November 21, 2018
LOVE EXTENDED TO UNBELIEVING FAMILY
“For not even his [Jesus'] brothers believed in him.”
“And when his [Jesus’] family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He [Jesus] is out of his mind.’”
Often unbelieving family members are suspicious about a relative “getting religion.”
The polite skeptics whisper among themselves about a stage their friend is going through—a spiritual crisis—but they will eventually get over their religious crutch. In due time, cynics will encounter their own life challenges: a health issue, a job change, a prodigal child or a financial drought. They may seek you for answers because they’ve watched the fruit of your faithfulness: wisdom, peace and joy. See lost family members as Jesus sees them: in bondage, deceived by Satan’s lies.
Jesus faced the very real challenge of critical, even caustic family members. He had no honor among His relatives (except his mom and dad) or from the community where He grew up—yet He still honored all of them. What the unbelieving family members did not give Him: respect, faith, hope, love, patience and forgiveness—He gave them. Jesus prescribed automatic refills of mercy. Jesus knew by fervent, patient prayer (His and other’s) and through the power of the Holy Spirit, some family members would one day be saved—like His brother James who later wrote:
“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” (James 2:1)
Unbelieving family members act like unbelieving family members. So, apply grace and truth to their pride and ignorance—pray they see Christ in your life and plead for your heavenly Father to draw them to Himself. You know better because you have tasted the gospel and digested it deep within your soul, but the lost do not know any better—they nibble on Christ’s crumbs—unable to savor spiritual realities. They may talk of religion with their lips, but their heart is far from faith in Jesus. But perpetual care is irresistible—as you show interest in their interests—love will win.
Better to keep your relationship with an unbelieving relative right than to prove you’re right. God’s Spirit will prod and probe them out of their moral slumber and/or common sense coma. You plant the seeds of unselfish service and Biblical insights on an as needed basis (adults learn when they have a felt need to learn). Actively seek others to pray for the Spirit to germinate the gospel in your friend’s heart and trust the Lord to harvest their soul’s salvation. By faith and with great grace, pursue a relationship with an unbelieving relative—love never gives up!
“And he [Jesus] did not permit him [the man who had been possessed with demons] but said to him, 'Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.' And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” (Mark 5:19-20)
Whom do you need to spend time with just to get to know them better?
November 20, 2018
PEACE IN PANIC
1 Peter 5:7
“casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
Before I married, I traveled a lot. I enjoyed hopping on an airplane for a speaking event or to visit family. But one day that all changed. One afternoon as I entered a familiar airport, my chest tightened, my breathing became shallow, and I felt panic rise in me. This feeling stayed with me until I boarded my flight.
A few weeks later, the same thing occurred again. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before; I was perplexed. My “airport episodes” happened in my early forties right as deep grief of not marrying or having children was hitting me hard. I was painfully lonely, more than I had ever been in my adult life.
I sought the Lord, “Please show me why this is happening.” I decided I would review some of my old journal entries for the answer. Over and over—for months—I had been writing the lie, “I am an orphan.” My family lived many states away and I didn’t have a solid support system. My father had died, and my two best girlfriends had run off to heaven with Jesus. I felt extremely vulnerable. I wrote, “There is something wrong with a 40-something woman living alone, far away from her family with no one to love.”
So, there I had it. I had been telling myself I was an adult orphan and that I was all alone. And so, I figured that whenever I entered an airport, the sea of people and perhaps the “bigness” of it all exacerbated my emotional pain, causing me to panic.
I made a plan. The next time I entered an airport, I decided to tell myself the truth; that I am a beloved daughter of God and that I am not an orphan and never alone. I imagined Jesus beside me on the moving walkway. I talked with him and sang a song confirming my confidence in his presence. I practiced Christ being with me each time I traveled. My feelings of panic disappeared and never came back. You may remember that Jesus said:
“and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
If the truth sets you free, then lies will keep you bound—and I was definitely emotionally bound up with the lie that I was all alone.
Are you wrestling with a particularly difficult emotion? Take your struggle to the Lord and let him speak his truth into it. Then, take him at his Word and believe what he says about who you are and who he is to you. His truth is liberating.
“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.” (John 14:27)
If you are wrestling with a difficult emotion, perhaps anger, loneliness, fear, or frustration, speak with Him about what you are feeling. Ask Him what is behind your trouble. Is there are a lie you are believing that needs to change so you can be set free into greater emotional wholeness?
November 19, 2018
WISDOM FROM A WEATHER VANE
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Charles Spurgeon, who was a powerful Bible teacher, was walking with his friend through the English countryside. He noticed a weather vane on the roof of a barn. There was not a rooster on top, simply the words “GOD IS LOVE.” Spurgeon said to his friend that a weather vane seemed an inappropriate place for such a message. He said, “Weather vanes are so changeable, but God’s love is constant.” His friend replied, “I think you misunderstand – regardless of which way the wind blows, God is always loving us.”
Even in the fiercest headwinds of our lives, His love comes through. Human love has its limits – but His love never fails. As Lamentations says:
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
These “breakthrough” verses in Lamentations were written by “the weeping prophet,” Jeremiah. He found God’s love to be the silver-lined cloud amidst the devastation caused by Israel’s rebellion from the Lord.
Centuries later, the famous song “Great is Thy Faithfulness” was inspired by these very verses in Lamentations. Because the song was so moving to us, my wife Terri and I chose it as one of our wedding songs. The lyrics were penned by Thomas Chisholm, who struggled with his health and finances for decades. Both Jeremiah and Chisholm wrote during times of great distress, and both found God’s love to be steady and sufficient!
As we triumphantly walked the aisle at the close of our wedding, Terri and I never imagined the firestorm of cancer which would one day blow into our lives. In 2003, at age 44, doctors believed I had a terminal case of Stage IV metastatic melanoma. I can still recall the powerful gusts of pain and suffering. I was caught in a hurricane and desperately trying to hold on… to anything. Yet in the midst of my lamentations, God’s love was so consistent and available. His love broke through my self-reliance and my do-it-yourself approach to fighting cancer.
How about you – are you facing the trial of your life? Where are you turning for help? Be assured, the Lord is able to help us weather any storm, no matter what form it takes! Keep in mind, however, dependence on His love is learned. He will teach us; and unlike ourselves or others, He is very patient with us. And thus we close with Paul’s very fitting prayer:
“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5)
November 18, 2018
GROW OLD TOGETHER
“even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”
There is a relational richness that comes from growing old together. It may be parents, a spouse, children, siblings, friends, church acquaintances, or a work associate who contributes to a caring community. Regardless of the source of relational fulfillment, it brings to life the Lord’s creative design of intentionality in doing life together.
We are not created by our heavenly Father to be isolated and insecure. His plan for us is to engage with each other in meaningful conversation, patient prayer, loving service, and relaxing recreation. Families and friends who grow old together are able to work through conflict, overcome obstacles, serve unselfishly, and celebrate God’s faithfulness.
“I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 89:1)
Perhaps you and your spouse pray for three other couples with whom you can invest intentional time in fun, fellowship, and going deeper with the Lord. They are in a similar season of life as you; so you are able to walk together with empathetic understanding and genuine prayer support. Consider a monthly dinner with games, a Bible study, and annual trips together. It is important to grow old with those whose company you enjoy.
Above all else, grow old with God. The Lord longs to be there for you in the ups and downs of life. His strength sustains you, His compassion carries you, and His righteousness rescues you. Every day with Jesus grows sweeter than the day before for the Christian who grows old with grace. God does not give up on you, and neither should you.
“The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness, for the LORD gave you into my hand today, and I would not put out my hand against the LORD’s anointed.” (1 Samuel 26:23)
Enjoy the Lord’s ever-growing influence in your life. Each season of service for your Savior is meant to draw you into more intense intimacy and love. Understanding and accepting Christ’s unconditional acceptance and love gives you peace and security to relax in His righteous arms. His aging process gives you permission to be yourself. Relational richness comes from growing old with Christ and with His trusted friends.
“Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” (Philippians 4:1)
Are you intentional in growing old well with the Lord, friends, and family?
November 17, 2018
THE ENEMY OF TRUST
“The Lord said to Gideon, ‘The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, “My own hand has saved me.”’”
Military commanders always want to have enough troops to accomplish their mission. Most would prefer having too many, not too few. But not everyone agrees on just how many troops will be enough.
When Gideon recruited an army of 32,000 men to stand against those who oppressed the Israelites, the Lord told him, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’”
So the Lord began to reduce Gideon’s army. When the fearful were allowed to leave, 22,000 men went home:
“Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’ Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.” (Judges 7:3)
A second reduction cut the force from the remaining 10,000 to 300 troops:
“And the Lord said to Gideon, ‘With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.’” (Judges 7:7)
And so it happened:
“So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch. And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, ‘A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!’ Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. When they blew the 300 trumpets, the Lord set every man's sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah,[a] as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. And the men of Israel were called out from Naphtali and from Asher and from all Manasseh, and they pursued after Midian.” (Judges 7:19-23)
In our life of faith, our resources can become the enemy of trust. God wants us to depend on Him, not our own strength, whether physical, financial, or intellectual.
When the Lord reduces our resources from “32,000 to 300,” it is not punishment. It is preparation for Him to be glorified through our lives as we acknowledge and trust His power.
When God gives us an impossible task—it becomes possible.
David C. McCasland
November 16, 2018
TRUST AND OBEY
“In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul.”
“Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” (Isaiah 50:10)
“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,” (Matthew 1:24)
On some of the Christmas cards you will receive this year, no doubt there will be a man standing in the background looking over the shoulder of Mary, who is prominently displayed caring for the baby Jesus. His name is Joseph. And after the nativity narratives, he isn’t heard from much again. If we didn’t know better, we would think Joseph was an insignificant bystander or, at best, a mere necessity to undergird Jesus’ claim to the throne of David.
But, in fact, the role that Joseph played was strategically important. If he had disobeyed the angel’s command to take Mary as his wife:
“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20)
He would have, from a human perspective, put the entire mission of Jesus at risk.
Taking Mary as his wife was a risky assignment. Public perception that he was the baby’s father put him in serious violation of Jewish law and made him a public disgrace. Yet today all of us are thankful that he was willing to risk his reputation to participate in and facilitate God’s unfolding drama.
Most of us are insignificant compared to the major players in this world. But all of us are called to obey. Who knows what God has in store when we are willing to surrender to God’s will—even when it puts us at risk!
It’s no small thing to trust and obey.
November 14-15, 2018
A CALL FOR ENDURANCE
“…Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.”
The book of Revelation often paints a bleak picture of the condition of God’s people. Like Israel throughout the Old Testament, they find themselves oppressed, held captive, and besieged by many trials. And yet, time and time again, in the midst of these trials, rather than in spite of them, the message of Scripture calls for a steady faithfulness that trusts in the goodness and strength of the Lord.
Endurance is a simple thing when one lacks any real trial or challenge. If you go on a slow, simple walk around your neighborhood and avoid all the hills, you likely will never break a sweat and as a result may convince yourself you are physically fit and filled with endurance. Yet you haven’t actually deepened your endurance or expanded your physical capacity, you’ve simply removed all external challenges and obstacles!
The absence of challenge leads to a shallow and untested life. Trials and obstacles are God’s means of deepening faith in his saints. Though in the moment we may struggle to see any redemptive value in them, they are given to us as opportunities to expand our trust and faith in the Lord.
It is possible to live your entire life at the surface. Wading in the shallow end is comfortable, yet keeps you from the joy and wonder of the ocean depths. And while the crashing waves may feel intimidating and impossible to conquer, the only way to reach the calm, clear waters of the deep is to pass through the waves with a heart filled with unshakable hope in a God who himself faced incredible pain, yet overcame even death itself and now rules and reigns in glory.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
You likely find yourself today faced with a very real challenge or obstacle in your life. Whatever it may be, no matter how dark or hopeless it may seem, as a follower of Jesus there is always hope. Even in the face of death, resurrection always has the last word.
Where have you given up and abandoned your faith journey? How can you return to the Lord and respond to his call for endurance?
November 13, 2018
1 Peter 5:6-7
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
Government health experts are now publicizing a new category of blood pressure level that they call "pre-hypertension". The news affects 45 million Americans whose blood pressure is 120 to 139 millimeters of mercury systolic (the top number) or 80 to 90 diastolic (the bottom number). These individuals do not have high blood pressure yet and do not need medication. But unless they change their lifestyle and eating habits, it's likely they will. Which is worse - having high blood pressure and not knowing it, or knowing it and therefore raising it?
Here's a spiritual fact which will help:
The word "cast" means to throw something onto someone else. When we "cast" our anxieties on God, we let go of them. We turn them over to him. This is a present tense command, so that we are to make this decision continually. Every time the worry comes back, give it to God. Again and again and again. it's an imperative, so that if you're carrying anxiety in your own hands and heart, you're disobeying the word and will of God. He wants you to give him your worries, the moment they arise in your mind.
ALL YOUR ANXIETIES
"All your anxieties" is the next phrase. "All" leaves no exceptions. "Anxieties" points to any stress, problem, or worry. We are allowed none of these for ourselves. Mark it down: there is no problem so large you cannot trust it to God, and none so small you can trust it to yourself. My tendency is to solve my problems myself, turning to God only when I must. But I've learned that he would much rather guide me into his will than repair the mistakes made by my own will.
Cast your anxieties "on God," trusting them into his power, providence, and provision. The Creator of the universe can be trusted with any problem encountered therein. You go to a doctor for physical problems and a lawyer for legal advice, because they are the best qualified in their respective fields. Go to God with your anxieties, for his omniscience and omnipotence are the best resources in all of creation.
BECAUSE HE CARES FOR YOU
Make this decision "because he cares for you." "Cares" means that he feels compassion for you. He knows your problems, for he faces them with you. He feels your pain, shares your stress, suffers your grief. He is Immanuel, God with us. History is filled with men who would be gods, but only one God who would be man.
What anxiety most burdens you this morning? What will you do with it, right now?
“…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
November 12, 2018
REMEMBER THE VETERAN
“…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
On February 4, 1969, during the Vietnam War, at the completion of a night combat mission from, and returning to, the aircraft carrier USS Hancock, fighter pilot Paul E. Swigart had a landing accident which resulted in his death. He is only one of many who have not returned over the years. Many others are serving today. Veteran’s Day is when we honor all veterans. Let us pause and remember those who have and those who are serving.
“No arsenal, no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.”--Ronald Reagan
“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling, which thinks that nothing is worth war, is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”-—John Stuart Mill
"A veteran is someone who wrote a blank check, payable to the United States of America for an amount up to and including his life,”—Gene Castagnetti, director of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
“Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you, Jesus Christ and the American GI. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.”—Author Unknown
November 11, 2018
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
Paul Miller, who spoke at a recent Desiring God conference, has surveyed evangelical Christians on their prayer lives at seminars about prayer. He found that about 90 percent of them did not have a meaningful daily prayer life. Are you like many others? Do you feel the urging of the Holy Spirit to pray, but you feel weak in your spiritual knees?
God wants you to be encouraged. It is because you are weak, that God says you need to pray. Missionary Hudson Taylor is purported to have said, “All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on God being with them.” God never condemns you for being weak. Instead, in His love and grace, He has sent His Spirit to help with that weakness.
The Lord reminds us:
“… ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Allow the Holy Spirit to give you strength in your spiritual knees today.
November 10, 2018
FAITH AND PATIENCE TO SUFFER WELL
“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”
“Widespread carcinomatosis", a recent life altering prognosis for my mom. We wept. To suffer is a big burden to bear. To see a loved one suffer is pain that takes faith and patience in prayer to process. A parent once throbbing with life and laughter, suddenly ravaged by an incurable disease. A child born with an ailment that requires a lifetime of intense medical attention. Most of us will experience the afflictions of someone precious who will need us to be strong in their time of need. We suffer with them for their comfort and peace. By God’s grace, all are able to suffer well.
Job, one of God’s giants in the faith, found a way to suffer well. Not always a perfect exhibit of how to handle pain, this man of God experienced a deeper faith and patience as he processed out loud to his long-suffering heavenly Father and to his well meaning, but sometimes impatient friends. The outcome of the Lord’s blessings were not evident to all, until after Job had endured. Christ’s compassion and mercy, may seem late to those who labor under painful conditions, but grace and mercy meet us at the intersection of our fears, our faith, our pain and our perseverance.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Is your heart broken, because of the brokenness you see and feel in someone you love? You may second guess yourself for not doing more, but don’t go there---even if you could have done more, you can’t go back and undo the past. Instead, lean into the compassion and mercy of Christ to forgive you, free you and give you the confidence to stand firm for a friend or family member who has fallen. Walk with her through her valley, so she knows she is not alone and remind her of God’s river of love that flows through the valley of the shadow of death. Allow suffering to stretch your faith to places you’ve never been, so you can support the frail and the fearful.
You may not know the end God intends until after you have endured. The windshield of life does not always discern what’s ahead until you can gaze at life through your rearview mirror. Keep the wick of your life burning bright for the Lord in rest, soul care and earnest prayers from your caring community. Just as a burning candle lights another candle with nothing lost, so your unwavering faith and patient love ignite the light of comfort, hope and peace to help another suffer well. Faith and patience to suffer well are drawn from the deep well of knowing God.
Live a life story of suffering well; your faith will instruct and inspire another to suffer well.
“For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” (2 Corinthians 1:5)
Who needs your loving presence and prayers to comfort and support him?
November 9, 2018
STORMS, SHIPWRECKS, AND SNAKEBITES
“There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.”
In the final chapters of Acts, Paul finds himself enduring incredible trials. As he’s transported to Rome in the midst of a significant legal trial, he finds himself caught in a storm at sea, shipwrecked on the island of Malta for months, and even attacked by a viper!
“When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand.” (Acts 28:3)
Understandably, he’s incredibly happy to finally arrive safely in Rome. Yet his joy and encouragement isn’t simply from safe arrival but is found in the support and love he receives from Christians in that city.
Acts tells us that Paul gave thanks and was encouraged at the very sight of these fellow believers:
“... Paul thanked God and took courage.” (Acts 28:15)
There is an incredible bond of love and affection that exists between Christians. Even though many of them had likely never met Paul before, they knew he was family, that he belonged to them and they to him. To be united to Christ is to be united to his people. To know the love of Christ is to love the people he loves. To receive the grace of God is to be a person who gives grace and goes out of their way to offer encouragement to those who need it the most.
As you hear this story today, you may find yourself identifying with Paul. You feel as though life has been a steady stream of storms, shipwrecks, and snakebites! Have these challenges driven you into isolation? Have you closed yourself off from sources of hope and encouragement? The Christian life is never meant to be lived alone. Allow yourself to receive the gift of community. Choose vulnerability and transparency so you can receive the gift of God’s grace given to you by brothers and sisters in faith.
On the other hand, today you may be in a place of strength in your life and faith. Perhaps like these early Christians who made great sacrifices traveling long distances to care for their brother Paul, you too are being invited to sacrificially reach out in love to people in need of encouragement and refreshment. The strength and courage you have isn’t just for your own comfort and consolation, it is given to you for the sake of others. Boldly be a blessing and agent of God’s grace in someone’s life today!
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
How can you seek out the encouragement of community in your life today? How can you be a blessing to someone in need of refreshment?
November 8, 2018
HIDING FROM GOD
“And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
Does this statement bother you, or even frighten you? Surely you know why you may feel uneasy if you consider that God knows every thought in your innermost being, not just your outward actions, which others may or may not discover. If you do not like to have God know the things you have hidden within yourself, there is only one way you may divest yourself of them: get rid of all you do not want God to see or know! John has told us how to do that:
"Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure." (1 John 3:3)
And how does one go about purifying himself? Surely he cannot do it by himself, any more than Lady Macbeth was able to wash away her "damn spot." Paul tells us that we must allow God Himself to eradicate it all from us:
"...through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit." (Titus 3:5)
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.
Here are some ways by which many people try to get rid of their uneasiness over knowing God is aware of their hidden sins, but be sure that none of these methods works. They try to ignore the fact of God's surveillance; they deny the truth that God does this. They try to claim that what they did or thought isn't all that bad, at least no worse than what others do. Or they say they really do not care who sees their thoughts and actions, even God. However, as I already said, none of these excuses works, and it is said that our country's counseling rooms are filled with patients who know their sins are not forgiven.
What do you want God to see within you? More importantly, what do you think God wants to see within you? Are you convinced your answers to those two questions are accurate?
This concept must be exceedingly important to God, and to the author of Hebrews, because he reiterates the same idea, this time in a positive way:
“And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)
In the days far gone when doctors made house calls, the president of the local bank in her small midwestern town came to my great-grandmother's home, and as gently as possible informed her that her checking account was overdrawn. Great-grandma protested strongly several times that it could not be overdrawn. As the bank president persisted in his statement, great-grandma finally rose, went into her bedroom, and returned with her checkbook. She showed it to the man, "I can't be owerdrawn. See, I still have several checks left!" Guess who won the argument?
Not one excuse we dream up for God is good enough. He sees through every ruse, every plot we design, any misconception of God's righteousness to make Him think that sin has not stained us. He not only knows all that is within us, He also knows by the measurement of His standard whether what He sees is so or not.
Just as my great-grandmother could not prove to the bank president that she still had a balance in her checking account, so also we cannot convince God we have not sinned!
Dr. Thomas R. Teply
From his book, Christ is Best, A Devotional Study of Hebrews
November 7, 2018
SEEING UPSIDE DOWN
“And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard it, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.’”
In India I worshiped among leprosy patients. Most of the medical advances in the treatment of leprosy came about as a result of missionary doctors, who were willing to live among patients and risk exposure to the dreaded disease. As a result, churches thrive in most major leprosy centers.
In Myanmar I visited homes for AIDS orphans, where Christian volunteers try to replace parental affection the disease has stolen away.
The most rousing church services I have attended took place in Chile and Peru, in the bowels of a federal prison. Among the lowly, the wretched, the downtrodden—the rejected of this world—God’s kingdom takes root.
Taking God’s assignment seriously means that we must learn to look at the world upside down, as Jesus did. Instead of seeking out people with resources who can do us favors, we look for people with few resources. Instead of the strong, we find the weak; instead of the healthy, the sick. Instead of the spiritual, the sinful. Is not this how God reconciles the world to Himself?
“But when he heard it, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.”’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”’” (Matthew 9:12-13)
To gain a new perspective, look at the world upside down as Jesus did.
Do you see a needy world through the eyes of Jesus?
November 6, 2018
HOPE FOR TIMES OF WORRY AND UNCERTAINTY
“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.”
Have you ever been so overcome with worry that you can’t sleep, and your mind is spinning with concerns about how the future will work out? Have you mentally tried to put the pieces of your future life together because you are struggling to trust the Lord? Oh, boy! Have I been there. There are times in life when worry comes knocking that it can be a challenge to calm one’s mind and just rest in the Lord’s love. Perhaps in those moments, He would say to you and me…
When you try to arrange the pieces of your future where I have not illuminated the path before you, you’ll be in torment.
“For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ’In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling,” (Isaiah 30:15)
I will care for you each step of the way. I am caring for you now, and I will take care of then, just as I always have. To cease from worry means you’ll be able to rest in peace. But why do you worry so? I will never leave you and I will never forsake you.
I will only illuminate the path directly in front of you and it will always be this way while you are on the earth. When you allow your mind to dwell on a bad report or the awful things that could happen in the future, you aren’t living in my love, and you are imagining moments wherein I have not yet given you my light.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
I only give daily bread.
So, stay in the moment. Live in the present. Focus your mind directly on the decisions directly before you, not on those tasks next week, next month, or next year. That part of your path has not yet been illuminated. My grace is for now. It’s in the now. It’s always in the now. When tomorrow is today, you’ll find grace there too, but not until then. Only then will I give you the grace to do what you need to do.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Rest in my love. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6)
I will provide all your needs and give you strength and wisdom for tasks and decisions as you have need—and not until then.
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
Stay in today. I am here. I love you. Jesus.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27)
Pour your worries out to the Lord and tell Him that you trust Him. Finally, consider the Lord’s faithfulness for the problems you have had in the past and praise Him for the answers that are coming.
November 4, 2018
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
The Lord is a bountiful benefactor to all who believe. Christ consistently looks ahead and anticipates the needs of those who love Him. Are you in need of education? He is aligning the necessary resources. Are you praying for a husband or wife? He is orchestrating relationships. Are you seeking a career transition? He is preparing the way.
Like a seasoned chef, the Lord prepares a table of provision that is customized to our circumstances. His appetizers, entrees, sides, and desserts are all beautiful to behold. The spread from our Savior provides a variety of spiritual and physical nourishment; so when we leave the Lord’s Table of provision, we are full and content. He provides opportunities.
There are naysayers who are enemies of faith-filled living. They have to explain the unexplainable and take personal credit for any results they experience. But it is in the presence of unbelievers that the Lord can make believers. How do you define a life that lives for the Lord and in service to others? God’s preparation produces faith followers.
“whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:11)
The expectations of others can fall short, but the Lord never disappoints. His preparations and provisions are thorough and thought through. He anoints us with love and respect, and our cup of joy runs over in gratitude to our great God. In the presence of Jesus there is no prejudice, just provision. Thus, bow in worship, and receive His beautiful blessings.
Jesus said to Simon,
“'You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.' And he said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.'” (Luke 7:46–48)
The Lord’s last preparation for His people is the marriage supper of the Lamb. This grand and glorious celebration is for all who have embraced Christ as their Savior and Lord. Have you opened your invitation from Jesus for forgiveness and grace, intimacy and provision? Have you, by faith, sent your confirmation to this gala with God? He has prepared the way for those He loves; so follow by faith, and enjoy the journey with Jesus.
“And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’” (Revelation 19:9)
Are you pleased with the Lord’s preparations for your life? Are you prepared to meet Him?
November 4, 2018
“And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.”
Since 1950, a white marble bas-relief has hung in the chambers of the U.S. House of Representatives. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the Congress in 2015, he referred to that sculpture. “Facing me right up here in the gallery, overlooking all of us… is the image of Moses,” he said. Moses is also at the center of marble figures on the frieze of the Supreme Court building, standing among other lawgivers, holding the tablets of stone.
And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.
An article in TIME magazine, October 2009, titled How Moses Shaped America, says, “From the Pilgrims to the Founding Fathers, the Civil War to the civil rights movement, Americans have turned to Moses in periods of crisis because his narrative offers a roadmap of peril and promise.” While the influence of Moses is true, his imperfect life was lived painting a picture of the hope that Christ would offer. As for the tablets of stone God delivered to Moses, you are reminded:
“And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:3)
Gratitude is due for the acknowledgments in the nation’s capital of Moses and the gift of the law that was given through him that has inspired American values. But greater thanksgiving belongs to Christ, who has redeemed you and saved you. Even as you express your gratitude today, pray for those who see those figures of Moses regularly but may not know the truth, that they would have a relationship with God, the Supreme Lawgiver, and lover of your soul.
November 3, 2018
MAN AND A FORK
1 Corinthians 2:9
“But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’”
There was a young man who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as he was getting his things in order, He contacted his pastor and had him come to his house to discuss certain aspects of his final wishes.
He told him which songs he wanted sung at the service, what scriptures he would like read, and what outfit he wanted to be buried in.
Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the young man suddenly remembered something very important to him.
So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder "What's with the fork?" Then I want you to tell them: "Keep your fork .. the best is yet to come”.
The pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young man good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see him before his death. But he also knew that the young man had a better grasp of heaven than he did. He had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice his age, with twice as much experience and knowledge.
November 2, 2018
OBEY UPSIDE DOWN
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
If you were to ask me who I am, I’d tell you that I’m a follower of Jesus. But I have to admit, at times following Him is a real challenge. He tells me to do things like:
Rejoice when one is persecuted:
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)
To turn the other cheek:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)
To give to someone who wants to take from me:
“And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:40-42)
To love my enemies, bless those who curse me, and do good to those who hate me:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:43-44)
This kind of lifestyle seems very upside down to me. But I’ve come to realize that He’s not upside down—I am. We have all been born fallen and broken. Being twisted by sin, our first instincts are often wrong, which inevitably leaves a big mess.
We are like toast slathered with jelly that has fallen upside down on the kitchen floor. Left to ourselves, we can make a pretty big mess of things. Then Jesus comes along, like a divine spatula, scrapes us off the floor of our sinful ways, and turns us right side up. And as we follow His right-side-up ways, we discover that turning the other cheek keeps us from getting caught in a brawl, that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and that dying to self is life at its best.
After all, His ways are not our ways:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8)
I’ve come to realize that His ways are always best! What may seem upside down to us is right side up to God.
November 1, 2018
FILLED WITH GRIEF
“As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.’ And they were greatly distressed.”
Every minute a baby is born who fills family and friends with joy. Simultaneously, a person dies who fills loved ones left behind with grief. Grief is a God-given emotion that everyone experiences when something valuable is lost, especially loss of life. An unborn child lost to miscarriage, a middle-aged woman’s terminal cancer, or an old man’s heart failure all result in grief for those who long to love them again. Grief hurts deeply.
So how are followers of Jesus to process severe sorrow? How do we keep on living when a child, parent, grandparent, or friend is now among the dead? Indeed, we let them down if we linger too long in despair, living as if there is no future hope after life. One way to honor the dead is to live well until we die. The loss of a loved one is a wake-up call that our existence on earth is finite. We are called by God to live purposefully for Him.
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:13–15)
Furthermore, when friends or family are grieving, be patient and give them space to be with Christ in His compassionate consultation. It is your loving-kindness and care that warm them to reengage with life’s responsibilities. Some people snap back quickly, while others require a long length of time to process through their enormous emptiness.
Ultimately, only Jesus can fill the void of human attachment. When deep-felt love is vacated to heaven, you need heaven’s help. Grief is not to be processed alone but with almighty God and those who love you dearly. Open your hurting heart to genuine love, but be wise not to succumb to a greedy or self-serving “friend” seeking to take advantage of your vulnerability. Guard your heart in your grief, but give yourself fully to God.
Remember grief is momentary, but heaven is forever. Life is like a drop of water in time, but eternity with Jesus is a sea of hope, healing, and happiness. Through Christ you will soon be reunited with your spouse, son, daughter, mom, dad, brother, sister, and friend. Use your grief to grow closer to God and those who love you most. Grief gets us to God.
“Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles; they were stronger than lions.” (2 Samuel 1:23)
Are you allowing the Lord to love you through your grief? Who is grieving and hurting that you can comfort with God’s Word?
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