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God has Great Things Ahead For Us

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Too Much of a Good Thing

Faith is a wonderful thing. We have been saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). By faith we have become children of God (John 1:12). With faith, it is possible to please God (Heb. 11:6). When we believe God, impossible things become possible.

But can we believe too much? “Certainly not!” you may say. But to really answer that question, we have to consider what and in Whom we are believing. Too often, we as Christians believe in the wrong things, and we are quick to believe in them, too!

For example, sometimes we’re quick to believe in gossip about co-workers (2 Cor. 12:20). We may believe the latest rumors about celebrities. We might believe misinformation and slander about politicians. Bosses could believe a bad report about employees. By doing these things, we can hurt others by believing (and sometimes acting on) something about them that is not true. We misjudge them, and we make it worse by telling others the half-truths and lies we’ve believed.

Sometimes we hurt ourselves more directly by believing whatever teaching we hear. Or we may believe a smooth talking con artist who is utilizing the latest financial scheme.

How can we protect ourselves and keep from hurting others? There are a number of things we can do. One thing is to not believe just one side of a story that is told about someone. We need to hear both sides of a story, then we can understand the situation better (Prov. 18:17).

In addition, we can protect ourselves from false doctrine by comparing what we hear to the whole counsel of the Bible (Acts 17:10-12Eph. 4:14). We should test everything with the Bible and the guidance of the Spirit (1 John 4:11 Th. 5:21).

Let us resolve to not hurt ourselves or others by believing in things that we shouldn’t. Let us ask the Lord to give us discernment about what is true and wisdom about what is right. Jesus Himself once said to His disciples, “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16). James wrote, “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you” (James 1:5).

Yes, faith is a wonderful thing! But let’s not have too much of a good thing. Let’s keep God and His truth as the focus of our faith. When we do that, we will be a brighter light to the world around us (Mat. 5:14). And as God helps us to grow in these areas, we will become more like our wonderful Lord and Savior Jesus! We will be more conformed to image of God’s Son (Rom. 8:29). Thank God that His love is everlasting towards us as we continue to grow in Him.

 

Forgiveness Is Spiritual Warfare

By:  Marshall Segal, desiringGod.org

Much of our confusion and misery in life is due to our underestimating (or ignoring altogether) the enemy of our souls. Some of us rarely think of Satan and his demons, and if we do, we often downplay their power and influence. Surely, we could overestimate Satan (and many do), but in our day, especially in the West, it seems like he gets less attention and resistance than he deserves.

While the devil is already defeated and his end is sure, he is still “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), and he still leads “the cosmic powers over this present darkness” and “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). And he rules and corrupts through deception. “There is no truth in him,” Jesus warns. “When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). So, the apostle Paul warns, we must be careful lest we “be outwitted by Satan” or be found “ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11).

What may surprise us is what, in particular, prevents us from being outwitted by Satan. Paul writes, “What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:10–11). Do you want to know what Satan’s schemes are? He wants you to hold a grudge. He wants you to believe vengeance is yours, and not God’s. Forgiveness outwits Satan, and forgiveness subverts his wickedness.

Why Is Forgiveness Hard?

Forgiveness may be the hardest thing many of us do in our lifetimes. I say may, because many suffer and wrestle in horrible ways. But even then, how much of our suffering is owing to someone else’s sins or failures? Because none of us is without sin, forgiveness is simply a given if we want to love and be loved in this life.

“God disarmed Satan and all his armies with costly forgiveness — your forgiveness.”

Forgiveness can be hard because it fights against all the impulses of our flesh: “Did you see how he hurt me? Why would I make myself vulnerable again?” “The pain still feels so fresh and deep — how could I possibly pretend to be okay with her?” “This is the dozenth time he has done this to me. Haven’t I forgiven him enough?” “I’ll never be able to trust her again — how could I possibly forgive her?” What voices keep you from forgiving?

And because forgiveness can be hard, God gives us great reasons to forgive. We forgive because he first forgave us: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). We forgive because God crushed his Son for our forgiveness. He canceled “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).

And through that cross (we should not be surprised) “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:15). God disarmed Satan and all his armies with costly forgiveness — your forgiveness. Knowing who Satan was and what he wants and how he works, God chose to fight instead with a broken body and spilled blood. God chose to forgive. And so we too forgive “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”

 

If We Withhold Forgiveness

That means to withhold forgiveness is to play into Satan’s hands, to reinforce his war, to join his cause. To withhold forgiveness is an attempted suicide of the soul.

“Maybe the most effective way to wage spiritual warfare today would be for us to more quickly and freely forgive.”

Jesus warns, “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14–15). Do you hear the suicide in forgivelessness? If we are too proud or bitter to hold out the hands of forgiveness, God will withdraw his. If we refuse to forgive, he will hold our every sin against us, until we can pay for them all (Matthew 18:35) — and we will never pay for them all. To withhold forgiveness is not only to join Satan in his wickedness, but it is to be left with Satan and his wickedness — miserable, unforgiven, cast into outer darkness.

And Jesus calls us to forgive not just once, but tirelessly. “Pay attention to yourselves!” he warns. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him” (Luke 17:3–4). In the previous verse, he threatens awful judgment for any who refuse: “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea” (Luke 17:2). Withholding forgiveness, even after having already forgiven someone six times in a day, is a wicked offense to God. So, the wise flee judgment and run to forgive.

Comfort Your Offender

When Paul calls the church in Corinth to forgive, he is likely calling them to forgive a false teacher who rose up to oppose him (2 Corinthians 2:5). This is personal, and likely painful, for him. “Turn to forgive and comfort him,” he says, “or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” (2 Corinthians 2:7). Can you see Satan wincing? Not only does Paul forgive his offender, but he campaigns for forgiveness, and even beyond forgiveness, for comfort and love: “I beg you to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Corinthians 2:8).

A previous letter of his had evidently led the rebellion to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9), but some of the people still felt betrayed and ready to punish their leaders (2 Corinthians 2:6). The apostle, however, saw what Satan wanted. With every reason to harbor resentment and hold a grudge, he denied himself, picked up his cross, and forgave. While Satan iced the waters with bitterness and division, Paul warmed them with surprising, compassionate, forgiving love.

He could comfort those who had hurt him because he had been comforted, again and again, by “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4). Have you experienced that comfort? Have you been willing to extend it to those who have hurt you?

Weaponizing Forgiveness

Maybe the most effective way to wage spiritual warfare today would be for us to more quickly and freely forgive. Counselor Ed Welch writes,

Remember, (1) the flesh has a sinful bent toward self-interest. It is committed to the question, “What’s in it for me?” (2) Satan is a liar and divider. Notice that the most explicit biblical teaching on spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6) is found in the book that emphasizes unity. Satan’s most prominent strategy is to fracture and divide. And (3) the world tries to institutionalize these tendencies. (When People Are Big and God Is Small, 196)

“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12). Instead, we rush to forgive flesh and blood. And we wrestle “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The rulers and authorities of darkness trade in angry grudges. The spiritual forces of evil breed bitterness and dissension. But we, those forgiven by God, defy and defeat them by wielding the precious and dangerous weapon of forgiveness.

 

A Prisoner

by Inspiration Ministries

“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved brother and fellow worker.” – Philemon 1:1 NASB

Some believers have a more social type of faith. Others approach Christianity like a religion with rituals and rules. But others are like Paul – sold out, with a total commitment to Jesus.

We see that commitment in the first words in his letter to Philemon. He was a “prisoner of Christ Jesus.” Then a few verses later, he repeated this positioning. In both cases, he used a Greek word suggesting that He was a captive.

He approached his life as someone surrendered to Jesus. For Paul, this wasn’t an imposition or a burden. It brought him joy and gave his life meaning and fulfillment. He went where Jesus was leading. He did what he felt called to do.

Paul was providing a model he hoped Philemon and other believers would apply. He was teaching the importance of having a life surrendered to Jesus. He wasn’t sitting on the fence but following Him absolutely.

What would Paul say about Christians today? About you?

He would remind us that following Jesus should be a total life commitment. It doesn’t mean just listening to a sermon, going to church, speaking a few polite prayers, or reading a few Bible verses. As Paul learned, this should be the most important thing in our lives. Our highest priority, the focus of our energies.

Seek to make this commitment. Make sure Jesus is your Lord. Seek to be sold out for the Gospel, a willing prisoner.

 

The true position of assurance

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.’ Ephesians 1:13

Suggested Further Reading: 1 John 3:14–24

We know that God is true because we have proved him. Sometimes this comes through the hearing of the Word—as we listen our faith is confirmed. But there is doubtless besides this, a special and supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, whereby men are assured that they are born of God. You will observe in one place the apostle says that the Spirit ‘beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God;’ so that there are two witnesses—first, our spirit bears witness, that is, by evidences: I look at my faith, and see myself depending upon Christ, and then I know, because I love the brethren, and for other reasons, that I am born of God. Then there comes over and above the witness of evidence, faith and feeling, the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit. Have you not felt it? I cannot describe this to you, but you who have felt it know it. Did you not the other day feel a heavenly calm as you meditated upon your state and condition in Christ? You wondered where it came from. It was not the result of protracted devotion, but it stole over you, you knew not how it was, you were bathed in it as in sunlight, and you rejoiced exceedingly. You rejoiced in Christ—that was the basis of confidence, but that confidence came through the Spirit bearing witness with your spirit. And this has occurred sometimes in the midst of sharp conflicts just when dark despair seemed ready to overwhelm you. You may have enjoyed this comfort under peculiar trials, and losses of friends, and you may expect to have it when you come to die. Then, if ever in your life, you should be able to say, ‘I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.’

For meditation: We must not regard the Holy Spirit as a loose cannon giving us feelings, experiences and revelations which are nothing to do with the Scriptures. But he can confirm personally in our hearts what God has said in his Word and done in our lives (Romans 8:14–16Galatians 4:61 John 3:244:13).

How Would You Describe God’s Love?

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How Would You Describe God’s Love?

Have you ever felt as if a sermon or Bible passage had been aimed directly at you? Imagine that you and a friend read or hear the same message. Almost without exception, each of you will be personally impacted by God’s love and truth in profoundly unique ways. It is no coincidence that the Bible describes the Word of God as, “alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12).

The Dimensions of God’s Love

In Ephesians chapter three, we are challenged to try to grasp the “width, length, height, and depth” of God’s love. Sometimes when I read this illustration, I picture Christ as the carpenter. Carefully constructing His Church, He positions each person in their proper place, at the proper time, in the proper order. He does this so that together, we support and strengthen each other as we become vessels of God’s love in a hurting world.

But at other times, my heart and mind may gravitate to one particular aspect. Over the years, each one has seemed to jump off the page at one time or another. They serve to remind me of a specific attribute of God that speaks to my heart in my current situation. How about you?

How Do You Envision God’s Love?

  • Consider length. It may remind us of God’s faithfulness. It is an awesome and humbling joy to realize that God has been, and will continue, watching over the full length of each of our lives, beginning from before we were conceived, through birth, life, death, and even beyond the grave!
  • Width serves to remind us of God’s omnipresence: at any given moment, God is involved with every detail of our lives. Carefully orchestrating each one with perfect precision so that despite the difficulties, we might draw closer to the One who has loved us since before time began.
  • The depth of God’s love may cause us to reflect on the fact that God knows us fully and completely, even better than we know ourselves. It may bring to mind the fact that Jesus was willing to leave His heavenly throne, suffer death on a cross, and be raised to life. As a result, He is able to meet us even in the darkest corners of our hearts.
  • And lastly, height lovingly lures the mind and spirit of each one of us to bask in God’s holiness and sovereignty. To be reminded that He is above all things and yet, though He created the entire universe and everything in it, the greatest object of His affection is us.

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.”Ephesians 3:18 NLT

“For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 1:9 NLT

 

Our God Is Not a Do-Nothing God

“… casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].” 1 Peter 5:7 (AMP)

“How can God just do nothing?”

This was the vulnerable and honest question I got from someone in the audience during a recent Q&A. The pain in her question was deep. The ache in her faith was real. And, gracious, do I ever understand what that feels like.

Perhaps you understand, too.

I remember feeling so disillusioned during my journey with my husband, Art, when he was unfaithful and our marriage was imploding. For years, all I could see from my vantage point was Art doing whatever he wanted with no apparent intervention by God at all. And when you’re suffering so much that each next breath seems excruciating, and the one causing the pain is seemingly thriving and prospering, it’s easy to start assuming God is doing nothing.

But we don’t serve a do-nothing God. He is always working.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. He walked through years of rejection, false accusation, wrongful imprisonment and seemingly was forgotten … but with God, there is always a meanwhile. God was bringing about something only He could do with the circumstances before Joseph. He was positioning Joseph and preparing him to be used to help save the lives of millions of people during a famine that would have otherwise destroyed multiple nations.

God is always doing something.

Unlike in the Joseph story, sometimes we don’t get to see on this side of eternity how God is working in our most painful experiences. But I can let the way God worked in Joseph’s story be a reminder of His faithfulness in my story.

I’ve been able to have conversations with Art in our reconciliation now that allow me to go back and correct some of my assumptions that life was fun and incredible for him during the years he was living a lie. God was still at work in my husband even when I couldn’t see the evidence.

But even more than that, sin itself contains punishment built in. Art would tell you today he was miserable back then. He felt trapped inside of a lie that required him to put on a show, looking like he was having the time of his life. But that show required numbing substances that were killing him. It was a trap with vicious teeth dug so deeply down into his soul, he can’t talk about those years without begging others not to get caught in this same kind of nightmare.

Sin always masquerades as fun and games. But pull back the curtain of the deceived human heart, and what you’ll find hiding there will drive you to your knees to pray for that person. And maybe that’s the very reason God instructs us to pray for our enemies. Job 15:20 reminds us, “The wicked man writhes in pain all his days” (ESV). And Psalm 44:15 says “All day long my dishonor is before me And my humiliation has overwhelmed me” (NASB).

As St. Augustine, a fourth-century Christian theologian, says, sin “becomes the punishment of sin.” But never forget God is there in the midst of it all. No matter how good someone makes sinful choices seem, that isn’t the complete story. God knows the full truth. With Art, God wasn’t just trying to change his behavior. He was rescuing his soul. There was never one moment when God was doing nothing.

Oh, friend, the heartbreaks you carry are enormous. And if no one else has ever said this to you, I want to: I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through. Your hurt matters. Not only do I care about you, but so does God.

Don’t miss the tremendous amount of tenderness we find in our key verse today, “… casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]” (1 Peter 5:7).

Keep trusting Him. He sees you. He loves you. And He knows exactly what needs to happen in every detail of your story. You do not serve a do-nothing God.

 

Who Determines Your Identity?

by Kelly Givens, Crosswalk.org

One year, in between jobs, I worked as a temporary administrative assistant at a financial planning firm… during tax season. It was as challenging as you might imagine. I had no experience in taxes but suddenly found myself surrounded by tax forms, calculators and clients who expected me to have the answers to all of their tax issues. I might as well have been in a foreign country trying to communicate in a language I barely understood.

I started with grand ambitions: I told myself that I would learn all about taxes; I took an incredibly challenging online tax course, learned a ton about deductions and exemptions, and strove to be cheerful and helpful to my colleagues and our clients. Things were going great – I was exhausted but felt helpful, felt like my boss appreciated me and thought my coworkers were glad to have me around. Until the worst imaginable thing happened.

A customer claimed to have dropped off his taxes to be done, but his paperwork was nowhere to be found. All of the most important documents he owned and had trusted to us had somehow vanished. Worst of all, I had been the person handling the coming and going of most of the client’s paperwork the day it went missing, so the blame fell on me.

I was nauseous with anxiety. I felt the cold condemnation of my coworkers as they repeatedly asked me what I had done with this man’s documents. All I could say over and over was, “I don’t know. I don’t remember taking his paperwork. I am so sorry.” I listened as they whispered accusations behind my back. I felt them watching me like a hawk, seeing if I would make any more careless mistakes. Worst of all, my boss was totally stressed out and I felt the weight of everything on me.

I went home that night and cried my eyes out. I prayed fervently that God would somehow miraculously make the documents appear. I prayed for the strength I needed to face work the next day. I truly felt as David did in Psalms 55 when he prayed,

Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
Oh, that I had wings of a dove!
I would flee far away and stay in the desert.

All I wanted was to run away and never face my coworkers again. And I couldn’t even think about what the client would say when he found out that all of his tax information was gone.

My husband and I went to Bible study that night, and together our small group prayed over the situation, prayed that the missing documents would be recovered, and prayed for my peace. One person’s prayer in particular stuck out to me:

Father, I pray that Kelly knows her identity is not in what she does or doesn’t do, but in what you have done for her. I pray she knows that no amount of mistakes could make her any less your daughter.

Those words were a balm to my wounded spirit. I pictured Jesus holding me, reminding me of his great love for me and that even though I had messed up, my mistakes didn’t define me, he did.

I am a daughter of the King. Being reminded that my identity rests not in my success but in Christ’s sacrifice gave me the courage I needed to face another work day. I realized I had been finding my identity in what other people thought of me and in a job well done, instead of resting in the knowledge that no matter what, I am a beloved, redeemed child of God.

The next day at work, the missing files were found. The client had dropped them off in our overnight drop-off box, and the documents were wedged at the top of the chute. While having my name cleared was a relief, I look back and am more thankful for the lesson God taught me. When it comes to my identity, it’s not what I do or don’t do that defines me, it’s what Christ has done for me.

“He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me.”  –Psalm 55:18

 

Keys to Victory

by Inspiration Ministries

“Joshua commanded the people, saying, ‘You shall not shout nor let your voice be heard nor let a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I tell you, “Shout!” Then you shall shout!’” – Joshua 6:10 NASB

Alexander the Great led his army across the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, intending to become the master of Asia. Encountering the mighty Persian army, he realized his forces were outnumbered. The Persians had several hundred thousand men while he had only about 45,000. On this day in 331 BC, he surveyed the landscape and developed a plan that he felt would lead to victory.

He instructed his soldiers to advance into battle in with speed, distraction, and unexpected maneuvers. He anticipated that the effect would cause terror among the Persians. His strategy worked, and his forces won a decisive battle.

The use of surprise tactics was not a new scheme. Silence – an unheard of strategy – had been employed with great success by Joshua at Jericho. He commanded his forces not to let their voice be heard “until the day I tell you.” They marched around Jericho in silence for six days. On the seventh day, they marched in silence six more times. Finally, on the seventh day, Joshua gave the word: “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city” (v. 16).

The Bible reminds us that to be victorious, we need the right strategies and plans, and we need to act at the right time. Remember, God can give you the wisdom you need, show you what to do, and when to do it. Commit your problems to Him. Seek His wisdom. Let Him guide you to victory.

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Watch the Bubbles

As my car crawled along the automated car wash track, my thoughts drifted to times past, when my husband and I would take our children through the car wash for the express purpose of playing “watch the bubbles.”

“Daddy, my bubble is racing yours!” our son would say.

“Mine is turning swishy circles!” our daughter would say.

I stroked my silver-steaked hair and prayed, “God, why do I still want to watch bubbles? My children are driving their own cars now. This is silly.” Just then, a scripture came to mind,

“… for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:11b KJV)

For God’s pleasure, and for ours, He creates. God invents the science behind what makes car wash bubbles fascinating to watch, but He doesn’t stop there. He creates snails with stripes and bushes with glitter dots. He makes a dove’s feathers to sing as she takes flight. He fashions the honeybee’s wings to interlock like a zipper during flight. God, the masterful creator, wants us to enjoy His creation the way He does. But there’s more …

Father God loves His people so much He gives them the innate ability to create, for He made mankind in His image. Only after God created people did He see that,

“… it was very good …” (Genesis 1:31b KJV)

Of the rest of His creation, He saw that

“… it was good.” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25 KJV)

Paul records the works that we are created to accomplish with the Lord’s empowerment,

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

There is even more …

The Heavenly Father treasures mankind so much He comes into the midst and sings His children a love-song. Scripture records His thoughts,

“The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty … he will joy over thee with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17 KJV)

Even though this is a song a person can’t hear with the natural ear, rest assured that He sings. And sometimes, when a worshipper is in the midst of praising His Creator, the Lord allows this melody to bubble within the heart.

Friend, since you are loved so much by your Creator that He sings over you, then enjoy the world He has fashioned. Next, praise Him for the ability He places within you to accomplish the works He has ordained you to do. But most of all, Praise Him for being the magnificent Heavenly Daddy who has uniquely created you.

Father God, thank You that You created all things, including me, for your enjoyment. 

 

A Spiritual Workout

By: Ryan Duncan, Crosswalk.org

“So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”- 2 Thessalonians 2:15

In some of my previous devotions I’ve written about my habit of working out during the week, and my time at the gym has taught me a few important lessons. First, never go running after eating Mexican takeout unless you want to experiences some excruciating gastro-intestinal distress. Second, always know what a machine does before you try using it or you may end up looking like a complete idiot. Finally, and most importantly, all exercise takes commitment and perseverance. You see, we live in a world that is obsessed with immediate results.

Don’t believe me? Look at the TV commercials that promise rock hard abs in thirty days, or the diet plans that promise to slim our waistline after a week of light work. We are all looking for an easy way out, but if you really want to become strong and healthy, it takes many days of hard work. The same is true for spiritual workouts, just read 1 Thessalonians 5,

And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:14-28

I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted just reading that passage. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop it from being true. Save for the grace of God, there are no magical fixes in life. If you want to get physically healthy it means running, dieting, and doing a whole lot of heavy lifting. If you want to become stronger in Christ, you can’t just rely on going to Church each Sunday.

Growing closer to God means forgiving your enemies, encouraging others, and praying continuously day after day. It’s some serious work, and there will be moments when you may get discouraged, but over time when you look back at the things it has allowed God to do in your life, you will know that it was all worth it.

 

The Snare of Fear

by Inspiration Ministries

“The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” – Proverbs 29:25 NASB

Fear and anxiety confront us on every side – wars and violence, crime and diseases, job or boss problems, practical relationship issues, an uncertain future, financial pressures.

In many ways, fears are fostered by concerns over what others might say or do. But the Bible reminds us that fear of other people causes us to falter because it “brings a snare.”

The Hebrew word here suggests a noose or hook used for catching animals. In other words, fear of other people literally can hook us in and draw us deeper as if we were caught by a noose. This fear distracts, traps, and controls us.

What is the answer? The Bible simply says that if we want to be “exalted,” we will trust in the Lord. This means not giving in to worry and fear, no matter what others say or do, no matter the circumstances, whether or not we feel threatened.

Our greatest defense and protection is to trust Him. Our greatest weapon is not giving in to fear or anger, but resting in Him and letting Him defend and protect us.

Does any person or situation cause fear in your heart and mind? Commit that situation or person to the Lord. Turn everything over to Him. And place your trust in Him. Don’t be snared by fear. Commit your needs to Him. Make Him the Rock on whom you depend.

 

Love to Jesus

By: Charles Spurgeon

“O thou whom my soul loveth.” Solomon’s Song 1:7

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 103

The Christian, if he had no Christ to love, must die, for his heart has become Christ’s. And so if Christ were gone, love could not be; then his heart would be gone too, and a man without a heart is dead. The heart, is it not the vital principle of the body? And love, is it not the vital principle of the soul? Yet there are some who profess to love the Master, but only walk with him by fits, and then go abroad like Dinah into the tents of the Shechemites. Oh, take heed, ye professors, who seek to have two husbands; my Master will never be a part-husband. He is not such a one as to have half of your heart. My Master, though he be full of compassion and very tender, hath too noble a spirit to allow himself to be half-proprietor of any kingdom. Canute, the Danish king, might divide England with Edmund the Ironside, because he could not win the whole country, but my Lord will have every inch of thee, or none. He will reign in thee from one end of the isle of man to the other, or else he will not put a foot upon the soil of thy heart. He was never part-proprietor in a heart, and he will not stoop to such a thing now. What saith the old Puritan? “A heart is so little a thing, that it is scarce enough for a sparrow’s breakfast, and ye say it be too great a thing for Christ to have it all.” No, give him the whole. It is but little when thou weighest his merit, and very small when measured with his loveliness. Give him all. Let thy united heart, thy undivided affection be constantly, every hour, given up to him.

For meditation: The members of the Godhead are the only joint-owners of the Christian. May God teach us his way—that our hearts may be united and wholly for him (Psalm 86:11-12).

God Has A Good Plan For You

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Your Plans May Change but God Never Will

Ever been here: you have a major event coming up. So you plan. You prepare. You make your list and check it twice. No detail is left undone. Then, in a moment’s notice, everything changes. Circumstances force a change of schedule. Suddenly, it makes no difference how hard you worked. Everything is on hold.

For the past two and a half weeks, I’ve been hard at work preparing to begin videotaping my Legion Bible study teaching series. The open door to begin filming was a huge answer to a long-awaited prayer. Production was scheduled to begin tomorrow. Then … lightning struck. Literally. Overnight, hundreds of fires broke out from one end of the state to the other. Between the smoke and risk of evacuation and/or power outage, the video producer and I realized we had no choice but to nix the scheduled video shoot.

As difficult as the decision was, I knew there were people dealing with far worse: homes threatened by fires, first responders battling the blaze. As I was praying today for protection over the homes in harm’s way, the firefighters—and for rain (it seems impossible to see rain in the middle of a heatwave, but I am asking anyway because God is the God of the impossible)–as I was praying, I lamented over all of the devastation: the homes in danger; the lives at risk. Then my mind went to all of the people suffering because of the pandemic—this, on top of the economy being hammered by lockdowns. It all seems so overwhelming.

But then I remember: we have a big God. We can trust He is working—even in the midst of all the chaos that is swirling around us. Jesus said,

“My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17 ESV)

And so I found myself praying for revival—for hearts to turn back to God in the midst of all the chaos. To seek Him when all seems lost.

If we put our hope in this world: whether in our health, or home, or a 401k, things can change in a moment’s notice. It is times like these when we are reminded that there is only one true, everlasting hope–and it can only be found beyond this world. In this life, nothing is guaranteed, but God is the “same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.” When we put our hope in Him, we will never be disappointed.

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” (Psalm 39:7 ESV)

If you are facing a difficulty, here are some favorite passages I turn to in difficult times:

  • Psalm 91 (when in need of comfort or reminder of God’s protection)
  • Romans 8:31-39 (when in need of courage or perseverance)
  • Ephesians 1:3-14 (when in need of an eternal perspective)

What are some of your favorite ‘go to’ Bible passages?

 

God Is Present – Crosswalk the Devotional – September 28

by Boyd Bailey, Author of Two Minutes In The Bible™ Through Psalms

There they are, overwhelmed with dread,
for God is present in the company of the righteousPsalm 14:5

God is present in your predicament. You don’t have to pray, “God be with us”; He’s there already. He’s there because He cares. He’s there because you are extremely valuable to Him. God cherishes His children. He loves to give His own good gifts (Matthew 7:11). His presence alone is a present. He’s present to give wisdom. He’s present to give you direction. He’s present to give you courage. In His presence there is peace. He is ever present.

God’s presence is there to calm and convict us. His peace is what propels us forward by faith. Don’t give up on doing the right thing. Sinful compromise for short-term satisfaction never ends well. Why put your family at risk by running after forbidden fruit? God hasn’t left you. He doesn’t wink at wicked deeds. He’s right by your side to see you through this sinful temptation. Indeed the fruit of His presence is the fear of God. He reminds us to remain pure.

“How then could I [Joseph] do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).

His presence is made manifest in a company of Christ followers. In community, the body of Christ is in full expression. Sin pushes us to seclusion. It’s an illusion to think we can isolate ourselves from Almighty God. But in authentic community there’s nowhere to hide. In the presence of committed Christ followers, we feed our faith. Don’t fight temptation alone. Tell someone. Stay engaged with the righteous. This is the presence of God personified.

Stay in the presence of God-fearing followers. This time of engagement with others facilitates our alone time with our heavenly Father. Stay hard after your heavenly Father in solitude and prayer. His presence is inviting you into intimacy. Design your life around a daily retreat into His presence. Look into His face and feel His love. In His presence He provides just what we need in the moment. Therefore persevere in prayer without ceasing. Be present in His presence!

“God is our refuge and strength, 
an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

What does it mean for the Spirit to be ever-present? How does the Spirit strengthen my spirit?

 

On Alert

by Inspiration Ministries

“Be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:6 NLT

Early on the morning of May 10, 1775, a small band of American soldiers approached Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain in New York. The men were under the command of Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen, two colonial leaders.

Author Willard Sterne Randall notes that the British “had spent nearly £2 million to rebuild this fort” and “thousands of British soldiers had died to conquer it.” Yet when American forces approached the fort, the gates were open, and it was guarded by just one sleeping man.

As the volunteers entered the gates, the guard was awakened and fired his gun. But the gun misfired, and the man “threw it down and ran toward the barracks.” Soon, this important fort was in the hands of colonial forces. It was a dramatic defeat for the British despite their far superior resources.

This defeat has spiritual parallels. Every Christian faces an enemy that is prowling this world “like a roaring lion.” He is sly and devious, looking for “someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), watching for moments when we are weak and vulnerable. Yet many Christians are like those soldiers at Fort Ticonderoga, asleep and not prepared.

Don’t take Satan or his demonic forces for granted. He is on the prowl, and you and your family are his targets. If you trust in God and are spiritually ready, you will experience victory. But you must be alert, on guard, and in prayer.

 

Ministers of Comfort

From: Intouch ministries

Psalm 72:12-14

During hard seasons or times of disaster—whether natural or man-made, national or local—we are called to show kindness. True compassion tries to understand people’s pain, but it also provides practical help. So, how we can express care and concern for others?

First, remember we have the wonderful privilege of prayer anytime, anywhere. As soon as word of a tragedy reaches you, lift up the victims, rescue workers, and others involved. Let the Holy Spirit guide you in petitioning God for protection, provision, comfort, awareness of His presence, and whatever else He deems fitting (Rom. 8:26).

Second, labor and donations of money, food, clothing, or household goods are usually high priority. So donations of time and resources are helpful (after wisely consulting trusted sources about what’s needed). You also can express compassion with words of comfort, a warm embrace, or a listening ear. Through this kind of love, the world will recognize the true Light—Jesus Christ, who brings good news, binds up the brokenhearted, and comforts all who mourn (Isa. 61:1-2).

We should notice the needs around us and reach out with Christ’s love. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal ways to pray for those around you. Your concern can have a profound impact.

A New Season

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A New Season

We had just had our first “cold” spell of the season in Houston. Having been born and raised near Chicago, I found it quite amusing that the temperature falling to the high 60’s was considered a cold sn

Everyone, it seemed, could not get enough of the faint, cool, breezes that crooned through the trees. The crisp, new, chilly, autumn air unearthed an enthusiasm and a “get up and go” attitude that had been missing for quite some time.

What is it about a simple change in weather that can bring out the best in people? It’s almost like each new season is a new beginning of sorts. Its very representation of newness stirs up changes in our souls. Autumn visions of our favorite warm cozy sweater, rich hot cocoa, and steaming hot apple cider spring into action in our hearts.

The Bible also references new changes and beginnings in our lives as being seasons. Seasons are metaphors for God’s perfect timing in delivering us through all the changes He makes in our lives. These certain seasons can bring about the blessings we reap from having been obedient in following him through those changes even if we did not fully understand or welcome them.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9 ESV)

This scripture tells us to never give up. No matter how long, strenuous, and painstaking the road or trials are in our lives, there is always a new season ahead, a season of new beginnings.

Every day we can make the decision to begin again. We can adopt a positive mindset to overcome, conquer, and live triumphantly. All beginnings must eventually come to an end so a new beginning, a new season, can commence. We need to take the opportunity to look ahead at what can be and forget the what-might-have-beens. We can challenge ourselves to be better, live higher, rise above our own self-appointed limitations. We can look ahead to a new season of thinking, speaking, acting, and living more positively. Each subtle change we implement towards living a more positive life will eventually take root and manifest itself into our days, weeks, months, and years.

A beautiful tree full of wonderful green foliage and rich, ripened fruit can offer shelter, nourishment, and shade, but only temporarily. The leaves eventually turn brilliant hues of crimsons, golds, reds, and oranges, offering us a wonderful spectacle to behold, a brushstroke of genius only God can artfully paint. Then, those leaves must fall, leaving that beautiful tree bare and vulnerable as it must survive the harshest of seasons. The tree must go through that season to begin a new life, a new cycle, with budding blossoms fragrant and beautiful.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:3 ESV)

We need to be incessantly grateful and thank God continually even when our future seems unclear. We can still stay firmly planted in faith so we will never wither but always prosper and produce good fruit.

All glory comes then from daring to begin, daring to change, ushering in each new season, and forever trusting God with each unpredictable new step. Never stop believing and growing. We can never fully know what God’s intentions are for us, but we can always do our absolute best with where He has placed us right now. Only then, when we have learned all there is to learn and are truly grateful in this place, this season, will God move us to a new, more bountiful, and blessed season.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV)

Elbows & Ears

By Shawn McEvoy, crosswalk.com

I will redeem you with an outstretched arm. – Exodus 6:6

Be merciful to me and hear my prayer.- Psalm 4:1

Once, when my son was just shy of three, he informed his mother he was drawing a picture of God.

“Oh… What does God look like?” she asked.

“Well, I put some elbows and some ears,” he replied, and he went back to his work.

I was told that story when I came home from work. Cute, I thought. Not exactly as awe-inspiring as Ezekiel’s vision, but sounds like a weird picture. I mean, where is the face?

The face of the Lord is not one you could look upon” ( Exodus 33:12-23), came the voice inside my head.

Where are the hands and feet?

That’s you.

Oh yeah, that’s true…

So… elbows and ears, huh?

Well, I guess God does reach us, and move us, and nudge us, and hold up the light to our paths. As Wayne Watson sang, “No one in this world can slip beyond the reaches of the long arm of the Lord.”

And I know he hears us. He created us for fellowship. He desires praise and prayer. He’s absolutely listening. He can even hear things we don’t even know we’re saying. As Steven Curtis Chapman sang, “The cross should have been mine, But His love broke through time, And heard my heart’s cry.”

So in one statement about one drawing by one child, I had digested a complete meditation on the nature of God, who He is and what He does, even what He leaves for us to do. As Casting Crowns sang, “If we are the body… Why aren’t His hands healing… Why aren’t His feet going?”

 

Atoned!

by Inspiration Ministries

“The tenth day … is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly … present an offering made to the Lord. Do not do any work … This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.” – Leviticus 23:26-28, 31 NIV

Today beginning at sunset, Jews from around the world will commemorate Yom Kippur, the holiest and most important day on their calendar. But its principles remain true for everyone!

Yom Kippur means Day of Atonement. It was a day set aside to atone for the sins of the past year. It was so serious that no one could work or eat. Everyone was to pray, spend time in contemplation, and examine themselves.

As God designed this day, the high priest was to make atonement for his sins and the sins of other priests through a sacrifice of an animal. Then a scapegoat was sent into the wilderness, symbolically taking with it the sins of the people.

Through the symbolism of this day, we are reminded of all that Jesus has done for us. He sacrificed Himself, so we might be forgiven. While “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:4, 10 NKJV).

Jesus then became our high priest. Like the scapegoat, He took our sins away “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).

Today, seek to cleanse your heart and mind from sin. As you confess your sins, receive God’s forgiveness. Then rejoice in the freedom and victory that are yours through Christ!

 

Streams In The Desert

Author: Mrs. L.B. Cowman

I have found an atonement (Job 33:24, margin).

Divine healing is just divine life. It is the headship of Christ over the body. It is the life of Christ in the frame. It is the union of our members with the very body of Christ and the inflowing life of Christ in our living members. It is as real as His risen and glorified body. It is as reasonable as the fact that He was raised from the dead and is a living Man with a true body and a rational soul today at God’s right hand.

That living Christ belongs to us in all His attributes and powers. We are members of His body, His flesh and His bones, and if we can only believe and receive it, we may live upon the very life of the Son of God.

Lord, help me to know “the Lord for the body and the body for the Lord.”
–A. B. Simpson

“The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty.” (Zeph. 3:17). This was the text that first flashed the truth of Divine healing into my mind and worn-out body nearly a quarter century ago. It is still the door, wide open more than ever, through which the living Christ passes moment by moment into my redeemed body, filling, energizing, vitalizing it with the presence and power of His own personality, turning my whole being into a “new heaven and new earth.”

“The Lord, thy God.” Thy God. My God. Then all that is in God Almighty is mine and in me just as far as I am able and willing to appropriate Him and all that belongs to Him. This God, “Mighty,” ALL Mighty God, is our INSIDE God. He is, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in the midst of me, just as really as the sun is in the center of the heavens, or like the great dynamo in the center of the power-house of my three-fold being. He is in the midst, at the center of my physical being. He is in the midst of my brain. He is in the midst of my nerve centers.

For twenty-one years it has been not only a living reality to me, but a reality growing deeper and richer, until now at the age of seventy years, I am in every sense a younger, fresher man than I was at thirty. At this present time I am in the strength of God, doing full twice as much work, mental and physical, as I have ever done in the best days of the past, and this observe, with less than half the effort then necessary. My life, physical, mental and spiritual, is like an artesian well–always full, overflowing. To speak, teach, travel by night and day in all weather and through all the sudden and violent changes of our variable climate, is no more effort to me than it is for the mill-wheel to turn when the stream is full or for the pipe to let the water run through.

My body, soul and spirit thus redeemed,
Sanctified and healed I give, O Lord, to Thee,
A consecrated offering Thine ever more to be.
That all my powers with all their might
In Thy sole glory may unite.–Hallelujah!

–Dr. Henry Wilson

Beware Of Chasing The Wind

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Chasing After Wind

Are you content with what you have and are you resting in the Lord? Or are you striving for more and feeling turmoil in your spirit?

“Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:6 NIV)

Let’s get some perspective on what it is we are seeking and what drives us to be discontented. We must face the fact that we really do get into the flesh. It is called being “carnally minded.” The desire for so much materialism can rob us of our peace and can empty out our financial resources. We tend to strive to keep up with the neighbors or feed off every ad that we see or read. It is the “I gotta have it” syndrome.

We can get so caught up and consumed by the first thing we see that we are not looking for the best buy. We lack the fruit of the Spirit called patience.

And don’t think materialism is just a problem for women. Men can get just as easily distracted at big sales for recreational items and automobiles. We are all guilty of lusting for more.

Is there a way of escaping this dilemma? Yes, help is on the way. Jesus has a plan to help us: to exercise self-control and to be wise in our financial decisions.

We must not chase after material things because it is like chasing the wind. We are running, yet we are never satisfied. You will find yourself caught up in a whirlwind all the time.

Last year I eliminated my debt and got rid of my credit cards. I have learned to live without them. I had to put my mind to it and discipline myself with my finances. It was worth it!

Whether it is our eating habits, our exercise habits, or our spiritual habits of reading the Bible, praying, and attending church, we must take the time and effort to work on these areas.

The point is that we all need to find out what is important in life and then learn to use some self-control.

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

I thought I could not make it without charging. Now if I really want to purchase or need a more costly item, I save a little at a time. Then when there are sales, I take the time to find the best bargain. I had a small, older TV, so I saved the money and got a new and bigger one in the mid-price range. The Lord certainly provided.

Matthew 6:19-21 speaks of our treasures in heaven:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (NIV)

It isn’t wrong to buy nice things but is wrong to be consumed by them. If they take up all of our time and focus, then we need to remind ourselves that we need self-control.

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16 NIV)

That is the key for us. We need to walk after spiritual things and to desire them more than the things of this world!

 

Lessons from a Superhero

By: Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.com

 

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 NAS

Who is your favorite superhero? If you asked me, the answer would be Aquaman. Most people might find this surprising since, let’s face it; Aquaman has never been that popular of a superhero. He doesn’t strike fear into the heart of evil, like Batman, or block bullets like Wonder Woman. Heck, even most sidekicks are able to fly, but Aquaman needs to hail a seahorse to get anywhere.

For me though, that’s why I like him. Whenever Aquaman fights, he’s always at a disadvantage. His ocean powers never help him on the land, but despite that he still fights the bad guys and wins. It’s easy to be brave or strong when you have the home field advantage, but what happens when the tables are turned and you find yourself in enemy territory?

This all sounds pretty corny, I know, but things like this remind me of what Jesus faced when he became a man. We Christians are quick to quote Jesus’ death on the cross, the sacrifice he made so that we could be forgiven, but sometimes I think we forget about his life. We forget the miracle that occurred when a Holy God chose to step into a world overrun by sin.

Can we even begin to imagine what it must have been like for the all-knowing, all-powerful God of the universe to become a human? To understand the indignity of stubbing a toe or skinning a knee, the frustration of being confined to a small desert when the whole universe could not contain him, the humility required to endure hunger and thirst? Meanwhile, the devil stood in the background promising release, offering to make everything the way it was if Jesus would only pay a small, insignificant price.

I think C.S. Lewis says it best in Mere Christianity when he writes,

“Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is…. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.”

Jesus greatest triumph was His death and resurrection, there can be no mistake. Yet every day he lived, he battled the temptations of lust, envy, greed, pride and triumphed over them. So this December I encourage you to read the Christmas story and remember the miracle of Jesus’ birth. Remember that our Heavenly Father became a small baby so that we might one day live in eternity with him. Remember that Christ lived as a man, was tempted as we were, and has defeated sin.

We are His, and He is ours.

 

Come, Holy Spirit

by Inspiration Ministries

“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.” – John 15:26 NASB

Benjamin Beddome was born in 1717 in central England. His father was a minister, but Benjamin trained to be a surgeon before receiving his own call to ministry.

Also an author, he developed the habit of writing a hymn each week to be sung after his Sunday sermon. While not originally seeking a wider audience for these hymns, eventually he allowed some to be published.

One hymn, “Come, Holy Spirit,” described how much believers need the Spirit to live a victorious Christian life. His prayer was that the Spirit would come “with energy divine” and shine with mercy on his soul.

Even though he loved God, Beddome had seen how easily he could become cold and be consumed by the passions of the flesh. He depended on the Spirit for help. “O melt this frozen heart; this stubborn will subdue; each evil passion overcome, and form me all anew!”

As the Spirit moved in his life, he knew he would be changed. He promised to remember to give Him the praise. Powered by the Spirit, he pledged to “devote the remnant of my days” to serving the Father.

Today, realize that the Father sent the Holy Spirit to help you. You are not alone. You can call on His supernatural power anytime. He is ready to guide you, teach you, warn you, and give you power and wisdom. Call on Him right now!

 

An Influential Father

From: intouch ministries

Matthew 4:18-22

Have you ever wondered about the less familiar names in the Bible? Many people are mentioned just once—often in a genealogy and identified only as “the father of …” But one lesser-known father is mentioned 11 times in the Gospels and always in association with his sons. His name is Zebedee, and he’s the father of two of Christ’s disciples.

All we know is that he was a fisherman in Galilee, the father of James and John, and the husband of Salome (Matt. 27:56Mark 15:40). Although there is no mention of Zebedee following Jesus, perhaps his influence is seen in the fact that his sons and his wife loved their Messiah and were faithful to Him (Matt. 20:20).

Zebedee accomplished what every Christian father should aspire to achieve—he raised his children to follow Christ. What greater joy could we have than to see our sons and daughters walking with Jesus, not just in the early years but even after they grow up and leave home?

The key to this kind of influence is the example we set for our family. No matter what we say, it’s our actions that reveal who we really are and what we truly believe. When we’re fully committed to Christ in daily life, our children will see—and hopefully they will long to follow Him, as we have.

While We Were Sinners Christ Died For Us

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Adoption Parallels

Terry Meeuwsen, author, cbn.com

As many of you know, a couple of years ago, my husband and I felt led to pursue adopting three sisters from Ukraine. In fact, we learned about the girls from a guest on The 700 Club.

In the beginning, our objective was to give the girls a family and keep them from being split up. We weren’t long into the process when we began to realize that we were caught up in something much bigger and more complicated than we had ever imagined. Paperwork, waiting, preparations, financial commitments, roadblocks! – And that’s just the physical stuff. Spiritually, we were being stretched and changed as we learned to trust God more deeply.

We soon dubbed this unique experience – The God Adventure. We knew from the get-go that we were in over our heads and if God didn’t show up and guide us through it, we were doomed to failure. God did show up every inch of the way—and He’s still guiding us from day to day. He is faithful and trustworthy!

We’re blessed with three new daughters, the girls are reading God’s Word and realizing He has a plan and purpose for their lives and nine of us are learning to live together in harmony and appreciate each other’s differences – well, we’re still believing for that last part. We’re in process, and MOST days we’re moving forward.

As I’ve sat back and thought about all of this, God has used our adoption of the girls to show me some amazing parallels of His adopting us into His family.

1) Before the girls even knew we existed, we were thinking about them and preparing for them to join us. We loved them before they were actually ours. We had to travel all the way to Ukraine to get them. And the adoption process is an expensive one.

The Bible says God knew us when we were being formed in our mother’s womb. He loved us before we knew anything about Him. He has prepared a place for us and it is in Him. He is willing to go to great lengths to get us, and He has paid a great price to make us His own.

2) Part of the adoption process was giving the girls a new name. Legally, our name became their name – our home their home!! When we commit our lives to Jesus, we become Christians. As we live in Him and He lives in us, we begin to look more and more like Him. His ways become our ways. We are set free from our old identity and our past and we walk in newness of life.

When we walked out of the orphanage, our girls smelled differently than we did. It was an institutional smell. We took them to our hotel and gave them all kinds of packages and gifts we’d bought for them. Shampoo, toothpaste, body lotion, cologne – we supplied everything they needed to be clean and beautiful.

God does the same thing for us. When He first finds us, we usually smell like the world. He wraps us in His love, washes us in the blood of Jesus, fills our hearts and minds with His Word, and floods us with His Holy Spirit. We begin to smell and look like we belong to Him.

3) Finally, we went to court and before a judge declared our intention and desire to make the girls a legal, permanent part of our family. The judge’s finalization and approval meant that our girls were now legal heirs to all that we possess.

You know, it’s that way with God. When we become His children we inherit all that is His – and it’s forever. He doesn’t have favorites – it’s true for all of His children, and there is enough for everyone.

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” Galatians 4:4-7 NIV

Go Away, Lord! 

John Upchurch, author, crosswalk.com

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8)

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)

And [Adam] said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:10)

Here’s the truth. There have been times in my life when I’ve wanted God to just go away. Now, don’t act shocked. I’m no different than Peter … or Isaiah before him … or Adam and Eve before him. Like all of those God-dodgers, I’ve been exposed, naked before my Creator, and I don’t like it.

The reason why is simple: being exposed means seeing my dirt. I look down and suddenly God’s showing me what I really look like. There’s narcissism splattered on my chest, little white lies running down my arms, and impurity gunking up my legs. I’m tangled and tattered, twisted and torn. And all of this because God’s pure awesomeness shines right through the things I’ve put up to cover all that.

He’s not fooled.

So, I do exactly what most of us do … if we’re honest with ourselves. Instead of asking Him to draw closer and peel off the layers of grime, I try to block out the light and withdraw. You see, that whole draw-close-to-me-and-I’ll-draw-close-to-you thing works. Maybe it works too well. Because when it works, God does more than just hang out. He points out. He speaks out. He makes us miserable about the sin we hide or ignore.

It’s no wonder Isaiah cried out in anguish when He saw God and God saw him. His filthy mouth couldn’t be ignored anymore. And it’s no wonder Peter asked Jesus to go away. His lifestyle could no longer be justified with deity in his boat. And Adam and Eve? Well, they had nothing left to hide behind. They knew they were caught.

I love that the Bible doesn’t try to prettify these flawed people. God’s Word lays it out there with all the grit and grime intact. I love that because it makes Scripture seem immediate, in my face. I can’t pretend that my flaws are nothing to worry about when God makes sure I see theirs. In all their cowardly glory. Just like mine.

So, what’s God’s response to all this … to my hiding, to my wanting Him to go away? Really, it boils down to this: “Get some courage, man; I’ve got work for you to do.” Or, if you want to be technical, here’s what Jesus said to the cowering Peter: “Don’t be afraid; from now on you’ll catch men.”

I’m flawed; I’m fickle. Sometimes, I just want God to leave me alone to wallow in my filth. But He’s not so easily put off. Just like with Peter, He stands me up and sends me on my way. My humanness doesn’t keep Him from using me to share His good news—scars, bruises, and all. Even if sometimes I’d rather He not shine so much light on them.

 

Near to God’s Heart

by Inspiration Ministries

“Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” – Isaiah 40:11 NASB

Cleland Boyd McAfee spent most of his life in ministry. Born in Missouri on this day in 1866, he pastored churches but also spent almost twenty years at Park College, serving as faculty, chaplain, and choir director. He also taught at McCormick Theological Seminary.

In 1903, he faced a crisis as two of his nieces died from diphtheria. As he dealt with his grief, McAfee wrote a hymn called “There Is a Place of Quiet Rest.”

He wrote about a place that was “near to the heart of God.” It was a place “where sin cannot molest,” a place “of comfort sweet,” where we meet our Savior, a place of “full release … where all is joy and peace.” As McAfee prayed, “O Jesus, blest Redeemer, sent from the heart of God, hold us who wait before Thee near to the heart of God.”

As we face life’s problems, it can be hard to rest in God, and it’s easy to be worried or afraid. When we go through conflicts, we can become anxious. When we have uncertainty or loss, we can become tense. But the Bible reminds us that the Lord is our Shepherd. He is ready to lead us and gather us in His arms.

Today, still your heart. Enter that place of quiet rest. Commit every situation you face to God. Let Him take away your burdens and give you His peace.

Give It To God And Rest

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Flawless by Design

As a young woman, I used to work for a well-known cosmetic company, and one of the perks of my job was performing makeovers on women. I especially enjoyed observing how ladies would transform into glowing Cinderella-like beauties, and how even their very demeanors would change once they caught their new image reflecting back in the mirror.

My dear old Aunt Alice, who lived in the country on a work farm and specialized in fried green tomatoes, used to always say, “A little fresh paint on the old barn never hurt anybody!”

I no longer work for the cosmetic industry, but I still perform makeovers every day—not necessarily the “Revlon” kind, but rather the “Beauty for Ashes” kind. God has privileged me to be an encourager of souls to those who may have lost their self-worth and somehow feel less than attractive because of a misplaced identity. God has bypassed our need for plastic surgery or the newest age-defying skincare products because when we become born-again, we are instantly transformed into a completely new creation! We are no longer in need of being “made over” or polished up from a tarnished image.

To Him, we are made complete and absolutely perfect, lacking nothing. In His eyes, we are exquisite just as we are. Isn’t that reassuring in what can sometimes be a very superficial world? I am so thankful for His unconditional love and that He is head over heels in love with us just as we are!

The famous hymn says it so well:

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee …
I come, I come.

—Charlotte Elliott, “Just as I Am, Without One Plea”

Come to Him today and let Him give you a “makeover”. He longs to whisper in your ear, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you” (Song of Solomon 4:7 NIV).

 

Do You Pray?

By: Kelli Givens, crosswalk.org

 

Editor’s Note: The following devotional is based on J.C. Ryle’s A Call to Prayer (Banner of Truth, 2002).

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Luke 11:9, NIV

Do you pray? In J.C. Ryle’s small but important book, A Call to Prayer, he challenges readers with this simple question. Ryle asserts “there is no duty in religion so neglected as private prayer.” I’m sure many of us would agree; of all the spiritual disciplines, prayer is often the hardest habit to form and one that is most quickly broken. However, we should strive to pray often, because prayer is an incredibly important element of our faith.

Here are a few reasons Ryle gives for why prayer is so important:

1. A habit of prayer is one of the surest marks of a true Christian. The greatest heroes and heroines of the Bible often shared a similar attribute- they were men and women of prayer. To take your frustrations, challenges, joys, hopes and dreams to God on a regular basis requires a great deal of faith – you are essentially relinquishing control and telling God, “I trust you will work on my behalf in this situation.” Do you have this kind of faith? Do you pray?

2. A habit of prayer brings great encouragement to the one who prays. In the Bible, we see that prayer moved God to raise the dead, heal the sick, save souls, draw water from a rock and send bread from heaven. Prayer even made the sun stand still! The fact that prayer moves God to action should be a great encouragement to us. Are you encouraged by God’s provision and power? Do you pray?

3. A habit of prayer creates holy men and women. The more we seek God out in prayer, the more our hearts are aligned with what God desires for us and we become holier men and women in the process. Are you growing closer to God? Do you pray?

4. If we do not pray, we run the risk of backsliding in our faith. Let’s be clear – Ryle doesn’t mean we should fear losing our salvation. However, without prayer we run the risk of becoming stagnate in our faith, if not falling back into sinful habits and temptations we had once overcome through prayer. When a relationship turns sour, often a main cause is poor communication. So too with us and God. Do you feel stagnate in your faith or distant from God? Do you pray?

5. A habit of prayer brings peace and contentment. We live in a sin-filled world. Sorrows and troubles abound. So how do we combat sadness, disappointments, fears, slanders, and hurt? When we cry out to our Father, he offers us peace that transcends our understanding. This is one of the richest blessings of our faith. Are you experiencing this blessing? Do you pray?

 

God Alone Deserves Worship

From: Intouch ministries

James 4:4-8

For us, jealousy isn’t attractive, but for God, it’s a holy attribute. God is unhappy when we worship anyone besides Him. Only He deserves our praise.

When reading in the Old Testament, we may not understand why people would bow before idols—surely they didn’t think that these objects were living and powerful. But we make a similar mistake, placing too high a value on money, relationships, power, and the like. Though not bad in themselves, such things can become the focus of our worship. That’s why the Father is jealous for our heart.

There are two reasons God won’t tolerate our misplaced devotion. First, He deserves the glory. And second, there is nothing better for us than His love. Praising Him above all else is actually in our own best interest. Therefore, when our heart doesn’t belong solely to Christ, He will use discipline and reminders so we will prioritize Him.

This week, notice where you spend your time and money and what dominates your thoughts. Even if your pursuits seem good on the surface, pray about what might be an idol in your life. Confess any misplaced affection, and ask the Lord for help in making Him the object of your devotion.

When the Spirit Shuts a Door – Streams in the Desert – September 24

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

After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithyma: but the Spirit suffered them not (Acts 16:7).

What a strange prohibition! These men were going into Bithynia just to do Christ‘s work, and the door is shut against them by Christ’s own Spirit.

I, too, have experienced this in certain moments. I have sometimes found myself interrupted in what seemed to me a career of usefulness. Opposition came and forced me to go back, or sickness came and compelled me to retire into a desert apart.

It was hard at such times to leave my work undone when I believed that work to be the service of the Spirit. But I came to remember that the Spirit has not only a service of work, but a service of waiting. I came to see that in the Kingdom of Christ there are not only times for action, but times in which to forbear acting. I came to learn that the desert place apart is often the most useful spot in the varied life of man–more rich in harvest than the seasons in which the corn and wine abounded. I have been taught to thank the blessed Spirit that many a darling Bithynia had to be left unvisited by me.

And so, Thou Divine Spirit, would I still be led by Thee. Still there come to me disappointed prospects of usefulness. Today the door seems to open into life and work for Thee; tomorrow it closes before me just as I am about to enter. Teach me to see another door in the very inaction of the hour. Help me to find in the very prohibition thus to serve Thee, a new opening into Thy service. Inspire me with the knowledge that a man may at times be called to do his duty by doing nothing, to work by keeping still, to serve by waiting. When I remember the power of the “still small voice,” I shall not murmur that sometimes the Spirit suffers me not to go.
–George Matheson

“When I cannot understand my Father’s leading,
And it seems to be but hard and cruel fate,
I Still I hear that gentle whisper ever
pleading,God is working, God is faithful, ONLY WAIT.”

Live Close To God

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You Can Be as Close to God as You Want to Be

child-reading-bible-outdoors

 

“I believe, but I don’t feel close to God like some of you. Not sure why. I’d like to.” My friend’s words caused me to remember my own faith journey.

In Sunday School, my young heart warmed toward God when I heard the stories of David and Goliath and Zacchaeus, the wee little man. My grandmother made sure I treated God with respect. No food in my mouth when we blessed our meal.

But I didn’t understand the part about being a sinner who needed saving. I wasn’t sure what people were saved from. That changed when a youth leader explained John 3:16 at a weekend youth camp and the Holy Spirit cut through my blameless veneer. I’d wronged God. Jesus had gone to the cross for my sin.

The realization broke—and healed—my heart. The gospel became personal. Jesus didn’t just love the world. He loved me!

I returned from camp on top of the world—a citizen of heaven—a child of God. Could anything be better?

But the glow faded. Instead of sprouting wings, I bristled when Mama said, “Clean your room.” I fussed when my little sister got into my stuff. Knowing Jesus assured me of heaven when I died, but it didn’t seem to make much difference now. Even reading the Bible raised more questions than it answered.

My Journey

In college, I spent a weekend with some vibrant Christians. Their lives created a thirst to know God better. At a friend’s Bible study, we listened to Bible teaching audios. This group treated the Bible as if it meant what it said.

I’d filtered the Bible through my own understanding. What agreed with my world view I kept and dismissed the parts that didn’t. No wonder it didn’t make sense.

A Turning Point

I wanted the peace my friends who simply trusted the Scriptures shared. But could I let go of relying on my own understanding and fully trust the Scriptures?

God tenderly wooed me to trust Him. I exchanged my know-it-all approach for childlike faith. The Scriptures came to life. Questions, I thought would never be answered in this life, became clear. Scales fell off of my eyes.

“I feel I’ve been living blindfolded all my life, and now I see,” I told my friend. “I even view the evening news differently.” Life brimmed with the presence of God.

Perhaps like me and my friend, you want to feel closer to God. You can! Here are some tips to help you get started.

3 Tips to Grow Closer to God

  1. Ask your heavenly Father for a closer relationship.
    “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8 NIV).
  2. Read the Bible with childlike wonder.
    “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do’” (Luke 10:21 NIV)
  3. Invite Jesus to be your life, not just a part of life.
    I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NIV).

What You Should Do – Crosswalk the Devotional – September 23

by John UpChurch, crosswalk.org

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  – Colossians 1:10-12

Hundreds of times I’ve found myself bemoaning some predicament or difficult decision. Often, I’m on the floor and staring up at the ceiling. Although the words may vary somewhat, they all pretty much amount to this:

“God, can’t you just tell me what to do?”

I’m a planner. So, what I really mean is this: “If You could just spell out every step for the next few months—or years—that’d be great. Maybe a detailed list?”

What I keep forgetting is that God already did that. He even put it all in a list for me in Colossians. Sure, it isn’t exactly a step-by-step guide, but close enough. His planner for our daily life goes like this:

Bearing fruit in every good work: Since He’s prepared good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), that makes this one even more straightforward. But how can we identify these? By…

Growing in the knowledge of God: He’s the one who prepared these good works. So, He’s the one we should cozy up to and learn from through His Word and consistent communication. And when we do, we get some boom to go with it…

Being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might: God is radioactive. As we walk in those good works by getting to know Him, His power rubs off. True, we don’t get the X-Men glowing face like Moses, but we can still put on quite the light show (Matthew 5:16). You get that power…

So that you may have great endurance and patience: When good works flow from our knowledge of God and His strength, we suddenly care a lot less about those worries that used to drag us down. We can endure because God’s Kingdom is present in our life right now (Matthew 6:33). With such a focus, that means we should be…

Joyfully giving thanks to the Father: Rolling in those pre-prepared good works with God-strength and God-focus makes us want to do the God-is-good electric slide (your results and dance moves may vary). We just can’t keep our mouths shut because He…

Has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light: In fact, that’s the biggest, boldest thing on our God-given to-do list. We do the good works He’s planned with His strength and our eyes on Him, all because He qualified us.

 

The Burden of Inadequacy

From: intouch ministries
Deuteronomy 1:19-36

Because we’re human, we all experience feelings of inadequacy from time to time. But the real issue facing us is not whether we are sufficient for a task, but how we will respond to such a challenge.

The Israelites felt inadequate as they stood on the edge of the Promised Land. The size and strength of the enemy contrasted sharply with their own weakness and inability, and they didn’t trust the Lord’s promise. So they refused to conquer the land and as a result were made to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. How tragic that they never saw the land God wanted to give them.

Like the children of Israel, we become fearful and expect to fail. As the obstacle grows in our mind, we run from the challenge and toward safety. However, turning away from a God-given task will lead us not to security but into bondage. Faith, on the other hand, will set us on the path our Father has planned for us.

When the Lord calls you to an assignment beyond your abilities, rely on what you know about Him and His promises. You will discover that our faithful God always empowers us for the work He wants us to accomplish.

 

In the Midst of Life

by Inspiration Ministries

“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” – Hebrews 9:14 NASB

Troubled by church practices and teachings, Martin Luther summarized his concerns in 95 theses he nailed to the door of Wittenberg Castle Church on October 31, 1517. His actions inaugurated the Reformation. He also became the center of controversy as men and nations took sides on the issues he raised.

Through these experiences, he gained a deep understanding of the importance of grace. He reflected what he learned in a hymn he wrote in 1524, translated into English as “In the Midst of Earthly Life.”

He described how the “snares of death surround us” and “powers of hell” can overtake us. Through our sins and mistakes, we stir up God’s wrath. Our only hope is to cry out to Him. We need God to save us and have mercy on us. Only He is our refuge “when our sins oppress us.”

Luther recognized the importance of the atoning work of Jesus. “Where shall we for refuge go, where for grace to bless us? To Thee, Lord Jesus, only!” His blood was shed to “win full atonement for our sin.” He prayed, “Lord, preserve and keep us in the peace that faith can give.”

Today, remember that Jesus died for you. Because of His sacrifice, you don’t have to carry guilt and worry. You can be clean and free! You can have peace and eternal life. Trust your life to Him. And praise His name.

Speak The Truth

Favorite Colors

girl smiling and covering her eyes with bright yellow lemons

Pink is my granddaughter’s favorite color. She had been telling me this since she first discovered colors. One night, as she chatted away, she added that yellow was another one of her favorite colors. When had this color been added? What caused this change in opinion? I knew she was growing up, and people often change their thoughts on such matters. Possibly there was an underlying cause for this announcement.

Oh yes, she had a good reason for adding yellow. When she went to music class, Mrs. Cooke, the music teacher told her she was a bright yellow crayon, bright as the sun. This is a wonderful description of my grandchild! The teacher was right. Alex, as her family calls her, is a bubbly, cheerful, child. Truly, she is a bright ray of sunshine.

Words have such power. A small statement made by her teacher had truly inspired my granddaughter. It made her even list yellow as her favorite color. I doubt Alex will forget the teacher’s kind remarks. This made me think of the words I say. Do I say kind, encouraging, inspiring words to others? God’s Word certainly tells us to do so.

“The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but the lips of a fool shall swallow him up.” (Ecclesiastes 10:12 NKJV)

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29 KJV)

In this world we live in, the negative is spoken so often. As a child, I had heard that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. That statement is not true. In fact, words may not break our bones, but they certainly can damage our spirits.

God is Spirit and Truth and even the truth needs to be spoken in love according to God’s Word.

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, …” (Ephesians 4:15 NIV)

When we need correction, NO and NOT are wonderful words of warning and correction. God uses these words in the Ten Commandments. These are words spoken for a reason, given in love, to keep us safe and in God’s will. However, negative words, used without love, may be more harmful than physical hurts.

We can get sick or break a bone, but our bodies can eventually be restored to health. We can forget the pain we felt. Ask any mother if she remembers the pain of childbirth. Often she will not, but she will remember the joy of the birth of her child. On the other hand, we can remember the hurtful words spoken to us by someone we love. It sometimes takes more time to heal from unkind words spoken in anger than for our bodies to mend physically.

At church one Sunday, our pastor divided the congregation into two groups. Each side read the Bible, speaking words from scripture to the people on the opposite side of the room. It was one of those wonderful moments that made me once again see how wonderful God’s Word is to us.

The Bible is full of encouraging, wonderful words of promise to each of us. Can we, who are made in God’s image, begin to speak words in truth and love to each other? My desire is that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to God. I wish to speak words of encouragement and inspiration to others, much like the music teacher spoke to my granddaughter.

Yellow will always be a favorite color for my granddaughter — the color of sunshine — much like God’s words to us. They make us come alive!

 

Beyond the Chariots