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May God Comfort Our Souls

21 Encouraging Bible Verses About Comfort - Life, Hope & TruthPin on Christian quotes, Faith & Wisdom
30 Awesome Bible Verses About Peace Of Mind And Comfort - Elijah Notes30 Awesome Bible Verses About Peace Of Mind And Comfort - Elijah Notes
13 Bible Verses about the Comforter - DailyVerses.net20 Comforting Bible Verses to Warm Your Heart

Comfort My Soul

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It was my fault.

Questions swirled as I drove to the top of the Interstate exit ramp toward the hospital to visit my eighty-three-year-old widowed mom. “Congestive heart failure” rang in my ears.

Will Mama be safe living alone? Would she move in with us? Will the new meds help?

Deep in thought, I steered my Camry the wrong way onto a one-way street—straight into the headlights of a young man’s car.

I stared through the cracked windshield in disbelief. Thoughts flashed like lightning: I went the wrong way! Is he hurt? Why isn’t he getting out? It’s my fault. What should I do?

Guilt and fear captured me. My head throbbed in rhythm with my heart.

I cried, “Oh, please help me, Father God. Look what I did. Please let that man be okay. Help me, Father.”

Although I stood on wobbly legs when I exited the car, a sense of calmness soothed me. While I watched the other driver and the policeman who observed the accident walk toward me, my heavenly Father whispered assurance as if to say, “I am here. All is well.”

The external situation did not change. Traffic backed up and people gawked. My car, pointed in the opposite direction of the one-way arrow, announced, “It was her fault.” Deep inside, something did change. Peace replaced panic because of the One who stood beside me.

God didn’t arrive at the scene of the crash; He was there all along, ready to tend my troubled state. The balm of His presence relieved the flames of fear that engulfed me.

Months later, when my mother met Jesus face-to-face, the Lord soothed my heart again. Since the accident and Mama’s death, I’ve thanked God numerous times for His relief and answered prayer. When troubling news or a challenge careens down mental streets threatening to crash into my contentment, I often confess, “Father, I need You. Please help me.”

When I experience His willingness to exchange my unrest for His solace, I proclaim,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation …” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV

The author of Psalm 66 also remembered the way God nurtured his soul. Perhaps he yearned to shout with joy and beckon those he knew to listen when he wrote,

“Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul.” Psalm 66:16 NKJV

Maybe the psalmist recalled Yahweh’s peace in fearful times or deliverance when enemies advanced. Surely, like us, he encountered daily challenges which prompted him to testify of God’s care.

Like the psalm writer, in the face of trials and challenges, believers can turn down the one-way street of prayer to seek the “God of all comfort.” Regardless of the roadblocks we face or the errors of our ways, His consolations are limitless.

We could compose our own song of praise in a journal or in prayer to thank God for caring for our souls. What do you remember about the times God cared for you? Do you need His reassurance today? Like the gel of an aloe plant relieves sunburned skin, the balm of divine comfort quiets anxious hearts.

 

What Are You Drunk On?

By: Shawn McEvoy, crosswalk.com

And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” – Acts 2:12-13

“These men are not drunk, as you suppose,” Peter told the bewildered crowd at Pentecost. “This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel.” The Holy Spirit had been poured out, and I’ve always found it fascinating that its effects could be mistaken for the pouring out of, shall we say, less holier spirits.

To be sure, the Bible instructs Christ-followers to be “sober-minded” (Titus 2:61 Corinthians 15:34). And there’s honor and maturity in a steadfast, stoic reaction to life’s trials. But then there’s this fantastic scene in Acts that just fills me with tiny bubbles of delight. There’s so much joy and power and overflowing involved with the Holy Spirit that, sometimes, well, we Christians just seem a little bit crazy. Flipped-out. Punch-drunk. Downright giddy.

And who wouldn’t like to see more of that side of us these days?

Reflecting on this kind of Spirit-trusting, God-leaning fun reminds me of my three summers as a Christian youth camp counselor. The labor was hard but not in vain. The purpose was evident. The craziness was everywhere. “Go nutso-Picasso,” our Director would say, and show these kids that being a Christian isn’t some droll, fun-killing existence, but something real, life-giving, sustaining, and joyous.

And indeed it was, and is. My closest friends and I had an odd high school experience, in that we had a hard time understanding why our peers found it so fun and/or necessary to involve alcohol – illegally – in their weekend plans. We were having more laughs and fun than we could imagine without any drugs. What were we filled with? Why didn’t we need anything else?

Later, when I worked at camp, one of the things we would do is create a video of each week for the students to take home with them. One of the features on each week’s video was a “blurb” from one of the counselors, an off-the-cuff, from-the-heart snippet of encouragement. I recently found the videotape from the week I was interviewed, and my response reminded me so much of what today’s verse means to me, what real life under the guidance and excitement of the Holy Spirit is about. Here’s what I said:

I think so many times in our youth groups back home we get tired of hearing the same things: don’t drink, don’t do drugs, don’t have sex. And that’s good advice to be sure, but why? So many kids here at camp and the ones I knew growing up weren’t doing these things anyway; don’t we have any more to offer them? Do we have any explanation for what is filling them, and what they can do with it? It just seems to me that those I’ve come across who are involved in these so-called “greater sins” are often engaging in them just to fill a void caused by, maybe, disobedience to parents, rebellion, lying, or a poor self-image. So what I like to do is show them that Jesus has given them everything they need to be content, secure, high on real living. And it takes a lot of energy to do that, but I find that the energy is there when I need it, and anyway, if it means leading a young person to the Lord or just reconciling someone to their parents, hey, that’s worth it.

 

The God Who Sees Me

‘You are the God who sees me.’ She also said, ‘Have I truly seen the One who sees me?’” Genesis 16:13b (NLT)

I received the long text and read it slowly. Then I read it again. She accused me of saying things I never said. She assumed words I’d written on social media were about her when they weren’t.

I sat stunned.

She didn’t want to meet or talk it out. She was ending our friendship completely and asking me to never contact her again.

A cry of injustice rose inside of me. I felt misunderstood. While I wanted to call a friend to “vent,” I knew I needed to allow some time to pass before doing something that would likely fall into the gossip category.

“Do you see this, God?” I muttered aloud as I sat in my van in the school parking lot waiting for my daughter. I knew the answer. His name is El Roi, the God who sees me.

The Lord revealed this name to a woman named Hagar in the Bible. She was an Egyptian servant who worked for a barren woman named Sarah. Sarah decided to have a child by asking her husband to sleep with Hagar. Sarah then mistreated pregnant Hagar to the point that she ran away to the desert.

I understand Hagar’s urge to run away. I have felt it many times. But through the name El Roi, we discover that in our lowest moments, someone sees us. God sees our pain. He hears our cries.

After the Lord sent an angel to encourage Hagar, we find these words: “Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said, ‘You are the God who sees me.’ She also said, ‘Have I truly seen the One who sees me?’” (Genesis 16:13).

We’re never alone because we serve a God who sees us. We can rest knowing God is never unaware of what we are going through. El Roi saw Hagar, but He didn’t promise a quick fix to all her problems. He sees us, but He also sees the larger picture outside of the constraints of time.

Sometimes God calls us to have a boundary and walk away from abuse or mistreatment. At times, others set the boundaries, and a relationship we want to keep is over. In other situations, God calls us to stay the course. He asks us to persevere in a difficult marriage, work situation or church conflict with a new perspective, holding onto His promises.*

When I’ve been in a season of betrayal or difficulty, such as the day I received that very long text, I have wanted God to just fix it. Have you ever felt that way? While El Roi sees our mistreatment, we have to trust His instructions since He sees the bigger picture.

God knows when we cry buckets of tears and aren’t even sure why we are sad. He celebrates victory with us when we master a new skill or forgive a difficult person. He sees us on those blah days when all we feel is numbness. He might not instantly fix every predicament we encounter, but we never have to doubt His presence. We are never alone because El Roi is the God who sees.

 

Without Criticism

by Inspiration Ministries

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally and without criticism, and it will be given to him.” – James 1:5 MEV

The Bible makes the remarkable statement that God desires to give us wisdom – discernment to understand situations and people and insight to make the right decisions. In fact, He can give us this wisdom in abundance, “liberally.”

But there are conditions. First, we must ask Him for the wisdom we need. Many people count on their own experiences or focus on the world’s experts. We need to remember that God promises a generous outpouring of wisdom when we ask Him.

Second, we need to be patient. This is so essential that the Bible tells us we should “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” because the “testing of your faith produces patience” (v. 2-3 NKJV). We need this patience, so we can take our time to study His Word, pray, and listen carefully.

We need to ask in faith, believing Him when we ask. We need to be single-minded, asking “without wavering” (v. 6). We cannot expect to receive an abundance of wisdom if we are “double-minded” (v. 8). We must be resolute and focused.

He also promises to give us this wisdom “without criticism.” In short, “He will not rebuke you for asking” (NLT). We are to “ask and keep on asking…Seek and keep on seeking… Knock and keep on knocking” (Matthew 7:7 AMP).

Cry out to God for the wisdom you need. Focus on Him. Don’t allow doubt to creep into your heart and mind.

Be Careful Of Greed and Envy

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Pry Those Clinging Fingers

I moved my mother to a new, downsized apartment. Like most of us, her money is tight. At times the process involved careful sorting and packing; other times demanded chucking things in boxes or in the trash. At the end of the move, the walls were bare and wounded with nail holes and plastic drywall anchors; the carpet lay lined and pocked with impressions of once-arranged furniture; and the windows stood stark and vacant against the sunlight. The furniture and decorations that once made it home were gone, leaving only an empty shell.

Throughout our lives we may go through some phases with great care and others with wild abandon. And at each phase of life, we will leave the previous one behind—like a place that was once home but is now gone, like an empty apartment.

At death we may leave behind money and furniture, but the life we lived—the space we took up on this earth, the “us” that people knew—will be gone, empty as a moved-out-house.

No matter how sentimental, or wounded, we may be about the past, we must leave it as we enter a new phase of life. A wise person will cling to nothing, and live according to what’s ahead. In a way we all know this, and my talking about it is clicheish. But humans have an innate tendency to cling. We fill our closets and garages with stuff we’ll never use again. We hold on to nostalgic versions of memories and edit out the unhappy parts. We want life to keep going the way we like it.

But we can’t do that forever.

Jesus tells a parable of a guy who was a lot more similar to many of us than we’d like to admit. The story goes like this:

“The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16-21 NIV).

If we cling to our stuff, we’ll only get into trouble—both in this life and the afterlife.

Not clinging takes unending attention. None of these come easily: not clinging to old toys and the piles of stuff that too often defined who we were; not clinging to comfort zones, hurt emotions, and the way things used to be.

Like a rented apartment, our lives may seem like our own, but ultimately they are not. We live and breathe in the hands of God, who created us. When our life’s lease is up, all we leave behind will be emptied of us.

The Apostle Paul similarly calls believers to let go of our stuff. The more we let go of here, the more we can expect to receive in the place God has prepared. Here is the amazing promise:

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV).

 

Paying Attention to How We Live

By: Charles Stanley, crosswalk.com

Luke 12:16-21

One day we’ll give an account of ourselves to the Lord (Romans 14:12). We must, then, pay attention to how we live.

The rich man in Luke 16:19-31 made the tragic choice of living for himself without regard for the Lord. He also made two other mistakes.

First, he invested everything for himself and nothing for the life to come. When we are blinded by our own desires and personal satisfaction, it is easy to become lukewarm about spiritual matters. We forget that this life is not all there is. Scripture tells us to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth. Where our treasure is reflects where our heart is (Matthew 6:19-21).

The rich man’s other mistake was to prepare everything for himself and nothing for others. Crumbs falling from his table (v. 21) were the only form of assistance he gave a poor man named Lazarus. The one who had much wealth did not share it with the one who had little. Jesus explained what our priorities should be to love the Lord wholeheartedly and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27).

We see the rich man’s mistakes repeated in another parable. This time a wealthy man builds bigger barns to store crops so he will have plenty for the future. God calls him a fool for such shortsightedness (Luke 12:20).

The Bible repeatedly warns us to pay attention to spiritual matters—the Lord is to have first place in our lives and be the center of our affections. He urges us to store up heavenly treasure by caring for the lost and hurting people around us. On whom is your attention focused?

 

The Rich Fool

 

Scripture Reading — Luke 12:13-21

“[The rich man said,] ‘I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool!’”
Luke 12:19-20 —

A fool! That’s what God calls the person in today’s parable.

That may seem a strange way to describe someone who would have been the envy of many people in the community. The man had worked hard, putting in long hours, and it had paid off. He was set to enjoy the fruit of his labors. He was going to “take life easy” and “eat, drink and be merry.”

When you work hard all your life and you have built a suc-cessful business or career, along with some good investments, haven’t you earned the right to take life easy and enjoy your retirement? That’s how the rich man reasoned with himself.

The Bible makes clear that God does not begrudge his people the rewards of a life well lived. He does not call the man a fool because he was rich. God was the one who allowed him to be successful. God called the man a fool because he had stored up things only for himself. Instead of recognizing God’s blessing and working to build God’s kingdom, he had been building his own.

Many people are like the rich fool, willing to sacrifice almost anything to get ahead, trusting in money and status for their security and leaving God out of the picture. Take a few mo-ments today and ask yourself, “Would God call me a fool?”

 

The Parable of the Rich Fool

“But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (vv. 20–21).

– Luke 12:13–21

According to Jewish custom, rabbis could settle legal disputes when it came to the division of property between heirs, and that explains why the man described in today’s passage came to Jesus to get a share of his brother’s inheritance (Luke 12:13). But what is immediately striking about this passage is that Jesus did not take the opportunity to exercise His right to judge between the two brothers. Instead, the encounter provided Him with an opportunity to speak a parable warning about covetousness.

One of the most remarkable things about the Ten Commandments is that God includes in it a law against a covetous disposition (Ex. 20:17). If we were to come up with a law code, we would not likely put such a rule in place; rather, we would focus on external sins such as murder or theft. But our Creator’s adding a law against covetousness represents a profound understanding of human nature. Untold destruction of families and nations has been wrought as a result of an individual’s unlawful desire to possess that which rightfully belongs to another. Wars between nations typically begin because one side wants something that belongs to the other. In fact, covetousness is actually one of the primal sins of humanity. Adam and Eve coveted the knowledge of good and evil—they wanted for themselves what was proper only to the Creator—and so they grasped for it, plunging the universe headlong into ruin (Gen. 3).

Covetousness manifests itself in a lack of gratitude and generosity. There is nothing inherently wrong with being wealthy or seeking to increase one’s prosperity. The danger arises when we make riches our chief end, when we are never satisfied with what we have but think that acquiring more stuff will make us happy. That is what we see in the parable of the rich fool. The rich man did not stop to thank the Lord for his prosperity. He was dissatisfied with what he had and wanted bigger and better barns so that he could hold even more. He strove to acquire more and more because he prized self-sufficiency instead of a life of dependence upon God. He did not seek to help the poor, and thus failed to show trust that the Lord would continue to provide for him (Luke 12:13–19).

What was the end of this man? God judged him for his idolatrous treatment of his wealth (vv. 20–21). People who are impenitently covetous will be likewise condemned for their lack of thankfulness and generosity.

The Sign Of Jonah

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The Sign Of Jonah

From: Crosswalk.com

 

As the crowd pressed in on Jesus, he said, “These are evil times, and this evil generation keeps asking me to show them a miraculous sign. But the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” – Luke 11:29

People who struggle with faith sometimes say that, if they could have actually seen Jesus at work and heard him with their own ears, they would not have any problems believing. As understandable as this may be, it is probably not true. Some of the people who saw Jesus at work and who heard him speak still struggled with believing! They argued with him over what he had said, they were dissatisfied with the miracles he performed, and they kept asking him for more miraculous signs.

Jesus’ response to their lack of belief is enlightening. He saw their attitude not so much as a struggle to believe, but as a symptom of “evil times” and an “evil generation” (Luke 11:29). He was convinced that his contemporaries had been given more than enough evidence that he was who he claimed to be. Their unbelief was not an unfortunate or unavoidable lack of faith—it was an outright act of wickedness. They chose not to believe and demanded further signs.

One day, Jesus said that there would be no more signs except one—“the sign of the prophet Jonah” (11:29). Jesus’ listeners were familiar with the story of the prophet. When God commissioned Jonah to head in an easterly direction to preach to the city of Nineveh, Jonah intentionally headed west to Tarshish. But not for long! God hurled a storm at the ship, and Jonah was hurled overboard by the reluctant crew when they discovered he was responsible for their plight and when rowing and praying hadn’t worked for them. Then a large fish swallowed him and regurgitated him three days later. When God again told Jonah to go to Nineveh, there were no arguments! Jonah arrived in Nineveh and preached as he had been told. He made quite a stir—revival swept the city.

Perhaps some of Jesus’ listeners understood what Jesus meant by the “sign of the prophet Jonah,” but many of them certainly did not. So to give them another hint, Jesus added, “Someone greater than Jonah is here” (11:32). He was referring to himself. And the sign that he would bring—the sign to end all signs—would be like what happened to Jonah. Jesus would go down into death (rather than into the sea), would be buried for three days (in a tomb rather than in a fish), and on the third day would rise from the dead (by his own power rather than by being spit out). Thereafter he would show himself openly and preach the Good News of the kingdom. That was the final sign, which in Jesus’ opinion is more than adequate as a basis of faith for all men at all times.

The issue for men today becomes, “How do I respond to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead?” Christianity stands or falls on this tenet of the faith. If Christ is risen, he is all he said he was—the Messiah, the Son of God, the eternal king. If he isn’t risen, he’s dead—and irrelevant. Either way, we don’t need more signs. We need to choose to believe what the evidence clearly shows. To refuse to believe is simply wickedness.

 

The Sign of Jonah

“He answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah’” (v. 39).

– Matthew 12:38–42

A Christian and his friend, who did not know Christ, were discussing Jesus and His claim to be the only way to the Father (John 14:6). The believer humbly shared the Gospel with his friend to no avail. “If only I could see Jesus do a miracle,” the non-Christian said, “then I would believe Him.”

Such conversations have occured repeatedly throughout history, beginning with Jesus and the scribes and the Pharisees. In today’s passage, these scholars, no doubt enraged at His harsh words about them (Matt. 12:1–37), ask Jesus for “a sign” (v. 38)—a miracle that unambiguously demonstrates the messianic anointing of Jesus. Apparently, what He has done so far is not enough to convince these men. In their minds the Redeemer’s works of deliverance could be attributed to Satan (v. 24). Even if this is not true, they do not think the exorcism of demons is so special since their disciples can also deliver people (v. 27).

The request is not necessarily wrong in itself; God gave Abraham a sign to confirm his faith (Gen. 15). But Jesus knows nothing can convince the scribes and Pharisees. They only seek more ammunition to use against Him. Besides, Jesus will not “bark on command,” nor will He satisfy their whims (Matt. 12:39). Matthew Henry comments, “Christ is always ready to hear and answer holy desires and prayers, yet he will not gratify corrupt lusts and humors.”

Jesus does, however, promise the “sign of the prophet Jonah” (v. 39). Many first-century Jews believed the Ninevites repented when Jonah preached because they knew God spoke through him, and they knew this because they knew God saved him from drowning (Jonah 1:17–3:10). Similarly, Jesus’ resurrection, which is like Jonah’s rescue (Matt. 12:40), also signifies God’s vindication of Him and affirms the truth of His words (Rom. 1:1–4). Yet even this miracle will not be enough to make Jesus’ hard-hearted contemporaries believe (Luke 16:31).

On judgment day, the generation that rejects God’s Son will be condemned by the Ninevites and the “Queen of the South” (1 Kings 10:1–13Matt. 12:41–42). Ironically, these pagans turned to the true God, but most Israelites, who will see the greater sign of their Lord’s resurrection, will not believe.

 

The Beautiful Work of Restoration

In 2006, Steve Wynn, an art collector and real estate developer from Las Vegas, put his elbow through an expensive Picasso he owned, while showing it to friends. According to NPR, the painting was scheduled to be sold within days of the damage for $139 million to his friend Steve Cohen. A restorer said the painting would only be worth $85 million after restoration, but that didn’t stop Steve Cohen from buying it for $155 million, topping his original offer by $16 million.

Maybe you’re scratching your head like the rest of the art world. Why would someone pay more for a damaged piece? Because apparently, Cohen knew what God also knows:

The WORK OF RESTORATION is considered a work of art all by itself.

In other words, when something (or someone) is restored, the value actually increases. Think about Peter’s story of restoration. He denied the Lord Jesus three times after adamantly declaring to Him and everyone around that he would never do such a thing. I think what is so relatable about Peter’s story is how he wept bitterly after realizing his failure.

I’ve been there.

I’m sure he thought he was too far gone to ever be used by God again. And then Jesus did something beautiful. After revealing Himself to Peter and a few others on the shore after His resurrection, Jesus said,

“Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
He said to him a third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.” (John 21:15-17).

For the same number of times Peter had denied Him, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” And like a brush stroke of restoration on a damaged canvas, Jesus revealed Peter’s value.

We find a similar illustration in Ezra in the rebuilding of the temple. The Bible says the old men who had seen the first temple (that had been destroyed) wept bitterly when the new foundation was laid while the younger men shouted and rejoiced. Why did the older men cry? Because when God restores what has been broken, lost, or stolen, it reveals value.

And the same is true of you and me — we were all once lost, broken, and separated from God (some of us multiple times). But our God is a great Restorer. And whereas the enemy has made us feel like there’s no way God could ever use or want us again, the opposite is actually true.

BECAUSE you’ve been restored, your value is exponential in God’s eyes!

I pray just as Jesus revealed to Peter the great value and calling he had on his life, you too realize today your great worth to the kingdom of God.

 

Honor

by Inspiration Ministries

“A decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.” – Luke 2:1 NASB

After Octavian became Rome’s undisputed leader in 27 BC, the Roman Senate pondered the question of how to honor such a man. They decided to change the calendar, so his name would ring throughout history. Octavian had taken the title Caesar Augustus, o they renamed the eighth month August.

Even now every time we say August, we recognize the man who ruled Rome when Jesus was born. Every time we read the account of His birth, we are reminded that He was born in Bethlehem as a result of a decree from Caesar Augustus.

Many people focus on achieving this kind of recognition and fame and seek to have monuments built to celebrate their accomplishments.

People may seek these earthly rewards, but God has a different perspective. Jesus told a parable in Luke 14 about guests who were invited to a banquet. Some immediately sought to sit in “the places of honor” (v. 7), feeling they deserved special recognition. But Jesus taught that the right response was to “recline at the last place” (v. 10).

Instead of exalting ourselves, we are to humble ourselves. Realize that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v. 11).

Jesus taught us to “seek the honor that comes from the only God” (John 5:44). Be sure you focus on serving Him. Humble yourself before Him. Seek first His Kingdom. Give Him all the glory and honor

From Darkness To His Marvelous Light

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Where’s Nemo?

“We should name him Nemo,” I teased as we lowered our goldfish into the backyard pond. But then, there were those two cute dots at the base of his tail and two bigger dots on his fins.

“How about Duce?” my husband suggested.

“Perhaps Dos?” I countered.

And so, it was decided; his name would be Ducy-Dos. We were happy and so was our goldfish, but that changed the day of the accident. While we were cleaning the pond, Ducy-Dos tumbled into the pump housing.

For weeks, I kept the pump lid off, waiting to catch a glimpse of Ducy-Dos. I placed a net pondside, so I’d be able to take decisive action. I tempted our goldfish to surface, enticing him with tasty snacks. After three months of frequenting the pump housing, hoping to save our fish, I positioned the lid back into place.

“Honey, don’t give up so fast.” my husband encouraged.

“He’s not coming out of there.” Unable to retrieve Ducy-Dos, I had concluded our prized fish was dead.

“But we prayed …”

My husband’s words, “but we prayed,” echoed within me like a soft hammer. Sure. We had prayed three months ago, when the accident first happened. So why hadn’t I sighted our beloved fish on the first day we had prayed? I was convinced our prayer was too trivial for God’s ears. Besides, why should He retrieve our fish when I should’ve been more careful positioning the pump lid?

But then, there was the lightning storm and subsequent power failure. When the pumps switched off, I raced to the edge of the pond to make sure they would start correctly when electricity was restored. Sitting in the rain, listening to the thunder, I thought about Ducy-Dos. But we prayed. My husband’s words echoed in my heart once again, along with the scripture that nothing—absolutely nothing—is impossible for a holy God.

“… nothing shall be impossible unto you.” Matthew 17:20b

Scripture echoes the same sentiment in I Peter. Because I am the Lord’s, I am:

“a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people,” and I should be able to “shew forth the praises of him who hath called… [me] …out of darkness into his marvellous light.” 1 Peter 2:9 KJV

Ducy-Dos, if alive, was very much in the dark. But, wasn’t I as well? I wasn’t putting faith in the words I had spoken to God. I needed to believe He could raise Ducy-Dos out of that pump housing. I wanted to tap into the realm of God and be different — yes, peculiar — because of my faith. I surrendered my little fish to the Lord and trusted Him to give or take Ducy-Dos at His will. I was at peace, even while the rain pelted me, drenching my clothing through to my skin.

To my utter amazement, when the power came on and the pumps re-started, a big gulp of water, air, and algae came spouting into the air, and with it our beloved fish! Ducy-Dos landed splat into my open hands, which by reflex I grasped onto tightly.

“Ducy-Dos!” I cried, examining him as if he was a newborn babe. His color was faded, but other than that, he was unharmed. We renamed our goldfish Nemo and thanked God for this unusual answer to prayer.

Friends, never give up on something you’ve prayed about. God has a wonderful way of granting surprises because He is good, and He loves you. Make the decision to praise Him even when you’re experiencing the storms of life.

Thank You, God, that with You, all things are possible through prayer.

 

The Dip Swimmer

by Shawn McEvoy, crosswalk.com

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  – James 4:4-6

August is often monsoon time in Tucson, Arizona. The rains can come quickly, bringing flooding to dry ground not primed to soak them up. He always looked forward to that time of year, to the brief respites from the scorching zephyrs. But not this year. This year was his “nowhere year,” the one between high school and college, the one where he lost sense of self, God, and purpose. Most of his friends had gone to school or summer projects. He himself would finally do so in just a few weeks. There was excitement in that knowledge, but also much apprehension. All he had known was Tucson. All he had was there. His best friend and his girlfriend and his family — he’d be leaving them behind.

The leaving was becoming even more difficult because there were rifts growing. His girlfriend had requested a break because, among other things, he had begun to put on weight. Things weren’t good between them. In fact, things weren’t good anywhere. This was supposed to be one of the best times of his life, but all he felt was lost, left out, and lethargic. The weather wasn’t helping. Neither was the fact that his Triumph TR6 convertible, the one he had received from his dad, the original owner, had finally died. He’d gone from driving that prime machine to a hand-me-up, dented Volkswagen Dasher from, insult of insults, his younger sister. His parents had opted to provide her a more reliable vehicle, a shinier, newer, cuter Honda Civic. It took him a long time, sad to say, to get over that.

On this night, he was also house-sitting for a friend of his mother’s. It was a depressing apartment, containing two very depressing dogs. One was very old and mostly blind, and would spend each night spookily wandering from room to room. He would wake up and see it stalking the halls as if in trance. Freaky. The other one was a three-legged little mutt who was so scared of him that the very reason he was housesitting became obsolete! Every gentle attempt to let the dog out created so much fear in the animal that it would do its business in the process of running out the door, meaning he not only had clean-up duty, but still had to convince the frightened critter to come back inside!

So basically, he was bummed. Bummed and lonely. And the last thing on his mind was the Lord, even though he’d known Him for 10 years. He knew he had to get out of there and gain some perspective. Maybe Jay was around. His house wasn’t too far away from Dog Central. He decided to try his luck in the monsoon.

As soon as he got to the Dasher, he should have known it was a bad idea. He’d left his windows down. He sat down anyway, right in the puddle of rain and dog hair and his sister’s ancient cigarette ashes. At least the car started. He pulled it out onto Alvernon Road, and headed south toward Grant.

Grant Road, when he got there, no longer looked like a street. It was a rivulet. I don’t know why, but he pulled out into it. For a while, the old wheezy car made its way slowly through the water. But eventually, it could go no more. He’d killed it. He stepped out into knee-deep water and looked to the heavens. A couple guys who were standing uphill in a shopping center watching the action helped him push the Dasher out of the street and up into the lot. Suddenly he heard shouts of joy and glee. He turned his head in time to see two kids in an inflatable raft cruise down a side street and out onto Grant, laughing all the way. Nice. Did anyone else want to mock him?

Well, what next? He had no cash, no coins. No cell phones in 1989. No ATM nearby.

There was only one thing to do: walk the rest of the way to Jay’s house. Why not? He couldn’t suffer much more, could he? It was a good 25 blocks. He’d gone about 24 of those in the rain when it was finally starting to let up. But through the parting drops he saw that he made yet another error in judgment. Rather than staying on the main road, where there was a bridge that crossed over a wash, he had taken a side street that dipped right down into it. It was going to mean another half hour if he backtracked, so he made his umpteenth stupid decision of the night. He tied his shoes around his neck, waded into the dip… and swam to the other side (kids, don’t try this at home. He got lucky the current wasn’t strong).

Emerging, he imagined himself as the creature from the black lagoon. Only several more houses to go. He knocked on the door. Jay’s mother answered. She looked confused, then concerned, then sprang into action. “Oh my goodness! Get in here!” She got him towels and something hot to drink, and let him know Jay wasn’t home yet. He was out on a date. She was going to bed, but he was welcome, as always, to wait up for Jay.

He sat in a dark corner of the living room, wondering how in the world he had sunk to this. He heard a key in the lock. He saw his best buddy enter, saw him notice a blob sitting in the corner, saw him realize he’d seen no car outside. When Jay recognized his pal, he paused, looked more closely, then… burst into laughter.

What happened next was an all-night conversation that would change both their lives. The gist of it was, “We’ve been giving lip service to our God and our church for a long time now. We’ve been part of this great youth group, but at heart we both know we love the popularity more than the fellowship. We’ve talked about the guys in our group who we know are authentic, who really study, really live the Word. Maybe it is time for us to be that, too? Maybe it’s time to stop sinning and start taking Christianity seriously?”

Yes. We decided it was. In the morning the mercy was palpable and freeing. We went to the bookstore and bought a study guide on James. We drove up to Mount Lemmon, just outside the city, praising the Lord on the way and praying once we got there. With James’s help, we decided to begin with practicality. We put away childish things. We took our eyes off ourselves, and we recognized that God had been active in answering prayers we’d prayed over a year ago (flippantly though they were spoken) that God would get our attention, develop in us humilty and patience, and a genuine idea of what following Jesus was about.

Relatively speaking, we didn’t suffer much, though our achings were deep and real for the time. God put us on our knees, gently but firmly, and turned us around, which is the essence of humility, repentance, and restoration. The Dasher was definitely dead… but we were alive

 

Perseverance

by Inspiration Ministries

“A wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” – 1 Corinthians 16:9 NASB

“Do you really expect to make an impression on the … great Chinese empire?” This seemed like a logical question to US President James Madison when he was visited by Robert Morrison in 1807. Morrison answered, “No, sir, but I expect God will.”

Morrison was on his way from England to China, where he would become the first Protestant missionary to that country. He knew challenges would be great, but that God could do all things through him.

Even though confident, he experienced enormous difficulties in China, including strong opposition. But, like Paul, he persevered. He struggled to learn Chinese but eventually mastered both Cantonese and Mandarin, even translating the Bible into those languages.

When he died, on this day in 1834, he knew of only three native Christians throughout China. But his pioneering work opened the door for other missionaries and led to the salvation of thousands of souls.

You may face difficulties. You may wonder if there ever will be fruit or an impact from your life. If you have doubts or questions, remember the examples of Robert Morrison and Paul. Both faced many adversaries but persevered. They stayed faithful to complete His call. They kept believing, obeying God, and sowing seeds for the Gospel.

If you face challenges, don’t give up, but persevere. Keep praying for the lost and for people around you. Stay faithful to the tasks to which God has called you.

Love God Not The World

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Tug of War

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Most of us have played the game Tug of War. The purpose is to get an equal number of people and strength on opposite sides of a rope. To make things interesting some people put a pit of mud in the middle. Those who lose the battle fall into the miry pit.

We are in a tug of war every day. The war is with our hearts. We have Satan and his demons on one end of the rope and the Lord and His angels on the other. So you may think, “Oh that is easy; Jesus will win every time.”

Each day there is a tug of war in the spiritual realms for our soul. Ephesians 6:10-12 says:

“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. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (NIV)

You feel this tug of war in your spirit. Sometimes you choose to side with the Lord and sometimes you take sides with Satan and his demons. I don’t have to tell you when you take Satan’s side; you already know.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV)

You see, it is our choice what side of the rope we are on each day. Also, each day we can waver back and forth to what side of the rope best fits our desire. The rope represents our life and that there are forces we cannot see struggling for our minds. Everything we do is a condition of our heart.

Since we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and our hearts are deceitful, we can easily wind up on Satan’s side of the Tug of War game. But the Lord’s side is the only side we will have victory.

Today, Satan and his demons desire for our hearts to be self-centered. We may gravitate to do what we feel we deserve, no matter what the cost to others. We may take shortcuts and not be entirely truthful. We are all a selfish group of men and women who need a heart transplant every day. But in order for anyone to get a heart transplant, they need to go to the hospital.

Most of us wait too long to get the help we need and Satan wins another battle. No matter how deep we are in the pit, no matter how far we have fallen, it is never too late to get on the Lord’s side of the rope.

And that is just the beginning. When we get on the Lord’s winning side, we still need to fight. We still need to pull our weight on the rope. Fight for purity and righteousness. Fight for the desire to be on the winning team and not get lulled onto the losing team.

All of us have a choice in every decision we make today. Today has enough decisions of its own; don’t get bogged down with the future. The future is in God’s hands. Right now, as you are reading this, you are already in the war for the day. Do you know whose side you are on? Please don’t be on the side pulling against Jesus and other believers. It is easy to do when we are leading a sinful life and don’t care. Plead your case to Jesus. He always hears you and wants to restore you to His side. Remember, in one breath Jesus can obliterate the other side if he so chooses.

______________________________________________________________

 

Go Ahead, Shine

by:  John UpChurch, crosswalk.com

 

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life” – Philippians 2:14-16

The quick-burning desire to be an astronomer came during year three of my college experience. That was after philosopher, writer (the first time), and English professor, but before anthropologist, high school teacher, and writer (the second time). You can’t blame a guy for wanting to wring every cent out of his scholarships.

So, in year three, I became convinced that I would study space because… well… because I loved planets and stuff. With the same gusto that had carried me through my philosophy phase, I charged into star charts and calculated orbits with fury and fine-tipped lead pencils. I pored over research on black holes and quasars and stared intently into the night sky trying to figure out how in the world someone could think that a certain cluster of stars could look anything like a person or a goat or whatever.

Then, reality hit in the way of astrophysics. The funny thing about studying the stars is that you have to be able to calculate distances, luminosity, parallaxes, and more fancy terms. I could crunch equations just fine, but that doesn’t mean I found it more satisfying than, say, ripping off a bandage from my legs.

Before I came to know Christ, all that nadir gazing did produce one substantial result in me: deep, deep emptiness. You can’t help but feel how small you are when you peer into the infinite-seeming inkiness of space. The more you see how incomprehensibly expansive everything really is, the more you feel speck-like in the cosmic order. The weight of eternity came crushing in on me.

And in that darkness, I needed light. This “crooked and depraved” man groped about for anything that would shine, some embers of hope. Not finding them in philosophy or books or even astronomy, the pressure just got worse. I kept feeling my way through the darkness into whatever classes the university offered, but through each of my potential career paths, I found nothing that could illuminate the road around me.

Of course, I wouldn’t have put it in those terms back then. At that point, I just knew something was messed up, and I couldn’t figure out what. I needed the “word of life.” But I didn’t know I needed it, and I didn’t know where to find it.

Intersecting Faith & Life: That’s where we come in as Christians. People like the old me don’t always even know what gnaws at them. Some have so subverted the pain that it plays out in pursuits of passion: They mute it with noise, clutter, medicine, or flesh. They prefer to find ways to ignore the crushing weight.

And then they see the stars. At least, they should see the stars. I don’t necessarily mean the stars in the night, since city lights drown them out for most of us nowadays. I mean, they need to see the stars around them who shine through their Jesus-emulating behavior. That light has the power to both expose their blindness and help them see.

So, shine. People like the old me are counting on it.

____________________________________________________________________

God Is Near

 

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. — Luke 12:7

Never take for granted My intimate nearness. Marvel at the wonder of My continual Presence with you. Even the most ardent human lover cannot be with you always. Nor can another person know the intimacies of your heart, mind, and spirit. I know everything about you — even the number of hairs on your head. You don’t need to work at revealing yourself to Me.

Many people spend a lifetime or a small fortune searching for someone who understands them. Yet I am freely available to all who call upon My Name, who open their hearts to receive Me as Savior. This simple act of faith is the beginning of a lifelong love story.

I, the Lover of your soul, understand you perfectly and love you eternally.

What does God’s “ultimate nearness” mean? Do you take His Presence for granted? How?

What comfort does God’s loving knowledge — even the number of hairs on your head — provide?

We are not only fully known and understood but also eternally loved. What assurances does this give?

Read More: Psalm 145:18 NKJV; John 1:12Romans 10:13

 

Finding Him

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. — Hebrews 3:1

I am renewing your mind. When your thoughts flow freely, they tend to move toward problems. Your focus gets snagged on a given problem, circling round and round it in attempts to gain mastery. Your energy is drained away from other matters through this negative focus. Worst of all, you lose sight of Me.

A renewed mind is Presence- focused.

Train your mind to seek Me in every moment, every situation. Sometimes you can find Me in your surroundings: a lilting birdsong, a loved one’s smile, golden sunlight. At other times, you must draw inward to find Me. I am always present in your spirit.

Seek My Face, speak to Me, and I will light up your mind.

Do your thoughts “tend to move toward problems”? Why?

How have you seen the truth that “a renewed mind is Presence-focused” in your own life?

God is always present with us. When do you feel God most near?

Read More: Psalm 105:4Romans 12:2

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Streams in the Desert – July 31

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

David cared for them with pure motives; he led them with skill.  Ps 78:72

When you are doubtful as to your course, submit your judgment absolutely to the Spirit of God, and ask Him to shut against you every door but the right one…Meanwhile keep on as you are, and consider the absence of indication to be the indication of God’s will that you are on His track…As you go down the long corridor, you will find that He has preceded you, and locked many doors which you would fain have entered; but be sure that beyond these there is one which He has left unlocked. Open it and enter, and you will find yourself face to face with a bend of the river of opportunity, broader and deeper than anything you had dared to imagine in your sunniest dreams. Launch forth upon it; it conducts to the open sea.

God guides us, often by circumstances. At one moment the way may seem utterly blocked; and then shortly afterward some trivial incident occurs, which might not seem much to others, but which to the keen eye of faith speaks volumes. Sometimes these things are repeated in various ways, in answer to prayer. They are not haphazard results of chance, but the opening up of circumstances in the direction in which we would walk. And they begin to multiply as we advance toward our goal, just as the lights do as we near a populous town, when darting through the land by night express.
—F. B. Meyer

If you go to Him to be guided, He will guide you; but He will not comfort your distrust or half-trust of Him by showing you the chart of all His purposes concerning you. He will show you only into a way where, if you go cheerfully and trustfully forward, He will show you on still farther.
—Horace Bushnell

As moves my fragile bark across the storm-swept sea,
Great waves beat o’er her side, as north wind blows;
Deep in the darkness hid lie threat’ning rocks and shoals;
But all of these, and more, my Pilot knows.

Sometimes when dark the night, and every light gone out,
I wonder to what port my frail ship goes;
Still though the night be long, and restless all my hours,
My distant goal, I’m sure, my Pilot knows.

—Thomas Curtis Clark

Hold On To Your Faith

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Holding On

Two birds battled in our driveway. The beak of one was clamped firmly on the leg of the other and it would not let go. The captured bird wrestled frantically to break loose. They jerked, thrashed, and rolled. I sat spellbound as they continued to lurch and tumble as each fought to gain the advantage.

I spotted the birds as I was leaving home to run an errand. I don’t know how long they had been locked in combat, but it looked like a fight to the death. After watching almost ten minutes, I needed to go, but the birds blocked my path. When the front tire of my car was within a foot of them, the attacking bird finally released its grip and the two flew away, free.

The battle reminded me of a time my husband, Robert, and I had struggled. We must have looked just like those fighting birds. Conflict threatened to destroy our marriage and we couldn’t seem to work through it. We kept thrashing and tumbling as we sought to gain advantage. At every turn, one or both of us was hurt. I thought the emotional bumps and bruises would never cease.

Our struggles in relationships are often lengthened because, like the birds, neither gives in. We hold on, refusing to let go. We don’t realize that as long as we maintain our grip, we are trapped too. We are jerked, tossed, and tumbled, being wounded along with the other.

Throughout the struggle with Robert, I never guessed that I held the key to stopping it. Freedom came after I finally realized I was holding onto Robert’s leg through judgment. My judgment of him kept us locked in conflict, destroying the peace we once knew.

Initially, I didn’t approve of a decision Robert made and was afraid our family would suffer. My fear led me to be too forceful when we first talked about my fears, and nothing changed. Even as I tried to be respectful and supportive, I was thinking, “you shouldn’t be doing that,” and “You ought to …” I held him by the leg with my shouldsand oughts and continued to judge his decisions. I was not aware of my judgment, just of the fear of the consequences we could suffer from his choices.

Meanwhile, it felt to Robert like I didn’t respect him and he couldn’t do anything right. Even when I didn’t say anything, he sensed my underlying judgment. It was hard for him to hear God because of fear of my reactions.

As the conflict continued, my greatest concern was Robert’s lack of seeking the Lord. How could we expect God’s blessing if we didn’t seek His direction? What I didn’t realize was that I was standing between my husband and God. He was so afraid of my reaction that he couldn’t find the Lord. I was in the way.

Jesus’ words are so true,

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2 NASB).

As long as I remained judgmental against my husband, I felt judged by him. The consequences of my judgment were worse than those from his decisions. For months, we scrambled like two birds in the driveway.

When I released Robert from my shoulds and oughts and trusted God to work out His purposes, Robert and I were both freed. He was free to hear God, and we both found peace with God and could reestablish the fellowship we had once enjoyed with each other.

The same principle holds true with my in-laws, pastor, co-worker, and neighbor. If I dwell on how they should and ought to be doing something, there is conflict. If I trust God to work in their lives, I don’t get caught up in struggles I can’t get out of. Instead of holding on, I need to release people and circumstances into God’s hands. He is the judge.

“Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” (Romans 2:1, NASB).

_______________________________________________________________

Defying Gravity – Crosswalk the Devotional – July 30

by Katherine Britton, crosswalk.com

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” – 1 Chronicles 29:14

While I was in elementary school, family friends made the decision to leave the States for Kiev, Ukraine. This family of seven, including children my age, had to downgrade from a four-bedroom suburban home to an 800 square foot flat. That meant getting rid of a house full of clothes, toys, yard tools, furniture, dishes – a whole host of personal preferences and “needs.” Each family member had the luxury of one big trunk as they moved halfway around the world.

For this family, however, the joy of sharing the Gospel in a former USSR satellite nation outweighed all their possessions. My dad asked his friend how he was handling the sudden “loss.” His answer was telling.

“Actually,” the new missionary responded, “this is the most freeing thing I’ve ever done.”

This family found a special freedom far before I began to sniff it out. For me, this reorientation is coming slowly, helped along recently by a little book called The Treasure Principle. In it, Randy Alcorn uses a science metaphor to explain why our friends felt unshackled rather than empty. He writes:

It’s a matter of basic physics. The greater the mass, the greater the hold that mass exerts. The more things we own—the greater their total mass the more they grip us, setting us in orbit around them. Finally, like a black hole, they suck us in.

Consider our materialism that way – the more stuff, the more mass. The more mass, the greater its gravitational pull. And the harder it is to escape.

Compare this to David’s exhilaration in 1 Chronicles. He is humbled not by how much God has blessed him with – but by how much God has allowed him to give away. The king of Israel, a center of the ancient world, found his joy not in the palaces and the women at his disposal, but in the act of returning to God was rightfully God’s. How many of us can say the same?

We live in a physical, material world. But we have the chance to defy its hold on us with every cent, toy, and “need” that comes our way. Are you ready?

 

First Fall Breeze

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. — Acts 3:19

You think it will never happen as you perspire your way through the dog days of summer. When the fans run full blast and there isn’t enough sweet tea in the world to quench your thirst. The pavement is hot, the air is thick, and the mosquitoes outnumber the people. You begin operating in survival mode, believing that, maybe, this will actually be the year when it doesn’t show up.

Then, one morning, you step outside onto your front porch, and you feel it. There’s something different in the air — a coolness that tells you fall has finally arrived. There’s a crispness to the wind that invigorates you as the burden- some heat of summer fades away. Your heart is lightened, and your spirit is revived. There isn’t anything quite as refreshing as that first fall breeze that announces the arrival of a new season.

Our lives go through seasons, just like the calendar. There are periods when we feel weary from the weight of our sins. The guilt and shame we carry are as oppressive as the heat of a Southern July day. There seems to be no end in sight, and we find ourselves just trying to survive. That is not the life our heavenly Father desires for His children. Thankfully, just as we turn a calendar page, we can turn from the heaviness of our former ways.

Just like that first fall breeze, repentance will bring a refreshing new season into our lives. When we turn from our sins and turn toward Jesus, forgiveness blows over us like a crisp autumn wind, and new energy is instilled in us. The sky is a little brighter, the colors are a little bolder, and our steps are a little lighter as the burden is lifted.

Walking in freedom with Jesus is as stimulating as that first fall breeze. Everything that once weighed us down just falls away, and a fresh beginning is ours for the taking. Everything is brimming with possibility, and the opportunities are endless.

 

Your Loving Shepherd

by Inspiration Ministries

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” – Psalm 23:1-3 ESV

Even as a boy, George Herbert impressed others with his character. Some said that he seemed “marked out for piety, and to become the care of Heaven.” When he was fifteen, he was described as being “perfect” in classical languages, particularly Greek.

Born in 1593, Hebert went on to attend Trinity College at Cambridge, England. When he was appointed the school’s public orator, it became his duty to give speeches in Latin to visiting dignitaries. At one time, some thought he was destined for a career in politics. Instead, he became a minister.

He wrote many poems. One of them told how he looked at Jesus as his shepherd. It was called “The God of Love My Shepherd Is.” Herbert knew Jesus was his shepherd, and He was motivated by love. This brought him safety and peace. “While He is mine, and I am His, what can I want or need?”

He knew that Jesus would lead and provide for him. And if he strayed, Jesus would correct him and bring him home. Trusting in Jesus, he had no reason to fear for He was with Him every step of the way. Herbert knew that His “sweet and wondrous love” would be with him throughout life, “as it never shall remove so neither shall my praise.”

Remember the simple truth that Jesus wants to be your shepherd, leading you, protecting you, and directing you. He loves you!

The Lord’s Prayer

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The Lord’s Prayer

From: cbn.com

What is the Lord’s Prayer?

In Matthew 6:9-13 and in Luke 11:2-4 we read of Jesus teaching his disciples how they should pray.  This popular Scripture is known as The Lord’s Prayer, and some know it by Our Father Prayer. Below you can read through and memorize the Lord’s Prayer as it was the example Jesus used when asked how we should pray. Remember though that it is a teaching tool not a magical saying that can influence God differently than any other prayer from our hearts.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer in Bible Scriptures:

Matthew 6:9-13 – “This, then, is how you should pray: ” ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Luke 11:2-4 – “He said to them, “When you pray, say: ” ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’ ”

6 Steps of Prayer taught in the Lord’s Prayer.

1. Address God’s rightful place as the Father
2. Worship and praise God for who He is and all that He has done
3. Acknowledge that it is God’s will and plans are in control and not our own
4. Ask God for the things that we need
5. Confess our sins and repent
6. Request protection and help in overcoming sin and Satan’s attacks on us

As you read this Scripture, let it soak into your heart and begin to talk to God honestly and openly. He created you, loves you, and wants to hear from you! Use the Lord’s Prayer as a way to walk through communicating with God!

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Our Father who ‘Arts’ in Heaven

Some of my favorite moments with the Lord have been when I’ve gone out to interact with Him in nature. When I was pastoring in Pennsylvania, I’d love to drive into the Allegheny National Forest to read my Bible, pray, and meditate as I sat on the side of a small mountain overlooking the Allegheny River.

That little patch of earth is called “Hearts Content,” which is a very good name for such a place.

I felt His presence in a very special way another time when I visited the Grand Canyon. I arrived at the rim of the canyon and looked across, then down, down, down, down. At first, I was speechless. Then when my breath returned, all I could say was “glory to God.”

I remember first sensing God in nature as a small child. In my hometown there’s a beautiful place called Presque Isle State Park, which is a seven mile sandy peninsula that juts out into Lake Erie, creating a placid bay on one side and the mighty waves of an inland sea on the other. The land in between is a series of long fingers of sand lined up in rows with small lagoons dividing them. Over time, forests have grown up in the midst of these bands of windblown sand so that deer, fox, raccoons, and other animals make their homes along the edge of the numerous ponds.

Spending time in wondrous places like these always fills me with a sense of God’s peace and joy. Scripture says:

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made… ” (Romans 1:20 ESV)

I grew up in a family of seven children and when we were kids, my parents would crowd us into the van and take us down to Presque Isle. The lakeshore is situated on an angle, so it appears like the sun is sinking down into the water at sunset. In the summertime, my dad would come home from work and we would go down to the beach to catch the sunset.

Sitting on a weather-worn wooden picnic table, the August wind whipped through our hair as the soft sand gathered between our toes. Hugging each other as young families do, we would watch as the giant orange orb slowly descended into the rippling water – sending out vibrant rays of purple, gray, and orange across the dark greenish-blue water. I don’t remember who first came up with it, but someone started saying, “Our Father, who ‘arts’ in heaven…” and we all chimed in.

As a little boy, I was surrounded by artwork. My father was a prolific portrait artist, so he was always working on another painting. The smell of oils, acrylics, and turpentine filled his studio. I knew him as “my father who ‘arts’ in Erie.”

But it was those wonderful moments with my family out in nature that first planted the fire in my heart to also know my “Father who ‘arts’ in heaven.”

I believe that life is a never-ending process of learning to know and love this God of wonders. If we are looking for Him, God will reveal Himself in any number of ways; through loving family members; through a pastor or friends at church; through the beauty of nature; through tragedy and sorrow, or through joy and triumph; through His wonderful Scriptures; and even through a glorious sunset.

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A Courageous Life

From: Proverbs31

Ephesians 1:18-21

When we recognize God’s presence with us, courage starts to develop in us. It grows as we draw on His strength. Without God’s power, we’ll find that hardship and stress drain us emotionally and hurt us physically, leaving us vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.

After 40 years of wandering, the nation of Israel was in such a state. They should have believed the two spies who trusted in the Lord’s presence and power. But instead, allowing their weakness to hold sway, the people sided with the remaining ten spies, who claimed the Canaanite obstacles were too great (Num. 13:26-32).

In contrast, Paul faced the Roman tribunal after enduring great hardship but was not dismayed, because God stood with him and strengthened him. Times of helplessness and weakness are in reality opportunities to receive an abundance of divine power (Phil. 4:13).

Being yielded to God’s purposes is essential for developing courage. Paul knew God had a plan for every event in his life—even the hardest ones. Instead of seeking a way out of trials, accept God’s way, and you’ll find courage welling up from within. Imagine yourself standing next to God, drawing on His strength.

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Streams in the Desert – July 29

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

Hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, which I have reserved against the day of trouble? (Job 38:22-23).

Our trials are great opportunities. Too often we look on them as great obstacles. It would be a haven of rest and an inspiration of unspeakable power if each of us would henceforth recognize every difficult situation as one of God’s chosen ways of proving to us His love and look around for the signals of His glorious manifestations; then, indeed, would every cloud become a rainbow, and every mountain a path of ascension and a scene of transfiguration.

If we will look back upon the past, many of us will find that the very time our Heavenly Father has chosen to do the kindest things for us, and given us the richest blessings, has been the time we were strained and shut in on every side.

God’s jewels are often sent us in rough packages and by dark liveried servants, but within we find the very treasures of the King’s palace and the Bridegroom’s love.
–A. B. Simpson

Trust Him in the dark, honor Him with unwavering confidence even in the midst of mysterious dispensations, and the recompense of such faith will be like the moulting of the eagle’s plumes, which was said to give them a new lease of youth and strength.
–J. R. Macduff

If we could see beyond today
As God can see;
If all the clouds should roll away,
The shadows flee;
O’er present griefs we would not fret.
Each sorrow we would soon forget,
For many joys are waiting yet
For you and me.
If we could know beyond today
As God doth know,
Why dearest treasures pass away
And tears must flow;
And why the darkness leads to light,
Why dreary paths will soon grow bright;
Some day life’s wrongs will be made right,
Faith tells us so.
“If we could see, if we could know,”
We often say,
But God in love a veil doth throw
Across our way;
We cannot see what lies before,
And so we cling to Him the more,
He leads us till this life is o’er;
Trust and obey.

The Transfiguration Of Christ

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We Can See Glory Coming Upon Our Lord Jesus

From: cbn.com

For now, the calendar causes me to think about the Transfiguration and its prominence. My trusty old Church Calendar places the commemoration of the Transfiguration at last Tuesday, August 6th. Our nervous times would benefit from some renewed grasp of the beauty and awesomeness of that day in Christs glorious and earth-shaking life, and I hope a discussion will improve our focus.

My latest study began in the first 13 verses of Matthew 17 and benefited as expected from the accounts in Luke 9:28-36 and Mark 9:2-13. And then, of all things, I quickly remembered the ludicrous effort of a pastor I encountered some time back to preach about the Transfiguration. A nice man, and educated (in the wrong things, obviously), he was outright silly (in my opinion, of course) in “explaining away” the Bibles accounts of miraculous events, which cant be done if you read the Bible as the Word of God. But this weeks remembrance of his feeble attempts truly drove home the deep truth of this important section of Holy Scripture, which is the revelation of the glory of the Son of God, a glory hidden now but to be fully revealed when He returns.

According to The New International Dictionary of the Bible, the name Transfiguration is derived from a Latin term meaning, “to change into another form.” The accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke portray the transformation as outwardly visible and consisting in an actual physical change in the body of Jesus.

“The appearance of His face changed” (Luke 9:29, NIV), “His face shone like the sun” (Matthew 17:2), while “His clothes became dazzling white” (Mark 9:3). The three apostles accompanying Jesus Peter, James, and John testified that the glory was not caused by the falling of a heavenly light on him from without but by the flashing forth of the radiant splendor within. He had passed into a higher state of existence, His body assuming properties of the resurrection body.

Remember, beloved, this was the Son of God, not some earthly creature dispatched on a mission. He wasnt like everybody else; He conversed openly with such Old Testament guys as Moses and Elijah.

The rendezvous was held at a place simply identified as “a high mountain” (Mark 9:2). Tradition has identified it with Mount Tabor, but because of its distance from Caesara Philippi and the fortification on it at that time, a spur of Mount Hermon seems more probable, according to the New International Dictionary. Jebel Jermuk has also been suggested.

Sometimes its hard to think in these terms since, after all, this was the Son of God (God Himself) but this whole experience gave encouragement to Jesus, who was setting His face to the Cross. To the shocked disciples, it confirmed the necessity of the Cross, since all the accounts told of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus speaking of Christs “departure” as well as the divine endorsement on Christs teaching. It inseparably linked the suffering with the glory and crowned with glory the perfect human life of Jesus.

In effect, this was an entry for Jesus into the glory in which He would reign. It constituted, one might say, a typical manifestation of the king coming into His kingdom.

Yes, good folks, the mountains were terribly significant and important to our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us bow down before Him! Amen.

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How we come to see God—and ourselves—rightly

Throughout recorded history, mountains have always engendered a sense of awe, honor, and even mystery in humankind. For believers from every religion (and for the most ardent atheist, too) mountains are places of revelation—whether from God, the gods, Mother Earth, or one’s inner self. The power of these formations jutting from the face of earth is so universal that we reserve a special phrase for moments that are particularly full of import and impact: the “mountaintop experience.”

“The power of these formations jutting from the face of earth is so universal that we reserve a special
phrase for moments that are particularly full of import and impact: the ‘mountaintop experience.’”

This sort of experience isn’t limited to modern-day life, of course. In fact, many of the most significant events in Israel’s history happened on the heights of literal mountains: Think of Mount Ararat, where Noah’s ark landed; or Moriah, where Abraham offered Isaac; or Sinai, where God revealed Himself to Moses. Or consider the life of Jesus—the Son of God and many times the creator of powerful, ecstatic, even mystical experiences. It’s no accident that at the beginning, middle, and end of His ministry, mountains play a crucial role. And every time, they reveal more about who He is.

The first great teaching of the New Testament takes place on one and is appropriately called the Sermon on the Mount (see Matt. 5-7), where Jesus shows Himself to be the truest and fullest revelation of God. As His enemies’ opposition increases and He heads toward Jerusalem to die, we read the story about the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-8). Jesus takes His closest friends to a high place, and there they see Him in radiant glory, talking with none other than Moses and Elijah. And finally, Jesus’ last teaching before His arrest and crucifixion—an explanation of the future of the world—happens on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem (Matt. 24-25).

My family spent several summers in Colorado, and we’d often drive from Fort Collins, following the snaking path of the Big Thompson River until we reached Estes Park. Ears popped as we arrived in this little town 7,522 feet above sea level. But that was only the beginning, as Estes Park is the entry point into the glorious Rocky Mountain National Park. We drove our van, filled with two adults and six kids, far up into the Rockies, winding along near the edge of narrow mountain roads, pulling off to play in the snow still there in June. No matter how many times we made this drive, we were all in absolute awe of the vistas on every side.

“God gives us these mountaintop experiences in the Bible and in life so we have direction, a lodestar
by which to navigate and shape our course.”

Whether in Palestine or in Colorado, in the ancient world or today, mountain views take our breath away, wake us up, and give us something unique. Vistas give us vision. From physical heights, we can see farther and clearer. The same is true of spiritual heights. God gives us these mountaintop experiences in the Bible and in life so we have direction, a lodestar by which to navigate and shape our course. We need a panoramic view in order to know how to direct the desires and decisions of our lives toward God and His goodness. But we also need valleys.

Valleys, not just vistas, are places where we see God. Herein lies a paradox at the heart of Christianity. Mountaintop experiences help us chart our course, but deep valley experiences help us know God and ourselves most profoundly. When we are broken, helpless, in dark and low places, we come to see in a different way. The Puritans called this startling experience “the valley of vision.” The Scriptures are filled with examples of this puzzling truth.

In the Old Testament, we can point to many people who knew this valley of vision. One example comes from the prayer that Jonah uttered when he was in the belly of the great fish—a place far lower even than an earthly valley (Jonah 2:1-9). Topside, Jonah was rebellious and running his own way. When he found himself at “the roots of the mountains” (Jonah 2:6), with seaweed wrapped about his head, he saw God and His kindness clearly. Or consider Job, a man who knew God well but, after his deep valley of physical and emotional pain, came to see God unlike ever before. Referring to the time before his valley, Job told God, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,” but afterwards he said, “My eye sees You” (Job 42:5).

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Our Example to Follow

Greg Laurie, crosswalk.com

Our Example to Follow

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. – (Mark 9:2–3 NKJV)

The miracle of the Transfiguration wasn’t that Jesus shined like the sun; the miracle was that He didn’t shine like the sun all the time. When Jesus came to Earth, He never gave up His deity. But we might say that He shrouded His glory and laid aside the privileges of His deity.

Jesus Christ is God. He is a member of the Trinity, coequal and coeternal with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. Jesus was God before He was born, and He remained God after He became man. His deity was prehuman, pre-Mary, and pre-Bethlehem.

Jesus laid aside not His deity, but the privileges of deity, to model what it is to be a servant. Paul told the believers in Philippi, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5–7).

We are to follow His example. If Jesus could lay aside the privileges of divinity, then how much more should we, as human beings with sinful hearts, be willing to put the needs of others above ourselves?

This isn’t easy. In fact, we could say that it’s virtually impossible—apart from the power of the Spirit. This is not so much about imitation as much as it is about impartation—Christ Himself living in us and giving us His love and power. It’s the only way we can put the needs of another person above our own, love people whom we really don’t like all that much, or effectively die to ourselves. It seems impossible. But this is the way God has called us to live.

Peter: An Unlikely Hero of Faith

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Peter: An Unlikely Hero of Faith

He was a relatively successful businessman — a tradesman, heartily plying his craft with a small fleet of fishing boats that he shared with his brother and his friends. He knew the sea, his boats, his friends, his family — and as a God-fearing Jewish man, he knew his religion. But religion was more for the formative years. It was for his wife and his children. It’s not that he didn’t believe, but he was a busy man, trying to earn an honest living and put bread on the table.

He was well-respected among his peers. He was tough. He was wise to the ways of the world. He was no nonsense. He called it the way he saw it — no frills, no pretense, no foolishness. He was the kind of man who would fish all night to bring in a catch.

So when this man called Jesus arrived in his hometown of Capernaum on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, Peter paid little attention to all the chatter about the young religious teacher.

But that all changed when Jesus decided to teach the multitude at the edge of the sea.

It had been another difficult, exhausting night for Peter, his brother Andrew, and their friends James and John. Even with all of the years of experience, and the tricks of the trade, sometimes you come up empty-handed. Peter was tired and frustrated, and the crowd pressing around them as they cleaned their nets was making him furious. The nets needed to be stowed away, and he wanted to hurry home to get some sleep.

Suddenly Jesus called to him, “Simon, I’m going to jump into your boat. Push me out a little way so that I can speak to the crowd.”

“Oh great,” Simon thought, “I’m going to have to wait until he’s done preaching before I can go home.” Now he was boiling with frustration. But he had no choice. The entire town had gathered to hear this rabbi. How would he look to his friends if he refused? Reluctantly he pushed the boat out into deeper water.

Jesus stood up in the boat and began teaching the crowd. Peter tried to ignore him as he continued tidying up the boat, but even through his frustration the words spoken by this young man captured his attention. His teaching was not pompous and full of religious pleasantries like other teachers of the law. The words of Jesus were simple, straight to the point, and practical.

Simon kept working on the nets, but Jesus now had his ear.

Jesus had captured Peter’s attention, but now he was ready to capture his heart. When he finished his sermon he called to Peter, “Simon, take your boat out into the deeper water and let down your nets for a catch.”

Peter had just finished stowing away his neatly-folded nets. The impromptu religious service was over. The boat was tidy. It was time to go home for a few hours of sleep. Who did this teacher think he was talking to, anyway? The fish weren’t cooperating.

Standing chest-deep in the water next to his boat Simon paused for a moment to asses the situation. He didn’t want to be rude. After all, this was an impressive teacher of the law. Looking up at Jesus he responded with a slight laugh, “Master, we have fished all night and caught nothing.”

He paused and waited for Jesus to respond. Surely he would yield to the wisdom of a seasoned fisherman. But Jesus didn’t bat an eye. He simply smiled and waited for Peter to enter the world of wonder that lay before him.

The seafarer looked around for support from his partners, but their raised eyebrows and puzzled looks provided no way of escape for him. The whole town stood on the muddy shoreline waiting for his response. Again he laughed and turned his face toward Jesus. Slowly the words slipped passed his lips, “But at your word, we’ll let down our nets.”

Though they were exhausted, the small band smiled as they climbed into the boats and pushed out to sea — destined to begin an adventure of faith that would take them beyond their wildest dreams.

Peter knew exactly where he wanted to go; just out far enough to be in the deep water, but not so far that they couldn’t get back to shore quickly when they proved to Jesus who knew more about fishing.

The young rabbi sat silently in the bow of the vessel — a slight smile raised the corners of his mouth as he watched the men methodically carry out their assignments. Peter was particularly gruff as he barked out orders to the other men. He was used to being in charge, and he didn’t like being led where he didn’t want to go, especially when he was tired. “Come on, John, pay attention. Keep the lines tight,” he snarled at the youngest, and most impressionable of the group.

At the count of three they heaved the nets into the turquoise-colored water. Immediately the nets churned with activity. Across the surface of the sea, silver-bellied fish slithered over each other in a frenzied dance. Instinct took over and Peter hollered, “Bring it in, bring it in.” The men snapped into action, the muscles in their arms and legs straining as they pulled thousands of glimmering fish into the boats. The weight of the catch was so massive that the nets themselves began to break.

Jesus joined in the laughter as he watched the men fill both of the vessels so full of fish that they began sinking. “Bail some of the catch, quickly,” Peter hollered to his mates.

As the fish writhed and hopped in the bottom of the boat Jesus stood and grabbed hold of the mainsail. Suddenly the reality of the situation struck Peter and he shuddered. This was certainly not a normal catch, and this man now standing above him, his long hair whipping in the Galilean wind was no ordinary man. Peter stopped and looked up at Jesus. It was as if this teacher could see right through him. He felt almost naked before him, like Jesus was able to read his thoughts and see every wicked thing he had ever done.

This Jesus was truly a man sent from God.

Peter lost the strength in his legs and fell down to his knees among the fish at Jesus’ feet. Unable to raise his eyes to meet the gaze of this man of power Peter declared in a quivering voice, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” The others stopped their activity and watched the drama unfold. With a look of gentleness and compassion Jesus leaned over and put his hand on the back of Peter’s neck. Trembling, the fisherman looked up into his eyes through tears as Jesus declared, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be a fisher of men.”

Peter didn’t know exactly what he meant by this, but he did know that his life would never be the same. When Jesus gave him the command to follow him he did so without hesitation. It was the beginning of an odyssey with Christ that would challenge and perplex him; that would take him to the dizzying heights of transfiguration and miraculous power, and the grinding depths of betrayal and bewilderment.

And along the way, Jesus would provide one opportunity after another for this outspoken born-leader to be tested, and tried, and to be sifted like wheat. But in the end, Jesus would establish Peter as an Apostle of Faith. And on the day of Pentecost, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter would shake himself loose from the coils of his ordinary life, and live an extraordinary existence that would turn the ancient world upside down!

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Peter and the Revelation

~

We find this passage in Matthew 16:13-20 (NASB):

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’

“He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?'”

“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'”

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.'”

“Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.”

We see here that Jesus had led his disciples north from the predominantly Jewish territory, more than likely to escape the crowds and to spend time privately with his disciples. They have journeyed some twenty-five miles (and seventeen hundred feet uphill) from the Lake of Galilee to the source of the Jordan River near the ancient city of Dan. This was the northern boundary of ancient Israel.

The area had only recently been renamed Caesarea Philippi, and it was the most paganized territory in Israel. It was famous for its grotto where people worshiped the Greek god Pan.

Jesus is not swayed by the paganism of the territory — in fact, he doesn’t even mention it. By leading his disciples to this place, we can see the theme of Jesus’ universal mission in his Gospel. This fits in to the overall message behind this interaction with Simon Peter: that Jesus is the Christ and the time had come for Him to be revealed to the world outside of Judaism – first by His death and resurrection. Then, as the Great Commission of Matthew 28 declares, He is to be revealed by the witness of these followers going into the whole world to make other disciples.

The Matthew 16 passage is a kind of “final test” for the disciples under Jesus’ tutelage. Like all students, the disciples had to pass the final exam before they were sent out into the world. Jesus had trained his followers to teach others, and therefore it was highly important that they should understand the truth themselves.

Jesus gathers his disciples on the side of this small mountain and asks the key question: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

Peter once again takes his role as the spokesman for the group: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Since the early part of his ministry, Jesus had avoided the word Messiah or Christ because of its political meaning to the people. But now Peter plainly calls Jesus the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Son of the God, the Living One.

This great confession of Peter shows that he and the other disciples believe in Jesus as the Messiah and are still true to him in spite of the defection of many of the other disciples. The inner circle of disciples express their conviction in the Messiahship or Christhood of Jesus as opposed to the divided opinions of the populace.

Far from correcting or rebuking Peter for his declaration, Jesus blesses him and accepts the confession as true. Thereby Jesus solemnly claims to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God — He reveals His deity at this crucial moment.

Jesus declares to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church…” (verses 17-18)

The question that is raised from this passage is, “Who is the rock that Jesus is referring to?”

Theologians provide three main interpretations:

  • Peter is the rock;
  • Jesus is the rock;
  • The revelation that Peter receives is the rock

From the Greek we can see the meaning behind the verse. Jesus declares, “You are Petros,” which means ‘small pebble,’ “and on this Petra,” which means ‘rock’ or ‘boulder,’ “I will build my Church.”

Jesus is not saying that Peter is “the rock.” He calls him the “small pebble.” And He is not pointing to Himself in this passage, though in other parts of the Bible we see Jesus referred to as “the rock.” But in this passage, Jesus is declaring that His church will be built on “the rock of revelation” from above; that is, the revelation from God in heaven about the true identity of Jesus as the Christ.

It is by revelation through the Holy Spirit that we come to know that Jesus is, in fact, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. This brings us to the point of repentance and opens the doors for us to become born again as children of God. It is through this divine interaction that each of us become Christians — and thus we are part of the Church that Jesus is building.

Later the Apostle Peter would write to the Church, “…you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5 NASB)

It is likely that Peter was looking back on this intimate moment with Jesus when he declared that every believer is “small stone” that is being fit together into the Church that Christ is building!

In his commentary, Matthew Henry notes that ministers must be examined before they be sent forth, especially concerning their sentiments toward Christ, and who they say that he is; for how can they be owned as ministers of Christ, that are either ignorant or erroneous concerning Christ? “This is a question every one of us should be putting to ourselves, “Who do we say, what kind of one do we say, that the Lord Jesus is?

Henry also points out that Christ reveals his mind to his people gradually – another element of his leadership style. “From that time, when the apostles had made the full confession of Christ, that he was the Son of God, he began to show them of his sufferings. He spoke this to set right the mistakes of his disciples about the outward pomp and power of his kingdom. Those that follow Christ, must not expect great or high things in this world. Peter would have Christ to dread suffering as much as he did; but we mistake, if we measure Christ’s love and patience by our own.”

This discourse provides a major turning point in the Gospel of Matthew. The confession and rebuke of Peter is placed just before the transfiguration of Jesus in chapter 17, indicating the end of Jesus’ Galilean Ministry and beginning of His journey to Jerusalem, and the march to his death and resurrection — the gateway to the birth of the Church!

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Streams in the Desert – July 27

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

Prove me now (Malachi 3:10).

What is God saying here but this: “My child, I still have windows in Heaven. They are yet in service. The bolts slide as easily as of old. The hinges have not grown rusty. I would rather fling them open, and pour forth, than keep them shut, and hold back. I opened them for Moses, and the sea parted. I opened them for Joshua, and Jordan rolled back. I opened them for Gideon, and hosts fled. I will open them for you–if you will only let Me.

On this side of the windows, Heaven is the same rich storehouse as of old. The fountains and streams still overflow. The treasure rooms are still bursting with gifts. The lack is not on my side. It is on yours. I am waiting. Prove Me now. Fulfill the conditions, on your part. Bring in the tithes. Give Me a chance.
–Selected

I can never forget my mother’s very brief paraphrase of Malachi 3:10. The verse begins, “Bring ye the whole tithe in,” and it ends up with “I will pour” the blessing out till you’ll be embarrassed for space. Her paraphrase was this: Give all He asks; take all He promises.”
–S. D. Gordon

The ability of God is beyond our prayers, beyond our largest prayers! I have been thinking of some of the petitions that have entered into my supplication innumerable times. What have I asked for? I have asked for a cupful, and the ocean remains! I have asked for a sunbeam, and the sun abides! My best asking falls immeasurably short of my Father’s giving: it is beyond that we can ask.
–J. H. Jowett