Tag Archives: LOVE

There Is Mercy and Grace With God

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Grace and Mercy

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By: Gene Markland, Author, 1.cbn.com

A young co-worker asked me, “What is the difference between grace and mercy?” An immediate answer didn’t come to mind so I resorted to humor and replied, “Grace works on the first shift and Mercy works on the second.” Laughter and chuckles came from those within earshot because we have two ladies with those names working with us.

Later, her question came back to mind, which gave pause for me to consider the real answer. I thought about God’s grace, the free and unmerited favor that He has shown towards us as a gift. And I thought about God’s mercy, His compassionate forbearance toward us showing Him kind and forgiving, even though we deserve punishment. Surely our heavenly Father is the finest example of grace and mercy.

As I considered how grace and mercy work together, I remembered a famous event from the battlefields of World War I. It was Christmas Eve 1914, on the western front, where British and German forces faced each other in fierce fighting. The following is an excerpt from a letter written by a British soldier who was present on that night.

“I never hope to see a stranger and more lovely sight. Clusters of tiny lights were shining all along the German line, left and right as far as the eye could see.

“What is it?” I asked in bewilderment, and John answered, “Christmas trees!”

And so it was. The Germans had placed Christmas trees in front of their trenches, lit by candle or lantern like beacons of good will. And then we heard their voices raised in song.

Stille nacht, heilige nacht . . . .

This carol may not yet be familiar to us in Britain, but John knew it and translated: “Silent night, holy night.” I’ve never heard one lovelier—or more meaningful, in that quiet, clear night, its dark softened by a first-quarter moon.

When the song finished, the men in our trenches applauded. Yes, British soldiers applauding Germans! Then one of our own men started singing, and we all joined in.

The first Nowell, the angel did say . . . .

In truth, we sounded not nearly as good as the Germans, with their fine harmonies. But they responded with enthusiastic applause of their own and then began another.

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum . . . .

Then we replied. O come all ye faithful . . . .

But this time they joined in, singing the same words in Latin.

Adeste fideles . . . .

British and German harmonizing across No Man’s Land! I would have thought nothing could be more amazing—but what came next was more so.

“We’ve agreed there will be no shooting before midnight tomorrow,” he announced. In minutes more, there we were in No Man’s Land, over a hundred soldiers and officers of each side, shaking hands with men we’d been trying to kill just hours earlier!

Even those who could not converse could still exchange gifts—our tea for their coffee, our corned beef for their sausage. I myself traded a jackknife for a leather equipment belt—a fine souvenir to show when I get home.

As it grew late, a few more songs were traded around the fire, and then all joined in for—I am not lying to you—“Auld Lang Syne.” Then we parted with promises to meet again tomorrow, and even some talk of a football match.”

Reflecting upon this Christmas miracle I ask myself, what could cause two opposing armies, fighting to the death, to lay down their arms and embrace each other as friends? Only grace and mercy. The same grace and mercy that first entered men’s hearts on another night more than two thousand years ago.

On that night, an Angel announced to the world through a tiny band of shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14KJV).

Those same shepherds found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. As their weary eyes beheld Him, they witnessed the embodiment of God’s grace and mercy made flesh, and living among them, Christ Jesus!

May we follow the example of our heavenly Father, and like those British and German soldiers in the icy war-torn Belgium countryside, extend grace and mercy to all whose path we may cross. Merry Christmas!

 

Grace and Mercy

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By: Author, Peter Hoytema, reframemedia.com

  

Scripture Reading — Ephesians 2:1-10

God … is rich in mercy … ?it is by grace you have been saved.
Ephesians 2:4-5 —

Yesterday we reflected on the difference between praise and thanksgiving. Today let’s think about the difference between grace and mercy. Did you notice how both words are used in today’s Bible reading? In verse 4 we read that God is rich in mercy, and in verses 5 and 8 we read that it is by grace we have been saved. What’s the difference? Maybe the best way to explain is to say that mercy is shown when a person does not get what he deserves, and grace is shown when a person gets what he does not deserve. I once heard a preacher illustrate this by asking us to imagine we had been stopped by a police officer for speeding. He said, “If the officer is merciful, he will let you off with a warning instead of a ticket.” The preacher continued, “But suppose the officer then reached into his wallet and gave you a hundred dollars before sending you on your way. In that case, he would be following up mercy with grace.” God’s mercy and grace work in a similar way. When we believe in Jesus, we are spared from the punishment we deserved. And there’s more?we also receive the riches of God’s grace that he freely pours out on us. So let’s offer rich thanksgiving to God! Remember to thank him for giving us what is good. And remember to thank him for not giving us what we deserve.

Prayer

Lord, your mercy is amazing, and your grace never ends. Thank you for sending Jesus to die in our place and for all the riches we have in him. We pray in his name. Amen.

 

Real Mercy Begins with Jesus

Paul does something in verse 1 before he gets to the mercy of this chapter. You may remember, this chapter is saturated with a call to be merciful:

This chapter is saturated with, “Come on now, Christianity means a merciful lifestyle.” But before he calls us to be merciful, he calls us to be worshipful. This is absolutely crucial.

“It is not merciful to make people more comfortable on the way to hell.”

We need to see the order in which Paul defines the Christian life. Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God . . .” He’s thinking, “I’m going towards radical mercy, but not first.” “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

This is absolutely crucial to see. Before he calls the Christian life merciful, he calls the Christian life worshipful. And if you get that backward, you can’t be merciful. You cannot be a merciful person if in and through all of your deeds of mercy you are not making much of Jesus. Because, in the end, the bottom line need of every human in the world — whether you’re going to Senegal or Mexico or Romania or wherever — is mercy from God through Jesus.

If you are not making much of that, delighting in that, treasuring that in your acts of mercy with a design to display that in order that they may come to taste it and live in it, you’re not a merciful person. It is not merciful to make people more comfortable on the way to hell. The comfort you are providing as a nurse or a doctor or a bricklayer building a church is designed to display Jesus to them. If Jesus and worshiping him is not the source and the goal, you’re not a merciful person. You’re putting a band-aid on cancer, and nobody’s going to call that mercy.

Therefore, the order is: “I want you to be a worshiping people first, and then I’m going to show you how to be a merciful people.” If you trade off the one against the other, you will degenerate into a mere social agenda, and I say the word mere consciously.

I think social agendas are hugely important in the Christian calling, but mere social agendas that are not rooted in worshiping God as the most valuable treasure in the universe and designed to display God through the agenda with words to interpret the agenda — that is not a merciful lifestyle. We have hit upon something tremendously important here. We must be a worshiping people in order to be a merciful people.

 

Streams in the Desert – December 10

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

But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort that you experience in your patient endurance of the same sufferings that we also suffer. And our hope for you is steadfast because we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you will share in our comfort. —2 Cor 1:6-7

Are there not some in your circle to whom you naturally betake yourself in times of trial and sorrow? They always seem to speak the right word, to give the very counsel you are longing for; you do not realize, however, the cost which they had to pay ere they became so skillful in binding up the gaping wounds and drying tears. But if you were to investigate their past history you would find that they have suffered more than most. They have watched the slow untwisting of some silver cord on which the lamp of life hung. They have seen the golden bowl of joy dashed to their feet, and its contents spilt. They have stood by ebbing tides, and drooping gourds, and noon sunsets; but all this has been necessary to make them the nurses, the physicians, the priests of men. The boxes that come from foreign climes are clumsy enough; but they contain spices which scent the air with the fragrance of the Orient. So suffering is rough and hard to bear; but it hides beneath it discipline, education, possibilities, which not only leave us nobler, but perfect us to help others. Do not fret, or set your teeth, or wait doggedly for the suffering to pass; but get out of it all you can, both for yourself and for your service to your generation, according to the will of God.
—Selected

Once I heard a song of sweetness,
As it cleft the morning air,
Sounding in its blest completeness,
Like a tender, pleading prayer;
And I sought to find the singer,
Whence the wondrous song was borne;
And I found a bird, sore wounded,
Pinioned by a cruel thorn.

I have seen a soul in sadness,
While its wings with pain were furl’d,
Giving hope, and cheer and gladness
That should bless a weeping world;
And I knew that life of sweetness,
Was of pain and sorrow row borne,
And a stricken soul was singing,
With its heart against a thorn.

Ye are told of One who loved you,
Of a Saviour crucified,
Ye are told of nails that pinioned,
And a spear that pierced His side;
Ye are told of cruel scourging,
Of a Saviour bearing scorn,
And He died for your salvation,
With His brow against a thorn.

Ye “are not above the Master.”
Will you breathe a sweet refrain?
And His grace will be sufficient,
When your heart is pierced with pain.
Will you live to bless His loved ones,
Tho’ your life be bruised and torn,
Like the bird that sang so sweetly,
With its heart against a thorn?
—Selected

God Is Our Guiding Light

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Guiding Light

By:  Diane Virginia, 1.cbn.com.

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“Lord God,” Earle cried, “help me to find my ewe. She’s been lost in this blizzard since mornin’
an’ she’s pregnant.”

Earle brushed a tear from his eye, leaned forward in the saddle, and gave his horse, Cooper, his

full rein.

“Find ‘er!”

Cooper sensed Earle’s urgency and broke into a lope.

He spotted the ewe only because Cooper dodged her, prancing with high steps.

“Come ‘ere, lady!” Earle said, gliding out of the saddle. He brushed snow from the ewe’s woolen curls.

The ewe lifted her head but otherwise remained motionless.

Earle reached into Cooper’s saddlebag and grasped an alfalfa cube and a handful of molasses-strapped oats. “I got yer favorite treat ‘ere.” Earle pressed the alfalfa cube to the ewe’s nose.

She refused it.

“How ‘bout some oats?”

The ewe roused and nibbled on a few grains.

“Let’s go home,” Earle said.

The ewe placed her muzzle in Earle’s hand, and they inched forward.

Soon, she toppled.

Earle fell to his knees, “Father God, what’s my next step?” He fought panic and listened for the still small voice of the Lord within his conscience.

An idea came to him.  Earle loosened Cooper’s girth, removed the saddle-pad, and placed the ewe on this makeshift sleigh. He fashioned an improvised harness from Cooper’s bridle and some rope. He attached this ensemble to the girth and reattached it.

Earle clucked to Cooper. It was then he realized he was lost. He couldn’t see the outcroppings to center him; all he could see of the blurred landscape was snow! He tried to track their direction, but their footprints were erased. He couldn’t even see the horizon.

Earle pulled the ewe into his bosom. “I’ll get ya home somehow, love. You’ll bed down in my own cabin tonight.” He motioned for his horse to go forward.

Cooper hesitated.

“Go on, boy. Find home.”

Cooper zig-zagged across the landscape, confused.

Earle tugged on the sled; Cooper halted.

“Lord, we need Your help! You led Your people in all circumstances and at all times. Lead me.”

“And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and by night. He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, or the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.” Exodus 13:21-22 (KJV)

Earle took his gloves off and slipped them onto the ewe’s hooves. “It ain’t much, lil’ lady, but ye need spoilin’ more than myself.” He felt her abdomen. “Hold off there, love! I’ll get you home.”

Earle searched the landscape. Suddenly, he realized he had an unexpected clue he could use to determine which direction to travel. He could smell the wood burning in his fireplace. “Thank You, Lord!” Earle said. He followed the scent, and step by step led the convoy forward.

At last, Earle spotted embers rising from the chimney. “Thank You, Lord! For You, ‘the true Light,’ (John 1:9 KJV) have guided me home.”

Earle opened the cabin door and led Cooper inside. He stoked the fireplace and laughed at the sight of his horse and ewe residing inside his home. Tears streamed freely, for as he bedded the ewe, still upon the saddle-pad, she gave birth to a perfect lamb.

Earle knew that as Moses relied on the Guiding Light, so must he.

And so must we.

 

Trust: The Bridge to Joy

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The full life, the one spilling joy and peace, happens only as I come to trust the Lord. ~ Ann

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. — Romans 15:13

Welcome to week four of the One Thousand Gifts Online Bible Study!

In the middle of the night, I step on a wayward thimble and accidentally kick the bedpost. I end up on the floor next to that now-warped piece of metal surprised by pain.

Surprised by pain.

When I crawl back into bed those words follow me and I present them to the Lord as a question and a groan. Surprised by pain. How can I continue to give You all of myself when You see what’s coming and yet will allow it to roll over me knowing the pain that is its partner.

Anxiety attack stealing my wind. Like swallowing barbed wire and fire. A machete to my midnight mind.

It’s hard to trust that the walls won’t come crashing down around you when they have come crashing down before. It’s hard to believe that the other shoe won’t drop when there have been raging storms of shoe after shoe after shoe. It’s hard to look forward in hope when hope has been ground into gravel.

The inner pain so intense that it should cause bruises. Soul bruises, I guess.

Trust is holy effort. Strenuous and momentous and vital to the spirit. In the darkest hour, trust stretches out and relaxes in a sacred embrace.

I trust that He is good. Breathe out worry. Trust that He is here. Breathe in the Presence. Trust that He will save. Breathe out exhaustion.

Trust is work. Hard work… Jesus says it’s our primary task… that we believe in the One whom God has sent. ~ Ann

I choose Him again. Crash or no crash. Shoe or no shoe. Gravel or no gravel. Thank Him for the small things and His long history of saving, and keeping, and rescuing, and loving, and providing, and comforting, and promising. And find joy bubbling up as a second, sweeter surprise.

Isn’t joy worth the effort of trust? ~ Ann

He loves me. And He loves you. He knows the hurt of the past. He knows the pain of today And, yes, He knows the suffering to come… but He promises to be there, to bring good out of it. That’s why we can be grateful in the middle of it. That why we can testify what we know to be true in thanksgiving even when we cannot see it yet.

These are the stories I will continue to tell my children. The stories of His faithfulness. The stories of wrestling and struggle and hope and joy and His presence in the midst of it all.

All these moments are for you. They are gifts for you. Trust that they are good. That HE is good. ~ Ann

Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord. — Psalm 40:4

I hold the little piece of bent metal as I relax and slip back to sleep remembering… He is mine and I am His. Pain won’t last. Joy can be found now. And it will be eternal. Thank God!

Just have a thimbleful of trust.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever. — Psalm 118:1

I’m thankful for:

The smell of rain
The cool of the early morning
Tree frogs croaking
Fog blanketing the seashore
The arms of friends worth their weight in gold.

 

The Exodus

By: Charles Spurgeon

“And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the self same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.” Exodus 12:41

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:1-11

It is our firm conviction and increasing belief, that the historical books of Scripture were intended to teach us spiritual things by types and figures. We believe that every portion of Scripture history is not only a faithful transcript of what did actually happen, but also a shadow of what happens spiritually in the dealings of God with his people, or in the dispensations of his grace towards the world at large. We do not look upon the historical books of Scripture as being mere rolls of history, such as profane authors might have written, but we regard them as being most true and infallible records of the past, and also most bright and glorious foreshadowings of the future, or else most wondrous metaphors and marvellous illustrations of things which are verily received among us, and most truly felt in the Christian heart. We may be wrong—we believe we are not; at any rate, the very error has given us instruction, and our mistake has afforded us comfort. We look upon the book of Exodus as being a book of types of the deliverances which God will give to his elect people; not only as a history of what he has done, in bringing them out of Egypt by smiting the first-born, leading them through the Red Sea, and guiding them through the wilderness, but also as a picture of his faithful dealings with all his people, whom by the blood of Christ he separates from the Egyptians, and by his strong and mighty hand takes out of the house of their bondage and out of the land of their slavery.

For meditation: Are you getting as much out of the Old Testament as you should? It is full of the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27)! While it may be wrong and confusing to see types in every verse or action, if you major on the types which are identified and applied in the New Testament you cannot go far wrong.

 

Streams in the Desert – December 9

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

For this our light and transitory burden of suffering is achieving for us a weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17). (Weymouth)

The question is repeatedly asked–Why is the life of man drenched with so much blood, and blistered with so many tears? The answer is to be found in the word “achieving”; these things are achieving for us something precious. They are teaching us not only the way to victory, but better still the laws of victory. There is a compensation in every sorrow, and the sorrow is working out the compensation. It is the cry of the dear old hymn:

Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee,
E’en tho’ it be a cross that raiseth me.”

Joy sometimes needs pain to give it birth. Fanny Crosby could never have written her beautiful hymn, “I shall see Him face to face,” were it not for the fact that she had never looked upon the green fields nor the evening sunset nor the kindly twinkle in her mother’s eye. It was the loss of her own vision that helped her to gain her remarkable spiritual discernment.

It is comforting to know that sorrow tarries only for the night; it takes its leave in the morning. A thunderstorm is very brief when put alongside the long summer day. “Weeping may endure for the night but joy cometh in the morning.”
–Songs in the Night

There is a peace that cometh after sorrow,
Of hope surrendered, not of hope fulfilled;
A peace that looketh not upon tomorrow,
But calmly on a tempest that it stilled.
A peace that lives not now in joy’s excesses,
Nor in the happy life of love secure;
But in the unerring strength the heart possesses,
Of conflicts won while learning to endure.
A peace there is, in sacrifice secluded,
A life subdued, from will and passion free;
‘Tis not the peace that over Eden brooded,

But that which triumphed in Gethsemane.

In Everything, Give Thanks

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In Everything, Give Thanks

By: Candy Arrington, 1.cbn.com

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“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Several weeks ago, I traveled to New Mexico to teach at a Christian writers’ conference. As is often the case, I met some interesting people along the way. Some were chatty; others weren’t. On one leg of my flight, I talked to my seatmate, sharing a little of the challenges our family faced last year and my thankfulness despite circumstances. She swiveled toward me and said, “Wait a minute. Both your mother and mother-in-law died, and your son had a severe injury and two major surgeries. How can you be thankful for any of that?”

Many times gratitude doesn’t make sense to those unfamiliar with the habit of cultivating a thankful heart. Based on the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17, we can assume probably only a tenth of us make an effort to express gratitude, since just one of the ten returned to thank Jesus for his healing. So, is it reasonable to be thankful even when things are difficult? On the surface, no, but I believe we can train ourselves to be grateful even when waves of adversity and challenge crash over us.

Although last year is one I gladly consigned to history at year end, now that I am beyond the immediacy of crises, I more readily understand the reasons to praise God even in challenging times. The Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances, not just when things are going well. Here are some reasons we can do that:

God is our hope – Job experienced heartache, adversity, acute physical pain and mental anguish, but despite all he endured he could still say,

“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15 KJV).

Trusting God to work out the details of what we’re going through is probably one of the biggest challenges of our Christian walk. We fool ourselves into believing we have control over our lives with all our planning, but difficulties are less stressful when we relinquish our efforts and acknowledge that God is in control.

We have the assurance of God’s love and salvation – Romans 8:39 reminds us that no matter what we go through, nothing can separate us from God’s love. If we’ve trusted Christ as Savior, our salvation and eternity is secure. This promise is balm for the soul when doubts and fears overwhelm.

Hardship lasts only for a season – When we’re going through something really hard, at the time, it’s difficult to imagine things will ever improve. And Satan considers these seasons an opportune time to whisper lies like “a loving God wouldn’t allow this in your life” or “God doesn’t care about you because he’s not coming to your rescue.” Don’t believe Satan’s falsehoods. God cares. He sees. He knows. And this season in your life will end. “To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 AMP).

Being a Christian doesn’t exempt us from challenge. In fact, Jesus told us we’d have trouble in this world. Yet we’re often angry and surprised when we encounter hardships. Just remember, we have the ultimate victory because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. For this reason, we can give thanks despite struggles.

Finding Thankfulness

“They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” Psalm 145:7 (NIV)

In the American tradition, today is an official day of thanksgiving — a day to reflect on, celebrate and express gratitude to God for our blessings. Many will gather with family and friends … perhaps by candlelight, or firelight, or the light of a TV screen broadcasting parades and football games. Many will eat turkey — some hot and moist, and some slightly overcooked and dry, but well-rescued by gravy or cranberry sauce. And many will acknowledge Who provides both family and friends, as well as food and fire.

Have you praised His Name?

Perhaps this day finds you in a tight spot. Maybe this hasn’t been your week, your month, or even your year. Maybe you’re having trouble seeing what you have to be thankful for. How about your heartbeat? How about the sun that rose today to illuminate and warm the earth? How about the clothes on your body, or the food in your cabinet? Take a moment to absorb the great gift that the forgiveness of your sins and the purging of your guilt through Jesus Christ is. And the fact that a day is coming when there will be no more sickness and no more tears. That’s cause for deep gratitude.

One thing I’m giving thanks for today is my Bible, which is the living, active Word of God preserved for me and you. It teaches me to count my blessings and focus my mind on the gracious loving kindness of God. The Psalmist David leads me to do that through Psalm 145. Let me leave you with his words today, to jumpstart your own Thanksgiving.
A psalm of praise by David
I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty — and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works — and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. All your works praise you, LORD; your faithful people extol you. They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.
The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. The LORD upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
The LORD is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.
My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.

The feast of the Lord

By: Charles Spurgeon

“The governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.” John 2:9-10

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 73

If the Christian has the best wine to come, why should he envy the unbeliever? David did; he was discontented when he saw the prosperity of the wicked, and you and I are often tempted to do it; but you know what we ought to say when we see the wicked prosper, when we see them happy and full of delights of sinful pleasure. We ought to say, “My good wine is to come; I can bear that you should have your turn; my turn will come afterwards; I can be put off with these things, and lie with Lazarus at the gate, while the dogs lick my sores; my turn is to come, when the angels shall carry me into Abraham’s bosom, and your turn is to come too, when in hell you lift up your eyes, being in torments.” Christian, what more shall I say to you?—though there be a thousand lessons to learn from this, the best wine is kept to the last. Take heed to yourself, that you also keep your good wine until the last. The further you go on the road, seek to bring to your Saviour the more acceptable sacrifice. You had little faith years ago: man! Bring out the good wine now! Seek to have more faith. Your Master is better to you every day and you shall see him to be the best of all Masters and friends. Seek to be better to your Master every day; be more generous to his cause, more active to labour for him, more kind to his people, more diligent in prayer; and take heed that as you grow in years you grow in grace, so that when you come at last to the river Jordan, and the Master shall give you the best wine, you may also give to him the best wine.

For meditation: In which direction is your Christian life going at the moment—forwards (Philippians 3:13), backwards (Galatians 5:7) or nowhere (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)?

 

Streams in the Desert – December 8

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

Put on as the elect of God, kindness (Colossians 3:12).

There is a story of an old man who carried a little can of oil with him everywhere he went, and if he passed through a door that squeaked, he poured a little oil on the hinges. If a gate was hard to open, he oiled the latch. And thus he passed through life lubricating all hard places and making it easier for those who came after him. People called him eccentric, queer, and cranky; but the old man went steadily on refilling his can of oil when it became empty, and oiled the hard places he found.

There are many lives that creak and grate harshly as they live day by day. Nothing goes right with them. They need lubricating with the oil of gladness, gentleness, or thoughtfulness.

Have you your own can of oil with you? Be ready with your oil of helpfulness in the early morning to the one nearest you. It may lubricate the whole day for him. The oil, of good cheer to the downhearted one–Oh, how much it may mean! The word of courage to the despairing. Speak it. Our lives touch others but once, perhaps, on the road of life; and then, mayhap, our ways diverge, never to meet again.

The oil of kindness has worn the sharp, hard edges off of many a sin-hardened life and left it soft and pliable and ready for the redeeming grace of the Saviour. A word spoken pleasantly is a large spot of sunshine on a sad heart. Therefore, “Give others the sunshine, tell Jesus the rest.”

We cannot know the grief
That men may borrow;
We cannot see the souls
Storm-swept by sorrow;
But love can shine upon the way
Today, tomorrow;
Let us be kind.
Upon the wheel of pain so many weary lives are broken,
We live in vain who give no tender token.
Let us be kind.

“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love” (Romans 12:10).

God Is The Giver Of Good Things

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Everything Is a Gift

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By: Jennifer E. Jones, 1.cbn.com

I watched a film recently that began with the quote: “Everything is a gift from the universe.” Non-believers can grasp at straws when it comes to acknowledging higher powers, but as Christians, we know God through a relationship with Jesus Christ. So when that quote was lingering in my mind long after the movie was over, I got to thinking about God as the ultimate gift-giver and how different those gifts look when we know what they are and where they came from.

We commonly think of gifts when it comes to birthdays and special occasions. If we were to make a list, it might include the car in the driveway with the giant red bow on it, the diamond tennis bracelet, or even a greeting card full of cash. Who doesn’t like a tangible display of affection, especially if it was a little expensive? I can tell you one person who doesn’t … a small Southern woman I happen to know and love.

My mother was the first one who got me out of thinking like a material girl every time a gift-giving holiday came around. For her birthday, she would write a short wish list. One item on her list was volunteering to make dinner. Another was giving her a hug every morning before we left for school. It was the simple things that she treasured and it taught us the things with the greatest value are often without a price tag.

When you think along those lines, the idea of God being the giver of gifts isn’t too far-fetched. And it goes beyond the big-ticket items of life like getting married or having children. If you count the small things, you are surrounded by presents every day.

One day, from morning until night, I’d like you to count your blessings. Carry around a little notepad and write them all down. For example, today, I woke up gently without an alarm in my warm, fluffy Queen-sized bed. That’s one. My breakfast of almond crepes with lemon curd turned out perfectly tasty. That’s one. A wise, wonderful friend came over for coffee later on in the morning. That’s three blessings in the first hour and I hadn’t even left the house yet.

You see where I’m going with this? If you note every moment of happiness placed in your life, you’ll see that you unwittingly unwrap hundreds of gifts throughout your day.

King Solomon understood rejoicing in the little things. Sure, he had a vast kingdom with more toys to play with than anyone could enjoy in two lifetimes; however, he was quick to note that it was all “vanity” (Ecc. 1:2). If anything, he found joy in much of what anyone can indulge.

So I think we should get as much out of life as we possibly can. There is nothing better than to enjoy our food and drink and to have a good time. (Ecc. 8:15a, CEV)

Be happy and enjoy eating and drinking! God decided long ago that this is what you should do. Dress up, comb your hair, and look your best. Life is short, and you love your wife, so enjoy being with her. This is what you are supposed to do as you struggle through life on this earth. (Ecc. 9:7-10)

Part of the fall of man is a predisposition to focus on the negative, and let’s be real, there’s plenty of that to go around. One bad minute can ruin your whole day. But what would it look like if we collected all the good and see how it outweighs the bad? Just the little things. If you need inspiration, think of the character, Maria, from The Sound of Music. When trying to cheer up the frightened von Trapp children during a storm, she sings about her favorite things that include raindrops on roses and warm woolen mittens. It’s cheesy as musicals are supposed to be, but the point of the song is finding joy in simplicity.

Everything is a gift from God, and knowing that He loves us this much leads us to nothing less than gratitude and deep devotion.

 

The Giver Gets the Glory

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To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:11–12)

It is very good news that God designs his glory to be magnified through the exercise of his grace.

To be sure, God is glorified through the power of his wrath (Romans 9:22), but repeatedly the New Testament (and the Old Testament, for example, Isaiah 30:18) says that we should experience God’s grace so that God gets glory.

Ponder how this works in the prayer of 2 Thessalonians 1:11–12.

Paul prays that God would fulfill our good resolves.

How? He prays that they would be done “by [God’s] power.” That is, that they would be “[works] of faith.”

Why? So that Jesus would be glorified in us.

That means the giver gets the glory. God gave the power. God gets the glory. We have faith; he gives power. We get the help; he gets the glory. That’s the deal that keeps us humble and happy, and keeps him supreme and glorious.

Then Paul says that this glorification of Christ is “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus.”

God’s answer to Paul’s prayer that we rely on God’s power to do good works is grace. God’s power to enable you to do what you resolve to do is grace.

That’s the way it works in the New Testament over and over. Trust God for gracious enabling, and he gets the glory when the help comes.

We get the help. He gets the glory.

That’s why Christian living, not just Christian conversion, is good news.

God the Giver

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From: Rob Toornstra, Author, reframemedia.org

 

Scripture Reading — Matthew 7:7-11

“… How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Matthew 7:11 —

Studies reveal that most people pray—and that they pray for a wide range of needs. People ask God for everything from a vacant parking space to healing for their loved ones. Yet the same research also uncovers the troubling fact that many who pray don’t actually believe God answers prayer.

Jesus insists that God does answer prayer, and he invites us to come to God, trusting him to answer us. God is not a remote or inaccessible deity. Neither is he capricious, answering prayers at random. No, the all-powerful God who created the universe is a loving heavenly Father who delights in giving good gifts to his children.

Are you in need? Ask God to provide. Are you lonely? Seek God’s presence. Are you in a crisis or conflict? Knock on God’s door for wisdom.

Prayer involves a radical trust that God will provide in the best way possible. No, God doesn’t answer every prayer in the way we might expect. But God promises that as a Father, he will care for his children. We can be assured of this because long before we were inclined to seek God, to ask anything of him, or to come knocking on his door, he did not withhold the supreme gift from us—the gift of his own dear Son.

What God-sized requests will you make of your heavenly Father today?

Prayer

Dear Jesus, we marvel at your love as you stand before God’s presence on our behalf, praying for us. Help us to ask you in humble confidence for great things for your glory and honor. Amen.

One for the Giver

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From: Charles Geschiere, Author, reframemedia.org

  

Scripture Reading — John 17:1-5

Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. 1 Peter 3:18 —

Jonathan Edwards was deeply concerned about the reasons people converted to Christ. Many, it seems, then and now, come to Christ mainly in hopes of strengthening their family, improving their finances, reducing stress, finding peace, having healing, relieving guilt. Others say they believe-but only because they want a ticket out of hell. Granted, when you genuinely convert to faith in Christ, all these blessings are yours. But love for the gifts of the Giver must not come before love for the Giver himself.

 

Edwards wrote, “Love for God in self-interest cannot be confused with true love for God that comes from true affections. The exercises of true and holy love in the saints is not primarily that they first see that God loves them and therefore is to be loved, but rather that they see that God himself is lovely. Christ appears so glorious and excellent that their hearts are enraptured by him alone. This then is what really motivates their true love of God. The affection of the saints begins with God himself. Self-love is then only of secondary consequence.

 

“The basis of a true love for God is his intrinsic worth, for he is worthy to be loved for his own sake. It is this which makes him so worthy of love. His divine excellence is so glorious. This is why God is God: to be loved for his own sake.”

Prayer

O God, with Saint Augustine we note: “He loves you too little who loves anything together with you, which he loves not for your sake.” In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

An Invitation to God’s Garden

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(Something greater that the garden awaits those that are in Christ Jesus)  HEAVEN

 

 

An Invitation to God’s Garden

By: Chris Palmer, Author,  1.cbn.com

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To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7 ESV)

You could have gotten away with it! If you’ve heard that thought, you’ve been smacked in the face by the devil. Satan is suggesting that sin isn’t always a bad idea—because no one will know. But in Revelation 2:7, Jesus told the Ephesians that His rewards are not based on what we get away with; they are based on overcoming wickedness. This is observed in the words “the one who conquers” (tō nikōnti). They stress ongoing action. 1 John 5:4 also mentions this ongoing conquering:

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes [conquers] the world.” (ESV)

It doesn’t mean to conquer once; it means day-to-day conquering for a lifetime, being resolute in the face of Satan’s enticements.

I learned what resolute means when I watched my friend do the Keto diet while we were in Israel. The days started at the buffet. On day one, I piled pancakes on my plate. He loaded his plate with crisp greens, bacon, and eggs. By 9:30 a.m., I was exhausted. Walking around was more difficult than convincing flat-earth conspirators the planet is round. “It’s those carbs you stuffed your face with this morning,” my friend said. So I decided to go on the Keto diet, too.

Day two was vegetables and bacon. I was zipping around the holy land like a dog at the beach. Then day three came. I was in the buffet line … and there was French toast. My Keto diet lasted 23 hours and 32 minutes. I dared my friend to have some, but he had conquered his desire for carbs.

The verb “conquer” (nikaō) comes from Nike, the Greek goddess who personified victory. It means a “crushing victory,” the kind that God wants His people to consistently have over sin.

In Revelation 2:7, Christ gives those who consistently conquer sin the promise of eating from the tree of life in God’s paradise. The word paradise (paradeisos) referred to the enchanting gardens of Persian monarchs, which contained luscious fruits of all kinds. In this verse, it describes eternal serenity in the presence of God, with every holy delight.

Eating from the tree of life represents experiencing life how God intended before the fall. It isn’t yanking off a hard apple from grandma’s tree. Imagine approaching a sweet sapling, its fruit so succulent that a shake of the stem sends one sailing into your palm. Its juices seep from the skin and your fingers become sticky from the syrup. It tastes like a better world. It’s joy under the reign of the Messiah, who puts flavor back into living. It’s also the reward for the conquerors who remain resolute in the face of sin.

God has given us an invitation to His garden. Every stand against temptation is an RSVP to be there.

Dear Lord, thank You for victory over sin. A delightful eternity with You outweighs the fleeting pleasures of carnal gratification. I’m not looking to get away with anything. Instead, I’m RSVP’ing to be with You in paradise. 

The Perfect Gift

DECEMBER 6, 2019

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 (NIV)

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Ever since I was small, I’ve been enamored with the Christmas season. Family getting together from near and far, hopes for a wintry blanket on Christmas morning, twinkling lights, the smell of a freshly cut tree, hot cocoa … I love all the things and all the events and all the details.

Not that it’s all gumdrops and sugarplums.

Warm, fuzzy feelings can easily get avalanched by added stress or busyness. And wonderful family gatherings can quickly go from fun to done. So, it’s not surprising that I found myself just a tad grumpy, sad and overwhelmed one rainy Tuesday night in December as I drove from work to church.

Usually I’m a planner who finishes my gift shopping by October and gets my tree up by the day after Thanksgiving, but life’s cadence had been a frenzy that year. I found myself in a rush to get the church decorating done.

Stuck in endless traffic with the glare of red brake lights piercing the night, my mind began to race. How ironic that I’m headed to God’s house to put up the tree and decorate, yet my own home is tree-less and looks more like the Grinch lives there.

Honestly, we didn’t really have the money for a fresh tree that year. Frustrated and deciding it wasn’t even worth the hassle to get one, I uttered a plea-filled but half-joking prayer: Dear God, why can’t You just send me a tree? I know You have better things to do, but …

What a dumb and selfish prayer, I thought. Have you ever heard of anyone just showing up at a stranger’s door with a free tree two weeks before Christmas? Besides, with your stinky attitude, you don’t even deserve a tree, girl.

But like that very first Christmas, sometimes miracles show up in the middle of the mess.

The next morning, a co-worker stopped by to ask if a lady who had a free tree could drop it off, thinking maybe someone would want it. She said it was a gift, but they didn’t need it, so she thought a staff member might.

My heart raced as I suddenly remembered that silly, half-muttered prayer from the night before. Then as quickly, I began to wonder if it could really be God, my mind rifling through all the reasons it surely couldn’t be for me.

Someone else must need a tree … I can’t be selfish and say I want it before asking anyone else.

By early afternoon, the donated tree was in my car. And guess what? God outdid Himself! It was a beautiful Fraser fir, tall, fragrant and full — exactly what I would have picked out three weeks earlier.

It was perfect.

A familiar verse welled up in my heart as tears began to fall: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

I heard Him loud and clear. God had graciously (and unexpectedly) sent me a Christmas tree. I did nothing to earn or deserve it. It simply arrived, just in time.

And that’s exactly what happened the very first Christmas. But unlike my casual prayer one rainy Tuesday night, there was nothing accidental or half-hearted about God’s provision for us, friends! The Savior of the world showed up in Bethlehem, wrapped in flesh, cradled in a manger, later sent to hang on a cross.

Christmas had come. And it was the perfect gift.

I’ve learned well in my time on earth that God doesn’t always answer the way we pray or precisely how we want. But every now and then, sometimes when we least expect it, God provides a tangible reassurance of how very much He loves and cares for us. And as we approach this Christmas season, may we remember: The perfect gift is already ours through Christ.

The Destroyer destroyed

By: Charles Spurgeon

“That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Hebrews 2:14

Suggested Further Reading: Genesis 3:1-15

At last the day arrived; it was telegraphed to the court of hell that at last Christ would die. They rung their bells with hellish mirth and joy. “He will die now,” said he; “Judas has taken the thirty pieces of silver. Let those scribes and Pharisees get him, they will no more let him go than the spider will a poor unfortunate fly. He is safe now.” And the devil laughed for very glee, when he saw the Saviour stand before Pilate’s bar. And when it was said, “Let him be crucified,” then his joy knew no bounds, except that bound which his own misery must ever set to it. As far as he could, he revelled in what was to him a delightful thought, that the Lord of glory was about to die. In death, as Christ was seen of angels, he was seen of devils too; and that dreary march from Pilate’s palace to the cross was one which devils saw with extraordinary interest. And when they saw him on the cross, there stood the exulting fiend, smiling to himself. “Ah! I have the King of Glory now in my dominions; I have the power of death, and I have the power over the Lord Jesus.” He exerted that power, till the Lord Jesus had to cry out in bitter anguish, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” But, how short-lived was hellish victory! How brief was the Satanic triumph! He died; and “It is finished!” shook the gates of hell. Down from the cross the conqueror leaped, pursued the fiend with thunder-bolts of wrath; swift to the shades of hell the fiend did fly, and swift descending went the conqueror after him.

For meditation: The powers of darkness enjoyed only an hour of apparent victory over the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 22:53), but it resulted in his victory procession with them on public display as his captives (Colossians 2:15).

 

Streams in the Desert – December 6

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

Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown (Revelations 3:11).

George Mueller bears this testimony, “When it pleased God in July, 1829, to reveal to my heart the truth of the personal return of the Lord Jesus, and to show me that I had made a great mistake in looking for the conversion of the world, the effect that it produced upon me was this: From my inmost soul I was stirred up to feel compassion for perishing sinners, and for the slumbering world around me lying in the wicked one, and considered, ‘Ought I not to do what I can for the Lord Jesus while He tarries, and to rouse a slumbering church?”‘

There may be many hard years of hard work before the consummation, but the signs are to me so encouraging that I would not be unbelieving if I saw the wing of the apocalyptic angel spread for its last triumphal flight in this day’s sunset; or if tomorrow morning the ocean cables should thrill us with the news that Christ the Lord had alighted on Mount Olivet or Mount Calvary to proclaim universal dominion.

O you dead churches wake up! O Christ, descend! Scarred temple, take the crown! Bruised hand, take the sceptre! Wounded foot, step the throne! Thine is the kingdom.
–Rev. T. DeWitt Talmage, D. D.

It may be in the evening,
When the work of the day is done,
And you have time to sit in the twilight,
And watch the sinking sun,
While the long bright day dies slowly
Over the sea,
And the hours grow quiet and holy
With thoughts of Me;
While you hear the village children
Passing along the street
Among those passing footsteps
May come the sound of My Feet.
Therefore I tell you, Watch!
By the light of the evening star
When the room is growing dusky
As the clouds afar,
Let the door be on the latch In your home,
For it may be through the gloaming
I will come.

Kindness Can Change Things

 

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Kindness Changes Everything

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Kindness is underrated. We equate it with being nice or pleasant, as though it’s mainly about smiling, getting along, and not ruffling feathers. It seems a rather mundane virtue.

But the Bible presents a very different, and compelling, portrait of kindness.

Kindness Is Supernatural

When Paul laid out his case to the church in Corinth that he was a true apostle, he did so by detailing the trials he endured for the sake of the gospel, the inner spiritual life God granted him despite this suffering, and the God-produced spiritual fruit in his life (2 Corinthians 6:1–13). Surprisingly, kindness made his list of spiritual fruit. “You want proof I’m an apostle?” he said, in effect. “Okay, here it is: I’m kind.”

True kindness is Spirit-produced (Galatians 5:22). It’s a supernaturally generous orientation of our hearts toward other people, even when they don’t deserve it and don’t love us in return. God himself is kind in this way. His kindness is meant to lead people to repentance (Romans 2:4), which implies they haven’t yet turned to him, and are still his enemies.

We imitate God’s kindness, therefore, by loving our enemies. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (Luke 6:35). Our kindness reflects the heart of our Father. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Kindness may not be pleasant. In fact, it may feel more like a blow to the head. “Let a righteous man strike me — it is a kindness; let him rebuke me — it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it” (Psalm 141:5). Jesus called the Pharisees a brood of vipers. That wasn’t pleasant, but it was kind, because Jesus was exposing their sin. A kind physician cuts deep to get your cancer.

Kindness Is Powerful

In her memoir about the journey from being a committed lesbian to a committed Christian, Rosaria Butterfield says that, as a non-Christian, her impression of evangelical Christians was that they were poor thinkers, judgmental, scornful, and afraid of diversity. After publishing a critique of an evangelical Christian group in her local newspaper, she received an enormous volume of polarized responses. Placing an empty box in each corner of her desk, she sorted hate mail into one and fan mail into the other.

Then she received a two-page response from a local pastor. “It was a kind and inquiring letter,” she says. It had a warmth and civility to it, in addition to its probing questions. She couldn’t figure out which box to put the letter in, so it sat on her desk for seven days. “It was the kindest letter of opposition that I had ever received.” Its tone demonstrated that the writer wasn’t against her.

Eventually, she contacted the pastor and became friends with him and his wife. “They talked with me in a way that didn’t make me feel erased.” Their friendship was an important part of her journey to faith.

Are We Kind?

The biblical witness and Butterfield’s testimony should make us wonder how we’re doing. Are we generously inclined toward those around us, or do we think and speak harshly to, or about, them?

For some of us, watching sports, or talent shows (like The Voice), provides an opportunity for airing harsh opinions on physical appearance, ineptitude, or lack of talent. Our verbal slashes too easily become part of the entertainment itself.

For some of us, the daily commute becomes a crucible of kindness. Am I generously inclined toward other drivers, including the guy who just cut me off and the other one who’s tailgating me?

Some of us have to admit that we too often twist the verbal knife of cruel sarcasm, saying what we don’t mean in order to drive home more deeply what we do.

Kindness is no small thing. It yields marvelous fruit both in our lives and the lives of those around us. “Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor” (Proverbs 21:21).

We open ourselves to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit when we ask him to produce in us kind hearts that overflow through kind lips.

 

Try a Little Kindness

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Colossians 3:12 says,

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Notice the word clothe. The Greek word literally means “put on.” What Paul is saying here is that when we wake up in the morning, we ought to get dressed spiritually and emotionally as well as physically. When we wake up in the morning and decide what to wear, we should also ask ourselves, “What kind of attitude am I going to wear today?”

Paul says kindness is a choice. It is something we can choose to “put on” every day.

Kindness is “love in action” — a practical expression of love. It is visible and active, not just emotional. There is a song that says, “Find the need and fill it. Find the hurt and heal it.” That is kindness.

But why should we be kind? After all, kindness can be risky. We might be misunderstood if we are kind to others. They might think, “Why is this person being so nice? What’s in it for him?” People we are kind to also might take advantage of us. They might become parasites with the attitude, “Oh, here’s a sucker. I’ll milk him for all he’s worth.”

Despite the risks, we are to be kind for two reasons. First, we are to be kind because God is kind to us. Ephesians 2:8 says,

Because of His kindness you have been saved through trusting Christ.

Grace and kindness always go together. Poet Robert Burns said that the kind heart most resembles God. We should be kind just because God is kind to us.

The other reason we should be kind is that we want people to be kind to us. We want to be treated right. Jesus said,

Do to others what you would have them do to you. — Matthew 7:12

If you are rude to other people, they are going to be rude to you. But if you are kind, most people will want to respond the same way. Proverbs 21:21 says,

Be kind and honest and you will live a long life; others will respect you and treat you fairly.

In Proverbs 11:17 we read,

Your own soul is nourished when you are kind; it is destroyed when you are cruel.

So when we are kind, we are really doing ourselves a favor.

 

Kindness, Compassion, Forgiveness

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By: George Vink, reframemedia.org

Scripture Reading — Ephesians 4:29-5:8

Be kind and compassionate . . . forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore . . . and walk in the way of love. . . . — Ephesians 4:32-5:2

Urging us to “live as children of light,” Paul calls us to “walk in the way of love” as “God’s holy people.” As Christ’s followers, we adopt a lifestyle of imitating God, showing kindness, com­passion, and forgiveness. We learn to forgive because we know that God has loved and forgiven us.

As a pastor, I have often been asked me to preach on forgiveness. I usually focus on the theme that people who are for­given must be forgiving. If we do not appreciate God’s forgiving us, we have little motivation for forgiving others. Forgiven believers with grateful hearts readily express kindness and compassion for others.

Many Bible passages like Psalm 103 show us that God is forgiving, loving, compassionate, and gracious, and we can imitate our heavenly Father, treating people with compassionate, gracious love.

Kindness, compassion, and forgiveness are inseparable. We can’t be very kind to someone whom we haven’t forgiven. We won’t show compassion until we grow aware of how much we’ve experienced God’s love and compassion.

As Jesus’ followers, we’re called to share the love that he has shown for us. Doing so builds healthy relationships, honors our Creator, and grows his king­dom.

Prayer

Forgiving Father, thank you for your love and forgiveness. Help us to show kindness and compassion to others because you’ve shown it to us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Streams in the Desert – December 5

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

O Lord , I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps (Jeremiah 10:23).

Lead me in a plain path (Psalms 27:11).

Many people want to direct God, instead of resigning themselves to be directed by Him; to show Him a way, instead of passively following where He leads.
–Madame Guyon

I said: “Let me walk in the field”;
God said: ‘Nay, walk in the town”;
I said: “There are no flowers there”;
He said: “No flowers, but a crown.”
I said: “But the sky is black,
There is nothing but noise and din”;
But He wept as He sent me back,
“There is more,” He said, “there is sin
I said: “But the air is thick,
And fogs are veiling the sun”;
He answered: “Yet souls are sick,
And souls in the dark undone.”
I said: “I shall miss the light,
And friends will miss me, they say”;
He answered me, “Choose tonight,
If I am to miss you, or they.”
I pleaded for time to be given;
He said: “Is it hard to decide?
It will not seem hard in Heaven
To have, followed the steps of your Guide.”
I cast one look at the fields,
Then set my face to the town;
He said: “My child, do you yield?
Will you leave the flowers for the crown?”
Then into His hand went mine,
And into my heart came He;
And I walk in a light Divine,

The path I had feared to see.
–George MacDonald

No Condemnation For Those In Christ

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No Condemnation

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“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 (NIV)

Do you ever hear the whispers of condemnation telling you that you’re not what you should be, that you’re always disappointing someone and that you’ll never change?

I do. Unfortunately, self-condemnation is a default for me and, if I let it, it can wipe out my confidence as a woman, wife and mom.

Thankfully, I’m just as familiar with God’s promises as I am with Satan’s lies. My heart has heard Jesus’ gentle reminders of His love and goodness, like His “there is now no condemnation” promise in today’s key verse.

However, although I know this truth that He speaks over me, I’ve learned that it’s up to me to pause and respond to it. If I don’t keep my ears tuned to His voice and my mind set on His thoughts, I forget His promises.

Condemning thoughts come back in and drown out the confidence I have through Christ.

One morning I was struggling with self-condemning thoughts and God guided me to these words written in my morning devotion: “Do not listen to voices of accusation for they are not from Me.”

I opened my journal and responded from my heart:

Hello Lord. You know I often feel disappointed in myself and call myself names. You know my feelings have been hurt by someone’s comments. Comments that cut me down and stole my confidence. Instead of feeling worthy, I feel like a loser. I hear You telling me not to listen to voices of accusation. Thank You for this reminder right when I needed it.

The devotion continued, “Pause before responding to people or situations, giving My Spirit space to act through you. Hasty words and actions leave no room for Me.”

Again, I reached out to Him:

Lord, You know I spoke unkind words to my friend. Thank You for gently reminding me to “pause before responding.” You are so faithful to speak truth to me. Thank You for these words—a reminder of what You want from me. I needed this today, right now.

If left to defend ourselves from self-condemnation or the condemnation of others, we’d be defeated every time. Thankfully we don’t have to defend ourselves. In fact, God’s Word promises, “the Lord himself will fight for” us. (Exodus 14:13-14, NLT)

We have the greatest defender in God and His Word. His truths re-build confidence that condemnation breaks down.

Our part is to know God’s promises, respond to His truth, and believe it! Staying saturated in His Word and taking time to listen to His voice is the only way we can overcome condemnation. Reading devotions, digging into books on our specific area of struggle, participating in Bible studies and talking to Jesus through prayer helps re-build the confidence that is ours in Christ.

As we take the time to listen to Him today, let’s ask Him to remind us that He is with us, He loves us, and that it’s true: “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And, that means you and me!
Dear Lord, when I forget, please remind me that I am not condemned. Help me to keep my eyes and thoughts on You. And to accept Your Word as truth so my confidence stays strong in You. In Jesus Name, Amen.

No Condemnation

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Arthur Schoonveld, Author, reframemedia.com

 

Scripture Reading — 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. — Romans 8:1

One evening, after a Bible discussion at a local rescue mission, a young resident asked me if we could talk. He told me about some of the things he had been involved in and how he had made a mess of his young life. With tears in his eyes he asked me if God could ever forgive him. His guilt was tearing him up inside.

Guilt can rob us of our peace of mind and take the joy out of our lives. In Psalm 32 King David outlines what guilt did to him—and what it can do to any of us. David writes, “When I kept silent [in the guilt of my sin], my bones wasted away . . . . Day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped . . . .”

But because of Jesus’ resurrection, we can get rid of our guilt. We don’t have to go through life looking over our shoulder, afraid that our past will catch up with us. We don’t have to live with guilt; we can get rid of it by confessing whatever we have done.

The apostle John affirms, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9). The apostle Paul says virtually the same thing: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

If you are burdened with guilt, come to the Savior, confess, and ask for forgiveness. If you don’t know how to pray, ask someone to pray for you. There’s forgiveness for all who come to him.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank you for paving the way so that we can be forgiven. Forgive our sins today, we pray, in your name. Amen.

No Condemnation in Christ Jesus

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     By: John Piper, desiringgod.org.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the 

The greatest danger today in all the talk about faith-based social organizations is that Christians will begin to think about their faith the way the world does. For over twenty years, I have battled in my own mind not to think this way, because the temptation is tremendous, and comes from outside and inside the church.

The world views Christianity and other religions as useful, depending on what social, psychological, or physical benefits it may bring. In other words, the world doesn’t assess Christianity in the categories of true or false, but in the categories of useful or harmful. The world does not think of Christianity as divine revelation but as human opinion. The world does not believe that God must reveal our deepest need, and then provide the remedy in Jesus Christ. The world believes that we know our deepest needs and that religion can be respectable if it helps meet them.

The danger that Christians start to think this way is huge and deadly. A reporter interviews a pastor, and immediately defines, by his questions, the categories for explaining Christianity: “What are you doing about affordable housing? How do you help people get jobs? What’s your strategy for improving health care?”

Those are valid questions. But if you let the secular mind determine your starting point and then define the categories for explaining Christianity, then you will promote the erroneous notion that the church of Jesus Christ and the gospel of Jesus Christ are not an authoritative revelation from God that is true and necessary, but instead, an activity of man that is useful.

I begin this way because I am going to come back in a few minutes to point to some of the sweet, precious, practical effects of truth from our text. But I want you to know from the outset, and to feel, that if you start where the world starts — by thinking you know your real needs and that God is useful in meeting them — you will not know what Christianity is.

The Essence of the Christian Faith

The essence of Christianity is that God is the supreme value in the universe, that we do not honor him as supremely valuable, that we are therefore guilty of sin and under his omnipotent wrath, and he alone can rescue us from his own condemnation, which he has done through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ, for everyone who is in Christ. Knowing this, if what we promote is housing, jobs, healthcare, sobriety, family life, minus this message, we are not Christian — we are cruel. We comb man’s hair in the electric chair and hide his freedom in our hands.

“The essence of Christianity is that God is the supreme value in the universe.”

Romans 1–7 lays it all out. I tried to sum it up last week: holy God, sinful man, coming wrath, perfect Savior, Jesus Christ crucified and risen, justification by faith, sanctification by faith. And now Paul sums up the message of Christianity in the great conclusion of Romans 8:1: “Therefore [in view of all that] there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That’s the essence of Christianity. That’s the central, foundational message of God to the world. This is what we announce. This is what we plead. This is what we lay down our lives to communicate to the nations and the neighborhoods: no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Let’s look at it in two parts: What is the gift and who enjoys it? The gift is: “now no condemnation;” and those who enjoy it are: “those who are in Christ Jesus.”

What Is the Gift?

The word “now” can have two different connotations. One is that finally, everything is in place, everything has been done, finally, now I can receive what I was promised. A grandfather sends a package to his granddaughter and says, “Do not open until your birthday.” Every day the little girl says, “Now? Can I open it now?” “No, not now. Only on your birthday.” When it comes then she says, “Finally, now!” The “now” that comes after waiting.

The other connotation for “now” is the now that comes before you thought it would. That same grandfather writes to his son and sends him a $5,000 check and says, “Son, you know that someday you will inherit my estate. But I know that now is when your needs are great, so I am sending you this in advance.” Here the “now” is not “finally now,” but, “already now.”

Both of these meanings for “now” in Romans 8:1 are not far away. “There is now no condemnation.” Is it “finally now” or “already now.” We can see them both in Romans 8. Look at verse 3: “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, he condemned [there’s the word!] sin in the flesh.”

Finally Now No Condemnation

So here is the finally now. All those years the law commanded and the law condemned law-breakers and the law pointed to a righteousness and a sacrifice that would someday come (Romans 3:21), but the law could not remove condemnation from sinners. If there was to come a time when sinners could experience “no condemnation!” — when the ungodly could be justified by faith — then God would have to do something besides give a law. And what he did was send his Son in human nature, as our representative and substitute and there on the cross in the suffering of his Son, God condemned sin!

Whose sin? Jesus had none (see “likeness of sinful flesh,” verse 3) — not his, ours. This is the gospel. This is Christianity. All of us were under God’s condemnation because of our sin. But, as Romans 5:6 says, “While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” What does that mean — he died for the ungodly? Now we see what it means in Romans 8:3. It means that God poured out on his Son the condemnation that we deserved. He condemned sin (my sin!) in the flesh (Christ’s flesh!). Do you believe this?

Therefore, finally, now, there is no condemnation. Now that everything has been done that has to be done to absorb the wrath of God. Now, finally, there is no condemnation.