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May 31, 2018
JUST ONE DOOR






Ephesians 2:18
“For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” 





Perhaps you’ve seen posters of the doorways of Tuscany or Provence showing many styles of entryways…heavy carved wooden doors with iron hinges, painted doors within graceful arches or under heavy stone beams. There are so many means of access.

God has provided a portal into Heaven – but only one. In the treatise of the Good Shepherd, Jesus proclaims He is that door:

“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9)

In today’s passage, Paul reminds the Christians of Ephesus that, whether Jew or Gentile, there is still but one way…and it runs directly through the cross of Christ. In Revelation, the Bible speaks of another door: the entry into the human heart:

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Written to Christians, it is a reminder that Jesus desires active communion with His own, but will not force His way in. A much-loved painting by Warner Stillman reminds you there is no knob, no latch on this door’s exterior. It must be opened from within.

Keep your heart’s door wide open. As you do, you can readily show others the One Way, Truth and Life…Jesus…the portal into Heaven. Intercede for those who have not yet found God’s loving provision and pray that the truth of His only way will invade their hearts.

May 30, 2018
THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD


Psalm 23
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."




The Lord is my Shepherd“  -  That’s Relationship

“I shall not want“  -  That’s Supply

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures“  -  That’s Rest

“He leadeth me beside the still waters“  -  That’s Refreshment

“He restoreth my soul“  -  That’s Healing

“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness“  -  That’s Guidance

“For His name sake“  -  That’s Purpose

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death"  -  That’s Testing!

“I will fear no evil“  -  That’s Protection

“For Thou art with me“  -  That’s Faithfulness

“Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me“  -  That's Discipline

“Thou prepareth a table before me in the presence of mine enemies" -  That’s Hope!

“Thou annointest my head with oil“  -  That’s Consecration

“My cup runneth over“  -  That’s Abundance

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life"  -  That’s Blessing!

“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord“  -  That’s Security

“Forever“  -  That’s Eternity

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley


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May 29, 2018
ROYAL






1 Peter 2:9
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 






In the fall of 1997, I had my first closeup look at royalty. Zeeland, Michigan, the small Dutch town where I was born, was celebrating its 150th anniversary, and Princess Margriet and her husband honored the city with an official visit from the Netherlands.

Her Highness looked regal in her crisp, red suit as she walked behind the wooden-shoed Klompen dancers and smiled and waved to the crowd. She moved with a quiet gracefulness and dignity. But without her entourage and a police escort, she could have passed for just another Zeelander blending into the crowd.

Believers in Jesus Christ are also royalty. We have been spiritually reborn into the family of the King of the universe. Peter called us a “royal priesthood”:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

John declared that through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross we are “priests to His God and Father”: 

“and [Jesus] made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:6)

We may look like everyone else, but as Christians our speech and our actions should cause others to ask, “What’s different about her, about him?” We are royalty, of course! What a privilege to be members of God’s royal family. What a responsibility! Every day we represent One who is the “ruler over the kings of the earth”:

“and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” (Revelation 1:5)

Let’s make sure our conduct shows it. A child of the King should bear a family likeness.

Dennis J. DeHaan

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May 28, 2018
JUST A COMMON SOLDIER





John 15:13 
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”






View Common Soldier video


May 27, 2018
EMBRACE EXCELLENCE 



Matthew 5:48
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
 


We admire excellence in others. Professional athletes, attorneys, speakers, teachers, coaches, custodians, mothers, fathers, leaders, elected officials, and business men and women who excel motivate others to excel. Their commitment to thousands of hours in focused training and competition makes their flawless performance look easy. It is their obsession with perfection that leads them to excellence.
 

In Christ perfection is our position. Outside of Christ no one is perfect, but inside of Christ everyone is perfect. We are perfect because He is perfect. 

“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”  (Colossians 1:28)

The challenge lies in our living in a sinful world with sinful people; therefore, perfection is diluted. Nonetheless, Jesus commanded His children to be perfect on the same level as their heavenly Father. So as we seek perfection in this life, we see glimpses of glory, and we do capture excellence in the process. What does excellence look like from the eyes of the eternal? Paul, a protagonist of perfection, describes our dilemma:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 3:12–14) 

People with an eternal perspective promote perfection. Therefore, embrace excellence as a core value in your life and work. Because you represent the Lord Jesus, be an excellent example of a Christian. Be it ministry or business, your vocation is a vicarious look at our Lord. Talk about Jesus from a platform of perfection, and people will stop to listen. Excellence is your entrée into promoting a loving relationship with God:

“You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever.”  (Psalm 45:2) 

Do you settle for mediocrity, or do you aspire to excellence? Are others attracted to the quality of your character, competence, and family?

Wisdom Hunters

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May 26, 2018
STRIKE THREE AND YOU'RE IN 


Philippians 3:13-14

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 



Motivational speakers ask the question, "What would you like to do if you knew for certain that you couldn't fail?" Good question. I'm sure that many a life's dream, hope, and/or ambition is lost because of the fear of failure.

Perhaps a better question to ask is: "So what if you do fail?" What is the worst thing that could happen? Ninety-nine percent of the time you could learn from the experience and be better qualified to try again. I doubt if there is anyone who has succeeded in fulfilling their life's dream and goals who hasn't experienced failure--or even many failures before they succeeded.

What we need to realize is that there is no shame in failure. As another has said, "Low aim, not failure, is a 'crime.'" In fact, failure can be our greatest teacher. It's only as we are willing to risk failure that we can ever succeed and become a true winner. Remember, too, that failure is an event not a person. The only real failure is not to get up and keep trying one more time than we fall or get knocked down.

In baseball it may be strike three and you're out. Not so for a successful life where it's .... Strike Three & You're In!

We only succeed when we're willing to fail; We only score goals when we're willing to be tackled; We only hit home runs when we're willing to strike out; And we only win when we're willing to risk failing.

Consider the high jumper who only discovers how high he can jump when he reaches his failure point. Consider Babe Ruth, too, the year he broke the world record for hitting the most home runs, he also broke the record for scoring the most strike-outs!

Success, however exhilarating, doesn't teach one how to be a winner. In fact, failure is the greatest teacher to help one win in the game of life. So, if you want to hit home runs, stand at the plate, start swinging, be willing to strike out - and begin winning!

Dick Innes
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

May 25, 2018
THE DARK ENEMY




1 John 2:2
“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”  



Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe says this: “Every form of life has its enemies. Insects have to watch out for hungry birds, and birds must keep an eye on hungry cats and dogs. Even human beings have to dodge automobiles and fight off germs. The life that is real also has an enemy…sin.”

Sin is the darkness in life. It is outward disobedience and inner rebellion – refusal to submit to the law of God. You can’t whitewash it; neither can you cover it up without committing more sin. And that leaves you out of fellowship with God:

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

He cannot close His eyes to sin and yet because He is God, He is love and wants to save sinners:

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

At the cross, Jesus was the propitiation for your sins, suffering the punishment fully deserved by the sinner. Darkness vs. light is unbelief vs. belief. Set yourself right before God by confessing your sin and turning from it. Then declare this saving grace to those around you. People need to hear the truth of the gospel.
May 23-24, 2018
IRRITATED?




1 Corinthians 13:4-5

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;” 



If you’re like me and have cultivated over the course of your life a habitual indulgence in selfish irritation, it’s going to take some hard work to retrain ourselves in righteousness:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16)

We need something simple to call to mind when the oft-pulled irritation trigger is squeezed. The acronym S.T.O.P. might be helpful:

S — STOP, repent, and ask. We must awkwardly stop immediately — even mid-rant — to repent of our sin, and ask, ‘What am I desiring that is being denied, delayed, or disrupted?’

T  — TRUST a promise. Collect promises to trust that combat your areas of temptation to irritation:

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11–13)

O — OBEY. Remember that your emotions are gauges, not guides. Don’t let irritation reign in you: 

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.” (Romans 6:12)

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

P — PLAN. Yes, plan. More forethought and intention can be a spiritual discipline, an act of love, and a weapon against sin by avoiding temptations to irritability. Ask yourself, "When am I frequently irritable?" To test your self-understanding, ask this question of those who know you best (and often may be the recipients of your irritation). And based on the answers, seek to put into place some systems and habits that will remove irritable stumbling blocks from your path. Pursue the escape from temptation offered by the Lord by taking advantage of the grace of planning.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Jon Bloom
Submitted by Kendra Bowers

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May 22, 2018
ROYAL LIZARD




Proverbs 30:28
“the lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings' palaces.”




Most lizards are small and somewhat repulsive. Yet it’s amazing where they can go. I have seen a lizard on the 26th floor of a hotel in Acapulco, Mexico. 

How did it get there? Did it climb the stairs? Take the elevator? Scale the walls? Who knows? Lizards can get past guards and maids, and can end up in the best hotels. The author of Proverbs 30:28 marveled that a lizard could be found even in royal palaces. 

Something else that should cause us to marvel is the thought of who will live in the royal palaces of heaven. 

Think of the Christians you may be tempted to avoid: The old man with bad breath and body odor who gets too close to you when he talks. The woman who sings too loudly and a bit off key. The teenager whose hairstyle and clothing you don’t approve of. If you could see them now as one day they shall be, you would marvel at their beauty. And remember, because of sin, we too are unlikely future residents of heaven. But by God’s grace, we will inhabit heaven as sons and daughters of God. 

In the mystery of grace, God takes unlikely people and puts them into His palace for eternity. And we don’t have to climb the walls to get there. Wow!

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23) 

God claims by grace those who have no claim to grace. 

Haddon W. Robinson


May 21, 2018
GOD OF ALL ETERNITY





Psalm 145:2
“Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.” 




A music producer once commented that in the world of pop you can only really write four kinds of song: “I love you”, “I hate you”, “Go away” and “Come back”! That’s an amusing yet astute observation. But gladly, when it comes to writing songs about our God of all eternity, we have a whole different color palate to work with.

When I talk about the reasons for God’s worth and say there are “ten thousand reasons for my heart to find,” that’s actually the huge, poetic understatement. The reasons to praise God are so wide and wonderful that we could sing from now until forever and never run out of ideas about why He is quite so worthy.

Think about the world of nature for a moment. As of now, scientists have described over 1.7 million species of animals, plants and algae on earth. Mammals make up one of the smallest groups—with less than 6,000 members known. For insects on the other hand, we are aware of about 1 million different species. And in all categories, there are more species becoming known every year. In fact, in some places like the depths of the ocean, where we have hardly even begun to explore, there are countless more species to find and identify. But let’s stick for a moment to those 1.7 million species we know of so far. I think we can safely say that every kind of plant, animal and other living thing created by God is a reason for His praise.  

So we have hardly begun and we have found 1.7 million reasons why we might respond to Him. Next, look up at the stars—scientists are now saying there are more stars in the known universe than there are grains of sands on all of the world’s beaches and deserts. So, right there we have billions and billions more reasons to lift up an offering of praise. Next, we look to our own lives—the countless blessings woven into our everyday existences, and the miracle of life itself. We think about families and social circles, and provision in our lives. And we praise, and praise, and praise again. Perhaps that is why at the end of Psalm 30 the worshipper says:

“that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”  (Psalm 30:12)

The psalmist knows of a multitude of reasons to worship God . . . and he can’t think of a single resaon why he should remain silent. The same must be true for our own lives. The worship of Jesus should be vibrant, creative, and colorful as we unfold our hearts in praise. There will be an eternity of reasons to adore and revere Him.

Matt Redman


May 20, 2018
IT SEEMS TO BE TAKING FOREVER




1 Timothy 4:16

“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”  




A sort of "mini-crash" is what I termed it.  After an unknown computer error, the address book contacts, names and email addresses, were no longer.  I thought of just scrapping the whole project looming in front of me.  But then, it seemed the right thing to begin the arduous task of re-entering data.
 

It was painstakingly slow. I seemed to be getting nowhere fast. It wasn't the computer's fault, not really mine either. It was something that just happened.

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”  (James 1:12)

In life, things happen. The computer scenario seemed to take forever; in actuality it did not. It made me think of the real desert times, experiences of the 'dark night of the soul'.  Those times in our lives when we are waiting, hoping, praying.... and things seems to be taking forever.
 

If by any chance, you are in one of those places, you can know that it will not last forever.  We have to hang in there and hold onto the promises that God has given us in the Bible.  We have to do our part and stay faithful and allow God to work on His timetable.  He is faithful. 

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

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley


May 19, 2018
WHEN SILENCE IS GOLDEN 




Leviticus 10:3
“Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the LORD has said: “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.”’ And Aaron held his peace.”   
 


Aaron lost two of his four sons because of their unwise decisions to disobey God. The emotions in Aaron’s heart must have been racing. Just before the death of his sons, Aaron experienced the ultimate in ecstasy by luxuriating in the glory of the Lord with his best friend, family, and friends. He went from the mountaintop of celebration to the valley of death. He knew to speak in this state of emotion was risky, unwise, and fleshly.
 

As anger and humiliation boil, our words become ripe to lash out at God and others. It is wise to refrain in the face of raw emotion. There are times not to speak our minds, spew our unguarded words and embarrass ourselves. Instead, by God’s grace we can remain quiet, cool, and contemplative. Smart silence sends a message of maturity. Patience waits to speak guarded words full of grace and truth—those golden to God. 

“Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.”  (Proverbs 25:12) 

It is hard to remain silent when we feel hurt or disappointed. It is hard to harness our tongues when we see our children hurting and we feel incapacitated to help. It is hard to keep quiet and pray when we feel the Lord has let us down. Like an intravenous procedure in a fevered patient, smart silence requires extra doses of God’s grace flooding our lives. His grace refrains us from speaking until a better time and day.
 

There are times to speak up in the heat of the emotion, but those situations are the exception. In most cases take a deep breath, send up a prayer to your heavenly Father, and wait before you speak. Wait until you are calm, and wait for others to cool down. At the appropriate time, make sure your words are birthed from a pure and prayerful heart. Silence is smart because it allows the Lord to soothe your soul. 

“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”  (Psalm 131:2) 

In what relationship do you need to trust God and be silent?

Wisdom Hunters


May 18, 2018
THE GIFT OF UNANSWERED PRAYER 
 

1 John 5:14-15
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” 


Many children are not shy in making requests of their parents: Can I have a snack? Can I watch a video? Can I play outside? Can I have a phone? As teenagers the pleas are more challenging: Can I drive the car? Can I attend the party? Can I date? Can I travel to another state with a friend? Similar to how the Lord answers our prayerful petitions, good parents weigh what's best for their child: Can he be trusted with more freedom? Is she mature enough to make wise decisions? Does he manage money well, so he can be trusted with more? Does she need to attend a community college for two years and then transfer to a University? Sometimes we tell our child, "no or not now" because they are not ready, likewise our wise heavenly Father protects us.  
 

John reminds us to be confident in approaching our heavenly Father in prayer. We can be confident because once we confess our sins, Christ cleanses our heart and gives us a pure heart to pray according to God's will. A pure heart bends toward God's heart and seeks through prayer to align with what He wants. Prayer is understanding from Christ how we need to change, instead of trying to get the Lord to change. Humble prayers protect us from our proud self. Whatever we ask aligned with God's will, we can rest knowing He knows what's best for our wants and needs: 

“behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you [Solomon] a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.”  (1 Kings 3:12) 

What do I mean by unanswered prayer? When God says “no” or “not now” to a need I have. The need may be marriage, money, healing or an opportunity. My understanding of God's best for my life is incomplete, because I do not know the complete landscape of my life like the Lord does. I walk in life's parade with limited vision, while Jesus is atop a skyscraper and sees the beginning and the end of the parade. He sees the unhealthy outcome of a relationship I would love to engage in, but the Spirit protects my heart with a “no”. I may think I'm ready for a career transition, but Christ knows what's best for me is to go deeper in relationships where I am, in order to grow my soul.
 

What if you ask for physical healing and your heavenly Father says “no” or “not now”? Isn't healing a good thing? Isn't the miraculous restoration of a broken body a compelling apologetic for God? Yes and Yes! But God's will can be more complex. Perhaps He wants to use a person's faithfulness, even in the face of a terminal illness, to save souls who are blind to belief in Christ. The bright light of a life of love in the face of a dark death, shines a spotlight on his or her Savior and Lord, Jesus. God's will is for all to be saved, so He can use your unanswered prayer for physical healing so another might experience spiritual healing. By God's grace embrace and celebrate the gift of answered prayer. He wants what's best for you, and what's best for others. 

“We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.”  (1 John 5:18) 

What unanswered prayer have you been praying that you need to trust the Lord to work through for His bigger picture for your life and the life of others?

Wisdom Hunters


May 17, 2018
COACHING THE WITNESS




Matthew 10:18
“and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.”
 


A good attorney will always prepare his witnesses before putting them on the stand. While it’s against the law to coach a witness on what to say since facts don’t change, almost everything else from style of dress to hair color is fair game in attempting to influence the judge and jury.

The Bible has several examples of followers of Jesus being brought before religious or state officials, charged with stirring up people by proclaiming the radical message of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Before he left Earth, Jesus told His disciples this would happen…foreknowing He, too, would also be brought before those seeking to destroy Him.

In this time as a modern-day disciple, you may be asked to answer for your beliefs as you proclaim your message in America. Don’t be a coached witness with memorized lines and practiced monologues. When the time comes to speak, God promises to fill you with His words and His wisdom: relax and let Him do it. The testimony of Jesus Christ conveyed to your friends and neighbors – in your words and in your way by His leading – may be the best gospel any could hear.


May 16, 2018
WHEN ROYALTY COMES TO TOWN






1 Corinthians 6:19 
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,”







My friend Tim Davis tells the story of being in Trinidad as a little boy when Queen Elizabeth came to visit their town. He recalls going with his missionary parents to join hundreds of others who gathered to greet the queen. Waving his little flag, he watched as the entourage came down the street—first the soldiers, then the mounted guard, and then the limousine from which Queen Elizabeth waved to the cheering crowd. He looked on as the queen drove out of town, leaving everyone to return to life as usual. In Tim’s words, “Royalty came to town and nothing changed!”

For those of us who have accepted Jesus as Savior, there was a day when royalty arrived—in our heart. As Paul put it, our body is “the temple of the Holy Spirit” 

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

This is a reality that has huge ramifications. His residence in our life is intended to transform us to live in a way that brings glory to Him. Our relationships, the way we serve our employer, how we use our money, how we treat our enemies, and everything else in our lives should reflect the wonderful reality that royalty lives within.

Has anything changed since King Jesus came into your heart? Does your world notice or do they think He was just passing through?

Joe Stowell


May 15, 2018
THE PARABLE OF THE TEA CUP




Isaiah 64:8
“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.’



There was a couple who went to England to shop in a beautiful antique store. They both liked antiques and pottery, and especially tea cups. On a trip to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary they found an exceptional cup. They asked "May we see that cup? We've never seen a tea cup quite so beautiful."

As the lady handed it to them, suddenly the tea cup spoke, "You don't understand." the cup said, "I have not always been a tea cup. There was a time when I was just a lump of red clay. My master took me and rolled me, pounded and patted me over and over, and I yelled out, 'Don't do that. I don't like it! "Let me alone,' but the potter only smiled, and gently said, "Not yet!!"

"Then, WHAM! I was placed on a spinning wheel and suddenly I was spun around and around and around. 'Stop it! I'm getting so dizzy! I'm going to be sick!' I screamed.  But the master only nodded and said, quietly, "Not yet." He spun me and poked and prodded and bent me out of shape to suit himself and then... Then he put me in the oven. I've never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. 'Help! Get me out of here!' I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as he shook his head from side to side, "Not yet."

When I thought I couldn't bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on the shelf, and I began to cool. Oh, that felt so good! 'Ah, this is much better,' I thought. But, after I cooled, he picked me up and he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. 'Oh, please; Stop it, Stop it!!' I cried. He only shook his head and said. "Not yet!".

Then suddenly he put me back in to the oven. Only it was not like the first one. This was twice as hot and I just knew I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried. I was convinced I would never make it. I was ready to give up.  Just then the door opened and he took me out and again placed me on the shelf, where I cooled and waited... and waited, wondering what's he going to do to me next? An hour later he handed me a mirror and said "Look at yourself." And I did. I said, 'That's not me; That couldn't be me. It's beautiful... "I'm beautiful!"

Quietly he spoke: "I want you to remember, then," he said, "I know it was uncomfortable to be rolled and patted, but had I left you alone, you'd have dried up." "I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled." "I know it hurt and it was hot and disagreeable in the oven, but if I hadn't put you there, you would have cracked." "I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all over, but if I hadn't done that, you never would have hardened. You would not have had any color in your life. If I hadn't put you back in that second oven, you wouldn't have survived for long because the hardness would not have held. Now you are a finished product. Now you are what I had in mind when I first began with you."

The moral of this story is this:  God knows what He's doing in each of us. He is the potter, and we are His clay. He will mold us and make us, and expose us to just enough pressures of just the right kinds that we may be made into a flawless piece of work to fulfill His good, pleasing and perfect will.

So when life seems hard, and you are being pounded and patted and pushed almost beyond endurance; when your world seems to be spinning out of control; when you feel like you are in a fiery furnace of trials; and when life seems to "stink", try this...  Brew a cup of your favorite tea in your most beautiful tea cup, sit down and think on this story and then... Have a little talk with the Potter.

Author Unknown
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley


May 14, 2018
THANKFUL FOR ANSWERED PRAYER




John 11:41-42
“So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.’”




 
Jesus thanked His Father for answered prayer, before His prayer was answered. His heart was so in tune with the heart of the Father that He could boldly ask knowing it was the will of God. In the same way, our Savior calls us to align our hearts with our Heavenly Father’s heart. His plan is for our desires to be His desires, our wants to be His wants, our goals to be His goals, our will to be His will and our prayers to be His prayers. Hence, we can thank Him for answered prayers!
 

What prayers are yet to be answered, but need to be prayed? What is Christ asking you to confidently pray in His name knowing He will answer in the future? Perhaps it’s a yet to be determined job promotion you can thank God for now. You can praise the Lord today for your wayward child, who you have a peace in your heart will eventually come back to their Savior Jesus. Or, you pray with the Spirit’s certainty over an uncertain illness that threatens your joy. Whatever you face you can face down with faith in your Heavenly Father who hears your prayer. 

“If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14) 

We ask in Jesus’ name when we pray for Him to be glorified through answered prayer. When Jesus is lifted up all men and women are drawn to Him. We ask in Christ’s name when our desire is for our answered prayers to be a benefit for believers to grow in their faith, and for unbelievers to come to faith. Oh the joy of seeing someone come to know Jesus in personal salvation, because they saw the love of God transform the life of a loved one. Gratitude glorifies God!
 

Lastly, as we look to the Lord and thank Him for answered prayer, He may call us to be a part of His provision. Jesus told the disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest for laborers and as they prayed, He called them to labor for Him. So, what is your role in relation to the future prayers He wants to answer on your behalf? Perhaps you can resource the need or call on a relationship that can provide answers. Be grateful, God has you positioned to be a part of His answered prayers! 

“And he [Jesus] said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’”  (Luke 10:2) 

What prayer can you thank God for answering?

Wisdom Hunters


Previous thoughts


May 13, 2018
A MOTHER'S WORK 
 


Proverbs 31:27–28 
“She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:”   



A mother’s work is never done. There is always another meal to prepare, a face to wipe, clothes to wash, an errand to run, a room to clean, and a dollar to manage. She serves unselfishly like Jesus. 

“Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:5)

A mother’s work makes those around her look good. She is God’s chosen one in the home. The law of love and kindness is written on her heart, but some days it is hard to have the right attitude. The work can become laborious, monotonous, and taken for granted. It is at this point of feeling unappreciated that a wise mom reminds herself of heaven’s applause. She is really serving for an audience of one, her loving Lord. Her Savior Jesus smiles at her service, and that is enough. The reward of doing right encourages her heart to do right. 

“and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”  (Titus 2:4–5) 

In addition, there are the rewards of a child’s smile and warm embrace and of hearing, “Thank you, mommy, for being my mommy.” Or there are the rewards of a loving husband who genuinely thanks his wife and serves her by listening, serving, and giving praise. She takes pride in her work because she recognizes everything she has is a gift from God. Her home and family are a reflection of her and her heavenly Father. She manages the home for her Master’s glory.
 

Lastly, your work is a model for your children to follow. Your actions become a teacher that prepares them for adulthood. Chores done well create children who work well. Assign them responsibilities so they learn thoroughness, cleanliness, and organization. Allow your domestic duties to bring calm into your home in the same manner the Lord quiets your soul. 

“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”  (Psalm 131:2) 

What are some ways for you to rest in the Lord and not worry over matters out of your control?

Wisdom Hunters


May 12, 2018
LIVING IN THE MOMENT 
 


Jeremiah 31:3

“the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”  


 

Have you ever struggled with letting go of unanswered questions about something that happened in your past? Have you ever thought that if God would just allow a particular event to happen in your life that you could finally be happy? If so, this story will encourage you.

About ten years ago I went through a rather odd time of transition. Rather than taking off without makeup to run to WalMart, as I’ve always done, I turned into the clone of a seventeen-year-old girl, only with a few more wrinkles and a lot more anti-aging cream.

Also, like a teen, I started spending more time in front of the mirror primping, fixing, smoothing, and shaping and wondered what I would do when I turned totally grey. Unfortunately, I also spent far too much time complaining about my age since I was just around the corner from the big “four-oh!” I imagine those closest to me noticed a new insecurity about my age creeping into my conversation, but they weren’t the only ones taking notice.
 

God noticed too. 

“Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.” (Psalm 139:4) 

There are times when I know I hear Him speak into my spirit; other times I’m not sure. But one afternoon during this bout of “time of transition” as I like to call it, it was clear God wanted my attention. It was one of those moments when He caught me off guard; I wasn’t expecting His still, small voice. Just as I bowed my head to pray, He beat me to the punch with a rebuke: “I want you to stop complaining about your age. You’re stealing my moments.”
 
Ouch.
 
I knew exactly what He meant, but the Holy Spirit went on to provide extra-added interpretation:
 
“Shana, these are my moments that I’ve given you. When you’re complaining about how old you are, you’re looking back to the past in regret and despairing of the future. If you’re longing for something you used to have, you’re not embracing my now. Therefore, you’re stealing the moments I’ve created—those that I’m working in.”

In the same way my complaints about my age chained me to the past and prevented me from experiencing the joys of the present, not letting go of unanswered questions about the past does the same.

There’s a gentle balance between grieving the past well so that we can move on to greater maturity and hope—and holding onto the past and refusing to move on. Sadly, there have been times when I have done the latter, and it created nothing but heartache and pain.
 

If we refuse to relinquish our questions about the past and demand answers about things we can’t change, we’ll miss out on the joy of today and hope for the future. Spending life looking through the rearview mirror brings emotional pain. Regretting the past and fearing the future brings torment but trusting God with our unanswered questions brings peace. 

“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.’  So we can confidently say, ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”  (Hebrews 13:5-6) 

Are you stealing God’s moments by complaining or by longing for something that once was? Ask the Lord to help you fully live in the present where He is at work.

Shana Schutte


May 11, 2018
THANKFUL FOR ANSWERED PRAYER


John 11:41-42
“So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, 'Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.'”
 

Jesus thanked His Father for answered prayer, before His prayer was answered. His heart was so in tune with the heart of the Father that He could boldly ask knowing it was the will of God. In the same way, our Savior calls us to align our hearts with our Heavenly Father’s heart. His plan is for our desires to be His desires, our wants to be His wants, our goals to be His goals, our will to be His will and our prayers to be His prayers. Hence, we can thank Him for answered prayers!
 

What prayers are yet to be answered, but need to be prayed? What is Christ asking you to confidently pray in His name knowing He will answer in the future? Perhaps it’s a yet to be determined job promotion you can thank God for now. You can praise the Lord today for your wayward child, who you have a peace in your heart will eventually come back to their Savior Jesus. Or, you pray with the Spirit’s certainty over an uncertain illness that threatens your joy. Whatever you face you can face down with faith in your Heavenly Father who hears your prayer. 

“If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14) 

We ask in Jesus’ name when we pray for Him to be glorified through answered prayer. When Jesus is lifted up all men and women are drawn to Him. We ask in Christ’s name when our desire is for our answered prayers to be a benefit for believers to grow in their faith, and for unbelievers to come to faith. Oh the joy of seeing someone come to know Jesus in personal salvation, because they saw the love of God transform the life of a loved one. Gratitude glorifies God!
 

Lastly, as we look to the Lord and thank Him for answered prayer, He may call us to be a part of His provision. Jesus told the disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest for laborers and as they prayed, He called them to labor for Him. So, what is your role in relation to the future prayers He wants to answer on your behalf? Perhaps you can resource the need or call on a relationship that can provide answers. Be grateful, God has you positioned to be a part of His answered prayers! 

“And he said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’”  (Luke 10:2) 

What prayer can you thank God for answering?

Wisdom Hunters


May 10, 2018
BEST FRIENDS




Proverbs 12:26
“One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”






When I signed up for a popular Internet social network, I was shocked to be greeted with the words, “You have no friends.” Although I knew it was untrue, I still felt sad for a moment. The idea that anyone, even an impersonal Web site, would call me friendless was upsetting.

Friends are essential for our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. Friends listen to our heartaches without blaming us for having problems. They defend us when we are under attack. They are happy when we succeed and sad when we fail. They give us wise counsel to keep us from making foolish choices. They even risk making us angry for the sake of making us right. My friends have done all of this and more for me.

Perhaps the best-known friendship in the Bible is that of Jonathan and David. Jonathan was heir to the throne of his father Saul. But he knew that the Lord had chosen David for that role, so he risked his own life to save his friend (1 Samuel 20). 
As the Bible shows us, we need to choose friends carefully. The very best friends are those who are friends with God and who strengthen our relationship with Him:

“And Jonathan, Saul's son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God.” (1 Samuel 23:16)

True friends are like diamonds—precious and rare.

Julie Ackerman Link


May 9, 2018
BENEFITS OF FRIENDSHIP




Ecclesiastes 4:9
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.”





Cicero was one of the greatest thinkers of the Roman Empire. He was a skilled orator, lawyer, politician, linguist, and writer. Still today he is quoted for his clear prose and practical wisdom.

For instance, of having friends he wrote: “Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.” Cicero understood the double benefits of friendship along life’s journey.

Nearly a millennium earlier, King Solomon had written about the value of friends as well. In Ecclesiastes we read:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Certainly a life without friends makes our sojourn lonely and hard to bear.

That famous Roman and that Jewish king were right: Friends are important. Friends serve as confidants, counselors, and burden-sharers.

Think about your friends. Have you been neglecting those God has provided to share your joys and sorrows? If so, seek out one of your friends for fellowship this week. Remember, “two are better than one,” because a friend can double our joy and divide our grief.

Friends are flowers in the garden of life.

Dennis Fisher


May 8, 2018
MARKET EXPERIENCE



Matthew 9:37
“Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;'” 




Imagine yourself at the grocery store, but there are no vegetables, fruit, or even bread. You ask why and are told the produce and grain was out there in the fields and ready – but there was no one to pick it.

When Jesus gave His agricultural example to the crowd standing around Him, He also told them to pray for workers.

Just as Jesus could look across the expanse of fields and see ripened heads of grain, He looks across His creation and sees men, women and children ready to receive His message of love, forgiveness, and salvation. Can you go into that harvest-ready mission field? Not everyone can. But you can certainly and earnestly pray for workers who do carry the message into those places.

And where is that ripe harvest found? Africa, Latin America, China? Yes, of course. And next door, down the block, across your community – even in your church and in your government! Jesus has compassion for the lost. 

Be motivated by His character to do what you can. Above all, be a solid witness to the love of Christ in your own life, and pray for all those who carry His message forth.


May 7, 2018 

GOD OF ALL FRIENDSHIP





James 2:23

…and he [Abraham] was called a friend of God.” 




We can have a friendship with God. We can pull up a chair next to us during devotions, knowing it’s not empty. We can speak to God as we are driving down the road, knowing He’s listening. And wherever we are, we can recognize that God is right there with us, and He will never leave us or forsake us.


David had a friendship with God and taught Solomon to have the same. David, the King of Israel, sat down with his son Solomon and wanted to give him the most important advice for his life. David advised Solomon to seek to know God, not just to know “about God”, but to know Him as “friend to friend.”


And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought.”(1 Chronicles 28:9)


Adam had the first friendship with God. Genesis speaks of how God created Adam, and put him in the garden, and gave him guidance to work in the garden by dressing and keeping it. This showed that the Lord desired to have a close relationship with man, but it was Adam who turned away from God. Man’s sin held him back from closeness with God, and unforgiven sin will always keep a gap between friends who are close to each other. 


And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”  (Genesis 3:8-9)


Adam’s sin put a wedge between Him and God, but God is came to look for his friend Adam, and called Him by name.  Why did God call Adam by name? You always call a friend by his or her name. Adam had friendship with God in the beginning and their friendship was reconciled through a blood atonement after the fall.


Abraham had a friendship with God. By faith, Abraham left his country because he had a friendship with God and believed by faith God’s promises, embraced them, and confessed them. 


and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.” (James 2:23)


Moses had a friendship with God. During the time of the wilderness wandering, God told Moses to make Him a sanctuary so He could dwell among His people. When it was built, Moses went into it and talked with God. 


Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend…”  (Exodus 33:11)


Moses had a friendship with God, and his relationship with God influenced Joshua to follow after him.


All 12 tribes of Israel in the future Kingdom will have friendship with God. The new covenant relationship described in Jeremiah is one of a close relationship with God, where the people have a future personal knowledge of God because of salvation and forgiveness of sins. 


And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)


The disciples had a friendship with God. Jesus expressed the intimacy of closeness with His disciples when He said, 


No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)


Our friendship with God. Today, we too can have a close friendship with God built on the new covenant relationship of being saved from sins through Jesus and completely forgiven by God, who became the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 


Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)


God promises that if anyone seeks God with all his heart he will find Him. 


You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)


It is up to each of us. Will you accept this friendship with God?


Tom Cantor


May 6, 2018
LUST FOR LUXURY?


Luke 12:18-19
“And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’” 


 
Lust for luxury is the natural progression of a cultural craze for more stuff. This materialistic addiction is never satisfied, as it wants just a little bit more. Relationships are patronized, sacrificed and neglected for the purpose of material gain. Image, not intimacy, is what’s valued by those discontent unless they are able to upgrade. Ironically, insecurity drives this abnormal notion of security they strive in vain to achieve.
 

Bigger is not always better, because bigger brings complexity, not simplicity. Bigger requires added cost for upkeep and attention. What starts out as a desire for something nice can get out of hand and became a hindrance—instead of a help. A bigger bank account, a bigger house and a bigger car can become a distraction to God’s purposes. 

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and[a] we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”  (1 Timothy 6:6-9) 

Covetousness can creep up on us like a lion stalking its prey. When startled, we finally come to our senses, but find ourselves in the clutch of debt’s grip. The remedy for a rich man’s ruckus is found in being rich toward God. Our identity is not in the abundance of our possessions—who we “are” is defined by the abundance of our life in Christ.
 

What does it mean to be rich toward God? It means that wealth brings faith to a soul, not folly. Treasures are not meant to be stored for self, but in service to the Lord and others. Filthy lucre on earth is replaced with eternal reward in heaven. The wealth of the next world is pursued over the wealth of this world—when Christ captivates a heart! 

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34) 

Therefore, resolve to the wise way of engaging God and His eternal pursuits. Avoid the mind games that money plays on foolish souls—seek instead valid security in your Savior Jesus. Determine to build a bigger belief in the Lord and a smaller perception of stuff. Soul fulfillment comes from building the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. 

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  (Matthew 6:33) 

What material pursuit can you replace with a spiritual pursuit for God’s greater good?

Wisdom Hunters


May 5, 2018

GOD OF ALL PROVISION




Psalm 57:3
“He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!” 




In August 2010, the attention of the world was focused on a mine shaft near Copiapó, Chile. Thirty-three miners huddled in the dark, trapped 2,300 feet underground. They had no idea if help would ever arrive. After seventeen days of waiting, they heard drilling. Rescuers created a small hole in the mine shaft ceiling, and that hole was followed by three more, establishing a delivery path for water, food, and medicine.

The miners depended on those conduits to the surface, where rescuers had the provisions they would need to survive. On day sixty-nine, rescuers pulled the last miner to safety.

None of us can survive in this world apart from provisions that are outside of ourselves. God, the Creator of the universe, is the one who provides us with everything we need. Like the drill holes for those miners, prayer connects us to the God of all provision. 
Jesus encouraged us to pray:

“Give us this day our daily bread,”  (Matthew 6:11)

In His day, bread was the basic staple of life and depicted all the daily needs of the people. Jesus was teaching us to pray not only for our physical needs but also for everything we need—comfort, healing, courage, wisdom. Through prayer we have access to Him at any moment, and He knows what we need before we even ask:

“Do not be like them [the Gentiles], for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8)

What might you be struggling with today? 

“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”  (Psalm 145:18)

Prayer is the voice of faith, trusting that God knows and cares.

Bill Crowder


May 3-4, 2018
HEARING GOD ON THE JOB


1 Corinthians 1:26-27
"For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;”  



God is raising up a new kind of workplace believer who is experiencing the power of God in their daily work life. My friend, Emeka Nywankpa, was a barrister (lawyer) in Nigeria. Emeka spoke at a conference a few years ago on the subject of how the spiritual impacts the physical.
 
Emeka shared a story about arguing an important Supreme Court case in his country. There were five points to argue in the case. The morning the trial began, he prayed with his wife and junior lawyers in his chambers. During his prayer time, he sensed that the Holy Spirit was telling him, "Do not argue points one through four. Only argue point five."
 
Imagine making such a change just before you are to argue a case before the Supreme Court! In the courtroom, Emeka announced that he wished to drop points one through four and only wished to argue point five. The judge was shocked, but gave him permission to proceed. He argued point five and sat down. The other attorney got up, and then for twelve minutes stumbled around trying to defend his position, unable to get a coherent word out.
 
Finally, he approached the bench and said, "Your Lordship, it is unfortunate that my learned friend has dropped the first four points. I wish to yield the case." The other attorney had only prepared for the first four points. Emeka won the case. God had given him a strategy to win his case supernaturally. It made no sense to him, but he obeyed and God gave him victory in a very unusual way.
 

Isaiah tells us:

“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.”  (Isaiah 48:17) 

When is the last time you allowed God to give you a strategy to be successful in your work life call and bring glory to His name? This is his desire for you!

Os Hillman
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley


May 2, 2018
SERIOUS FAITH 



Titus 2:6
“Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.” 



 
Faith is a serious matter. What we believe and how we behave can be the difference between heaven and hell, life or death. An abundant life or one of misery and hopelessness are competing outcomes, based on our sober mindedness about eternal matters. Life sets us up for suffering so it’s imperative that we prepare our hearts and minds to persevere through difficulties and love one another. Faith in Christ and the character of Christ is wisdom to overcome deception, lies and arrogance.
 

Paul urges his protege Titus to call out young men to a higher standard of living that takes life seriously. The reality of being a responsible human being who is self-controlled and behaves wisely refrains from overindulging now, and instead learns to wait and prepare his character to handle the Lord’s favor. To behave wisely is to accept that life’s challenges have been around for millennia, and that wise behavior comes from God and learning from those who have faithfully followed Jesus over their lifetime. Taking life seriously means being a lifelong learner of God. 

“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.”  (Titus 2:2) 

Sadly, some older males need to grow up and become men, the kind of men younger men can follow and learn from. Trade in your t-shirt for a starched shirt and stop acting like a kid. Some women need to quit obsessing over their outward appearance and spend as much energy and attention in cultivating a kind, generous heart that finds ways to serve others. Taking God seriously means taking seriously what matters to Him: lost souls, poverty, injustice, unforgiveness, fear and unbelief. Seriousness over our sins that sent Christ to the cross calls us to repentance!
 

Self-control at work may call you to resist manipulating for a promotion now in exchange for supporting the team and growing long-term respect. Self-control at home may mean giving up a hobby or career in exchange for a season of unselfish service. What does it mean to take life seriously by behaving wisely? Instead of spending more than you make, wisdom instructs you to pay your taxes, save, give and spend what remains. Wise living leads to fulfilled living! Take the Lord more seriously and you will enjoy the freedom of grace and the joy of willful obedience. 

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  (1 Peter 5:8) 

What area of your life needs the serious attention of God’s grace and wisdom?

Wisdom Hunters


May 1, 2018
RIGHTEOUSNESS IS FROM FAITH TO FAITH 



Galatians 3:11
“Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”



 
When I came to Christ, not unlike many people when they are born again, my life was messy. I was hurting badly from a break up with a long-time boyfriend; I had moved out of my childhood home to go to college without a dime in my pocket, and I had no idea what I would do for a profession.
 
It seemed that in every major life area—financially, relationally, and vocationally—I was struggling. I knew my life was a mess and I needed help. And, I knew the only One who could save me from that mess was Jesus. He was literally the anchor for my sinking ship. So, when the waves of life threatened to destroy me and He called my name, I reached out to Him without fighting.

In those early days, I knew I had nothing to offer Him that would make me worthy of His love and I knew I was saved entirely by faith because He was good, not because I was. But I have to admit that after 30 years of walking with Him, there have been times when I have forgotten that the inadequacy that I started with is still true of me today. I may know more about Jesus and the Bible than I did when I started my faith journey, but I am still as unworthy as ever. I recently read Romans which reminded me of this truth: 

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:17)  

Like many people, it was easy for me to start with faith, knowing I couldn’t earn righteousness or His love. But continuing by faith has sometimes been a different story. After I had been walking with him for many years, there have been times when I have believed the lie that I had to earn His love or be “good enough” to keep His love. But the truth is that I started with grace; I will end in grace. The righteousness that Christ has given me was an undeserved gift then, and it will forever be an undeserved gift even after my dying breath.  
 

Believing anything less creates fear in the human heart: fear of losing His love, fear of His punishment and wrath, fear of not measuring up which can make anyone feel defeated, or angry, or depressed. Why work to please a God you can’t please? Why try to love a mean, ogre God? A better option is to believe God is love: 

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

That there is no darkness in Him:

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

And the grace and unconditional love that He gave to you in the beginning—even if your life was a mess like mine—is the same unconditional love that He extends to you now:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8)

You don’t have to earn His love or stave off His wrath. All of His love was given on the cross and His wrath was satisfied. That’s magnificent news:

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,”  (Titus 2:11) 

Tell the Lord thank you for His grace that will never end and that you will never have to earn His love.

Shana Schutte