February 28, 2019
GROW OLDER GROW BOLDER
“Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;”
In my younger years as a follower of Jesus, I was a little rough around the edges. Impetuous and brash at times, I sincerely sought to influence others toward faith in Christ. Over time I learned the message of the cross was offensive enough, without my overbearing attitude adding to a person’s defensiveness. Patient love became my new found form of boldness. My faith expression grew more gracious when approaching those blind in their belief of Jesus. Bold love for God grows to influence unbelievers to take a step of faith toward belief in Jesus.
Peter—freshly humbled by his humiliating denials of being a follower of Christ—now seeks his Savior. Having heard about Mary’s experience of encountering an empty tomb—John and Peter race toward the garden graveside to find out for themselves. Younger John arrived a few steps ahead. He looked inside and saw evidence of emptiness, but he was hesitant to enter into the tomb of his beloved Lord. Peter, slower of foot but faster in faith, led the way to discover his Master was not there. Peter’s literal step of faith helped John quickly follow and believe.
“God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:24)
As we grow older in the faith we should grow bolder in our faith. Those of us who have experienced our living Lord up close and personal have many stories to tell of His faithfulness. Our close encounters with Christ are opportunities to share with others who have yet to believe Jesus rose from the grave. The younger look to the older for authenticity. Our vulnerability regarding our own spiritual struggles creates safe conversation about Christ. Boldness facilitates belief. It is beautiful when followers of Jesus lead others to follow Him. Boldness emboldens boldness.
As a new Christian you may feel like you are only one step ahead of another seeker. You don’t seem qualified to share Christ—yet you are in the best position to relate to friends who hesitate to believe. Because your faith walk with Jesus is new and fresh—your gratitude to God for your salvation is infectious. Keep your faith story simple. Once you ignored God, but now you love and are loved by your heavenly Father. You looked for love in all the wrong places, while right in front of you—Jesus loved you. Your boldness for Christ helps others want to believe in Christ.
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)
Who in your life routine can you be more intentional and bold to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
February 27, 2019
THE MOON AND GOD
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
What was the first liquid and food consumed on the moon? I'm betting that most are unaware of this story. Almost 40 years ago on July 20, 1969, two human beings changed history by walking on the surface of the moon.
But, what happened before Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong exited the Lunar Module is perhaps even more amazing, if only because so few people know about it. I'm talking about the fact that Buzz Aldrin took communion on the surface of the moon. Some months after his return, he wrote about it in Guideposts magazine.
The background to the story is that Aldrin was an elder at his Presbyterian Church in Texas during this period in his life; and, knowing that he would soon be doing something unprecedented in human history, he felt that he should mark the occasion somehow. He asked his minister to help him and so the minister consecrated a communion wafer and a small vial of communion wine. Buzz Aldrin took them with him out of the Earth's orbit and onto the surface of the moon. He and Armstrong had only been on the lunar surface for a few minutes when Aldrin made the following public statement:
“This is the LM (Lunar Module) pilot. I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.”
He then ended radio communication, and there, on the silent surface of the moon, 250,000 miles from home, he read a verse from the Gospel of John, and he took communion.
Here is his account of what happened:
'In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the scripture:
'I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.' (John 15:5)
I had intended to read my communion passage back to Earth, but at the last minute [they] had requested that I not do this. NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle with Madelyn Murray O'Hare, the celebrated opponent of religion, over the Apollo 8 crew's reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas. I agreed reluctantly.
I ate the tiny toast and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon and the very first food eaten there were the communion elements."
And, of course, it's interesting to think that some of the first words spoken on the moon were the words of Jesus Christ, who made the Earth and the moon - and who, in the immortal words of Dante, is Himself the "Love that moves the Sun and other stars."
The nicest place to be is in someone's thoughts, the safest place to be is in someone's prayers, and the very best place to be is in the hands of God.
Submitted by Gerald Pearson
February 26, 2019
I REFUSE TO BE DISCOURAGED
“He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.”
"I refuse to be discouraged,
To be sad, or to cry;
I refuse to be downhearted,
And here's the reason why...
I have a God who's mighty,
Who's sovereign and supreme;
I have a God who loves me,
And I am on His team.
He is all-wise and powerful,
Jesus is His name;
Though other things are changeable,
My God remains the same,
My God knows all that's happening;
From beginning to the end,
His presence is my comfort,
He is my dearest friend.
When sickness comes to weaken me,
To bring my head down low,
I call upon my mighty God;
Into His arms I go.
When circumstances threaten me
To rob me of my peace;
He draws me close unto His breast,
Where all my strivings cease.
And when my heart melts in me,
And weakness takes control;
He gathers me into His arms,
He soothes my heart and soul.
The great "I AM" is with me,
My life is in His hand,
The "Son of God", he is my hope,
It's in His strength I stand.
I refuse to be defeated,
My eyes are on my God
He has promised to be with me,
As through this life I trod.
I'm looking past my circumstance,
To Heaven's throne above;
My prayers have reached the heart of God,
I'm resting in His love.
I give God thanks in everything,
My eyes are on His face;
The battle's His, the victory's mine;
He'll help me win the race."
Written By BJ George
But "Inspired By Our Lord Jesus Christ"
[email protected] BJ George
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
February 24-25, 2019
LOVE IS NOT PROUD
1 Corinthians 13:4
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant”
Love is not proud as there is no room for pride in a heart of love. Pride is an anchor to love that restrains its rich offering. It prolongs the inability to love by short-circuiting the effect of agape love. Pride is a precursor to loveless living; it struggles with love because it requires a focus off self and on others. Pride is deceptive, as it always negotiates for its own benefit. There is a driving force behind pride that is unhealthy and unnecessary. It is indiscriminate in its seduction of either gender. Men may be the most susceptible to pride’s illusion, but women can be deceived just as well. Eve fell into this trap in her encounter with the devil:
“and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” (1 Timothy 2:14)
Pride’s feeling of superiority slices into the soul like a surgeon’s scalpel. It inserts its influence deep and wide. You can be wired and controlled by pride and not even know it. Love longs to have the same status as power-hungry pride. Love seeks to defuse pride’s time bomb of terror and intimidation. Love outlasts pride if applied humbly and heavily. Love drives pride from a controlling heart and frees it to become trusting. Instead of demanding its own way, love seeks to make those around it successful.
Love listens; pride talks. Love forgives; pride resents. Love gives; pride takes. Love apologizes; pride blames. Love understands; pride assumes. Love accepts; pride rejects. Love trusts; pride doubts. Love asks; pride tells. Love leads; pride drives. Love frees up; pride binds up. Love builds up; pride tears down. Love encourages; pride discourages. Love confronts; pride is passive-aggressive. Love is peaceful; pride is fearful. Love clarifies with truth; pride confuses with lies. Love and pride are mutually exclusive. Love dies with pride but comes alive with humility.
Most important, humility is a hotbed of love. It has the opposite effect on love than does pride. Humility invites love to take up permanent residence in the human heart. Love covers a multitude of sins:
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
Humility understands that love is reserved for everyone. Love forgives even the worst of sinners, as pride struggles in a life of bitterness and resentment, thinking somehow it is paying back the offender. This state of unresolved anger only eats up the one unable to love and forgive.
Humility positions you to love and be loved. Humility knows it needs help in the arena of receiving agape love. Your humble heart yearns for love from your Lord Jesus Christ. Once you receive the love of your heavenly Father, you can’t help but dispense it to others hungry for a hug. As you receive love, you are capable of giving love. Therefore, let the Lord love you and allow others to love you, so you can, in turn, love. Proud hearts melt under the influence of intense and unconditional love. The calling of Christians is perpetual love; so be guilty of love. Your love is healing and inviting. Pride exits when humility enters, and then you are in a position to love.
Who do you need to humble yourself before and seek to love them unconditionally?
February 22-23, 2019
“… And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.'"
As a child, this verse was one of my favorites. We read it in Sunday School, sang songs about it, and acted it out with great enthusiasm and vigor. Now decades later, as I reflect upon these words, I continue to be deeply moved by the invitation of Jesus to join him in his great rescue mission.
Most fishermen wouldn’t view the act of catching a fish as a “rescue”. I’m quite certain that the fish would prefer to not be rescued in this way! While Jesus is taking advantage of the object lesson in front of him, “catching fish” doesn’t fully grasp the heart of his invitation to Simon Peter.
In the big story God is telling over creation, his goal is not to catch people in the same way we catch fish- to trap them and consume them. Instead, the idea of catching is more closely related to that of taking prisoners alive. And though in practice our system often comes up woefully short of the ideal, at its best, the penal system is meant to be restorative and regenerative. People are “caught” in order to move forward in redemptive ways.
God desires to catch everything that stands in opposition to his coming Kingdom. He seeks to breathe new life into it and to restore the whole of creation to his original intent, and this includes you. Though you may feel unseen or unloved, the Lord Jesus seeks you out and longs to bring you into the joy and wonder of his Kingdom. He also sees the things in your heart and life that keep you from flourishing – jealousy, selfish ambition, envy, anger, greed – and longs to catch them so you can be free.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
As you and I encounter the glorious freedom that comes from knowing Christ, we who are liberated are at the same time invited to join Jesus in the work of liberating others. We are set free, not simply to not return to old habits and ways of life, but to find people in their places of great need, sorrow, and loss and invite them to encounter the restorative love of God shown in Jesus Christ. This is what it means to join Simon Peter in the beautiful work of “catching people.”
How can you be an agent of God’s grace to someone in need today?
February 21, 2019
OBEY MY INSTRUCTIONS
“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.”
I have several friends who are licensed pilots. One was working on his instrument landing skill, but felt a surge of anxiety when the control tower directed him to come in through a narrow pass between two mountains and then weave past several tall buildings. He asked for a repeat on directions from the tower when a control operator calmly replied: “You just obey my instructions and I'll take care of your obstructions.”
Sounds like something I hear from the Lord a lot of times. My responsibility is to obey His will. His purpose is to direct my path.
“Obey My Instructions - I’ll Take Care of Your Obstructions!”
Crosspoint Community Church
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
February 20, 2019
LOVE IS KIND
1 Corinthians 13:4
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant”
Love is in the job description of a Christian. But what does it mean to be kind? Kindness means you are pleasant to be around---you can see kindness in your countenance---inviting and interested. It is as much an attitude as anything, and it is the ability to see beyond the immediate to the potential. Kindness means you go out of your way to love someone. People who are unlovable become prime candidates for your kindness. It rises to the challenge of challenges.
A family member who is far from God, deep down desires unconditional love and kindness. Kindness is a natural application of love because it makes one feel loved. It is the ability to be accepting when everything within you wants to be rejecting. It is a strategy for forgiveness when you are wronged or when someone takes advantage of you. When your trusting spirit has been violated, you still love by being kind; you stop fighting, and you start forgiving.
Love keeps you kind, especially toward those who are closest to you. They do not deserve your dredging up hurtful, bitter, and unforgiving words from the past. Love is kind in its conversations. Harsh and abrasive speech is absent from kind conversation. Love produces words that are “kind and tenderhearted”:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Love is able to extend kind words that cheer up heavy hearts:
“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16:24)
Pray to God for kindness to reign in your relationships with kids and teenagers. Children translate kindness into love, for it is their language of love.
We all have blown up and lost our temper over disrespectful attitudes and actions from our offspring. The temptation is to disrespect when we have been disrespected, and the natural response is to become angry when someone else spews out his or her frustrations on us. But God has not called us to natural responses, but supernatural ones. Kindness in the face of frustration is a fruit of the Spirit, and only through submission to your Savior will kindness become front and center. The fullness of the Holy Spirit in your life is what causes kindness to come forth.
Loving others with kindness does not preclude difficult decisions. Kindness is not patronizing, but authentic care and concern, and it is able to deliver hard truth that softens hard hearts. You can dismiss an employee with kindness. Likewise, you can disagree with kindness in a heated debate. Harshness has no hold on those who are controlled by Christ.
Kindly love people through difficult situations. Serve those who are experiencing financial difficulties, for example. Kindness is king for followers of King Jesus, so love with kindness and watch them come around and embrace Christ. Kindness kills sin and sadness, and it brings to life love, forgiveness, and hope. Allow Jesus’ loving kindness to flow through you, for kindness toward the needy honors God. Kindness resides where love is applied, because love is kind.
“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” (Proverbs 14:31)
Who do you need to go out of your way to be kind to?
February 15-19, 2019
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,”
I read of a man who was involved in a tragic accident. He lost both legs and his left arm and only a finger and thumb remained on the right hand. There was only enough left of the man that had been, to suffer and remember.
But he still possessed a brilliant mind, enriched with a good education and broadened with world travel. At first he thought there was nothing he could do but remain a helpless sufferer.
A thought came to him. It was always nice to receive letters, but why not write them - he could still use his right hand with some difficulty. But whom could he write to?
Was there anyone shut in and incapacitated like he was who could be encouraged by his letters. He thought of men in prison - they did have some hope of release whereas he had none - but it was worth a try.
He wrote to a Christian organization concerned with prison ministry. He was told that his letters could not be answered - it was against prison rules, but he commenced this one sided correspondence.
He wrote twice a week and it taxed his strength to the limit. But into those letters he put his whole soul, all his experience, all his faith, all his wit, and all his Christian optimism. It must have been hard writing those letters, often in pain, and particularly when there was no reply.
Frequently he felt discouraged and was tempted to give it up. But it was his one remaining activity and he resolved to continue as long as he could.
At last he got a letter. It was very short, written on prison stationery by the officer whose duty it was to censor the mail. All it said was:
"Please write on the best paper you can afford. Your letters are passed from cell to cell till they literally fall to pieces."
"And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." (Matthew 25:40)
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
February 14, 2019
1 John 3:1
“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.”
Flowers, candy, red hearts and romance. That's what Valentine's day is all about, right? Well, maybe not.
The origin of this holiday for the expression of love really isn't romantic at all—at least not in the traditional sense. Father Frank O'Gara of Whitefriars Street Church in Dublin, Ireland, tells the real story of the man behind the holiday—St. Valentine.
"He was a Roman Priest at a time when there was an emperor called Claudius who persecuted the church at that particular time," Father O'Gara explains. "He also had an edict that prohibited the marriage of young people. This was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died."
"I think we must bear in mind that it was a very permissive society in which Valentine lived," says Father O'Gara. "Polygamy would have been much more popular than just one woman and one man living together. And yet some of them seemed to be attracted to Christian faith. But obviously the church thought that marriage was very sacred between one man and one woman for their life and that it was to be encouraged. And so it immediately presented the problem to the Christian church of what to do about this."
"The idea of encouraging them to marry within the Christian church was what Valentine was about. And he secretly married them because of the edict."
Valentine was eventually caught, imprisoned and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against the command of Emperor Claudius the second.
There are legends surrounding Valentine's actions while in prison. "One of the men who was to judge him in line with the Roman law at the time was a man called Asterius, whose daughter was blind. Valentine prayed with and healed the young girl with such astonishing effect that Asterius himself became Christian as a result."
In the year 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced to a three-part execution consisting of beating, stoning, and finally decapitation, all because of his stand for Christian marriage. The story goes that the last words he wrote were in a note to Asterius' daughter. He inspired today's romantic missives by signing it, "from your Valentine."
"What Valentine means to me as a priest," explains Father O'Gara, "is that there comes a time where you have to lay your life upon the line for what you believe. And with the power of the Holy Spirit we can do that—even to the point of death."
Valentine's martyrdom has not gone unnoticed by the general public. In fact, Whitefriars Street Church is one of three churches that claim to house the remains of Valentine. Today, many people make the pilgrimage to the church to honor the courage and memory of this Christian saint.
"Valentine has come to be known as the patron saint of lovers. Before you enter into a Christian, marriage you want some sense of God in your life—some great need of God in your life. And we know, particularly in the modern world, many people are meeting God through his Son, Jesus Christ."
"If Valentine were here today, he would say to married couples that there comes a time where you're going to have to suffer. It's not going to be easy to maintain your commitment and your vows in marriage. Don't be surprised if the 'gushing' love that you have for someone changes to something less 'gushing' but maybe much more mature. And the question is, is that young person ready for that?"
"So, on the day of marriage, they have to take that into context," Father O'Gara says. "Love—human love and sexuality—is wonderful, and blessed by God, but also the shadow of the cross. That is what Valentine means to me."
February 13, 2019
THE HOLY ORDINARY
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.”
Growing up in church, I felt as though to truly love God I must move to the deserts of Africa or the jungles of Brazil and be a missionary for Jesus. The second greatest thing one could do, if you couldn’t handle the humidity and bugs, was to be a pastor. Everything else seemed to be lumped into “worldly professions” and “ordinary places.” And while this may have been more perception than reality, I feel as though so often we accept a version of this story. To truly be on mission for God, I must go far and wide and get out of whatever place or situation I find myself in. The only problem with this view is that Jesus says and does the exact opposite!
As Jesus begins his ministry on earth, Luke tells us that he begins in Nazareth, “where he had been brought up,” and that he went to the synagogue, “as was his custom.” In short, Jesus did the things he’d always done, in the places he’d always done them, but did them filled with the power of the Spirit and with an ear tuned to the voice of the Father. I believe he wants us to do the same.
While we can and absolutely should give thanks to God for the faithful women and men who have radically answered the call to world missions, staying home and rooted in your community is not a secondary or lesser call. The call to faithful witness and evangelism is no less real for the one who stays than it is for the one who goes. Evangelism isn’t the work of elite Christians but is an invitation extended to every follower of Jesus. This is true for people in the distant reaches of the world, but is also true for baristas, students, homemakers, financial planners, and artists!
I find it easy to think that God can only use me in situations and places other than the ones I find myself in. I think, “if God would send me there then I’d be on fire for the gospel” or “if God would let me have that job then I’d be able to serve in his Kingdom in a meaningful way.” Yet as we look to the example of Jesus, who preached and ministered first in the places he knew best, I wonder if he is asking us today to do the same? Rather than catching the first flight around the world, might you first start by learning to be attentive to where God is already at work in your life? Ask yourself today, “In the everyday rhythm of my life, with the people who know me best, how might God want to use me to show them that he is real, good, and trustworthy?”
How can you learn to look for daily opportunities to speak life and blessing over someone in the name of Jesus?
February 12, 2019
GOD IS SPEAKING. ARE YOU LISTENING?
“Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly.”
One of the most remarkable aspects of life itself is that God Almighty, creator and sustainer of the universe, can be known by his creation and is faithful to speak life and peace over us. In fact, as John reminds us:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)
Before time began, God was Word, speaking and creating and moving, a perfect community of love. It is the communication of God, we could say, that speaks life itself into existence. And what was true then is absolutely true now. God is speaking. The question before us is straightforward and clear: are we listening?
I have been convicted time and time again of how frequently my prayer life is a one sided monologue, typically consisting of me offering up a list of needs and petitions, hoping God is ready and willing to act at a moment’s notice. Yet this is not true prayer. Prayer in the purest sense is a conversation with God. Yes, this will surely involve petition and sharing of our needs:
“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
It should include as much (if not more) time in stillness and quiet, learning to patiently wait upon the Lord, asking him to speak his peace deep within our hearts.
Sustained attentiveness to God is one of the hardest things for us to do, largely because it is a discipline that has been long neglected in our lives and culture, and as such has become a weak and unused muscle. We live in the era of sound bites and social media, consuming an endless stream of content without ever pausing to reflect upon it or weigh its merits or significance. As soon as we see it, we double tap to like and quickly swipe on the next thing! While this may be fine for online habits, this is not a recipe to follow for a deep and substantial life with God!
Turning your heart to God, as the psalmist encourages us to do, requires intentional and deliberate choices that affect both our will and our actions. We can’t simply say we want to pursue God and be close to him. We must also act upon this desire and create intentional habits of prayer, Scripture reading, and community that will all foster a renewed attentiveness to the still, small voice of the LORD.
God is faithful in each and every generation to speak his life and his peace. May he give us the courage to still our hearts and learn to truly listen.
What is the greatest distraction in your life that keeps you from hearing God’s voice?
February 11, 2019
PHYSICAL CARE PLAN
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,”
The Holy Spirit has such a high regard for our body that he makes His residence within us. Our body, His temple, is His holy habitation. We wouldn’t desecrate a church with unholy influences, nor should we mistreat the temple of the Holy Spirit with unhealthy influences. Indeed, it is our spiritual responsibility to nourish and care for what God owns and allows us to inhabit. We seek to make wise decisions in our physical care plan since our soulmate, God’s Spirit, lives within us.
A plan to care for our body protects us from abuse and neglect. Yes, God’s pinnacle of creation is fearfully and wonderfully made, evidenced by its resilience to restore and heal itself. Though elegantly created, its lifetime is brief with only the soul living on into eternity. So in the meantime we are called to give intentional physical care to our body. The Maker of our marvelous self expects us to love our body as He does. We care for ourselves so we can care for others.
“In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,” (Ephesians 5:28-29)
What does it mean for us to feed and care for our body as Christ does the church? For one, He cherishes and nourishes the church, His Body, with what is necessary for its growth, holiness and happiness. In the same way we love our body by submitting it to a healthy diet and regular exercise. Hence, we grow to love, respect and enjoy ourselves as God does. So, our physical care plan can include healthy meals at home, a workout partner and a competent, caring physician.
Perhaps a fast is necessary to refocus on the Lord and flush toxins from our system. A break from solid food can be a solid remedy to break us from its addictive influence. Food is for our physical nourishment and emotional enjoyment, not to become an idol over consumption. What consumes us controls us. So, perhaps we start with a juice fast for three days before we tackle a water only fast for a week. A fast can recalibrate our physical and spiritual desires with God’s will.
“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:17-18)
Consider fasting from food after lunch on Saturday to dinner on Sunday.
February 10, 2019
LIFE LESSONS ON FACING ADVERSITY
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;”
I have a plant named Phil. My husband and I granted him this name because it’s short for philodendron, and also because he earned the name due to a very unfortunate experience that he had when he first became a part of our family.
When my husband and I first married, I wanted a plant to brighten up the kitchen. “Just something little,” I said. “And something fake so that I don’t have to water it.” I definitely don’t have a green thumb, so something no-maintenance sounded ideal. “Let’s go to IKEA. They have fake plants,” I said. My husband agreed and off we went.
When we arrived at the store, they had quite a few plastic plants to choose from but I zeroed in on a small philodendron. “This will be perfect!” I said. I was amazed at how real it looked.
Upon arriving at home, I took the plant out of its little plastic pot and shook off the fake dirt. “They have come a looooong way with these fake plants. Even the dirt looks real and it even has fake roots!” I marveled. I cut off the artificial roots with scissors and carefully put my new purchase inside a small, glass terrarium, then placed it on the kitchen island. It looked beautiful. And best of all, I wouldn’t have to water it.
During clean up, I noticed something printed on the side of the plastic pot. It was a symbol of the sun! And there was also a picture of a little water pitcher! “Oh nooooo! Care instructions!” I shouted. “It’s real!”
I took the pot to show my husband who was mowing the yard. “You mean it’s real?!” he shouted over the roar of the mower. “Yep!” I shouted back. And that was the beginning of our relationship with Phil. And let me tell you . . . Phil is a fighter. He survived being replanted in a new pot without roots and he even thrived. We love him so much that now he is a part of our family.
This experience with Phil reminds me of three principles that we can all put into practice when life hurts:
1. When someone does you wrong, don’t let it stop you from being who God has made you to be. It’s easy when someone hurts us to shut down, become bitter, or feel defeated. But this isn’t God’s way. Christ is always holding healing out to us, and you can even thrive in spite of what’s been done to you.
2. Healing happens when you have care and love, not only from God, but care from those who know Him. When you’re hurting, it’s easy to shut down and isolate. Don’t do it. Reach out for the care of others in a Christ-centered community.
3. God may or may not protect you from trouble, but He will get you through trouble. We do ourselves a big disservice when we expect life to be problem free. God hasn’t promised that life will be without difficulty, but He has promised that He will be with us and help us grow through every adversity if we trust Him.
Praise God for His goodness and that you are not a victim, but a victor in Him.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
February 8-9, 2019
THEREFORE RENDER TO CAESAR . . .
“Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ They said, ‘Caesar’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God’s.’”
In a report in USA Today, Rick Hampson wrote: “The young generally don’t have the old-time political religion. They look at voting and see a quaint, irrational act.” One graduate was quoted as saying, “I don’t care enough to care about why I don’t care.” I wonder if this is how we as Jesus-followers sometimes view our civic responsibility!
The insights of Jesus in Matthew 22 helped His followers think clearly about their civic duty in the world. The Jews were required to pay taxes to the Roman government. They hated this taxation because the money went directly into Caesar’s treasury, where some of it supported the pagan temples and decadent lifestyle of the Roman aristocracy. They may have questioned whether they even had a civic responsibility to Caesar. Jesus reminded them, however, that they had dual citizenship. They lived in a world with two kingdoms—Caesar’s kingdom (human authority) and God’s kingdom (spiritual authority). They had responsibilities to both, but their greater responsibility was to God and His kingdom:
“saying, ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’” (Acts 5:28-29)
As followers of Christ, we are commanded to cooperate with our rulers, but we are called to give God our ultimate obedience and commitment.
Government has authority, but God has ultimate authority.
February 7, 2019
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”
Some days I feel like I merely react to what life demands of me. Home responsibilities, work and relational needs all crave my attention without any intentionality on my part. However, I am learning to refocus and be intentional about foundational life disciplines. Prayer, Bible study, financial stewardship, diet/exercise and hospitality all require pre-planning. When I just react to life I feel unfulfilled, but when I prayerfully execute eternal goals I’m content. Daily intentionality requires faith to do the most important and wait for the urgent to work itself out.
Steady plodding is a picture of unexciting faithfulness. Steady is an unwavering commitment to what’s right, especially when the world says we are wrong. Like grace under fire it stays the course in patient perseverance. A steady soul enjoys the little wins along the way and stays in love with the Way (Jesus). Plodding may seem slow, but gets the best results. A plodder remains in the process of wise decision making and waiting. We are intentional in our intimacy with God.
“And I said, “O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father's house have sinned.” (Nehemiah 1:5-6)
Intentionality is critical for the wise management of money. Who needs my daily generosity to see the love of the Lord? When aggressive giving is our primary motivation, God trusts us to steward more of His resources. He wants to bless people who want to bless people. Thus, when we receive a dollar we give first, save second and spend third. This simple process protects us from selfish spending. Daily generosity is the antidote to spending all on ourselves. Haste does make waste, but steady makes us ready to receive the Lord’s best. Stay steady.
Most of all, make it a habit to start the day with your Savior. Just as earthly relationships require regular care and feeding, so goes our faith in Jesus. If we only cry out to Christ in a crisis, we really don’t get to know the one who is the Lover of our soul. Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before when we are intentional in our communion with Him. Our spiritual portfolio compounds over time, as we dollar cost average these disciplines into our soul: prayer, worship, Bible study and community with other Christians. Intentionality with God grows our love and obedience to God.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-8)
What daily discipline needs your fresh focus?
February 6, 2019
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”
God is in no hurry. We tend to think that if God is really engaged, He will change things within the next hour or so. Certainly by sundown. Absolutely by the end of the week. But God is not a slave to the human clock. Compared to the works of mankind, He is extremely deliberate and painfully slow. As religion poet George Herbert wisely penned, “God’s mill grinds slow, but sure.”
“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” (Psalm 37:7)
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
February 5, 2019
WHEN SOMEONE SINS AGAINST YOU
“bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
I have a confession. There have been a couple times in my life when someone has sinned against me that I haven’t had cuddly and fuzzy feelings toward them. In fact, my first response wasn’t even forgiveness. It was that I wanted justice; I wanted them to feel a little of the pain I was feeling. (I know, super ugly confession.)
Emotional pain is a part of all of our lives. Sometimes it’s circumstantial, not caused by someone. Other times, it is caused by another person and it may even be intentional. Hurt may come to us through the sins of betrayal, deception, harsh words, abuse, or even unmet expectations.
A while back, after doing some ungodly stewing about a particular personal mistreatment, I looked for biblical answers online and came across some tremendous teaching from Bob Hamp of Gateway Church.
As I watching a video from Hamp, I learned that emotional pain inflicted by another person through sin, anger, and the desire for justification are connected, and I was reminded that forgiving others is a gift from the Lord Jesus.
Here’s how it often shakes out when someone hurts us:
Someone sins against us.
We feel emotional pain.
We become angry.
Then, we want to try to fix the pain we feel by making the other person pay. We want to seek justification through pay back.
Maybe we want them to feel the pain we feel. We want them to be unhappy. But of course, no amount of revenge or justification can ever remove the hurt we feel. It’s impossible.
So, what’s the answer for our pain? It’s accepting what the other person did to us, acknowledging and accepting the pain they caused us, and even accepting the consequences of their actions in our life.
This may sound like giving up. It’s not. It’s the answer for emotional healing and freedom. Why? Because only when we accept what they did to us and accept the consequences of what happened can we give our hurt to God so He can heal us. It’s impossible to fix our pain through payback. Until then, our hearts will be so hardened toward the other person and focused on what they did, that God’s healing for our pain will be blocked. When you “let the other person go” and let God deal with their sin, you can finally be free to turn to Christ and allow Him to minister to your pain. Revenge and justification can never heal. Only forgiveness can.
So, it is true after all. . .forgiveness isn’t just for the other person, it’s for us too. It’s a gift from the Lord Jesus so we can be emotionally set free from the pain of being wronged. Hallelujah!
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32)
If you are dealing with the pain of someone’s sin against you, write down how they sinned against you and how their sin affected you. Then, name each way their sin has hurt you and tell the Lord you forgive them. Finally, tell the Lord you want Him to heal you from the pain they caused and that you let them go. Then, praise Him for the gift of forgiveness.
February 4, 2019
“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.”
A legendary basketball star uses code names for his closest friends. Harmony, Butler, and Vernon are examples. But the code name he uses for himself is surprising…and disturbing. He answers to Yahweh, one of the Hebrew words for God’s covenantal, personal name.
There is only one Yahweh. God, who made all things, is the only One worthy of the name that is the most majestic in all the Earth. Psalm 8, while short, is filled with the pure adoration of God by King David. He marvels at God’s glory in the heavens, in children, and even in his enemies. David didn’t have the Hubble telescope to reveal to him so many of the wonders of space that people of today have seen; nor did he have the electron microscopes that allow scientists to see even the shadow of an atom. Yet, through what he did observe, he was quick to acknowledge that the same God who created such magnificence could care for mankind. And not only to care, but to extol him, sharing a small part of His own majesty.
When was the last time you marveled at the wonders of the creation God has set around you? Have you thanked Him for putting you right in the middle between the greatest and the least of things? Make today a time when you quiet your heart and mind, and reflect on how majestic the Lord is.
Presidential Prayer Team
February 3, 2019
FOLLOWING JESUS AS HE LEADS
“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’"
Mary, I think, is like many people in my life and perhaps in your life as well. These are people who see a need, and even though they may be powerless to help, they have an inescapable felt need to do something about it! Mary sees the social embarrassment of running out of wine at a feast, and feels the need to act. This, of course, is not the only way one might respond in a situation of this nature. One might say, “They have no more wine so I guess it’s time for everyone to go home!” Or, “They must be so embarrassed that they ran out of wine!” But no, clearly Mary has a deeply empathetic heart that sees when something is broken and longs to fix it.
When you see something that isn’t how it is supposed to be, how do you respond?
Do you turn a blind eye and look the other way? Do you cast judgment upon the person or situation? Do you fail to act because you know you’re helpless to enact the change you want to see? Mary is a compelling and faithful example to us in this story for one clear reason: when she doesn’t know what to do, she still does the one faithful thing that we are always able to do: she tells others to look to Jesus and follow his lead.
Even when you and I don’t understand how Jesus is going to act to show his faithfulness in our lives, are we willing to trust that he is good? Can we humble ourselves and follow his lead? This, if we’re being honest, is one of the hardest things in the world to do!
It is easy for us to want to follow Jesus to the extent that we understand where he is coming from and where he’s going. Yet rarely, if ever, are we given such clarity before we must respond in faith and trust. True Christian discipleship is based upon a life of faithful surrender in which we learn to let go of control, believing that God knows more than us, and that this is in fact a very good thing!
Where do you feel powerless to help or act and need Jesus to intervene in his wisdom and love? How can you take a step of faith and trust, even if you don’t see how every piece of the puzzle fits together?
February 2, 2019
FISHING WITH JESUS
“And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Our grandson Harrison just celebrated his sixth birthday. Among his bounty of presents, the favorite was a red and black Zebco rod and reel, accompanied by a tiny tackle box. “Pop, I want you to take me fishing". Who can say no to that sweet solicitation? So, three days later Harrison and I woke up early, rigged his line complete with a lesson in tying a fishing knot, and the strategic use of needle nose pliers. And in spite of the 38 degree morning, we made our way to the pond near our house and "wet a hook" for about 90 minutes. No big bass to be found (though Harrison was sure two hit his bait but got away). No matter, because our shared memory of love, adventure and yes, patience, will be stuffed and mounted in our minds and on our hearts forever.
Fishing was the career of this motley crew of would be disciples Jesus called to follow Him. Rugged, rough and weather-beaten, these men took their life lessons of hard work and faith and followed Jesus. Just as the Lord had given them the resources and skills to fish in the natural world of physical provision, now Christ would equip and empower them to fish for souls in the supernatural world of spiritual provision. Jesus was clear, if they would take a step of faith to follow Him---He would make them fishers of men. Competency comes with Christ's calling.
“But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.'” (Luke 5:8-10)
The good news of Jesus' love and forgiveness is tasty bait for those who believe. Your imperfect life of love and forgiveness gives you the credibility to cast the net of Christ's love over lives in need of a Savior. When you first believed---you began your journey with Jesus for the purpose of helping wayward souls find rest in a relationship with Christ. Following Jesus requires fishing with Jesus. Show up for others, be generous, cast the gospel net and God will fill it with souls. Fishing with Jesus takes time and requires patience, but you come to know Him much better in the process.
Yes, the beauty of fishing with Jesus is the opportunity to grow in your intimacy with the One who loves you the most. You learn from His example of how to love people well, and you grow in your confidence to share His gospel of love and forgiveness. When you fish with Jesus you are on the front lines of faith sharing which fosters the growth of your faith and understanding in God's love and wisdom for living. A day of fishing with Jesus may not result in a soul caught for Christ, but joy and fulfillment will be stuffed and mounted in your heart and mind forever.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)
Who in your life needs your intentional prayers and attention to share Jesus?
February 1, 2019
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Age has its troubles—failing hearing and eyesight, forgetfulness, aching backs, arthritic hands. These are intimations that we are wasting away. Yet, Paul insisted, inwardly we are:
“… wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)
The way I see it, aging and weakness focus our thoughts on God. We learn to fix our eyes on Him and on unseen realities; we learn to distinguish between the permanent and what is passing away. We are drawn by God’s love to set our affection on things above and not on things of earth. And so we keep our eyes on "the things which are unseen”:
”…For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18)
We must look beyond our present frailty to what we will someday be – glorious creatures, bursting with radiant beauty and boundless energy!
“So we do not lose heart…" (2 Corinthians 4:16)
We can partner with our pain and go on serving, praying, loving, caring to the end of our days. We can know strength of character despite our frail humanity; we can show patient endurance and love for others in the midst of our discomfort. Despite our momentary troubles, we can press on, for we have glimpsed the glory that far outweighs them all.