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Jesus Is The Bread Of Life

3/30/2020

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Bread of Heaven

 

“I am the bread of life.” John 6:48 the Words of Jesus

Every ten days I feed my sourdough bread starter whether it wants to eat or not. That’s the beginning process for making bread at our house. Forty-eight hours later, my family has three fresh loaves of the yummy-smelling bread.

Bread, a diet staple for man, contains a mixture of grain and water. The earliest forms of bread were baked on hot stones, while Egypt gets credit for the first leavened bread and brick ovens. Yesteryear’s coarse bread was nothing like today’s commercially baked, enriched, sliced white bread.

In the 1900’s in the United States, 95 percent of bread was baked at home. By 1950, commercial bakeries turned out 95 percent. When a child of 12 receives 75 percent of his calories from enriched bread, that amount supplies enough nutrition for sufficient growth.

However, the Bread of Life remains essential for good spiritual health. Jesus prescribed “daily requirements” when he said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

On one occasion, a crowd rushed after Jesus and caught up in the moment of chasing after him, only one in 5000 plus remembered to bring along food. As the day grew long, Jesus noticed their hunger, and a young boy donated his food to Jesus, who in turn prayed over the crusts.

In Jesus’ hands, several loaves became thousands, and the usual processes of sowing seeds, sprouting, maturing, harvesting, grinding, mixing, and baking bypassed the usual months of labor leading up to sumptuous bread. After the meal, Jesus tried to leave the crowd, but many still trailed after him.

He knew their hearts. “You are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” John 6:26 Not any different from people today, those crowds liked the quick fix for hungry bellies.

In this same setting, Jesus connected table bread and the bread of heaven to say about himself, “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

In elementary school, my class took a field trip to Mrs. Baird’s bakery in Houston, Texas. I still remember the line of fourth graders with our noses aloft, sniffing the yeasty scented air. Enticed, we became instant Baird fans. After the tour, each student received a slice of hot, buttered bread. Melted butter on warm bread lingers in my memory and is probably the best straight-out-of-the-oven bread I’ve ever sampled.

As good as that slice tasted, it will never compare to the true Staff of Life, the Bread of Heaven, Jesus Christ.

Father, Jesus, often the quest to fill my stomach is stronger than my desire for you. Please reverse my appetites, for you satisfy like no morsel of food. Amen.

 

Are You Feasting on the Bread of Life?

By Lynette Kittle, crosswalk.com

Basic Sourdough Bread | King Arthur Flour

“I am the bread of life.”– John 6:48

So much about life is focused on food today, of making sure you eat certain food to receive the most health benefits to grow stronger and to live longer.

Entire television networks, publications, websites, and festivals are devoted to food, instructing people how to buy it, prepare it, serve it, and eat it.

As well there are heated debates over which foods to eat and which foods to abstain from, similar to the discussions mentioned in Scripture between believers over which foods are okay to eat.

Yet no matter how much care you may take in putting food into your mouth, Jesus said not to put your focus on earthly food as your source of life.

Just like health organizations like to give their “Seal of Approval” on foods they believe are of higher quality, Jesus encourages to, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval” (John 6:27).

To help give a better understanding of what He is saying, Jesus refers to the Israelites time in the wilderness, “Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven” (John 6:32).

Psalm 78:24 describes how the bread from Heaven, called manna, was given to the them. “He rained down manna for the people to eat, He gave them the grain of Heaven.”

Scripture explains that, “Human beings ate the bread of angels; He sent them all the food they could eat” (Psalm 78:25).

As well, John 6:33 explains it like this, “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Jesus took great effort to teach this truth by comparing the manna from Heaven that sustained the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years, to how He is the bread of Heaven who will sustain you, so you’ll never go hungry (John 6:35).

Rather than focusing your life on earthly food as the sustainer of your life, Jesus asks you to look higher to Him stating, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:48).

As God wanted the Israelites to look to Him for the bread of life, Jesus explains in John 6:51 how He wants you to look to Him stating, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Jesus is the bread that came down from Heaven and whoever eats His bread will live forever  (John 6:58).

The Holy City

by Inspiration Ministries

“I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.” – Revelation 21:2 NASB

Frederick Edward Weatherly wrote lyrics to many popular songs, including “Danny Boy.” But perhaps his most important contribution resulted from a dream he had in 1892. The words inspired by this dream became “The Holy City.”

In this dream, he stood beside the temple in old Jerusalem and heard children singing. He also heard angels singing, “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Lift up your gates and sing, Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna to your King!”

Then, he pictured the day that Jesus was crucified. The hosannas were gone, “the sun grew dark with mystery,” and “the morn was cold and chill.” Yet the angels still sang “Hosanna.”

Next, Weatherly saw the new earth and the Holy City. But everything was different. “The light of God was on its streets, the gates were open wide.” This was “the new Jerusalem, that would not pass away.” It was a place filled with praises and with singing, “for the night is o’er!” All troubles were gone. Everyone was filled with praises: “Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna for evermore!”

If you serve Jesus, you can look forward to that great day. You will join the angels and all who have gone before you, standing in the new Jerusalem. All of life’s cares and troubles will be gone. There will be no pain and suffering.

Make sure you are ready, as “a bride adorned for her husband.” Live for Him. Trust Him. Worship Him. Sing hosanna to His name!

 

Walking in the Light of Your Own Fire – Streams in the Desert – March 30

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

Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow” (Isa. 50:11).

What a solemn warning to those who walk in darkness and yet who try to help themselves out into the light. They are represented as kindling a fire, and compassing themselves with sparks. What does this mean?

Why, it means that when we are in darkness the temptation is to find a way without trusting in the Lord and relying upon Him. Instead of letting Him help us out, we try to help ourselves out. We seek the light of nature, and get the advice of our friends. We try the conclusions of our reason, and might almost be tempted to accept a way of deliverance which would not be of God at all.

All these are fires of our own kindling; rushlights that will surely lead us onto the shoals. And God will let us walk in the light of those sparks, but the end will be sorrow.

Beloved, do not try to get out of a dark place, except, in God’s time and in God’s way. The time of trouble is meant to teach you lessons that you sorely need. Premature deliverance may frustrate God’s work of grace in your life. Just commit the whole situation to Him. Be willing to abide in darkness so long as you have His presence.

Remember that it is better to walk in the dark with God than to walk alone in the light.
–The Still Small Voice

Cease meddling with God’s plans and will. You touch anything of His, and you mar the work. You may move the hands of a clock to suit you, but you do not change the time; so you may hurry the unfolding of God’s will, but you harm and do not help the work. You can open a rosebud but you spoil the flower. Leave all to Him. Hands down. Thy will, not mine.
–Stephen Merritt

HIS WAY

God bade me go when I would stay
(‘Twas cool within the wood);
I did not know the reason why.
I heard a boulder crashing by
Across the path where I stood.
He bade me stay when I would go;
“Thy will be done,” I said.
They found one day at early dawn,
Across the way I would have gone,
A serpent with a mangled head.
No more I ask the reason why,
Although I may not see
The path ahead, His way I go;
For though I know not, He doth know,

And He will choose safe paths for me.
–The Sunday School Times

God Will Supply All Your Needs

3/29/2020

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It Only Cost a Dime

a dime on someone

 

Connie was feeling especially down, spiritually, one day. She had recently endured some rough circumstances in her life and had almost lost hope. As she was out walking, she was talking to the Lord and made a request to him. She prayed, “Lord, if you are still with me and are going to help me, let me find a dime. Not a nickel or a penny, or even a quarter, just let me find a dime.” She walked on a little further and something caught her eye. She looked down and sure enough, there was a dime.

Of course, business picked up in her soul. Her circumstances didn’t change immediately but she had faith in her Lord and he had answered her in his own special way as she requested. You may think these things don’t really happen. Sometimes our faith gets weak and they just don’t happen for us because we never ask God for anything.

In Judges 6:36-40, Gideon asked God to let a fleece be wet one night and the ground dry and the next night for the fleece to be dry and the ground wet. Verse 40 sums up the answer with one statement:

“And God did so that night…”

Judges 7:13-15 tells us how God encouraged Gideon even more by letting him overhear the telling of an enemy soldier’s dream.

“And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshiped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, ‘Arise; for the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.'” (Judges 7:15 KJV)

Connie, like Gideon, was further encouraged with every dime she found for the rest of her life.

Sometime after her mom’s death, Connie’s daughter Brenda went to the beach. I don’t know if she had been praying for it or not, but as she sat down and dug her toes into the sand, she felt something. She leaned forward and dug around and pulled a dime out of the sand. As she leaned back relaxing and dug her toes into the sand again, she felt something with the other foot. Sure enough, another dime. This was most likely a great comfort for the bereaved daughter as she took it as a sign that God was also with her as he had been with her mom.

Sometime later, Brenda’s son David was somewhere on a job site and looked down and there on the ground, he found a dime. Just as his grandma had found dimes from the Lord, his mom had, and now he had his very own. He took a picture and sent it to his mom, who I am sure greatly rejoiced over it.

This may sound silly to you but if you have ever been in that dark place and sought the Lord, you know He makes himself known to you in whatever way is needed to help you. From grandma to daughter to grandson, this family was blessed for years just because grandma sought God for comfort and assurance in a dark place in her life.

Throughout the Bible, prophets have called down fire from heaven, asked for deliverance in battle, parted rivers and seas, and a whole book full of other things. If God would do all that he did for the prophets, why wouldn’t he answer your prayer? He answered Connie’s prayer and gave comfort. After all; it only cost a dime.

 

The God of All Comfort

O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O Lord…. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. — Psalm 139:1-4Psalm 139:23-24

I, the Creator of the universe, am with you and for you. What more could you need? When you feel some lack, it is because you are not connecting with Me at a deep level. I offer abundant Life; your part is to trust Me, refusing to worry about anything.

It is not so much adverse events that make you anxious as it is your thoughts about those events. Your mind engages in efforts to take control of a situation, to bring about the result you desire. Your thoughts close in on the problem like ravenous wolves. Determined to make things go your way, you forget that I am in charge of your life. The only remedy is to switch your focus from the problem to My Presence. Stop all your striving, and watch to see what I will do. I am the Lord!

Romans 8:31-32Micah 7:71 Corinthians 12:3

 

May Your unfailing love be my comfort. — Psalm 119:76 NIV

I am leading you, step by step, through your life. Hold My hand in trusting dependence, letting Me guide you through this day. Your future looks uncertain and feels flimsy — even precarious. That is how it should be. Secret things belong to the Lord, and future things are secret things. When you try to figure out the future, you are grasping at things that are Mine. This, like all forms of worry, is an act of rebellion: doubting My promises to care for you.

Whenever you find yourself worrying about the future, repent and return to Me. I will show you the next step forward, and the one after that, and the one after that. Relax and enjoy the journey in My Presence, trusting Me to open up the way before you as you go.

Deuteronomy 29:29Luke 12:25–26Psalm 32:8

 

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. — John 16:33 NKJV

Bring Me all your feelings, even the ones you wish you didn’t have. Fear and anxiety still plague you. Feelings per se are not sinful, but they can be temptations to sin. Blazing missiles of fear fly at you day and night; these attacks from the evil one come at you relentlessly. Use your shield of faith to extinguish those flaming arrows. Affirm your trust in Me, regardless of how you feel. If you persist, your feelings will eventually fall in line with your faith.

Do not hide from your fear or pretend it isn’t there. Anxiety that you hide in the recesses of your heart will give birth to fear of fear: a monstrous mutation. Bring your anxieties out into the Light of My Presence, where we can deal with them together. Concentrate on trusting Me, and fearfulness will gradually lose its foothold within you.

Ephesians 6:161 John 1:5–7Isaiah 12:2

 

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. — Philippians 4:12

Stay calmly conscious of Me today, no matter what. Remember that I go before you as well as with you into the day. Nothing takes Me by surprise. I will not allow circumstances to overwhelm you so long as you look to Me. I will help you cope with whatever the moment presents. Collaborating with Me brings blessings that far outweigh all your troubles. Awareness of My Presence contains Joy that can endure all eventualities.

 

Prepared

by Inspiration Ministries

“I saw the dead … standing before the throne, and books were opened … the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.” – Revelation 20:12 NASB

How would people live differently if they really believed that one day they would face God and give account of everything they have done? If they realized that a book is being written about their lives filled with their deeds, how would it impact their daily living?

The Bible makes it clear: Each of us will stand before God, and the books on our lives will be opened. Nothing will be hidden, and we will be “judged from the things which were written.” This means being evaluated according to the things we have done and the words we have spoken. The secret things and the public things. Our gestures and actions at home and hanging out with friends. The things we say when we are happy and sad. The reactions when we are angry or worried. Every sin we commit. Every idle word we speak. Every thought.

As you approach your life, remember this truth. Think about the things you will do today, and realize that you will give an account of everything when you stand before Him one day. This should be a sobering thought.

If you are ready, there is no reason to fear. In fact, the Bible gives us this account so we might take action now to be ready. Consider the implications of standing before God as you make your decisions. Remember, be careful how you live. Seek to be ready to face God.

Consider the Lilies – Streams in the Desert – March 29

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

Consider the lilies, how they grow (Matt. 6:28).

I need oil,” said an ancient monk; so he planted an olive sapling. “Lord,” he prayed, “it needs rain that its tender roots may drink and swell. Send gentle showers.” And the Lord sent gentle showers. “Lord,” prayed the monk, “my tree needs sun. Send sun, I pray Thee.” And the sun shone, gilding the dripping clouds. “Now frost, my Lord, to brace its tissues,” cried the monk. And behold, the little tree stood sparkling with frost, but at evening it died.

Then the monk sought the cell of a brother monk, and told his strange experience. “I, too, planted a little tree,” he said, “and see! it thrives well. But I entrust my tree to its God. He who made it knows better what it needs than a man like me. I laid no condition. I fixed not ways or means. ‘Lord, send what it needs,’ I prayed, ‘storm or sunshine, wind, rain, or frost. Thou hast made it and Thou dost know.'”

Yes, leave it with Him,
The lilies all do,
And they grow–
They grow in the rain,
And they grow in the, dew–
Yes, they grow:
They grow in the darkness, all hid in the night–
They grow in the sunshine, revealed by the light–
Still they grow.
Yes, leave it with Him
‘Tis more dear to His heart,
You will know,
Than the lilies that bloom,
Or the flowers that start
‘Neath the snow:
Whatever you need, if you seek it in prayer,
You can leave it with Him–for you are His care.

You, you know.
–Selected

Jesus Raises Lazarus From The Dead

3/28/2020

 John chapter 11

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It’s Never Too Late for Jesus

Death is the great enemy, though many of us live in denial of it. Our culture tries to hide death. We don’t see bodies in the streets, as in some parts of the world. Corpses go straight to the morgue or the funeral home — out of sight and out of mind. Many of us have never seen a dead body. Fewer have witnessed a person actually die. We would rather not think about death, we don’t like to talk about it, and we’d prefer to pretend it won’t happen to us.

But it will happen to us. In fact, in one hundred years from now, everyone reading this will be dead. Does that sound harsh? That’s because it is harsh! But it is also true.

Only as we confront the reality of death will we appreciate the hope of resurrection. There is nothing like death to make us desire resurrection.

John 11 begins with a sick Lazarus. His sisters Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus to come to Bethany (John 11:1–3). But Jesus does not go right away. He delays. In fact, he waits two days — until Lazarus is dead (John 11:4–71114) — because he knows exactly what he is about to do.

Grieving with Hope

As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was approaching the village, she went to meet him, while Mary remained seated at the house (John 11:20). This is a little strange, isn’t it? Why does Martha go out to meet Jesus while Mary stays put? Is it simply that Martha is the more active of the two? Is it because she is the one who gets things done, while Mary likes to sit (Luke 10:38–42)? Maybe. Or maybe there is something else going on.

Martha’s words to Jesus must have been hard to hear: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). Given his great power and the signs he has performed already, Martha believed that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’s death. But what she says next is extraordinary: “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:22). Martha does not know the end of this story, as we do. She has no idea what Jesus is about to do and she does not expect him to raise Lazarus from the dead. And yet she expresses hope even after death has occurred. It is as though she is saying, “I don’t know what you can do now, Jesus, but I have hope that you can do something.”

Jesus immediately comforts Martha by saying, “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23). He tells her exactly what he plans to do, but Martha misunderstands: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24). While she misses Jesus’s direct meaning, her response is a good one. She expresses hope through theology. Martha holds to the Jewish belief in the resurrection of the dead that will occur on the last day (Daniel 12:1–2John 5:28–29).

The Resurrection and the Life

Jesus takes Martha’s belief in resurrection at the last day and redirects it toward himself.

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25–26a).

I don’t think Martha understood at that moment what Jesus said. How could Jesus be the resurrection? What does that mean? Why does resurrection occur for those who believe in Jesus? While she may harbor such questions, she responds again with belief when Jesus asks, “Do you believe this?” (John 11:26b). “Yes, Lord,” Martha says, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (John 11:27).

But why does Martha respond this way? Jesus says he is the resurrection and the life, and Martha says yes, you are the Christ. What is the connection between the Christ and resurrection? Again Martha shows herself to be a theologian as she seems to understand the connection. In 2 Samuel 7:12–13, the LORD promises David that one of his offspring will rule on the throne that God will establish forever. If this Messiah is to rule forever, then surely he will not be ended by death. Either he will never die, or if he does die, he will not stay dead. There is thus a connection between resurrection and the Messiah, and Martha seems to understand that.

Grieving Without Hope

While Martha exhibits hope through theological insight, Mary’s interaction with Jesus is noticeably different. While Martha immediately went out to meet Jesus, Mary doesn’t go until Martha gets her (John 11:28). Then it is striking that Mary says the exact same thing that her sister said to Jesus: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32).

Mary utters the exact same words as Martha. But do they mean something different? Notice what Mary doesn’t say. She does not follow up this statement the way Martha did, with the words, “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:22). No, Mary just says that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’s death — period. But now he’s dead, so that’s that. There is no hope expressed.

It seems like Mary did not entertain the idea that Jesus could do anything now that death has come. Death, after all, is the great enemy. Jesus might be able to heal the blind (John 9), turn water into wine (John 2:1–12), and prevent death (John 4:46–54), but no one can do anything about death once death comes. Right?

Mary’s lack of hope in the face of death is understandable. Sure, Jesus is powerful and can do amazing things, but even today no one can do anything about death. With all our advanced science and medicine, the best we can do is delay death. We can put it off a while. But we cannot prevent it from happening in the end. And once it happens, there is nothing we can do about it. The finality of death is clear to all humanity — past and present. Mary accepts this finality and there is no hope.

Jesus Can Always Do Something

Jesus’s response to Mary also contrasts Martha. After Martha expressed hope, Jesus comforted her with the amazing words that Lazarus would rise again and that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. But what is his response to Mary? There is no word of comfort. There is no theological promise. He just says, “Where have you laid him?” (John 11:34).

But it’s also interesting to note Jesus’s nonverbal response to Mary: “When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, he was angry in his spirit and troubled” (John 11:33). Most translations smooth out the phrase, “he was angry,” but this is what the text literally says. It is smoothed out because it is not clear why Jesus is angry. Why is he angry when he sees Mary’s grief?

The usual explanation is that Jesus is angry at the tyranny of death. He is angry to see what death does to relationships and to those left behind. It is awful. It is wrong. This reason for Jesus’s anger makes sense, but there might be another explanation. Could it be that Jesus is angry and troubled because Mary grieves as one without hope? After all, he was not angry in his encounter with Martha, who expressed hope.

In fact, Jesus gets angry a second time (John 11:38), but this is in response to what Mary’s fellow mourners say: “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37). Ignoring the paragraph break, Jesus’s immediate response is again to become angry. Could it be that he is angry because they too lack hope in the face of death? Yes, the crowd knows Jesus is powerful — he opened the eyes of the blind man — he could have prevented Lazarus’s death. But once death has occurred? Not even Jesus can do anything about that, right?

 

Big Things Come in Small Packages

Small Gift

 

I was a kid there were a couple of occasions when my Sunday School class held a contest to see who could memorize the most verses of scripture. Invariably, each time this contest was held the first verse out of everyone’s mouth was John 11:35:

“Jesus wept.”

This is the shortest verse in the English Bible.

The power of John 11:35 is often overlooked because it is so small. When we look at it in light of the larger story, we see something truly wonderful about Jesus. The incident of Jesus weeping comes in the middle of the story of how He raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus was a good friend of Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. Lazarus had fallen seriously ill and his sisters sent word to Jesus so Jesus would come and heal their brother. It is mentioned three times in John 11:1-46 that Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. Even though none of these three were numbered among Jesus’s 12 disciples, the scripture speaks plainly of His love and affection for them.

Yet, when Jesus gets word that Lazarus is sick, He deliberately delays. Jesus doesn’t run to Lazarus’s side and heal him. Instead, Jesus spends two more days where He is and during that time Lazarus dies. Why? Why did Jesus wait and let His friend whom He loved die? Jesus let Lazarus die because He had a plan. The whole of the matter, from beginning to end, was no mystery to Jesus. The plan from the outset was to raise Lazarus from the dead.

It took another four days for Jesus to get to Bethany, the home of Mary and Martha and where their dead brother, Lazarus, had already been buried. Jesus even missed the funeral. Talk about being late. When Martha finds out Jesus is in town, she rushes out to see Him. In their conversation, we get one of the great verses of hope and promise. Jesus said in John 11:25-26,

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Martha then goes and gets Mary along with all the others who had been mourning with them.

Now comes the interesting moment. When Jesus sees Mary and Martha and all the people mourning with them, He is moved deeply and weeps as well. Jesus wept. But why? He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew the story was going to have beyond a happy ending. He knew that He was about to do something truly awesome. Yet – Jesus wept. He didn’t try to shush everyone. He didn’t scold them for not having faith. He didn’t try to tell them that everything was going to be ok. He didn’t turn the processional to the tomb into a victory parade. He walked with them and He wept with them.

Jesus wept because He understood and felt their pain and sorrow. God is the God of eternity, but He is also the God of the moment. He doesn’t belittle or dismiss how we feel simply because He knows how He will work everything out. Instead, He walks with us and feels with us in the times of our deepest hurt. Mary, Martha, and the crowd might have thought Jesus was late, but how can the One who can undo anything, including death, be late?

I don’t know what you are going through, but Jesus does. I don’t know how it will work out, but Jesus does. I don’t know how you feel, but Jesus does. Whatever it is, He has a plan. He is walking with you and He feels what you feel. Jesus weeps with you. He isn’t late, and in the end you will see whatever it is that has “died” in your life, raised again. Then, Jesus will rejoice with you.

 

Streams in the Desert – March 28

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

And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon a heap. (Joshua 3:13).

Brave Levites! Who can help admiring them, to carry the Ark right into the stream; for the waters were not divided till their feet dipped in the water (ver. 15). God had not promised aught else.

God honors faith. “Obstinate faith,” that the PROMISE sees and “looks to that alone.” You can fancy how the people would watch these holy men march on, and some of the bystanders would be saying, “You would not catch me running that risk! Why, man, the ark will be carried away!” Not so; “the priests stood firm on dry ground.” We must not overlook the fact that faith on our part helps God to carry out His plans. “Come up to the help of the Lord.”

The Ark had staves for the shoulders. Even the Ark did not move of itself; it was carried. When God is the architect, men are the masons and laborers. Faith assists God. It can stop the mouth of lions and quench the violence of fire. It yet honors God, and God honors it.

Oh, for this faith that will go on, leaving God to fulfill His promise when He sees fit! Fellow Levites, let us shoulder our load, and do not let us look as if we were carrying God’s coffin. It is the Ark of the living God! Sing as you march towards the flood!
–Thomas Champness

One of the special marks of the Holy Ghost in the Apostolic Church was the spirit of boldness. One of the most essential qualities of the faith that is to attempt great things for God, and expect great things from God, is holy audacity. Where we are dealing with a supernatural Being, and taking from Him things that are humanly impossible, it is easier to take much than little; it is easier to stand in a place of audacious trust than in a place of cautious, timid clinging to the shore.

Like wise seamen in the life of faith, let us launch out into the deep, and find that all things are possible with God, and all things are possible unto him that believeth.

Let us, today, attempt great things for God; take His faith and believe for them and His strength to accomplish them.
–Days of Heaven upon Earth

Trust God Because He Is With You

3/27/2020

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Coronavirus and the Anxious Believer

globe-coronavirus-mask

 

“Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.” 1 Samuel 12:21 (NIV)

Life sure is different today, is it not? Perhaps like me, you’re sick of home quarantine and depressing news. You’ve heard as much about the Coronavirus as you can handle and you can’t process any more depression, doom, and gloom. It’s as if the whole world changed in the blink of an eye, and many are asking, “So where is God in the midst of this crisis?”

As a professing Christian believer who has a respectable understanding of God’s truth, I confess I don’t really know where God is. So, do I think God’s gone on vacation or suddenly decided He doesn’t love us and needs to remain hands-off? Absolutely not! But do I understand why God is allowing this situation to continue and worsen? No, I frankly don’t.

But my lack of understanding of some of the what’s and why’s of this global crisis does not, nor should it ever, lead to the conclusion that God doesn’t care or is unaware.

How do I know this? Because of the Old Testament. I love reading the Old Testament, largely because it seems to be filled with story after story of God’s people getting really ticked off at God’s timing and doing something sinful (let’s just say I can relate!).

The Israelites wanted out of Egypt long before they reached the 400-year mark of Egyptian bondage. Sarah wanted a child before God chose to bless her and Abraham with a son, and a united Israel wanted a human king in place of their Godly king, so God gave them Saul, a willing but challenged soul.

In their impatience, God’s people often created idols to find something or someone to worship as they were very upset at God’s apparent silence. In 1 Samuel 12:21, we see Micah losing his mind when the tribe of Dan stole his man-made idols. They took the objects in which he had placed his hope.

In the OT, God’s people often grew impatient, moaned and groaned about circumstances, and all but gave God an ultimatum: “Act now or I’m choosing a better God!” And each time, God just shook his head in disbelief but continued to love His people until it was time to rescue them from themselves.

What we learn from the Old Testament stories is that trying to rush God and/or pretending to know more than God (e.g. assuming God needs to rescue us from circumstances instead of assuming God needs us to walk through the circumstances), is always going to be a lost cause.

Friends, I don’t understand God’s current timing or will with the virus. But the one thing I know to be true from Scripture is that God never forgets us, He always rescues, and He holds us even in our rebellion and unrest. He is our source of safety and security, and maybe that’s one lesson to be learned now.

In recent days, I’ve returned to the 23rd Psalm to remind myself that God holds our hands and walks side by side with us through the valley of the shadow of death. When I can’t understand his timing or purpose, I can always understand and trust his character. Our God is a compassionate God who hurts as much as we hurt. Run to Him. Trust his timing, and never forget that He has never left his people, even in seasons of rebellion. He will sustain us because He loves.

 

Stepping Out of God’s Way

MARCH 27, 2020

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NLT)

Pinterest ImageHe ironed. I watched.

Standing in the door frame of my guest room, I watched my nephew, Jonathan, iron the wrinkles out of his crumpled shirt. He’d stopped by for a visit on his way to a wedding in my hometown, and his clothes were a mess. He ironed and talked. I watched and listened.

Life hasn’t been easy for Jonathan. While he has an adoring, godly mother and two amazing siblings, the absence of a father left a lingering ache that’s been hard to heal. Their dad’s abandonment affected each of the kids differently, but Jonathan, the youngest, has struggled the most.

I’ve always known God has a special plan for Jonathan. The shaping and molding by God has been fierce, intentional and deliberate.

As Jonathan moved the iron back and forth across the wrinkled fabric, he ironed out much more than a shirt. He ironed out the wrinkles in his heart, pressed out the pain of life without a dad, smoothed out the hurt of abandonment, and steamed out the stubborn creases of years of questions. Why did Dad leave? Why wasn’t I worth sticking around for? Why wasn’t I worth the effort? Why was I more affected by the abandonment than my siblings?

He pressed and talked.
I listened and prayed.

When we see someone going through a struggle, especially our children, the natural instinct is to jump and try to fix it. But what if that struggle is the very thing God is using to grow them, to strengthen them, to build their character? If that’s the case, then our interference may stunt their spiritual growth.

James wrote: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2-4, emphasis added).

So let it grow. We must let it grow in other people too, not just ourselves. Perhaps we have stepped in where we should have stepped out. We were never meant to fiddle with what only God can fix. Our role is to pray for God to do what only God can do.

Twenty minutes later, Jonathan finished ironing. One shirt. One heart.

“God has done so much for me and in me,” he explained. “It has taken a long time, but He is healing me. He is mending my heart. I’m ready to move on now. More than my dad coming home to me, I pray he will come home to Jesus. That’s what I want more than anything.”

You know, I could have said, “Hey, let me just iron that shirt for you.” I could have finished the job in two minutes or less. But this was not about ironing a shirt. This was about pressing out the rumpled creases in a young man’s heart. I couldn’t do that. Only God could. Jonathan needed to hold the iron of God’s love and move it back and forth, back and forth, until the rumpled mess was smoothed. My job was to watch. To listen. To pray.

How about you? Is there someone in your life who has a wrinkled, wounded heart? Have you yanked the healing tool of God’s love out of His hand and tried to iron out their problems yourself? Did you ever consider you might be standing in the way of what God is trying to do? I say this only because I have … many times.

Jonathan wears his mending heart well. That doesn’t mean it won’t need a touch-up pressing when daily life roughs up the fabric of his heart from time to time. But I have every confidence that God, who began a good work in him, will complete it.

And the shirt? It looked pretty good.

 

The great revival

By: Charles Spurgeon

“The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” Isaiah 52:10

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 14:26-40

In the old revivals in America a hundred years ago, commonly called “the great awakening,” there were many strange things, such as continual shrieks and screams, and knockings, and twitchings, under the services. We cannot call that the work of the Spirit. Even the great Whitefield’s revival at Cambuslang, one of the greatest and most remarkable revivals ever known, was attended by some things that we cannot but regard as superstitious wonders. People were so excited, that they did not know what they did. Now, if in any revival you see any of these strange contortions of the body, always distinguish between things that differ. The Holy Spirit’s work is with the mind, not with the body in that way. It is not the will of God that such things should disgrace the proceedings. I believe that such things are the result of Satanic malice. The devil sees that there is a great deal of good doing; “Now,” says he, “I’ll spoil it all. I’ll put my hoof in there, and do a world of mischief. There are souls being converted; I will let them get so excited that they will do ludicrous things, and then it will all be brought into contempt.” Now, if you see any of these strange things arising, look out. There is that old Apollyon busy, trying to mar the work. Put such vagaries down as soon as you can, for where the Spirit works, he never works against his own precept, and his precept is, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” It is neither decent nor orderly for people to dance under the sermon, nor howl, nor scream, while the gospel is being preached to them, and therefore it is not the Spirit’s work at all, but mere human excitement.

The interest of Christ and his people in each other

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘My beloved is mine, and I am his,’ Song of Solomon 2:16

Suggested Further Reading: Galatians 2:15–21

How is my beloved mine? He is mine because he gave himself to me of old. Long ere I knew it, or had a being, he covenanted to bestow himself on me—on all his chosen. When he said, ‘Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God,’ he did in fact become my substitute, giving himself to do my work and bear my sorrow. Mine he is because that covenant has been fulfilled in the actual gift. For me (I speak in the first person, because I want you each to speak in the first person too), for you, my soul, he laid aside his robes of glory to become a man; for you he was swaddled in the weakness of infancy, and lay in the poverty of the manger; for you, my soul, he bore the infant body, the childish form, and the human flesh and blood; for you the poverty which made him cry, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.’ For you, my soul, for you that shame and spitting, that agony and bloody sweat, that cross, that crown of thorns, those expiring agonies, that dying groan. ‘My Beloved,’ in all this, ‘is mine.’ No, yours the burial; yours the resurrection and its mystic meaning; yours the ascension and its triumphant shouts; yours the session at the right hand of God; yes, and by holy daring we avow it, he who sits today, ‘God over all, blessed for ever,’ is ours in the splendour of his majesty, in the invincibility of his might, in the omnipresence of his power, in all the glory of his future advent. Our beloved is ours, because he has given himself to us, just as he is.

For meditation: Can you call Jesus ‘My Lord and my God’ (John 20:28)? Do you take time to count your possessions in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30)? ‘All things’ (Romans 8:321 Corinthians 3:21) would take more than eternity to exhaust!

Salvation Comes Through Faith In Christ

3/26/2020

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

John 11:40

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The Miracle of Salvation

 

“We’re not sure Dad’s going to make it this time,” Linda said to her family.

Linda’s father had been in the cardiac intensive care unit for ten days. He was dying of congestive heart failure. The most recent crisis was that his kidneys stopped working. Now he was on dialysis.

Linda said, “I had a crushing burden to witness to Dad before he died. He wasn’t a believer, and I didn’t think I had done everything I could for his salvation. I went to see him early in the morning so other visitors wouldn’t be there. Another man was moved into his room, and a curtain was pulled between their beds. I prayed for Dad and told him how much God loved him and wanted to receive him.”

Linda still did not receive assurance of her dad’s salvation. “But I felt at peace about it,” she said. “I told him what I felt God wanted me to tell him. The Great Banquet is prepared for everyone, but sometimes they turn it down.”

Linda was referring to the story in Luke 14.

Jesus replied, “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses.” Luke 14:16-18 NIV

The Great Banquet signifies the Kingdom of heaven. Everyone is invited, but sometimes people make all kinds of excuses for not accepting the invitation.

As Linda went in and out of her dad’s room during the day, she could see that the man in the next bed was dying. He was only 42-years-old and his name was Joey. Toward evening, Joey’s mother was there with him.

“Mother,” said Joey, “Will you please go to the lady sitting in the chair on the other side of the curtain? I want to talk to her.”

Linda walked around the curtain to Joey’s bedside. “I overheard you praying with your dad. Will you pray for me? I want to receive Jesus into my life.”

Linda led him in the prayer of salvation and asked him to repeat these words:

Dear Father, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I am a sinner, and I am very sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived. I repent of my sins and ask your forgiveness. I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross and shed His blood for my sins. I confess Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. I invite you to come into my heart and become my Lord and Savior. Amen.

“It was so beautiful,” said Linda. “I could see that he had a sense of peace after he accepted Christ.”

Joey died later that night.

“I thought it was my dad who was supposed to receive salvation that day, but it was Joey. My dad and Joey shared that room for only one night, but it was long enough for this miracle of salvation. Dad got better and was able to go home from the hospital, something we never expected. Now he attends church with us and I continue to pray for his salvation.”

 

So Great a Salvation

By: Greg Laurie, crosswalk.com

 

How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? (Hebrews 2:3–4 NKJV)

About $2 billion worth of lottery prizes go unclaimed each year, according to researchers. (By the way, that isn’t an endorsement of the lottery.) God has given us something far greater than a lottery ticket, something worth far more than millions and millions of dollars. It is salvation.

No wonder the Bible calls it “so great a salvation” (Hebrews 2:3 NKJV). God has placed the righteousness of Jesus Christ into our spiritual bank accounts, so to speak. This is true of every Christian. The apostle Paul wrote, “For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith” (Philippians 3:8–9 NLT).

As Christians, we are positionally righteous before God. The day you believed, He removed your sin. He forgave your sin. He forgot your sin. He removed every trace of your sin, and He put the righteousness of Jesus Christ in its place. That is what it means to be justified.

What we want to do is take hold of, or live out, what God has given to us. Sometimes we don’t see the impact of salvation on a believer’s lifestyle or on their choices. They may say, “Yes, I love the Lord,” but then they do things that seem to contradict that. They may say, “Oh yes, I am saved,” but then we wonder whether they really are.

If a person has really met God, there will be evidence in his or her life. If a person has really come into this encounter with Jesus Christ, others will see the results of it.

 

A Real War

by Inspiration Ministries

“I saw … spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God.” – Revelation 16:13-14 NASB

Hollywood has sensationalized horror. As one authority described, these “unsettling films” are “designed to frighten and panic, cause dread and alarm.” They’re made to create nightmares and draw attention to “the dark side of life.” Millions of people flock to these films, filling their minds with monsters, mummies, vampires, and zombies. But how many recognize the satanic origins that inspire many of these images?

Revelation describes Satan’s forces as spirits armed with power; they are even “performing signs.” They fight against God’s people, gathering the nations against God to accomplish Satan’s purposes.

But the Bible tells us that Jesus came to the earth “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). He frequently cast out demons and gave His disciples “power and authority over all the demons” (Luke 9:1). Yet, we are warned that Satan can be subtle, that he is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). He can appear in any form, even “as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Through means such as horror films, Satan may try to frighten us. But through the blood of Christ, we have prevailing power. But we must use the power and authority God has given us. Don’t allow Satan to gain an advantage over you. Don’t be “ignorant of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11). Take this spiritual battle seriously. Be strong in the
Lord. Be filled with God’s Word and faith in Him.

 

A Faith Like That

Rebecca Jordan Heys Author, reframemedia.org

Scripture Reading — Mark 10:46-52

As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus . . . was sitting by the roadside begging. — Mark 10:46

Bartimaeus met Jesus. In the book of Mark, there are many stories about Jesus healing people, and Bartimaeus’s story is remarkable in several ways.

Mark takes the trouble to tell us his name, Bartimaeus, while many other people who met Jesus are just called “a man in the crowd” or “a woman subject to bleeding.” We are also told that Bartimaeus followed Jesus after being healed, and this event happens only a short time before Jesus goes to Jerusalem to die on the cross.

Jesus told Bartimaeus that his faith had healed him. Bartimaeus believed not in him­self but in Jesus’ power to heal. When he saw Jesus, he called him “Jesus, Son of David,” a royal title. And when Bartimaeus went to Jesus, he threw his cloak aside. Bartimaeus was willing to toss aside perhaps the only thing he owned in order to seek Jesus. And when Jesus asked what he wanted, he simply said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

No matter who we are, we can approach Jesus with the same kind of simple faith. We can trust that Jesus will heal us and save us by his power alone, and we can follow him

The way to God

By: Charles Spurgeon

“No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6

Suggested Further Reading: Genesis 28:10-17

From the moment when Adam touched the forbidden fruit, the way from God to man became blocked up, the bridge was broken down, a great gulf was fixed, so that if it had not been for the divine plan of grace, we could not have ascended to God, neither could God in justice come down to us. Happily, however, the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure, had provided for this great catastrophe. Christ Jesus the Mediator had in eternity past been ordained to become the medium of access between man and God. If you want a figure of him, remember the memorable dream of Jacob. He lay down in a solitary place, and he dreamed a dream, which had in it something more substantial than anything he had seen with his eyes wide open. He saw a ladder, the foot whereof rested upon earth, and the top thereof reached to heaven itself. Upon this ladder he saw angels ascending and descending. Now this ladder was Christ. Christ in his humanity rested upon the earth, he is bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. In his divinity he reaches to the highest heaven, for he is very God of very God. When our prayers ascend on high they must tread the staves of this ladder; and when God’s blessings descend to us, the rounds of this marvellous ladder must be the means of their descent. Never has a prayer ascended to God save through Jesus Christ. Never has a blessing come down to man save through the same Divine Mediator. There is now a highway, a way of holiness wherein the redeemed can walk to God, and God can come to us. The king’s highway:

“The way the holy prophets went-
The road that leads from banishment.”

Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life.

For meditation: The crucifixion of God the Son was the opening ceremony of the way to the Father. As soon as the Son announced “It is finished”, the Father marked the occasion by cutting the veil of the temple from top to bottom (Mark 15:37,38Hebrews 10:19,20).

Take Time To Find God

 3/25/2020

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17

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Take Time to Find God

daisy flowers laying across a book

 

God desires to be a part of our everyday lives. He longs to show His love for us in special ways. If we will take the time, He will surprise us with special gifts of His love throughout our day.

Recently, this happened to a friend of mine. She took the time to find God. No, she didn’t just get up early in the morning and go outside to sit under a large, budding oak tree. She didn’t just stop and smell the fresh spring breeze and listen to the birds singing their songs of praise to God. She didn’t meditate all day while the warmth of the sun caressed her smiling face. She began her day as she always does — she spent time in the Word and then allowed God to show up in any part of her day that He chose. She went to work, and there were special surprises for her.

The Scripture she read that morning was from the Song of Solomon [Song of Songs in some versions]. It was a precious Scripture that she took with her in her heart. As she entered the building where she works, she saw something on the table in the lobby. She decided that she would pick up the small object and throw it away. She took pride in the area where she works and simply wanted to keep things looking nice. But to her surprise, it was a small flower. Now you say, “What’s the big deal?” Well, here is the Scripture that God gave her that morning:

“For the winter is past, and the rain is over and gone. The flowers are springing up, and the time of singing birds has come, even the cooing of turtledoves” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12, The Book).

It meant so much to her. She giggled and said, “Thank you, Papa” (as she always did when speaking to her heavenly Father) and kept right on walking. God was speaking to her heart about His great love for her. He was sharing with her that just as it was beginning to be spring in the natural realm, in the spiritual realm she was starting into her own springtime. And as we all know, flowers are a sign of spring.

God had allowed someone to leave a special, little flower on that table so that as she entered the building she would discover it and feel His great love for her. Her heart was greatly touched by this incident, and I felt so blessed to be a part of it. I had been right behind her when she walked into the building that morning.

As I thought of how special that moment seemed to her (not knowing about the Scripture God had given her), I knew something very wonderful was happening. As I stepped into the elevator, God spoke to my heart and said, “She took the time to find ME.” She had taken the time to find God. She was continuing the day as we all have to do, working and taking care of family, yet this moment did not escape her.

“Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him! Then he will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring” (Hosea 6:3, The Book).

Needless to say, I took the rest of the day to look for God. I made sure I gave eye contact to everyone I met and shared a kind word and a smile. I wanted to find God in my day, and I wanted to be God’s love to someone who might need to see Him in a tangible way.

We can find God. We can feel His love in wonderful ways. We don’t need to think that He is millions of miles away and too busy to care about our special needs each day.

Take time to find God.

 

Time To Pray

“Never stop praying.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT)

GUILT. Many Christians I talk to equate this word with their prayer life, and I can relate.

I used to feel guilty. People would ask me to pray, or I would volunteer to when I heard they were going through something difficult. With a heart of compassion, I’d reply, “Oh, I’ll pray for you!” And I fully intended to. But then I’d forget … get busy … say that to five other people … and often never get around to doing it despite my good intentions.

I’d put off praying in the moment, in favor of waiting until I had a big chunk of time. Then life would happen and that chunk of time wouldn’t materialize. By the time I carved some out, I couldn’t remember all I’d intended to pray about.

One perception I had was that I needed to spend a lot of time in prayer in order to do it “right.” I thought short prayers wouldn’t have much power or impact. Then I noticed something that shifted my thinking. In Matthew 6, Jesus is teaching about prayer. He says, “When you pray, don’t talk on and on as people do who don’t know God. They think God likes to hear long prayers. Don’t be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask” (Matthew 6:7-8, CEV).

Wow, so I don’t have to talk for hours, coming up with eloquent ways to phrase my petitions? It was freeing to see this coming from Jesus’ own lips.

That was followed by another ah-ha moment. In the next verse, Jesus said: “You should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, help us to honor your name. Come and set up your kingdom, so that everyone on earth will obey you, as you are obeyed in heaven. Give us our food for today. Forgive us for doing wrong, as we forgive others. Keep us from being tempted and protect us from evil” (Matthew 6:9-13, CEV). This is often called “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Pause, look at the clock, and recite the Lord’s Prayer aloud. Check the clock again. How long did that take? This was Jesus’ illustration of how to pray—what does that tell us about feeling we need to pray l-o-n-g prayers to be effective?

Hear me on this, there are needs that call for extended time in prayer (see Jesus’ time in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26:36-46 for instance). But many things can be prayed for in short prayers as we move throughout our day.

Now, when a friend sends me an email with a troubled story, I rarely respond by saying, “I will pray for you.” Instead, I pause and pray for her, and then I reply, “I have prayed for you.” If someone calls me, or tells me in person about their prayer need, more often than not I’ll offer to pray with them right then.

If I encounter a reason to pray while reading the newspaper or scripture, I do it in the moment. My aim is not to be lengthy and elaborate with these prayers, but rather to do it while my mind is on it.

If I feel the need to pray for someone repeatedly over time, I follow through with my carefully considered plan as I’ve gotten intentional about prayer. Deciding several years ago to pray short, in the moment prayers, was key for me. It’s a doable way of “praying continually” and it helped relieve feelings of failure, pressure and guilt.

Most importantly, this ensures that people’s needs are in fact being prayed for—which is the ultimate goal, right?

As I read the Bible, I see instructions to pray frequently, to pray with faith and persistence, and to pray over all our cares and concerns. But I do not see that we must talk for hours over each request for God to hear them.

I hope that does for you what it did for me—replaces feelings of guilt with a renewed passion to pray.

My simple and humanly impossible goal this morning in this message is that you would all be devoted to prayer. This is my goal because this is what the Bible calls us to be. My text is Romans 12:12 which is part of a longer chain of exhortations. It says we are to be “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted (proskarterountes) to prayer.”

Your version might say, “constant in prayer” or “faithful in prayer.” Those all get at aspects of the word. “Devoted” is a good translation. The word is used in Mark 3:9 where it says, “[Jesus] told his disciples to have a boat ready (proskartere) for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him.” A boat was to set apart — devoted — for the purpose of taking Jesus away in case the crowd became threatening. “Devoted” — dedicated for a task, appointed for it.

Now, boats just sit there. But people are not dedicated that way. When the word is applied to a person it means devoted or dedicated in the sense not only of designation and appointment but of action in the appointed task, and pressing on in it. So for example in Romans 13:6 Paul talks about the role of government like this: “You also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.” That is, they are not only designated by God for a task, but are giving themselves to it.

What’s remarkable about this word is that five of the ten New Testament uses apply to prayer. Listen, besides Romans 12:12 there are:

  • Acts 1:14 (after the ascension of Jesus while the disciples were waiting in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Spirit): “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
  • Acts 2:42 (Of the early converts in Jerusalem): “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
  • Acts 6:4 (The apostles say): “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
  • Colossians 4:2 (Paul says to all of us): “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.”

So we may say from the New Testament Scriptures that the normal Christian life is a life devoted to prayer. And so you should ask as you turn from 2002 to 2003, “Am I devoted to prayer?”

It does not mean that prayer is all you do — any more than being devoted to a wife means all the husband does is hang out with his wife. But his devotion to her affects everything in his life and causes him to give himself to her in many different ways. So being devoted to prayer doesn’t mean that all you do is pray (though Paul does say in another place, “pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

It means that there will be a pattern of praying that looks like devotion to prayer. It won’t be the same for everyone. But it will be something significant. Being devoted to prayer looks different from not being devoted to prayer. And God knows the difference. He will call us to account: Have we been devoted to prayer? Is there a pattern of praying in your life that can fairly be called “being devoted to prayer”?

“Praying only as crises enter your life would not be a pattern of devotion to prayer.”

I think most of us would agree on some kinds of praying that would not be called “being devoted to prayer.” Praying only as crises enter your life would not be a pattern of devotion to prayer. Praying only at meal times is a pattern, but does it correspond to Paul exhorting the church to “be devoted to prayer”? A short “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer at the end of the day is probably not “being devoted to prayer.” Hit and miss “Help me, Lord” in the car as you need a parking place is not “being devoted to prayer.” All those are good. But I think we would agree that Paul expects something more and different from followers of Christ when he says, “Be devoted to prayer.”

Let us not forget in all of this, as we saw last week, that the cross of Christ — his death in the place of sinners — is the foundation of all prayer. There would be no acceptable answer to why or how we pray if Christ had not died in our place. That’s why we pray “in Jesus name.”

 

Streams in the Desert – March 25

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

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6).

We all need faith for desperate days. The Bible is full of such days. Its record is made up of them, its songs are inspired by them, its prophecy is concerned with them, and its revelation has come through them. The desperate days are the stepping-stones in the path of light. They seem to have been God’s opportunity and man’s school of wisdom.

There is a story of an Old Testament love feast in Psalm 107, and in every story of deliverance the point of desperation gave God His chance. The “wit’s end” of desperation was the beginning of God’s power.

Recall the promise of seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sands of the sea, to a couple as good as dead. Read again the story of the Red Sea and its deliverance, and of Jordan with its ark standing mid-stream. Study once more the prayers of Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah, when they were sore pressed and knew not what to do. Go over the history of Nehemiah, Daniel, Hosea, and Habakkuk. Stand with awe in the darkness of Gethsemane, and linger by the grave in Joseph’s garden through those terrible days. Call the witnesses of the early Church, and ask the apostles the story of their desperate days.

Desperation is better than despair. Faith did not make our desperate days. Its work is to sustain and solve them. The only alternative to a desperate faith is despair, and faith holds on and prevails.

There is no more heroic example of desperate faith than that of the three Hebrew children. The situation was desperate, but they answered bravely, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” I like that, “but if not !”

I have only space to mention Gethsemane. Ponder deeply its “Nevertheless.” “If it is possible…nevertheless!” Deep darkness had settled upon the soul of our Lord. Trust meant anguish unto blood and darkness to the descent of hell–Nevertheless! Nevertheless!

Now get your hymn book and sing your favorite hymn of desperate faith.
–Rev. S. Chadwick

When obstacles and trials seem
Like prison walls to be,
I do the little I can do
And leave the rest to Thee.
And when there seems no chance, no change,
From grief can set me free,
Hope finds its strength in helplessness,
And calmly waits for Thee.

God Gives More Than You Need

3/24/2020

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

1 Peter 5:6

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God Is the God of More than Enough

There are so many people with issues that seem to overwhelm them. Whether it is a father out of work, sickness in the home, broken down cars, not enough food on the table, or even a runaway child looking for their own way in the world, our hearts may seem to long for peace.

From experience, I have found that as long as I try to fix the problems without trusting the Lord to deal with them, then I am left feeling frustrated and without hope. Peace comes as I lean on God for the answers and wait on His timing.

At one particular season of my life, I was living far from family and friends. My husband had a job in which he traveled one hour from home. I had a teenage son, a toddler, and I was pregnant. There was barely enough money for food and expenses; except for the gas money to get my husband to work. It was a scary time.

I wish I could say that I immediately filled my heart with an abundance of faith and never doubted God’s ability to bring us through for a single moment. But my attitude was to face things one day at a time. I am so much wiser now. Having seen so many miracles in these recent years I know that He is more than capable of working all things out for our good.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (KJV)

The Bible even shares how, in Matthew 15, Jesus saw the multitude was hungry after listening to Him teach for three days. Jesus, being full of faith, told the disciples to gather the seven loaves of bread and fishes. He blessed the food and sent the disciples into the crowd with these items. After they all ate and were full, the leftover food filled seven baskets. The crowd consisted of four thousand men and included the women/children. Now that is how faithful our God is when a need is presented to Him.

So what is your concern today? How much faith do you possess? Even faith the size of a grain of a mustard seed is all you need to see the victory in your life.

“…Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 NIV

The paths you are following are hard to understand at times. God is with you! He is passionately in love with you and cares about your every need. The trials of today will one day be over and as you look back you will see how far you have come. As I share in a previous devotional: Hope Is Real.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 NIV

With a heart full of faith and hope for the days ahead, move onward. Trust the Lord. You will be amazed!

 

God Will Only Give You What Is Good for You

By: John piper, desiringgod, com

When you try to list all the good things that Jesus obtained for us by shedding his blood and rising again — when you try to list all of those — you realize this includes everything that serves our eternal good.

Do you remember the gospel logic of Romans 8:32? It’s probably my favorite verse in the Bible.

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

It’s a rhetorical question, with an assumed answer. How will he not with him freely give us all things? What does that mean? By virtue of dying for us, he secures for us all things — everything that serves our eternal good.

“All things in this life serve our eternal good, including affliction and loss, disease and disability.”

If you are given singleness instead of marriage as your life, it’s because the blood of Jesus secured the eternal good that singleness will do for you. Or if you’re given a disability or a disease that’s never healed in this life, it is because the blood of Jesus secured the eternal good that this disability will do for you. This means that there are thousands and thousands of good things that Christ did not purchase for you in this life.

There is no promise in the cross — in the blood of the gospel — that Christians will have health in this world. There’s no promise in the gospel for that. He did not purchase for all Christians a job, a marriage, wealth, a home, or success in business. If these things come to a Christian, they are shown to be gospel blessings — blood-bought blessings that become occasions for knowing and enjoying and showing the glory of God. That is when they work for our eternal good.

He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all, will most certainly give us all things with him. All things in this life serve our eternal good, including affliction, loss, and sorrow. And in the resurrection we’ll receive everything good — no affliction, no loss, no sorrow, and every spiritual and physical blessing in the heavenly places.

 

Many Harps

by Inspiration Ministries

“I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters … like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.” – Revelation 14:2 NASB

John was overwhelmed, struggling to find words to match the wonders of Heaven. It was filled with sights of splendor. In particular, John was impressed with a voice that sounded like many harps. He had seen living creatures and elders “each one holding a harp” (Revelation 5:8). And he described hearing a voice like “harpists playing on their harps.”

The harp has a unique place for God’s people. As a boy, David played the harp for King Saul, with miraculous impact (1 Samuel 16:23). The harp was so important that David set aside men in his army to prophesy with harps (1 Chronicles 25:1-3). The Bible tells us that harps are an integral part of praising God (Psalm 33:2).

What might these harps have sounded like? We know from modern recordings that harps produce a natural sound, as each string vibrates with the perfect pitch designed by God. As we know from the Bible, the sound of the harp can be soothing and even healing. Yet when played in a harp choir, the sound can be overpowering.

Here on earth, tastes may change from person to person. But as John discovered, the impact of the sounds in Heaven can be overwhelming! How do you imagine Heaven? No matter what your thoughts, you can be sure that Heaven itself is more glorious than you can imagine! But don’t wait. Praise God now! Enter His presence! Be prepared to be
overwhelmed.

 

Streams in the Desert – March 24

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

And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: Deliver me, I pray thee (Gen. 32:9, 11).

There are many healthy symptoms in that prayer. In some respects it may serve as a mould into which our own spirits may pour themselves, when melted in the fiery furnace of sorrow.

He began by quoting God’s promise: “Thou saidst.” He did so twice (9 and 12). Ah, he has got God in his power then! God puts Himself within our reach in His promises; and when we can say to Him, “Thou saidst,” He cannot say nay. He must do as He has said.

If Jacob was so particular for his oath’s sake, what will not our God be? Be sure in prayer, to get your feet well on a promise; it will give you purchase enough to force open the gates of heaven, and to take it by force.
–Practical Portions for the Prayer-life

Jesus desires that we shall be definite in our requests, and that we shall ask for some special thing. “What will ye that I shall do unto you?” is the question that He asks of every one who in affliction and trial comes to Him. Make your requests with definite earnestness if you would have definite answers. Aimlessness in prayer accounts for so many seemingly unanswered prayers. Be definite in your petition. Fill out your check for something definite, and it will be cashed at the bank of Heaven when presented in Jesus’ Name. Dare to be definite with God.
–Selected

Miss Havergal has said: “Every year, I might almost say every day, that I live, I seem to see more clearly how all the rest and gladness and power of our Christian life hinges on one thing; and that is, taking God at His word, believing that He really means exactly what He says, and accepting the very words in which He reveals His goodness and grace, without substituting others or altering the precise modes and tenses which He has seen fit to use.”

Bring Christ‘s Word–Christ’s promise, and Christ’s sacrifice–His blood, with thee, and not one of Heaven’s blessings can be denied thee.
–Adam Clarke

From Exile To Homecoming Through Christ

3/23/2020

Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value, but righteousness delivers from death.

Proverbs 10:2

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Are You Homesick for Heaven?

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“I’m homesick for heaven!” complained my friend who lived in a local nursing home.

Whenever I asked her how she was doing, her response was always the same. Perhaps she meant she was tired of the physical body that eventually becomes a burden and she was ready to go on to something better. Physical death for Christians holds the promise of a new, perfect body in heaven where we will live eternally with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I’ve heard it said that each of us has a hole in the heart that only God can fill. That hole can never be filled completely until we are in our eternal home with the Lord.

My mother-in-law passed away when she was 88. She outlived her husband by two years, and all of her siblings and close friends had passed away. She was the last surviving member of her generation. She often said, “Holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries are hard because it brings back so many memories of loved ones who are gone.”

As a testament to her feelings, we found her tattered address book after she died with most of the names crossed out.

On the day she died, she was in the hospital recovering from a heart attack. She expected to come home that day; in fact, I was waiting for a phone call from the doctor telling me she was released. Instead, I got the unexpected phone call that she died suddenly.

Our family went to the hospital and gathered around her bed. The nurse who was with her when she died told us her last words were these:  “My husband died two years ago. I’m so lonesome and tired. I’m ready to go home.”

She didn’t say it in so many words, but she, too, was homesick for heaven.

The Apostle Paul wrote these words about our heavenly dwelling place:

“For we know that if the earthly tent [physical body] we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-2 (NIV)

And who puts that desire in our hearts? Paul answers:

“Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:5-7 (NIV)

God designed us to be homesick for heaven. We will never be completely at peace until we share eternal life with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Will We Know Each Other in Heaven?

By: Colin Smith, crosswalk.com

 

Will We Know Each Other in Heaven?

Will we know each other in heaven?

Let’s cut to the chase with a one-word answer: Yes!

The two-word answer would be, “For sure!”

And the five-word answer would be, “You can count on it!”

But being a wise and discerning reader, you will want more than the word of a pastor on this. You will want to see it in your Bible.

So let me offer seven Scriptures that I have used to help people who wonder if they will be reunited with their believing loved ones in heaven. All of these point to our knowing one another in the resurrection, and some of them point to believers knowing one another immediately after death.

1. David and his son

King David had a son who died in infancy. When the little boy died, David said, “I’ll go to him” (2 Samuel 12:23).

David knew that he would see his son again in the presence of the Lord, and knowing that he would be reunited with the son he loved brought him comfort in his bereavement.

2. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

Our Lord said that many will come from the east and the west and recline at table “with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11).

Abraham was the father of Isaac and the grandfather of Jacob, and in heaven he enjoys the company of his son and his grandson, while Jacob enjoys the company of his father and his grandfather.

3. Jesus and the disciples

Jesus told his disciples, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in a new way in my Father’s kingdom with you” (Matthew 26:29, emphasis mine).

The eleven, who shared the Last Supper with Jesus on earth, will eat and drink with him in heaven. Peter, James, John, and the others will be named and known in heaven as clearly as they were named and known on earth.

4. Moses and Elijah

When the glory of Jesus was revealed in the transfiguration, we are told that “Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with him” (Matthew 17:3).

This is fascinating because when Moses and Elijah appeared, they did not have the resurrection body. They were souls made visible as the angels were made visible to the shepherds, and as the souls under the altar were made visible to John (Revelation 6:9). Although they were still waiting to be clothed with the resurrection body, Moses and Elijah were known. They were recognizable, and they were able to engage in conversation. That tells us a lot about the conscious joy of fellowship that believers share immediately after death in the presence of the Lord.

5. The gathered souls in heaven

The writer to the Hebrews speaks of “the spirits of righteous people made perfect,” that is, the souls of believers in the presence of Jesus. These souls, he tells us, are gathered in “the assembly of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23)Right now, in heaven, the spirits of the righteous made perfect are gathered. Gathered means community, and community means relationship.

6. Paul and the Thessalonians

Paul makes it clear that the believers he loved on earth will be his joy in heaven. “For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19). When Paul says this, he clearly anticipates that relationships forged on earth will continue in heaven.

7. The reunion of believing loved ones

When Paul writes to believers who grieve the loss of a loved one, he offers them this comfort: “We who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17, emphasis mine).

“Them” refers to believing loved ones who are now in the presence of the Lord. A wife who grieves the loss of her believing husband has the comfort of knowing that when the Lord comes, she will meet her husband again. Sons and daughters who grieve the loss of a believing father or mother can find comfort in the prospect of this happy reunion when we will be reunited with those who have gone before us into the presence of the Lord.

 

When I See You In Heaven

” … He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” Revelation 21:4-5a (NASB)

I could feel the slow rhythm of his heartbeat as I laid my head against his chest. Tears quietly rolled down my face as I held back the sobs that were begging to burst forth from underneath my heart.

Closing my eyes, I remembered being 5 years old again with my daddy holding me on his broad, strong shoulders the day he took me to the zoo. So long ago. Such sweet memories. And, yet, my heart was breaking.

Lord, not yet. Please. I’m not ready to say goodbye. I still have so much to say. I want it to be meaningful. I want Dad to know how much I love him. Not yet, Lord, not yet.

As I curled up closer, like that 5-year-old little girl so long ago, I could hear his shallow breathing. Gently I cradled his hand into mine.

Thank you, Lord, that Dad’s not in pain. When it’s time, please take him peacefully. But, not yet, Lord, not yet.

The clock ticks. The moments pass. The memories linger.

And it is time.

Having to say goodbye to my dad that day was one of the hardest experiences of my life. It had only been 15 short months since my mom passed away, and the idea of losing him, too, was more than I could bear.

No longer could I hear his voice say, “I love you.” No longer could I call him and ask for his advice. No longer could I see his smile or feel his hand holding mine.

No longer.

This month marks the 2-year anniversary of my dad’s passing. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and my mom. I miss them so much. I long to be with them again.

But even in the midst of “no longer” here on earth, there is a ray of hope that shines within me. A knowing. A promise that I will one day see my parents again.

I find comfort in knowing there is a real place that has been created by God and prepared by Jesus for each of us, if we accept His invitation. An extraordinary place of astounding wonder. Greater than we can fully understand or imagine. A place called heaven.

As I awake to another day on earth of “no longer,” I anchor my heart in the assurance of what Jesus said in John 14:2, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you” (NASB).

In those moments when the memories return and the sadness resurfaces, I find comfort and even joy for my parents as I reflect on the promise of today’s key verse. For in heaven, there is no mourning, crying, pain or death. All things are made new.

If you’re like me, and you’re missing someone special today. Someone you long to see again. To hold their hand, to capture their smile or to simply say, “I love you.” And, yet, the realization of “no longer” looms in the reality of each day that you live without them …

Can I encourage you with the truth? If your loved one accepted God’s invitation, then they are not dead but are living in heaven. In that extraordinary place, of astounding wonder, where pain and sorrow can never linger.

They’re experiencing joy and peace like they’ve never known as they celebrate the splendor of their eternal home.

And there is hope, comfort and assurance for you today that if you accept God’s invitation you too will see them again one day.

 

Will we recognize and be reunited with our loved ones in heaven?

From gfy.org

Yes! In the Old Testament, when a person died, the biblical writers said he was “gathered to his people” (cf. Gen. 25:835:2949:29Num. 20:24Judg. 2:10). In 2 Samuel 12, when David’s infant child died, David confidently said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (v. 23). David evidently expected to see the child again–not just a nameless, faceless soul without an identity, but that very child.

The New Testament indicates even more clearly that our identities will remain unchanged. While sharing the Passover meal with His disciples, Christ said, “Take this [cup] and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:17-18). Christ was promising that He and His disciples would drink the fruit of the vine together again–in heaven. Elsewhere Jesus makes a similar, but even more definite, promise: “Many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 8:11).

Furthermore, Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. Even though it had been centuries since Moses died and Elijah was taken to heaven, they still maintained a clear identity (Matt. 17:3)–Peter, James, and John evidently recognized them (v. 4), which implies that we will somehow be able to recognize people we’ve never even seen before.

All the redeemed will maintain their identity forever, but in a perfected form. We will be able to have fellowship with Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Samuel, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, David, Peter, Barnabas, Paul, or any of the saints we choose. For that to be possible, we must all retain our individual identities, not turn into some sort of generic beings.

Describing the Lord’s appearing and the resurrection of the saints who have died, Paul writes, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).

Paul’s purpose in writing was to comfort some of the Thessalonians who evidently thought their dying loved ones would miss the return of Christ. He says in verse 18, “Comfort one another with these words.” The comfort comes from the prospect of reunion. Little comfort this would be if in the reunion we could not even recognize one another. But Paul’s promise that we will all be “together” forever implies that we shall renew fellowship with all whom we have known.

We will be reunited not only with our own families and loved ones, but also with the people of God from all ages. In heaven we will all be one loving family. The immense size of the family will not matter in the infinite perfection of heaven. There will be ample opportunity for close relationships with everyone, and our eternity will be spent in just that kind of rich, unending fellowship.

If you’re worried about feeling out of place in heaven, don’t. Heaven will seem more like home than the dearest spot on earth to you. It is uniquely designed by a tender, loving Savior to be the place where we will live together for all eternity and enjoy Him forever–in the fullness of our glorified humanity.

Is it any wonder that the psalmist said, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Ps. 116:15)?

Let Your Light Shine In Darkness

 3/22/2020

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.

Psalm 42:1

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“Light in the Darkness”

by Ryan Duncan, TheFish.com Editor, crosswalk.org

 

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Have you ever been in complete darkness? I don’t mean this figuratively, I mean physically. Have you ever walked in a place where there was absolutely no light? I have, and it’s an experience I’ll never forget. When I was in high school, my family went on a vacation to Mammoth Cave National Park.

Mammoth Cave, for those of you who don’t know, is the longest known system of caves in the world and the park, which itself is no small place, covers only a small portion of it. My family arrived at the park early in the morning and quickly joined the group of people who had come for a guided tour of the cave. As we slowly descended underground, our guide pointed out interesting rock formations, different types of minerals, and the occasional historical tidbit about Mammoth Cave. It was all very interesting, but the biggest moment on the tour was when the guide led us into a large cavern and asked everyone to take a seat.

“In a moment we’re going to turn off the lights,” he explained cheerfully, “That way you can get an idea of what it was like for people to explore the cave in the early days.” As soon as the lights went out, everything was pitch black. I held my hand to my face but couldn’t see a thing. Over thirty people were on the tour, but had they not entered the cave with me, I might have thought I was alone. It was complete darkness. Then our guide struck a match, and that little flame illuminated the entire cavern.

“Amazing, isn’t it?” our guide chuckled, “Bet you never thought a single match could light up a whole cave.” He doesn’t know the half of it. The Bible has a lot to say about light and darkness. To quote the book of John,

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” – John 3:19-21    

In many ways, our world is as dark as the caverns of Mammoth Cave. It can leave us lost, confused, and unsure of the things around us. But just as our world resemble the cave, so do Jesus words resemble the little match struck in the darkness. The light may be small, and we still may stumble in the darkness, but if we let it, that tiny light can illuminate even the darkest corners of our world. So take a moment and ask yourself, do you have the light of Christ in your life?

 

Depressed and Thankful

Six Ways to Find Joy

 

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It was only about a year into our marriage when I had my first bout with mild depression. And it didn’t make sense to me. I finally was married to the man of my dreams. I had landed my first teaching job. We had started a new life together and were making new friends. But for whatever reason, my heart was downcast. Life felt overwhelming, like I wanted to pull the covers up over my head and stay in bed for the day.

The constant sadness in my heart finally led me to go to a doctor to share how I’d been feeling. Instead of quickly writing a prescription, my physician wisely talked through the major life changes I had experienced in the last twelve months — college graduation, moving away from family, marriage, my first real job — and assured me that my roller-coaster emotions were normal in light of all I had experienced in one year.

Eventually, I came out of that gray fogginess, but over the years of my adult life there have been other times where I’ve started to slide into the pit of despair. A melancholy side to my personality makes me prone to see the glass as half empty. I realize that for many individuals medication is truly necessary. But the weapon that has made the most difference in my life in fighting depression, and something we can all benefit from, is gratitude.

Worship Grows in Gratitude

In Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s excellent book Choosing Gratitude, she makes the point that we are either whining or worshiping. Our natural, sinful state makes us prone to see what we lack, what we don’t have, and what’s gone wrong in our lives.

Complaining is often my default response. Just the other day I noticed how even though I’d had a relatively good day, as soon as my husband walked in the door after work, I talked about the kids’ after-school squabble, our little guy’s potty-training accident, and did I forget to mention the freezer isn’t working right?

Often the things that pour off our tongues to others can be complaints of things not going our way or how we’ve been mistreated by others. We’re a rights-oriented culture, and if we don’t get what we think is rightfully ours, we storm off in anger or despair. Often, we slip on the sins of entitlement and discontentment down the slope to anxiety and depression. We can become surrounded by dark thoughts and unmet expectations that weigh down our hearts and put a cloud over our minds.

On the other hand, we will never be able to lift our hearts from despair to worship without expressing thanks to God. The theme of thanksgiving runs throughout all of Scripture. In the Psalms we’re commanded to give thanks to God:

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! (Psalm 105:1)

Thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! (Psalm 107:8)

The book of Colossians also carries the theme of thanksgiving. In Colossians 3:14–17, Paul mentions thankfulness three different times, one of them being, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). Likewise, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 reminds us that it is God’s will to give thanks in all circumstances.

Six Tactics to Topple Ingratitude

God calls us to be thankful people. And it’s the very attitude of thanksgiving that can transform our lives. If you find yourself wandering down the dark path of depression and despair, here are six simple ways to fight for joy through gratefulness.

1. Fill your mind with the truths of God’s word.

Meditate on verses regarding thankfulness like Colossians 3:15–17. Commit to memory God’s commands to be thankful.

2. Remember God’s goodness and faithfulness to you.

Just as the Israelites were prone to forget all God had done for them during their time in the wilderness, so we too can forget. The discipline of remembering through writing down God’s blessings or retelling them to others has a way of stirring up gratitude in our hearts.

3. Ask God to put a guard over your mouth.

Instead of venting your frustrations from each day, look for reasons to rejoice. An attitude of gratitude is just as easily spread as a complaining spirit. Seek to be known as a Spirit-filled, joyful person, instead of a whining, disgruntled one.

4. Aim to make gratefulness your knee-jerk reaction to your circumstances.

When you hear news for the first time, ask yourself, “What can I be grateful for in this circumstance?” I always remember a story of a family that found out their daughter had died suddenly. As they joined hands to pray and mourn, the father first and foremost thanked the Lord for the years they had together. What an example of gratitude, even in the midst of great loss.

5. Put your thankfulness into words.

Write down five things to be grateful for as soon as you sense yourself heading down the miry path of despair. Sometimes it’s as simple as a cup of hot tea on a cold day, or a flower blooming outside my window. Listing God’s daily blessings has been one of the most transformative things in my life. By putting gratefulness into words — whether spoken or written — an abstract idea like thankfulness becomes much more concrete.

6. Look for specific evidences of God’s grace.

Search your life and the lives of others around you for grace. My faith is strengthened when I see God answer a prayer, when I notice the fruit of patience when I don’t cry over spilled milk, or when a long-awaited prayer request for my friend’s desire to be a mom is fulfilled through adoption. Intentionally watching for God at work gives me much to be grateful for.

 

A Light in the Darkness

“In the tent of meeting, outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the LORD from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come.” Exodus 27:21 (NIV)

The memories that burn brightest from my childhood are of our family’s camping trips to the beach. All the hard work of packing the tent, suitcases, sleeping bags and food into the car was worth it when camp was set up and family time began.
My favorite time of the day came as darkness settled, the shouts of children quieted and grills were lit. Often, as we cleaned up from dinner, my mother would take our lantern into the tent to repack our supplies, and I would bask in the glow from the tent and the warm safety of my parents’ presence.
Those memories flooded back as I read Exodus 27 from my daily reading plan. In a meticulous design revealed in the preceding chapters, God laid out the blueprint for the Tent of Meeting, also called the Tabernacle, where He would be worshipped by the Israelites as they traveled from Egypt to Canaan. Sentence after sentence details the fabric, the measurements, and the structure.
When the plan for God’s Tent of Meeting was complete, He began to describe the furnishings. They included a beautiful set of lamps on a lampstand that was to burn continuously inside. This intricate lampstand described in detail in Exodus 25:31-40 was a pure-gold work of art made by the artisans God appointed, and it burned clear olive oil.
Pieces of a greater puzzle began to click into place as I pondered other scriptures and truths explaining the rich symbolism of the Tent of Meeting’s lampstand. I began to see God revealing His plans for us thousands of years ago:
We are the tent. (2 Cor. 5:4)
Jesus is the light. (John 1:4)
The Holy Spirit is the oil. (Zech. 4:1-6)
Fueled by the Holy Spirit, we are called to let Jesus’ light shine through us into the darkness. (Matt. 5:14-16)
Just as the Israelites moved the Tabernacle through the desert sands … Just as my parents pitched a tent in beach sands …
Just as I move through this darkened world …
God provides a Light that shines in the darkness, and He creates a tent (us) to shine through.
For Jesus’ light to pierce the darkness, shining brighter and brighter, we need to become more and more transparent.
For His light to shine continuously, we need to constantly be refueled by the Holy Spirit through prayer, studying and memorizing Scripture, and abiding in Him.
For His light to shatter the inky blackness of this world, we need to fearlessly move our tents into places of darkness where no other light shines.
There is a world of people who long for the safety and presence of Jesus–but they need a beacon to guide them. May we humble tents, who carry the Light, glow brightly everywhere as we travel through this world!

 

Streams in the Desert – March 22

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

And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush… saying… I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt (Acts 7:30-34).

That was a long wait in preparation for a great mission. When God delays, He is not inactive. He is getting ready His instruments, He is ripening our powers; and at the Appointed moment we shall arise equal to our task. Even Jesus of Nazareth was thirty years in privacy, growing in wisdom before He began His work.
–Dr. Jowett

God is never in a hurry but spends years with those He expects to greatly use. He never thinks the days of preparation too long or too dull.

The hardest ingredient in suffering is often time. A short, sharp pang is easily borne, but when a sorrow drags its weary way through long, monotonous years, and day after day returns with the same dull routine of hopeless agony, the heart loses its strength, and without the grace of God, is sure to sink into the very sullenness of despair.

Joseph’s was a long trial, and God often has to burn His lessons into the depths of our being by the fires of protracted pain. “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver,” but He knows how long, and like a true goldsmith He stops the fires the moment He sees His image in the glowing metal.

We may not see now the outcome of the beautiful plan which God is hiding in the shadow of His hand; it yet may be long concealed; but faith may be sure that He is sitting on the throne, calmly waiting the hour when, with adoring rapture, we shall say, “All things have worked together for good.”

Like Joseph, let us be more careful to learn all the lessons in the school of sorrow than we are anxious for the hour of deliverance. There is a “need-be” for every lesson, and when we are ready, our deliverance will surely come, and we shall find that we could not have stood in our place of higher service without the very things that were taught us in the ordeal. God is educating us for the future, for higher service and nobler blessings; and if we have the qualities that fit us for a throne, nothing can keep us from it when God’s time has come.

Don’t steal tomorrow out of God’s hands. Give God time to speak to you and reveal His will. He is never too late; learn to wait.
–Selected

He never comes too late; He knoweth what is best;
Vex not thyself in vain; until He cometh–REST.

Do not run impetuously before the Lord; learn to wait His time: the minute-hand as well as the hour-hand must point the exact moment for action.