Where To Look For AnswersWe are drawn to look for answers. Who, what, where, when, how, and-especially-why tug at us for a response. One pitfall is to look for answers in all the wrong places. There is one place to look, with total trust and confidence, at all times. It is to the Lord.
Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know, that you could never figure out on your own. Jeremiah 33:3This is our 911 line for answers.
Led In TriumphIf we believe that Christ has conquered the world, then to be led by Him is to be led in triumph.
“I am in the procession of a conqueror, and it doesn’t matter what the difficulties are, for I am always led in triumph.”(Chambers on 2 Corinthians 2:14, October 24)
What Do You Have That Christ Can Use?
This is an important question, one that can be easily overlooked. It is important because it may lead to the surrender of what we worship—hold onto—and offering it for His purpose. This, in turn, blesses us and opens us to the truly abundant life. Consider Luke 5:1-3.
We know the ending to this story—the miraculous catch of an abundance of fish— but do we appreciate the beginning.
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding round him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
Jesus needed a boat so that he could teach the crowd following him, hungry for his words. He selected Simon Peter’s boat and Peter obeyed Jesus’ request, offering his boat for Jesus’ work. When the teaching was done, Jesus performed the miracle of the catch of fish.
It was a simple boat but it was also Peter’s livelihood. When it was used for Christ’s service, amazing things happened and Peter’s life would never be the same.
Whatever we surrender—career, possessions, life itself—can lead to miraculous results and a changed life. What do we have and do we choose to surrender it?
Have No Fear. Really?“So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’” Hebrews 13:6 NLT The fact of life is mere people can and do hurt us greatly. Are we then to dismiss these words or deny their validity? It is a fact of life that we do sometimes live in fear. Again, are these words mere words without credibility? We live in two realms: an earthly realm and a spiritual realm, just as there is a body and a spirit that inhabits the body. Faith, trust, and belief are the bridges from one realm to the other. These are not physical bridges we can see and cross but spiritual bridges; they exist, nonetheless. Prayer transports us from one side to the other. And so, we do not deny fear but move beyond it with prayers asking God for the wisdom to live in this worldly realm without succumbing to it, for belief and for His power to help our unbelief.
Why View The Banquet Only From Afar?
We thirst. We hunger. The banquet table is set. Why only view the abundance and smell the aromas? Go and taste the delights. Be filled. This is the banquet that God has set for us. It is given by grace and acceptance is by faith. It is a banquet for now, that joys may be celebrated and sorrows shared; it is the promise for tomorrow, when all sorrows cease. Freely offered, open to all to accept.
Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labour on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Wait For The Dove To Return:
The Dove Returned To Noah With An Olive Branch
For 40 days the flood kept coming on the earth. The waters rose and lifted the ark with Noah, his family, and “every wild animal.” The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days. After this time the waters receded and then, after another 40 days, Noah opened a window he had made int the ark and sent out a dove. Would the dove bring a sign that the journey was over? (Genesis 6-8)
Being caught in a storm on the seas is frightening enough after only several days. What of being tossed around for months, unable to see (for the ark was totally enclosed), and not knowing where or when the tempest would be over?
Are our darkest hours somewhat like Noah’s? Frightening? No end in sight? Future uncertain? Totally at the mercy of forces beyond our control?
God established a covenant with Noah to keep him from perishing. He commanded Noah to build an ark that would convey him to safety and, by bringing with him all living creatures, would sustain him while in the ark. Noah obeyed.
The first dove Noah sent returned with nothing in its beak. Noah waited another 7 days to again send out the dove. This time the dove returned with “a freshly plucked olive branch.” There was dry land, the tempest was over, and a new life was about to begin.
During our darkest times, let us send out prayer doves. The first prayer dove may not return with a sign of God’s favor. Nor the second. But let us always remember that “God remembered Noah,” and the olive branch—the sign of God’s favor and His grace and mercy—will be coming. Our flood of tears will recede. The tempest will be gone. And a new life may begin.
Christ is the ark of our salvation. His Spirit brings us signs that we are not forgotten. These signs may be long in coming and they may arrive in a form that is not immediately clear, a form that requires discernment. But they will come and grace will showered upon us. Like Noah, we must obey, wait, and trust.
Silence Is Not A Rebuke
How often have we seen people, including ourselves, make bad decisions and take ill-advised actions just because of an internal pressure to “do something.” This is not about procrastination but a thoughtful reflection on the reality of the moment.
Prayer falls into this consideration. We pray. We wait. We are disappointed or worse—we reject God who we believe has rejected us.
If this sounds familiar, consider the story of The Faith of the Canaanite Woman (Mark 15). This woman’s daughter was demon-possessed and suffered terribly. As a mother, she sought her daughter’s healing; she cried out to Jesus, she knelt before Him, called Him Lord, she even accepted the label of a dog waiting for the crumbs of mercy to fall from the master’s table. In other words, she had all the earmarks of someone whom Jesus came to save and heal, but “Jesus did not answer a word.” That is, until all her entreaties were made. And then, in a totally unexpected reversal, Jesus said, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.”
The lesson here is the power of faith in the face of silence. We can believe that Jesus knew all about this woman and here daughter. He knew that, as a Canaanite, she was not of the House of Israel and was not someone a typical Jew, and certainly not a rabbi, would ever tolerate. And He knew of her faith and that He would, in time, heal the daughter.
What was His purpose for waiting? To have a person’s faith expressed out loud?
His silence was not a rebuke. Neither is God’s silence to our prayers a rebuke. Trusting in God, having faith in His love for us, is the choice we face when met with silence to our prayers.Let us pray: Today I will honor God’s wisdom and timing by honoring His silence. Though I believe God can do all things, I will not insist that He do all things now. His silence is as much an answer to prayer as His doing.
Life Is Tough Enough But…
Life is tough enough. We battle unseen enemies that seek to devour us, disasters strike without warning, and cruel things just happen. We even battle ourselves, perhaps our greatest enemy.
Life is tough enough but it is even tough at the best of times. We may stumble over a pebble-size issue, choose danger when the path of safety is before us, or walk into the door of opportunity instead of going through it.
Left to ourselves, we are often weak and prone to injury and failure. How do we keep from falling? We call upon the Holy Spirit to
“…keep yourselves in God’s love…to keep you from stumbling”
Jude 20, 24
NB: Read Spurgeon’s Daily Devotion, Morning on October 9 for a beautiful rendering on Jude 24, and all of Jude to warn of those enemies of the faith who seek to destroy us.
Everything in life will break at least once. Dreams, health, possessions, relationships—everything we want, grasp, or desire. This is why the most important thing in life is not what we have but the One who can fix it.
One further point: when we are broken, God can mend us and use us. We are never damaged goods in God’s hands. It’s called grace.
Heaven-Born Faith: What It Is And Why It Is Important
What it is
“It is a poor faith which can only trust God when friends are true, the body full of health, and the business profitable; but that is true faith which holds by the Lord’s faithfulness when friends are gone, when the body is sick, when spirits are depressed, and the light of our Father’s countenance is hidden. A faith which can say, in the direst trouble, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him,” is heaven-born faith.” *
Why it is important
It is how we glorify God, how we, in our often troubled, meager lives may shine some ray of light upon the glory of our creator. And this is why we exist, our grand purpose.
The Biblical context is Numbers 11, particularly v11: “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?” This is Moses speaking to the Lord about the hardships the people he was leading were complaining about, largely about food. The question we could ask is, “when experiencing hardship is it OK to complain to the Lord?” The answer is yes, but not in a manner of rejecting God. Faith—trust,belief—is not easy. That is why we need a faith that is heaven-born; not manufactured by ourselves but accepted from God.
*Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening Devotional, October 7, Morning
What We Really Thirst For
It’s common knowledge that we don’t drink enough water. The body thirsts for water because it requires it to sustain life, cleanses itself, and invigorate activity. The thirst for this water will continue as long as we live. We have only to open the faucet or purchase bottled water.
It’s less common to know that there is another type of thirst that is equally critical for life and this is the thirst for living waters. Living waters sustain the spirit within, provide a peace that cannot be understood, usher us to a life of true abundance, and help us walk through the difficulties of life with purpose. The wellspring of living waters is Christ.
Both waters are essential for life. For one, we will always thirst. For the other, we shall never thirst. So, as a way to consider both, whenever we put a glass under the faucet or twist the cap off a bottle of plain water, remember to refresh yourself with living waters.
There is one further benefit to living waters. As we drink of living waters we become springs to others.
John 4:13-14 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
How Prayer Gets Its Power
It’s not from us.
In Mark 6, we learn that Jesus has sent His 12 disciples out with authority over impure spirits. (Impure, unclean, evil spirits generally referred to forces that oppose God and His people. They often manifested themselves in mental and physical disorders.) The disciples had some success and “They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” (V. 13) Then, in chapter 9, we discover that the disciples could not drive out a particular impure spirit. The disciples asked why they could not and Jesus answered, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” (V.29)
Surely the disciples had prayed and yet they were unsuccessful. What does this tell us?One key lesson is that the power from prayer comes from God. We do not create it. We accept and channel it. Just saying a prayer without connecting to the power behind prayer is, as the disciples discovered, no power at all. We must trust in Christ, not ourselves. NB: More on the power that fights against God is found in Ephesians 6:12 when he states, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.”
What can we say about power? There are two types. The power we acquire through our own efforts actually binds us in chains. It is the love of power. It destroys our freedom. How? Because we love it, worship it above all things. It is created and therefore it can be destroyed. It compels us to use it for selfish reasons, to desire it for its own purpose, to hoard it lest we lose even a portion of it. We live in fear that someday it will be insufficient or gone and what, then, would we live for?
The other power is not something we can acquire but what is freely given to us, something we can accept. It is not created and therefore cannot be destroyed or diminished. It is the power of God transmitted through faith. Such was the power that healed the woman who was subject to bleeding for 12 years and was healed after touching Christ’s garment. It was the touch of faith. (Luke 8: 43-48). This was not the love of power, but the power of love.
Be touched by God’s power.
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power
Are You Starving?
The intensity to live is so overpowering that a starving person will eat anything.
Are you starving? Another way to ask this question is, “are you drowning, lost, or out of hope?”
There are many forms of starvation, from physical, psychological, mental, and emotional to spiritual. Physical starvation is easy to recognize; the others are not. What do we do, where do we turn when we sense we are starving for something but don’t know what or why? We turn to the Lord.
Taste and see that the Lord is good!
How blessed is the person who trusts in him!
Psalm 34:8 (ISV, International Standard Version)
Is Psalm 34:8 more than just a cliché, a throwaway thought? Actually, it is a life preserver to someone drowning, a rope to climb out of a pit, a lamp on the path out of darkness. Even more, it is the hand of a friend in the time of dire need. And therefore, it is a solution to a problem you cannot solve by yourself.
This solution is in the form of an invitation to taste—to perceive, discover the essence of—and to see—to understand and fully comprehend—how the Lord desires to feed your needs, to satisfy your thirst and lift you from whatever is starving you. It is not a command.
What is it that we will taste when we “taste the Lord?” That is for the Lord to decide. Just as we do not know what something might taste like when we are scraping for anything edible when starving, we may not recognize the blessing at the time it is given. But it will be good. And this is where trust comes in; we trust the Lord for the outcome.
The word “trust” is also translated as believes, depends upon, finds refuge in. These are all forms of blessings, especially to a starving person.
Would you ignore life-giving food if starving? Taste and see that the Lord is good.
If we are spiritual dead (dry bones) or stumbling about only half alive, there is a sure way to recapture life at its most abundant and it is found in the words of Ezekiel (37:4-5)
‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.”
God breathes life into us through His word.
“I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
Life is knowing the Lord.
It’s OK To PrayIt’s ok to pray. It’s ok to say you pray. And, surprising to some, it may be comforting and beneficial. Where have we learned that prayer in not to be spoken in public?
Leprosy Of The Soul
Leprosy was a big deal in ancient Biblical times, beginning with Moses. Leprosy was the Hebrew word for defiling skin disease and was used for various diseases affecting the skin. (1) When the condition was observed, those afflicted were commanded by God through His words to Moses and Aaron (2) to be brought before a priest for examination. If the condition was found to be a disease, the individual was declared unclean and was required to isolate himself/herself. This examination and isolation would continue until the disease would be cured and the individual declared clean and returned to society, or the individual would remain unclean and isolated.
The Gospel tells us, sadly but true, that we are unclean by nature; we have a leprosy of the soul that separates us from God and one another. “Hidden, unfelt, unconfessed iniquity is the true leprosy.” (3) We have only to honestly examine ourselves by looking into the mirror of conscience to realize this. We do not see open physical sores, but inwardly know the festering that is ongoing though words, actions, and thoughts. We cannot cure it ourselves, it won’t go away by ignoring it, and the best medical and psychological treatment can’t fix it.
How, then, do we become clean?
As in ancient times, we are to present ourselves to the priest for examination. Today, Christ is this priest, our great high priest. And when we acknowledge our spiritual disease, He has a remedy and that remedy is His sacrificial love. Once accepted, we are declared clean.
We can’t escape leprosy of the soul but it can be removed. An act of faith is all that is required—faith in Christ as our Physician and the acceptance of grace from God.
(1) Footnote, Leviticus 13:2, Bible Gateway, NIV
(2) Leviticus 13
(3) Spurgeon, Morning and Evening Devotionals, September 29 Morning
Love Is A SacrificeLove is a commandment and a choice. It is also a sacrifice: Love means giving up. It means I give up my agenda for your agenda. It means I give up my time for your time. It means I give up my preference for your preference. It means I give up what I’d rather do right now to do what you’d rather do right now. Rich Warren, 40 Days of Love 2023
What Does It Mean To Meditate?It means “to think personally, practically, seriously, and earnestly on how the truth of God’s Word should look in life.”* And why is meditation important? That we may live a life built on God’s truth. What is meditation? “Sadly, in recent years many associate meditation with false religion of the Far East. They view meditation as a process of emptying the mind rather than, as Scripture commands, filling the mind with divinely revealed truth.”* (*Saxton, David W.. God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation (p. 8). Reformation Heritage Books. Kindle Edition.)
The Gift We Leave At The Altar
What is the greatest gift we can bring to God’s altar? Consider this; it is our total self, redeemed by, surrendered to, and transformed by Christ.If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24
Love Is A Commandment And A Choice
Although we are commanded to love God and neighbor, loving is a choice: we do not have to obey the command. The nature of God’s love is “to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; It is to “obey him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Choosing God’s love brings life and prosperity. Not choosing God’s love offers death and curses. God’s command to love “is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.”
So be careful what you choose to obey and to love.
Note: Read all of Deuteronomy 30 to better understand what God is saying and why. Prosperity and life, blessing or curse must be understood not only in Old Testament times but through the Gospel lens where the idea of God’s love as manifested in Christ takes on new, spiritual dimensions.
Accept And Give The Gift Of Truth
Christopher Booth is a medical oncologist specializing in gastrointestinal cancer. Most of the people he treats have advanced diseases: a node in the lung, a new tumor that may require complex surgery, relapsed metastatic colon cancer—these are tough, typical conversations he has with his patients. How does he do it?
He does it because he loves being a cancer doctor. “He was drawn to the “powerful human relationships” between oncologist and patient. Beyond the mechanics of knowing which drug to use or which test to order and how to interpret the results, oncology is about balancing hope and reality, he explains. It’s about providing patients with information to make decisions about their own care.”*
Christopher Booth offers the gift of truth, as difficult and painful as it may be. And this is the gift of love.
Two thousand years ago Jesus said to his disciples the difficult and painful message that he must be killed. This, too, was truth and the gift of love.
If truth is important in your life, examine its source. “What is truth?” Pilate asked of Jesus (John 18:38). In an earlier exchange, Jesus says ”I am the way and the truth and the life”(John 14:6).
Whether a difficult medical diagnosis(or similarly difficult conversation in life) or a painful examination of oneself or others, accept and give the gift of truth, which is the gift of love which comes from God.
Brought Out Of The Ashes
Have you ever created something out of love and greatly delighted in it? Then, have you found something wrong with it—imperfections—and out of rage and hate destroyed it because it did not live up to your expectations? And finally, did you decide to remake it in its original beauty because you still loved it?
This is the sad, tragic, but redeeming story told in Jeremiah 32.
God is about to give Jerusalem into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Why? God’s people abandoned Him. Jeremiah writes,
“You brought your people Israel out of Egypt with signs and wonders, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror. You gave them this land you had sworn to give their ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey. They came in and took possession of it, but they did not obey you or follow your law; they did not do what you commanded them to do. So you brought all this disaster on them.” (Verses 21-23)
The story does not end here, however. God will change their hearts, bring them prosperity, and once again be their God, all through a new, everlasting covenant. “I will rejoice in doing them good.” (Verse 1)
The new covenant foretells the redemptive life in Christ. As the people of Israel were once redeemed, so we may be. Remember this whenever we fall out with God, for He will call us back. We have only to accept Him through His Son.
Faith Vs. Positive Thinking
Learn from Abraham. It’s important to understand who Abraham believed in. He didn’t believe in himself. He didn’t believe in his feelings. He didn’t put his faith in faith, either. Romans 4:17 says Abraham believed in God.
The object of his faith was God—nothing else.
You may believe in positive thinking, but positive thinking and faith are not the same. Positive thinking only works when you have control over the situation. It’s worthless if the situation is out of your control. When you’re at a dead end, you need something more than a happy thought.
You need to place your faith in God because “what is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27 NIV).
Nothing we do will help the answer to our prayer come one second before God chooses to deliver it. Rick Warren
God Knows All. We Hide All. God Forgives All.
There are times—totally unpredictable—when different thoughts from different places collide to form a powerful understanding. These thoughts may be words that you’ve heard many times before but without making a connection. What makes this understanding so powerful is that it explains a profound truth with clarity and simplicity. Here is one of those truths.
God knows all. We hide all. (And when we acknowledge all) God forgives all.
Thought #1: God knows all
The Book of Common Prayer begins the Holy Eucharist: Rite II service with these words:
“Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:”
God knows all and nothing can be hidden from Him. This is both frightening and freeing.
Thought #2: We hide all
From the Bible, we know of David’s great sin of adultery with Bathsheba and his effort to cover his sin by arranging for Bathsheba’s husband to be killed in battle.
The effect on David was turmoil of such great magnitude that “his soul was swollen with torrents of sorrow”* and his “bones wasted away through.. groaning all day long.”
Thought #3: What we must do
David’s deplorable condition continued until he acknowledged his sin to the One who already knew:
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
The effect of David’s acknowledgement was to reestablish a broken relationship.
The freeing idea: God forgives all when we confess all
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
What this means
The slate is wiped clean, we are once again connect to our God, and we can “Rejoice in the Lord and be glad.”
*Spurgeon, Morning And Evening Devotional, September 14 Evening
Freedom From The Need To Know
We need to know, especially why—why some things happens other things don’t. It’s the way we are made. It is this reason why prayer, unanswered, can be so troublesome.
Have you prayed and feel that your prayers have not been answered? Why?
It is often senseless to attempt to make sense of things that make no sense. So when you seek an answer, consider that the answer to prayers of asking may be the freedom to live without knowing the answer.
Dig deeper here.
Strong And Courageous
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
We are not asked to be strong and courageous. We are not invited to fight fear. And we are not given the option to “be not dismayed (to be distressed by an unexpected event). We are commanded. And this command is not an empty expression by a powerless boss, but from a loving, all-powerful God who fights alongside is.
Read the story of strength and courage in Joshua 1. His story is our story in our daily battles.
When The Weight Of Grief Is Too Much“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” – Psalm 9:9-10 This is the story of Heidi Vegh who lost her husband to cancer and was left to care for two small children. It is the story of how God lifted someone out of the pit of despair to once again reclaim a life worth living. It is everyone’s story who may feel abandoned. “This tragedy sucked the wind out of my lungs and threw me to the ground. There were days that I didn’t feel that I could go on. The weight of grief was just too much to bear. “In my most hopeless state, I remembered what I had been taught my entire life. Even though I barely had the energy to breathe, I used what breath I could to cry out to the Lord. He pulled me out of the pit of darkness, and over time, I was able to see light once again. Not without the challenges of widowhood and solo parenting that I had hauntingly in front of me, but I knew that I wasn’t alone. I could eventually see a new life form, and new hope was filling my depleted lungs. “God kept His promise in my life. Although He allowed tragedy to strike, He never left me forsaken. He didn’t forget about me. He comforted me, held me, and directed my steps as I slowly climbed out of a pit of despair. “Despite all the tragedy happening around us, we can rest assured that we have a solid foundation in Christ. He is our true, unmovable rock that can withstand anything that this life can throw at us.” From https://www.ibelieve.com/devotionals/your-daily-prayer/ A Prayer For Difficult Times
The Size Of Faith
“It’s not the size of your faith that makes the difference. What matters is where you put your faith. “You just need a little faith in a big God.”
Two Expressions You Won’t Find In Business SchoolGod will provide: the trust in God to provide our basic needs and the things that truly matter in life, to guide our thoughts and efforts, rather than relying solely on our own abilities. Servanthood: the notion that we are made to serve others, honoring God for our abundance, rather than seeking to be served.
A Good Deal Gone BadWe forfeit the tree of life—the abundant life which has already been given—for the tree of knowledge, which cannot be obtained. God gave mankind rule over His creation. He placed mankind in the garden He planted which was “pleasing to the eye and good for food”. In that garden was the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And God walked in the garden with mankind. All good things were given to mankind with one exception: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was forbidden. (Genesis 1-3) There was no prohibition placed on the tree of life. Some Hebrew scholars identify it as a symbol of the abundant life. In the New Testament, it connects with the idea that Christ is the vine of which are the branches. What is the significance of the tree of knowledge of good and evil today? Could it be that our worship of self-accomplishment, our desire to penetrate the impenetrable mind of God, and our quest to be a creator god ourselves drives us to areas we are never intended to reach, with dire consequences? “Human knowledge has boundaries beyond which it cannot pass. Universal knowledge is for God alone.” (Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, September 6 Evening Devotional) Once, we had it all. Now, we forfeit it all when we fail to acknowledge that God is God and we are merely what we are made, limitations and all.
Break The FlaskTo break the flask is to offer to God a sacrifice of pure love and thanksgiving. It is an act that makes absolutely no sense to the logical, calculating mind and so it must flow from a loving heart. Mary of Bethany broke the flask of expensive perfume and poured it over Jesus’ head. Some of those watching asked, indignantly, “why was it wasted?” (Mark 14:3-4) In an earlier time, when David was sheltering himself from the Philistines who occupied the town of Bethlehem, David remarked to his three greatest warriors, “Oh, how I would love some of that good water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem.” (2 Samuel 23:15) At great risk, these devout and courageous warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew some water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem, and brought it back to David. But he refused to drink it. Instead, he poured it out as an offering to the Lord. (V:16) The ultimate breaking of the flask—and a stumbling block to faith— is expressed in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave (poured out) his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The message is profound yet simple: break the flask of the blessings we have that God may be honored and others may be served.
To Wait Is To Trust“That is why I wait expectantly, trusting God to help, for he has promised.” Psalm 130:5 Trustful waiting on God’s promise lies between hopeless inaction and frantic activity. It is neither passive nor chaotic. It is the bond of our relationship with God and the promise is this: ““No one who waits for my help will be disappointed (ashamed).” Isaiah 49:23 Trustful waiting in the midst of great sorrow, dire situations, or from the harsh realization of what is not under our control is painfully difficult. It may not seem a consolation, but sometimes what we think of as our waiting for God’s action is His waiting for our trust. We don’t know and don’t have a magic wand, so let’s drop our search for the magic wand and grasp God’s promise for His help.
Holiness: What Is It?Holiness means absolute purity of your walk before God, the words coming from your mouth, and every thought in your mind— placing every detail of your life under the scrutiny of God Himself. Holiness is not simply what God gives me, but what God has given me that is being exhibited in my life. My Utmost For His Highest, September 1 Daily Devotional, Oswald Chambers
Is Waiting Foolish?The desire to act is powerful and compelling. It’s not something we may be applauded for. Even in times of confusion and lack of direction, waiting seems to be a foolish choice, at least by many of today’s standards. But there is waiting and there is waiting on the Lord. “Wait for on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14) is hardly inaction when the time is spent in prayer and in the quiet, disciplined act of keeping the heart and mind open to the will of God. It may even be a very strenuous activity, holding back the powerful impulse to just do something. The entire verse of 27:14 is: Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Waiting for the Lord takes spiritual muscle and is not something to be avoided, but honored.
Have mercy on me, O God.The best of us are, after all, only what we are and nothing more. That is why is it important to pray, Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Psalm 51:1
To Pray Vs. How To PrayHow to pray is easy-it’s a conversation and, if you desire to dig deeper, there are a vast number of books and articles how to pray and to make prayer complicated. To pray is altogether different. The disciple asked Jesus to teach the disciples to pray (Luke 11:1). As a Jew, the disciple was brought up in a praying community; prayer was part of the fabric of Jewish life. So, what did they lack and what were they desiring? They desired Jesus: His power, wisdom and joy in life. His intimate relationship with God and the awesome experience of God’s presence. My prayer is to desire Jesus above all, and how to pray will fall into place.
Understanding The Peace That Surpasses UnderstandingJohn 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful. American Standard Version The peace that surpasses understanding is a Godly gift that cannot be fully comprehensible by our finite minds. We can, however, through faith and effort, begin to unravel its mystery for the benefit of our lives. What is the nature of this peace? It is to guard our hearts and minds in Christ (Philippians 4:7). Interpreted, this means it is a peace “to protect the mind from external corrupting influences and to keep the mind focused on God’s truth.” (NKJV Study Bible) What are these corrupting influences? There are many. Among them are fear, anxiety, devious lies and false truths. All these and more can stop us in our tracks, causing us to wave the white flag of surrender to self-doubt and despair. In situations such as these, is it easy and very human to believe that God’s Peace is not intended for us or is beyond our ability to secure and enjoy. But this is not true. The redemption that God covenanted to His people (“He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever—holy and awesome is his name” Psalm 111:9) is our promise of His Peace. It is given for eternity and is not secured by our efforts but by our faith, our belief, our trust. How does this work out in real life when we are on the brink of despair? We must act. While God’s Peace is freely available, is requires some effort on our part, and this may be the part that is hard to understand and even more difficult to implement. We must, if only for a moment, center on God’s gifts and blessings through prayer. Here are five prayers to focus on*:
- Rejoice in the Lord and change your emotional perspective.
- Dwell on Christ’s presence in your life, not on life’s troubles.
- Share your utter frustrations and ask God for His battle plan.
- Declare your adoration for the Lord by expressing your gratitude for His gifts, blessings, mercy, and grace.
- Ask the Lord for understanding in your trials and for guidance in your response.
Why Start With Prayer?The answer to this question lies in knowing where to finish. My finish line is a loving, faithful relationship with my God for eternity. It starts with prayer and follows this path: >Prayer leads to communication. >Communication leads to connecting. >Connecting is the basis of forming meaningful relationships. >Relationships lead to trust. >Trust leads to submission. >Submission leads to transformation. Prayer is the beginning of our transformation from a self-centered, world-dominated creature to a Christ-centered, spiritually guided soul, living in this world but focusing on eternity where unimaginable joy is to be found.
Daily BreadWe pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread.” What is your daily bread? Mine is a morsel of hope through faithful prayer.
Can You Do The Impossible?Here is your challenge: can you (1) create a community united in faith? (2) build a vessel with primitive resources that can sustain the harshest weather? (3) free a person, a community, or a nation from the slavery of injustice, personal vices, or weakness? (4) Make profit in investments that seem doomed? (5) Defeat evil with only sound? No, you cannot, but God can. Reflect on Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jeremiah, and Joshua who, with Gods power, fathered a nation, build a boat on land, freed a people, bought property that would be conquered, and destroyed fortress walls with ram horns. What impossible things are you prepared to do with God’s help?
It’s Never My VictoryMy name may be on the winners trophy, on the plaque, or on a printed piece of paper. I am be on the podium to accept the award or walking up the aisle for recognition. Articles may be written about my accomplishments and I may even write my memories about success in life. But all this is never mine. It is Christ’s. There is nothing that I have achieved or anything of value that I possess that is not of Christ. From the greatest to the smallest, He is the author of all that is good. From eternity with Him to the smallest act of kindness, all belongs to Him. Why? Because all gifts come from God and it is through His Son and The Spirit that I am what I am. All grace. All mercy. There is nothing of my own. In humility I take credit for nothing.
Defending The FaithHave you ever found yourself in the situation of having to defend your faith or being able to seize the opportunity to do so? What do you say? The irony, to me, is that one does not defend the faith by being defensive. Nor, theological or verbose. I believe this is all that is necessary: “I am a better person for knowing Christ, my life is more meaningful, and I have a more precious understanding of my God which is the gift of His grace and mercy.”
MercyThe great irony of God’s mercy is that it is such a grand, noble, and profound reality that it is easy to dismiss, ignore, and minimize it. To do so, however, robs us of great comfort, nourishment, and riches. Charles Spurgeon reminds us that God’s mercy is infinite, just as God is infinite, and can fortify us in times of trouble, temptation, and when sinking. (Morning and Evening, the morning of August 17) Psalm 52:8 embellishes the idea of mercy by declaring “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.” Different translations use the words lovingkindness, faithful love, and constant, steadfast and eternal love. The metaphor of the olive tree is important to recognize. Olive trees are mentioned all throughout scripture. They are used symbolically as peace, prosperity, beauty and the relationship between God and His people. The olive tree roots grow deep and they surprisingly thrive in the desert. It’s root date even before Ancient Greek mythology, and is referred to as the tree of life, because of the white pigeon that returned to Noah’s ark after the flood had an olive branch in its mouth. Grasp onto this unlimited and unmerited source God’s loving kindness.
Who Am I To Question God?The desire to know and be in control can be overwhelming. But we can’t possibly know everything and control in life is impossible. When we run into this wall, what is our response? Question God? Second guess Him? Dismiss Him as ineffectual? Charles Spurgeon has a better solution: “The servant does not know what his master is doing. Shall the architect explain his plans to every bricklayer on the job? If he knows his own intent, is it not enough? The pot upon the wheel cannot guess to what pattern it will be conformed, but if the potter understands his art, the ignorance of the clay is irrelevant.” (Morning and Evening, the evening of August 14) In so many of life’s events, our lack of understanding is irrelevant and we are but ignorant clay in the hands of the Master Potter. The Lord Reigns. This is all we need to know and desire.
The Lord ReignsThere can be no greater assurance in a life of turmoil and uncertainty than “The Lord Reigns.” In all moments of confusion and doubt, cling to this truth. Here are 9 references in the Bible: “The Lord reigns for ever and ever.” (Exodus 15:18) Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” (1 Chronicles 16:31) The Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. (Psalm 9:7) The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure. (Psalm 93:1) Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity. (Psalm 96:10) The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. (Psalm 97:1) The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake. (Psalm 99:1) The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord. (Psalm 146:10) Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. (Revelation 19:6)
How A McDonald’s French Fry Can Teach Us About God’s Generosity (And Our Selfish Lack Of Gratitude)Rick Warren tells, in How Does God Respond to Your Generosity, about a father who bought his young son a super-size French fries. When the father took one fry the son became upset and told his father that the fries were his and he couldn’t have any. The fries weren’t the son’s. They were given out of generosity and could be claimed at any time. And the father could have as many of his own at any time. This is a simple lesson about an important truth. Read the entire article.
Finding Joy In Unexpected PlacesWe all seek joy. In fact, we are made to crave it. But life as we live it often makes it very difficult to experience it and sometimes impossible to imagine that is could possibly be ours. Wouldn’t it be a blessing to find joy throughout the day or to at least glimpse it at all times. “For the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10b What does this mean and how does it guide us to the joy of joy? The joy of the Lord is the knowledge, understanding, and experience of the Lord that can permeate every part of our lives. For context, Nehemiah was writing of the time when Ezra read from the Book of the Law of Moses. The people were enlightened, found guidance in Scripture, and discovered ways to please their God—they became connected. We, too, can connect with our God to find joy in unexpected places; pray, study, believe, and act with confidence that God reigns, is in all things, and works all things together for good (Romans 8:28).
You Become What You WorshipWhat are you worshipping? What do you see yourself becoming? What is the highest “you” you can become? And where or how do you for it?
Who Am I?“I may not be your typical Christian woman, but I know who I am. I am a Bible-believing, Christ-following Christian woman, and I refuse to accept anything less than His Word and His best in my life.” Man or woman, adult or child, famous or not, is there a better way to define oneself? —Lina Abujamra in iDisciple
What Demons Must Be Forcibly Ejected?These are not simple pests or bad habits to be removed. They are supernatural spirits, Satanic forces that torment and are beyond our natural ability to dislodge. Mary Magdalene was possessed by seven demons causing unimaginable pain. No human power could help her but, with a word from Christ, she was delivered of all seven. “What a blessed deliverance! What a happy change! From delirium to delight, from despair to peace, from hell to heaven!” (Charles Spurgeon) We are all possessed by some demon and it is only through the grace of our Lord that we may be freed. Call upon Him.
Enduring Hardship: Lessons From Job, Paul, And JesusHardship Is Hard To Take. Hardship is an immensely inadequate word to describe what life throws at us. No one desires it. There is nothing in this world to prevent it. Our response to hardship, our course of action must be, therefore, “how do we handle it?” Denial doesn’t work. Isolating ourselves from the world is ineffective. There are no insurance policies to cover all hardships of every kind. Where can we learn about enduring hardship? We learn from: Job who lost it all. Paul who suffered it all. Christ who accepted it all. How did they endure? They endured through a relationship with their God. Read More Here.
HopeHope is the nourishment we need when we are famished, starving, depleted, and without an ounce of energy, enabling, strengthening, and emboldening us to take the next step in faith. This type of hope comes only from God. Don Metznik
PrayerIt is the most basic means of connecting with our God. We start with asking, we move on to giving thanks, and perhaps then to intercession when there is no sense of self but a focus on others. There is yet another level to prayer. It is not for wishful thinking. It is not to prove that God answers prayer. It is to proclaim the grace of God. To engage in prayer of any form is to say “yes” to God.
The Value Of PovertyIt is not a matter of our equipment, but a matter of our poverty; not of what we bring with us, but of what God puts into us; not a matter of natural virtues, of strength of character, of knowledge, or of experience— all of that is of no avail in this concern. The only thing of value is being taken into the compelling purpose of God and being made His friends. Charles Spurgeon, My Greatest For His Highest, August 4
Let’s Make A DealLet’s Make A Deal was a popular TV gameshow hosted by Monty Hall, originating in 1963. Contestants were given the option to select the prize in a box, a cash offer, or whatever was behind one of three curtains. Depending upon pure luck and influenced by the energetic prompting of the audience, the contestants made their decisions and won anything from a pittance, a trinket, to a grand prize of thousand of dollars or gift of great worth. In our real, everyday life, Christ offers us His own unique form of Let’s Make A Deal. His deal is this: believe in Me, trust Me, have faith in Me, surrender your life to Me and you will have eternal life in paradise. There are no boxes with hidden prizes and there are no curtains hiding gifts. Christ’s deal is straightforward and our decision appears simple. Yet, why do so many choose otherwise and wind up disillusioned, disappointed, and with nothing of true value? Mark 7 tells us why. In place of the three curtains in Let’s Make A Deal, Mark 7:13-14 confronts us with two gates. The gates are far from equal; in fact, they contrast greatly. One is wide, easily entered and favored by many for the pleasures, enticements, and satisfactions craved in this world. Christ tells us, but we do not see and understand, that this gate leads to destruction. The other gate is narrow and not easily entered. The path to this gate forces us to pass through losses, delays, and disappointments. Often, this path appears hidden. We must intentionally seek it with all our heart and, having found it and entered through the gate, we enter into what Christ calls life. Life is too important to treat it as a game show. Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Be one of the few. View web page here.
With God, There Is No Expiration DateNo expiration of love, no expiration of mercies, no expiration of blessings, and no expiration of forgiveness.
The Cloud Of Divine Presence In Our Cloudy LivesOur lives can be very cloudy with fear, confusion, grief, despair—any number of unpleasant and distressing conditions. Our minds can behave as if they are firing thoughts aimlessly in the air as opposed to being firmly grounded in certainty. Yes, the metaphor of dark, menacing clouds is a reality. There is another reality, the reality of the cloud of divine presence. Throughout Scripture, clouds symbolize God’s presence. There are clouds of redemption (the rainbow in the clouds when Noah stepped off of the Ark), clouds of deliverance (leading the Israelites during the Exodus), the clouds of transcendent glory (the Transfiguration of Christ), and the cloud of Christ’s ascension. What does this mean to us, today, when we are caught in the clouds of doubt and hopelessness? It means that God, though unseen, is present in our lives to deliver, protect, and raise us up to His glory. NB: Read this article for more on the significance of clouds in the Bible.
Understand What Jesus Is SayingHow easy it is to misunderstand Christ. I can read His words with confidence and then, with my very next thought, react to the world around me as if I never heard Him in the first place. It happens time and again with me, just as it did with His disciples. In Mark 4, Jesus, after delivering four very powerful messages (the parables of the sower, the growing seed, the mustard seed, and the lamp on a stand), invites His disciples to get into a boat and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. As they are crossing, a storm of epic proportions causes even these seasoned fishermen to fear for their lives. Jesus, however, remained asleep in the boat. The disciples woke Jesus and in desperation cried, ““Teacher, don’t you even care that we are all about to drown?” Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. (Mark 38-39). What did Jesus say and what did we think he said? Greg Laurie expresses it this way in Sailing Through The Storm: Jesus was saying, in effect, “Boys, you haven’t learned anything. I said, ‘Let’s cross over to the other side.’ I didn’t say, ‘Let’s go to the middle of the Sea of Galilee and drown.’ ” Let’s hear the words of Jesus with the clarity of who He is and not what the world would cause us to believe.
Absolute CertaintyWhat He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49).
Prayer Makes You Aware*
In your journey to witnessing, before praying for big ticket items like miracles and powers of persuasion, try simply and humbly praying for someone out of concern. Prayer makes you aware of the common interests, needs, and joys of others and this is the beginning of connecting. Once connected, doors open to conversation and mutual sharing and from this springs the opportunity to share the Gospel.*From Rick Warren
Order Out Of ChaosThere is chaos and then there is CHAOS. I am familiar with chaos—kids won’t behave, traffic is terrible, too many activities to fit into the day. I can manage this form of chaos with better organization, a little luck, and a good night’s sleep. CHAOS is a different animal. The Greek kháos (χάος) means emptiness, vast void, chasm, abyss. Several contemporary synonyms include anarchy, turmoil, confusion, disorder, madness, and pandemonium. With these words in mind, follow me to the original state of CHAOS, creation. Genesis 1: 1-2 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep” From this, God began to create order. First came light, then sky and dry ground. Seas were followed by celestial stars. From this living creatures appeared and the ground became productive. At the last, God created mankind and “it was very good.” What does this mean for us now? We live in Chaos and only God can tame it and make it very good again. God gave mankind—us—the honor of ruling His creation for our good. Yet, the world is at war. Natural disasters are commonplace. Government is non-functional. Daily life is a shambles. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace 1 Corinthians 14:33 The God who made good out of chaos is the way to bring peace to this disorder.
What To Say When There Is Nothing Left To Say
“In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.” – Psalm 25:1
Health, Help, And HopeWhat can you offer someone who is in the midst of pain, grief, despair, or fear? Such a person is not looking for theological insights. This person desperately needs something to cling to—an emergency life preserver. Try offering help, health, and hope from a loving God. Health: our God is a god of health and wholeness, not weakness or infinity. Help: our God extends a strong hand to lift us out of the mire we are in. Hope: our God is found in of faithful expectations, not wishful thinking. Offer the God who provides health, help, and hope.
Would You Intentionally Try To Hurt Yourself?Acts 9:5 Saul answered, “Who are You, Lord?” He said, “I am Jesus, the One Whom you are working against. You hurt yourself by trying to hurt Me.” New Living Version
“God, I Need You To Show Up, Now”When there is no time to think, when all options have been exhausted, when disaster is about to strike and you are not seeking a theological answer—this is the time to reach out to a God who is waiting to be called. Reach out in confidence with “God, I need you to show up, now.”
A Prayer To Focus A Scattered Mind“Holy Spirit, come and hover over my mind like You hovered over the waters at creation and speak order out of the chaos! Help me to cease striving and to trust that You will give me all I need today to do the work You’ve given me to do.” (Source: Nylse Esahc on iBelive)
Baptism: What Is It Really?I was baptized as an infant. My children were baptized. I read the words of baptism at every Eucharist service. But do I really understand what it means? And if I can’t explain it to myself, how to I commend it to others? It’s easy to get lost in the theology.* How can I simplify it? To me, baptism is about a relationship with Christ. Although the ritual of baptism is physical (water immersion, sprinkling, or pouring), the effect is spiritual. As a spiritual reality, a physical or logical understanding is imperfect and not helpful. So I think in terms of the relationships I have and have had. Family (above all), communities, organizations, and groups. I particularly recall with fondness my membership in a college fraternity and the feeling of belonging mingled with the comfort of shared interests. Or think of it as becoming part of a special team. Rick Warren puts it this way, “God wired us so that we feel most alive when we’re part of a team that’s accomplishing something for his Kingdom.” My relationship with Christ is so much bigger, so big that I can’t wrap my mind around it. I can, however, embrace it, however imperfectly. I am part of something so much greater than I, yet welcomed to it. I bring only myself but gain an unimaginable inheritance. How might I simply describe it? It’s an outstretched, open hand welcoming me to travel life—its joys and pain— with a trusted friend. This works for me, now, and brings me a calm, confident peace. *For example, read the material on baptism found in the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary on Leviticus 6 here.
You Didn’t Have To, But You DidDear Lord, You didn’t have to bring so many simple joys into our lives, but you did. You give us the joys of our senses: beauty and wonder through our eyes, delights with scents and tastes, the comforts of touch, and the many sounds that soothe and stimulate. Beyond the physical, you bring us the joys that we experience with our minds: creative, imaginary, and logical thoughts that lead to curiosity, knowledge, and understanding. Spiritual joys also abound: meaning, purpose, fulfillment, and a loosening of earthly chains to taste heavenly bounty. All this you give us and more: the promise of eternity with you and the means of attaining it. Let us pray that we not lose the pleasure of these simple joys in the thicket of daily living, and praise you for what you have given us, but didn’t have to.
There Is Only One True God A Grim Lesson From The Book Of JudgesThe time of the Judges* was full of rising and falling, disaster and success, but there is a constant refrain of people forsaking the one true God for a false idol, leading to defeat, disobedience, and disgrace. That was then. Today, our leaders and we forsake our God for the false idols of knowledge, business, and best practices. This, too, will lead to defeat, disobedience, and disgrace. Learn more about Judges here in this excellent video tutorial. *The Judges were rulers taken from the tribal leaders of Israel (approximately 1376 BC after the death of Joshua-1051 BC when Samuel anointed Saul as King of Israel).
Abandoned Or Embraced?There are so many ways to feel abandoned. You may be abandoned by a person: a parent, a friend, or someone you believe in. You may be abandoned by the company you work for or the organization you belong to. You may be abandoned by the things you trust to work as advertised or promised. You may also be abandoned by yourself—not living up to your expectations. It’s OK to feel abandoned in these circumstances for, in fact, you have been abandoned. It’s another thing to feel abandoned by God because the feeling is not based in truth. Prayers that seem to be unanswered is not abandonment. Hopes and dreams not realized are not signs of being forgotten by God. Being rejected by others is not being rejected by God. We are embraced by God and never abandoned. This is promised and on this we may feel secure, protected, confident, and hopeful. When it comes to God, trust the promises. Isaiah 49:15-16 “Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;” New American Standard Bible
Be A Defender Of The FaithWe have so much to contend with in this life. Daily living may be filled with pain, disappointment, and grief in many insidious ways. The world around us seems to be imploding, consuming itself. Creation itself is becoming less beautiful and more hostile as we grapple with pollution, exploitation, and a disregard for life in all forms. Yes, we fight many battles on many fronts. Is there a common enemy? The common enemy assumes many forms. It is a false teacher who seeks to distract us from the Word of God. It is a spy in our midst that infiltrates our organizations and minds with false doctrine. It is a devouring beast that waits in ambush to kill our faith in a moment of weakness. The enemy is powerful, persistent, and determined. And for this reason we must be stronger, more tenacious, and possess a will to defend ourselves that is beyond our natural capacity. In a word, we must be defenders of our faith, a faith based on a loving God, a redeeming Christ, and an empowering Spirit. Jude 1:3 Dear friends, I’ve dropped everything to write you about this life of salvation that we have in common. I have to write insisting—begging!—that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish. What has happened is that some people have infiltrated our ranks (our Scriptures warned us this would happen), who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels. Their design is to replace the sheer grace of our God with sheer license—which means doing away with Jesus Christ, our one and only Master. The Message
Why Does God Forgive, Bless, And Redeem Us?He is who he is and cannot be otherwise. He does this for His sake.
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25
How Would You Like To Come Out Of Tough Times?Now that the worst is over, we’re pleased we can report that we’ve come out of this with conscience and faith intact, and can face the world—and even more importantly, face you with our heads held high. But it wasn’t by any fancy footwork on our part. It was God who kept us focused on him, uncompromised. 2 Corinthians 1:12-13 The Message Bible
Breath Of LifeThe air we breathe and which we need second-by-second for survival, but which we ignore and take for granted, is a fitting picture of the grace which sustains us second-by-second but, as with air, we dismiss from conscious thought. Lord, we bless you for our lives; never leave us, never remove your saving grace. Continue to breathe life into us.
What Message Do We Need To Hear From God This Day, This Moment?Each new day brings with it a special need. This need may be urgent and critical. It may be felt but not able to be expressed. It may be out of despair or utter hopelessness. Or, it may be one of joy and gratitude that desires to be shared. Whatever the special need, our God is ready to respond. Search the scriptures and you will find the words, promises, and stories to carry you through the day. Search. And if you are unable, too depleted, or disbelieving to search, God is still ready to respond in ways beyond our comprehension. Invite Him in.
Doomed By HypocrisyThere is no greater torment to the soul than to be dragged by Satanic devils from the road to heaven and thrust down to the perdition of hell. This frightening imagery by Charles Spurgeon is a stark and real reminder of the consequence of spiritual hypocrisy. He entreats us, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith. Look well to your state; see whether you be in Christ or not.” He then advises us to build upon the Rock that never fails.
If You Do, Don’tIf you are tempted to doubt God—to dismiss, ignore, or abandon God—for seemingly dismissing, ignoring, or abandoning you, don’t do it. Here’s why. Jeremiah was commanded by God to deliver to the kings of Judah and people of Jerusalem a message of impending disaster, ruin, and devastation for having forsaken God for foreign gods. When the priest in charge of the temple of the Lord heard Jeremiah prophesying these things he had Jeremiah beaten and put in the stocks. Jeremiah then complained to the Lord that he was insulted and reproached. He heard whisperings denouncing him, and his friends hoping that they would prevail over him. (Jeremiah 19-20) In an earlier period, David, like Jeremiah, had his own lament for his relationship with God and what it subjected him to. Psalm 69 (4, 7-12) reads, Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me. For I endure scorn for your sake, and shame covers my face. I am a foreigner to my own family, a stranger to my own mother’s children; for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me. When I weep and fast, I must endure scorn; when I put on sackcloth, people make sport of me. Those who sit at the gate mock me, and I am the song of the drunkards. Both Jeremiah and David may have been tempted to doubt God, but they didn’t. Instead, Jeremiah says, “Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! (v 13) and David sings, “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” (v 30). Why didn’t they doubt? The answer is given centuries later by Paul who proclaimed this astonishing fact of the power of God’s love, a power that Jeremiah and David knew and understood: “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) We are not to doubt because God’s love conquers all.
When The Power Of Darkness RulesLuke 22:53 “But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.” A power struggle is in play from the moment you are born: Satan vs. God. God has a plan for you (and it is beyond anything you could imagine) and Satan’s plan is to deny it to you. It’s that simple. There will come a time in your life (likely many times) when the power of Satan, identified in the Bible as the power of darkness, will rule, that is, will seem dominant and overpowering. If we underestimate this power we will surely be defeated. But Christ has defeated this power, and it is to Christ that we must look for the strength and endurance to overcome. Our task is to accept the reality of Satan’s darkness, be vigilant against its dangerous lurking in our lives, and pray for the spiritual power to defeat it. (See Oswald Chamber’s Reconciling Yourself to the Fact of Sin for more insight: My Utmost For His Highest June 24)
What If The Net Broke?How big must the miracle be in order to believe? After the resurrection, Jesus again appeared to his disciples. They had been fishing all night but had caught nothing. “Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” 21: 4-6 The Bible calls this the Miraculous Catch of Fish (NIV). Jesus had appeared to His disciples twice before, so the miracle of His resurrection was already witnessed. Yet, here they were and still they did not recognize Him until the catch of an abundance of fish. Do we need miracles to recognize Christ? What if the net broke from the sheer quantity of fish? Would it be less than a miracle? Would the disciples have failed to recognize Christ? How big must the miracle be in order to believe, to have faith? Might we grasp God’s love with only glimpses of what He does?
From Fragment To FulfillmentWhen they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” John 6:12 NIV Why was Jesus concerned about leftovers after having fed the 5,000? Look closely at the word “wasted.” The Greek (appollymi) includes such uses as “lose, perish, destroy, death, and wasted.” What This Means With Christ, nothing goes to waste, is lost, or perishes. Even the worst part of our lives—the pain, grief, darkness, failures—can be gathered by Him and, in ways only God knows, be reclaimed, remade, and redeemed. We are never to lose hope.
What You See Is What You GetWhen Job saw God more clearly, he also began to see himself more clearly. When people discover the reality of God, they find the reality of themselves. NIV Jesus Bible, Commentary by Louie Giglio
Is Your God Grumpy?Is your God grumpy? Hope not, because who wants to worship a grumpy god? Psalm 100 points to a God we delight in. A psalm for giving grateful praise.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
What Delights Your Eye?We are drawn to what delights our eyes and for this reason it is prudent to understand how something so natural and simple as an admiring glance may lead to disaster. We have no control over what our eyes are drawn to. These are instinctive reactions embedded in our DNA and go as far back as our reptilian ancestors. On the flip side of instinct, we have a mind that can process what our eyes are drawn to and make conscious decisions about how to respond. In between, we have the ability to willfully acquire knowledge and skills that blend instinct with reason for the purpose of making better decisions. Consider Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:6); “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Eve’s eyes were instinctively drawn to the fruit of the tree. No harm there but she had already been commanded by God not to eat it and warned of the consequence of doing so. Nor did God say that the fruit would make her wise. The serpent, however, manipulated Eve’s reasoning by declaring—falsely—that the fruit would make her wise and, additionally, would make her like God. So, not only were Eve’s eyes drawn physically to the fruit, but mentally to what pleasure or benefit the fruit could produce. What is happening here? Eve heard God but listened to the serpent. She heard God but believed the serpent. Why? It is not for us to know why, but we can learn an important lesson. What delights the eye (and by extension draws us to all sorts of pleasures) is neither good nor bad; it is how we respond that results in good or bad. Is there a test we could easily apply to guide us to good vs. bad, right vs. wrong? There is. The test is simple: are we drawn to Christ or away from Him? Will our actions shine light upon His glory or condemnation upon ourselves? Do we obey or disobey? And when the temptation seems overwhelming, do we surrender to the delight or to our God? We can make tragic decisions without some form of spiritual filtering. Consider Herod who surrendered to the pleasure of his eyes resulting in the beheading of John the Baptist (Matthew 14). What filters are we given to temper what delights the eye with what delights our Lord? Here are two The psalmist gives us great insight: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 And the author of wisdom literature gives us great understanding: “Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:6 (View online page here)
What Is Your Heart’s True Desire?A thousand thoughts from a wide variety of sources assail you daily, seeking to persuade you of your heart’s true desire. Some sources may earnestly desire your benefit, but most will be from sources intending to manipulate, control, and lead you blindly into self-serving actions that only benefit their desires and motives. How may you identify your heart’s true desire? Psalm 37:4 shows us the way; “Take delight* in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” NIV *Enjoy, take pleasure in, serve
In Times Of Desperation, There Are Remarkably Few Questions That Matter, And Only One Thing We Thirst ForHaving depleted all resources, exhausted all options, having no strength left or inspiration to re-energize, what do we do now? Is it time? What now? Where to? How? What Assurances Have We? If you ask yourself any of these questions, look here.
What Now?Having depleted all resources, exhausted all options, having no strength left or inspiration to re-energize, what do we do now? How bleak is the cupboard of choices, how empty the pond of dreams, how dry the stream of ideas. “What now?” is an expression of desperation, cried out to no one in particular. It is a wishful anchor of voice-filled air with no holding power. Who listens and who is capable of a response? God listens. Has listened. Continues to listen. But more than merely listening, God has a response that has been available since creation and is ready to be grasped by us now. The response is, “I am, now.” “I am now your strength, your hope, your all. No longer must you depend upon yourself for what you do not have and cannot do alone. Now, trust me to fill your cupboard, to release the living waters of dreams, and fill the living pond of your life.
Last Will And TestamentI offer you my time, my calendar, my contact list, my social profile. But you desire more. Take my possessions, my bank account. Even more. Take my will. There is still more to offer. Take my failures, fears, insecurities, and dark thoughts. And when I have given all to you and have become empty, then only will I possess all, for you will fill all my needs and be my all. “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (Psalm 16:5-6 NIV)
Upon What Will You Build Your Life?We all appreciate, at least we would like to so think, the critical importance of building upon solid foundations. Yet, how often to do choose what is infirm or chip away at what already is? Too often. That is why these words are so important and desire constant attention: John 14:18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. NIV Mathew 28:20 I am with you always. NIV Hebrews 13:5-6 For He Himself has said “I will never let you go, nor will I by any means forsake you”, so that while being confident we say “The Lord is a helper for me and I will not fear. What will a human do to me?” Disciples Literal Translations Let us make this a daily prayer: Today I will build my approach to life—enthusiasm, courage, endurance, and tenacity—based on God’s assurances and not on my “worries, dread, and frailties” (Oswald Chambers). My approach will come from listening to God’s words, not mine.
Is Contentment Enough?You are going for a job interview. You have rehearsed responses to all the likely questions, seeking to impress with your drive, passion for results, and leadership qualities. You sense the interview is going favorably with only one more question remaining. Here it comes, and you are confident that you will hit it our of the ballpark. The question is, “What do you really want?” You respond with “I want to be content.” Whoops! The buzzer goes off, signaling the wrong answer. The expression on the interviewer’s face drops to a frown, and you feel as though you will be dropped into the dungeon of failed applicants as you hear the click of the trap door below your chair. Failed interview or the wisest response? The contemporary sense of being content implies lack of drive, a settling for less—hardly what organizations are looking for in a job applicant. Yet…what does contentment really mean and, though a word that might not be appropriate in an interview, might it be a worthy desire for a life well lived, an abundant life? Let’s approach this in three ways. Our starting point is Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” NIV Other translations expand on the love of money to include material things and covetousness (an inordinate desire often for another’s possessions). Next, what might the apostle Paul be thinking when he wrote the Letter To The Hebrews? Likely, he meant that Contentment does not mean that you are indifferent to your circumstances. It means that you are not controlled by your circumstances. Paul is not saying, “I don’t care whether I have an abundance or am in need.” He is saying, “My joy does not depend on it.” (Source: Openthebible.org) Another way to express this is that true contentment is a deep-seated sense of accepting who and where you are at any given moment. (Source: happify.com) And finally, where or how is contentment to be found? Paul’s secret to contentment is this: striving to do what God has called him to do in whatever circumstances he finds himself in. (Philippians 4:11-13) Hardly a statement of being satisfied with the status quo, it is an invigorating vision of working diligently and ceaselessly to glorify God with the gifts he has been blessed with. And there is one more facet to Pauls’ contentment—trust. A trust in God to provide in all circumstances. So, did you ace the interview? Depends on the interviewer.
Is It Time?“Is it time?” is a powerful question to ask ourselves and others. It is a question that implies a decision at the crossroads of change, that is, “is it time to change?” There are many levels of possible change. For example, at a basic level, is it time to change my hair style. Moving on, is it time to change my attitude. Ratcheting further, is it time to change my job? On the bookend of levels of change is this: is it time for God? “Is it time for God?” has many aspects. Is it time: For a higher power to enter my life? To surrender my will and be transformed? To trust, believe, and have faith in something beyond myself? To yield the care for someone in body, mind, and spirit? For strength, wisdom, and knowledge beyond my own? For light in darkness, living waters in a dry season? For peace, joy, healing, and serenity? There are certain things that only God can do, certain holes that only God can fill, and this is as it should be. We are finite. God is infinite. Let us pray. “Yes, Lord, it is time. Do for me (and others) what I cannot do myself.”
What Am I Chasing?Am I chasing peace and rest? Am I so busy and preoccupied with my quest that I don’t understand the futility of what I am doing? True peace and rest cannot be tackled and subdued, made subservient to my will. Rather, I must surrender myself to the chase and become the one who is overtaken. We are chased by the Spirit of God who offers us the only true peace and rest. The faster and more frantically I run that further I distance myself from my goal. Stop, O my soul, and be overtaken. What Does This Mean? There are events in life that cannot be understood; we have neither the language, experience, nor imagination to fit them comfortably into our human existence. The Apostles had such an experience on what we call The Day of Pentecost—the coming of the Holy Spirit. “And when the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all assembled together in one place, when suddenly there came a sound from heaven like the rushing of a violent tempest blast, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were separated and distributed and which settled on each one of them.” “Violent tempest blast. Tongues of fire.” What can we say about this? All the Apostles could say was, “What can this mean?” (Acts 2: 1-3, 12 from the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition) Indeed, what can we say when overshadowed by the power of God? When there are no words, when there is no meaning to comprehend, there remains worship. And that is all-sufficient.
I Want It AllI want it all. I get it all. Yet Christ says, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) How can this be? Having it all, I should be able to do it all. There should be nothing I cannot do or have. But this is not so. What is it that Christ offers that, apart from Him, I cannot have? It is a relationship. It is the relationship between the vine and the branches. It is a soul, a purpose, peace in all circumstances, and an eternal joy. It is Christ Himself, being in us and connecting us to the Father.
“What, Me Worry?”“What, Me Worry?” was the slogan used by a freckle-faced carton character, Alfred E. Neuman, for Mad magazine back in the 1960s. Neuman’s flippant expression reflected his cavalier approach to potentially stressful situations; he dismissed them with three simple words. If only a worry-free life were so simple. Christ makes, on first impression, a similarly overly simplistic statement about worry. He says, “Do not worry about tomorrow” (Matthew 6:34). But is it so simplistic as to be impractical? Let’s look at the Greek. The Greek word translated “to worry” literally means to be drawn in different directions. Distraction, uncertainty, competing priorities, and lack of direction come to mind. How can worry be tamed? Two ways. First, determine to set a single priority and focus energy not on multiple courses of action but on a single one. This is basic common sense and practical wisdom (such you will find in wisdom literature like Proverbs). Second, let your knowledge of (or seek the knowledge of) scripture to guide you in identifying your priority. We can go through life struggling with our finite resources of doing things or yoking ourselves to the infinite power of divine strength and guidance, offered freely and without cost. Here is sound advice from the Apostle Paul: … in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6) Life will never be totally free of worry but it need not tear us apart. Take these first steps toward a victory over worry.
God Blesses Prayer. Prayer Requires Persistence.This simple, logical sequence of thought may be so obvious as to be dismissed and in being dismissed we lose the full value of scripture. In one of the most quoted biblical translations (New International Version), Luke 11:10 reads, “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” At first glance, this appears to be an action-response, do it and get it now type of message, and to read it just in this way may be misleading. Other translations add words like “keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking. (Voice translation.) Similarly, the International Children’s Bible emphasizes the word “continues,” and the New International Readers Version adds the word “searches,” which implies a continuation. Perhaps the fullest translation is from the Amplified Bible as follows: “For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened.” Not be ignored is the emphasis on three actions, not just one, further implying that a simple, one-time effort is not enough; we are to ask and seek and knock. So, what is the essence of this message? It is simply this: pray often and without ceasing to receive the abundance of God’s blessings.
What’s Wrong With This Picture?This is a common expression. It is a rhetorical question, usually sarcastic in tone, meaning something isn’t right or is unfair. Let’s put it into a more practical context. For any picture (meaning any situation), imagine Christ asking “What’s wrong here? Where am I in this picture?” Is Christ in all our pictures? Only He can make what is wrong, right.
Your Personal Trainer And Life ManualIt’s the Bible. We must become spiritually fit. 1 Timothy 4:7 Don’t waste time arguing over foolish ideas and silly myths and legends. Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit. The Living Bible 2 Timothy 3:16-17 The Bible is your personal trainer and life manual. The whole Bible[a] was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right. 17 It is God’s way of making us well prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone. The Living Bible
The Moment Life Is About To ChangeThere comes a time when you decide to choose Christ. This changes everything. There also comes a time when to witness amounts to this: to suggest to someone that now is the time to make a choice. Choose God and let Him help you, or go it alone. These are precious times.
The Gift Of “If”One of Christ’s greatest gifts is the gift of “if,” which is the gift of choice. He never commands us with the forceful or dogmatic “you must,” (though some may interpret it as such), but dignifies us with the invitation to choose: life or dead, blessing or curse, follow or go alone. Even The Ten Commandments, Given by God to Moses for the benefit of the Hebrew people, are less the demands and dictates they seem but more like instructions how to live in relation to the God who chose them, now that they are no longer under the thumb of Pharaoh and slaves to Egyptian gods. The tragic history of the Hebrew people, and all societies at all times, demonstrates the freedom of the “if” and the consequence of choosing against God.
Reaching Out To GodHow do we find a God that is spirit and truth? Acts 17:27 makes a startling statement to suggest that God is almost palpable, touchable. Luke, the presumed author, writes “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” “Reach out (NIV)” in Greek is translated to touch, handle. Other translations use the expressions feel, grasp, and grope. When considered with the words, “he is not far from any one of us,” we may conclude that God desires to be found, is not a hide-an-seek God, or a remote God. How does one touch spirit or feel truth? This is the mystery that is God, and we are promised that it is possible. We need only to make the effort.
What Good Is An Unknown God?What good is an unknown god? What good is a god that lives in shrines made by human hands and requires service by the same human hands? And what good is a god of gold, or silver, or stone—an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals? There is no good in such a god. In contrast, how much more is a god who made the world and everything it, who is lord of heaven and earth, and does not require shrines or service by human hands? How much greater is this god that gives life and breath to all mortals and all things? Such is a God truly worthy of being known and worshipped. Such a God is not far from each one of us. In fact, this God abides in us, lives in us, and is known to us through His Son. We are the offspring of this known God. Acts: 17:22-31
Is There A Greater Desire Than To Be Adopted Into God’s Splendor?Today I will attempt what is impossible through my own powers but what is made possible by the love of God, and that is to grasp the all-encompassing Good News presented in Ephesians and what it means to be adopted by God, sought after by God, and redeemed by God. Ephesians 1:18 …and this is my prayer. That God, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ and the all-glorious Father, will give you spiritual wisdom and the insight to know more of him: that you may receive that inner illumination of the spirit which will make you realise how great is the hope to which he is calling you—the magnificence and splendour of the inheritance promised to Christians—and how tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God. Phillips Bible Today I will walk to God’s altar believing that what awaits me is far greater than what I can possibly imagine or desire.
How Do You Comprehend God?Astronomers announced (May 11, 2023) the largest cosmic explosion ever witnessed. It was traced to 8bn light years away. That’s 8 billion times 6 trillion miles, or more zeros that I could fit in my SUV. How do you comprehend this? The easiest way is to ignore it, like we ignore God, for who can truly comprehend God? But, if Genesis is to be believed and we are called to use our minds and not send them to pasture, we must come to grips with something that is beyond our beyond. I know of no other way than to give glory to the God of creation and marvel at the mystery, not try to explain it or cast it aside. So we are left with this magnificent statement: 1 Colossians 16 For through him (Christ) God created everything in heaven and on earth, the seen and the unseen things, including spiritual powers, lords, rulers, and authorities. God created the whole universe through him and for him. Good News Translation
Give Me A HeartGive me a heart to believe, that I may obey you, for you have commanded it. Give me a heart to believe, that I may please you, for you have said that is what you desire. Give me a heart to believe, that I may honor you, for you have declared that this gives glory to you. —David Clarkson From Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans, by Robert Elmer
We Forget To RememberCharles Spurgeon draws our attention to the fact that we are more likely to remember “poisonous weeds” — the negative aspects and events of life — than the most beautiful and beneficial ones. This human tendency leaves us drained rather than refreshed. Christ commanded “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24) not for His benefit but for ours. Though this command referred to His Last Supper institution of what is called The Great Thanksgiving, it is well for us to daily remember that all good things come from God. (Charles Spurgeon Morning And Evening Devotional for April 26)
What Makes Your Heart Burn?We risk living a life without meaning If we don’t know the answer to this question. Enflamed emotions, burning passions, and scorching desires are not hearts that burn. There is only one source. Luke 24:32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
God Is MoreThree words that hold the key to all situations when we think of or experience less. Here are some of the words of “less:” never, hopeless, exhausted, can’t, impossible, not me, if, why, how, defeated, failure. The God of creation, of miracles, of mercy, of forgiveness, of never failing light is always more than the problems and limits we experience or impose on ourselves. We need know anything beyond these three words.
A Prayer For Those Experiencing Crushing SadnessIt is our privilege to pray for you and your family. On the top of the list, of course, is for the miracle of healing. Miracles, however, do not come “on-demand”. There are blessings, though, that do come on-demand and may be considered miracles of their own. Here are those we pray for you: Strength for the journey Courage in the face of daily battles Hope where despair dominates Tenacity to look overwhelming challenges in the eye Light in the darkness Endurance to stay the course A rock to perch above the turmoil A hand to grasp for support A yoke to share burdens For music within when the storm is outside
The WayWhich way? Where are we going? How do we get there? We ask these questions throughout life and look for directional signs. But these signs are often missing, misleading, or hard to understand. There is, however, a way to move forward with confidence to a good place. In John 14, Jesus is telling his disciples that He has the ultimate destination planned for them and that they know the way to it. Thomas responds with basically these words: “We don’t know where or the how.” (Verse 5) Jesus counters with “I am the way and the truth and the life.” What is the full understanding of Christ’s words and how may they be applied in life? It is this: It is unequivocally certain—an absolute truth—that the the fullness of life comes from following Christ—THE WAY. This was not a one-time directive to a specific location but an overarching message to be applied throughout life, at all times, and under all conditions. It is so like Christ; we ask for a simple remedy and He gives us an entire pharmacy. We ask for directions to a specific location and are given a map of the world. We ask for a cup of cold water and are given an overflowing fountain. Life, in all its fullness, is what Christ desires for us. Trust Him, follow Him to this abundant life.
Who Is Your Companion?We are given life through no means of our own. What are we to think of it? I think of it as a grand invitation to eventually live in the presence of our creator in all his glory. At any point in our journey through life we may be tempted, and often are, to reject this invitation if favor of other invitations that are centered on living without God. How are we to know that we are on the correct path? Ask yourself, ”who is my companion?” If your companion is Christ then you will be led to the Father, regardless of where you are.
Do You Have A “Return-To-Home” Button?My drone has a “return-to-home” button on its remote controller that, when activated, signals and guides the drone to return to its launch site. This is both a convenience and safety feature; it is easy to lose site of the drone and not know how to navigate it back home. What about a return-to-home button for our lives, especially our spiritual lives? We often stay from our spiritual home and don’t know exactly how to return. The Bible is our button. It teaches us where are true home lies. Faith activates it.
Purify The HeartWhat must be purified in our lives and how may this be accomplished? If it is pride or any other vice, start with the heart. From a parable: “My son, hear the word of wisdom; if thou art wrong, seek not to correct thine outward life, but seek first to get thy heart correct, for out of it are the issues of life, and thy life shall be pure when once thy heart is so.” So if we would get rid of pride, we should not proceed to arrange our dress by adopting some special costume, or to qualify our language by using an outlandish tongue; but let us seek of God that he would purify our hearts from pride, and then assuredly, if pride is purged from the heart, our life also shall be humble. Make the tree good, and then the fruit shall be good; make the fountain pure, and the stream shall be sweet.” From https://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/words-of-wisdom/ “What is pride?”
Do Not Pass Over The Meaning Of PassoverThe Jewish Feast of Passover is over. Holy Week, in which Christ’s Passover on Good Friday was celebrated, has ended with Easter. Is the meaning done and gone? Redemption. Freedom from bondage. These are the messages to carry through the year.
Angelic MessengersThere are times when we may feel so utterly undone, so completely drained, and without any hope. But there is always hope and it may come in the most unexpected way. Luke 22:42-43 Father, remove this cup from me. But please, not what I want. What do you want?” At once an angel from heaven was at his side, strengthening him.”
ChainsWe sit too often like chained eagles fastened to the rock, only that, unlike the eagle, we begin to love our chain, and would, perhaps, if it came really to the test, be loath to have it snapped. Charles Spurgeon in Morning and Evening Devotionals
Now Is The TimeNow is the time…for what? What really matters? What must you do? What must you drop and pick up in its place? This is not about what you would like to do or even should do; what must you do? Lent calls us to the musts of living. What is calling you now?
HealingToday I will acknowledge that we all need healing and that we cannot heal ourselves. Our healing comes from Christ’s substitutionary atonement, our soul’s true life from His physical pain and death. With this comes the privilege of sacrificial intercessory prayer for the healing of others.
Intercessory PrayerIntercessory prayer—a form of worship—may lift you up to the mind of God for the ones for whom you pray. Become so energized and please Him for putting others first.Philippians 2:13 “because God is energizing you so that you will desire and do what always pleases Him.” NIV
The Limits Of UnderstandingToday I will not dismiss the fathomless, incalculable love of God simply because it is beyond understanding. Rather, I will worship, adore, pray, love–all these and more–to begin to chip away at my lack of understanding. And I will work in tandem with God for it is by God’s grace that it will come to me. Ephesians 3:19“…to know this love that surpasses knowledge…” NIV
CowardiceIt takes courage to confess being a coward but too often I am. So today I will confess my cowardice in standing up for Christ, for the many times I have abandoned Him when I could have proclaimed Him in word or deed, for being a paper disciple. Yet, I am powerless to be stronger. So I pray the Holy Spirit to strengthen me in love and commitment.
PainRick Warren (with an assist from Paul) has given me a new perspective on pain. Where once it was to ignore, minimize, and hopefully avoid pain—mine and the pain of those I love and care for—, now I see that there is a redemptive power in it. (To avoid being hypocritical, I confess that it is easier for me to write about pain than to experience it.) Warren entreats us: “I beg you not to waste your pain; don’t waste your hurt.” What does he mean? He means that how we live with and attack pain affects us and those around us; it becomes our “deepest life message.” We have these critical choices to make. Will I fight pain with endurance and tenacity or surrender, that is, will my actions support others? Will I us use my pain to awaken compassion for others suffering the same pain? Will I look for the goodness and love in others who try to comfort me (and this includes relatives, friends, healthcare professionals, and those who pray for me), or be oblivious and unresponsive, meaning ungrateful? Warren calls us to look outward toward others, not inward, as we consider our response to pain. In one of life’s great mysteries, as we tend to others we nurse ourselves. “I beg you not to waste your pain; don’t waste your hurt. People all around you are going through the very thing you’ve already gone through, and they need your help. They need you to comfort them.” 2 Corinthians 6:4 “in every way we demonstrate that we are God’s servants by tremendous endurance in the midst of difficulties, hardships, and calamities;” International Standard Version A final thought. Pain and suffering bring us into the frontline battle with good vs. evil; good because we can reach out to God for comfort, strength, and endurance; evil because Satan can use pain to drive us from God.
Lord, What Is Man?If inclined to boast of our abilities, the grandeur of nature may soon show us how puny we are. We cannot move the least of all the twinkling stars, or quench so much as one of the beams of the morning. We speak of power, but the heavens laugh us to scorn. When the Pleiades shine forth in spring with vernal joy we cannot restrain their influences, and when Orion reigns aloft, and the year is bound in winter’s fetters, we cannot relax the icy bands. The seasons revolve according to the divine appointment, neither can the whole race of men effect a change therein. Lord, what is man? Charles Spurgeon Morning and Evening Devotionals, on Job 38
What Is Your Return On Life?Background: If you haven’t yet heard of the concept “return on investment” or ROI you will. It’s a basic idea that you use all the time, often without realizing it. For example, you say to yourself “what will I get if I do this or that?” In business, you would ask how much profit you will make if you invest a certain amount of money. It’s all about the return on your investment. There’s a bigger picture than ROI and it’s Return On Life-ROL. This involves your investment in time, energy, emotions, character, and everything you possess. And returns come in many forms: joy, fulfillment, peace, contentment. So, here’s today’s question: what are you investing in to get the highest return on your life?
FaithFaith links me with divinity. Faith clothes me with the power of God. Faith engages on my side the omnipotence of Jehovah. Faith ensures every attribute of God in my defense. It helps me to defy the hosts of hell. It makes me march triumphant over the necks of my enemies. But without faith how can I receive anything of the Lord? Spurgeon, Morning and Evening Devotionals
Gifts“The source of our strengths and abilities and gifts is not within ourselves. We possess these gifts, we exercise them, we can if we wish rejoice in them, but we must always remember that their source lies in God.” Prayers for the Breaking of Bread, Herbert O’Driscoll
What Is True Religion?True religion can use the power of God to connect us in the service of others so that our joy is enhanced and our sorrows are lessened, our strength is renewed in times of exhaustion, and our paths are illuminated in times of darkness. Any religion that does less is not worthy of you or your God.
Christ Is The Master RecyclerWe recycle many things: paper, plastic, metal, water. Airplanes recycle air to purify it. Recycling is good economically—it saves money and costly resources—and morally, in the sense that all of creation is precious and we are not to wantonly waste it. What about lives? Are lives recyclable? Of course they are, and Christ is the master recycler. Consider words we find in the Bible like Redeemer and Savior. All point to reclaiming, reusing, and restoring our lives from what we could consider as wasted, depleted, or of no value to the perfection that faith promises. We are told that Christ is in us and we in him. We are told that the Holy Spirit lives within us. And we are told that God so loved us that he gave His Son so that we would not perish. These are the ultimate statements that, regardless of our condition at this moment or any moment in the future, we can be recycled—remade—gloriously into the person He desires us to be.
Where Is Your Center?Where is your center, the core “you”? What determines who you are, what you do, and what you become? What or who do you trust, consult for guidance, and go to for comfort? What are the values at your core? Truth, faith, humility, integrity? As you can see, your center determines everything. It’s like gravity. It pulls everything together and keeps it whole. What would happen if your center weakened or was not powerful or sufficient for you? Think of what happens when a ball you are spinning is released; it flies away. And so could everything that is important to you. Gravity is a constant force. It never varies. It never changes. You can always depend on it. Your center needs to be the gravity of your life. So think about your center. What it is. And if it is a person.
The Slippery SlopeYou’ve heard this expression. It means a bad situation or habit that, after it has started, is likely to get very much worse; you slip further, harder, faster to an undesirable outcome. Charles Spurgeon (Morning and Evening devotional), in his unique voice, paints a vivid picture of the slippery slope of small sins in our daily lives. “So we palliate sin; we throw a cloak over it; we call it by dainty names. Christian, beware how thou thinkest lightly of sin. Take heed lest thou fall by little and little. Sin, a little thing? Is it not a poison? Who knows its deadliness? Sin, a little thing? Do not the little foxes spoil the grapes? Doth not the tiny coral insect build a rock which wrecks a navy? Do not little strokes fell lofty oaks? Will not continual droppings wear away stones? Sin, a little thing? It girded the Redeemer’s head with thorns, and pierced his heart! It made him suffer anguish, bitterness, and woe. Could you weigh the least sin in the scales of eternity, you would fly from it as from a serpent, and abhor the least appearance of evil.”
Face The Reality
Today I will affirm one of the realities of life: it is short and full of sorrows. With this in mind, the Christian response is the most practical and satisfying: live it fully with Christ as the core.
A Personal MissionDo you have a personal mission statement? Is it filled with grandiose goals (as mine was)? Compare it with that of Harold Kushner. Kushner is the author of over a dozen books, the first of which was When Bad Things Happen To Good People. A rabbi, one might expect his mission statement to include growing his congregation, building a school, or leading a worldwide ministry. In Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned About Life, we see a very different mission. Though not specifically stated as his mission, and more a reflection upon what his life evolved into, here is a statement that puts my mission statement to utter shame: To recognize when people hurt and to be given (by the Source) the language to ease their pain. Although such a statement is not unexpected from a rabbi, priest, minister or other ordained individual, it serves as a huge fork in the road of one’s life direction—that is, to focus on oneself or on others. How different life would have been, and still may be, when focused on others.
Have We Lost The Majesty of God?In his book, Knowledge of The Holy, A.W. Tozer writes, “The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go a long way to curing them.” The world and our lives are full of problems; a cure is highly desirable. Complete article here.
More Reasons Why We Need GodFrom no one else can we receive unlimited grace and mercy. Because no one is good enough and we cannot make ourselves good. Only God removes the indelible stains of guilt, fear, regret, despair, and hopelessness. Only God lifts the spirits of those who are caught in the mire of life, whose resources are depleted. Only God defends against us against the attacks we all experience on our self-worth and acceptance.
What Can We Learn From The Philistines, The Ancient Enemy Of The Israelites?The Philistines were an existential threat to the Israelites. They wished to dominate and eliminate them. It was a great war that ancient Israel faced against a powerful, merciless enemy. Today we face the Philistines of evil in many forms, seeking to devour our faith. How do we meet this enemy? Charles Spurgeon, who coined the expression “Philistines of evil”, offer this advice in his morning devotional for March 2: 1. Every weapon within our reach must be used. Preaching, teaching, praying, giving, all must be brought into action 2. Each moment of time, in season or out of season; each fragment of ability, educated or untutored; each opportunity…must be used 3. Most of our tools want sharpening; we need quickness of perception, tact, energy, promptness, in a word, complete adaptation for the Lord’s work. 4. This morning let us note enough to sharpen our zeal during this day by the aid of the Holy Spirit.
Drop The AppleWe all know—at least to some degree—the story of Adam, Eve, and THE APPLE, the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3). They saw the apple, they even held the apple, but even at this point they had not yet eaten the apple. Life lures us in many ways to the forbidden fruit, as Adam and Eve were lured. Satanic forces may persuade us to grasp it. But here the choice remains. Drop it; don’t bite the apple.
Please Help YourselfWe often hear this expression when we are at a meal. The host will say “please help yourself’’ meaning take whatever you want to satisfy your hunger; “there is no limit and I delight in all that you take.” “Please help yourself” may also be an expression of surrender to Christ. In any place, at any time, and in any situation we may pray, “Lord, help yourself to my life.”
TruthTruth may be as simple as “knowing him.” If you have ever searched for truth or pondered it, as I have and continue to do, you may have experienced my frustration. Its allure is great but capturing it is something else. Is the truth about truth so obvious as to be hidden in plain sight? Life seems so complicated; can truth be simplified? Chris Eyte may have drawn the veil from complexity of discovering truth with these words: “I think the truth is simply summarized in two words: Know Him. Knowing Jesus means knowing life in all its fullness.” Truth—life in all its fullness, found only in Him. https://hislovefrees.wordpress.com/ Read more from Chris Eyte.
ChangeChange is one of the most desired actions and one of the most difficult to obtain. This is true for both small and great change. Like so many other positive desires, it many require a power beyond ourselves. When we run out of personal resources, let us reach out to God’s divine power. “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.” 2 Peter 1:3 New Living Translation
ContentmentRich Warren writes, “by nature no one is contented! It is not natural to be contented. But it is mature to be contented.” In the context of today’s world, contentment has the connotation of accepting less than you are capable of, perhaps being lazy, and certainly not being a mover and shaker. These are hardly terms of high esteem and positive self-worth. But perhaps today’s world has got it wrong. So let’s look at several sources of discontentment; envy, jealousy, resentment, ingratitude, and above all—comparing. Does anyone want this? In contrast, let’s examine how the Bible sheds light on contentment from the classic translation of Ecclesiastes 6:9, King James Version: “Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.” The Good News Translation is: “It is better to be satisfied with what you have than to be always wanting something else.” A further translation is: Better is the sight of the eyes [the enjoyment of what is available to one] than the cravings of wandering desire. This is also vanity (emptiness, falsity, and futility) and a striving after the wind and a feeding on it! Amplified Bible, Classic Edition Vexation. Always wanting. Futility. If these reflect the absence of contentment, isn’t contentment something to be desired? A question we could ask is, “Would God intentionally steer us from something that is good, wholesome, and beneficial?” In other words, is contentment a goal that God seeks for us? The answer to this question will determine whether we find contentment (a long-lasting feeling accompanied by peacefulness, gratitude and satisfaction) or face an incessant striving without end that can never be satisfied. As Warren points out, to seek contentment is not natural. It is a gift from God. To seek, to pray for it is spiritual maturity.
Arise From The DeadToday I will arise from the dead, that is, jolt myself out of the deadness of being apart from Christ. I will take the initiative to connect with Christ and receive His life force to face life’s challenges. What I cannot do myself can be done when Christ gives me His power. But that power cannot be accepted until I admit my powerlessness. Ephesians 5:14 “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” NIV
Love On Valentine’s DayToday is Valentine’s Day and it is appropriate to consider love. Isn’t the buying of cards, flowers, and other gifts on this day stoked by love? What, then, is love? Without the concept and belief in a God of love who, out of love created and continues to sustain us, what are we left with? Chemical reactions in the body that transfer electrical impulses through neurons to the brain which are interpreted as…something? It’s hardly satisfying, though possible if you follow this line of thought, that poor digestion in my gut may, in some way, affect my ability to experience love. On the other hand, if God is love and if God is beyond our comprehension, then love is beyond our comprehension. Where does this leave us? It leaves us to ponder a mystery and, though unfathomable, draws us with an invisible magnetism toward a source of joy that cannot be fully expressed with words (and certainly not with flowers and cards). “God is love” is not a cliché. It is what makes our incomplete sense of love priceless.
Dwell In PeaceWhen my mind is filled with shrapnel-like thoughts—piecing, confusing, too many to confront at once—Lord help me to duck for cover behind the skills you have given me (and those only you provide) and decide which ones need to be addressed (and in what order) and which ones I can let fly over my head harmlessly. Help me to dwell in your peace.
Is Today Your Third Day?The third day: Christ has been crucified, along with misguided beliefs in how the Messiah’s kingdom will arrive, and the resurrection has not been observed. What have I been hoping or trusting God would do? Is today “my third day” and has God still not done what I expected, begged or prayed for? Am I then justified to reject God? (Inspired by Oswald Chambers “Spiritual Dejection”) There are “third days” in every life, the time between shattered expectations and joyful newness. These may be moments, years, or even decades. But joyful newness does come on the wings of faith and prayer in the form of a blessing, a mercy, or grace—perhaps in a form or manner that could not possibly be anticipated. The disciples’ third day came as prophesied and as Christ promised. They and the world were forever changed. And so we will be when our third day arrives. Luke 24:21 “…but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.” NIV
The Power Of TurningThere are many things in life to be saved from: disaster, ruin, heartbreak, despair, and much, much more. These are the things of life; they are inescapable. God is with us, if we choose, to overcome them or at least to deal with them. They may require immense effort and time There is one thing, however, that can be instantaneous and ludicrously easy and that is being saved for eternity with God. Isaiah 45:22 “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. NIV This is salvation and it is already done—accomplished through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ; we have merely to ask for it. It is like reaching into a closet and pulling out a royal garment. This is what is meant by “Turn to me and be saved.”
How Near Is God?God is not just near us—He is with us. He is so with us that He is in us. John 16:20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (The day Christ comes to the disciples after the resurrection.) With this assurance, let us approach each day and all its challenges with confidence, hope, and a friend who will never leave us. God is with all these people. There is no place, no condition, no situation where God is not with us. The drowning The dead The sick The ostracized The thief The leper The hungry The lame The blind The deaf The defeated The commoner The betrayer The possessed The poor The doubter The unbeliever The religious outcast The sinner Even the wise, the powerful, the religious Background Jesus is called Immanuel. The Hebrew name “Immanuel” literally means “God is with us”. “The reference to this name comes from the prophet Isaiah who first foretold of a virgin or young women conceiving and bearing a child. As the prophet says, this child will be named “Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). In Isaiah’s day the kingdom of Judah was under threat. The promise that God gives through the prophet of a child named Immanuel was meant as a sign that God was with them…” (Benjamin Johnson in https://www.news-journal.com)
“I Can Fix This.”Focus on His promise. Push through your fear.
Is It Time To Surrender?God seeks us relentlessly. We resist him incessantly. He will never surrender. The question is, will we.
How To Recover Your LifeServe God, not yourself. Here is a self-help message from Matthew 11:28. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Message Bible
Who Or What Is Your Master?Is food, or clothes, or anything else that sustains the body your master? Our bodies were made for us to live to God and not to be our master. How then shall we live to God? I will use both heart and mind; the heart to prioritize my relationship with God and the mind to objectively deal with day-to-day worries so that they do not lead to anxiety and destroy my trust in God. Yes, I have my mind to help with managing the jungles of life, to deal with issues and to do responsible planning, but not to be so focused on things far into the future or beyond our control or even relevant to our lives that I live in perpetual poverty, especially the poverty of faith. God desires me—us—to live, not just to exist. Matthew 6:25 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? NIV
HopeWhat Is The One Indispensable Thing Without Which We Cannot Live And Make Sense Of Life? Might it be Hope? Not the wishful thinking kind but one of confident expectation. What might this hope look like, what form could it take? A friend, companion who listens without judgement, walks alongside without leaving? A calming sense that there is something greater than my own powers, which are proving too weak, and which I may call upon? A guiding light that leads, not pushes from behind? A solution that I cannot imagine but which exists? What does hope look like to you?
Trust And AbundanceIf we believe that we have a God of abundance, And if we are asked to trust God for our abundance, Then we must first define what abundance means to us. It may be other than what we expect. Here are some contenders for our abundance. Relationships Contentment Fulfillment Purpose Wisdom Peace Joy Philippians 4:12-13 says, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (New International Version) The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 4:6, “It is better to have only a little, with peace of mind, than be busy all the time with both hands, trying to catch the wind.” (Good News Translation) What do you hunger for, thirst for? What is the nature of your abundance? Once discovered, can you trust God to provide?
The Whispered LieThe whispered lie: subtle, disguised, nagging. Holding onto our thoughts like a thistle brier on a woolen sweater, hardly noticed but difficult to remove. Tenacious, digging deeper into the fabric of our minds. A seemingly insignificant intrusion that commands increasing attention. This is Satan, at times a roaring lion seeking to devour, but now the great deceiver at his most cunning. What lies are Satan whispering to you? On your low self-esteem, lack of personal merit, poor social acceptance? Or perhaps lies of over bloated self-accomplishment and self-sufficiency. In the confusion of mind—what to believe, what to discard—do you run headlong into the thistle patch, getting pricked by more and more lies? Stop. Slow down your mind. Use the gift of God’s Scripture, His literature of wisdom such as Proverbs, to discern truth. Use the power of the resurrected Christ to replace lies with truth, the truth of His precious love for you. Accept the grace of God to scrub your mind of the lies that exist. And use the polished armor of the Spirit to push through the thorny field of lies through which you will inevitably travel. Deflect the whispered lie with the trumpeted truth. Good Debt And Bad Debt There are two kinds of debt: good and bad. Bad debt suffocates and destroys. Good debt humbles and builds. “The more thou hast, the more thou art in debt to God.” (Charles H. Spurgeon-Morning and Evening.) On the balance sheet of life, we are aways in debt. This is good debt and realizing this destroys false pride and opens our hearts to the bounty of grace we have received.
How Not To Be Consumed A simple 3-part action plan for survival:“…replace your panic with prayer, your worry with worship, and your anxiety with adoration, focus less on what social media and the news and other people are saying and more on God’s unchanging truth. -Rick Warren The Devil’s Martyrs We are familiar with the first martyr, Stephen, a martyr for Christ. His death witnessed for God. What is a devil’s martyr? This expression, coined by Harold Kushner in his book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, defines a devil’s martyr as someone whose response to the “bad things that happen to good people” witnesses against God. Kushner makes this critical distinction; it is not the event (however tragic or painful it is), but our reaction to the event. Bad things can leave us confused, angry, unable to think rationally. This is natural, it’s how we are built. We have a choice how to respond. Our choice may depend upon calling for God’s strength, mercy, and blessings to choose for Him, not against Him. Reject Any Plan That… “Reject any plan that promises to make men richer without making them holier.” Life of Christ by Fulton J. Sheen Proverbs 16:9 We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. New Living Translation The things we truly thirst for, are built for, and which nourish us to our spiritual core may be promised by others but only God can promise and deliver. Seduced By Service Service may be a true expression of our commitment to “love our neighbor” but there is a downside to it, if it becomes its own god. Hear what Oswald Chambers has to say. “The greatest competitor of true devotion to Jesus is the service we do for Him. It is easier to serve than to pour out our lives completely for Him. The goal of the call of God is His satisfaction, not simply that we should do something for Him. We are not sent to do battle for God, but to be used by God in His battles. Are we more devoted to service than we are to Jesus Christ Himself?” (My Utmost For His Highest) As someone who, by nature, is more inclined to process than people, I must continually tear myself from doing and focus on relating. It is the relationship that matters. Finding Rest Find your rest in the knowledge that all needs are satisfied, all calls for help answered, and all uncleanliness removed for we have an all-powerful God, an all-loving savior, and an all-knowing Spirit to lead, defend, and sustain us. Isaiah 6:7 “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” NIV Why Pray? How have you responded to the Damar Hamlin story? The instinctive urge to pray that surrounded (and continues to surround) the players, football fans, national audience, and media in the Damar Hamlin event of January 7—in which he suffered life-threatening cardiac arrest on the football field and is now in recovery, tweeting that God is using him in a different way—tells us many things about where God and prayer live in our lives. If science was sufficient to save Damar, why pray? If the skill of medical personnel was sufficient, why pray? If we are creatures without a soul, just a random alignment of molecules, why pray? If our minds could make sense of life in all its manifestations, why pray? When we are absolutely dumbfounded and shaken to our core, where else to turn than to prayer? The urge to pray is embedded in us and comes from a creator God who beckons us to speak to Him so that we may find—beyond any resources of our own making—comfort, understanding, strength, endurance, and the tenacity to live when life doesn’t work out the way we think it should. Prayer is one way we speak to Him. Slipping Away From God In this simple, four-line poem, we discover how easily we can slip away from God. Satan, it seems, does not have to attack us boldly to create cracks in our faith. He can use little things. Beware. “At first, it seems a little thing, A want unmet, a prayer unwinged. Voiceless, it interrogates the King, When sounded, Lucifer sings.” —Greg Morse Posted by John Piper on his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/desiringGod How Good Am I At Carrying Crosses? Simon’s planned journey to the celebration of Passover was jarringly interrupted by a totally unexpected life event. How would I respond when life interrupts my plans, when the Roman soldiers of life grab me and force me to carry the crossbeam of burden? Who will help me with my cross? How will I respond when life interrupts my neighbors’ plans. Will I offer to help carry their cross? Luke 23:26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. NIV How To Experience Our Inscrutable God Our God is beyond comprehension. Rather than fumble with inadequate thoughts, let feelings control: reverential awe, majesty, royal splendor, awesome power veiled by impenetrable clouds and thick darkness. Yet, while He is inscrutable, we know Him fully and intimately through His Son. Don’t Leave The Same Way You Arrived Life is about change and transformation. We notice this in our earthly lives and it is especially important for our spiritual lives. This is why one lesson from the story of the wise men, who, upon interpreting the movement of stars, travel from the West to Jerusalem to worship the newborn King of the Jews, is particularly important. Matthew 2:12 Then they returned to their country by another road, since God had warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod. NIV It is easy and comfortable to retrace our steps and return to the status quo after journeying. Some journeys, however, may introduce profound change into our lives and it is these journeys that compel us to move in new, not old, directions. The journey of the wise men was such a journey. They encountered the Savior. We, too, encounter the Savior throughout our lives. Do we recognize Him? Worship? Offer gifts? Does He change our lives? Had the wise men returned to Herod, history would have been changed forever. It is interesting to note that, though they were described as “wise”, (and some traditions hold that they were royalty), they did not discern Herod’s motive, which was to destroy, not honor, the newborn king. When we encounter profound events that can meaningly change our lives, (encountering our Lord in any way), it is to our benefit to reassess where we were and where we need to go. There are spiritual dangers to ignore what God is expressing to us, to rely solely on our understanding. Don’t leave from such encounters the same way you arrived. Move forward with a new, lively faith.
What Friendship Really Means This is what Christ meant of friendship: a close intimacy of thought, heart, and spirit; never lonely, never lacking for understanding or compassion, living in “strong, calm sanity.” (Chambers). More so, our minds and souls have been opened to the will of the Father.John 15:15 I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. KJV We Live Between Two Worlds We live between the spiritual world of God and the physical world as we know it. This shapes our daily decisions; which world do we choose? Abram, before he was given the name Abraham by God, reflects the tension between the spiritual and the physical/temporal. Genesis 12:8 After that, he moved on south to the hill country east of the city of Bethel and set up his camp between Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There also he built an altar and worshiped the Lord. Good News Translation Bethel in Hebrew means house of God. Ai represents a city in ruins. We pitch our lives daily between these two extremes. Only from one do blessings flow. The Irresistible Call Are we at the place yet when the call to follow Him is irresistible? What will it take? For Peter, is was when “he came completely to the end of himself and all of his self–sufficiency.” (Oswald Chambers, My Greatest For His Highest, January 5) John 21:19 “Follow me.” How Well Do We Know Ourselves? Do we know ourselves better than Peter knew himself when he said, “I will lay my life down for you?” (John 13:37) For me, the safest path is to admit that I don’t know myself well enough to make claims of faith and to ask the Holy Spirit to search me and show me where I fall short of the relationship I need with Christ, a way of living to sustain me day-by-day. Psalm 139:23 “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:” (KJV) “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life.” (Message Bible) Worship Everything looks larger the closer it is viewed. Worship brings me closer to God and I need a bigger God; the bigger my God, the smaller my problems, the lesser my worries, the stronger my faith and the greater my joy. Do You Know What God Is Going To Do? “Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do— He reveals to you who He is” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, January 2) New Year-New Person G.K. Chesterton was on to something important when he wrote, “The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul…” What is the value of a new year if it is not a new, better, changed “me”? And change begins in the heart of the soul. (New Year’s Day 2023) Drink For The Thirsty Soul For his New Year’s Eve morning devotional, Charles Spurgeon writes about drink for the thirsty soul. What a marvelous way to be lead into the new year to know where and how God freely, generously, and earnestly leads us to quench all the thirsts of our lives. “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, if any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” John 7:37 (KJV) “Provision is made most plenteously; all is provided that man can need to quench his soul’s thirst. To his conscience the atonement brings peace; to his understanding the gospel brings the richest instruction; to his heart the person of Jesus is the noblest object of affection; to the whole man the truth as it is in Jesus supplies the purest nutriment. Thirst is terrible, but Jesus can remove it. Though the soul were utterly famished, Jesus could restore it. “Proclamation is made most freely, that every thirsty one is welcome. No other distinction is made but that of thirst. Whether it be the thirst of avarice, ambition, pleasure, knowledge, or rest, he who suffers from it is invited.” (https://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/morning-and-evening/today ) The Accident Of Heredity “It is the saddest thing to see people in the service of God depending on that which the grace of God never gave them, depending on what they have by the accident of heredity.” What Oswald Chambers (My Upmost For His Highest) means is that what we are naturally born with can take us only so far in God’s service. The grace of God, underserved but freely given, takes us to a higher level of service. We need only to ask for it, and it will be ours. Why settle for a lower level of service? Beyond Knowledge First comes data. From data we get information. Information leads to learning. Then, if we work at it, learning becomes knowledge. But knowledge is not the end. There is higher knowledge. Higher knowledge does not refer to what we do for ourselves but what can only be obtained as a gift from a higher power. John 15:5 “…apart from me you can do nothing” This thought guides us to an understanding of higher knowledge. It is the knowledge that lifts us up, gives us strength, and directs us alongs paths of hope that are impossible without a relationship with Christ. Higher knowledge is a relationship. Mere knowledge is nothing. Higher knowledge is all.
How Small Must We Go? This is an image of a snowflake. How small must we go to recognize the Hand of God in creation?When Our Eyes, Ears, And Mind Are Not Enough While it may be natural to believe that our faculties (eyes, ears, and mind) can understand God and His gifts, they are not. We require God’s Spirit which He gives to us for the very purpose of understanding Him. Understand this truth. 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”]— the things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. NIV A Blessing Machine? “We treat God as if He were a machine designed only to bless us, and we think of Jesus as just another one of the workers.” (Oswald Chambers from My Utmost For His Highest, December 18) And when we experience difficulties we feel the blessing machine is broken, or Jesus is asleep. How ridiculous. What or who, then, is God? He is creator and sustainer who calls us to be faithful at all times. We are to obey, not complain, and He offers no explanation other than He Is. Exalted as He is, we, His creatures, are nonetheless loved and cherished. Why Do We Need Christ? There are happy pagans and comfortable atheists, so why do we need Christ in our lives? It is simply because His peace, joy, comfort, a truly abundant life, and all other blessings are part of a higher standard we cannot obtain without Him, understand apart from Him, or fully experience separated from Him. Hybrid Power We hear a lot about hybrid power, particularly for cars. Gas and electricity. Better mileage. What about hybrid spiritual power? Physical and spiritual. We tend to rely solely on physical power, that is, what we generate ourselves. The fact is, it’s never enough. Never enough to change, to grow, to fight battles, or to overcome. We may think it’s enough, but it isn’t. Hook yourself up to the spiritual power that offers more “real living” mileage. From Strength To Strength Life will take its toll. Aging will deplete resources. And it is sadly true that we often go from affliction to affliction, from strength to weakness. But this need not blind us to another fact of life. We can more that offset what we lose by going from strength to strength, growing in Christ. How to grow in Christ? Dwell in the house of the Lord. “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! Blessed are those whose strength is in you…They go from strength to strength…” (Psalm 84: 1, 5, 7) Do You Seek Predictability? We live in an unpredictable world yet seek what cannot be obtained in it: predictability. This is not the predictability of the likes of gravity but of events, consistency of character, outcomes…the future. Change is inevitable, but what, where, and how? There is, however, an everlasting predictability and that is in our everlasting, unchanging God. “His ways are everlasting.” (Habakkuk 3:6) “Human action is frequently the hasty result of passion, or fear, and is followed by regret and alteration; but nothing can take the Almighty by surprise, or happen otherwise than he has foreseen.” (Charles Spurgeon) And what is the nature of our unchanging God: love, compassion, justice, truth, wisdom, mercy. If we seek stability in life let us look to our unchanging and everlasting God and the attributes only He can provide. For The Third Week In Advent: Joy In this time and place where we believe we have everything, remind us that we have nothing without You. And as we frantically seek happiness in presents and parties, reveal to us that there is no true joy apart from You. How Do You Define Perfection? By definition, perfection means flawlessness. In baseball, it is a game in which a pitcher gets every batter out without anyone reaching base the entire game. In bowling, it is a 300 score. In a musical recital, it is a flawless performance—every note, every nuance as it should be. We say God is perfect, but you and I certainly are not. And a perfect performance does not count for all the imperfections of daily life. How, then, can the author of the letter to the Hebrews claim, “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy”? (Hebrews 10:14, NIV) How can we be made perfect? The answer may be expressed in a type of formula; perfection multiplied by perfection to infinity. What does this mean? It means a perfect God offering a perfect sacrifice by a perfect Son in perfect obedience. It is perfect because it covers all people, for all times, once and for all. Why is this important? It is important because a perfect God cannot be approached by anything less than perfection. It is through Christ’s sacrifice that we are made perfect. Once and for all times. This is better than pitching a perfect game and hitting a walk-off home run, every day of our lives. What Crucified Christ? Rebellion provided the nails, idolatry sharpened the nails, and a hard heart hammered the nails in. The Master Mechanic If your car broke down, could you fix it? If your computer did not reboot, could you fix it? If your life is a mess—choked with grief, confusion, pain, regret, uncertainty—could you fix it? There are some things in life that are so overwhelming that their solution requires more than we can give. We could try, of course, to think our way through difficulty. We could Google keywords or search on YouTube for solutions. Friends may help. And there are experts who may hold the solution. But even with all these efforts, there are some things in life that are so overwhelming that their solution requires a master mechanic of the soul—the only one capable of going under the hood of the heart, preprogramming the mind, and meeting us as one who understands our real pain. When the solution requires more than we can give, look to the only One who can give more than we require. Seek Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. (Mark 12:30) Who Is In The Driver’s Seat? I got so weary on our journey with the paths that you would choose. I thought my driving was much better, so I took the reins from you. Your driving always seemed much slower, people passed us all the time, and we were really getting nowhere, so I snatched those reins from you. But now we’re lost, and I am tired, even though we made good time. I think we missed our destination when I took those reins from you. I humbly ask you to forgive this arrogance inside of me, and Lord, I’d be so very grateful, if you’d take these reins from me. Anne Peterson © 1996 via crosswalk.com Only One Relationship Matters There is only one relationship that matters, and that is your personal relationship to a personal Redeemer and Lord. Let everything else go, but maintain that at all costs, and God will fulfil His purpose through your life. One individual life may be of priceless value to God’s purposes, and yours may be that life. (Oswald Chambers) The Bible In Four Parts Confused by the Bible? Here it is in four parts. Every book expresses one or more of these themes: The character of God (holy and just), The nature of man (rebellious against God), Restoration (redemption by Christ), and Eternity (life with God in its fullness). How Not To Become A Shallow Person It is a sure sign that you are shallow when you wish to impress other people with the fact that you are not shallow. You rebuke other people because they are more shallow than you. “Determinedly take no one seriously but God, and the first person you find you have to leave severely alone as being the greatest fraud you have ever known, is yourself. And remember, God became a baby.” (Oswald Chambers) Living Abundantly We cannot build a castle for ourselves but we can feast sumptuously, rest securely, and live abundantly in the eternal mansion God calls us to. Put A Pebble In Someone’s Shoe One of the better books on apologetics (the science and art of defending the faith by using reason and evidence) is Tactics, by Greg Koukl. In that resource, Koukl talks about the modest goal of putting a pebble in the shoe of his listeners. It is this strategy that C.S. Lewis employs throughout Mere Christianity. Here is Koukl explaining the strategy: “Now here is my own more modest goal. I want to put a stone in his shoe. All I want to do is give him something worth thinking about. I want him to hobble away on a nugget of truth he can’t simply ignore because it continues to poke at him.” Praise Thank God for those who are gifted with words that elevate even lofty topics such as praise. The word “praise” appears 363 times in the Bible (NIV) with the Psalms containing the most instances (182). One could agree that there can never be too much praise. But what of the quality of praise? The Bible is immersed in exalted expressions of praise for our God, and it is a pure delight to read them. And beyond this is the inspired language of mere mortals. Here is as magnificent an expression of praise as has even been written. Savor it. “Put more coals and more sweet frankincense into the censer of your praise.” (Charles Spurgeon) Read “In Praise of the Psalms: Praise) (A censer, in ancient, Biblical, and modern times, is a vessel filled with burning coals that release a fragrant aroma when filled with particular oils or resins like frankincense. It is often used is religious ceremonies.) What Is Your Heart’s True Desire? A thousand thoughts from a wide variety of sources assail you daily, seeking to persuade you of your heart’s true desire. Some sources may earnestly desire your benefit, but most will be from sources intending to manipulate, control, and lead you blindly into self-serving actions that only benefit their desires and motives. How may you identify your heart’s true desire? Psalm 37:4 shows us the way; “Take delight* in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” NIV *Enjoy, take pleasure in, serve, You Can’t Hitchhike to Faith You either drive the car (commit to faith) or hope for someone to transport you, which doesn’t count. Sticking out your thumb to God just won’t work. See God In All Things We can all see God in exceptional things, but it requires the culture of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail. Never allow that the haphazard is anything less than God’s appointed order, and be ready to discover the Divine designs any where. Oswald Chambers Spiritual Gaslighting Do you know what the term “gaslighting” means? It is very important to understand, identify, and defend against it. Simply, gaslighting is the attempt to convince you that what you believe to be real and true is not. Spiritual gaslighting is an attempt to deny the truths of the Bible and the reality of God’s redemptive love. Gaslighting comes in many forms and can originate from people (including those you believe to be friends and those in authority) social media and organizations. Your defense is truth and confidence in your beliefs and ability to sort through false logic. Let the Holy Spirit guide and defend you. A Prayer For The Knowledge Of Him Prayers take on many forms, often seeking some kind of tangible benefit for one’s self or for others; health, success, prosperity, deliverance, forgiveness. Lost in the litany of prayer requests is the desire to know more of Him. Here, from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (1:17-20 NIV) is such a prayer, a prayer that is breathtaking in its desire. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[a] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, “I’m In” “Born again”, “sanctified”, “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14) and other expressions may be part of your spiritual vocabulary but may be confusing—even offensive—to others who, in their own way want to follow Christ. Let’s make this simple with “I’m in” and move forward. Why Me? You have cried this to God or have heard it wailed by others. It is a lament, a complaint, an expression of deepest sorrow, it is searching for an answer that may never come. But there is another “why me” and it is found in the lyrics of a song written and performed by country music singer, songwriter and musician Kris Kristofferson. “Why me” is here an expression of joy from unmerited love. It is not about unfathomed pain but unexpected blessing. We are confused, bewildered, puzzled by both and so it is now our choice as to which one we latch onto. Why Me? Why me Lord, what have I ever done To deserve even one Of the pleasures I’ve known Tell me Lord, what did I ever do That was worth loving you Or the kindness you’ve shown. Lord help me Jesus, I’ve wasted it so Help me Jesus I know what I am Now that I know that I’ve need you so Help me Jesus, my soul’s in your hand. Tell me Lord, if you think there’s a way I can try to repay All I’ve taken from you Maybe Lord, I can show someone else What I’ve been through myself On my way back to you. Lord help me Jesus, I’ve wasted it so Help me Jesus I know what I am Now that I know that I’ve need you so Help me Jesus, my soul’s in your hand.
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLCPriorities I cannot fully and truly love myself and others unless my first love is for Christ, for that is where the true power of love resides. Not less love for others but more love for Him. A Running Prayer “You don’t need to use fancy words, close your eyes, or end every prayer with “in Jesus’ name.” You just keep a running prayer going throughout the day, picking up where you left off.” Rick Warren True Bread From Heaven It is easy to gloss over John 6:35 and take it for its literal meaning alone: Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (NIV) Even figuratively we can understand it as spiritual nourishment. There is another, very satisfying interpretation that draws from the different ways we take pleasure in food and drink (figuratively bread). That is to go beyond physical survival to include comfort, pleasure, reward, and a temporary measure of peace. With this in mind, let us call upon Jesus to feed our necessities but also to find comfort, pleasure, reward and peace now and for eternity. Spiritual Cataract Surgery Is your spiritual vision becoming cloudy so that you no longer see Gospel truth clearly? If so, consider cataract surgery. A cataract is a medical condition in which the lens of the eye becomes progressively opaque, resulting in blurred vision. Cataract surgery with lens replacement can not only remove the film that forms a gauzy type of curtain over your vision but can restore 20/20 eyesight. Life can become a cataract that blurs not only what we see but what we believe. What seems like reality isn’t, and the bright hues of light and clear distinctions of truth are gradually lost but in such a slow and gradual way that we don’t realize the loss or we become resigned to it. The Bible and prayer are much like God’s surgeon. Trust both to regain your sight. Worship There are many definitions for worship (both as a noun and a verb). Two of the most popular are:
- to honor or show reverence for a divine being or supernatural power
- worship is declaring the greatness of someone or something
Who Do You Trust, And Why?
We trust so many things that don’t have our best interests at heart. Why don’t we trust the Bible?
We trust celebrities to tell us how to think. We trust athletes to tell us what to buy. We trust actors to tell us how to look. We trust politicians to act on our best interests. We trust the news to feed us facts. We trust health officials to keep us healthy. We trust educators to teach young children on the merits of being transgender. And, sadly, we trust some untrustworthy pastors to tell us how to make money on the way to heaven.
What do they have in common? Self-interest, not our interest.
In contrast, the Bible tells us, over and over and in so many ways, that we are loved, cherished, and of such importance to our Creator God that He gave His Son so that our relationship could always be sustained.
Why is it so easy to trust what is not trustworthy and so hard to trust the Bible?
Rejoice is not a word we typically hear. Most often the word we hear is happy or glad. But rejoice is an important word with significant meaning.
Simply, rejoice means “favorably disposed (showing joy or delight) to God’s grace” and comes from the Greek charió. Grace, derived from the Greek charis (note its similarity to charió), refers to “the undeserved or unmerited love and favor of God.” Grace is neither deserved nor earned; it is a gift.
“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4)
Paul used the word rejoice to encourage the church in Thessalonica which was under sever persecution. This was no idle expression meant for others and not himself. Throughout his ministry, Paul was constantly rejoicing in the Lord, often under difficult situations. And he rejoiced also while in a Roman prison known for its horrific conditions, expecting to be executed. He rejoiced then and exhorts us now to follow his example.
What can be make of this word in our lives?
Accept God’s gifts with gratitude at all times and under all conditions, especially those events we would prefer to avoid or to never happen.“He who bids us let down the net, will fill it with fishes” Simon (to be called Peter), James, and John were sitting on shore, washing their nets after a fruitless night of fishing. This is significant because fishing is their livelihood and they basically live day-to-day. Jesus tells Simon “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” He did and the nets were so filled that they were at the point of breaking and, after signaling their partners in the other boat to come and help them, they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. What was going on here? Charles Spurgeon explains: “Were they not fishermen plying their special calling? Verily, they were no raw hands; they understood the work. Had they gone about the toil unskilfully? No. Had they lacked industry? No, they had toiled. Had they lacked perseverance? No, they had toiled all the night. Was there a deficiency of fish in the sea? Certainly not, for as soon as the Master came, they swam to the net in shoals. What, then, is the reason? Is it because there is no power in the means of themselves apart from the presence of Jesus? “Without him we can do nothing.” But with Christ we can do all things. Christ’s presence confers success. Jesus sat in Peter’s boat, and his will, by a mysterious influence, drew the fish to the net.” Christ’s presence confers success: He who bids us let down the net, will fill it with fishes. (Based on Charles Spurgeon’s reflection on Luke 5:1-8. Quotations by Charles Spurgeon.) The Impossible Is Possible The impossible is possible when we accept a faith that can move mountains, heal the blind, cure the sick, and raise the dead. The conditions of discipleship are impossible to attain with mere human power. These are conditions of perfection by a perfect God who demands nothing less. But our loving God has given us the means to do the impossible through the sacrifice of God’s son and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Our avenue is faith and our cry is “increase our faith.” (Luke 17:6) Connect To Power “We can remain powerless forever…by trying to do God’s work without concentrating on His power, and by following instead the ideas that we draw from our own nature.” (Chambers) Why were the disciples unable to cast out demons? They were not fully connected to Christ’s power through prayer. Mark 9:19 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer. (NIV) Have Faith That God Is at Work Behind the Scenes “Rest assured, God prepares us even if we do not realize He’s doing it. He develops our skills in private, so that when needed, we will be successful in public. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called in a way that causes us to face the pits of life and learn lessons from them.” Frank Santora blog You Are Not Asking Enough In a world where we crave so much of what is not truly important, why is it that we don’t ask God for more of what He wishes to give us? (Inspired by Herbert O’Driscoll in Prayers for the Breaking of Bread: Meditations on the Collects of the Church Year.) There Is A Solution For Everything I was first introduced to this comforting thought about 10 years ago when I was puzzling how to make a repair to my sailboat engine in a location that I couldn’t reach and couldn’t imagine how anyone else could. I expressed this to the boatyard manager who said, nonchalantly, “There is a solution for everything.” And he found the solution. The absolute certainty of this expression was reinforced recently when I was trying to find a fix to the handle of my microwave that had broken off. After working through several mental solutions, I fell upon the notion to look on YouTube. YouTube had the answer. I have come to believe that there is a solution to everything on YouTube, meaning that others have experienced my problem and have solved it. But what about other problems, like “what is your purpose in life”, how to face life when life is unbearable, how to be joyful when all is misery? Of course, there are YouTube videos for these, but these can only skim the surface of solutions for they do not original from the true source. The true and utterly reliable source to life’s vexing problems is the Bible. Every emotional issue is addressed in the Psalms. Wisdom for practical living abounds in the Proverbs and other wisdom literature. Rules of conduct are found in the Old Testament, and New Testament Gospels and letters point to the essence behind true living-real life-and that is the relationship with our creator. Nevertheless, YouTube, and digital search in general, are awesome engines that can bring the Word of God to anyone, at any time, and on every topic. Use them to find your solution to everything. The Daily Duel: We vs. Life Every new day presents us with the opportunities and challenges for good, better, and best. The only thing that stands in the way is…us, and the decisions we make. How we approach each day is critical. Do we rehearse the failures of the past or focus on the wonders of unexpected success? Do we frame our attitudes with our weaknesses or our strengths? What weapons do we bring to this battle? And who can we trust to refresh our depleted resources? “I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.” John 10:10 Common English Bible We Do Not Earn Our Way To Heaven. We Choose It. Is it possible that sin is allowed to exist to permit a choice: life or death, blessing or curse? Consider that sin is taking the wrong path, moving away from our relationship with God, severing our connection to the true vine. And while the right path may not always be obvious or easy, we always have the means to discern it, from the Spirit within, Scripture to heed, and belief to guide. This is the choice for life. How Can Something So Small Count? Yesterday my church raised $21k to enable 60 children in Ecuador and Madagascar to go to school. There is no free education in these countries so no money, no school. 60 children out of millions worldwide will benefit. This is so small a number, why does it matter? It matters because this is what we are called to do as Christians. It matters because God is the Great Multiplier who can take seemingly small or insignificant efforts and convert them to immense feats. It matters not because there are so many without, but that a single life can be changed. And it matters because it is about the gift, not we the givers. We are not called to see the future; we work and God works the miracles. Our work is for God’s glory, not ours What Really Counts? Can it be as simple as a relationship that transforms? “…now I think that all things are worth nothing compared with the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Philippians 3:8 (Easy-To-Read Version) “What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.” Galatians 6:15 (New Living Translation) 5 Steps To Healing Ask “Forsake me not, O Lord” Psalm 38:21 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 Focus on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians Pray without ceasing 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Stop thinking and just embrace the mystery of God’s love, healing, and salvation. Why Do We Not Forget When Forgiven? In his blog, Why We Must Understand That God Removed Our Sins “as Far as the East Is from the West”, Clarence L. Haynes Jr.points out one fundamental lesson from Psalm 103:12 which reads, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” The lesson is this: once forgiven, our sins (how we miss the mark) are forgotten. Yet, at least for myself, I can’t forget them. Why is this? Clarence’s point is that “Satan is very good at reminding of them.” If we can’t forget, then we can’t fully “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me” which begins the Psalm. It takes faith to have faith, trust to be trusting. My response is this prayer: Help me Lord to so trust in your word that I listen to you only, that your voice is heard above all others, and that hearing your voice I may bless you with all that is within me. (Psalm 103 in its entirety is a masterpiece of praise.) Let’s Not Lose Sight Of The Simple Message Of The Catching Of Fish Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. Luke 5:5-6. NIV We toil without result. We respond to the Master’s voice. We are blessed with abundance. When The World Is Upside Down “The world is upside down. Good is bad and bad is deified.” From The 6:20 Man by David Baldacci Murder, mayhem, and mystery. Yes, today’s world is upside down and false gods are being worshipped? What’s the remedy? The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 1:5, 16:33) NIV (Read Destroy These False Gods here.) Is This The Day You Do Something Amazing For God? Be an Esther. Read the amazing story of her life with the twists and turns, high drama, and trust in God that changed history. What Is Free Will? Free will means you don’t have to buckle your seat belt. You have been given a mind to assess consequences, wisdom to know what good decisions look like, and trusted friends who can guide you into good decisions. But only you can buckle your seat belt. Don’t blame God for the problems you could have avoided. Comfort And Healing As a child, most of us could go to our mothers for comfort and healing, and to our fathers for strength and protection. As adults that is not often possible. To whom or to what do we now turn? Unsearchable Riches “My Master has riches beyond the count of arithmetic, the measurement of reason, the dream of imagination, or the eloquence of words.” Charles Spurgeon on Ephesians 3:8 Energy Drink When you are totally depleted, exhausted, and on the verge of giving up, praise God and be filled with His abundance. Window In The Wall “Looking for the window in the wall, maybe we can see the other side.” Sung by Olivia Newton-John There is always a window in the wall through which we may glimpse the other side. It is the window of faith and on the other side there is hope, courage, and peace. Supernatural Sense Never let your common sense become so prominent and forceful that it pushes the Son of God to one side. Common sense is a gift that God gave to our human nature— but common sense is not the gift of His Son. Supernatural sense is the gift of His Son, and we should never put our common sense on the throne. Chambers Secret Things The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29 It is a fact of life that we do not and cannot know everything; there are secret things that only God knows. On the other hand, much has been revealed and it is our choice to seek it or not. Birth-Death-Ascension: He made the door to eternal life, opened it, and keeps it open. How To Be Significant In A World That Makes You Feel Small Pray the Psalms “A man who uttered such prayers never felt himself lost in the unlimited largeness of the universe, but was sure that He who knew all and was everywhere could never forget the least of His creatures, or be uninterested in him. “O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thoughts afar off.… There is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.… Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?… Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” The majesty of God and the faith of man are brought together in thoughts and words that are made possible only to him who in endeavouring to understand himself strives to come near in reverent belief to his Creator.” From Biblehub Whose Approval Do You Seek? How on earth can you believe while you are for ever looking for each other’s approval and not for the glory that comes from the one God? John 5:44 J. B. Phillips New Testament The Only Certainty There is only one certainty and that is the love of God. All else is foolishness. To live a life trying for total control is to live in a constant state of anxiety. Lose yourself in God’s sovereignty and find peace amidst the chaos of life. Boundaries Boundaries are highly useful concepts. Keep out the bad; let in the good. There are physical boundaries such as fences. There are behavioral, psychological and emotional boundaries of what is acceptable and not acceptable. And there are spiritual boundaries relating to beliefs, relationships, and commitments. Who is patrolling your boundaries and keeping you safe? When was the last time you checked for weaknesses? Starting Over Can there be a greater gift than to be able to start over, to leave the past behind with all its baggage? False Gods False gods are screaming out to us, “trust me, believe what I say.” What false gods are you worshiping, that you trust? Destroy these false gods before they destroy you Independence Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence. Oswald Chambers Courage to Look Inside We do not know envy when we see it, or laziness, or pride. Jesus reveals to us all that this body has been harbouring before His grace began to work. How many of us have learned to look in with courage? What is the Parable of YourLife? Can you sum up your life with a simple, short story? What is the deep meaning it holds? You Are More Don’t dull your life by missing this point: You are more than statistical chance, more than a marriage of heredity and society, more than a confluence of inherited chromosomes and childhood trauma. More than a walking weather vane whipped about by the cold winds of fate. Thanks to God, you have been “sculpted from nothing into something.” (Psalm 139:15 The Message Bible) How Do You Handle A Crisis? “I did not care whether everyone knew how bad I was, I cared for nothing on earth, saving to get out of my present condition.”Oswald Chambers on responding to God’s call in his crisis. In My Utmost For His Highest Wisdom There are two types of wisdom; wisdom to address worldly matters, and the higher wisdom to connect with God, to know how to please Him. “Prayer is life’s greatest time-saver, so don’t remain confused. Ask God for His wisdom.” Charles F. Stanley Bible Study Notes Whom to Seek for Enlightenment? “People might tell you to ask the fortune-tellers, consult the babbling astrologers, conjure the dead to tell the living what’s to come, but shouldn’t they ask their God?” NASB Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible Notes What Is Competing For Your Attention? A warning which needs to be reiterated is that the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things entering in, will choke all that God puts in. From My Utmost for His Highest Classic Edition, January 27 A Snow Day God’s grace is like a snow day. Think back to when you were a child. When it snowed you had a snow day-a day to relax, free from school, homework and tests. It just came down from heaven. Give Someone Good News Someone is hurting today. Give that person some good news. It may be as simple as a smile, kind word or loving action. It may take the form of enthusiasm or encouragement. Or perhaps what is needed is endurance or tenacity. Whatever it is, brighten someone’s day with good news. Visions We all have visions. They may be of two natures: ours and God-inspired. Our visions without God’s blessings may appear important, but in God’s grand scheme are not, so why pursue them? God’s visions require God’s power. If, then, we become discouraged in our ability to pursue His visions for us, it is only because we have not sought His power. The choice is: leave the vision unfinished or allow Him to empower us to finish it. So Why Try? You Cannot Argue Someone Into Being a Christ Follower. So why try? The desire must come from within and these are those kinds of desires: The desire to change where change seems impossible. The desire for hope when hope is not present. The desire to possess something that is not attainable by human means. The desire for meaning when surrounded by a life that sucks the meaning out of you. The desire to be truly alive when the glitter of life falls to the ground. The desire for unmerited blessings when everything you possess is not enough. The desire to be forgiven when you realize that you need forgiveness. The desire to be loved when you realize that you are unlovable. No one but Christ can fulfill these desires. Your Eli Who is your Eli that needs to hear God’s message? (Samuel telling Eli of God’s message against Israel.) 1 Samuel 3:15 Worship In Truth Are you noticing what is important to the Lord? It’s not the size of your offering that matters; it is the trust of your heart to give everything you are and dedicate everything you have to Him. It is not the beauty of your praising, giving thanks, singing, praying, or giving financially that moves Him; it’s your motivation—your true feelings of love and adoration for the Lord. As you prepare to worship God in spirit and in truth, examine the reason you are approaching His throne. Is it to further your goals or to experience His loving presence? Is it to get something you want or to give Him your utmost devotion? As Philippians 3:3 instructs, “Worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” It will not only satisfy your being but will also build intimacy in your relationship with Him. NASB Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible on Psalm 51 What is Faith? To believe without seeing, to go without knowing, to walk without fainting, to succeed without success Who To Hold Onto? When the best of me is barely breathin’ When I’m not somebody I believe in Hold on to me When I miss the light the night has stolen When I’m slammin’ all the doors You’ve opened Hold on to me (Hey) Hold on to me [Chorus] Hold on to me when it’s too dark to see You When I am sure I have reached the end Hold on to me when I forget I need You When I let go, hold me again By Lauren Daigle Your Solar System What is the center of your life? What does your life orbit look like? What is the gravity that holds your life together? In The Grasp What are you holding onto that is holding you back? What has you in its grasp that you must destroy? What part of you are you reluctant to lose? Therein you will discover your false god. The Great Irony The invisible God we worship is more real than the reality we see. Remaining You cannot remain alive if your heart goes on holiday. You cannot remain moral if you take a moral holiday. You cannot remain spiritual if you take a spiritual holiday. Did The Bottle Let You Down? Tonight the bottle let me down And let your memory come around The one true friend I thought I’d found Tonight the bottle let me down Words and music by Merle Haggard The bottle is a metaphor for all the false gods we turn to, to do for us what they cannot do. We believe they are true friends, but they are not. There is only one True Friend. 1 John 3:2 Dear friends, now we are children of God New International Version What is your true you? How much makeup do you have on? What happens when the tears fall? Are you performing for the crowd, or do you have a more important audience? Is Your Smile Painted On? While the tears on my makeup melts my painted smile into a frown The crowd thinks I’m a dandy, I’m Bandy the rodeo clown. Bandy The Rodeo Clown, sung by Moe Bandy What is your true you? How much makeup do you have on? What happens when the tears fall? Are you performing for the crowd, or do you have a more important audience? Ephesians 4:5-6 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. New International Version What IsYour Job? Your job is to do what you can do, not what you cannot do. “…my job now became only to provide the loaves and fish. It’s His job to perform the miracles and produce the results.” Dallas Jenkins explaining the success of his TV show, The Chosen, and how it was born of failure. Matthew 14: 17, 21 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. New International Version How To Live Abundantly Living abundantly does not mean spending lavishly. In fact, it may mean the opposite, depending upon how you define abundance. If living abundantly means enjoying free gifts, then it is merely a matter of discovering these gifts. If it is a sense of freedom, then we must brake the chains that bind us. If it is not about things, then we need to look at relationships. If it is not about getting, then we must look at giving. If it is not about worldly activities, then there are higher pursuits to consider. Psalm 36:7-9 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. NIV Psalm 132:15 I will abundantly supply what she needs; I will give her poor all the food they need. New English Translation Knowing that your future is absolutely assured can free you to live abundantly today. Because I am infinite in all My ways, you need not fear that I will run out of resources. Abundance is at the very heart of who I am. Come to me in joyful expectation of receiving all you need-and sometimes much more! I delight in showering blessings on My beloved children. Com to Me with open hands and heart, ready to receive all I have for you. Jesus Calling for Christmas, Sarah Young 1 Peter 1:4 …an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. New English Translation Be The Miracle “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle.” Phillips Brooks And All Shall Be Well (Julian of Norwich) This declaration that “all manner of thing shall be well” does not eliminate misfortune, sickness or death. It is pointing to what all the respected wise ones say about the ability to find peace, and even joy, in the eye of the storm — to come to trust that there is something that transcends chaos and impermanence. (Found on Google) Herein is the key to this expression-trust. It is not sufficient to merely say the words, but to trust in them, to believe them. And to believe them one must embrace the foundation of this belief. Our Life’s Work John 15:5-7 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” NIV It is clear that we are not to live a life unto ourselves: a life for ourselves only. Our purpose is to live to bear fruit, blessings to others. And we cannot do this apart from being in, abiding in, drawing vitality and endurance from Christ. What Do You Want? What Do You Want? If you want to be joyful, attach yourself to someone who is pure joy. If you want peace, connect with someone who gives total peace. If you desire security, invest in someone who is unchangeable. If you must change, believe in someone who has unlimited strength. If you truly want to live, accept the one who gives life. Whatever it is you want, desire, need-seek the One who is the source of all. It’s Easy To Go To The Wrong Place Where do you go to change what you cannot change? To find what you lack to make you whole? Have you gone to the Bible and left confused? To religion and left empty? To church and left disappointed? These are not wrong places to go, but they are not THE place. THE place is a person, not a book, not a ritual, and not A place. Christ said, “Come to me.” (Matthew 11:28). The Bible, religion, church, and so many other good things are good because they point to what is supremely good, and that is Christ. A Way To Start The Day Listen for, be alert to, seek eagerly, look longingly for instruction. And once instructed, go and sustain the weary. The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; Isaiah 50:4-5 God Is Not A Commodity God is not an ATM machine of blessings to be used by inserting our faith card any time we need “more.” The Holy Spirit is not a get-out-of-jail card whenever we are in trouble. And Jesus’ name is not a magic incantation to be used to change our life. This Trinity is a relationship of love to be entered into with gratitude and faith, and it is through our relationship that the abundant life is lived; blessings received, problems confronted, and joy experienced. The Folly of Striking an Empty Piñata It’s what inside the piñata that counts. An empty piñata offers nothing for the effect, and frustration for the unfulfilled expectations. Fill it with candy and trinkets and you get candy and trinkets-nothing more. Our life is like a piñata and what we fill it with makes all the difference. Fill it with love, service, and gratitude and we get the abundant life. Fill it with anger, jealousy, and self-gratification and we get a vacuum of satisfaction. Fill it with tasty treats and toys (often expensive) and we get an unsatisfied craving for more. In other words, fill it with anything but what is wholesome and holy and it is still empty. What’s inside your personal piñata? Where Is The Central Source of Your Power? Say “Yes” to God and join Him in your journey. Inspired by “The Chosen” What are you really seeking and from whom? Where is the “where” you are frantically seeking? “Come unto me” Matthew 11:28 On what are your expectations built? “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.” Matthew 7:25 The Message Bible The Prisoner You Set Free With Forgiveness Is…You. To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. Isaiah 42:7 KJV What Paths Are You Following? I will lead the blind on roads they have never known; I will guide them on paths they have never traveled. Their road is dark and rough, but I will give light to keep them from stumbling. This is my solemn promise. Isaiah 42:16 Contemporary English Version Relationship comes before action but is the basis for response. People do not want to be devoted to Jesus, but only to the cause He started. Jesus Christ is a source of deep offence to the educated mind of to-day that does not want Him in any other way than as a Comrade. Our Lord’s first obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of men; the saving of men was the natural outcome of His obedience to the Father. If I am devoted to the cause of humanity only, I will soon be exhausted and come to the place where my love will falter; but if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity though men treat me as a door-mat. My Utmost for His Highest, June 19 God Is Not Your Scapegoat A fellow priest of Fr. Brown throws a hammer off the tower of his church in raging anger over the heinous sin of his brother. It was thrown with the intent of destroying the brother. But the priest does not accept guilt until Fr. Brown confronts him. If the priest does not confess to the crime, an innocent woman will be hanged. Priest: “My brother is dead. It was by God’s hand, not mine.” Fr. Brown: “Your actions were yours and yours alone. Is it God’s will that she hangs for your crime?” Priest: “God will save her.” Fr. Brown: “God-he’s not your scapegoat.” From the Fr. Brown TV series, Season 1 Episode 1 “The Hammer of God” Feeling unworthy? Join the club. It’s the club of “I’m not good enough: not in life, not in faith.” Well, that is true when our standard is God. But that’s not the final answer because God provided the means-the Atonement-whereby we are judged not by what we are but by in whom we place our faith. So, in a way that is ludicrous to many, we can appear as Christ. Think of a robe of righteousness (right relationship) that is thrown over us, obscuring what we are. Time Is Your Life Don’t squander your time because time is your life. 2 Corinthians 6:1, The Message Bible The Miracle of Touch When is a touch more than a touch? In the Gospel of Mark Chapter 5 we are introduced to a woman with a medical condition that has consumed all her money, is the cause of social out-casting, and has only grown worse after 12 years. In others words, she has exhausted all avenues of relief, at least relief that was available at the time. But, she has not exhausted one last avenue and that is built upon faith, belief, and perhaps outrageous hope in the form of an itinerant rabbi known for his healing. Jesus is passing through her community and is crowded by people-and no doubt he is jostled and brushed up against. This woman seeks only to touch his cloak-not even his person-and she believes that this will heal her. She does and she is immediately healed. How many in the crowd needed healing of some sort? And how many of these touched his garments, perhaps even touched his arm as he was walking? Many, but we are not told of any other healing. Importanty, and not to be missed, is the requirement of some act. The woman touched. Earlier in Chapter 5 the leader of the local synagogue came and pleaded (and his daughter was brought back to life.) In other passages we read, “come, follow, ask, seek, open” and more. The remarkable fact of these actions is that God’s response is infinitely greater than the act. So, it is faith, belief, hope in a person that makes a touch more than a touch. We cannot touch Christ’s garments today, but we can reach out and touch Him with the long arm of prayer and be healed. Are You In The Grip? Are you gripped by someone or something? All of us are gripped by someone or something. Is it what we desire or have we complacently fallen into it? It is healthy or destructive? Do we wish to loosen the cords? Where are we heading? Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honour of being called by God in Christ. Phillipians 3:12, Phillips Translation Who Knows? I do not know, but God knows— 2 Corinthians 12:3 Indeed, who knows? Such a simple question and a simple answer. We do not know but God knows. How much simpler life would be if we simply acknowledged this fact! This is not a matter of not knowing: For God knows… (Genesis 3:5) The Mighty One, the Lord! He knows! (Joshua 22:22) …for the Lord is a God who knows (1 Samuel 2:3) …he knows the secrets of the heart (Psalm 44:21) …but God knows your hearts (Luke 16:15) The Lord knows (2 Timothy 2:19} …the Lord knows (2 Peter 2:9} …he knows everything (1 John 3:20) All above verses from NIV God only knows The Beach Boys Spiritual Roadmap In the remarkable TV series The Chosen which dramatizes the ministry of Christ from the viewpoint of those who were with him, the episode leading up to the Sermon on the Mount, where the Beatitudes were presented, depicts Jesus coming to grips with how his message of salvation can be effectively communicated. I readily saw myself in the same circumstance, pacing back and forth with different thoughts fighting each other for a logical place in the message I wished to give to various audiences during my personal and professional life. In explaining his intention to a curious disciple, Matthew, who is acting as stenographer, Jesus says, “I want to give them a roadmap.” Later in the broadcast, during a post-episode interview, we hear the expression “give little bits of information to digest.” Taken together, these two thoughts-a roadmap given in little bits that are easy to digest-provide a simple path to one’s own spiritual journey and helping others on their journey. We all need a roadmap to find Christ in our lives and that roadmap must be fed to us in easily digestible morsels. The Non-Existent Debt The idea is that because we have received something, we owe something. The problem is the nonexistent debt. The love we receive, or money, or time–or anything that causes us to feel obligated–should be accepted as a gift. “Gift” implies no strings attached. All that’s really needed is gratitude. The giver has no expectation that the present will provide a return. It was simply provided because someone loved someone and wanted to do something for him or her. Period. Christ Is Not a Vitamin Supplement The power for living the abundant life comes not from taking something like a Jesus supplement or spiritual protein shake but in having Christ in us. John 14:20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. NIV When I pray — “Lord, show me what sanctification means for me,” He will show me. It means being made one with Jesus. Sanctification is not something Jesus Christ puts into me: it is Himself in me. My Utmost For His Highest, July 22 Cast Your Burdens Upon The Lord Blessed be the Lord, who bears our burden day by day (Psalm 68:19, Amplified Bible*) 10 Ways Our Burdens Are Lifted Calm The Storm In Your Mind. Too often our burdens are magnified beyond reality in our minds. Asking Christ to calm the mind can help us think clearly. Perspective Change. Too often we see only a narrow range of reality, and too often that is the negative side. Changing or broadening our perspective can present a refreshing, affirming alternative. Focus Change. Working in harness with Calming The Storm and Perspective Change, changing focus from narrow to broad or vice-versa can help align our strengths with the burdens we face. Apply Different Strengths. We have many strengths that may go unrecognized. Ask the Lord to reveal to you all the strengths that He has blessed you with. Power Of Reality. There are at least two powerful realities to consider. First is the reality of your current situation unmasked by fears. The second is the reality of the working of God’s grace in your life. Embrace both. A Friend. We are never alone and knowing that we have a friend in Christ can support us through troubling times. Shalom. More that the absence of peace, shalom means wholeness at all times in all things, even when there is no apparent peace. This “peace” is pronounced many times in the Gospels, beginning with the announcement of the Lord’s birth by the angels to the shepherds. Acceptance. Aligning with the Power of Reality, Acceptance of what is can be the springboard to what we desire. Remove Guilt and Shame. There are some things that only Christ can remove-try Him, ask Him. The Big Picture. We are part of an infinitely beautiful and vast future. By always keeping this picture in perspective and focus we can unburden ourselves. *To get a bigger idea of this Psalm, other translations include “loadeth us with benefits, carries us day by day, supports us, rescues us, bears us up) Discernment: What Is It? Why Is It Important? Where To Find It? Discernment (Gr. diakriseis, spiritual judgment, understanding) is faithful living and listening to God’s love and direction so that we can fulfill our individual calling and shared mission. We need it because we are lost: “As I let my eyes look deeply into my own heart and yours, I am increasingly aware of how lost we are. Those of us who are wealthy and successful are no less lost than those of us who are poor and experience life as a failure. Those of us who are healthy and strong are no less lost than those of us who are frail and weak. Those of us who are priests and ministers are no less lost than those of us who are lawyers, doctors, or business people. Those of us who are active in the church and society are no less lost than those of us who have resigned ourselves to passive waiting for the end of life. Those of us who are excited about new projects or full of energy to bring about changes here and there are no less lost than those who have become skeptical or cynical about the possibility of a better world.” Nouwen, Henri J. M.. Discernment We need it to go from darkness to light, from aimless wandering to being found. Discover it at Discernment and discover the abundant life. The Calm In The Storm Storms are all around us, all the time. How comforting it is to have someone who is watching out for us in our difficulties, takes action to aid us, can “walk” above the turmoil, infuse us with courage, and bring calm out of chaos. We only need to bid him “come.” Mark 6:48-50 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” NIV Happiness Although the Declaration of Independence guarantees the right to the pursuit of happiness, the pursuit of happiness is not the path to happiness. “You become happy by living a life that means something. The happiest people you know are probably not the richest or most famous, probably not the ones who work hardest at being happy by reading the articles and buying the books and latching on to the latest fads. I suspect that the happiest people you know are the ones who work at being kind, helpful, and reliable, and happiness sneaks into their lives while they are busy doing those things.” (Kushner, When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough) So, don’t listen to the world. Don’t pursue happiness. Let it invade you though a noble, meaningful life, and live abundantly. Illusions The problem with illusions is that they are eventually exposed for what they are-something that deceives by producing a false or misleading impression of reality-which leads to cynicism* and away from the abundant life. Yet we are surrounded by forces, events, and our own expectations that generate these illusions. What are we to do? Place your ultimate trust and reality on the “only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Chambers) *Based of the following definition of cynicism (Wikipedia) and our experiences in life, it is difficult to argue against assuming a cynical attitude toward life. But this is the dark way to approach life and begs us to search for a way to live life positively and abundantly even amid so much that is negative. Cynicism is an attitude characterized by a general distrust of others’ motives. A cynic may have a general lack of faith or hope in people motivated by ambition, desire, greed, gratification, materialism, goals, and opinions that a cynic perceives as vain, unobtainable, or ultimately meaningless and therefore deserving of ridicule or admonishment. Frustration And The Abundant Life: What Do You Do? You long for something, perhaps even with a great desire. It could be something to acquire or to shed. It may be for noble, selfless reasons. There may be real emotional, physical or spiritual pain involved. You pray, again and again, earnestly and passionately. And the “something” is not granted, as least in a way you recognize. “Deep inside, you know that only God can fill your need—which further frustrates matters and reveals your complete lack of control. You cannot successfully meet your own need or compel God to comply with your personal desires, time schedule, or concept of how it should be accomplished. So what are you to do?” NKJV Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible Notes You choose. You choose to fall toward God or away from God. But you must choose. Does contemporary life guide to a true choice? Where will you find guidance? How can you continue to count on or trust a god that does not deliver what you want, when you want it, and how? Try this: pray. Pray for understanding. If you do not receive understanding pray for wisdom. If you do not receive wisdom pray for endurance. If you are at the last ounce of endurance pray that you will not abandon God. Ready to abandon God? Then pray for the supernatural power to praise and worship Him, no matter what. But pray unceasingly. And this is the right choice that will lead to the abundant life. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Jame 1:4 (NIV) You Are Called You are called by the Almighty for a noble service. You have been given a special gift to bless your service. Discover your gift, unwrap it and serve, living a life worthy of His calling. Based on Ephesians 4 I Invite You I invite you to let me walk beside you in your pain and to bring you the strength, hope and healing comfort of Scripture. Scripture is a gift. Like any gift it must be unwrapped. It is a healing garment. Like any garment it must we worn. It is an amazing garment that fits all sizes. Do You Consider Yourself Rich? What do you possess that makes you believe you are rich, including but beyond money; which of these would make you soWhat do you possess that makes you believe you are rich, including but beyond money; which of these would make you sorrowful to surrender, to place above your love of God? Comfort, reputation, security, possessions, family, faith? Which of these must you offer as gifts to God that you may find your joy in Him and not be sorrowful? Am you prepared to sell all that you have (Luke 18:22), that is, to rid yourself of self-acquired obstacles, that you may possess Him? The Power Of Powerlessness Are you powerful enough not to cry? Can you resist all evil? Have troubles you cannot overcome? Brokenhearted? Crushed? These are the conditions mentioned in Psalm 34 for the righteous-that’s all of us who have a right relationship with our God. And if we encounter these as righteous, how are we to overcome? Ephesians 6 shows us the way: Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. What does this mean? The troubles, difficulties, and pains we encounter in our worldly lives are symptoms of evil in the spiritual realm (cosmic powers of darkness) and it is spiritual armor that St. Paul urges us to “put on” to defend ourselves and to stand firm. The armor includes truth, righteousness, faith, and the word of God. The key thought here is that only by acknowledging our powerlessness can we be in a position to gain the power that only God can provide. And the key issue is, can we accept our powerlessness. Peace Is peace high on your agenda? Does it rank above success and prosperity? What I find interesting in the concept of peace is that it has two identities. There is the peace that we try to acquire on our own, and there is peace which is a gift. The peace we seek by our own means is what is referred to as the world’s peace. This is an illusion at best. The gift of peace is something that when offered we must accept, unwrap, and wear much like a garment. It is only available through a higher power. The questions then are, “is it a priority in your life and where do you look?” John 14:27 “I leave the gift of peace with you—my peace. Not the kind of fragile peace given by the world, but my perfect peace.” The Passion Translation
Poison Of The HeartWhat poison is in you that you need to expel? That leaches out and poisons others? “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” NIV We may look and function normally on the outside but inside we are being poisoned, poisoned with hate, greed, envy, arrogance, self-importance—you get the point. This poison is difficult to detect and often masquerades as something innocent or trivial. But it is what ultimately destroys us, our relationship with others, and—most importantly—our relationship with God. What Christ was warning us against was outward appearances vs. inner character; we happily accept investment returns from companies that oppress workers or defile the environment; we smile to our adversary but, inside, wish them harm. The ultimate passive-aggressive situation. The remedy is not cleansing our outward appearance but our inner heart. And that is why we have a savior. (View a sermon on this topic on YouTube at 15:45) Joy Vs. Happiness I hear a lot about happiness but very little about joy. Could we have a wrong idea of what they are? To me, happiness is what we chase and it is something we depend upon others to give or circumstances to provide. For example, I could say that I am happy when I win my tennis match or when someone compliments my serve. But, I am not happy when I lose or when someone criticizes my double faults. Question: could you possibly be happy when life goes in the tank? On the other hand, to me, joy transcends circumstances and the fickleness of others. It comes from actions that are outer-directed, that is, with others in mind. It is service-oriented. And it is in the service that joy finds me. Question: could you be joyful when life goes in the tank? “Man’s idea of joy is to be as happy as he can by leaving God out of his life. The Lord taught that real joy comes by taking God into one’s life as much as possible.” (Believers Bible Commentary). John 15:11 I have told you these things so that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing. Amplified Bible If you could chose only one—joy or happiness—which would it be? Nourishment What nourishes you, gives you strength, purpose and joy? How do you nourish others? John 7:38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. NIV Loyalty What relationships compete for your total loyalty? Parents, spouse, children, even yourself? Who or what has the primary claim on your life? John 17:6 “You gave them (those to whom Christ revealed His Father) to me.” NIV The Test of Life If we approach the test of life confident only in our own abilities or the abilities of others, we have failed the test before it is even given. It is prayer alone that will guide, sustain, and strengthen us, for only prayer connects us with our Higher Power. Begin The Day By Cleansing The Heart Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen From the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer Are You Crisis-Ready? When a crisis hits, are you battle-ready? If you rely on your own strengths you have lost the battle before it is begun. “If you have not been worshiping in everyday occasions, when you get involved in God’s work, you will not only be useless yourself but also a hindrance to those around you.” (Oswald Chambers) How To Untangle The Mind Humility is the path to simplicity. Simplicity is the path to clarity. Truth In a world fraught with dishonesty and devious practices, the abundant life is found in the simple, honest truth of the Gospel. We do not need to embellish, rationalize, or justify God’s word. How Do You Respond To Temptation? There are frivolous temptations, like eating too much and exercising too little, and these can be addressed with common sense and wisdom. The critical temptations are the ones which force us to choose God or reject God, meaning whether or not we follow His commandments, His Word, His image in Christ, and His discerning Spirit within us. What, then, are your needs for grace today? Bring those boldly to him now. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Study of the New Testament on Hebrews 4:14-16 Take the mercy, accept the help. The Message Bible Questions The best answers in life are often based on the best questions. Can you answer these? –From what do you need to be saved, rescued, liberated? -What affirmation do you need? -What hole in your life needs to be filled? Ingratitude “There will be works of God exhibited through us, people will get blessed, and one or two will show gratitude while the rest will show total ingratitude,” (My Utmost For His Highest). Can you handle ingratitude and still be a servant? Personal Connection Checklist
- Are you fully present or distracted?
- Are you loving or judging?
- Are you open or closed to being changed? (From Emotionally Healthy Discipleship)
- Identify the need. We are often blind to our personal need.
- Ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help. We are intentionally made incomplete so that we must ask for help.
- Believe in a compassionate and merciful God that desires to heal and who can heal.
How Much Is “Much More?” Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Are you not much more valuable than they? (The birds of the air) …will he not much more clothe you…?Matthew 6 is an immensely rich chapter in the New Testament Gospels. It speaks of “much more” in terms like rewards and treasures. What exactly are these rewards and treasures and how much are they? Click here to learn “how much more.” Right-Thinking: What Is It And How To Get It? Does anyone desire to engage in wrong-thinking? Of course not. So, let’s take a quick look at what right-thinking is all about. Naturally, we can think rightly about many things. To get straight to the point, therefore, let’s focus on what is the most important subject about which to think. Click here to learn more about right-thinking. Romp On The Floor With God The biggest obstacle to communication (with God) is our preoccupation with other things. Take the time to drop our plans, behave like a child, and romp on the floor with God. Inspired by Macosko, Jed; Macosko, Cecilie. A Daily Companion to My Utmost for His Highest (p. 102). Our Daily Bread Publishing. Kindle Edition. A Grandfather’s Caution “My grandfather used to say that most people don’t want to hear the thing that will make it work better,” I said. “They want to hear what will make it easier.” The Last Thing He Told Me, Laura Dave How Do You Dream? “Nobody gets everything he or she yearns for. I look at the world and see three sorts of people: those who dream boldly even as they realize that a lot of their dreams will not come true; those who dream more modestly and fear that even their modest dreams may not be realized; and those who are afraid to dream at all, lest they be disappointed. I would wish for more people who dreamed boldly and trusted their powers of resilience to see them through the inevitable disappointments.” Harold S. Kushner Overcoming Life’s Disappointments How will you dream more boldly and who will you trust for the resilience to see you through disappointments? Are You Called To Be A Moses To Someone? Are we, each one of us, called to be a Moses to at least one other person? Are we called to deliver someone from bondage of some kind, to lead them through the desert of hardship to a better place? If so, we must be prepared to encounter resistance, ingratitude, and disappointment along the way. Moreover, we will need the encouragement and strength to continue the journey to its end. Moses was called by God and commanded to deliver His people. Moses was assured of God’s continued presence. Moses knew who he was working for and drew his strength from that source. Are we so called, do we know who our leader is, and do we have trust in His never-ending presence? How Do You Draw Water From A Well Too Deep? What do you do when you are thirsty and the well is deep? In ancient times, you came to the well with both vessel and rope. What do you do when the rope tied to the vessel used to draw the water is too short? What if you had neither rope nor vessel? These are critical life questions. There are two aspects to satisfying our thirsts, which are many. One is preparation; know where the well is and have the equipment necessary to draw the water. The second one is having a source to call upon when, even with the best preparation, we cannot draw the water. If we attempt to face life’s challenges with only our preparation we will thirst often and may barely survive. But, if we call upon resources greater than ourselves, our thirsts will be satisfied, including thirsts we may not be aware of. What are these greater resources? Prayer. A relationship with Christ. Surrender. Abandonment. Transformation. The Samaritan woman who met Christ at the well was equipped to draw water–she had the right equipment. But she, like me, had a thirst greater than the water in the well and which could not be reached with vessel and rope. Once she heard Christ’s living words her physical thirsts became secondary and her soul overflowed with living waters. Avail yourself to these living waters. Let Christ be your rope and vessel. John 4:11,13-14 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” NIV Managing Your Blessings Whatever God has given to you, manage it well for His glory. (Comment from Our Daily Bread Podcasts on actor David Suchet’s audio recording of the entire Bible) I am a servant of God. I have blessings in abundance. Let me distribute them among God’s children. Managing The Tough Times It is hard to be positive when things are tough. Everything is not wonderful when you are hurting. What to do? Pray for understanding. Hope for better times. But above all, stay close to God and put your hope in Him. Never leave Him. A Message of Strength It is supremely better to face the challenges of life with strength, not weakness. How? Not exclusively with our own strength, which is limited, but with the strength of the Lord. His is a conquering strength, not one of surrender. His is a strength without limit. No, in all these things* we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. *trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword” Romans 8:37-39 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 Are You Ready For Act Three? In Act One, we dream big, have high expectations, and fear no obstacles. In Act Two, we often face the reality of unfulfilled dreams, lowered expectations, and a mine field of obstacles. This brings us to the critical Act Three. In Act Three we must decide whether we retreat into a disappointing past, maintain a comfortable but not inspiring present, or regroup our resources and remake ourselves into a new, thrilling, and positive Act One. Think of life as a series of three acts: act one, two, and three that continually challenge us to dream, move through obstacles, and live an abundant life-however that life may be. Do you have someone to inspire your dreams? Do you have a friend to walk beside you in disappointments? Do you have a comforter to help you out of the mud holes of life and try new, glorious things? Psalm 50:5 But as for me, I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; Lord, do not delay. NIV John 3:16 You’ve heard it. You’ve read it and you have seen it on billboards. But what does it fully mean? Here is one way to think of it: God’s outpouring of pure goodness in wonderful abandonment to the underserving. Psalm Therapy There is a way to deal with all the emotions, trials, disappointments, frustrations, and joys of life without going to a therapist. Just go to the Psalms. The Psalms capture the full spectrum of life’s events: great and small, happy and sad, serene and threatening, joyful and disheartening. They were written by God’s chosen (David and Solomon) and select others who lived life to the fullest and experienced, collectively, every possible experience that we may have. Their joy was without limit and their distress was tempered by an unshakable faith. The author of creation guided them at all times. What more could you ask of life? If you value wisdom and wish a true companion in life, walk with the Psalms.* *You will be helped greatly by using a commentary or Bible with commentary. I highly recommend the Life Application Study Bible, New Living Translation by Tyndale. A Simple View Of Life As Seen Through God’s Eyes-It’s Not That Complicated I created you out of love to share my goodness and glory. My only condition is to worship me alone and accept me as the ruler of your life and the treasure of your heart. This is the binding nature of our relationship. You tarnish this relationship-break its bonds-when you worship (put into first place) false gods, including yourself, and fail to follow my commands which are meant to ensure the integrity, strength and resilience of our relationship. In my everlasting love, I call you back again and again. But there is a price to pay for your rebellion. You cannot pay that price, make restitution or redeem it yourself. But through my love, I have provided the means for you to return to me and that is through the sacrifice of my Son—a wondrous, incomprehensible gift to your underserving selves. Your decision is whether to accept through faith (trust) my invitation to return to me by accepting my Son as the ruler of your life and the treasure of your heart. What more could you ask of life? Where Is Your Focus? Focus on God first and the obstacles will fall. Focus on the obstacles first and you eliminate God. Who Are You? Are you a physically attractive person? What happens when you lose your physical beauty? Are you a successful person? What happens when you fail? How you define yourself determines much of your life’s joys and sorrows. You are, first and foremost, a child of God. In this you cannot lose or fail. Who are you? More importantly, whose are you? Extravagant Love What is the only response to extravagant love? If it is God’s love, the only response is extravagant worship. In the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32) we are told of the extravagant love of the father for his profligate son who returns in disgrace but is met with a loving embrace. We are that son (or daughter) in need of our Father’s embrace and forgiveness. In the story of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet (John 12: 1-8,) we are told of the simplicity of the gesture combined with the extravagant expense of the perfume (about one year’s income). When the two are combined-a heedless concern about cost and a driven, passionate need to adore-we unveil extravagant worship. Extravagant worship does not require great monetary cost; Mary’s action, particularly with drying Jesus’ feet with her hair, expresses the highest value, that of giving up oneself in total adoration. No price tag can be placed on this. We can be that extravagant worshipper. Priceless, extravagant love evokes priceless extravagant worship. (Click here for Revisiting The Prodigal Son, a fresh look at an amazing story.) Be God’s Instrument Ananias was God’s instrument to convert Saul, persecutor of Christians, to Paul, proclaimer of Christ as Messiah. We can be that instrument. Read about Ananias here. Crucified to Sin; What Does This Mean? Today is Palm Sunday, 2022, the beginning of Holy Week, and we will hear the word “crucified” often. Paul uses it extensively, as in crucified to sin and crucified with Christ. What does he mean? In its simplest form, crucifixion means death. To me, the clearest way to understand the use of this expression is to apply it to my relationship with Christ; am I growing into that relationship or away from it. To have sin (meaning a turning away from Christ) crucified in me is to have more of Christ in me. It is as straightforward as choosing spiritual life over death, blessing over curse. It is all the things that separate me from Christ that I wish to remove, destroy, put to death—crucify. This is what is meant by identification with Christ’s death; “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” Galatians 2:20 Ironic, isn’t it, that a word so identified with death can mean life: true, spiritual, abundant life. An Important Distinction When we accept a gift from someone we receive something apart from them, though it may come with love and affection. Think of a birthday gift that we grasp and unwrap. The gifts of God are different. We don’t receive something from God, we receive God. The gift of the Spirit is the Spirit himself, not a gift from Him. These gifts become part of us and therein is their value and power—the fullness of God.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19Home Where is home? Home is a place of security, a place of serenity, and a place to refuel—physical, emotionally, and spiritually. But life can interrupt this status, leaving me unbalanced, disoriented, and drained. So it is important to have a second home where there is constancy, peace, wholeness, and joy. This is the Father’s home to which we are called and from which can meet the challenges before us. Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. John 14:23 For the abundant life, seek your Father’s home. Too Close To The Cliff? Look for ways to make Him smile, rather than probing to see how close to the cliff’s edge we can get without falling off. Are Your Strengths Your Weaknesses? One of the best pieces of wisdom I have ever received was this:
Your strengths are your weaknesses. Your weaknesses are your strengths.In a world where strengths are sought and weaknesses are shunned, how can these be words of wisdom? These words are meant to warn us against over-relying on strengths to the extent we lose perspective and become vulnerable through complacency. And they portray recognized weaknesses as alerting us to areas of vulnerability that require attention. Here is sage advice from the Book of Revelation. In Revelation 3:15-18, John writes to Laodicea. Laodicea was famous for banking, black wool, and medicine, particularly an eye salve. Its strengths became its weaknesses and misdirected loyalty from Christ. He writes: Do not allow your strengths to blind you from truths. Beware the unguarded stronghold! How To Avoid A REALLY Bad Day Bad days are a way of life. They will come. But what is a really bad day and can it be avoided? A really bad day is a day without hope. It is being alone. It is having no strength beyond our own. Our escape, our refuge lies in these promises: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2 Fading Glory Are you clinging to fading glory? Are the people, ideas, organizations, and treasured possessions in your life losing their luster? Well, welcome to life. There is, however, something—someone—whose glory never fades. Cling to Him. 2 Corinthians 3:18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. New Living Translation Peace of Mind By Elvis The abundant life is a life of burdens that have been unburdened. Find your peace in this song by Elvis. Read all the lyrics. Listen to the song. And find peace. Take your troubles to the chapel Get down on your knees and pray Then your burdens will be lighter And you’ll surely find the way Crying In The Chapel What Ignites Your Heart? “Want to know God’s will for your life? Then answer this question: What ignites your heart? “The fire of your heart is the light of your path. Disregard it at your own expense. Fan it at your own delight. Blow it. Stir it. Nourish it. Cynics will doubt it. Those without it will mock it. But those who know it—those who know him—will understand it.” And to set your heart on fire is to discover a world you could never have imagined. Quotations from NKJV Lucado Encouraging Word Bible on 1 Peter 4 1 Peter 4:10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. New Living Translation Danger We are in danger of forgetting that we cannot do what God does, and that God will not do what we can do. We cannot save nor sanctify ourselves— God does that. But God will not give us good habits or character, and He will not force us to walk correctly before Him. We have to do all that ourselves. Oswald Chambers, My Upmost For His Highest Need Something Fixed? “Hang in there. I can turn things around.” (This is the message of hope that rings throughout Scripture, with a shout-out to Bob Statler.) Why Choose What Is Worthless?
Psalm 119:37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; It’s a decision we make daily, hundreds of times; we choose what to look at, what to focus on, what to value, to embrace. Would you knowingly choose what is worthless, without value, that has no redeeming quality, consumes irretrievable time and resources, and serves no soul-building purpose? When the question is positioned in such a way, the obvious answer is “no.” Yet, we make these worthless choices daily, hundreds of times. I know I do. We choose the things of the world that catch the eye, allure the heart, and inflame the emotion: riches, honors, and pleasures that are all vanity. We accept words that are “glided over with the specious pretense of truth; and all false worship and superstition, set off with pomp and pageantry, with which the eyes of the body or the eyes of the mind are taken, and by which the heart is ensnared.” (BibleStudyTools.com). It is far better to divert our eyes from such worthless things onto something better, things that give life and invigorate our steps. How is this to be done? Verse 9 asks and answers this question: How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. What does this mean? Psalm 119 goes on to tell us that It means (and not only to the young): seeking, praising, rejoicing, meditating, and delighting in the statutes, precepts, laws, and decrees of the Lord, which are found throughout scripture (particularly in the Old Testament) and then summarized in “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your mind…and your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 37,39) Will your eyes now be attracted to worthless things or to the priceless relationship with your creator God?Fictitious Wealth As we read about high inflation and scarcity, and listen to debates as to whether or when a recession will occur, it is wise to consider our attraction to fictitious wealth and where true wealth resides. Psalm 87:7 All my fountains of joy are in You. The Voice Never Alone There are many ways to feel alone. We may be literally alone, by ourselves and apart from everyone else. Or we may feel alone in a crowd of strangers or in a stadium seating 100,000. We may be alone in our thoughts in the sense that “nobody understands me.” Our attitudes and preferences may cause a division with others. Stress, anxiety, or fear may cause us to feel the despair of aloneness. But we are never really alone. Paul asks in Romans 8:35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” and answers in the most soul satisfying way that nothing, no one, in any way, or at any time can separate us from the love of Christ. We have a companion at all times, in all situations, who will never abandon us. Never. Alone. We Are Buffeted Between Two Extremes We are buffeted between two extremes: false riches and false poverty. At one extreme, we hear that we must be powerful, self-reliant, and ruthless to make it in life, to make it to the top (wherever that is). These lead us to false riches. Consequently, we seek advantage over others, compare ourselves to the success of others, and are in a constant state of jealousy or envy. On the other hand, after we have tried and failed to live up to unrealistic expectations, having been beaten down by events. In life, and perhaps after having made some errors along the way, we feel powerless and without the strength and resources to endure, start over, or simply to make it through the day. This is false poverty. In between these two extremes lies the promises of God. These promises include being our strength when we are weak, being our constant companion when others desert us, and having personal worth that no-one can diminish. Where we settle between the extremes is a matter of choice. God, His promises, and the abundant life God desires for us is always to be found in the middle. He will provide the inner strength and positive self-image we deserve so that we don’t have to assume the deceptive lures of worldly wants and standards. His are true riches. He will also pick us up after we have failed miserably, or have fallen into despair, because that is what He does and has done for thousands of years. False poverty is eliminated. Reach out to God. Your Personal Sword Video games and action movies often have characters who wield swords that save them from harm and destroy their enemies. These swords have amazing qualities that endow their owner with superhuman powers. Wouldn’t it be nice to have such a sword? We do. It’s called the word of God. With it, we don’t have to be Superman or Wonder Woman to hack our way out of trouble, pull ourselves out of the mud hole of despair, or climb over obstacles to reach our true potential. The word of God is our armor (see Ephesians 6:10-17), it is God’s mighty power to enable us to stand firm against the devil’s schemes, the spiritual forces of evil, and whatever we may encounter in life. It is truth, a right relationship with God, peace, a shield, and the sword of the Spirit. Video games and action movies are fantasies. They don’t exist, nor do their weapons. God exists and we have only to call upon Him to arm ourselves with spiritual powers that enable us to stand firm, fight the good fight, and be blessed. “What Are You Doing Here?” This is a good question to ask oneself at any time, but especially appropriate when it is asked by God as it was to Elijah: The LORD Appears to Elijah and the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:9 (NIV) The prophet Elijah was not in a good place. He was running away from what seemed to him to be a failed mission for God. He was filled with such an overwhelming web of negative emotions that he was suicidal. In this depressed state God came to him, not with disdain and criticism, but with this question, “What are you doing here?” God did not mean for Elijah to justify his actions or state of mind but to open his mind to the voice of God. This voice came as a gentle whisper with instructions for his next actions. “What are you doing here, Lord?” is a powerful question that can help you and me to stop, reflect, assess, and re-commit to a purposeful life focused on God’s purpose. God’s response may be gentle and soft, so listen carefully. Ask the question daily. Wheel Of Faith Or Fortune? Consider the Ferris wheel and how it represents life. It consists of two moving parts: the wheel and the gondolas that are suspended from it. The wheel is life with its highs and lows, fickle fortune that entices and disappoints. The gondolas are rooms of faith: true and steady. Choose to enter the gondola of faith. The gondola will travel the circumference of daily life with it the highs and lows. But the gondola is always upright because it is attached not by our grip but by Christ’s grip on us, allowing us to encounter all facets of a fickle world with strength beyond ours, hope that soars, and a friend who travels with us. Replace the fickle wheel of fortune with the true gondola of faith. (Read more about The Wheel of Fortune) When You Cry, Who Will Come? 5 Steps To Wipe Away Your Tears Ask “Forsake me not, O Lord.” Psalm 38:21 Trust Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 Focus Focus on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8 Pray Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Embrace Stop thinking and just embrace the mystery of God’s love, healing, and salvation. Ask, Seek, Knock: What, How, Where? Luke 11: 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. We work through many iterations of ask, seek, knock as we journey through life. “What do I want to be when I grow up?” “What will I major in?” “What is the purpose of my life?” The promises of Christ implied in Luke 11:9 are based upon focused actions. We must act with intentionality to receive what Christ desires for us, not what we want for ourselves. This is why is it critical to receiving His assured blessings that we diligently and prayerfully ask “what is it I truly want by asking?”, “how committed am I to seeking it?” and “where do I knock, what door to I wish to be opened?” There may be a simple answer to these questions; earnestly seek a relationship with Christ by knocking on the door to His heart. Why Thirst? Pity those who thirst for no reason, for whom the free gift is not sufficiently expensive or exclusive. Isaiah 55:1 Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. NIV The Frightening Funhouse of Life Years ago a traveling circus would entice you to a ride through the Funhouse; you would get into a small car on rails and would be whisked though a door that would immediately immerse you in darkness, spooky sounds, and with pop-up, frightening images. Today’s amusement parks have their own, more sophisticated version of the Funhouse, but the purpose is still the same; to offer you the trill of danger, fear, and disaster while promising safety at the end of the journey. Life is a Funhouse of sorts with these real differences: we will experience hurt, the terrors will be real and we may become so overwhelmed with the ride that we lose faith that the journey can end in light and not darkness, in peace and not fear, in hope and not despair. This I believe is the challenge of faith and the purpose of the assurances given in the Bible. God is with us in the car through this spook house of life. The car ride will be jarring and at times it will seem to be out of control but it will never spin off its tracks. His plan assures us of a light at the end of the tunnel of life. And whatever we fear during our ride will be laid to rest at the end. So the message is this: choose to take God at His word, grip the car firmly with faith, and focus primarily on His plan for eternity with you, or live in constant, hopeless dread. Seven Assurances From the Bible Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 14:24 The Lord Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen. Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 2 Samuel 22:29 You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light. Psalm 73:23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Matthew 28:20 And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” *A building or an attraction in an amusement park or a carnival that features various devices intended to surprise, frighten, bewilder, or amuse. (yourdictionary.com) Its purpose is to distort conventional perceptions and startle people with unstable and unpredictable physical circumstances. What Celebration Are You Refusing To Join? Luke 15:38 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in.” The Parable of the Prodigal Son is often called the Parable of the Older Brother and it is this older brother that is today’s focus. (Reread the parable in full, Luke 15:11-32.) In short, the older brother, out of jealousy, envy, and resentment, refuses to join the celebration that the father throws out of joy because the younger brother, who left home in disgrace, returns. The father pleads with the older brother to share in the celebration. Although there is great depth and richness to this scene, one key thought emerges:; our Father God desires that we join the celebration of life that He has given us and plans for us in eternity. It is ours freely and we cannot earn it. The question to ask yourself is this: Am I standing outside, refusing to go to God’s celebrations? What pleasure and joy am I denying myself? Paul cautions us in Colossians 2:8 how we may be fooled to remain outside; “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” How sad to hear these words, “He stood outside, refused to go in to the celebration.” Come in and celebrate. Who Do You Trust? Life cannot be lived without trust. But who can you trust? Much trust is based on the messages we perceive: words, images, impressions. We are bombarded to excess with all of these. Which ones are we to believe? How do we test anything for truth, legitimacy, or honesty? Truth in messaging in not found in the medium (with regrets to Marshal McLuhan). The well-choreographed presentation is not necessarily the message. Likes and followers are not the message. The intent is not the message. Even the words are not the message. The message is the person. But wait…it’s not the attractiveness of the person, nor style, nor charm. The person to believe—to trust, to set your life upon—is the one whose life is lived out in actions. Action is the testimony of truth. Read the full article here. The Fires Of Sorrow Oswald Chambers, in Receiving Yourself in The Fires Of Sorrow, states that “sorrow either gives me to myself or it destroys me.” Success, he says, cannot make you a better person for it leads to pride. So, are we to welcome sorrow? No. But we can welcome what God can do in us as we work through the fires of sorrow. We can reaffirm and grow in our relationship with Him, find new strength and purpose, and what Chambers calls “nourishment for others,” that is, caring for others who have been destroyed by sorrow. Can You Do The Impossible? Here is your challenge: can you (1) create a community united in faith? (2) build a vessel with primitive resources that can sustain the harshest weather? (3) free a person, a community, or a nation from the slavery of injustice, personal vices, or weakness? (4) make profit in investments that seem doomed? (5) defeat evil with only sound? No, you cannot, but God can. Reflect on Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jeremiah, and Joshua who, with Gods power, fathered a nation, build a boat on land, freed a people, bought property that would be conquered, and destroyed fortress walls with ram horns. What impossible things are you prepared to do with God’s help? No One Travels Alone We travel with many over a lifetime. Some we choose to travel with: our spouse and friends. Some we have no control over-our family, co-workers, and those who sit next to us on an airplane. Groups and activities, such as teams and church services, come and go. Some travelers insert themselves into our lives with the sole intention of taking, not giving. And there are those we travel with virtually, without physical contact: bloggers, columnists, and writers. All of our fellow travelers – intimate or impersonal, welcomed or not – share one feature; in some way at some time they will leave or abandon us: death, foibles, disappointment, tragedy, accident-all will take a toll. We cannot escape this immutable fact of life: no one travels this life alone. We were created for companionship and simply cannot exist by ourselves. Who do we choose to travel with? Who will be our constant companion, regardless of what are? Who will not abandon us-ever? Who will lift us up, make us more than we can imagine, quench our thirst? Who will love us, even if we are unlovable? There is only one. Travel with Christ. Abide in Him. John 15:4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. Do You Need A Trophy For Everything? If you need a trophy for everything you do and accomplish, success may be your false god, your favorite idol. Sharla Fritz, in her post 3 Reasons Success May Be Your Favorite Idol, brilliantly shares her thoughts how we succumb to the false god of success in its many forms. “God alone can de-throne this sometimes powerful counterfeit god in our lives” she writes, and identifies three steps we can take to “overcome our worshipping tendencies.” 1. Recognize the Idol of Success in Your Own Life 2. Work Behind the Scenes 3. Daily Worship the True God Read the full article here. Note that this article may contain advertisements placed on the website ibeileve.com. You may enjoy my ebook, Destroy These False Gods: 101 False Gods To Destroy Before They Destroy You. Justice “Never look for right in the other man, but never cease to be right yourself. We are always looking for justice; the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is — Never look for justice, but never cease to give it.” My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers Is Your Reality Real? There are people and tools that can create and distort any reality, or what we believe is reality. Think of movies largely constructed of special effects and video games. (Can you name any movie or commercial that doesn’t have “special effects”?-scary) Think of how emotions can be inflamed or doused. Think of artificially produced “reality” shows. But mostly think about how truths can be distorted into lies, and lies into truths. Are you living in true reality or a manufactured one, being manipulated by someone for their own selfish purpose? What personal armor is shielding you from untruths? The other side of the reality coin is this: are you projecting your true self or an artificial one? Is your personal armor also cloaking your true self from others? Read Who Do You Trust? God Is Not Human God is not human, not like a man. Our weaknesses should not be imposed upon Him. Numbers 23:19 God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? NIV Trivialize God And You Trivialize Yourself God created mankind in his own image (Genesis 1:27) Three Questions About God In times of doubt, fear, pain, vulnerability-when we need help-we may ask these three questions about God: Can God do anything? Will God do anything? What will God do? The response, as it so often is in the Bible, is not a direct answer but a redirection from ourselves to God. Psalm 25 is one such answer. Here are several key phrases: Put your trust in God (and not yourself, others, or things) Show me your ways (not mine) Teach and guide me Fear (respect, hold with awe) the Lord Relieve the troubles of my heart Guard and rescue me, give me refuge Let hope protect me through integrity and uprightness Is this the answer you expect or the answer you need?