October 31, 2018

Job 8:21
“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting.” 

Laughter is from the Lord. It is His medicine for the mind and therapy for the soul. The Lord laughs because He is the dispenser of laughter. You cannot give what you do not have, and He has plenty to laugh about. Just as an engaged parent intently observes his children, so God sees antics and behaviors that are hilarious. The Lord must laugh when He sees one of His children smile and do something silly, harmless, and lighthearted. Indeed, He knows laughter is one way to get us through life’s intense moments. God is not so serious that he cannot smile and laugh.

How could Jesus have been 100% human if He hadn’t experienced an old-fashioned belly laugh? Just hanging out with impetuous Peter would be reason enough to giggle under your breath, or even burst into raucous, roaring laughter. Indeed, God has a sense of humor. You don’t have to look beyond the mirror to verify this fact. His joy and laughter are a refreshing combination. In a day when proud piety has frowned on laughter, God still laughs. He laughs, and so do you, for you were created in His image. It is no laughing matter to think that God does not laugh. A world without laughter would be like a joke without a punch line, so look to the Lord of laugher and smile; He does:

“So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?’” (Genesis 18:12)

God has given you permission to laugh. In fact, He has put joy in your heart and laughter on your lips for a purpose. When you laugh, you relax. When you laugh, the cares of this world shrink and the Lord looms larger. When you laugh, you learn to enjoy life and the Lord himself. When you laugh, you look like the Lord. Laugh loudly and laugh often. Moreover, generosity will fuel your laughter. It is cheerful giving that brings joy to the soul:

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Generosity ignites joy and laughter. No wonder the greedy frown and fret; there is no freedom to let loose and laugh. Laughless living is for losers. They are bound up in boring behavior. If you are too serious to laugh, you are too serious.

Seriously, you can be too serious for your own good. You may be more serious than God. Instead, throw back your head and begin by laughing at yourself. Take yourself less seriously and God more seriously. A good laugh lends itself to longer and better living. A scowling face seems to rush quicker to the grave. Lean on the Lord for your laughter, and make His joy your strength.

Laughter infuses your faith with mercy and hope. You are not a naïve laughing fool, but a joyful follower of Christ. Take time each day to laugh at yourself and to laugh with others. Recognize laughter as the Lord’s way of leveraging a balanced and healthy life. Life without laughter is dull and mundane. Therefore, choose to lift up others and yourself with a good laugh. There is a time to laugh, so do it often and do it well. The Lord may be laughing right now. He certainly is smiling.

“a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”   (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

What area of your life do you need to take less seriously and take the Lord more seriously? 

Boyd Bailey

October 30, 2018

Esther 4:14b
“…And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” 

Before my husband and I tied the knot, I had lots of rules about what I believed would make me happy in marriage. One of my rules was to never date men with kids, because I was definitely not going to become a part of a blended family. My logic went like this: “If God’s plan is one man with one woman for life, nothing else will be His best for me.”

I believed that marrying a man with kids meant I would be trapped in unending blended-family drama. But if I married a man without kids I would have a happy life.

As the years rolled into my thirties, I dated a few guys without kids and learned (the obvious lesson!) that just because a man hasn’t been married doesn’t guarantee a happy relationship.

Then I met Clark. He made me laugh; he loved God, had loads of integrity, and he was my good friend. But I wasn’t interested in him mainly because he had kids. Granted, they were almost grown, and he had the biblical right to remarry, but I had always felt that if I married a man with kids that I would not only be unhappy, but I wouldn’t be welcome in my new family. We’ve all heard stories about the “evil stepmom.” I had no desire to wear that label!

But something happened that began to change my perspective: I read the Book of Ruth.

In the Cliffs Notes version of this beloved Bible story, Naomi has two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. Naomi’s sons die, leaving her alone with her with these two young women. Then, Ruth meets and marries Boaz. Together they have a son and name him Obed. As a result, Naomi’s joy is restored—and later, Jesus comes through Ruth’s lineage!

As I read I thought, “Wait a minute! If I had written this story, it would have a different plot and wouldn’t be so messy. Naomi’s sons wouldn’t have died and Ruth wouldn’t have remarried. The family would have stayed together. It would have been a ‘white-picket-fence life.’” But that’s not how God chose to script the narrative. Instead, he took three people who were not biologically related to one another: Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz—and he made a new family!

Through reading the Book of Ruth with fresh eyes, it struck me that since the fall God has been bringing about redemption for His people. He takes broken people whose lives have been torn apart through tragedy and sin and makes utterly beautiful things. That’s what happened in the book of Ruth.

Through my new revelation, the Lord began to change my heart. He helped me to see that there are times we get to play a part in His redemptive story, just like Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi did. And, he convinced me that I could play a redemptive role in my new family. So instead of seeing myself as someone who didn’t belong, someone who no one but Clark would want, I started to believe I could have holy purpose, not because I am good but because God is.

So, what does this mean for you? This means that even when life doesn’t turn out the way you envision, God is at work bringing about redemption in your circumstances. And perhaps He may want you to play a role in His story to be a redemptive gift for someone else. Will you open your heart to that possibility today?

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (1 Corinthians 1:9)

Take a few moments to read your favorite Bible story and note the ways that God was at work to bring about redemption.

Shana Schutte

October 29, 2018

Mark 9:23

[the father of the boy with an unclean spirit said]it [the unclean spirithas often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him [the boy]. But if you [addressing Jesus] can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.

Nick Herman started his first career in the army and later got a position as a dishwasher. It turned out to be the only job he would keep for many years of his life.  Washing dishes for 14 hours a day, the ho-hum of pots and pans, he endured the noise of shouting cooks and being the least important of all the workers.

Then Nick made a decision, an attitude change. He chose to bring God into the kitchen! He began to wash dishes as a way to show love for the Lord.  Everything changed.  Nick said, “We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed… 

“…All things are possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23)

Nick worked 62 years serving others as a lay Carmelite monk in France, and he died quietly at age 80. Millions know him by his spiritual name - "Brother Lawrence".  His book “The Practice of the Presence of God” is still in bookstores 400 years after his death! Brother Lawrence’s remarkable faith replaced drudgery with delight in the presence of a loving Lord.

Waylon B. Moore
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

October 28, 2018

Colossians 4:3-4
“At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”

I was teaching a group of prisoners about prayer, using what is commonly called The Lord’s Prayer as a model:

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’” (Matthew 6:9-13)

I was explaining the opening words, “Our Father,” telling the men that though they are God’s “offspring” because He created them:

“for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.” (Acts 17:28-29)

they can become God’s “children” only when they place their trust in His Son, Jesus Christ:

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[a] of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:14-17) 

Then God truly becomes their heavenly Father.

As I struggled to get the point across, one of the men said, “Let me tell it.” He said, “Listen up! God made you, okay? But that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to hell. You can only become God’s child if He saves you. To get that, you gotta trust in Jesus. If you haven’t done that, you better get it done now.” After he spoke, three prisoners trusted in Christ.

I learned a lesson that day. When we present the gospel, we need to use terms and concepts that are familiar to our audience. We must express it clearly, simply, accurately, and in ways that our listeners will be able to comprehend.

Whether presenting the gospel to prisoners, teenagers, shop workers, or stockbrokers, we must communicate it plainly. That’s not always easy, so we need to ask God to help us make the message clear:

“that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”  (Colossians 4:4)

The truth of the gospel is as clear as a bell, but it isn't always tolled!

David C. Egner 

October 27, 2018

Job 42:9–10
“And the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.”

Friends snared by sin need our prayers, not our prognosis. God’s part is conviction and life change, while our part is prayer. There is definitely a time and place to confront a believer in disobedience. However, we are not the judge—God is. Other-centered praying is freeing for both the person praying and the person being prayed for. As we pray for others, we are freed from preoccupation with our own problems.

Indeed, the severity of another’s needs tend to dwarf our own. It is through the posture of praying for another that our perspective becomes healthier. Our gratitude grows through selfless prayer. We learn to count our many blessings and be content. Of course it is okay to ask God’s favor on our life, but not at the expense of excluding prayer for others.

“Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant” (Genesis 25:21)

Authentic Christianity results in love for people. Is prayer a meaningful way to love? Of course, and the greatest test may be to pray for those who do not pray for you. This is truly unselfish praying. Your only reward may be a clear conscience before God. Pray for your adversaries, and trust the Lord to accomplish His purpose in their life, in His time. Jesus said, 

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)

An exciting part of praying for others is the change you experience. Prayer for people cultivates an attitude of love and forgiveness in the person praying that no human counselor can provide. Godly counsel can guide you there, but only God can produce transformation of the heart. Prayer places you face-to-face with your heavenly Father.

Talk with God often about the needs of others, but be careful; you may become an answer to your own prayer. Pray for a friend in financial need, and the Lord may lead you to assist. Pray for a relative whose heart is hard, and God may lead you to soften this person with kindness. Pray for a child who has lost a parent, and you may become his or her parent. Pray for the leadership needs at the church, and by faith you may step into that leadership role. Be keenly aware of what you pray, as you may become the answer to your own prayer.

Most importantly, pray for those outside of faith in Christ. You can pray this boldly, knowing it is God’s will. Pray God will use you, circumstances, and other believers to draw another to Him. A stubborn heart is no match for prayer. Satan’s deception is no match for prayer. Prayer can travel behind enemy lines and accomplish more in a moment than a lifetime of worry and work. Pray for sinners to be saved and glorify God.

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1)

How can you regularly pray for the needs of family, friends, and foes to be met in Christ?

Boyd Bailey

October 26, 2018

Proverbs 1:8 
“Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching,” 

Thinking about mom this morning and how to honor her. Below, I wrote an honest conversation between a son and his mom. Many of these ideas I learned from my mom, and some from other moms. Their conversation is about the positive traits the son admires in his mom.

She is:

Relationally Engaged--- Son, relationships are your most valuable asset. More than money, because money does not have a soul or a sense of right or wrong---while people are precious. Every day invest in someone or someones: a kind word, a smile, a listening ear, a prayer or an extra $5, $10, or $20, just to love on them. Time is relational lubricant that keeps ‘em running smooth. Some relationships will suck the life out of you, others will give you life. Either way, make sure you are refreshing others and being refreshed yourself. Focus your love on people.

What about people who are hard to love?

Hard love can be the best love, because all your care is other centered. Some who are hard to love are incapable of loving, because their hearts writhe in pain---sometimes silently, sometimes loudly. Others who are hard to love are in a hard place, and overwhelmed by their fears. But your patient love will make a difference, even when it seems like there is no hope. Keep loving well.

Physically Attractive--- Son, good looks can get you into trouble, so learn from my mistakes. Not everyone who is charming is a good person. I have met men who I thought cared about me, but they were just concerned with fulfilling their own lusts and selfish agenda. I had to learn how to discern who really cared about me, versus who wanted to use me. Beauty requires boundaries.

What do you mean beauty requires boundaries?

I mean your friendliness to a friend can be interpreted as flirtatious, so keep an emotional buffer when you interact with the opposite sex. Use discretion to keep from crossing over a line that leads a person down a path of unintended expectations. Use good looks for a greater good.

Spiritually Sensitive--- Son, we are spiritual beings made by God in His image, so center your heart and life around Christ. Without the fulfillment of faith, you will chase after interesting, but inferior, disappointing suitors for your soul. Spiritual sensitivity is the context of a life lived well. All other attributes filtered through faith in Jesus set you up for meaningful living. Faith in God gives you courage to persevere through adversity, and trust to be a generous giver with affluence. Being in tune with the Lord on earth prepares you for what He has prepared for you in heaven. Read the letters in red in your Bible and receive them as Jesus' personalized love letter to you.

How can I make my faith my own and not just a cheap imitation of another's?

You know your faith is your own when you know God, and not just about God. And, you know God when you have a personal relationship with Him. Similar to how you know about a professional athlete and admire her accomplishments, but you do not know her personally. In the same way, as you grow a personal relationship with Christ, you understand and experience how He loves you and how you can love Him well by loving others well. Personalized means yours.

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.”  (2 Timothy 1:5)

Write down life lessons you are learning or have learned from your mom.

Boyd Bailey

October 25, 2018

Mark 1:18
“And immediately they left their nets and followed him.”

Captain Ray Baker flew for the Strategic Air Command during the Vietnam War. The Air Force trained him, along with the other pilots, to run out of their barracks to their planes at the sound of a buzzer. Many times during dinner he had to drop his utensils and bolt to his bomber. He had been trained to respond to the call with immediate obedience. He was so well-trained that one day while on furlough, he ran out of a restaurant when he heard a buzzer.

When Jesus called His first followers, they had an immediacy in their response. Jesus' call was abrupt:

“And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:18)

The author of this account, Mark, may have wanted to impress upon his readers the authority of Jesus. When Jesus extended the call, these men jumped to obey because helping people enter the kingdom of God was a more compelling adventure and a grander vision than catching fish.

When Jesus issues a call to follow Him, He doesn’t want us to delay. He expects immediate obedience when it comes to telling others the good news. Bring someone the story of salvation today!

Help Wanted: Messengers to deliver the good news.

Marvin Williams

October 24, 2018

Proverbs 13:3
“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”

As Terry Mikel was speeding toward Tucson, he passed a car, an unmarked Arizona Highway Patrol car. The officer pulled Terry over. When Terry explained that he was late for a class he was teaching at the University of Arizona, the officer took pity on him and let him off with a warning. Before he went back to his car he said, “Slow down and drive safe."

Terry felt obligated to correct him. “Excuse me, sir, but it should be ‘slow down and drive safely. You said, ‘drive safe.’”

The officer walked back to his car and wrote him a $92 speeding ticket."

We can't do it, can we? We just can't seem to keep our mouths shut! Looking back, we know we shouldn't have said a word, but at the time we felt so compelled to speak.

Maybe you didn't get a ticket as a result, but you've done something just as foolish, haven't you? Maybe even this morning, before reading this message. Maybe even before leaving your house! James was so right when he wrote:

“For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:7-8)

That's not an excuse, incidentally, to let our tongues run wild. Rather, it's a challenge. As hard as it may be to control our tongues, it is essential that we as Christians strive to do just that. We stand to lose more than $92 if we fail to do so.

Alan Smith

“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

Abraham Lincoln
Mark Twain
Samuel Johnson

October 21-23, 2018

Ecclesiastes 5:19
“Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.”  

God gives multiple gifts over the course of a lifetime. Wealth, relationships, enjoyment of possessions, contentment in life, and fulfilling careers are significant gifts of God. No one can out-give God because generosity is one of His passions, and He has unlimited capacity. Not only does He give, but He also gives the ability to enjoy His blessings.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

Access to money and possessions without the ability to enjoy them is meaningless. If wealth has you trapped in a perpetual maze of worry, then look to the gift giver. He did not give you possessions to obsess over. Fixation on money marginalizes faith. If you are unable to relax and enjoy money, God, and friends, then money may be your master.

We cannot enjoy what we cling to for ourselves. When money steals our peace of mind, it may have become an idol. It soon replaces Christ as our number one loyalty for attention and worship. Keep money in its proper place, or it will wear you out. It will wear you out in worry, and it will wear you out in trying to amass more. 

“Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.” (Proverbs 23:4)

Our work is another gift from God, and our ability to enjoy it is from Him. Even if we do not have to work, we need to work. Our Creator designed us for work. If you have no joy in your career and see no relief on the horizon, then make a move. God does not expect you to be miserable in your work. Toil for the Lord, and you will never lack purpose.  

It is not so much the quantity of your wages as it is the quality of your work environment. It is a gift from God when you are privileged to work alongside people who value excellence, teamwork, innovation, results, faith, and family. Recognize often this gift from God, and thank Him. Are you “salt and light” for Christ at your work? Jesus said:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”  (Matthew 5:13–14)

Do not wear your Christianity on your sleeve; instead, roll up your sleeves, and do excellent work. As you enjoy work, people will ask how you can be so joyful and content in all work environments. God’s gifts glorify Him. 

“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”  (1 Peter 3:15)

Do you enjoy to the fullest God’s gifts of wealth, work, and relationships?

Wisdom Hunters

October 20, 2018

Psalm 17:2
“From your presence let my vindication come! Let your eyes behold the right!” 

In the 18th and 19th centuries, personal insults required “satisfaction.” When someone felt that personal honor had been assaulted, a duel was arranged and the matter was settled by violence. Today, we are just as concerned with being vindicated and will violently protest our innocence when we believe we have been wronged. Very little energizes us as the desire to clear our name, to prove that we are right, and we will not rest (we will not be satisfied) until we have proved ourselves true.

Leaving aside the fact that man is deeply flawed and we are never completely without fault, vindication biblically (astoundingly) does not come from our activity. Psalm 17 explains:

“Let my vindication come from your presence.” (Psalm 17:2)

It is inevitable that we will be misunderstood. It is inevitable that we will offend or disappoint. Invariably when we try to clear our own name, we only muddy the water. But God invites us to allow Him to defend us . . . to rest in His presence while He rises to our defense. A similar promise is included in Isaiah:

“The yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil.” (Isaiah 10:27)

It is not my effort that vindicates or breaks through oppression and confusion—it is the active work of God to clarify and free.

When Jesus was under trial, He did not open His mouth. Jesus could have vindicated Himself before Herod and Pilate but chose not to. Jesus invites us into His own character, into the satisfaction of being like Him. The Psalmist wrote:

“As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” (Psalm 17:15)

Our vindication and our satisfaction (when we are insulted or maligned) comes from sheltering in the presence of Jesus and being conformed to His image.

When we most want to defend ourselves may be when we should be most intentional about retreating to the presence of Jesus, and allowing Jesus to use the uncomfortable and embarrassing circumstances to stamp His image deeply upon us.

October 19, 2018

Psalm 31:21
“Blessed be the LORD, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city.”  

Psalm 31 is one of my favorite psalms in the entire Bible. In it, we encounter David trusting fully in God as his refuge and source of hope, even in the darkest of times. 

God is his refuge:

“In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!” (Psalm 31:1)


“Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!” (Psalm 31:2)

  Rock and fortress: 

“For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;” (Psalm 31:3)

  So much so, that even when there is “terror on every side”:

“For I hear the whispering of many—terror on every side!—as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.” (Psalm 31:13)

He is able to be at peace and is confident in the LORD’s protection and provision.

Often we think that our ability to encounter the goodness and love of God is conditional. When the weight of the world presses in and our fears and anxieties seem to overwhelm, we can find them to be all consuming and struggle to see how the love of God can reach us in that dark place. Yet it is in these moments, not in spite of them, that we often encounter God’s love in the most intimate of ways.

For David, a “city under siege” was not a metaphor but a very present reality and danger. Likewise, many around the world today read Psalm 31 under threat of violence, terror attacks, and loss of all they know and hold dear. What was true in David’s day is true today. No matter how dark the darkness may be, God’s love is always able to reach you. Even if today you have death to face, there is nothing to fear. As St. Paul said to the early Christians in Rome:

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8:38-39)

On the other hand, you may be reading this from a place of relative safety and security. You may, on the surface, have everything you could ever want: a successful career, beautiful family, and the ability to travel the world. Yet as humans we are remarkably gifted at living disintegrated lives, where our exterior and interior lives are in a constant state of misalignment. As such, while you may appear to have it all together, as you read this today your heart may feel like a city under siege.

Do you have secret fears, doubts, and insecurities that you’ve never told a soul? Do you live in a place of consistent anxiety and doubt that leaves you paralyzed and unable to move forward in faith and trust in God? I believe these are the places within us that God loves to enter into, if we will open our hearts to him. He longs to show you today the wonders of his love, not just when you feel open to it, but even when your life feels like it is under constant attack. Encounter afresh his calming presence in the midst of your storm!

Where does your life feel like a city under siege? 

Tripp Prince

October 18, 2018

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

Lately I have been thinking about Jesus’ promise: 

“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

I have also been thinking that if the truth sets us free, then lies will keep us bound. And, that lies can prevent us from fulfilling God’s purposes for our lives. Here’s what I mean.

There were events that happened in your life when you were small, that even though they could have been considered inconsequential at the time, shaped how you think about yourself, God, others, and how you interact with the world around you. For example, perhaps when you were growing up, you heard your father repeatedly admire others who were talented and always say, “Some people are just more blessed than others.”

When you heard this, your heart accepted the lie that being talented was for everyone else outside your family, and that you would never be truly talented at anything. So, what have you always done as a result? You haven’t tried to develop your God-given talents because being talented is for others but definitely not for you.

Perhaps your parents always struggled to make ends meet and you grew up watching them wrestle with barely making it, so you decided at a very young age, without even realizing it, that risk taking is just not a good idea.

So now, as an adult, even though you have a deep desire to fulfill the work God has created for you to accomplish, you wrestle with control and trusting Jesus. So, rather than step out in faith to fulfill a new venture God is calling you to, you insist on “playing it safe” and always staying in control.

As children—or even as adults—when we interpreted our experiences with God’s truth, then we could grow into more of who He has designed us to be. When we interpreted our experiences with lies, or assigned meaning to our experiences that was not from God, we could be held back from accomplishing what He has created for us to do.

If the truth sets you free, then lies will keep you bound.

But, hallelujah, you don’t have to be bound! There is freedom in Christ and through Christ, we can break the strongholds in our thinking.

Do you feel stuck in some aspect of your life, perhaps in your relationships, your calling, or your faith? Ask the Lord to reveal to you if you are believing any lies that are keeping you from serving Him fully. Then, replace the lies with the truth and act according to that truth.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4)

Take a few moments and think about the phrases you heard growing up, or the patterns in your family of origin that could be holding you back from accomplishing God’s will. Ask the Lord to reveal His truth to you and write down what you learn in a journal. Then, praise Him for giving you His wisdom. 

Shana Schutte

October 17, 2018

Ephesians 5:25
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her," 

It was a busy morning. It was about 8:30 A.M. when a gentleman in his 80's, arrived to have sutures removed from his thumb. He stated that he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00 A.M. I took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would be able to see him.

We chatted while I removed his sutures and took care of his wound. I asked him if he had a doctor's appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry. The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife, Mari-Helena. I then inquired as to her health.

He told me that she had been there for awhile and that she was a victim of Alzheimer's Disease. As we talked, and I finished dressing his wound, I asked if she would be worried if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him for five years now.

I was surprised and asked him, "And you are still going every morning, even though she doesn't know who you are?"

He smiled as he patted my hand and said, "She doesn't know me, but I still know who she is."

I had to hold back tears as he left, I had goose bumps on my arms, and thought, "That is the kind of love I want in my life."

The Daily Encourager 
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

October 15-16, 2018

Proverbs 20:6
“Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?” 

“I just can’t trust anyone,” my friend said through tears. “Every time I do, they hurt me.”  Her story angered me—an ex-boyfriend, whom she really thought she could trust, had started spreading rumors about her as soon as they broke up.  Struggling to trust again after a pain-filled childhood, this betrayal seemed just one more confirmation that people could not be trusted.

I struggled to find words that would comfort. One thing I could not say was that she was wrong about how hard it is to find someone to fully trust, that most people are completely kind and trustworthy. Her story was painfully familiar, reminding me of moments of unexpected betrayal in my own life. In fact, Scripture is very candid about human nature. The author of Proverbs voices the same lament as my friend, forever memorializing the pain of betrayal. 

“Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?” (Proverbs 20:6)

What I could say is that the cruelty of others is only part of the story. Although wounds from others are real and painful, Jesus has made genuine love possible. Jesus told His disciples that the world would know they were His followers because of their love:

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

Although some people may still hurt us, because of Jesus there will also always be those who, freely sharing His love, will unconditionally support and care for us. Resting in His unfailing love, may we find healing, community, and  courage to love others as He did.

“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)

Jesus has made true love possible.

Monica Brands

October 14, 2018

Proverbs 18:10
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” 

In the medieval world, farmers would care for their crops until an enemy appeared on the horizon. Then they would flee with their families to their fortified city for protection from the marauders.

The city of Carcassonne in France is a good example. It has been a refuge for generations. Built in the 5th century BC, this stone fortress has provided protection for Romans, Gauls, Visigoths, Franks, and French. Its sprawling size and majestic watchtowers and battlements gave confidence to those hiding inside its protective walls.

In some homes today, owners have built safe rooms—special places where they can go for protection should someone break into the house.

In Proverbs, Solomon reminded God’s people that God is their strong tower—or “safe room”—and that they will find total security in Him. He contrasted two types of security to which some people run: 

the name of the Lord:

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” (Proverbs 18:10) 

  and wealth:

“A rich man's wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination.” (Proverbs 18:11)

The name or character of God is described as a “strong tower.” As a people under threat might take refuge in a fortified tower, so the righteous can run to the Lord and find complete safety.

On the other hand, the wealthy may imagine their riches as a high point of safety. Solomon sought to tell his readers that money may give a sense of security, but it is a false security that can lead to laziness, pride, and destruction. Yet people who are humble and find their complete security in the unchanging and holy character of God will find true safety.

Wealth may not be your particular “safe room.” You might tend to run instead to something or someone else when adversity comes. But we all need to learn to depend daily on the Lord and find a high point of safety in the strong tower/safe room of His name.

It’s often easier to trust
In what our eyes can see,
But God asks us to look to Him
For our security. — Dave Sper

The name of the Lord is our strong tower and safe room.

Dennis Fisher and Marvin Williams

October 13, 2018

Revelation 2:17
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.”

Do you have a nickname? At some point in our lives most of us get some kind of a nickname. Sometimes this comes from schoolmates, friends, coworkers, or from family. Nicknames are common in my family. My little brother John became Jack, an Irish tradition for the name John that goes back centuries. My brother Kevin became known as “KG,” a byproduct of his initials, and then even that was eventually shortened to “Cage.” I myself have had quite a few nicknames; my first was the result of my having the same first name as my dad, so to avoid confusion my family always referred to me by my middle name. Even my sister Teresa is now affectionately referred to in our family as “Teesee,” and whenever she steps over my threshold the kids all run to hug her as they yell, “Aunt Teesee,” which always causes a huge smile to radiate from her face.

Nicknames can be good or bad.

There are times when nicknames can be mean, intended to ridicule or demean a person. Sometimes schoolkids pick on one another with derogatory names such as “bean-pole,” “fatso,” or the poor child who wears glasses and is called “four-eyes.”

Nicknames can also demonstrate a more personal and deeper relationship between people, such as that special name someone has that is only known to a select few, or as is often the case, between couples. I may call my wife “honey-babe” but she would die if anyone else did.

Nicknames appear in many cultures throughout the world and they have been around for thousands of years. The Bible also speaks of a person’s name being changed. Sometimes this was the result of a person’s moving from one culture to another, as when Joseph went to Egypt and acquired the Egyptian name of Zaphenath-Paneah. Hadassah became Esther. Daniel became Belteshazzar, etc.

Nicknames can change your identity. God sometimes changed the name of a person to indicate that He wanted them to have a new identity and a new role. This was the case for Abram who became Abraham, meaning “high father” or “father of many,” and Sarai who became Sarah, meaning “my princess” or “mother of nations.” These were special names, almost like a special nickname that God Himself gave them.

Someday, we will have a special name known only to God. In Revelation we read:

"His [Jesus’] eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.“ (Revelation 19:12)

Like Jesus, each of us, all who accept Him as their Lord and Savior, will be given a new name that is known only to us and Him—a nickname . . . a special term of endearment that will be between just you and your Lord!

Dan Gallagher

October 11-12, 2018

Mark 9:39
“But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.”

Mark 9 is a remarkable text in which we find the disciples unable to do miracles in Jesus’ name, outraged at people successfully doing miracles who clearly are not yet his disciples! The disciples want to claim exclusive rights on the ability to do anything with or for Jesus. They are the ones who know him most intimately, they are the ones who have a full and robust vision of his kingdom and of faithful discipleship. Yet in this story, Jesus shows incredible compassion for those who are infants in their faith and deeply desires to welcome them into his kingdom and for them to grow and flourish.

As I sit with this scene, I am struck by the fact that Jesus is okay with a slow process of growth. Are we?

Jesus is remarkably comfortable with long stories and a slow process of growth. On the other hand, culturally we are deeply frustrated and annoyed by anything that takes a long time. We live in the age of microwaves and McDonald’s, of airplanes and crash diets. We have been formed in countless ways to be people who demand immediate results, and that expectation extends into our spiritual lives.

We must look to Jesus and learn to embrace and celebrate, as Eugene Peterson calls it, a “long obedience in the same direction.” We must cultivate a deep desire to seek out the grace and goodness of God that can be found in long stories, to see how Jesus is patient with us and others in our lives that we may struggle to love or be patient with ourselves. Jesus celebrates our victories in faith while loving us in our deep places of need.

If you feel stalled out in your faith or like an infant in your Christian journey, receive the love of Jesus today. He looks at you in your need and invites you closer through perfect love and compassion. If you today feel like the disciples did and struggle with God’s lavish love towards those you deem unworthy, remember afresh your own brokenness and need and learn to cultivate a posture of gratitude and humility before the Lord.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”  (1 John 3:1)

Is there someone in your life towards whom you harbor bitterness and need to learn to instead seek God-given patience and love?

Tripp Prince

October 9-10, 2018

Matthew 18:19–20
“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Effective radical prayer engages the hearts of men and women, teenagers and young adults, boys and girls. Solo prayer invites the ear of the Lord, but group prayer purifies prayer. In a group of devoted disciples, God’s will is established and boldly petitioned to heaven. Prayer support from a small group gives confidence, direction, and determination.

For example, the righteous one who fervently prays for those outside the faith is effective to draw them within the faith. There is no doubt hell shudders when heavenly supplications seek to snatch lost souls from eternal damnation. The Holy Spirit hovers over prayer meetings motivated to glorify the Lord and save sinners. Group prayer ignites eternity.

“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31)

We pray and praise God, but Christ converts. The pressure is not on Christians to make Christians, but to pray for hearts to be pricked by God’s Spirit, converted, and born into the kingdom of God. The Lord uses prayer to soften sinners so the soil of their heart moistens and seeds of truth take root. Pray without ceasing for Jesus to save lost souls.

“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”  (Acts 2:46–47)

The local church is a natural location to lean into the Lord in small group prayer. Our home can also be a sanctuary of supplication to Christ, with other like-minded believers. So begs the question, “Are you engaged in effective prayer with other followers of Jesus?” Prayer is a team sport. It is not meant for us to only linger alone with the Lord.

We all need prayer, and we need to pray for others. It is a Holy Spirit-initiated prayer movement that moves cultures and communities toward God. Perhaps we complain less to each other and pray more with each other. When we humble ourselves together before God, He hears, He answers, and He heals. Effective prayers mobilize the body of Christ.

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  (Matthew 16:19)

Does Christ capture your heart in radical prayer with a small group of believers in Jesus?

Boyd Bailey
Wisdom Hunters

October 8, 2018

Luke 11:42
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” 

Love, justice and generosity are all fruit from the tree of trusting and following Jesus. When we love the Lord with all our being, we want our fellow human beings to be treated fairly and we freely give to support these weightier matters on the heart of God. A generous heart flows from love for Jesus---to love what He loves: sharing the good news of His love and forgiveness, serving the sick, speaking up for the unborn, the unrecognized and the undervalued. We live our life not to be seen, but for others to feast on the abundant fruit of someone surrendered to Almighty God.

The religious leaders of Jesus' day lacked spiritual life. Artificial, self-righteous, nit picky, grumpy living was their spiritual brand. A pretentious pious life weighed down by pride, lives to be seen by others as a morally superior saint. These first century faith posers gave 10% of all they owned to an ornate religious institution, while neglecting the more important issues of love and justice. Christ, who knows the heart of man, still calls us out to examine our motives. Why do we do what we do? Do we give for man's applause or for praise from an audience of One---God?

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  (Micah 6:8)

 Is your religion rote or a vibrant loving relationship with the Lord your God? If time with Christ is only a box to be checked on Sunday or in a daily quiet time, perhaps your beliefs need a fresh infusion of love and justice toward your Savior Jesus and toward your fellow man. A growing love relationship with the Lord results in a flavor of faith that is tasty and attractive. Your heart is God's heart: care for the elderly, resource the poor and befriend a person different from you. Prison injustices are called out as modern day slavery and replaced with humane rehabilitation.

Generosity of love, justice and money show a stingy world a better way. Generosity is God. 

"...he gave His only son..." (John 3:16)

Generous giving by followers of Jesus sound the alarm of love and justice that hopefully awakens slumbering sin sick souls, who only dream about being loved by God. Religious pride is ugly, Christian humility is beautiful. Religious harshness is abrasive, Christian mercy is compassionate. Religious hypocrisy turns people off, Christian vulnerability turns people on. Religious rigidness brings death, Christian love gives life. So what does the Lord require of you, His child? To act justly, love mercy, walk humbly and give generously!

“learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.”  (Isaiah 1:17)

Boyd Bailey

October 7, 2018

Psalm 18:25
“To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless”

Faithfulness is doing what I said I would do. It is an integrity issue. Commitments are not to be taken lightly. For example, a verbal commitment is an unwritten contract. However, these can be the most risky and misunderstood. If we make a verbal commitment, it behooves us to make sure it is plain to all parties involved.

If there is not a clear understanding, there is a good chance for miscommunication and a perception of unfaithfulness. The burden of responsibility is on the communicator. If we are moving fast and overcommitted, our communication skills and follow-through suffer. We may assume others understand us and know what is going on, but this is risky.

Slow down, communicate more, and show up on time for appointments. Less is more. Most of us would be much better off if we focused on fewer commitments. Take a relational audit, and ask others if they perceive you as being faithful to your commitments to them. Do not blame others for unfaithfulness if this is a chronic problem in your own life. Fortunately, as followers of Christ we have Him as our faithful model.

The Lord has been faithful even in our unfaithfulness. God says what He does and does what He says. He is faithful to forgive our sin and lead us to forgive. He is faithful to convict us of sin and to lead us into righteousness. He is faithful to flood our souls with peace, joy, and contentment. God understands what it means to keep a commitment, even at great cost—the death of His only Son. Indeed, the Lord is faithful to the faithful.

Unfaithfulness will catch up with us if not quickly remedied. Adultery is an example of marital unfaithfulness. Yet how many of us go to bed with other conflicting relational commitments. Do not let work, hobbies, children, or money become your “mistress.” Faithfulness begins and ends with follow-through on our commitments to God.

After our conversion, we made a commitment to follow Christ. Following Jesus requires fidelity of faith. There are no equals to our love for Him. When He says in His Word to let our yes be yes and our no be no, we follow through because we want to be faithful to Him and others. Yes, the Lord defines and rewards your faithfulness.

Your faithfulness does not go unnoticed or unrewarded. One of the greatest rewards is the gift of trust. Faithfulness births and grows trust; so over time you earn the reputation of a trustworthy person. Those who can be trusted with a little can be trusted with much. Thus, be faithful so you can be trusted. Above all, be faithful because He is faithful!

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”  (Matthew 25:23)

How is the Lord faithful to you? To what commitment do you need to remain faithful?

Boyd Bailey

October 6, 2018

Matthew 20:21
"And he said to her, “What do you want?…’”

Come to me to the most populated prison in the world. The facility has more inmates than bunks. More prisoners than plates. More residents than resources.

Come to me to the world's most oppressive prison. Just ask the inmates; they will tell you. They are overworked and underfed. Their walls are bare and bunks are hard.

No prison is so populated, no prison so oppressive, and, what's more, no prison is so permanent. Most inmates never leave. They never escape. They never get released. They serve a life sentence in this overcrowded, under-provisioned facility.

The name of the prison? You'll see it over the entrance. Rainbowed over the gate are four cast-iron letters that spell out its name:

W - A - N - T

The prison of want. You've seen her prisoners. They are "in want." They want something.They want something bigger. Nicer. Faster. Thinner. They want.

They don't want much, mind you. They want just one thing. One new job. One new car. One new house. One new spouse. They don't want much. They want just one.

And when they have "one," they will be happy. And they are right -- they will be happy. When they have "one," they will leave the prison. But then it happens. The new car smell passes. The new job gets old. The neighbors buy a larger television set. The new spouse has bad habits. The sizzle fizzles, and before you know it, another ex-con breaks parole and returns to jail.

Are you in prison? You are if you feel better when you have more and worse when you have less. You are if joy is one delivery away, one transfer away, one award away, or one make-over away. If your happiness comes from something you deposit, drive, drink, or digest, then face it -- you are in prison, the prison of want.

Max Lucado
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

October 5, 2018

Ephesians 4:25-26
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” 

As I had dinner with a friend, she expressed how fed up she was with a particular family member. But she was reluctant to say anything to him about his annoying habit of ignoring or mocking her. When she did try to confront him about the problem, he responded with sarcastic remarks. She exploded in anger at him. Both parties wound up digging in their heels, and the family rift widened.

I can relate, because I handle anger the same way. I also have a hard time confronting people. If a friend or family member says something unkind, I usually suppress how I feel . . . until, eventually, I explode.

Maybe that is why the apostle Paul said, " not let the sun go down on your anger,"

Providing a time limit on unresolved issues keeps anger in check. Instead of stewing over a wrong, which is a breeding-ground for bitterness, we can ask God for help to “[speak] the truth in love":

"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:15)

Got a problem with someone? Rather than hold it in, hold it up to God first. He can fight the fire of anger with the power of His forgiveness and love.

One reason it is sometimes hard to admit that we are angry when someone offends us is that we fear what others might think of us. But acknowledging anger and providing a time limit on resolving issues is essential in keeping harmonious relationships intact to the one who has offended us is vital, even if it means stepping outside our comfort zone.

This scriptural approach to conflict resolution helps to clear the air and restore relationships. Explaining to the offending party what was hurtful and listening to the other person’s perspective lays the groundwork for healthy relationships. When we keep love in the picture, our goal becomes restoration.

Dennis Fisher

October 4, 2018

Leviticus 26:10
“You shall eat old store long kept, and you shall clear out the old to make way for the new.” 

My garage serves as “storage” for things that don’t have a place in our home, and, frankly, there are times when I am ashamed to open the door. I don’t want anyone to see the clutter. So, periodically, I set aside a workday to clean it up.

Our hearts and minds are a lot like that—they accumulate lots of clutter. As we rub shoulders with the world, inevitably, perhaps unknowingly, we pick up ungodly thoughts and attitudes. Thinking that life is all about “me.” Demanding our rights. Reacting bitterly toward those who have hurt us. Before long, our hearts and minds are no longer clean and orderly. And while we think we can hide the mess, eventually it will show.

Paul pointedly asked, 

“…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)

which makes me wonder if God often feels like He is living in our messy garage.

Perhaps it is time to set aside a spiritual workday and, with His help, get to work clearing out the clutter. Discard those thoughts of bitterness. Bag up and throw out the old patterns of sensual thoughts. Organize your attitudes. Fill your heart with the beauty of God’s Word. Make it clean to the core, and then leave the door open for all to see!

Don’t let the Spirit reside in a cluttered heart. With the Holy Spirit’s help take some time to clear out the clutter today!

Joe Stowell ‎

October 3, 2018

John 17:16
“They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” 

I cried today. I knelt on the floor in the bedroom and bawled. I wailed and wept and grieved because another life season has passed and it’s time to let go once more. . .to let go of our community, to let go of living near my beautiful grandson and my wonderful bonus daughter and son-in-law, and to let go of friends.

After moving often over the last 30 years, I am truly ready to plant somewhere. I am longing for home, a place where I can say with my husband, “We belong here” . . . a place where I can develop deep church and relational roots.

But “home” has eluded us, and as much as my husband and I want stability, in a couple of months, a moving van will show up in the front of our house and take us somewhere out of state that hasn’t been revealed to us yet. During my time on my knees, I thought about the desire for home. Isn’t there something in us that always longs for a place to belong?

No matter where we live, or the loved ones and friends that are near, we always feel some level of discontent. Our hearts always ache. We are always searching for, looking for, anticipating and hoping for a better place where our souls feel at rest. We are always aching for home. But there won’t ever be anything or anyone that will completely remove the longing for home because this earth isn’t home and won’t ever be. Scripture says that we are strangers and aliens on the earth: 

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 3:20)

My home—your home—where the ache of belonging will finally cease, is in eternity. For the believer, being a stranger and alien in the world means that:

This world is not your home.
You will always be longing for your real home in heaven.
Nothing on the earth will fully satisfy.

After my kneeling and weeping, I remembered that as long as I insist on finding peace in the world, I will come face-to-face with the emptiness in me that can never be filled this side of eternity. I am like a pitcher with the bottom broken out because no matter what is poured in, I will still be longing for home. Oh! Only Jesus can fill us, and the extent of that filling will only be complete once eternity is our home.

Are you longing for home today? Remember that your home is in Christ. Hold on to Him. One day, your ache will cease and your joy will be complete and you will finally experience the peace you have been looking for.

Shana Schutte

October 1-2, 2018

Psalm 51:2
“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!”

In 1971 he killed a man. Even though he was the prime suspect in the murder, no one could prove it and the case was abandoned. So, he got away with it. Or did he?

Nearly three decades later, in failing health and living in a nursing home, he confessed to the crime. A detective who headed the original investigation said, “He was looking over his shoulder for the last 26 years, not only for the law, but for his Maker. I think he wants to clear his conscience before he meets his Maker.”

How’s your conscience today? Clear or clouded? What would it take to be ready to meet your Maker? How can you be made clean? 
It may seem strange to speak of blood as a cleansing agent, but that’s how the Bible connects the death of Jesus on the cross to our standing before God:

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,” (Hebrews 10:19)

Christ shed His blood so that we might be forgiven and made clean inside. Because of what He has done, we can have a clear conscience and draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith:

“let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”(Hebrews 10:22)

No matter who you are or what you’ve done, Jesus Christ can give you a clear conscience. Why not confess your sin and make things right with your Maker today?

A clear conscience is a soft pillow.

David C. McCasland

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