March 31, 2020
"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you."
“Can you go to the supermarket now and buy a few bags of rice? Supply is depleting from the shelves!” my husband said, in a concerned manner. It was the day major news outlets had just reported that Singapore’s Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level had turned from yellow to orange, indicating that the disease is severe and there is a moderate to high public health impact.
Ever since the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) first entered public consciousness, there have been daily news reports on it in my country. And with each passing day, we have been buying more and more things in a bid to protect ourselves from the virus as much as possible. We all want to survive. And we will buy whatever it takes to have that sense of security.
Face masks, hand sanitizers, and thermometers have all run out of stock in most of the stores across Singapore. And now groceries were running out as well. The first item to run out was rice and the next was toilet paper—it felt as if we were going to war.
“How did this panic-buying happen in my nation? Is there really a need to do this? What if there really isn’t any more rice at the supermarket when we finish ours at home? My family is so used to eating rice daily!” Those thoughts prompted me to make a trip down to the supermarket, and I was just in time to get two sacks of rice from the almost-empty shelf.
As unfortunate and untimely as this coronavirus outbreak is, crises like these present us, as believers, with an excellent opportunity to step out and show the love and grace of Christ—even if it comes at our own expense.
To be honest, hauling those two bags of rice home did give me a sense of assurance that my family will have enough rice for the weeks to come. But what about after the rice runs out and I need to replenish it again? What if the situation does not get better by then and there isn’t any more rice available in the stores or the situation worsens to the point that I can’t even go out? Clearly, we all need something more than just masks or rice to “keep calm and carry on.” The truth is, we can purchase everything we need for our physical survival and stock up our homes but still end up anxious and restless.
What we need is the peace and assurance from God that He is still on the throne and rules for our good. In such a time when panic can be more contagious than the coronavirus, we need to remember that perfect peace is found only in trusting God:
"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." (Isaiah 26:3)
"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)
and resting in His shadow:
"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'" (Psalm 91:1-2)
When we allow our minds to be influenced by the chaos around us, rather than the Word of God, we can never find peace. The Word of God is full of Spirit and life:
"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." (John 6:63)
It is clarity and hope:
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." (Romans 15:13)
It is a lamp to our feet and light to our path:
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (Psalm 119:105)
Renewing our minds with the truth of His Word is the only thing that can give us lasting peace. My rice-buying experience was a good spiritual check for myself. Was I placing hope and trust in what I could do for myself and my family rather than trusting God for His peace? Was I storing up my treasure on this temporal earth where things do not last?
"Jesus said to him, 'If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'" (Matthew 19:21)
Matthew says Jesus will come again to redeem us at an unexpected hour:
"But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only." (Matthew 24:36)
In some way, that parallels our current situation. None of us expected the coronavirus outbreak to happen and those who were not prepared for it ended up grabbing groceries in a frantic manner. Would I be caught unprepared when Jesus comes again at the unexpected hour? How about my loved ones?
Whether or not I have stored up sufficient rice for the family now seems like a small matter in light of the future reality of Jesus’ impending return. While physical needs are important, it is even more important for me to keep vigilant at all times. Am I reflecting Christ in my daily life? And in this uncertain epidemic, am I sharing the peace of Christ with my unsaved loved ones and those living in fear?
I am not proud to admit that I was one of those who participated in the panic buying, but through this experience I plan to use every opportunity to share the peace of Christ with those around me, especially in this climate of uncertainty and fear.
March 30, 2020
FAILURE IS NEVER FINAL
"for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity."
"Failure is never final for the person who gets up one more time than he stumbles, falls, or gets knocked down. The crucial thing, whenever we fail or fall, is that with God's help, we get up, go on, and learn from the experience." (Dick Innes)
Four years ago, in the 2020 Rio Olympics, Usain Bolt won yet another gold medal in running. Known in the sports world as "Lightning Bolt", Usain holds the title of "The World's Fastest Man." He holds multiple world records, Olympic records and he is the reigning World and Olympic champion in three events.
However, Usain was not successful in every Olympic race he ran. In his very first Olympic race, the 2004 Olympics in Athens, he was hampered by a leg injury and he was eliminated in the first round of the 200 meters.
He failed. He did less than his best. But he didn't quit. He didn't give up. He didn't give in. He continued to work, He continued to practice. He continued to run. And in the last Olympics, he won another gold medal.
The Apostle Paul knew that there is a race and a prize that is so much more important than any Olympic race or gold medal - the race of life. In that race, we can not quit. We can not give up. Even if we have failures that seem overwhelming, failures that seem insurmountable, we must keep pressing on toward the prize that God has called us to - because "Failure is Never Final".
"I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
March 28-29, 2020
"If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet."
Sweet sleep comes to a secure soul. Wise is the one who lays his worries at the feet of Jesus before he lies down at night. Fear is foreign to those who sleep sweetly in the safe arms of their Savior. If you are a light sleeper, learn to listen to the Lord, write down what He is saying, and go back to bed. The Almighty may awaken you, as He did Samuel (see 1 Samuel 3), only to rock you back to sleep in a more restful place.
The Lord neither sleeps nor slumbers, as He is a trustworthy sentinel over the vulnerable state of your blissful exposure. God is on guard; so you do not have to sit up and see what is going on. You can lie down by faith and wake up rested and refreshed. A good night’s rest is a gift from God, ready to be received by faith. David, a man who faced many fears, confidently prayed:
“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)
Furthermore, a clear conscience is what Christ uses to calm your emotions, settle your mind, and create sweet sleep. When demons of guilt are engaged in your head, you have a hard time sleeping. However, a clear conscience comes by humbly taking responsibility for your behavior and asking forgiveness from God and man for sinful attitudes and actions. Integrity and uprightness preserve you from pride and precarious living.
A clear conscience results from working through relational conflict. Why allow broken relationships to rob you of rest? Instead, go immediately in humility, and initiate reconciliation that will lead to rest, as stress surrenders at the sight of relational healing. Simply talking through tension with a teachable heart releases anxieties and fears. A clear conscience that keeps short accounts will benefit in sweet sleep.
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23–24)
With whom do you need to seek reconciliation so you can both rest in sweet sleep?
March 26-27, 2020
GOD'S EVER PRESENT LOVE
"There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous."
God is present in your predicament. You do not have to pray, “God be with us”. He is there already. He is there because He cares. He is there because you are extremely valuable to Him. God’s cherishes His children. He loves to give His own good gifts:
"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11)
His presence alone is a present. He is present to give wisdom. He is present to give you direction. He is present to give you courage. In His presence there is peace. He is ever present.
God’s presence is there to calm and convict us. His peace is what propels us forward by faith. Do not give up on doing the right thing. Sinful compromise for short term satisfaction never ends well. Why put your family at risk by running after forbidden fruit? God has not left you. He does not wink at wicked deeds. He is right by your side to see you through this sinful temptation. Indeed the fear of God is the fruit of His presence. He reminds us to remain pure.
"He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9)
His presence is made manifest in a company of Christ followers. It is in community that the Body of Christ is in full expression. Sin pushes us to seclusion. It is an illusion to think we can isolate ourselves from Almighty God. But in authentic community there is nowhere to hide. It is in the presence of committed Christ followers that we feed our faith. Do not fight temptation alone. Tell someone. Reengage with the righteous. This is the presence of God personified.
Stay in the presence of God-fearing followers. This time of engagement with others facilitates our alone time with our Heavenly Father. Stay hard after your Heavenly Father in solitude and prayer. His presence is inviting you into intimacy. Design your life around a daily retreat into His presence. Look into His face and feel His love. In His presence He provides just what we need in the moment. Persevere in prayer without ceasing—be present in God’s presence!
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)
What does it mean for the Spirit to be ever-present? How does the Spirit strengthen your spirit?
Written by Boyd Bailey
March 25, 2020
OUR WEAKNESS CAN BE OUR STRENGTH
A 10-year-old boy decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident. The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn't understand why, after three months of training, the master had taught him only one move. "Sensei," the boy finally said, "Shouldn't I be learning more moves?" "This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you'll ever need to know," the sensei replied.
2 Corinthians 12:9
"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."
Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training. Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals. This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched.
Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out.He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened. "No," the sensei insisted, "Let him continue." Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: He dropped his guard.Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion. On the way home, the boy and the sensei reviewed every move in each and every match.
Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind. "Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?" "You won for two reasons," the sensei answered. "First, you've almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm. The boy's biggest weakness had become his biggest strength.
"For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10)
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
March 23-24, 2020
DEEPER LOVE DURING DEEP UNCERTAINTY
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD."
There are some circumstances in life that just don’t make sense to us because we don’t see things the way the Lord sees them. They may even seem like a waste of time and energy, as if nothing good will come from them. And, we may not be able to understand why the Lord would allow us to endure such trouble.
I recently heard a story about a woman named Kate who experienced this very thing. In her forties, she had a stroke. As a result, she was unable to speak or walk for a season—and she was very angry about it. She had always led an active lifestyle: biking, skiing, and hiking. She was always busy doing this and that, going here and there—and had little time for God.
One evening, while lying on the couch without the ability to move or speak, she was seething about her predicament. She called out to the Lord in anger, “Why? Why me? Why not someone else?!”
She wasn’t in the mood to hear from God, but He unexpectedly and gently spoke to her heart. “Because you didn’t have time for me.”
In that one sentence the Lord was saying, “I love you so much that I will use whatever it takes to draw you near to myself. I know that I am best for you. I know I can give you the abundant life, peace, joy, and fulfillment that you have been looking for. Because I love you, I want to give you time so you can be quiet and still and focus on me. I want to bring wholeness to your life through this hardship.”
Kate recovered from her stroke and can now see how the Lord used her experience for her good. Wow! What affection He has for us. What passionate love! He knows that He is best for us, and He knows that when He is second place in our lives, we suffer. Like a loving parent who understands what is best for their children, He will do—or allow—whatever is needed to draw us to Himself. Now, that’s amazing grace and mercy in action!
"So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." (1 John 4:16)
Are you experiencing a hardship now in your life? Rather than looking at it as an inconvenience or wasted experience, ask the Lord to reveal to you what He wants you to learn through it. Ask Him to reveal His deep love to you.
March 22, 2020
THE SIN VIRUS
"and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness."
The Covid-19 outbreak has focused the world’s attention on viruses. Viruses are living organisms that need a host to survive and wreak their havoc. In some cases, a virus can be present for many years before the host is even aware of it. During that time, the virus can inflict widespread and untold damage. Take it away from the host, and it remains dormant or dies.
In a similar way, sin needs a host to stay alive. By themselves, sins such as pride, lust, greed, anger, and selfishness are mere words. But when sin overpowers a human host, it works to destroy it for as long as the host is alive.
Thankfully, because of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, Christians have been positionally “set free from sin”:
"and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness." (Romans 6:18)
Even though we still sin, the Holy Spirit who lives in us helps us to resist that sin virus, “the desires of the flesh”:
"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16)
The apostle John tells us:
"No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God." (1 John 3:9)
And Jude says:
"Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy," (Jude 24)
Isn’t that a great comfort for you as you step out today into a world infected by the “virus” of sin?
C. P. Hia
March 21, 2020
"Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil."
Humble wisdom does not hint at a holier-than-thou attitude. On the contrary, it is contrite before Christ and modest before men. Humble wisdom is very grateful to God for His blessing of insight and understanding into eternal matters. Wisdom is not a badge of superiority to be worn with pride, but a blanket of security that humbles the heart.
"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." (1 Peter 5:6-7)
Wisdom without humility becomes conceited and is accompanied by a condescending attitude. It is ugly as it disfigures the soul. It is like star athletes who are so full of themselves they fail to reach their potential for lack of team support. However, humble wisdom says, “I am a fellow learner of the Lord’s ways; I am a work in progress just like you.” It is to a heart of humility that God entrusts His wisdom; so stay desperate for divine direction.
"Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom." (James 3:13)
The more wisdom increases in your heart and mind, the more pride needs to decrease in your persona. It is the fear of the Lord that keeps you from thinking you can be anything special outside of your Savior Jesus. The fear of God does not forget that wisdom comes from above. Yes, your experience enhances wisdom, and your pain can produce wisdom, but ultimately wisdom resides with God and His Word.
This is why in humility you hunker down and pray: "Heavenly Father, I bow in awe before you and ask for insight and direction. You are the author of all wisdom."
It is submission to Christ and His command that squeezes out selfish, worldly wisdom and replaces it with the humble wisdom of heaven. Therefore, request wisdom for His glory, and never cease to learn from those whom the Lord sends daily into your life.
"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight." (Romans 12:16)
Whom can I learn from today to become wiser in humility of mind and heart?
March 20, 2020
2 Peter 1:3
"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,"
Do you know your grip strength? You may think it’s of little value to understand how powerful your hands are for carrying groceries or wringing out wet towels but recent studies show surprising results correlating grip strength with overall health and cognitive function!
Unlike the muscles in your hands, your spiritual vigor does not come from hard work. Actually, it’s just the opposite. The Bible reveals God as Omnipotent, meaning all-powerful and supreme with no limitations. He is complete, lacking nothing, needing no form of energy, light, or outside influence. It’s hard to wrap your mind around but there is absolutely nothing that can hinder God in any way. And YOUR power comes from complete dependence upon HIS power. With God as the source and the Holy Spirit in action, miraculous divine energy enables you to live a victorious life pleasing to God and pointing others toward His great salvation.
As elections draw near in America and people tout their abilities to bring about change, don’t forget where the legitimate power resides. It is God who will answer the nations prayers, He can heal the broken and restore integrity to the defeated. And only by acknowledging Him will anyone make a real difference. Use your votes to put people into office that recognize God’s authority over the universe and their own lives. And be assured, He still has the whole world in His hands, and He still has the power to hold it! Praise Him for that today.
The Presidential Prayer Team
March 19, 2020
THE GREAT EQUALIZER
"he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;"
I remember years ago touring a colonial church in the heart of a coastal American city. With great pride they pointed out a pew on the front right that was owned by George Washington and his family, a seat of honor saved and reserved for whenever he happened to be in town. While I found this to be fascinating historically, and have no issue with honoring those deserving of honor, the longer I sat with this fact, the less I appreciated it from a theological perspective.
"Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed." (Romans 13:7)
To be a Christian is to be a citizen in the Kingdom of God. What unites us to one another, therefore, is Christ and his Kingdom, which means that we are inseparably bound in the church to people with whom we may otherwise have very little in common! To gather as the church is not simply a work of our hands, our best efforts at community, but is nothing short of a gift from God. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it in his book, Life Together, “Christian community means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. There is no Christian community that is more than this, and none that is less than this.”
If this is true, then church is the great equalizer. It is the place where the humble are elevated and the elevated are brought low. Through the waters of baptism we are united with Christ and given our truest identity. In God’s kingdom, a pauper is as much a beloved child of God as a president.
It is easy to miss just how radical and subversive this kind of community is in our modern world. We do not default to this kind of community. By nature, we default to associating with people who are similar to us; people who like the same food, the same sports teams, whose kids go to same schools, or who have similar levels of disposable income. Yet the church, more than any other institution, unites people from all walks of life, all political persuasions, all ages and degrees of wealth and power and influence.
The church is the only place in the whole of our lives where those who belong to Christ come together as one family, no matter how different we may be! If Christ dwells in you, then you and I are united to one another more than anyone or anything else, regardless of our skills, training, or natural interest. We belong to one another, not in and of ourselves, but because our life flows from the same source, Jesus Christ.
How can you cultivate intentional friendships with people who may not share your same interests and passions, but love the same Lord?
March 18, 2020
GOODNESS AND MERCY
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life...”
I love the 23rd Psalm where it says "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me. all the days of my life." I imagine two angels, one named "Goodness" and one named "Mercy", and everywhere I go they follow me, and protect me.
I had the chance to experience this first hand. I was traveling to Chicago and saw an elderly man and his wife pulled over to the side of the road in their truck waving for help. So, of course, I stopped and asked what was wrong.
The elderly man told me he was a pastor, and he and his wife were on their way to a town up the road, and were about to run out of gas, and was wondering could I give him a ride to the nearest gas station. I said "Sure, but since you're not out of gas yet, why don't you get back in your truck, and drive towards the next gas station. I will follow behind you, and if you do run out of gas, I will take you to get gas from there - but at least you will be closer."
He agreed and thanked me. We drove over 20 miles, and I watched him as he would look in his rear view mirror and wave to me as I followed him. The truck never did run out of gas. We made it all the way to the gas station. At the station, he thanked me again, and said "Just knowing you were behind us, just in case we did run out of gas, allowed my wife and I to drive without worry because we knew you were behind us."
"...he [God] has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" (Hebrews 13:5)
We can have that same confidence and assurance as we live our lives each day. Just knowing God is always there, just knowing His "goodness" and "mercy" are following us and watching over us, we can do anything without any worry or fear.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
March 16, 2020
"Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?"
The government can do a lot of things to combat the virus. They can spend, test, isolate, and treat -- but nothing is as powerful or productive as calling the nation to its knees in prayer. And on Sunday, in response to the encouragement of several Evangelical leaders, President Trump did exactly that.
These are unique challenges, but the solution is not: we should pray to the Lord with all of our heart. "You know," Dr. Ben Carson said at the press conference with the president, "We've gotten away from prayer and faith a lot in this country." Godly principles, he pointed out, "loving your neighbor," "caring about the people around you," those are the things "that made America zoom to the top of the world in record time -- and those are the things that will keep us there too."
Pray, President Trump urged, for those on the front lines of the response -- medical and health care workers, our first responders, the military, our federal and local leaders. "We are confident that He will provide them with the wisdom they need to make difficult decisions and take decisive actions to protect Americans all across the country... As we unite in prayer, we are reminded that there is no burden too heavy for God to lift or for this country to bear with His help."
"casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7)
May "God's health hand," his proclamation declared, "be placed on the people of our nation... As one nation under God, we are greater than the hardships we face, and through prayer and acts of compassion and love, we will rise to this challenge and emerge stronger and more united than ever before."
Family Research Council
February 15 - March 17, 2020
"Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps."
When astronaut Neil Armstrong was in space, he said, “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”
The universe is just a small example of God’s creative power. The Earth is one of eight planets in the solar system. As the dominant light of the solar system, the Sun has a diameter of approximately 860,000 miles and could hold one million planets the size of the Earth. Yet it’s only an average star among 100 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy. It takes 100,000 light-years to travel from one side of the galaxy to the other. And scientists estimate there are billions of galaxies in the universe!
"Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing." (Isaiah 40:26)
When you gaze up into the heavens, reflect with awe at what your Creator has made. And remember that, despite any challenges in your life and in America, He has it all in the palm of His hand. From the name of every star in the heavens:
"He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names." (Psalm 147:4)
To the number of hairs on your head:
"Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows." (Luke 12:7)
He knows all. And He loves you! As you spend time in prayer, intercede for your leaders to humbly recognize the majestic power of God in their lives each day.
Vantage Point Devotional
February 14, 2020
LEGACY OF LOVE
2 Timothy 3:14-15
"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."
I was paging through my great-grandmother’s Bible when a treasure fell into my lap. On a small scrap of paper, in a young child’s handwriting, were the words:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:3–4)
Scribbled beside those verses in wobbly cursive was my mother’s signature.
My great-grandmother had a habit of teaching her grandchildren to write out Scripture verses so they would learn them and take them to heart. But the story behind this verse brought tears to my eyes.
My grandfather died when my mother was very young, and her little brother (my uncle) died just weeks later. It was in that tragic season that my great-grandmother pointed my mother to Jesus and the comfort only He can give.
Paul wrote to Timothy:
"I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well." (2 Timothy 1:5)
Faith isn’t inherited, but it is shared. Timothy’s mother and grandmother shared their faith with him, and he believed. When we encourage those close to us to have hope in Jesus, we offer them a legacy—a legacy of love.
Through a simple note, my mother left evidence of my great-grandmother’s love for her Savior and her family. Oh, to share Him with those who come after us!
February 12-13, 2020
"And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water [not "from under the water"], and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;"
This picture is a copy of a drawing found on the walls of the catacombs in Rome. The catacombs were underground caves used by early Roman Christians for worship in the 1st and 2nd centuries. They met there in secret to avoid persecution. On the walls they drew scenes of Jesus’ life. One of the most common drawings was of Jesus’ baptism. Notice that He and John the Baptist are standing in shallow water and that John is pouring water on Jesus’ head - important factors in the practice of baptism that would emerge in the Christian church.
John’s baptisms were not the same as the Christian baptisms Jesus instructed His followers to perform:
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," (Matthew 28:19)
John’s baptisms were intended to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah. Since Jesus didn’t need to be cleansed from sin, His baptism consecrated Him at the beginning of His ministry.
The Hebrew word for baptism in the Old Testament and the Greek word for baptism in the New Testament mean a “ceremonial cleansing.” People and objects were “baptized” with a sprinkling of blood or water.
"I [God] will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you." (Ezekiel 36:25)
People and objects were never immersed in blood or water. Though there were were instances when the ancient Hebrews took ceremonial baths, they weren’t baptisms.
Shortly after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the disciple Peter preached a sermon in Jerusalem about Jesus being the Savior. Those who heard it were so moved they asked what they needed to do in response. Peter told them,
"... Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." (Acts 2:38-39)
3,000 men, women and children were baptized that day.
A number of household baptisms are described in the book of Acts. One involves the Philippian jailer and his family, who were baptized in his house:
"And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family." (Acts 16:33)
Baptism of the children of believing parents was the universal practice of the 1st-century Church and continues to be the practice of the vast majority of churches today. When baptized children profess faith in Christ, they don’t need to be re-baptized, because the Bible teaches there is one baptism:
"one Lord, one faith, one baptism," (Ephesians 4:5)
Believers who were not baptized as children are baptized when they profess faith in Christ.
Infant baptism is the ultimate expression of God’s grace, of His love for us long before we knew Him. It is like God writing a check made out in the infant’s name for salvation. Good Christian parents make sure the child knows the check can be cashed when the child trusts in Jesus Christ. When he or she professes faith, it’s like turning over the check and signing it.
In both infant baptism and believer baptism, the ceremonial washing with water symbolizes the grace of God coming down from heaven upon His chosen people. Have you and your household been baptized?
Dr. Tim Foster,
Highland Heights Presbyterian Church,
February 10, 2020
LOVED AND ADOPTED
Galatians 3:27, 4:5
"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ....to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons."
I am glad when a philanthropist builds an orphanage for homeless children. I am thrilled when that person gives even more and adopts one of them. Most orphans would be delighted merely to have a patron. But then to learn the sponsor isn’t content merely to help me but also wants me—how must that feel?
If you are a child of God you already know, because it happened to you. We couldn’t complain if God had merely loved us enough to send His Son that we might have eternal life:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
It would be enough for us. But not for God. He sent his Son to redeem us, not as an end in itself, but that we might receive adoption to sonship:
"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." (Galatians 4:4–5)
The apostle Paul refers to us as “sons” because in his day it was common for sons to inherit their father’s wealth. His point is that now everyone who puts their faith in Jesus, whether man or woman, becomes a “son” of God with equal and full rights of inheritance:
"So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God." (Galatians 4:7)
God does not merely want to save you. He wants you. He has adopted you into His family, given you His name and proudly calls you His child. You could not possibly be loved more, or by anyone more important. You aren’t merely blessed by God. You are the child of God:
"The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name." (Revelation 3:12)
Your Father loves you.
February 7-9, 2020
PAIN MINGLED WITH JOY
"When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you."
I’ve had the incredible privilege of walking with my wife through the birth of each of our three children. And as someone who played what we’ll call a “supportive role” in the delivery process, I’m hesitant to speak in any significant way about the pains of childbirth. As such, I can only partially understand the brilliance of Jesus’ choice of illustration in John 16. Yet as clearly as though it were yesterday, I remember the pain and anguish on my wife’s face, the doubts and fears certainly running through her mind at a million miles an hour. At the same time, I remember even more vividly the miracle of birth, the first cry of a newborn child made in the image of God and destined for eternity. I will never forget how the tears of pain upon my wife’s cheek were instantaneously mingled with tears of joy.
As the one through whom all things were made Jesus had a perfect knowledge of the human condition.
"All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:3)
As the Word made flesh who dwelt among us Jesus first hand knew what it was to hope and to fear, to suffer loss and to grieve.
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[a] from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)
Jesus first hand knew what it was to hope and to fear, to suffer loss and to grieve. And as the incarnate Lord, he never once dismissed or discounted the reality of pain, yet he also refused to let it have the last word.
When Jesus says a mother “forgets the anguish” of childbirth, he is not saying she is no longer aware of the pain she endured or the significance of the challenge. If you doubt me on this, just ask any mother if they remember the pain of childbirth! And yet, does that pain persist as the defining reality of childbirth? Absolutely not. Joy puts sorrow in its proper place.
Jesus gives the illustration of childbirth as the proper lens through which we are meant to view every sorrow in life. Let the significance of that sentence sink in. Can you choose to believe that every sorrow you face has the potential to be redefined in the light of an even greater joy? Do you believe that every pain you endure can lead to a birth, a way in which the Kingdom of God breaks in and shines light on even the darkest of situations?
For a mother, the joy of childbirth is a path defined by pain. There’s simply no way around it. And yet motherhood is a gift from God that leads to unspeakable joy. Similarly, for each of us, a mother or not, life is filled with pain and sorrow. Yet just like a mother, it is a pain that leads to a birth. As Jesus himself reminds us:
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
How can you begin to see your grief and sorrow as birth pains leading to the joy of the Lord?
February 6, 2020
“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.”
Baptism itself did not originate with Christians or, for that matter, with John “the Baptist.” Jews practiced baptism as a traditional act of purification and the initiation of converts to Judaism long before the coming of the Messiah. The origins of baptism might be found in the book of Leviticus where the Levite priests were commanded to perform a symbolic cleansing in water before and after performing their priestly duties:
"He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on." (Leviticus 16:4)
Scripture also says:
"Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting and shall take off the linen garments that he put on when he went into the Holy Place and shall leave them there. And he shall bathe his body in water in a holy place and put on his garments and come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people." (Leviticus 16:23-24)
The Jewish mikva, or ceremonial bath, is the origin of the Christian baptism. A mikva could not be done in a tub or pool of stagnant water. It had to be flowing through the mikva pool. Flowing water sustains life, and often gurgles and bubbles as it flows giving it a “voice”. Thus it was also said to be “living” water. Stagnant water stifles life.
To a Jew a mikva had to be performed over and over to restore a person’s ceremonial cleanliness each time before entering into the presence of God. For example it’s common for an observant Jew to take a mikva before each Sabbath. In contrast, we’re washed in the Blood of Jesus, once for all time, and have been cleansed forever.
Although the act described in these Old Testament passages was not specifically called “baptism,” it does highlight how important and holy ceremonial (and practical) cleansing is to God.
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
"And he [John] preached, saying, 'After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.'" (Mark 1:7-8)
When Jesus appeared he too was baptized:
"In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan." (Mark 1:9)
As Jesus was coming up out of the water:
"And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove." (Mark 1:10)
"And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'" (Mark 1:11)
John’s “baptism of repentance” followed the paradigm of cleansing, although the final cleansing from sin is only available through Christ. John’s baptism was the foreshadowing of that.
"And he [John] went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." (Luke 3:3)
"And Paul said, 'John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.'" (Acts 19:4)
The significance of baptism as a New Testament ceremony is that, as believers in Jesus Christ, we are baptized into His death:
"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:3-4)
Baptism is an outward proclamation of an inward conversion. In other words, baptism is a ceremonial act undertaken after a person accepts Jesus Christ as his or her Lord and Savior. This is usually done in the presence of the church body as a public proclamation of one’s faith.
February 5, 2020
ALL GOD’S CHILDREN
"And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.'"
City health workers in San Francisco are taking medical care to the streets to supply the homeless who are suffering from opioid addiction with medicine to treat their addiction. The program began in response to the rising number of homeless who are injecting. Customarily, doctors wait for patients to come to a clinic. By taking medical care to the afflicted instead, patients do not need to overcome the challenges of transportation or remember the appointment.
The health workers’ willingness to go to those in need of care reminds me of the way Jesus has come to us in our need. In His ministry, Jesus sought out those whom the religious elite were quick to ignore: He ate with “sinners and tax collectors”:
"And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, 'Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?'" (Mark 2:16)
When asked why He would do that, Jesus replied:
"...'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.'" (Mark 2:17)
He went on to say that His intention was to call sinners, not the righteous, into relationship with Him. When we realize that we are all “sick” and in need of a doctor we can better appreciate Jesus’s willingness to eat with the “sinners and tax collectors”—us.
"And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him." (Mark 2:15)
In turn, like the health care workers in San Francisco, Jesus appointed us as His “street team” to take His saving message to others in need.
February 4, 2020
THE REST OF THE STORY
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
February 2-3, 2020
SEEK AND FIND
1 John 3:2-3
"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure."
I am the parent of three young children. My wife and I seem to daily comment on how quickly they are growing up, rapidly approaching adolescence, with all the joys and challenges that season is sure to bring. And yet, we aren’t there yet. They are still young and innocent, and so we play simple, childlike games in our home.
For example, my kids love a good game of Hide and Seek. Given the fact that I am 6’5” and we have a very small home in the city, my participation in this game is always challenging! There are only two or three places I can go to hide, and my children know right where to look. I’m hidden, but they know what I look like, what I sound like, and where they can expect to find me. They are seeking but know what they are after.
On the other hand, we often play I Spy in the car, especially on long road trips when trying to help pass the time. If I’m being honest, I don’t love this game. Why? Because I am searching for something that I know nothing about! I know I’m meant to be looking for something, but it could literally be anything. It may have been a sign they saw out the window several miles back, never to be seen again.
Much of the Bible focuses on the human longing to find God. We search for him and long for him as this desire lies at the very core of what it means to be a human being. As St. Augustine famously said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”
If I’m honest, at times my search for God has felt more like a game of I Spy than a familiar game of Hide and Seek. Faith can feel disorienting and confusing. I long to find him yet find myself unsure of where this story is headed and how our experience of the world’s pain and brokenness can possibly be healed and restored. St. John has a word for this doubt, confusion, and fear: “darkness.”
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:5)
Our ability to see in the darkness is directly linked to God’s intervening light. Though we may find ourselves stumbling about in the darkness, the Lord longs to shine his light and drive the darkness away. In Jesus God reminds us again and again that he wants to be found. Will you seek after him today?
Do you believe that God wants to be found? How does your answer to that question affect the way you seek him out today?
February 1, 2020
ALL GOD’S CHILDREN #3
"Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children—"
It is human nature to avoid talking about unpleasant topics. The more serious the topic, the more uncomfortable we feel in discussing it. When it comes to something as horrific as the Holocaust, we often are at a loss as to how to treat such an overwhelming and sensitive topic.
Indeed, there are those who invoke the Holocaust too frequently and those who do not talk of it enough; those who speak of it appropriately, and those who do so insensitively; those who wish to forget about the past and those who seek to learn from it; those who use the Holocaust to their own advantage, and those who are humbled by its magnitude.
When it comes to the Holocaust, it is essential that we never forget. All Jews today consider themselves as Holocaust survivors since Hitler’s plan was genocidal—to eradicate the entire Jewish nation. All Jews bear an awesome responsibility of telling the story of that painful and dark time in our history. We cannot allow history to repeat itself simply because we failed to convey the horrors to future generations. That is why the stories of eyewitnesses are so important.
When one American doctor arrived at a concentration camp in Buchenwald, he walked through the barracks for the first time. He heard a voice and turning around, saw a “living skeleton” talking to him. A Jewish woman who was at Auschwitz said that whenever Allied planes flew overhead, she and the other Jewish prisoners prayed that they would bomb the gas chambers, “even if it meant we might be killed.” They were willing to give their lives to save others
We cannot afford to forget these stories and experiences—not for ourselves and not for our future generations. General Dwight D. Eisenhower made it a point to visit the Nazi death camps in Poland in April 1945 as the camps were liberated. He said, “I visited every nook and cranny of the camp because I felt it my duty to be in a position from then on to testify at firsthand about these things in case there ever grew up at home the belief or assumption that the stories of Nazi brutality were just propaganda.”
Eisenhower’s statement is featured prominently on the exterior wall of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., today: “The things I saw beggar description . . . the visual evident and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering . . .”
It is important to convey both history and moral value to future generations. That is why God’s word reminds us and warns us to pass it on:
"Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children—" (Deuteronomy 4:9)
Consider what you can do today to remember the Holocaust and to pass on these stories to the next generation so that we will never forget.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
January 31, 2020
ALL GOD’S CHILDREN #2
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
In the Star Wars trilogy there is a scene that reminds me of some church people I know. At an establishment somewhere in a remote corner of the galaxy, grotesque-looking creatures socialize over food and music. When Luke Skywalker enters with his two droids, C3PO and R2D2 (who are more “normal” than anyone else there), he is surprisingly turned away with a curt rebuff: “We don’t serve their kind here!”
That strange scene captures the malady that we all struggle with in our relationships here on planet Earth. We are always more comfortable with people who are just like us. But think of where you would be if Jesus had felt that way. He was divine, perfect in every way, which makes Him far different from us. Yet He came to dwell among us and to die for us.
Those of us who follow Christ shouldn’t have “they’re not my kind” in our vocabulary. As Paul reminds us:
“there is neither Jew nor Greek, . . . slave nor free, . . . male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28)
So, whether others are different in race, attitude, perspective, class, political slant, or social standing, it should make no difference to those of us who call ourselves by Jesus’ name.
Find someone who is not your kind and share Jesus’ love with them today!
January 28-30, 2020
ALL GOD’S CHILDREN
"My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory."
Most people hate to be accused of racism. But racial bias is all too prevalent. Even Christians have had a long history of ethnic prejudice. In the first century, Jewish Christians were reluctant to accept their Gentile brothers. In recent years, racial discrimination has been a dominant issue.
Prejudice can run so deep that it sometimes takes a tragedy to make a person see how wrong it is to discriminate on the basis of physical differences.
Several years ago I read about a bigoted truck driver who had no use for African-Americans. But one early morning, his tanker truck flipped over and burst into flames. A week later, he was lying in a hospital bed and looking into the face of a black man who had saved his life. He learned that the man had used his own coat and bare hands to smother the flames that had turned the trucker into a human torch. He wept as he thanked the man for his act of unselfish heroism.
We shouldn’t need a tragedy to open our eyes. We need only look to Calvary. There our Lord gave His life for people of every language, race, and nation. The universal scope of His sacrifice shows His love for every human being.
In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North;
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.
In Him shall true hearts everywhere
Their high communion find;
His service is the golden cord,
Close binding humankind.
Join hands, then, members of the faith,
Whatever your race may be!
Who serves my Father as His child
Is surely kin to me.
In Christ now meet both East and West,
In Him meet North and South;
All Christly souls are one in Him
Throughout the whole wide earth.
William A. Dunkerley
January 27, 2020
ONE YEAR AT A TIME
"Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son."
When I was a young man I was more short-sighted, but as time passes, I think and plan more in terms of years. Instead of, “How can we plan for a family mission trip this spring”--with a high risk of frustration, because of the short notice. A more helpful approach, after experiencing years of managing relationships, expectations and resources, is how can we plan for a family mission trip Q1 of 2021? A longer period of preparation provides margin to anticipate changes and to clearly communicate. Planning big ideas a year out increases the likelihood of successful initiatives.
As a more mature woman, Sarah could not fathom getting pregnant, much less raising a child. But that was exactly the Lord's plan. Fortunately, He gave her a twelve month time frame to prepare herself for the emotional and physical pressures to come. God was not finished with Sarah and Abraham in their old age, and in some ways, they were just getting started. Talk about staying young! God would confirm His covenant to Abraham and his family through the birth of Isaac.
"But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year." (Genesis 17:21)
What is the Lord's plan for you over the next 12 months? Is He leading you to accomplish something big, that requires significant prayer and preparation? Start now with step one and do not be overwhelmed by step fourteen.
Remodeling your home? Start by requesting several quotes on the estimated cost. Itching to reenroll in school? Start the application process. Ready for a career change? Start networking. Hope to exercise and eat right? Show up at the gym and consider hiring a trainer. Hunger for consistent Bible reading? Buy a One Year Bible and read each day with another person or two. Prayerfully plan ahead and the Lord will reward your wise preparations.
As you plan, submit to the Holy Spirit to draw out of your heart---His best plan. Humility to change courses or even cancel a project because the timing is not right, positions you for the Lord's best. Like Sarah, don't be surprised if God asks you to do something this upcoming year that will be impossible without divine intervention. Obey willingly and trust Christ to carry out His will for your life. Do your part: pray, plan, persevere. God will faithfully do His part: answer prayer, give wisdom and energize. A dull pencil from planning, is better than a sharp mind that procrastinates..
"The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)
January 26, 2020
“even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”
It was the outbreak of war in 1939 which firmly established the Royal Christmas Broadcast. With large parts of the world now facing an uncertain future, the King of England, George VI, spoke live to offer a message of reassurance to his people:
"I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, 'Give me light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'
And he replied, 'Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.'"
George VI (quoting the poem "The Gate of the Year" by Minnie Louise Haskins, was a lecturer at the London School of Economics). These words, although a quote, were associated ever afterwards with King George VI.
January 25, 2020
KNOW GOD TO KNOW GOD’S WILL
"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"
One of my friends called me recently, excited to share something the Lord had revealed to her. He had been laying it on her heart that it was time for her to slow down and take time to listen to Him. “Did you know,” she said, “that the words ‘listen’ and ‘silent’ are the exact same letters?” She was passionate about taking intentional time to listen to Jesus and was admonishing me to do the same.
As she spoke about the importance of being still, I felt God lay on my heart to take extra time to listen to Him, to stop rushing about and sit and really hear Him. As I did, He reminded me of something important: When we listen, we tune into God’s unique plan for our lives.
It’s easy to believe we need to follow someone else to be significant or to accomplish something meaningful. There is nothing wrong with celebrating another person’s success or admiring the work God has given them to do.
But it’s wrong if we begin to think that we have to do what they are doing because we believe the path that God would have us take isn’t as important, that it won’t be as effective, or that we have to find our significance by doing something other than what God has called us to.
God has given each of His kids a unique path to take, based on their unique gifts, and each is important. Each person alive has been uniquely created to accomplish particular good works, so to copy someone else’s path simply out of insecurity or a feeling of insignificance, is unwise. As I once heard, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”
God didn’t call Moses to march around the walls of Jericho, Paul to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, or Joseph to become a king. Moses, Paul, and Joseph, like all people, were each uniquely created to fulfill particular purposes at particular times, for particular people.
What if Paul had refused to listen to God and write Scripture because he wanted to fulfill another role or to be like his next-door neighbor? What if Moses hadn’t listened to God to lead the people of Israel? What if Joseph hadn’t listened to God to become Jesus’ father?
Just as we have all been given unique fingerprints, we have all been given unique assignments to reach others. Therefore, we must take time to listen to the Lord to tune in to those assignments.
"And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways." (Proverbs 8:32)
Stop today and do a check-in with the Lord. Listen to Him. Are you on the path He has for you?
January 24, 2020
YOU KNOW HOW IT FEELS
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
During Napoleon's invasion of Russia, his troops were battling in the middle of yet another small town in that endless wintry land, when he was accidentally separated from his men. A group of Russian Cossacks spotted him and began chasing him through the twisting streets. Napoleon ran for his life and ducked into a little furrier's shop on a side alley. As Napoleon entered the shop, gasping for breath, he saw the furrier and cried piteously, "Save me, save me! Where can I hide?" The furrier said, "Quick, under this big pile of furs in the corner," and he covered Napoleon up with many furs.
No sooner had he finished than the Russian Cossacks burst in the door shouting, "Where is he? We saw him come in." Despite the furrier's protests, they tore his shop apart trying to find Napoleon. They poked into the pile of furs with their swords but didn't find him. Soon, they gave up and left.
After some time, Napoleon crept out from under the furs, unharmed, just as Napoleon's personal guards came in the door. The furrier turned to Napoleon and said timidly, "Excuse me for asking this question of such a great man, but what was it like to be under those furs, knowing that the next moment would surely be your last?"
Napoleon drew himself up to his full height and said to the furrier indignantly, "How could you ask me, the Emperor Napoleon, such a question? Guards, take this impudent man out, blindfold him and execute him. I, myself, will personally give the command to fire!"
The guards grabbed the furrier, dragged him outside, stood him against a wall and blindfolded him. The furrier could see nothing, but he could hear the guards shuffle into line and prepare their rifles. Then he heard Napoleon clear his throat and call out, "Ready! Aim!" In that moment, a feeling he could not describe welled up within him; tears poured down his cheeks.
Suddenly the blindfold was stripped from his eyes. Although partially blinded by the sunlight he could see Napoleon's eyes looking intently into his own -- eyes that seemed to see every dusty corner of his soul.
Then Napoleon said, "Now you know."
There are some things that simply cannot be described to you. If you haven't experienced them for yourself, you can't begin to know the feeling. If you've never sat by the bed of your father while cancer eats away at his body, you can't begin to know what it feels like. If you've never had a spouse walk out the door knowing they will never return, you can't begin to know what it feels like. If you've never had to bury a daughter before she was old enough to ride a bicycle, you can't begin to know what it feels like.
The list could go on and on. Eventually, I would get to what weighs on your soul. You have friends who try to comfort you by saying, "I understand," but deep down you know they don't. They can't. Not without experiencing it for themselves, and you wouldn't wish that on them.
What that means, though, is that you are in a position to minister in a special way to people who are suffering the same thing that you have suff