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July 31, 2018

1 Thessalonians 5:11 
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 

At the Seattle Special Olympics, six contestants, all physically or mentally challenged, assembled at the starting line for the 100-yard dash. When the gun sounded, they all started out, not exactly in a dash, but with a relish to run the race to the finish and win. All, that is, except one little boy who stumbled on the asphalt, tumbled over a couple of times, and began to cry.
The other five heard the boy cry. They slowed down and looked back. Then they all turned around and went back... every one of them. One girl with Down's Syndrome bent down and kissed him and said,  "This will make it  better." Then all six linked arms and walked together to the finish line.
Everyone in the stadium stood.  The cheering went on for several minutes. People who were there are still telling the story.  Why?... Because deep down we know this one thing: What matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What matters in this life is helping others win, even if it means slowing down and changing our own course. 

God calls us to encourage one another and lift each other up, and yet we go through this life in a race to win, often ignoring the people around us. We are told to let our light shine before men in such a way that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father who is in heaven:

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  (Mathew 5:16)

Our lives are supposed to reflect the light of Jesus within us, causing people around us to glorify God...  but that can only happen when we allow our lives to be instruments of encouragement and hope. We need to involve ourselves in the lives of others by allowing the compassion of Christ and the sensitivity of the Holy Spirit to lead us. 

Today, stop trying to win the race and:

“…encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) 

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

July 30, 2018

1 Timothy 6:6-7
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.”  

My husband and I are spending the summer in the breathtaking mountains of Alberta, Canada. Since we arrived, I have been so grateful God has given us the opportunity to be here.
You see, there isn’t anywhere I’d rather be than in the mountains. I love the smell of pines and the crisp early morning air. I love the sounds of waterfalls, streams, and rippling lakes. I love birds, elk, squirrels, chipmunks, bighorn sheep, and bears. I love mountain biking, hiking, canoeing, and making friends with just about every dog I see. I love being in the mountains. It makes my heart sing.  
But even though the mountains are my favorite place on earth, when my husband and I arrived, my troubles didn’t disappear. I have still had worries and anxious thoughts. There has even been a night or two when I haven’t been able to sleep. It’s not because being here isn’t awesome. It’s because it’s not heaven. And because it’s not heaven, it can’t give me—or anyone—lasting contentment.
Since being here, I have been reminded, as Greg Laurie says, that contentment is “a state of the heart.” Contentment is an internal quality. Contentment does not—and cannot—come from anything external. It’s not possible. It can’t come from having a fancy house, being wealthy, marrying someone beautiful, being insanely successful, traveling to exotic places—or even living in the mountains.

Contentment comes from being fully convinced that God is God, that you belong to Him, that He loves you madly, and that He is always with you and will never leave you. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said:

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:15)

Does this mean you shouldn’t enjoy blessings like a home, a mate, travel, or living in the mountains? Not at all. It just means you shouldn’t rely on them for contentment, satisfaction, or peace. They can’t save you. That role is reserved for God alone. If you do rely on them to save you, you’ll be like a child who is trying to catch the wind. It just can’t be done. And, it will just leave you frustrated, angry, and disappointed about why you can’t experience the satisfaction you desire.

God didn’t create anyone to get contentment from anything or anyone in life but Him. (And even in relationship with Him, you have to keep going back to the well of His love to experience peace.)
When you know God is your true source of contentment, your life will be built on steady ground because no one can take Him from you. Houses may be destroyed, money may dry up, and beauty may fade. But God will never leave you. Ever.
Are you looking to someone or something outside yourself to give you the contentment you desire? Look to Jesus today and tomorrow and the next day. He alone can give you the peace you need.
Take a moment to reflect on what you just read. Is there anything—or anyone—you are relying on to bring you contentment and peace? If so, confess this to the Lord and ask Him to help you find your contentment in Him.   

Shana Schutte

July 29, 2018

Matthew 14:8-9
“Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.’ And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given.” 

A public promise under the influence of alcohol can lead to a rash decision. This is the mindset of a person in power who is driven by pride and by pleasing people. Leaders without a divine moral compass will justify their decisions based solely on what others think. Negative peer pressure can persuade decision makers to make unwise decisions.
This happens at work when we want to please everyone and end up pleasing no one. It is futile to strive for outcomes that require consensus one hundred percent of the time. As a leader, gather input and seek privately the buy in of influencers, but most of all ask, “What does Christ think?” The gentle pressure applied by the Holy Spirit leads to great gain in the long run.
However, there is positive peer pressure. After a process of prayer, planning, and testing assumptions, you and the team make a public declaration of a determined course. Those who trust you are looking for implementation of the agreed-upon strategic direction. If you deviate from the plan, you risk diluting your creditability. Positive peer pressure is accountability to follow through with collaborative goals and milestones. 

Most importantly, positive peer pressure comes when you publicly profess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. A Christ-centered community creates a loving environment of accountability for those who are followers of Jesus. This is why you engage in church as a volunteer teacher, small group leader, parking attendant, worship leader, or greeter. Your private faith is meant to become a public expression that encourages others to be bold. Confess Christ with your lips, and let your life be evidence that what you say is true: 

“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’”  (Romans 10:9–11) 

What negative peer pressure do you need to avoid? What positive peer pressure do you need to embrace?

Wisdom Hunters

July 28, 2018

Matthew 7:28-29
“And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.”  

One reason the crowds were amazed at Jesus' teaching was His clarity of communication. He addressed the hypocrisy of judging others, instead of first dealing with our own sin. Jesus said:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”  (Matthew 7:3) 

He continues on to describe God's generous heart to answered prayer if we stay faithful in the process of seeking Him, as a child does a parent. Jesus taught:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”  (Matthew 7:11) 

He also addressed the topic of His followers following through with what He taught or just having head knowledge without heart application. Jesus tells a compelling parable about two builders: one who builds on a solid foundation and one who builds on a sinking foundation:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)

“And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”  (Matthew 7:26) 

Leaders who take the time to clarify save time and confusion for the team, and free them to serve out of their strengths, skills and giftedness.
What are the benefits for leaders who consistently clarify?

1. Clarity Creates Confidence... everyone is sure of their role and what to do next.
2. Clarity Expands Influence... whoever in the organization brings clarity is perceived as the leader. Though you may not be the boss, your influence can be persuasive and pervasive.
3. Clarity Fosters Accountability... knowing who is doing what, when--- is a win for the team. Accountability flushes out the frustration of making decisions without follow through.
Clarifying Statements/Questions:
• Just to clarify...
• Did I hear you say?
• What do you mean?
• Are you sure?
• Who owns this?
• What is our timeline to completion? 

Without clarity people struggle to survive, with clarity people are freed to thrive: 

“They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”  (Nehemiah 8:8) 

How can you make meetings more meaningful and valuable by clearly defining decisions and a timeline for their implementation?

Wisdom Hunters

July 27, 2018

Hebrews 10:24-25

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Giant Sequoia trees, also known as redwoods, are the biggest living things on Earth. Heights of 300 feet and diameters of 30 feet are not uncommon. They can range in age from 2,000 to 3,000 years—some of which were living when Jesus walked the shores of Galilee. The largest specimen, the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park, is 275 feet tall (84 meters), has a diameter of 36.4 feet (11.1 meters) at the base, and has been estimated to weigh 2500 metric tons. The Pacific coast redwoods in southern Oregon and northern California range in height from 100 to 367 feet (30 to 112 meters) - a size approached only by the eucalyptus of Australia.

What is fascinating about these majestic redwood trees that reach their leafy arms heavenward is that they stand for hundreds of years surviving raging fires, violent storms, and fierce winds. I have also read that they have a comparatively shallow root system which makes their survival even more amazing. So how do they survive? They survive because they live in groves with their root systems entangled with numerous other trees. In other words they support each other. They couldn't survive alone.

Neither can we. We need each other. We were never meant to go it alone. We need the support of one another to make it. One of the major purposes of the Christian church is for the very purpose of encouraging and supporting one another. If you don't belong to such a church, I urge you to do all you can to find one this Sunday.  You need to be both an encourager and to be encouraged by being in fellowship of other Christians. 

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that you have designed the church, not only to help us grow spiritually, but also to support us emotionally and socially. Help me to find and be a part of such a church - one that is true to your Word and fulfills your divine purpose in the life of its members. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

Dick Innes
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

July 25-26, 2018

Psalm 69:3b, 13b
“…My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God…At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness”

There are seasons of life in which God seems closer than a best friend. We know he is near and receive the gift of his presence with joy and thanksgiving. You may find yourself in this place this very moment, and for that you can give thanks. However, many of us today wake up to incredible heartache, grief, and loss, and wonder why God seems so distant and absent from our pain and grief.
One of my favorite things about the Psalms is their ability to express the full range of human emotion. Within the same book of the Bible you find the highest of heights and the lowest of lows. There we find unspeakable joy, affection, and delight, as well as severe anger, inconsolable grief, and seemingly unanswered prayers. In today’s psalm, we find steadfast hope and trust in the face of heartache, fear, and doubt.
Do you have prayers that you’ve prayed your entire life yet still struggle to see God’s hand at work? Prayers for healing from long-term illness and chronic pain. Prayers for the salvation of a lost family member or co-worker. Prayers for reconciliation of a relationship that was once close yet has been strained or broken for decades. You may find yourself resonating with the words from Psalm 69 today: “My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” 

When we find ourselves in this place, we are faced with a significant decision. Do we doubt God’s goodness and faithfulness and stop praying and trusting as a result, or do we persevere with courage and deep faith, trusting that he is good and will never abandon his people or his promises.  When faced with this decision, the psalmist prays a profound prayer that each of us can pray as well: 

“…At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.” (Psalm 69:3b) 

This prayer acknowledges God’s timing is perfect and isn’t always aligned with our preferred timetable. It acknowledges that in God there is a great abundance of steadfast love. His posture towards us is goodness, faithfulness and love. And if this is true, we have faith that God hears and answers our prayers.
What prayers have you given up on praying that you need to continue to pray with perseverance and hope?

Tripp Prince

July 24, 2018

Judges 21:25
“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Spiritual and moral decline is the fruit of a nation or person who abandons absolutes. Once absolutes are dismissed, liberties are limited. A decline in spiritual fervor and moral purity always leads to the loss of freedom. For example, a home or car left unlocked in the past is locked today for fear of robbery. Indeed, small losses of freedom lead to larger losses of freedom. Without standards based on absolutes, absolutely anything can go.
The threat of stealing moves from your home to corporate America, where in some cases, billions of dollars have been bilked to justify a short-term illusion of success to investors. Immoral and unspiritual individuals become deceptive and dishonest if allowed to do what is right in their own eyes. Without boundaries and absolutes, anything can go, and if anything can go, your freedom will deteriorate and eventually be destroyed. 

The cultural battle that rages in our country is over the soul of our society. If absolutes win, then our children and grandchildren will see their cherished rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness extended. Therefore, will we bow to the false promise of freedom wrapped in the guise of no absolutes, or will we expose the lie and uphold God’s standards and His definition of absolutes? People flourish where freedom loudly rings!

“And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter.” (Isaiah 28:17) 

Yes, we lead out of love and compassion; however, there are behavioral boundaries to be guarded with vigilance. When the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage are under attack, we cannot sit passively by and just pray. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have a mandate to defend these bedrocks of civilization. Yes, we are busy, and yes, we have our own problems to deal with, but “you ain’t seen nothing yet” if good people do nothing.
Your freedom will continue to deteriorate like the “frog in the kettle” that is unaware but slowly boiling to death. We should be the thermostats of society, not the barometers, and the influencers rather than the ones being influenced. Consider how you might get involved in the parent-teacher association at your child’s school or the local government. Volunteer in church or ministries that need your skill set, gifts, and passion. Model the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) as you influence the culture for Christ.
Public policy is a reflection of private morality and spirituality. Absolutes abided by absolutely guarantee your freedom. So, by God’s grace, continue to raise the bar of expectations and absolutes so that everyone is doing what is right in the Lord’s eyes.
How can you best model and live out His absolutes in your life and in the life of your family? How would Christ have you engage in our cultural battle?

Wisdom Hunters

July 23, 2018

Isaiah 12:2
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” 

Everyone touched by a piece of music hears it differently. The composer hears it in the chamber of his imagination. The audience hears it with their senses and emotions. The members of the orchestra hear most clearly the sound of the instruments closest to them.

In a sense, we are the members of God’s orchestra. Often we hear only the music closest to us. Because we don’t hear a balanced work, we are like Job who cried as he suffered: 

“And now I have become their song; I am a byword to them.”  (Job 30:9)

Job recalled how princes and officials had respected him:

“…my steps were washed with butter, and the rock poured out for me streams of oil!” (Job 29:6)

But now, he had become the target of mockers. he lamented:

“My lyre is turned to mourning, and my pipe to the voice of those who weep.” (Job 30:31)

Yet there was much, much more to the symphony. Job simply couldn’t hear the whole song. Maybe today you can hear only the sad notes of your own violin. Don’t lose heart. Every detail in your life is part of God’s composition. Or perhaps you are listening to a cheerful flute. Praise God for it and share your joy with someone else.

God’s masterpiece of redemption is the symphony we are playing, and ultimately everything will work together for His good purposes. God is the composer of our lives. His song is perfect, and we can trust Him.

Keila Ochoa

July 22, 2018

Hebrews 12:1-2 
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  

If I may judge sermons by the good they do me and the length of time I can remember them, then the best sermon I ever heard was preached by an old jungle farmer, standing up to his knees in mud in the middle of an extensive rice field, and it illustrated Hebrews 12:1-2 perfectly. 

It was the monsoon season in Burma. Day by day the sky had emptied itself onto the thirsty land. The Salween River was swollen to overflowing. Every available man and woman was transplanting rice. I was taking supplies to Peter at our outstation in Naung Ka Ring. I had a pack on my back, huge rubber boots on my feet, and an umbrella over my head, but the journey was exceedingly unpleasant. 

In the dry season it was only three miles across the fields, but now with the rice terraces planted or ready for planting, all filled with water and mud, the path zigzagged to six miles in, out, around, and on top of the little mud walls which bordered the tiny fields. I slipped frequently. It's no fun to sit down and pour mud and water out of your boots; it's no fun to itch all over with prickly heat; and I was feeling "gloriously miserable" as I sighed "Oh, there'll be joy when the work is done." 

It was just at this time that I approached a group of about 12 people planting one tiny field. Their backs were bent. Their lips were blue. Their skin was goose fleshed. What clothes they had were stuck to their bodies because of the rain. I paused. My heart went out to them in sympathy, and I said to the poor old man nearest to me, "Uncle, I'm so sorry for you." 

He looked up and said, "Ugh?" 

"I'm sorry for you, because you must be so tired," I repeated. 

The old man looked puzzled and again said, "Ugh?" 

"Why, look at your skin! Your lips!" I cried. "How tired must your back be! And that mud! Look, you are up to your knees in soft, oozy mud! And I'm sorry for you." 

A smile lit up his face. He turned to his companions and pointing to me with his thumb over his shoulder, he said: "Poor man! He doesn't understand! He doesn't understand!" Then he turned his radiant face toward me and added: "Teacher, you don't understand. This is the best mud in the river valley. Look how soft it is! How easy to poke in the young plants! We started very early this morning, and there is a little bit of a moon tonight; we will keep planting till we can't see another stalk of rice. Oh, Teacher, this is a good mud! We get 40 bushels of rice to the acre in mud like this!" 

He bent again to his task. I murmured some good wishes, and turned to my journey. But something had happened. What a vision that dear old man had! The mud and the weariness were there, but he was not looking at them, he was looking at the 40 bushels of rice at the end of the harvest time, and the vision of that reward made him rejoice in his mud! Good mud! 

Suddenly I found myself saying after him, "Good mud! Forty bushels of rice to the acre in mud like this!" And my weariness was gone, my feet weren't sore any more. My prickly heat didn't itch. I was thinking of the souls Peter and I were going to have at the harvest time, and I shouted again, "Good mud!" 

Eric B. Hare, Our Times, January 1947 
Submitted by Joan Morgan

July 20-21, 2018

1 Chronicles 28:20
“Then David said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the LORD God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.” 

I was enjoying the start of summer vacation and my first whitewater rafting experience—until I heard the roar of the rapids up ahead. My emotions were flooded with feelings of excitement, insecurity and fear--all at the same time! Riding through the whitewater was a first-rate, white-knuckle experience. And then, suddenly, it was over. The guide in the back of the raft had navigated us through. I was safe—at least until the next set of rapids. 

Transitions in our lives can be like whitewater experiences. The inevitable leaps from one season of life to the next—college to career, changing jobs, living with parents to living alone or with a spouse, career to retirement, youth to old age—are all marked by uncertainty and insecurity. 

In one of the most significant transitions recorded in Old Testament history, Solomon assumed the throne from his father David. I am sure Solomon was filled with uncertainty about the future. His father’s advice:

“…Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the LORD God, even my God, is with you….” (1 Chronicles 28:20) 

All of us will have our fair share of tough transitions in life. But with God in our raft, we need never feel afraid or discouraged. Keeping our eyes on the One who is navigating the rapids brings joy and security. He has taken many others through before. 

Joe Stowell

July 19, 2018

1 Thessalonians 5:24
“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

"You're so quiet, Son. What's on your mind?" asked Ben's father as he stopped at Ben's room to tell him good night. 

Ben put his hands behind his head and stared at the ceiling above his bed. "Oh, I've just been wondering if I should be a missionary."

"You don't seem very excited about the idea," said Dad.

"It seems like such a hard job," said Ben, propping himself up on one elbow. "I have this feeling that I might not be any good at it. What if God calls me to do something I can't do!"

Ben's father thought for a moment, then reached over to Ben's desk and picked up his baseball glove. "What's this?" he asked.

Ben laughed. "Don't be silly, Dad! It's my ball glove."

Dad walked over to the corner of the room. He propped the glove against the wall, found a baseball, and threw it at the glove. Though the ball hit the center of the glove, it rolled to the floor. Dad picked up the glove and looked at it in disgust. "This glove is a total failure," he said, shaking his head.

Ben laughed and laughed. "Oh, Dad, you know it can't catch by itself! It has to have a hand inside."

Dan smiled at Ben. "You're just like this glove," he said. "God has a purpose for your life, Ben, just as there is a purpose for this glove. You put your hand inside the glove to give it guidance and strength----you give it power to catch the ball. In the same way, God will give you power to do whatever He calls you to do. Don't worry, Son, God will never prop you in a corner and leave you alone. It's His mighty hand that does the work when you are willing to be used."

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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.” (John 15:4-5) 

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

July 18, 2018

John 13:35
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

His name is Bill. He has wild hair, wears a T-shirt with holes in it, jeans, and no shoes. This was literally his wardrobe for his entire four years of college. He is brilliant. Kind of esoteric and very, very bright.  He became a Christian while attending college.

Across the street from the campus is a well-dressed, very conservative church. They want to develop a ministry to the students, but are not sure how to go about it.  One day Bill decides to go there. He walks in with no shoes, jeans, his T-shirt, and wild hair.

The service has already started and so Bill starts down the aisle looking for a seat. The church is completely packed and he can't find a seat. By now, people are really looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one says anything.  Bill gets closer and closer and closer to the pulpit, and when he realizes there are no seats, he just squats down right on the carpet. (Although perfectly acceptable behavior at a college fellowship, trust me, this had never happened in this church before!)

By now, the people are really uptight, and the tension in the air is thick. About this time, the minister realizes that from way at the back of the church, a deacon is slowly making his way toward Bill. The deacon is in his eighties, has silver-gray hair, and a three-piece suit. A godly man, very elegant, very dignified, very courtly. He walks with a cane and, as he starts walking toward this boy, everyone is saying to themselves that you can't blame him for what he's going to do. How can you expect a man of his age and of his background to understand some college kid on the floor?

It takes a long time for the man to reach the boy. The church is utterly silent except for the clicking of the man's cane.  All eyes are focused on him. You can't even hear anyone breathing. The minister can't even preach the sermon until the deacon does what he has to do. And now they see this elderly man drop his cane on the floor. With great difficulty, he lowers himself and sits down next to Bill and worships with him so he won't be alone.

Everyone chokes up with emotion.

When the minister gains control, he says, "What I'm about to preach, you will never remember.  What you have just seen, you will never forget. Be careful how you live.  You may be the only Bible some people will ever read".

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

Author Unknown
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

July 17, 2018

Exodus 15:2
“The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.” 

Often called “The March King,” composer and band director John Philip Sousa created music that has been played by bands around the world for more than a hundred years. As Loras John Schissel, music historian and conductor of the Virginia Grand Military Band, said, “Sousa is to marches what Beethoven is to symphonies.” Sousa understood the power of music to motivate, encourage, and inspire people.

“Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!” (Psalm 149:1)

In Old Testament times, the people of Israel were often inspired to compose and sing songs to celebrate God’s help during times of need. When the Lord saved His people from certain destruction by Pharaoh’s army, “Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord:

“I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.”  (Exodus 15:1-2)

Music has the power to lift our spirits by reminding us of God’s faithfulness in the past. When we are discouraged, we can sing songs and hymns that raise our eyes from the challenging circumstances we face to see the power and presence of the Lord. We are reminded that He is our strength, our song, and our salvation.

David C. McCasland

July 15-16, 2018

Psalm 16:6
“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” 

Early in life, we are confronted with our limitations. For me, they were athletic. No matter how much I might have wanted it to be otherwise, I couldn’t change the fact that I was six feet tall by age twelve, giving me a great height advantage over my peers, but severely limiting my coordination and athletic abilities!
As we age, our limitations shift and evolve. We realize our life is not an ever-broadening horizon with limitless opportunities, but is instead an invitation to celebrate our boundaries and limitations and learn to flourish with the people God has given to us, in the places that we call home.
For the psalmist, limitations, whether physical, relational, or spiritual, are not seen as a burden but are a gift, falling in “pleasant places.” Are you able to see your limitations as a gift from God? When you cannot have an infinite number of friendships, you find the freedom to invest in life-long relational intimacy and depth with a few select people. When you cannot pursue every career you could possibly imagine, you are liberated to gain expertise and wisdom in your given field. And as Christians, when the Lord gives us commands and limitations on what he says is best for us, we can receive them with joy rather than anger. 

The boundary lines of the Lord are given for our flourishing not our failure. His commands are meant to liberate us from lesser loves and empty pursuits. The narrow path we walk in his Kingdom keeps us away from passions and pursuits that bring us heartache and harm. It is pleasant indeed to have clarity on who God is and who we are in Christ. May he give us the courage and strength to embrace our limitations as a gift. May you trust in his goodness and provision, believing that he is leading you faithfully to a delightful inheritance. 

“for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.” (Psalm 119:47-48) 

What boundaries or limitations do you struggle to accept that may in fact be a gift from God?

Tripp Prince

July 14, 2018

Daniel 5:20
“But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him.”   

Do you know anyone whose life ambition is to become arrogant? Probably not! Arrogance is like greed; it is easily seen in others, but rarely seen in the mirror. It seeps its way into a man or woman’s soul with the disguise of good ambition and healthy confidence. But power and problems expose it like gasoline on dormant embers. Left unchecked arrogance implodes into a downward spiral of ruin. Its outcomes are ugly.

Arrogance is indiscriminate in its influence on individuals. Fathers-mothers, husbands-wives, leaders-followers, brothers-sisters, parents-children, pastors-laymen and entrepreneurs-institutions are all candidates for its crippling curse. The Lord is clear, as He is against the attitude and actions of the arrogant. And it’s not good to be against God:

“Behold, I am against you, O proud one, declares the Lord God of hosts, for your day has come, the time when I will punish you.”  (Jeremiah 50:31)

What incubates arrogance? Where does it come from? Like kudzu it takes over quickly and hangs on insidiously. It dwells deep within the heart of extremely competent and confident people. Success feeds arrogance as you begin to believe you are the reason for your achievements, instead of Almighty God. There is an unholy hubris (excessive pride) that takes hold of the heart. It whispers thoughts like–you are indispensible–you are right and others are to blame–you are superior because of your intellect and your net worth.

It is this bulletproof belief in oneself that requires large doses of humility and teachability to keep us keen on instilling integrity and character into our language and life. Families, churches, businesses, universities, politicians, athletes and individuals can guard against arrogance with gratitude and generosity. Gratitude to God gives Him the glory, and generosity frees us to not control, but to share the fruits of success with others:

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.”  (1 Timothy 6:17)

Are you drifting toward arrogance? Are you fully aware of your weaknesses and blind spots?

Wisdom Hunters

July 13, 2018

Ecclesiastes 3:1
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:”

Waiting is the bane of my existence.  If there are two lines at the movie theater, the one I choose will grind to a halt while the other glides by.  Don't get behind me at a toll booth; the driver in front of me will be searching his seat cushions for quarters while the other lines whiz through. Bank tellers go on break when I get near the front of their line; supermarket checkout computers go on strike when I draw near.

Someone said that life is what happens to you while you're making other plans.  Slowly I'm learning that there is redemption in every moment, as God uses each minute for his glory and our good.  It's hard to think of a biblical hero who didn't take a detour on the way to his or her destination. Noah spent 100 years building his ark before the rains finally came; Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for Isaac; Joseph journeyed through Potiphar's prison on the way to Pharaoh's palace.

Moses spent decades running from Pharaoh before the Lord sent him back to free his people.  God told David he would be king long before Saul gave up the throne.  John had to go to Patmos to meet his glorified Friend and Lord.

Are you waiting on God this morning?

Perhaps you're praying without seeing answers, or waiting on a job that hasn't come or health the Lord has not restored.  You need direction or provision from God, but he doesn't seem to be working on your timeline.  One of the most frustrating reminders in Scripture is this statement from God:  

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

God redeems all he allows.  If you're waiting on him this morning, there's a reason.  He wants to use this delay to draw you closer to him, or prepare you for what comes next, or help you trust him in hard times.  Remember that your Father never makes a mistake.  His will is "good, pleasing and perfect:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”(Romans 12:2)

His timing is always right.

Dr. James C. Denison
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

July 12, 2018

2 Timothy 4:7-8
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” 

When Cecil B. DeMille began working on the original "Ben Hur" movie, he talked to Charlton Heston - the star of the movie - about the all-important chariot race at the end. He decided that Heston should actually learn to drive the chariot himself, rather than just using a stunt double. Heston agreed to take chariot-driving lessons to make the movie as authentic as possible.

Learning to drive a chariot with horses four abreast, however, was no small matter. After extensive work and days of practice, Heston returned to the movie set and reported to DeMille.

"I think I can drive the chariot all right, Cecil," said Heston, "but I'm not sure I can actually win the race."

Smiling slightly, DeMille said, "Heston, you just stay in the race, and I'll make sure you win."

Those are the words of God to everyone going through a time of struggle in their lives...  "My child, you just stay in the race, and I'll make sure you win."  Look for God's hand. If you cannot see it in the event itself, look for it in the aftermath when you are putting your life back together. I promise you, God's hand will be there.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:7-8) 

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

July 10, 2018

Isaiah 41:10
“fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” 

A farmer owned an old mule that fell into the farmer's well. The farmer heard the mule "braying" (or whatever mules do when they fall into wells).  After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbors together and told them what had happened, and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well to put him out of his misery as quickly as possible.

As the farmer and his neighbors shoveled the dirt, it hit the mule's back, again and again. Initially, the mule became hysterical. But then it suddenly dawned on the mule that every time a shovelful of dirt landed on his back, he should shake it off and step up! This he did, blow after blow.

"Shake it off and step up . . . shake it off and step up . . . shake it off and step up!" he repeated to himself. No matter how painful the blows, or distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought "panic" and kept shaking it off and stepping up!

It wasn't long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What seemed like it would bury him, actually blessed him . . . all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.

Author unknown

July 9, 2018

Romans 1:9-10
“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.”

Dementia was slowly taking Mom from us. And there was nothing my husband or I could do to keep her from slipping away.

In those difficult days, Mom taught us many lessons. She forgot how to do a number of things, but one of the things she did not forget was how to pray. Occasionally, someone would mention a problem they were having, and she’d stop right there to pray for the person’s need.

She also continued to talk to others about Jesus. Those who took care of her at the nursing home said that she often asked the other residents and workers if they knew Jesus as their Savior. She wanted them to be sure that their sins were forgiven and they were going to heaven. When I think of these qualities in Mom, I think of Romans 1. The apostle Paul remembered the people in the Roman church “without ceasing”:

“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you [those in Rome]" (Romans 1:9) 

And he was “ready to preach the gospel” because, as he said, 

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  (Romans 1:15-16)

As long as Mom was able, she kept looking to Jesus in prayer and telling others about Him. We all can learn from her example of boldness and trust in the Lord.

Anne Cetas

July 8, 2018

2 Chronicles 11:16

“And those who had set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came after them from all the tribes of Israel to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the LORD, the God of their fathers.” 

At the completion of Noah’s giant ark, his family and all of God’s creatures followed him onto the boat. When Moses parted the Red Sea, the Israelites followed him between walls of water. When John the Baptist stood in the river to preach about Christ’s coming, his listeners joined him in the waters to be baptized. When Jesus called 12 unlikely men to ministry, they left everything and went.

In today’s key verse, the Levites, or priests, were determined to bring the people of Israel back into a right relationship with the Lord. They prepared to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. And “those who had set their hearts to seek the LORD” followed them. When your desire is to draw close to God, you will follow godly people.

Who are you following today – and what are your reasons for doing so? If you are truly pursuing the Lord, He will direct your path. As you seek Him, ask the Lord to grant you discernment about which leaders are worthy to be followed. Pray also for Christians across the nation to rise in support of godly leaders.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” (Matthew 16:24)

July 7, 2018

Proverbs 3:5-6
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.“

A new school Principal was checking over his school on the first day. Passing the stockroom, he was startled to see the door wide open and teachers bustling in and out, carrying off books and supplies in preparation for the arrival of students the next day. The school where he had been a Principal the previous year had used a check-out system only slightly less elaborate than that at Fort Knox.

Cautiously, he asked the school's long time Custodian, "Do you think it's wise to keep the stockroom unlocked and to let the teachers take things without requisitions?"

The Custodian looked at him gravely and said, "We trust them with the children, don't we?"

Trust. A simple and short word, but one that implies so much. If I trust someone in one area, but not in another, have I really trusted them?  Can trust be area specific?  I know confidence can be, but trust implies the whole package.

How do you trust God? Do you, as many people do, trust Him for your salvation, but you don't trust Him to take care of your daily needs? Do you trust Him to forgive you of your sins, but not to help you in personal areas that you lift to Him in prayer? In other words, do you trust the Lord for the big things, but not for the relatively little things?

We need to make a decision right now! Do you trust God for EVERYTHING or do you pick and choose where you trust Him? How does God want you to trust Him? I'm so glad that God forgave me of ALL my sins, not just the ones He thought about, rationalized, and made a decision based on my life experience or my worthiness.

God can be trusted in ALL things; we need to show Him that we trust Him in ALL areas by giving Him our WHOLE life, not just certain areas.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.“ (Proverbs 3:5-6)     

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley 

July 6, 2018

2 Corinthians 2:5-8 
“Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.” 

Life in community is not safe. It’s risky business to open yourself to others and to have them open to you. Life in isolation, closed off from others, is the surest path to a life free of relational wounds and pain. Yet we are made in the image of a God who is a community of love, and to deny our need for community is to reject something foundational to what it means to be a human being. We are made for love and made to live life together, and so we press into the costly and risky pursuit of community.
Paul, in 2 Corinthians, reminds us of our capacity to wound others. As the Anglican confession reminds us, we sin by “what we have done, and by what we have left undone.” Sometimes we grieve others by actively choosing actions, behaviors, and attitudes that go against the men and women we desire to be. Yet sin is also a failure to love. How many times have you and I had an opportunity to show our love for the people closest to us, yet out of selfishness, exhaustion, or simple inattentiveness, we let the moment pass.
When we sin against others or are sinned against, often we think its impact is limited. It’s just a private disagreement between a husband and wife. It’s a short-tempered outburst against a co-worker that doesn’t affect anyone else at the office. Or it’s a disagreement between two believers within the church community that’s surely isolated and unconnected to the wider body. Paul seeks to remind us of a profound truth: sin is always communal. Our failures to love, the wounds we inflict and receive, impact us and others in more ways than we can possibly imagine!
When a marriage falls apart, there are children, extended family members, and countless friends who bear the weight of the grief and the pain of the broken relationship. When a long serving employee suddenly leaves a position amidst disagreement or scandal, it often takes months or years for the workplace culture to return to a place of health and mutual respect. And when fellowship within the family of God is broken, we fail to reflect the self-giving love of God to the world.
As such, in the Kingdom of God, restoration is always the goal. To the extent you are personally able, you must always give yourself to the hard work of restoration and reconciliation.  Forgiveness is not the denial that you have caused pain or been hurt by others. You may still live with acute grief, anger, and loss. Yet we deeply believe that love, not grief, will have the last word. We look at death through the power of the resurrection, and believe that same power is at work in every strained and broken relationship we face. As Julian of Norwich said, “It is true that sin is the cause of all this pain, but all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.”  
What relational wound do you carry that needs the healing touch of our Lord Jesus? How can you reaffirm your love for the person you’ve wounded or that has wounded you?

Tripp Prince

July 5, 2018

Isaiah 65:16
“… he who blesses himself in the land shall bless himself by the God of truth, and he who takes an oath in the land shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten and are hidden from my eyes.” 

It has been 242 years since the Founding Fathers gave this nation its national birth certificate. Later, when the Founders met to draft the Constitution, about two weeks into the meeting, things were beginning to break up and delegates were ready to return home. Benjamin Franklin challenged them and called them to prayer. In his speech, he said, “I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business.”

George Washington at that same convention recorded that they went to church to hear an address. The Reverend William Rogers included in his prayer, “May we continue…to partake of all the blessings of cultivated and civilized society.”

After the delegates adopted the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton is reported to have declared, “For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system which without the finger of God never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.”

America continues to be the longest on-going constitutional republic in the history of the world. God has blessed the United States with many years of existence. And America remains a nation today by God’s grace. Obedience to God’s word, knowing what God teaches about morality and obeying Him makes a nation strong. Scripture reminds us that the nation whose God is the Lord is blessed:

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” (Psalm 33:12) 

And that it is righteousness that exalts a nation:

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)

It is time for the citizens of this nation to bless the Lord God who has blessed us. It is time for knowledge of and obedience to His Holy Word. On this Independence Day, thank God for the gift of America, bless Him for the saving gift of Jesus Christ, and pray that the country’s leaders will acknowledge that God will bless America as the nation makes Him Lord above all.

June 28-July 4, 2018

2 Corinthians 3:17
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. 

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world:

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

 He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. 

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Signed by 56 representatives of the 13 Colonies

Have you ever tried to convey important information to a distracted listener, someone who is not completely engaged? It’s a challenge: kind of like trying to get to your destination using only one-way roads. Poor listening is a major roadblock to achieving good relationships. Whether it’s with your spouse, children, boss, realtor or hair dresser, one-way communication leads directly to misunderstanding.

Can you imagine God having the same frustration at times, seeking to speak but finding only preoccupied people with plugged up ears? In the Bible, Jesus identifies His disciples as the ones that actually hear His voice. Because they listen to Him, He interacts with them and gives them purpose and the power to accomplish meaningful things.

Tell those in your piece of the world about Jesus this week – but before you get up and go, sit down and listen. Start by spending a generous amount of time reading the Bible. It is God’s personal instruction book and road map for you. Invite the Holy Spirit to guide the thoughts in your heart and mind. As you sense His presence, be still, be quiet and really listen. His voice in your ear is a two-way street to the right destination.

“So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: ’Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen.’” (Acts 13:16)

June 2, 2018

Malachi 3:3
“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver…”   


Some time ago, a few ladies met to study the scriptures.  While reading the third chapter of Malachi, they came upon a remarkable expression in the third verse: 

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver…” (Malachi 3:3) 

One lady decided to visit a silversmith, and report to the others on what he said about the subject.  She went accordingly, and without telling him the reason for her visit, begged the silversmith to tell her about the process of refining silver. After he had fully described it to her, she asked, "Sir, do you sit while the work of refining is going on?"
"Oh, yes ma'am," replied the silversmith, "I must sit and watch the furnace constantly, for, if the time necessary for refining is exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured."
The lady at once saw the beauty and comfort of the expression, "He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver."  God sees it necessary to put His children into the furnace; but His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying, and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for us.
Our trials do not come at random, and He will not let us be tested beyond what we can endure.
Before she left, the lady asked one final question, "How do you know when the process is complete?" "That's quite simple", replied the silversmith.  "When I can see my own image in the silver, the refining process is finished."
Author unknown