Tag Archives: LOVE

We are Uniquely and Wonderfully Made

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Why Do I Exist?

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Senior writer, desiringGod.org

Am I failing at life? Am I succeeding? And why do I exist in the first place?

These questions are huge, we all ask them, and thankfully the Bible helps us with answers in the form of a litmus test.

We are made by God to image him in the world. That’s our purpose. Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

But what exactly does this mean for my life?

Such a simple sentence can put you on a long search in the attempt to wrap your arms around the full implications. It turns out, what it means to be made in God’s image comes with a lot of right answers.

“Historically,” John Piper said in one Ask Pastor John episode, “people have said to be made in God’s image is our morality, our sense of right and wrong. Our rationality, our ability to reason. Our spirituality, our ability to relate to God. Our aesthetic sense — you don’t find too many monkeys creating Mona Lisas. Our judicial sense, the whole legal system, a sense of right and wrong and justice and injustice. And I think, frankly, all of those are true and aspects of what it means to be in God’s image” (episode 153).

And they all help to inform why we stand for the dignity of all human life, including the unborn, the disabled, the terminally sick, and the elderly.

The bottom line is, image bearing has a lot of right definitions because we are unique and complex creatures made by an infinite and gloriously multifaceted God.

But what I find especially interesting is how Pastor John focuses on one meaning that often gets missed, perhaps for its simplicity. But to find this one point, there’s not one place to go, not simply one book chapter on image bearing. How he explains our role as image-bearers is consistent, but it’s also scattered throughout John Piper’s articles, paragraphs in books, statements, interviews, and forewords. I’ll attempt to gather and superglue together the image-bearing picture.

Glory Spreaders

First and fundamentally, to image God means in our most human selves, we are spreaders. In his foreword to Sam Crabtree’s book Practicing Affirmation, Piper writes: “The point of being created in the image of God is that human beings are destined to display God. That’s what images do. And the point of being redeemed by Jesus, and renewed after the image of our Creator, is to recover this destiny” (7).

The imago dei remains present even in fallen humanity, but in a marred and broken capacity. Redemption recovers some of the lost luster and amplifies the spread.

Next, in his seminal book Desiring God, Piper goes on to explain: “According to the text [Genesis 1:26–27], creation exists for man. But since God made man like himself, man’s dominion over the world and his filling the world is a display — an imaging forth — of God. God’s aim, therefore, was that man would so act that he would mirror forth God, who has ultimate dominion. Man is given the exalted status of image-bearer, not so he would become arrogant and autonomous (as he tried to do in the Fall), but so he would reflect the glory of his Maker, whose image he bears. God’s purpose in creation, therefore, was to fill the earth with his own glory. This is made clear, for example, in Numbers 14:21, where the Lord says, ‘All the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD,’ and in Isaiah 43:7, where the Lord refers to His people as those ‘whom I created for my glory’” (314).

Image bearers are glory spreaders. But this still remains rather abstract and can be made more concrete.

Marble (Likeness)

Piper illuminates his point with a metaphor of marble in a few paragraphs published in the book A Holy Ambition (2011). There Piper says:

Books by the hundreds have been written on the imago dei, as it’s called. It’s a huge issue.

I’m going to avoid the whole controversy and say something much simpler, and I think just as profound: Images are created to image. Right? Why do you ever set up an image of anything? To image it!

You put up a statue of Stalin, you want people to look at Stalin and think about Stalin. You put up a statue of George Washington to be reminded of the founding fathers. Images are made to image. So if God made us, unlike all the other animals, in his image, whatever it means in detail, this it means clearly: God is the reality and we are the image. Images are created to set forth the reality.

Why did God create man? To show God! He created little images so that they would talk and act and feel in a way that reveals the way God is. So people would look at the way you behave, look at the way you think, the way you feel, and say, “God must be great, God must be real.” That is why you exist.

God didn’t create you as an end in yourself. He’s the end, you’re the means. And the reason that’s such good news is because the best way to show that God is infinitely valuable is to be supremely happy in him. If God’s people are bored with God, they are really bad images. God is not unhappy about himself. He is infinitely excited about his own glory. (41)

We are made in the likeness of God to exhibit his presence on earth. From here there’s one more puzzle piece to bring into the discussion.

Mirrors (Reflective)

Back in APJ episode #153, Piper again picked up the point about statues, asking, “What would it mean if you created seven billion statues of yourself and put them all over the world? It would mean you would want people to notice you.”

Then he transitions from marble to mirrors, to explain how we reflect God:

Here’s the picture in my mind. I was created like a mirror. And a mirror that was supposed to be at 45-degrees with the clear reflective side pointing upward so that as God shone on it at the 45-degree angle, it would bounce off and it would make a 90-degree turn and be reflected out into the world.

In the fall, Satan persuaded me that my image is more beautiful than God’s image, and so I flip the mirror over. Now the black back side is towards God. It doesn’t reflect anything. Instead, the mirror casts a shadow in the shape of itself on the ground. And we have been preferring ourselves over God ever since.

And in salvation two things happen. The mirror gets turned around and we see the glory of God again and the defilement gets wiped off gradually and we begin to reflect God.

So I think being created in the image of God means that we image God. We reflect God. We live in a way, we think in a way, we feel in a way, we speak in a way that calls attention to the brightness of the glory of God.

So Why Do I Exist?

Putting all these pieces together we can see one precious implication for why God created us. We are spreaders of God’s glory. To be made in God’s image means, at a foundational level, we were created to show the world how precious and deeply satisfying God is. If people look at our lives and see only self-absorption, they get the light-sucking side of a mirror, and we fail to be what God fully created us to be, for we fail to cast the grandeur and magnificence of God back into the world.

For us to live out this purpose of our redeemed life, for our lives to shine with the glory of God, our self-centered sin must be overcome. That is what God is doing by his Spirit. We are being changed into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4Colossians 1:153:10Romans 8:29).

Piece-by-piece, we are beginning to tell the world, through our lives and our words and our affections, that God alone is awesome. The praise of God’s glory will one day fill the globe, through us, and nothing will give us greater joy.

For this end we were created. For this end we exist eternally. For this end we turn back into the tasks and opportunities of our lives now.

God’s Masterpiece

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Cathy Irvin, Author, 1.cbn.com

Have you ever sat and really looked at God’s handiwork? Isn’t it amazing? You can see the starlit sky at night. The stars seem to shine like diamonds. Or have you ever watched the heavens at dawn when it looks like a blazing orange canvas? Even when stormy days come, filled with gray skies and torrents of rainfall, and winds sway the trees like they are dancing, it is a sight to see the wonders of God’s artistic hand.

I couldn’t help from daydreaming the other day as I gazed out my window. I watched the lightning and heard the thunder. The rain was so heavy you could hardly see the shapes of the trees. The Creator of the universe created all that artwork. Our minds are captivated at the wonders of God’s creation. Flowers bounce back after torrents of rain. Birds and squirrels even sit in the trees as if to watch what is happening around them. Yet in all this beautiful scenery there is something greater.

His greatest masterpiece is you and me. Wow! When the Lord created the heavens and the earth, He rested and said all that He made was good. Yet, something was missing – us. So, He made man in the image and likeness of Himself. Man and woman were created to have fellowship with God. We weren’t the afterthought in creation. We were the special finishing touches. He longs for the day when He shall gather His children and we shall be with Him for all eternity.

The Lord dropped a thought in my heart. He loves us so much he chose not to live without us at the beginning of creation nor when He went to the cross! We are His greatest work of art, so valuable that He says we are the apples of His eye.

For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. Zechariah 2:8 (KJV)

He says we are His workmanship

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (KJV)

Next time you look in the mirror, see what God sees and cherish your time on this earth. Take time to tell Him how much you love Him and all He has done for you. Try not to take life for granted, but rather value it. I see the tiny newborn baby who looks for someone to hold it and take care of it. I am glad that their mother chose not to abort them. Then I think of the sick and elderly people, and how they look to the Lord to help them.

The point I am trying to make is that you are the most prized possession God has. You are His masterpiece. What matters most to Him is you. He loves you.

 

You Were Made for More

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I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. — Ephesians 1:18-19

Thought for the Day: We were made for more! More than this failure, more than this vicious cycle of defeat, more than being ruled by our taste buds, body image, rationalizations, and guilt. We were made for victory.

More than once, I’ve held the latest, greatest diet book in one hand with my other hand wedged into the back pocket of my ever-tightening jeans. But the thought of taking the plunge and signing up for another diet made me want to sit down and cry. I’d return the book to the shelf, toss my head back, and sigh, “Another day, another time. I’m doing the best I can right now.”

It is so tempting to quit the health struggle entirely and pretend it doesn’t really matter spiritually. But it does matter — and not just for the physical or emotional setbacks. It’s the denial of a fundamental spiritual truth. What is this truth?

Your parents might have told it to you when you got sassy and disrespectful: “More is expected of you. You aren’t a brat, so don’t act like one.”

Your teacher might have told it to you when you turned in a halfhearted term paper: “You have more potential as a student than what you’ve shown here.”

Your friends have definitely said it when your loser boyfriend dumped you: “He didn’t deserve you. You’re worthy of a better love than he could offer.”

Today, your heavenly Father is telling you the same truth:

“You were made for more!”

More than this failure, more than this vicious cycle of defeat, more than being ruled by taste buds, body image, rationalizations, guilt, and shame. You were made for victory!

The apostle Paul writes:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. — Ephesians 1:18-19

Having the eyes of my heart enlightened with truth gives me the great power Paul is referring to here. Saying “I am made for more; I have great power” is a great script to play in our heads every time we’re tempted with guilt, rationalizations, or the “I’ll-do-better- tomorrow” escape clauses.

We need a power beyond our frail attempts and fragile resolve. We need strength greater than our taste buds, hormones, temptations, and our inborn female demand for chocolate. Yes, the truth of who we are and the power to live out that truth — that’s what we need. So, say it out loud with me today: I was made for more!

Dear Lord, thank You for the truth that I am made for more. Please help me to soak this truth in and to live it out. Enlighten the eyes of my heart so I may believe and receive what You have for me today. Show me a new perspective as I seek to honor You with my choices. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

It Takes Risks To Follow Jesus

Matthew 14          Jesus Walks On Water  ( Peter risk his life taking a chance by faith)

28  “Lord, if it is You,” Peter replied, “command me to come to You on the water.”

29  “Come,” said Jesus.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus.

30  But when he saw the strength of the wind,c he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31  Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and took hold of Peter. “You of little faith,” He said, “why did you doubt?”

32  And when they had climbed back into the boat, the wind died down. 

33  Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God!”

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Coyotes and Other Hazardous Threats

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CBN.com Coyotes frequently show up on my street. No, I don’t live in the middle of Montana, I live smack in the middle of Phoenix—a major metropolis. But my neighborhood is bordered by a desert mountain preserve, and since there is no giant wall with a Keep Out sign posted, wildlife and city dwellers often cross paths. My sweet, aging tabby (Bagheera—we called him Baggie) was snatched from our front yard a couple years ago by one of these hungry hunters, never to be seen again.

This can present a problem in that many of us city folk have beloved pets stashed away in our homes and yards. We have the illusion that they are safe but the truth is that a coyote can, and will, jump a six foot fence without breaking stride to get a tasty morsel you affectionately know as Mitzy. Red Tail hawks and Great Horned Owls are also out scouting for sustenance and can swoop down from the sky right into a fenced back yard to grab an eight pound kitty or even a ten pound dog. This was recently demonstrated by the fact that Lucy, an 11 1/2 –pound terrier mutt survived an owl attack because she was just a bit too heavy to be carried away like Toto.

The common thread is that these predators hunt stealthily for food and don’t care about your love affair with it. They also don’t know that it is supposed to be protected.

Just as we are lulled into a false sense of security about our pets’ safety, we often forget that there are hazards all around us that threaten our existence too. They come in the form of busyness that can snatch our attention from our family; fear that can keep us from trying something new; materialism that can cause us to lose perspective; lust which can damage our marriage; pride which can cause us to put ourselves ahead of others and hopelessness which can diminish our faith and rob our joy. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to kill, steal and destroy.

These marauders are just as treacherous as any wily coyote or cunning hawk. They are also insidious. They sneak up on us and we never see them enter our life but they are a serious threat all the same. Prevention is clear; “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Romans 13:14

Just as pet lovers in my ‘hood have to take extra precautions, there are things we can all do to prevent the destructive powers of skewed thinking. Create a checklist and ask yourself these questions periodically:

  • Am I investing my time in things that matter most?
  • Do I take action based on fear or faith?
  • Are there things I love and am not willing to part with?
  • Is my romantic/sexual attention focused on the right spot?
  • Do I acknowledge daily that without God and the support of others I’m pretty average?
  • How successful am I at identifying joy and hope in the midst of trials?

Those questions (and others that come to mind) are the hardware you need to build a protective wall around your heart and mind. Preventing attacks is much wiser (and less painful) than treating a wounded life.

Any personal encounters with one of the natural enemies listed above? I’ve had plenty!

 

A Call for Christian Risk

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By removing eternal risk, Christ calls his people to continual temporal risk.

For the followers of Jesus the final risk is gone. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “Neither death nor life . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). “Some of you they will put to death. . . . But not a hair of your head will perish” (Luke 21:1618). “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

When the threat of death becomes a door to paradise the final barrier to temporal risk is broken. When a Christian says from the heart, “To live is Christ and to die is gain,” he is free to love no matter what. Some forms of radical Islam may entice martyr-murderers with similar dreams, but Christian hope is the power to love, not kill. Christian hope produces life-givers, not life-takers. The crucified Christ calls his people to live and die for their enemies, as he did. The only risks permitted by Christ are the perils of love. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28).

With staggering promises of everlasting joy, Jesus unleashed a movement of radical, loving risk-takers. “You will be delivered up even by parents . . . and some of you they will put to death” (Luke 21:16). Only some. Which means it might be you and it might not. That’s what risk means. It is not risky to shoot yourself in the head. The outcome is certain. It is risky to serve Christ in a war zone. You might get shot. You might not.

Christ calls us to take risks for kingdom purposes. Almost every message of American consumerism says the opposite: Maximize comfort and security – now, not in heaven. Christ does not join that chorus. To every timid saint, wavering on the edge of some dangerous gospel venture, he says, “Fear not, you can only be killed” (Luke 12:4). Yes, by all means maximize your joy! How? For the sake of love, risk being reviled and persecuted and lied about, “for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12).

There is a great biblical legacy of loving risk-takers. Joab, facing the Syrians on one side and the Ammonites on the other, said to his brother Abishai, “Let us be courageous for our people . . . and may the LORD do what seems good to him” (2 Samuel 10:12). Esther broke the royal law to save her people and said, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Shadrach and his comrades refused to bow down to the king’s idol and said, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us . . . But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods” (Daniel 3:16-18). And when the Holy Spirit told Paul that in every city imprisonment and afflictions await him, he said, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course” (Acts 20:24).

“Every Christian,” said Stephen Neil about the early church, “knew that sooner or later he might have to testify to his faith at the cost of his life” (A History of Christian Missions, Penguin, 1964, p. 43). This was normal. To become a Christian was to risk your life. Tens of thousands did it. Why? Because to do it was to gain Christ, and not to was to lose your soul. “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

In America and around the world the price of being a real Christian is rising. Things are getting back to normal in “this present evil age.” Increasingly 2 Timothy 3:12 will make sense: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Those who’ve made gospel-risk a voluntary life-style will be most ready when we have no choice. Therefore I urge you, in the words of the early church, “Let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:13-14).

When God removed all risk above
He loosed a thousand risks of love.

We Plow the Fields

by Inspiration Ministries

The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. – Matthew 13:38 ESV

Matthias Claudius was the son of a Lutheran pastor. After studying theology, he turned his attention to law and languages. Born in 1740 in northern Germany, he loved to write and in 1768, he joined the Hamburg News Agency, first as a writer, then as an editor. He was so influential that he became known as the father of popular German journalism.

In 1782, he heard farmers singing a song that expressed their faith in God and thankfulness for His blessings. Claudius copied the words, which he developed into a hymn. In 1861, Jane Campbell translated the words into English with the title “We Plow the Fields.” These farmers realized that they could “plow the fields, and scatter the good seed,” but they depended on God to feed and water the seed. Claudius, like these farmers, knew that “all good gifts around us are sent from heaven above” and that God alone “is the Maker of all things.”

We see His hand everywhere as “He paints the wayside flower” and “lights the evening star.” We trust Him for we are “His children” and “He gives our daily bread.” Particularly during harvest time, we can marvel at the ways He provides. We see that everything is from Him. Claudius prayed that we would offer Him what He most desires, “our humble, thankful hearts.”

Think about all that God has done for you. Thank Him and show your gratitude by bringing Him your offerings.

 

Streams In The Desert

By: Mrs. L.B. Cowman

Nevertheless afterward (Heb. 12:11).

There is a legend that tells of a German baron who, at his castle on the Rhine, stretched wires from tower to tower, that the winds might convert them into an Aeolian harp. And the soft breezes played about the castle, but no music was born.

But one night there arose a great tempest, and hill and castle were smitten by the fury of the mighty winds. The baron went to the threshold to look out upon the terror of the storm, and the Aeolian harp was filling the air with strains that rang out even above the clamor of the tempest. It needed the tempest to bring out the music!

And have we not known men whose lives have not given out any entrancing music in the day of a calm prosperity, but who, when the tempest drove against them have astonished their fellows by the power and strength of their music?

“Rain, rain
Beating against the pane!
How endlessly it pours
Out of doors
From the blackened sky
I wonder why!
Flowers, flowers,
Upspringing after showers,
Blossoming fresh and fair,
Everywhere!
Ah, God has explained
Why it rained!”

You can always count on God to make the “afterward” of difficulties, if rightly overcome, a thousand times richer and fairer than the forward. “No chastening… seemeth joyous, nevertheless afterward…” What a yield

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Today’s lesson on Gratitude

Luke 17:11-19

Jesus Heals Ten Men With Leprosy

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

 

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Cultivating a Spirit of Thankfulness

From: 1.cbn.com, Author: Dianne Neal Matthews

“Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:17b)

Even though we may stuff ourselves at the dinner table, celebrating Thanksgiving can actually make us healthier judging by recent research. Studies have shown that being thankful improves our physical and emotional health. Holding on to feelings of thankfulness boosts our immune system and increases blood supply to our heart. Daily guided exercises or the habit of keeping a weekly gratitude journal can increase our alertness, enthusiasm, and energy, and improve our sleep. People who describe themselves as feeling grateful tend to suffer less stress and depression than the rest of the population.

For all its benefits, gratitude doesn’t come naturally to us. As Jesus passed through a village one day, he was spotted by ten lepers who desperately longed to be healed (Luke 17:11-19). They kept themselves at a distance as required by law but cried out to him, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” Instead of instantly healing the men, Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priest. As the ten lepers walked off to obey, their skin disease disappeared.

One of the men turned around, shouting praises to God as he came back to Jesus. He threw himself at his benefactor’s feet. Jesus expressed amazement that only one man had thought to thank him. “Were not all ten cleansed?” he asked. “Where are the other nine?” He also pointed out that the only man who did respond was a Samaritan, a race despised by the Jewish people.

For Christians, cultivating a spirit of thankfulness is more than a good idea; it’s a direct command from God. In the Old Testament, God laid down specific guidelines for the Israelites to bring thank offerings. In the New Testament, believers are instructed to be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When we’re struggling with trials and difficulties, this sounds like a strange command, especially since we live in a culture that encourages us to act on the basis of how we feel. But God knows that when we focus on our blessings, it’s easier to keep our problems and concerns in the right perspective.

King David never lost his keen awareness of all that God had done for the nation of Israel and for him personally. Even though he experienced disappointment, pain, and heartache, David often poured out his feelings of thankfulness to his Creator and Lord. That gratitude became the foundation of his worship of God.

Cultivating a spirit of thankfulness honors God and strengthens our faith. It also strengthens our relationships with other people. We can’t be in a right relationship with God or with anyone without a spirit of thankfulness. No matter what problems we’re struggling with, we don’t want to be like the nine former lepers who forgot to say “thank you” to their Healer.

I will give thanks to you with all my heart, O Lord my God. I will honor you forever because your mercy toward me is great. Psalm 86:12-13 (God’s Word translation)

Ask yourself: How often do I express gratitude to God or to other people?

 

Expressing Gratitude to God

From: Intouch.org

Psalm 100:1-5

If you’re a Christian, you probably know that thanking the Lord for His blessings is an important aspect of your relationship with Him. But have you ever considered the different ways this can be done? Gratitude isn’t limited to verbal expressions or prayers but can actually be demonstrated in a variety of ways.

In the Psalms, one of the most frequently mentioned methods of conveying thanks is by singing. Songs can often say what our heart feels but has trouble articulating. As the words from our favorite hymns or praise songs flow from our lips, we are reminded of who God is and the magnitude of His salvation and love for us. And singing isn’t reserved just for church. When we’re filled with gratitude, we may find ourselves humming or singing songs that magnify the Lord wherever we are.

Another way to express gratefulness is by serving God—whether through acts of kindness, teaching Sunday school or Bible study, organizing a ministry, reaching out to marginalized people, sharing the gospel with the lost, helping someone in need, or giving financially. Every one of these can be offered to God with an attitude of thanksgiving for all He’s done for us.

Ultimately, we show the Lord our gratitude through obedience. A holy life flows from a heart filled with thankfulness for God’s grace, mercy, love, and salvation. Instead of living for ourselves and our own pleasures, we’ll want to exalt Christ in all that we do, say, and think. And as we allow God’s Spirit to control us, He will faithfully enable us to live in a manner that is pleasing and honoring to the Lord.

 

Glorify God by Giving Thanks


It is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:15)

Gratitude to God is a joyful emotion. We have a sense of joyful indebtedness for his grace. So in a sense in the very emotion of gratitude, we are still the beneficiaries. But by its very nature, gratitude glorifies the giver. When we feel thankful, we acknowledge our need and God’s beneficence, God’s fullness, the riches of his glory.

Just like I humble myself and exalt the server in the restaurant when I say, “Thank you,” so I humble myself and exalt God when I feel gratitude to him. The difference, of course, is that I really am infinitely in debt to God for his grace, and everything he does for me is free and undeserved.

But the point is that gratitude glorifies the giver. It glorifies God. And this is Paul’s final goal in all his labors. Yes, his labors are for the sake of the church — the good of the church. But the church is not the highest goal. Listen again: “It is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” All for your sake — for the glory of God!

The wonderful thing about the gospel is that the response it requires from us for God’s glory is also the response that is most natural and joyful; namely, thankfulness for grace. God’s all-supplying glory in giving and our humble gladness in receiving are not in competition. Joyful thankfulness glorifies God.

A life that gives glory to God for his grace and a life of deepest gladness are the same life. And what makes them one is thankfulness.

 Streams In The Desert

Thou makest the outgoing of the morning and evening to rejoice (Ps. 65:8).

Get up early and go to the mountain and watch God make a morning. The dull gray will give way as God pushes the sun towards the horizon, and there will be tints and hues of every shade, that will blend into one perfect light as the full-orbed sun bursts into view. As the King of day moves forth majestically, flooding the earth and every lowly vale, listen to the music of heaven‘s choir as it sings of the majesty of God and the glory of the morning.

In the holy hush of the early dawn
I hear a Voice
“I am with you all the day,
Rejoice! Rejoice!”

The clear, pure light of the morning made me long for the truth in my heart, which alone could make me pure and clear as the morning, tune me up to the concert-pitch of the nature around me. And the wind that blew from the sunrise made me hope in the God who had first breathed into my nostrils the breath of life; that He would at length so fill me with His breath, His mind, His Spirit, that I should think only His thoughts, and live His life, finding therein my own life, only glorified infinitely.

What should we poor humans do without our God’s nights and mornings?
George MacDonald

“In the early morning hours,
‘Twixt the night and day,
While from earth the darkness passes
Silently away;
“Then ’tis sweet to talk with Jesus
In thy chamber still
For the coming day and duties
Ask to know His will.
“Then He’ll lead the way before you,
Mountains laying low;
Making desert places blossom,
Sweet’ning Marah’s flow.
“Would you know this life of triumph,
Victory all the way?
Then put God in the beginning
Of each coming day.”

Be Wise And Not Foolish

  The parable of a rich fool

Luke 12

16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’

21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

 

 

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Greed is…..Good For Nothing

Hannah Goodwyn, Author: 1.cbn.com

The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. – Gordon Gekko, Wall Street

Michael Douglas personified greed as Gordon Gekko, the money-hungry antagonist in the 1987 movie, Wall Street. His famous “Greed is Good” speech perfectly encapsulates the danger in American Dream thinking. The lifestyle of this beloved/hated character illustrates utter selfishness, yet it intrigues us as we seek our own fortunes.

Recalling this movie scene, I battled my own bit of greed while driving home yesterday. A lottery billboard on the side of the interstate unearthed buried thoughts of greed I didn’t know existed.

290 million dollars. That’s the state’s lotto jackpot, at the moment. It has steadily increased during the past few weeks, and each time I’ve driven past it, thoughts of what I could do with that kind of money flood my mind. At almost 300 million, my wish list could be extensive and not even make a dent in my over-stuffed bank account. I could get:

  • My dream cars: A brand new, silver Aston Martin DB9 (James Bond’s sports car), a bright red 1968 Ford Mustang,
  • My dream house: A custom-built Craftsman bungalow
  • My dream vacation: A ’round the world in 80 days adventure travel package (first-class, of course)
  • My dream boat: A 60′ sailing yacht with crew (I don’t know a thing about sailing)
  • ,,,and more.

In the midst of my vetted list of wants, ideas of how I could give some of the money away comes up when I’ve driven by that billboard. I would:

  • Pay off all of the college debt in my family
  • Sponsor 1,000 well digs
  • Donate to missionary friends who live around the world

As I contemplated what to buy and how much to give away, I quickly realized I was planning my life with money I did not have. Seeing that prize money billboard got me to thinking about actually buying a lottery ticket. That greed seed grew as I considered gambling away my money with the long-shot chance of winning. I’ve never gambled to get a quick buck, but the dream of having a large bank account is a nice thought. And I’m willing to bet that some of you have as well.

In my humanness, I mentally justified my need for an abundance of cash. Sure, I would get a few toys, but “God, I would totally donate money to people in need”. Problem is, am I doing that now, with what He’s already given me?

What the Bible Says about Greed

The Bible instructs us to be good stewards of God’s provision (no matter what tax bracket we are in), instead of wishing for more. It’s one thing to trust the Lord to provide all of our needs in unique ways; it’s another when we’re coveting riches.

Greed brings grief to the whole family… Proverbs 15:27

Greedy people try to get rich quick, but don’t realize they’re headed for poverty. Proverbs 28:22 (This makes sense considering the bankruptcies lotto winners experience after winning more money then they can handle).

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul? Mark 8:36

Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” Luke 12:15

Our God, “who owns the cattle on a thousand hills” (Ps. 50:10), has rightly blessed many with wealth. So having money isn’t the problem. It is the love of money that corrupts, as explained in I Timothy.

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. ITimothy 6:9-10

Be a Giver, Not a Hoarder

My parents didn’t raise me to be a greedy person. But I must confess, I tend to lean toward holding money instead of giving it freely. Realizing my disobedience (according these scriptures), my prayer this year is “God, give me clear opportunities to be a giver, instead of a hoarder.”

Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do. Deuteronomy 15:10

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them. Proverbs 3:27

Some people are always greedy for more, but the godly love to give! Proverbs 21:26

Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed. Proverbs 28:27

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.  After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.  So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.I Timothy 6:6-8

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?”

 

A Spirit of Foolishness

by Inspiration Ministries

“Where are your wise counselors, Pharaoh? Let them tell you what God plans, what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is going to do to Egypt. The officials of Zoan are fools, and the officials of Memphis are deluded… The Lord has sent a spirit of foolishness on them, so all their suggestions are wrong. They cause Egypt to stagger like a drunk in his vomit.” Isaiah 19:12-14 NLT

These political and military leaders were so confident! They felt sure that they were “so wise.” That they knew exactly what to do. That they had the right understanding and necessary experience.

But God wanted to demonstrate that, before Him, their wisdom, knowledge, and intelligence meant nothing. Before Him, these “wise” men were deluded. In fact, they were fools.

God’s people might have been intimidated. But He wanted them realize that He could transform circumstances and make even the wisest appear foolish, and the best-laid plans look like utter confusion.

God said He would pour “a spirit of foolishness” into these leaders and wise men. That He had “mingled a spirit of perverseness, error, and confusion” within them (Amplified). We can picture leaders perpetually dizzy, their minds spinning around, with all their plans and analyses in utter disarray, looking foolish.

How easily we can place our faith and trust in “experts.” To focus on the opinions of people who get attention through the media. But the Bible reminds us that the world’s wisdom quickly can become foolishness and it tells us to remember that the “wisdom” of men and nations quickly fades, and is so temporary.

Instead, we need to trust in God. To remember that His wisdom lasts forever, and is true in all generations, and situations. It is true regardless of the opinions of other people.

Don’t be deceived by worldly wisdom. Trust in God, and seek His wisdom, for every situation you face.

 

Streams In The Desert

For with God nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37).

Far up in the Alpine hollows, year by year God works one of His marvels. The snow-patches lie there, frozen with ice at their edge from the strife of sunny days and frosty nights; and through that ice-crust come, unscathed, flowers that bloom.

Back in the days of the by-gone summer, the little soldanelle plant spread its leaves wide and flat on the ground, to drink in the sun-rays, and it kept them stored in the root through the winter. Then spring came, and stirred the pulses even below the snow-shroud, and as it sprouted, warmth was given out in such strange measure that it thawed a little dome in the snow above its head.

Higher and higher it grew and always above it rose the bell of air, till the flower-bud formed safely within it: and at last the icy covering of the air-bell gave way and let the blossom through into the sunshine, the crystalline texture of its mauve petals sparkling like snow itself as if it bore the traces of the flight through which it had come.

And the fragile thing rings an echo in our hearts that none of the jewel-like flowers nestled in the warm turf on the slopes below could waken. We love to see the impossible done. And so does God.

Face it out to the end, cast away every shadow of hope on the human side as an absolute hindrance to the Divine, heap up all the difficulties together recklessly, and pile as many more on as you can find; you cannot get beyond the blessed climax of impossibility. Let faith swing out to Him. He is the God of the impossible.
Selected

God Is In Control, Even In Storms

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Grateful even for the Storms

“He lifted me out of the pit of destruction, out of the sticky mud. He stood me on a rock and made my feet steady.” Psalm 40:2 (NCV)

Our family has a Thanksgiving tradition where we go around the table and share what we are thankful for as we remember how God had blessed us that year.

It starts out with simple things: marriage, a new baby in the family or a promotion at work. And then there’s that one teenage cousin who always says something about pizza.

Just as the comments quiet down, a family member — never the same person from year to year — turns the entire room to silence with a story of God’s faithfulness to them through heartache. The Kleenex box is retrieved from the hall bathroom, and it’s passed down the line to soak up all the tear-drenched faces.

There are tears of joy and even tears of sorrow and grief. The tears come from a gratefulness to God for walking beside them during a health issue or the loss of a loved one. For God remaining steadfast when they were lonely, desperate and brokenhearted. Even if the storm is still raging, they feel His presence.

Everyone has different family traditions, but we all encounter the storms of life. Harsh and threatening as they seem at first, storms have the ability to pave a unique path to thankfulness.

November is an especially thank-filled time for me. This year marks the fourth anniversary of my biggest storm yet — brain surgery to remove a tumor. Learning to trust God through the excruciating headaches, dizziness and mental confusion, and relying on His strength, instead of my own, was a blessing in disguise.

Sleepless nights gave way to prayers, and surrendering my expectations turned my sadness to joy. Despite the long road to recovery, I was able to accept God’s will and even be thankful for it.

When life is easy, gratefulness is easy. But not in the storms. Not in the worried nights of anxiety or the lonely house begging for the sound of a familiar voice. Not in the empty nursery or pocketbook. Not in the hospital when pacing the waiting room hoping for good news. Gratefulness hinges on our willingness to accept God’s will over our own. Accepting that He is in control, and we can trust Him.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we see God’s instruction to always be thankful: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

In the storms of life, God is our only hope. His faithfulness and His goodness are present even during the darkest storm. It might not happen immediately, but thankfulness grows as we cling to Him. We are grateful not only for the joys of restored health and overcoming grief, but for the sorrows that brought us to a place of utter dependence on Jesus.

This Thanksgiving — before your family digs into the pumpkin pie — reflect on what God has done this year. Offer gratitude not only for the “easy-sailing” blessings, but also for the storms.

 

God Is In Control

 

Read Psalms 139:13-16

David, the great psalmist, sings praises to the God who created him and watched over him even as he was growing in his mother’s womb.

Adopted

Some years ago, my mum disclosed that my brother and I were adopted. At first, I was shaken, But I wasn’t shaken loose. Even as the underpinnings of my world were shifting radically, they were resettling in a more secure place.

The truth of God’s love was holding me together.

I knew God loved me, unquestionably, unconditionally, whether I was adopted or not. His love is relentless, unyielding, passionate, unfailing, perfect. A feeling of peace, supernatural peace, engulfed me. Everything was going to be okay. That may seem like an odd conclusion, in light of the fact that my life, or at least everything I’d thought I knew about my life, was unraveling before my eyes. Nevertheless, I felt undaunted because of an unchanging, never-failing truth:

God was in control of my life.

For more than a decade, I’d immersed myself daily in God’s Word. I had memorized countless verses about God’s love for me. I desperately needed His love, and when I read how He loved me, I soaked it up. I meditated upon those words, pondered and prayed over them. I found life in them. The words contained promises that excited me. Now those promises were holding me.

The truth you store up in silence comes back to you in the storm and lifts you away as on a life raft from the fears and disappointments that would otherwise pull you under. When you abide in His Word, He abides in you.

God knew me and loved me before I was even me. He knew me before I was born, and throughout my adoption, and He knew me even now that I wasn’t sure who I was anymore. He loved me despite any trouble I found myself in or challenges I faced. I could mess up or melt down and He would love me still. I could be ashamed of where I came from or try to hide who I was, and God would still love me, knowing me better than I knew myself. He loved me so much that He would always have my back in any challenge or distress, and He would go before me through anything unknown.

 

Kingdoms of this World

by Inspiration Ministries

I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. – Matthew 16:18 ESV

Arthur Coxe was the son of a well-known minister. Born in New Jersey in 1818, he went on to become an important pastor, church leader, and composer of many hymns.

One of his most memorable compositions describes his insights into the nature of the kingdoms of this world. Written in 1839, “O Where Are Kings and Empires Now?” urged worshipers to realize how limited human power is, how little we really understand, and how quickly the things of this world change. Coxe asked, “O where are kings and empires now of old, that went and came”? In contrast, God never changes. His kingdom always is secure.

Churches may be attacked. Believers may make mistakes. But in spite of opposition, the church lasts throughout every storm and controversy: “Unshaken as eternal hills, immovable she stands, a mountain that shall fill the earth, a house not made by hands.” How easy it can be to focus on the kingdoms of this world and the things that seem important today. Coxe would urge us to remember that all of these people and things are temporary.

As Paul reminds us, we should not look at the “things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” Make sure that you focus on God’s Kingdom. For all the things we see around us are just temporary. In contrast, “the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). These are the things of God!

 

Streams in the Desert – November 26

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

By: L.B.Cowman

And Caleb said unto her, What wouldest thou? Who answered, give me a blessing; for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And he gave her the upper springs, and the nether springs (Joshua 15:18-19).

There are both upper and nether springs. They are springs, not stagnant pools. There are joys and blessings that flow from above through the hottest summer and the most desert land of sorrow and trial. The lands of Achsah were “south lands,” lying under a burning sun and often parched with burning heat. But from the hills came the unfailing springs, that cooled, refreshed and fertilized all the land.

There are springs that flow in the low places of life, in the hard places, in the desert places, in the lone places, in the common places, and no matter what may be our situation, we can always find these upper springs. Abraham found them amid the hills of Canaan. Moses found them among the rocks of Midian. David found them among the ashes of Ziklag when his property was gone, his family captives and his people talked of stoning him, but “David encouraged himself in the Lord.” Habakkuk found them when the fig tree was withered and the fields were brown, but as he drank from them he could sing: “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord and joy in the God of my salvation.”

Isaiah found them in the awful days of Sennacherib’s invasion, when the mountains seemed hurled into the midst of the sea, but faith could sing: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. God is in the midst of her: she shall not be moved.”

The martyrs found them amid the flames, and reformers amid their foes and conflicts, and we can find them all the year if we have the Comforter in our hearts and have learned to say with David: “All my springs are in thee.”

How many and how precious these springs, and how much more there is to be possessed of God’s own fulness! —A. B. Simpson

I said: “The desert is so wide!”
I said: “The desert is so bare!
What springs to quench my thirst are there?
Whence shall I from the tempest hide?”
I said: “The desert is so lone!
Nor gentle voice, nor loving face
Will brighten any smallest space.”
I paused or ere my moan was done!
I heard a flow of hidden springs;
Before me palms rose green and fair;
The birds were singing; all the air
Did shine and stir with angels’ wings!
And One said mildly: “Why, indeed,
Take over-anxious thought for that
The morrow bringeth! See you not
The Father knoweth what you need?”

–Selected

You Are God’s Precious Jewel

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Jeweled Chicken Sandals

Diane Virginia, Author, 1.cbn.com

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“Mom, I fed the chickens. Here’s your sandals back,” my daughter said.

“Back?” I tried to hide my dismay, “You wore the jeweled ones?” The odor rising from the pleather revealed the answer.

“I just borrowed them quick.”

I glanced at my jeweled sandals. As pretty as they were, they now had a designated purpose. I would use them when I fetched eggs or cared for my hens. My jeweled sandals were now the purtiest’ chicken sandals I’d ever owned. They stank. Bad stank. Invading the kitchen stank. I dropped the sandals outside, closed the door, and blew my nose.

As unusual as it may seem, I knew my daughter’s quick grab happened for a purpose. It reminded me I am called to holiness. The Apostle Paul writes,

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9 KJV)”

This verse reminds me that in the spiritual realm I am called to keep out of the chicken coop. But there’s more…

Because I’ve been trapped in the coop before, this reminds me to help my friends. We need each other. When I think of how often I’ve gotten trapped inside the coop, and proceeded to walk wherever I willed until someone extended a hand of mercy to me, this makes it easy to extend a helping hand. 1 Peter 2:10 reads,

“Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. (KJV)”

God puts us in a spiritual family, and I choose to be available when my friends are needing prayer, a hand up, or just a listening ear so they can work through a chicken coop situation.

The Bible is infallible. Every answer is in the Book. But I am called to have more than head-knowledge — I am called to have a vital relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ. As I cultivate a relationship with Jesus, I become like Him. As I spend this time with Him, He tucks the gift of love inside my person.

I’ll never arrive, this side of heaven, even though I want to be completely holy. But I know every moment I spend with my Jesus is cleansing. He is the One I can count on to create in me the holiness I desire as I rest in His presence, read and meditate on His Word, and receive His love. I cherish these times with my Lord.

Every time I wear my jeweled chicken sandals, I’ll be reminded of three spiritual truths:

  1. I am called to stay out of the coop,
  2. I need to be available to rescue friends who are in the coop, and
  3. I am my best self when I maintain a vital relationship with Jesus.

Father God, help me to live a life that is pleasing to You by following Christ.

 

When Your Grumbles Humble You… and Finding Gratitude Instead

Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! — James 3:9-10

I’d been having huge, grumbly blowups. Mostly on Fridays. It was not pretty. This had been my worst day for grumbling in a long time. Friday was the end of a long week, and the house was always a disaster. On Thursdays we had therapy all day, followed by me serving at the teen mom support group at night. I usually came home exhausted, got the kids in bed, then collapsed into bed myself. Reality would hit on Friday when all the mess from Thursday (and typically days before that) displayed itself in unrelenting, grubby chaos.

One day frustration rose within me as I surveyed the house.

“Whose shoes are these? Why is leftover food from last night still on the table? And why is there dirty underwear by the back door?”

The children jumped to attention. They rushed around picking up things, and I could see on their faces they didn’t want to do anything that would make me more upset. Too bad even their frenzied cleaning didn’t work to calm my spirit. I ranted for at least ten more minutes, pointing out scattered toys and each offending piece of crumbled paper, and then, as if I could see a projection of myself in my mind, the reality of how ugly I was being filled me with shame. I paused and glanced around. By this point my kids were yelling at each other. I’d effectively spread around my bad attitude.

It’s Friday… learn to deal with Friday. The thought filled my mind, causing me to still my other thoughts.

Friday came after a long week of homeschooling. Friday came after a long day of running and serving. And why did it make me so upset? Because by Friday I was physically weary. Would it be possible to greet Friday, flaws and all, and just accept it? Or maybe even prepare for it — and conquer it without grumbling — as I had previously encouraged my kids to do? It’s not as though I didn’t understand what triggered me or made me upset. And that’s when the bracelet caught my attention. We had made them to remind our family not to grumble. I can do all things through Him. That meant Fridays too.

By the time we gathered around the table to start our homeschooling day, my kids were somber. No one wore their typical smiles, and I knew I had to seek forgiveness.

I cleared my throat. “Mommy didn’t do a very good job today. My grumbling got out of control. I didn’t act nice. I didn’t control my tongue. And the Bible talks about this.” I opened my Bible to James 3:2 and read,

Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. — NLT

“The Bible says that?” Grace looked surprised.

“Yes, it does. I didn’t do a very good job controlling my tongue this morning. Will you forgive me?”

“Yes, Mom.”

“Of course.”

“We forgive you,” their voices called out.

That was one thing about my kids. When I did mess up and ‘fess up, they were usually quick to forgive.

“I didn’t do a good job of controlling my tongue,” I continued. “And do you know how hard it is to actually tame it? The Bible talks more about it. Listen to this.” I turned back to where I’d been reading.

Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.

But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! — NLT

I paused and lifted my head. “That’s James 3:2–10.”

“No way!” Fifteen-year-old Maddie’s jaw dropped toward her chest. “The Bible really says that? I don’t believe it.” She extended her hand, motioning me to put my Bible into it. I did. She found the passage and her eyes grew wider. “Wow, it really does say that.”

“Yes, and what do you think all that means?”

“Our tongues are hard to control?” Ten-year-old Sissy posed it like a question.

“That’s right. Good job listening.”

“If you don’t watch what you’re saying, you can end up in the middle of troubles,” Maddie said.

“When we’re grumbling, what are we not doing?” I asked.

“Praising!” they all said at once.

“Well, now we’re going to praise together. I’m going to read a few lines of this verse, and you tell me what you notice.” Then I read Psalm 136:1-3 to them.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords:

His love endures forever.

Alexis waved her hand. “Oh, after each part it says, ‘His love endures forever.’ ”

“Yes, exactly. And it does that through the whole chapter — all twenty-six verses. So I’m going to read the first part aloud, and you all say the second part aloud. Got it?”

They all nodded, and I began. I read through the whole psalm, and after each verse they said, “His love endures forever.” As we continued my heart swelled with joy. Tears rimmed my eyes to hear my children praising God in unison, and I began to wonder why I hadn’t done this more often. I also wondered why I had let Fridays take such a hold of me.

It was amazing, really, what could happen when I was willing to humble myself, explain how hard it was to control one’s tongue, and then encourage my kids to turn to praise instead. It didn’t just change the moment. It changed the day.

I looked down to my bracelet again. Yes, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

 

Comfort for the desponding

“Oh that I were as in months past.” Job 29:2

Suggested Further Reading: Galatians 4:11-20

There is such a thing, my dear friends, as your getting into a terribly bad condition through the ministry that you attend. Can it be expected that men should grow in grace when they are never watered with the streams that make glad the city of our God? Can they be supposed to grow strong in the Lord Jesus, when they do not feed on spiritual food? We know some who grumble, Sabbath after Sabbath, and say they can’t hear such and such a minister. Why don’t you buy an ear-trumpet then? Ah! But I mean, that I can’t hear him to my soul’s profit. Then do not go to hear him, if you have tried for a long while and don’t get any profit. I always think that a man who grumbles as he goes out of chapel ought not to be pitied, but whipped, for he can stay away if he likes, and go where he will be pleased. There are plenty of places where the sheep may feed in their own manner; and everyone is bound to go where he gets the pasture most suited to his soul. But you are not bound to run away directly your minister dies, as many of you did before you came here. You should not run away from the ship directly the storm comes, and the captain is gone, and you find her not exactly sea-worthy; stand by her, begin caulking her, God will send you a captain, there will be fine weather by and by, and all will be right. But very frequently a bad minister starves God’s people into walking skeletons, so that you can tell all their bones; and who wonders that they starve out their minister, when they get no nourishment from his ministrations.

For meditation: God provides leaders to build up his people so that they can go on to build up one another (Ephesians 4:11-12). The absence of the leader will show whether the flock can stand on their own feet in the Lord (Philippians 1:27Colossians 2:5).

 

Streams In The Desert

Take the arrows… Smite upon the ground. And he smote twice and stayed. And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times (2 Kings 13:18-19).

How striking and eloquent the message of these words! Jehoash thought he had done very well when he duplicated and triplicated what to him was certainly an extraordinary act of faith. But the Lord and the prophet were bitterly disappointed because he had stopped half way.

He got something. He got much. He got exactly what he believed for in the final test, but he did not get all that the prophet meant and the Lord wanted to bestow. He missed much of the meaning of the promise and the fullness of the blessing. He got something better than the human, but he did not get God’s best.

Beloved, how solemn is the application! How heartsearching the message of God to us! How important that we should learn to pray through! Shall we claim all the fullness of the promise and all the possibilities of believing prayer?
A. B. Simpson

“Unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).

There is no other such piling up of words in Paul’s writings as these, “exceeding abundantly above all,” and each word is packed with infinite love and power to “do” for His praying saints. There is one limitation, “according to the power that worketh in us.” He will do just as much for us as we let Him do in us. The power that saved us, washed us with His own blood, filled us with might by His Spirit, kept us in manifold temptations, will work for us, meeting every emergency, every crisis, every circumstance, and every adversary.
The Alliance

Let God Speak

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Let God Speak

Diane Markins, Author, 1.cbn.com.

Does your prayer time seem a little lack-luster on occasion? I know mine does. God wants to hear from us. He expects us to show up and delights in the minutes we give solely to him. But once in a while it starts to feel a bit contrived and obligatory… going through the motions.

When this happens to me, I change things up. I let God speak to me, through me. Yeah, I know… you’re thinking, “What did she just say?”

When I’ve done the usual: praising, examining my life, sharing it all with the Lord and still feel like I’m in the room alone – I try letting Him talk to me. Based on many years of reading the Bible and getting to know God’s ways, I speak out loud to me as though Jesus were uttering the words. If we follow what it says in Philippians 2:5, this becomes second nature:

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

It may sound a little wacky, but there have been times God has revealed a deep truth, brought renewed joy, increased my faith, and healed my wounded spirit through my own voice using His mind. 1 Corinthians 2:16 says,

“For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

I simply give voice to what I believe God is telling me through His word.

But what if you don’t have the time or place to be alone and share a verbal dialog with God? Write a letter from the Lord to you. It seems that just the right measure of encouragement, wisdom, conviction, and peace will begin to appear on the paper as you allow your Father to speak intimately to you.

This is an example:

My precious child,
I am here. You are not alone. I have held you in my hands for all of the days of your life. I will move mightily and you will be amazed. Do not fear, do not doubt, trust in me and know that I am God. Be patient, I am working things you will never understand, and I am.

Dear one, turn your heart to me, and remember that I am not against you. I find you in my favor and because of where you are I will be able to move mountains. Do not question me, but allow me to work in my way in my timing. (Reprinted with permission from Ally Johnson.)

Your words may not be as beautiful or poetic as Ally’s but they will reflect yourpersonality and God’s heart; the message a very private one, for your eyes only.

If you’re new to this journey of Christian faith and maybe don’t know too much about God’s character or what He might say to you, dig in and begin finding out. Maybe a book of Bible promises will help jump-start the process.

While the Lord cherishes hearing our praises and requests, He also longs to speak to us, saying exactly what we need to hear.

Is God Still Talking?

From: Intouch.org

Psalm 81:8-16

Have you ever noticed that children have selective hearing—the convenient ability to tune out an adult’s voice? Sometimes, if they don’t like what’s said, they ignore it. On other occasions, they may be so absorbed in their own activities that their minds don’t register the words. An adult is speaking, but you would never know it by the child’s response.

At times we behave the same way toward our heavenly Father, don’t we? Today the Lord speaks to us through His Word, just as He always has. The Bible contains the complete revelation of God; it was written by men who were under the control of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16). If we are inattentive to the Scriptures, then we have turned away from God’s voice.

But if we open His Word, we will hear what He wants to say to us. Sometimes He speaks words of admonishment and correction, but He’ll also assure us of His love. When we spend time fellowshipping with God in His Word, our relationship with Him deepens. And as He expresses His love to us, we love Him in return.

From Scripture, we also receive direction for our life (Jer. 29:11). Although the world, our own selfish nature, and Satan clamor for us to choose their ways, God provides us with His wisdom to make right decisions.

The Bible offers God’s comfort and hope, which we desperately need in our trials, failures, humiliations, and sorrows. And His Holy Spirit helps us understand and obey whatever He says. God is still speaking, but in order to benefit, we must listen.

I Am Blessed

 

 

How much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! — Matthew 7:11

No one wants to spend Thanksgiving Day in the ICU. Especially not a girl who has long claimed it’s her favorite holiday. But last year I did exactly that.

After a difficult, daylong surgery to remove two-thirds of my tongue and the cancer lurking inside, doctors sent me to the intensive care unit to guard against further complications. I appreciated their attention to detail, valued their concern. But spending Thanksgiving in the hospital wasn’t my idea of a festive holiday celebration.

While the rest of America carved up turkeys and served up thick slices of pie, I lay in a hospital room enjoying a delicious IV drip. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink, not even ice chips. Instead, I listened to the sounds of nurses celebrating the holiday from their station. I smelled hints of a holiday meal being whipped up in the hospital cafeteria. Even with my door closed, I couldn’t escape the constant reminders of all I was missing.

It’s hard for a girl not to feel sorry for herself when faced with such a day. I remember looking out my window at the quiet Denver streets, imagining the memories being made inside so many cozy homes. With each beep of my many lifesaving devices, with each twinge of hunger in my stomach, I felt farther and farther away from the holiday.

Thanksgiving is about gratitude for God’s blessings, for good food, sweet relationships, and laughter. Alone in a hospital room, I enjoyed none of the above.

Captive to my circumstances, I wrestled with questions I couldn’t resolve. What if I’d never gotten sick? What if the doctors had followed a different plan? What if… What if… What if? Those were the questions on which I feasted that Thanksgiving Day. And with each question, I felt more and more sick. Like bars of a cell, the what-if’s penned me in, interfering with my ability to practice gratitude.

At times I wonder how Paul — once named Saul — managed to live without the what-if’s. In all of his New Testament writings, I don’t hear him pining away about what might’ve been. I don’t read any self-loathing for his years of misdirected zeal. I don’t see him griping about his hardships or whining about his pain. I’m sure he had his hard moments. He was human, after all, and had plenty of reasons to play the victim. Still, he didn’t look at his life as a series of unfortunate events.

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him. — Philippians 3:8-9 NASB

You see, blessedness is more a matter of perspective than a change of circumstance. Paul understood this, after enduring far more pain and persecution than one person should have to endure. This makes his words in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 both hard-earned and profound:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Paul didn’t catalog his losses, he counted his gains. And his greatest reason for thanksgiving — among many others — was the fact that Jesus had found him, a proud, sinful, self-righteous man. And in spite of his ugly history, God granted him a future glory. It took me a couple of days to pull myself out of my hospital-induced self-pity. It’s not my favorite Thanksgiving memory, but it’s by far the most powerful one.

It was a day when my earthly treasure was taken away. In its place I held nothing but Jesus. A Thanksgiving-worthy gift, indeed.

I still have days when I struggle to celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s not always easy to fix my eyes on what I cannot see. But if the ugliness in my story leads me to the feet of Christ, then my legacy is a beautiful and blessed thing indeed. The story I long to change is the same story that brought me to an enduring knowledge of the God who rescued me. In releasing the vision of what could have been, I’m finally able to see what God has done. And continues to do.

In the letting go of losses, you and I finally see what we’ve gained. We may lose the world, but we’ve gained the maker of it.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,

Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,

Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

“Great is Thy faithfulness!”

“Great is Thy faithfulness!”

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided —

“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!

~ Thomas Obediah Chisholm, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

 

Streams in the Desert – November 24

Mrs. Charles Cowman, Author

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

 

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

Is there any note of music in all the chorus as mighty as the emphatic pause? Is there any word in all the Psalter more eloquent than that one word, Selah (Pause)? Is there anything more thrilling and awful than the hush that comes before the bursting of the tempest and the strange quiet that seems to fall upon all nature before some preternatural phenomenon or convulsion? Is there anything that can touch our hearts as the power of stillness?

There is for the heart that will cease from itself, “the peace of God that passeth all understanding,” a “quietness and confidence” which is the source of all strength, a sweet peace “which nothing can offend,” a deep rest which the world can neither give nor take away. There is in the deepest center of the soul a chamber of peace where God dwells, and where, if we will only enter in and hush every other sound, we can hear His still, small voice.

There is in the swiftest wheel that revolves upon its axis a place in the very center, where there is no movement at all; and so in the busiest life there may be a place where we dwell alone with God, in eternal stillness.

There is only one way to know God. “Be still, and know.” “God is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”
Selected

“All-loving Father, sometimes we have walked under starless skies that dripped darkness like drenching rain. We despaired of starshine or moonlight or sunrise. The sullen blackness gloomed above us as if it would last forever. And out of the dark there spoke no soothing voice to mend our broken hearts. We would gladly have welcomed some wild thunder peal to break the torturing stillness of that over-brooding night.

“But Thy winsome whisper of eternal love spoke more sweetly to our bruised and bleeding souls than any winds that breathe across Aeolian harps. It was Thy ‘still small voice’ that spoke to us. We were listening and we heard. We looked and saw Thy face radiant with the light of love. And when we heard Thy voice and saw Thy face, new life came back to us as life comes back to withered blooms that drink the summer rain.”

Desiring God’s Approval

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Where Do You Find Approval?

By: Aaron Bull, 1.cbn.com

Every Sunday my son and I play soccer. Little did I know that while having fun I’d learn something on the field.

I’m an athlete, and I don’t like to just watch sports; I need to be involved. I’m always moving.

Almost every Sunday my son and I participate in a pick-up soccer game with folks of all ages and all skill levels. The players consist of young people from the ages of 6 to men in their 50s — so the demographics are spread out. Within that group there are guys and gals in their last few years of high school who play on select and varsity teams, sometimes at the same time.

To say they’re good is an understatement.

Then there’s me. I’m in my thirties and have been playing soccer for most of my life. However, since my playing hasn’t been that consistent over the last few years or so, my ball handling skills aren’t always that great. I have my moments. But I also have those OTHER moments that we don’t always want to run home and share with our family.

Every time I play it’s an absolute blast. It’s a time for me to see friends and release some stress built up during the week, allowing me to start the new week refreshed. It’s a time of decompression for me.

After the game, I always call my wife to let her know that we’re done and we’re heading home. The other part of the conversation is what I did, or what our son did on the field. No matter how hard I try, I can never wait until I get home to give her highlights of the good and bad things that happened.

To say I love soccer is also an understatement.

To my surprise, I’ve learned something from this otherwise innocuous, but exhausting game. There will always be somebody better than me. There will always be someone waiting only a step away from me who knows strategy better and who can control the ball better.

Now some of you may be wondering where I’m going with all of this. Hold on, there’s more.

Let me ask you, what can a person do to improve their skills? The quick answer is, practice, practice, and practice some more. However, let me pose another question to you. What if I’m as good as I will ever get, and my skills will probably start to diminish as I get older? Also, if I plan to get better, am I doing it for me, my family, or the guy or girl I’ve always tried to beat but simply can’t? Is it one-upmanship that motivates me?

I have to be honest. In my life, it’s usually trying to prove to someone else that I am better than him or her when they have shown me up in the past. Oh how I/we love to feed our egos. Come on. Admit it. We all do. Usually, the only thing that separates us when it comes to our egos is to what degree we feed them.

Now, let’s go back to that question again. Where am I going with this? I’m pretty certain — in fact completely sure, 100% unquestionably, undeniably sure, that approval of man or ourselves is not where we are supposed to be seeking approval. The only One we are supposed to seek approval from is our Heavenly Father, God — Daddy.

That’s a difficult one. Are you guilty — as I am — of wanting at least one person to notice when you do something that people don’t normally see? It could be anything from cleaning the floors at home, or finally figuring out something that’s been plaguing your department at work.

Guess what? Even when nobody else notices, someone always notices. It’s our heavenly Father. I’m reminded of a verse in Galatians 1:10 NIV:

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

I’m also reminded of the verse found in Proverbs 14:12 NIV:

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.

I think that’s pretty fair warning of where our approval seeking should be focused. Not from man. Not from our spouse, boss, coach, etc. The only one we should seek approval from, true loving confirming approval from, is God. It’s that simple! Seek his approval with your full heart and see what happens.

 

Whose Approval Do You Crave?

 

When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:16)

Perhaps Jesus’s words about prayer and fasting are more relevant than ever. Not that the human heart has changed. Quite the opposite — the heart has been, and always will be, apart from God, “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).

No, the condition of man’s heart hasn’t changed; there are just new ways, with every new app and social medium, for man’s desire for praise to express itself in public. No longer is the reach of our actions simply relegated to the street corner. Instead, in today’s world, the simplest of YouTube videos can make you famous.

Seeking Approval in All the Wrong Places

Seeking approval, and the personal satisfaction that results, is not what Jesus condemns; it is seeking it in the wrong source. John Piper writes,

Even if we do not have a strong sense of merit, we may crave the same result, namely the praise of men. Jesus warns us not to give charity or pray or fast in order to be seen by others. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1). “When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others” (Matthew 6:5). “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others” (Matthew 6:16). Jesus calls them “hypocrites” because in their praying and fasting they want to appear as if they treasure God, but in fact they treasure the praise of men. (What Jesus Demands from the World, 127)

The same misplaced desire for approval is why Jeremiah rebuked Israel: “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:12–13).

Craving human praise is a cistern that cannot hold water. That is why Jesus tells his disciples how to pray and fast. Our hearts are so sinful that we can twist the purest of activities — even prayer and fasting — into something that conjures praise from our fellow man.

Find Your Fill in Christ

So how do we kill this desire for human approval? Piper says,

Is not the most effective way of bridling my delight in being made much of, to focus on making much of God? Self-denial and fixation of the self are essential, but O how easy it is to be made much of even for my self-denial! How shall this insidious motive of pleasure in being made much of be broken except through bending all my faculties to delight in the pleasure of making much of God! Christian Hedonism is the final solution. It is deeper than death to self. You have to go down deeper into the grave of the flesh to find the truly freeing stream of miracle water that ravishes you with the taste of God’s glory. Only in that speechless, all-satisfying admiration is the end of self. (What Jesus Demands, 136–137)

Only Jesus is the living water. Only in him will we never thirst. Only when we crave Christ and the approval of the God-man will our bondage for the craving of mere human approval be broken. The Spirit helps us in our weakness and enables us to do the impossible: to say no to ungodliness and to open our eyes to see the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Let Your Light Shine — For Christ

When Christ is supreme, we can handle our fellow man’s approval — or lack thereof — the right way. Then we can say with Paul,

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. (Philippians 4:11–12)

But being satisfied with all we are in Christ doesn’t mean we should be embarrassed or even shy about being influential. Rather, just the opposite. We should seek to increase our influence, as long as it is focused on showing the worth of God in Christ, not self. Jesus put it this way: “Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Jesus commands us that we should bring others to see the glory of God through our actions. This doesn’t mean that we should seek to be known for ourselves, or lay claim to our fifteen minutes of fame, but we should steward the relationships and opportunities God has given us — especially in the seemingly mundane — in ways that give glory to God. And we should seek to cultivate new relationships and opportunities so that others might “see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

When we’ve stared the question in the face — whose approval do you crave? — and done the serious heartwork of renouncing self and exalting Christ, we are free. Free from condemnation (Romans 8:1), free to be fully satisfied in Christ (Psalm 16:11), and free to wield whatever influence we have, however big or small, for the good of our neighbor and the glory of God.

 

God Approves of You

, Author, faithgateway.com

I approve of you, My child. Because you are Mine — adopted into My royal family — I see you through eyes of grace. I chose you before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in My sight. I know you fall short of this perfect standard in your daily living. But I view you as holy and blameless because this is your permanent position in My kingdom.

Of course, I don’t endorse everything you do (or fail to do). Still, I approve of you — your true self, the one I created you to be.

I know how much you long for My affirmation — and how hard it is for y