TODAY’S DAILY PRAYER
Lord our God, we turn to you, for you are our help. Hear our prayer, we beseech you; let our cry rise to you so that you may send your mighty help in our generation. Continue to protect us from all evil, from death and destruction. Protect us because we are your children. As your children we turn to you, the almighty God, who can make everything work together for good. Be merciful to us, O Lord God. Help us for your name’s sake. Help, Lord, for you alone can bring everything to a good end. So we stand before you in Jesus Christ, holding to every word you have given us and knowing for certain that you hear us. Amen.
Reflections for Advent and Christmas
In the gentle relief of another’s care,
In the darkness of night and winter’s snow,
In the naked and outcast. Seek Love there!
Verse of the Day
Thoughts on Today’s Verse…
I love the coast of Maine. The craggy shorelines, the crashing surf, and the lighthouses perched at strategic and well-fortified points along the coastline. I cannot help but think of our heavenly Father when I watch the gloom gather as an impending storm noisily makes its way on shore. There in the storm — with lightning ripping through the sky, winds howling, and the surf crashing — stands the light that guides the way, strong against the elements and a beacon of direction and hope. Yes, the LORD, Yahweh the God of Israel, the Almighty Creator of all things, is my light and my salvation. My life, the eternal part of me, is entrusted with him. I choose not to fear. I place my trust in him.
Father in heaven, I praise you for your faithfulness through the ages. I thank you for your steadfast love that has blessed each generation, giving hope in times of darkness, salvation in times of wantonness, and strength in times of weakness. Now I ask that you be with several people I love, who need your palpable presence as they fight their battles. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
BIBLE STUDY BUDDY
Read Philippians 1:19-26…for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23. I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24. but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26. so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
Astronaut Shannon Lucid had been on the Russian space station Mir for more than 4 months when hurricanes and equipment trouble forced NASA to delay her scheduled ride home. She had to wait another 7 weeks before the space shuttle Atlantis could be launched to bring her back to earth.
Christians are waiting for a ride home in the other direction, from earth to heaven, to be with Jesus. When death seems needlessly delayed for ourselves or someone we love who is terminally ill, we wonder why God leaves His children in a lingering illness on earth instead of quickly taking them to heaven.
The apostle Paul struggled to understand his own situation: ”I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (Phil. 1:23-24).
Even when we can’t see God’s purpose, we can choose to trust His wisdom. With infinite understanding and unfailing love, He cares for His suffering children, as well as for their friends and family.
To us, the departure may seem delayed. To God, each of His children is brought home right on time.
NO TURNING BACK
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62
One of the blessings of teaching Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS) is the opportunity to meet special people in ministry who, though unassuming at first glance, have experienced deep riches in relationship with Jesus. Such a person I met in a jungle camp seminar in central Sri Lanka.
His English name was Samuel and he was a seasoned church planter. From Samuel I learned that church planting in a Buddhist country is no easier than anywhere else religious intolerance raises its head. I always thought Buddhism was a pacifist religion and philosophically it is. But try and plant a church in a dominant Buddhist community and you will see something different.
One day Samuel began to share with me about his ministry. He had been dedicated to the Buddhist temple as a young child by his mother; just like his biblical namesake. As a young monk he was impressed by the witness of a Christian youth who led him to faith in Christ. He left temple life and felt called to be a Christian church planter. With his wife and two small children he moved to a new community and began to share Jesus. The villagers stoned his residence and when he would not desist, they burned it down.
He moved to another community and was attacked physically with severe wounds. In the next location the villagers schemed against him and his family. They cut the main posts of his home and worship center. At night they tied rope to the posts and pulled them out while the family was asleep. He knew God was with him. Two large structural beams fell down parallel to where the children were sleeping and neither of them was touched.
He continued on and I finally interrupted with the question, “How many times did this happen and you had to move on?”
Samuel smiled and answered, “Thirteen times!”
Of course, in my western way of thinking I asked, “How could you continue on and persevere through so many attacks?”
He replied, “It’s like the song we sang this morning at the SSTS seminar, I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back!” And he quickly went on to say with a bigger smile, “Last month twenty-five people in my new community were baptized and I currently have another twenty-five in a baptismal preparation class.”
Jesus gives strength to carry on and not turn back.
RESPONSE: Today I resolve to not allow petty challenges dampen my commitment to follow Jesus.
PRAYER: Thank You, Lord, for Samuel’s testimony of Your faithfulness. Help me never to turn back from following and serving You.
And the Lord, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.–DEUT. xxxi. 8.
Know well, my soul, God’s hand controls Whatever thou fearest; Round Him in calmest music rolls Whate’er thou hearest.
J. G. WHITTIER.
The lessons of the moral sentiment are, once for all, an emancipation from that anxiety which takes the joy out of all life. It teaches a great peace. It comes itself from the highest place. It is that, which being in all sound natures, and strongest in the best and most gifted men, we know to be implanted by the Creator of men. It is a commandment at every moment, and in every condition of life, to do the duty of that moment, and to abstain from doing the wrong.
R. W. EMERSON.
Go face the fire at sea, or the cholera in your friend’s house, or the burglar in your own, or what danger lies in the way of duty, knowing you are guarded by the cherubim of Destiny.
R. W. EMERSON.
What Does It Mean To Walk With God?
Enoch walked with God and was no more, so what does it mean to walk with God?
Walking in Agreement
Amos the Prophet asked a very good question when he wrote, “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet” (Amos 3:3)? The obvious answer is no, they cannot walk together if they’re not in agreement with one another. It might be a disagreement over religion, a relationship, or a philosophy of life, but unless they can walk together, meaning unless they can agree on things, they cannot walk together. Shortly after the fall in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve “heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen 3:8), but instead of joining God, they hid from God because they had sinned. Originally, God walked with them in fellowship and in relationship, but once they choose to disobey God, they could no longer walk in agreement with God because of their sin. Not long after this, mankind had been fruitful and multiplied over the face of the earth, but mankind in general had turned away from God and “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5), and “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Gen 6:11-12), but there was one exception as “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (Gen 6:9), however God told Noah “I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die” (Gen 6:17). Noah and his family walked with God and so they survived the flood, but the rest of mankind was not in agreement, except for the fact “that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5).
Enoch Walked with God
Enoch walked with God. This means, Enoch didn’t walk ahead of Him and he didn’t walk behind Him…but He walked with God. What does it mean to walk with God? I believe it means that we don’t get ahead of what God has in store for us or His will for our lives and we don’t take steps according to our own will but get in step with God’s will. It also means we obey the Lord. We can’t hear what God may be telling us if we’re way out ahead of His will or we’re out of fellowship with Him. We can’t walk with God if we’re not doing what He commands and fall behind His prescribed will for our lives. When this happens, we’re going to stumble. We know that God opens doors that no one can open and closes doors that are not good for us to walk through, so if we are walking with God, we’ll go through the door with Him, and at the same time. We’ll walk where He walks and go where He goes, but it also means, we don’t’ go where we know God doesn’t want us to go, so we can’t walk ahead of Him because He might not have the door open when we get there, or if we lag behind, the door may already be shut by the time we get there.
Jesus frequently told those He called to “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt 4:19). Many said they were His disciples, but when Jesus’ teachings were difficult to accept, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:66). Following Jesus is more than just walking in agreement with Him. For example, He says, “whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:38), so “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24). Following Jesus is a lifetime commitment and He requires 100% of us. In one case someone said they’d follow Jesus, but, “said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father” (Luke 9:59), and “Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home” (Luke 9:61). They said they believed in Jesus, but so do the demons, but they’re by no means saved (James 2:19). You must follow Jesus and when you do, you can know that you’re walking with God.
Walking in Obedience
If we walk behind God, we are still not following His will for our lives. We may be lagging behind and not going where He is going and where He intends for us to go. We may miss where He wants us to go, and if He has opened a door for us, it might not be open when we finally get to it, but most of all, walking with God means to be walking along side of God by doing the things He commands (e.g. Matt 25:34-40; Matt 28:18-20). When we walk with God we can more easily talk with God, and walking beside God helps to ensure we will be walking in the right direction, and at the right pace…not too fast or not too slow. It’s better to be in step with God than out of step. Besides, you can’t talk with someone behind you or talk with someone ahead of you, but if you’re walking with someone, you can communicate with that someone. I can’t imagine taking a walk with my wife and being behind her or ahead of her. When we walk together, it shows that we are in agreement with each other. Perhaps that explains why “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Gen 5:24).
Walking with God means that we “do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”(Rom 8:4), and that frequently we must walk by “faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7b), so that’s why we’re warned, “be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise” (Eph 5:15). Paul urges us all to “join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Phil 3:17), as it was “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God” (Heb 11:5). May the same thing be true for you too.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.
From always accusing your friends of excluding you from plans to constantly complaining about life to your coworkers, toxic behaviors drain everyone around you and consume every thought inside of you. Even though we blame lost connections on various reasons, the truth is that even the strongest relationships will struggle under the weight of destructive words and smothering expectations.
In spite of the guilt you may feel when looking back on your past actions, remind yourself that these flaws are what make you human and your ability to accept them is what makes you exceptional. To take control of your relationships (and become aware of your potentially negative habits in them), read further for the six behaviors that are pushing people away from you.
1. Taking things too personally
Life is hard — and taking everything that happens to heart will make it even harder. This habit tends to come in the form of basing your worth on how a situation turns out. For instance, your boss giving another coworker the assignment you wanted has to mean you’re not a good worker. Or your friend asking someone else for advice has to indicate you’re not a trusted friend.
Along with being destructive to the relationship, negative thinking is also detrimental to your self-esteem. The things that happen to you are not a direct reflection of you, and relying on the actions of others to decide your value is the key to unhappiness. Remember — you’re the only person in power of your thoughts and can be the only person to protect them.
- Take a step back and consider who the person is to you
- Avoid jumping to conclusions
- Try to see the situation from the perspective of the other person
- If the issue needs to be confronted, prepare beforehand and approach it with a clear head
2. Continuously being jealous
A little jealousy is good for motivation, but a lot of it is bad for everything else. While the natural feeling of jealousy can push people to become better, the constant feeling of it is the reason why people become pushed away.
It’s not unusual to assume that we all want individuals in our lives who support us — and it’s understandable that those you’re jealous of feel anything but your support. Whether your envy is due to your cousin’s acceptance into nursing school or your little sister’s successful love life, the trait of jealousy makes the person who feels it just as uncomfortable as those who notice it.
- Be honest with yourself and consider where your jealousy stems from
- Create a list of things in your life that you’re happy about
- Turn your jealousy into fuel to improve as a person
- Contact a trusted loved one to discuss your feelings
3. Needing constant validation
Similar to taking things too personally, the issue with needing constant validation is that it once again allows someone else to define how great we are. The more you rely on people to approve of you, the harder it becomes to find your sense of self to truly BE you.
Although the way we’re perceived to others matters to an extent, your entire well-being isn’t based off your reputation, and the amount of comments you have on your newest social media post doesn’t prove how loved you are. When it comes down to it, your wish to feel accepted and loved depends on how you feel about yourself — instead of how you think other people feel about you.
- Make an effort to take time to grow as a person (find a new hobby, unplug from the online world, master a skill, etc.)
- Differentiate and focus on the tasks that are important to you — instead of the ones that are simply approval-seeking
- Recognize when you feel yourself depending on others for reassurance and take it upon yourself to filter these toxic thoughts
4. Not accepting constructive criticism
We aren’t perfect, and that’s what makes us human. With the pain that comes from acknowledging our flaws is the strength it took in order to get to that point. Although there are people who have no issue with receiving advice, the weaknesses of others is their inability to do so.
By refusing to accept critiques, you not only hinder your potential of improving as a person, but could also unintentionally make people feel as though they have to walk on eggshells around you. Overall, the success of every type of relationship depends on communication skills, and your willingness to accept both positive and negative feedback will strengthen yours.
- Realize that the criticism comes from a good place and that the person is trying to be helpful
- Consider the entire situation and context of the conversation before reacting defensively
- Be mindful of your body language while receiving the critiques
- Truly listen to what’s being said and deem if changes should be made
5. Always acting like the victim
The world isn’t out to destroy you, but thinking it is could be why people seem to need space. From hiding under a handful of excuses for why you can’t apply for a job you want to listing off a number of reasons for why the wrong partners keep finding you, your problems are endless and your complaints take away your power to do anything about them.
If this scenario sounds all too familiar to you, your tendency to play the victim may be the reason why you always feel like one. While there are many aspects of our lives that we can’t control, the negative and helpless attitude you have is what’s controlling your mentality of taking action and stopping your progress of moving forward.
- Allow yourself to feel sad/overwhelmed, and then make plans to do something about it
- Stop yourself when you begin to blame others for your misfortunes
- Believe that you can take steps to fix the situation — regardless of if what happened is out of your hands
6. Gossiping about others
The positive people you’re hoping for in your life aren’t receiving pleasure from speaking negatively about other people, and neither should you. Sure, it’s impossible to take gossip out of every conversation, but the reason for the conversation doesn’t need to revolve around putting others down and sharing judgmental opinions in an attempt to feel better about ourselves.
Through focusing on your own goals and cheering on those who are doing the same, you’ll soon realize that you don’t have the time to gossip about what other people are doing — because you’re too busy doing important things yourself.
- Stay quiet or state that you’re not interested in gossiping
- Pinpoint the underlying issue of why you’re gossiping
- Attempt to change the subject
- Say something nice about the subject of gossip in place of participating
Which of these behaviors do you most relate to? Which are you going to aim to work on first?
By Joan Walker Hahn
Friday, November 24, 2017
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 (NIV)
The church I attend has two different Sunday School meeting times. I attend an adult Sunday School class the first hour and then a children’s class meets in the same room the second hour. The next Sunday morning, it’s interesting to read the prayer requests and the praises the young children listed on the whiteboard.
They innocently ask for prayer for their dog or to do well on a test. Then they will give praise for passing a test, getting a new toy or pet, or getting to play with their friends.
I think as adults we often forget to think about the simple blessings we receive. Children are thrilled to get to play with friends. Toddlers can play and repeat the game of dropping a toy and saying “uh-oh,” just so someone can pick it up and give it back to them again and again.
My grandchildren love playing “tennis” with me in the house with balloons or walking to the park to swing. It’s not just the things they are given, but the attention they get that gives them so much joy.
When we think about the things we ought to be thankful for, we think of our homes, food and clothing. We think of our family and friends. And yes, we should thank God every moment for those wonderful blessings.
How often though, do we thank God for the time and attention He gives us?
When I have my quiet time, I so cherish the days when God’s Word seems to leap off the page, filling me with the knowledge of His presence. Not every day is like that.
Sometimes God’s presence is so real in a worship service at church that the congregation can’t stop singing worship songs and people can’t stop standing up, publicly giving praise for God’s blessings. Every service isn’t like that.
Sometimes God makes His presence really known, and then other times we just trust by faith that He is with us, even if He has chosen to be silent.
Yes, I’m thankful for my family and friends. I’m thankful for my home and other material blessings that I have been so richly given from God.
But more than anything, I’m thankful when God takes the time to show up and “play” with me.
In our busy lives, it’s sometimes a treat to get to go out with friends and just enjoy the fellowship with each other. God longs to have that time with us as well.
When we plan out our days, we need to make sure we plan that time to spend with God and allow Him to speak to us and bless us with His awesome presence.
Heavenly Father, thank You for all the blessings You give me. During this Thanksgiving season, as I look at all You have done for me, I am overwhelmed. Most of all, I thank You for sending Your only Son to die for me. Thank You for raising Him from the dead and that He now is seated with You in heaven. Thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit, whereby I can feel Your presence. May I always hunger to spend time with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
© 2017 by Joan Walker Hahn. All rights reserved.
Jesus the Source of Peace
Before we knew Jesus Christ, our life was full of godlessness and wickedness–we had self-seeking ways and stubborn, unrepentant hearts (Rom. 1:18; 2:5, 8). Like our strife-filled world, we clamored for peace and tried to find it, but our efforts failed.
When we came to faith in the Savior, all of that changed. We were rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into Christ’s kingdom (Col 1:13). Every one of our sins–past, present, and future–was forgiven. Divine justice was satisfied by Christ’s sacrifice, and God’s wrath upon us was removed. We became a new creation, washed clean by Jesus’ blood (2 Cor. 5:17).
Now that sin’s power over us has been broken, we can live in accord with God. He sent His Holy Spirit to be our personal guide in this new life, helping each of us experience Christ’s peace (Rom. 8:6). We also can look forward to an eternity spent in heaven, where righteousness, tranquility, and joy abound (Rom. 14:17).
The story of the prodigal son’s return is a picture of our reconciliation with the Lord (Luke 15:11-24). The son had chosen to leave his father, living instead to please himself. Repentant, he eventually returned home; his father joyfully greeted him and forgave him, and there was harmony between them. God has done all this for us.
Our unity with the heavenly Father came at a great price–the sacrifice of His only Son. Christ gave His life for us so that we could be reconciled to God (Col. 1:20). Christian lives are to testify that Jesus is the source of our peace. Does your life communicate this message?
For more biblical teaching and resources from Dr. Charles Stanley, please visit www.intouch.org.
Hope for Each Day
By Billy Graham
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory! – Isaiah 6:3
The Bible teaches that God is absolutely holy and pure. From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals that He is so holy He cannot even look on sin. Christ cried from the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34). What a horrible moment, as the blackness of human sin—now laid upon Christ—caused the Father to turn away in disgust. In that moment Jesus endured the ultimate punishment for our sins—the punishment of being banished from the presence of His Father on our behalf.
If you were asked to list the things you are thankful for, what would you include? Perhaps your family, health, friends, church—and those wouldn’t be wrong. We should be grateful for every gift God gives us. But the greatest gift of all is God’s gift of His Son, who endured the penalty we deserved for our sin, so we could be reconciled to a holy God. Never take that gift for granted! “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
© 2002, 2012 by Billy Graham
Focus on Being
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. – >Romans 12:10
How can you begin breaking through the myth of “you-are-what-you-do” and see that your true identity is in Jesus Christ. Once you grasp that, you can begin relating to other people apart from what they do. We must open up our schedules, set aside our Day-Timers, and get to the business of allowing our identity in Christ to liberate and transform our human relationships.
A friend of mine meets each week with a group of four other friends to do what we rarely do. They purposely avoid talking about what they do in order to talk about who they are and how they feel. They’re learning to peel away the layers of façade to give and receive the nurture, affirmation, and encouragement they desperately need but are often fearful to seek.
Recently my friend shared a painful issue with his friends. His father lays dying in a nursing home. He’s incapacitated. His mind is totally gone. My friend visits him, and helps dress and care for him. What he wants more than anything is to hear these words from his father before he dies: “You’re a good child.”
Friends can share these painful and vulnerable feelings and offer consolation and encouragement in the group setting as one deals with the pain and loss. There aren’t enough people who function together as these five do.
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, to all the people you can.” – John Wesley (1703-1791)
The Daily Word of Hope Devotional
Bible Fun Fact: It was very cold the night that Jesus was betrayed (John 18:18).
Enemy At The Gates
This our bread we took hot for our supplies out of our houses on the day we went out to go to you; but now, behold, it is dry, and has become moldy. These wine skins, which we filled, were new; and behold, they are torn. These our garments and our shoes have become old because of the very long journey.’ The men sampled their provisions, and didn’t ask counsel from Yahweh’s mouth. Joshua 9:12 WEB
One day some strangers came into the Israelite camp and said that they were from a faraway land. They had intentionally dressed in ragged clothing, and they carried old supplies like stale bread and cracked wine skins. They wanted to make a deal with the Israelites who were gradually taking the Promised Land.
The Israelite leaders went through their supplies, saw the old bread, the cracked wine skins and were convinced. They were so confident that they had this correct that they did not bother to pray and ask God about it. They unknowingly made a deal with the enemy, and agreed to let them stay. Soon it was revealed that these men were from a nearby village, one of the next on their list. The Israelite leaders had let their own (lack of) wisdom lead them into a trap, and God had let them do it without saying a word because they did not bother to ask Him.
The examples provided for us in the Bible tell us that the Lord will not always intrude on our lives, but that He will let us live our life just as we want, with, or without Him being involved in it at all.
Include the Lord in the decisions of your life everyday. Invite Him to be a part of it, and He will. He would have gladly answered Joshua if they had only taken the time to ask. Always inquire of God before making binding decisions.
Prayer: Heavenly Father I thank You for Your wisdom, which I know is greater than mine. Please help me remember to stop and pray a moment before I sign something, for You can see what is going on behind the scenes and in people’s heart, when I cannot. Lead me down the right path, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray.
Passion for Praise: ‘Abundant Thanksgivings to God’
Saturday, November 25, 2017
Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone. Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they’ll respond by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need. Thank God for this gift, his gift. No language can praise it enough!