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Jesus Is the Healer and Savior

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Daily Devotion – Luke 8:47 – The Hem of His Garment

Written By: Gwen Thielges

She came up behind him and touched the hem of his clothes, and at once her bleeding stopped. Luke 8:47 CEB

THE BLEEDING WOMAN

I love reading about miracles Jesus performed during His ministry on Earth. In the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in between the accounts of Him freeing a demon-possessed man and raising a twelve-year-old girl back to life, we can find the story of Him healing a woman with an “issue of blood.”  And wow, what an issue it was! She endured twelve years of physical pain, being ostracized, and unsuccessfully seeking healing from countless doctors.

Hopeless, helpless and hurting.

I have tried to imagine what my mindset and emotional state would be after a dozen straight years of suffering physically, being rejected socially, and receiving no relief from numerous doctors as they bled my bank account dry. I do not think I would have the strength that she showed when she sought healing from Jesus by pressing into a crowd of people who had likely been unkind and uncaring toward her.

I greatly admire her fortitude, fearlessness and faith. Fortitude helped her withstand twelve long years without healing. Fearlessness compelled her to go to a place where she was not supposed to be. Faith thoroughly convinced her that touching Him would bring healing.

All three of the Gospel accounts record the facts that she touched the hem of His garment, she was instantly healed, and that Jesus told her that her faith had made her well. 

WHY DID JESUS ASK “WHO TOUCHED ME?”

Two of the three Gospels include another intriguing detail: When Jesus felt power leave His body, He asked, “Who touched me?”  Of course, He knew who touched Him; He knew everything! Why did He ask that question aloud and await a verbal response? 

Jesus could have continued on His journey, and He and the woman could have kept a special secret between them. He had places to go and people to heal. However, He took the time to ask the question. 

When she responded, the crowd witnessed the fact that Jesus desired to bring wholeness to a desperate woman. They saw that she mattered to Him. Her importance to Jesus superseded His schedule and social norms. 

YOU MATTER TO JESUS

You matter to Jesus too. Has anyone told you that lately? 

Regardless of what you are going through, you matter to Jesus. Regardless of which road to restoration you are currently traveling, you matter to Jesus. Regardless of how friends and society treat you,  you matter to Jesus. 

You have a Healer who loves you. 

A Great Physician who wants you to be whole. 

You matter.

Muster up your fortitude, fearlessness, and faith. Reach out and touch Him today. 

 

What Can We Learn from the Woman with the Issue of Blood?

Mark 5:25-34 is the longest passage about this woman. Let’s first read her story in the Bible:

A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.

Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

But he kept on looking around to see who had done it. Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”

Luke 8:43-48 accounts for the same story but adds something notable about this woman.

When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

Luke notes that the whole crowd heard her explaining to Jesus why she had touched him. Sometimes our acts of faith need to be shared with many other people. The more acts of faith I see, the more I am likely to step out myself.

Matthew 9:20-22 is the shortest account of the woman with the issue of blodd.

Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

Matthew seemed to think that the healing happened after Jesus blessed the woman, whereas Mark and Luke wrote that the healing happened as soon as she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. Maybe this discrepancy was simply because Matthew hadn’t paid enough attention to this miracle. Of course, he did realize the most important part. The woman was healed.

I can easily miss seeing miracles too, simply because I’m busy or I’m not paying enough attention or my focus has been drawn elsewhere.

 

Streams in the Desert – July 26

  • 202126 Jul

For we through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness (Galatians 5:5, RV).

There are times when things look very dark to me–so dark that I have to wait even for hope. It is bad enough to wait in hope. A long-deferred fulfillment carries its own pain, but to wait for hope, to see no glimmer of a prospect and yet refuse to despair; to have nothing but night before the casement and yet to keep the casement open for possible stars; to have a vacant place in my heart and yet to allow that place to be filled by no inferior presence–that is the grandest patience in the universe. It is Job in the tempest; it is Abraham on the road to Moriah; it is Moses in the desert of Midian; it is the Son of man in the Garden of Gethsemane. There is no patience so hard as that which endures, “as seeing him who is invisible”; it is the waiting for hope.

Thou hast made waiting beautiful; Thou has made patience divine. Thou hast taught us that the Father’s will may be received just because it is His will. Thou hast revealed to us that a soul may see nothing but sorrow in the cup and yet may refuse to let it go, convinced that the eye of the Father sees further than its own.

Give me this Divine power of Thine, the power of Gethsemane. Give me the power to wait for hope itself, to look out from the casement where there are no stars. Give me the power, when the very joy that was set before me is gone, to stand unconquered amid the night, and say, “To the eye of my Father it is perhaps shining still.”

I shall reach the climax of strength when I have learned to wait for hope.
–George Matheson

Strive to be one of those–so few–who walk the earth with ever-present consciousness–all mornings, middays, star-times–that the unknown which men call Heaven is “close behind the visible scene of things.”

Jesus Hears You and Helps

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What Do You Want Jesus To Do for You?

hands raised toward almighty God and a cross in the background

 

How would you respond to that question? It’s an inviting question, especially when the Son of God is asking it. Jesus asked two of His disciples,

“What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36 NKJV*).

They had no trouble answering—

“Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory” (Mark 10:37).

There’s bold, and then there’s out of line. Can you imagine someone asking that of Jesus, especially a disciple? But Jesus didn’t scold them. He asked them if they would be willing to suffer as He would have to suffer. He knew they would be persecuted for His sake, but to grant their request was something only the Father could do (Matthew 20:23).

If Jesus came to you with that question—“What do you want Me to do for you?”—what would you tell Him? What secret dreams do you have? What desperate need?

Jesus asked another man that question. As Jesus walked on the road to Jericho, a blind man named Bartimaeus cried out to Him for mercy. The names he chose for Jesus showed his faith in Him—Son of David and Rabboni (Mark 10:47, 48, 51). Jesus asked him the life-changing question—

“What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51).

Bartimaeus didn’t ask for position or riches, but for a priceless gift—to see.

Jesus said yes. Instead of scurrying away to start his new life, Bartimaeus chose another priceless treasure—he followed Jesus.

In the quiet place of your heart, what do you want the most? God knows the secret desires of our hearts, and He has a promise for us.

Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).

When our desires match God’s desires for us, they will be fulfilled. In God’s timing. In His way.

The hard part of this process is that we may hold on to our desires or our dreams above God’s, because we think they are good. But are they best? God can see what we can’t. He knows what opportunities await us if we’ll trust Him. He knows who we can help that we might not help otherwise.

As we understand more of who God is and watch Him work in our lives, we see that He has our best interests at heart. We see that He desires the best for us. So will we trust Him when we can’t see what He can?

Sometimes we have to wait to see the good. But just as Jesus gave Bartimaeus physical sight, He can give us spiritual sight to see the good He is doing, working all things in our lives for good (Romans 8:28).

Strength, peace, meaningful relationships, a whole heart, a purpose, and a ministry—God has these in store for those who delight in Him and follow Him. So let’s answer Jesus’ question as Bartimaeus did. Let’s ask Him for what will help us to follow Him more. Let’s trust God that He has good in store.

What would you ask Jesus for today? Renewed strength? A new perspective on a tough situation? A chance to minister in a new way in God’s kingdom? May the Lord hear the prayers of your heart, and may we keep an open mind before Him. Not clinging to desires that He doesn’t have for us, and not shutting out the priceless treasures He has in store. What do you want Me to do for you? O Lord, whatever You want.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

July 25

1 Chronicles 21:1-3 1Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. 2So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.” 3But Joab replied, “May the LORD multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?”

David’s kingdom was established and blessed. His enemies were subdued and paying tribute. When the spiritual enemy could not attack from without, he attacked from within. Satan can inspire men to attack the people of God. When that fails, he will try to corrupt the people of God with ungodly ideas.

What was so evil about numbering the people? David had already learned again and again that the victory was not about superior forces but the blessing and leading of God. Numbering the nation was a way to count on his resources in the event that God was not with them. What does it matter how many men you have prepared for battle if God is not with you? This is contrary to numerous lessons God had shown David. Even commander Joab knew this was a mistake.

Joab got to the point when he said, “May the LORD multiply his troops a hundred times over.” It was not just a census on David’s heart, but able-bodied men. He pleaded with the king not to go through with it, but the king did not listen.

Consider: Have you experienced a friend or loved one pleading with you not to go through with something because he knew it was not of God, and yet you would not listen? There is always a big price to pay when we do that. Recognize spiritual attacks, and consider the well-meaning advice of godly friends. (continued)

 

Streams in the Desert – July 25

  • 202125 Jul

What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter (John 13:7).

We have only a partial view here of God’s dealings, His half-completed, half-developed plan; but all will stand out in fair and graceful proportions in the great finished Temple of Eternity!

Go, in the reign of Israel’s greatest king, to the heights of Lebanon. See that noble cedar, the pride of its compeers, an old wrestler with northern blasts! Summer loves to smile upon it, night spangles its feathery foliage with dewdrops, the birds nestle on its branches, the weary pilgrim or wandering shepherd reposes under its shadows from the midday heat or from the furious storm; but all at once it is marked out to fall; The aged denizen of the forest is doomed to succumb to the woodman’s stroke!

As we see the axe making its first gash on its gnarled trunk, then the noble limbs stripped of their branches, and at last the “Tree of God,” as was its distinctive epithet, coming with a crash to the ground, we exclaim against the wanton destruction, the demolition of this proud pillar in the temple of nature. We are tempted to cry with the prophet, as if inviting the sympathy of every lowlier stem–invoking inanimate things to resent the affront–“Howl, fir tree; for the cedar has fallen!”

But wait a little. Follow that gigantic trunk as the workmen of Hiram launch it down the mountain side; thence conveyed in rafts along the blue waters of the Mediterranean; and last of all, behold it set a glorious polished beam in the Temple of God. As you see its destination, placed in the very Holy of Holies, in the diadem of the Great King–say, can you grudge that “the crown of Lebanon” was despoiled, in order that this jewel might have so noble a setting? That cedar stood as a stately prop in Nature’s sanctuary, but “the glory of the latter house was greater than the glory of the former!”

How many of our souls are like these cedars of old! God’s axes of trial have stripped and bared them. We see no reason for dealings so dark and mysterious, but He has a noble end and object in view; to set them as everlasting pillars and rafters in His Heavenly Zion; to make them a “crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of our God.”
–Macduff

I do not ask my cross to understand,
My way to see–
Better in darkness just to feel Thy hand,
And follow Thee.

Faith—Helping the Fatherless

Harvey Kiekover, Today Devotions

Scripture Reading — Psalm 10

The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. — Psalm 10:14

This psalm reminds me of an awful night in Jos, Nigeria. Thieves scaled the wall of our mission compound. With machetes, they attacked the guard on duty. By the time help ­arrived, he was fatally wounded. Mission staff brought him to the hospital, but it was too late. He had lost his life trying to keep us safe.

On that dreadful night, his dear wife became a widow— and his four young children, fatherless. What is there to say in the event of such brutality, such loss?

As a mission community, we met together to process our feelings: guilt, grief, pain, anger. We turned to Psalm 10 as we shared our experience. With the psalmist we cried, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” “The ­wicked” had come into our compound. From an ambush they had murdered the innocent.

We felt crushed. But we joined with the psalmist in prayer: “You, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”

How does God take in hand grief and trouble from such a tragedy? His Father-heart hurts with the grieving. He shows care through his people—grieving with the family, paying funeral costs, providing scholarship funds for the children. In their help a hurting family saw that God is the helper of the fatherless.

Prayer

Work in us and through us, Lord, to show your care for people who are hurting. Amen.

Jesus Is Our Joy

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Find Your Joy

 

I remember the song from Children’s Church, ”The Joy of the Lord is My Strength,” and the verse of laughter when they sing, “Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha,” and so on. What a blessing, hearing the pure unadulterated joy and laughter coming from those precious children as they rejoice in the Lord. Yes, the joy of the Lord is our strength. Nehemiah 8:10 (NLT)

But do we, as adults, share the joy? How long has it been since we’ve recognized His joy in our own lives, and how does that joy manifest itself?

I remember the story in the Bible when King David was returning the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. The joy King David felt as he ushered in the presence of the Lord was almost more than he could contain.

“And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns.” 2 Samuel 6:14-15 (NLT)

It goes on to say that King David leaped and danced before the Lord. In those days, the presence of the Lord, the God of the universe, rested upon that one spot, the Ark of the Covenant. Today, that same presence of the Lord rests within us. Oh, the joy that comes when we recognize this fact.

I’ve personally seen this joy manifested when a person humbly asks Jesus to forgive their sins and come into their heart. I have seen people shout for joy upon receiving their salvation and praise God upon coming out of the water after baptism.

“Then I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be glad because he rescues me” Psalm 35:9 (NLT)

I remember as a boy of 17, receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the joy that He brought into my life. I spoke in tongues and laughed for the rest of the night!

Some churches have exuberant praise and worship services where people sing, clap, dance, laugh, and release themselves to rejoice in their Lord’s presence, regardless of what onlookers might think. The Lord loves to see their joy and love for Him displayed in such a manner. But He also enjoys the person whose joy is so deep and personal, that it’s expressed by sitting quietly as they bask in their joy, which resides deep within.

Sometimes the cares of life will weigh us down and it would appear that joy is nowhere to be found. And yes, there is a time for grief and sorrow. Even the Lord Jesus experienced it as He wept over Jerusalem. But when the day is done, the house is quiet, and you relax in the comfort of your dimly lit room, turn your thoughts away from the cares of the day and toward your Lord who lives within you.

Realize that the very presence of God, before whom King David danced, is with you and has shared this day with you. Rejoice, for you possess the Lord, and He possesses you. The communication and fellowship that you have with the Lord is your secret treasure. No one can understand or share in the intimacy that is yours and His alone. The sacredness of this treasure, the presence of God in and with you, is your source of joy and strength. This is not joy as the world knows it, but it’s the kind of joy that comes only from God through the Holy Spirit, “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” (1 Peter 1:8)

Don’t let anyone steal your joy. Jesus said,

“I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:11 (NLT)

It is His will that you live and breathe in the overflow of joy that comes from Him. Acknowledge and encourage His presence to be with you in word and in Spirit so that joy, His joy in you, becomes a lifestyle. The Apostle Paul wrote,

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22 (NLT)

Allow the fruit of joy to grow and manifest itself in your life. Your joy in the Lord is your great source of strength, and no bad report, circumstance, or person can take it away from you!

“So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!” Psalm 32:11 (NLT)

 

Today’s Devotions

Morning

July 24

1 Chronicles 19:13 13Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The LORD will do what is good in his sight.”

After David was established as king, he heard about the death of the king of the Ammonites. He sent a group of Israelites to express sympathy. The new king’s advisors suggested that this display of sympathy was really to spy out the land. They cut off the beard and robes of the ambassadors, a sign of great humiliation in that day, and sent them back. When the Ammonites realized this might cause retaliation they hired the Arameans as mercenaries.

David’s general, Joab, led the troops against them but the two enemy armies were able to surround Joab. Joab divided his army and put one group to fight in front and the other behind. Whichever group was successful was to turn and help the others. That is when the verse we have today was uttered. The odds did not look good. Joab reminded them they were fighting for the people and the cities of their God. That made it personal for each soldier. It wasn’t just about their own life; it was for their family, too.

We realize our battle affects many more than just us personally. How many fallen had forgotten how their entire family and those of their city are affected by their battle? We do the best we can in the situation God has placed us. We rely on His strength. Then we trust that God will do what is good in His sight. God did help them, and both enemy armies retreated. The LORD did what was good in His sight.

Remember: Don’t forget that your spiritual battle is for your family and your city. Encourage yourself with the fact that if you do your part, the LORD will do what is good in His sight.

 

Believing is Seeing – Streams in the Desert – July 24

  • 202124 Jul

Then believed they his words; they sang his praise. They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel; but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul (Psalms 106:12-15).

We read of Moses, that “he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” Exactly the opposite was true of the children of Israel in this record. They endured only when the circumstances were favorable; they were largely governed by the things that appealed to their senses, in place of resting in the invisible and eternal God.

In the present day there are those who live intermittent Christian lives because they have become occupied with the outward, and center in circumstances, in place of centering in God. God wants us more and more to see Him in everything, and to call nothing small if it bears us His message.

Here we read of the children of Israel, “Then they believed his words.” They did not believe till after they saw–when they saw Him work, then they believed. They really doubted God when they came to the Red Sea; but when God opened the way and led them across and they saw Pharaoh and his host drowned–“then they believed.” They led an up and down life because of this kind of faith; it was a faith that depended upon circumstances. This is not the kind of faith God wants us to have.

The world says “seeing is believing,” but God wants us to believe in order to see. The Psalmist said, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

Do you believe God only when the circumstances are favorable, or do you believe no matter what the circumstances may be?
–C. H. P.

Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.
–St. Augustine

Children brought to Christ, not to the font

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.’ Mark 10:14

Suggested Further Reading: Deuteronomy 6:4–7

We can say with the apostle John, ‘I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.’ We continue, therefore, to bring them to Christ by daily, constant, earnest prayer on their behalf. As soon as they become of years capable of understanding the things of God, we endeavour to bring them to Christ by teaching them the truth. Hence our Sabbath schools, hence the use of the Bible and family prayer, and catechizing at home. Any person who shall say, ‘Do not teach your children; they will be converted in God’s own time if it be his purpose; therefore leave them to run wild in the streets,’ will certainly both ‘sin against the child’ and the Lord Jesus. We might as well say, ‘If that piece of ground is to grow a harvest, it will do so if it be God’s good pleasure; therefore leave it, and let the weeds spring up and cover it; do not endeavour for a moment to kill the weeds, or to sow the good seed.’ Why, such reasoning as this would be not only cruel to our children, but grievously displeasing to Christ. Parents! I do hope you are all endeavouring to bring your children to Christ by teaching them the things of God. Let them not be strangers to the plan of salvation. Never let it be said that a child of yours reached years in which his conscience could act, and he could judge between good and evil, without knowing the doctrine of the atonement, without understanding the great substitutionary work of Christ. Set before your child life and death, hell and heaven, judgment and mercy, his own sin, and Christ’s most precious blood; and as you set these before him, labour with him, persuade him, as the apostle did his congregation, with tears and weeping, to turn unto the Lord.

For meditation: Christian parents should bring their children up ‘in the nurture and admonition of the Lord’ (Ephesians 6:4). This may be harder in non-Christian marriages when only one of the partners becomes a Christian, but it is not hopeless (1 Corinthians 7:14); Timothy was proof (Acts 16:12 Timothy 1:53:15).

Touching The Master

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Touching the Master

 

“And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, when she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, if I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.” Mark 5:25-28 (KJV)

This woman was plagued with an issue of blood for 12 years. To have a cold or a sore throat for a few days is uncomfortable. Whenever I feel those well-known symptoms coming on, I immediately run to the store to purchase an over the counter anti-flu remedy. I want to nip it in the bud. Try to avoid any discomfort. Twelve years? Can you imagine being ill for 12 years? Illness wears our bodies out, not only physically causing weakness, but also emotionally; sometimes causing frustration and irritability. She “had spent all that she had.” Plus, medical care is expensive. The Scripture tells us that “she had heard of Jesus.” I believe she had heard the good news about many who were touched by Jesus, and healed of different diseases, and she began to have hope.

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” Matthew 4:23 (KJV)

Those words would have built her faith. It built mine when diagnosed with cancer in 1989. Faith that a touch from the Master could change situations. A touch from the Master could change circumstances. A touch from the Master could bring hope and heal a sick body. If you have been ill, you more than likely know that regardless of our faith, sickness makes us fearful. Trusting God for healing can be a challenge. Negative thoughts constantly bombard the mind.

Years ago during my illness, even though trusting God for healing, I would think thoughts such as:

  • “Why is this happening to me?”
  • “If this chemotherapy makes me feel so terrible, how can it work?”
  • “Does God really heal?”

Between chemotherapy treatments, I feared my blood count levels would not stabilize. And my fears were not confirmed, because they did. I feared all my hair would fall off, but instead, it grew. I am sure the woman had fears. A touch from Jesus will calm our fears.

“… Be not afraid, only believe.” Mark 5:36 (KJV)

Daily, my prayer is, “Father, touch me today.” Our Heavenly Father waits to hear and to answer that prayer.

“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4 (KJV)

How do we receive a touch from the Master? Trust is the key. The woman with the issue of blood said in her heart: If I only touch the hem of His garment, I shall be healed. She believed all she needed was a touch from Jesus. She trusted and had confidence that if she just touched the hem of His garment, she would be made whole. She had confidence that when she touched Him, she would receive healing.

In response, Jesus touched her. In that moment, she left His presence a healed woman. In response, Jesus too touched me, and I left His presence a healed woman.

Do you need a touch from the Master today? Then lift your voice and say, “Jesus I need your touch.” Believe and have confidence that you will receive His powerful touch!

 

Encourage Like Barnabas

JULY 23, 2021

“Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.” Acts 4:36-37 (NIV)

Going from elementary school to middle school was a time of radical change in my life.

I shed my big blue eyeglasses, braces and knee-highs (which I sadly wore regularly with dresses). I cut my hair short and changed my image altogether as many teenagers have done through the decades.

But my appearance wasn’t the only thing transforming. I was getting to know Jesus in a personal, intimate way as a result of God touching my heart at summer church camp.

As a child, I was shy and too afraid to go to kids’ church and be separated from my parents, so I was always attached to one of them. But after summer church camp, filled with passion for God, I ventured into youth group … alone.

God instantly sent encouragers my way: my youth pastor, Dale, and his wife, Linda. Not only did they befriend me, but they believed in me. They invited me to join the youth leadership team. I remember packing into Dale’s old VW Bug with other teenagers to visit the church’s newcomers. That early, encouraging experience at church gave me a love for the body of Christ, a love that still lives in me today.

When Dale invested in my life, his encouragement gave me confidence to get involved. I wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines anymore; I was going to play!

Being encouraged made all the difference.

In the New Testament, a man named Barnabas was all about encouragement — so much so that it was his nickname, and it stuck. His given name was Joseph, but not many know him by that name. Today’s truth says, “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:36-37).

Encouragement can be simple and natural. For instance, when you introduce someone, you might highlight some key facts about them, like, “This is my friend Bella. She has four children and is an amazing artist.” We see Luke “highlight” Barnabas when he introduces him in the book of Acts, and we learn that Barnabas is generous, compassionate and an encourager through and through. There were no needy people in the early church because, from time to time, landowners or homeowners would sell what they had and share it with their fellow believers. We see Barnabas doing just that!

When the violent Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus and had a radical transformation, Christians at that time struggled to believe this murderer was now a brother. In fact, they were terrified of him. But watch how our encourager Barnabas introduces Saul. Barnabas “… took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:27, NIV).

How did Barnabas know all that about Saul? He must have taken time to listen to Saul’s story, and then God used Barnabas to encourage Saul to become a leader in the early church. What if Barnabas had not been the “son of encouragement” but a “son of discouragement”? Maybe Saul, turned Paul, would have failed to connect to the apostles. Barnabas’ encouragement helped move Paul from the sidelines of Christianity and put him into play.

Barnabas didn’t care about who got the glory. He cared about building God’s Kingdom and encouraging God’s people. Never underestimate the power of encouragement. It can help a shy kid like me get involved in youth group. It can stand next to a world changer like Paul and exclaim, “You can do it!”

Giving Thanks – Streams in the Desert – July 23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let God Be Your Guide

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The Cattle Pen Maze

Texas Longhorn Cattle

 

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8 (NLT)

It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving and we found ourselves traipsing the Fort Worth Stockyards. Known for its brick walkways and wooden corrals, what was once host to Texas’ livestock industry, was now a piece of western heritage, lit up with Christmas lights and garlands of red and green. Throngs lined the sidewalks to catch a glimpse of the twice-daily cattle drive, while others bustled in and out of shops and restaurants.

We had barely passed the petting zoo and the carriage rides when our little boy stopped at the sight of a life-sized maze. In bright letters, it boasted a 5,400 sq. ft. labyrinth of wooden passageways constructed to resemble an actual cattle pen. Unable to look away at the immensity of it, he quickly got our permission and stood in line.

“See if you can find the letters M – A – Z – E before you exit,” the attendant bellowed above the noise of the busy street as she handed him a ticket. Accepting the challenge, he and his older sister took off.

Clutching my camera, I followed my husband as we climbed a wooden staircase that promised a scenic overlook. The landing was crowded but I inched my way to the edge of the stiff railing. I gasped at the view below. It was a complete unhindered layout of the maze. I looked for my kids to see if they had made any headway. They hadn’t. But from atop the overlook, the maze was crystal clear. I felt like a child in a restaurant who had been handed a kids’ menu with a maze to complete. With an imaginary crayon, I checked off all four letters and exited the jumbled mess in record time.

I snapped from my pretense when I heard what sounded like the names of my little ones. My husband had joined the chorus of parents flocking the overlook, all issuing well-meaning orders to their youngsters.  “Turn left!” “Turn right!” “Enter here.” “Not there.” On and on the cries overlapped. Some listened, others didn’t. Ours yelled back at us that they wanted to solve the puzzle at their own pace. So we watched patiently as they zipped in and out the wooden trails and finally made their way out.

“It was harder than I thought, mom!” my son exclaimed.

“Come with me.” I grabbed his hand and led him until he was 30 feet taller.

“Wow!” he exhaled, as he gaped at what looked like an aerial photograph. The maze was now no different from ones he’d completed in a puzzle book.

We stood there for a few minutes drinking in the view.

I thought to myself that God must have a picture quite similar to this. His perspective is vast and perfect, while mine is inaccurate and limited. He is not stumped by dead ends, blind alleys, or patterns that repeat. He is never frustrated, lost or confused. His ways are higher, and His conclusions are right. He sees the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) and nothing is hidden from His sight. And He wants to lead me.

 

Today’s Devotions

Morning

July 22

1 Chronicles 16:8-11 8Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 9Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. 10Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. 11Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.

Chronicles records the story of the ark coming to Jerusalem. The first time they tried to bring it their own way, and Uzzah died. The second time they did it according to the Word of the LORD. There was great rejoicing. David danced so all-out that his wife despised him. Musicians were appointed to play before the ark on a regular basis. David gave gifts of food to everyone. It was truly a festive occasion.

At that time David committed a psalm to his worship leader, Asaph. He didn’t just give it to him, but committed it to him. Asaph had this Spirit inspired song and was now responsible to see it sung. Is that how we feel about Spirit inspired music? It is committed to our worship leaders so that they see it is sung to the LORD.

In this psalm David commands us to give thanks to the LORD, to call on His name and to tell the nations what God has done. He is commanding us to send out missionaries. We are to sing to Him! We often sing about Him, telling of His wonderful acts, but we need to sing to Him also. We are to glory in His holy name. His name is the sum of His attributes. Glory in all that God is! If you seek the LORD, your heart should rejoice.

Then David told a lesson that was just reinforced. He sought God when the Philistine army came against Israel. The first time God directed them one way to victory. The second time God directed them in a different way, and they defeated the enemy again. Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always. That is something Saul did not do, but David was determined to do.

Consider: Are you as determined as David to rely on God’s strength and to seek His face always?

 

Wait on the Lord (for He Waits for You) – Streams in the Desert – July 22

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And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you… blessed are all they that wait for him (Isaiah 30:18).

We must not only think of our waiting upon God, but also of what is more wonderful still, of God’s waiting upon us. The vision of Him waiting on us will give new impulse and inspiration to our waiting upon Him. It will give us unspeakable confidence that our waiting cannot be in vain. Let us seek even now, at this moment, in the spirit of waiting on God, to find out something of what it means.

He has inconceivably glorious purposes concerning every one of His children. And you ask, “How is it, if He waits to be gracious, that even after I come and wait upon Him, He does not give the help I seek, but waits on longer and longer?” God is a wise husbandman, “who waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it.” He cannot gather the fruit till it is ripe. He knows when we are spiritually ready to receive the blessing to our profit and His glory. Waiting in the sunshine of His love is what will ripen the soul for His blessing. Waiting under the cloud of trial, that breaks in showers of blessings, is as needful.

Be assured that if God waits longer than you could wish, it is only to make the blessing doubly precious. God waited four thousand years, till the fullness of time, ere He sent His Son. Our times are in His hands; He will avenge His elect speedily; He will make haste for our help, and not delay one hour too long.
–Andrew Murray

The Fix for Our Faulty Vision

ALICIA BRUXVOORT, crosswalk.com

“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT) 

“See me, Mommy! See me!” my youngest daughter hollered from the top of the slide on that long-ago summer’s day.

I smiled at her singsong plea and waved my arms in acknowledgment as she launched her slender frame down the slanted chute.

Meeting her at the bottom of the slide with a hug, I then followed my little girl across the playground to the faded blue swingset.

“See me, Mommy! See me!” she begged again as she pumped her spindly legs up and down with a giggle.

This little giggler wasn’t the first preschooler to solicit my eyes as she explored the world around her. Four children before her had invited my gaze, but their pleas had been wrapped in a different phrase.

“Watch me, Mommy! Watch me!” my first four had demanded when they’d sought applause for their accomplishments or acknowledgment for their efforts.

“Watch me, Mommy! Watch me!” they’d cried as they dangled from monkey bars and somersaulted across the grass, hopped on one foot or danced in the kitchen.

At the time, I didn’t consider my youngest one’s plea to be any different than the cry of the siblings who had come before her. But looking back now, I believe my daughter’s unusual word choice was more than a matter of mere linguistics. It was the cry of her fifth-born heart.

Planted in a house swelling with big brothers and sisters, our littlest girl was used to being watched; she wanted to be seen. The difference may seem slight, but it’s significant. To watch requires our eyes, but to see engages our heart.

God makes this distinction clear when He sends the prophet Samuel on a mission to anoint a new king. Aware that human view often falls short of God’s vision, the Lord commands Samuel to look past the visible veneer to the discernible interior.

But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16:7)

In its original language, the word used for “see” is raah, which means “to see with the mind, to perceive, to know.” This kind of sight involves more than hasty impressions; it requires an astute pause of perception.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus shows us what it looks like to emulate God’s vision.

When He meets an outcast woman at the well in Samaria, Jesus sees more than a hopeless harlot. He spies a broken daughter thirsty for abundant life. (John 4:1-42)

When He notices Zacchaeus in the tree, Jesus sees more than a despised tax collector. He recognizes a man longing for a place to belong. (Luke 19:1-10)

When He encounters Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus sees more than a brash fisherman. He spots a bold disciple upon whom He will build His church. (Matthew 4:18-20Matthew 16:18)

I want to see like Jesus does, but I’ll be honest — it’s not easy. On my own, I’m prone to peer at people through eyes of apathy or curiosity, carelessness or judgment.

Thankfully, tucked in the folds of Scripture is a fix for my faulty eyes. Keep “looking to Jesus,” Hebrews 12:2 encourages (ESV).

When we fix our eyes on Jesus — focusing on His character and attending to His presence, acknowledging His authority and agreeing with His Word — our optics are refined.

God’s grace becomes the lens through which we view the world around us, and His love is the plumb line for our perceptions. In time, our habits of shallow scrutiny are replaced by the practice of sagacious sight.

But best of all, when we glue our gaze to our Savior, we become seers instead of watchers. And we make the heart of heaven visible on the dust of earth.

Worship or Lightly Esteem?

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Worship or Lightly Esteem?

In today’s society, people have a mixed concept of worship. The biblical definition is “an act of honor, praise, and reverence of deity [or God].” But we see people worshiping celebrities, places, presidents, and even technology—instead of God.

In contrast, there is often a lack of worship for the true things of God, such as His Presence, His House, or even His creations. In fact, the Bible says in the last days there will be an increase of this behavior. People will have a “form of godliness, but deny its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). In other words, even those who go through the motions of worship may in fact have a heart and mind that’s far from God.

This simply implies that we shouldn’t judge each other’s form of worship—let’s let God do that… But individually, it would be good to do a heart-check to make sure our worship is in the right place.

The Bible says,

“Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:2 NKJV).

God is beautiful. He is the beauty of holiness and worthy of our worship. In all that He has given unto us and done for us through redemption, it is only right that we worship Him. But it is also (as a dear friend of mine always says) one of the only things we can give Him that He did not first give us.

In other words, you won’t find God giving you or I worship. So much of our lives are an act of giving back to Him what He has given us. For example: our money, our time, our faith, our attitude … almost everything. Therefore, because God has helped us, then in reverence and honor we return those things in measure back to Him.

But worship is different than our money or time.

It is one of the things we give God first, instead of the other way around. But what a thought this is! If I’m not giving Him a measure of every part of my life, is this an indication of my love and worship of Him? You bet. Yet most people don’t see it that way.

Our worship shouldn’t resemble only a small measure of time one morning a week at church. The Word of God says this kind of behavior is equal to despise. In today’s vernacular, this word is harsh and ugly. But in the Bible, despise simply means to “lightly esteem.” In other words, it’s quite possible most people live their lives lightly esteeming God (unknowingly).

In the Old Testament, God said to the priest, Eli:

“Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me… But now the Lord says, ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed'” (1 Samuel 2:29-30 NKJV).

The New Testament says all believers are now priests (representatives of man before God). Therefore, this reprimand from God to Eli can be taken as a warning for us also. God assigned Eli and his household to be priests, but they had taken the job lightly. So God said He would esteem them lightly in return.

We must remember worship is a lifestyle. It is an act of honor and reverence of God. This means as I vow to honor God with my thoughts, attitudes, words, time, and resources, it is an act of worship. But if, on the other hand, I wake up and get halfway (or all the way) through my day without even as much as thinking about God, I have actually “lightly esteemed”, or “despised” Him.

He says, “Those who honor Me, I will honor.” And He does. I’m amazed at the ways in which God honors us. Especially when I remember that He did so before we were deserving.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NKJV).

So let us worship God.

 

Today’s Devotions

Morning

July 21

1 Chronicles 11:17-19 17David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” 18So the Three broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the LORD. 19“God forbid that I should do this!” he said. “Should I drink the blood of these men who went at the risk of their lives?” Because they risked their lives to bring it back, David would not drink it. Such were the exploits of the three mighty men.

David’s mighty men were so committed to him because of the Spirit they saw upon him (see yesterday’s devotion) that an expressed desire caused them to risk their lives. Not every desire of an anointed leader is from the Lord. Leaders who have such loyal men must be very careful in what they say to those who support them in ministry.

David longed for a drink from the well in Jerusalem. These three mighty warriors decided they would battle their way to the well and back to honor his request. When David received the water, he did something that must have broken their hearts. He poured it out to before the LORD. Then he explained why.

The men had risked their lives for his personal desire. David knew that life was sacred and should only be put on the line for the One who gave life. How could he partake of something those men had risked their lives for? That would cheapen life and put him in the position of God. Later in David’s life, he did cross this boundary for a different desire. This passage shows us that he clearly knew where the line was. Devotion to an anointed leader is a good thing as long as that leader is expressing God’s desires and not his own. We have the Spirit and must discern which is which.

Consider: Can I be as devoted to God’s wishes as these men were to David’s?

 

Streams in the Desert – July 21

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

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

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

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

 

Faith—Practicing Goodness

By:  Harvey Kiekover

Scripture Reading — 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18

Always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. — 1 Thessalonians 5:15

Briefcase in hand, I hustled toward the door of the office building. In the wind and cold I fumbled for my keys. I had the right key, but it wouldn’t open the door. I set my briefcase down and tried a little more intently. But the door, not the one I usually used to enter the building, would not open. I turned around, deciding I would have to go around the building to another door. But then a gentleman inside came tapping on the window and gesturing for me to come in. With a warm, welcoming smile, he opened the door for me.

It was a small thing, the kind of thing that can happen often. But it warmed my heart and the rest of me as I entered the building.

He didn’t have to do it. I could have gotten in by another door, but he blessed me with his good kindness. I remember it still. That gracious act was like a lubricant that made life flow more smoothly.

All of us have been on the receiving end of such acts. The shape of these acts varies: smiling kindly to a harried cashier, speaking a word of encouragement when a tear brims in the eye, sending a note of concern at the right time, pausing to ­listen to a hurting neighbor. You weren’t paid to do it. Perhaps no one else noticed it. You may even have forgotten the deed, but the world is a better place because you did it!

Love is seen in the good and kind care we show to others—and our faith is seen too.

Prayer

Lord, help us today to “do what is good for each ­other and for everyone else.” Amen.

Some People Are Spiritually Blind

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A Blind Servant

senior-cheerful-woman_si.jpg

 

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?” Psalm 27:1 NASB

Later in life, mother’s one remaining eye was going blind.

After a long life of serving Jesus, my mother had been robbed of sight in one eye by a nasty strep infection. Surprisingly, she kept serving the Lord in the jails of Central California as the first female chaplain in Fresno County’s history. Fear often overwhelmed her, but she placed it in Jesus’ hands and pressed on.

Later she lost my father to heart failure and again pressed on. Having become one of the founders of The Valley Mission of Central California, my dear one-eyed mother pressed on and spent hours each day on her knees praying in our small bathroom.

My mother’s prayer life frightened me. A few times I came home from high school just as she would come out from praying and she had a glowing light surrounding her. Living with my mother taught me about the reality of the Holy Spirit’s presence and healing ability.

Years later, this dear handmaiden of the Lord was in danger of going blind in her one remaining eye. She was frightened, primarily because she would no longer be able to read her Bible. My mother could no longer see clearly yet continued to teach me even in this circumstance. She taught me that her soul was not blind but full of light as when she passed on, with my three professional sisters in attendance, the room filled with golden light for several blessed moments. Then, Mom made it safely to her heavenly retirement home and the room became as it was before.

Because of my Mother’s struggle with blindness, I tried to write what she had taught me:

“A woman blind to there being a one true God is a person who trips and falls. She uses walls to hang onto as she tries to make her journey safely. A woman who refuses to look up into the heavens is a nearsighted woman blind to what is coming. This woman is blind from birth and cannot imagine a sunrise. She tries to lift burdens without a Divine fulcrum. Those without faith’s light live a life without God’s power and grace. They are blind and trust nothing more than what they can see.”

You have become blind when what you see as good contradicts what God has said.

Keep looking up and pressing on with your eyes on Jesus’ beautiful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim.

Streams in the Desert – July 20

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

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

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

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

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

What’s it to You?

by Kelly Givens, crosswalk.com

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at the table close to him… When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” John 21:20-22

Have you ever wondered why God allows some Christians to suffer so much, and others seem to glide through life relatively pain-free? I know many godly men and women who seem to suffer without end. Their pain is more than I have ever experienced; they’ve faced more trials in a year than I’ve faced in my entire life. Why is that? Am I loved by God more than these people? Are they glorifying God more through their suffering than I can in my blessings? The comparisons go in all directions.

Comparison was Peter’s go-to when Jesus told him this: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God). Then he said to him, “Follow me!”  (John 21:18-19).

Jesus was foretelling that Peter, just like himself, would be led to his death, arms stretched out in his own crucifixion. Tradition points to Peter being crucified upside down during Nero’s persecution, not wanting to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord.

I’m not sure if Peter knew then by what kind of death he would die, but no doubt he got the gist of what Jesus was saying. So it’s no surprise that he quickly disregarded Christ’s instruction to “follow me!” Instead, he looked around at the other disciples, spotted John, and exclaimed “Lord, what about this man?” I wonder if Peter was thinking, “I get what you’re trying to tell me, but what about that guy? Why should I go through this trial and not him? Do you love him more than me?”

Comparison is hard-wired in our sinful nature. When others seem to get ahead or are seemingly more blessed than us, we grow envious. When the tables are turned and we are the ones being blessed, we might fight the urge to brag or think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Both kinds of comparison are fatal to our faith, and Jesus knows it. So when Peter bluntly asked, “what about this man?” Jesus’ response was clear. “What is that to you? You follow me!”

Peter died a horrible, agonizing death. Most historians agree that most of the other apostles met similar, violent ends. Except for John. John died, presumably peacefully, in his old age. Why? Because that was how each “was to glorify God.” When God bestows on us blessings we should proclaim his glory joyfully and humbly. But when he allows us to suffer, we have the opportunity to proclaim him King through our hopefulness and faith. God’s glory is what’s important, not our circumstances.

“You follow me.” Fixing ourselves on Jesus is the key to fruitful ministry, the key to humility, the key to joy regardless of our circumstances. It’s the key to glorifying God – the true purpose of our lives and ministry.

Am I clear of his blood?

Author:  Charles Spurgeobn

‘The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.’ Genesis 4:10

Suggested Further Reading: Ephesians 5:15–20

The servants of Satan shame me; they shame me! There comes at night a message to some of you who are the servants of Satan—‘The master is come, and calleth for thee.’ You leave your wife and your children without a tear, you go to your master’s house, and there are foul cups passing round, and you will drink, and drink still on; never denying your master; confessing him with many an oath; saying to your comrades many things which injure your poor souls; and yet you do it so bravely. You hardly know how you get home at night, but when the morning comes, and you wake, there is the redness of the eyes, the headache, and the sickness; but the next night when your master wants you, you go again; and so you will do year after year, even though delirium tears you like a whirlwind. But here am I, a servant of God, and when my Master calls for me and bids me go and confess him, I am tempted to be still, and when he tells me to speak to yonder man I would wickedly avoid the task; and whereas you confess your master and imprecate a curse upon your head, how often do some of us confess our master as timidly as if we feared a curse, when instead thereof it is by confession that the curse is turned away! It is enough to make us Christians ashamed to think how sinners will confess their god! Hear them at night, as they reel home through the streets; they are not ashamed of their lord and master. Hear how they swear, and defy heaven! They are ashamed of nothing for their lord; and yet we, who have heaven for our reward, and such a Christ to serve, and one so good and gracious to us—look at us! What poor lovers of our Saviour are we! What poor lovers of the souls of men!

For meditation: Do you find yourself being ashamed firstly of Christ and then, as a result, of yourself (Mark 14:66–72)? Failure to speak for him is a common temptation and sin of omission, but with God’s help it is possible to get the victory over it (Psalm 119:46Romans 1:162 Timothy 1:8).

Perpetual Prayers of the Faithful

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Perpetual Prayers of the Faithful

a white dove sculptured on top of a tombstone

 

“The Lord is my shepherd … I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:1-6 abbreviated

My wife asked me one day as we were driving, “Have you ever wondered how you are going to die?”

I tried to ignore her as the traffic was nasty, but as usual, once she gets something in her mind she wants an answer, so I mumbled something trying to distract her. You’d think after all these years I’d know that wouldn’t work, but at least it got me a brief reprieve.

When we came to a stop sign she turned her beautiful determined face toward me and said, “Well, have you?”

I stayed quiet as I knew from experience she had something on her mind she wanted to say.

After a few moments, she told me what was on her mind, “I think I’d like to die the way your Dad did. He was reading the paper in their backyard having breakfast under his grapevines and just fell forward with his head on his paper. Your mother had gone in to get him another cup of coffee, but suddenly a white dove bumped into the kitchen window and flapped its wings to get in. Mom was so startled that she went outside to look for the dove and found Dad had died. As she looked up she saw a dove with a broken wing fly away. That brings goosebumps every time I think about Dad’s home going.”

Again, by letting my better half answer her own questions, I’d heard an insightful answer that caused me to reflect on what she was saying.

I remembered how my Dad had been saved after my Mom had prayed for him for 25 years. He was a mean alcoholic who ran a carpenter union as its president. He had nasty habits such as throwing people down the stairs if they made him angry at the union hall. Still, my mother prayed and believed. She wasn’t going to divorce him because she knew someday he would be saved.

One evening while I was home from college, I told Dad, with a bit of fear, that I was afraid he wasn’t going to heaven with Mom, me, and the girls, and we would miss him. His answer surprised me, “If you’re afraid for me Bobbie, let’s go into the bathroom right now and settle this with God.”

We went into our little bathroom and I followed his lead and knelt beside him. Dad then asked the Lord to forgive him and save his soul despite all the evil he had done. As he repented tiny tears rolled down his face. I had a new father. The monster who had run Carpenter Local 701 was born again and Psalm 23 became his treasured prize.

He poured all the expensive crystal decanter liquor that contractors had given him to remain in his good favor down the drain. Yet, he had to conduct business in bars. He started wearing a cross on his tie and drank Coke instead of his preferred Irish Whiskey. For several years, he listened to Vernon Magee teach the Bible during lunch hour out in his car in front of the Union hall, and he even took notes.

I had a new creature father. He still had flaws but was on the potter’s wheel from that day in the bathroom when Mom’s prayers were answered. He experienced “absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” that morning the dove broke his wing and flew away.

That was a wonderful way to die.

Substitution

By: Charles Spurgeon

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

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Peter 2:18-25

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

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

The Trouble With Touting Our “Truths”

AMY CARROLL, crosswalk.com

Lee en español

“So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter), and they talked with her.” 2 Kings 22:14 (ESV)

When I was a younger woman, I knew where I could always go for wisdom. I planted myself on the tapestried bench in front of Mona’s desk. There I found both answers and affirmation.

Mona was our church’s receptionist and resident godly woman. In response to any dilemma I had, she’d open her Bible. There she pointed me to the solution for every problem. Although she could have filled our time with her opinions or her own version of the truth, she never did. She directed me to God for His Truth instead. Mona was a woman who proclaimed the authority that Scripture holds, an authority unmatched by our own advice.

I wasn’t the only one who turned to Mona for wisdom. Some days I’d make a beeline for her bench only to find it occupied by one of my pastors. They, too, sought out guidance from Mona. Regardless of age or gender, humble hearts knew that she would lead them to the truths in God’s Word. Mona mirrors Huldah, a Jewish woman who lived long ago.

Huldah’s short but powerful story makes it clear that she, too, was known for affirming humble hearts that sought the authority of God’s Word. When faced with the dilemma of the nation’s sin, King Josiah’s advisors sought Huldah.

The Book of the Law, which was written on a scroll, had been neglected and then lost for decades within the walls of the temple, despite the instructions given generations before by Moses. He directed leaders to read the Book of the Law every seven years to the community so that they would fear the Lord and follow His commands. (Deuteronomy 31:10-13) Instead, it was lost, and God’s people turned to sin and idolatry.

When the scroll was found, King Josiah had it read to him, and he felt such grief that he tore his robes. The words in the Book of the Law revealed the nation’s violation of God’s ways. Then King Josiah said to the High Priest and other advisors, “Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found” (2 Kings 22:13a, ESV).

Under the Old Testament covenant, a mediator, like a prophet or prophetess, was required to seek the Lord. King Josiah’s advisors headed straight to a source they trusted: Huldah. “So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter), and they talked with her.” (2 Kings 22:14) In the remainder of the account, Huldah the prophetess faithfully shared the message that God gave her. She told them that the promised judgements in the Book of the Law would come to pass, affirming the book’s authority. (2 Kings 22:16) And she revealed that godly King Josiah would be protected, affirming a humble heart.

This story fascinates me. It’s extraordinary on so many levels, but there’s one truth that I have held tighter than any other.

I want to be known as a woman who’s faithful to the authority of God’s Word and the humble hearts who seek Him.

When we only give our own opinions rather than point to the wisdom of Scripture, we let down those who are seeking advice. Let’s replace our own wobbly viewpoints and weak solutions with the reliability of God’s Word. Let’s lead humble hearts to Him instead of tethering them to us. Like Huldah and Mona, let’s be women known for touting God’s truths instead of our own.

God’s Destiny for You

by Inspiration Ministries

“The angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, ‘Behold now, you are infertile and have not given birth; but you will conceive and give birth to a son.’” – Judges 13:3 NASB

God had a plan for Samson. Even before his birth, God began shaping his life. He was on the right path until he was tempted by a Philistine woman who “looked good to Samson.” This relationship resulted in complications (Judges 14:5-20).

Then, he fell in love with another Philistine woman, Delilah, who tricked Samson into revealing the secret to his strength. After his strength left him, he was seized by the Philistines who gouged out his eyes and bound him with chains. When his strength was renewed, God enabled him to pull down the structure, bringing destruction to the Philistines.

His relationship with both women seemed so desirable to Samson. He wanted to fulfill his cravings and gain pleasure. He never imagined all the pain that would result.

Samson’s life shows how easily our hearts can be captured. We can quickly lose perspective, give in to temptation, and become slaves of our desires. We can develop questionable relationships or pursue goals that seem right but point us in the wrong directions.

These are important reasons to surrender everything to God. Seek His guidance. Base our lives on His Word. Be on guard against temptation. Commit your way to Him. Surrender to His plan for you. Ask Him for discernment and the strength to resist temptations. Be filled with His Spirit and His Word. Dedicate yourself to prayer. Trust Him. Be focused on fulfilling the destiny He has prepared just for you.

We Are A Fragrance Of Christ To God

7 Bible verses about Sweet OdoursFor we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being  saved

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2 Corinthians 2:15 WEB - For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God, in2 corinthians 2, spiritual fragrance diffusers

Daily Bible Verse | Grace | 2 Corinthians 2:14 (NASB)ปักพินในบอร์ด Bible Verses

A Pleasant Aroma

woman smelling scented candle

 

I love the smell of candles wafting through my home. When I use one of my White Barn candles, the entire downstairs soon fills with pleasant aromas. During COVID-19, my dream for when quarantine restrictions lifted was to smell every candle in Bath and Body Works. The morning after the stores opened, I sniffed candles through a mask to my little nose’s content.

When I took the candles home, I immediately lit one. Fruity scents of pineapple, whipped cream, and fresh orange filled my house with a tropical feeling. Just by lighting three tiny wicks I was transported from the confines of my home to a beautiful beach. When you can’t go to the beach, bring the beach to you.

Then I stared deep into the candle. I realized that for the candle to provide the lovely scents, it had to burn. Three orbs of fire flickered in a pool of wax. To release the smell, not only was the wax set on fire, it also gave away part of itself to float to me. The wax sacrificed itself to comfort me.

I thought about the Messianic prophecy in Psalm 22:14,

“I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me” (NKJV).

Jesus’s heart melted as He hung on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. He emptied Himself of all of His rights and bore the fullness of God’s wrath so we could be reconciled to the Father.

Jesus’ love for us honored God and became a pleasant scent to the Lord. Ephesians 5:2 says,

“And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (NKJV).

We are called to share the same love that Jesus showed us on the cross and become living sacrifices to God. We must give of ourselves to worship God.

Romans 12:1 says,

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (NKJV).

I can be selfish at times and don’t always want to surrender my dreams and demands to God. Yet, when I decrease and God increases, my life becomes a lovely fragrance to the Lord.

Sometimes, my life comes under fire as I am pressed by the cares of this world. When that happens, I have a choice. I can allow the flames to release a sweet-smelling aroma as an offering to the Lord or choose to make a stink about my hardships. As I sit on my couch in the middle of an island breeze, I realize I want to be a sweet-smelling aroma too. I decide that even if I melt away in the process, I want to be a fragrant incense offering before the throne of grace to fill all of heaven with the smell.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

July 18

1 Chronicles 5:1 (NIV)The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s marriage bed, his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel; so he could not be listed in the genealogical record in accordance with his birthright, …

In Israel, the firstborn had a double the inheritance of the other heirs. They also had the responsibilities to lead the clan and provide for the women without husbands. They represented the clan and made decisions as head. Reuben was born into this position, but yielding to temptation caused him to lose it. It was a passing momentary pleasure but one large spot on the life of an otherwise faithful son. He was the one who wanted to spare Joseph.

There are times when we face difficult temptations and wonder if there is some way we can indulge without having to pay a price. Sin always takes you further than you want to go and costs you more than you want to pay. God’s grace may free you from some of the consequences or He may not. Sin always exaggerates the potential pleasure as it blinds you to the potential price you will end up paying.

On the other hand, Joseph stood strong in the face of temptation. He refused to yield to the enticements of Potiphar’s wife. It was one step on his way to a position he only dreamed of. Obedience to God reaped rewards he could not have seen except by the revelation of God. If that were not enough, his sons were given the position and rights of firstborn. Obedience takes the faithful where they can be most effective and rewards them beyond their dreams. It seems like a simple choice to make, but we need God’s help to make it daily.

Consider: Am I making choices obedient to the Spirit of God today?

Streams in the Desert – July 18

  • 202118 Jul

The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him (2 Chronicles 16:9).

God is looking for a man, or woman, whose heart will be always set on Him, and who will trust Him for all He desires to do. God is eager to work more mightily now than He ever has through any soul. The clock of the centuries points to the eleventh hour.

“The world is waiting yet to see what God can do through a consecrated soul.” Not the world alone, but God Himself is waiting for one, who will be more fully devoted to Him than any who have ever lived; who will be willing to be nothing that Christ may be all; who will grasp God’s own purposes; and taking His humility and His faith, His love and His power, will, without hindering, continue to let God do exploits.
–C. H. P.

“There is no limit to what God can do with a man, providing he will not touch the glory.”

In an address given to ministers and workers after his ninetieth birthday, George Mueller spoke thus of himself: “I was converted in November, 1825, but I only came into the full surrender of the heart four years later, in July, 1829. The love of money was gone, the love of place was gone, the love of position was gone, the love of worldly pleasures and engagements was gone. God, God alone became my portion. I found my all in Him; I wanted nothing else. And by the grace of God this has remained, and has made me a happy man, an exceedingly happy man, and it led me to care only about the things of God. I ask affectionately, my beloved brethren, have you fully surrendered the heart to God, or is there this thing or that thing with which you are taken up irrespective of God?

I read a little of the Scriptures before, but preferred other books; but since that time the revelation He has made of Himself has become unspeakably blessed to me, and I can say from my heart, God is an infinitely lovely Being.

Oh, be not satisfied until in your own inmost soul you can say, “God is an infinitely lovely Being!”
–Selected

A lecture for little-faith

By: Charles Spurgeon

“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth.” 2 Thessalonians 1:3

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 17:14-21

When faith commences in the soul it is simply looking unto Jesus, and perhaps even then there are so many clouds of doubts, and so much dimness of the eye, that we have need for the light of the Spirit to shine upon the cross before we are able even so much as to see it. When faith grows a little, it rises from looking to Christ to coming to Christ. He who stood afar off and looked to the cross, by-and-by plucks up courage, and getting heart to himself, he runneth up to the cross; or perhaps he doth not run, but hath to be drawn before he can so much as creep thither, and even then it is with a limping gait that he draweth nigh to Christ the Saviour. But that done, faith goeth a little farther: it layeth hold on Christ; it begins to see him in his excellency, and appropriates him in some degree, conceives him to be a real Christ and a real Saviour, and is convinced of his suitability. And when it hath done as much as that, it goeth further; it leaneth on Christ; it leaneth on its Beloved; casteth all the burden of its cares, sorrows, and griefs upon that blessed shoulder, and permitteth all its sins to be swallowed up in the great red sea of the Saviour’s blood. And faith can then go further still; for having seen and run towards him, and laid hold upon him, and having leaned upon him, faith in the next place puts in a humble, but a sure and certain claim to all that Christ is and all that he has wrought; and then, trusting alone in this, appropriating all this to itself, faith mounteth to full assurance; and out of heaven there is no state more rapturous and blessed.

For meditation: How would you describe the state of your faith? Do you want to grow in faith (Luke 17:5)?