Throwback Thursday??

It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart. —Mahatma Gandhi

Daily Prayer

TODAY’S DAILY PRAYER

yellow and orange bittersweetOn the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:37–38, NIV

Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for sending down powers from on high into our earthly life. We thank you for sending us a higher nature in which we can live for others because we are living by what we receive from you. May we be simple, childlike, and trusting. When anyone despairs of himself, show him the way to the Savior so that he can find trust. Show to us the way of trust, trust for ourselves and for all people, because it is your will for all to receive help. Amen.

 

Daily Dig

Caffeine for your conscience

A crusty loaf of breadChrist does not save all those who say to him: Lord, Lord. But he saves all those who out of a pure heart give a piece of bread to a starving man, without thinking about him the least little bit. And these, when he thanks them, reply: Lord, when did we feed thee?…An atheist and an “infidel,” capable of pure compassion, are as close to God as is a Christian, and consequently know him equally well, although their knowledge is expressed in different words, or remains unspoken. For “God is love.”

 

Forgiveness

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. —Mahatma Gandhi

Why Forgive?

Christian de Chergé

A Story of Forgiveness

Johann Christoph Arnold

As the Western world reels from repeated terror attacks by Islamic extremists and grapples with the continued threat of violence, there could hardly be a more timely and hopeful story than that of Christian de Chergé, a remarkable peacemaker featured in our e-book Why Forgive?In 2010, his gripping story was brought to life as the major motion picture Of Gods and Men by French director Xavier Beauvois. De Chergé and his fellow monks living in Algeria were murdered at the hands of Islamic extremists. Amazingly, de Chergé had written a letter forgiving his persecutors in advance.

Through James Christensen, the prior of a Trappist monastery in Rome, I recently learned of a remarkable story of someone who not only forgave his persecutors, but did so before the fact. In May 1996, the GIA, a radical Muslim faction active in Algeria, kidnapped seven of James’s fellow Trappists in the Atlas Mountains and threatened to hold them hostage until France released several of their own imprisoned compatriots. Several weeks passed, and still the French government refused. In the end, the GIA killed the monks by beheading them.

All France was horrified, and every Catholic church in France tolled its bells at the same time in the monks’ memory. What struck me most about the tragedy, however, was something that had quietly foreshadowed it two years before. The prior of the Algerian monastery, Christian de Chergé, had had a strange premonition that he would soon die a violent death, and wrote a letter forgiving his future assassins, sealed it, and left it with his mother in France. Opened only after his murder, it read in part:

If it should happen one day – and it could be today – that I become a victim of the terrorism that now seems to encompass all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to Algeria; and that they accept that the sole Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure.

I would like, when the time comes, to have a space of clearness that would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and of my fellow human beings, and at the same time to forgive with all my heart the one who will strike me down.

I could not desire such a death; it seems to me important to state this: How could I rejoice if the Algerian people I love were indiscriminately accused of my murder?

My death, obviously, will appear to confirm those who hastily judged me naïve or idealistic: “Let him tell us now what he thinks of it!” But they should know that…for this life lost, I give thanks to God. In this “thank you,” which is said for everything in my life from now on, I certainly include you, my last-minute friend who will not have known what you are doing…I commend you to the God in whose face I see yours. And may we find each other, happy “good thieves” in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both.

Who was de Chergé, and what was the source of his deep convictions regarding peace and forgiveness? According to a book about his religious order, The Monks of Tibhirine, it all began in 1959, when de Chergé was sent to Algeria with the French Army’s “pacification” forces. While there he befriended Mohammed, a Muslim policeman, and together they took weekly walks to discuss politics, culture, and theology. De Chergé tells the following story about their friendship:

Since the day when he had asked me, quite unexpectedly, to teach him to pray, Mohammed made a habit of coming to talk with me regularly. He is a neighbor, and we have a long history of sharing. . . . One day, he found the perfect formula for calling me to order and demanding a meeting: “It’s been a long time since we’ve dug our well!” . . . Once, to tease him, I asked the question: “And at the bottom of our well, what will we find? Muslim water or Christian water?” He gave me a look, half-amused and half-rueful: “Come on now, we’ve spent all this time walking together, and you’re still asking me this question! You know very well that at the bottom of that well, what we’ll find is God’s water!”

One subject that came up again and again was the tense relationship between Algeria’s Christians (its French colonizers) and Muslims (its native population). On one of these walks, a squad of Algerian rebels ambushed the two men. De Chergé, wearing his army fatigues, was sure his end had come. Then Mohammed stepped in between his friend and the attackers and told them to leave de Chergé alone: “He is a godly man.”

Amazingly, they let both men go. But this act of bravery cost Mohammed his life: he was found murdered in the street the next day. The episode gripped de Chergé for days—and completely changed his life. He decided to commit himself to God and to the cause of peace. When his tour of duty ended he returned to France and entered a Trappist monastery. Later he studied to become a priest and asked to be transferred to an Algerian base. This wish was granted and he moved back to Africa, eventually becoming the ecclesiastical head of a rural district in the Atlas Mountains.

As abbot, de Chergé made decisions that his overseas superiors saw as unusual and even unwise. Instead of proselytizing, he offered the locals employment, medical care and lessons in literacy and French. He also organized an annual interfaith summit to promote Muslim-Christian dialogue. He even invited Muslims to stay at the compound of Notre-Dame dé Atlas, his monastery. By this, de Chergé aimed to show the world that Muslims and Christians can live together under one God or Allah. As he explained it, “the only way for us to give witness is… to be what we are in the midst of banal, everyday realities.

Over time, despite de Chergé’s efforts—or perhaps because of them?— the GIA grew angry with the Trappists, whom they saw as meddlers. So it was that they were finally kidnapped, held hostage, and murdered. To many people, the death of de Chergé and his fellow monks proves the worst stereotypes of Islam. But to him it was the expected cost of being a peacemaker.

To me, it is a stark reminder of the work that must be done worldwide (in many places, it is questionable if it has even begun) to spread the healing message of forgiveness. In a time when so many people are willing to die in ongoing armed conflicts between the “Christian” West and the “menace” of Islam—whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Algeria, or anywhere else—where are there men and women who are willing to die for the sake of peace? Certainly de Chergé was one of these. To quote once more from his remarkable farewell letter:

I know the caricatures which a certain Islamic ideology encourages and which make it easy for some to dismiss the religion as hateful…But such people should know that at last I will be able to see the children of Islam as He sees them—He whose secret joy is to bring forth our common humanity amid our differences.

Verse of the Day

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Thoughts on Today’s Verse…

Love is much more than a feeling or an attitude: love is an action. When we love, we show it by our deeds. As disciples of Jesus, our love is shown by our obedience to the things Jesus taught. Of course, that obedience brings an incredible blessing — Jesus reveals himself to those that obey him!

My Prayer…

Dear LORD, my Abba Father, please forgive me for my sins. Empower me to resist the Evil One. Help me find delight in obeying the teaching of my Lord and Savior, Jesus. In the name your Son I ask this. Amen.

 

BIBLE STUDY BUDDY 

Read Luke 14:26-33…”If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, even their own life-such a person cannot be my disciple. 27.And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28.”Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29.For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30.saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ 31.”Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32.If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33.In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”

Devotion To Christ…

If the closest relationships of life clash with the claims of Jesus Christ, He says it must be instant obedience to Himself. Discipleship means personal, passionate devotion to a Person, Our Lord Jesus Christ. There is a difference between devotion to a Person and devotion to principles or to a cause. Our Lord never proclaimed a cause; He proclaimed personal devotion to Himself. To be a disciple is to be a devoted love-slave of the Lord Jesus. Many of us who call ourselves Christians are not devoted to Jesus Christ. No man on earth has this passionate love to the Lord Jesus unless the Holy Ghost has imparted it to him. We may admire Him, we may respect Him and reverence Him, but we cannot love Him. The only Lover of the Lord Jesus is the Holy Ghost, and He sheds abroad the very love of God in our hearts. Whenever the Holy Ghost sees a chance of glorifying Jesus, He will take your heart, your nerves, your whole personality, and simply make you blaze and glow with devotion to Jesus Christ. The Christian life is stamped by moral spontaneous originality, consequently the disciple is open to the same charge that Jesus Christ was, viz., that of inconsistency. But Jesus Christ was always consistent to God, and the Christian must be consistent to the life of the Son of God in him, not consistent to hard and fast creeds. Men pour them selves into creeds, and God has to blast them out of their prejudices before they can become devoted to Jesus Christ.

 

JesusOrgDevoBanner_MysteriesOfJesus

Quote of the Day

“Our message only tastes good to those who wish to be cleansed from sin and preserved from everlasting death, not to those who hate God.”
– by Stephen Davey (from Becoming a Saltshaker?)

Today’s Answer

The Secret of Contentment?

Charles Stanley

After his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul had much to learn about salvation and following Christ. Throughout his life, the apostle shared what he was discovering. In his letter to the church at Philippi, he wrote about a very important life lesson – the secret of being content.

What kind of life do you think brings contentment? You might assume it is one with few troubles or great success. You may want good health, financial security, and a loving family. Paul’s life was not at all like this. He was in danger from both his own countryman and the opposition (2 Corinthians 11:23-26). Sometimes the people listened, but more often, they were hostile to his message. He also had a “thorn in the flesh” which God refused to remove (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). And Paul even spent considerable time in prison, chained to a guard. Yet he boldly wrote, ” I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:12, NIV).

The secret he discovered was to live on the basis of his position in the Lord, not his feelings. As God’s child, Paul knew he was spiritually rich – “blessed . . . with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3) because he had a loving Father and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Contentment in our media-driven age is hard to find and harder to keep. There’s always something newer, bigger, or better to buy and someone else who has what you want. When you feel unsatisfied, try basing your response on your position as a co-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17) rather than feelings.

Taken from “The Secret of Contentment ” by In Touch Ministries (used by permission).

 

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Prophetic Word: ‘Intercessors of America, Arise—and God Will Strengthen Our Hedge of Protection!’

The Lord showed me a live vision of President Trump and a number of our national leaders. (Pxhere)

Recently, I had a very powerful and profound prophetic dream about U.S. President Donald Trump. As soon as I awakened from this dream, I felt an urgency in my spirit to release this dream to the American people. As soon as I woke up, I asked God to speak to me at a deeper level to give me clear insight on what I saw in the dream.

In the dream, it was as though I was seeing things from a heavenly realm and a higher perspective. The Lord showed me a live vision of President Trump and a number of our national leaders. The national leaders were leaders of many different divisions and departments of America as well as the senators and governors from numerous states, Republicans and Democrats alike. There was a hedge of protection around President Trump and the key leaders of America. It was as if an angelic host had created a sphere-like barrier around President Trump and the national leaders. Even though there was a huge demonic attack and presence surrounding these national leaders from every side and covering them, the hedge of protection was all around them and above them. They were completely protected from this demonic attack. It was as if they were enveloped in a huge bubble of divine protection.

In the vision, the enemy was trying to find a way to penetrate the covering, and the hedge of protection was getting smaller and weaker by the minute. The attacks, schemes and tricks of the enemy were getting closer and closer to our president and the national leaders. As these attacks were getting stronger and closer to President Trump and the different national leaders I could tell that the enemy was strategically trying to block out their clarity in decision-making and strike fear into the hearts of the leaders.

Then as I came out of the dream and began to wake up, the Lord showed me very plainly the plan that He has. The Lord said, “If the intercessors of America will arise in this hour the hedge of protection will become stronger. It will push back the resistance of the enemy.” The Lord spoke to me about telling the Christians to start praying like never before for a hedge of protection to grow around our president and the key leaders of America. We must pray that the Lord will release His angel armies to be dispatched to guard President Trump and our other national leaders. The Lord showed me that the stronger the hedge of protection is around our leaders, the farther away we can drive back the attacks of the enemy. The more wisdom and clarity our leaders have, the more key decisions will be made. The enemy is trying to cloud and confuse their decision-making process but as we pray, the enemy will be defeated!

So many people in America are speaking word-curses over our nation, our president, our senators, governors, officers and other leaders. The Lord spoke to me to warn and teach people that these word-curses are used mightily of the enemy. This is why the Lord said we must speak blessings out of our mouth over our nation. This is the season that the children of God, through their declarations and prayers, can bring change and a huge shift to America. Let no negative word come from your mouth over anybody in a governmental position. We must declare the kingdom of God to come forth in our nation, in this hour.

The next 90 days will shape the rest of President Trump’s presidency. The next 90 days will be shaped by the intercessors and prayer warriors who are declaring and praying this hedge of protection and angelic host around our nation’s leaders. We must pray for America and our president. The next 90 days will help shape America for the next 30 to 40 years. I encourage everyone to fast and pray for America and our government leaders, as well of the leaders of the church of America, like never before! 

Joe Joe Dawson is the founder and Apostle of ROAR Apostolic Network and ROAR Church Texarkana. Joe Joe is married to the love of his life, Autumn Dawson, and they have three children, Malachi, Judah and Ezra. The Dawsons live and teach a lifestyle of revival and awakening. Their desire is to see every believer fulfill their God-given destiny and live life to the fullest in God. Joe Joe is also the author of Living Your God-Sized Dream and Recipe for Revival. To connect with Joe Joe or for more information, visit joejoedawson.net.

 

Evangelical Leaders React to President Donald Trump’s U.N. Speech: ‘It’s an Answer to Prayer’

Franklin Graham has thanked God for "a president who stands for truth and is not afraid to speak truth to the whole world" after Donald Trump addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday in New York City.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday delivered his inaugural address to the United Nations and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary. Getty Images

Franklin Graham has thanked God for “a president who stands for truth and is not afraid to speak truth to the whole world” after Donald Trump addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday in New York City.

“President Donald J. Trump‘s address today to the United Nations General Assembly may have been one of the best speeches ever given to that body,” Graham, the CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, wrote in a Tuesday Facebook post. “It made you proud to be an American. I hope you will join me in praying for this man, that God will guide and direct him. He reminded the world, ‘If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph.'”

Trump’s speech addressed many different topics such as the economy, radical terror, the nuclear threat of North Korea, Iran’s funding of terrorist groups, Iraq, Syria, Cuba, immigration, socialism, and United Nations reform.

While promising that the U.S. “will forever be a great friend to the world and especially to its allies,” he threatened to “totally destroy” the “depraved regime” of North Korea if the U.S. finds itself “forced to defend itself or its allies.”

He also demanded that “Iran’s government must stop supporting terrorists, begin serving its own people, and respect the sovereign rights of its neighbors.”

The president also criticized the Iran nuclear deal, calling it “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions” and “an embarrassment.”

“We will fight together, sacrifice together, and stand together for peace, for freedom, for justice, for family, for humanity, and for the almighty God who made us all,” he concluded his speech.

Graham is not the only religious leader to applaud the president for his bold speech. Robert Jeffress, one of President Trump’s evangelical advisers and the pastor of the 13,000-member First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, tweeted: “@POTUS just delivered to the @UN the most courageous speech of any Pres. in history. Thank God for a President who will call evil -‘evil.'”

He later tweeted, “Isn’t it refreshing to have a @POTUS whose mantra is ‘Make America First’ instead of ‘Hate America First!'”

Tweeted Pastor Mark Burns: “President @realDonaldTrump will defend America and protect our sovereignty from #RocketMan #KimJongUn & all Evil Global Terrorist #UNGA”

James Robison, founder of LIFE Outreach International, also praised Trump’s speech in a Facebook video: “I believe it was an answer to the prayers of deeply concerned people,” he said. “And I believe that if we will continue to pray for those in authority, we may see one of the greatest miracles we’ve ever witnessed and that would be nations coming together to actually be the United Nations. I’m praying for our nation and our national leadership to become united. As Christians, we need to become one in Christ, one with one another, and pray for miracles.”

He added, “Many of you have wondered if President Trump could actually deliver the kind of message that you heard and actually believe what he said and stand for it and lead us in a positive direction. He was not the candidate that most conservatives or Christians would’ve picked, but it’s obvious that people with common sense who knew we couldn’t continue the direction we were going [knew] we had to have a total change.”

Robison said that as “God supernaturally” led him to Trump, he witnessed the president change from a man focused on accumulating material wealth to one who seeks “good counsel and prayer” and the two American dreams – “freedom and opportunity” for everybody.

“Pray for his family, pray for his cabinet,” he concluded. “We have a change – pray that the United Nations will respond positively to what they heard.”

Critics, however, warned that Trump’s “inflammatory” language will only feed North Korea’s propaganda machine.

“This is just a boon to North Korea,” Prof. Stephan Haggard, a Korea expert at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy, told Time Magazine of Trump’s speech. “Because you have a regime that has built its entire existence around the idea that the United States is out to destroy them, and the U.S. President is saying just that.”

Marcus Noland, an executive vice president at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and one of the authors of its North Korea: Witness to Transformation blog, told the Washington Post that Trump “handed the North Koreans the sound bite of the century.”

“That footage will be used time and time and time again on North Korea’s state television channel,” he said. “The Kim regime argues that only it is capable of protecting the country from the existential threat North Korea faces from ‘hostile foreign forces’ led by the United States. All of the depravity and the denial of rights is all justified by this.”

bible-reading-logoBeliefnet

The Christian Church is losing members at an alarming rate. A quick glance at statistics from the Pew Research Center puts that number in the millions—a number that threatens to grow as time goes by. This is due to a number of factors, but one of the biggest is the way in which the Christianity is perceived.

When people think of Christians, they often think of judgmental, angry, unpleasant individuals who are out of touch with contemporary life, and unfortunately, there are certain things Christians tend to say that reinforce these assumptions. This has to stop.

The essence of God is all-encompassing, unconditional love, and the statements we make as Christians need to reflect this. This doesn’t mean that we’re permissive, but it does mean that we are kind and respectful and honoring in the things we say. In doing so, we correctly represent God to the world as something to be drawn toward, not something to be repulsed by.

Among the things Christians shouldn’t be saying, there are a few that really stand out—statements that deeply hurt, dismiss, or disrespect others, and simply end what could otherwise be a fruitful conversation. Let’s take a look at these 8 things Christians should never say so that you can become a better representative of God and draw people back into His church.

“You’re Going to Hell.”

If there’s one thing that’s a sure conversation stopper, it’s telling people that they’re going to Hell.

It’s one thing to teach about the nature of Hell, but it’s quite another to claim to know God’s will for someone’s afterlife. The thing is this: you don’t know whether or not someone is going to Hell, and saying this ends any productive conversation about someone’s potential spiritual problems that might have occurred.

If you want to talk to a fellow believer about their behavior, this is not the best way to lead into the conversation. Instead, talk about the positive. Go over scripture that gives examples of what God expects of us, and help the person work through their problems. It’s not your job to condemn, so go ahead and strike this statement from your Christian vocabulary.

What’s more, saying this to a non-Christian paints the portrait of a hateful God who gleefully sends people into eternal, conscious torment for not submitting to His will.

Is this the God you want to introduce to the world?

The reality of Hell is much more complicated—and much more contested—than this oversimplified statement allows for, and does no good for those who are unfamiliar with Christian teachings.

Avoid saying this if you want to want truly engage with others—there are better ways of warning people about the consequences of their choices.

“I Reject You.”

This statement doesn’t often directly take the form of “I reject you,” but its many variations pop up with alarming consistency.

“I reject you” can look like “We don’t want you in our circle of friends because you have a tattoo,” “This isn’t the church for you because of your political leanings,” or “We won’t speak to you because you’re pregnant and unmarried.”

The truth is this: we should be welcoming others—including the broken—into our churches and social circles instead of rejecting them. Just look at the example set by Christ—He spent time with people from all walks of life, and because He was kind and communicative, He won many of those people over.

There is a time to walk away from people, but those times are rare. Make an effort to look past someone’s exterior and see the beautiful human being God created—you’ll represent God all the better.

“It’s True Because the Bible Says It.”

This is a tough one, because the Bible is, in fact, the true and inerrant word of God. And so, “It’s true because the Bible says it,” isn’t necessarily wrong, but the way in which this statement is used often is.

Consider this. Even within a single denomination, churches interpret the Bible in vastly different ways—this is because we are flawed human beings who are relying on our flawed human minds to interpret the word of God. We’re not always going to get it right.

And so it’s not useful to simply say, “Because the Bible says so” in a disagreement with another believer—you very well may be misinterpreting a verse. Instead, when someone challenges one of your beliefs, why not listen, and then look over the pertinent verses with them? If things don’t line up, one of you is wrong, and it very well could be you!

Using this statement on a non-believer is even more futile. Think about how you would respond if someone of another faith made a certain claim because their holy book “says it’s true.” Would you take their words at face value? Probably not—your beliefs aren’t rooted in their religion.

So instead of using a canned line in response to a non-believer challenging your faith, why not take the time to explain what you believe, and why you believe it?

Instead of stopping the conversation, you’ve just started one, and that is what makes a difference in people’s lives.

“Everything Happens For a Reason.”

Imagine you’ve just lost a beloved family member. Now imagine that someone strides up to you, a smile on their face, clasps you by the shoulder, and says, “It’s okay. Everything happens for a reason!”

Not exactly the most comforting statement in the world, is it?

This is another conversation stopper. Instead of helping someone deal with a difficult event, saying this simply glosses over the problem with a meaningless saying.

What’s worse, it doesn’t portray God in the right way, because the implication is that God willed this difficult event into happening.

The truth is that sometimes bad things happen because that’s a part of our fallen, human experience. It’s not God’s will that your family member gets cancer. It’s not God’s will that you suffer from chronic pain or that you’re in debt. He never wanted humankind to suffer, and so implying that someone’s grief and devastation are God’s will is wrong. God does use these situations, but they are not His will.

Sometimes, bad things happen because we live in a fallen world. Instead of stopping the conversation with this line, just be there for your grieving friend or family member, and you’ll be able to better help them work through the pain of their loss.

“You Just Need More Faith.”

Faith is something that every Christian should constantly strive and pray to have in abundance. But when something isn’t working out in someone’s life, telling them that it’s because they’re just not faithful enough is, well, just wrong.

Many of us buy into the idea that, since some people experience the miraculous through their faith, the fact that others do not experience these things means that they lack faith.

Of course, God has the ability to heal your body, repair your finances, or otherwise affect your life for the better, but this doesn’t mean that He always will. Sometimes, God has a very good reason for not granting us the things we wish for—from His divine perspective, He can see all ends, and knows what is truly good or bad for us in ways we cannot imagine.

Faith isn’t some force that we can bend to our will. No—faith is far simpler than that. It’s trust in God. That’s all. And sometimes, we need to trust that God’s decision not to grant someone what they ask for is the right one.

“God Will Never Give You More Than You Can Handle.”

This problematic phrase is based on a misreading of 1 Corinthians 10:13, which reads, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Notice what this says—you’ll never be given more temptation than you can handle, which means you’ll never be compelled to sin. That’s very different than saying “God will never give you more than you can handle,” which trivializes people’s problems.

Imagine saying this to one of the emaciated Jews liberated from a Nazi concentration camp. The Holocaust was certainly more than millions of people could handle.

And look at the Psalmists—the Psalms are full writers who lament the fact that they cannot handle their lives. Even Jesus, Himself, asked to be rescued from his impending crucifixion.

But while we can and do encounter situations we can’t handle, God can use these moments to help us learn to depend upon Him.

More than anything, though, instead of using this phrase, you need to be there for the people around you who are going through great pain. Don’t resort to a meaningless, canned saying. Be real. Be comforting. You’ll do a lot more good that way.

“Satan Did It.”

We not only give Satan way more power than he actually has when we blame all of our troubles on him, but we also avoid responsibility, ourselves, making this statement a decidedly bad choice.

It’s human nature to blame something outside of ourselves for our own mistakes, and so this phrase is attractive. When our car fails to start, it’s because of “Satan” rather than because “I forgot to change the oil for three years.” It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing Satan in every misfortune, causing you to feel powerless in the face of a spiritual entity you cannot fight, but there is great power in realizing that you are in control of your life.

Instead of using Satan as a scapegoat for your troubles, try taking responsibility for what goes on in your life—you’ll soon find that things get better for you as you realize your life is mostly under your control. Own your mistakes, and you’ll be better able to learn and grow as a result of them.

“God Works in Mysterious Ways.”

Oh, boy. If there is any statement on this list that will instantly end any dialogue, it’s this one.

This is often thought to be something straight out of scripture, but actually comes from a 19th century hymn written by William Cowper, who wrote “God moves in mysterious ways.” And, indeed—God is very mysterious to us limited human beings.

But if you use this line to respond to someone who challenges your beliefs, that’s just plain lazy—it basically comes off as you saying, “Stop asking me difficult questions.”

Instead, try listening carefully to the challenge, and respond as best you can. Don’t end the conversation with a cliché—keep it going with an exchange of ideas.

To do this, however, you’ll have to become more familiar with your faith, preferably with the help of a mentor. After some reading, you’ll find that God’s ways are a little more explainable than you thought, and you’ll be ready with answers the next time someone puts you to the question.

The Higher Path

There’s one thing that all of these statements have in common: they end dialogue. They’re the easy way out, as opposed to truly comforting someone or talking out your faith or accepting responsibility for your actions.

Don’t choose the easy road. Take the high path—the one that shows God’s true character to the world. Only then can you engage others in a way that allows them to know His goodness.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21

Actions Speak

READ

3 John 1:9-12

Those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God (v.11).

Two siblings went down truly divergent paths. One turned his back on Jesus and eventually spent years in prison. The other lived out the grace and love of God, compassionately caring for family, those inside the body of Christ, and those on the outside. Two lives marked by actions that spoke loudly.

The apostle John penned a letter that revealed the differing actions of two men within the early church. His words show that our actions do indeed speak louder than our words. John first wrote of a man named Diotrephes who’d shown himself to be proud, selfish, and unwilling to submit to apostolic authority (v.9). He was on a power trip that included forcing people who wouldn’t follow him out of the church (v.10)—the antithesis of what it means to live and lead in love (1 John 3:10-14).

Demetrius, however, was evidently such a caring, Christ-honoring leader that “everyone [spoke] highly of [him].” His life seemed to so match the truth of the gospel that “the truth itself” witnessed to his character (v.12).

Our actions speak not only of our character, but also of the One we serve. Jesus said, “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16). And Paul wrote, “Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17).

We can’t live like Demetrius in our own strength. Only by submitting to Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit can we do what’s loving and right in this world—living out actions that honor Jesus.

The man I mentioned earlier has done just that. He’s now out of prison and compassionately extending God’s love to others. May our actions also speak of the grace and love of Jesus.  —Tom Felten

MORE

Read Proverbs 4:23-27 and consider the practical wisdom it contains for honoring God with your actions.

NEXT

What do your actions reveal about your character? Your love for God? What might God be leading you to change through His power?

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The Dangerous Job of Being a Cupbearer

PERSIAN EMPIRE CODE: 384.17.2 § 35–61A

Imagine a job where having a bad attitude doesn’t just get you reprimanded—it gets you executed.

Fifth century BC: Many of the Jews are still in exile in Persia. The Jerusalem wall has been destroyed, which means the Jews who have returned to Jerusalem are unprotected. They are being persecuted and murdered. They desperately need help from the Persian monarchy. They need an insider.

Nehemiah opens his account of the events by saying, “Now I was cupbearer to the king” (>Neh 1:11 NRSV). This simple description reveals that God was already working to change the fate of the Hebrew exiles.

The New Bible Dictionary (NBD) entry on this term traces the history of cupbearers. In Egypt, cupbearers were often called “pure of hands” and, in one instance, “the one who tastes the wine.” Cupbearers protected the life of the Pharaoh. Their job was to detect poison. A cupbearer was a glorified guinea pig for any beverage served to the king. For this reason, cupbearers were often among the king’s most trusted servants.

Harper’s Bible Dictionary (HBD) points out that the Nehemiah story had a literary forerunner: the story of Joseph. The cupbearer to Pharaoh played a critical, providential role in Joseph’s rise. Here we find a biblical theme: God rescues His people by placing an insider in the court of foreign kings.

The king was so familiar with Nehemiah that he immediately read his cupbearer’s expression: “So the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This can only be sadness of the heart.’ Then I was very much afraid” (>Neh 2:2 NRSV). Nehemiah was usually in “good spirits,” even though he was a foreign slave tasked with a lethal duty every night. Was Nehemiah’s joy wine inflicted—an occupational hazard? And why was he afraid? John Peter Lange, in his Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, tells us that in Persian monarchs “everybody was expected to reflect the sunlight of the king’s majesty” (pg. 10). H.G.M. Williamson, in his Word Biblical Commentary, adds that a gloomy face could have been interpreted as plotting against the king (pg. 178). Nehemiah could have been executed. When Nehemiah told the king what was troubling him, and of his desire to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city wall, the king responded with grace. He trusted Nehemiah and his judgment.

Empowered by the king, Nehemiah the slave became Nehemiah the famed rebuilder of the Jerusalem wall. His job title hints at his humility, perseverance and courage. Nehemiah reminds us that no job position is unimportant and no duty is small—everything has a purpose.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Each issue of Bible Study Magazine provides tools and methods for Bible study as well as insights from people like John Piper, Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll, Kay Arthur, Randy Alcorn, John MacArthur, Barry Black, and more. More information is available at http://www.biblestudymagazine.com. Originally published in print: Copyright Bible Study Magazine (Jul–Aug 2010): pg.44.

 

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Start Where You Are

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise. (Proverbs 11:30)

I once read that 95 percent of Christians have never led another person to Christ. Why is that? Someone might say, “I’m not gifted to be an evangelist.”

That may be true. But even though you may not be called to be an evangelist, you are called to evangelize.

The idea of world evangelism can seem daunting and overwhelming, but it is doable. It’s sort of like that old question about how you eat an elephant. The answer is one bite at a time. How do we reach the world with the gospel? One person at a time. God can use every one of us to bring people to Jesus Christ.

Start where you are in the sphere of influence God has given you. Start by sharing your own personal testimony of how you came to Christ. I think we overcomplicate evangelism. If it were not possible to lead others to the Lord, then why would He call us to take His gospel to the world?

Proverbs 11:30 tells us, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise” (nkjv). And Daniel 12:3 says, “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.”

God wants to use you to turn people to righteousness. But as you share your testimony, emphasize what Jesus did. He gave up His life for us. The heartbeat of the gospel is that He died for us on that cross.

Conversion is the work of God and God alone, yet He has called us to be a part of the process. Without God, man cannot. But without man, God will not–for the most part. God wants to reach people through people.

Social Media summary: You may not be called to be an evangelist, but you can do the work of an evangelist.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Harvest Ministries. All rights reserved.

 

 

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From Grace for the Moment: Morning and Evening Edition by Max Lucado

Guard the Gateway

The devil, your enemy, goes around like a roaring lion looking for someone to eat. Refuse to give in to him, by standing strong in your faith.

-1 Peter 5:8–9

You’ve got to admit, some of our hearts are trashed out. Let any riffraff knock on the door, and we throw it open. Anger shows up, and we let him in. Revenge needs a place to stay, so we have him pull up a chair. Pity wants to have a party, so we show him the kitchen. Lust rings the bell, and we change the sheets on the bed. Don’t we know how to say no?

Many don’t. For most of us, thought management is, well, unthought of. We think much about time management, weight management, personnel management, even scalp management. But what about thought management? Shouldn’t we be as concerned about managing our thoughts as we are managing anything else? Jesus was. Like a trained soldier at the gate of a city, he stood watch over his mind. He stubbornly guarded the gateway of his heart. . . .

If he did, shouldn’t we . . . ?

-FromJust Like Jesus

Order your own copy of Grace for the Moment: Morning and Evening Edition by Max Lucado

 

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Bad Coffee

Bear with each other and forgive grievances. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. – Colossians 3:13-14
Karin ruled her family with her explosive, irrational anger. Her children and grandchildren never knew what would set her off. Being around her was like being in a minefield. You knew you had to get out, but you were too afraid to take a step.
Yet every time Karin had one of these outbursts, she’d blame it on bad coffee. “I just got a hold of some bad coffee and just wasn’t myself,” she’d say.
Do you have some “bad coffee?”–some excuse you’re using for out-of-line behaviors? Are you rationalizing behaviors because you say you’re “tired,” “under stress,” or some other unique yet unacceptable excuse?
The best thing to do is confess. Confess to God, and confess to others.
“It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution.” – Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

The Daily Word of Hope Devotional

Bible Fun Fact: Eden means paradise or delight in Hebrew.

Taking Care of Pharaoh

He said to Abram, ‘Know for sure that your offspring will live as foreigners in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them. They will afflict them four hundred years. I will also judge that nation, whom they will serve. Afterward they will come out with great wealth; Genesis 15:13 WEB

God told Abram that his descendants would become slaves for four hundred years, but that He would punish the nation that did this and His descendants would come out with great possessions. This was completely fulfilled later in the exodus from Egypt. It was a deliberate discipline that ended with a planned outcome.

Once I worked at a plant where the manager was much like a slave driver. I cheerfully ran a brass polishing machine all day in the heat where I silently prayed and listened to the Bible, trying to make the best of a bad situation.

This season humbled me, stripped away unnecessary things, taught me to rely more on Him, got me back to the basics, and prepared me for His service. The plans of God have many layers. After a while the owners removed the manager and they promoted me to his position.

Pharaoh was not as in control as he thought he was. God knew exactly what He was doing, and when the time was right He brought it to pass. God knew what He was doing in my life, and God knows what He is doing in your life. We just have to keep a good attitude while we wait on pharaoh to be taken care of.

Prayer: Heavenly Father please help me see my situation through Your eyes. I know that I am not here by accident and that You have plans for me. I submit to Your will, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

 

 

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DAILY DEVOTIONAL SEPTEMBER 21, 2017

God’s Delight

I will rejoice in doing them good.
Jeremiah 32:41

How heartwarming to the believer is the delight that God takes in His saints! We cannot see any reason in ourselves why the Lord should take pleasure in us; we do not even take delight in ourselves, for we often have to groan, being burdened, conscious of our sinfulness and deploring our unfaithfulness. We are fearful that God’s people cannot take much encouragement from us, for they surely can see our many imperfections and our follies, and so be caused to lament our infirmities rather than admire our graces. But we love to dwell upon this transcendent truth, this glorious mystery: As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so the Lord rejoices over us.

We do not read anywhere that God delights in the cloud-capped mountains or the sparkling stars, but we do read that He delights in the habitable parts of the earth, and that His delights are with the sons of men. We do not even find it written that angels give His soul delight; nor does He say, concerning cherubim and seraphim, “Thou shalt be called Hephzibah . . . for the LORD delighted in thee.”1 But He does say all that to poor fallen creatures like ourselves-debased and depraved by sin, but saved, exalted, and glorified by His grace.

In what strong language He expresses His delight in His people! Who could have conceived of the Eternal One bursting into a song? Yet it is written, “He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”2 As He looked upon the world He had made, He said, “It is very good”; but when He looked on those who are the purchase of Jesus’ blood, His own chosen ones, it seemed as if the great heart of the Infinite could restrain itself no longer but overflowed in divine exclamations of joy.

Should we not utter our grateful response to such a marvelous declaration of His love and sing, “I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation?”3

1) Isaiah 62:4 KJV
2) Zephaniah 3:17
3) Habakkuk 3:18

 

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Today’s Scripture

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-7 NLT)

Thoughts for Today

When we try to figure things out on our own instead of trusting God, we are actually “playing God.” Women aren’t the only ones deceived when abortion tempts us to play God. Panic over pregnancy can make women and men, family members and friends, and even spiritual leaders listen to the lie that abortion will give a woman an easy out from a difficult situation. By endorsing and choosing abortion, we become vulnerable to one of our enemy’s trademark enticements:

“You will be like God.” (Genesis 3:5 NLT)

Those were Satan’s words to Eve. Many voices have repeated this temptation through the ages . . . and in particular to each of us deciding about abortion.

You must decide for yourself what’s right.

You’re the one responsible for making good things happen in your life.

And so we ignore God and listen to these lies. Trust in our wisdom instead of his. But what does God’s Word warn? “Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.”

Consider this …

Kim’s story continues:

When I learned of my unplanned pregnancy, I turned to the man, who rejected the pregnancy from the onset. My self-image was so low that I didn’t fight for deeper conversations or try to get counsel together with him.

My two confidants were not in a position to give material help and offered no alternative to abortion. One tried to ease my guilt by saying, “It’s not a baby yet–just tissue.” She might as well have said, “You determine when life begins, Kim, not God.”

Another told me, “It’s up to you, Kim. I stand by you either way.” She was granting me permission to be like God. I had landed in the hands of those who said there was no child yet at that stage of pregnancy. And I embraced their lies.

Abortion deceived an entire generation. One-by-one we swallowed the lie. In the aftermath, we can choose to remain apart from God, hiding and clinging to our shame. Or we can choose to listen to Jesus Christ. Listening to him dispels our doubts. In Jesus, God has overcome all deception–not to cast us out but to cradle our hearts in his loving protection and care.

Prayer

Lord, my actions in the past show that I was impressed with my own wisdom instead of trusting yours. Please forgive me. Today I choose to listen to you. In Jesus’ name . . .

 

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When a Problem Turns Into a Calling
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman
September 21, 2017

“As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and all your father’s family?” 1 Samuel 9:20

Saul and his servant were out seeking his father’s lost donkeys. This was symbolic of the waywardness of the nation of Israel. The people of Israel had just asked the prophet Samuel to have a king rule over them. This saddened God greatly, yet God granted their request.

Saul and his servant heard of a man of God named Samuel. “Perhaps this man of God can tell us where to find our donkeys,” said the servant. Isn’t that just like us? We seek God to solve the issues related to material life. Saul was about to receive the greatest opportunity of his lifetime. He was about to be crowned as king of Israel. His life would never be the same. What was he concerned about? His donkeys. We don’t have to be worried about the material things of life if we are about the things He’s called us to do.

God called Saul to be the next king in order to free the people from the Philistines. God sent a messenger, the prophet Samuel, to inform him of his new career. The messenger also had to ease his mind about his donkeys. Donkeys often represent commerce in the Bible. They were the primary means of transporting goods; therefore, in essence, what was Samuel saying to Saul? He was saying, “You don’t need to worry about your business if you respond to the call of God on your life. All the material things will take care of themselves.”

Jesus said the same thing to the disciples years later. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt. 6:33).

When God calls us, it often involves making major adjustments in our lives. Saul went from one kind of business to another. He went from working for his father to being a king. What changes is God calling you to make today in order to join Him in His work?

 

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Okay, it’s supposed to be Throwbak Thursday, but, instead of pictures, I’d like to share some old memories of mine………….I have no pictures but I can put some images to illustrate them……..

Well, it seems like a lifetime ago, but I still remember it well……it was after my ex-husband took off to California, and then left me and our two children high and dry, having sold our possessions and sent the money to HIM, which he then kept for himself and his “new, younger woman”……..well, Christmas came along and I had nothing…….no money for gifts or a special meal….just nothing.  And, though I hated to have to do it, I begged HIM for help…he wired me a measly $100, better than the nothing I had!  Well, I bundled up the two children as best I could because it had started to snow out……..luckily, they at least had coats but I had to put pairs of socks on their poor little hands as they had no gloves….we all three walked to the Woolworth’s Store about a mile from our home….over a bypass bridge that connected downtown to our southside of town…….In the store, I sat them both at the lunch counter, bought a soda for each, and told them to stay there while I shopped…..they were very good and did as they were told……children are SO resilient and patient at times!  When I was done, I gathered them up and we headed home.  It was a blizzard outside and made the trek home very difficult…

Blizzard

…….my bags got wet and tore, spilling their contents out….I was forced to shove most of the stuff inside my coat and I tried to hold their hands at the same time…….but, we finally got home……God was with us!  I made the usual tomato soup for supper for them— they ate a lot of this in those times, sometimes even with macaroni in it! 

Image result for tomato soup and macaroni

Well, while they ate, I got busy, wrapping the few, meager gifts I’d managed to get…….a checkers game set, some puzzles, paper dolls for my little princess, crayons and coloring books for them both, a few toy cars for my son, and some cheap gloves for their hands….

Image result for checker set

Puzzle

paperdoll

crayons

cars

mittens

Well, then, after hiding the few gifts, I got my children ready for bed, so “Santa can come.”  They were very excited now, knowing that, when they thought there would be no presents, now at least, they would get something, even if it was something small….I loved them so!  Even our Christmas tree was charity………bits and pieces that my Dad used to decorate his door frames with, so that the tree reminded me of Charlie Brown’s little, scraggly tree…

Xmastree

We made decorations for it and my Dad had given us two sets of lights…no garland, just the paper strands my children had made………

The next morning, my children excitedly opened their few gifts and were happy with what they got………then I made them each a cup of hot chocolate and gave them toast.  Later, for our Christmas dinner, I had managed to get macaroni and cheese in the box and a very small canned ham at the small store down the street, where I had an account……the owners allowed me to charge as they felt sorry for us when they heard my tale……..After dinner, we all sat and sang carols and I played a round of checkers with my son and then played with my daughter’s paper dolls with her…….all in all, the day was more pleasant than I had expected it to be………

So, that is my memory for this Throwback Thursday…….for all the misery I’ve been told that I caused my children, there have been good times….blessed times…..memories which I cherish!!!

Have a good day, y’all!!  God bless!

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