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The People Marveled At Jesus’ Words and Works

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They Marveled

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Then the woman of Samaria sad to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. …And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” (John 4:9, 27 NKJV)

Have you ever wanted to add a footnote to “Love your neighbor as yourself”?

Yes, of course we are to love others, but:

  • If they’ve formerly cheated on a spouse, they only get partial love and zero trust.
  • If they’re mean to you, God has clearly called a different Christian to love them.
  • If they’ve verbally attacked your family, it’s OK to get a little personal payback.
  • If they’ve disagreed with you on a theological belief, you don’t have to do ministry together.
  • If their political view is xxxxx, you can smile in church, but go ahead and invest in someone else for fellowship.

John tells us a story of Jesus making a point to travel through Samaria (John 4:3-42). Back then Jews generally had no dealings with Samaritans. Some despised the Samaritans even more than Gentiles, as they were considered half-breeds and practitioners of a perversion of the true Jewish faith.

It’s here Jesus meets a woman gathering water while his disciples are off getting food. Women would typically gather water in the morning when it was cool. This woman had come at noon, alone. We don’t know a lot about her, but we find out she had gone through five husbands and the man she was currently with was not her husband. Is this why she chose to avoid gathering water in the morning? To endure the gaze of the hot sun rather than the gaze of the other women? Perhaps.

Jesus starts a conversation. If passing through Samaria wasn’t bad enough, now Jesus is alone with a less than reputable Samaritan woman drinking from her cup at a public well. Not the best image for a Jewish Rabbi.

The woman marvels: “Why would this Jewish man approach a Samaritan woman like me in the heat of the day?”

The disciples return and marvel: “Why would the master approach a Samaritan woman like that at any time of day?”

Though culturally and religiously in opposition, both groups are in agreement here. “Jesus is not behaving the way we expect religious Jews to behave.”

Loving others was not a new concept for the disciples. They would have known the scripture:

“…you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:18a.

Yet the way Jesus loved revealed their (and perhaps sometimes our own) shallow view on what it looks like to love others.

Jesus shows us a love that is not convenient. He shows us a love that is extended without expectation of reciprocation. Jesus shows us a love that intentionally seeks out those who society—and sometimes religion— have deemed unlovable.

And we marvel. We marvel because it’s a love not of this world. It’s unnatural, undeserved, and often unrequited.

But this is what separates Christian love from the love of the world:

But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. Luke 6:32-33 NKJV

There will be moments in our lives when we have the opportunity to love sacrificially: to approach the person nobody else will approach, to return compassion for hatred, to give with no thought of return. Today and every day, let us be on the lookout for such opportunities. They may first appear as problems, obstacles, or inconveniences. But it is this type of love that will cause the world to marvel and acknowledge the work of God in our lives.

Mysterious Ophir

by Inspiration Ministries

“Hiram sent him ships and servants who knew the sea; and they went with Solomon’s servants to Ophir, and took from there 450 talents of gold, and brought them to King Solomon.” – 2 Chronicles 8:18 NASB

Ophir. A place of mystery. Today, no one knows where it was located. In Africa? On the Arabian Peninsula? But it was well known in Bible times. A thousand years before Christ, ships were built that traveled hundreds of miles to this faraway land.

Ophir is mentioned in Genesis as an ancestor of Shem. In Job, it was associated with gold (Job 22:24). David himself gained riches from Ophir, providing 3,000 talents “of the gold of Ophir” to help build the temple (1 Chronicles 29:3-4).

Ophir became central to Solomon. He arranged for Hiram, king of Tyre, to provide ships for a journey to Ophir. Together with Solomon’s servants, they returned with an unbelievable amount of gold. In modern terms, about 16 metric tons!

Kings after Solomon continued to be attracted to the riches found in Ophir. We read, for example, how “Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold” (1 Kings 22:48). Ophir and its gold may have become an obsession for some, but their search did not bring lasting peace or happiness.

Many of us have places of our own like Ophir that become obsessions, objects that dominate our thoughts, experiences we crave. But, in the end, the Bible tells us that these things can be like chasing the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14).

Don’t be obsessed with temporary things. Seek riches that will last – what you invest in God’s Kingdom.

Contagious Forgiveness

Scripture Reading — Matthew 18:21-35

“I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” — Matthew 18:32

Some offenses are so deeply hurtful that it can take time and healing to be ready to let them go.

In Jesus’ parable, the debt that the unforgiving servant had built up was a huge one, yet the king had compassion and released him of all obligation. That guy represents you and me. While we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us, to pay the debt for all our sin against God (Romans 5:8-11). We have been set free!

As people who have been given a clean slate, can we, in turn, forgive others who have sinned against us? That’s much easier said than done, especially when the world tells us to stand up for our rights, get revenge, and cut ties with anyone who hurts us. In cases of abuse or danger, we do need to maintain safety, but to hold on to hatred makes us miserable.

There was a man who nearly destroyed my life. It took many years before I could tell him, in the presence of others, that God has helped me to forgive him. In response to God’s grace, how could I not do that?

Forgiveness means loving our enemies. Forgiveness means swallowing our pride. For­give­ness means trusting God with the outcome.

Streams in the Desert – January 20

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Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better (Ecclesiastes 7:3).

When sorrow comes under the power of Divine grace, it works out a manifold ministry in our lives. Sorrow reveals unknown depths in the soul, and unknown capabilities of experience and service. Gay, trifling people are always shallow, and never suspect the little meannesses in their nature. Sorrow is God’s plowshare that turns up and subsoils the depths of the soul, that it may yield richer harvests. If we had never fallen, or were in a glorified state, then the strong torrents of Divine joy would be the normal force to open up all our souls’ capacities; but in a fallen world, sorrow, with despair taken out of it, is the chosen power to reveal ourselves to ourselves. Hence it is sorrow that makes us think deeply, long, and soberly.

Sorrow makes us go slower and more considerately, and introspect our motives and dispositions. It is sorrow that opens up within us the capacities of the heavenly life, and it is sorrow that makes us willing to launch our capacities on a boundless sea of service for God and our fellows.

We may suppose a class of indolent people living at the base of a great mountain range, who had never ventured to explore the valleys and canyons back in the mountains; and some day, when a great thunderstorm goes careening through the mountains, it turns the hidden glens into echoing trumpets, and reveals the inner recesses of the valley, like the convolutions of a monster shell, and then the dwellers at the foot of the hills are astonished at the labyrinths and unexplored recesses of a region so near by, and yet so little known. So it is with many souls who indolently live on the outer edge of their own natures until great thunderstorms of sorrow reveal hidden depths within that were never hitherto suspected.

God never uses anybody to a large degree, until after He breaks that one all to pieces. Joseph had more sorrow than all the other sons of Jacob, and it led him out into a ministry of bread for all nations. For this reason, the Holy Spirit said of him, “Joseph is a fruitful bough…by a well, whose branches run over the wall” (Gen. 49:22). It takes sorrow to widen the soul.
–The Heavenly Life

The Pathway To Victory

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The Pathway to Victory

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Gordon Robertson – President and CEO, CBN

What can we do in the midst of the battle? First, we should rejoice—because the victory has already been won! This fuels our prayers and fixes our perspective.

Why have we won? Jesus tells us,

“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)

The greatness of the victory is determined by the depth of the struggle. God has called us to preach the Gospel to the world, and Satan knows his time is short. He is in the business of stealing people’s blessing and tricking them out of their destiny.

The serpent told Adam and Eve that eating the forbidden fruit would make them like gods—when they should have realized, “We are already in the image of God. You are telling us to disobey Him.”

In John 10:10, Jesus reveals the stark contrast between Satan’s mission and His own:

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

To be victorious, we must put on the whole armor of God, which is described by Paul in Ephesians 6:11-18 and concludes,

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…

Similarly, Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:1,

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.

He is not just saying, “Pray for everyone.” He is saying, “You’ve got to have supplications. You’ve got to have prayers. You’ve got to have intercessions, along with giving thanks. Why?

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (vv. 3-4)

God’s desire is for everyone to be saved. That is why He has commanded us to go into all the world and preach the Good News. And as Revelation 12:11 promises, we will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

So, we give God thanks because that’s the pathway to victory—and we praise Him for the triumph to come. God bless you.

New Creations – Crosswalk the Devotional – January 19

by Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.com

“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” – 1 Peter 1:23

Have you ever done something embarrassing? I know I have. In fact, you could say my entire childhood (and a good portion of my adult life) has been one long string of embarrassing moments. I am still haunted by the memory of when I threw up during my English final, or the time I tripped while skiing and caused a massive, ten-man pile-up in front of the ski lift. The worst part is your brain never lets you forget it.

The difficult news is it’s not just embarrassing moments we seem unable to forget, it’s our mistakes. Many of us have done things in our lives that we regret. We’ve acted selfishly, or violently, and other people have been hurt because of it. The Devil loves to use our past mistakes against us; they are by far his favorite weapons. He will always wait until we’re vulnerable, then take our dirty laundry and rub it in our face.

It’s at moments like these that I always turn to 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 and reminded myself about the truth behind Christ’s ministry.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” – 2 Corinthians 5: 17-19

When we choose to follow Christ, our slates are instantly wiped clean. All the mistakes we’ve made all the stupid things we’ve done, embarrassing or otherwise, no longer matter to God. We may still have to accept the consequences of our actions, but we can take comfort in knowing that in God’s sight we are new creations. So do not allow Satan to guilt you with past mistakes, you are a child of God and he will never see you as anything less.

The beatific vision

“We shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Peter 1:3-9

Not think about him, and dream about him; but we shall positively “see him as he is.” How different that sight of him will be from that which we have here. For here we see him by reflection. Now, I have told you before, we see Christ “through a glass darkly;” then we shall see him face to face. Good Doctor John Owen, in one of his books, explains this passage, “Here we see through a glass darkly;” and he says that means, “Here we look through a telescope, and we see Christ only darkly through it.” But the good man had forgotten that telescopes were not invented till hundreds of years after Paul wrote; so that Paul could not have intended telescopes. Others have tried to give other meanings to the word. The fact is, glass was never used to see through at that time. They used glass to see by, but not to see through. The only glass they had for seeing was a glass mirror. They had some glass which was no brighter than our black common bottle-glass. “Here we see through a glass darkly.” That means, by means of a mirror. As I have told you, Jesus is represented in the Bible; there is his portrait; we look on the Bible, and we see it. We see him “through a glass darkly.” Just as sometimes, when you are looking in your looking glass, you see somebody going along in the street. You do not see the person; you only see him reflected. Now, we see Christ reflected; but then we shall not see him in the looking-glass; we shall positively see his person. Not the reflected Christ, not Christ in the sanctuary, not the mere Christ shining out of the Bible, not Christ reflected from the sacred pulpit; but “we shall see him as he is.”

For meditation: The sight of Jesus will distress many (Revelation 1:7); are you positively looking forward to seeing him (John 12:21)?

 

A Reason for Confidence

Negativity doesn’t fit who we are as God’s children—we should have confidence in our almighty Lord.

Proverbs 3:21-26

Negativity affects us in both spiritual and physical ways. Even simply spending time with a pessimistic individual can take a toll. On the other hand, positivity—especially that related to confidence in the Lord—enables us to live as our Father desires.

As God’s children, we have every reason to live with assurance. His very presence is permanently within us, and He has granted us His peace, which passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). In addition, He promises to provide for our needs and empower us to obey and serve Him.

Sometimes, however, we have trouble accepting and living in these spiritual blessings. When that’s the case, we should purposefully take steps to develop confidence in our all-powerful God. This begins with meditating on His Word and drawing near to Him in prayer. As we grow in our understanding of the Lord and His promises, our faith is strengthened and confidence in Him increases.

The world is full of distrust, fear, and uncertainty. Don’t allow yourself to be influenced by negative messages that take your eyes off Christ. Focus on the truth of Scripture and put your confidence in almighty God. Facing each day with His strength will drive away doubt and anxiety.

Bible in One Year: Exodus 10-12

The Wilderness

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The Wilderness

trees-light-serenity

 

The term “God Adventure” sounds kind of intriguing and exciting, doesn’t it? Even a little mysterious! If you have an adventuresome spirit, just those words may make you want to explore what a God adventure is – learn more about it!

A “God Adventure” could be following God’s leading to take a new job. It could be a missions trip or a move to a new city. Maybe you’re actually going to commit to leading a Bible study at your church or reach out to a needy family in your area. How about working on reconciling a broken relationship with a family member or friend?

Not all God adventures are so positive or encouraging. Sometimes a God adventure comes your way uninvited and unexpected. It can come in circumstances that involve loss, unfair treatment, illness, or broken relationships. These are the wilderness places that God uses to shape, refine, and carve character into us, if we’ll let Him. The process is so painful, but the result is pure gold.

Some dear friends of mine, a married couple, have been through this recently. A cancer diagnosis brought surgery, radiation, doctors, doctors, and more doctors. Pain, loss, rehabilitation, fear and uncertainty.

Who’d sign up for that? But, now let me tell you what I saw this “wilderness” produce in their lives …a sense of God’s presence that over-rode all the circumstances, a trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness (which is never really fully experienced until you find yourself in the furnace of affliction); a deeper love and appreciation for each other as a couple; and peace, real peace, in the midst of the storm.

They were not delivered from the experience, they were lifted above it and carried through it. Isaiah 40:31 outlines the promise of God to those who are walking through trials.

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (NKJV)

The Bible is filled with the stories of great men and women of faith, and almost all of them had one or more defining wilderness experiences that God used to prepare them for even greater use. My favorite is the story of Joseph. Sold into slavery by his brothers, wrongly accused by the wife of his employer, thrown into jail for something he didn’t do, and seemingly forgotten by those he had helped. In all of this, a span of 13 years, the Bible never once records that Joseph complained or railed against the Lord. Read this amazing story yourself – Genesis 37 through 47. Through his years in the wilderness, Joseph learned humility, obedience, patience, and responsibility. In God’s perfect timing, he became ruler over all of Egypt delivering the Egyptians and his own family from the famine in the land.

How can you turn your wilderness into a God adventure? For starters let this scripture sink deeply into your heart and mind – Romans 8:28

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (NKJV)

ALL things – even your trials and afflictions.

Give them to God with a sense of anticipation. You are being refined – prepared for something. Look for the lessons.

Surrender your “rights,” your arguments, and your confusion to Him. God never makes mistakes.

Rest in Him – climb up into his lap and let Him refresh you with His strength.

Trust His timing – He’s got it all together. Jeremiah 29:11 says this,

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

Stay close to Him and watch your wilderness become a God adventure!

Make One Sound

by Kayloni Witherspoon

“When the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound … the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.” – 2 Chronicles 5:13-14 NKJV

In 1958 while on tour, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played what their conductor, Fritz Reiner, called “a perfect concert.” Waiting backstage afterward with tears in his eyes, he told the musicians, “Thank you, thank you! All my life I waited for this moment.”

This was a rare concert when an unusually high level of excellence was achieved during a performance when there was complete focus and singleness of purpose. There was a harmonious blending that resonated a level of perfection. The musicians seemed to perform as a unit, transported to a higher plane of purity.

An even more glorious moment took place during the ceremony dedicating the temple in Jerusalem as the musicians and singers became like one, making one united sound. This unity was expressed as they sang and played their instruments. And God’s presence filled the place.

Powerful things happen when God’s people join together. The Bible tells us, “How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). This is more than a nice experience. Where there is unity, the Lord commanded His blessing.

Ask God to show you if there are any rivalries in Your heart. Put aside anything that keeps You from seeking Him with Your whole being. And seek opportunities to join with other believers to worship and seek God. He longs to pour His Spirit upon You and to fill Your life with His presence.

Loving Difference

Scripture Reading — Luke 7:1-10

The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. — Luke 7:3

Differences tend to divide: boys and girls, abled and disabled, rich and poor, black and white. In the Navajo language, the word for stranger is the same as for enemy, with the meaning depending on the context. Relating across differences can be tricky and sometimes difficult.

The Roman centurion knew that Jews didn’t like Romans much—and Jesus was a Jew. So that may have been why the centurion asked some Jewish elders to see if Jesus would come and heal his servant, who was sick and dying. The elders told Jesus that the centurion was a good man and had done helpful things for the Jews. Although I think Jesus would have said “Yes” anyway, he agreed to go and meet this Roman.

Before Jesus arrived, though, the centurion sent him another message: “I know you have ­authority, so all you have to do is say the word, and my servant will be healed.” And Jesus did!

In this story there is no hint of prejudice in Jesus. He headed directly to the Roman’s house. And then, when the Roman suggested that Jesus could simply heal his servant from a distance, Jesus did that. And he praised and honored the man’s faith! Jew or Roman, faith is faith.

To imitate Jesus is to love our neighbors; difference does not matter.

Prayer

Jesus, Son of God, thank you for loving and helping us from the goodness of your heart. Help us to love and help others for your sake. Amen. (AM)

Streams in the Desert – January 18

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Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14).

God gets His greatest victories out of apparent defeats. Very often the enemy seems to triumph for a little, and God lets it be so; but then He comes in and upsets all the work of the enemy, overthrows the apparent victory, and as the Bible says, “turns the way of the wicked upside down.” Thus He gives a great deal larger victory than we would have known if He had not allowed the enemy, seemingly, to triumph in the first place.

The story of the three Hebrew children being cast into the fiery furnace is a familiar one. Here was an apparent victory for the enemy. It looked as if the servants of the living God were going to have a terrible defeat. We have all been in places where it seemed as though we were defeated, and the enemy rejoiced. We can imagine what a complete defeat this looked to be. They fell down into the flames, and their enemies watched them to see them burn up in that awful fire, but were greatly astonished to see them walking around in the fire enjoying themselves. Nebuchadnezzar told them to “come forth out of the midst of the fire.” Not even a hair was singed, nor was the smell of fire on their garments, “because there is no other god that can deliver after this sort.”

This apparent defeat resulted in a marvelous victory.

Suppose that these three men had lost their faith and courage, and had complained, saying, “Why did not God keep us out of the furnace!” They would have been burned, and God would not have been glorified. If there is a great trial in your life today, do not own it as a defeat, but continue, by faith, to claim the victory through Him who is able to make you more than conqueror, and a glorious victory will soon be apparent. Let us learn that in all the hard places God brings us into, He is making opportunities for us to exercise such faith in Him as will bring about blessed results and greatly glorify His name.
–Life of Praise

Defeat may serve as well as victory
To shake the soul and let the glory out.
When the great oak is straining in the wind,
The boughs drink in new beauty, and the trunk
Sends down a deeper root on the windward side.
Only the soul that knows the mighty grief
Can know the mighty rapture. Sorrows come
To stretch out spaces in the heart for joy.

God Makes Beautiful Things

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The Red Maple

Red maple tree

 

Beth Patch – Senior Producer, CBN.com

Coming and going through my neighborhood, I’ve never noticed this particular tree. But this day — Wow! The afternoon sun shone the right amount of light, at the perfect angle, to bring this red maple from ordinary to stunning. I slowed down and admired its beauty.

The splendor of God’s creation could be seen in each slight variation as the distinct red shades of crimson, scarlet, and burgundy radiated in the sunlight.

It made me think of references to Jesus as light and His followers as those who have light to keep them from the darkness.

Then Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NLT)

Just as an ordinary tree becomes magnificent when the sunlight hits it a certain way, ordinary human beings become filled with the light of life through Christ. God gives us hope and it makes us confident.

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. (Ephesians 1:18 NLT)

“And this hope does not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” (Romans 5:5 NLT)

As God’s children, the hope living within us is the Holy Spirit and has the power to bring hope to others. It is the Light. We bring light in a dark world when we follow the ways of Jesus Christ. We extend love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control — the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The evil in the world offers the opposite: hate, despair, chaos, impatience, ill will, cruelty, disloyalty, harshness, and instability.

Our Creator provides all we need to let the light of His redeeming love bring out the best in us – so we can stand out in this world and cause others to slow down to notice Him, His ways, His beauty.

On my commute the next day, I looked for the red maple. Couldn’t find it. The sky was overcast and it was back to blending in with the other trees. I was disappointed but not surprised. When the light is muted, so is the beauty of my neighborhood … and our society.

Lord, help us surrender our pride and any other sin blocking Your light from shining brightly through us. You give us the power to be positive and holy examples. Help us shine each day and refuse to be satisfied with blending in. We cannot do it on our own and ask You to fill us anew with Your light. We agree to trust You and obey You. Please use us, Lord, to magnify Your beauty and cause others to slow down and see what You are all about. Build your Kingdom, oh Lord, with new hearts who are attracted to You — the Light of the world.

Loving the Unloving

Scripture Reading — Matthew 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” — Matthew 5:43-44

We often think of enemies in connection with war: enemies live in other countries and on other continents.

But Jesus is focusing much closer to home: the neighbor who throws loud all-night parties, the uncle who is abusive, the kid who bullies your little brother. We are angry with them. We would like to see them corrected, perhaps even punished!

And yet Jesus tells us to love them! That doesn’t necessarily mean feeling good about them. I love my daughters, and it is good to spend time with them. But that’s not what Jesus means here. The love word he uses suggests action; Jesus is telling us to act in a loving way toward people who are difficult to love.

Jesus even tells us to pray for them. We can talk with God about them and ask God to guide and bless them. We can confess our fears and our ­anger. We can ask God to show us the image of God in them. We can ask for insight into why they might act as they do.

God does not expect us to make friends with people who disrespect us, or to tolerate abuse from them. But as we faithfully pray for them, God will help us think compassionately about them, and begin to act kindly toward them, and even learn to speak truth to them with love and respect.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, help us to love and pray for neighbors who are not loving, and who perhaps are even mean to us. May they see your love through our kind words and actions. Amen. (AM)

Clean Before the Lord

by Inspiration Ministries

“He also made ten basins in which to wash, and he set five on the right side and five on the left to rinse things for the burnt offering; but the sea was for the priests to wash in.” – 2 Chronicles 4:6 NASB

While the Israelites were in the wilderness, God commanded them to build a tent of meeting. In that tent, they were to have a laver (washbasin), a place where Aaron and his sons were to “wash their hands and their feet” before entering the tent. This was very serious, something no one could take for granted. They were to “wash with water, so that they will not die” (Exodus 30:18-21).

But the laver was not just for this tent. When it was time to build the temple in Jerusalem, the Israelites again made basins as places for the priests to wash. Why was this so important? Because God is holy and cannot tolerate the presence of sin. He wanted them to realize that they had to be clean and pure when they came into His presence.

David recognized this principle when he wrote that only those with “clean hands and a pure heart” may “stand in His holy place” (Psalm 24:3-4).

The Bible reminds us that God wants to fellowship with you. He longs to hear from you and answer your prayers. He wants to bless you, grant you more of His wisdom and favor, and reveal more truths to you. But when you approach Him, remember that He is holy. Humble yourself before Him. Confess your sins and receive His forgiveness. With clean hands and a pure heart, approach His throne. You can be confident and bold!

The Living God – Streams in the Desert – January 17

O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee? (Daniel 6:20).

How many times we find this expression in the Scriptures, and yet it is just this very thing that we are so prone to lose sight of. We know it is written “the living God”; but in our daily life there is scarcely anything we practically so much lose sight of as the fact that God is the living God; that He is now whatever He was three or four thousand years since; that He has the same sovereign power, the same saving love towards those who love and serve Him as ever He had and that He will do for them now what He did for others two, three, four thousand years ago, simply because He is the living God, the unchanging One. Oh, how therefore we should confide in Him, and in our darkest moments never lose sight of the fact that He is still and ever will be the living God!

Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him and expect help from Him, He will never fail you. An older brother who has known the Lord for forty-four years, who writes this, says to you for your encouragement that He has never failed him. In the greatest difficulties, in the heaviest trials, in the deepest poverty and necessities, He has never failed me; but because I was enabled by His grace to trust Him He has always appeared for my help. I delight in speaking well of His name.
–George Mueller

Luther was once found at a moment of peril and fear, when he had need to grasp unseen strength, sitting in an abstracted mood tracing on the table with his finger the words, “Vivit! vivit!” (“He lives! He lives!”). It is our hope for ourselves, and for His truth, and for mankind. Men come and go; leaders, teachers, thinkers speak and work for a season, and then fall silent and impotent. He abides. They die, but He lives. They are lights kindled, and, therefore, sooner or later quenched; but He is the true light from which they draw all their brightness, and He shines for evermore.
–Alexander Maclaren

“One day I came to know Dr. John Douglas Adam,” writes C. G. Trumbull. “I learned from him that what he counted his greatest spiritual asset was his unvarying consciousness of the actual presence of Jesus. Nothing bore him up so, he said, as the realization that Jesus was always with him in actual presence; and that this was so independent of his own feelings, dependent of his deserts, and independent of his own notions as to how Jesus would manifest His presence.

“Moreover, he said that Christ was the home of his thoughts. Whenever his mind was free from other matters it would turn to Christ; and he would talk aloud to Christ when he was alone — on the street, anywhere — as easily and naturally as to a human friend. So real to him was Jesus’ actual presence.

Keeping the Best Things First

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Keeping the Best Things First

by Katherine Britton , cbn.com

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best… – Philippians 1:9-11

How often do we resign ourselves to the “tyranny of the urgent”? If you’re me, it’s a daily struggle not to use that little phrase as an excuse for losing sight of the big picture. It’s so much easier to take care of what’s immediately in front of me instead of what should be first in my life.

I’m a task-oriented Martha, so concerned with getting the job done that I forget to focus on Him first. I can tell myself that I’m doing my work “as unto the Lord” as much as I want, but I don’t serve anyone when I get harried. You probably know the feeling; you tell yourself that you’re cooking a wholesome dinner as a supreme act of service and love for your family – if they only appreciated how many other things you have to do besides stand over a stove! – when little Anne asks if you’ll help her find a favorite CD. Something boils over, and it’s not the pot on the stove. In taking care of dinner, you’ve forgotten to feed a godly attitude of patience and love.

That’s me to a fault. James makes it clear that faith is constantly looking for ways to serve; like Martha, however, we can get so busy that we forget why we’re doing it. I often catch myself thinking that if I’m not busy, I’m not “doing enough” for God. But then the act becomes its own end, instead of an outworking of love. Imagine Martha in the kitchen, fluttering around and looking for that special recipe to serve Jesus, while Mary just sat, soaking up His words. Martha’s response to this was probably well-intentioned – that is, from a human point of view. She was serving and wanted others to serve with her! But Jesus called her bluff. “Only one thing is needed,” Christ said, “and Mary has chosen what is better” (Luke 10:42). Better? Lord, you mean that sitting at your feet and being quiet is better than my idea of being busy serving you? That’s right.

I think I got a double-portion of Martha’s spirit. Too often, I think that sitting and listening to Jesus is the same thing as sitting and doing nothing. I think it’s laziness. Satan whispers that my time could be better spent doing than learning, and then the tyranny of the urgent takes over. But even Olympic acts of service are as nothing if not done in love (1 Corinthians 13), and only time at the feet of Jesus can teach me that.

Love leads to action, as Paul writes to the Philippian church, not the other way around. I can’t “discern what is best” in my work and words unless I keep the very best in front of my eyes, like Mary. My prayer this week is that I will focus on Jesus and see how to love. Then the priorities will fall in line. Then I see what is best, because I see Jesus.

A Great Work for God

by Inspiration Ministries

“The house which I am about to build will be great, for greater is our God than all the gods.” – 2 Chronicles 2:5 NASB

Solomon knew that the temple had to be built with excellence. Why? Because it was being built for God. It was a witness about God Himself. This excellence had to be reflected in every detail. And it had to be built by the best
workers and craftsmen.

To accomplish this goal, he asked Hiram, the king of Tyre, to send the right materials, as well as “a skilled man” to work with the “skilled workers” in Israel (v. 7). Hiram agreed to Solomon’s requests, praising him for his wisdom and commitment. He also blessed God because He had given David “a wise son, endowed with discretion and understanding” (v. 12).

Solomon kept emphasizing that he was doing something “great and wonderful” because it was being built for God and represented God Himself (v. 9). Solomon also acknowledged that even this temple could not measure up to God’s greatness. “Who is able to build a house for Him?” (v. 6).

Solomon provides a model for us. The reality is that everything we do should be done in the name of the Lord. We are His witnesses. Everything in our lives should bring Him honor and glory, for He is great and worthy to be praised.

Today, commit to doing everything as unto the Lord. Live so your life is a witness to His greatness. Serve Him with excellence and humility. Remember, you are His representative.

First Doesn’t Last

Scripture Reading — Luke 16:19-31

“Remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.” — Luke 16:25

People have complained that in sermons about this parable, it seems their pastor wants to make them feel guilty. After all, they have worked hard for the possessions they have. Their perseverance, not privilege, has earned them an expensive house and an extensive travel budget. They figure they are entitled to enjoy it all.

Some people have wrongly ­assumed that Jesus sees wealth as a barrier to eternal reward. But the point is not about money or the lack of it. What matters is the attitude of the heart and the pattern of behavior. Jesus said it is easier “for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:25).

Jesus came not to teach a money management course but to model true humility and extravagant generosity (grace) in all aspects of life. He taught that “anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Sadly, the goal of building a big bank account can distract us from the dire needs of people who are financially challenged.

As Christ-followers, regardless of our income level, we can share with others. Rather than rushing past a homeless neighbor or an unemployed friend, we can open our wallets and bless them. We can see them not as lesser than we are, but as equals.

Prayer

Humble my heart, Lord, when I think I am better than others. I know that all I have is a gift from you. Help me to share freely. Amen. (BMB)

Streams in the Desert – January 16

  • 202216 Jan

And there arose a great storm (Mark 4:37).

Some of the storms of life come suddenly: a great sorrow, a bitter disappointment, a crushing defeat. Some come slowly. They appear upon the ragged edges of the horizon no larger than a man’s hand, but, trouble that seems so insignificant spreads until it covers the sky and overwhelms us.

Yet it is in the storm that God equips us for service. When God wants an oak He plants it on the moor where the storms will shake it and the rains will beat down upon it, and it is in the midnight battle with elements that the oak wins its rugged fibre and becomes the king of the forest.

When God wants to make a man He puts him into some storm. The history of manhood is always rough and rugged. No man is made until he has been out into the surge of the storm and found the sublime fulfillment of the prayer: “O God, take me, break me, make me.”

A Frenchman has painted a picture of universal genius. There stand orators, philosophers and martyrs, all who have achieved pre-eminence in any phase of life; the remarkable fact about the picture is this: Every man who is pre-eminent for his ability was first pre-eminent for suffering. In the foreground stands that figure of the man who was denied the promised land, Moses. Beside him is another, feeling his way — blind Homer. Milton is there, blind and heart-broken. Now comes the form of one who towers above them all. What is His characteristic? His Face is marred more than any man’s. The artist might have written under that great picture, “The Storm.”

The beauties of nature come after the storm. The rugged beauty of the mountain is born in a storm, and the heroes of life are the storm-swept and the battle-scarred.

You have been in the storms and swept by the blasts. Have they left you broken, weary, beaten in the valley, or have they lifted you to the sunlit summits of a richer, deeper, more abiding manhood and womanhood? Have they left you with more sympathy with the storm-swept and the battle-scarred?
–Selected

Be Obedient To God

 

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Are You in the Belly of a Big Fish?

by Fred Alberti, Crosswalk.com

But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah 1:17

Being a homeschool family we sometimes have some rather interesting experiments that we get to enjoy as a family. George is one such experiment. George is a goldfish whose bowl-mate sadly perished. My son’s task was to teach the goldfish to come to the top of the bowl when he tapped on the glass. After several weeks of tapping and feeding and tapping and feeding the fish finally learned to come to the top of the bowl.

Big deal right? Right, that is until the fish started to do more. Anytime someone would walk by the bowl he would get all excited and start moving his mouth like he was yelling at whoever it was that was walking by the bowl. This became rather normal and we would just ignore him or comment that he was yelling at us in Spanish.

Then one day my kids were listening to an FFH song titled “Big Fish.” It was then that George decided to really show off what he could do. When the song played George would begin to swim around like he was dancing in the water and would seemingly move his mouth to the words (move over Ashlee Simpson).

I particularly like the first verse of the song which goes like this:

Are you in the big fish
Are you sitting in the belly of a world gone mad
Have you turned your back in His wish
On His will for your life, have you made Him sad
Do you want to get out of the big fish
Listen to God and follow His plan
And you won’t be part of the main dish
He’ll spit you out on to dry land

I’ve sometimes felt like I was in the belly of a big fish. I had decided to do something my way instead of first seeking the Lord’s guidance and leading.

You, whoever you are, God has a plan for your life. Maybe you feel like you are wasting your time at a dead-end job. Or perhaps you have no job but would desperately like one. Maybe you think you have the dream job but the Lord has been speaking to you in a still small voice to give it up for something else. Like Jonah, you may not particularly like the mission God has for you but He has the intention of making you ideally suited to carry that plan out.

Will you follow His plan or will you turn your back?

Maybe you’ve already chosen to turn your back and feel that there is no way out now. If that is the case I’ve got good news for you. The Bible has this to say about Jonah, “From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God” (Jonah 2:1). God is the God of second, third, and fourth chances.

Commit your way to the Lord today.

Prepared for Blessings

by Inspiration Ministries

“Solomon, and all the assembly with him, went to the high place … for the tabernacle of meeting with God was there … David had brought up the ark from Kirjath Jearim to the place David had prepared for it.” – 2 Chronicles 1:3-4 NKJV

During World War II, American air units based in Australia experienced problems with aircraft maintenance…until General George Kenney became involved.

He made inspecting each plane a priority. General Douglas MacArthur observed that Kenney’s attention to detail and preparation was crucial to “keep his planes flying.”

An end-of-war, inspection of 8,000 planes of the adversary revealed how much his attention to detail affected the outcome. Although 95% of the enemy planes were intact, most were “not operational because some small part was unavailable.” The conclusion? The “attention to detail and extra effort” Kenney provided was a key difference between defeat and victory.

Preparation and details also were important for Solomon’s reign. David had done much to prepare the way, so Solomon could complete his assignment and receive God’s blessing.

The Bible reminds us that God wants to bless us abundantly. But, to receive these blessings, we must be prepared and put His principles into practice. We must know His promises and obey them. We must spend quality time with Him in prayer and commit our time, talents, and treasures to His Kingdom.

Think about the gifts and talents God has given you. Seek to be a good steward, investing these resources. Sow your seeds. As you are faithful, you can expect His blessings.

See Them, See Me

Al Mulder and Bonny Mulder-Behnia, authors, Today Devotions

Scripture Reading — Matthew 25:31-40

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” — Matthew 25:40

Jesus told this parable to highlight some key ways to live out the Golden Rule: “Do to ­others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).

If you read the entire parable, you will notice that Jesus links sacrificial hospitality with eternal reward. He goes so far as to say that the way we treat other imagebearers of God is the way we treat God himself. We love God by loving others.

We may nod in agreement and then give some money or food to a homeless shelter or a food pantry. But Jesus specifically says, “You gave me something to eat . . . you invited me in . . . you clothed me . . . you came to visit me.” Contributions coupled with personal involvement are a God-honoring combination.

There are people in your community today who are feeling neglected and forgotten, especially those whose situations may cause them to feel ashamed. Think of someone struggling with mental health issues, loneliness, abuse, guilt, job loss, financial crisis, marital trouble, or children not walking with God. Ask God to bring someone to your mind, and reach out personally with a card, call, visit, or coffee invitation.

Consider it a date with Jesus; you might just see him in them, and they may see him in you.

The Lord Appeared to Isaac – Streams in the Desert – January 15

  • 202215 Jan

And the Lord appeared unto Isaac the same night (Genesis 26:24).

“Appeared the same night,” the night on which he went to Beer-sheba. Do you think this revelation was an accident? Do you think the time of it was an accident? Do you think it could have happened on any other night as well as this? If so, you are grievously mistaken. Why did it come to Isaac in the night on which he reached Beer-sheba? Because that was the night on which he reached rest. In his old locality, he had been tormented. There had been a whole series of petty quarrels about the possession of paltry wells. There are no worries like little worries, particularly if there is an accumulation of them. Isaac felt this. Even after the strife was past, the place retained a disagreeable association. He determined to leave. He sought change of scene. He pitched his tent away from the place of former strife. That very night the revelation came. God spoke when there was no inward storm. He could not speak when the mind was fretted; His voice demands the silence of the soul. Only in the hush of the spirit could Isaac hear the garments of his God sweep by. His still night was his starry night.

My soul, hast thou pondered these words, “Be still, and know”? In the hour of perturbation, thou canst not hear the answer to thy prayers. How often has the answer seemed to come long after the heart got no response in the moment of its crying — in its thunder, its earthquake, and its fire. But when the crying ceased, when the stillness fell, when thy hand desisted from knocking on the iron gate, when the interest of other lives broke the tragedy of thine own, then appeared the long-delayed reply. Thou must rest, O soul, if thou wouldst have thy heart’s desire. Still the beating of thy pulse of personal care. Hide thy tempest of individual trouble behind the altar of a common tribulation and, that same night, the Lord shall appear to thee. The rainbow shall span the place of the subsiding flood, and in thy stillness thou shalt hear the everlasting music.
–George Matheson

God Opens Doors Out of the Blue

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God Opens Doors Out of the Blue

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What if today, right out of the clear blue sky, or tonight, out under the stars, God placed before you a clear-cut opportunity for an adventure in faith with Him? Are you ready? Ready to lace up your shoes, step through that door, and follow Him?

Why do we shy away from open doors, from the prospect of new adventures in faith? Why do we let opportunity after opportunity pass us by, even though we feel a stirring of desire and a tug on our hearts to respond? What holds us back?

I think many of us are simply too weighed down and tangled up by our past to step into God’s purpose today. How sad. We lose “today” because of “yesterday.” Life flows on by, and age creeps up on us while we remain mired in doubts, fears, and hesitations.

Have you ever met some older person, now physically unable to work or travel, who could only look back on life with regrets? It’s not a happy story. Some older man will say, “Years ago I had the opportunity to serve the Lord overseas—and deep down, I really wanted to go. But I had a good job, and I was climbing the ladder. So I held back. Then the opportunity passed me by—and it never came again.”

Or some older lady saying, “My husband and I couldn’t have children. He wanted to adopt a baby girl from China, but I was afraid, I kept stalling the decision, and we never did. Now my husband’s gone, and here I am with no one in my life. It would be so wonderful to have a daughter.”

Life is too short to live with regrets! Life is too precious to turn away from promising opportunities to serve the King in His kingdom.

The psalmist said,

“I run in the path of your commandments, for you have set my heart free.” (Psalm 119:32 WEB)

That’s what we want. To just run and run and run into His will and the paths of His purpose. With a light heart, a clear eye, and hope rushing bank-high through the channels of our heart.

But we can’t run if we have huge packs on our backs or ropes tangling up our feet that keep us from embracing God Adventures. Be open when God calls, even out of the blue.

 

Investing

by Inspiration Ministries

“Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether one or the other will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good.” – Ecclesiastes 11:6 NASB

How does a person become a world-class musician? Natural abilities are vital. But many with ability don’t live up to their potential. Over and over, great musicians testify to the impact of the investment of time and making practice a priority.

Ignacy Jan Paderewski, the noted Polish pianist and statesman, once declared that “the very essence of success is practice.” Investing time was not optional for those wanting to be great.

Describing his opportunity to be music director of the Chicago Symphony, Sir Georg Solti recalled how he was challenged by “the height of professionalism” demonstrated by this orchestra. The players always studied and practiced. Their commitment forced him to be prepared.

This commitment to excellence helps separate the extraordinary from the ordinary. The Bible expresses this truth in the principle of seedtime and harvest (Genesis 8:22). This teaches the importance of investing our time and resources to reap a bountiful harvest.

These principles are true in the spiritual realm. The Bible reminds us to sow from the seeds we have been given – our time and talent, our love and concern, our resources. But they also apply in the natural realm.

Do you want to reap the harvest God has prepared for you? Do you want to achieve your full potential? Then don’t be content with the ordinary or good enough. Cultivate a commitment to developing the resources you’ve been given. Invest your time and resources well.

 

The sin of unbelief

By: Charles Spurgeon

“And that lord answered the man of God, and said, Now, behold, if the Lord should make windows in heaven, might such a thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.” 2 Kings 7:19

Suggested Further Reading: John 20:24-29

“Thou shalt shall see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.” It is so often with God’s own saints. When they are unbelieving, they see the mercy with their eyes, but do not eat it. Now, here is corn in this land of Egypt, but there are some of God’s saints who come here on the Sabbath, and say, “I do not know whether the Lord will be with me or not.” Some of them say, “Well, the gospel is preached, but I do not know whether it will be successful.” They are always doubting and fearing. Listen to them when they get out of the chapel. “Well, did you get a good meal this morning?” “Nothing for me.” Of course not. Ye could see it with your eyes, but did not eat it, because you had no faith. If you had come up with faith, you would have had a morsel. I have found Christians, who have grown so very critical, that if the whole portion of the meat they are to have, in due season, is not cut up exactly into square pieces, and put upon some choice dish of porcelain, they cannot eat it. Then they ought to go without, until they are brought to their appetites. They will have some affliction, which will act like quinine upon them: they will be made to eat by means of bitters in their mouths; they will be put in prison for a day or two until their appetite returns, and then they will be glad to eat the most ordinary food, off the most common platter, or no platter at all. But the real reason why God’s people do not feed under a gospel ministry, is because they have not faith. If you believed, if you heard only one promise, that would be enough.

For meditation: The unbeliever needs to hear in order to believe (Romans 10:14); the believer needs to believe in order to hear.

 

Streams in the Desert – January 14

  • 202214 Jan

He putteth forth his own sheep (John 10:4).

Oh, this is bitter work for Him and us — bitter for us to go, but equally bitter for Him to cause us pain; yet it must be done. It would not be conducive to our true welfare to stay always in one happy and comfortable lot. He therefore puts us forth. The fold is deserted, that the sheep may wander over the bracing mountain slope. The laborers must be thrust out into the harvest, else the golden grain would spoil.

Take heart! it could not be better to stay when He determines otherwise; and if the loving hand of our Lord puts us forth, it must be well. On, in His name, to green pastures and still waters and mountain heights! He goeth before thee. Whatever awaits us is encountered first by Him. Faith’s eye can always discern His majestic presence in front; and when that cannot be seen, it is dangerous to move forward. Bind this comfort to your heart, that the Savior has tried for Himself all the experiences through which He asks you to pass; and He would not ask you to pass through them unless He was sure that they were not too difficult for your feet, or too trying for your strength.

This is the Blessed Life — not anxious to see far in front, nor careful about the next step, not eager to choose the path, nor weighted with the heavy responsibilities of the future, but quietly following behind the Shepherd, one step at a time.

Overcome Fear With Faith

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Overcome Fear With Faith

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My godly mother, who prayed me into the kingdom, frequently used to say she was “worried sick” about this or that.

But here’s the plain truth: worry is a sin! Over and over, the Bible commands, “Do not worry!” It doesn’t do a bit of good, but it can certainly do harm — like causing ulcers.

Jesus bluntly challenged His followers:

“Don’t worry about everyday life — whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not. You have so little faith!” (Matthew 6:25b, 27, 30b)

To illustrate His point, Jesus said,

“Look at the birds. They don’t need to plant or harvest … because your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matt. 6:26a)

Have you ever seen a bird having a nervous breakdown? They don’t worry because they know God will feed them. And remember,

“You are far more valuable to Him than they are” (Matt. 6:26b)

Many worries stem from worldly desires. But trust is depending on God to provide.

Jesus said:

“Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern” (Matt. 6:33-34)

When we walk closely with Jesus day by day, we find rest. But inner peace doesn’t come if we run here and there, wasting time and chasing worldly things. The world can corrupt us with its troubles, making us scared. After all, good news doesn’t sell newspapers! The devil wants to keep us on a treadmill with our nose to the grindstone, worrying about everything. But God says, “Fear not!”

As you face each day, don’t miss the blessing — it’s Him! God loves you and knows your true needs, whether they be physical, social or financial. So come to Him in faith, give Him your burdens, seek His face, praise His name … and He will supply!

Today’s Devotions

Morning

January 13

Genesis 12:1-3 1The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. 2“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

God called Abram (later to be changed to Abraham) out of his culture and family to follow God to an undisclosed place. It seems that, of all the people of the earth, Abram was selected for a very special calling. Later we see he did not follow exactly, as he disobeyed God by taking along his family instead of leaving them. He also lied twice about his relationship to his wife to save his own hide. Still, he did go out by faith, not knowing his destination.

The promise that all the world would be blessed through him makes us wonder if this lineage of the Seed of the woman that will crush the head of Satan, that has gone down through Noah, is not now through Abraham also. Later we find this to be the case. He is an imperfect man that is a recipient of great promises. He obeyed but not fully. Is that not true of us too? Imperfect though our lives are, though grace, God has called us out of our world to be citizens of a place that we are going to by faith. Like Abraham we believe there is a city with foundations whose builder and maker is God.

We are those who have been blessed through Abram, because we have received Jesus’ work in our place. Perhaps that is why Matthew begins his genealogy of Jesus at Abraham. You may have stumbled along the way to your heavenly home and your reward, but like Abraham, God will see you through. In Hebrews there is no record of Abram’s failures, only his great acts of faith.

Meditation: In heaven there will be no record of your failures either, just your acts of faith.

 

Streams in the Desert – January 13

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us (Romans 8:37).

This is more than victory. This is a triumph so complete that we have not only escaped defeat and destruction, but we have destroyed our enemies and won a spoil so rich and valuable that we can thank God that the battle ever came. How can we be “more than conquerors”? We can get out of the conflict a spiritual discipline that will greatly strengthen our faith and establish our spiritual character. Temptation is necessary to settle and confirm us in the spiritual life. It is like the fire which burns in the colors of mineral painting, or like winds that cause the mighty cedars of the mountain to strike more deeply into the soil. Our spiritual conflicts are among our choicest blessings, and our great adversary is used to train us for his ultimate defeat. The ancient Phrygians had a legend that every time they conquered an enemy the victor absorbed the physical strength of his victim and added so much more to his own strength and valor. So temptation victoriously met doubles our spiritual strength and equipment. It is possible thus not only to defeat our enemy, but to capture him and make him fight in our ranks.

The prophet Isaiah speaks of flying on the shoulders of the Philistines (Isa. 11:14). These Philistines were their deadly foes, but the figure suggested that they would be enabled not only to conquer the Philistines, but to use them to carry the victors on their shoulders for further triumphs. Just as the wise sailor can use a head wind to carry him forward by tacking and taking advantage of its impelling force; so it is possible for us in our spiritual life through the victorious grace of God to turn to account the things that seem most unfriendly and unfavorable, and to be able to say continually, “The things that were against me have happened to the furtherance of the Gospel.”
–Life More Abundantly

A noted scientist observing that “early voyagers fancied that the coral-building animals instinctively built up the great circles of the Atoll Islands to afford themselves protection in the inner parts,” has disproved this fancy by showing that the insect builders can only live and thrive fronting the open ocean, and in the highly aerated foam of its resistless billows. So it has been commonly thought that protected ease is the most favorable condition of life, whereas all the noblest and strongest lives prove on the contrary that the endurance of hardship is the making of the men, and the factor that distinguishes between existence and vigorous vitality. Hardship makes character.
–Selected

“Now thanks be unto God Who always leads us forth to triumph with the Anointed One, and Who diffuses by us the fragrance of the knowledge of Him in every place” (2 Cor. 2:14, literal translation).

Cheering words and solemn warnings

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.’ Isaiah 3:10

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 37:16–40

‘Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him,’ from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, from the first gatherings of evening shadows until the day-star shines. It shall be well with him when, like Samuel, God calls him from the bed of his childhood; it shall be well with him when, like David in his old age, he is stayed up in the bed to conclude his life with a song of praise; it shall be well with him if, like Solomon, he shall abound in wealth, and well with him if like Lazarus he shall lie upon a dunghill and the dogs shall lick his sores; it shall be well with him, if like Job he washes his feet with oil and his steps with butter, if the princes are before him bowing their heads, and the great ones of the earth do him obeisance; but it shall be equally well with him if, like Job in his trial, he sits down to scrape himself with a potsherd, his children gone, his wife bidding him curse his God, his friends become miserable comforters to him, and himself left alone; it shall be well, always well. The text evidently means that it is well with the righteous at all times alike, and never otherwise than well; because no time is mentioned, no season is excluded, and all time is intended.

‘What cheering words are these! ’Tis well when joys arise,
Their sweetness who can tell? ’Tis well when sorrows flow,
In time, and to eternal days, ’Tis well when darkness veils the skies,
’Tis with the righteous well. And strong temptations blow.’

For meditation: We become righteous only as the result of trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ and what he has done for us (Romans 5:19). It is bound to be well with the righteous at all times and in all circumstances because ‘He hath done all things well’ (Mark 7:37).

 

Waking Up to New Life in Christ

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Waking Up to New Life in Christ

morning-prayer-jesus

 

Gordon Robertson – President and CEO, CBN

The Jewish calendar has a period of time called Teshuvah, meaning “to turn,” in the last month of the year, Elul, which means “search.” The purpose is for people to turn to God and search their hearts in preparation for the Day of Atonement, when they ask themselves, “Am I ready to die?”

This is reflected in their clothing for the day. Every married Jewish male wears a kittel, a white linen robe that eventually serves as their burial shroud. The robe has no pockets, symbolizing that nothing can be taken along on that journey. It’s a dress rehearsal for death.

Keep in mind that Jesus is Jewish, and He prepared Himself to die. The good news is that when Jesus wore His burial shroud, He left it in a tomb and is raised forevermore.

And we have this wonderful promise in Colossians 2:12:

“You also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”

Are we ready to walk into the goodness and provision of God? Sometimes it’s easy to allow bitterness, complaining and anxiety to build up, robbing us of our joy. The more we are asleep to our disobedience, the more we drift away from God without even realizing it.

We need to wake up into the newness of life He has for us. That’s why it is important to examine ourselves to see where we fall short, to ask God to forgive us and set us free. He is merciful and gracious, and He wants to bring us into the Promised Land.

Start by remembering that He loves you. Song of Solomon 6:3 says,

“I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.”

You don’t have to beg Him; He wants you to succeed, and He is in your corner.

Meditate on God’s attributes in Exodus 34:6-7:

“The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”

Then search your heart for anything that is keeping you from wholeheartedly pursuing the promises God has for you.

For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:16-17).

We need to guard against complacency by asking ourselves, “Am I right with God? Am I ready to meet Him? Am I fully appreciating the salvation that Jesus paid that price for?” This brings a whole new appreciation of what Jesus did for us in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the cross, and in the resurrection.

You get a different perspective on life when facing death. I experienced that first-hand when I nearly died of cerebral malaria in Manila. In that time, the things you used to think were important don’t matter at all. It’s just you and God.

In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Paul shared what he learned while facing death:

We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead (NLT).

He expected to die—and as a result, he learned to rely on God, for He will raise us, too.

When we go through hardships, our reaction should be, “This is great because it means God is going to be glorious. He will see me through this and I am going to learn how great He is.”

Jesus came to give you abundant life. In Him, we have new life. No matter what we go through, we can rely on Him. Our hope is in the One who raises the dead. God bless you.

A cure for care

‘Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.’ 1 Peter 5:7

Suggested Further Reading: Jonah 4:6–11

Believe in a universal providence; the Lord cares for ants and angels, for worms and for worlds; he cares for cherubim and for sparrows, for seraphim and for insects. Cast your care on him, he that calls the stars by their names, and leads them out by numbers, by their hosts. ‘Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and thinkest O Israel, my way is passed over from God and he has utterly forgotten me?’ Let his universal providence cheer you. Think next of his particular providence over all the saints. ‘Precious shall their blood be in his sight.’ ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.’ ‘We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.’ While he is the Saviour of all men, he is specially the Saviour of them that believe. Let that cheer and comfort you, that special providence which watches over the chosen. ‘The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him.’ And then, let the thought of his special love to you be the very essence of your comfort. ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.’ God says that as much to you, as he said it to any saint of old. ‘Fear not, I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.’ O I would beloved, that the Holy Spirit would make you feel the promise as being spoken to you; out of this vast assembly forget the rest and only think of yourself, for the promises are unto you, meant for you. O grasp them. It is ill to get into a way of reading Scripture for the whole church, read it for yourselves, and specially hear the Master say to you, ‘Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.’

For meditation: While we should not be so preoccupied with ourselves that we are unable to see the wood for the trees, there is also the danger of neglect or ingratitude resulting from a failure to see the trees for the wood. ‘They made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.’ (Song of Solomon 1:6). Never forget how personal the Saviour is—‘who loved me, and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20).

Streams in the Desert – January 12

 

Reckon it nothing but joy… whenever you find yourself hedged in by the various trials, be assured that the testing of your faith leads to power of endurance (James 1:2-3) Weymouth

God hedges in His own that He may preserve them, but oftentimes they only see the wrong side of the hedge, and so misunderstand His dealings. It was so with Job (Job 3:23). Ah, but Satan knew the value of that hedge! See his testimony in Job 1:10.

Through the leaves of every trial there are chinks of  light to shine through. Thorns do not prick you unless you lean against them, and not one touches without His knowledge. The words that hurt you, the letter which gave you pain, the cruel wound of your dearest friend, shortness of money — are all known to Him, who sympathizes as none else can and watches to see, if, through all, you will dare to trust Him wholly.

Bringing my Neighbor to Jesus

Al Mulder and Bonny Mulder-Behnia, Authors, Today Devotions

Scripture Reading — Luke 5:17-26

They went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. — Luke 5:19

Large crowds were following Jesus wherever he went. People were hungry for his teaching. Many people came mainly to see his miracles or to ask for one for themselves.

Hope for healing could be huge for people who had no medical care. We can imagine the paralyzed man living without hope, until he heard about Jesus the miracle worker. Some neighbors got together and carried this man to Jesus.

When they arrived and saw that they could not get into the house because the crowd was so big, they hoisted their friend to the roof and lowered him “right in front of Jesus.”

Jesus did not disappoint. First he met the man’s deepest spiritual need, forgiving his sins. Then Jesus met the man’s physi­cal need, making him able to walk again. The man “went home praising God.”

About seven years ago, a dear colleague was hospitalized with terminal cancer. Inspired by this story, four of us who were friends of his met him in his room, wheeled him out to a patio, and shared Scripture and prayer with him in the presence of Jesus.

Jesus did not heal his cancer that day. But Jesus had already forgiven our friend’s sins. And some weeks later, our friend “went home praising God” for all eternity.