Tag Archives: holy

Fear Not God Is Near

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A Good Scare

woman-watching-horror-movie

 

Let’s face it, whether you “celebrate” Halloween or not, this time of year everyone’s attention tends towards the spooky, creepy, and downright scary. I’ve heard some people say they like a good scare every now and then. Not so with me. I can do just fine without having the stuffing scared out of me, thank you very much.

I love the fact that the Bible tells us that the “joy of the Lord is our strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 (NASB) Jesus is called the “Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (NASB) 1 John 4:8 says, “… for God is love.” In fact, John went on to write, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” If we have given our lives to God, if we have found reconciliation with Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then we have nothing to fear from God. We have no fear of punishment, but the great expectation of living in the love of God which will drive fear from us.

Yet, with this in mind, I see an interesting story in Genesis 15. This is a powerful chapter telling a key part of the story of Abram/Abraham. The chapter begins with the Lord telling Abram “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” Again, we see the Lord’s encouragement to not fear. In his heartbreak, Abram pours out his soul reminding the Lord of the promise to give Abram an heir. A promise as yet unfulfilled as Abram and his wife, Sarah, continue to grow old.

God renews His promise to Abram, telling him that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Genesis 15:6 says, “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Abram’s simple faith and belief in the Lord is the kind of thing John was talking about: the wonderful loving relationship with the Lord that drives out fear.

The Lord goes on to instruct Abram to prepare a sacrifice. The offering on Abram’s part and acceptance of the offering on God’s part would be the ratifying moment of a great covenant between Abram and God. The Lord would forever be the God of Abram and his descendants, and Abram and his descendants would forever be God’s people. In this powerful moment, this ratifying and recognizing of this great covenant of friendship, grace, and love, an interesting thing happens; “Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him.” Gen 15:12 (NASB)

God Himself showed up to validate the covenant, and with Him came … terror? It reminds me of the scene where Isaiah received his call (Isaiah 6). The wonderful, glorious, loving, living God shows up and the first thing out of Isaiah’s mouth is, “Woe is me, for I am ruined.” Isaiah 6:5 (NASB) When John, yes the “There is no fear in love …” John, sees Jesus in Revelation 1, he confesses, as he writes, that he fell at Jesus’ feet “like a dead man.” Revelation 1:17 (NASB). What does Jesus do? He reaches out to the one who was known as the “one who Jesus loved,” touches him on the shoulder and says, “Do not be afraid.” Revelation 1:17 (NASB)

So what can we make of all this? Certainly, God does not want us to be “afraid” of Him. He does not want us to cower as if any moment He could squash us into jelly. However, we should never take for granted His Godhood. He is powerful. He is mighty. Stars fall from His fingertips. He creates worlds with the words from His mouth. He alone holds all of life in His hands. Should we not respect that? Should we not expect that if He shows up, we will react the same way these three wonderful men of God did? It makes me reflect on the phrase “a good scare.” I think I would like to have one after all. A Good Scare, and all that it implies.

 

Stop the Sun

Stop the Sun
by John UpChurch, crosswalk.com

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26).

When I got married, the friend my wife and I roped into making the wedding video for us added a few surprises to the tape before he gave it to us. During our rehearsal dinner (which didn’t actually follow a rehearsal), he’d grabbed guests, whisked them outside, poked the camera in their faces, and asked them for their best tips on keeping a marriage strong.

The advice is decidedly mixed. It ranges from the serious (“Make time for your relationship”) to the Scriptural (“Love is kind”) to the funny (“Just let her win, John”) to the ludicrous (“Beat him when you need to”). It’s the stuff you’d expect from those who are on the spot with only moments to think up something that would be forever stamped on our video.

But one piece of advice has always stuck out to me, and even as I write this, I see it and wince. One of our friends told us that we should just “forget about that whole sun-not-going-down-on-your-anger thing. You will go to bed mad.”

It’s just really bad advice.

Now, admittedly, when Paul wrote Ephesians 4:26, he wasn’t talking to married couples directly. He meant it for the believers at Ephesus in general. But he slips that passage in among his admonitions about how our lives should be different now that we follow Christ. He says those who don’t know Christ live one way, but when they start to follow Him, their lives show it. Before, we let our anger seethe, but now, we fix the problem. Before, we didn’t seek forgiveness and restitution, but now we do.

In marriage, the status quo is always safer. We get into routines, and we like how comfortable the ordinary feels. When something disrupts the normal flow, guys especially want to just move it out of the way and get back to flowing again. Meanwhile, our wives are still upset, and nothing has been dealt with.

You see, there’s another part to that going-to-bed-angry thing that our well-wisher left out. When we do that, the Bible says we give the devil a foothold, a place to cling on. The anger burns deeper and deeper. One angry night becomes dozens. That’s the place where relationships stop growing—and even die.

But there’s no need for any angry sleeping, not when we’ve got something as crazy-good as the gospel. As Paul says, the good news is that we’ve chucked off our old selves and gotten brand-spanking-new selves. This new-self sets us apart in the world as children of light. In other words, when we don’t do what people expect, we suddenly blaze into the darkness. When we don’t let the sun go down on our anger, but forgive as we’re forgiven, it’s like setting off a flare. You’re saying, “Look. This is God’s love made manifest through us. Dig it.”

 

Boastful Ambitions

by Inspiration Ministries

“Be not forward (self-assertive and boastfully ambitious) in the presence of the king.” – Proverbs 25:6 AMPC

The word is full of ambitious people, committed to advancing their careers, no matter what it takes. They are eager to get attention and credit for successful ventures but let others get the blame for failures.

This attitude is the way to become successful and stand out from the crowd. The Bible encourages a different attitude. God promises to bless the humble (Psalm 25:9). Instead of boasting about ourselves, we are to boast in the Lord (Psalm 34:2). We are reminded that God hates pride (Proverbs 8:13).

The right way to approach life is having the attitude of a servant. Remember the words of Jesus, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). We always should seek to serve others and God. Always be ready to give Him the glory. Always seek first His kingdom.

This does not mean being passive. In fact, the Bible tells us that God looks for people who invest the resources they have been given, who are diligent and hardworking, who seek to be good stewards, and who are not afraid to present new ideas.

These principles ultimately apply to our relationship with God. We are to approach Him with reverence and humility, never pride or arrogance. But we also are to be confident in our relationship with Him. Develop the gifts He has given us. Make the most out of our time.

 

One More Journey

By: Joel Vande Werken, reframemedia.com

Scripture Reading — Genesis 46:1-728-30

“Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there.” — Genesis 46:3

In his old age Jacob now begins one more journey. Many years earlier, Jacob had fled his homeland in fear; now he leaves in the hope of a joyful reunion with a son he had thought was dead. But this journey also requires him to leave the land God has promised to him (Genesis 35:12). This journey will take him to Egypt, a place of danger for his father and grandfather (Genesis 12:10-2026:2). Can God be involved in this unexpected change of plans?

It is to Jacob’s credit that he begins this journey with worship—for even if a plan seems appealing to us, it will not succeed if it does not honor God. Though his own son had invited him to come and stay in Egypt, Jacob also surely knew of God’s warning that his descendants would be mistreated in a foreign land (Genesis 15:13). For this reason, God’s assurance is vital to his journey.

Perhaps it seems that God has placed you on a journey you did not expect: a new career, a new home, a challenging situation that stretches your faith. Hear today the great assurance that Jacob heard: “Do not be afraid. . . . I will go . . . with you.” God, who lived among us and journeyed with us in the flesh of his Son (John 1:14), will redeem and bless even the unexpected journeys of all who trust in him.

Prayer

Lord, sometimes you send us to unexpected places in life. Give us wisdom to discern your leading in our journeys, and give us courage in knowing you are always with us, through Jesus, our Savior. Amen.

Be God’s Instrument Of Encouragement

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2020 Encouragement

finger family wearing face masks

 

“Now, friends, read these next words carefully. Slow down and don’t go jumping to conclusions regarding the day when our Master, Jesus Christ, will come back and we assemble to welcome him” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2, MSG).

These words could’ve been written in 2020, but they are actually from about AD 51 or 52. After Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica, he felt the need to write again and address their concerns, lest they be led astray in their faith.

Again, sounds much like 2020 — we still need encouragement and teaching.

There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t need to be inspired with courage for dark days, or boosted in confidence that God is still for us (and not against us). To encourage actually means to stimulate spiritually. It also means to boost, reassure, strengthen, comfort, fortify, gladden, and embolden (my personal favorite).

Someone once said: “A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success” (author unknown). If we tweak that a bit for today, we might say: “A word of encouragement during 2020 is worth more than an hour of praise in times past.”

But not just any encouragement… the best reassurance is found in God’s Word. The news can’t give us what we need. Books of great literature or binge-worthy movies may sweep us momentarily into another world, but when we resurface, imaginary worlds from man’s imagination won’t suffice.

God’s Word establishes us in hope, keeps us stable in unstable times, and repeatedly reminds us of truth— God’s Word is God’s truth. In fact, Jesus prayed this very thing for us:

“[Father] Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17 NKJV).

And this is why we also need teaching. Each of Paul’s letters encouraged believers in their struggles, but the majority of what he wrote was instructional. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he imparted knowledge to help believers navigate their lives. They needed advisement, coaching, explanations, and truth to prepare them for the unforeseen.

I have always held to this adage, that scripture always interprets scripture. In other words, instead of trying to figure things out on my own (the meaning and context of scripture), I believe God’s Word helps interpret His Word. God isn’t confused and as the author of time and space, He knows what is past, what is, and what is yet to come. God, and His Word, can be trusted.

And what an encouragement trust can be!

Even if we knew the exact day of Jesus’ return, we’d still have to remain focused and purposed. Our confidence is that He is coming again and we can trust Him to help us in the meantime.

2020 will not be soon forgotten. But in the midst of all the oddities of this year, you can be confident without jumping to conclusions. Stay anchored in God’s Word and you’ll find all the encouragement you need as well.

 

Give No Quarter

Give No Quarter
by Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.com

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” – Ephesians 6:10-11

This week my small group started a new series on minor characters in the Old Testament. I have to say it’s been pretty interesting. There are so many characters in the Old Testament whose stories often get overlooked, liked Jephthah, one of Israel’s judges, or Rizpah, who defended the bodies of her slain family. The person I ended up researching though was Josiah, who ruled Jerusalem as King for thirty-one years. 2 Kings opens by saying Josiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, a rare feat for most of Israel’s Kings, but then it shifts gears and talks about how Josiah discovered the long lost Book of Law in God’s temple.

After deciphering the book and realizing his people have turned away from God, Josiah went on a complete rampage. Just read the passage below,

“He did away with the pagan priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places of the towns of Judah and on those around Jerusalem–those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts. He took the Asherah pole from the temple of the LORD to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem and burned it there. He ground it to powder and scattered the dust over the graves of the common people. He also tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes, which were in the temple of the LORD and where women did weaving for Asherah. Josiah brought all the priests from the towns of Judah and desecrated the high places, from Geba to Beersheba, where the priests had burned incense. He broke down the shrines at the gates–at the entrance to the Gate of Joshua, the city governor, which is on the left of the city gate.” –  2 Kings 23:5-9

My first impression on reading these passages was that Josiah over-reacted. It was great that he wanted to return his people to God, but burning everything in a ten mile radius seemed a little extreme. Then it hit me; that was the point. To God, Sin is a cancerous tumor that must be cut out of your lives completely. Maybe you’re a guy who’s fallen into the grip of pornography, or a girl who can’t stop putting others down through gossip.

We tell ourselves these things are just human weakness and they don’t mean anything, but God will never approve of our “guilty pleasures”. Christ’s grace has given us a way to battle Sin, and in this unseen war the winner takes all. So, if you’re ready to fight, remember to put on the Armor of God, and give the Devil no quarter.

Light at evening time

By: Charles Spurgeon

“It shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.” Zechariah 14:7

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 24:13-2128-35

God very frequently acts in grace in such a manner that we can find a parallel in nature. For instance, God says, “… as the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, … so shall my word be, …it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” We find him speaking concerning the coming of Christ, “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.” We find him likening the covenant of grace to the covenant which he made with Noah concerning the seasons, and with man concerning the different revolutions of the year—“Seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” We find that the works of creation are very frequently the mirror of the works of grace, and that we can draw figures from the world of nature to illustrate the great acts of God in the world of his grace towards his people. But sometimes God oversteps nature. In nature after evening comes night. The sun has had its hours of journeying; the fiery steeds are weary; they must rest. Lo, they descend the azure steeps and plunge their burning fetlocks in the western sea, while night in her dark chariot follows at their heels. God, however, oversteps the rule of nature. He is pleased to send to his people times when the eye of reason expects to see no more day, but fears that the glorious landscape of God’s mercies will be shrouded in the darkness of his forgetfulness. But instead, God overleaps nature, and declares that at evening time, instead of darkness there shall be light.

For meditation: The text has only ever been true on one occasion in a physical sense (Joshua 10:12-14), but God, to whom even the darkness is light (Psalm 139:12), is always repeating the event spiritually in the lives of his people.

Delight To Do God’s Will

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You Never Do Anything You Don’t Want to Do

by Shawn McEvoy, crosswalk.com

Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. – Galatians 6:5The Message

If I try, I can remember my friends from 10th-grade Sunday School. In fact, I’m still tight with two of them. I remember our church, our youth group, and our youth minister. What I don’t remember so well are the individual lessons we learned from the Bible each week. As I realize that, I give myself another kick for not having gotten into note-taking and journaling. I’d like to have those things to review now.

What I do recall from one particular class session, however, has always stuck with me. And it wasn’t even a quote from the Bible. To show how much I’ve forgotten, I don’t even remember the name of the teacher who said it! He was tall, well-accomplished in business, but still wanting to give of his time to young men. And one day he looked at us and said the following:

“Today’s lesson is going to be very short. Look at me, because whatever you remember from today, remember this. Whatever you remember from your time in this youth group, remember this: You never do anything you don’t want to do.”

That was it. Obviously I still remember it. Why?

I also remember challenging the teacher on that day, most of us scoffing and saying things like, “Yeah, right… I can honestly tell you I do not want to do my homework tonight.”

“Yes you do.”

“No, I really don’t.”

“What will happen if you don’t?”

“Well, I guess I’d be embarrassed when it was time to turn it in, I’d probably have to lie to my parents when they asked if I’d done it yet, and I wouldn’t be prepared for the upcoming quiz.”

“So I guess the reason you’re going to do your homework is because for the motives you just stated, you DO want to do it.”

Snap.

I wanna do my homework? … Wow, I want to do my homework! What a relief to not have to dread it, but to face it gladly because I recognize my want.

A dozen high school boys just got handed a logic lesson in responsibility, desire, and motivation. All around the room you could see eyes and minds opening to new possibilities.

This is what we’d been hearing about free will. But now contextualized and personalized.

This is what our parents and teachers had been getting at as they spoke to us about becoming responsible young men.

This would make me own all my actions and reactions, decisions and indecisions. And, surprising myself, that was a concept I could handle.

The applications were everywhere.

I’m still not even sure his statement was absolutely true, or necessarily biblical. But to be honest, it doesn’t matter anymore, because it informed and continues to inform many things in my life that are true and biblical.

Do I want to lay in bed or do I want to get to work? Why or why not?

Do I really “want” that sportscar, or can I put it out of my mind to burden me no more since it conflicts with several of my primary wants?

Why am I overweight? In my case, I don’t have to be. My bad. Guess I wanted that, too, when you get down to the nub of it. Certainly didn’t do the things I knew would prevent it.

One of the doors that opened to me was in realizing that once I got past “my will be done,” I could begin to pray as Jesus did, “Your will be done.”

Another was in being able to recognize motivation. Why am I going to conquer this lust or pursue this knowledge or accomplish this hard task for God’s Kingdom? Because ultimately, what I want to do is to have my heart’s desires be the same as God’s. That’s where he tells us delight is, and that’s the only place where we know what we want is right.

 

When Everything Overwhelms, How Do We Overcome?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)

“Hey, that’s where great-grandpa and grandma live!” My kids excitedly point to the senior housing community as we drive by, and instead of correcting them, I nod in agreement and choke back tears. My husband’s grandfather passed away a couple of months ago, but it still feels as though he’d be standing at the door, eager to welcome us in if we were to visit.

Death is such a strange thing. It is at once final and yet … not. And grief after death lingers with no end.

I’m surprised by my sadness, and I chide myself for not being over it yet. After all, do I have a right to be so sad when I had only known him for the last 10 years of his 90 years of life? Should I still be crying when I was just his granddaughter-in-law? I wrestle with these questions, but in a moment of grace toward myself, I push away the critic’s voice in my head and let the tears run down my cheeks.

These days, loss is compounded by more loss. I attend a funeral and watch a mother weep as she buries her daughter. I notice the weariness in people’s eyes — in my own eyes — as we try to figure out how to make it through another day. I hear the fear and anxiety that uncertainty brews. I lament in anger for Black mothers and fathers and children who are not safe sleeping in their beds, going for a run, making mistakes and being human.

Each death, each act of violence, each oppressed silencing and each loss feels like waves crashing over me, and I am overwhelmed. I don’t know if I can swim to the surface to catch a breath or find a way to the shore. I long for solid ground, to lie still and rest, and I cry out to God — How much longer, Lord?

My strength is made weak by the constant barrage of what this year keeps throwing at us, and in my helplessness, I remember Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I repeat the verse over and over, and in His words, I hear truth and hope. The truth is that we will have trouble in this world. We will face abandonment, loneliness, hatred and death. Out of love and kindness, Jesus wants us to be aware rather than surprised when these things happen; they are to be expected.

Then, He gives this two-fold promise of hope: First, when everything is chaos, we can have peace in Him. Second, we can be encouraged because Christ has already overcome the world.

We can get through hard things because we follow a God who has gone through every hard thing and has come out of it victoriously. When we are weary and we feel like we can’t take another hit, we can be encouraged. We can overcome. Christ has gone before us, and in Him, our weaknesses are the platforms from which His power shines.

Take heart, friend. We have a God who understands, who has endured and who helps us to do the same.

 

Faith Is…

By: Zondervan

Faith takes God at His word.

 

Knowing God Is Able

God is able to do whatever He promises. — Romans 4:21 NLT

Faith means knowing God is able to do all that He has promised. You may not understand how. You may not know where or when. It may seem utterly, completely impossible. But for all the things you do not know — for all the odds stacked against you — in faith, there is one thing you do know:

God is able, and He will deliver that which He has promised to you.

Begin a list of all that God has promised you — and add to it with each new promise you discover in His Word. Begin with Psalm 121.

Which of God’s promises is most important to you and your faith right now? Write out a prayer of praise declaring that you know He is able to keep that promise in your life.

*

Love

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. — Galatians 5:6

God is love… and so faith in God must have love. It’s loving God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength (Mark 12:30). And it is accepting that God’s love for you is both endless and unconditional (Romans 8:38-39). Because God’s love for you gives you every reason to have faith, and your faith gives you every reason to show the world how much you love Him.

Why does God’s love for you give you every reason to put your faith in Him?

Does your faith express itself in love? Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Why do you believe the expression of love is so important to faith — your own and others’?

 

Taking God at His Word

For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, “Go,” and he goes; and that one, “Come,” and he comes. I say to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it. — Luke 7:8

“Say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Luke 7:7). Such was the faith of a humble Roman centurion, and his faith amazed even Jesus (Luke 7:9). That man knew — what all those who put their faith in God know — that He is able to do all He has said He will do. So when God says He will forgive and save, help and guide, love and protect…

faith takes God at His word.

Compare the faith of this centurion to the faith of Thomas in John 20:24-29. Which one more resembles you and your faith?

Is there any area of your faith where you most struggle to take God at His word? Write out a prayer asking God to show you His faithfulness.

Excerpted with permission from The Weekly Faith Project copyright Zondervan.

Trusting God During Uncertain Times

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Trusting God During Uncertain Times

woman showing respect for the cross on a hill at sunset

 

With less than two months until graduation, I received an announcement email stating that my graduation from Divinity School would be transitioned to online and the physical ceremony was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. Though God prepared me for this announcement just two days earlier by placing in my heart that there would likely not be a physical graduation in May 2020, I was still torn between understanding the decision and disappointment. A day that I had looked forward to for years would be an online experience instead of in-person where I could celebrate with family, friends, classmates, and professors. After years of studying, writing papers, and missing out on family and friends’ events, I wanted to celebrate the conclusion of my Master of Divinity degree. I was sure that many of the other 2020 students felt a similar disappointment, so I was saddened for them as well.

Graduation was just the first event that I had to process the cancellation of. I also had a post-graduation trip out of the country, a family vacation, a mission trip, and several speaking engagements that were either canceled or postponed. I quickly decided that processing each disappointment was important to me so that I could be in an emotionally and spiritually healthy place, free from any bitterness or hard-heartedness.

Proverbs 16:9 (NASB) says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.”

In my walk with the Lord, I have aimed to make plans but to allow God to alter those plans as He sees fit. During the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, it seemed that my plans were rapidly changing, and my disappointment was growing. My heart was also breaking for my friends and other people around the world who were experiencing great losses of loved ones, income, and more.

Spending Time in Prayer

In the midst of my changed plans and my anxious thoughts, I received word that a distant relative passed away from COVID-19 related complications. Several friends of the family also passed away due to COVID-19. As I wrestled with the weight I felt from the worldwide grief and suffering, along with my own disappointment, anger, and anxiety, I decided to pray for people who were sick, lost a loved one, lost a job, or were simply afraid. I also decided to trust God in the midst of all of the changes I faced in what I thought would be a time of pure celebration.

Through this time of prayer, God began to heal my heart and give me peace. It may seem strange to those observing me from the outside that I would have so much peace. This is precisely what the peace of God tends to do, it surpasses all understanding.

Receiving the Peace of God

I was reminded of the scripture that says in Philippians 4:7 (NASB),

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The peace of God can be present in our lives even as we are facing uncertain times, grief, and pain. God’s peace is meant to surround us and guard our hearts and our minds.

May you know the peace of God no matter what difficulty you are facing today.

 

Stain on the Brain

by Fred Alberti, crosswalk.com

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.- Psalms 119:11

I watched Caleb as he sat there in deep concentration just staring at the book. Finally, I asked him what he was doing. His response was one I had never heard before. He said, “I’m staining it into my brain.”

He was memorizing Scripture verses for AWANA Club.

The thing is he knew what he was doing. He knew that he was trying to burn the words into his memory so he could pass on to the next challenge.

I like how today’s verse applies to Caleb’s staining power. The psalmist gives the reason why he is hiding God’s Word. What is it? So that he will not sin against God.

The reason for Bible memorization is to help us to abstain from sinning.

Oftentimes we resist Bible memorization. Instead we choose to stain our brain with TV shows depicting adultery, murder, and obscenity. Then we get ourselves into a moral bind and we wonder how we got into that place. We shouldn’t wonder. We should realize that what we choose to watch and/or memorize is what is going to stain into our brain.

“Oh, that sex scene isn’t so bad, at least they muted the sounds.”

“Why yes, the whole point of the show was that the husband didn’t get along with his wife and had an affair. But at least he was able to get a divorce and the mom was able to keep the kids.”

“Well, sure there was a lot of swearing but the story was great and the murder scenes were so realistic. Cinematography has really advanced these last few years.”

Folks, these are stains. They will stain your conscience and your heart and those of your family.

What are you staining your brain with these days?

 

Calm and Powerful

I am strong when I speak in a calm and powerful way.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. — Proverbs 15:1

Often I can remember the turning point of a conversation when it went from good to bad or from bad to good. At times, I could hear the Holy Spirit warn me: “Stay calm, lower your voice, answer gently. Don’t say what you want to say, but listen to My still, small voice and speak My words instead.” Sometimes I am obedient and listen… Other times I just try to sneak in one more comment before obeying and find out just how costly my foolishness is.

I have found the secret to being heard. It really is quite simple: If you want to be heard, say it the way you would want to hear it.

My children, my husband, my employees, my dog, everyone, in fact, listens more when I say things the way I want to hear them. I know I prefer to be spoken to in a gentle, respectful tone. I hear so much better when I am not being yelled at. It is not the volume level or the repetition of words that grabs the attention, respect, and commitment of others. It is the importance of what we speak and the tone in which it is delivered. No one takes a person seriously if they are throwing a fit. Oh, they may get their way for the moment, but it will cost them later. We throw fits and raise our voices for many reasons. Here are a few:

  1. We are afraid we are not being heard.
  2. Yelling has produced results (getting our way) in the past.
  3. We want to intimidate or control others.
  4. It is what we lived as a child.
  5. We are still angry over an unresolved issue.
  6. It’s a bad habit.

Most of these reasons are rooted in fear. God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). We will yell and throw fits when we feel powerless. We will seek to intimidate and control others when we are self-serving. We will revert to our past when perfected love has not yet cast out fear. We will overreact whenever we have carried the weight of yesterday’s issues into today.

As we renew our mind, bad habits are broken and the tyranny of fear is thwarted. I found out a long time ago that no matter how things appear, I am not in control of them. I can control myself, but God is ultimately in control of everything.

Accepting this truth puts us in the right state of mind to communicate in such a way that lets us be heard.

 

Saved by the Spirit

by Inspiration Ministries

“When the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel … The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel.” – Judges 3:9-10 NASB

Israel had disobeyed God. They had served other gods and defied His Word. As a result, they fell under the control of a rival nation. It must have seemed like a hopeless situation. They seemed perpetually destined to be dominated by others. Then, finally, they cried out to God, and everything changed.

He responded by sending Othniel to lead them. We don’t know much about Othniel, but we know that his name means “the force of God,” and he led them to victory. Othniel rescued God’s people after “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him.”

The Spirit gave him the wisdom to know what to do and the winning strategy. The Spirit gave him boldness and the gifts needed to be a good leader. The Spirit opened doors and enabled them to be victorious.

This pattern applies to us today. If we sin, God is ready to hear us repent. When we call, He is prepared to help us. He is ready to send His Spirit to give us the ability, strength, and wisdom we need. We must remember that we are saved not by our efforts, but by God’s force and by His Spirit. God will give us the boldness and the victory we need when we call on Him.

In your life, remember that God is ready to direct and empower you, to save you by the power of His Spirit. Call on Him right now!

Our Hope Is In God

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Great Expectations

 

“… You did awesome things that we did not expect …” (Isaiah 64:3 NIV)

To everything there is a season … and a Rubbermaid tote of decorations in the attic.

Yes. When it comes to the seasons of the year we know exactly what to expect. Halloween will welcome our light up pumpkins and our trusty leaf-filled scarecrow. Christmas will be invited by the angel tree topper that graced our Grandmother’s tree when we were small and spring will be greeted with the ancient egg decorating kit that our mom pawned off on us years ago.

When it comes to the seasons of life, however, we aren’t always as prepared. In fact, the only promises we are given in these changing seasons are “expect the unexpected.”

And I for one really don’t like the unexpected. Never have. I have a reminder on my calendar for every event under the sun. When I go to the doctor, I want to know exactly what they are going to do to me before they ever even pull out the needle. And I want to know if it’s going to hurt.

I remember being pregnant with our first son. I wasted no time rushing out to buy my copy of “What to Expect”. And when I experienced something unexpected – I totally lost it. I wanted to know what horribly rare disease I had that was so completely unheard of that it got left out of the index.

Life itself is a lot like pregnancy, isn’t it? We go into this journey totally unaware of what to expect. All throughout it, even when we think we know what’s headed our way, we find that we draw a complete blank. “God, I don’t know what I’m waiting on. I’m just waiting on something that I know hasn’t come.”

It can be frustrating when we don’t know exactly what we are waiting for. When we have no earthly idea what we need from God, we just expect that God does; and whatever that need turns out to be He’ll fulfill it. No worrying required.

Nothing gets slipped past our Father. He leaves no stone unturned, no need unfulfilled. And it’s when we learn this simple truth of our Father’s love that we let God out of our box. It’s here that we take the limits off His grace and here that He is given free rein to rock our world in ways we can yet to imagine.

When you don’t know what to expect, take comfort in these great expectations. If you are waiting on the Lord, whatever it is you are waiting for, it won’t be anything less than everything that you need.

 

Be Still

Be Still
by Sarah Jennings Phillips, crosswalk.com

 

Be still and know that I am God. (Ps. 46: 10)

The affairs of God are accomplished little by little and almost imperceptibly. The Spirit of God is neither violent nor hasty. — St Vincent de Paul

The past several weeks have been filled with jam-packed schedules, crowded airports, chattering children and blaring cell phone ring tones — a never ending stream of noises, technology, and motion. It seems the older I get, the more those lazy summer days of childhood feel like fairy tales from another life.

If you’re American, you’re probably just as busy if not busier than I am right now. We’re a country filled with activity. Studies show we’re some of the most sleep-deprived people in the world. We work long hours, come home to more work (completed with the television blathering on in the background) before collapsing into bed to repeat the process again the next day.

Why do we live such frantic, hyper stimulated lives? Sometimes it’s out of a sense of obligation – we feel it’s a sin to say “no” so we overextend ourselves trying to fill the roll of Savior for everyone around us. Sometimes our frenzied lives stem from a sense of inadequacy – “If I work hard and accomplish such-and-such, I will have value.” Sometimes it’s a mode of escape – burying ourselves in work or in a TV program keeps our minds off life’s disappointments. And sometimes we’ve just lost sight of our priorities, defaulting to the heightened pace of the culture around us, unaware that we’ve let our down time slip away little by little.

Regardless of why we’re living in the fast (and loud) lane, deep down we all know we need to get out of it. Our souls crave peace, stillness, and silence. And even if we can ignore the cries of our souls for awhile, our bodies demand it when they eventually wear out.

Why do we crave that stillness? It seems the “noise” of life is more often man-made than God-ordained. In Scripture we see that time and again, God calls us to find peace in Him, to lighten our burden with Him, to set aside our anxieties and meaningless business. We see God speak to the prophet Elijah through a “gentle whisper” and tell an anxious Martha that her sister Mary chose the “better” part when she abandoned household duties to sit at Jesus’ feet. (Luke 10: 41-42)

After a long day of running here and there, I find myself longing to be peaceful Mary whose only job is to be with Christ. So how can we become more like Mary when the vast majority of us more closely resemble worried Martha? I love the opening Scripture verse — it’s so simple, it cuts through all the junk clanking around in my brain. Be still.

In the midst of the activity surrounding her, Mary made a simple choice. To sit and be still. You and I can make that simple choice too, even when life seems to be pressing on all sides. It may be awkward at first – we may be tempted to grab for the remote or cut our time with God short. But by seeking stillness we are effectively saying, “Nothing else is as important to me as You at this moment, Lord.” When I’ve spent time at our local Adoration chapel – a place void of constant noise and movement – I find I am never sitting in an empty room doing “nothing” but a place filled with God’s presence and love, a place I can truly know God.

 

Streams in the Desert – October 21

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

 

For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Cor. 5:1).

The owner of the tenement which I have occupied for many years has given notice that he will furnish but little or nothing more for repairs. I am advised to be ready to move.

At first this was not a very welcome notice. The surroundings here are in many respects very pleasant, and were it not for the evidence of decay, I should consider the house good enough. But even a light wind causes it to tremble and totter, and all the braces are not sufficient to make it secure. So I am getting ready to move.

It is strange how quickly one’s interest is transferred to the prospective home. I have been consulting maps of the new country and reading descriptions of its inhabitants. One who visited it has returned, and from him I learn that it is beautiful beyond description; language breaks down in attempting to tell of what he heard while there. He says that, in order to make an investment there, he has suffered the loss of all things that he owned here, and even rejoices in what others would call making a sacrifice. Another, whose love to me has been proven by the greatest possible test, is now there. He has sent me several clusters of the most delicious fruits. After tasting them, all food here seems insipid.

Two or three times I have been down by the border of the river that forms the boundary, and have wished myself among the company of those who were singing praises to the King on the other side. Many of my friends have moved there. Before leaving they spoke of my coming later. I have seen the smile upon their faces as they passed out of sight. Often I am asked to make some new investments here, but my answer in every case is, “I am getting ready to move.”
–Selected

The words often on Jesus‘ lips in His last days express vividly the idea, “going to the Father.” We, too, who are Christ‘s people, have vision of something beyond the difficulties and disappointments of this life. We are journeying towards fulfillment, completion, expansion of life. We, too, are “going to the Father.” Much is dim concerning our home-country, but two things are clear. It is home, “the Father’s House.” It is the nearer presence of the Lord. We are all wayfarers, but the believer knows it and accepts it. He is a traveller, not a settler.
–R. C. Gillie

The little birds trust God, for they go singing
From northern woods where autumn winds have blown,
With joyous faith their trackless pathway winging
To summer-lands of song, afar, unknown.

Let us go singing, then, and not go sighing:
Since we are sure our times are in His hand,
Why should we weep, and fear, and call it dying?
‘Tis only flitting to a Summer-land.

 

Gaining Experience

by Inspiration Ministries

“I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations … These are the nations which the Lord left, to test Israel … that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war.” – Judges 2:21; 3:1-2 NASB

Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, God promised to bless them abundantly. But they still needed to possess the land. Yet some did not experience the victory He promised or the fullness of those blessings. Why not?

Some may have been afraid or cautious. Others might have lacked leadership or resolve. Some did not have faith to believe God. And He knew they all needed to be tested to gain experience so that they would be prepared and taught how to be victorious.

How easily we can be like these Israelites – reluctant to face challenges, afraid, or lacking confidence. As He did with Israel, God might keep obstacles before us to see the true condition of our hearts.

In our flesh, we may want to avoid these challenges and stay where we feel comfortable. But God constantly wants to bring us into new levels of maturity and receive greater blessings to teach us new things. If we want His blessings, we must face these obstacles, not run away.

We also need experience. We need to be “taught war,” to be trained and ready. We need to possess the land.

What obstacles do you face? What giants stand before you? Are you confident or reluctant? Regardless of your particular challenges, remember that God is with you. Believe Him for victory. Trust in Him. Don’t be reluctant, but be bold and courageous. Move forward in faith.

God Loves and Watches Over You

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The Sparrow’s Rescue

little bird in a person

 

By: Mabel Ninan, cbn.com.

Dead or alive?

A little sparrow sat perfectly still on the deck of my patio. I tip-toed toward the bird. She made no attempt to fly away. I knelt down beside the poor creature and studied her delicate features and beautiful colors. Shades of grey and white crisscrossed the little bird’s body, forming patterns that could mesmerize an artist. A splatter of yellow on its belly added to its beauty.

I can’t leave her here, out in the open.

The sparrow shivered when I touched her, and opened her eyes slightly. I examined her thoroughly like an animal detective. No signs of injury.

I scooped the bird into my hands gently and took her inside the kitchen. On the counter I found an empty carton of granola bars. I ripped off the top and lined the carton with a kitchen towel. Perfect! I placed the bird in the makeshift nest. She was safe here, both from the wintery cold and my ever-hungry dog.

I grabbed my laptop and searched the Internet for advice to deal with abandoned or injured birds. One wise birder suggested that birds sometimes went into a temporary state of shock when they flew into a glass window. With time, he said, they recover from the accident and fly away.

Maybe the pretty bird flew into the French windows of my living room. Could she have been so scared that every muscle in her body froze?

I could relate to her.

We had recently moved from Los Angeles to San Jose. I missed the beach-y vibe of my former town which had been home for over six years. I had friends who had become family. My Bible study mates became community. I was settled and rooted.

When we moved, the rug was pulled out from under me. The change overwhelmed me. The unfamiliarity disoriented me. Paralyzed by loneliness, I did the bare minimum to get through the day. Daily chores became drudgery. No activity seemed enjoyable. Like the sparrow, I was incapacitated, stunned by the enormity of change that shook my world.

Until God intervened.

He did not leave me on my own to weather the elements …

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry.” (Psalm 34:15 NIV)

God sent His people, strangers to me but friends with Him, to pick me up and provide shelter while I regained my perspective and renewed my faith. Old friends called and prayed with me, pointing me to God’s goodness. A parent from my son’s school befriended me and showed me around San Francisco. Within two months of moving, we found a church that felt like home the minute we walked in the sanctuary. We were invited to a Bible study by a family we met at church.

On my own, I was weak. But God provided community to pull me up and push me forward.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up …” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV)

They reminded me that I could trust God even more in the midst of unknown surroundings and an uncertain future.

And before I knew it, I began to fly again.

Back in the kitchen, after 10 minutes or so, the sparrow fluttered its wings. With eyes opened wide, it searched for a way out. I opened the door to my patio and watched in amazement as the bird soared into the sky with new-found vigor and vision.

 

The Context of Stillness

By Katherine Britton, crosswalk.com

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

How many times have you heard this verse? A hundred? A thousand? This snippet of a psalm is a pet verse of mine. It constantly pops into my head when I start getting too busy or stressed out. Ironically, I hadn’t taken time to read the whole psalm in months until the other night, and I had no recollection of the verses surrounding my favorite one-liner. Here’s a sampling of the other verses in Psalm 46:

“Though the earth gives way…” (vs. 2)

“Though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea…” (vs. 2)

“The nations rage, the kingdoms totter…” (vs. 6)

Be still and know that I am God… I will be exalted in the earth!” (vs. 10)

“The God of Jacob is our fortress.” (vs. 11)

I had been picturing an idyllic, Psalm-23-ish passage as the setting for my pet verse, but the context is completely different. This psalm is actually the meditation of a man holding back fear with faith. In a setting of uncertainty, war, and all-around “trouble” (vs. 1), the psalmist focuses on the peace that comes from being the presence of God… even though the earth around him threatens to fall apart. The verse holds even more power in this context than in my imagined setting, doesn’t it?

I love the Psalms because of their deep meditations on humanity confronted with God’s holiness and faithfulness. I can see real men writing the lines, reminding themselves of the bigger context for their troubles. I see people who – like me – wondered what would happen next in this life. But every one of them comes to the realization that they serve a God who supersedes their worries and replaces them with worship. The psalmists heard the command to “be still and know” and found that God blew their imaginations.

I often look at looming elections and financial woes and start getting jittery, wondering about outcomes and impacts. In times like this, I slip into a mentality that thinks “being still” and listening to God can only happen in Psalm 23‘s green pastures. But the real context of Psalm 46 tells me otherwise. God’s amazing peace works most powerfully when the world’s craziness reaches a crescendo. Hope lives amid despair, not perfection. Like they say, context is everything.

 

Continually Seek God

by Inspiration Ministries

“Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause … from the deceitful and unjust man … you are the God in whom I take refuge … Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” – Psalm 43:1-2 ESV

The psalmist felt unfairly accused. What particularly bothered him was that many of his oppressors were “deceitful and unjust.” He turned to God, pleading for His defense. Although he was taking refuge in God, he still felt besieged. Instead of experiencing deliverance, he felt rejected.

Facing these kinds of troubles, others might have given up or stopped looking to God. Instead, the psalmist intensified his focus on Him. David cried out to God, “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me” (v. 3).

Renewed in his confidence, the psalmist then imagined the day when his circumstances would change. He would be vindicated by God, who would reward him for his faithfulness. It would be a time of “exceeding joy” as he would be filled with praise (v. 4).

As we face life’s troubles, we, too, can be tempted to give up. If we don’t see immediate change, we can wonder when God will intervene and circumstances will turn around. We need to strengthen our relationship with Him while we wait. Let Him know that we still trust Him. Seek Him with renewed intensity. Be led by His light.

You might feel cast down and in turmoil. But the Bible promises that as you hope in God, you can be confident, sure that He will deliver you. You will praise Him again. You always should remember that He is your salvation.

 

Christ’s prayer for his people

By: Charles Spurgeon

“I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” John 17:15

Suggested Further Reading: Philippians 1:19-26

We never have any encouragement to ask God to let us die. Christians are always wanting to die when they have any trouble or trial. You ask them why? “Because we would be with the Lord.” O yes, they want to be with the Lord, when troubles and temptations come upon them. But it is not because they are yearning to be with the Lord, it is because they desire to get rid of their troubles. They want to get home, not so much for the Saviour’s company, as to get out of the little hard work. They did not wish to go away when they were in quiet and prosperity. Like lazy fellows, as most of us are, when we get into a little labour we beg to go home. It is quite right sometimes that you should desire to depart, because you would not prove yourself to be a true Israelite if you did not want to go to Jerusalem. You may pray to be taken home out of the world, but Christ will not take up the petition. When your prayers come to the Lord, this little one may try to get amongst them, but Christ will say, “I do not know anything about you, ‘I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world.’” You may wish it sincerely, and really desire it, but you will not at present get your Master to pray with you. Instead, then, of crying, or wishing to be away from the battle, brace yourself up in the name of the Lord. Every wish to escape the fight is but a desertion of your Master.

For meditation: Elijah prayed it while he was afraid for his life (1 Kings 19:3,4)! But God had a different departure planned for him (2 Kings 2:11). Jonah prayed it twice when he was angry (Jonah 4:3,9) soon after begging God to deliver him from drowning (Jonah 2:2,7). What a good thing God rejects our foolish requests when we or they are outside his will. Paul had the mind of Christ on this matter.

God Is Our Protector

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Our Protective Heavenly Father

woman driving and having a near accident

I recently attended a Bible study on Psalm 23. We are all probably familiar with the first verse of that psalm, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” For me, this has always conjured up images of a gentle leader providing perfect guidance. A shepherd certainly does that. But during this study, I learned that the shepherd will lie down at the gate to the field where the sheep are kept to protect them from all harm.

As I listened to the teacher, I was reminded of all the times the Lord has protected me, and I began writing them down. I thought of 10 right away, and the list is still growing. But one example has always stood out to me.

I was preparing to drive a group of teenagers to a church meeting. As I pumped gas into my car a powerful feeling came over me that got my full attention and I heard in my mind the words, “Pray for protection.”

My thoughts turned to the precious cargo I would be transporting that evening as I prayed.

That night, as we were getting close to our destination, I saw traffic cones all along the side of the road. It was pitch black as there were no streetlights on this road. Suddenly, a car came out from between the cones and passed in front of me, and I had no time to even touch my brakes. The car came so close in front of me that it seemed like metal went through metal.

This was in the days before airbags and I can’t imagine what would have happened that day if I had plowed into that car at full speed. To this day, it fills my heart with gratitude to the Lord.

I used to wonder why the Lord didn’t just protect us. Why did He ask me to pray? Now, I realize, had He just protected us, I would have thought, “Oh my gosh, that was close!” and went on my way. But because of the experience while pumping gas, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that this was God at work, watching over His precious children.

I remember my pastor once told a story about the day his daughter was in a car accident. He said at that moment he would have tried to run through a wall if he had to, in order to get to her.

As I heard my pastor say that I thought, “What a picture of our Heavenly Father.”

To be sure my pastor is a loving father, but it’s not possible for anyone to love us more than our Heavenly Father.

Isaiah 58:8 says,

“… the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.“

That means He’s always got my back. He’s always looking out for me and, like my pastor, when one of his kids is in trouble, He will move heaven and earth to get to them.

 

Turn with Me to Your Next Prayer

By: John UpChurch, crosswalk.com

According to Hollywood, most funerals should include the pastor intoning the morbid notes of the twenty-third Psalm. All the black around the pastor makes it seem that much more depressing. Usually, there’s rain.

But there are two things about this that strike me as odd. First, Psalm 23 isn’t depressing. Yes, it mentions the “shadow of death,” but it’s chock full of hope and paths of righteousness … and oil pouring over heads. You can’t be depressed when oil’s dripping down your nose … at least in biblical terms.

Second, I don’t really hear people pray from the Bible. Sure, they toss in a verse or two about being “more than conquerors” or “God working all things for our good.” But I’ve never seen a pastor reach for Psalm 23 or any Psalm for that matter when praying in public.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve heard plenty of great prayers from pastors and other believers. Some of them have hit home hard. But it seems as if Evangelicals especially are averse to anything that isn’t somehow unique when it comes to praying. It’s as if we think that just praying from the Bible isn’t quite spiritual enough. We have to say something original.

Honestly, that’s too bad. Because the Bible is crammed with better prayers than I could ever come up with—ones that fit almost every situation. And, really, that makes sense. After all, God inspired Scripture. These are His prayers to us; they’re gifts of His grace.

In the Psalms alone, there are prayers for depression, loss, fear, moments when you just gotta praise … it’s like an encyclopedia of prayers. Just dial up a Psalm, and you’ve got a template for expressing what may have seemed inexpressible a few moments earlier.

Now, I’m not saying we should reject all original prayer-making. I’m just saying that there’s no reason to ignore the Bible as a source for some pretty great prayers. We don’t always have to come up with something original when God gave us His own Word to pray from. These prayers are creative for you creative types; passionate for those who like passion; and orderly for those of you who like things with three main points.

Just make sure that you aren’t praying the Psalms like those pastors in the movies. Put some heart behind it.

 

The Reason I Pray, Even When It’s a Struggle

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19 (NIV, 1984)

First, I have struggled with concentration. Why is it that as soon as I bow my head to pray, my thoughts start to scatter? Instead of truly communicating with God, I think about what I need to fix for supper, or what I’m going to wear to a special event, or when I can schedule coffee with a friend. Or I’m so tired that I simply doze in the quietness of the hour.Prayer has been one of the greatest challenges of my Christian life. While I know I’m commanded, encouraged, invited and often compelled to pray, I have still struggled with prayer. My struggle has centered primarily on three areas.

The second area I have struggled with is consistency — making time daily to meet with the Lord in prayer. How often I have been distracted by my chirping phone, or interrupted by my dog, or so busy I jump out of bed at the last minute and into my day without any real prayer at all?

And I have struggled with content — just knowing what to say and how to say it.

As I have sought victory in these three areas, I have asked God to give me solutions. And He has! Setting my alarm for an earlier time, allowing me to meet with the Lord before I begin my day, has helped with consistency. Writing down my prayers has helped not only with content but also with concentration. I find it helpful to include four elements in my written prayers: worship, confession, thanksgiving and intercession.

I begin my prayers by worshipping God for who He is, because as I focus on Him, it’s amazing how my own needs and problems are reduced in size compared with who He is. Then I look at myself and confess the sin that now seems obvious, revealed by the light of His holiness and glory.

I do not beat myself up over my sin, but instead, once I have named it for what it is, I move into thanksgiving to the One who has forgiven and cleansed me. At this point, I am ready to present my requests and intercede for others.

The Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesian followers of Jesus, and I pray these words for us as we seek to draw closer to God:

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19).

Remember, the purpose of prayer is not just to get answers. The purpose is to develop an intimate, personal relationship with the One who loves you, gave Himself for you and longs for you to live in the light of His presence. Achieving the purpose makes the struggle more than worthwhile.

 

Tiny but Powerful

by Inspiration Ministries

“It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.” – Luke 13:19 NLT

The world can seem so complicated. Each of the billions of people has their own opinions, their own personal stories, and experiences. Their own personality, interests, and genetic make-up. Each of the thousands of cultures has its own history and traditions.

We see the impact as these people interact daily. Sometimes there is harmony and compatibility, but often there are various kinds of conflicts, ranging from polite competitions to all-out wars.

We need to understand that the fundamental truths about the Gospel are exceedingly simple. And they apply to everything in life: business, government, education, relationships, thoughts, and emotions.

Jesus described God’s Kingdom as being “like a tiny mustard seed.” Miniscule. But also packed with meaning and power. Every life-changing principle and all the power and the truths of the Gospel are condensed into this small package.

These truths contain many applications and nuances. But the foundation is exceedingly simple and applies to all people in all cultures. This is why we need to learn the truth, focus on God, and start with Him – not to make things complicated but to trust in Him. Seek Him, just like little children. Place a higher priority on knowing Him than on developing our own opinions.

Ask God to give you insight into His truths. Trust Him. Believe Him. Build everything on the foundational principles of His Word and the truths of His Kingdom.

Have Faith In God

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When You Don’t Like God’s Plan

If God has a plan for your life, and you have a plan for your life, whose plan do you think is better?

During my senior year of college, I attended a conference called Senior Panic. The term aptly described me. Graduation loomed just months away, and I wasn’t sure which path to pursue. But I knew what I didn’t want — ministry.

So, when I sensed God’s call to join Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ), I resisted. Strongly. I was sure our perfect God had made His first mistake. He had the wrong gal.

Like Jacob, I wrestled all night with God. Like Moses, I offered up every excuse why He should pick someone else. Not only was I not qualified, but the idea of living in a hut in the jungle also didn’t appeal to me. And I was sure, if I completely surrendered to God, that is exactly where He’d send me.

But God wouldn’t relent, so worn out from resisting, I surrendered.

During my staff interview, a woman asked me how sure I was of my calling. “100%,” I said, “because this is not something would choose.”

Cru accepted me — on PROBATION — of course. Hadn’t I already told God about my limited Bible knowledge and lack of ministry experience?

Training and Transformation

At staff training in Fort Collins, Colorado, my heart softened. I realized I wanted to serve Christ wherever He decided to put me. On completion, they assigned me to a team in Boston — instead of a hut in the jungle.

Our team director modeled a close walk with the Lord. He taught us how to study the Bible in a simple format. He assigned us to spend two hours with God every morning before our staff meeting. The Scriptures began to speak to me like they never had before.

I learned to savor my time with God. His Word became fuel for my soul. It’s no exaggeration to say my life was transformed. As my love for God and His Word exploded, a passion to connect others to God’s heart was born.

I met my husband on staff and after 11 years in youth ministry, we sensed the call to pursue training in biblical counseling. That led us into different venues of ministry.

After serving God in vocational Christian ministry for many decades I can say, God didn’t make a mistake when He called me. I now realize He doesn’t call us for what we can do for Him, but for what He can do in and through us.

God’s plan is not always easy. Sometimes it includes setbacks and suffering. But we can be sure it’s always best.

Do you have a plan for your life that collides with God’s plan for you? Let’s go back to our opening question, whose plan do you think is better?

The only way to live a life without regret is to live a life of surrender and obedience.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

 

Let Me Take Care of That for You

by Debbie Holloway, crosswalk.com

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

I recently had a bit of a three-ring-circus to deal with trying to pay a toll. Our lovely Richmond, VA is indeed a beautiful city, but we sure do have some tolls. In fact, depending on where you’re going and from where you’re coming, you may have to pay 3 or 4 tolls in one trip. That happened to me a few weeks ago. As I left the office (right in the middle of the city) and headed southside to visit a friend, I realized too late that I didn’t have enough cash to pay the final toll. With a sigh, I asked for a receipt from the toll booth and went on my way.

I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say I talked to far too many people on the phone, hand-delivered my toll payment in some city office, and still got a “Toll Violation” notice in the mail. This resulted in mild deflation of my spirits. My family said, “Debbie, don’t worry. Just call them and explain.” I tried to, but was informed that not only was there no record of my payment, but that I would be forced to pay an extra $13 (on a 70 cent toll!) for a vague “Administration” fee.

Come on, I kept thinking. I’m just trying to live my life and pay my toll.

In one last valiant move to get some help, I walked back to the aforementioned office on my lunch break the next afternoon. As it so happened, a high ranking administrator happened to be there right when I was. As I explained the situation, he made a copy of my toll notice and immediately got someone on the phone.

“I can dismiss this for you,” he said.

“What do I need to do?” I asked, skeptical. “Who do I need to call and follow up with?”

“Nope. Nothing,” he said. “Here’s my card. If you get another notice, just call me.”

I left the office that day with a spring in my step and a burden off my shoulders. I was no longer going to be hounded by the toll agencies!

“See, we told you,” my family said. “You shouldn’t have worried.”

Isn’t our relationship with Christ a lot like that, sometimes? I feel like I have worried and fretted about so many things, only to realize in retrospect that God was trying to tell me, “Baby, let me take care of that for you.”

Jesus told his disciples,

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26)

 

Praying for Persecuted Christians

From: InTouch ministries

To get the most out of this devotion, set aside time to read the Scripture referenced throughout.

Each year more than 200 million believers around the world suffer for their faith—especially in many parts of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Where oppressive governments make Christianity illegal, churches are bombed and defaced, and followers of Jesus face imprisonment, torture, or even death for their beliefs. It’s not uncommon for the faithful to risk their life attempting to escape such regimes.

This oppression is devastating. But for us who can more freely express our faith, it presents an opportunity to support those who can’t safely proclaim Christ. Jesus tells us that we can ask for anything in His name (John 14:12-14). Let’s make time to pray that our brothers and sisters around the world will have courage and endurance—and that God will make a way for them to safely gather in worship.

Think About It

  • Peter encouraged the early church when it faced persecution (1 Peter 4:12-14). What are some ways we can uplift those suffering for their faith?
  • Are there tangible ways you can support the church around the world? Discuss ideas with your family, small group, or pastor.

Self-delusion

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘Many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.’ Luke 13:24

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 12:15–21

I marvel not that so many are deceived, when I see the careless way in which you deal with religion. When men have to do with their estates, they are very careful; they fee a lawyer to go back over the title-deeds perhaps for two or three hundred years. In trade they will hurry hither and thither to attend to their commercial engagements; they would not launch into speculations, nor would they run great risks; but the soul, the poor soul, how men play with it as a toy, and despise it as if it were worthless earth. Two or three minutes in the morning when they first roll out of bed, two or three odd minutes in the evening, when they are nearly asleep—the fag-ends of the day given to their souls, and all the best part given to the body! And then, the Sabbath! How carelessly spent by most people! With what indifference do you lend your ears too often to the preaching of the Word! It is an old song; you have heard it so many times; heaven has become a trifle to you, hell is almost a jest, eternity a notion, and death but a bugbear. Alas! it is a marvel that there are not more deceived. The wonder is that any find the gate, that any discover eternal life, when we are so, so mad, so foolish, so insane, as to trifle where we ought to be awfully in earnest, and to play and toy, where the whole heart is all too little to be given to a work of such dread, such everlasting importance. God help us, since it is so easy to be deceived, to search, and watch, and look, and test, and try, that we be not found castaways at the last!

For meditation: Satan does not need to deceive us, when we are doing his dirty work by deceiving ourselves. Beware of delusions of wisdom (1 Corinthians 3:18), self-satisfaction (Galatians 6:3), hearing God’s Word without applying it (James 1:22), a loose tongue (James 1:26) and claims to sinless perfection (1 John 1:8). These are all paths to self-deceit.