March 21-22, 2019
“The rich and the poor meet together; the LORD is the Maker of them all.”
Legends say that after the death of John D. Rockefeller, a man was curious to know how much he left behind. An aide to Rockefeller said, “All of it.”
Why God selects some to be rich and others to be poor can only be understood in the light of His overall plan to redeem mankind. The financially wealthy are imbued with the gift of giving. If they are spiritually minded, they might also have time to exercise a gift of serving. The poor, on the other hand, have a need for the basics of life. But they, too, have been given spiritual gifts that can provide them with far greater blessings than material things would bring.
Regardless of where you are on the financial spectrum, God is interested in how you are dealing with your spiritual wealth. Each person has the same charge from the Lord in the Great Commission:
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:16-20)
When you kneel before Him today, have gratitude for all that you have, and then seek to know God’s will for the way you employ your resources – both financial and spiritual. Pray, too, for all who are spiritually impoverished to find the richness of God in Jesus Christ.
Presidential Prayer Team
March 20, 2019
LIBERATED FROM THE LOVE OF MONEY
“And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.’”
Jesus has a remarkable way of turning established values upside down. He calls into question things that would have been universally seen as good and desirable. And as he does, he invites us to look at them with fresh eyes.
The Lord wants you to know that life in his Kingdom is more real and substantial than the circumstances and challenges you face. He wants you to know that you have an identity that transcends your bank account or list of followers. In fact, according to Jesus, you can be poor and destitute and yet live this very moment as an inheritor of God’s kingdom.
Do we actually believe this?
If you live in the developed West, by historic standards you are incredibly wealthy. It is ironic then to consider how deeply we fear the loss of wealth and devote so much of our time to the pursuit of greater and greater affluence. Yet we often fail to realize how this pursuit is significantly shaping and forming us as human beings. This way of living can make us inward focused, self-absorbed people who miss God’s invitation to live in freedom and give ourselves away for the sake of others.
A significant leader in the early church, St. John Chrysostom, once said, “luxury often leads to forgetfulness.” How true this is! We can forget others and their needs. We can forget our own need for God. And we can forget that luxury is here today and gone tomorrow. To put our hopes and dreams in comfort and affluence is to look at a way that ultimately leads to death and to call it the way of life.
On the other hand, Jesus invites us to join him in the way of life even when it is hard and you are filled with pain and doubt. He wants you to know that there is always a way forward in which your fears and sorrows do not have to define you or derail your faith. Because we are loved and known by God, we are set free from the love of wealth and the endless pursuit of affluence.
Learn afresh the joy that comes from celebrating simplicity and modesty! It turns you outward from your own obsession with self and liberates you to freely give your time, talent, and treasure for the sake of Christ and his Kingdom!
Where does the love of money have a grip on your heart?
March 19, 2019
DAILY SURVIVAL KIT
1 Corinthians 3:14
“If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.”
What is in your survival kit?
TOOTHPICK - to remind you to pick out the good qualities in people.
“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
RUBBER BAND - to remind you to be flexible; things might not always go the way you want, but it will work out.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
BAND AID - to remind you to heal hurt feelings - yours or someone else's.
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 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. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12-14)
PENCIL - to remind you to list your blessings everyday.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 1:3)
ERASER - To remind you that everyone makes mistakes, and it's OK.
“When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.’ So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, ‘Your father gave this command before he died: “Say to Joseph, ‘Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.’” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’ But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:15-21)
CHEWING GUM - to remind you to stick with it and you can accomplish anything.
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
MINT - to remind you that you are worth a mint!
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)
CANDY KISS - to remind you that everyone needs a kiss or a hug everyday.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)
TEA BAG - to remind you to relax daily and go over that list of blessings.
“...give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
March 18, 2019
“Before destruction a man's heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.”
Charles Schultz, the cartoonist of Peanuts, has a way of poking fun at the human condition. In one cartoon, Linus tells Charlie Brown, “When I get big, I’m going to be a humble little country doctor. I’ll live in the city, see, and every morning, I’ll get up, climb into my sports car, and zoom into the country! Then I’ll start healing people…I’ll heal people for miles around.” In the last frame of the cartoon, Linus exclaims, “I’ll be a world famous humble little country doctor.”
God wants you to be humble, under His mighty hand:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” (1 Peter 5:6)
Humility is not a naturally sought-after path. It is not taught in school, or any on-the-job training. But for every Christian who wants to be more like Christ, it is an essential trait. In his Biblical Foundation for Freedom, Paul Bucknell said that “humility is accepting ourselves as we really are before God.”
Read your Bibles to see the humility of Jesus Christ…it occurs everywhere. Through it, He joyfully served others, and thus served the purposes of the Father. Emulate His example whenever you can. Don’t let pride cause you to stumble. Pray for the Lord’s help, and He will surely give it. And pray for humility to take hold among the nation’s leaders, so that they may have the greatest of all joys in being true servants of the American public.
Presidential Prayer Team
March 17, 2019
“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.”
How do you feel since your home has emptied of children? Mad, sad, glad, lonely, without purpose, or freed up, may all be legitimate emotions you are processing. You have raised them well, and now they are on their own. You are proud of them, but you miss them. They call from college (especially daughters), but it is not the same. It is not easy to export your babies into adulthood; however, this is their faith walk to really know God.
We raise them the best we know how with love, discipline, and belief in Jesus Christ. Sometimes they frustrate us by not cleaning their crib (room). Like an animal in a barn, they can be messy and smelly. There are days you want a little peace and quiet because they are angry and loud when fighting with their siblings. But the empty nest is void of noise. The kids are nowhere to be found; so enjoy them while you can.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
You send them off to grow up and gain a heart of gratitude. By God’s grace they will visit with a new sense of appreciation and maturity. Distance causes friendship with your adult child to grow, not be taken for granted. It is harder to keep up and communicate, but in some ways it is more gratifying. You prepared them to leave so they can cleave to the one the Lord has for them in marriage. Our empty nest is a test of trust in God’s plan.
Engage with your spouse in your empty nest. Do you feel like you have drifted apart over the years? If so, be intentional to regain the intense intimacy with your best friend. Make these days of marriage your best; believe the Lord has given you your lover to grow old together. Anticipate the gift of grandkids, as they will keep you busy and lively. The empty nest is a season to enjoy the fruit of your family.
“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous.” (Proverbs 13:22)
Consider a marriage intensive course as part of your empty nest preparation.
March 15-16, 2019
TIME TO GROW UP
1 Corinthians 3:1-3
“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?”
As a young child, my relationship with my parents was primarily transactional. Yes, they gave me unconditional love and affection from day one, but my chief concern was that I was fed, sheltered, and entertained. In many ways, this posture continued well into adolescence! Yet as I moved into adulthood and eventually had children of my own, the relationship began to shift in subtle but significant ways. I came to appreciate their self-giving love in new and profound ways. And while their posture towards me remained constant over all the years, as I grew I began to see them in an entirely new light.
One of the key concerns of St. Paul’s pastoral ministry to the Corinthian church is that they move from an infant relationship with God into the full and flourishing life of mature faith. While new birth necessitates a season of infancy, it is meant to be primarily that: a season. No one scolds a toddler for being a toddler! Yet if the toddler progresses in years but stays developmentally unchanged, there is real cause for concern.
How would you assess your own life with God? Are you a new Christian and rightly in need of a season to receive the foundations of faith before you move deeper into the life of God? Or, on the other hand, have you professed Christian faith for many years but have now settled for a comfortable yet shallow walk with the Lord? Is your view of Jesus more or less the same as it was a decade ago? Are you on a milk-only diet when your body and soul are ready for solid food?
A sign that we are pressing into faithful discipleship is that we begin to see Jesus as more beautiful, more glorious, and more worthy of devotion than we did before. If Jesus is truly inexhaustible in his goodness and love, then there is always more to be known and received. The Lord is patient and kind and does not force himself upon us, yet like a loving parent he rejoices to see us grow deeper into the life of the Spirit.
The Christian life is an ever-expanding adventure into the depths and riches of God’s love- don’t settle for anything less!
Where has your faith stalled out or settled for a simple and shallow understanding of the spiritual life?
March 14, 2019
MY PERSUASION OR GOD'S POWER?
1 Corinthians 2:4-5
“and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
“If God were to get up and walk out of the building, would any of us notice?” This was a question posed by a pastor in a sermon that I heard years ago, and it has haunted me ever since. While there is much to be said about organizational efficiency and productivity, they were commenting on the fact that as our church communities grow in size and complexity, they require an ever-increasing degree of care-taking and creativity. Is it possible that we become so compelling and winsome in our presentation that we miss the power of God in the process?
St. Paul was writing to a church in Corinth that was accustomed to well-rehearsed, perfectly executed presentations. They had no time for amateur hour, no patience for anything less than the best. Yet Paul refused to play into this expectation or try to win them over with anything less than the power of God at work through the life-giving Spirit. In fact, the more he embraced his weaknesses and limitations, the more the power of God was able to shine forth in clear and compelling ways. Are you and I able to do the same?
As the rest of his letter makes clear, St. Paul not only knew about the power of the living God, but that power had transformed him in the core of his being. When God infuses his life into yours, you become a living, embodied “demonstration of the Spirit and of power”
“and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” (1 Corinthians 2:4)
Do you believe that your life could be so transformed by the love of God that someone could come to encounter the living God simply by being in your presence?
More than your ability to think clearly about the Bible or theology, more than your gifts and skills in speaking faithfully about God, people are first and foremost drawn to the lived experience of the Holy Spirit that they encounter in you. There is certainly a place for thinking clearly and speaking faithfully, but if this is separated from a life aflame with the fire of God, it will leave you empty and hollow.
Whatever else may be true of our church communities, may they always first and foremost be known as places where the power of God can be encountered in the life and witness of their people. The world is desperate to know the transforming power of God – let us never settle for anything less!
Where have you relied on your skills, gifts, and strategy instead of upon the power of God?
March 13, 2019
BUILD ON MOMENTUM
“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”
Momentum makes progress, but lack of momentum loses ground. It is the impetus we need to ignite our life, work, ministry, or intimacy with the Lord. The early church experienced momentum at Pentecost. Jesus’ death on the cross discouraged the masses from moving forward, but His resurrection propelled trust in Him back into their hearts.
You may need an “Upper Room” prayer meeting to bolster your faith, seeking the Lord for wisdom on how to move forward with momentum. Your leadership may require transformation. New leaders may need to infuse life into the organization. Perhaps you replace old programs with newer exciting ones and let some initiatives mercifully die.
Be creative, for creativity flourishes in a climate of chaos. Limitations lead to innovations. Momentum makes you better because it builds your confidence and moves you toward more excellent outcomes. Athletic teams are familiar with this; whoever seizes the momentum in the game garners the advantage.
“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,” (Hebrews 6:1)
In the same way, the momentum of Jesus’ message exploded after His resurrection, following Peter’s preaching about Jesus to men and women from all nations. Keep Christ central as you advance boldly by grace. Harness trust in your Savior and Lord, and He will ignite forward motion.
Mostly, seek momentum in your walk with Christ. Is your intimacy stuck in inertia? If so, begin praying with intercessors, and ask God for the confidence to do the next right thing. Momentum builds on focus. Keep pushing the slow moving flywheel of faith, and eventually others will join you in advancing the mission. Paul said:
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
Where is God working? How can you build on His momentum?
March 12, 2019
THE SECRET TO UNDERSTANDING
2 Corinthians 1:4
“who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
It was the late 1940s and Eastern Airline's chairman, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, had a problem. Customers were complaining because the airline was mishandling luggage far too often. When nothing else seemed to work, he decided to take drastic action.
Rickenbacker called a special meeting of the management personnel in Miami. Eastern's management flew to Miami and was told their baggage would be delivered to their hotel rooms. Instead, Rickenbacker had the luggage stored overnight.
It was summer, the weather was hot and humid and the hotel had no air-conditioning. The various managers showed up to the meeting the next morning unshaven, teeth unbrushed and wearing dirty clothes.
There was no sign of the baggage all that day. But that night Rickenbacker had it delivered, at 3:00 AM, with a great pounding on all the doors.
He opened the next morning's session by saying, "Now you know how the customer feels when you mishandle his luggage." He knew his team would be ineffective until his people empathized with their customers!
The same is true with us. Until we understand another's problem, we will never be effective in business, in relationships or most importantly, in ministry. The deepest understanding occurs when we actually sense what the other person is feeling. When husbands and wives, parents and children, friends, colleagues, and associates will take time to feel what the other is feeling, something wonderful will happen.
"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher
March 11, 2019
IF YOU SAY SO
“And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.’”
In this well-known and beloved gospel story, Simon Peter is faced with a difficult decision. He finds himself pulled in two very different directions. On the one hand, he is an expert fisherman who knows these waters well, and having fished all night to no avail, knows when to call it quits. On the other hand, Jesus, who presumably has little to no fishing experience or expertise, tells him it’s time to go fishing! Though few of us still fish for a living, we in our own ways will likely face a moment in which our perceived expertise and the Lord’s leading come into conflict.
How do you respond when Jesus asks you to do something that you don’t understand? In this moment, Simon Peter could have responded in a variety of ways. “Jesus, you’re a preacher and a carpenter. In all humility, leave the fishing to the experts.” Or, after the boats begin to sink from the weight of the catch, he could have dismissed it as beginners luck or tried to explain it away. Yet instead of these quite natural responses, we see him take a step of bold and faithful discipleship.
In this moment, Simon Peter is filled with doubt and obedience. He expresses his uncertainty and hesitation with the plan, yet his allegiance to Jesus as “master” is greater than his fears, and so he is willing to follow and obey even in the midst of doubt. Can the same be said of you? Is your faith in Jesus able to endure very real moments and even seasons of doubt?
Like Simon Peter, you will face times in life when knowledge that once felt certain now feels elusive and up in the air. People you once thought that you could rely on will instead fail you and let you down. The church goes from being a place of safety and security to a place where you doubt that you could ever belong or trust again. In these moments, you and I need a trust in God and a faithful obedience that can weather even our deepest fears and doubts.
If you wait until every single doubt is resolved and question is answered, you will be waiting for a very long time! Instead of getting stuck in a spiral of doubt, Jesus wants you, right now, as you are, to join him on mission. Trust him as Master and Lord. Can you join your voice with Simon Peter and say to Jesus today, “if you say so.”
What does it look like to be obedient in a season of doubt?
March 10, 2019
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
Many believe that lemmings commit mass suicide by jumping off cliffs. In truth, driven by strong biological urges, many of them drown as they migrate across a body of water too wide for their physical capabilities to take them.
Similarly, you can be drawn to do things which destroy you. It is the call of the woman Folly luring you with “stolen water”:
“The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, ‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ And to him who lacks sense she says, ‘Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.’” (Proverbs 9:13-17)
Pastor and teacher Dr. Charles Stanley wrote: “There is a certain thrill in doing forbidden things…An adrenaline rush often accompanies this kind of ‘living on the edge’ – but it ends when you fall off the cliff.”
“Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” (Proverbs 9:5-6)
Having a humble reverence for an awesome God is the beginning of wisdom. Accept correction with a teachable heart. Be united with others in drinking from the sweet waters of God’s Word.
Presidential Prayer Team
March 9, 2019
HOW TO HEAL HURTING RELATIONSHIPS
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
There have been times in my life, as I imagine there have been in yours, when I have experienced relational discord or conflict. There were times when someone mistreated me. There have been other times when I was the one at fault. And, finally, there were still other occasions when both I and another person hurt one another.
Regardless of what happened, God always wants to bring healing to hurting relationships. Certainly, you can’t control how another person responds during a relational crisis, but you can do your part to move toward relational healing by following biblical principles.
Here are two things you can do to help heal your hurting relationships:
Surrender the right to be offended.
Oh, boy. This can be a tough one, right? When our ego gets bruised, or when the other person is offended because of something we did or that they perceive we did, it’s easy to respond with offense. But this isn’t God’s plan because offense breeds offense.
To live in obedience to Christ means you lay down the right to be offended. This doesn’t mean you don’t acknowledge you have been mistreated. It just means you keep your heart free from bitterness and you embrace humility. This attitude will help you think clearly about what is really happening in the relationship; you’ll experience greater peace, and your actions and words will reveal the condition of your heart. Both go a long way toward making peace with the other person.
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)
Humbly assess the condition of your own heart.
When offense becomes a part of any relationship, finger pointing and blaming can begin to define us. Don’t become this person. It’s unwise. A better response is to ask the Lord if there is anything in your own heart or actions that needs to change. Then make a sincere effort to repent and do what He says. Just as offense breeds offense, humility and tenderness can breed humility and tenderness. Again, there’s no guarantee that the other person will respond in a godly way when you do. (And there are times when someone is physically or emotionally unsafe. These are extreme situations.) But, one thing is certain: biting and fighting will never heal a relationship. Let relational healing begin with you by humbly assessing the condition of your own heart.
Are you experiencing relational discord? Choose God’s way of relating and see what He will do.
“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:17-18)
Take a look back at the relational strife and conflict you have had in your life. Could there have been anything you could have done to live in greater peace with the other person? If so, talk with the Lord about it, receive His forgiveness, then put the above principles into practice in the future.
March 8, 2019
“for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips.”
Several years ago, a Charisma Magazine article warned that “believers reject moral absolutes for what feels right.” They are falling prey to the relativism of the world’s system. A 2016 study by George Barna said 22 percent of adults believe in moral absolutes; and among those who claim to be born again, only 32 percent. How far God’s people have come from the time of martyr John Huss (1370-1415); he said, “Seek the truth. Listen to the truth. Teach the truth. Love the truth. Abide by the truth and defend the truth…Unto death.”
How well do you measure yourself when it comes to standing for absolute truth in this relative age? Have you let the world squeeze you into its mold? Do you fear social backlash for calling evil by its name?
Founding Father Alexander Hamilton has received attribution for saying, “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”
Be encouraged by Jesus’ high priestly prayer when He asked the Father to keep His children in the truth. Know truth by studying His Word of truth – the Bible. Pray that God would illuminate His words for you.
Presidential Prayer Team
March 7, 2019
WHEN LOVE IS TRIED
1 Corinthians 13:7
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Like many people, I enjoy the Google homepage artwork that appears on special days and holidays. Last Valentine’s Day, the artistic logo showed an older couple—a man with a cane and a white-haired woman—walking hand in hand as the woman held two heart-shaped balloons. It was a beautiful reminder that while our culture glorifies youthful romance, true love has many stages during our journey through life.
Paul’s great essay in 1 Corinthians 13 celebrates the depth and tenacity of the love that carries us beyond self-interest and mere affection:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Brian Wren captured this reality in his moving hymn, “When Love Is Found”:
“When love is tried as loved ones change,
Hold still to hope though all seems strange,
Till ease returns, and love grows wise
Through listening ears and opened eyes.”
When our commitments are tested in the fires of life, no matter what difficulties we face, may God grant us a greater experience of His enduring love and the grace to demonstrate it each day.
God’s love is a fabric that never fades, no matter how often it is washed in the water of adversity.
March 6, 2019
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.”
Every May Day (May 1) in Oxford, England, an early morning crowd gathers to welcome spring. At 6:00 a.m., the Magdalen College Choir sings from the top of Magdalen Tower. Thousands wait in anticipation for the dark night to be broken by song and the ringing of bells.
Like the revelers, I often wait. I wait for answers to prayers or guidance from the Lord. Although I don’t know the exact time my wait will end, I am learning to wait expectantly.
In Psalm 130, the psalmist writes of being in deep distress facing a situation that feels like the blackest of nights. In the midst of his troubles, he chooses to trust God and stay alert like a guard on duty charged with announcing daybreak.
“my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” (Psalm 130:6)
The anticipation of God’s faithfulness breaking through the darkness gives the psalmist hope to endure even in the midst of his suffering. Based on the promises of God found throughout Scripture, that hope allows him to keep waiting even though he has not yet seen the first rays of light.
Be encouraged if you are in the middle of a dark night. The dawn is coming—either in this life or in heaven! In the meantime, don’t give up hope but keep watching for the deliverance of the Lord. He will be faithful.
God can be trusted in the light and in the dark.
March 5, 2019
LOVE IS SLOW TO ANGER
1 Corinthians 13:4-5
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful”
Love is slow to anger and it is not easily angered. It is not in a hurry to get angry because it knows God is at work. Love knows God can handle the irregular person and the stressful situation. Most of the time, the best thing love can do is refrain from anger. A calm response diffuses an angry outburst:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
Poverty, injustice, and terrorism should work us up much more than traffic, forgetful waiters, and not getting our way.
Apply anger appropriately and proportionately to the degree of injustice experienced by the underdog. But love overlooks the silly things that really don’t matter that much in the big scheme of things. A friend or family member who is rarely on time is no reason to get angry. Instead, adjust your expectations and build a time buffer into your schedule. Why get angry when a little bit of adjustment remedies the situation? Love adjusts rather than stews in anger; it calms the nerves, while anger wreaks havoc with your blood pressure. Love-filled living is by far a healthier way to live physically and emotionally.
“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” (Proverbs 10:12)
Love is able to keep the big picture in mind. It understands that tomorrow is another day and there is no need to stress over this temporary setback. God will work things out in His timing, for He can be trusted. It is much wiser to trust God with your spouse, instead of attempting to whip him or her into shape with your anger. God’s discipline is much more thorough and precise. He puts His finger on an attitude or action and won’t let up until He is satisfied with the resulting change. Love knows how to trust God.
Pray to God before you get angry. Ask the Lord to increase your love quotient before you lash out in anger. Love understands there are better ways and a better day ahead. However, there are times love sees the need for anger. Your love needs to rise up in anger over the abuse of drugs and alcohol. These are enemies of the state and deceivers of unsuspecting souls that wreck relationships and take lives. Your love can confidently invite anger to rise up and rebuke these artificial enhancers of hope that logically lead to death. Love doesn’t stick its head in the sand of isolation and detachment, but engages by offering wise choices and compassionate counseling.
Love is all about solutions to the seduction of sin. Love is angered by sin’s control of a loved one’s soul. It drives us to our knees in our own confession of sin and to our feet to be a part of the solution. Love gets angry at times, but it is anger that is reserved for the right occasions. Even Jesus administered anger at the appropriate time:
“And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” (Mark 3:5)
“And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.” (John 2:15)
Love understands that anger—used selectively and prayerfully—it has the greatest effect. The passion around love means you are concerned and invested.
So aggressively love without flying off the handle just to make a statement. Love unconditionally instead of trying to intimidate through anger. Love for the long haul gets healthy and happy results. Love will anger at times, but only after much prayer and patience. Love more and be angry less. Above all else, be rich in love and slow to anger:
“The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Psalm 145:8)
This high road to heaven illustrates the long-suffering love of the Lord.
Who has caused you to become angry that you need to love and honor with your words and actions?
March 3-4, 2019
“'Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, "I repent," you must forgive him.' The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith!'”
Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was reminded one day of a vicious deed that someone had done to her years before. But she acted as if she had never even heard of the incident. "Don't you remember it?" her friend asked. "No," came Barton's reply, "I distinctly remember forgetting it."
General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley, "I never forgive and I never forget." To which Wesley replied, "Then, Sir, I hope you never sin."
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
March 1-2, 2019
“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”
Any mother can tell you that waiting to give birth is an experience that builds patience. It takes about 22 months for an unborn elephant to mature to birth! The shark known as the spiny dogfish has a pregnancy duration of 22-24 months. And at elevations above 4,600 feet, the Alpine salamander endures a gestational period of up to 38 months!
Abraham could have identified with these examples from nature. In his old age, the Lord made a promise to him:
“I will make of you a great nation…” (Genesis 12:2)
But as the years passed, Abraham questioned how the fulfillment of the promise was possible without even the basic building block of a son:
“But Abram said, ‘O LORD GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (Genesis 15:2)
So God assured him:
“And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: 'This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.'” (Genesis 15:4)
Despite his advanced age, Abraham believed God and was called righteous:
“And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
Yet he waited 25 years from the time of the initial promise for Isaac to be born:
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, 'I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless'” (Genesis 17:1)
“Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’” (Genesis 17:17)
Waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled is part of trusting Him. No matter how long the delay, we must wait for Him. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us:
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)
God always performs what He promises.
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.
January 31, 2019
THE BEAUTY OF GENEROSITY
“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”
I am a beauty lover. Beauty in almost any form moves me, but especially in nature. Some of my favorite moments with beauty include:
Standing under a sunset sky, painted with brilliant colors that turned the light around me pink;
Looking across a field yellow with sunflowers, a thousand faces turned toward the sun;
Riding a train through the majestic Alps, gazing up at the mountains and down on the green valleys and tiny villages below.
Moments like these fill me with awe and compel me to worship the God who created the beauty around us—a God who is generous beyond measure.
Generosity is part of God’s nature. As He spoke creation into being, He filled the earth with good things: light and sky, land and sea, plants and trees, living creatures of all kinds. And finally, man and woman. You and me.
Having created all of this, He also sustains it:
“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” (Psalm 107:9)
He meets our physical needs through His provision. And He meets our spiritual needs, too.
In language rich with imagery, He invites us to come to Him, to take a seat at His table spread with a bounty we can scarcely imagine. Golden platters piled high with love, deep bowls rich with grace, vast tureens of forgiveness, and baskets spilling over with mercy.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,”
In Psalms it says:
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8)
When we partake—when we hear His Word or the Good News or a friend’s testimony—we get a taste of what’s possible. We get a glimpse of what He is offering: the fulfillment of our deepest spiritual needs through the death and resurrection of Jesus, His perfect Son.
God’s generosity, it seems, knows no bounds.
My gratitude to Him makes me want to show my love for Him by sharing what He’s given me. When I do so, perhaps by making a financial gift to feed the hungry, a deep sense of joy and delight wells up in me. I get to be part of what He’s doing. I get to help others taste and see that the Lord is good.
God’s generosity stretches further than the painted sunset-sky above, shines brighter than an endless sunflower field, soars higher than the Alps. Everywhere, we see evidence of our generous God. Everywhere, we see the beauty of His generosity.
“Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.” (Joel 2:23)
Where have you seen God’s generous nature in your life? Where might He be calling you to follow His example? Spend some time in prayer and ask for wisdom in following through on what He reveals to you.
January 29-30, 2019
WHEN THE TRIAL SEEMS LIKE TOO MUCH
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
When I was 46, I snow skied for the first time. Well . . .it was sort of skiing. It was some sliding, some falling, and quite a bit of praying that I wouldn’t get injured. One of my wipe outs, according to my husband, Clark, resembled a ballet-like move followed by an “epic wipe out.”
If you are familiar with snow skiing, you know that the runs are color coded for difficulty. The greens are the easiest, the blues are intermediate, and the blacks are for experts. I have been skiing blues for a while, and have made it days without falling. Thank God for progress!
Last week, while skiing with Clark he said, “Follow me. I want to show you a new part of the mountain.”
“Great!” I responded. I assumed we would check out some new blue runs. After hopping on a very fast lift, we skied along a narrow road which led us to a steep run—more difficult than anything I have ever attempted. My husband said, “We are going to ski down right here.”
“Okaaaaay,” I responded, noticing the difficulty of the run. It was steep. It was narrow. And there were a million snowboarders bombing down the hill. But I went for it.
I gingerly started. Right. Dig in. Left. Dig in. Right. Dig in. My husband stood on the side of the run, cheering me on. “You can do it!” “Great job!” “Look at you!”
After I successfully made it down, I asked him, “Was that a black run?”
“Yep,” he smiled.
“Did you know you were going to take me on it?”
“Yes,” he said. “Because I knew you could do it.”
This reminds me of how the Lord often works in our lives. He brings about—or allows—an experience that would frighten us if we knew what was coming. He doesn’t tell us what’s ahead, but he does remain faithfully by us, speaking words of hope into our situation. “I am with you. You can get through this.”
We often say that the Lord won’t bring anything into our lives that we can’t handle, but then when faced with the difficulty, we shrink back. We may feel we can’t go on. But what if we actually chose to believe that--in spite of how we feel-- the Lord never allows anything into our lives that we can’t handle? As it was with Job, every trial we experience is filtered through His loving hands. His promise is that we will never be destroyed.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2)
Have you been telling the Lord that you can’t get through? Lean on Him. Believe on His love and let His presence sustain you. Call out to Him. He is there, ready to give you hope.
January 28, 2019
“But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:41-42
American culture is plagued by hyperactivity without productivity. We think being busy equals importance or a frantic pace is a path to success. Like a pack mule loaded down with an overabundance of supplies, we pack our calendar to the breaking point. We play mind games with ourselves that busyness is what’s best for our family, when in fact the real outcomes are: relational emptiness, health challenges and irritable emotions. We even justify being over active for Jesus.
Perhaps a wiser start to the year is a stop doing list. As Jesus instructed Martha, we need to take an inventory of our activities and ask what is really needed. What has served its purpose for a season, but is now unnecessary, even an obstacle to what’s best? Let go of emotional attachments and embrace some margin for meaningful relationships. Is it time to stop a sports program, a long commute or a tired volunteer role? Become better with contemplation and strategic availability.
“Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side.” (Matthew 8:18)
It takes courage to take the route trafficked infrequently, but the ride is less stressful and more enjoyable. Avoid going where everyone else is going; nowhere fast. A fast track is too fast when it starves our faith. We find ourselves with very little left over time for prayer, Bible study, worship and community. Give what’s important first priority on the calendar. Worry works itself out of a job when we work out our bodies, feed our minds, heal our emotions and rest our souls.
By faith stop doing something each week or month that has passed its prime time. Be patient not to rush and fill a gap in your calendar already crowded with appointments. Blocks of discretionary time give you availability for spontaneous service. Take a step back from the myopic view of trees bunched together, so you can see the imaginative forest of faith. Anyone can be busy, some can be productive, but few walk by faith and watch God do more. Stop doing good to do better.
“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
What are one or two activities you can stop doing this year to focus on quality relationships?
January 26-27, 2019
WALK WITH GOD
“…Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.”
Noah’s relationship with God was priority. He knew God was responsible for his life, liberty, and happiness. Simply put, Noah walked with God. He was not distracted by the chaos of the culture or soiled by society. So, what does it mean to walk with God? Walking is a beautiful word picture because it takes one of life’s most basic acts and coverts it into a supernatural relationship.
Walking implicates a relationship that is not hurried, it easily communicates, and it is invigorating. When we walk with God we are not rushed. We trust Him and are patient. Yes, there are seasons of life and cycles of time when we must be very deliberate and focused. A medical emergency causes us to rush for help, but overall, as we walk with God, we take life in stride:
“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)
We believe that any circumstance in life has to pass through God’s protection, as He holds us in His hand:
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28–30)
So we stay close by Him as we walk, not rushing ahead in presumption, nor lagging behind in discouragement. Walking also implies communication. It is hard to communicate when you run. There are too many distractions.
However, a walk is disarming; eye contact is limited within a safe environment. A walk with the Lord can cover trivial pursuits, heartbreaking hurt, or the dreaming of God-sized dreams. Perhaps in your regular physical exercise, you can also stretch your spiritual muscles in conversation with your Master Trainer Jesus.
Lastly, a walk with God is invigorating. You are energized and ready to scale mountains. Your spiritual blood is pumping, and your heart is healthier. Your energy level is high because your God consciousness is elevated. Walk with God and you will survive, even thrive, within the challenges of life.
Have a little walk with Jesus, and tell Him all about your problems. He walks with you slowly through the valleys and supportively up the mountains. Grace is His guide to greater heights. How is your grace walk with Jesus?
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
How can you walk with God, by the grace of God?
January 25, 2019
DREAM BIG DREAMS
“And the LORD answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.’”
I heard a sound bite last week of an emotional and grateful Dabo Swinney (Clemson’s head football coach) from his first press conference. "I want to tell everyone to dream big and believe, because dreams come true, and today I am very humbled that one of my dreams has come true". Growing up in adversity, Dabo learned hard work motivated by character resulted in good outcomes. Many say he has built the best culture in college football to influence and equip young men for lifetime achievement. Powerful! In just the same way, God wants me to trust Him with my big dreams.
Representing an oppressed people the prophet Habakkuk looks to the Lord for His vision of what's to come. Will they be set free from abomination and injustice? If so, when? What is God's vision for His people? Habakkuk did his part to "stand at my watch" in defense of his people. In solitude, in stillness, high above on the ramparts he prayed and looked to the Lord for a divine vision of what was to come. In silence, 'his doing' was devoured by the divine, 'his being' ready to receive the vision. The Lord instructed him to write down words delivered by the Spirit to his captivated conscience, clear and concise, as his soul soaked it up. Linger, wait on God's timing.
“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)
What big dream is in your heart? A dream of flying? The dream of a family one day? A family who loves each other, who enjoys each other’s company so much they can't wait to be together? The dream of a work culture where everyone works hard for a compelling purpose, but equally serve one another above themselves? A place of employment, where you can't wait to get to work? The dream of a life not so full of drama and pain, but one of stability and healing? Relationships, not perfect, but growing and fulfilling? A community of like-minded friends who really know one another, but still cherish and love one another? Dream big dreams, trust God for their reality.
Linger with the Lord as you wait for Him to do His work in and through you. Allow 'your doing' to be devoured by God's love, so 'your being' can be fully loved by Him. For out of your place of peace and contentment will Christ take you to the places you need to go. Confusion may seem to be in charge, but you can trust Jesus to have the last word, and to use bad to accomplish good. Write down what the Spirit is saying to your soul, yes documenting is risky, because you may fail. Better to fail by faith than not to do anything out of fear. The just live by faith. Dream big dreams with your big God and watch Him do big things. Slowly, steadily, surely watch God work!
“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
What big dream do you need to keep dreaming? Or, what big dream has God given you that requires me to be humbly grateful and generous to share with others?
January 23-24, 2019
WHAT EVERY CHRISTIAN CAN DO
“I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”
So often I find myself feeling like one with “little strength”. The weight of life and complexities of work, marriage, and parenthood are ever present. Even when everything seems to be going our way and as it should be, we are still mindful of the frailty of life and fleeting nature of our health and vitality. And yet, these ancient words from Revelation 3 remind us of two beautiful truths: the LORD is strong when we are weak, and even in our weakness we are still able to be faithful.
The heart of the Christian faith is found at the intersection of our brokenness and God’s goodness, mercy, and love. As Paul reminds us in Romans:
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)
In his death and resurrection, the Lord Jesus opens a door that can never be shut. It is a door that leads to life eternal, to life as God intended it to be lived, in perfect communion with him. And though we are weak and frail, the Lord forever holds this door open to us, inviting us to enter and there find rest for our weary souls.
Though life’s journey will always be affected by the sin and brokenness in our world and own hearts, we still receive the renewing presence of God through his Holy Spirit, a power that allowed John to write centuries ago:
“I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” (Revelation 3:8)
What was true of this early church can be true of you and I today! Though we are weak and have little strength, the Spirit of God still gives us the boldness and courage to keep his word and lift high the name of Jesus.
Faithfulness in our weakness is something each and every Christian is called to. It’s an invitation from God that each of us can respond to with a resounding “yes”! You don’t have to have wealth and resources to seek justice and love mercy. You don’t have to be strong, healthy, and mobile to lift up the world to the LORD in prayer. You don’t have to have a position of great influence at work in order to participate in the work of God’s kingdom.
Whatever situation or circumstance you find yourself in today, the LORD continues to hold the door of life open before you, and will give you the courage to follow him in holiness and truth.
What weakness have you used as an excuse to keep you from faithful, fruitful service in the Kingdom of God?
January 22, 2019
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
Hymn writer Charles B. Widmeyer penned the words, “He who fed the multitude / turned the water into wine / to the hungry calleth now / come and dine.” What marks a special occasion better than eating together? Feasting connotes celebration, thanksgiving and fellowship. Jesus illustrated spiritual teachings with food:
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’” (John 6:35)
Before Christ died, He ate the Passover meal with His disciples and instituted the Lord’s Supper:
“And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!’ And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.” (Luke 22:14-23)
To the woman at the well, Jesus said:
“but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
God desires intimate communion with His people:
“I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:23)
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8)
As you thank God for your food today, remember to invite Him in to fellowship with you and your family. Then pray others will come to know the friendship with God that He desires.
Presidential Prayer Team
January 21, 2019
WHERE ARE YOU HEADED?
"I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."
What determines our direction in life? I once heard an answer to that question in a surprising place: a motorcycle training course. Some friends and I wanted to ride, so we took a class to learn how. Part of our training dealt with something called target fixation.
“Eventually,” our instructor said, “you’re going to face an unexpected obstacle. If you stare at it—if you target fixate—you’ll steer right into it. But if you look above and past it to where you need to go, you can usually avoid it.” Then he added, “Where you’re looking is the direction you’re going to go.”
That simple-but-profound principle applies to our spiritual lives too. When we “target fixate”—focusing on our problems or struggles—we almost automatically orient our lives around them.
However, Scripture encourages us to look past our problems to the One who can help us with them. In Psalms we read:
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?” (Psalm 121:1)
The psalm then answers:
“My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2)
And then assures us:
“The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:8)
Sometimes our obstacles can seem insurmountable. But God invites us to look to Him to help us see beyond our troubles instead of letting them dominate our perspective.
January 20, 2019
“Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.”
Wise people invite instruction. They understand that correction and rebuke are necessary to grow in wisdom and righteous behavior. Without well-meaning instructors who are willing to get in our faces, we only aspire to average at best. However, an invitation to mettle in my affairs defines authentic accountability.
Effective correction makes us uncomfortable at times, but we become all the wiser as a result. Indeed, conflict is inherent in accountability. So, if your relationships are conflict free, you can bet you are not being held accountable in the truest sense. Wisdom comes in the form of raw relationships that reek with loving reproof and the willingness to change.
It is out of a rebuke that you wake up and understand the realities you are facing. Your spouse is not nagging, just nudging you to act responsibly. Therefore, invite instruction, and you will increase in wisdom and understanding. There are no regrets from wise recipients of reproof.
Furthermore, be willing to be the bearer of bad news. With love and grace, go to your friend who has asked for your counsel, and give him or her truth. Pray first; then deliver the unpleasant news. It is much better for others to see the error of their ways before they reach a point of no return. Talk to them, not about them.
Pray for them privately, not publicly with a pious prayer request. Love motivates a rebuke and then becomes a recipient of love. Your relationships will retreat in anger or rise to a higher level of respect through righteous rebuke. Take the time to prod another toward perfection because you care. Be respectful; instruct with patience, and one day the student may exceed the wisdom of the teacher.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)
To whom do you need to listen, learning from their correction and rebuke?
January 18-19, 2019
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”
A few years ago, I moved to a window office at work and sent an email around letting everyone know I had relocated. In the email, I jokingly invited everyone to come by for a “tour” of the new space and apologized that I didn’t have any hors d’oeuvres for my guests.
Well, I didn’t have hors d’oeuvres yet.
I was in a meeting that morning and when I got back to my office, there was a box of Dunkin’ Donuts on my desk. There was a note on it that was written in all caps and said, “Happy new office!” The person didn’t sign it or leave clues about who they were. I was so grateful for that.
I didn’t feel like I owed anyone or that someone was trying to get something from me. In fact, I found myself attributing all the goodwill to everyone in the office. It was such a contrast to what I did on the beach a couple of weeks before that.
The tide was steadily coming in, and on the shore, there were two nice beach chairs that were about to be taken out by the waves. The owners were nowhere to be seen, so I moved the chairs again and again as the tide rose. When the couple who owned the chairs finally showed up, I couldn’t help myself. I went over, pointed to the crashing waves, and said, “A couple of hours ago, your chairs were out there.”
“Oh, thanks so much for pulling them in,” said the guy. “We just realized they were out here and figured they had probably gotten washed away.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I said, as I walked away. Then these words came to my mind: “You have your reward.”
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matthew 6:2)
Beware of anyone who lets you know what they did for you, and beware of any desire in you to let others know what you’ve done for them. People who “blow trumpets” to announce their good deeds are looking for a reward and they resent those who don’t celebrate their faux generosity.
So, for example, when I went over to the couple on the beach, I was looking for affirmation. If the guy would’ve shrugged his shoulders after I announced my magnanimous deed of chair moving, it would’ve bothered me. It wasn’t enough to let the man wonder who it was — or worse — not even realize it had been done.
When someone gives anonymously, there’s total freedom. Nobody owes anybody else; nobody’s trying to manipulate; nobody has an agenda. They’re just giving for the sake of communicating an invaluable message: “You’re loved. Somebody cares about you. You’re important to someone and it has nothing to do with what you can give in return.”
When we experience the pleasure of giving anonymously, we do more than show kindness: We leave the recipient with the holy mystery of who cares for them so much. And in doing so, we increase the likelihood that they will direct their gratitude towards God, who deserves the credit anyway.
January 17, 2019
FACING ADVERSITY OVER AND OVER
1 Kings 1:29
“And the king swore, saying, ‘As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity,..’”
Did you hear about the teacher who was helping one of her kindergarten students put his boots on? He asked for help and she could see why. With her pulling and him pushing, the boots still didn't want to go on. When the second boot was on, she had worked up a sweat. She almost whimpered when the little boy said, "Teacher, they're on the wrong feet." She looked and, sure enough, they were.
It wasn't any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on-this time on the right feet. He then announced, "These aren't my boots."
She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and scream, "Why didn't you say so?" like she wanted to. Once again, she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off. He then said, "They're my brother's boots. My Mom made me wear them."
She didn't know if she should laugh or cry. She mustered up the grace to wrestle the boots on his feet again. She said, "Now, where are your mittens?" He said, "I stuffed them in the toes of my boots..."
As I read that, I thought about how many of our frustrations come about as the result of having to do something over and over. Let me give you an example. A number of years ago, I was having some back trouble and the doctor told me I needed surgery. I counted down the days until I could find some relief. The surgery went well (in fact, I went home less than 12 hours after surgery), but the recuperation didn't go as planned. Instead of getting relief, I found myself back under the doctor's knife six weeks later.
I remember that the greatest source of frustration wasn't the surgery itself. It was the fact that I thought I was getting better, but I had to start all over again. Just when I thought I was making progress, I encountered a setback. I was able to easily muster the emotional strength to face the first surgery, but it was much tougher the second time.
I've seen the same thing happen in a number of different areas. I suspect you have, too. Maybe you were hoping to get bills cleared up only to be hit with an unexpected dentist bill or car repair. Maybe it's harsh criticism you're dealing with, a situation at work that's making it difficult to maintain your Christian standards, or perhaps the struggles of dealing with a rebellious child. You think, "I can handle the difficulty I'm going through as long as I can see the light at the end of the tunnel". Only just when you're about at the end of the tunnel and you taken about all you can take, you realize that there's more adversity ahead and the light is barely visible. I understand; I've been there.
The Christian life is long and sometimes difficult. There are times we feel we just can't take it anymore and we want to give up, especially when we've had to face the same adversity over and over and over again. May this passage serve as a source of comfort and strength to you:
“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isa. 40:29-31)
I pray that your strength will be renewed this day as you wait upon the Lord. Hang in there!
January 16, 2018
WALKING IN A WAY THAT HONORS THE LORD
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,”
For every minute of every day since July 2, 1937, select military have guarded the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. But they aren’t standing still. They follow a precise pattern: 21 steps across the tomb, turn and face the tomb for 21 seconds, then turn again and walk 21 steps back across. This is repeated over and over, ever the same. The numeral 21 represents America’s highest honor.
In the same way those who perform that duty know their steps, Christians have been given precise steps to follow in a life worthy of their calling. The Bible says you are to walk a different way – following Christ – with steps of humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, compassion and love.
No matter your circumstances, good, bad or beyond your control, and no matter how blurred the path into the future, Jesus calls you to order each step.
Walking in a way that honors the Lord is a daily commitment. Pray for wisdom to know which steps to take.
Presidential Prayer Team
January 15, 2018
WHO ARE YOU IMITATING?
“And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Imitation and perseverance. Two character traits that are intimately interwoven and impossible to truly separate. Think of a young child learning to speak. While aspects of language acquisition are hard wired into their DNA, if left in isolation no child could learn English (or any other language) on their own! The gift of language comes from the example of others- parents, siblings, teachers, all modeling for the young child the power and purpose of language. Yet this gift cannot be given in a single day, week, or even a year. To truly acquire it, the child must marry imitation with perseverance, faithfully watching and listening year after year after year. Only then will they experience the joy of being known and knowing others through the spoken and written word.
The author of Hebrews invites early Christians into a very similar journey to that of learning a language. If you will, the “language of God” requires imitation and perseverance. While I deeply believe that every human being has a built in desire for God, to know him and be known by him, Jesus draws near to us most frequently and consistently through the lived witness of other people. We see the love of God in the selfless love of a parent. We learn how to give our lives away as Jesus did by having people in our lives model selfless service and radical self-abandon. And while we should always be deeply grateful to God for people in our lives worthy of this respect and honor, we must never forget that we are meant to do as they do, to preserve in hope, trusting that the work of God in them will also be the work of God in us.
While we can and should thank God for the heroes of our faith, we must remember that they aren’t simply meant to be placed on a pedestal to be admired but are meant to be a catalyst for our own faithfulness to Christ. God invites us to imitate Jesus by imitating the life of Christ seen in others. Through imitation and perseverance, we learn the language of God, taking our place in a long line of holy, ordinary saints.
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)
We all imitate someone, for better or for worse. Who are you imitating?
January 11-14, 2018
MAKE FRIENDS WITH WHATEVER'S NEXT
2 Corinthians 4:17
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,”
Embrace it. Accept it. Don't resist it. Change is not only a part of life; change is a necessary part of God's strategy. To use us to change the world, he alters our assignments. Gideon: from farmer to general; Mary: from peasant girl to the mother of Christ; Paul: from local rabbi to world evangelist. God transitioned Joseph from a baby brother to an Egyptian prince. He changed David from a a shepherd to a king. Peter wanted to fish the Sea of Galilee. God called him to lead the first church. God makes reassignments.
But, someone might ask, what about the tragic changes God permits? Some seasons make no sense…do such moments serve a purpose?
They do if we see them from an eternal perspective. What makes no sense in this life will make perfect sense in the next. I have proof: you in the womb.
I know you don't remember this prenatal season, so let me remind you what happened during it. Every gestation day equipped you for your earthly life. Your bones solidified, your eyes developed, the umbilical cord transported nutrients into your growing frame…for what reason? So you might remain enwombed? Quite the contrary. Womb time equipped you for earth time, suited you up for your postpartum existence.
Some prenatal features went unused before birth. You grew a nose but didn't breathe. Eyes developed, but could you see? Your tongue, toenails, and crop of hair served no function in your mother's belly. But aren't you glad you have them now?
Certain chapters in this life seem so unnecessary, like nostrils on the preborn. Suffering. Loneliness. Disease. Holocausts. Martyrdom. Monsoons. If we assume this world exists just for pregrave happiness, these atrocities disqualify it from doing so. But what if this earth is the womb? Might these challenges, severe as they may be, serve to prepare us, equip us for the world to come? As Paul wrote,
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
January 10, 2019
2 Thessalonians 3:3
“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”
A friend of mine was telling me about an experiment of sorts that he and his community group at church have recently begun. Each time they gather together, the bulk of their discussion time is spent answering just two basic questions, “What has God done for you this week?” and “What have you done for God?” While at face value these may seem overly simplistic or basic, he said the results have been profound. In particular, it creates a culture of expectation and shared experience. Here’s what I mean.
It is incredibly easy to sleep our way through life. We numb ourselves with food, drink, and entertainment, failing to see the faithful hand of God at work in our lives and communities. Yet taking time daily or weekly to ask yourself, “What has God done for me this week?”, has the potential to profoundly reorient your vision and awaken you to spiritual realities. It means you live with a deep and unshakable sense of expectation that God hears our prayers and responds to them. There’s a subtle but significant difference between openness to God and expectancy in prayer. One is willing to be surprised, the other lives with hopeful anticipation and eagerness to see God at work in our daily lives.
As we learn to live expectantly, asking the Holy Spirit to give us eyes to see and ears to hear, we must also learn to share these “God stories” with one another! Life is remarkably cyclical, where in one season of life we may find ourselves filled with hope, joy, and anticipation, and in another season be in the greatest depths of pain, sorrow, and despair. When you are at the highest heights of joy, it isn’t simply for your own satisfaction but is meant to be shared with others, especially those in seasons of great trial, as a way to encourage them and remind them of God’s faithfulness. True Christian community is one in which the weak are welcomed and supported and loved, and one in which the strong know their strength isn’t just for themselves but is a way to lift up others in their time of distress.
God is faithful to draw near to his people and lead them through life’s journey into the joy of life eternal, lived in his Kingdom. May we learn to expectantly see him at work in the present, and as we do, share our God stories with others so we can together celebrate his faithfulness, goodness, and love!
“Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.” (Psalm 119:90)
How can you deepen your expectancy of God’s work in your life and more intentionally share your God stories with others?
January 7-9, 2019
“By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly.”
The wisdom of God overshadows the best and brightest thinking of man. This is why our ancestors accessed the Almighty for knowledge and understanding in crafting our constitution. Its remarkable effectiveness is contingent on faith: faith in God, faith in government, and faith in its citizens.
Indeed, politicians who plead with Providence for wisdom will become the wiser. Those rulers who recognize their authority is from God, will rule for God. There is a humble ambition that escorts the most effective statesman into public service, as political pride is exchanged for humble wisdom. Those rule wisely when faith rules in their conscience and character.
Political wisdom is a prerequisite for those public servants who govern on behalf of the people and in alignment with the principles of Providence. These wise rulers are able to rest in peace in the middle of a storm.
A culture thrown into economic chaos especially needs principled men and women to step up, to sacrifice, and to make hard decisions. Wisdom in the middle of extreme uncertainty requires painful prescriptions to prevent further panic. Wise politicians face disastrous consequences and determine what is best for the whole in light of the long term.
Pray for political leaders to look beyond themselves and short-term relief into the perspective and principles of God found in Holy Scripture. Indeed, political wisdom prays for intervention by the Almighty and understanding from the Almighty. Perhaps during desperate days a filibuster of faith is first needed; so our leaders start by looking and listening to the Lord.
Just laws follow political wisdom because they do what is right, as Christ defines right. Wise politicians keep their hand of faithfulness on the Bible’s principles and their hearts submitted under the Lord’s authority. Presidents honor Him by never forgetting their sacred inaugural vow of “So help me God.”
The Bible says,
“Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10:9)
How can you facilitate political wisdom with those public servants in your circle of influence?
January 5 - 6, 2019
THE MAGIC BANK ACCOUNT
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”
Imagine that you had won the following prize in a contest. Each morning your bank would deposit $86,400 in your private account for your use. However, this prize has rules:
1. Everything that you didn't spend during each day would be taken away from you.
What would you personally do?
2. You may not simply transfer money into some other account.
3. You may only spend it.
4. Each morning upon awakening, the bank opens your account with another $86,400 for that day.
5. The bank can end the game without warning; at any time it can say,“Game Over!".
6. The bank can close the account and you will not receive a new one.
You might buy anything and everything you wanted, right? Not only for yourself, but for all the people you love and care for. Even for people you don't know, because you couldn't possibly spend it all on yourself, right? You might try to spend every penny, and use it all, because you knew it would be replenished in the morning, right?
This game is real...
Each of us is already a winner of this prize. We just can't seem to see it.
The prize is “time”.
Each morning we awaken to receive 86,400 seconds as a gift of life. And when we go to sleep at night, any remaining time is not credited to us. What we haven't used up that day is forever lost. Yesterday is forever gone. Each morning the account is refilled, but the bank can dissolve your account at any time without warning...
So, what would YOU do with your 86,400 seconds?
Those seconds are worth so much more than the same amount in dollars. Think about it and remember to enjoy every second of your life, because time races by so much quicker than you think. So take care of yourself, be happy, love deeply and enjoy life!
This article was found in the billfold of Coach Paul Bear Bryant of the University of Alabama after he died in 1982.
Submitted by Tom Starr
January 2 - 4, 2019
EYES TIGHTLY SHUT
“And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
He knew he shouldn’t have done it. I could clearly see he knew it was wrong: it was written all over his face! As I sat down to discuss his wrongdoing with him, my nephew quickly squeezed his eyes shut. There he sat, thinking—with three-year-old logic—that if he couldn’t see me, then I must not be able to see him. And if he was invisible to me, then he could avoid the conversation (and consequences) he anticipated.
I’m so glad I could see him in that moment. While I couldn’t condone his actions, and we needed to talk about it, I really didn’t want anything to come between us. I wanted him to look fully into my face and see how much I love him and was eager to forgive him! In that moment, I caught a glimmer of how God might have felt when Adam and Eve broke His trust in the garden of Eden. Realizing their guilt, they tried to hide from God who could “see” them as plainly as I could see my nephew.
“And he [Adam] said, “I heard the sound of you [God] in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:10)
When we realize we’ve done something wrong, we often want to avoid the consequences. We run from it, conceal it, or close our eyes to the truth. While God will hold us accountable to His righteous standard, He sees us (and seeks us!) because He loves us and offers forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
Our Daily Bread