November 30, 2017
"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
In the Canadian Rockies there is a stream called Divide Creek. This is a short creek near Kicking Horse Pass on the British Columbia/Alberta border. At a point in its course the creek divides around a large boulder. Waters which flow to the left of the boulder rush on into Kicking Horse River and finally into the Pacific Ocean. Waters which travel to the right go into the Bow River which courses into the Saskatchewan River, on into Lake Winnipeg, the Nelson River, Hudson Bay, and to the Atlantic Ocean.
Once the waters divide at the rock there is no turning back. Many of the choices we make in life are much like that, which is why it's so important that we always seek God's wisdom in every decision we make.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." (James 1:5)
November 29, 2017
EVIDENCES OF GENUINE FAITH
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
What is true religion? Genuine faith that expresses itself in outward service to others and inward worship of God through Jesus Christ is true religion. Any other form of religion that deviates from outward ministry and inward devotion is unacceptable. If we serve just to be seen---it’s unacceptable to God. If we attend church just to meet our needs---it’s unacceptable to God. If we help those in the world, but become badly influenced by the world, it’s unacceptable to God. Real religion expresses itself in caring for society’s marginalized, by believers unsoiled by sin's stain.
James very practically reminds followers of Jesus of our responsibility to "do good deeds" for the sake of the gospel, to "be purified" by God, and guided by moral boundaries in the process. Our service to orphans and widows is followed by personal accountability to be in the world, but not of the world. In the name of Jesus, we rescue the perishing and care for the dying. Anyone dismissed by the culture: the unborn, the homeless, the abused, the mentally ill, the elderly, need the care and concern of Christians who offer hope, healing and hospitality. Genuine faith serves!
"I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me" (Matthew 25:36)
"And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." (Matthew 25:40)
Perhaps you invest your organizational expertise by serving on a ministry board of directors that serves the underserved: widows, orphans, the poor and needy, and others who are marginalized by culture. Consider researching the non-profits in your community like Growing Leaders Habitudes, who are the most effective in educating the poor with a Christian worldview. Be persistent as you prayerfully initiate strategies that offer sustainable solutions to society’s ills.
A God blessed ministry model that works well in an urban environment is City of Refuge where jobs are created, lives are lifted up and communities transformed by the Lord and His people. A reliable pathway out of generational poverty is the philosophy of this Christ-centered non-profit. "We is better than me", so pray for a faithful team and together exercise your faith in Jesus by taking the gospel to heal the broken hearted, to set the captives free and to love on the fatherless.
"Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." (Psalm 82:3-4)
Who can you begin praying and working with who has a heart for the fatherless?
November 28, 2017
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"
Dennis Byrd, the 6'5", 270 pound NY Jet whose career ended on Nov. 29, 1992 (just a few days after Thanksgiving) when he snapped his neck while sacking the Kansas City quarterback said, "They say you're always tested where you think you're the strongest. What better way to test a professional athlete than through his body? I could easily have been destroyed by what happened to me. I could easily have been broken, just fallen apart. In every material sense, I was weak and vulnerable. But there is a verse in 2 Corinthians about that very thing. The Apostle Paul asked God three times to remove the suffering:
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me." (2 Corinthians 12:8)
God spoke to Paul:
"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
"People ask me time and again if I ever asked, 'Why me?' When I hear that question I think of what Arthur Ashe had to say when he died of AIDS-related pneumonia. [Ashe said:] 'If I say "Why me?" about this, then I've got to say "Why me" about all the good things that have happened in my life.’
". . . when I think back on all the years . . . all the blessings I've received throughout my life, with so much still ahead of me, how could I possible ask, 'Why me?' That's the miracle. That's the magic. It's knowing that all of life is a blessing, that the Lord is with us even if we falter; He is with us even if we fail, He is with us when we break, and He can help to make us whole. I've always believed that. And I always will."
From Rise & Walk, the Trial and Triumph of Dennis Byrd, Harper Collins, Pub.
November 27, 2017
GOD WANTS TO HEAL YOUR BROKEN HEART
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,"
Have you ever had a broken heart over something for so long that you wonder if God even wants to heal you?
“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted.” (Isaiah 61:1)
What does this mean? Jesus was sent on purpose, with an intentional plan to heal your broken heart! Luke gives us a moving insight of Jesus’ reaction to those who didn’t accept His coming to bind up the brokenhearted:
"And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation." (Luke 19:41-44)
Scripture says that Jesus wept. Can you imagine God Almighty, the Lord of heaven and earth, the maker of all things, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, weeping for humanity?
"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18)
The original Greek text shows that the word “wept” is klaio, which means to “wail aloud.” This word is different than what was used to describe Jesus’ tears described in John which were silent:
"Jesus wept." (John 11:35)
In contrast, klaio tears aren’t quiet. Why did Jesus wail? Because he loved the Jews, and He wanted to give them peace. He wanted to heal their hearts. But because they didn’t recognize that God had come to them, they rejected Him and couldn’t receive His blessings.
If Jesus wailed when the Jews rejected Him, can you imagine how He feels when He offers to bind up our broken hearts, but we don’t believe Him? How that must break His heart, especially considering the great sacrifice He made in dying for our sins. The Lord wants to heal your broken heart:
"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32)
Write a note expressing your grief to the Lord, then thank Him for healing you and binding up your wounds.
November 26, 2017
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever."
Wanting to mature in her spiritual life and become more thankful, Sue started what she called a Thanks-Living jar. Each evening she wrote on a small piece of paper one thing she thanked God for and dropped it in the jar.
Some days she had many praises; other difficult days she struggled to find one. At the end of the year she emptied her jar and read through all of the notes. She found herself thanking God again for everything He had done. He had given simple things like a beautiful sunset or a cool evening for a walk in the park, and other times He had provided grace to handle a difficult situation or had answered a prayer.
Sue’s discovery reminded me of what the psalmist David says he experienced. God refreshed him with “green pastures” and “still waters”
"He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (Psalm 23:2–3)
He gave him guidance, protection, and comfort:
"He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23: 3–4)
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever." (Psalm 23:6)
I’m going to make a Thanks-Living jar. Maybe you’d like to as well. I think we’ll see we have many reasons to thank God—including His gifts of friends and family and His provisions for our physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. We’ll see that the goodness and love of God follow us all the days of our lives.
November 25, 2017
REMEMBER TO SAY "THANK YOU"
"Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan."
A culture of entitlement is slow to say thank you, but the grateful are honored to express appreciation. Ungrateful people expect, even demand, good things with no gratitude in return. But grateful men and women are humbled and give God the glory for His blessings. The most gratefulness comes from those who least expect the Lord’s lavish love. It is the mercy of God that heals our heart and causes us to exclaim, “Praise the Lord!”
Is it your regular routine to sincerely thank God for His healing power? Do you bow at the feet of Jesus when the body of a friend or family member was cured by God’s work through the miracle of modern medicine? Have you celebrated Christ’s blessing of keeping your body whole from a debilitating disease? Humility is a thank you waiting to happen.
Listen to David’s prayer for healing:
"Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled." (Psalm 6:2)
You can pray boldly for your physical healing. Pray depending on God, and with great faith ask the Great Physician to bring His healing power on your body. Your Creator understands how to bring wholeness to His creation. It is not a question of if He can, but if He will. However, whether He heals in this life or in the life to come, give Him thanks:
"pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:17–18)
Furthermore, gratitude to God expresses gratitude to people. Make it a goal to write a thank you note before you cash the check. Look a friend in the eye and express your thankfulness for his or her friendship. Show your gratitude to your server with a generous gratuity. Appreciate others and you invite appreciation into your life and work.
Mostly, thank the Lord Jesus Christ for His death on the cross for your sin and salvation. Jesus came from living with sinners to die for sinners.
"For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'" (1 Corinthians 11:23–24)
Do you thank God often for His incredible gift of grace and forgiveness? Do you thank Him during the bad times as well as the good times? Are you quick to appreciate others?
November 24, 2017
2 Timothy 1:2–3
"To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day."
Thank the Lord for past leaders who proclaimed a day of thanksgiving to God for His blessings and provision. Men and women worth following are not afraid to publicly profess their dependency on almighty God. Political correctness is not a part of their persona because they are more concerned about pleasing Jesus than people.
Are you a leader who models thanksgiving to God for my associates? Are others drawn to your appreciation for them, or are you avoided for fear of my ungrateful attitude? Thankfulness is infectious and encouraging. Grateful leaders have the potential for greatness, while those stuck in an unappreciative mindset muddle through mediocrity.
"I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints," (Philemon 1:4–5)
At work and home it is more than words of affirmation and appreciation—though this is a good start. A community of thankful people creates a culture of gratitude. There is not a day that goes by that God is not thanked for food to eat, a place to work, or air to breathe. Children observe mom and dad, modeling what they see and hear. Is your home full of thanksgiving to Jesus and for each other? Is your family infected with grateful hearts?
Perhaps you write a note of thanksgiving to your spouse for his or her unwavering love for you and your children. Pen a poem of gratitude to your children for their unique gift to your family. Thank your parents for their patient love. Email or call a friend and express thanks for his or her loyal friendship. Mostly, get on your knees and thank your heavenly Father.
Thankful leaders learn the power of grateful prayers. They approach heaven with sincere supplications full of thanksgiving and praise to God for sending His Son Jesus to save them from their sins. Prayers of thanksgiving are light on personal petitions and heavy on gratitude to God for the faith of family and friends. Be a thankful leader, and watch Christ grow an army of thankful followers. Grateful leaders show appreciation above and below.
"Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:28–29)
Are you a thankful leader who inspires gratitude in those you serve and influence?
November 23, 2017
1 Corinthians 1:4
"I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,"
By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.
"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789."
November 22, 2017
GRUMBLING OR GRATITUDE?
"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving."
Imagine being given a bowl of sand containing tiny particles of iron, and you are told to remove the iron from the sand. You have two choices. You can pull your fingers through the sand, searching for specks of iron but finding very few. Or you can pull a magnet through the sand and watch it attract countless bits of iron.
Like the fingers in the sand, the grumbling heart finds very few mercies. But as the grateful heart moves through life, it finds countless blessings, just as the magnet finds iron.
Of all the choices we make in life, few affect us more powerfully than our choice between grumbling and gratitude. An honest look at our lives will reveal which choice we have made. If it’s grumbling, we probably see few blessings. If it’s gratitude, we not only find innumerable blessings—they seem to find us!
Paul taught that a heart overflowing with thankfulness comes from being grounded in faith:
"rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." (Colossians 2:7)
In Philippians, he pled with the believers, even repeating himself:
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." (Philippians 4:4)
Which choice have you made? Grumbling or gratitude? Grumbling overlooks blessings, but gratitude finds blessings everywhere—even in dry, sandy places!
With a little practice, anyone can master the art of thankfulness.
November 21, 2017
CODE OF HONOR
"... And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me.'"
"to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons."
"I love you as a son!" These words fell on the ears of a little girl as she lay on her bed in a Christian hospital near her village. Her father had just told her that he valued her as much as he did a son. This was unheard of in her Muslim culture. The little girl was deeply touched.
Western women might take offense at this father''s words - unless they understand the fathe'r's heart and the context of his culture. Then they would know that he had actually bestowed great honor on his daughter. This father had previously encountered Christ, and was showing evidence of changed thinking --- countercultural thinking.
Many biblical concepts come alive when seen from the perspective of the biblical world -- like the words: ""full rights of sons"."
In the ancient Near East, the role of the son was of great importance because inheritance was transferred from father to son. When the early Christian converts learned that through Christ they received "the full rights of sons" they would have realized this meant that regardless of their societal position (or gender), they had been adopted by God into a highly favored position: They had become rightful heirs in the Father''s household.
Such honor would have brought inexpressible joy to the countless who could never escape from their societal shame --- be they the poor, the deformed, women, children, or the outcasts. Biblical societies lived by a code of honor and shame; so when Jesus presented his listeners with God''s code of honor:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
They would have known that this was the way to be "blessed," that is, honored and favored by God. The ones favored by God were those who admitted they were spiritually needy, those who mourn, the meek, the spiritually thirsty, the merciful, the pure of heart, peacemakers, and those persecuted for the sake of righteousness.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account."(the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-11)
This code of honor was radically counter-cultural, and those who lived by it would inevitably be dishonored in society. They would even face rejection and persecution. This is why Jesus concluded his Beatitudes with reassuring words:
"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, ..." (Matthew 5:12)
In other words, these people could accept their suffering joyfully by remembering that their full inheritance was yet to come! Our society today is not more inclined to favor those who live by God's code of honor. Still, these are the people on whom God bestows the full rights of sonship:
"Theirs is the kingdom of heaven." In other words, theirs is the full measure of the blessing of Christ."
"I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ." (Romans 15:29)
November 20, 2017
THANKFUL FOR THE THORNS
"Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns, whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!"
Sandra felt as low as the heels of her Birkenstocks when she pulled open the florist shop door, against a November gust of wind. Her life had been as sweet as a spring breeze and then, in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a "minor" automobile accident stole her joy. This was Thanksgiving week and the time she should have delivered their infant son. She grieved over their loss. Troubles had multiplied. Her husband's company "threatened" to transfer his job to a new location.
Her sister had called to say that she could not come for her long awaited holiday visit. What's worse, Sandra's friend suggested that Sandra's grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. "She has no idea what I'm feeling," thought Sandra with a shudder. "Thanksgiving? Thankful for what?" she wondered. "For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life, but took her child's?"
"Good afternoon, can I help you?" Sandra was startled by the approach of the shop clerk.
"I... I need an arrangement," stammered Sandra.
"For Thanksgiving? Do you want the beautiful, but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the 'Thanksgiving Special'? I'm convinced that flowers tell stories," she continued. "Are you looking for something that conveys 'gratitude' this Thanksgiving?"
"Not exactly!" Sandra blurted out. "In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong." Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the clerk said, "I have the perfect arrangement for you."
Then the bell on the door rang, and the clerk greeted the new customer, "Hi, Barbara... let me get your order." She excused herself and walked back to a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and what appeared to be long-stemmed, thorny roses - except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped. There were no flowers.
"Do you want these in a box?" asked the clerk. Sandra watched for the customer's response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers! She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed. "Yes, please," Barbara replied with an appreciative smile. "You'd think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn't be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again.", she said, as she gently tapped her chest.
Sandra stammered, "Uh, that lady just left with, uh... she left with no flowers!"
"That's right," said the clerk. "I cut off the flowers. That's the 'Special'. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet."
"Oh, come on! You can't tell me someone is willing to pay for that!" exclaimed Sandra.
"Barbara came into the shop three years ago, feeling much as you do, today," explained the clerk. "She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had just lost her father to cancer; the family business was failing; her son had gotten into drugs; and she was facing major surgery."
"That same year, I had lost my husband," continued the clerk. "For the first time in my life, I had to spend the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too much debt to allow any travel."
"So what did you do?" asked Sandra. "I learned to be thankful for thorns," answered the clerk quietly. "I've always thanked God for the good things in my life and I NEVER questioned Him why those GOOD things happened to me. But when the bad stuff hit, I cried out, "WHY? WHY Me?" It took time for me to learn that the dark times are important to our faith! I have always enjoyed the 'flowers' of my life, but it took the thorns to show me the beauty of God's comfort! You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we're afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others."
Sandra sucked in her breath, as she thought about the thought that her friend had tried to tell her. "I guess the truth is, I don't want comfort. I've lost a baby and I'm angry with God."
Just then someone else walked in the shop. "Hey, Phil!" the clerk greeted the balding, rotund man. "My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving arrangement... twelve thorny, long-stemmed stems!" laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.
"Those are for your wife?" asked Sandra incredulously. "Do you mind telling me why she wants a bouquet that looks like that?"
"No... I'm glad you asked," Phil replied. "Four years ago, my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord's grace and guidance, we trudged through problem after problem. The Lord rescued our marriage. Jenny, here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she had learned from "thorny" times. That was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific "problem" and give thanks for what that problem taught us." As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, "I highly recommend the Special!"
"I don't know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life." Sandra said to the clerk. "It's all too... fresh."
"Well," the clerk replied carefully, "my experience has shown me that the thorns make the roses more precious. We treasure God's providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember that it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don't resent the thorns."
Tears rolled down Sandra's cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on her resentment. "I'll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please," she managed to choke out.
"I hoped you would," said the clerk gently. "I'll have them ready in a minute."
"Thank you. What do I owe you?"
"Nothing. Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year's arrangement is always on me." The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. "I'll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you would like to read it first."
"My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to You along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much more brilliant."
Praise Him for the roses; thank Him for the thorns.
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
November 19, 2017
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you."
Last year, my husband and I considered making some significant life changes which I knew would take both of us out of our comfort zone. As I talked with the Lord about our situation, three life lessons came to mind. If you are in the middle of making a life change you have chosen, or even if you are in the middle of one that has been thrust upon you that you didn’t want, I hope these three truths encourage you like they encouraged me.
You can never lose what really matters.
For those who belong to Christ, nothing this world offers—when removed—really matters. And what does really matter, we can never lose. Therefore, we can be free from being consumed by the fear of loss. We can never lose His love. We can never lose His guidance, or presence, or faithfulness. These are steadfast and sure when the world around us is changing.
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Peace follows obedience.
As my husband and I began discussing our new plan, I wrestled with the decision. I cried a few times, scratched honest words in my journal, and prayed. But I sensed the Lord inviting me to surrender, so I gave in. I started saying things like, “I have made changes before and God has been faithful. I can do it again.” “We are the Lord’s servants. We do what He wants, when He wants.” Through surrender, I was reminded that where God rules, peace reigns. I honestly believe our trials are often more difficult than they need to be because we won’t give in to God’s way. When we rail against Him, we make it so much harder on ourselves. Give in and go with God.
Focus on what you are gaining.
Jesus is so faithful. But sometimes we get so focused on what we are losing that we forget that God doesn’t just remove something from us; He removes us to something as well. We must remember that He has our best interest in mind, that He is working all things in light of His eternal purposes, and He never removes something from the believer without very good reason.
"Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose." (Psalm 25:12)
Write a letter to the Lord affirming your trust in Him.
November 18, 2017
"But he [the lawyer], desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?"
On December 26, 2004, masses of people suddenly became our new neighbors. They were left with broken lives after a monstrous tsunami swept across 12 Asian countries, killing tens of thousands of their friends, relatives, and countrymen. Millions of survivors became destitute. But how did they become our neighbors?
According to Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, a neighbor is one who shows mercy on the needy. A lawyer had asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told him about an injured traveler who had been attacked by thieves, ignored by a priest and a Levite, and helped by a Samaritan. Then He asked:
"'Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?' He said, 'The one who showed him mercy.' And Jesus said to him, 'You go, and do likewise.'" (Luke10:36-37)
Needy people who cross our path become our new neighbors, and we must be a neighbor by helping them. Too often we think of neighbors as related to us by geography. Instead, Jesus indicated that we are to consider anyone in need as a neighbor regardless of who they are or where they live.
Look around. Someone needs your help, mercy, and love. They are your new neighbors.
Reach out in Jesus' name
Good exercise for the heart: Reach out and help your neighbor.
With helping hands of care
To those who are in need
And caught in life's despair. —Dave Sper
November 26, 2017
"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
When Denise met a hurting young woman in her church, her heart went out to her and she decided to see if she could help. Every week she spent time counseling her and praying with her. Denise became her mentor. However, some church leaders didn’t notice Denise’s efforts and decided to assign a church staff member to mentor the woman. No one, they commented, seemed to be taking care of her.
While she was not expecting any credit, Denise couldn’t help but feel a little discouraged. “It’s as if I wasn’t doing anything at all,” she told me. One day, however, the young woman told Denise how grateful she was for her comfort. Denise felt encouraged. It was as if God was telling her, “I know you’re there for her.” Denise still meets with the woman regularly.
Sometimes, we feel unappreciated when our efforts don’t get recognized. Scripture, however, reminds us that God knows what we’re doing. He sees what others don’t. And it pleases Him when we serve for His sake—not for man’s praise.
Perhaps that’s why Jesus gave us an example by telling us to do our giving “in secret,” so that “your Father, who sees what is done . . . will reward you”
"And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:4)
We need not look to others for recognition and praise; we can take heart that God knows when we’re faithful in serving Him and others. God sees everything we do for Him.
Our Daily Bread
November 16, 2017
"When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick."
In Matthew’s gospel, we encounter several of the most famous scenes from Jesus’s ministry: feeding the five thousand, walking on water, and healing the sick. We walk with Jesus into the very heart of his mission, filling those who are hungry, comforting and emboldening those who are afraid, and giving life where there is death. Behind these stories is a deep seated, unwavering compassion in the heart of Jesus towards those who are in need.
Matthew tells us that when Jesus saw the great crowd,
“...he had compassion for them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14)
And rather than a single, isolated incident, throughout the New Testament, this is the consistent posture of Jesus towards those who are in need and broken. Filled with pity and moved by great compassion, Jesus reaches out in love to a world in need and begins his great mission of restoration.
If you identify with the characters in these stories, this is good news for you today. For those of us who are hungry, fearful, and sick, the Lord looks upon us with unimaginable compassion and love. He wants to draw near and bring healing and wholeness that can only be described as a gift of grace and a work of the Holy Spirit. In part, this is why we gather week by week in worship. We come to offer praise and thanksgiving for the goodness of God in our lives, yet we also come as those who are hungry and in great need. We gather seeking the compassion and kindness of the Lord in our lives.
However, at the heart of our mission as Christians lies the invitation for us to be formed into the likeness of Christ. If this is to be true of us, we need to not only receive the compassion of Christ but we must become compassionate people ourselves. We must learn to open our hearts and lives to a world in need and be moved with compassion, joining Christ in the renewal of all things.
May we receive the compassion of Jesus with great thanksgiving, and as we are conformed into his image, may we also boldly share that compassion with everyone we meet!
"And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him." (Matthew 20:34)
Who in your life is in need of compassion? How can you reach out to them with the love of Christ?
November 15, 2017
"Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm."
Mother Teresa said, “I can do things you cannot. You can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” Those are wise words we see demonstrated in many lives in Scripture.
Moses accomplished God’s plan with the help of others; Nehemiah rallied helpers together to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall; the disciples relied on one another, Paul relied on Timothy and Barnabas, and even Jesus was dependent on His Father.
Today, every pastor, football coach, disaster recovery leader, author, youth minister, company CEO, mother, and teacher accomplish the great things they do because they have supportive, servant-minded people standing with them who believe in their God-given mission. This is why it’s so important to surround yourself with those who will pull you toward God’s plan for your life and not away from it. It’s important to make friends with people who will celebrate what God is calling you to and who don’t shame you or tell you what you believe God is asking you to do isn’t possible.
In Numbers 13, the Lord told Moses to send some men out from the Israelite camp to spy on the land of Canaan, the land He was giving them, and come back with a report. They did, and when they returned, they reported that the land was beautiful just as God promised, but that there were giants already living there:
"However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan." (Numbers 13:28-29)
But Caleb, who believed what God promised said:
"But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it." (Numbers 13:30)
But the naysayers who had gone on the mission said:
"Then the men who had gone up with him said, 'We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.' So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, 'The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.'” (Numbers 13:31-33)
To make a long story short, the whole camp became very upset and some of them wished they had been left in Egypt. The Lord wasn’t happy:
"He said, 'How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?'” (Numbers 14:11)
Can you imagine what would have happened if those naysayers hadn’t been naysayers at all and instead they supported Moses because they believed the Lord? They would have been inspired to go and take the land God had promised. But instead, they were afraid and paralyzed and refused to do the tasks God had called them to.
This is a great example of why it’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in your God-given mission. That’s how great things happen. This is how you can fulfill your calling, and this is how you help others be all they can for the Lord, too. Be a believer. Don’t be a doubter or driven by fear. Nothing good can come from that.
"Do not be deceived: 'Bad company ruins good morals.'" (1 Corinthians 15:33)
If you haven’t already, make a list of several friends to be in your inner circle, who you can consult during times when you need support and direction. Then ask them if they will be a part of your inner circle.
October 3, 2017
CONCEIVED IN CRISIS
"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by."
Marc recalls a moment from his childhood when his father called the family together. Their car had broken down, and the family would run out of money by the end of the month. Marc’s dad paused and prayed. Then he asked the family to expect God’s answer.
Today Marc recalls how God’s help arrived in surprising ways. A friend repaired their car; unexpected checks arrived; food showed up at the door. Praising God came easily. But the family’s gratitude had been forged in a crisis.
Psalm 57 has long provided rich inspiration for worship songs. We might imagine David gazing up at a magnificent Middle Eastern night sky or perhaps singing in a tabernacle worship service. But in reality David, fearful for his life, was hiding in a cave.
"My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts—the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords." (Psalm 57: 4)
David said in the psalm:
"Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!" (Psalm 57: 11)
David’s praise was conceived in crisis. Although he was cornered by enemies who wanted him dead, David could write these amazing words:
"My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody!" (Psalm 57:7)
Whatever crisis we face today, we can run to God for help. Then, we can praise Him as we wait expectantly, confident in His infinitely creative care for us. Your next crisis is your next opportunity to trust our unfailing God.
Our Daily Bread
November 13, 2017
"But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing."
When what I do flows out of what I believe there is freedom. Freedom from the fear of eternity in hell, knowing the security of my salvation is based on faith in the gospel of Jesus. Freedom from guilt, knowing when my conduct aligns with what I believe my conscience is free. Freedom from hurt, knowing the grace of God brings healing to my heart. Freedom from striving, knowing the Holy Spirit fills and empowers my soul to find sustaining strength for life’s journey!
James gives a very insightful, one sentence treatise into the truth of the Christian life. He describes how the creed of what we believe is to define the deeds of what we do. As we look intently into the perfect law of the gospel, our continued gaze on God produces faith’s fruit of good deeds. And, as we continue in this lifestyle of loving the Lord and obeying the Lord we will be blessed in the very act onf doing. The Holy Spirit ambushes us with blessings as we do good!
"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers." (Psalm 1:1-3)
Do you take time to intently look into the things of God? You may possess faith, but does your faith possess you? Without the exercise of your faith applying what you hear and see, you only work against intimacy with Christ. Knowledge about God is like manure, you can store it up in the barn of your mind: proudly stacked, dried up and useless or you can spread it across the field of life and make other lives grow and flourish. Faith without works finds freedom elusive!
Best of all---you are blessed in the process of blessing others. The Lord prepares you to be a blessing in your “being time” and then He blesses you during your “doing time”. In due time others become infected by faith in Christ and the cycle of becoming a blessing multiplies, as the Spirit draws and makes disciples through your love and obedience. Never forget works follow belief. First, lay the foundation of faith in Jesus then build custom rooms of good works!
"For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:9-11)
What act of kindness can you quietly do today to bless another?
November 12, 2017
IMPERFECT, YET LOVED
"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
In Japan, food products are immaculately prepared and packaged. Not only must they taste good but they must look good too. Often I wonder if I am purchasing the food or the packaging! Because of the Japanese emphasis on good quality, products with slight defects are often discarded. However, in recent years wakeari products have gained popularity. Wakeari means “there is a reason” in Japanese. These products are not thrown away but are sold at a cheap price “for a reason”—for example, a crack in a rice cracker.
My friend who lives in Japan tells me that wakeari is also a catchphrase for people who are obviously less than perfect.
Jesus loves all people—including the wakeari who society casts aside. When a woman who had lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at a Pharisee’s house, she went there and knelt behind Jesus at His feet, weeping:
"And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment." (Luke 7:37–38)
The Pharisee labeled her “a sinner”:
"Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, 'If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.'" (Luke 7:39)
But Jesus accepted her. He spoke gently to her, assuring her that her sins were forgiven:
"And he said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.'" (Luke 7:48)
Jesus loves imperfect, wakeari people—which includes you and me. And the greatest demonstration of His love for us:
"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
As recipients of His love, may we be conduits of His love to the flawed people around us so they too may know that they can receive God’s love despite their imperfections.
Broken people are made whole by God’s love.
Our Daily Bread
November 11, 2017
"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."
"While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime," officials write. "In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served - not only those who died - have sacrificed and done their duty."-- An excerpt from the Department of Veterans Affairs
Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye. Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg-or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's alloy forged in the refinery of adversity. Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem. You can't tell a vet just by looking. So, what is a vet?
- He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.
- He is the bar room loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.
- She-or he-is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.
- He is the POW who went away one person and came back another-or didn't come back AT ALL.
- He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat-but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs.
- He is the parade-riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.
- He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.
- He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb of the Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.
- He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket-palsied now and aggravatingly slow-who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.
- He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being-a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.
So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say ‘Thank You’. That's all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.
- He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.
Submitted by Lauree McKeown
November 10, 2017
A GENEROUS NATION
"The LORD will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow."
Once we cease to be a generous nation we will cease to enjoy the generous blessings of God. Jesus clearly says,
"....Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more." (Luke 12:48)
What’s best for a country is not just defined within its borders, but in how free citizens seek to expand the freedoms of those outside of its borders. Our choice is not an either/or of us or them, but a both/and of us and them. Of course, as flight attendants remind us, we wisely need to first place the oxygen mask on our nation’s health, so we can care for those around us, but the oxygen of life and liberty must be shared. A generous nation helps other needy nations.
A stewardship of influence accompanies a respected nation of resources, religious freedom, and moral credibility. Similar to someone elevated to a position of authority, they have no option but to make wise choices if their desire is to do what’s best for all stakeholders. Selfishness has a very small view of the world, while unselfishness sees opportunities like a star-studded sky. Indeed not all needs can be met, but we can wisely work with those who want to grow a culture built on proven principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A generous nation shares the best practices of what made them great since greatness comes from joyfully serving others:
"But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves." (Luke 22:26)
Fortunately we have a nation of generous givers who are relentless in their efforts to share the gospel, eradicate disease, purify water and create jobs. Some are creatively and effectively reaching thousands of new Jesus followers worldwide and discipling them over a digital platform, while others are propagating God’s Word worldwide and others are unleashing unprecedented dollars to fund Kingdom work. The fruit of the gospel is far-reaching and forever! One organization continues to solve significant global healthcare problems with innovation and easily accessible inoculations. God is on the move, quietly working through citizens of our great nation, something to celebrate and accelerate!
You may ask, “What can I do in my little world?” Do not despise small things, because like faith a little bit of generosity goes a long way in quenching the needs of thirsty hearts, hungry stomachs and suffering children. What cause is your church behind that you can get behind? Pray as a family for other families who need medicine, food and water. Families for Families is a great resource to start engaging in a systematic approach to giving. Sign up for a mission trip. Give to your church and volunteer your time. A friend told me this week he gives his time to non Christian organizations so he can be “salt and light”! A generous nation is a God blessed nation!
"But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also." (2 Corinthians 8:7)
What cause does your church support that you can support?
November 9, 2017
ROOTS BELOW, FRUIT ABOVE
2 Kings 19:30
"And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward."
For a tree to be healthy and bear much fruit, the root system that is unseen is just as important as what can be seen above ground. Roots must grow deep and anchor the tree in nutrient rich soil, quite literally laying the groundwork for the fruit that is to come. This is true of the plant kingdom, and it is also true of the spiritual life.
The mistake we often make is attending to one or the other, seeking either a healthy internal and private life with God, or engaging fully in active love and care for others with little attention to our personal spiritual health. Rather than this “either/or” approach, it is essential that you and I embrace a “both/and” spirituality.
We must be women and men who, like the remnants in Judah, take root below. In times of cultural change and division, when society seems to be fracturing and splintering in countless ways, we must like the ancient people of God learn to root ourselves in God. We must seek to find our rest, identity, and hope in the Lord so that we can stand firm when storms come our way. Rootedness in Christ is needed for when times are tough and we are pressed to the brink, feeling overwhelmed by anxiety or fear.
"so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love," (Ephesians 3:17)
Fruit bearing as Christians is an invitation to bear fruit even when the conditions are averse and unfavorable. Like a fruit tree bursting with life in the midst of a drought, we are invited to live as light in the darkness, bringing hope where there is despair, love where there is hatred, and life where there is death. If we neglect the root systems of our faith, we will be unprepared and unable to meet the needs of our broken world. We will lack the strength and fortitude to join Christ on his great mission of healing and redemption.
"rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." (Colossians 2:7)
And so, be the kind of Christian that longs to bear great fruit for God’s kingdom. Yearn for this and actively pursue it. But also intentionally attend to the depth of your roots. Have you developed the virtue needed to bear fruit in any circumstance? Have you spent time in private prayer and devotion with the Lord so that your public life can be sustained and fruitful for the whole of your life?
God invites us to join him in his restorative mission. May we take deep root below so that we can bear great fruit above!
Have you attended to both your private and public walk with the Lord? Is there an imbalance or neglect that you need to correct?
November 8, 2017
RISING ABOVE DISCOURAGEMENT
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life."
"We don't like their sound. Groups of guitars are on their way out." This is what Decca Recording Company said in 1962 when they turned down a recording contract with a new singing group called "The Beatles".
"That kid can't play baseball. He can't pull the ball." This is what the manager of the Brave's Triple A team said about Hank Aaron in 1952. Aaron went on to hit 755 home runs, breaking all previous records.
Sir Isaac Newton, the scientist who discovered gravity, did so poorly in school that he was called “unpromising” by his teacher.
Albert Einstein, when he was 10 years old, was told by the headmaster of his school, (translated from German), "You will never amount to very much."
Thomas Edison was told in grade school that he was too stupid to learn anything
Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no original ideas.”
Winston Churchill failed the 6th grade because he could not pass the standardized tests.
Babe Ruth - the greatest baseball player of all times - struck out 1,300 times - a major league record
Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
Remember - no matter what the critics say, in God's economy, everybody has a purpose, everyone has a talent, everyone has a spiritual gift and everybody has something of value to offer. Never give up until you know what your purpose is; allow God to develop and sharpen your talents and your spiritaul gifts in your life. Dedicate your talents and abilites to God. Take courage. Nothing you ever do for God will ever be in vain. Remember, too, that one of the greatest ways we can serve God is simply by helping others - and every one of us can do that every day.
Also, as long as what you are doing is in harmony with God's will, then dream big dreams, because God will use your talents and spiritual gifts in His Kingdom work. Know your God-given dreams and keep hope alive, no matter what the setbacks - and never, ever, ever give up.
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
November 7, 2017
1 Peter 3:8
"Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind."
When asked to define his role in a community that was sometimes uncooperative with law enforcement, a sheriff didn’t flash his badge or respond with the rank of his office. Rather he offered, “We are human beings who work with human beings in crisis.”
His humility—his stated equality with his fellow human beings—reminds me of Peter’s words when writing to first-century Christians suffering under Roman persecution. Peter directs:
"Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind." (1 Peter 3:8)
Perhaps Peter was saying that the best response to humans in crisis is to be human, to be aware that we are all the same. After all, isn’t that what God Himself did when He sent His Son—became human in order to help us?
"but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2:7)
Gazing only at the core of our fallen hearts, it’s tempting to disdain our human status. But what if we consider our humanness to be part of our offering in our world? Jesus teaches us how to live fully human, as servants recognizing we are all the same. “Human” is how God made us, created in His image and redeemed by His unconditional love.
Today we’re sure to encounter folks in various struggles. Imagine the difference we might make when we respond humbly—as fellow humans who work together with other humans in crisis.
Humility is the result of knowing God and knowing yourself.
Our Daily Bread
November 6, 2017
THE POWER OF EMPATHY
"Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body."
Put on the R70i Age Suit and you immediately feel forty years older as you experience impaired vision, hearing loss, and reduced mobility. The Age Suit was designed to help caregivers better understand their patients. Wall Street Journal correspondent Geoffrey Fowler wore one and wrote, “The unforgettable, and at times distressing, experience shed light not just on aging, but also how virtual reality equipment can teach empathy and shape our perceptions of the world around us.”
Empathy is the power to understand and share the feelings of another. During a time of severe persecution against the followers of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews urged fellow believers to:
"Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body." (Hebrews 13:3)
Jesus calls us to stand with others as if we were in their place. This is exactly what our Savior has done for us. Jesus was made like us:
"Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:17–18)
Christ the Lord, who became like us, calls us to stand with others and calls us to stand with others as if we were in their place.
Our Daily Bread
November 5, 2017
"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."
Much fruit that remains is the goal of a disciple of Christ. This glorifies God and accomplishes His purposes. Fruit- bearing glorifies God because He is the source of life for the fruit. No fruit can be produced without God. The branch is intrinsically dependent on the vine.
Therefore, we as followers of Christ cannot take credit for the fruit because the fruit comes from Jesus. He is the manufacturer of fruit and we are the distributors. The fruit remains luscious as the Father prunes back the unproductive branches. We do not always invite pruning, as it is painful and disfiguring in the beginning. But over time, submission to painful pruning produces beautiful and long-lasting fruit. Trust your heavenly Father with the pruning process, and you will be much better off.
So, what is the nature of this fruit He is creating and nurturing through us? It is the fruit of character and souls. As we abide in Christ, we become more like Christ. This is a natural result of remaining in Him. We become like the ones we hang out with the most. We start to love more unconditionally because God is love. We experience a fullness of joy because the joy of the Lord becomes our strength. A holy contentment flushes our countenance because the peace of Christ reigns over our hearts. An unselfish servant spirit fills our heart because Jesus set the ultimate example of servanthood.
Fruit-bearing is character-driven on behalf of souls for the glory of God. Character is a conduit for the Holy Spirit to draw others to Himself. You are saved for more than goodness. You are saved to bridge others to God. Much fruit that remains is the result of God working through a humble, obedient, and submitted life for His glory.
Therefore, it is imperative you remain in Christ for maximum fruit-bearing. This is the position from which God leverages His greatest works. It is from here that much fruit is produced, and where the results remain with eternal consequences. You remain in Christ by faith. It all comes back to trust in Him. You take Him at His word. You believe His word. You obey His word. Remaining in Christ is not an onerous task. It will be painful at times, but not burdensome. Early on, allow God to sever the small green twigs of sin that bud on the branch of your life. This is much better that waiting for His massive pruning. Bad branches distract and hold back fruit-bearing.
You also remain in Him as you live in community with other believers. They become God’s encouragers and pruning shears as well. Men need to get real with men, and women need to be transparent with women. Relational honesty and unity is one of God’s ways of remaining in Christ. Learning, growing, and applying God’s truth automatically default to remaining in Him. Seek out truth religiously and relentlessly. Be a model of remaining so others will be inspired to do the same. Branches do not thrive in isolation, but in the orchards of evangelism and discipleship. As a result, we remain in Christ. Then the fruits of character and souls are harvested on an eternal scale, all for the glory of the great gardener, God.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)
How can you better abide in Christ, so He can do a deeper work of grace in your heart?
November 3-4, 2017
THE VALUE IN LOSING
"Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."
"And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them."
When my son Sean was twelve, he played on a Little League baseball team. A week before the season started, I got an idea about how to show him - and his teammates - acceptance. I bought twelve coupons good for ice cream sundaes at a local restaurant, and took them to his coach. "Coach, these are for the kids," I said.
"Good," the coach said with a big smile. "This is great. I wish more dads took an interest like this. I'll take them for sundaes after our first win."
"No, Coach," I said quickly. "I want you to take them for sundaes after their first loss." Sean's coach looked at me strangely. What I was saying wasn't computing with his concept of winning, losing, and rewards for good play.
This is what I shared with him: "Coach, I don't know about you, but as I raise my kids I don't want to acknowledge their efforts as much as their being created in the image of God. I believe my son is created in the image of God and that he has infinite value, dignity, and worth which all have nothing to do with playing baseball. If he never played baseball an inning in his life, I would love and accept him just as much."
Sean's coach looked at me for a long moment. Finally, all he could muster was, "Well that's novel." The season started and Sean's team won their first few games. But they lost their fourth game, and the coach was true to his word. He gave each player an ice cream sundae coupon and they all went out to "celebrate" their loss.
Sean must have thanked me at least five times for the sundaes. In addition, over the next two weeks three of the kids on his team came up and thanked me for the special treat. I recall especially a boy named Jessie, who said, "Thanks a lot for the ice cream sundaes, Mr. McDowell. Wow!! it doesn't matter to you if we win or not - you love us anyway."
Nothing could have made me happier than to hear that. What I wanted to communicate is that their worth is not based upon their ability to play baseball. It's based upon the fact that they are each created in the image of God with infinite value and infinite dignity.
"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
November 2, 2017
MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE
"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!"
Back when I was searching for a church to attend regularly, a friend invited me to a service at her church. The worship leaders led the congregation in a song I particularly loved. So I sang with gusto, remembering my college choir director’s advice to “Project!”
After the song, my friend’s husband turned to me and said, “You really sang loud.” This remark was not intended as a compliment! After that, I self-consciously monitored my singing, making sure I sang softer than those around me and always wondering if the people around me judged my singing.
But one Sunday, I noticed the singing of a woman in the pew beside me. She seemed to sing with adoration, without a trace of self-consciousness. Her worship reminded me of the enthusiastic, spontaneous worship that David demonstrated in his life. In Psalm 98, in fact, David suggests that “all the earth” should “burst into jubilant song” in worship.
Verse one of Psalm 98 tells us why we should worship joyfully, reminding us that “[God] has done marvelous things.”
"Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him." (Psalm 98:1)
Throughout the psalm, David recounts these marvelous things: God’s faithfulness and justice to all nations, His mercy, and salvation. Dwelling on who God is and what He’s done can fill our hearts with praise.
What “marvelous things” has God done in your life? Lift your voice and sing! Worship takes the focus off us and places it where it belongs—on God.
Our Daily Bread
November 1, 2017
"And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here I am! Send me.'"
A man saw a job ad posted on a construction site, "Handy man wanted; apply within", so he went in to speak with the foreman.
"Can you drive a Bobcat?" the foreman asks. "No."
"Can you plaster?" "No."
"Have you ever done any carpentry?" "No."
"If you don't mind me asking," says the foreman, "what's so handy about you?"
"Well, I only live about five minutes down the road..."
It has been said that "The greatest ability is availability." It is certainly true that some of the greatest members of the kingdom of God are not those with the most talents and abilities. Rather, they are people who have made themselves available. They are always there when you need them, always willing to see the need and respond.
No matter what skills you may have, you can't be helpful to someone else unless you are available. You can't help a friend who is hurting unless you are available. You can't lend a listening ear unless you are available. You can't show the love of Christ to those who are in need unless you are available. One things I have learned through the years -- what people remember most about people that they love is that they were there for them when they needed them. Availability.
I am reminded of Isaiah who felt very unworthy to the task to which God had called him, but he said, "Here am I! Send me."
"And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here I am! Send me.'" (Isaiah 6:8)
Wherever you need me to go, whatever you need me to do, I'm here and I'm available. May that be our daily attitude toward God, and toward those around us -- "Here am I! I'm available."
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley