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Words Unfading and Unchanging

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Words Unfading and Unchanging

praying with a cup of hot tea and a Bible

 

Paul J. Palma –  cbn.com

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:32-35 NIV).

The scrumptious fruit-bearing fig tree undergoes a remarkable rate of seasonal change. Like other deciduous trees, the fig tree loses its leaves each year. During the late fall and early winter, its plush green leaves fade to yellow and drift to the ground. Come early spring, the leaves reemerge, and the tree shimmers green again. As summer rolls in, so does the tear-shaped brownish-purple fruit of the tree. The delicious fig, in the Northern Hemisphere, is in season from late summer to early fall. This versatile fruit can be eaten or prepared in various ways—enjoyed fresh or dried or processed into jam, rolls, biscuits, and other desserts. As fall ends, the enchanting seasonal cycle of the fig tree repeats itself.

In Matthew 24, Jesus describes the annual coming out of the fig tree’s fruit as a sign. Just as the tree’s tender fruit serves as a sign that summer is here, so will many signs presage Jesus’ Second Coming. While the precise day and hour of Christ’s Return remain unknown (v. 36), He encourages the disciples to be alert and stand guard. Before Jesus’ glorious return, there will be an escalation of war, famine, earthquakes, persecution, false messiahs, and false prophets (vv. 7, 9–11, 24). God’s people today still await the culmination of history. We ready ourselves for adversity of many kinds and guard ourselves and those we love against those seeking to lead us astray.

Alongside Jesus’ warning, however, are words of profound consolation. Although the events of history—even heaven and earth—come and go, Jesus’ teachings and promises will “never pass away” (v. 35). The permanency of Jesus’ words harkens to His eternal and unchanging character. The One whom we await is Himself the God of history. Everyone in heaven and earth, and under the earth, will one day bow at His name (Philippians 2:10). Jesus’ everlasting Word propels our mission on earth forward. Indeed, He describes another sign of the end as the global, all-encompassing reach of the Gospel:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).

Jesus’ use of the fig tree analogy is even more impressive when one considers the tree’s seasonal nature and the incredible amount of change it undergoes. The signs of the times, like the fig tree, serve a purpose. Yet, as with everything else, they come and go, bud and fade, linger and “pass away.” However, those who have placed their faith in Christ can confront adversity and change with the confidence that His guiding words remain a beacon to see us through.

Lord, we treasure Your abiding words, for every one of them will endure. No matter what lies ahead, we thank You for, and place our trust in, the words of Scripture that promise Your victory and ever guide us onward as we await that day.

Letting Go of Lonely

FEBRUARY 8, 2023

“O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.” Psalm 38:9 (ESV)

Reaching for the tub of ice cream in the freezer, I settled for a movie night to soothe my lonely soul. But extra calories and escaping into someone else’s story could not satisfy the ache in my heart.

Loneliness was still waiting for me the next morning. Comfort food was not what my soul needed. I needed God to be my comfort.

Loneliness relentlessly followed me wherever I went — because it was in my mind. Loneliness surrounded me even in a crowded room and made me feel like everyone knew I was alone.

Then I saw her. Another lonely woman like me: Hagar. Running away from her lonely, harsh circumstances, she found herself alone in the desert yet seen by God. “You are the God who sees me …” she said (Genesis 16:13, NIV).

Then God sent her right back to the lonely place she came from. (Genesis 16:9)

What?! (Insert tire screech.)

That kind of deliverance does not make sense to me. I feel God’s rescue should have removed her from the lonely place she escaped and should have surrounded her with people who loved her. But there in that holy, lonely place, Hagar let go of loneliness and held on to God.

God’s deliverance is often through life’s pain rather than around it.

What can we learn from this? Loneliness is not a place. It is a state of mind. God wants to meet us in our loneliness just like He met Hagar.

God’s deliverance wasn’t just that He saw her; it was that Hagar was no longer alone. God’s presence gave her strength to return to a hard place. She could live loved, knowing God was enough.

Similarly, King David knew God saw him in his suffering too. His friends had abandoned him, but God hadn’t. David wrote our key verse, which says:

“O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you” (Psalm 38:9).

David did not give in to his loneliness. He fought through it by crying out to God and found himself comforted.

So how does being seen and known by God help us?

We are never alone.
We are significant.
We are accepted unconditionally.
We are loved by God.

Living loved isn’t a matter of location or situation — it is a matter of the mind that impacts our souls.

Now, rather than feeling lonely, I feel cherished. Lonely moments are now embraced places of solitude where I run and hide away with God. I have learned that nothing can comfort me like being still in His presence.

And I’ve also learned that loneliness is not dependent upon a relationship status. We can be lonely when we are single or married, divorced or widowed. Loneliness is not a respecter of persons.

But, friend, the good news is that our loneliness is seen by God. So we are never truly alone. Let’s live loved — because we are.

Fix Your Gaze Ahead

From: Today Devotions

  PROVERBS 4:25-26

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.

—  Proverbs 4:25-26

Regret is something that everyone struggles with. Depending on the situation or circumstances, the emotions of regret can linger for months or even years before one is able to refocus.

Many of us are inclined to look back on what could have been or should have been. People can also tend to look behind them to “the good ol’ days,” when life may have seemed sweeter, simpler, and less ­frantic.

But whatever might cause us to fixate on the past, Proverbs encourages us to look ahead. This is not because it’s bad or inappropriate to look back. We can learn a lot from our past mistakes, trauma, or the good times we enjoyed. However, Scripture calls us not to linger in the past but rather to glean from it (however long that takes) and then look ahead.

The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Set your gaze on the road before you and follow Jesus steadfastly. Let him be the ­focal point of your pathway in life. Run the race knowing that his Spirit is running with you and that he is ahead of you, waiting at the finish line.

“Guide me, O my great Redeemer, pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak, but you are mighty; hold me with your powerful hand.” Help me, Jesus, to fix my gaze on you. Amen.

Someday It Will All Make Sense

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Someday It Will All Make Sense

Happy mother with infant baby

 

Jordan Buntgen – cbn.com

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3 NIV).

It is the ultimate question: “When is Jesus coming back?” Over 2,000 years ago, the disciples asked the same question we do today. One thing I love most about God is that His truth is timeless. How nice would it have been if Jesus said, “I will be back on X date, at X time, and this is exactly how, when and where.” But instead, He gave the disciples (and us) just what we needed to know. Do you think the disciples felt satisfied with Jesus’ explanation? If they were anything like me, they would have felt like His coming back was as clear as mud. I used to tell God I wanted details so I could plan and know what to expect, but God said, “I don’t need your plan; I just want your trust.”

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1).

God has taught me how to trust Him over the past 13 years. (Yes, it’s been a journey, friends!) He used the miracle of life to open my eyes to this scary concept of letting go and surrendering my control. You have this tiny human in your body for nine months and feel so close, yet you have no idea of their size, hair color (or if they have hair), and sometimes whether it’s a boy or girl. Even with modern technology, you must trust that they are growing the way they should. And then comes the due date … and nothing happens… Yet another moment that I have zero control over.

Ten days past the due date, and it’s finally “go” time. The original birth plan was thrown out the window the second a real contraction hit—and all of a sudden, the reality of becoming a mother was upon me. “What am I doing? I am only 21. Can I be a good mom? What if I fail?” This was before I knew God and hadn’t invited Jesus into my life yet, but God was faithful even when I wasn’t. He used a kind nurse who could see the look of terror on a young mother’s face, and she said, “It’s going to be okay, just trust me and listen to my voice and we’ll do it together.” There was peace; I could take my eyes off my lack and put my trust in this confident, equipped woman. Hours later, my sweet little boy made his appearance, and what a moment it was! I finally laid eyes on him and could kiss his beautiful face, and I realized it was worth the wait.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The moment Jesus returns, it will all make sense and be worth the wait. The joy that I felt seeing my son’s face for the first time will be nothing compared to seeing Jesus face to face. Just think of being able to kiss the face of the King who died so we could live. It cannot be described. It would be easier to know the exact time, but learning to trust our Father and His timing will not only build our faith but will be a light to those that don’t even know His heart yet. Let’s be people who surrender our control and place our trust in a heavenly Father who orchestrated our lives long before the world was created, for He is timeless.

God Doesn’t Work by Coincidence

FEBRUARY 7, 2023

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11a (NLV)

I nervously typed up the email and reviewed it a few more times for accuracy.

For more than a year, I had been working on this new project. But now I knew it was time to trust God, move forward and spread the word rather than continue to let fear and procrastination keep me stuck.

As my fingers hovered hesitantly over the keyboard, I finally hit the “send” button. And off it went. A sense of anxiousness came over me but was quickly interrupted by a quiet voice stirring in my spirit.

What is today’s date, Tracie? God whispered.

Perplexed, I glanced at the calendar and was instantly taken aback. It was not until that very moment that my eyes were opened and I realized the significance of the date.

It had been exactly seven years, to the day, since my 26-year marriage imploded and my entire life turned upside down. My thoughts were instantly drawn back to the painful memories, overwhelming emotions and crippling fears that had brought me to my knees on that unforgettable, traumatic day seven years ago.

But God quickly shifted my thoughts and helped me refocus. I certainly hadn’t planned on kicking off my new business project on this particular day, and at first I thought, It’s just a coincidence. But was it?

As I pondered this, God calmed my anxiousness and gently reminded me that over the past seven years, He had turned my life around completely, exchanged my sadness for joy, and transformed my pain into purpose. In His perfect timing, He had brought me to a place where I never thought I would find myself — healed, restored and filled with passion for a purpose I never even imagined.

I immediately recalled how, in Scripture, the number seven often symbolizes a sense of fullness or completeness. In fact, throughout the Bible, the number seven appears 735 times, and it often references the holy works of God, repeatedly serving as proof of the perfection and beauty God orchestrates.

In today’s key verse, we read that “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). This verse reminds us that all things are crafted by God — including time. He is behind all things and the way they will turn out. It also reminds us that everything happens exactly when it should. Not by chance or irony but by a divine plan beyond our comprehension.

On this day ordained by God, after experiencing a devastating heartbreak I thought I’d never recover from, I stepped out in faith, pushed past my insecurities and pursued a dream God laid on my heart. I had no idea this was the day God had appointed for me to take this leap of faith. But it was. Certainly not a coincidence, this had been planned long before my time on earth even began.

My faith soared, and this evidence of God’s sovereignty reminded me to put all my trust in Him for all things. Always. Why?

Because nothing is random with God.

He had been divinely orchestrating behind the scenes to turn my ashes into beauty, in His perfect timing, exactly seven years later.

God is in the process of perfectly planning out your life as well, in a way only He can. Trust that He is in the details, and believe with all your heart that one day you’ll see His perfect plan for you fall into place.

I promise it will cause your heart and your faith to soar.

Streams in the Desert – February 7

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Why art thou cast down, O my soul (Ps. 43:5).

Is there ever any ground to be cast down? There are two reasons, but only two. If we are as yet unconverted, we have ground to be cast down; or if we have been converted and live in sin, then we are rightly cast down.

But except for these two things there is no ground to be cast down, for all else may be brought before God in prayer with supplication and thanksgiving. And regarding all our necessities, all our difficulties, all our trials, we may exercise faith in the power of God, and in the love of God.

“Hope thou in God.” Oh, remember this: There is never a time when we may not hope in God. Whatever our necessities, however great our difficulties, and though to all appearance help is impossible, yet our business is to hope in God, and it will be found that it is not in vain. In the Lord’s own time help will come.

Oh, the hundreds, yea, the thousands of times that I have found it thus within the past seventy years and four months! When it seemed impossible that help could come, help did come; for God has His own resources. He is not confined. In ten thousand different ways, and at ten thousand different times God may help us.

Our business is to spread our cases before the Lord, in childlike simplicity to pour out all our heart before God, saying, “I do not deserve that Thou shouldst hear me and answer my requests, but for the sake of my precious Lord Jesus; for His sake answer my prayer, and give me grace quietly to wait till it please Thee to answer my prayer. For I believe Thou wilt do it in Thine own time and way.”

“For I shall yet praise him.” More prayer, more exercise of faith, more patient waiting, and the result will be blessing, abundant blessing. Thus I have found it many hundreds of times, and therefore I continually say to myself, “Hope thou in God.”
–George Mueller

Today’s Devotions

Morning

February 7

Exodus 15:2-3 2The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. 3The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.

The Israelites are now praising again. The enemy is washing up on the shores, and they are free. But are they? They have escaped Egypt, but the system and ideas of Egypt are not yet out of them. The Egyptian army is dead, but the nation of Egypt will rise again and harass Israel. This is a perfect picture of us when we are delivered from sin. We are out of the world (positionally), but the Spirit of God will continue to get the world out of us through our experiences in life as we walk with Him (experientially).

They have learned that the LORD is their strength, though when they get to the border of the Promised Land, they will think they are not strong enough, completely forgetting this lesson. May the LORD help us remember that He is our strength!

He is our song! The joy that bubbles up in melodies of praise is the LORD. He is the song on my lips and in my heart. He is my joy, for He has become my salvation. Who is my salvation? Jesus! He has freed me from my enemy. He defeated death, hell, and the grave. That should always be our song and praise, as we exalt the One who has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. The mightiest Warrior is with me. Why should I fear an enemy? If God is for me, who can be against me?

Consider: Let the LORD be the song that rises up in you.

 

Obedience: The Missing Link

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Obedience: The Missing Link

two people reading the Bible and pointing at Scripture

 

Cassey Nathan -cbn.com

Social media is the premier outlet for how we express ourselves, and in this digital age, there is so much emphasis on our outward appearance. Typically, when posting on social media, I am guilty of this as well. We use the picture with the best angle and the best lighting—and the aesthetics matter so much today that it can be difficult to be authentic. Plus, we may also prefer things that seem to be pure rather than what is actually pure, holy, and acceptable to the Lord.

In Matthew 23, we find that Jesus was concerned, and even confrontational, about whether or not a person was being authentic. He admonished His followers in those days, as He does today, to hear, practice, and obey what the church leaders taught regarding Scripture, but to not follow their showy practices.

“Everything they do is done for people to see,” Jesus said (Matthew 23:5 NIV).

Jesus warns us that the Pharisees, scribes, and religious people loved the look and feel of being holy and righteous—yet in their hearts, they were filled with pride. This upset Jesus greatly. He referred to people like that as blind and foolish and commanded them to clean up their matters of the heart. He wants us to address what is on the inside, too, so that what is seen on the outside will be a reflection of Him.

What Jesus was teaching wasn’t a new doctrine. In essence, He was showing us the reason why the Lord accepts our obedience over sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). In the Old Testament, Exodus 39 and 40, the Lord instructed Moses to set up the Tabernacle on the first day of the new year. He then gave instructions on where to place each item. Not only was each item to be placed in a special way, though, certain items for consecration had very specific instructions on how to do so. As Moses followed the Lord’s instruction, and even as he consecrated Aaron, his obedience resulted in God’s glory filling the tabernacle.

In the New Testament, the body is depicted as a tabernacle wherein the Holy Spirit may dwell. Now we see why Jesus was so passionate about the intents and motives of our hearts. It is because without holiness, we would not be able to see God’s glory in our lives. It is not lip service that pleases the Lord, but rather the willingness and obedience of our heart to invoke the presence of God.

Let us commit to letting the Lord’s instruction through His Holy Word shape our view of what is pure and what is holy. Let us follow the example of Jesus Christ and be His ambassador. And as we allow the Word of God to transform us, the inner workings of our heart will align with our outward expression and cause the Lord to smile on us and His presence to dwell with us.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16:11).

While living for the Lord may not always be trendy or cause your media posts to go viral, you will certainly have the audience of our Father in Heaven—and His approval is worth it all!

Today’s Devotions

Morning

February 6

Exodus 14:12-14 12Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” 13Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

One minute they were worshipping God for their deliverance, and the next, they were whining about their fears. So it went for the next 40 years. How like us! I think that is one reason God chose the Jews; they so consistently demonstrate man’s vacillation from faith to fear. There before them was the presence of God in the form of a cloud. They saw the angel of God. They had seen the plagues on Egypt, but here, in what looked like impossible circumstances, mountains on two sides, a sea in front, and an army behind, they forgot all that God had done in the past and even what He was doing at the moment. Fear blinds us to spiritual reality. No wonder we so often encounter the words, “Do not be afraid” in Scripture.

Your condition is no different than theirs. God will take you to the same impossible places so that you can learn that all you need do is “to be still”. “The LORD will fight for you…!” It is God’s will to deliver you from the world and from trust in yourself, so that you can follow Him to the Promised Land. He will fight for you if you will let Him. What would have happened if the Children of Israel had attacked the trained army of Pharaoh, trusting in their own might? God always has a better plan. His plan builds our faith and shows the enemy that the LORD is God.

Scriptural advice: Be still. Do not be afraid. The battle is the LORD’s!

Rejoicing in Darkness – Streams in the Desert – February 6

  • 20236 Feb

He turned the sea into dry land; they went through the flood on foot: there did we rejoice in him (Psalms 66:6).

It is a striking assertion, “through the floods” (the place where we might have expected nothing but trembling and terror, anguish and dismay) “there,” says the Psalmist, “did we rejoice in him!”

How many there are who can endorse this as their experience: that “there,” in their very seasons of distress and sadness, they have been enabled, as they never did before, to triumph and rejoice.

How near their God in covenant is brought! How brightly shine His promises! In the day of our prosperity we cannot see the brilliancy of these. Like the sun at noon, hiding out the stars from sight, they are indiscernible; but when night overtakes, the deep, dark night of sorrow, out come these clustering stars–blessed constellations of Bible hope and promise of consolation.

Like Jacob at Jabbok, it is when our earthly sun goes down that the Divine Angel comes forth, and we wrestle with Him and prevail. It was at night, “in the evening,” Aaron lit the sanctuary lamps. It is in the night of trouble the brightest lamps of the believer are often kindled.

It was in his loneliness and exile John had the glorious vision of his Redeemer. There is many a Patmos still in the world, whose brightest remembrances are those of God’s presence and upholding grace and love in solitude and sadness.

How many pilgrims, still passing through these Red Seas and Jordans of earthly affliction, will be enabled in the retrospect of eternity to say–full of the memories of God’s great goodness–“We went through the flood on foot, there–there, in these dark experiences, with the surging waves on every side, deep calling to deep, Jordan, as when Israel crossed it, in ‘the time of the overflowing’ (flood), yet, ‘there did we rejoice in Him!'”
–Dr. Macduff

“And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the door of trouble for a door of hope: and she shall sing THERE” (Hosea 2:15).

Hypocrisy

Author: Charles Spurgeon

“Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Luke 12:1

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 23:23-28

Some people I know of are like inns, which have an angel hanging outside for a sign, but they have a devil within for a landlord. There are many men of that kind; they take good care to have an excellent sign hanging out; they must be known by all men to be strictly religious; but within, which is the all-important matter, they are full of wickedness. But I have sometimes heard persons mistake this matter. They say, “Ah! well, poor man, he is a sad drunkard, certainly, but he is a very good-hearted man at bottom.” Now, as Rowland Hill used to say, that is a most astonishing thing for any man to say of another, that he was bad at top and good at bottom. When men take their fruit to market they cannot make their customers believe, if they see rotten apples at the top, that there are good ones at the bottom. A man’s outward conduct is generally a little better than his heart. Very few men sell better goods than they put in the window. Therefore, do not misunderstand me. When I say we must attend more to the inward than the outward, I would not have you leave the outward to itself. “Make clean the outside of the cup and platter”—make it as clean as you can, but take care also that the inward is made clean. Look to that first. Ask yourself such questions as these—“Have I been born again? Am I passed from darkness to light? Have I been brought out of the realms of Satan into the kingdom of God’s dear Son? Do I live by private communion near to the side of Jesus? Can I say that my heart panteth after the Lord, even as the hart does after the water-brooks?”

For meditation: A true work of God both starts on the inside and shows on the outside (Philippians 2:12-13). The Christian is one who is “inside out”; the hypocrite is only “out”.

Not in My Strength

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Not In My Strength

person typing on a computer keyboard

 

Kimberly Poteet – CBN. com

I stared at the computer, waiting for the words to come. But nothing.

What was happening? What had once come to me so easily seemed to flee from my grasp.

This was not just writer’s block—that might last for a few hours or days and then pass. This was a struggle to even link coherent thoughts.

Depression gripped my life, making even the simplest tasks seem impossible.

In college, I was a journalist. Writing was my vocation. So, to struggle putting words together was devastating. It would be like a builder who could not nail boards together.

Yet I could recall enjoying writing since I was in middle school. In sixth grade, I was reading my essay to my class, when I looked up from my paper to find that my classmates were all turned in their chairs and listening to every word. I paused for a moment—shocked to have such a captive audience. Then my teacher instructed me to continue reading, saying, “This is good.”

I suppose when we discover something in our lives that seems like a gift, it’s easy to feel like it is ours to do with as we please—and not give God the credit or ask for His direction. It’s easy to feel like it is all about us. But after that bout with depression in college, I realized that any gift that I had would require God’s help—if I wished for it to flourish and accomplish anything that was of eternal value.

In Exodus 36:1-2, the Bible shares the names of Bezalel and Oholiab, two skilled artisans whom God had gifted with the ability to work skillfully with their hands.

Moses summoned them, and others, to participate in a highly significant building project.

Men like Bezalel—whose name, in Hebrew, meant “in the shadow (protection) of God”—were the earthly hands that would not only help build the Tabernacle of God, but also the sacred pieces that went inside it, like the Ark of the Covenant.

I truly cannot imagine how that would feel to carve and then cover, with gold, such a sacred shrine. Once the Ark was completed and inhabited by the Spirit of God, no one was allowed to touch it or they would die.

Perhaps if we had a commissioning to do such an obviously sacred work, we might take added care to listen to God’s every instruction. We would not wish to omit or alter one request. We would realize our efforts were important.

Yet, we all have a Great Commission to share the Gospel and make disciples, according to Matthew 28:16-20.

Still, other Scripture reminds us that it is not through our own strength and giftings that we do these things.

2 Corinthians 4:7 says,

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves (NLT) .

The strong one driven out by a stronger one

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he … divideth his spoils … When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man…’ Luke 11:21–24

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1–10

So long as you are content with the world, and with the prince who governs it, you will go on, on, on, to your own destruction. Satan does with men as the sirens are fabled to have done with mariners; they sat upon the rocks and chanted lays so harmonious that no mariner, who once caught the sound, could ever resist the impulse to steer his ship towards them, so each vessel voyaging that way was wrecked upon the rocks through their disastrous, but enchanting strain. Such is Satan’s voice; he lures to eternal ruin with the sweetest strains of infernal minstrelsy. This is the dulcet note ‘Peace, peace.’ O sinner, if you were not a fool, you would stop your ears to this treacherous lay. For ever blessed be that sovereign grace which has saved us from the enchantments of this destroyer. The tenant of the heart is called ‘an unclean spirit.’ He is unclean, notwithstanding all the peace he gives you. Flatter not yourself to the contrary. He is ever the same, unchanged, unchangeable. Perhaps you tell me that you are not subject to any uncleanness; you do not drink, nor swear, nor lie; but remember, it is unclean not to be reconciled to God; it is unclean to be a stranger to Christ; it is unclean to disobey God who created you; and above all it is unclean not to love the Redeemer, whose most precious blood has delivered his people from their sins. At his best the devil is no better than a devil, and the heart in which he dwells is no better than a den for a traitor to hide in.

For meditation: Sin affects every part of our being; even what we regard as our good points are unclean in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6). We remain unclean until we trust in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ to cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

Healthy Wisdom

From: Today Devotions

  PROVERBS 3:7-8

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.

—  Proverbs 3:7-8

We tend to believe that we will be the most happy—physically and spiritually—when we have everything under control. We want a wisdom that tells us how successful we will be, how much money we’ll make, where we’ll be in five or ten years, and what our retirement will look like.

When everything feels controlled, we feel happy and content. So we try to do whatever we can to control our circumstances, or else stress will overwhelm us, and our mental and physical health will suffer.

These verses in Proverbs teach us otherwise. Trying to be wise in our own eyes is actually not what is best for us. To help our bodies flourish, we need to surrender ourselves to the Lord.

Gaining wisdom from God and seeking to be wise in God’s eyes will bring health to our bodies. The book of James instructs us this way: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously . . . and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

God wants to give us his wisdom because he knows it will enable us to flourish. In his love for us, God knows that this true wisdom will release us from worry and allow us to surrender our lives to him—that we may live fully, as he intends for us.

God of all wisdom, help me to be wise in your eyes. By your Holy Spirit, keep me from seeking control and running after worldly ideas about wisdom so that I can focus my attention on you. Amen.

Scattered Seeds

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Scattered Seeds

Scattering Seeds | Inspirational words, Daily devotional, Devotional reading

Scattered Seed
By Meg Bucher

“Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants.” Matthew 13:7 NLT

The Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed tells the story of several different seeds and how the environment they were planted in and the way they were cared for determined the progress of their growth. It’s a smart and accurate comparison to our current lives and the way in which we decide to water the Word of God in them daily. This parable gives us great direction to follow, when determining to live our lives to the full, as Jesus died for. “The human heart is like receptive soil to the seed of the Word of God,” Greg Laurie explains, “The soil that the seed fell on represents four categories of the hearers’ hearts, four different reactions to the Word of God: the hard heart, the shallow heart, the crowded heart, and the fruitful heart.”

The Receptive Heart

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.” James 1:19-21 NLT

Per his usual, James put it bluntly! Though we can’t control every thought which enters our minds, we do have a say on whether they stay. In Christ Jesus, we have the power to hold our thoughts accountable to the Word of God. In doing so, we test what is good and what is not. When we seek God, we find Him!

Unfortunately, we are very distractible! Fostering a receptive heart to God’s Word is an active discipline. Scripture tells us to pray all of the time! Any parent who has ever gotten up from their quiet time with the Lord to lose patience with their child understands! The moment we allow our minds to drift from Him, we allow distraction an audience. Fix our minds on Christ Jesus, the Bible says, the Author and Perfecter of our Faith. We will never get it right and are not expected to! Jesus would not have had to die sacrificially for our sins if we were able to keep from sinning. But, living in a world cursed by sin means we constantly have to check our hearts, clear them by confession, and by the strength of the Spirit in us travel down the road of redemption. Such faith requires perseverance! But in Christ, it’s possible!

Today’s Devotions

Morning

February 4

Exodus 12:22 22Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning.

The Hebrew word for basin (caph) meant a drainage trough at the base of the door that kept rain from crossing the threshold and muddying the house. That is why it is sometimes translated threshold. Follow the Israelite head of his home as he takes a specific type of branch, hyssop, and from the base of the door marks the top and the sides. What has he just done? He has made a cross with blood over the entrance of his dwelling.

Now come forward in time over a thousand years to a hill just outside a gate of Jerusalem. There is a man bleeding from his feet, his head, and his hands. Jesus is bleeding there for you so that the Destroyer cannot take your life. A Roman soldier grabs a branch with a sponge on the end to moisten Jesus’ lips (John 19:29). What kind of branch is that? Hyssop!

Jump forward to today, two millenniums later. Night has come upon the earth for the world is in darkness, but in the house of the Lord there is light. Morning is coming. A new day will soon dawn, but until it does, you had better stay in the house (the fellowship of believers). The Destroyer is out in the streets and anyone not behind the cross of blood is fair game to him. “In Him (Jesus) is life and the life is the light of men.”

Consider: The message has remained the same for thousands of years. My soul is safe behind the cross of blood shed for me.+

The mighty arm

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.’ Psalm 89:13

Suggested Further Reading: Genesis 1:1–2:3

Remember the mighty power of God in creation. Man wants something to work upon: give him material, and with cunning instruments he straightway makes for himself a vessel; but God began with nothing; and by his word alone made all things out of nothing. ‘He spake, and it was done: he commanded, and it stood fast.’ Darkness and chaos lay in the way before him, but these soon gave place to the excellence of his might when he said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light.’ ‘In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and all the hosts of them.’ How rapid was that work, and yet how perfect, how gloriously complete! Now, Christian, I want you to draw living water out of this well. The God who in the old creation did all this, can he not work today? He made the world out of nothing, can he not make new creatures without the aid of human will? His word fashioned the creation of old, and his word can work marvels still. Spoken by whomsoever he pleases to send, his word shall be as potent now as in primeval days. There may be darkness and confusion in the sinner’s soul; a word shall remove all, and swift and quick, requiring not even six days. God can make new creatures in this house of prayer and throughout this city. The Lord has but to will it with his omnipotent will, and the sinner becomes a saint. O let creation encourage you to expect a new creation!

For meditation: Every Christian is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17); God applies the same principles to his ‘new creations’ as he did during his original act of creation i.e. he gives them new life (Genesis 2:7Ephesians 2:1), a new likeness (Genesis 1:26–27Ephesians 4:24), new light to be separate from darkness (Genesis 1:3–4,6–7,14–182 Corinthians 4:66:14–18), new love (Genesis 2:18,21–22Ephesians 2:14–16) and new labours (Genesis 1:22,282:15Ephesians 2:10). Are you one of God’s new creations in Christ Jesus?

Streams in the Desert – February 4

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I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth (Isaiah 58:14).

Those who fly through the air in airships tell us that one of the first rules they learn is to turn their ship toward the wind, and fly against it. The wind lifts the ship up to higher heights. Where did they learn that? They learned it from the birds. If a bird is flying for pleasure, it goes with the wind. But if the bird meets danger, it turns right around and faces the wind, in order that it may rise higher; and it flies away towards the very sun.

Sufferings are God’s winds, His contrary winds, sometimes His strong winds. They are God’s hurricanes, but, they take human life and lift it to higher levels and toward God’s heavens.

You have seen in the summer time a day when the atmosphere was so oppressive that you could hardly breathe? But a cloud appeared on the western horizon and that cloud grew larger and threw out rich blessing for the world. The storm rose, lightning flashed and thunder pealed. The storm covered the world, and the atmosphere was cleansed; new life was in the air, and the world was changed.

Human life is worked out according to exactly the same principle. When the storm breaks the atmosphere is changed, clarified, filled with new life; and a part of heaven is brought down to earth.
Selected

Obstacles ought to set us singing. The wind finds voice, not when rushing across the open sea, but when hindered by the outstretched arms of the pine trees, or broken by the fine strings of an Aeolian harp. Then it has songs of power and beauty. Set your freed soul sweeping across the obstacles of life, through grim forests of pain, against even the tiny hindrances and frets that love uses, and it, too, will find its singing voice.
Selected

Be like a bird that, halting in its flight,
Rests on a bough too slight.
And feeling it give way beneath him sings,
Knowing he hath wings.

Equipped and Anointed for God’s Purposes

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65 Bible verses about Equipping, SpiritualEphesians 4:12 to equip the saints for works of ministry and to build up the body of Christ,

Equipped and Anointed for God’s Purposes

man sanding some wood

 

Gordon Robertson – President and CEO, CBN

After God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, He told Moses to have the people build a tabernacle for Him. Until then, the Jews had only built altars with unhewn stones to make sacrifices to the Lord. Yet now they were to build and furnish a tabernacle in the wilderness—a wasteland with no resources—and it had to be portable.

The people had been in slavery, making bricks out of mud and straw. How could they build a magnificent sanctuary for the Lord?

The answer is found in Exodus 31:1-5, where God tells Moses,

“See, I have called by name Bezalel… And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship” (NKJV).

I used to do woodworking as a hobby but never became really good at it. I can’t imagine working in gold, silver, and bronze, or cutting jewels. And here Bezalel gets a download from the Holy Spirit that enables him to do all of this.

The same Holy Spirit who filled him is in us. And He can give us the same wisdom, understanding, and knowledge in all manner of workmanship. He will equip us with everything we need to know for the task that He has assigned us to do.

As Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us,

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

A good prayer to pray is, “I have no idea what I’m doing, but You know everything, and You can show me.”

God promises in Jeremiah 33:3,

“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

We need wisdom. We need understanding. We need discernment. We need to know the way to go. We need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit breathing through everything we do. And we need to consecrate ourselves daily to do the work of the Lord.

The same wisdom God used to create the heavens is the wisdom He used to create you. And in His eyes, you are greater than the heavens.

If you feel discouraged or inadequate, remember this. We can do great things for God because He has called us, equipped us, and anointed us to do His work. God bless you.

Streams in the Desert – February 3

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And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness (Mark 1:12).

It seemed a strange proof of Divine favor. “Immediately.” Immediately after what? After the opened heavens and the dove-like peace and the voice of the Father’s blessing, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” It is no abnormal experience.

Thou, too, hast passed through it, O my soul. Are not the times of thy deepest depression just the moments that follow thy loftiest flight? Yesterday thou wert soaring far in the firmament, and singing in the radiance of the morn; today thy wings are folded and thy song silent. At noon thou wert basking in the sunshine of a Father’s smile; at eve thou art saying in the wilderness, “My way is hid from the Lord.”

Nay, but, my soul, the very suddenness of the change is a proof that it is not revolutionary. Hast thou weighed the comfort of that word “immediately”? Why does it come so soon after the blessing? Just to show that it is the sequel to the blessing. God shines on thee to make thee fit for life’s desert-places–for  its Gethsemanes, for its Calvaries. He lifts thee up that He may give thee strength to go further down; He illuminates thee that He may send thee into the night, that He may make thee a help to the helpless.

Not at all times art thou worthy of the wilderness; thou art only worthy of the wilderness after the splendors of Jordan. Nothing but the Son’s vision can fit thee for the Spirit’s burden; only the glory of the baptism can support the hunger of the desert.
George Matheson

After benediction comes battle.

The time of testing that marks and mightily enriches a soul’s spiritual career is no ordinary one, but a period when all hell seems let loose, a period when we realize our souls are brought into a net, when we know that God is permitting us to be in the devil’s hand. But it is a period which always ends in certain triumph for those who have committed the keeping of their souls to Him, a period of marvelous “nevertheless afterward” of abundant usefulness, the sixty-fold that surely follows.
Aphra White

Engraved Hearts

From: Today Devotions

  PROVERBS 3:3

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.

—  Proverbs 3:3

I remember hearing a popular Christian speaker ask his audience if their lives would look any different if they had “Christian” tattooed on their foreheads.

Similarly, what if you had a scarf around your neck that had “Love” and “Faithfulness” written on it? Or a T-shirt with those words on it? Would it change anything about the way you lived?

Scripture does not shy away from urging us to keep the commands of God in focus. Moses taught the Israelites, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . soul and . . . strength. These commandments . . . are to be on your hearts. . . . Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9).

Humans are incredibly forgetful, and the Spirit knows how often we neglect to focus our hearts and minds on the Lord. We often seek the wisdom of the world before we seek the wisdom of God.

Galatians 5 lists love and faithfulness with the fruit of the Spirit, who calls us to live like Jesus. Jesus always showed these characteristics. As we engrave love and faithfulness on our hearts, we will grow more open to being led by the Spirit before being led by anything else.

What might help you today as a symbol or reminder of God’s love and faithfulness?

Spirit of God, guide me to write your virtues and your will on my heart, that I may follow Jesus. Amen.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

February 3

Exodus 12:13 13The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

The Exodus is a story of deliverance. After God showed the Egyptians that He was greater than all things they worshipped as gods, they still refused to let the Israelites leave to worship Him. The last plague was the death of the firstborn. Pharaoh was worshipped as god by the Egyptians, and his son would take his place. This was the last god of the Egyptians to be plagued, because God is merciful.

God gave His people a way to escape the angel of death. They were to take an unblemished lamb and kill and eat it. The blood was to go upon the doorposts. If the blood marked their dwelling, God would pass over (pasah) them. The word in Hebrew is used of a mother bird hovering over her chicks. God is not going to hop over their home, but stand as their protector, their shield (Isaiah 31:5). If the blood was applied, no destructive plague would touch them.

The Lamb has been slain. The Lamb God promised Abraham that He would provide died on Calvary. His blood was spilled that you and I could mark the doorposts of our home. When we do, we can be assured that He will hover over us to shield us from the plagues that come upon the world (Psalm 91). It is not that we will not face difficulty and tests, but that they will not be destructive to us. Instead they will grow us. The trials will be productive instead of destructive, and so we can count it all joy when we face them. If the blood is on your heart, the Lord will pasah you. The Destroyer will not be allowed to enter your dwelling.

Prayer: Keep me safely under the shadow of Your wings, Lord Jesus.

God’s Pursuit of Us

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God’s Pursuit of Us

FEBRUARY 1, 2023

“For God so loved the wold that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17 (NIV)

“God is an ageless romancer” were the words of the beloved Bible teacher at an all-female retreat.

Her words took me by surprise and appealed to my heart. I have always been a hopeless romantic — a sucker for rom-coms, Christmas movies on Lifetime, and happily-ever-after endings.

Having grown up in church, I often heard God described as Father, Friend, Way-Maker and Wonderful Counselor, to name a few. These names were easy to accept as true, but “romancer” was a bit difficult to embrace.

I’d reserved the word “romance” for men on white horses who slayed villains and rescued damsels in distress. Romancers were Prince Charmings in tuxedos, with roses in one hand and chocolates in the other. When I imagined a romancer, I didn’t imagine God.

But over the course of the weekend retreat, God began to enlarge my understanding of romance. This word isn’t limited to novels and date nights. This word encompasses God’s tremendous love and His relentless pursuit of humanity. I saw it throughout Scripture.

God pursued Adam and Eve after they sinned in the garden of Eden. (Genesis 3)
God pursued Hagar when she ran away from her problems. (Genesis 16)
God pursued Elijah when he ran from Ahab and Jezebel. (1 Kings 18-19)
God pursued Paul on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9)
And God pursues us.

Motivated by unexplainable love, God pursues humanity. No matter our state in life — married, single, dating, living for God or running from Him — God seeks to win the affection of our hearts by relentlessly and faithfully pursuing us.

We see a clear depiction of this pursuit in our key verses, John 3:16-17: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

The love John refers to in this scripture is agape love, which is sacrificial and considered the highest form of love that exists. This love was costly for God, but He pursued us through the radical act of sacrificing His Son. God’s love is unmatched and far greater than any box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers.

And even more astounding is that God demonstrated His lavish and sacrificial love while we were sinners. He pursued us while we weren’t thinking about Him. His actions on our behalf overshadow the man on the white horse. Once and for all, God valiantly saved humankind from the spiritual villain Satan when we were in distress.

But God’s pursuit of us did not end with Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection. For all our days, He will continue to pursue us with His unexplainable love.

If you long to be romanced and pursued, may this be an encouragement: You are the object of God’s affection. He has relentlessly pursued and will continue to pursue you.

Dear God, thank You for pursuing me. Continue to remind me of Your steadfast love for all my days. Help me to rest in the fact that I am lavishly loved by You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

In Shadow – Streams in the Desert – February 2

In the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft: in his quiver hath he hid meIsaiah 49:2

“In the shadow.” We must all go there sometimes. The glare of the daylight is too brilliant; our eyes become injured, and unable to discern the delicate shades of colour, or appreciate neutral tints – the shadowed chamber of sickness, the shadowed house of mourning, the shadowed life from which the sunlight has gone.

But fear not! It is the shadow of God’s hand. He is leading thee. There are lessons that can be learned only there.

The photograph of His face can only be fixed in the dark chamber. But do not suppose that He has cast thee aside. Thou art still in His quiver; He has not flung thee away as a worthless thing.

He is only keeping thee close till the moment comes when He can send thee most swiftly and surely on some errand in which He will be glorified. Oh, shadowed, solitary ones, remember how closely the quiver is bound to the warrior, within easy reach of the hand, and guarded jealously.
Christ in Isaiah, by Meyer

In some spheres the shadow condition is the condition of greatest growth. The beautiful Indian corn never grows more rapidly than in the shadow of a warm summer night. The sun curls the leaves in the sultry noon light, but they quickly unfold, if a cloud slips over the sky. There is a service in the shadow that is not in the shine. The world of stellar beauty is never seen at its best till the shadows of night slip over the sky. There are beauties that bloom in the shade that will not bloom in the sun. There is much greenery in lands of fog and clouds and shadow. The florist has “evening glories” now, as well as “morning glories.” The “evening glory” will not shine in the noon’s splendour, but comes to its best as the shadows of evening deepen.

Life in earnest

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘He did it with all his heart and prospered.’ 2 Chronicles 31:21

Suggested Further Reading: Joshua 14:6–14

Look around you; who are the most useful men in the Christian church today? The men who do what they undertake for God with all their hearts. Where is the preacher whom God blesses by the conversion of hundreds in a year? Is he a sleepy, prosaic soul? Does he confine himself within narrow limits? Does he speak sleepy words to a slumbering congregation? We know it is not so, but where God is pleased to assemble a congregation it is, whatever it may not be, a proof that there has been earnestness in the preacher. Who are the most successful Sunday school teachers? The most learned? Every superintendent will tell you it is not so. The most talented? The most wealthy? No; they who are the most zealous; the men whose hearts are on fire; those are the men who honour Christ. Who among you today is doing the most for your Master’s kingdom? I will tell you. Lend me a spiritual thermometer by which I may try the heat of your heart, and I will tell you the amount of your success. If your hearts be cold towards God, I am sure you are doing nothing though you may pretend to do it, but if you can say, ‘Lord, my soul is all on flame with an agony of desire to do good to the souls of men,’ then you are doing good, and God is blessing you as he did Hezekiah, who did it with all his heart and prospered. Feeling that very many Christians are not Christians with all their hearts, and that perhaps some of you have only given Jesus Christ a dull, cobwebby corner of your hearts, instead of bidding him sit at the head of the table and reign upon the throne: fearing that we are all in danger of getting into a Laodicean lukewarm state, I wish to stir you up.

For meditation: While we must avoid zeal without knowledge (Romans 10:2), it is not in God’s purposes for us to be satisfied with the possession of knowledge without zeal (Titus 2:14). Do you seek to do with all your might whatever your hand finds to do (Ecclesiastes 9:10)?

Why are men saved?

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Why are men saved?

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake.” Psalm 106:8

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Peter 1:1,2

Jesus Christ is the Saviour; but not more so than God the Father, or God the Holy Spirit. Some persons who are ignorant of the system of divine truth think of God the Father as being a great being full of wrath, and anger, and justice, but having no love, they think of God the Spirit perhaps as a mere influence proceeding from the Father and the Son. Now, nothing can be more incorrect than such opinions. It is true the Son redeems me, but then the Father gave the Son to die for me, and the Father chose me in the everlasting election of his grace. The Father blots out my sin; the Father accepts me and adopts me into his family through Christ. The Son could not save without the Father any more than the Father without the Son; and as for the Holy Spirit, if the Son redeems, do you not know that the Holy Spirit regenerates? It is he that makes us new creatures in Christ, who “begets us again unto a lively hope,” who purifies our soul, who sanctifies our spirit, and who, at last, presents us spotless and faultless before the throne of the Most High, accepted in the beloved. When you say, “Saviour,” remember there is a Trinity in that word—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, this Saviour being three persons under one name. You cannot be saved by the Son without the Father, nor by the Father without the Son, nor by Father and Son without the Spirit. But as they are one in creation, so are they one in salvation, working together in one God for our salvation, and unto that God be glory everlasting, world without end. Amen.

For meditation: We are to be baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19) in acknowledgement of the fact that all three persons of the Trinity have accomplished our salvation.

Streams in the Desert – February 1

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This is my doing. (1 Kings 12:24)

The disappointments of life are simply the hidden appointments of love.
–C.A. Fox

My child, I have a message for you today. Let me whisper it in your ear so any storm clouds that may arise will shine with glory, and the rough places you may have to walk will be made smooth. It is only four words, but let them sink into your inner being, and use them as a pillow to rest your weary head. “This is my doing.”

Have you ever realized that whatever concerns you concerns Me too? “For whoever touches you touches the apple of [my] eye” (Zech. 2:8). “You are precious and honored in my sight” (Isa. 43:4). Therefore it is My special delight to teach you.

I want you to learn when temptations attack you, and the enemy comes in “like a pent up flood” (Isa. 59:19)., that “this is my doing” and that your weakness needs My strength, and your safety lies in letting Me fight for you.

Are you in difficult circumstances, surrounded by people who do not understand you, never ask your opinion, and always push you aside? “This is my doing.” I am the God of circumstances. You did not come to this place by accident — you are exactly where I meant for you to be.

Have you not asked Me to make you humble? Then see that I have placed you in the perfect school where this lesson is taught. Your circumstances and the people around you are only being used to accomplish My will.

Are you having problems with money, finding it hard to make ends meet? “This is my doing,” for I am the One who keeps your finances, and I want you to learn to depend upon Me. My supply is limitless and I “will meet your needs” (Phil. 4:19). I want you to prove My promises so no one may say, “You did not trust in the Lord your God” (Deut. 1:32).

Are you experiencing a time of sorrow? “This is my doing.” I am “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isa. 53:3). I have allowed your earthly comforters to fail you, so that by turning to Me you may receive “eternal encouragement and good hope” (2 Thess. 2:16). Have you longed to do some great work for Me but instead have been set aside on a bed of sickness and pain? “This is my doing.” You were so busy I could not get your attention, and I wanted to teach you some of My deepest truths. “They also serve who only stand and wait.” In fact, some of My greatest workers are those physically unable to serve, but who have learned to wield the powerful weapon of prayer.

Today I place a cup of holy oil in your hands. Use it freely, My child. Anoint with it every new circumstance, every word that hurts you, every interruption that makes you impatient, and every weakness you have. The pain will leave as you learn to see Me in all things.
–Laura A. Barter Snow

 

He Makes Beautiful Things

By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com

Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

God is doing the work of creating beauty not perfection. A part of the Christian faith looks like growth, change, and obedience. We are always looking to our Savior asking him to make us more like Him. If we are not careful this holy process of sanctification can quickly transform into us striving for perfection. We stop relying on God as the one that creates new things out of our lives and start believing that by our own strength we can become “good enough” to earn our own salvation.

Shame and guilt can distract us from the work of grace that God is doing in our lives. When all we see is how we are less than perfect, we can get distracted from the hope that is alive in our world. Our hope is that He makes beauty from our ashes.

As a parent I fall short yet amazingly I can behold so much beauty in the lives of my children everyday. As a wife I make mistakes, oftentimes over and over again, yet the perseverance and love that is enduring in our home is stunning. In my friendships and with my family, I don’t always have the right words but I am grateful for the way the stories of our lives are being written together. As a Christ-Follower, I often fall short and lack wisdom but God is still doing a good work in my life.

Our hearts can be encouraged by the knowledge that even though the headlines in our world and sometimes the headlining thoughts in our minds are filled with negativity, ugliness, and darkness; God is still alive and active in our world. His light is illuminating the dark places, showing his ability to redeem his fallen creation. He has not given up on us.

Genesis tells us the story of how God formed our world. When he finished and finally breathed life into his creation, he paused to say “It is good” (Genesis 1:31). This world began as something good but soon sin and death entered the scene and began to cast a shadow on God’s work. Since then the story of the world has been God coming down to Earth doing all he can to rescue, redeem, and illuminate his fallen creation. Beauty is being made of us despite our fallen nature.

The book of Revelation tells us that one day God’s beauty will be forever in our sights. We won’t have to struggle under the shadow that evil casts on this world. The new Heaven and new Earth will be our eternal home, with our God set securely on his throne of grace (Revelation 21). Our souls long for such a peace filled day! For now, we are a part of his work to bring His Kingdom down. His Kingdom is a place of creativity, beauty, light, and vibrance. Let’s be those that look for that beauty everyday, fighting against the urge to fixate on the problems.

May the Holy Spirit illuminate the beauty of God’s creation for you. He is making everything beautiful in his perfect timing. He offers hope, peace, joy, healing, redemption, reconciliation, and comfort to his children even in our profound brokenness. His grace is enough for us (2 Corinthians 12:9).

You Are Not Enough

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You Are Not Enough

Meghan MellingerJ

MEGHAN MELLINGER , Crosswalk.com

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

A friend told me the other day that I’m highly favored and loved by God.

I didn’t believe it.

Me? Highly favored? My life is like an amusement park ride — sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down, sometimes a screw pops out of something important, and someone’s putting up caution tape. The only consistency for me is always being stressed, sleepy and hungry.

The things I know I need to do? I haven’t done them.
The things I know I shouldn’t do? I’ve done them all.

No matter how hard I try or how many social media tutorials I’ve watched, my performance always falls short.

Why would a perfect God love someone so imperfect?

Because God is love.

Which makes these famous scriptures on the topic of love a clear snapshot of our God:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

We’ve perhaps heard this passage at weddings and seen it crocheted on pillows, but it changes the game when we think of God this way, doesn’t it?

Because Jesus lived and loved perfectly, God loves His people without conditions or a checklist to satisfy. He’s not keeping score or holding a grudge against His children. His love is perfect. And it’s free. The price for it has already been paid in full by Jesus on the cross, and we don’t have to perform perfectly to earn it.

This is a perfect love from a perfect God, given as a gift to imperfect people.

Seems too good to be true, right? It’s hard for us to believe this because the version of love we see every day is conditional. It’s a love based off of the numbers on the scale or the numbers in our bank accounts. Swipe left or swipe right — if you don’t measure up, you’re not worthy. If you don’t get the grades or the job, you’re not enough.

The truth is: We are not enough.

The good news is: We were never meant to be.

This means we are free — free from our fears, our obsession with performance, our unrealistic expectations.

We will always fall short, but God isn’t keeping a tally of every mishap and slip-up to condemn His people. He offers forgiveness. God doesn’t need our performance — He wants our surrender. He wants us to give up trying to earn our worth and instead believe what is unfair and undeserved:

A Prayer for the Mind of Christ

By Jessica Van Roekel, crosswalk.com

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to your own interests but also to others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:3-7, ESV)

I’m talented at imagining worst-case scenarios. I see frowns and imagine they are directed at me, and then spend far too much time wondering what I did to cause it. If I ask someone if something’s wrong and they say nothing, I struggle to believe them. It’s easy to imagine offense, and when I spend too much time dwelling on thoughts like these, I get stuck in a me versus them cycle.

Living life on the defense can be a self-focused way of living. Boundaries are one thing, but constructing thoughts that build walls between other people and us are dangerous. They keep people out, and we stand alert, waiting for an attack. This defensive stance leads to imagined offenses—on our part for wondering what we did wrong and for interpreting another person’s actions and words through the lens of “they’re out to get me.”

Jesus is our great example in so many ways. One of the areas where we can learn the most is his demonstration of humility and meekness. Humility is not thinking of ourselves in a high or debased way. It is understanding that our strengths and gifts come from God, and we owe all of them to him. Humility allows us to assert that we are the object of undeserved redeeming love, and without God, we have nothing. We are not our own, but God’s through Jesus Christ. This is having the mindset of Christ.

When we view other people through this humble lens, our defenses lower, and our worries about offenses cease. We’re able to lay aside the worst-case imaginations of “What did I do wrong?” and “Why do they react to me that way?” This mindset allows us to consider others better than ourselves because we’re secure in who we are in Christ. We’re able to lay aside the petty selfishness that grows from self-protection and choose to serve one another with a generous heart.

Jesus served the people around him. He taught his disciples, he healed many, and he brought people to life. His final emptying came when he allowed himself to be beaten and hung on a cross to die. He stayed silent when the court flung accusations against him. He refused to play Herod’s game when Herod demanded signs to prove who he was. All for you and for me.

In Jesus’ own words, he said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, NIV). We can live this example when we put someone’s needs or wants before our own. Love inconveniences itself. Serving others and having the mindset of Christ means we will experience disruptions where we can practice servanthood. It will mean that we think the best of others instead of the worst.

The mindset of Christ helps us lay aside our worst-case scenarios and view other people through the lens of humility so we can discover the power of God at work in them and us.

The Darkest Thought

By Meg Bucher, Crosswalk.com

“Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.” – Proverbs 28:26 NLT

The darkest thought. The one that wants us to give up, stop trying and throw in the towel. The darkest thought will try to convince us we cannot live like this anymore. It will hold us hostage in sleep when we would normally wake and hostage awake when we would normally sleep. The darkest thought plagues us, pricking at our thin skin and picking open fresh wounds. There are days we don’t want to do life; it’s as simple as that. The enemy comes for all of us, one time or another, with a dark proposition. See it for the lie it is. And seek the help which surrounds us via counselors and medical professionals to help us heal when our nervous systems have broken down.

Life peels back like layers as we grow closer to God. As we become familiar with His voice, the darkest thought loses its volume. The Creator of the Universe assures us we are here for a reason, each one of us. He knew us before we were born. We are living the greatest love story of all time, in which He sent His only Son to save us. He will never leave us. We are never alone. He understands and meets us where we are at. No unmet expectations or disappointed glances …just unconditional, accepting, sacrificial, unfailing love. The loveliest thought.

What Are We Thinking?

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” – Proverbs 4:23 NLT

This means more than just the actual organ beating inside of our chests. Often when the heart is mentioned, it represents the central seat of all we are, including our conscience, wisdom, will, and emotions. The Hebrew translation, in this case, and many others in the Old Testament, define the heart as “inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding; seat of courage.” The details further define it as the inner part, midst; heart, soul, mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory, inclination, resolution, determination (of will), conscience, heart (of moral character), as seat of appetites, as seat of emotions and passions.” That’s an all-encompassing definition of what the writer of Proverbs is trying to convey by using the terminology, “guard your heart!”

Literally, we are to guard our innermost being, will, heart, understanding, soul, mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory, inclination, resolution, determination, conscience, moral character, appetite, emotions, and passions! “Guard your heart above all else,” Solomon wrote, “for it determines the course of your life.” Solomon was renowned as the wisest man on earth! He was King David’s son. He had everything he could have ever wanted in life and knew it meant nothing if the heart was tainted and unguarded.

Guarding our hearts means taking the thoughts we notice and making them obedient to the Word of God. If a thought doesn’t line up …we don’t have to continue thinking about it! “It is the mind’s natural tendency to drift restlessly from one thought to another, moving between memories, imaginings, goals, and plans,” Leigh W. Jerome, Ph. D., wrote for pyscology.com, “the average person has about 6.5 thoughts per minute, or about 6, 200 thought per day (Tseng & Popping, 2020).” Though we cannot control every thought which comes into our minds, we surely have control over them when we notice them. By the power of Christ Jesus in us, we have the power to hold our thoughts captive to the Truth of God. In other words, we have power and authority in Christ Jesus to guard our hearts …above all else.

“…for it determines the course of your life.” The darkest thought of taking life into our own hands and removing it from the face of the earth most certainly determines the course of our lives. This thought is important to hold captive to the Truth of God and get it out of our minds as quickly and efficiently as possible. Declaring, in the name of Christ Jesus, the darkest thought has no power over us. The darkest thought is a lie. A seemingly easy way out but a tragic loss for all who border that life here on earth. This, coupled with seeking professional counsel for the medical healing our nerves and minds sometimes need, leads us back to literal life.

Seek Treasure In Heaven

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Seek Treasure in Heaven

person using a calculator and writing in a notebook

 

Brenda Williams – cbn.com

Matthew 19:26 (NASB) says “with God all things are possible.”

Jesus spoke these words after a young man asked Him how to have eternal life. The man said he had kept the ten commandments, honored his parents, and loved his neighbor as himself. But he asked if he needed something else. In response, Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor and invited him to “come, follow Me” and have “treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:21). Sadly, the young man loved his riches so much it caused him to deny Christ’s offer for eternal life.

Then, Jesus told His disciples:

“Truly I say to you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24).

The Bible does not condemn prosperity but cautions us to have the proper perspective. Scripture reveals that Abraham, David, Solomon, and others were wealthy, yet it didn’t interfere with their relationship with God. They loved God more than their possessions. Oftentimes, our priorities need to be rearranged to be in alignment with God’s purpose.

Wealthy or not, we can have possessions, but guard our hearts so they do not have us. 1 John 2:15 says:

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

This doesn’t mean we can’t have things, but we shouldn’t love them, or anything more than we love the Lord. This young man thought the way many of us have at one time — reject the gospel to live for ourselves. An unbalanced love for worldly things hinders our relationship with Christ, and we don’t want that because we love Him! For me, with God’s help, this change in priorities has been a humbling and rewarding process.

I used to be wrapped up in my possessions: the big house, nice car, designer clothes, Dolby sound, the people I knew, and parties I gave. But deep inside, something was missing. I lacked the joy and peace I wanted. Through a series of events, it all went along the wayside. Presently, my income is less, I live in a small apartment, and the Lord has me getting rid of my collection of possessions. Anything unused in the last three or four years isn’t needed, and I gladly give it away. Now my most valuable possession is my relationship with Christ and His life in me, prioritizing living in a manner that’s pleasing to Him. I can finally say I’ve found true love, true joy, true peace, and a heart satisfaction unmatched by any worldly possession. I discovered that if we let Him, the Lord will transform our minds, our priorities, and our desires to match His. The rewards are priceless!

Part of God’s plan and purpose for us is to draw ever closer to Him. May we surrender everything to Him and withhold nothing. May we possess a greater hunger and sincere love for the Lord with the desire to honor and please Him above all else. How can this be? By asking Him. Ask for help and grace, His amazing grace, which He supplies freely and abundantly — grace that enables us to love Him more than possessions.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

January 29

Exodus 3:2, 7 2There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.

7The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.

The angel of the Lord is referred to by rabbis as the Prince of the Countenance. We know Him as Jesus, the visible manifestation of the invisible God. When Moses made his choice to side with his people, he had to flee for his life from the very people that had raised and educated him. In the wilderness of Midian, he received the second half of his training. Now he knows he can do nothing. He is humbled and ready to be called by God. Most of us would rather skip the last half of God’s training, but it is essential. Without it we end up polluting what God would do with our own wisdom and ways. When Moses was prepared, Jesus met with him.

This is the same Jesus of the New Testament that looks on people with compassion. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb. 13:8) God said, “I have seen their misery and heard them crying out…” God is concerned about suffering wherever it takes place and to whomever as we saw in the story of Hagar. We are made in His image, and He loves and values each life.

It is argued that the God of the Old Testament brutally destroyed lives and therefore is not like the New Testament God. He does end life when it is so corrupt and perverted that it only causes pain. He is the same just but merciful God in both testaments. If you are experiencing pain and suffering, know that God sees your misery and hears your cries. He will bring a change or see you through it because of His great compassion.

Meditation: God is concerned about suffering and I should be also. His life in me will demonstrate His concerns.

Streams in the Desert – January 29

  • 202329 Jan

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early (Psalms 46:5)

“Shall not be moved”–what an inspiring declaration! Can it be possible that we, who are so easily moved by the things of earth, can arrive at a place where nothing can upset us or disturb our calm? Yes, it is possible; and the Apostle Paul knew it. When he was on his way to Jerusalem where he foresaw that “bonds and afflictions” awaited him, he could say triumphantly, “But none of these things move me.”

Everything in Paul’s life and experience that could be shaken had been shaken, and he no longer counted his life, or any of life’s possessions, dear to him. And we, if we will but let God have His way with us, may come to the same place, so that neither the fret and tear of little things of life, nor the great and heavy trials, can have power to move us from the peace that passeth understanding, which is declared to be the portion of those who have learned to rest only on God.

“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God; and he shall go no more out.” To be as immovable as a pillar in the house of our God, is an end for which one would gladly endure all the shakings that may be necessary to bring us there!
Hannah Whitall Smith

When God is in the midst of a kingdom or city He makes it as firm as Mount Zion, that cannot be removed. When He is in the midst of a soul, though calamities throng about it on all hands, and roar like the billows of the sea, yet there is a constant calm within, such a peace as the world can neither give nor take away. What is it but want of lodging God in the soul, and that in His stead the world is in men’s hearts, that makes them shake like leaves at every blast of danger?
Archbishop Leighton

“They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth forever.” There is a quaint old Scottish version that puts iron into our blood:

Who sticketh to God in stable trust
As Zion’s mount he stands full just,
Which moveth no whit, nor yet doth reel,
But standeth forever as stiff as steel!

Presence

  ISAIAH 12:1-6

“Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

—  Isaiah 12:6

It was a cold and sunny day in January—perfect for sledding down icy hills. Our church community gathered for a fun afternoon on the slopes and planned to meet afterward at the church for chili and hot chocolate.

Unfortunately, our 11-year-old son decided to go off a ramp with his racer, and he flew off the sled as it proceeded down the hill. He, on the other hand, came to an abrupt stop, face-planted on the hard ground. He lay there longer than he should have, and when others went over to help, they found he had lost feeling below his chest.

After he was brought by ambulance to the hospital with a diagnosis of a broken neck, the mood of the day changed. We spent hours waiting through X-rays and tests and talk of surgery. A prayer chain started up across the city.

After six hours the doctors were baffled and were ready to start the tests over again. At that moment, our son declared that he would play ball again. He was an avid basketball player. When we asked how he knew, he said he could feel God present with him and healing him.

As he walked out of the hospital that night, the doctors could only attribute his recovery to a miracle. We agreed.

Dear God, thank you for the moments when you show your presence to us. May we always look for your hand to care for us, even doing the unexpected. Amen.