It’s an obsessive attachment to someone or something. I think of fixation in terms of my son and his Legos, or my daughter and wanting to hang out with her friends. They can be obsessed to the point that it’s all they think about.

In the biblical context, I believe that is exactly what we are exhorted to do: to fixate on Jesus and learn about God’s promises through the reading of His word. As followers of Christ, we are all on a journey to becoming more and more like Him every day. As the Holy Spirit works in our lives, it should produce a walk that is marked by certain characteristics. These “fruits of the spirit” (Galatians 5) – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – are the characteristics that set us apart from the world. But, if we are distracted on our journey, our eyes pulled from one thing to the other, this onlooker delay keeps us from being all that God intended us to be.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3: 1-2

Today, let’s focus on what matters: our destination. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus, block out those distractions, and avoid the onlooker delays. At the end is the ultimate prize, and it is worth every step in the journey.

Suffering Savior

By: Kurt Selles

  LUKE 23:13-25

With loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand.

—  Luke 23:23-24

Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, is a pitiful figure in history. Though he was conflicted about sentencing Jesus to death, Pilate gave in to the mob calling for Jesus to be crucified.

Why does the Apostles’ Creed note that Jesus suffered “under Pontius Pilate”? This statement points out the historical fact that Jesus was condemned to suffer and die by the governing authority of that day. Pilate represented the Roman government, and his judgment made Jesus’ sentencing and suffering an official event in history, even though Jesus was totally innocent and without sin.

We all need a Savior because we are guilty of sin and deserving of punishment. And in his mysterious wisdom, God used the government of Rome, flawed as it was, in the process of bringing salvation for our sake. By suffering “under Pontius Pilate,” Jesus took on himself the condemnation we deserve. And through his suffering Jesus has extended God’s grace to us, covering us with his own righteousness and granting us peace and the blessings of fellowship with God forever.

Through his weak and wrongful judgment, Pilate served Jesus a hideous sentence. But God, through his power and wisdom, used Jesus’ suffering to redeem us. What amazing grace and love!

What love is this, Father, that caused you to send your Son to suffer and die for us? Thank you for your amazing love and grace. Amen

Are We Like Nicodemus?

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Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Why Nicodemus? Because We Are All Nicodemus

group of people

 

Rich Miller – Manager, CBN Prayer Center Digital Interactions

I think most of us have experienced impatience, even annoyance, when a little child continually asks “why?” I don’t mean the type of “why?” in response to a parent’s directive. When a child seeks understanding, wants to comprehend what is being shared with them: “But why?”

I will never forget as a kid asking my mom “why” the Bible does not mention us getting to play hockey in heaven. At that age, if hockey was not going to be part of the deal, I did not want to go!

I have also been one of those “why-children” when it comes to reading the Word of God—continually asking “why this and not that?” with many of the biblical stories. Why was Canaan the nation that God promised to Abraham and his descendants? Why Canaan and not Egypt? Why didn’t God allow Jonathan to become the next king of Israel after rejecting Saul? Why not keep it in the family?

When I ponder these questions, it is not because I am distrusting God and questioning His wisdom. They are coming from a place of hunger, desiring understanding as to His ways.

In reading John 3, I wonder why this conversation was with Nicodemus instead of one of the twelve disciples? To many, John 3:16 is the most recognizable verse of all time. Why did the Lord reserve this revelation for a Pharisee late at night, instead of sharing it with all the disciples in a communal setting? Learning that we must be born again leads to the most crucial decision we will ever make in this life. Yet, here we see Nicodemus, while having the courage to come to Jesus and admit they recognized He was sent from God, approaching Him at night to avoid being seen by others.

Could it be because the Lord saw his hunger and recognized where his questions were stemming from? One can easily relate to the questions Nicodemus asked Jesus when told that he must be born again:

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked (John 3:5-9).

To this question, Jesus responds with the discourse that is the bedrock of our salvation. Nicodemus, seeking to understand, opened the door for Jesus to share what was greater than human logic: His love for him/us and the price He would pay to prove it. It is by believing in Jesus that we experience what it means to truly be born again. In this moment, Jesus was focused on Nicodemus believing and being born again.

What questions are currently in your heart that you are asking God? Be assured, the revelation that He wants to give you through these questions is life-changing. While He may not answer every question, it is His delight that you are seeking understanding! (Proverbs 4:7)

Today’s Devotions

Morning

May 12

1 Samuel 10:6-7 6The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. 7Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

Knowing Saul’s end, we tend to overlook his beginning. He was a humble man even though he was large in stature. Samuel told him of all the signs that would come to pass that day to confirm that it was the LORD who had chosen him to be king. When Saul met the prophets with their musical instruments, prophesying, the Spirit of God came upon him in power and he prophesied. Samuel said that at this point he would be changed into a different person. Verse nine says that God changed Saul’s heart.

Once our heart has been changed, we have godly desires. We are open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Some people search for some special leading when God is leading them continually. It is true that we must still discern what is of the Spirit and what is of the old nature, but that is usually quite evident. If we get off track, we receive that check in our spirit that warns us something is amiss. So we proceed with each day in faith believing God is leading us by His Spirit.

Now that we see that Saul’s beginning is so much like our own, we also have a warning. In the devotions to come, we will see a turning aside from the known will of God. We will see the increase of pride. Finally, we will see his sad end. Nevertheless, throughout this time, he was God’s anointed. It is a warning for us to heed the checks from the Spirit and remain in obedience.

Consider: A great beginning does not insure a great end. Persevere!

Streams in the Desert – May 12

  • 202212 May

All things are possible to him that believeth (Mark 9:23).

The “all things” do not always come simply for the asking, for the reason that God is ever seeking to teach us the way of faith, and in our training in the faith life there must be room for the trial of faith, the discipline of faith, the patience of faith, the courage of faith, and often many stages are passed before we really realize what is the end of faith, namely, the victory of faith.

Real moral fibre is developed through discipline of faith. You have made your request of God, but the answer does not come. What are you to do?

Keep on believing God’s Word; never be moved away from it by what you see or feel, and thus as you stand steady, enlarged power and experience is being developed. The fact of looking at the apparent contradiction as to God’s Word and being unmoved from your position of faith make you stronger on every other line.

Often God delays purposely, and the delay is just as much an answer to your prayer as is the fulfillment when it comes.

In the lives of all the great Bible characters, God worked thus. Abraham, Moses and Elijah were not great in the beginning, but were made great through the discipline of their faith, and only thus were they fitted for the positions to which God had called them.

For example, in the case of Joseph whom the Lord was training for the throne of Egypt, we read in the Psalms:

“The word of the Lord tried him.” It was not the prison life with its hard beds or poor food that tried him, but it was the word God had spoken into his heart in the early years concerning elevation and honor which were greater than his brethren were to receive; it was this which was ever before him, when every step in his career made it seem more and more impossible of fulfillment, until he was there imprisoned, and all in innocence, while others who were perhaps justly incarcerated, were released, and he was left to languish alone.

These were hours that tried his soul, but hours of spiritual growth and development, that, “when his word came” (the word of release), found him fitted for the delicate task of dealing with his wayward brethren, with a love and patience only surpassed by God Himself.

No amount of persecution tries like such experiences as these. When God has spoken of His purpose to do, and yet the days go on and He does not do it, that is truly hard; but it is a discipline of faith that will bring us into a knowledge of God which would otherwise be impossible.

Your Hope Journal

Sometimes the best encouragement is a reminder of what God has done in our past.

2 Chronicles 20:5-12

Yesterday we saw that when facing an intimidating military force, King Jehoshaphat immediately sought the Lord in prayer. But he didn’t begin with anxious requests for deliverance. Instead, after focusing attention on God’s power over all earthly kingdoms, he recounted the Lord’s past faithfulness and mighty acts on behalf of Israel. Jehoshaphat also recalled God’s promise to hear and save the nation when they cried out for help. Only then did the king make his request.

This is a good pattern for our prayers as well. Unfortunately, we at times have a short memory when it comes to the Lord’s interventions on our behalf. If that’s the case, then later, when we’re fearful again, it’s hard to remember specific ways God has already proven Himself.

This is why I encourage every believer to keep a journal—a written record of the Lord’s faithfulness. During times of helplessness, we want encouragement, not just from how God has worked in history or in the world, but from the particular ways He has worked in our own life.

When you take time to record specific things that your heavenly Father has done, you’ll gain greater understanding of His loving purposes. He will begin to reveal how He’s been working to make your life a beautiful display of His glory.