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The Opened Sight

 

Pictures of Jesus Healing the blind

  • Jesus Heals the SickJesus Heals a Blind Man
  • Blind Man Regains Sight
  • Christ and the Blind ManBlind Man at Pool of Siloam
  • Jesus Healing the Blind Man

Physical Blindness Isn’t the only blindness. People can be blind to the truth, etc. God can open all forms of blindness through faith.

The Opened Sight

 

The Opened Sight

This verse is the greatest example of the true essence of the message of a disciple of Jesus Christ in all of the New Testament.

God’s first sovereign work of grace is summed up in the words, “…that they may receive forgiveness of sins….” When a person fails in his personal Christian life, it is usually because he has never received anything. The only sign that a person is saved is that he has received something from Jesus Christ. Our job as workers for God is to open people’s eyes so that they may turn themselves from darkness to light. But that is not salvation; it is conversion— only the effort of an awakened human being. I do not think it is too broad a statement to say that the majority of so-called Christians are like this. Their eyes are open, but they have received nothing. Conversion is not regeneration. This is a neglected fact in our preaching today. When a person is born again, he knows that it is because he has received something as a gift from Almighty God and not because of his own decision. People may make vows and promises, and may be determined to follow through, but none of this is salvation. Salvation means that we are brought to the place where we are able to receive something from God on the authority of Jesus Christ, namely, forgiveness of sins.

This is followed by God’s second mighty work of grace: “…an inheritance among those who are sanctified….” In sanctification, the one who has been born again deliberately gives up his right to himself to Jesus Christ, and identifies himself entirely with God’s ministry to others.

 

JANUARY 9, 2015From: CrosswalkBuilding on the Past’s Foundation
AMY CARROLL

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)

Each year as the New Year arrives, I feel the familiar conflict … make resolutions or avoid them? On one hand, there’s the excitement of starting fresh and the hope for better outcomes. Most of the time, however, I don’t feel expectancy at all. Instead, I’m overcome by the fear of failure and the “what ifs” of trying again.

This year, I found a principle in Scripture that helps me approach resolutions with anticipation instead of dread. Today’s key verses show us how to plan our future with a focus on thankfulness. They help us plan for the future from a past with a solid foundation and a present pattern of growth.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7, emphasis added)

When I think back over the years, it’s amazing to look back at how life changes once we’re dedicated to Jesus as Lord. Through mountaintop experiences, the thrill of learning new truths, and the shaping of hardships, we become rooted and strengthened. Jesus builds a foundation in us that can’t be shaken, so we can thank Him for the past.

Today, in our present, He calls us to “live in him.” With all the demands of life around us, we can struggle to concentrate on living our life in God, but His benefits — peace, guidance, love and forgiveness — are the valuable payoff for our focus. He has given us the precious gift of living in Him, so we’re thankful to Him for our present.

As we remember the past and intentionally make Him the most important part of our present, we will be “built up in him.” Here’s where it gets exciting for the future! The Greek word for “built up” here means “to increase the potential of someone or something, with focus upon the process involved.”

It’s amazing and true. God created each of us with a well of talent and budding gifts. Scripture says that God has good works created for you in advance (Ephesians 2:10), so plan away for the New Year! Ask God to build you up in 2015, revealing the potential He’s embedded in you. But as you look toward the future, don’t forget the past or the present — cover it all with a blanket of thankfulness.

This morning I sat in silence watching the first rays of dawn creep into my windows. There was no fanfare or pageantry. It was a humbling moment brimming with deep peace and overwhelming gratitude, so …

I thanked God for my past:

My parents who raised me in a home where we loved God.

All the hard times and bad decisions that have made me see my need for Jesus.

The Sunday school teachers and Bible study leaders who have taught me.

Blessings He poured out along the way: family, jobs I’ve loved, jobs I’ve disliked, home.

Then I moved on to simple, present gifts:

The steaming mug in my hands.

A fire warming the room.

My little, red dog snoring on the coach.

Companionship of friends who fully know me and yet love me.

Love and kindness from my husband.

Laughter from my boys.

Grace poured on me by my Creator.

Finally, I thanked God for 2015 with all its possibilities:

For lessons yet to learn.

For dreams yet to be fulfilled.

For growth experiences.

For all the things unknown.

Now it’s your turn. Even if 2015 hasn’t started out the way you wanted … be thankful. Dream. Plan. Make resolutions built on the foundation of your past and the abiding of your present. I’m anticipating the rest of what God has in store for you in 2015!

 

Streams IN The Desert

They were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the Word in Asia (Acts 16:6).

It is interesting to study the methods of His guidance as it was extended towards these early heralds of the Cross. It consisted largely in prohibitions, when they attempted to take another course than the right. When they would turn to the left, to Asia, He stayed them. When they sought to turn to the right, to Bithynia, again He stayed them. In after years Paul would do some of the greatest work of his life in that very region; but just now the door was closed against him by the Holy Spirit. The time was not yet ripe for the attack on these apparently impregnable bastions of the kingdom of Satan. Apollos must come there for pioneer work. Paul and Barnabas are needed yet more urgently elsewhere, and must receive further training before undertaking this responsible task.

Beloved, whenever you are doubtful as to your course, submit your judgment absolutely to the Spirit of God, and ask Him to shut against you every door but the right one. Say, “Blessed Spirit, I cast on Thee the entire responsibility of closing against my steps any and every course which is not of God. Let me hear Thy voice behind me whenever I turn to the right hand or the left.”

In the meanwhile, continue along the path which you have been already treading. Abide in the calling in which you are called, unless you are clearly told to do something else. The Spirit of Jesus waits to be to you, O pilgrim, what He was to Paul. Only be careful to obey His least prohibition; and where, after believing prayer, there are no apparent hindrances, go forward with enlarged heart. Do not be surprised if the answer comes in closed doors. But when doors are shut right and left, an open road is sure to lead to Troas. There Luke awaits, and visions will point the way, where vast opportunities stand open, and faithful friends are waiting.
–Paul, by Meyer

Is there some problem in your life to solve,
Some passage seeming full of mystery?
God knows, who brings the hidden things to light.
He keeps the key.

Is there some door closed by the Father’s hand
Which widely opened you had hoped to see?
Trust God and wait–for when He shuts the door
He keeps the key.

Is there some earnest prayer unanswered yet,
Or answered NOT as you had thought ‘twould be?
God will make clear His purpose by-and-by.
He keeps the key.

Have patience with your God, your patient God,
All wise, all knowing, no long tarrier He,
And of the door of all thy future life
He keeps the key.

Unfailing comfort, sweet and blessed rest,
To know of EVERY door He keeps the key.
That He at last when just HE sees ’tis best,
Will give it THEE
.
–Anonymous

 

He Did His Duty

From: Inspiration

To augment his schoolteacher salary, for a number of years, back when corner stores were better known than supermarkets, my dad filled in as a grocery store clerk at one of the larger such stores in our community. The cash registers in those days rang up sales but only after someone tallied up the sale total. Dad could run his pencil down a long column of figures listing customer purchases and speedily arrive at the correct sum.

Later on, after the corner stores went the way of the dinosaur, Dad had another career as a taxi driver, first driving for a local cab owner and later buying the business and running it for some years—although in this case “business” means one car, used as a taxi and also as his personal vehicle.

We never went anywhere with Dad, even out of town, that he did not meet someone he knew. His three jobs had one thing in common—they kept him in the public eye. He was so well-known that we were sure that in any city in the United States he would meet someone he knew in the first half hour.

My mother suffered from several different chronic illnesses. As the years passed, they grew worse, even as a total of five children were born in the family. We all lived in a house with only four rooms, a circumstances I’m sure was shared by many of our neighbors in those post depression and war years. Perhaps, however, some of those families had more ready cash than we did. Even though Dad usually taught all day and worked at the grocery all evening, with all the medical expenses we incurred, there wasn’t enough money for us to own a car. Dad hitched rides to school with other teachers during most of his teaching career. There was a bus he occasionally rode to and from the grocery store, but many times he saved the dime by riding the distance of around four miles to and from his extra job on his bike.

The bike was about the only way he went anywhere. Mom often had to call a taxi to take her or us to the doctor because the bus required walking at least a country block to the bus stop and Mom’s asthma seldom allowed her to do so. Dad however, usually went places on his bike. For me, as a pre-schooler, there was a little wooden seat Dad called his “buddy seat” that was fastened to the “boy” bar of his bike. That way, as he rode, I was always right in front of him and encircled by his arms.

At that time I used to stutter and I had a serious inability to pronounce the letter “R.” As we rode along, Dad, ever the teacher, would talk with me, encouraging me to think ahead about what I was going to say so I would be able to get it out without error.

He used to take me to town on Saturday mornings and one place I loved to go was the junk yard. Dad was always working on bikes for one of us kids and he would scavenge the junk yard for parts. One time, how-ever, he incurred my mother’s wrath by taking me with him to a pool parlor. Mom didn’t think much of pool parlors.

Some years later, after the grocery closed, Dad worked as the night manager of a pool room for a year or two. Mother never did like that. She thought that as a school teacher, Dad was compromising his integrity by working in such a den of inequity.

I was always proud that my father was a well-respected man. I used to think being a teacher made him a special kind of person, but today I realize that the most special thing about him was not his career, but the way he persevered. The mantel of respect always falls on those who consistently do their duty and that’s what my father did.

God Holds Us With His Hand

God holds your hand like a loving father holds his child’s hand.

How Could Someone Be So Ignorant!

From: Utmost.org

“The Lord spoke thus to me with a strong hand…” (Isaiah 8:11). There is no escape when our Lord speaks. He always comes using His authority and taking hold of our understanding. Has the voice of God come to you directly? If it has, you cannot mistake the intimate insistence with which it has spoken to you. God speaks in the language you know best— not through your ears, but through your circumstances.

God has to destroy our determined confidence in our own convictions. We say, “I know that this is what I should do” — and suddenly the voice of God speaks in a way that overwhelms us by revealing the depths of our ignorance. We show our ignorance of Him in the very way we decide to serve Him. We serve Jesus in a spirit that is not His, and hurt Him by our defense of Him. We push His claims in the spirit of the devil; our words sound all right, but the spirit is that of an enemy. “He…rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of’ ” (Luke 9:55). The spirit of our Lord in His followers is described in 1 Corinthians 13.

Have I been persecuting Jesus by an eager determination to serve Him in my own way? If I feel I have done my duty, yet have hurt Him in the process, I can be sure that this was not my duty. My way will not be to foster a meek and quiet spirit, only the spirit of self-satisfaction. We presume that whatever is unpleasant is our duty! Is that anything like the spirit of our Lord— “I delight to do Your will, O my God…” (Psalm 40:8).

 

JANUARY 29, 2015

From: Crosswalk.com

Is This the Right Decision?
LYSA TERKEURST

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” Philippians 1:9-10 (NLT)

Have you ever had that deep-down knowing of what to do in a situation but ignored it? I understand.

My husband was out of town recently when a large box was delivered to my doorstep.

The delivery man graciously brought it inside. But I figured it might be a bit much for me to ask him to take it past the foyer, up the stairs, down the hall, and into the room my husband calls his man cave.

So there it sat, this mysterious, heavy box.

Deep inside, I knew this was nothing but some product one of my people had ordered.

But I didn’t listen to that awareness deep inside. I ignored it and listened to my fears instead. You know you’ve watched one too many mystery TV shows when your first thought about a mysterious box sitting in your foyer is that a person with scary intentions could fit inside. Yes, a crazy person with weapons could mail himself right into your foyer and sit there all day, quietly waiting until you went to bed.

So I kicked the side of the box to see if there was any kind of reflex action from a living thing inside of it. There wasn’t, of course. But then I decided just to be sure, I would stand around the corner from the box to see if I could step out of its line of sight and possibly hear something: a cough, a sneeze, anything.

I could leave no room for doubts, no room at all for any possible bad outcome from this box— a box that I eventually opened with a knife. Just in case. Only to discover a dorm-room refrigerator that someone had ordered.

I wasted half my day worrying about a box that contained a dorm fridge.

But we do this sometimes. We have a decision to make and we have that deep-down knowing. We know what to do. We know what the answer is. But we don’t go with that knowing. We over-process the what-ifs and the maybes until we find ourselves standing around a corner listening to see if a cardboard box containing a refrigerator might sneeze.

Now, there are certainly some decisions that need to be processed. But then there are other decisions we just simply need to say yes or no to and move on.

Find that courageous yes. Fight for that confident no. Know it. State it. Own it.

Sometimes it just comes down to that deep whisper within that says, “Uh-huh, yes.” Or a simple, “No, not that.”

God has woven into us the ability to discern what is best if we’re closely following Him. Philippians 1:9-10 says, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (NIV). Discerning what is best is something we’re capable of doing as we layer knowledge and depth of insight into our lives. Read those verses again and see that gaining knowledge and depth of insight will allow us to develop a trustworthy discernment.

Knowledge is wisdom that comes from acquiring truth.

Insight is wisdom that comes from living out the truth we acquire.

Discernment is wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit’s reminders of that knowledge and insight.

I know a young mom who has really been struggling with the decision of whether to let her 2-year-old go to preschool a couple of half days a week next year. As I listened to her, I felt compelled to ask her three questions:

1. Have you been reading and praying through God’s Word?
2. Have you been applying God’s Word to your mothering?
3. Have you sought godly counsel and insights from wise people who know specifics about your situation?

The answer to all three of those simple questions was yes, so I reminded her that she was assigned by God to be this child’s mother. If she had done these three things, then she had the ability to discern what was best.

She didn’t need to wait for some big neon sign to drop down from heaven to know what to do. If she had that deep knowing this was a no answer for her child, then she should go with that. If she had that deep knowing this was a yes answer for her child, then she should go with that.

It’s not about trusting ourselves. Rather, it’s about trusting the Holy Spirit to do what Jesus promised us in John 14:26: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (NIV).

When we’ve done what we need to do to acquire the knowledge and insight of truth, then the discernment of that truth is there. We must learn to trust and use that discernment because the more we do this, the more wisdom we acquire to make God-honoring decisions.

 

Streams in the Desert

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early (Psalms 46:5)

“Shall not be moved”–what an inspiring declaration! Can it be possible that we, who are so easily moved by the things of earth, can arrive at a place where nothing can upset us or disturb our calm? Yes, it is possible; and the Apostle Paul knew it. When he was on his way to Jerusalem where he foresaw that “bonds and afflictions” awaited him, he could say triumphantly, “But none of these things move me.”

Everything in Paul’s life and experience that could be shaken had been shaken, and he no longer counted his life, or any of life’s possessions, dear to him. And we, if we will but let God have His way with us, may come to the same place, so that neither the fret and tear of little things of life, nor the great and heavy trials, can have power to move us from the peace that passeth understanding, which is declared to be the portion of those who have learned to rest only on God.

“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God; and he shall go no more out.” To be as immovable as a pillar in the house of our God, is an end for which one would gladly endure all the shakings that may be necessary to bring us there!
–Hannah Whitall Smith

When God is in the midst of a kingdom or city He makes it as firm as Mount Zion, that cannot be removed. When He is in the midst of a soul, though calamities throng about it on all hands, and roar like the billows of the sea, yet there is a constant calm within, such a peace as the world can neither give nor take away. What is it but want of lodging God in the soul, and that in His stead the world is in men’s hearts, that makes them shake like leaves at every blast of danger?
–Archbishop Leighton

“They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth forever.” There is a quaint old Scottish version that puts iron into our blood:

Who sticketh to God in stable trust
As Zion’s mount he stands full just,
Which moveth no whit, nor yet doth reel,
But standeth forever as stiff as steel!

 

January 29

From: Through the Bible

Exodus 3:2, 7 (NIV) 2There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.

7The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.

The angel of the Lord is referred to by rabbi as the Prince of the Countenance. We know Him as Jesus, the visible manifestation of the invisible God. When Moses made his choice to side with his people, he had to flee for his life from the very people that had raised and educated him. In the wilderness of Midian, he received the second half of his training. Now he knows he can do nothing. He is humbled and ready to be called by God. Most of us would rather skip the last half of God’s training, but it is essential. Without it we end up polluting what God would do with our own wisdom and ways. When Moses was ready, Jesus met with him.

This is the same Jesus of the New Testament that looks on people with compassion. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) God said, “I have seen their misery and heard them crying out…” God is concerned about suffering wherever it takes place and to whomever as we saw in the story of Hagar. We are made in His image, and He loves and values each life.

It is argued that the God of the Old Testament brutally destroyed lives and therefore is not like the New Testament God. He does end life when it is so corrupt and perverted that it only inflicts pain. If you are experiencing a time of suffering, know that God sees your misery and hears your cries. He will bring a change or see you through it because of His great compassion.

Meditation: God is concerned about suffering and I should be also. His life in me will demonstrate His concerns.

Evening

January 29

Matthew 4:18-20 (NIV) 18As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20At once they left their nets and followed him.

This was not the first time they had met. John tells us that they had even baptized people at Jesus’ direction while down in Judea. They had seen His miracle of turning water into wine and believed in Him. Luke tells us that this call came after the miraculous catch of fish. The expression, “Follow me!” is used 19 times in the Gospels. To get a sense of this expression and its forcefulness, think of it used to call your dog when he is running off. “Come back!” It can also mean, “Come behind me!” When He first met them, He asked them to “accompany” Him. (John 1:43) Now He is telling them that it is time to become a follower. In doing so, they will learn a new occupation, netting men. Not everyone is called to leave their occupation. The Apostle Paul told the Thessalonians that they should be employed.

We are all called to learn from Jesus the art of netting men and to learn of Him. We tend to want to learn from others, or imitate their methods. Jesus knows our gifts and make up. He will teach you in the way He has uniquely designed you.

If you are called to “Come after!” you will know it is the LORD. Many enter into ministry at the first call to “accompany me”, but then they wonder why they struggle so. They would be more fruitful to work within the occupation they left. Right there in the business world are those who could be reached by a consistent testimony from a fellow worker. If the call comes to “Come after!”, everything that is your old way of life is left behind. Your old security nets, the things with which you are familiar, are forsaken. You cast yourself upon God, and He teaches you your new calling.

Consider: In either case, learn from Him.

What are you Aiming For?

 

 

What Are You Aiming For?

From: Getmorestrength.org

“Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” 1 John 3:3

Let’s talk about heaven. If you’re like me, it’s hard to get your head around it and harder still to let it grip your heart. While most of us believe that heaven exists, we go on with life as though this is the only world that matters.

Nearly every spiritual dysfunction in our lives can be traced back to the fact that heaven does not really have a hold on us. C. S. Lewis had it right when he said: “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

So, how do we “aim at heaven”? First, we recognize that this physical body is not all there is—“what we will be has not yet appeared” (1 John 3:2). In fact, earth is simply a dress rehearsal for the great world to come. All the pain and toil here is temporary. Poverty isn’t permanent. Illness is transient. For followers of Jesus, death is but a door to all that is far better. As we read in Revelation, there shall be no sorrow, no more crying, no more death, and he shall wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4).

Aiming at heaven also involves keeping Jesus in our sights. Looking forward to the day when “we shall see Him as He is” fills us with hope—not a worldly, wish-list kind of hope, but a hope that reflects the certainty of what is to come. It’s the kind of hope that keeps us from distractions and rivets our attention on what really matters in the long run; the kind of hope that purifies us.

Maybe you’ve never thought of it like this before, but one of the strongest motivations for purity is connected to the return of Jesus. Because, let’s face it, there are some places we just wouldn’t want to be when He comes back. We might hope He doesn’t examine the places the Internet has taken us, or that He doesn’t see our attitudes toward others. If we really believed that today might be our last, we might finally be ready to forgive, to ask for forgiveness, or maybe even to share the love of Jesus with someone.

So, how about it? Let’s stop aiming at earth and turn our hearts toward heaven!

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • What did C. S. Lewis mean when he said, “you get earth thrown in” if you’re aiming for heaven?  Could it be what Jesus meant in Matthew 6:33? What are you aiming for—earth or heaven? Do your thoughts, attitudes, and actions support your answer?
  • Think of some practical, tangible ways that you can be more heavenly minded. (And don’t worry, it won’t make you of “no earthly good”!)
  • How would focusing on heaven stir your heart to purity?

How Could Someone So Persecute Jesus!

From: Utmost.org

Are you determined to have your own way in living for God? We will never be free from this trap until we are brought into the experience of the baptism of “the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). Stubbornness and self-will will always stab Jesus Christ. It may hurt no one else, but it wounds His Spirit. Whenever we are obstinate and self-willed and set on our own ambitions, we are hurting Jesus. Every time we stand on our own rights and insist that this is what we intend to do, we are persecuting Him. Whenever we rely on self-respect, we systematically disturb and grieve His Spirit. And when we finally understand that it is Jesus we have been persecuting all this time, it is the most crushing revelation ever.

Is the Word of God tremendously penetrating and sharp in me as I hand it on to you, or does my life betray the things I profess to teach? I may teach sanctification and yet exhibit the spirit of Satan, the very spirit that persecutes Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Jesus is conscious of only one thing— a perfect oneness with the Father. And He tells us, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). All I do should be based on a perfect oneness with Him, not on a self-willed determination to be godly. This will mean that others may use me, go around me, or completely ignore me, but if I will submit to it for His sake, I will prevent Jesus Christ from being persecuted.

 

JANUARY 28, 2015From: Crosswalk.com

What Gets Me into Heaven?
SHARON GLASGOW

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (NKJV)

She was alone, dying and in pain. None of her family or friends was left. She asked the nursing home staff to call someone to minister and pray with her.

It was dinnertime when my phone rang. The caller said it was urgent that I get there.

I didn’t personally know the elderly woman lying in that bed. We’d never met, but instantly, love bubbled up inside me for her. I looked into her eyes, but she couldn’t see me — she was blind. I held her weak hands in mine and asked a few questions. Then she said, “I’m dying. I want you to pray for me.”

“What do you want me to pray?” I asked. Then I paused and waited. Her cloudy blue eyes welled with tears that trickled onto our hands. She said nothing. I said nothing.

After a while of silently waiting for the Holy Spirit to direct me, I spoke: “Tell me about the day you accepted Christ.” She didn’t say anything. I knew to be quiet as she processed. Finally, she answered, “I don’t know. I went to church when I was little; I was always a good person. But I never really knew Jesus.”

It was clear where God was leading us. Bertha understood that simply being good wasn’t the same as living for and obeying the Lord. We had to take it a step further.

“Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?” I asked.

She nodded and tears streamed down her cheeks as I shared today’s key verse, John 3:16,“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (NKJV).

I continued, “He died on the cross for your sins and rose again so that you can have eternal life with Him. Eternal life is a free gift; we do nothing to earn it. God loves you so much, Bertha! He wants you to spend eternity with Him.”

We prayed a simple prayer together. She acknowledged Jesus as her Savior and asked Him to forgive her of her sins. Bertha passed away shortly after our conversation. She didn’t have the opportunity to do more good deeds. Nor did she need to. That wasn’t necessary for her to receive Jesus’ gift of eternal life with Him.

There are plenty of opportunities throughout the year to do good: Donate warm winter jackets to children in need, deliver blankets to shelters or give canned goods to food banks. Our family invites others over who have nowhere else to go for the holidays. But I know that visiting the sick in nursing homes or welcoming the lonely around our dinner table (or any other good deed) won’t earn me a place in Heaven.

What will get me into Heaven? Just Jesus, the only begotten Son of God.

And believing that His birth … His death … and His resurrection actually happened are the greatest gifts ever. So priceless, we could never buy them.

You see, it’s not about what good things we do, or even the bad things we avoid, but about what Jesus has already done. Two thousand years ago, He gave His life in death on the cross so we could have life after death. Like Bertha, that is the best gift we could accept in our lifetimes!

 

Morning

From: Biblegateway.com

“Perfect in Christ Jesus.”
Colossians 1:28

Do you not feel in your own soul that perfection is not in you? Does not every day teach you that? Every tear which trickles from your eye, weeps “imperfection;” every harsh word which proceeds from your lip, mutters “imperfection.” You have too frequently had a view of your own heart to dream for a moment of any perfection in yourself. But amidst this sad consciousness of imperfection, here is comfort for you–you are “perfect in Christ Jesus.” In God’s sight, you are “complete in him;” even now you are “accepted in the Beloved.” But there is a second perfection, yet to be realized, which is sure to all the seed. Is it not delightful to look forward to the time when every stain of sin shall be removed from the believer, and he shall be presented faultless before the throne, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing? The Church of Christ then will be so pure, that not even the eye of Omniscience will see a spot or blemish in her; so holy and so glorious, that Hart did not go beyond the truth when he said–

“With my Saviour’s garments on,

Holy as the Holy One.”

Then shall we know, and taste, and feel the happiness of this vast but short sentence, “Complete in Christ.” Not till then shall we fully comprehend the heights and depths of the salvation of Jesus. Doth not thy heart leap for joy at the thought of it? Black as thou art, thou shalt be white one day; filthy as thou art, thou shalt be clean. Oh, it is a marvellous salvation this! Christ takes a worm and transforms it into an angel; Christ takes a black and deformed thing and makes it clean and matchless in his glory, peerless in his beauty, and fit to be the companion of seraphs. O my soul, stand and admire this blessed truth of perfection in Christ.

Evening

“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”
Luke 2:20

What was the subject of their praise? They praised God for what they had heard–for the good tidings of great joy that a Saviour was born unto them. Let us copy them; let us also raise a song of thanksgiving that we have heard of Jesus and his salvation. They also praised God for what they had seen. There is the sweetest music–what we have experienced, what we have felt within, what we have made our own–“the things which we have made touching the King.” It is not enough to hear about Jesus: mere hearing may tune the harp, but the fingers of living faith must create the music. If you have seen Jesus with the God-giving sight of faith, suffer no cobwebs to linger among the harp strings, but loud to the praise of sovereign grace, awake your psaltery and harp. One point for which they praised God was the agreement between what they had heard and what they had seen. Observe the last sentence–“As it was told unto them.” Have you not found the gospel to be in yourselves just what the Bible said it would be? Jesus said he would give you rest–have you not enjoyed the sweetest peace in him? He said you should have joy, and comfort, and life through believing in him–have you not received all these? Are not his ways ways of pleasantness, and his paths paths of peace? Surely you can say with the queen of Sheba, “The half has not been told me.” I have found Christ more sweet than his servants ever said he was. I looked upon his likeness as they painted it, but it was a mere daub compared with himself; for the King in his beauty outshines all imaginable loveliness. Surely what we have “seen” keeps pace with, nay, far exceeds, what we have “heard.” Let us, then, glorify and praise God for a Saviour so precious, and so satisfying.

 

 

Think And Reconsider Your Outcome

 

Look Again and Think

From: Utmost.org

A warning which needs to be repeated is that “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches,” and the lust for other things, will choke out the life of God in us (Matthew 13:22). We are never free from the recurring waves of this invasion. If the frontline of attack is not about clothes and food, it may be about money or the lack of money; or friends or lack of friends; or the line may be drawn over difficult circumstances. It is one steady invasion, and these things will come in like a flood, unless we allow the Spirit of God to raise up the banner against it.

“I say to you, do not worry about your life….” Our Lord says to be careful only about one thing— our relationship to Him. But our common sense shouts loudly and says, “That is absurd, I must consider how I am going to live, and I must consider what I am going to eat and drink.” Jesus says you must not. Beware of allowing yourself to think that He says this while not understanding your circumstances. Jesus Christ knows our circumstances better than we do, and He says we must not think about these things to the point where they become the primary concern of our life. Whenever there are competing concerns in your life, be sure you always put your relationship to God first.

“Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). How much trouble has begun to threaten you today? What kind of mean little demons have been looking into your life and saying, “What are your plans for next month— or next summer?” Jesus tells us not to worry about any of these things. Look again and think. Keep your mind on the “much more” of your heavenly Father (Matthew 6:30).

 Streams in the Desert

Stablish, strengthen, settle you (1 Peter 5:10).

In taking Christ in any new relationship, we must first have sufficient intellectual light to satisfy our mind that we are entitled to stand in this relationship. The shadow of a question here will wreck our confidence. Then, having seen this, we must make the venture, the committal, the choice, and take the place just as definitely as the tree is planted in the soil, or the bride gives herself away at the marriage altar. It must be once for all, without reserve, without recall.

Then there is a season of establishing, settling and testing, during which we must “stay put” until the new relationship gets so fixed as to become a permanent habit. It is just the same as when the surgeon sets the broken arm. He puts it in splints to keep it from vibration. So God has His spiritual splints that He wants to put upon His children and keep them quiet and unmoved until they pass the first stage of faith. It is not always easy work for us, “but the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Jesus Christ, after that ye have suffered awhile, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”
–A. B. Simpson

There is a natural law in sin and sickness; and if we just let ourselves go and sink into the trend of circumstances, we shall go down and sink under the power of the tempter. But there is another law of spiritual life and of physical life in Christ Jesus to which we can rise, and through which we can counterpoise and overcome the other law that bears us down.

But to do this requires real spiritual energy and fixed purpose and a settled posture and habit of faith. It is just the same as when we use the power in our factory. We must turn on the belt and keep it on. The power is there, but we must keep the connection; and while we do so, the higher power will work and all the machinery will be in operation.

There is a spiritual law of choosing, believing, abiding, and holding steady in our walk with God, which is essential to the working of the Holy Ghost either in our sanctification or healing.
–Days of Heaven upon Earth

 

Laughter is The Best Medicine

From: academic Tips.org

Many years ago, Norman Cousins was diagnosed as “terminally ill”. He was given six months to live. His chance for recovery was 1 in 500.

He could see the worry, depression and anger in his life contributed to, and perhaps helped cause, his disease. He wondered, “If illness can be caused by negativity, can wellness be created by positivity?”

He decided to make an experiment of himself. Laughter was one of the most positive activities he knew. He rented all the funny movies he could find – Keaton, Chaplin, Fields, the Marx Brothers. (This was before VCRs, so he had to rent the actual films.) He read funny stories. He asked his friends to call him whenever they said, heard or did something funny.

His pain was so great he could not sleep. Laughing for 10 solid minutes, he found, relieved the pain for several hours so he could sleep.

He fully recovered from his illness and lived another 20 happy, healthy and productive years. (His journey is detailed in his book, Anatomy of an Illness.) He credits visualization, the love of his family and friends, and laughter for his recovery.


Some people think laughter is a waste of time. It is a luxury, they say, a frivolity, something to indulge in only every so often.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Laughter is essential to our equilibrium, to our well-being, to our aliveness. If we’re not well, laughter helps us get well; if we are well, laughter helps us stay that way.

Since Cousins’ ground-breaking subjective work, scientific studies have shown that laughter has a curative effect on the body, the mind and the emotions.

So, if you like laughter, consider it sound medical advice to indulge in it as often as you can. If you don’t like laughter, then take your medicine – laugh anyway.

Use whatever makes you laugh – movies, sitcoms, Monty Python, records, books, New Yorker cartoons, jokes, friends.

Give yourself permission to laugh – long and loud and out loud – whenever anything strikes you as funny. The people around you may think you’re strange, but sooner or later they’ll join in even if they don’t know what you’re laughing about.

Some diseases may be contagious, but none is as contagious as the cure. . . laughter.

By Peter McWilliams
From “Chicken Soup for the Surviving Soul”

 

Face Difficulties Positively

From: AcademicTips.org

This parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer’s well. The farmer heard the mule praying or whatever mules do when they fall into wells.

After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbors together, told them what had happened, and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.

Initially the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back, HE WOULD SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP!

This he did, blow after blow. “Shake it off and step up… shake it off and step up… shake it off and step up!” He repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or how distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought panic and just kept right on SHAKING IT OFF AND STEPPING UP!

It wasn’t long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What seemed like it would bury him actually helped him … all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.

THAT’S LIFE! If we face our problems and respond to them positively, and refuse to give in to panic, bitterness, or self-pity.

Author Unknown

Consecrate Yourself To Christ

 

Look Again and Consecrate

From: Utmost.org

A simple statement of Jesus is always a puzzle to us because we will not be simple. How can we maintain the simplicity of Jesus so that we may understand Him? By receiving His Spirit, recognizing and relying on Him, and obeying Him as He brings us the truth of His Word, life will become amazingly simple. Jesus asks us to consider that “if God so clothes the grass of the field…” how “much more” will He clothe you, if you keep your relationship right with Him? Every time we lose ground in our fellowship with God, it is because we have disrespectfully thought that we knew better than Jesus Christ. We have allowed “the cares of this world” to enter in (Matthew 13:22), while forgetting the “much more” of our heavenly Father.

“Look at the birds of the air…” (Matthew 6:26). Their function is to obey the instincts God placed within them, and God watches over them. Jesus said that if you have the right relationship with Him and will obey His Spirit within you, then God will care for your “feathers” too.

“Consider the lilies of the field…” (Matthew 6:28). They grow where they are planted. Many of us refuse to grow where God plants us. Therefore, we don’t take root anywhere. Jesus said if we would obey the life of God within us, He would look after all other things. Did Jesus Christ lie to us? Are we experiencing the “much more” He promised? If we are not, it is because we are not obeying the life God has given us and have cluttered our minds with confusing thoughts and worries. How much time have we wasted asking God senseless questions while we should be absolutely free to concentrate on our service to Him? Consecration is the act of continually separating myself from everything except that which God has appointed me to do. It is not a one-time experience but an ongoing process. Am I continually separating myself and looking to God every day of my life?

Jesus – Our Champion!

From: Getmorestrength

“ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ ” Matthew 16:15

At some point in life we’ve all felt the frustration and fear of being up against situations that we can’t deal with and, worse yet, there seems to be no one to help. If you were to ask me to tell you about the times I have felt the twinges of hopelessness, my early recollections would be from my first year in high school.

From kindergarten through eighth grade I attended a small Christian school. My dad was a well-known pastor in the area, which meant that I was the big man on campus. Everyone knew who I was, and I had it made—until the day I graduated from that school and enrolled in the nearby public high school. Nobody knew me or my dad at the new school, and nobody cared. So, needless to say, I wasn’t a big shot anymore. What’s worse, I became the victim of Ronnie, who decided to prove his emerging manhood on me. Whenever I passed him in the hall, he would shove and taunt me. I was traumatized. Every day at school I was filled with anxiety and fear because of Ronnie. I needed somebody to help me. I pleaded with friends who knew Ronnie to ask him to stop, but they never did. I was all alone in my problem, and I needed a champion.

In Jesus’ day, the Jewish people were up against the oppressive regime of Rome. Every day they lived with the shame of being a despised minority under the tyrannical thumb of Caesar, who demanded hefty taxes and unflinching allegiance. The once-proud Israel was now a puppet servant state of a brutal and pagan empire. They desperately needed someone to champion their cause. Could it be that Jesus was the long-awaited deliverer? Hence, this on-the-spot quiz! Peter came up with the right answer when he declared Jesus as “the Christ”—the “Messiah” who would deliver them from the oppression they had endured for so long. Against the backdrop of Caesar-worship and rampant paganism in Caesarea Philippi, the disciples pinned their hopes on Jesus.

What Peter didn’t know was that Jesus would be their champion on a far more significant level than a political one: the oppression of Rome. Jesus came to overthrow the source of our problems, not the symptoms. Rome was merely the tool of Satan to defeat God’s people and tarnish God’s glory. Defeating Rome would have been a great accomplishment, but the enemy of our souls would have found another way to wage war against the people of God. So Jesus went head-to-head against Satan, engaged in battle on an old rugged cross, and after a three-day struggle with death rose victoriously from the grave to assure the final victory over the enemy of our souls.

Jesus is the ultimate champion! And when we cast our lot with Him, He assures us that the victory is already won on our behalf. The next time you find yourself in a full nelson up against the wall of despair, claim Jesus as your champion. As Paul declares, you may be “struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:9). Since He won the battle at Calvary, you are now entitled to share in the spoils of His victory. Thanks to Jesus, the word defeat is not in our vocabulary!

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • How would you answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?”
  • Read Romans 8:31-39 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. What types of things threaten to defeat you? What promises are listed in these verses?
  • What are the “spoils of victory”? Take some time to list some of the benefits that the Champion has made available to you.

Streams in the Desert

I have begun to give;…begin to possess (Deuteronomy 2:31).

A great deal is said in the Bible about waiting for God. The lesson cannot be too strongly enforced. We easily grow impatient of God’s delays. Much of our trouble in life comes out of our restless, sometimes reckless, haste. We cannot wait for the fruit to ripen, but insist on plucking it while it is green. We cannot wait for the answers to our prayers, although the things we ask for may require long years in their preparation for us. We are exhorted to walk with God; but ofttimes God walks very slowly. But there is another phase of the lesson. God often waits for us.

We fail many times to receive the blessing He has ready for us, because we do not go forward with Him. While we miss much good through not waiting for God, we also miss much through over-waiting. There are times when our strength is to sit still, but there are also times when we are to go forward with a firm step.

There are many Divine promises which are conditioned upon the beginning of some action on our part. When we begin to obey, God will begin to bless us. Great things were promised to Abraham, but not one of them could have been obtained by waiting in Chaldea. He must leave home, friends, and country, and go out into unknown paths and press on in unfaltering obedience in order to receive the promises. The ten lepers were told to show themselves to the priest, and “as they went they were cleansed.” If they had waited to see the cleansing come in their flesh before they would start, they would never have seen it. God was waiting to cleanse them; and the moment their faith began to work, the blessing came.

When the Israelites were shut in by a pursuing army at the Red Sea, they were commanded to “Go forward.” Their duty was no longer one of waiting, but of rising up from bended knees and going forward in the way of heroic faith. They were commanded to show their faith at another time by beginning their march over the Jordan while the river ran to its widest banks. The key to unlock the gate into the Land of Promise they held in their own hands, and the gate would not turn on its hinges until they had approached it and unlocked it. That key was faith.

We are set to fight certain battles. We say we can never be victorious; that we never can conquer these enemies; but, as we enter the conflict, One comes and fights by our side, and through Him we are more than conquerors. If we had waited, trembling and fearing, for our Helper to come before  we would join the battle, we should have waited in vain. This would have been the over-waiting of unbelief. God is waiting to pour richest blessings upon you. Press forward with bold confidence and take what is yours. “I have begun to give, begin to possess.”
–J. R. Miller

January 26

From: Back To The Bible

Genesis 40:14 (NIV) 14But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.

41:1 (NIV) 1When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile,

Joseph had dreams from God that predicted his brothers and parents would bow down to him. The dreams and his father’s favoritism caused his brothers to envy him. The brothers sold their 17-year-old brother to slave traders. They concocted a deceptive story for their father saying that a wild animal had killed him. Meanwhile, in Egypt, Joseph was elevated to the chief servant over the household of his first master. When the master’s wife wanted him sexually, he would not betray God or his master by yielding to her. Her false accusation landed him in prison.

In time, he rose to second in charge of the prison. The Pharaoh’s butler and baker were confined there, and he interpreted their dreams. The butler’s dream meant that he would be reinstated, and so, Joseph uttered the above Scripture. But when the butler was restored, he forgot his vow to tell Pharaoh about this young man, now 28 years of age. He had served faithfully for years as a slave and for more years in prison. We never read one word of complaint. Just when there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, the butler forgot while Joseph remained in the royal prison.

The darkest hour is just before the dawn. I don’t think he ever doubted the God given dreams, but it sure must have seemed hopeless at times. After these 14 years of servitude, anyone would be discouraged. Yet, this was God’s college for kings. In one day, he went from being a servant of the jailer to the second highest position in all of Egypt, the greatest nation in the world.

Encouragement: Don’t give up on the vision and promises of God. He will bring them to pass in His time and His way. God’s ways are vastly different from man’s ways.

Evening

January 26

Matthew 3:10-12 (NIV) 10The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming as a time of separating the good from the bad. His illustrations included cutting down the trees that don’t bear fruit, and separating the grain from the chaff. Jesus will use the same illustration in John 15 when he describes burning the fruitless branches. What is a fruitless tree? What is chaff? Here are two possible interpretations.

There are those lives that will never allow Jesus entrance. Their every action and deed is ultimately selfish. Even those that appear to be gracious have some self-seeking motivation behind them. There is nothing of eternal value to that life. Hell is the gathering of the selfish.

We could also say that there are branches and chaff in the life of every believer. These are areas in which the life giving sap of the Holy Spirit does not flow. It comes with being a fallen creature, but it only remains because we allow it to. A gardener prunes the branches that have died and those that will bear no fruit. They rob the rest of the tree of sunlight and nutrients but produce nothing in return. Jesus has come to clean up our life. He brings the life giving sap of the Spirit. He also brings a fire that burns away that which robs our life of fruitfulness. The end product of us giving Him the freedom to work in our lives is fruit that remains. That means treasure in heaven, substance of eternal value.

Consider: Are you a fruit-bearing tree? If so, which branches need pruning? Are there some fruitless ones that are keeping you from being more productive for the Kingdom of God?

God is making room for you

 

God is making plans for you in heaven. He is preparing a place for you. Earth does not know how wonderful His plans are for His children. His plans are marvelous I’m sure. John 14. The question is are you making room for God here on earth?

 

Leave Room for God

From: Utmost.org

As servants of God, we must learn to make room for Him— to give God “elbow room.” We plan and figure and predict that this or that will happen, but we forget to make room for God to come in as He chooses. Would we be surprised if God came into our meeting or into our preaching in a way we had never expected Him to come? Do not look for God to come in a particular way, but do look for Him. The way to make room for Him is to expect Him to come, but not in a certain way. No matter how well we may know God, the great lesson to learn is that He may break in at any minute. We tend to overlook this element of surprise, yet God never works in any other way. Suddenly—God meets our life “…when it pleased God….”

Keep your life so constantly in touch with God that His surprising power can break through at any point. Live in a constant state of expectancy, and leave room for God to come in as He decides.

JANUARY 23, 2015

What if I Fall?
TRACIE MILES

From: Crosswalk

“Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” James 4:17 (NLT)

It seemed like a great idea at first, until my fear and procrastination caused me to miss a blessing.

I’d been invited to speak at a summer camp and my daughter Kaitlyn joined me. In between attending the worship events, we were given the opportunity to sign up for outdoor activities, one of which was a ropes and zip line course dangling high in the mountain trees.

After putting on safety gear and listening to basic instructions, Kaitlyn and I waited our turn in line. Yet while she was filled with excitement, dread filled my heart.

I watched each girl clip her carabineer and climb up the towering tree to the first platform landing. My heart raced and my inner voice of reason worked overtime. What was I thinking? Why would anyone want to climb all the way up there, just for fun? What if I get up there and I’m too scared to get back down? What if I can’t finish the course and get embarrassed? What if my rope breaks and I fall?

The more I procrastinated, the more people moved ahead and the more I convinced myself I could not accomplish this task. Finally it was my turn. I started up the tree. Slowly. Hesitantly. Fearfully. I looked down the entire time, though the camp leaders constantly encouraged me to look up instead. After just a few moments, I caved into all those irrational fears, climbed down the tree and removed my safety gear.

Later, I watched Kaitlyn climb high into the treetops, safely attached to the ropes, moving from platform to platform. I regretted my procrastination and fear of taking a risk. As the wind rustled through her long blonde hair and the sun shone on her face, she smiled and hollered down how beautiful the view was from high above. As she zoomed down the zip line and splashed into the lake water below, I could sense the accomplishment and joy that washed across her face.

And then I realized I’d missed the blessing of experiencing something new — seeing the beauty of the forest from a higher view instead of my limited view from the ground. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the first time I’d let fear and procrastination interfere with God’s blessings in my life.

Jesus knew we would struggle with procrastination. He gave us Truths in His Word to combat it. But in today’s key verse we also see that not doing what we feel called to do is not only procrastination, but sin.

When God calls us to make a “risky” move for Him, we often worry and try to reason ourselves out of it. We might spend time looking at our obstacles rather than at God, which makes courage flee and fear paralyze us. In fact, when we wait for every life circumstance to be perfect before we step out in faith, the devil is happy to spend his time trying to bring us down and convince us to never move at all.

Procrastination may seem to come normal for us, but it is never God’s best for us. We don’t often think of it as sin, but anytime we don’t do what God called us to do, when He calls us to do it, it is sin. It’s easier said than done, but we mustn’t let fear outweigh faith.

Jesus encourages us to fulfill the work He called us to do and not to waste time procrastinating. Not simply because it’s a sin, but because time is precious, and He promises that obedience brings blessings. How sad to miss the abundant blessings that come when we follow God’s call, simply because we keep putting it off.

Not pushing past my fears to a zip line obviously was not sin, but not doing what God instructs me to do always is. I’ve finally learned that when we take a leap of faith, with God, we have everything to gain and nothing to lose but fear.

Father, give me the courage to take a risk for You and the strength to take a leap of faith in whatever You call me to do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

hospital window

From: Inspire21

— Author Unknown

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.

One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window.
The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.

Every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by.

Although the other man couldn’t hear the band – he could see it. In his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days and weeks passed.

One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed.

It faced a blank wall.

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.

She said, “Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.”

Epilogue:

There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations.

Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled.

If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can’t buy.

“Today is a gift, that’s why it is called the Present.”

Swans and flowers

how to be happy

From: Inspire21

— Author Unknown

Are you almost disgusted with life, little man?
I’ll tell you a wonderful trick
that will bring you contentment, if anything can
Do something for somebody, quick!

Are you awfully tired with play, little girl?
Wearied, discouraged, and sick –
I’ll tell you the loveliest game in the world,
Do something for somebody, quick!

Though it rains like the rain of the flood, little man
and the clouds are forbidding and thick,
You can make the sun shine in your soul, little man
Do something for somebody, quick!

Though the stars are like brass overhead, little girl,
and the walks like a well-heated brick
and our earthly affairs in a terrible whirl,
Do something for somebody, quick!

God’s Overpowering Purpose

 Do some things overpower you?

God can break the power of sin and other things that overpower you.

God’s Overpowering Purpose

From: Utmost.org

The vision Paul had on the road to Damascus was not a passing emotional experience, but a vision that had very clear and emphatic directions for him. And Paul stated, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19). Our Lord said to Paul, in effect, “Your whole life is to be overpowered or subdued by Me; you are to have no end, no aim, and no purpose but Mine.” And the Lord also says to us, “You did not choose Me, but I chose youand appointed you that you should go…” (John 15:16).

When we are born again, if we are spiritual at all, we have visions of what Jesus wants us to be. It is important that I learn not to be “disobedient to the heavenly vision” — not to doubt that it can be attained. It is not enough to give mental assent to the fact that God has redeemed the world, nor even to know that the Holy Spirit can make all that Jesus did a reality in my life. I must have the foundation of a personal relationship with Him. Paul was not given a message or a doctrine to proclaim. He was brought into a vivid, personal, overpowering relationship with Jesus Christ.Acts 26:16 is tremendously compelling “…to make you a minister and a witness….” There would be nothing there without a personal relationship. Paul was devoted to a Person, not to a cause. He was absolutely Jesus Christ’s. He saw nothing else and he lived for nothing else. “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

 Streams in the Desert

But the dove found no rest for or the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him… And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf (Genesis 8:9-11).

God knows just when to withhold from us any visible sign of encouragement, and when to grant us such a sign. How good it is that we may trust Him anyway! When all visible evidences that He is remembering us are withheld, that is best; He wants us to realize that His Word, His promise of remembrance, is more substantial and dependable than any evidence of our senses. When He sends the visible evidence, that is well also; we appreciate it all the more after we have trusted Him without it. Those who are readiest to trust God without other evidence than His Word always receive the greatest number of visible evidences of His love.
–C. G. Trumbull

Believing Him; if storm-clouds gather darkly ’round,
And even if the heaven seem brass, without a sound?
He hears each prayer and even notes the sparrow’s fall.
And praising Him; when sorrow, grief, and pain are near,
And even when we lose the thing that seems most dear?
Our loss is gain. Praise Him; in Him we have our All.
Our hand in His; e’en though the path seems long and drear
We scarcely see a step ahead, and almost fear?
He guides aright. He has it thus to keep us near.
And satisfied; when every path is blocked and bare,
And worldly things are gone and dead which were so fair?
Believe and rest and trust in Him, He comes to stay.

Delays are not refusals; many a prayer is registered, and underneath it the words: “My time is not yet come.” God has a set time as well as a set purpose, and He who orders the bounds of our habitation orders also the time of our deliverance.
–Selected

 

Christian Generosity

My aunt and uncle were the two most generous people I have ever known.  They not only gave to their church far beyond their tithe amount, they gave to many charitable organizations on a regular basis—so many in fact that the IRS refused to believe that at their income level they could possibly be giving away that much and audited them several years in a row.

Beyond those contributions, they were always helping out in other ways. My aunt was there with her checkbook whenever there was a death in the family.  She might give $100 just to help out or buy the burial plot if the survivors couldn’t afford it.

The two were just as generous with their time as they were with money.  Almost every day after they retired, they visited at local nursing homes with countless individuals—family members, friends, fellow church members, even lonely strangers.

They were both teachers and in younger years, they spent several days of each summer vacation re-decorating someone else’s house, buying the paint and wallpaper themselves.  I believe it was my aunt who was the engine behind all this, but my uncle always did his part with his usual dour expression and calm demeanor.

My aunt and uncle went to be with the Lord a number of years ago but they are not forgotten. With adequate but not huge incomes they made an impact upon the world that is impossible to measure.  I wonder what the world would be like if there were more people like them.

Edwina Williams

 

Charity without Wisdom

I’m going to tell you about my generous, Christian, do-gooder cousin because you may learn something from her example. She is in fact the most generous, selfless person I have ever known, but she is not always too discerning about who she should do good things for.  Over the years she has opened her home to a variety of ne’er-do-wells who have moved in for a night or a month—or even longer. One of her grown children is acquainted with a lot of questionable characters. Recently, one of those characters had asked to spend the night in my cousin’s house and as usual, ever a sucker for a sob story, she said yes.  However, she is an absolute tee-totaler and when she saw this overnight “guest” with a wine bottle she demanded that it be handed over.  The “guest” already intoxicated, hid the bottle behind her back and said she didn’t have it.  That’s when my cousin got really upset and the next thing you know she experienced an “incident”.

She developed a sudden severe headache and then several minutes of confusion.   Her grandson who was with her called an ambulance, but by the time it arrived she was feeling more herself and her vital signs seemed to be okay.  She refused to go to the hospital and made her grandson swear not to tell his dad what had happened.  Fortunately, after ten days of worrying, her grandson finally broke his promise and told his dad who promptly got his mom a doctor’s appointment.

We don’t know yet if my cousin, 72, had a stroke. The doctor thinks she had one of those “mini-strokes” you often have before you have a bigger one later.   Tests are being run to see if there was any damage. She now says everyone has mini-strokes; it doesn’t mean anything.  She also says she’s “not afraid to die.”  We want her to think this over.  We don’t want her to die and we also don’t want her to experience the consequences of a really bad stroke that could be worse than death, being paralyzed or unable to speak and perhaps not being able to read, the only thing she truly enjoys.

At seventy-two my cousin still works 4 days a week.  All the same, she has barely enough money to make ends meet because she has impoverished herself by “helping” others, often because of woes created by drug use and law breaking.

Last Sunday, our preacher had this topic:  “The Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself, not instead of yourself.”  My cousin would do well to remember this in the future.  She has a right to serenity in her home.  She is not running a halfway house for wayward men and women—although it often seems that she is.  She is not a tax deductible charity.  She is an old woman who deserves peace and privacy.

I admire my cousin for her willingness to help others, but it is impossible to help people who are not simultaneously helping themselves.  I love that my cousin loves her neighbor but she should also love and care for herself and allow others to help her do so.  She is worth it, as I know God would agree.

Transformed By God’s Grace

 

Transformed by Beholding

The greatest characteristic a Christian can exhibit is this completely unveiled openness before God, which allows that person’s life to become a mirror for others. When the Spirit fills us, we are transformed, and by beholding God we become mirrors. You can always tell when someone has been beholding the glory of the Lord, because your inner spirit senses that he mirrors the Lord’s own character. Beware of anything that would spot or tarnish that mirror in you. It is almost always something good that will stain it— something good, but not what is best.

The most important rule for us is to concentrate on keeping our lives open to God. Let everything else including work, clothes, and food be set aside. The busyness of things obscures our concentration on God. We must maintain a position of beholding Him, keeping our lives completely spiritual through and through. Let other things come and go as they will; let other people criticize us as they will; but never allow anything to obscure the life that “is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Never let a hurried lifestyle disturb the relationship of abiding in Him. This is an easy thing to allow, but we must guard against it. The most difficult lesson of the Christian life is learning how to continue “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord….”


 

The People Principle

I didn’t mean to break it!

In fact, just the night before, as our hosts for the evening were showing my wife Martie and me around their beautiful home, they drew our attention to a gorgeous bowl of alabaster fruit. They talked about how valuable it was to them, not only because of its beauty and rarity, but also because of the memories that were associated with the piece.

Which made my klutzy moment early the next morning all the more distressing. In my pre-coffee fog, I walked by the table and knocked the alabaster banana to the floor, breaking it in half. Immediately, the dark side of my fallen heart began to think how I could get out of this jam. It was a clean break, and perhaps if I put it back into the bowl carefully the two halves would look like their original form. Weeks later when they would discover the broken banana, they would no doubt blame it on their kids, and we would be long gone.

In the end, the bright side of my redeemed heart prevailed and I apologetically admitted, “I hate to tell you this, but I knocked your alabaster banana on the floor and it cracked in half.”

I’ll never forget my friend’s reply.

“That’s all right, Joe, in our home people are more important than things.”

I was spared, but more importantly I was taught a great lesson.

In fact, that is exactly how God feels! With Him, people and their needs have always trumped everything else. Jesus made this very clear in His teachings and actions, but perhaps most profoundly in the familiar story of the prodigal son. When He told the story, He was surrounded by tax collectors, women of ill repute, and various other “sinners.” On the fringes of this crowd of outcasts, the Pharisees and teachers of the law stood muttering and grumbling about Christ’s apparent penchant for the unsavory characters of their day. So Jesus proceeded to tell these stories highlighting a lost sheep, a lost coin, and then a lost son. Each parable focuses intently on the passion God has for people as He actively seeks after us and then rejoices when, at last, we turn to Him and are found.

Pointing directly at the Pharisees with His words, the parable of the lost son concludes with the spotlight turned on a disgruntled older brother who is hung up on the “things” that have been lost—the family reputation, dignity, and most likely a sizable portion of the family inheritance. Viewed from his perspective, the father’s expenditures on a wayward son are wasteful and even unfair.

But Jesus, reflecting the heart of His Father in the closing words of the parable, points out that in God’s household people matter most. Not just “cleaned-up” people. Not just “churchy” people. But people who desperately need to hear that God loves them enough to forgive them of their sin, free them of their addictions, and find them at their point of darkest need. People matter most.

So when we look into the mirror of God’s Word, we have to ask ourselves: What matters most in our lives? Our possessions? Our personal preferences? Our perspectives on how people should act and think? Our plans? Our personal pride and reputation? Our rules? Or do the needs and nurture of people matter most?

My friend with the alabaster bowl got it right—people matter most. And Jesus has shown us the way!


influence the life of a child

From: Inspire21

Author Unknown

“When you thought I wasn’t looking…

I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately wanted to paint another one.

I saw you feed a stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals.

I saw you make my favorite cake for me and I learned that little things can be the special things in life.

I heard you say a prayer, and I knew there is a God I could always talk to and I learned to trust in God.

I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care of each other.

I saw you give of your time and money to help people who had nothing and I learned that those who have something should give to those who don’t.

I felt you kiss me good night and I felt loved and safe.

I saw you take care of our house and everyone in it and I learned we have to take care of what we are given.

I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn’t feel good, and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up.

I saw tears come from your eyes and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but its all right to cry.

I saw that you cared and I wanted to be everything I could be.

I watched you, and I learned most of life’s lessons I need to know to be a good and productive person when I grow up.

I looked at you and wanted to say, ‘Thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.'”

—–

Each one of us – whether parent, grandparent or friend – can influence the life of a child… Be a GOOD influence.

January 23

From: Through The Bible

Genesis 25:23 (NIV) 23The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

The unnamed servant of Abraham went to Haran and sought out a wife for Isaac. If we follow the analogy of Isaac being a foreshadow of Christ, then this servant is like the Holy Spirit seeking the bride of Christ. He found Rebecca and took her from her father’s house without delay. When Rebecca was joined with her husband, she found a war within her. Is that not true of us, the bride of Christ. The flesh is warring against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh (Galatians 5:17).

The custom of that day was for the firstborn to receive twice as much as any other heir along with the responsibility and authority of the father. That has carried down to this day in many Eastern countries, but God reversed the order with Abraham’s sons and Isaac’s sons, and others. The picture is that the firstborn, the flesh, must serve the second born, the spirit. There must be a separation as God predicted to Rebecca. We have to set the flesh aside, crucify it with Christ, and refuse to serve it. Even more than that, we must master it.

Which one is the stronger? If we look physically, by sight, we would say Esau. Notice the prophecy says ‘one people will be stronger’. If we look at the people descended from them, the Jewish people have been stronger spiritually and in persistence. These two are at war, even as I write, through the nations they have become. There is a war within you, Christian brother or sister. You must set the flesh aside. The Spirit is stronger. Don’t for a moment believe the flesh is. The older will serve the younger. See that it is so by yielding to the life of Jesus in you every day.

Meditation: “For sin shall not be your master.” Romans 6:14a (NIV)

Evening

January 23

Matthew 2:1-2, 11 (NIV) 1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

The Magi came from the East. It seems most probable that they are from the area of ancient Babylon. They may have still had access to the ancient writings of Daniel, who himself was considered Magi (one of the wise men) serving the kings of that area. Daniel had predicted the time of the coming Messiah of the Jews. Knowing from those writings that the time was near, these men were probably waiting for a sign of His birth.

God gave them their cue. Upon coming to Jerusalem, they asked Herod where the new king was born. Paranoid Herod the Great inquired of the Jewish scholars who knew from the writings of the prophet Micah that the place of His birth would be Bethlehem. Herod feigned a desire to worship this new king also, and asked them to bring a report of where they found Him. He was actually planning to assassinate the King of kings.

God led them to the Joseph and family. Jesus was then a toddler. They did what they had traveled all that way to do. They worshipped Him. Then they presented the gifts: gold for a king, incense for a priest, and myrrh, which speaks of His death. (Isaiah 60 tells us He will be given the first two gifts at His second coming.) This toddler would be the ultimate fulfillment of King and priest and would die in our place. Daniel had predicted that death also. The money would finance their flight into Egypt, escaping the paranoia of Herod.

Consider how much effort and thought these men put into worshipping Jesus. Then, think about how much effort and thought goes into your expression of worship.

Look To Me, And Be Saved

Look to Me, and be saved… —Isaiah 45:22

 Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually. Psalm 105:4

 

Am I Looking To God?

Do we expect God to come to us with His blessings and save us? He says, “Look to Me, and be saved….” The greatest difficulty spiritually is to concentrate on God, and His blessings are what make it so difficult. Troubles almost always make us look to God, but His blessings tend to divert our attention elsewhere. The basic lesson of the Sermon on the Mount is to narrow all your interests until your mind, heart, and body are focused on Jesus Christ. “Look to Me….”

Many of us have a mental picture of what a Christian should be, and looking at this image in other Christians’ lives becomes a hindrance to our focusing on God. This is not salvation— it is not simple enough. He says, in effect, “Look to Me and you are saved,” not “You will be saved someday.” We will find what we are looking for if we will concentrate on Him. We get distracted from God and irritable with Him while He continues to say to us, “Look to Me, and be saved….” Our difficulties, our trials, and our worries about tomorrow all vanish when we look to God.

Wake yourself up and look to God. Build your hope on Him. No matter how many things seem to be pressing in on you, be determined to push them aside and look to Him. “Look to Me….” Salvation is yours the moment you look.

 

Streams in the Desert

He withdrew… to a solitary place (Matthew 14:13).

There is no music during a musical rest, but the rest is part of the making of the music. In the melody of our life, the music is separated here and there by rests. During those rests, we foolisly believe we have come to the end fo the song. God sends us time of forced leisure by allowing sickness, disappointed plans, and frustrated efforts. He brings a sudden pause in the choral hymns of our lives, and we lament that our voices must be silent. We grieve that our part is missing in the music that continually rises to the ear of our Creator. Yet how does a musician read the rest? He counts the break with unwavering precision and plays his next note with confidence, as if no pause were ever there.

God does not write the music of our lives without a plan. Our part is to learn the tune and not be discouraged during the rests. They are not to be slurred over or omitted, nor used to destroy the melody or to change the key. If we will only look up, God Himself will count the time for us. With our eyes on Him, our next note will be full and clear. If we sorrowfully say to ourselves, “There is no music in a rest,” let us not forget that the rest is part of the making of the music. The process is often slow and painful in this life, yet how patiently God works to teach us! And how long He waits for us to learn the lesson!
–John Ruskin

Called aside–
From the glad working of your busy life,
From the world’s ceaseless stir of care and strife,
Into the shade and stillness by your Heavenly Guide
For a brief time you have been called aside.
Called aside–
Perhaps into a desert garden dim;
And yet not alone, when you have been with Him,
And heard His voice in sweetest accents say:
“Child, will you not with Me this still hour stay?”
Called aside–
In hidden paths with Christ your Lord to tread,
Deeper to drink at the sweet Fountainhead,
Closer in fellowship with Him to roam,
Nearer, perhaps, to feel your Heavenly Home.
Called aside–
Oh, knowledge deeper grows with Him alone;
In secret oft His deeper love is shown,
And learned in many an hour of dark distress
Some rare, sweet lesson of His tenderness.
Called aside–
We thank You for the stillness and the shade;
We thank You for the hidden paths Your love has made,
And, so that we have wept and watched with Thee,
We thank You for our dark Gethsemane.
Called aside–
O restful thought – He doeth all things well;
O blessed sense, with Christ alone to dwell;
So in the shadow of Your cross to hide,
We thank You, Lord, to have been called aside.

C. S. LEWIS DAILY – THURSDAY, JANUARY 22, 2015
From: Biblegateway

By the bye, what are your views, now, on the question of sacraments? To me that is the most puzzling side of the whole thing. I need hardly say I feel none of the materialistic difficulties: but I feel strongly just the opposite ones—i.e., I see (or think I see) so well a sense in which all wine is the blood of God—or all matter, even, the body of God, that I stumble at the apparently special sense in which this is claimed for the Host when consecrated. George Macdonald observes that the good man should aim at reaching the state of mind in which all meals are sacraments. Now that is the sort of thing I can understand: but I find no connection between it and the explicit “sacrament” proprement dit[“properly so called”]. The Presbyterian method of sitting at tables munching actual slices of bread is clearly absurd under ordinary conditions: but one can conceive a state of society in which a real meal might be shared by a congregation in such a way as to be a sacrament without ceasing to be also their actual dinner for that day. Possibly this was so in the very early Church.

 

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

Son of Man

From: Biblegateway

“Son of man, What is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest?”
Ezekiel 15:2

These words are for the humbling of God’s people; they are called God’s vine, but what are they by nature more than others? They, by God’s goodness, have become fruitful, having been planted in a good soil; the Lord hath trained them upon the walls of the sanctuary, and they bring forth fruit to his glory; but what are they without their God? What are they without the continual influence of the Spirit, begetting fruitfulness in them? O believer, learn to reject pride, seeing that thou hast no ground for it. Whatever thou art, thou hast nothing to make thee proud. The more thou hast, the more thou art in debt to God; and thou shouldst not be proud of that which renders thee a debtor. Consider thine origin; look back to what thou wast. Consider what thou wouldst have been but for divine grace. Look upon thyself as thou art now. Doth not thy conscience reproach thee? Do not thy thousand wanderings stand before thee, and tell thee that thou art unworthy to be called his son? And if he hath made thee anything, art thou not taught thereby that it is grace which hath made thee to differ? Great believer, thou wouldst have been a great sinner if God had not made thee to differ. O thou who art valiant for truth, thou wouldst have been as valiant for error if grace had not laid hold upon thee. Therefore, be not proud, though thou hast a large estate–a wide domain of grace, thou hadst not once a single thing to call thine own except thy sin and misery. Oh! strange infatuation, that thou, who hast borrowed everything, shouldst think of exalting thyself; a poor dependent pensioner upon the bounty of thy Saviour, one who hath a life which dies without fresh streams of life from Jesus, and yet proud! Fie on thee, O silly heart!

Evening

“Doth Job fear God for nought?”
Job 1:9

This was the wicked question of Satan concerning that upright man of old, but there are many in the present day concerning whom it might be asked with justice, for they love God after a fashion because he prospers them; but if things went ill with them, they would give up all their boasted faith in God. If they can clearly see that since the time of their supposed conversion the world has gone prosperously with them, then they will love God in their poor carnal way; but if they endure adversity, they rebel against the Lord. Their love is the love of the table, not of the host; a love to the cupboard, not to the master of the house. As for the true Christian, he expects to have his reward in the next life, and to endure hardness in this. The promise of the old covenant was prosperity, but the promise of the new covenant is adversity. Remember Christ’s words–“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit”–What? “He purgeth it, that it may bring forth fruit.” If you bring forth fruit, you will have to endure affliction. “Alas!” you say, “that is a terrible prospect.” But this affliction works out such precious results, that the Christian who is the subject of it must learn to rejoice in tribulations, because as his tribulations abound, so his consolations abound by Christ Jesus. Rest assured, if you are a child of God, you will be no stranger to the rod. Sooner or later every bar of gold must pass through the fire. Fear not, but rather rejoice that such fruitful times are in store for you, for in them you will be weaned from earth and made meet for heaven; you will be delivered from clinging to the present, and made to long for those eternal things which are so soon to be revealed to you. When you feel that as regards the present you do serve God for nought, you will then rejoice in the infinite reward of the future.

God Pierces The Clouds With Sunshine

God Pierces The Clouds With Sunshine

 

God can take away the clouds of despair. He replaces them with clouds of hope and promise. Clouds change, but God’s love for you will never change.

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Clouds and Darkness

From: Utmost.org

A person who has not been born again by the Spirit of God will tell you that the teachings of Jesus are simple. But when he is baptized by the Holy Spirit, he finds that “clouds and darkness surround Him….” When we come into close contact with the teachings of Jesus Christ we have our first realization of this. The only possible way to have full understanding of the teachings of Jesus is through the light of the Spirit of God shining inside us. If we have never had the experience of taking our casual, religious shoes off our casual, religious feet— getting rid of all the excessive informality with which we approach God— it is questionable whether we have ever stood in His presence. The people who are flippant and disrespectful in their approach to God are those who have never been introduced to Jesus Christ. Only after the amazing delight and liberty of realizing what Jesus Christ does, comes the impenetrable “darkness” of realizing who He is.

Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Once, the Bible was just so many words to us — “clouds and darkness”— then, suddenly, the words become spirit and life because Jesus re-speaks them to us when our circumstances make the words new. That is the way God speaks to us; not by visions and dreams, but by words. When a man gets to God, it is by the most simple way— words.

 

I Am Redeemed!

From: Our Daily Bread

One day when Ann was visiting her husband in the hospital, she began talking with a caregiver who was assisting him. Ann enjoys engaging people in conversation wherever she is, and she also looks for ways to talk to people about Jesus. Ann asked the caregiver if he knew what he wanted to do in the future. When he said he wasn’t sure, she suggested that it’s important to know God first so He can help with such decisions. He then pulled up the sleeve of his shirt to reveal “I am redeemed!” tattooed across his arm.

They realized that they shared a mutual love for the Lord Jesus Christ! And both had found ways to show their faith in the One who died to give us life.

The title of an old song by Steve Green says it best: “People need the Lord.” It’s up to us to find ways to share “the good news” with them (Ps. 40:9). Not everyone feels comfortable talking to strangers, and there is no one-size-fits-all method. But God will use our personalities and His light in us to spread His love.

“I am redeemed!” Let’s allow God to guide us to find ways to tell others about Jesus Christ, our Redeemer!

Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed through His infinite mercy—
His child, and forever I am. —Crosby
The good news of the gospel is too good to keep to ourselves.

Insight

David had been through some tough times when he wrote Psalm 40, but God had answered his cries for help and deliverance (vv.1-2,12). Testifying to God’s faithfulness, goodness, and greatness, David calls on the congregation to join him in praising God (v.16). Knowing God’s requirement that the king of Israel personally know and fully obey God’s law (v.7; see Deut. 17:18-20), David recommits himself to knowing God’s Word and doing His will (Ps. 40:8). Thousands of years later, the writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 40:6-8 and applies the words to Jesus (Heb. 10:5-7), affirming Christ’s total obedience to the Father when He came to this world as a man.


A true story of tragedy and triumph

From: Inspire21

*Author Unknown

Brothers Michael and Chris were both born in the early 1960s and grew up in a mostly black neighborhood in Richmond, California, right outside of San Francisco.

Both boys were well behaved in school and brought home mostly A’s on their report cards all through grade school.

But coming from a working-class family with eight children, money was always tight, so the boys often had to go without. In fact, things were so tight, the two growing boys were often hungry.

So they did what many boys do when they’re hungry and have no food – they stole. From the time they were five until they were well out of high school, the boys stole. They stole crackers from the cupboard in the middle of the night… they stole cookies from the grocery store… and they stole sandwiches from the sandwich shop.

If it wasn’t nailed down and was worth something, Michael and Chris would find a way to steal it. They even stole money from their parents from time to time. But more often than not, they stole to satisfy their hunger.

When it was time for Michael and Chris to attend high school, they were bused across town to Kennedy High School. It was during high school that something happened that made Chris decide to change his behavior. At the end of his freshman year in high school, Chris had received three A’s and three F’s on his report card – the first time he had failed anything in school.

Because Kennedy High School only allowed three failures over four years, one more F and Chris would be kicked out of school. That’s when he made up his mind to change. Years later Chris would recall that defining moment in his life with these words:

“I sat outside my house at the beginning of that summer knowing that I was letting my chance slip away. One more F and I’d be just another high school dropout, hanging around the neighborhood, hoping to get on with the county or to get into the service.

“At the time I didn’t know my brother Rusty would end up in prison… or that my brother Harold would die without having seen much of the world. I certainly didn’t know what would happen to Michael. I only knew that I had to get out of there. I wanted to see San Francisco every day, to pick out my own clothes, drive my own car, and be whatever a man could hope to be, not just a black man, not just a man from the flats of Richmond. I wanted no limitations. I wanted to be whatever a man could hope to be.”

Chris’ decision to change his behavior wasn’t an easy one. He took a lot of grief from his friends for choosing to excel in school, instead of squeaking by with C’s and D’s. But that decision to change took him in an entirely different direction from his brother Michael, who resisted changing his unproductive behavior.

Chris went on to graduate from high school… graduate from college… and graduate from law school. For 15 years he worked as a Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles, California, prosecuting murderers, drug dealers, gang members and crooked cops. Today Chris is better known as Christopher. You probably recognize him by his full name – Christopher Darden, one of the lead prosecutors in the trial of the century, the O. J. Simpson trial!

What became of Christopher’s brother, Michael? After high school Michael joined the army and returned to his hometown shortly after his tour of duty. Back in Richmond, Michael continued his pattern of anti-social behavior – hustling in the streets… and stealing to support himself and a growing drug habit. On November 29, 1995, Michael Darden died at the age of 42… from AIDS.

This story of triumph and tragedy serves to remind us that when it’s all said and done, who we are and what we become is determined by the choices we make.

We can choose to get better… or we can choose to get bitter. Whether we make those choices to improve at age 14, like Christopher Darden… or at age 64, like Colonel Sanders, those choices have the power to dramatically increase our value in virtually everything we do.

That’s what the saying “change… or be changed” is all about. Christopher Darden changed. He changed from being a criminal… to prosecuting criminals.

He changed his attitude from being angry and sullen… to being open and accepting.

He changed from an underachiever… to an honor student who took responsibility for his grades and his education.

He changed from a disillusioned teen-ager with low self-esteem… to an optimistic young man determined to turn his dreams into reality.

His brother Michael, on the other hand, was changed. He was changed by grinding poverty… he was changed by the code of the streets … he was changed by illegal drugS… and finally, he was changed by an insidious disease.

Christopher Darden made the tough choices… he made the changes in his life that helped him accomplish his dreams.

His brother Michael, on the other hand, took the easy way out – or at least what he thought was the easy way out. He kept hanging around the same group of loser friends… he kept practicing the same self-destructive habits. As a result of the changes they did or did not make, both men chose their fates: Christopher chose to became a successful prosecutor. And Michael chose to become just another sad story of the streets.

The sobering truth is, “Either way, you pay!” The truth is the price that Michael paid for refusing to change was much higher than the price that Christopher paid for seeking to change.

I’d like to think that Michael didn’t die in vain. I’d like to think that by hearing this story, some people will finally understand the profound importance of making positive, productive changes in their lives.

When it’s all said and done, you have a choice.

You can choose to become Michael.

Or you can choose to become Christopher.

You can continue to do the things that will lead to frustration and unhappiness.

Or you can make the changes that help you get what you want most out of life.

Don’t choose to become like so many people who COULD HAVE become a millionaire… or who COULD HAVE become happier… or who COULD HAVE become healthier… or who COULD HAVE made a contribution – but didn’t. Start making the changes you need to make TODAY… so that you can become the person you want to become TOMORROW!


Don’t hope, friend… decide!

From: Inspire21

— By Michael Hargrove

While waiting to pick up a friend at the airport in Portland, Oregon, I had one of those life changing experiences that you hear other people talk about. You know, the kind that sneaks up on you unexpectedly? Well, this one occurred a mere two feet away from me! Straining to locate my friend among the passengers deplaning through the jetway, I noticed a man coming toward me carrying two light bags. He stopped right next to me to greet his family.

First, he motioned to his youngest son (maybe six years old) as he laid down his bags. They gave each other a long, and movingly loving hug. As they separated enough to look in each other’s face, I heard the father say, “It’s so good to see you, son. I missed you so much!” His son smiled somewhat shyly, diverted his eyes, and replied softly, “Me too, Dad!”

Then the man stood up, gazed in the eyes of his oldest son (maybe 9) and while cupping his son’s face in his hands he said, “You’re already quite the young man. I love you very much Zach!” They too hugged a most loving, tender hug. His son said nothing. No reply was necessary.

While this was happening, a baby girl (perhaps one or one and a half) was squirming excitedly in her mother’s arms, never once taking her little eyes off the wonderful sight of her returning father. The man said, “Hi babygirl!” as he gently took the child from her mother. He quickly kissed her face all over and then held her close to his chest while rocking her from side to side. The little girl instantly relaxed and simply laid her head on his shoulder and remained motionless in total pure contentment.

After several moments, he handed his daughter to his oldest son and declared, “I’ve saved the best for last!” and proceeded to give his wife the longest, most passionate kiss I ever remember seeing. He gazed into her eyes for several seconds and then quietly said, “I love you so much!”. They stared into each other’s eyes, beaming big smiles at one another, while holding both hands. For an instant, they reminded me of newlyweds but I knew by the age of their kids that they couldn’t be. I puzzled about it for a moment, then realized how totally engrossed I was in the wonderful display of unconditional love not more than an arm’s length away from me. I suddenly felt uncomfortable, as if I were invading something sacred, but was amazed to hear my own voice nervously ask, “Wow! How long have you two been married?”

“Been together fourteen years total, married twelve of those.” he replied without breaking his gaze from his lovely wife’s face.

“Well then, how long have you been away?” I asked. The man finally looked at me, still beaming his joyous smile and told me, “Two whole days!”

Two days?! I was stunned! I was certain by the intensity of the greeting I just witnessed that he’d been gone for at least several weeks, if not months, and I know my expression betrayed me. So, I said almost offhandedly, hoping to end my intrusion with some semblance of grace (and to get back to searching for my friend), “I hope my marriage is still that passionate after twelve years!”

The man suddenly stopped smiling. He looked me straight in the eye, and with an intensity that burned right into my soul, he told me something that left me a different person. He told me, “Don’t hope friend…decide.” Then he flashed me his wonderful smile again, shook my hand and said, “God bless!”. With that, he and his family turned and energetically strode away together.

I was still watching that special man and his exceptional family walk just out of sight when my friend came up to me and asked, “What’cha looking at?” Without hesitating, and with a curious sense of certainty, I replied, “My future!”