The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:9–10, NIV
Lord our God, we look to you in our many needs, in the distress of our hearts, in the anguish of the whole world. We beseech you, let light come to your people everywhere on earth to bring them your help and your victory. Remember the wretched, the sick, the poor. Let your living strength come to them so that they can bear their sufferings and hold out joyfully to the end. Remember us all, O Lord our God, for we all need you. We are weak and poor and cannot go forward alone. Your Spirit must help us. May the Savior come to us, and may his grace and his power be born in our hearts. Amen.
Verse of the Day
Thoughts on Today’s Verse…
Beyond what these words were first meant to convey, we know today that our Redeemer will return as the Rider on the white horse in triumph and victory. Hallelujah, what a day! Then the world truly WILL KNOW that Jesus Christ, our Savior and brother and friend, is Lord of all things!
Conquering King, Immortal God, I look forward to the day of your ultimate triumph in our world. Until that day, I pray that your Kingdom may be reflected in my ministry, my family and my life. Through the Rider on the white horse, I pray. Amen.
A Prayer for Healing and Grace
By Debbie McDaniel
“…she came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His cloak, because she thought, ‘If I just touch His clothes, I will be healed.'” Mark 5:27-28
She’d been suffering for years with an illness, a bleeding disorder. She’d been to many doctors and yet still was not made well, in fact the Bible says that she grew worse. But something compelled her to Christ. She believed. She had faith.
The Bible says that “Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.” (v. 29) God acted on her behalf…”immediately.” Right away. His Power is able to do anything that seems impossible to the world.
Jesus knew that power had gone out…He turned around in the crowd, looking, and asked “Who touched my clothes?” (v. 30)
She came and fell at His feet, trembling in fear, told Him what happened, told Him the truth.And right there in the midst of her fear and her trembling and her vulnerability, He said these powerful words. Life-changing, inspiring, freedom words, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (v. 34)
Let’s set aside our fears and move towards Him today, in faith. God knows already, the wounds we’ve carried, He knows the pain we’ve felt, He knows how much we’ve tried to let go, and fix things in our own power. He is Able. He cares. He heals. He restores. He redeems.
We confess our need for you today. We need your healing and your grace. We need hope restored. We need to be reminded that you work on behalf of those you love, constantly, powerfully, completely. Forgive us for trying to fix our situations all on our own. Forgive us for running all different directions and spinning our wheels to find help, when true help and healing must be found first in You. Forgive us for forgetting how much we need you, above everyone and everything else. We come to you and bring you the places we are hurting. You see where no one else is able to fully see or understand. You know the pain we’ve carried. The burdens. The cares. You know where we need to be set free. We ask for your healing and grace to cover every broken place. Every wound. Every heartache. Thank you that you are Able to do far more than we could ever imagine. Thank you for your Mighty Power that acts on behalf of your children. We reach out to you, and know that you are restoring and redeeming every place of difficulty, every battle, for your greater glory. Thank you that you will never waste our pain and suffering. We love you. We need you today.
The value Catherine makes central in her short life and which sounds clearly and consistently through her experience is complete surrender to Christ. What is most impressive about her is that she learns to view her surrender to her Lord as a goal to be reached through time.
She was the 23rd child of Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa and grew up as an intelligent, cheerful, and intensely religious person. Catherine disappointed her mother by cutting off her hair as a protest against being overly encouraged to improve her appearance in order to attract a husband. Her father ordered her to be left in peace, and she was given a room of her own for prayer and meditation.
She entered the Dominican Third Order at 18 and spent the next three years in seclusion, prayer, and austerity. Gradually, a group of followers gathered around her—men and women, priests and religious. An active public apostolate grew out of her contemplative life. Her letters, mostly for spiritual instruction and encouragement of her followers, began to take more and more note of public affairs. Opposition and slander resulted from her mixing fearlessly with the world and speaking with the candor and authority of one completely committed to Christ. She was cleared of all charges at the Dominican General Chapter of 1374.
Her public influence reached great heights because of her evident holiness, her membership in the Dominican Third Order, and the deep impression she made on the pope. She worked tirelessly for the crusade against the Turks and for peace between Florence and the pope.
In 1378, the Great Schism began, splitting the allegiance of Christendom between two, then three, popes and putting even saints on opposing sides. Catherine spent the last two years of her life in Rome, in prayer and pleading on behalf of the cause of Pope Urban VI and the unity of the Church. She offered herself as a victim for the Church in its agony. She died surrounded by her “children” and was canonized in 1461.
Catherine ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Church. In 1939, she and Francis of Assisi were declared co-patrons of Italy. Pope Paul VI named her and Teresa of Avila doctors of the Church in 1970. Her spiritual testament is found inThe Dialogue.
Though she lived her life in a faith experience and spirituality far different from that of our own time, Catherine of Siena stands as a companion with us on the Christian journey in her undivided effort to invite the Lord to take flesh in her own life. Events which might make us wince or chuckle or even yawn fill her biographies: a mystical experience at six, childhood betrothal to Christ, stories of harsh asceticism, her frequent ecstatic visions. Still, Catherine lived in an age which did not know the rapid change of 21st-century mobile America. The value of her life for us today lies in her recognition of holiness as a goal to be sought over the course of a lifetime.
How comprehensive is the love of Jesus! There is no part of His people’s interests that He does not consider, and there is nothing that concerns their welfare that is not important to Him. He doesn’t merely think of you, believer, as an immortal being, but as a mortal being too. Do not deny it or doubt it: “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”1 “The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way.”2
It would be sad for us if this covering of love did not tackle all our concerns, for what mischief might be done to us in that part of our lives that did not come under our gracious Lord’s protection! Believer, rest assured that the heart of Jesus cares about your smallest concerns. The breadth of His tender love is such that you may turn to Him in every case; for in all your afflictions He is afflicted, and just like a father cares for his children, so He cares for you. The smallest interests of all His saints are all borne upon the heart of the Son of God.
And what a heart He has, which does not merely understand the nature of His people but also comprehends their diverse and innumerable concerns. Do you think, Christian, that you can measure the love of Christ? Consider what His love has brought you–justification, adoption, sanctification, eternal life! The riches of His goodness are unsearchable; you will never be able to convey them or even conceive them.
Oh, the breadth of the love of Christ! Shall such a love as this have only half our hearts? Shall it have a cold love in return? Shall Jesus’ marvelous loving-kindness and tender care be met with only faint response and delayed acknowledgment? My soul, tune your harp to a glad song of thanksgiving! Go to your rest rejoicing, for you are not a desolate wanderer but a beloved child, watched over, cared for, supplied, and defended by your Lord.
A Lesson From Jonah
But Jonah ran away from the Lord . . . – Jonah 1:3
I’m sure you’re familiar with the story of Jonah and the whale (big fish!). The book of Jonah in the Old Testament is a short book with just four chapters. If you have ten or fifteen minutes, stop and read it through. It’s a great story with a lot of lessons for us.
The thing that stood out to me about this story was that Jonah was bold enough, after hearing exactly from God what he was supposed to do, to intentionally do just the opposite. He got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord.
That stood out at first because I thought to myself, “What a fool! Who would do such a thing?” Then I realized that is what I’ve done time and time again in my own life. Haven’t you?
Look back at the choices you’ve made to try to do things your way. Think about the nights you’ve laid awake with a knot in your stomach, full of fear and anxiety about things that most likely weren’t going to happen anyway. Think about the times you’ve chosen to numb yourself with food, alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, or something else that wasn’t really the answer you were looking for or needed. When you “sobered up” you felt a little more empty than the day before.
What Jonah needed to do; what you and I need to do, is to humble yourself and surrender our wills to God. It’s a daily task that will grow a little easier the more you do it. Start today. Don’t go through what Jonah went through. Learn from him.
“Humility is a strange thing. The minute you think you’ve got it, you’ve lost it.” – E. D. Hulse
From Good Morning, Lord by Sheila Walsh
Today I will count the cost of forgiving and the cost of not forgiving.
“I don’t believe that person is really sorry” and “Saying ‘I forgive you’ won’t take away the pain”—these are two reasons why people (even Christians and maybe you) are reluctant to forgive someone who has hurt them. That first excuse is validated by the fact that our society—even our Christian community—has downgraded forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a Band-Aid for a wound; that wound has to be recognized for what it is, grieved over, and owned before forgiveness can be real, freeing, and lasting. To minimize someone’s pain with a “Hey, I’m sorry, friend” and perhaps even a quick prayer—without truly acknowledging any wrongdoing and its very real consequences—is an offense in itself. You may never receive a genuine apology from the offender, but what do you gain by allowing your wound to fester?
As for the second concern above, I believe we can only really forgive when we acknowledge both the truth that we are wounded and the depth of that wound. It is tempting to slough pain away and deny that we have been hurt. It can be embarrassing to be wounded: we feel weak or out of control, so we ignore it. We need to accept that we live in a world where pain is sometimes just part of the package. Once we humbly admit that we are wounded and allow ourselves to feel the pain, we can bring it to Christ for healing; only then can we begin the process of forgiveness. And, yes, it is a process.
What Jesus Did! ‘Seek the Imperishable’
Think about how hard we work and how much money we spend on things that are perishable. Most of what we purchase is subject to decay and destruction. Think of all the effort and energy we put into gaining fame and fortune when those things are fleeting, but faith and family endure. Life is found in Jesus; he is its source, purpose, and destination. Let’s not forget that. Most other things eventually deplete our lives. Only Jesus gives us life that is both lasting and meaningful.
God, please give me the wisdom to know what is important and what isn’t. Help me use my time and my influence wisely. Give me the courage to choose the right thing over the acceptable thing. Give me the passion to invest myself in what is most important to you. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Spiritual Warfare: ‘The End Times Will Be Very Hard Times’
God’s Power for Our Battles
Remember this! In the last days there will be many troubles, because people will love themselves, love money, brag, and be proud. They will say evil things against others and will not obey their parents or be thankful or be the kind of people God wants.
Lord, I don’t know if we’re in the end times or not, but I certainly do see many of these evil things and these bad attitudes all around me. People are very focused on sex, pleasure, money, and parties. Many children are disobedient and ungrateful. Lord, please help me not to let these evil attitudes rub off on me or anyone in my family. Help me to be a godly example, and help me to focus on my relationship with You and my mission to serve others as I lead them to Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
“But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’”
Sometimes I wonder about the young people I teach. I wonder if they take any of the lessons I share with them to heart. I wonder if our time together will have made any difference in their lives six months, one year, or five years from now.
“Oh, Bob,” a friend once said to me, “don’t you know that we’re just scattering seeds?”
“Unless I’m able to see the fruits of that harvest…” I started to reply. I was surprised at how much I sounded like St. Thomas.
That gave me pause.
Reflecting on the rest of Thomas’s story, I realize that Jesus gave Thomas the evidence he wanted and, perhaps, needed. “[The Lord] said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’” (John 20:27)
Those are words I can take to heart. Instead of worrying about what will happen to the faith of the young people I serve, I can look for evidence that the faith is taking root in their lives. And in doing that, I’ll be able to see that God is truly with them. That will surely put my doubts to rest.
The moniker “doubting Thomas” has always bothered me. Thomas did, after all, have great faith, enough faith to give up everything he knew—family, friends, homeland, and career—to follow Jesus. Yet we remember him for one fleeting moment of very understandable hesitation. In fact, I wonder how different his reaction to hearing the news that Jesus was alive might have been from my own? When I place myself in prayer next to Thomas in the Gospel passages, I see that Thomas, in his humanity, is a relatable figure.
Since Thomas was not with the rest of the disciples in the Upper Room when Jesus first appeared to them, his encounter with the Risen Christ was delayed. In a sense, his unique experience of the Risen Christ brought him to his own personal Easter.
In Thomas’s story, we witness the spiritual journey of a soul striving to accompany Jesus despite a very real and flawed humanity. In Thomas, we might also see the story of “the other” who has become separated from community, a figure with whom all who strive to accompany Jesus in faith and action can relate.
what made sense then
seems ridiculous now.
A dark night.
How then shall I live?
Out of the darkness,
an optimistic note,
a ray of light.
There comes encounter.
A hand extended,
A side plunged into.
And with encounter,
To let go of
To be free of
And be reconciled.
An invitation to
“Do not be afraid.
I did not leave you!
I still love you.
Do not be afraid.
You are not alone.
I am with you.
Do not fear
opening your heart again.
I am here.
You are safe.
You are forgiven.
You are loved.”
In His hands, His side,
An invitation to Hope.
An invitation to Love.
An invitation to Joy.
This is your Easter, Thomas.
Read Prayer Leads Us Forward in Hope by Becky Eldredge.
I found my friend on his knees praying in the hospital chapel. We had received word that a family member of our friend was extremely sick and might not make it through the next day. As I embraced my friend and his tears fell on my shoulder, he told me, “I feel I am having a crisis of faith, because I am in here begging God to save my loved one.”
My tears joined his as I said, “The fact that you are in this chapel crying out to God in this time of darkness shows me the depth of your faith. You are turning to God in your time of need, and God is meeting you in this right now.”
My friend’s prayers reminded me of our need to hope in God, to feel heard by God, and to know that God can answer our prayers. “Prayer leads us forward in hope,” as Pope Francis reminds us in On Hope.
In our times of darkness, when we face our human limitations, we realize our need for God. We cry out in these moments to the source of our hope, which is God. God is with us. We are never alone. God responds to our prayers, not always with the answer we want, but with graces and gifts to get us through the journey. Prayer opens us to God, and God shines light into our darkness, enabling us to take a step forward, and then another, and then another.
The witness of my friend’s ability to hope that day is one I will never forget. I pull from his ability to cry out to God when I face my own darkness and the darkness I encounter in the world. God meets me in my prayers, increases my ability to hope, and inspires actions for me to take.
First Fruits TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman April 29, 2018
“All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into His treasury.” – Joshua 6:19
One of the earliest examples of the practice of giving God the first fruits of the increase was when Joshua and the people entered the Promised Land for the first time. When they crossed the Jordan River, their first battle was Jericho. God set a precedent with this battle by instructing them not to take any spoils from it. Unlike future battles, the fruits from this victory were to go into the treasury as a remembrance of their first victory in the Promised Land. In addition, the city of Jericho was to be a lasting monument to God’s faithfulness. God instructed Joshua never to rebuild this city. If they or anyone in the future attempted to rebuild the city, the life of the firstborn would be required. Years later in the days of King Ahab, Hiel the Bethelite attempted to rebuild this city and his firstborn died as a result. God never forgets to enforce His Word.
Is your work a lasting monument to the faithfulness of God in your life? Is it bringing glory to the Father? Are you giving the first fruits from your increase to God? God has encouraged us through this story to give the first fruits of our work to Him so that He will be glorified through our work. This is a tangible way for us to acknowledge that God is the source of all blessing.
NATIONAL PET PARENTS DAY
National Pet Parents Day is observed annually on the last Sunday in April.
There is a very special connection, a unique bond, between a pet and its owner. This unique relationship, which can often last for many years, is often a vital part of the ‘pet parents’ life. Their loved pets are considered to be a member of the family.
National Pet Parents Day was created to honor all dedicated pet parents across the nation with a special day of their own.
HOW TO OBSERVE
Use #NationalPetParentsDay to post on social media.
Founded by Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) in 2007, National Pet Parents Day was created from inspiration in seeing the majority of their policyholders consider their pets as part of their family.
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. Hebrews 4:9-11, NIV
Dear Father in heaven, we thank you for everything you have done for us, everything we think of when we are quiet for a moment and look back. May all that you have done remain alive in us, so that we can look forward with open, clear-seeing eyes, aware that our lives are in your hands and that you always lead us to something new, great, and glorious. Again and again you will give your Sabbath rest to your people, to all who acknowledge you and whose task is to work for you among the people. Again and again you will bring them your rest, until the coming of the last and glorious Sabbath on which your kingdom can be established. Amen.
Discipleship is not a question of our own doing; it is a matter of making room for God so that he can live in us. —J. Heinrich Arnold
Dietrich Bonhoeffer – theologian, pastor, dissident, and martyr – will remain a controversial figure. Did he, a convinced pacifist, take part in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler? Where was his theology heading? The following selections from his last writings will not resolve these questions. But they do show what enabled him to bear the consequences of his opposition to the Nazi regime: his complete rootedness in Christ’s overcoming love.
By late 1942, the independent Confessing Church seminaries had been closed for five years. Even the underground seminary that Dietrich Bonhoeffer had started in Finkenwald had been broken up by the Gestapo in 1939. But Bonhoeffer worked hard to maintain ties among the Finkenwald seminarians and other Confessing Church pastors. He sent them a series of circular letters – hand-signed and hand-addressed – reporting on the activities and deaths of members of this circle, encouraging those remaining, and continuing their instruction. The last of these letters was written on November 29, 1942, several months before his arrest:1
Dear Brother …,At the beginning of a letter that in this solemn hour is meant to call you all to true joy, there necessarily stand the names of those brothers who have died since I last wrote to you: P. Wälde, W. Brandenburg, Hermann Schröder, R. Lynker, Erwin Schutz, K. Rhode, Alfred Viol, Kurt Onnasch, Fritz’s second brother; in addition to them, and presumably known to many of you, Major von Wedemeyer and his oldest son, Max.
“Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads” (Isaiah 35:10). We are glad for them; indeed, should we say that we sometimes secretly envy them? From early times the Christian church has considered acedia – the melancholy of the heart, or resignation – to be one of the mortal sins. “Serve the Lord with joy” (Psalm 100:2) – thus do the scriptures call out to us. For this our life has been given to us, and for this it has been preserved for us unto the present hour.
This joy, which no one shall take from us, belongs not only to those who have been called home but also to us who are alive. We are one with them in this joy, but never in melancholy. How are we going to be able to help those who have become joyless and discouraged if we ourselves are not borne along by courage and joy? Nothing contrived or forced is intended here, but something bestowed and free.
Joy abides with God, and it comes down from God and embraces spirit, soul, and body; and where this joy has seized a person, there it spreads, there it carries one away, there it bursts open closed doors.
A sort of joy exists that knows nothing at all of the heart’s pain, anguish, and dread; it does not last; it can only numb a person for the moment. The joy of God has gone through the poverty of the manger and the agony of the cross; that is why it is invincible, irrefutable. It does not deny the anguish, when it is there, but ﬁnds God in the midst of it, in fact precisely there; it does not deny grave sin but ﬁnds forgiveness precisely in this way; it looks death straight in the eye, but it ﬁnds life precisely within it.
What matters is this joy that has overcome. It alone is credible; it alone helps and heals. The joy of our companions who have been called home is also the joy of those who have overcome – the Risen One bears the marks of the cross on his body. We still stand in daily overcoming; they have overcome for all time. God alone knows how far away or near at hand we stand to the ﬁnal overcoming in which our own death may be made joy for us.
Some among us suffer greatly because they are internally deadening themselves against so much suffering, such as these war years bring in their wake. One person said to me recently, “I pray every day that I may not become numb.” That is by all means a good prayer.
And yet we must guard ourselves against confusing ourselves with Christ. Christ endured all suffering and all human guilt himself in full measure – indeed, this was what made him Christ, that he and he alone bore it all. But Christ was able to suffer along with others because he was simultaneously able to redeem from suffering. Out of his love and power to redeem people came his power to suffer with them.
We are not called to take upon ourselves the suffering of all the world; by ourselves we are fundamentally not able to suffer with others at all, because we are not able to redeem. But the wish to suffer with them by one’s own power will inevitably be crushed into resignation. We are called only to gaze full of joy at the One who in reality suffered with us and became the Redeemer.
Full of joy, we are enabled to believe that there was and is One to whom no human suffering or sin is foreign and who in deepest love accomplished our redemption. Only in such joy in Christ the Redeemer shall we be preserved from hardening ourselves where human suffering encounters us.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest me, O God, I am thine!
In July 1944, Bonhoeffer had been in prison for over a year. He’d composed prayers for other prisoners, circulating them illegally, and ended each day in prayer, including prayers for his guards. His composure and evident dependence on Christ would become legendary. Fellow prisoner Fabian von Schlaberdorff writes that Bonhoeffer kept them all going, “consoling those who had lost all hope and giving them fresh courage. A towering rock of faith, he became a shining example to his fellow prisoners.”2It was then that he wrote this, enclosing a copy in a letter to his parents:
Who am I? They often tell me
I step from my cell
calm and cheerful and poised
like a squire from his manor.
Who am I? They often tell me
I speak with my guards
freely, friendly and clear,
as though I were the one in charge.
Who am I? They also tell me
I bear days of calamity
serenely, smiling and proud,
like one accustomed to victory.
Am I really what others say of me?
Or am I only what I know of myself?
restless, yearning, sick, like a caged bird,
struggling for life breath, as if I were being strangled,
starving for colors, for flowers, for birdsong,
thirsting for kind words, human closeness,
shaking with rage at power lust and pettiest insult,
tossed about, waiting for great things to happen,
helplessly fearing for friends so far away,
too tired and empty to pray, to think, to work,
weary and ready to take my leave of it all?
Who am I? This one or the other?
Am I this one today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? Before others a hypocrite,
and in my own eyes a pitiful, whimpering weakling?
Or is what remains in me like a defeated army,
Fleeing in disarray from victory already won?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine,
Whoever I am, Thou knowest me, O God, I am thine!
The next month, on August 23, 1944, he wrote in a final letter to his friend Eberhard Bethge:
…I am so sure of God’s guiding hand that I hope I shall always be kept in that certainty. You must never doubt that I’m travelling with gratitude and cheerfulness along the road where I’m being led. My past life is brim-full of God’s goodness, and my sins are covered by the forgiving love of Christ crucified….
“I have hardly seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
On February 7, he was transferred to Buchenwald; then, on April 6, with several others, to another facility. April 8 was a Sunday: Bonhoeffer led a worship service for the prisoners, speaking on the Scriptures for the day: “Through his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5) and “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again into a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Early the following morning, Bonhoeffer was lead to the scaffold. The camp doctor watched: “Through the half-door in one room of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps of the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”4
If you are drawn to seek freedom, learn first of all
to discipline yourself and your senses, lest desires
and your members lead you hither and thither.
Pure and chaste be your body and spirit, totally under control,
and obedient, seeking the goal which is set for them.
No one experiences the secret of freedom, except by discipline.
Choose and do what is right, not what fancy takes,
not weighting the possibilities, but bravely grasping the real,
not in the flight of ideas, but only in action is there freedom.
Come away from your anxious hesitations into the storm of events,
carried by God’s command and your faith alone.
Then freedom will embrace your spirit with rejoicing.
Wondrous is the change. The strong active hands
are bound now. Powerless and alone, you see the end
of your action. Yet, you breathe a sigh of relief and lay it aside
quietly trusting to stronger hands and are content.
Only for a moment did you touch the bliss of freedom,
then you gave it back to God that He might gloriously fulfill it.
Come now, highest feast on the way to everlasting freedom,
death. Lay waste the burdens of chains and walls
which confine our earthly bodies and blinded souls,
that we see at last what here we could not see.
Freedom, we sought you long in discipline, action and suffering.
Dying, we recognize you now in the face of God.
Verse of the Day
Thoughts on Today’s Verse…
Power! We love power. We love the sound and fury of power. We love the ability that power brings to change things. But, the greatest power ever unleashed on this earth was the power displayed when the Almighty God held back his might and fury while his Son was persecuted and murdered. He did it so he could save us. Now that’s an awesome display of power, and it was displayed specifically for us!
Holy and Majestic God on high, I praise you for incredible might and power. But I also thank you for your love which guides the release of that power. Thank you for knowing that I am but dust without your sustaining Spirit. Thank you for saving me by withholding your mighty power so I could be pardoned by your sacrificial power. Because of Jesus’ mercy, and in his holy name, I offer this prayer. Amen.
A Prayer for God’s Blessing By Debbie McDaniel
Joseph says inGenesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
God paved the way of freedom for Joseph. Though it wasn’t right away, slavery and imprisonment could not keep him contained. For our Lord, in His purposes, had more still in store.
God will not allow any circumstance, or any person, to hold us back from His blessing, favor, and purpose for our lives. We don’t have to worry. Because we belong to Him. And we can trust Him with our days. God is Able, He is more than Able, to turn the toughest, darkest times, around for good. He will not waste our pain, but will use the difficulty of what we walk through for greater good, to bring blessing and freedom to others.
His Presence is with us and we can be assured in whatever we face, His plans for us are good.
Thank you for your great love and blessing over our lives. Thank you that your favor has no end, but it lasts for our entire lifetime. Forgive us for sometimes forgetting that you are intimately acquainted with all of our ways, that you know what concerns us, and you cover us as with a shield. We ask that we would walk in your blessing and goodness today. That your face would shine on us. That you would open the right doors for our lives and for our loved ones, that you would close the wrong doors and protect us from those we need to walk away from. Establish the work of our hands and bring to fulfillment all that you have given us to do in these days. We pray that you would make our way purposeful and our footsteps firm out of your goodness and love. Give us a heart of wisdom to hear your voice, and make us strong by your huge favor and grace.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
We are children of the King. He is Sovereign and He reigns Supreme, giving favor, guidance, and blessings to all those who seek after Him.
Resting there today, hope you are too.
The Hour of Temptation For reading & meditation:Mark 8:27-38 “‘ he rebuked Peter, and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.’ ” (v.33, RSV)
We are seeing that once we have been given a vision of what God wants us to do for Him, the next thing that happens is that the vision dies. The reason for this is that Christian character must be developed in us before God can accomplish His purpose in our lives, and this can only be done by God bringing our vision down into death. Many Christians have been baffled by this strange strategy which God uses to develop Christlikeness in us, but it is yet another illustration of the principle that death must precede life. An important thing to remember is that Satan is extremely operative at this time, for his purpose is to get you to fulfil the vision by your own human effort. And whenever you do this, you will finish up in conflict. Remember what happened to Abraham? Rather than waiting for God to bring the vision into being at His own time, he tried to “help” God by having a son through Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar (Gen. 16:3-4). The result of that was conflict between Isaac and Ishmael – a conflict that has continued to this day. In our reading today, we see Peter being used by Satan to talk Christ out of facing death on Calvary, but Jesus recognised the true source of his ideas and responded with the words: “Get behind me, Satan!” One writer comments on this passage: “Satan often uses those who are closest to us to ‘protect’ us from what we know God has called us to do.” Even close Christian friends sometimes fail to understand that before we can live for God’s purposes, we must die to our own.
O Father. I sense that Your ways are written, not only in Your Word, but also in me. Something within me echoes to truth. Help me to be always willing to die to my own purposes so that I can be alive to Yours. Then I will live abundantly. Amen.
The memory of the righteous will be a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot. – Proverbs 10:7
Beware when you find yourself rationalizing your actions. Ultimately, you will be trapped by your own deceit and unable to receive any direction from the Lord.
Most of us, at one time or another, have found ourselves rationalizing something we’re not quite comfortable with. It’s not so much the act of rationalizing, as it is the refusal to receive correction in this area that will get you in trouble.
In Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, a man by the name of Mark Spotz was put on trial for the murder of his brother. Spotz adamantly denied killing his brother, saying, ‘He didn’t die until he got to the hospital. In my mind, killing someone is taking a life willfully. I didn’t do that. I shot my brother and he died. I didn’t kill him.”
Do you see how clouded your mind can become when you give in to what you know is wrong, and then allow yourself to justify it?
Rationalization is a ticking “time bomb”. If you rationalize inappropriate actions, at some point you may find yourself as deluded as this poor fellow in Texas.
“O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive!” – Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
From The Heavens Devotional by Kevin Hartnett
We all have increasingly busy lives, and life in the “information age” only seems to pick up pace. Less frequent landline telephone calls and “snail mail” letters have given way to a daily barrage of texts and twitters. If we miss our e-mail for a day, the number of stacked-up messages looks like the arrival and departure board at the airport. Traffic rages around us daily, resulting in congestion and delays as everyone scrambles to live the “good life” filled with sports, concerts, church meetings, and family events. The kids need attention, the grandparents need attention, the bills need attention—the empty refrigerator, the car, the house, the yard, the garage, our clothes, our jobs, our bodies. Frequently we get to Wednesday of the work- or school week, and we’d swear it was Friday. Bedtime has never had so much appeal!
Our Lord understands. The gospel of Mark records that Jesus was so busy healing and teaching those who sought Him out that He didn’t even have time to eat. His mother and brothers thought He was out of His mind. What did Jesus do? He pulled away. He withdrew when the Sun went down to be alone with His Father in prayer. Nighttime gives us a wonderful opportunity to do the same. Take a walk—or at least pull away from the daily grind—and have fellowship with your Maker, Savior, and Helper. If you can, go out beneath the Moon and stars. Think about how Jesus stared up at the very same ones as He prayed, and delight with Him in the discipline of solitude. He modeled its value for us in His own life on Earth. The same beautiful starry sky and gracious Father awaits us as did Him. Go experience them both.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. – Matthew 11:28–30
What Jesus Did! ‘Believe Moses!’
[Talking to Jewish leaders who opposed him, Jesus said,]“Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”
Jesus is that great prophet like Moses that God had promised would come. However, Jesus is greater than Moses. The covenant that Jesus brought is greater than the covenant given through Moses. At the same time, Jesus fulfills the law of Moses. Jesus teaches the heart of God that lies underneath the law of Moses. So, we look to the law as the way to bring us to a deeper appreciation of God’s grace given us in Jesus (Galatians 3:26-29; Galatians 4:1-4). We can appreciate and admire Moses, but we set our faith and our hopes on Jesus, God’s Son!
Father, thank you for the Old Testament, especially the Torah,* which reveals your holiness, power, mercy, deliverance, and care. Thank you that your old covenant looked toward the coming of a new covenant when your will and words would be written on people’s hearts. May I live that holy character that your law reveals, yet may I live out of appreciation for your overwhelming grace in Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.
*The Torah consists of the first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis — Deuteronomy). The Torah is sometimes also referred to as the law or the Pentateuch.
Stephen said to the people, the elders, and the scribes:
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears,
you always oppose the Holy Spirit;
you are just like your ancestors.
Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute?
They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one,
whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.
You received the law as transmitted by angels,
but you did not observe it.”
When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.
But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and Stephen said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened
and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
But they cried out in a loud voice,
covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out,
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
“Lord, do not hold this sin against them”;
and when he said this, he fell asleep.
R. (6a) Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
My trust is in the LORD;
I will rejoice and be glad of your mercy.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your kindness.
You hide them in the shelter of your presence
from the plottings of men.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
The crowd said to Jesus:
“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:
He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
So Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”
So they said to Jesus,
“Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.
Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen,
Cyreneans, and Alexandrians,
and people from Cilicia and Asia,
came forward and debated with Stephen,
but they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.
Then they instigated some men to say,
“We have heard him speaking blasphemous words
against Moses and God.”
They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes,
accosted him, seized him,
and brought him before the Sanhedrin.
They presented false witnesses who testified,
“This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law.
For we have heard him claim
that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place
and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.”
All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him
and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
R. (1ab) Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
Though princes meet and talk against me,
your servant meditates on your statutes.
Yes, your decrees are my delight;
they are my counselors.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
I declared my ways, and you answered me;
teach me your statutes.
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous deeds.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
Remove from me the way of falsehood,
and favor me with your law.
The way of truth I have chosen;
I have set your ordinances before me.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
[After Jesus had fed the five thousand men, his disciples saw him walking on the sea.]
The next day, the crowd that remained across the sea
saw that there had been only one boat there,
and that Jesus had not gone along with his disciples in the boat,
but only his disciples had left.
Other boats came from Tiberias
near the place where they had eaten the bread
when the Lord gave thanks.
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there,
they themselves got into boats
and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
And when they found him across the sea they said to him,
“Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered them and said,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me
not because you saw signs
but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
So they said to him,
“What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20
Thoughts for Today
We need to accept the fact that we cannot cure our loved one’s problem. Our best caretaking efforts will not succeed “fixing” things. In fact, we need to understand that we are not responsible for our loved one’s cure. Our responsibility is to deepen our relationship with Christ, pray for our loved one, and trust Jesus to guide us.
The simplest definition of codependency is “to be dependent along with.” That doesn’t mean that you necessarily use the same substances or participate in the same kinds of behaviors as the one you care about. What it does imply is the idea of being so deeply drawn into his or her life-controlling problem that it becomes your problem as well. This can result in your being filled with guilt and blame and other downgrading thoughts.
But that’s not who you are. Your significance is in Christ–and in Him is where you find freedom and confidence.
Consider this …
Learning to “live out” the reality of who you are in Christ begins with making a choice: Who will you honor? Then, after that choice is made, you may need to do some work on putting that reality into action in your life.
If you have centered your life around your loved ones instead of around God, this is the point where you need to reaffirm who you are in Christ and recognize the identity and the freedom you have in Him. As it is with all other human needs, establishing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the most effective way to overcome codependent relationships.
Father, thank you that Christ lives in me. I’ve been so wrapped up in my loved one’s problems that I have forgotten the freedom, the forgiveness, and the righteousness I have in Jesus. As your child, I know the best thing I can do is focus on my relationship with you, pray for my loved one, and trust you to guide me and to help my loved one. Please help me to honor you in my choices. In Jesus’ name …
The constant cry of the world is, “Who will show us any good?” They seek satisfaction in earthly comforts, enjoyments, and riches. But the quickened sinner knows of only one good. “I wish I knew where I might find Him!” When he is truly awakened to feel his guilt, if you could lay a fortune before him he would say, “Take it away: I want to find Him.”
It is a blessed thing for a man when he has brought his desires into focus, so that they all center in one object. When he has fifty different desires, his heart resembles a stagnant pool spreading out into a marsh, breeding disease; but when all his desires are channeled in one direction, his heart becomes like a river of pure water, running swiftly to fertilize the fields.
Happy is he who has one desire, if that one desire is set on Christ, though it may not yet have been realized. When a soul desires Jesus, it is a sure indication of divine work within. Such a man will never be content with mere externals. He will say, “I want Christ; I must have Him—mere ordinances are of no use to me. I want Himself; do not offer me these; you offer me the empty pitcher, while I am dying of thirst; give me water or I die. Jesus is my soul’s desire. I wish to see Jesus!”
Is this your condition, my reader, at this moment? Have you only one desire, and is that for Christ? Then you are not far from the kingdom of heaven. Have you only one wish in your heart, and is it that you may be washed from all your sins in Jesus’ blood? Can you really say, “I would give all I have to be a Christian. I would give up everything I have and hope for, in order to know that I have an interest in Christ”? Then, despite all your fears, be encouraged—the Lord loves you, and you will come out into daylight soon and rejoice in the liberty with which Christ makes you free.
Wanted: Dead or Alive! TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman April 17, 2018
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12).
In the old west it was common to see a poster on the wall of the town jail or post office with a man’s picture below the words: Wanted: Dead or Alive! These were the most notorious criminals who posed the greatest danger to society.
Let me ask you a personal question. Is there a “Wanted: Dead or Alive” poster in hell with your name on it? Are you a real danger to hell? Do you cause problems for Satan’s legion of demons? Are you pushing back Satan’s agenda on planet earth?
Are the unsaved in danger of receiving salvation through you? Will someone receive healing because you dared to pray for them? Will someone’s life be impacted because you chose to pray for them in your workplace during a difficult time? Will a city be impacted for Jesus Christ because of you?
Millions of believers sit on the sidelines everyday having no impact on the Kingdom of darkness. Their names will never appear on a Wanted poster in hell because Satan sees that they are no threat. However, God wants you to be a threat to Satan’s kingdom.
What are some things you can do that will pose a threat to Satan’s agenda? Perhaps you can begin praying for one of Satan’s most notorious talk show personalities. Or maybe you are called to visit an elderly home to bring the love of Christ into a lonely place. There are many ways you can earn a reputation in hell.
Are you willing to be a force to be reckoned with by Satan’s legions?
NATIONAL BAT APPRECIATION DAY
National Bat Appreciation Day occurs annually on April 17th. April is the best time of the year to observe bats, as they are now beginning to emerge from hibernation. National Bat Appreciation Day is also an excellent time to learn about the role bats play in nature. One important reason to celebrate bats is that they are considered to be an “insectivorous” creature because they rid our world of many annoying insects. In one hour, a bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes.
Fun Bat Facts:
Some species of bats can live up to 40 years.
Bats can see in the dark and use their extreme sense of hearing.
Bats are the only mammal naturally capable of true and sustained flight.
There are over 1,200 known species of bats.
The United States is home to an estimated 48 species of bats.
Nearly 70% of bats are insectivores.
One of the largest bats is theGiant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox batweighing up to 4 lbs with a wingspan of up to 5 feet, 7 inches.
Bats are clean animals, grooming themselves almost constantly.
North America’s largest urban bat colony is found on the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas. It is home to an estimated 1,500,000 Mexican Free-Tailed bats. This colony of bats eats approximately 10,000 to 30,000 lbs of insects each night. It is estimated 100,000 tourists visit the bridge annually to watch the bats leave the roost at twilight.
One colony of 150 Big Brown batscan protect farmers from up to 33 million or more rootworms each summer.
Almost 40% of American bat species are in severe decline, with some already listed as endangered or threatened.
Three U.S. states have an official state bat. Texas and Oklahoma have named the Mexican Free-Tailed battheir state bat, and Virginia has dubbed the Virginia Big-Eared battheir state bat.
HOW TO OBSERVE
Use #BatAppreciationDay to post on social media.
Our research was unable to find the origin of National Bat Appreciation Day.
A Prayer for a Holy Pause this Christmas
By Julie Gillies
“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” (Psalm 46:10 NLT)
Every year, my precious Gram assured me, Christmas arrived faster and faster. At eight years of age, I looked up into her baby blue eyes and my eager heart could scarcely fathom her point. All kids knew Christmas took forever to arrive. We waited eons before it finally showed up.
Fast forward many years, and I seriously understand what she meant. The year zooms by at warp speed. First comes New Year’s Day. Five minutes later it’s Valentine’s Day, followed immediately by Good Friday and Easter. A week and a half later, I am sweeping up firecracker and sparkler debris from my driveway, and bam! It’s Thanksgiving.
And then it’s Christmas time. Again.
I hardly have time to catch my breath, let alone purchase gifts, find cute wrapping paper, and Christmas-tize my house. Or spend time with the One it’s all about.
If, like me, you’d love for life to slow down, particularly as the holiday season begins to ramp up, it’s important to understand that we can choose to still our hearts. It may not be easy, but if we desire the authentic, heart transforming experience of Christ’s presence in the midst of the Christmas crazy, we can choose a holy pause.
A holy pause is the opportunity to step out of the madness, the demands, and the haste of the season, and into His presence. It’s the decision to shut ourselves away from the endless noise and commotion and quietly engage our hearts with His. It’s the chance to trade His stillness for our rushing, His peace for our panic, and His joy for our irritability.
Life doesn’t stand still, but we can.
God desires for us to honor Him by spending the expensive currency of our time, even in the busyness of the season. To engage in the difficult but oh-so rewarding discipline of quieting our minds, bowing our hearts, and pausing before Him. It’s then that we can begin to experience the beauty of His awesome, all-sufficient presence.
What if we allowed our hearts to marvel at His unfathomable journey from eternity into an unassuming, most unroyal manger? What if we pondered the miracle of His birth and the reason behind it? What if we asked Him to fill our hearts to overflowing with the reality of the priceless gift of His presence?
Lord, I bow my heart before You and honor You. Help me to choose not one but many holy pauses this holiday season. Please nudge me by Your Spirit and remind me to step away from the Christmas crazy and get alone with you. In Jesus’s awesome name, Amen.
Verse of the Day
Thoughts on Today’s Verse…
I love the fact that I do each day what everyone will one day do: bow before the majesty and proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ to honor the Father’s glory. How wonderful it is to be able to make that proclamation because of grace rather than in fear at the end of a life that has been spent in what is rebellion, denial, and waste.
Father, I do praise you for the truth about Jesus that will one day be realized fully by everyone who has ever lived. May my life display that truth in the way I treat people today. May my lips suitably proclaim that truth so others can know Jesus as Lord today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
BIBLE STUDY BUDDY
Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13…
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10. but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Remembering To Forget…
When people hurt us and then apologize, we may say that we forgive them. But like a dog that won’t give up its bone, we may let our mind continue to chew on past insults.
In 1 Corinthians 13:5, Paul declared that love ”thinks no evil.” He was using an accountant’s term that described the recording of figures in a book. Love does the opposite- it does not keep a record of wrongs. Instead, love forgives and refuses to keep it on the books.
If you want to remember something, you go over it again and again. The child reviews his spelling words; the actress rehearses her lines; you review people’s names that you want to remember. But love deliberately and consciously lets go of past hurts and gives them to God.
It was said of one religious leader, ”He never forgot slights done to him, which was his fundamental weakness. He might bury the hatchet for a time, but he gave the impression of always marking the spot.”
In contrast, when Methodist minister William Sangster was addressing Christmas cards, a friend noticed one name and remarked, ”Don’t you remember how he slighted you?” Sangster responded, ”Oh yes, I remember, but I have remembered to forget.” Let’s follow his example.
Ministries with Adrian Rogers
Friday, December 8, 2017
Does The Devil Make You Sin?
A little boy called his little sister a bad name. Then he hit her with a broomstick and spit on her. The mother said to the naughty child, “You shouldn’t have done that.” And the little boy said, “The devil made me call her a bad name. The devil made me hit her with a broomstick. But spitting on her was my idea.”
I think we would be surprised how much of our sin is our idea. It comes from that old Adamic nature that has a predisposition to sin. Galatians 5:17 says, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”
Paul is saying that you and I have an inclination to do evil. So many times, we want to say the devil made us sin. The devil can’t make us sin. If the devil could make us sin, we would have a perfect alibi. Sin is an inside job; it comes from our flesh. The devil helps you to sin; tempts you to sin; encourages you to sin.
I’ve got news for you, if there were no devil, you would go on sinning. You would do it all by yourself.
“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.” Psalm 13:5-6 (NIV)
When you think of the phrase, “Christmas is coming!” … what sort of emotion does it evoke?
It might be any one of these:
Panic: I only have three more Saturdays of shopping before Christmas. I’m never going to get it all done!
Frustration: Ugh. There are so many activities this month. We are going to be running all over the place with very little time to just be together as a family at home, enjoying each other’s company.
Regret: Why did I say we’d host the family get-together? Now I have to straighten and scrub this place from top to bottom AND make the dessert I signed up to provide, as if I didn’t already have enough to do this month.
Envy: I noticed on Facebook the gorgeous holiday decorations my co-worker has in her home. They look like they are straight from an HGTV Christmas special. Our place looks like we bought ours from the clearance bin at the local secondhand store.
So many sentiments can invade our hearts and minds. But these emotions don’t stay there.
Often, they weasel their way into our behavior. We appear distracted when talking with a friend. Our frustration morphs into hurry as we frantically try to get it all done. Our regret makes us a grumpy and ungracious hostess. Our envy leads to ungratefulness and can prevent us from experiencing the joy that should come from the whole reason for the celebration of Christmas in the first place.
Are these the attitudes we want on display during the month of December? Or should we choose the attitude reflected in the old familiar hymn, Joy to the World?
The emotion that ought to be deeply experienced during the Christmas season — and, in turn, displayed in our behavior — should be joy. Today’s key verse states, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.”
This verse declares that our reaction to the salvation God freely offers — which began when Jesus came into the world as a baby that very first Christmas — should be that rejoicing.
In this Old Testament verse, the word translated for rejoice actually means “to exult, to go about or to be excited to levity.” What a stark contrast to the emotions we usually display during the yuletide season!
But what if we tried to take our roller coaster of emotions to God, asking Him to replace them with joy instead? If we choose to consciously thank God for the indescribable gift of salvation through Jesus, perhaps we could learn to recapture the joy of Christmas. And not just to feel it in our hearts, but to go about during the season, excited to the point of levity, exulting God in the process.
The word exult means “to leap for joy,” and it’s usually connected with a triumph of some kind. Through Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, He triumphed over death. We need not fear the future because of the miracle of Christmas. If we have responded to the gospel — the good news about Jesus offering us salvation — we too can experience a victory over the grave and dwell with God forever in heaven someday. What a reason to rejoice!
Today, let’s chase down some Christmas cheer. But not just keep it to ourselves. Parking our minds on the truth of salvation through Jesus helps us show joy to the world during the Christmas season. A spotless house and homemade fruitcake are optional.
Father, may my mind dwell this season on the incredible gift of salvation through Jesus that is the source of all joy in this life and the life to come. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 89:15-16, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness.” (NIV)
There is a story of an old man who carried a little can of oil with him everywhere he went, and if he passed through a door that squeaked, he poured a little oil on the hinges. If a gate was hard to open, he oiled the latch. And thus he passed through life lubricating all hard places and making it easier for those who came after him. People called him eccentric, queer, and cranky; but the old man went steadily on refilling his can of oil when it became empty, and oiled the hard places he found.
There are many lives that creak and grate harshly as they live day by day. Nothing goes right with them. They need lubricating with the oil of gladness, gentleness, or thoughtfulness.
Have you your own can of oil with you? Be ready with your oil of helpfulness in the early morning to the one nearest you. It may lubricate the whole day for him. The oil, of good cheer to the downhearted one–Oh, how much it may mean! The word of courage to the despairing. Speak it. Our lives touch others but once, perhaps, on the road of life; and then, mayhap, our ways diverge, never to meet again.
The oil of kindness has worn the sharp, hard edges off of many a sin-hardened life and left it soft and pliable and ready for the redeeming grace of the Saviour. A word spoken pleasantly is a large spot of sunshine on a sad heart. Therefore, “Give others the sunshine, tell Jesus the rest.”
We cannot know the grief
That men may borrow;
We cannot see the souls
Storm-swept by sorrow;
But love can shine upon the way
Let us be kind.
Upon the wheel of pain so many weary lives are broken,
We live in vain who give no tender token.
Let us be kind.
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love” (Romans 12:10).
Key #4 to Effective Prayer – Consistent with God’s Will By Janet Conley
In order for your prayers to be effective, they need to be in line with God’s Word and will. That is the fourth key to effective prayer.
This means you must have knowledge of God’s Word. In John 15:7, Jesus says,
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
If you abide in God and His words abide in you, your desires will line up with His will. How important it is for us to know the Word of God!
As Hebrews 4 reminds us, the Word of God is living and active and powerful. It is spirit; it is life. It’s not just pages on a piece of paper. And as you are in the Word of God, I believe the Holy Spirit will paint heaven‘s pictures, heaven’s thoughts, and heaven’s ideas on the canvas of your heart and your mind.
As you read the Word of God, you will have confidence in your prayers because you will have God’s heart. And when you have God’s heart, He is going to answer your prayers because that is what He desires.
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
His will, of course, is His Word. So if you ask anything according to His Word, He will hear you. And if you know that He hears whatever you ask, you know you have the petitions you have asked of Him.
This means you and I need to know what the Bible says so that our prayers will be answered. Effective prayers are those that are in line with God’s Word and will.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings.–EPH. i. 3.
As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing.–2 COR. vi. 10.
It is not happiness I seek,
Its name I hardly dare to speak;
It is not made for man or earth,
And Heaven alone can give it birth.
There is a something sweet and pure,
Through life, through death it may endure;
With steady foot I onward press,
And long to win that Blessedness.
LOUISA J. HALL.
The elements of _happiness_ in this present life no man can command, even if he could command himself, for they depend on the action of many wills, on the purity of many hearts, and by the highest law of God the holiest must ever bear the sins and sorrows of the rest; but over the blessedness of his own spirit circumstance need have no control; God has therein given an unlimited power to the means of preservation, of grace and growth, at every man’s command.
J. H. THOM.
There is in man a higher than love of happiness: he can do without happiness, and instead thereof find blessedness!
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight-if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
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. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.
Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations- “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using-according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
Are you serving the real Jesus or a Western version made in your own image? That’s quite a compelling question, isn’t it? It’s kind of like asking how much of Christ is in your Christianity. Take Christmas, as an example. I think many of us would agree that Christmas has become so commercialized that Christ is hardly noticed, much less celebrated and revered. Easter would be in the same category. How in the world a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ could have ever evolved into an affinity with Easter bunnies and Easter eggs, I’ll never know. Such is the tenuous nature of idolatry.
Is it possible for Jesus Christ to be lost in Christianity, the very religion whose name it bears and professes? We know that without a relationship with Christ, just another religion is all that remains. We also know from Scripture that someone can profess to know Christ but in works actually deny Him (Titus 1:16). But isn’t it also true that in works many may profess to know Him, but in authentic heart-knowledge, they do not?
Here’s a quick contrast:
The biblical Jesus warns us of sin, judgment and hell, but the Americanized Jesus never says anything negative.
The biblical Jesus gives you salvation, hope, peace and joy, but the Americanized Jesus gives you happiness, wealth and sentimental feelings.
The biblical Jesus brings division when necessary, but the Americanized Jesus promotes unity and tolerance at all costs.
Would you agree that Jesus was perfect in all His ways? Yet His perfect love made some people angry. It brought a strange kind of trauma into their lives. His words disturbed and unsettled many and even caused riots. That’s because His love was a holy love. And holiness always repels the carnal mind and makes people hostile. Jesus was perfect in love, and yet they killed Him for it. Such is the spirit that’s in the world and in religion. Holiness always provokes hatred and makes proud people mad while ministering life and a heavenly fragrance to the humble.
The Aroma of Christ
I’ve been around persecuted Christians and have received much from their spirits. When you are around someone who suffers, an aroma of Christ pervades the very atmosphere. The Western church must cultivate this holy quality, but it can’t be done until we understand meekness, brokenness and suffering—all qualities of the real Jesus, the Lamb of God. Sentimental love, so common in Western nations, rooted in the fear of man, will never possess those qualities. Listen to the words of Watchmen Nee describe the breaking of the alabaster box by the woman who anointed Jesus for burial (John 12:1-8).
The breaking of the alabaster box and the anointing of the Lord filled the house with the sweetest odor. Everyone could smell it. Whenever you meet someone who has really suffered—been limited, gone through things for the Lord, been imprisoned, and is satisfied with the Lord and nothing else—immediately you sense the fragrance. There is the savor of the Lord. Something has been crushed. Something has been broken. And there is a resulting odor of sweetness.”
Jesus, the Express Image of God and the Brightness of the Father’s Glory
Many other people only know God as a Creator and a Judge. They have a crooked perspective of Him and see Him as a sort of policeman or traffic cop, who only springs into action when they are caught in a wrongdoing. Without the Lord Jesus coming into our world as God Incarnate, living among us, and revealing the deepest profundity of the fatherly heart of God, this is the conclusion many mere humans will formulate of Him. This perception of God does not draw me close. It does not pull on my heartstrings. It does not stir up any faith and praise or desire to know Him. This demeaning view of God is not enough. Unless we come to know Him as a loving Father, we will have a crippling walk with God and be at a grave disadvantage in relation to Him. We will never function aright until we see Him aright.
This is the God Jesus reflected. This is the loving Father He came to reveal to us. This is the real Jesus.
These are some highlights and key excerpts from my latest book, The Real Jesus.
Long ago, one king wrote a message to send to the ruler of an offensive enemy kingdom. He sealed the message and gave it to one of his trusted couriers, who immediately began the dangerous ten-day journey to deliver it. Along the way, however, the messenger, who had long hoped his king would finally have the nerve to declare war on the enemy, became overwhelmed with curiosity and decided to unseal the letter. When he read it, he was stunned. Instead of the declaration of war he expected, it was a proposal for peace. He felt betrayed and even ashamed to deliver such an embarrassing token of weakness. He and his people would become a laughing stock, simply because an old king didn’t have a backbone. After much thought, he decided to act in the best interests of the kingdom. He would bury the letter and return home with a well-crafted lie.
His plan was interrupted, however, when a group of scouts from the enemy kingdom discovered him burying the missive. They seized him—and the letter—and carried both back to their ruler’s palace. Surprisingly the message delighted the rival king, and a peace treaty was soon forged. And with the kingdoms now being on friendly terms, the messenger was released unharmed. But he remained bitterly disappointed, disillusioned, and reluctant to call anyplace his home.
This is the basic story of Jonah, the prophet who fled God’s call to preach repentance to an enemy city. It’s recast in a different setting without the assumptions we normally read into Jonah’s story in order to focus on an important question: Who owns the message—the messenger or the author? Jonah obviously felt a certain right to refuse to deliver the message he was called to preach, even though it was never his message to begin with. He didn’t approve of it and wanted no part in it. His own King was essentially issuing an invitation to make peace with Israel’s dreaded enemy—the same enemy that had periodically wreaked havoc on Israel’s borders and committed crimes against its people. This didn’t seem at all like the God he thought he knew.
Most preachers are elated when people respond to their message. But Jonah wasn’t like most preachers, and the people he addressed were not like any he had ever preached to. Assyrians were not, and would never be, friends of Israel. He had lived his entire life in a culture that bred animosity against its hostile enemies—and not without reason. Israel had experienced Assyria’s raids in the past. The prophet’s righteous indignation was hard to reconcile with the mercy of God.
Jonah’s indignation was not much different than that of another prophet. Habakkuk relentlessly questioned God over the seeming injustice of punishing his own people by using a far more corrupt nation: Babylon. But the similarities between the two prophets ended when God explained his intentions to each. Habakkuk praised God for his righteousness, even though he didn’t completely understand it. Jonah was eaten up with bitterness—so much so that he asked God to take his life.
How did God respond? By giving Jonah an object lesson in a helpful vine he hadn’t asked for. As the prophet fumed over the repentant city and this travesty of justice, God gave him extra shade to shelter him from the sun. The next morning, a worm ate away at the vine and caused it to wither, and a scorching wind beat against Jonah. This stirred up further anger, but God had made his point. The “man of God”—a frequent designation for a prophet—valued his own immediate comfort much more than he valued thousands of enemy lives. His ethnocentric focus had blinded him to the heart of his Lord.
Contrary to what we might expect, Jonah was the most effective prophet in the Bible. He ran from God, and sailors were converted. He went reluctantly to Nineveh with a five-word sermon (in Hebrew), and an evil city repented. He bitterly pouted over a withered vine, and the compassion of God was revealed in a prophetic book to a chosen but apostate nation. The irony is that Isaiah and Jeremiah spilled their lives out with many words over unhearing, unrepentant people and would have rejoiced to see even a hint of fruitfulness. Jonah saw fruitfulness in spite of himself, and he hated it.
Even then, God’s compassion toward his prophet was relentless. He didn’t disown his disgruntled servant. He patiently and persistently absorbed Jonah’s anger, heard his questions, and even answered them. He did with Jonah what he had already done with Nineveh. He revealed his heart.
In fact, that’s how the book concludes. “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” the Lord asks. It’s a rhetorical question that leaves readers with a decision to make. Are we in sync with our creator’s desires? Can we get on board with the big picture of his purposes? Will we align our hearts with the missionary heart of God?
Those are questions we all have to ask. God cares about our personal issues and desires, but he also has a bigger picture in front of him. When we focus intensely on our personal issues and give relatively little thought to that bigger picture, we tend to end up a lot like Jonah—out of sync with God and resentful that he is blessing others more than we think he is blessing us. It’s a distorted picture, but that’s what introspection often does; it distorts our perspective. It causes us to miss the heart of God.
God calls us to bring our hearts into alignment with his—to lift our eyes above our own agenda, to have his compassion, and to seek his agenda. When we do that, we find ourselves part of an enormous plan that will bring joy to both him and to us. We find a fruitfulness we wouldn’t otherwise experience. We share God’s heartbeat in deeper and deeper ways.
Adapted from A Walk Thru the Book of Jonah: Experiencing God’s Relentless Grace, a small group study guide from Walk Thru the Bible and Baker Books. This small group study and others can be found at www.walkthruguides.org.
From Good Morning, Lord by Sheila Walsh
Today I will keep praying about the matter that you seem to be saying “no” to . . . because “Be with me” is more important than “Why?”
I’m sure it’s a mystery you’ve bumped up against more often than you would have liked. I’m talking about the great mystery and challenge of living with unanswered prayer when we know that God is both all-loving and all-powerful. After all, if God were just loving, then when our prayers went unanswered, we’d make peace with it by telling ourselves that if he were powerful, he would have intervened. Or if God were powerful but not loving, we would not be surprised that he didn’t respond to our pain. But God loves us with a passion that exceeds our understanding, and he is powerful enough to intervene in any situation, at any moment, and change our circumstances. Sometimes he does do that, but more often he does not.
Jesus Christ himself lived through his Father saying “no.” Remember Gethsemane? I reject with everything that is in me the argument that Jesus, fully God and fully man, knew the great joy and victory ahead and so didn’t mind knowing he would soon die an excruciatingly painful death on the cross. Jesus was fully man, and he suffered as a man would (although without sinning). He knew that his Father would not deliver him in this situation. But Jesus knew that even when God was telling him no, God was still with him. You and I learn that, too, when we keep praying despite God’s no. And as we keep praying, we move beyond “Why?” to “Be with me, Lord.” Confronting God with our why becomes being with God in our need.
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. – >2 Timothy 2:2
Did you know the Nobel Peace Prize is named after Alfred Nobel, the Swedish industrialist who invented dynamite? How did this come to be?
When Alfred’s brother died, a newspaper mistook him for Alfred. It printed his obituary with the headline, “The Merchant of Death Is Dead,” describing Alfred as a man who made his fortune helping people kill one another.
He was cut to the heart and vowed to change his legacy. When Alfred really died eight years later, he left $9 million to fund awards for people whose work benefited humanity–thus, the birth of Nobel Peace Prizes.
Alfred Nobel was given a rare gift: the opportunity to read his own obituary, and make changes before it was too late. What might you do if given the same opportunity?
“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else. – Booker T. Washington (1856-1915)
The Daily Word of Hope Devotional
Bible Fun Fact: Noah was also used for a girls name (Joshua 17:3).
The Garment of Praise
to provide for those who mourn in Zion, to give to them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Yahweh, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3 WEB
Have you ever felt so down, so lethargic, that you begin to ask yourself, ‘What is the point of it all?’ There are many things in this verse but the one that I want to mention today is the ‘spirit of heaviness’, better known by its bona fide name: ‘Depression.’
It can settle on anyone given the right circumstances and none of us are immune to it. We all like to think that we have it together, but really we are just one phone call away from crying at any given moment.
Once when we were overworked and nearly burned out, we went to an exhilarating praise and worship conference that lasted for three days. After the first night, I began to feel lighter, and brighter. Each hour that we spent there seemed to bring renewal, a refreshing of our spirit, like standing under a waterfall.
When I had arrived, I was pretty down and cynical, but afterwards, I was as light as a feather and cheerful. By the time I left the conference, I felt like I was walking on air and didn’t have a care in the world. I would not have cared if the world were ending. That time soaking in praise and worship brought immediate change in our life. We had exchanged the spirit of heaviness for the garment of praise.
Praise and depression are polar opposites and repel each other. If you are down, depressed, heavy, you will not feel like praising the Lord. If you are praising the Lord, then you will not feel like being depressed. If you are feeling ‘heavy’ today, find some good praise and worship music and soak in it for an hour. Listen to it while working. Begin to praise the Lord along with it, and that spirit of heaviness will flee out of hearing range.
Prayer: Heavenly Father I praise You today, please deliver me from the spirit of heaviness. Fill my life with Your presence, bring the right people, the right music, and the right opportunities into my life, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray.
Note: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
“But we must keep going in the direction that we are now headed.” Philippians 3:16 CEV
Thoughts for Today
This week we’ve looked at the importance of acknowledging any life-controlling problem in your life, admitting it to God and to yourself, asking him for forgiveness and help, accepting responsibility, sharing your struggle with a friend and preparing to move on. Then begins the process of walking out the changes–to keep going in the direction that you are now headed.
These changes may involve steps like stopping the use of alcohol or drugs or pornography, ending an unhealthy relationship, reordering priorities, becoming accountable to a support group, and going to church regularly. The negative behavior caused by your problem may have destroyed your self-esteem. You might still be dealing with anger, fear and shame.
Consider this …
As you begin to walk out the changes in your life and to see yourself as God’s special creation, it is vital that you walk in agreement with God. Agreement that he has forgiven you. Agreement that he will give you the strength you need. Agreement that he created you for a positive purpose and will help you accomplish that purpose. Agreement that you will submit to him and put him first in all you do. Agreement that he loves you and will be with you through every trial, through every circumstance, through every difficult step–and that with his help, you can do it. “Christ gives me the strength to face anything.” (Philippians 4:13)
Father, thank you for helping me get turned around. Help me keep going in the right direction. Thank you for the promise that you will give me the strength to face anything. In Jesus’ name …
Jentezen Franklin: The Biblical Significance of Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital
On Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, there was a significant spiritual shift in the universe as the US President Donald Trump reaffirmed and formally declared that the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is the first and most necessary step toward another major milestone, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
While it has been the practice of some to insist on international determination over this topic, it is Israel’s right to decide the location of her capital as was spiritually declared by King David and then legally documented in 1950 when the Israeli Knesset passed the Jerusalem Law, and declared Jerusalem to be the eternal, undivided capital of the state of Israel. Declaring Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital would not itself mark a change in American law. In 1995, Democrat President Bill Clinton signed a statute declaring, “Since 1950, the city of Jerusalem has been the capital of the state of Israel.”
Naming the city of Jerusalem the capital of Israel is not just a political right of Israel, it is also of great theological importance to Christians world-wide, and certainly to the churches I pastor. Christianity begins in Jerusalem serving as the context for Jesus’ life and earthly ministry. Jerusalem is the city where Jesus was crucified on a cross, laid in a tomb, rose from the grave and showed Himself to many others over a 40-day period. It is the city where many believe Abraham brought Isaac up Mt. Moriah and passed God’s test of faith and the city where King Solomon built the magnificent temple, declaring it a house of prayer for all nations. It is also the city Isaiah envisioned as the world’s center where the nations would beat their swords into plowshares and learn war no more. It is the city where Jesus wept.
The significance of Jerusalem to Christians, however, cannot be separated from the significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people. Their history is our history. We are intertwined through our Old Testament Scriptures and spiritual legacy. Their biblical examples are our biblical examples and we share this heritage in Jerusalem as our spiritual capital while Israel also legally proclaims it as her national capital. Their national history has become our spiritual history.
We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, as Scripture implores us to do, and we trust her peace and prosperity, not to man-made institutions and international efforts, but to the God of all Peace, and to the greatest Jew to have ever lived, Jesus Christ.
There is a strong possibility that many in our congregations will have seen this story as breaking news and be left to themselves to try to understand what it means to the evangelical church. Below is a brief, easy to understand fact sheet that you can use to help your congregation understand the significance of this major announcement.
Naming Jerusalem the Capital of Israel Fact Sheet:
The history of Israel dates back to Genesis and the story of Abram who would become Abraham.
Abraham was promised a land by God (the promised land), and that land was Canaan and would later become Israel (Genesis 12—fulfilled when descendant Joshua takes the land in Joshua 6 when the walls come down).
David declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel (City of David- 2 Sam. 5).
Legally documented in 1950, the Jerusalem Law was passed by the Israel Knesset, declaring Jerusalem to be the eternal, undivided capital of the state of Israel.
In 1995, Democrat President Bill Clinton signed a statute stating, “Since 1950, the city of Jerusalem has been the capital of the state of Israel.”
Christianity begins in Jerusalem serving as the context for Jesus’ life and earthly ministry
The city where Jesus was crucified on a cross
The city where He was laid in a tomb
The city where He rose from the grave
The city where He showed Himself to many others over a forty-day period
The city where many believe Abraham brought Isaac up Mt. Moriah and passed God’s test of faith
The city where King Solomon built the magnificent Temple, declaring it a house of prayer for all nations
The city Isaiah envisioned as the world’s center where the nations would beat their swords into plowshares, and learn war no more
The city where Jesus wept
Shared Significance with Orthodox Jews:
The significance of Jerusalem to Christians cannot be separated from the significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people
Their history is our history
We are intertwined through our Old Testament scriptures and spiritual legacy. Their biblical examples are our biblical examples and we share this heritage in Jerusalem as our spiritual capital while Israel also legally proclaims it as her national capital. Their national history has become our spiritual history
Naming the city of Jerusalem the capital of Israel is not just a political right of Israel, it is the right of all nations. It is also of great theological importance to Christians world-wide, and certainly to the churches I pastor. Please join me in praying for the peace of Jerusalem, as Scripture implores us to do, and we trust her peace and prosperity, not to man-made institutions and international efforts, but to the God of all Peace, and to the greatest Jew to have ever lived, Jesus Christ.
Jentezen Franklin is the senior pastor of Free Chapel in Gainesville, Georgia, with five campuses nationwide. He is the author of New York Times best-sellers Right People, Right Place, Right Plan and Fasting. His ministry extends internationally through the televised broadcast, Kingdom Connection, which is seen on multiple television networks
No Manna Stores TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman December 08, 2017
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow My instructions.” – Exodus 16:4
When God took the nation of Israel through the desert, there was one thing the people simply could not do outside of God alone: They could not provide for themselves. They could not plant. They could not harvest. They could not manufacture. It was a place and time where nothing but complete dependence was the rule. God gave manna one day at a time. The manna spoiled the day after, so they could never store it. They could not go to the manna store to get more. They couldn’t start a manna business to capitalize on all the free manna. I can tell you from personal experience that when God takes you to the desert, there is nothing you can do to change it until He wants to change it, so do not strive against God in the desert place.
Has God taken you into the desert? Is He forcing you to depend wholly on His provision? Pray that you will learn the lessons God desires you to learn in the desert place. He will bring you out when He has accomplished all He wants to build in your life. Remember that it is a season; you will not be there forever. He understands that no one can stay in a desolate place forever.
I was awakened at 3:00 am as the Lord began to speak to me. He said, “December is a month to receive sudden, supernatural deployments.” These supernatural deployments may not be instant or happening in the same month, but the revelation of them is coming forth now! He also said, “Don’t be shocked by the suddenness of these deployments.”
The definition for the word “deploy” is to extend (a military unit) especially in width, to place in battle formation or appropriate positions deploying troops to the region, to spread out, utilize or arrange for a deliberate purpose.
Many of you have been on assignment, but I see the Father changing your orders. In the days to come, there will be seemingly sudden re-directs. Many will be caught off guard, but it is the Lord’s doing. He is positioning those who have stayed the course into new commissions, new assignments, battlefield promotions. Macedonian call experiences will be routine at the end of this year as the Lord positions people in the right places and the right assignments.
I saw marching orders being given from heaven. Many will be surprised by where they are being dispatched and what is unfolding, but these are eternal plans. Many will be supernaturally extended in their assigned place and in their anointing, vision, purpose and calling. The Father has ordained these movements. The Lord is saying, “I am putting you in appropriate positions.” There is coming sudden adjustments as He is directing those who have been out of position into their appropriate places. This is eternal strategy, sudden positioning. Hearts are being aligned with heavenly intent and purpose. We cannot be bound by or let the fear of man hold us back. God is literally arranging His people for deliberate purposes. The revelation and recalibration may seem sudden, but the plan is eternal.
Marching orders and deployment orders are coming through dreams and visions. Increased commissioning in dreams will be the norm as this is a high level apostolic-prophetic leading. A commission is a formal written warrant granting the power to perform various acts or duties, a certificate conferring military rank and authority, an authorization or command to act in a prescribed manner or to perform prescribed acts.
He said, “Hear now My word. If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord will make Myself known to him in a vision, and I will speak to him in a dream” (Num. 12:6).
The Lord says, “Pay attention to dreams and visions in the month of December. I am releasing a dream and vision mantle upon My people. They will begin to receive a supernatural GPS through these realms.”
There are 4 Types of Prophetic Dream Encounters:
These contain critical prophetic warnings. This is a Shamar dimension of the prophetic anointing. “But being warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they returned to their own country by another route” (Matt. 2:12).
Prophetic imprints as you awaken. These are vivid prophetic encounters with vital messages.
“The seven thin ears devoured the seven plump and full ears. Then Pharaoh awoke and realized it was a dream. In the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh” (Gen. 41:7-8).
Predictive Dreams.Dreams that point to future events or a kairos moment. These hold instructions for something that is ahead. They are prophetic roadmaps for what is coming. One of the common mistakes with these is assuming it is for right now. In Genesis 37:2-5, Joseph was 17 when he shared his first dream.
He began serving Pharaoh at the age of 30. This was 13 years of waiting and many storms in between. The dream was still true. It had timings attached to it: “until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him” (Ps. 105:19).
These are dreams that contain the wisdom of God. They contain a word of wisdom and the “how to” instructions. God is giving supernatural instruction through dreams. Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge; these dreams contain key pieces of vital information: “In a dream, a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, in slumber on their bed, then He opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction” (Job 33:15-16).
God said, “2018 will be a year of glory storms and a year of the apostolos, the apostolic anointing, coming into fullness and a greater measure.”
This will be a year of apostolic expression, apostolic authority and apostolic sending. The church is being recalibrated and moving away from the Western mindset into a new wineskin of supernatural bases, hubs and headquarters. Many will shut down what they’ve been doing and birth something new. Many will relaunch and renovate their language and expression. Many worship leaders are going to renovate and relaunch their sound. As they relaunch, their sound will usher in a new era, a new dimension of the Spirit. We are coming back to the authority and power of the Book of Acts.. We are coming into the revelation of sending and sent.
The apostolic spirit is a sending spirit:
Apostolic people go.
Apostolic ministries are on the go.
The dreams and encounters in this hour are the catalysts for movement. We are receiving orders from heaven for movement. As we begin to move in the Spirit, the Spirit of God will move through us. The authority of the Lord will move through us. The apostolic anointing will decree through us. The prophetic anointing will declare through us. The evangelistic anointing will demonstrate through us. The teaching anointing will explain through us. The pastoral anointing will shepherd through us. The travail anointing will pray through us. The helps anointing will serve through us. The government anointing will govern through us and the seven mountains of culture will be influenced by this apostolic generation.
We must heed the call and begin to move!
“After he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:10).
Ryan LeStrangeis an apostolic leader and prophetic voice. The apostolic call on his life has led him to build multiple ministries in various geographical locations, the foremost being Ryan LeStrange Ministries. Ryan moves strongly in the power of God as he travels the globe igniting revival fires and his conferences & gatherings are alive with prophetic declaration, miracles, healings and powerful preaching. Ryan is the founder of TRIBE Network, a global network of ministries and AwakeningTV.com. Ryan has authored several books Overcoming Spiritual Attack and Releasing the Prophetic and Revival Hubs Rising, co-authored with Jennifer LeClaire. Ryan and his wife Joy have one son, Joshua, and currently reside in Virginia.
Passion for Praise: ‘Is there Any as Mighty as You?’
Friday, December 8, 2017
O God, your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as you? You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations. By your strong arm, you redeemed your people…
This is what mine does to me……….it creates barriers, assumes offenses that may not be so, imagines that I’m being ridiculed and talked about……why do I do all this to myself? I’ve always does this! Is there no end??
I forgive them all………because I love them all…still……….
haha……..take that, all you Grinches!
I was remembering past Christmases…….oh, the decorating I would do! A ski slope AND a Carousel on the tree…….Mickey Mouse and his friends skiing up and down the ski slope…..the Carousel horses going up and down while carols played on the miniature calliope…….Santa’a Christmas train under the tree: choo choo! And the mountains of gifts! There wasn’t enough room under the tree!!
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! Isaiah 64:1–2, NIV
Lord our God, in our times too you hear the prayers and cries of your children. We need to cry out, for humankind has not become your own but still lives in pain and under judgment, and many thousands have to die or undergo terrible things. They should be yours, every one of them. They should all be your children. So we cry out to you: Reveal and glorify your name on earth so that a new time may come and great wonders may be done by your hand. May your name be honored, your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.
Reflections for Advent and Christmas
Eugene V. Debs
When the mariner, sailing over tropic seas, looks for relief from his weary watch, he turns his eyes toward the southern cross, burning luridly above the tempest-vexed ocean. As the midnight approaches, the southern cross begins to bend; the whirling worlds change their places, and with starry finger-points the Almighty marks the passage of time upon the dial of the universe, and though no bell may beat the glad tidings, the lookout knows that the midnight is passing and that relief and rest are close at hand. Let the people everywhere take heart of hope, for the cross is bending, the midnight is passing, and joy cometh with the morning.
Verse of the Day
Thoughts on Today’s Verse…
Because of the LORD God’s grace and power, we will be victors. This is the final message of Revelation. It is the song that is sung throughout the Scriptures. This is the assurance that we have from God himself. Our lives will not be lived in vain. Those who berate, belittle, and batter God’s people will be exposed and his beloved children, his saints of light, will receive vindication and salvation from the Father they love.
Dear God, I pray especially today for your servants who are sharing the Gospel in difficult places. Some of these precious ones are imprisoned. Some are facing torture. Others are facing ostracism. Some face firing in their workplace. Please give them strength today. Please deliver them from the evil one’s vile intent. Protect them by your mighty hand and deliver them, like Daniel, from the lion’s mouth to your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
BIBLE STUDY BUDDY
Read Luke 11:1-13…
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ”Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2. He said to them, ”When you pray, say:
”’Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3. Give us each day our daily bread.
Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Devotional
What we are taught to seek or shun in prayer, we should equally pursue or avoid in action. Very earnestly, therefore, should we avoid temptation, seeking to walk so guardedly in the path of obedience, that we may never tempt the devil to tempt us. We are not to enter the thicket in search of the lion. Dearly might we pay for such presumption. This lion may cross our path or leap upon us from the thicket, but we have nothing to do with hunting him. He that meeteth with him, even though he winneth the day, will find it a stern struggle. Let the Christian pray that he may be spared the encounter. Our Saviour, who had experience of what temptation meant, thus earnestly admonished His disciples—”Pray that ye enter not into temptation.”
But let us do as we will, we shall be tempted; hence the prayer “deliver us from evil.” God had one Son without sin; but He has no son without temptation. The natural man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards, and the Christian man is born to temptation just as certainly. We must be always on our watch against Satan, because, like a thief, he gives no intimation of his approach. Believers who have had experience of the ways of Satan, know that there are certain seasons when he will most probably make an attack, just as at certain seasons bleak winds may be expected; thus the Christian is put on a double guard by fear of danger, and the danger is averted by preparing to meet it. Prevention is better than cure: it is better to be so well armed that the devil will not attack you, than to endure the perils of the fight, even though you come off a conqueror. Pray this evening first that you may not be tempted, and next that if temptation be permitted, you may be delivered from the evil one.
5. Then Jesus said to them, ”Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6. a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7. And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8. I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
9. ”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. 10. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11. ”Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12. Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
Christ encourages fervency and constancy in prayer. We must come for what we need, as a man does to his neighbour or friend, who is kind to him. We must come for bread; for that which is needful. If God does not answer our prayers speedily, yet he will in due time, if we continue to pray. Observe what to pray for; we must ask for the Holy Spirit, not only as necessary in order to our praying well, but as all spiritual blessings are included in that one. For by the influences of the Holy Spirit we are brought to know God and ourselves, to repent, believe in, and love Christ, and so are made comfortable in this world, and meet for happiness in the next. All these blessings our heavenly Father is more ready to bestow on every one that asks for them, than an indulgent parent is to give food to a hungry child. And this is the advantage of the prayer of faith, that it quiets and establishes the heart in God.
One of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith is that God wants us to talk to Him about everything that is going on in our lives, even though He already knows everything. So why pray?
If you’ve ever wrestled with that question, perhaps the thoughts of the 19th-century preacher R. A. Torrey can help. Among the reasons he gave for prayer are these:
-Because there is a devil, and prayer is a God-appointed way to resist Him (Eph. 6:12-13,18).
-Because prayer is God’s way for us to obtain what we need from Him (Lk. 11:3-13; Jas. 4:2).
-Because prayer is the means God has appointed for us to find ”grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
-Because prayer with thanksgiving is God’s way for us to obtain freedom from anxiety and to receive ”the peace of God” (Phil. 4:6-7).
Besides these reasons, it’s enough to read the command in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, ”Pray without ceasing,” and realize that God wants us to talk with Him. Yes, He is all-knowing, but He also desires our fellowship. When we seek God’s face in prayer, we strengthen our relationship with Him. That’s the most important reason to pray.
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:
“Their sound has gone out to all the earth,
And their words to the ends of the world.”
But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says:
“I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation,
I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.”
But Isaiah is very bold and says:
“I was found by those who did not seek Me;
I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.”
But to Israel he says:
“All day long I have stretched out My hands
To a disobedient and contrary people.”
I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, “LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.
What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Just as it is written:
“God has given them a spirit of stupor,
Eyes that they should not see
And ears that they should not hear,
To this very day.”
And David says:
“Let their table become a snare and a trap,
A stumbling block and a recompense to them.
Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see,
And bow down their back always.”
I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!
For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”
Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
“For who has known the mind of the LORD?
Or who has become His counselor?”
“Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?”
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD;
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.
If You, LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the wicked;
For there will be no prospect for the evil man;
The lamp of the wicked will be put out.
Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou guest.–GEN. xxviii. 15.
Be quiet, soul:
Why shouldst thou care and sadness borrow,
Why sit in nameless fear and sorrow,
The livelong day?
God will mark out thy path to-morrow
In His best way.
I had hoped, Madame, to find you here, and was rejoicing in that hope; but God has sent you elsewhere. The best place is wherever He puts us, and any other would be undesirable, all the worse because it would please our fancy, and would be of our own choice. Do not think about distant events. This uneasiness about the future is unwholesome for you. We must leave to God all that depends on Him, and think only of being faithful in all that depends upon ourselves. When God takes away that which He has given you, He knows well how to replace it, either through other means or by Himself.
FRANCOIS DE LA MOTHE FENELON.
“…I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’” Zechariah 13:9
In 2004, my colleague Jim Cunningham was in Ethiopia teaching Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS). His teaching assignments took him to the far western province of Gambella where many Christians of the Anuak tribe had been killed in recent fighting. The believers there told him about one of their pastors, Okok Ojula, who was in prison in the capital, Addis Ababa.
Okok had been head of the Bureau of Social Rehabilitation in Gambella. He was falsely accused of corruption and taking three million Ethiopian Birr. No evidence was presented so the trial was moved to Addis—three days away by bus—to a federal court. He had been sitting in jail for two years waiting for a trial date to be set! His wife Nuno and their six children were patiently waiting back in Gambella. They asked Jim to visit Pastor Okok in prison.
Jim went to the Administrator’s Office of the main federal prison back in Addis to try and see Pastor Okok. “Why do you want to see him?” the administrator asked. Jim responded, “Because I was in Gambella, met his wife Nuno and their six children and I told them I would come and give him greetings from them.”
He replied rather directly, “Why do YOU want to see him?” Jim looked him in the eye and said, “Okok is a Christian and a pastor in Gambella, I am a Christian and a pastor in Canada. I want to meet him and pray with him!” At that moment the administrator’s countenance changed. He turned to Jim and said, “You may meet him next door in the Deputy Administrator’s office.”
Okok was brought in for forty-five minutes—with coffee provided—and they shared and prayed together! It was a great time of blessing for both men.
After three and a half years, Okok was released from prison as a free man completely exonerated. He then shared with Jim by mail that he hadearlier conformed his life around serving the Lord, resuming his education at the highest level, doing research work, and other valuable good things to help people. But he had never thought of imprisonment at any time. Time was very precious to him and he never thought of wasting it in prison sitting under a hostile situation. But having been in prison he learned many lessons.
Commenting about Moses’ burning bush, he said, “Prison to me, is a place where the Lord can appear to us in flames of fire to refine us—but never ‘burn us up.’ I see that the Lord is more concerned with our perfection obtained through walks in all levels of patience, endurance, character, and hope in order to expel fear and self-centeredness in our lives—and prepare us to see and believe that He is God Almighty as He appeared to Moses. He intends for us not to put Him in our little box to use Him as an instrument to suit our release from the prison.[Rather] patience, endurance, character, and hope have to finish their work to perfection.”
RESPONSE: Today I will accept that God may have to put me through the refiner’s fire to perfect me.
PRAYER: Lord, build patience, endurance, character and hope into my life in Your way and purpose.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Every day from Black Friday until New Year’s Eve, we’ll bring you one devotional from our archives about Christmas, celebrating the Incarnation, Advent, or the Nativity. Check back every morning as you thank the Lord for His gift of coming near! Emmanuel!
The Christmas Plan
Christmas was required in God’s plan because the righteous life he requires was not attained by Adam or any of his fallen descendants. God, prompted by grace, chose to fulfill the holy human standard himself. The incarnate Deity chose to live the life we should have lived – the perfect childhood, the spotless teenage years and the righteous adult life.
Had we been able to present to the Father the righteous life he requires so that we could perfectly enjoy his presence and his presents, God would not have needed to become a man and live among us. But we couldn’t, so he did. Were it only our sins that needed a payment, Christ could have arrived on the day of his crucifixion. But our deficiencies were more than our acts of transgression (doing the things we shouldn’t do), our problems included the “Romans 3:23” (failing to do the things we should do).
It is with gratitude that we celebrate his advent as an infant, because we know that as our sins were atoned for on the cross, so it was that all our human deficits began to be rectified by one perfectly-lived life starting that very night in Bethlehem.
— Pastor Mike
Be Thankful for People This devotional was written by Robin Dugall
Thanksgiving Sunday is here, and across our country, pastors are preaching sermons pointing out the need for Christ-followers to be thankful people. As a pastor, I’ve made impassioned pleas for Christ-followers to rise above our culture… to resist the temptation for the holiday season to be simply another opportunity for us to be self-focused and self-indulgent. Thanksgiving isn’t just about eating to the brink of explosion; shopping to the brink of bankruptcy; watching television to the brink of insanity. I’ve tried to make the point that Thanksgiving for a person who loves God can be so much more.
Even so, I discovered in my own life that despite what I’ve preached, I have missed a crucial element in the process of being a thankful follower of Jesus in my own life. I found that over the years I have been mostly thankful for the THINGS in my life; for food, finances, the house I have lived in, the clothes I have worn, and so on. While there’s nothing wrong with being thankful for these things, I have missed the boat on giving thanks for the biggest blessings of God in my life… PEOPLE.
Consider how empty, purposeless, and meaningless our lives would be without relationships. Relationships have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. Without exception, everyone I know has been positively influenced by other people. While it is easy to thank God for the THINGS in our lives, we should remember to be equally thankful for the PEOPLE God has placed in our lives as well!
Let me give you just one example. I am thankful for my Aunt Patty. She had suffered a brain injury when she was a small child severe enough that by the time I was born, she had become mentally disabled. But, when I was a child, she would play games and entertain me for hours. She loved me unconditionally. We would play The Beatles records and pretend to be Paul McCartney and John Lennon. It was her love for music that infected my soul for the rest of my life. I thank God for her!
How about you? Who do you thank God for? Today, take a few moments and thank God for the relationships in your life. Truthfully, it can revolutionize your life. Happy Thanksgiving!
1. Make a list of the people who have shaped your life. Share the list with your friends and family.
2. How easy is it to just thank God for things in your life? How can you live a lifestyle of thankfulness more consistently?
The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, set your face against the Ammonites and prophesy against them. Say to them ‘Hear the word of the Sovereign LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because you said “Aha!” over my sanctuary when it was desecrated and over the land of Israel when it was laid waste and over the people of Judah when they went into exile, therefore I am going to give you to the people of the East as a possession.'” – >Ezekiel 25:1-4
In the first half of the book of Ezekiel, God rebukes His people for their attitudes toward Him. The Lord uses words like stubborn, hard-hearted and rebellious to describe His people. The Lord speaks through Ezekiel and tells the people to understand that their choices come with consequences. If they make good and righteous choices that honor God, they will be blessed. If they make poor and wicked choices that honor themselves, they will be punished. As the story continues, the reader knows what choice the Israelites made because God starts talking about the judgment that is to come upon them.
In Chapters 25-27, God redirects His message and begins proclaiming judgment on the nations that punished the Israelites. God warned His people to turn from their sins and to turn back to Him. They did not heed the warnings and God allowed the other nations to invade Israel (just as He said would happen). But then God judged the nations that came against His people because they did not show respect towards the Lord or towards His people during their captivity. That is amazing.
If you are God’s child, He desires that you walk with Him and love Him with your whole heart. If you do not, you will not lose your salvation but you will have to live with the consequences of making bad choices. Those consequences are usually inflicted upon us by other people. But those people will not get off easy in their unjust deeds and prideful attitudes towards you. They, too, will have to suffer the consequences for how they deal with you, God’s child. God is always on your side. He wants you to walk with Him and He will go out of His way to warn you. God is amazing. I always want to be on His side for He always gets the last word.
Our mission is to evangelize the lost and awaken the saved to live empowered lives by the Work of God and His Holy Spirit. Daily Disciples Ministries makes a difference for the kingdom of God by teaching and training believers how to be in God’s Word, how to pray and how to walk with Jesus every day, as His daily disciple. Daily Disciples Ministries, Inc.
Grace for the Moment
By Max Lucado
Why Did He Do It?
He gave up his place with God and made himself nothing. – Philippians 2:7
Holiday travel. It isn’t easy. Then why do we do it? Why cram the trunks and endure the airports? You know the answer. We love to be with the ones we love. The four-year-old running up the sidewalk into the arms of Grandpa. The cup of coffee with Mom before the rest of the house awakes. That moment when, for a moment, everyone is quiet as we hold hands around the table and thank God for family and friends and pumpkin pie. We love to be with the ones we love.
May I remind you? So does God. He loves to be with the ones he loves. How else do you explain what he did? Between him and us there was a distance—a great span. And he couldn’t bear it. He couldn’t stand it. So he did something about it. “He gave up his place with God and made himself nothing.”
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. – Psalm 62:8
Some people say there are times when we need to forgive God. This implies that God does wrong, which is never true. However, we may find it hard to place faith in God if we’re convinced that He’s let us down.
God is trustworthy, but we don’t always know His mind, His reasons, or His ultimate intentions. We’re prone to misinterpreting His actions in our lives.
Friends, our problem with trusting God doesn’t stem from His untrustworthiness. It stems from our willful, misplaced determination to stand as judges over God Himself–determining right from wrong, good from bad, and better from best.
Yet one thing remains certain: You can trust God infinitely more than you trust yourself. So surrender to His wisdom, love, and mercy, and stop demanding that He act as we see fit.
“It is impossible to go through life without trust; that is to be imprisoned in the worst cell of all, oneself.” -Graham Greene (1904-1991)
The Daily Word of Hope Devotional
Bible Fun Fact: God was a whistler (Isaiah 5:26 and 7:18).
When You Cannot Face the Wind
Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. Acts 27:13 ESV
Paul was now a prisoner and being carried by ship to eventually witness to Caesar, but on the way they were caught in a terrible storm. They could not face the strength of the wind and were driven by the storm for two weeks, completely out of control.
However, they were completely in God’s control because He controlled the wind that drove them. They finally landed on a beach, and the Holy Spirit used Paul to heal all the diseases on the entire island of Malta. They all came to know the Lord. It was just a side trip on his journey.
Sometimes in life we face winds like this, and no amount of prayer, or giving, or crying seems to change our course. Just remember that when a storm blows you off course that God is controlling the direction of the wind. We will be driven right to where God wants us to be.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I know that You control the wind and that this will pass. I will come through this and have a testimony of Your greatness in the name of Jesus I pray.
Note: Happy Sunday to all of you! If you are in need of help though, please always feel welcome to post a prayer requests at our private prayer network. Here is the page: RHM Prayer Network
Freedom and Boundaries TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman November 26, 2017
“Now the serpent was craftier than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?'” – Genesis 3:1
God is big on giving man freedom and boundaries-freedom to manage what He has entrusted to us, boundaries to protect us from evil. The boundaries in the Garden of Eden were not set for the purpose of limiting Adam. Man got into trouble when he questioned those boundaries. God had provided everything he would need for life. He also entrusted man with responsibility to manage and work the Garden. God gave him freedom in that responsibility. God knows we were made to express ourselves creatively through our work.
Each of us must have freedom and boundaries in our work life. Whenever you are hired for a job, you must have the freedom to make certain decisions. You must have the authority to manage things within your area of expertise. You must also have limits within your area of responsibility. You need to know where those limits are and stay within them. Both freedom and boundaries are always under the umbrella of God’s authority and our authorities at work.
Jesus understood these boundaries. When He was tempted for 40 days by the devil after being baptized, He was challenged by satan to go outside His freedom and boundaries. (See Matthew 4:1-11.) Satan said that He had the power to turn a stone into bread. Jesus was hungry and easily could have justified using His power to feed Himself. However, Jesus understood He could do nothing outside the boundaries of God’s will for His life. It was God’s will for Jesus to be tempted and to withstand the temptation. God was showing His Son that “man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4b).
You and I are tempted every day to go beyond our God-ordained boundaries. Whether it is solving financial problems that have arisen through debt, making wrong decisions due to pressure, or manipulating someone in order to achieve our ends, it all represents rebellion toward God.
Ask God to show you His freedom and boundaries for your life. These are meant to enhance your life, not hinder it.
Passion for Praise: ‘Know the Glory of God, Seen in the Face of Jesus Christ!’
You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
There it is, in a nutshell……..what so many people think matters the most: STUFF, and the PRICE of that stuff…..is it “Designer” or “Generic”? Does it really matter?
Oh, I grew up in such a different time and era! Mudpies……wood toys……paper dolls that didn’t cost a small fortune…….make-believe castles…….playing stickball out in the alley…….our first board game was Cootee! I had Mr. Potato Head and had to use a REAL potato to stick the pieces in!! Grandma’s homemade goodies: breads, fried doughnuts rolled in sugar, poppyseed rolls, baked apples, and then the turkey dinner…all so very good! How I long to bring those days back!!
This Christmas season, I’m wondering if my phone will ring………will even my oldest son call to wish us a Merry Christmas, or will his wife forbid him to do so and, like a scared puppy, will he obey her and hurt his Mother yet again?
I am glad for my two sons here, and for the good man I have…..and he IS a MAN…….he takes no orders from me……..in our home, he is the Head……..as it is meant to be…….we will have our Christmas together…….Duane, my man, will probably be working……poor babe……I’ll miss having him home, again……….
So, from now until Christmas Day, I am going to try to get through to them all…….I don’t know how or what I’ll be saying here, but stay tuned……..
I’m thinking about my daughter and my oldest son, and all my grandchildren……..My daughter thinks I’m not proud of her, but I am……just that I would be prouder if she could truly see things the way I do……..There are so many hungry people in the world…..right there in her own hometown, in fact! She carries $500 handbags……if she can afford this, then why doesn’t she feed just ONE family each month? This would make me very proud……
There was a woman up there…..Mrs. Lynch…….she owned a bank and was wealthy…….she would feed several families on all the big holidays……oh, how I wished I could do that!! I’ve always been more of a giver than a taker……even if it was something small, the gift came from my heart………
I can’t believe that not even my son, Rick, has called me……or even Charlie……..I guess Jenni is the Voice up there………they all follow her like she’s a god or something……..well, so much for my “shining star”!!
My time here is getting shorter, I feel…….my heart has been broken so much that it can’t take any more…….
So, where can I get it fixed? Who can I turn to? Who will come running to ME? Only one person: Duane! Thank God for HIM!!!
Children and grandchildren— I love you all…..I miss you all……again, I’m sorry for offending you, but you hurt me by ignoring me…….the only way I could get your attention, it seemed, is by offending you……..But, no child, no matter how old they are, and no grandchild, should EVER show such disrespect to ANY elder person, especially to their own grandparent!! Jenni, you may think your children are perfect, but God didn’t create any perfect people! He created us with flaws and faults so He could use these to teach us……You go to Sunday Mass but how much REAL Faith do you have? Do you believe that God healed your cancer or do you think the doctors did? Well, I have something that I don’t think God is going to heal this time…….He has brought me back from death three times in my life…..I think that’s my limit………
I love you all……..I’m sorry that you won’t even know when I’m no longer in this world…….
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. Psalm 89:15–16, NIV
Dear Father in heaven, how lovingly you have thought of us! How much good you let us experience again and again! So our hearts are happy, and we go to rest this night full of joy and thanks because we are your children. Our thanks and joy shall be our service to you day and night. More than this you do not ask, and in this we will be faithful. We want to be joyful and to be glad for our lives. Even when we face dark hours, O Lord our God, we are filled with hope that brings us joy for the future as well as for the present, with assurance that your salvation is coming. We rejoice in what you give us already today. Amen.
Caffeine for your conscience
TODAY’S DAILY DIG
Eugene V. Debs
Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living human beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest person on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
Source: Statement to the court upon being convicted of violating the Sedition Act, September 18, 1918
Verse of the Day
Thoughts on Today’s Verse…
The battle we face is not a physical one. Instead, it is a spiritual battle with powers that we do not easily see and which are very powerful. We shouldn’t dismiss this as an imaginary battle or as an irrelevant struggle. Just as clearly as Satan was crouching at Cain’s door, desiring to have him, so he crouches at our door (Genesis 4:7). He will use his forces of evil to do all he can to defeat, destroy, or corrupt us. We must take this war seriously and recognize the spiritual power of our foe.
Father, forgive me for the times I have not taken the threat of evil seriously. Give me a holy revulsion for anything that is tied to what is unholy and opposed to your work and will. Let me not be deceived by temptation and deliver me from the power of the evil one in all of his forms. In the mighty name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
BIBLE STUDY BUDDY
Read Hebrews 10:19-25…Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20. by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21. and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22. let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25. not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
v19-25 The apostle having closed the first part of the epistle, the doctrine is applied to practical purposes. As believers had an open way to the presence of God, it became them to use this privilege. The way and means by which Christians enjoy such privileges, is by the blood of Jesus, by the merit of that blood which he offered up as an atoning sacrifice. The agreement of infinite holiness with pardoning mercy, was not clearly understood till the human nature of Christ, the Son of God, was wounded and bruised for our sins. Our way to heaven is by a crucified Saviour; his death is to us the way of life, and to those who believe this, he will be precious. They must draw near to God; it would be contempt of Christ, still to keep at a distance. Their bodies were to be washed with pure water, alluding to the cleansings directed under the law: thus the use of water in baptism, was to remind Christians that their conduct should be pure and holy. While they derived comfort and grace from their reconciled Father to their own souls, they would adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour in all things. Believers are to consider how they can be of service to each other, especially stirring up each other to the more vigorous and abundant exercise of love, and the practice of good works. The communion of saints is a great help and privilege, and a means of stedfastness and perseverance. We should observe the coming of times of trial, and be thereby quickened to greater diligence. There is a trying day coming on all men, the day of our death.
As Good As His Word…
Insurance agent Ken Specht had called on Medicus Robertson at the TV store where he worked. Robertson agreed to purchase a $5,000 life insurance policy, which would double in value in case of his accidental death. Mr. Specht said that his company would cover the client until the formal policy application could be issued.
Just then an irate customer burst through the door and shot Robertson, killing him instantly. The insurance company later paid the widow $10,000, minus the $10.50 premium Robinson had not paid. Instead of seeking a legal loophole, the agent kept his word.
We who have put our trust in Jesus Christ for our salvation can be sure that God will keep His word. Because ”He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23), the author of Hebrews encouraged believers to boldly ”draw near” to God, confident that He has accepted us and our sins have been forgiven (v.22). And we are to encourage one another to be faithful to Him because we know that He will one day return for us (vv.24-25).
We have a hope that is based on the trustworthy promises of God. Our future is secure. God has always proven Himself to be as good as His word.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.
And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.
Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand! As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.
And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law;
Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way.
Psalm 119:33-35, 37
Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor
Will also cry himself and not be heard.
SINGING IN THE SPIRIT
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. – Colossians 3:16
An Open Doors colleague, Ron Boyd-MacMillan, shares the following insight from his teaching, “Why I need to encounter the Persecuted Church.”
Once I spent a week in the company of a famous female Chinese evangelist. Many characteristics that made her stand out; her courage, her long hours on her knees, her carefully cultivated simplicity of faith. But at the time, these were not the features that stuck with me and ended up transforming my faith. What actually impressed me about her was the same thing that impressed me about everyone else around her too….they were always singing! Singing hymns that is!
Three features of the singing were striking. First, the hymns themselves were not in the least profound. In terms of content, they lacked theological depth and poetic phrasing. Wesley or Newton would not have been proud of these offerings.
Second, they couldn’t sing very well. Chinese are not renowned for their harmonic skills in any case. They warbled, croaked, and droned and screeched…all with a complete disregard for the tune.
Third, they sang primarily to themselves. Oh sure, they sang in groups and to each other, but the most of their singing was done by themselves, to themselves. But all this did not matter. The songs worked.
Travelling around with these persecuted believers made me realize I had forgotten how much Christians sing praises. For me, the only time I sang was in church or an occasional chorus at a home group. I had never really sung hymns to myself, or seen singing to another as a ministry. I didn’t have a terribly good singing voice, and felt like I should leave it to those who were good at it. But after hearing everyone in the persecuted church of China singing virtually all the time, and seeing the difference it made to them spiritually, I wondered, “Why do I not sing by myself, to my own spirit, or see singing as a ministry of encouragement?”
So when I returned home, I picked my seven favorite hymns. Ones like, “We rest on thee, Our Shield and Our Defender,” and, “Breathe on Me Breath of God.” I learned them, and during my quiet times, I sang to my spirit. And I found it to be true. A song lifts the spirit like nothing else. And as I read the Bible, I saw how central singing was to the practice of faith. The Israelites sing all the time in the temple; prisoners Paul and Silas sing in the cell; the early house churches sing to each other, and the scriptures climax in the great throne visions of John in Revelation, and what is going on in that most hallowed place but the singing of a “new song.”
Thank you persecuted church, for restoring a lost but key component of my quiet time.
RESPONSE: Today I will sing to the Lord in my spirit and gain encouragement for service to Him.
PRAYER: Lord, I ask You to help me be one who is always singing Your praises with my spirit.
Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.–ISA. xlviii. 10.
Be patient, suffering soul! I hear thy cry.
The trial fires may glow, but I am nigh.
I see the silver, and I will refine
Until My image shall upon it shine.
Fear not, for I am near, thy help to be;
Greater than all thy pain, My love for thee.
H. W. C.
God takes a thousand times more pains with us than the artist with his picture, by many touches of sorrow, and by many colors of circumstance, to bring man into the form which is the highest and noblest in His sight, if only we received His gifts and myrrh in the right spirit. But when the cup is put away, and these feelings are stifled or unheeded, a greater injury is done to the soul than can ever be amended. For no heart can conceive in what surpassing love God giveth us this myrrh; yet this which we ought to receive to our soul’s good, we suffer to pass by us in our sleepy indifference, and nothing comes, of it. Then we come and complain: “Alas, Lord! I am so dry, and it is so dark within me!” I tell thee, dear child, open thy heart to the pain, and it will do thee more good than if thou wert full of feeling and devoutness.
Prayer is an effort of will.
– Oswald Chambers
Where is Your Focus Today?
“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14
When a runner is in a race, he puts his eyes on the goal. He doesn’t look at the grandstand or the other runners. Neither does he examine himself. He has his eyes on the goal. He looks away from everything else. The finish line is all he sees.
That’s exactly what we’re to do. The reason many Christians fail in the race is that they have not learned to look away from other things. They’re trying to look in both directions at the same time, and James 1:8 says, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” AndMatthew 6:22 says, “If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”
Where is your focus today? Has the world drawn you back into itself, luring you away from the command of our Lord? Read Matthew 28:19-20. That’s your goal.
From Guts, Grace, & Glory by Jim Grassi
JUST DO IT
To some, “Just Do It” is a catchy phrase for a sports apparel company. To Robert Griffin III, that phrase has more meaning and purpose. When it was announced that Robert Griffin III was the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, Baylor fans erupted in cheers of great joy. The man known as “RG3” is the first Heisman winner in Baylor history. In leading Baylor to its first nine-win season since 1986, RG3 threw passes for a new school record of 3,998 yards and 36 touchdowns. He also rushed for 644 yards with 9 touchdowns.
After ESPN pundits have called him “the Most Interesting Man in College Football.” A model student athlete and an obedient, loyal son, RG3 is one of the truly great stories to come out of football in the past decade.
Robert is the youngest of three children whose parents were both Army officers serving overseas. The discipline and commitment to excellence modeled by his loving parents set the stage for his faith, ideals, and family values and contributed to the development of his great character.
When Robert’s dad, Robert II, was suddenly deployed to Iraq on the eve of his well-deserved retirement from the Army, it set in motion a series of events that pushed RG3 to become a great student-athlete. Some people take the lemons life gives them and cry over them—others find a way to make some sweet lemonade, which seemed to be the standard RG3 applied to his father’s deployment.
The discipline of working hard and studying well prepared RG3 for the task of leading the Baylor Bears in their quest to become a top-ranked team. Robert’s practices and study of the game became a model for other aspiring athletes. It was reported that RG3 probably studied more film than most of the coaches. His dad taught him to deal with the unexpected and to prepare himself fully for the challenges life brings. Many of the drills his father invoked challenged RG3 to think outside the box and develop a calm instinct to alarming situations.
Somehow throughout all of this RG3 endeavors to keep a perspective by pointing to heaven after each touchdown. Unlike some high-profile athletes who forget about others, his work with organizations like Friends for Life, which assists seniors and adults with disabilities, and as a coach for kids associated with the Special Olympics helps Robert remain humble and appreciative of God’s blessings on his life.
At a time in our culture when most athletes are trying to compete for time in the spotlight, Robert shines it on God, his family, teammates, and coaches. “[God] gives you a stage to make a difference and not to just talk about yourself, but lift Him up. There are a lot of different types of Christians everywhere, but my biggest thing is it’s not our job to judge; it’s just our job to go out, praise Him, let people know what He’s doing, and let people follow if they want to.”
Upon reflecting on his faith RG3 also states, “I praise God, I thank Him for everything. Purposefully, you live every day for Him, and when He gives you the opportunity to speak up for Him or to do something in His name, you do it.”
Robert Griffin III is off to a great start with the Washington Redskins as their starting quarterback. In his first NFL game, Griffin led the Redskins to a 40–32 victory over the New Orleans Saints and was named the NFC’s “Offensive Player of the Week”—the first time a rookie quarterback had ever received that honor for a debut game. But I’d say he’s off to an even greater start in the game of life. I think he knows that bringing honor to God in whatever you do is a real privilege. You too can be the “player of the week” as a respected husband, dad, mom, friend, coworker, or neighbor. Each day we take in breath we can choose to honor or dishonor the One who gave us life.
Like RG3, when striving to be a disciple of Christ, we must remember three important things:
• Serving Christ in the energy of the flesh alone will bring futility and frustration.
• Whenever the Lord tells you to do something, do it.
• Discipleship means following Christ without being irresponsible in our attitudes or behavior.
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation. – >1 Peter 2:1-2
Go ahead and admit it, you talk to yourself. It’s not something to be embarrassed about–self-talk can be used to your benefit in order to greatly improve your success in controlling your desires.
One way to use it is to constructively direct the anger you feel when you’re tempted by an unhealthy or inappropriate desire. Instead of getting angry with yourself, get angry at the offense, and at the stumbling block it poses. This will help you resist it.
Another way self-talk can be used is to confront yourself and your appetites in order to bring rationality back into play when temptation threatens to confuse and disorient you. When you actively engage your mind by talking to yourself, you’ll be less likely to act without thinking, and you’ll reinforce what you believe to be true, right, and good.
Make no mistake about it. Self-talk can be a very spiritually wise thing to do. Listen to what the master theologian, J. I. Packer says on this topic in his book, A Quest For Godliness: “Richard Baxter convinced me long ago that regular discursive meditation, in which as he quaintly put it you ‘imitate the most powerful preacher you ever heard’ in applying spiritual truth to yourself, as well as turning that truth into praise, is a vital discipline for spiritual health. This unanimous Puritan view is now mine too.”
“If you hear a voice within you saying you are a painter, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)
The Daily Word of Hope Devotional
Bible Fun Fact: The word Testament means covenant or contract.
The Silent Time
A time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak Ecclesiastes 3:7 WEB
When attending classes in school, the teacher is right there with you, answering any questions that you may have and explaining the subject matter. But when the test comes, you are on your own to complete it using the knowledge that you have been taught. The teacher will no longer answer your questions, and there will be silence in the classroom.
When it is time to test what you have been learning, you have to be attentive and apply yourself. Are you ready to go to the next chapter, or do you have to re-take this same test for the third time? You will eventually have to pass the test in order to advance.
I know that God will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), but there will be times when He is not speaking. My wife and I are always together, but we are not constantly talking. You can be in His presence, and hear nothing but silence. During Hezekiah’s most prosperous time, God left him for a season to test him, that he might know all that was in his heart. (2 Chronicles 32:31).
At times in your walk with the Lord Jesus, you are going to experience this. You will have to live what you have learned. Walking with the Lord is more than words. When it happens, do not panic. This is a normal progression, and you are not a special case. Times like this have a set beginning, and an ending. The test will also scale to match your level.
If you are trying your best but still going through a silent time in your life, and it seems that God has nothing to say to you, then you are probably going through a test. Hold your head up, think positive, and remember the things that you have been taught during the previous months. They are the key to what you are going through now. The Lord always prepares us, and we often know more than we think we do. Soon this test will be over, and if you have paid attention you will advance to the next level. If you fail it, you will be given another chance.
Prayer: Heavenly Father I pray that You bring all the things back to my remembrance that I need to know today. I know that You have already put the things that I need inside of me. Please bring them back to the surface. I need You today, In the name of Jesus Christ I pray.
Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven. . .’
This prayer begins where all true prayer must start, with the spirit ofadoption: “Our Father.” There is no acceptable prayer until we can say, “I will arise and go to my Father.”1 This childlike spirit soon perceives the grandeur of the Father “in heaven” and ascends to devout adoration, “hallowed be your name.” The child lisping, “Abba, Father” grows into the cherub crying, “Holy, holy, holy.” There is but a step from rapturous worship to the glowing missionary spirit, which is a sure expression of filial love and reverent adoration–“your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Next follows the heartfelt expression of dependence upon God–“Give us this day our daily bread.”
Being further illuminated by the Spirit, the one praying discovers that he is not only dependent but sinful; so he cries for mercy, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”; and being pardoned, having the righteousness of Christ imputed, and knowing his acceptance with God, he humbly prays for holy perseverance, “Lead us not into temptation.” The man who is really forgiven is anxious not to offend again; the possession of justification leads to an anxious desire for sanctification. “Forgive us our debts”–that is justification; “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”–that is sanctification in its negative and positive forms.
As the result of all this, there follows a triumphant ascription of praise, “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.” We rejoice that our King reigns in providence and shall reign in grace, from the river even to the ends of the earth, and of His dominion there shall be no end. So from a sense of adoption, up to fellowship with our reigning Lord, this short model of prayer conducts the soul. Lord, teach us then to pray.
Moving in Presumption TGIF Today God Is First Volume 1 by Os Hillman October 29, 2017
“Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the high hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the Lord’s covenant moved from the camp.” Numbers 14:44
The people of Israel were brought out of Egypt to enter a new land-the Promised Land. This land was not handed over to them freely; it required the removing of God’s enemies through battle. It required a partnership between God and the people. As long as the people remained true to God, they were victorious.
The people were camped at Kadesh Barnea, near the border entrance to the long-awaited Promised Land. All the hardships of their journey from Egypt were now culminating at this important crossing. However, Joshua and Caleb were the only scouts who proclaimed faith in God to take them into the land and conquer their enemies. The other spies saw all the dangers and refused to take the risk. The people of the camp shrank in fear because of their report. They decided not to enter in.
God was angered at the people for their lack of faith. Moses had to intercede on their behalf. Once they realized what they had done, it was too late. But they thought their repentance was enough to right their wrong. They presumed this was all that was necessary.
Moses informed them they were deceived in their presumption of God’s favor. They went to battle against the Amalekites only to be soundly defeated. Those who returned did not understand why they lost the battle.
It is important for us to know whether we have God’s hand upon our endeavors. Presumption leads to failure. God’s favor leads to success. Ask God to confirm His hand on your endeavors.
…”If Your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Exodus 33:15).
Passion for Praise: ‘You are My God!’
Sunday, October 29, 2017
You are my God, and I will praise you! You are my God, and I will exalt you!
Yes, today I have hope in my heart, and peace in my mind, and most important: love from my Lord and Savior! I have seen the Light that the movie spoke of…..three times in my lifetime, so far! But, it took this wonderful movie to REALLY show me the meaning of it!! Thank You, Jesus!! Only YOU can heal me……
There is NO point in any of it!!
It doesn’t matter if they don’t see anything I write, say, or do…….Jesus does…………