Tag Archives: music

God’s Careful Watch Over Us

 Psalms 91: 9-16

Because you have made the Lordwho is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10 No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall [c]bear you up,
Lest you [d]dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.

14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will [e]set him on high, because he has known My name.
15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With [f]long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”

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Watchful Care

From: Our Daily Bread

Watchful Care
Read: Jeremiah 23:20–24 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 33–34; Acts 24

“Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 23:24

Before he raced out the door to school, I asked my son if he had brushed his teeth. Asking again, I reminded him of the importance of telling the truth. Unmoved by my gentle admonishment, he half-jokingly informed me that what I really needed was a security camera in the bathroom. Then I could check for myself if he had brushed his teeth and he wouldn’t be tempted to lie.

While the presence of a security camera may help remind us to follow the rules, there are still places we can go unnoticed or ways we can avoid being seen. Although we may evade or trick a security camera, we fool ourselves if we think we are ever outside the gaze of God.

God asks, “Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” (Jeremiah 23:24). There is both an encouragement and a warning in His question.

The warning is that we cannot hide from God. We can’t outrun or fool Him. Everything we do is visible to Him.

The encouragement is that there is no place on earth or in the heavens where we are outside the watchful care of our heavenly Father. Even when we feel alone, God is with us. No matter where we go today, may the awareness of that truth encourage us to choose obedience to His Word and receive comfort—He watches over us.

Lord Jesus, thank You that there is nowhere I can go that is outside of Your loving gaze. Knowing You see me, help me to honor You with my words and actions.

We are never outside the watchful care of our heavenly Father.

 

Sanctification (2)

By Oswald Chambers

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The Life Side. The mystery of sanctification is that the perfect qualities of Jesus Christ are imparted as a gift to me, not gradually, but instantly once I enter by faith into the realization that He “became for [me]…sanctification….” Sanctification means nothing less than the holiness of Jesus becoming mine and being exhibited in my life.

The most wonderful secret of living a holy life does not lie in imitating Jesus, but in letting the perfect qualities of Jesus exhibit themselves in my human flesh. Sanctification is “Christ in you…” (Colossians 1:27). It is His wonderful life that is imparted to me in sanctification— imparted by faith as a sovereign gift of God’s grace. Am I willing for God to make sanctification as real in me as it is in His Word?

Sanctification means the impartation of the holy qualities of Jesus Christ to me. It is the gift of His patience, love, holiness, faith, purity, and godliness that is exhibited in and through every sanctified soul. Sanctification is not drawing from Jesus the power to be holy— it is drawing from Jesus the very holiness that was exhibited in Him, and that He now exhibits in me. Sanctification is an impartation, not an imitation. Imitation is something altogether different. The perfection of everything is in Jesus Christ, and the mystery of sanctification is that all the perfect qualities of Jesus are at my disposal. Consequently, I slowly but surely begin to live a life of inexpressible order, soundness, and holiness— “…kept by the power of God…” (1 Peter 1:5).

 

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From: Streams in the Desert

Giving thanks always for all things unto God (Ephesians 5:20).

No matter what the source of the evil, if you are in God and surrounded by Him as by an atmosphere, all evil has to pass through Him before it comes to you. Therefore you can thank God for everything that comes, not for the sin of it, but for what God will bring out of it and through it. May God make our lives thanksgiving and perpetual praise, then He will make everything a blessing.

We once saw a man draw some black dots. We looked and could make nothing of them but an irregular assemblage of black dots. Then he drew a few lines, put in a few rests, then a clef at the beginning, and we saw these black dots were musical notes. On sounding them we were singing,

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below.”

There are many black dots and black spots in our lives, and we cannot understand why they are there or why God permitted them to come. But if we let God come into our lives, and adjust the dots in the proper way, and draw the lines He wants, and separate this from that, and put in the rests at the proper places; out of the black dots and spots in our lives He will make a glorious harmony.

Let us not hinder Him in this glorious work!
–C. H. P.

Would we know that the major chords were sweet,
If there were no minor key?
Would the painter’s work be fair to our eyes,
Without shade on land or sea?
Would we know the meaning of happiness,
Would we feel that the day was bright,
If we’d never known what it was to grieve,
Nor gazed on the dark of night?

Many men owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties.
–C. H. Spurgeon

When the musician presses the black keys on the great organ, the music is as sweet as when he touches the white ones, but to get the capacity of the instrument he must touch them all.
–Selected

God’s Love Is Forever

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. – Deuteronomy 7:9

How precious is your unfailing love, O God! – Psalm 36:7

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. – Psalm 86:5

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. – Psalm 86:15

Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever. – Psalm 136:26

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Love that Endures

From: Our Daily Journey

Love that Endures

Read:

1 Corinthians 12:25–13:13
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (1 Corinthians 13:7).

Nearly 40 percent of singles in a 2013 study described feeling isolated in their churches. One researcher concluded, “[Singles] . . . feel invisible and think about leaving.” That statistic doesn’t surprise me. As a single person, I’ve experienced feelings of isolation in churches composed primarily of couples who socialize primarily with other couples. I’ve also experienced awkward silences when I reveal I’m not dating, married, or even actively seeking a spouse.

It can be easy for churches to embrace mainstream culture’s tendency to idolize romance while seeing friendships and community as optional, superficial, and non-committal. In that worldview, singles can be excluded from being known and loved at a deep level, while couples can sometimes enter marriage with unrealistic expectations.

The apostle Paul described the church, not as a collection of couples and singles, but as an interdependent body meant to share joy and suffering together (1 Corinthians 12:25-26), where each person is uniquely gifted and needed for the good of the whole (1 Corinthians 12:7,21-22). And when Paul described the “way of life that is best of all” (1 Corinthians 12:31), he didn’t describe marriage but the love the community of faith is called to embody (1 Corinthians 13:12-13), a love that “never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

When believers deepen their experience of community and unity through the Spirit, we grow into a love deeper than our own individual needs, one where we’re invited into a calling much bigger than ourselves (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). And we also grow in our witness to the transforming power of Jesus’ love, the love that will last forever (1 Corinthians 13:13).

 

At Just The Right Time

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son. —Galatians 4:4

Why is being on time so challenging for some of us? Even when we start early, something inevitably gets in our way to make us late.

But here’s the good news: God is always on time! Speaking of the arrival of Jesus, Paul said, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son” (Gal. 4:4). The long-awaited, promised Savior came at just the right time.

Jesus’ arrival during the Roman Empire’s Pax Romana (the peace of Rome) was perfect timing. The known world was united by one language of commerce. A network of global trade routes provided open access to the whole world. All of this guaranteed that the gospel could move rapidly in one tongue. No visas. No impenetrable borders. Only unhindered access to help spread the news of the Savior whose crucifixion fulfilled the prophecy of the Lamb who would be slain for our sins (Isa. 53:1-12). All in God’s perfect timing!

All of this should remind us that the Lord knows what time is best for us as well. If you’re waiting for answered prayer or the fulfillment of one of His promises, don’t give up. If you think He has forgotten you, think again. When the fullness of time is right for you, He’ll show up—and you’ll be amazed by His brilliant timing!

Not ours to know the reason why
Unanswered is our prayer,
But ours to wait for God’s own time
To lift the cross we bear. —Anon.

God’s timing is always perfect.

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By: Oswald Chambers

The Death Side. In sanctification God has to deal with us on the death side as well as on the life side. Sanctification requires our coming to the place of death, but many of us spend so much time there that we become morbid. There is always a tremendous battle before sanctification is realized— something within us pushing with resentment against the demands of Christ. When the Holy Spirit begins to show us what sanctification means, the struggle starts immediately. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate…his own life…he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).

In the process of sanctification, the Spirit of God will strip me down until there is nothing left but myself, and that is the place of death. Am I willing to be myself and nothing more? Am I willing to have no friends, no father, no brother, and no self-interest— simply to be ready for death? That is the condition required for sanctification. No wonder Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). This is where the battle comes, and where so many of us falter. We refuse to be identified with the death of Jesus Christ on this point. We say, “But this is so strict. Surely He does not require that of me.” Our Lord is strict, and He does require that of us.

Am I willing to reduce myself down to simply “me”? Am I determined enough to strip myself of all that my friends think of me, and all that I think of myself? Am I willing and determined to hand over my simple naked self to God? Once I am, He will immediately sanctify me completely, and my life will be free from being determined and persistent toward anything except God (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

When I pray, “Lord, show me what sanctification means for me,” He will show me. It means being made one with Jesus. Sanctification is not something Jesus puts in me— it is Himself in me (see 1 Corinthians 1:30).

 

Karen Ehman July 20, 2018
Trying Not to Crash and Burn
KAREN EHMAN

“But I am trusting you, O LORD, saying, ‘You are my God!’ My future is in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.” Psalm 31:14-15 (NLT)

“Mom, quick … look at that lady!” My 14-year-old son shouted as we headed down the interstate on an errand-running Thursday afternoon. “She should not be doing that,” he added for emphasis.

I glanced over at the car next to us, expecting to see someone without her hands at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions like my by-the-rulebook-boy does when he’s training behind the wheel. Instead, I nearly ran off the road while gawking at what my Driver’s Ed patrolman had spotted.

Next to us was a woman cradling her cell phone on her right shoulder, holding an open fast-food salad container in her left hand, ripping open a salad dressing packet with her teeth and her right hand … all while steering her car with her knees!

What in the world!? My boys and I thought surely if she kept up this multitasking method of driving, she was going to cause a crash.

I would NEVER attempt to do all of that when I drive, I smugly thought to myself. Entirely too dangerous and probably against the law. Yep, when it comes to being a safe-driving expert, the apple doesn’t fall far from the “Honey-you-didn’t-use-your-blinker-back-there” maternal tree.

It wasn’t until later that night it hit me. Sure, I might not dangerously multitask when driving, thereby risking collision. But in my day-to-day life? In my schedule? In my “sure-I-can-take-on-one-more-responsibility-so-everyone-will-like-me” way? I sometimes dangerously multitask to the point I am heading for a crash.

Taking on too many responsibilities, no matter how “good” they might appear to be, can often render us ineffective for service to God. Yet, He knows our limits. He understands our capacities. He is willing, if we’ll ask Him, to help us navigate the busyness and activity that often trips us up.

On one of my so-busy-I-couldn’t-breathe days, I opened my Bible and read today’s key verse: “But I am trusting you, O LORD, saying, ‘You are my God!’ My future is in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly” (Psalm 31:14-15).

While I’m sure the psalmist David was talking about actual physical enemies — men who could chase, catch and ultimately hurt you — I realized that day my enemy was busyness. Too many activities and responsibilities outside my four walls were about to do me in. They chased me, cornered me and worst of all, were about to go in for the kill.

Thankfully, God can rescue us from the barren life of busyness. He invites us to hold our too-full plates up to Him, allowing Him to scrape off all the activities and responsibilities. Then, He’ll place only the items HE longs for us to possess back on our plates.

When this happens, we can create space in our calendar to retreat, places of sweet respite in our days where we connect with God. Times when we slow down and sit still to listen and learn from the Creator of time itself.

So, how about it friend? Let’s allow God to scrape off our distractions before we crash and burn!

Dear Lord, forgive me for allowing busyness to overtake my life — crowding out others and worst of all You. Help me as I purpose to place only those items on my plate that You long for me to have. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Shelter From The Storm

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Shelter from the Storm

From: Our Daily Bread

Shelter from the Storm

But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter. Psalm 73:28 nlt

When I lived in Oklahoma I had a friend who “chased” tornados. John tracked the storms carefully through radio contact with other chasers and local radar, trying to keep a safe distance while observing their destructive paths so he could report sudden changes to people in harm’s way.
One day a funnel cloud changed course so abruptly John found himself in grave danger. Fortunately, he found shelter and was spared.

John’s experience that afternoon makes me think of another destructive path: sin in our lives. The Bible tells us, “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14–15).

There’s a progression here. What may at first seem harmless can soon spin out of control and wreak havoc. But when temptation threatens, God offers us shelter from the gathering storm.

God’s Word tells us He would never tempt us, and we can blame our choices only on ourselves. But when we “are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that [we] can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). As we turn to Him and call on Him for help in the moment of temptation, Jesus gives us the strength we need to overcome.

Jesus is our shelter forever.

Lord Jesus, You conquered sin and death forever through Your cross and empty tomb! Help me to live and thrive in the forgiveness only You can give.

Our Savior calms temptation’s storm.

 

The Doorway to the Kingdom

By Oswald Chambers

The Doorway to the Kingdom

Beware of thinking of our Lord as only a teacher. If Jesus Christ is only a teacher, then all He can do is frustrate me by setting a standard before me I cannot attain. What is the point of presenting me with such a lofty ideal if I cannot possibly come close to reaching it? I would be happier if I never knew it. What good is there in telling me to be what I can never be— to be “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8), to do more than my duty, or to be completely devoted to God? I must know Jesus Christ as my Savior before His teaching has any meaning for me other than that of a lofty ideal which only leads to despair. But when I am born again by the Spirit of God, I know that Jesus Christ did not come only to teach— He came to make me what He teaches I should be. The redemption means that Jesus Christ can place within anyone the same nature that ruled His own life, and all the standards God gives us are based on that nature.

The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount produces a sense of despair in the natural man— exactly what Jesus means for it to do. As long as we have some self-righteous idea that we can carry out our Lord’s teaching, God will allow us to continue until we expose our own ignorance by stumbling over some obstacle in our way. Only then are we willing to come to Him as paupers and receive from Him. “Blessed are the poor in spirit….” This is the first principle in the kingdom of God. The underlying foundation of Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possessions; not making decisions for Jesus, but having such a sense of absolute futility that we finally admit, “Lord, I cannot even begin to do it.” Then Jesus says, “Blessed are you…” (Matthew 5:11). This is the doorway to the kingdom, and yet it takes us so long to believe that we are actually poor! The knowledge of our own poverty is what brings us to the proper place where Jesus Christ accomplishes His work.

Jacob’s waking exclamation

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‘And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.’ Genesis 28:16

Suggested Further Reading: Ephesians 4:25–5:4

Cheerfulness is a virtue, levity a vice. How much foolish talking and jesting would at once end if we said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place.’ The next time you have been indulging in mirth—I mean not innocent mirth, but that which is connected with uncleanness, or with any sort of ill, imagine you see a finger lifted up, and that you hear a voice saying, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place.’ Let your recreation be free from sin; let your amusements be such that you can enjoy them while God looks on. If, too, we felt that God was in this place, how much oftener should we talk of him and of Christ. This afternoon what will many of you talk of? Sunday afternoon talk is generally a great difficulty to some professors. They do not like to go right down into what they think worldly conversation, so they generally talk about ministers. They consider that to be a spiritual subject; and generally, this talk about ministers is more wicked than talk about the devil himself, for I had rather you should speak religiously concerning Satan, than irreligiously concerning even the angels of the churches. There is one tale retailed about this minister, and another tale about the other, and the conversation gives no edification. If they heard an angel say, ‘The Lord is in this place,’ the afternoon of the day of rest would be spent in much more profitable conversation. But suppose that I have some here today who have been lately exposed to personal danger and peril; brethren, do you not think if in the midst of the storm you had heard a voice saying, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place,’ you would have been perfectly at rest?

For meditation: ‘I am with you alway’ (Matthew 28:20) is a great encouragement to Christians both when alone (Acts 18:9–10) and when together (Matthew 18:20). It should also be a check on our behaviour. In everything you should be able to thank God and ask for his blessing (Romans 14:6). Don’t do anything which your conscience prevents you from committing to him (Romans 14:23).

Let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece (Judges 6:39).

There are degrees to faith. At one stage of Christian experience we cannot believe unless we have some sign or some great manifestation of feeling. We feel our fleece, like Gideon, and if it is wet we are willing to trust God. This may be true faith, but it is imperfect. It always looks for feeling or some token besides the Word of God. It marks quite an advance in faith when we trust God without feelings. It is blessed to believe without having any emotion.

There is a third stage of faith which even transcends that of Gideon and his fleece. The first phase of faith believes when there are favorable emotions, the second believes when there is the absence of feeling, but this third form of faith believes God and His Word when circumstances, emotions, appearances, people, and human reason all urge to the contrary. Paul exercised this faith in Acts 27:20, 25, “And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.” Notwithstanding all this Paul said, “Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer; for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.”

May God give us faith to fully trust His Word though everything else witness the other way.
–C. H. P.

When is the time to trust?
Is it when all is calm,
When waves the victor’s palm,
And life is one glad psalm
Of joy and praise?
Nay! but the time to trust
Is when the waves beat high,
When storm clouds fill the sky,
And prayer is one long cry,
O help and save!
When is the time to trust?
Is it when friends are true?
Is it when comforts woo,
And in all we say and do
We meet but praise?
Nay! but the time to trust
Is when we stand alone,
And summer birds have flown,
And every prop is gone,
All else but God.
What is the time to trust?
Is it some future day,
When you have tried your way,
And learned to trust and pray
By bitter woe?
Nay! but the time to trust
Is in this moment’s need,
Poor, broken, bruised reed!
Poor, troubled soul, make speed
To trust thy God.
What is the time to trust?
Is it when hopes beat high,
When sunshine gilds the sky,
And joy and ecstasy
Fill all the heart?
Nay! but the time to trust
Is when our joy is fled,
When sorrow bows the head,
And all is cold and dead,

All else but God.
–Selected

True Identity

Jesus was God in the flesh. Are you a child of God? Believers say they are a child of God.
Through adoption you are a child of God. By believing in Christ you are adopted into

God’s family.     

Ephesians 1:5

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

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True Identity

From: Our Daily Journey

True Identity

Read:

Ephesians 1:3-14
Because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God (Ephesians 1:11).

As I was growing up, I often felt as if I didn’t quite fit in. I was different from even my close friends but couldn’t figure out why. I tried to take an interest in what my friends liked and to talk and act like them. But it wasn’t until I went to college that I decided to stop worrying about what other people thought of me. Knowing that my identity was in Jesus, I didn’t have to try to be the “cool kid” anymore.

Thankfully, our social identity doesn’t define who we are. Paul opened his letter to followers of Jesus in Ephesus by explaining that God “chose us in Christ” and adopted us as children of God (Ephesians 1:4-5). He then wrote, “Because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance” (Ephesians 1:11). Jesus chose to die for us and we’re now united with Him, a part of His family and heirs to His kingdom!

During His time on earth, Jesus assured His followers that, although He had to leave, He would send a Helper—the Holy Spirit—who would be an advocate and guide (John 14:15-2116:5-15). And according to Paul, the Spirit is also “God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people” (Ephesians 1:14).

Believers in Jesus aren’t simply His followers, we’re children of God, adopted into His family. Our social identity may have some value now, but it doesn’t compare to who we are in Jesus and what that means for our future. As Paul wrote, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3). We find true identity in our relationship with Jesus and in our inheritance as a child of God!

 

Seeing then that we have a great high Priest… Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Our great Helper in prayer is the Lord Jesus Christ, our Advocate with the Father, our Great High Priest, whose chief ministry for us these centuries has been intercession and prayer. He it is who takes our imperfect petitions from our hands, cleanses them from their defects, corrects their faults, and then claims their answer from His Father on His own account and through His all-atoning merits and righteousness.

Brother, are you fainting in prayer? Look up. Your blessed Advocate has already claimed your answer, and you would grieve and disappoint Him if you were to give up the conflict in the very moment when victory is on its way to meet you. He has gone in for you into the inner chamber, and already holds up your name upon the palms of His hands; and the messenger, which is to bring you your blessing, is now on his way, and the Spirit is only waiting your trust to whisper in your heart the echo of the answer from the throne, “It is done.”
–A. B. Simpson

The Spirit has much to do with acceptable prayer, and His work in prayer is too much neglected. He enlightens the mind to see its wants, softens the heart to feel them, quickens our desires after suitable supplies, gives clear views of God’s power, wisdom, and grace to relieve us, and stirs up that confidence in His truth which excludes all wavering.

Prayer is, therefore, a wonderful thing. In every acceptable prayer the whole Trinity is concerned.
–J. Angell James

Dependent on God’s Presence

By Oswald Chambers

Dependent on God’s Presence

There is no thrill for us in walking, yet it is the test for all of our steady and enduring qualities. To “walk and not faint” is the highest stretch possible as a measure of strength. The word walk is used in the Bible to express the character of a person— “…John…looking at Jesus as He walked…said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’ ” (John 1:35-36). There is nothing abstract or obscure in the Bible; everything is vivid and real. God does not say, “Be spiritual,” but He says, “Walk before Me…” (Genesis 17:1).

When we are in an unhealthy condition either physically or emotionally, we always look for thrills in life. In our physical life this leads to our efforts to counterfeit the work of the Holy Spirit; in our emotional life it leads to obsessions and to the destruction of our morality; and in our spiritual life, if we insist on pursuing only thrills, on mounting up “with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31), it will result in the destruction of our spirituality.

Having the reality of God’s presence is not dependent on our being in a particular circumstance or place, but is only dependent on our determination to keep the Lord before us continually. Our problems arise when we refuse to place our trust in the reality of His presence. The experience the psalmist speaks of— “We will not fear, even though…” (Psalm 46:2)— will be ours once we are grounded on the truth of the reality of God’s presence, not just a simple awareness of it, but an understanding of the reality of it. Then we will exclaim, “He has been here all the time!” At critical moments in our lives it is necessary to ask God for guidance, but it should be unnecessary to be constantly saying, “Oh, Lord, direct me in this, and in that.” Of course He will, and in fact, He is doing it already! If our everyday decisions are not according to His will, He will press through them, bringing restraint to our spirit. Then we must be quiet and wait for the direction of His presence.

 

More Than a Backstage Pass

By: Paul Daily, Author

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Recently, I made an over two-hour trek from Virginia Beach to “King’s Fest,” a three-day Christian music event at Paramount’s King’s Dominion in Doswell, Va, with some of the teens from our church. For an entire weekend, we jammed and worshiped with some of the premier acts in Christian music. Artists such as Third Day, Rebecca St. James, Pillar, FFH, Newsboys, Thousand Foot Krutch, Audio Adrenaline, and Jeremy Camp took the stage and led us on a journey into the presence of God.

There were thousands of people packed into the amphitheater and the atmosphere was electrified. We were a few of the hundreds “fortunate enough” to be seated on the lawn, so far away from the stage that it was difficult to make out who was performing. In the midst of all the excitement, one of my teens made the comment, “It would be so awesome to get a backstage pass.”

The images of that enormous crowd and those distant figures on stage, as well as that backstage pass comment, came rushing back to me the next morning during my quiet time with the Lord. I was taken away in the glory of God as I knelt there in my tent while the sun crept over the eastern horizon. I began to express to the Lord as eloquently as I knew how that I love Him so much and that I long for real intimacy with Him. Then I said, “Jesus, I don’t want to be just one of the faces in the crowd. I don’t want to just stand there and watch You perform while being robbed of a relationship with You.” I could sense in my spirit all over again the Lord’s desire for more intimacy than I was even willing to accept. Then I felt the Spirit prompting me to ask for “more than a backstage pass.”

That’s pretty much the ultimate thing at a concert. People pay good money to go behind the curtains with their favorite artists, to see the inner workings of these “American Idols.” Though I’ve never gotten a backstage pass to any concert, I can imagine it would be exciting to get a few minutes to meet my favorite artists with only a small group or maybe even get a handshake. But Jesus wants even more than that.

There are three Scriptures that really spoke to me that morning that express God’s desire for intimacy with us:

“One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.” Psalm 27:4-5 (NKJV)

“You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence…” Psalm 31:20 (NKJV)

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” Psalm 32:8 (NKJV)

Nestled gently within those verses are some incredibly delicious morsels of God’s heart. He longs to be close enough to us that He doesn’t even have to wave His hand — we are close enough to see the movement of His eyes; to know what He’s thinking just by the direction He looks. And when He refers to “the secret place” or “the tabernacle” or “pavilion,” those are all pictures of the intimacy shared between a husband and a wife.

If you feel you have been standing in the crowd, lost in a sea of faces, there is hope. Even if you have gotten that backstage pass but your heart tells you there is still more, press in. Isaiah 30:18 is a reminder that in spite of your flaws, the Lord longs to be gracious to you. Slow down long enough to ask the Lord for that intimacy. Address Him the same as you would your spouse or your dearest friend. His ears are open to you and He promises that as soon as you ask, He will answer. He yearns to return to you as the Lover of your soul.

Through The Cross

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The Cross is a reminder of what it cost God to save us. 
Wearing the cross is a sign of our belief in the risen Savior.
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Through the Cross

From: Our Daily Bread

Through the Cross

[Nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:39

My coworker Tom keeps an 8″ by 12″ glass cross on his desk. His friend Phil, who like Tom is a cancer survivor, gave it to him to help him look at everything “through the cross.” The glass cross is a constant reminder of God’s love and good purposes for him.

That’s a challenging idea for all believers in Jesus, especially during difficult times. It’s much easier to focus on our problems than on God’s love.

The apostle Paul’s life was certainly an example of having a cross-shaped perspective. He described himself in times of suffering as being “persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:9). He believed that in the hard times, God is at work, “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” (vv. 17–18).

To “fix our eyes . . . on what is unseen” doesn’t mean we minimize the problems. Paul Barnett, in his commentary on this passage, explains, “There is to be confidence, based on the certainty of God’s purposes for [us] . . . . On the other hand, there is the sober recognition that we groan with hope mingled with pain.”

Jesus gave His life for us. His love is deep and sacrificial. As we look at life “through the cross,” we see His love and faithfulness. And our trust in Him grows.

Father, teach us who You are. Increase our trust in You. Fill our minds with Your perspective.

Look at everything through the cross.

 

Substitution

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“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Peter 2:18-25

Of this God in Christ, our text says that he knew no sin. It does not say that he did not sin; that we know: but it says more than that; he did not know sin; he knew not what sin was. He saw it in others, but he did not know it by experience. He was a perfect stranger to it. It is not barely said, that he did not take sin into his heart, but he did not know it. It was no acquantance of his. He was the acquaintance of grief; but he was not the acquaintance of sin. He knew no sin of any kind,—no sin of thought, no sin of birth, no original, no actual transgression; no sin of lip, or of hand, did ever Christ commit. He was pure, perfect, spotless; like his own divinity, without spot or blemish, or any such thing. This gracious person, is he who is spoken of in the text. He was a person utterly incapable of committing anything that was wrong. It has been asserted lately, by some ill-judged one, that Christ was capable of sin. I think it was Irving who started some such idea, that if Christ was not capable of sinning, he could not have been capable of virtue. “For,” say they, “if a man must necessarily be good, there is no virtue in his goodness.” Away with their ridiculous nonsense! Is not God necessarily good? And who dares deny that God is virtuous? Are not the glorified spirits in heaven necessarily pure? And yet are they not holy because of that very necessity? Are not the angels, now that they are confirmed, necessarily faultless? And shall any one dare to deny angelic virtue! The thing is not true; it needs no freedom in order to create virtue. Freedom and virtue generally go together; but necessity and virtue are as much brother and sister as freedom and virtue. Jesus Christ was not capable of sin.

For meditation: It would have been awful for the sinless Christ to suffer just for one sin of one man. But for him to suffer for all the sins of a countless multitude past, present and future must have been appalling beyond all imagination. How God must hate sin! How he must love poor sinners! Did Christ die for you (Galatians 2:20)?

 

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The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? (John 18:11)

This was a greater thing to say and do than to calm the seas or raise the dead. Prophets and apostles could work wondrous miracles, but they could not always do and suffer the will of God. To do and suffer God’s will is still the highest form of faith, the most sublime Christian achievement.

To have the bright aspirations of a young life forever blasted; to bear a daily burden never congenial and to see no relief; to be pinched by poverty when you only desire a competency for the good and comfort of loved ones; to be fettered by some incurable physical disability; to be stripped bare of loved ones until you stand alone to meet the shocks of life–to be able to say in such a school of discipline, “The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?’–this is faith at its highest and spiritual success at the crowning point.

Great faith is exhibited not so much in ability to do as to suffer.
–Dr. Charles Parkhurst

To have a sympathizing God we must have a suffering Saviour, and there is no true fellow-feeling with another save in the heart of him who has been afflicted like him. We cannot do good to others save at a cost to ourselves, and our afflictions are the price we pay for our ability to sympathize. He who would be a helper, must first be a sufferer. He who would be a saviour must somewhere and somehow have been upon a cross; and we cannot have the highest happiness of life in succoring others without tasting the cup which Jesus drank, and submitting to the baptism wherewith He was baptized.

The most comforting of David’s psalms were pressed out by suffering; and if Paul had not had his thorn in the flesh we had missed much of that tenderness which quivers in so many of his letters.

The present circumstance, which presses so hard against you (if surrendered to Christ), is the best shaped tool in the Father’s hand to chisel you for eternity. Trust Him, then. Do not push away the instrument lest you lose its work.

Strange and difficult indeed
We may find it,
But the blessing that we need
Is behind it.

The school of suffering graduates rare scholars.

 

Fear No Evil

From: Jane Samuel, Author

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“… I will fear no evil …” Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)

Have you ever screamed, thinking you stepped on a spider, only to realize it was a stray black thread? Or has your heart ever raced at that phone call from school, only to learn that little Johnny had won an award? Or have you ever panicked when your texts went unanswered, simply to discover your spouse’s phone battery had died?

If you are like me, you probably answered, “Yes!” to at least one or all of these.

Don’t we have a tendency to imagine the worst? We admit a fearful thought; our creative mind chimes in, willingly embellishing details to nonexistent situations. We picture it in vivid color as it flashes across the backdrop of our make-believe set. We choose a comfortable seat and watch it, mesmerized as if it were an award-winning movie. Only when the credits roll, do we realize this made-up scenario was nothing but a far-fetched invention of our fearful fancy.

So is there an antidote to overactive harmful imagination?

I’ve started chewing on this curative capsule from the brave, bold, optimistic Psalmist: I will fear no evil. Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)

What if this cold is more than just a cold?  I will fear no evil.

What if I run out of money? I will fear no evil.

What if something bad happens to my spouse? I will fear no evil.

What if my kids fall in with the wrong crowd? I will fear no evil.

What if someone breaks into my house? I will fear no evil.

What if I get into an accident? I will fear no evil.

How about you? Do you fear evil? Do you combat an unfounded, irrational fear that keeps you from enjoying life? Do you suffer a chronic expectation of the worst?

If so, contemplate with me, David’s reason as to why he said he would fear no evil.

“… I will fear no evil; for You are with me …” Psalm 23:4 (NKJV italics mine)

Let’s read that again.

For You are with me. 

Isn’t the knowledge of our Shepherd’s constant and comforting presence reassuring?

Friend, we are called to live unafraid of evil.

Evil people.

Evil things.

Evil places.

Evil events.

Evil threats.

Evil diseases.

Evil outcomes.

Evil days.

Fearful thoughts will come. We can’t prevent that. And not all those will be unfounded or irrational. Some will be justifiable and shake us to the core. But if we allow the truth of God’s Word to descend into our spirit, we will be able to draw it out at the right moment. Like a warrior armed and ready for battle we will be equipped. We will be prepared to wield it in the face of an alarming report. Brandish it at the news of possible lay off. Believe it at the threat of impending lawsuit. Trust it in the midst of irreparable loss. As long as our Shepherd is with us, we fear no evil.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me. Your rod and Your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely Your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23:5-6 NKJV)

What’s Your Passion?

 (We Should Have A Passion For The Lost and Suffering).

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What’s Your Passion?

From: Our Daily Bread

What’s Your Passion?

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7

One of the tellers at my bank has a photograph of a Shelby Cobra roadster on his window. (The Cobra is a high-performance automobile built by the Ford Motor Company.)

One day, while transacting business at the bank, I asked him if that was his car. “No,” he replied, “that’s my passion, my reason to get up every morning and go to work. I’m going to own one someday.”

I understand this young man’s passion. A friend of mine owned a Cobra, and I drove it on one occasion! It’s a mean machine! But a Cobra, like everything else in this world, isn’t worth living for. Those who trust in things apart from God “are brought to their knees and fall,” according to the psalmist (Psalm 20:8).

That’s because we were made for God and nothing else will do—a truth we validate in our experience every day: We buy this or that because we think these things will make us happy, but like a child receiving a dozen Christmas presents or more, we ask ourselves, “Is this all?” Something is always missing.

Nothing this world has to offer us—even very good things—fully satisfies us. There is a measure of enjoyment in them, but our happiness soon fades away (1 John 2:17). Indeed, “God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself,” C. S. Lewis concluded. “There is no such thing.”

I have found Him whom my soul so long has craved! Jesus satisfies my longings—through His blood I now am saved. Clara Williams

There is a longing in every heart that only Jesus can satisfy.

The power of Aaron’s rod

‘But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.’ Exodus 7:12

Suggested Further Reading: Revelation 12:7–17

What multitudes of foes has our faith had to meet with; but how it has swallowed them all up. There were our old sins. The devil threw them down before us, and they turned to serpents. What multitudes! How they hiss in the air! How horrible are their deadly poison-fangs, the gaping jaws, their forked tongues! But the cross of Jesus, like Aaron’s rod, destroys them all. Faith in Christ makes short work of all our sins, for it is written, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.’ Then the devil stirs up another generation of vipers, and shows us our inbred corruptions, our neglects of duty, our slackness in prayer, our unbeliefs, our backslidings, our wanderings of heart; and sometimes you and I get so tormented by these reptiles, that we grow alarmed, and are half inclined to flee. Do not run, brother, but throw down Aaron’s rod, and it will swallow up all these serpents, even though they were poisonous as the cobra, or fierce as the rattlesnake. You shall overcome through the blood of the Lamb. Jesus is able ‘to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.’ The battle is the Lord’s, and he will deliver them into your hands. The old enemy will throw down another host of serpents in the form of worldly trials, diabolical suggestions, temptations to blasphemy, ill thoughts of God, hard thoughts of his providence, rash thoughts of his promises, and such like, till you will be almost distracted. You will wonder how you can meet such a host as this. Remember to stand fast, and throw down Aaron’s rod—your simple trust and faith in Jesus Christ—and it must and shall swallow up all these rods.

For meditation: Pharoah’s magicians could to some extent mimic the work of God (Exodus 7:11,228:7), but they were really no match for him (Exodus 7:12) and their power had strict limitations (Exodus 8:18–192 Timothy 3:8–9). Satan and his servants can also do some amazing things (2 Thessalonians 2:9–10Revelation 13:13–15), but the Christian trusts in and is indwelt by One who is greater (1 John 4:4).

 

God Talks to Teens

Author: Martha Noebel

My son, Daniel, is approaching his junior year of high school. We are looking for scholarship information and colleges. It is an exciting time for our family. There are so many questions and yet I couldn’t help but wonder as I repeatedly heard him share his goal for life, what did God want him to do?

I prayed God would show him what He wanted Daniel to be. As I heard Daniel speak of his choice for life, I longed to hear him speak what I felt God had shown me about him. I explained to him he needed to ask God His opinion. I told him God has a plan for his life and exhorted him to ask God. I promised him God would answer his question about his destiny.

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

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

The next morning I dropped him off at school. We had not discussed this issue at all that morning. As he got out of the car, he stopped and looked back at me and said he had not heard from God. What a surprise! He had prayed and was actively looking to God for an answer. I was so excited. I asked him to give God a little more time. Then I prayed, “God please answer him.”

About a month later, I was filling out information about his college choices when I told him what I had put down for his life choice. I listed architect, business administration, etc.; when all of a sudden I heard him say to take architect off the list. I froze. I could not believe what I was hearing. I asked him if he had changed his mind. He told me God had spoken to him. I was so excited I could hardly believe it. Then the words I longed to hear came out of his mouth. He said what he would be doing was not his first choice and yet he knew he had heard from God. His words were God wanted him to be a preacher.

That is what I felt God was calling him to do. I had felt that his whole life. There were no signs it would ever happen and now, well, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

So who said God doesn’t talk to teens? God talks to teens! He talked to mine. He showed him His plans for himself. He will be leading the Devotion this week at their youth meeting. He has really come a long way.

God longs to speak to our kids. He will pour Himself into them as they seek His will. Daniel is still my big, strong, young man who loves to argue with his sister (we’re working on that part). But he now knows he has decisions to make and someone bigger than himself is actively a part of his life.

Let’s pray for our kids. Let us encourage our teens to seek God for the choices they are making. God will answer them. It is never too early or too late and is always the best thing to do.

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7(NIV)

Be Empowered By The Holy Spirit

Philippians 4:13

13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Galatians 2:20

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,who loved me and gave himself for me.

 

Be strong

1. Psalm 31:24 Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.

2. 1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

3. Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

4. 2 Chronicles 15:7 But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.

5. Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoices; and with my song will I praise him.

 

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I Just Can’t Do It

From: Our Daily Bread

I Just Can’t Do It

The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. Galatians 3:24 nkjv

“I just can’t do it!” lamented the dejected student. On the page he could see only small print, difficult ideas, and an unforgiving deadline. He needed the help of his teacher.

We might experience similar despair when we read Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). Anger is as bad as murder (v. 22). Lust equals adultery (v. 28). And if we dare think we can live up to these standards, we bump into this: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (v. 48).

“The Sermon on the Mount produces despair,” says Oswald Chambers. But he saw this as good, because at “the point of despair we are willing to come to [Jesus] as paupers to receive from Him.”

In the counterintuitive way God so often works, those who know they can’t do it on their own are the ones who receive God’s grace. As the apostle Paul put it, “Not many of you were wise by human standards. . . . But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:26–27).

In God’s wisdom, the Teacher is also our Savior. When we come to Him in faith, through His Spirit we enjoy His “righteousness, holiness and redemption” (v. 30), and the grace and power to live for Him. That’s why He could say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

Thank You, Lord, for blessing those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, and who hunger and thirst for Your righteousness. You are our righteousness!

The Miracle of Belief

By Oswald Chambers

The Miracle of Belief

Paul was a scholar and an orator of the highest degree; he was not speaking here out of a deep sense of humility, but was saying that when he preached the gospel, he would veil the power of God if he impressed people with the excellency of his speech. Belief in Jesus is a miracle produced only by the effectiveness of redemption, not by impressive speech, nor by wooing and persuading, but only by the sheer unaided power of God. The creative power of redemption comes through the preaching of the gospel, but never because of the personality of the preacher.

Real and effective fasting by a preacher is not fasting from food, but fasting from eloquence, from impressive diction, and from everything else that might hinder the gospel of God being presented. The preacher is there as the representative of God— “…as though God were pleading through us…” (2 Corinthians 5:20). He is there to present the gospel of God. If it is only because of my preaching that people desire to be better, they will never get close to Jesus Christ. Anything that flatters me in my preaching of the gospel will result in making me a traitor to Jesus, and I prevent the creative power of His redemption from doing its work.

And Iif I am lifted up…, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32).

 

God is with us

From: Charles Spurgeon

‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ Romans 8:31

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 118:1–14

God is for us. But, O my brethren, though this brings in the context, it is impossible for any human speech to bring out the depth of the meaning of how God is for us. He was for us before the worlds were made: he was for us, or else he never would have given his Son; he was for us even when he smote the only-begotten, and laid the full weight of his wrath upon him—he was for us, though he was against him; he was for us when we were ruined in the fall—he loved us notwithstanding all; he was for us when we were against him, and with a high hand were bidding him defiance: he was for us, or else he never would have brought us humbly to seek his face. He has been for us in many struggles; we have had to fight through multitudes of difficulties; we have had temptations from without and within—how could we have held on until now if he had not been with us? He is for us, let me say, with all the infinity of his heart, with all the omnipotence of his love; for us with all his boundless wisdom; arrayed in all the attributes which make him God he is for us—eternally and immutably for us; for us when the blue skies shall be rolled up like a worn out vesture; for us throughout eternity. Here, child of God, is matter enough for thought, even though you had ages to meditate upon it: God is for you; and if God be for you, who can be against you?

For meditation: If we are believers and God is for us, we will actually have no end of enemies trying to oppose us, but we will be able to withstand them (Ephesians 6:10–13). However, it is a big ‘IF’; the opposite is true for unbelievers—if this same almighty God is against us (Romans 1:181 Peter 3:12), whoever or whatever may be for us will be of absolutely no assistance whatsoever to us.

Live Abundantly Through Christ

John 10:10

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Matthew 6:33

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Psalm 16:11

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Galatians 2:20

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Romans 12:1

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

 

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How We’re Called to Live

From: Our Daily Journey

How We’re Called to Live

Read:

2 Corinthians 5:14-21
[God] gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19).

I found myself in a tense, combustible situation—standing between two groups of angry people who were nose to nose, boiling over with rage and hatred. One group spewed vile, dehumanizing words at the other; then that group spewed vile, dehumanizing words back. In that volatile space, both groups completely lost perspective of the other’s humanity. Locked in an intractable posture of opposition, neither side would acknowledge any common ground. Neither side would consider there might be some way to resolve their differences or even begin any kind of constructive conversation. Both sides felt wronged and wanted only to punish their foe.

In contrast, when Jesus confronted sin, His ultimate goal was always reconciliation. Jesus’ mission was to reach out to those who “were far away from God” and bring them near (Ephesians 2:13). He reached out to all of us, though we’ve all rebelled against God and resisted His love. He moved right past our ignorance and our protests in order to offer us healing. “God was in Christ,” Paul tells us, “reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

And this posture of reconciliation isn’t merely the way Jesus lived but also how He calls us to live. Christ “gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Now He’s chosen to reconcile the world through us. “We are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

In conflicts, we should never seek revenge. Rather, we should seek healing and reconciliation. We’re not to inflict pain on those who have wronged us but seek the possibility of forgiveness and the divine mending Jesus brings.

 

The Concept of Divine Control

By Oswald Chambers

The Concept of Divine Control

Jesus is laying down the rules of conduct in this passage for those people who have His Spirit. He urges us to keep our minds filled with the concept of God’s control over everything, which means that a disciple must maintain an attitude of perfect trust and an eagerness to ask and to seek.

Fill your mind with the thought that God is there. And once your mind is truly filled with that thought, when you experience difficulties it will be as easy as breathing for you to remember, “My heavenly Father knows all about this!” This will be no effort at all, but will be a natural thing for you when difficulties and uncertainties arise. Before you formed this concept of divine control so powerfully in your mind, you used to go from person to person seeking help, but now you go to God about it. Jesus is laying down the rules of conduct for those people who have His Spirit, and it works on the following principle: God is my Father, He loves me, and I will never think of anything that He will forget, so why should I worry?

Jesus said there are times when God cannot lift the darkness from you, but you should trust Him. At times God will appear like an unkind friend, but He is not; He will appear like an unnatural father, but He is not; He will appear like an unjust judge, but He is not. Keep the thought that the mind of God is behind all things strong and growing. Not even the smallest detail of life happens unless God’s will is behind it. Therefore, you can rest in perfect confidence in Him. Prayer is not only asking, but is an attitude of the mind which produces the atmosphere in which asking is perfectly natural. “Ask, and it will be given to you…” (Matthew 7:7).

Got Joy?

By: Kathy Schultz

I have recently spent some joyless days, days where the joy of the Lord was not my strength. These were times I cried and could not even begin to smile, much less laugh. Circumstances had changed and I was not a happy camper. You probably have had moments like these as well.

Christians have often quoted the last part of Nehemiah 8:10:

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (NIV)

The truth of this statement is that it is not ourjoy, but HIS joy that is our strength. I had been looking for my own joy and it could not be found.

I went to the Bible to see what it had to say about joy. I found many scriptures and stories about joy and laughter. I reread the story of Sarah laughing when she heard God say she was going to have a child. (Genesis 18) This laughter came from unbelief, a nervous laughter. I’ve had that type of laughter and it always hid how I felt at the moment. Thankfully, God did not leave Sarah there but gave her the promised child. We can imagine the joy she must have had when the promise became true! It was the Lord who fulfilled the promise. In my mind, I can picture her laughing again, but this time with real joy.

King David did not always experience joy. The book of Psalms is full of him crying out to the Lord. But David found that in God’s presence was the fullness of joy. Joy was not found in himself but in God.

“… you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11 (NIV)

We all have times when things go wrong and suddenly God gives us the ability to laugh. I began to remember times in my life when laughter had calmed the chaotic moment. Once, while my family and I were camping at the beach, a storm suddenly came up and the rain began to come down by the buckets. The campsite we had picked was clean but was at a low ground level. Some experienced campers told us we should dig a trench around our tent to keep the rain out. The only available shovels were our children’s toys. What a sight we were, four adults digging around a tent in the rain with toy shovels. In the midst of the downpour, we all began to laugh. God had given us the ability to see the situation with humor.

You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! Isaiah 55:12 (NLT)

Joy is even one of the fruits of the Spirit. It isn’t something we do, but something we can ask to be given. It is God’s gift to us. I certainly need this gift – to have God’s joy in my life.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

Joy could shine through us if we would let God have his way with us. I have to admit, I was not allowing God’s joy to shine through me. I resolved to get in God’s presence and have the joy restored, not mine, but His joy. There is a difference. I want to remember that God can restore my joy and give me laughter. I want to live as the scriptures say “in joy and peace.”

Yes, in our lives we will experience difficult moments. The scriptures tell us that even Jesus wept, and there is no sin in weeping.

“… weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5(NIV)

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35 (NIV)

After Jesus wept, He restored Lazarus to life again. Those who loved Lazarus must have experienced great joy!

“God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh.” Luke 6:21 (NLT)

May you, along with me, ask God to restore your joy. Remember, apart from God’s presence, there is no joy!

 

Timeless Beauty

Romans 10:15

How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”

1 Peter 3:3-4

Your adornment must not be merely external–braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.

Romans 8:28

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

1 Samuel 16:7

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

1 Timothy 2:9

Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments,

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Timeless Beauty

From: Our Daily Journey

Timeless Beauty

Read:

Ephesians 4:1-16
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (Ephesians 4:15).

Each year, my son and I travel to the other side of the country to spend time with his honorary grandparents, Gwen and Jim Johnson. It’s not possible for me to express the significance of these visits and all that my son and I learn from this remarkable couple, each of whom are in their mid-nineties.

Though no longer able to skydive, Jajja (grandmother) Gwen did parachute from the sky on her ninetieth birthday! The Johnson’s model a deep faith in Jesus, a contagious zest for life, an unwavering commitment to service, and an undeniable love for and devotion to each other.

Throughout their more than 70 years of marriage, Gwen and Jim have exemplified Ephesians 4:2-3 as they’ve treated each other humbly and gently—and that still continues in their golden years. Because they know and trust Jesus, they continue to “be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of . . . love” (Ephesians 4:2). They know that each minute they have on earth is more time to serve Him and His children and to love each other.

Their example of profound love has been evident to my son and me again and again. But this past summer, at the swimming pool, as we watched Jim tenderly rub suntan lotion on Gwen’s shoulder, I thanked God for allowing my son to witness unconditional love between a husband and a wife.

Grandpa Jim and Jajja Gwen, to all who know them, are an example of the beauty that results when people choose to “make every effort to keep [themselves] united in the Spirit, binding [themselves] together in peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

When we allow the Holy Spirit and Scripture to guide us, nothing can veil the beauty God intended for us to experience in our relationships.

 

My Life’s Spiritual Honor and Duty

By Oswald Chambers

My Life’s Spiritual Honor and Duty

Paul was overwhelmed with the sense of his indebtedness to Jesus Christ, and he spent his life to express it. The greatest inspiration in Paul’s life was his view of Jesus Christ as his spiritual creditor. Do I feel that same sense of indebtedness to Christ regarding every unsaved soul? As a saint, my life’s spiritual honor and duty is to fulfill my debt to Christ in relation to these lost souls. Every tiny bit of my life that has value I owe to the redemption of Jesus Christ. Am I doing anything to enable Him to bring His redemption into evident reality in the lives of others? I will only be able to do this as the Spirit of God works into me this sense of indebtedness.

I am not a superior person among other people— I am a bondservant of the Lord Jesus. Paul said, “…you are not your own…you were bought at a price…” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Paul sold himself to Jesus Christ and he said, in effect, “I am a debtor to everyone on the face of the earth because of the gospel of Jesus; I am free only that I may be an absolute bondservant of His.” That is the characteristic of a Christian’s life once this level of spiritual honor and duty becomes real. Quit praying about yourself and spend your life for the sake of others as the bondservant of Jesus. That is the true meaning of being broken bread and poured-out wine in real life.

 

Order and argument in prayer

From: Charles Spurgeon

‘Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.’ Job 23:3–4

Suggested Further Reading: Daniel 9:1–19

The true spiritual order of prayer seems to me to consist of something more than mere arrangement. It is most fitting for us first to feel that we are now doing something that is real; that we are about to address ourselves to God, whom we cannot see, but who is really present; whom we can neither touch nor hear, nor by our own senses can apprehend, but who, nevertheless, is as truly with us as though we are speaking to a friend of flesh and blood like ourselves. Feeling the reality of God’s presence, our mind will be led by divine grace into a humble state; we shall feel like Abraham, when he said, ‘I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes.’ Consequently we shall not deliver ourselves of our prayer as boys repeating their lessons, as a mere matter of rote, much less shall we speak as if we were rabbis instructing our pupils, or as I have heard some do, with the coarseness of a highwayman stopping a person on the road and demanding his purse of him; but we shall be humble yet bold petitioners, humbly importuning mercy through the Saviour’s blood. We shall not have the reserve of a slave but the loving reverence of a child, yet not an impudent, impertinent child, but a teachable obedient child, honouring his Father, and therefore asking earnestly, but with deferential submission to his Father’s will. When I feel that I am in the presence of God, and take my rightful position in that presence, the next thing I shall want to recognise will be that I have no right to what I am seeking, and cannot expect to obtain it except as a gift of grace, and I must recollect that God limits the channel through which he will give me mercy—he will give it to me through his dear Son. Let me put myself then under the patronage of the great Redeemer.

For meditation: In emergencies believers can pray to God on the spur of the moment (Nehemiah 2:4). At other times it is only right and proper to take both care and time (Nehemiah 1:4Matthew 6:5–7).

Jesus Endured Much To Save Us

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not [a]puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, [b]thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

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Suffering Afflictions and Going the Second Mile

By Oswald Chambers

Suffering Afflictions and Going the Second Mile

This verse reveals the humiliation of being a Christian. In the natural realm, if a person does not hit back, it is because he is a coward. But in the spiritual realm, it is the very evidence of the Son of God in him if he does not hit back. When you are insulted, you must not only not resent it, but you must make it an opportunity to exhibit the Son of God in your life. And you cannot imitate the nature of Jesus— it is either in you or it is not. A personal insult becomes an opportunity for a saint to reveal the incredible sweetness of the Lord Jesus.

The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is not, “Do your duty,” but is, in effect, “Do what is not your duty.” It is not your duty to go the second mile, or to turn the other cheek, but Jesus said that if we are His disciples, we will always do these things. We will not say, “Oh well, I just can’t do any more, and I’ve been so misrepresented and misunderstood.” Every time I insist on having my own rights, I hurt the Son of God, while in fact I can prevent Jesus from being hurt if I will take the blow myself. That is the real meaning of filling “up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ…” (Colossians 1:24). A disciple realizes that it is his Lord’s honor that is at stake in his life, not his own honor.

Never look for righteousness in the other person, but never cease to be righteous yourself. We are always looking for justice, yet the essence of the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is— Never look for justice, but never cease to give it.

 

Our miseries, messengers of mercy

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.’ Hosea 6:1–2

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 116:12–19

A missionary was preaching to a Maori tribe in New Zealand. He had been telling them of the suffering love of Christ, how he had poured forth his soul unto death for them; and as he concluded, the hills rung to the thrilling question ‘Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow.’ Then stood forth a plumed and painted chief, the scarred warrior of a thousand fights, and as his lips quivered with suppressed emotion, he spoke. ‘And did the Son of the Highest suffer all this for us men? Then the chief would like to offer him some poor return for his great love. Would the Son of God deign to accept the chief’s hunting dog? Swift of foot and keen of scent, the tribe has not such another, and he has been to the chief as a friend.’ But the missionary told him that the Son of God had need of no such gifts as these. For a moment the chief paused; then as a new thought struck him, suddenly despoiling himself of his striped blanket he cried with childlike earnestness, ‘Perhaps he who had not where to lay his head will yet accept the chieftain’s blanket. The poor chief will be cold without it, yet it is offered joyfully.’ Touched by love’s persistency, the missionary tried to explain to him the real nature of the Son of God; that it was not men’s gifts but men’s hearts that he yearned for. For a moment a cloud of grief darkened the granite features of the old chief; then as the true nature of the Son of God slowly dawned upon him, casting aside his blanket he clasped his hands, and looking right up into the blue sky, his face beaming with joy, he exclaimed ‘Perhaps the Son of the Blessed One will deign to accept the poor chief himself!’

For meditation: Christ chiefly gave us himself (Galatians 2:20); blessings come with him (Romans 8:32Ephesians 1:3). From you God chiefly wants yourself, not your material possessions, but your repentance and faith in him, the Saviour of the world.

 

Agents of God’s Glory

From: Joe Stowell, Author

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

A friend of mine is an agent for professional athletes. His whole career is based on representing his clients to teams in hopes of securing them the best possible salary and contract package. For each of his clients, he has a portfolio that highlights their statistics—height, weight, career highlights, awards, you name it. At a moment’s notice, he can give you a clear picture of the athlete’s accomplishments and abilities.

Every once in a while, my agent friend and I will talk about some of the athletes he represents. He has a couple of big names on his list, and I’ve found myself thinking, “Wow, you’re an agent for him? No way! That would be amazing.” But when I think about it, you and I have a far greater privilege and calling. We are agents of God—hired by the price He paid on the cross—to spread the “stats” of His glory everywhere we go.

Of course we know that God is totally self-sufficient and that His worth isn’t based on what other people think. But this fallen world needs to be reminded of how incredible and vast our God is. The psalmist points out that the heavens declare His glory. Creation speaks loud and clear about His creative power and divine nature. His Word paints a magnificent picture of His glory, recording the drama and wonder of God’s interaction with His people. And we have, on a daily basis, the responsibility of reflecting and representing God’s glory in this world.

His “portfolio” of glory staggers the imagination. It encompasses His personal, unconditional love. It draws in His broad and limitless mercy—mercy that patiently holds back His hand of judgment. His credentials include perfect wisdom, undiminished holiness, unflinching faithfulness, perfect justice, and the realities that He is all-powerful and all-knowing. Simply put, His glory is all that He is in His all-surpassing, praiseworthy, stunning perfection.

So how do we reflect His glory? On this side of heaven, as fallen sinful creatures, we do it imperfectly. However, as we begin to grasp how immense and incredible God’s glory is, it starts to show up in our lives. As we demonstrate mercy and forgiveness to a friend that has wounded us, we are agents of God’s mercy. When we remain faithful to our relationships, loving others through thick and thin, we are reflecting the glory of God’s unconditional love. When our hearts of compassion move us to act on behalf of the poor, the needy, and the marginalized, we are representing our God’s heart of justice and compassion. As our lives begin to line up with the principles of God’s Word, we highlight the glory of God’s perfect wisdom. His “portfolio” is on display for a needy and watching world.

Paul reminds the Corinthians that the purpose of our redemption—God buying us back—was that we might glorify God. You are His agent today. There is no greater privilege or calling!