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
December 31, 2018 - January 1, 2019
KEYS TO PEACE
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
The above verse is one of my favorites. I love it because Christ is saying that peace is ours for the taking. He has already held it out to us. If this is so, why do we experience such a lack of peace at times? Here are four keys to peace that reveal why we may not experience the peace we desire:
1. The Child of God who experiences peace is the child who chooses to believe God is fully his, not just as Lord, but as Savior, Friend, Comforter, and Confidant. He knows that Christ will never leave him, never forsake him, and will always be with him, no matter what. Peace comes from knowing who you are, and who you belong to. . . that you are a beloved Child held carefully and closely in the heart of God. He will never let you go and He is involved in every detail of your life.
2. The Child of God who experiences peace doesn’t look to the world to prove her value or to guarantee fulfillment. She doesn’t grab for fleshly things to fill her heart because there is no way to fill spirit with the flesh. She knows you can only feed spirit with spiritual things. Her days aren’t spent focusing on worldly appetites, but she has an eternal perspective that the world cannot take away. In this, there is peace.
3. The Child of God who experiences peace is acquainted with trust. Trust and peace go together like peas and carrots. Where there is one, there is the other. When peace is not present, trust is absent. The Child of God who experiences peace knows trust isn’t just something that happens to him; it’s a choice he makes each day to focus on the truth that he is loved and that God is in control of all that concerns him.
4. The Child of God who experiences peace knows how to surrender to God’s plan. Surrender isn’t giving up; it’s giving in. The Child of God who experiences peace is ready to lay down her agenda for God’s agenda and trust Him with her future. And she knows that when she gives in to the God who loves her, cares for her, and is Almighty, she can experience peace.
Christ has indeed given us His peace and each day he is holding it out to us. Will we accept what He has provided, or will we reject it through believing that God doesn’t love us, that we aren’t fully His, that the world can satisfy, that God can’t be trusted, or by holding on to our will rather than surrendering to His? Choose peace, friend.
“casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
Choose one of the above Keys to Peace and pray about it, asking the Lord to help you trust Him more.
December 30, 2018
“Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?”
Sometimes it is difficult to agree upon expectations, and in reality, we deal daily with expectation management. We are expected to do certain things at work, at home, and in friendships. We also project expectations on others. We know God expects faithfulness from us, and we have our expectations of Him, but expectations can get us into trouble.
We can expect the wrong things. Our expectations can be unclear or unrealistic or unrighteous. The same can be said of what others expect of us. At work you thought one outcome was expected while your supervisor expected something different. Even after the goals were put into writing, there were still different interpretations of the facts.
Indeed, it is easier to corral expectations of simple tasks. I can expect or even require my children to complete their homework. This is not unreasonable, and I would be an unfit parent if I did not provide some framework of expectations for my children. However, I would be an equally ineffective parent if I had expectations of my children but did not communicate them with grace and understanding. Clarifying expectations takes time.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
Furthermore, the more your trust grows in a relationship, the fewer the expectations. Trust precludes the need for expectations. Trust causes many expectations to expire. When you place your total trust in God, you default to character expectations. You expect His love to be unconditional. You expect His forgiveness to be infinite. You expect to avail yourself to His wisdom. Your expectations are character driven rather than cynical driven.
It becomes about God’s will, not our wants. Healthy expectations revolve around God and His desires. The focus is off me but on God and others. He orchestrates the concert of life; so the goal is to discover His role for me and follow His lead. Then the motive with people becomes one of serving them in order to carry out God’s plan for their lives.
How can you facilitate understanding God’s will for your spouse, child, or work associate? This is not always easy to discern, but character-driven expectations can get to the point of their true need, and you can help meet that need. Focus on building trust in the relationship, and communication will flow more clearly and compassionately.
Focus on fewer expectations and more on trust. Allow your expectations to begin and end with the character of God. Expect less, and you will receive more. You can expect His faithfulness. Agree to expect what God expects, and allow your expectant desires to birth God’s will.
“and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” (2 Corinthians 8:5)
What does the Lord expect of you in the life roles He has assigned to you?
December 28-29, 2018
YOU ARE RICH
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,”
This morning I am reflecting on the extravagant riches of God's grace: salvation, soul care, significance and strength. Everything we need to live abundantly we already have in Christ. By faith we are crazy rich in what matters most---the grace of God expressed by His great love. Let's not be like the person whose inheritance was never received, because he never took the time to identify himself and claim what was left to him. Faith probates God's will to access His rich grace. Four expressions of God's rich grace are salvation, soul care, significance and strength.
I love this acronym for G.R.A.C.E.: God's Riches At Christ's Expense. Yes! The precious blood of Jesus offered on the cross gives all who believe unlimited forgiveness and love. No more guilt from the past, now you are defined in the present as a cherished child of God. The Lord's pardon has been stamped on our heart---set free to freely serve Jesus. Salvation's wealth is true riches!
Take time to reflect and be refreshed by God's amazing grace. Your attentive King is enthralled by your soul beauty, so confidently carry on. A soul comforted by the loving care of grace in the countenance of the Man of Sorrows, heals and moves forward by faith to comfort others. Soul care by the One who cares for you supremely brings serenity. Calculate your blessings on the balance sheet of your life and thank God for His rich favor. A rich soul is generous with grace.
Each child of God is gifted uniquely. Discover how God has made you and be glad. Celebrate your unique gifting and work hard to develop your potential. Everyone has a different capacity based on their season of life and purpose in life, so resist the comparison trap and grow your passion and giftedness. According to the Lord's grace He called and equipped you to do the work of the ministry. Use your vocation or avocation for the Lord---allow His grace to grow your gifts.
As crude oil is refined into gasoline, so God's grace---in prayer---is refined into the Spirit's energy. Much better to thrive in the Spirit than to strive in the flesh. This is how one woman, inspired by the grace of God, has the stamina of two women, she leans into her Lord in those lonely hours and trying times. Grace gets you to God---and God gets you to grace. Fill your soul with the gasoline of grace and you will persevere. Christ's spiritual resources are rich. You are wealthy in what matters most: a growing relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.” (Ephesians 4:7)
What area of your life needs more of God's amazing grace, so you can offer abundant grace to others you love at home and at work?
December 26-27, 2018
THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”
When our children were young, Ann and I would help them comprehend how great God has always been and always will be, the Alpha and Omega, by using metaphors with tangible examples that they could grasp.
We wanted our children to understand that it is only the rare occasion, given the immensity of His universal plan, which affords us a perfectly clear view of God's plan for each of us. But we also assured them of the Truth we had learned: that through faith, we always know that He will use our circumstances, however corrupted by our own free will, to guide us to where He wants us to be.
As our kids were growing older, each demonstrated a substantial interest and aptitude for science. Thus, I was captivated when one of my sons directed me to this elucidation of God's infinite domain from Dr. William Blair, an astrophysicist and research professor at Johns Hopkins University.
Blair wrote: "Today we know that galaxies are as common as blades of grass in a meadow. The Hubble Space Telescope recently completed a particularly deep (faint) census of a tiny 'pencil beam' extending far out into the Universe. This survey, called the 'Hubble Deep Field,' was targeted on a region of the sky that was nearly devoid of known objects, so as to be (hopefully) representative of conditions in the distant Universe. The resulting images are truly amazing. Strewn across this tiny piece of the sky are perhaps 1,500 or more galaxies of all shapes, sizes, and colors! Because this survey pertains to such a small piece of the sky, the implications are staggering: if the region of sky demarked by the bowl of the Big Dipper were surveyed to the same depth, it would contain about 32 million galaxies! And the estimate for the entire visible Universe is that there are upwards of 40 BILLION galaxies, each containing tens to hundreds of billions of stars!"
To put the vastness of creation into perspective, Blair uses a sheet of paper: "Imagine that the distance from the earth to the sun (93 million miles, or about 8 light minutes) is compressed to the thickness of a typical sheet of paper. On this scale, the nearest star (4.3 light years) is at a distance of 71 feet. The diameter of the Milky Way (100,000 light years) would require a 310 mile high stack of paper, while the distance to the Andromeda galaxy (at 2 million light years one of the most distant objects visible to the naked eye) would require a stack of paper more than 6,000 miles high! On this scale, the 'edge' of the Universe, defined as the most distant known quasars some 10 billion light years hence, is not reached until the stack of paper is 31 million miles high -- a third of the way to the sun on the real scale of things!"
Pondering this vastness is a humbling experience indeed.
Knowing quite a few professional physicists who are men and women of faith, I wrote Dr. Blair and asked him, "Are you a person of faith in God as our creator?" and, "If so, what does your analogy reveal about the creator of our universe?"
As to the first question, he answered, "Yes, I am."
As to the second, he replied, "In short, 'God created the heavens and the earth.' Understanding more about the 'heavens' and the scale of the Universe only magnifies my personal impression of what it is that God has created. Having a personal connection to that same God is a defining aspect of my faith."
According to Blair, who at the time was in charge of NASA's deep space project, "Some people can look at the spirals of our galaxy and not see the hand of God, but I beg to differ."
The Patriot Post
December 24-25, 2018
CHRISTMAS EVE 1870
“And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.”
Of the British and German soldiers who faced each other across the muddy fields of Flanders on Christmas Eve in 1914, even those who no longer believed the optimistic predictions of a short war would have been shocked to learn that it would drag on for another four years — and that it would ultimately see the staggering totals of 8½ million dead and 21 million wounded. Nonetheless, by December 1914 the European War — being fought by men who were weary, frustrated, and dispirited, bogged down in the glue-like muck, waterlogged trenches, and barbed-wire entanglements of Belgium, with little sense of national purpose other than to defeat the enemy — had already claimed hundreds of thousands of casualties since the beginning of hostilities in early August.
Despite the constant machine gun fire and artillery bombardments of the western front, and even though in some places front-line troops were a mere 60 yards away from the enemy’s lines, soldiers on both sides received gift boxes containing food and tobacco prepared by their governments that Christmas:
During World War I, in the winter of 1914, on the battlefields of Flanders, one of the most unusual events in all of human history took place. The Germans had been in a fierce battle with the British and French. Both sides were dug in, safe in muddy, man-made trenches six to eight feet deep that seemed to stretch forever.
All of a sudden, German troops began to put small Christmas trees, lit with candles, outside of their trenches. Then, they began to sing songs. Across the way, in the “no man’s land” between them, came songs from the British and French troops. Incredibly, many of the Germans, who had worked in England before the war, were able to speak good enough English to propose a “Christmas” truce.
The British and French troops, all along the miles of trenches, accepted. In a few places, allied troops fired at the Germans as they climbed out of their trenches. But the Germans were persistent and Christmas would be celebrated even under the threat of impending death.
According to Stanley Weintraub, who wrote about this event in his book, Silent Night, “signboards arose up and down the trenches in a variety of shapes. They were usually in English, or – from the Germans – in fractured English. Rightly, the Germans assumed that the other side could not read traditional gothic lettering, and that few English understood spoken German. ‘YOU NO FIGHT, WE NO FIGHT’ was the most frequently employed German message. Some British units improvised ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS’ banners and waited for a response. More placards on both sides popped up.”
A spontaneous truce resulted. Soldiers left their trenches, meeting in the middle to shake hands. The first order of business was to bury the dead who had been previously unreachable because of the conflict.
Then, they exchanged gifts. Chocolate cake, cognac, postcards, newspapers, tobacco. In a few places, along the trenches, soldiers exchanged rifles for soccer balls and began to play games.
It didn’t last forever. In fact, some of the generals didn’t like it at all and commanded their troops to resume shooting at each other. After all, they were in a war. Soldiers eventually did resume shooting at each other. But only after, in a number of cases, a few days of wasting rounds of ammunition shooting at stars in the sky instead of soldiers in the opposing army across the field.
For a few precious moments there was peace on earth good will toward men. All because the focus was on Christmas. Happens every time. There’s something about Christmas that changes people. It happened over 2000 years ago in a little town called Bethlehem. It’s been happening over and over again down through the years of time.
This year, Lord willing, it will happen again.
December 23, 2018
THROUGH A CHILD’S EYES
“but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’”
God recently allowed me to see Jesus through the eyes of someone seeing Him for the first time. Having the advantage of knowing how the story ends, we can easily forget the cost of our redemption and the love of our Savior.Every year we attend a local church pageant at Christmas time, which tells the story of Jesus from His birth through His resurrection. It is a spectacular event, with live animals and hundreds of cast members in realistic costumes.The magi enter the huge auditorium on llamas from the rear, descending the steps in pomp and majesty. Roman soldiers look huge and menacing in their costumes and makeup.
Of all the years we have attended, one stands out indelibly in my heart. It was the year we took our then three-year-old granddaughter, Bailey, who loves Jesus. She was mesmerized throughout the entire play, not just watching, but involved as if she were a player. She watches as Joseph and Mary travel to the inn and is thrilled when she sees the baby Jesus in His mother's arms. When Jesus, on a young donkey, descends the steps from the back of the auditorium, depicting His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Bailey was ecstatic. As he neared our aisle, Bailey began jumping up and down, screaming, "Jesus,Jesus! There's Jesus!" Not just saying the words but exclaiming them with every fiber of her being. She alternated between screaming his name and hugging us.
"It's Jesus. Look!" I thought she might actually pass out. Tears filled my eyes as I looked at Jesus through the eyes of a child in love with Him, seeing Him for the first time. How like the blind beggar screaming out in reckless abandon, "Jesus, Jesus!", afraid he might miss Him, not caring what others thought.
This was so much fun. Then came the arrest scene. On stage, the soldiers shoved and slapped Jesus as they moved Him from the Garden of Gethsemane to Pilate. Bailey responded as if she were in the crowd of women, with terror and anger. "Stop it!" she screamed."Bad soldiers, stop it!" As I watched her reaction, I wished we had talked to her before the play.
"Bailey it's OK. They are just pretending." "They are hurting Jesus! Stop it!" She stood in her seat reacting to each and every move. People around us at first smiled at her reaction, thinking "How cute!".
Then they quit smiling and began watching her watch Him. In a most powerful scene, the soldiers lead Jesus carrying the cross down the steps of the auditorium from the back They were yelling, whipping, and cursing at Jesus, who was bloodied and beaten. Bailey was now hysterical.
"Stop it! Soldiers! Stop it," she screamed. She must have been wondering why all these people did nothing. She then began to cry instead of scream. "Jesus, Oh, Jesus!" People all around us began to weep as we all watch this devoted little disciple see her Jesus beaten and killed as those first century disciples had.Going back and forth between her mother's lap and mine for comfort, she was distraught.
I kept saying, "Bailey, it's OK. Jesus is going to be OK. These are just people pretending to be soldiers". She looked at me like I was crazy. In my lap, we talked through the cross and burial. "Watch, Bailey, watch for Jesus!" The tomb began to tremble and lightening flashed as the stone rolled away. A Super Bowl touchdown cheer couldn't come close to matching this little one's reaction to the resurrection. "Jesus! He's OK. Mommy, it's Jesus!"
I prayed that she wasn't going to be traumatized by this event, but that she would remember it. I shall never forget it. I shall never forget seeing Jesus' suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection through the eyes of an innocent child. Following the pageant the actors all assembled in the foyer to be greeted by the audience.
As we passed by some of the soldiers Bailey screamed out, "Bad soldier, don't you hurt Jesus."
The actor who portrayed Jesus was some distance away surrounded by well-wishers and friends. Bailey broke away from us and ran toward him, wrapping herself around his legs, holding on for dear life. He hugged her and said, "Jesus loves you." He patted her to go away. She wouldn't let go. She kept clinging to Him, laughing and calling His name. She wasn't about to let go of her Jesus. I think God in heaven stopped whatever was going on that day and made all the angels watch Bailey.
"Now, look there! You see what I meant when I said, 'Of such is the kingdom of heaven?'"
Bailey's reaction should be our reaction every day. When we think of Him, who He is, what He did for us, and what He offers us, we have to say, how can we do anything less than worship Him?
Submitted by Joan Morgan
December 22, 2018
SHOPPING FOR LOVE
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; …”
I am flat broke from overspending at Christmas time. But I need to go shopping again soon because I am completely out of self-respect. I've said things I wish I could take back and I am not feeling too good about myself.
I also want to exchange a carton of self righteousness for an equal amount of humility. I hear that it is less expensive and wears well, and while I'm at it I'm going to check on tolerance and see if there is any available in my size.
I must remember to try to match my patience with the little I have left. My neighbor is loaded with it and it looks awfully good on her. I was told the same department has a repair shop for mending integrity. Mine has become frayed around the edges from too much compromising. If I don't get it refurbished soon, there won't be any left.
I almost forgot the most important thing of all - compassion. If I see some - no matter what the color, size or shape - I'm going to stock up heavily regardless of the price. I have run out of it so many times and I always feel ashamed when it happens.
I don't know why it has taken me so long to get around to shopping for these items. They don't cost nearly as much as some of the frivolous things I bought at Christmas time. And I'll get a lot more satisfaction from them.
Yes, I'm going shopping today and I can leave my checkbook and credit cards at home! The things I'm looking for have no price-tags. What a joy!
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
December 20-21, 2018
CHRISTMAS: THE REVELATION OF GOD'S INNER LIFE OF LOVE
1 John 4:8
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
There’s a certain magic about the Advent and Christmas season that always seems to take hold in the hearts of those who celebrate it. As we count down the days to Christmas, our anticipation builds, and for most of us, this magical feeling combines with a bit of anxiety as we scurry from one shop to the next to buy just a few more presents for our families and friends. This tradition of gift giving has become one of the central rituals that embodies Christmas. Despite the American tendency to over-commercialize this tradition, gift giving remains an important reminder for Christians to keep the central message of Christmas foremost in our thoughts and deeds: love.
As children, gift giving was all about the thrill of the gifts themselves. What treasures did Santa bring this year? We couldn’t wait to rip off the wrapping paper and experience the euphoria of a new toy. But as we grow older, we begin to realize that it’s not so much about the gifts themselves that brings us joy. What our hearts truly hunger for is what these gifts signify: to receive love in the form of a gift.
In the truest sense of the word, Christmas is the greatest gift human beings have ever received. And just like wrapped presents under the tree, God’s gift to humanity for the first Christmas was, in a certain way, wrapped in mystery. When the angel of the Lord first came to Mary to reveal her role in the coming of Christ, it mystified her:
“And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’” (Luke 1:34)
Likewise, when Joseph, Mary’s betrothed, first learned that she was with child, he was stunned and decided to divorce her:
“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:19)
Nevertheless, when Mary and Joseph took a step forward in faith, they came to know the ultimate expression of God’s love: His Son. Christmas, then, marks the beginning of the full revelation of the inner life of God to man. First, He came in the form of a baby. Not only does this elicit from us a natural response to care for and nurture our relationship with the Christ child, it also reveals His innate fruitfulness—He brings forth life even from seemingly impossible situations. Examples of this are found all throughout Scripture. In the book of Judges, an angel announces God’s gift of life to the wife of Manoah, who was barren, and the heroic Samson is the result:
“And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, ‘Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son.’” (Judges 13:3)
In the Gospel of Luke, God continues His life-giving work with the miraculous conception of John the Baptist, despite the fact that his mother Elizabeth was barren:
“But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.” (Luke 1:7)
“But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” (Luke 1:13)
God’s intrinsically fruitful nature miraculously culminates in Christ’s conception in the womb of a virgin:
“to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary.” (Luke 1:27)
This divine fruitfulness points toward what actually occurs on Christmas: the perfect union of God’s divine nature with our human nature in the Christ child. Christmas reveals to us that God is in fact wholly human through His Son, who is one with His Father through the unity of the Holy Spirit -- which makes up the Holy Trinity. This truth is mysterious and overwhelming, but if we think about it in terms of the nature of God’s inner life, it becomes a little more comprehensible. If God is love:
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
then there must be a lover (God the Father), a beloved (the Son), and their shared love (the Holy Spirit).
This truth becomes even more comprehensible for us when we see the Holy Trinity imaged in marriage: the husband (lover), the wife (the beloved), and the fruitfulness of their shared love, which bears spiritual fruit and often results in a literal incarnation of their unity -- a child.
So what is Christmas, at its root? It is God fulfilling His plan of salvation for humankind by giving us the perfect gift of His Son, thereby revealing His true nature, His inner life of love. What a gift! May we all receive it with a truly free and open heart.
May you and your family have a blessed and merry Christmas and a fruitful New Year!
December 19, 2018
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high”
Traumatic events like divorce or a job loss can create a crisis of identity. I previously parented with my spouse, but now I raise my child alone. As a single parent I feel angry, ill equipped and financially stressed. Before I was let go from my job I managed a team and felt respected. Post firing I struggle just to manage myself. I feel unimportant. An identity crisis is an opportunity for Christ to remind me of my identity in Him. I am important to Him, so I am significant in Him.
What feels out of control, the Lord uses to bring His child under His control. A parent’s identity is challenged after a child leaves home as a young adult, just as an individual struggles for significance after retirement. If who we are is wrapped up in what we do, we are set up for disillusionment. What we do will change, but our standing in Christ remains the same. Our value isn’t measured by our role, but by the abundance of God’s grace we enjoy. Relationships are what really count.
“Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” (Philippians 4:1)
Because Christ is your life, your life is complete. There is no need to strive to be someone you are not, nor is it necessary to reach back and become someone you were that was only relevant for that season of life. Yes, the value of your life increases as you increasingly align with Almighty God’s character and will for your life. An identity crisis is the Lord’s opportunity to take your integrity to another level of influence. You walk securely when integrity directs your actions.
By God’s grace, die to the desire to be someone other than God’s workmanship in Christ. Rest in your relationship with Jesus and enjoy the people He brings into your life for you to bless. It is the immaterial not the material that marks your real worth. Peace of mind, purity of heart and selfless service make you attractive to be around. As you love the Lord and others well it will be well with your soul. You are Christ’s bride, your identity is defined by His last name!
“The one who has the bride is the bridegroom…” (John 3:29)
What is your #1 competitor with your identity in Christ?
December 18, 2018
”And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.[a days wage for a laborer]”
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)
It made no sense for a widow to donate her last few coins to a corrupt institution in Jerusalem, where scribes who were dependent on those gifts “devour[ed] widows’ houses”:
“who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” (Mark 12:40)
But in that woman’s act, Jesus saw a moving display of the proper attitude toward money:
“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.And he called his disciples to him and said to them, 'Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.'” (Mark 12:41-44)
Gordon Cosby, while serving as pastor of the Church of the Savior in Washington, DC, tells of a widow whose income was barely adequate to feed and clothe her six children. Yet every week she faithfully placed $4 in the offering plate. A deacon suggested that Cosby go to her and assure her that she could use the money instead for her family’s benefit.
Cosby followed the deacon’s advice—to his regret. “You are trying to take away the last thing that gives me dignity and meaning,” she said. She had learned a key to giving: It can benefit the giver more than the receiver. Yes, those in poverty need financial help. But the need to give may be as important as the need to receive.
The act of giving reminds us that we live by the grace of God—like the birds and the flowers. Those creations don’t worry about their future; neither should we. Giving offers us a way to express our confidence that God will care for us just as He cares for the sparrow and lily:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34)
“Whatever, Lord, we lend to Thee,
Repaid a thousand-fold will be;
Then gladly will we give to Thee,
Who givest all—who givest all.” -- William Wordsworth
We disarm the power of money by giving it away.
December 17, 2018
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,”
A recent television phenomenon has to do with finding an old house, spending significant time and money on its restoration, and “flipping” it in a sale to a new homebuyer. Much of the programming evidences the nuts-and-bolts of demolition and reconstruction.
In a spiritual sense, when you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and make him Lord of your life, He begins a restoration project on you. There may be things in your life that require demolition, so God takes the sledge hammer of His love to knock away those things that need to be removed. In the same way, then, in accordance with the blueprint found in the Bible, He builds the new person that He wants you to be. The Holy Spirit indwells you, but the lifetime maintenance is up to you.
Unlike the people who flip or fix-up the houses on television, Jesus doesn’t ever walk away from His project. In fact, you won’t be fully complete until that day when you meet Him face-to-face on the Heavenly plain.
The Presidential Prayer Team
December 16, 2018
12 BIG IDEAS ON GOD'S PURPOSE
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
During the day, little thoughts I believe are gifts from the Lord often flit through my mind. These thoughts are mainly about purpose, faith, relationships and life challenges, and primarily come from what I learn in Scripture and my life experiences. They often find their way onto Facebook, and sometimes into my journal, a blog, devotional, or article.
Some time ago, I printed out all the thoughts I have posted on Facebook for the last several years and discovered that no less than 357 pages of them have flitted through my mind since 2011. Today, I’d like to share 12 quotes I recently re-read on purpose, from my 357 pages. I hope you are encouraged and reminded that the Lord is with you in the purposes He has for you:
1. Just because you are in God’s will doesn’t mean you won’t feel fear. Following God may require that we act in the face of fear. Nehemiah said:
“... I was very much afraid.” (Nehemiah 2:2)
2. Self-reliance rooted in unbelief will cause one to dismiss opportunities to move in their purpose and see God at work. When faced with a seemingly impossible situation, the self-reliant person will say, “That can’t be done!” but the God-reliant person will say, “With God all things are possible. Let’s pray!”
3. I would rather be wrong about what God wants to do through me and act in faith, than not act out of fear and unbelief.
4. When what you want is bigger than what you fear, you will go after your passion in the face of fear. Your passion—coupled with faith—will always trump fear.
5. What you can do in your own strength is only the beginning of how God can use you for His glory. Can you imagine what He could do through you if you would allow Him to stretch you outside your comfort zone?
6. Everything grows from a seed. Don’t despise small beginnings.
7. God’s glory is shown by what you can’t do in your own strength. He won’t allow you to get the glory by being self-sufficient. He wants you to be God dependent.
8. There is usually preparation in private before one’s purpose becomes public.
9. Your inability to control your own purpose is God’s opportunity to show His sovereignty and power so your faith will grow.
10. The good is often the enemy of the best. Beware of perfectly-timed distractions when you are moving toward God’s plan for your life.
11. Ignore any voice that tries to shut you up, stop you, discourage you, hinder you, distract you, or criticize you out of what God has called you to.
12. When you fall down, get back up. When you fall down, get back up. When you fall down again, get back up, get back up, get back up.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Choose your favorite thought from above and write down why it speaks to you. Then, talk with the Lord about it.
December 15, 2018
“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”
Pride will eventually give way to humility. It may not happen overnight. It may have to follow a painful process, because pride can be very, very stubborn. Like an embedded splinter deep in the flesh of your foot, it is hard to remove. You cannot remove it alone, and there is constant throbbing and pain until it is extracted.
This is the plight of pride. Pain and suffering are its cohorts. Pride provides a false sense of security. Spiritually minded people know it is only a matter of time until a fall, as pride will catch up with you. Humility was once a staple in your spiritual diet, but success has squelched your humility and subtly replaced it with pride. Authority without accountability generates pride.
The more authority you possess, the more you are required to submit to accountability. Otherwise, you cannot handle this freewheeling power. Your behavior defaults to pride without the checkmate of humility. This is true in relationships, business, ministry, and churches. Beware of obsessing over control.
Paranoia is an application of pride. You are fearful of losing control. It is better to hand over control than to lose control. Humility gives control, while pride grasps for it. So be open and humble about your insecurities. We are all insecure to some degree. Humility builds security, and pride tears it down. The humble have nothing to hide. So root out pride, and replace it with humility.
The process of pride’s removal begins with submission to Christ. It is acknowledging His lordship and ownership over your life. He is in control. He is large and in charge. Nothing in your life has sneaked up on God. He can be trusted. He holds your life, family, health, and career in His hand. You start by humbly bowing to God with your head and heart. He is to be feared and loved.
You have the awesome opportunity to worship and adore Him. When you walk with God, you walk in humility. Pride cannot coexist in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Pride is extinguished in the presence of Jesus. Pride is like a roach lurking in the dark recesses of your heart. The Holy Spirit’s light reveals pride and convicts you during times of prayer and Scripture meditation.
The second offense to pride is praying people. Ask people to pray for humility to infiltrate and occupy your life. You want the occupation of humility on the soil of your heart and mind. Be transparent with others about your sins and shortcomings. Talk about them with the motive for change.
Humble yourself, and trust God to humble others. It is easy to recognize pride in others while it is still looming in your spirit. Run from spiritual pride. It is the worst kind. It is insidious. It is pharisaical in nature, and it chokes the Holy Spirit. Humility grows in an environment of honesty, openness, prayer, and change. Be a change agent on behalf of the humble. Humble pride!
“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” (1 Peter 5:5–6)
Who can be your prayer partner to pray for you to grow a humble heart?
December 13, 2018
WAITING FOR THE SECOND ADVENT
“...waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,”
As Christ ascended into heaven, the angels told His disciples:
“…Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)
Jesus said His return would be unannounced and could occur at any moment; therefore, as we wait for His second advent:
“Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” (Mark 13:33–37)
Early Christians believed that Jesus’s return was “at hand”:
“Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:11-14)
The apostle James encouraged believers to be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near:
“You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:8)
“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3)
The anticipation that Jesus could come at any moment led some Christians in Thessalonica to become idle, quitting their jobs and waiting for Him to return. But Paul told them to get back to work and live meaningful lives:
“For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” (2 Thessalonians 3:11-13)
“Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” (2 Peter 3:14)
In what ways can you enjoy God’s presence today as you wait for Jesus’s return?
Sim Kay Tee
December 12, 2018
SCARS OF LIFE
“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.”
Some years ago, on a hot summer day in South Florida , a little boy decided to go for a swim in the old swimming hole behind his house. In a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door, leaving behind shoes, socks, and shirt as he went. He flew into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the lake, an alligator was swimming toward the shore.
His father, working in the yard, saw the two as they got closer and closer together. In utter fear, he ran toward the water, yelling to his son as loudly as he could. Hearing his voice, the little boy became alarmed and made a U-turn to swim to his father. It was too late. Just as he reached his father, the alligator reached him.
From the dock, the father grabbed his little boy by the arms just as the alligator snatched his legs.. That began an incredible tug-of-war between the two. The alligator was much stronger than the father, but the father was much too passionate to let go.
A farmer happened to drive by, heard his screams, raced from his truck, took aim and shot the alligator.
Remarkably, after weeks and weeks in the hospital, the little boy survived. His legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack of the animal. And, on his arms, were deep scratches where his father's fingernails dug into his flesh in his effort to hang on to the son he loved.
The newspaper reporter who interviewed the boy after the trauma, asked if he would show him his scars. The boy lifted his pant legs. And then, with obvious pride, he said to the reporter, 'But look at my arms. I have great scars on my arms, too. I have them because my Dad wouldn't let go.'
You and I can identify with that little boy. We have scars, too. No, not from an alligator, but the scars of a painful past. Some of those scars are unsightly and have caused us deep regret. But, some wounds, my friend, are because God has refused to let go. In the midst of your struggle, He's been there holding on to you..
The Scripture teaches that God loves you. You are a child of God. He wants to protect you and provide for you in every way. But sometimes we foolishly wade into dangerous situations, not knowing what lies ahead.. The swimming hole of life is filled with peril - and we forget that the enemy is waiting to attack. That's when the tug-of-war begins - and if you have the scars of His love on your arms, be very, very grateful. He did not and will not ever let you go.
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)
Submitted by Joan Morgan
December 11, 2018
TRAITS OF A GREAT LEADER
“…So I prayed to the God of heaven.”
One of my favorite Bible characters is Nehemiah. He’s the guy whose passion was ignited to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall after it had been burned down. When he heard about the condition of the wall, he wept. Then, he fasted and prayed for several days asking God for favor from the King to help him rebuild it.
In addition to compassion and passion, here are three additional characteristics of Nehemiah’s leadership style that are inspiring:
1. He used his position to care for—not suppress—others.
Nehemiah didn’t use his authority to take advantage of people while he himself was pampered. Nehemiah said:
“The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration[a] forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God.” (Nehemiah 5:15)
This is what great leaders do. They lead for the good of others.
2. He used prayer as a mighty weapon to protect those he served.
When Nehemiah and his crew were mocked by their enemies who said they would not be able to rebuild the wall, Nehemiah prayed:
“Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives.” (Nehemiah 4:4)
Nehemiah stood in the gap for the Jews by praying and asking God for protection whenever they faced opposition. This is what great leaders do. They protect those they serve.
3. He was accessible to his people.
Nehemiah didn’t believe he was superior to the Jews. Therefore, he didn’t stand on the sidelines and order them around while they did all the work. Instead, he worked alongside them. scripture reveals that Nehemiah was up on the wall working:
“And I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?’” (Nehemiah 6:3)
He also said:
“I also persevered in the work on this wall, …” (Nehemiah 5:16)
This is also what great leaders do. Even though they don’t fill the same role as those in their charge, they see themselves as part of a team. They don’t see themselves as superior taskmasters.
Even if you don’t lead in an organization, business, or church, you can put these principles into practice in your home with your children, at your place of work, and in your community. You can be a great leader.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
How are you doing as a leader? Rate yourself in each of the three leadership principles from Nehemiah. Then make a plan to take one step to improve.
December 10, 2018
“By faith Abel…still speaks.”
My first Thanksgiving without my momma---an indescribable void, my heart longs just to hear her voice. "Yes son, it would help for you to pick up a ham, and I will have your favorites: a cheese ball with chipped beef and scallions, 'Do Dads' (an addictive snack of Chex mix, pretzels, pecans and peanuts, baked to a crisp and lightly seasoned) and wedding cookies". No longer am I able to enjoy mom's favorite things that grew into my favorite things. But her caring voice still rings in my heart, "Be careful son, you need to rest. Tell the girls hi, I love you". Momma, I miss you---but I will not forget you. Beyond the grave, your words help me carry on. I love you.
Abel was the one son who brought delight to God by what he brought to God---an acceptable sacrifice. Though dead, Abel still speaks to the living by reminding us to bring to our Savior and Lord all we have with a heart of love and gratitude. Though the youngest, Abel was able, by the grace of God, to go directly to God---for every child can equally worship his heavenly Father in Spirit and in truth. Cain was the oldest in age, but he lacked the old soul of his brother who rested in the Lord, rather than striving in his own strength to gain divine acceptance. A person who dies with a faith desperate for God, is a person whose faith resonates to future generations.
“and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.” (Genesis 4:4-5)
Firsts without someone are really hard. First Thanksgiving. First Christmas. First New Year. First Mother's Day. First Father's Day. First birthday. First anniversary. First vacation. Are you experiencing a "first" without someone you love? You pick up the phone to call her, but she is unavailable to answer. You play over a conversation in your mind, but her ears are deaf to your words. You face a stressful situation and you want to process with her, feel her patient presence, hear her wise words---but her personalized ideas and calming tone are not possible. If you are alone, I'm so sorry for your loss---my heart hurts for you and with you. I cry healing tears of grief with you.
Perhaps you process your pain by honoring the one who is gone. Take turns around your holiday dinner table and relive sweet memories. Tell stories full of joy and laughter. Memorialize the traits you remember that influenced you and still make their mark on your life. Celebrate a life by telling how she brought life to you and your family. Her stories. Her quirks. Her wisdom. Her love. Her generosity. Her prayers. Her listening ear. Honor a lost life, by looking for ways to celebrate a life. Though dead---she speaks----so we listen, and share together stories we miss.
Who can you reach out to during this holiday season to be a calming presence?
December 8-9, 2018
“The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”
“Under His wings, I am safely abiding.
Tho’ the night deepens and tempests are wild.
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me.
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.”
The lyrics to that old hymn were written by William O. Cushing, a Unitarian minister. During the time of his ministry, he authored several hymns, including some for children. After 27 years in the ministry, he developed a “creeping paralysis” that caused him to lose his voice. In his forced retirement, he asked God for something to do to occupy his time. God gave him extraordinary talent for hymn writing, and across the rest of his life, he wrote 300 hymns. He had learned that he could trust the Lord, reflecting that knowledge in many lyrics.
The picture that Cushing—and Ruth—shared is of God as a great winged eagle, under whose wings was refuge and safety. Jesus wants you to gather under His wings. Stop thinking the only safety you have is in yourself, or that your refuge is in the things you possess. Acknowledge that God has made that comfortable provision for you, acknowledge the sovereignty of God over your life, seek refuge under His wings, and be blessed by His grace.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Psalm 46:1-7)
Presidential Prayer Team
December 7, 2018
2 Corinthians 2:14
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”
On this day in 1941 Pearl Harbor was the scene of a surprise attack by Japan that helped lead America into World War II. On that day, acrid, choking smoke filled the air. If you have been fortunate enough to visit that scene more recently, you cannot help but inhale the wafting sweetness of tuberose, jasmine, and hibiscus. The fragrances spread freely – a sensory gift from the islands. But thanks be to God, who in Christ…spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
In 2018, when the rotting stench of terrorism and authoritarianism covers much of the world, and religious freedoms are at global peril, consider that God has called America…and, in particular, American Christians…to sweetly represent Him in such a way that knowledge of the Lord permeates from distant villages to near metropolises. Too big an undertaking, you say?
Pass these sniff tests. Rather than being consumed with the “sweet smell of success,” let your life be fragrant with sincerity, sacrifice, and service. God doesn’t require great things from you:
“For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” (Mark 9:41)
To the one who receives it, it’s as glorious as a lei of tuberoses.
The Presidential Prayer Team
December 6, 2018
A KINDER GENTLER ADVENT
“people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
The news that President George H.W. Bush died late Friday night was not a surprise but it was a jolt—a reminder of more gracious days when Presidents wrote thank you notes and showed authentic devotion to their family and to other people’s families. We, the American people, found comfort in having a President who so clearly treasured his spouse and expressed gratitude for the blessing and privilege of his life. I personally appreciated his words about being a thousand points of light and being a kinder, gentler nation.
Yes, we can be points of light especially in these Advent days when The Light is coming. Yes, we can be kinder and gentler.
Our nation is craving Light these days. We have become meaner and coarser and it’s ugly.
The Advent of Jesus, according to the scriptures is not exactly gentle:
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26)
Ugh! And all we wanted were holly wreaths and sugar plums.
It is radical to be kind when someone treats you badly. It is unnaturally holy to be gentle when faced with injustice. But how do we balance kinder and gentler with responsibility and accountability? We look to Jesus.
Jesus turned over tables in the temple for the sake of justice toward the poor. He was not arrested for being a sweet little baby lying in a manger. He was crucified for breaking boundaries and disrupting norms. And for being God’s Word in human skin.
I pray for a kinder, gentler nation that feeds the hungry, heals the sick, houses the homeless, and welcomes the stranger. This is not radical stuff. Except that Jesus was killed for doing it because it challenged the empire.
Is it possible to challenge the empire while being kind and gentle? (Yes. But we may suffer, and maybe even lose our lives for it.)
December 3-5, 2018
THANK YOU, GOD, FOR WHO YOU ARE
“Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.”
Among the thousands of sentiments printed on greeting cards, perhaps one of the most touching is this simple statement: “Thanks for being you.” If you receive that card, you know that someone cares for you not because you did something spectacular for that person but because you’re appreciated for your essence.
I wonder if this kind of sentiment might indicate for us one of the best ways to say “thank you” to God. Sure, there are times when God intervenes in our lives in a tangible way, and we say something like, “Thank You, Lord, for allowing me to get that job.” But most often, we can simply say, “Thank You, God, for being who You are.”
That is what is behind verses like:
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (1 Chronicles 16:34)
Thank You, God, for who You are—good and loving. And,
“I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High” (Psalm 7:17)
“Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” (Psalm 95:2–3)
Thank You, God, for who You are—the Almighty God of the universe. Who God is. . . That is reason enough for us to stop what we are doing and praise and thank Him. Thank You, God, for just being You!
There are countless reasons to thank God, including for who He is!
December 2, 2018
“But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.”
Effective accountability partners are not passive. Once someone invites a friend into his or her life for accountability, it is a serious responsibility. Accountability is active, engaging, and encouraging. The giver and the receiver of accountability have entered into a trusting relationship. Indeed, wisdom listens to the warning of its accountability partner or group.
Authentic accountability requires caring confrontation. A little bit of short-term discomfort and embarrassment will save you a lot of long-term regret. Thus, when you encounter emotional situations, you keep a level head. Accountability facilitates objectivity. When you are under pressure you have an objective team that gives you wise perspective. Your accountability group is there as a buffer to unwise decision making.
“Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice.” (Ecclesiastes 4:13)
Accountability provides much needed courage for another to do the right thing. Sometimes hard decisions paralyze us into non-action. However, avoiding a difficult decision today will compound its inevitable consequences in the future. Accountability encourages you not to procrastinate when you are afraid. It relieves your fears and bolsters your faith.
For example, team members may need to be terminated for the good of the company and for their individual betterment. Prospective church volunteers may need to be told “no” because their character is not fitting for a leadership role. Your young adult children are not prepared for marriage because they need to first move away from home and experience independent living. Accountability helps everyone move forward in God’s will.
Above all else, live like you are accountable to almighty God, as one day we all give an account to Him for our actions.
“With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (1 Peter 4:4–5)
Are you truly accountable to others, and do you provide effective accountability to friends?
November 30 - December 1, 2018
“Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.”
The command to give a tithe (one-tenth) of one’s income to God was central in ancient Israel:
“But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock.” (Deuteronomy 12:5-6)
“And he commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion due to the priests and the Levites, that they might give themselves to the Law of the Lord. As soon as the command was spread abroad, the people of Israel gave in abundance the firstfruits of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field. And they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything.” (2 Chronicles 31:4-5)
In Israel’s God-ruled government, the tithe helped to provide for the Levitical tribe, which offered sacrifices to the Lord and assisted in temple work as well as to provide for the poor:
“To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting,” (Numbers 18:21)
“Moreover, you shall speak and say to the Levites, ‘When you take from the people of Israel the tithe that I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present a contribution from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe.” (Numbers 18:26)
Today’s passage gives us a stirring warning about the neglect of giving to God, calling it robbery:
“Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.” (Malachi 3:8-9)
When Christ came, He fulfilled the demands of the Mosaic law:
“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’ Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3:10-13)
And there is no longer a required tithe. Instead, believers are encouraged to regularly give to the Lord in proportion to their income and with an attitude of generosity:
“On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.” (1 Corinthians 16:2)
“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully[a] will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)
Giving is an act of worship, and generous giving can show our confidence in the God of grace.
In what ways can you worship God this week through your generosity?
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