March 17, 2018
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
I like living a “with” life. For example, “I’m so glad you’re taking this class with me.” “It’s going to be awesome having you start this new exercise routine with me.” “I love that you’re partnering with me on this new project.”
“With” is wonderful, but there are times when “with” just doesn’t work—especially when God has an assignment for you that requires you to walk alone.
You may have to walk the path of launching an organization or ministry alone. You may need to start a new health plan alone, or work to be a change maker at work alone. And, because you’ll be forging a new path, and perhaps shaking things up for Jesus, the people around you—and maybe even those you love the most—may not join you in your new endeavor. In fact, they may not support you because they may not believe that what you are doing is wise, prudent, or possible.
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
Let me encourage you. Don’t let anyone hold you back from getting free, stepping up, moving forward, moving on, or moving out. Don’t let anyone stop you from fulfilling God’s plans, obeying Him, and glorifying Him. Don’t give others permission to define what is and isn’t possible. If God says you can, you can.
I’m not talking about pumping yourself up with the false doctrine of “I can and the power is in me.” I’m talking about embracing the power that God has given you in the Holy Spirit and the power He will provide when you agree with Him and begin your journey. Your new journey is about agreeing with what God has said about you, and what He says about Himself.
The good news is that sometimes you just need to start walking down the path He has designed for you—and others may start to follow. But in the beginning, it may just be you and the Lord.
You may need to grieve that those you love and admire won’t walk with you. Make sure you don’t allow pride or unforgiveness to become your companion as you move into God’s purposes. Instead, continue to extend grace to others. Becoming more like Him isn't just fulfilling the purposes He has set before you. Most importantly, it’s about loving when loving is hard. It’s about extending grace toward those who don’t support you.
There may be times when others may feel threatened by your courage and new change. And because they feel threatened, new tensions may arise in your relationships. Keep walking with Jesus. Consult God about your journey. And keep extending grace.
“For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.” (Psalm 26:3)
Also remember that you don’t need to be threatened by the differences between yourself and those you love. Love can reveal its finest self when the adversity of differences shines. This is your moment to allow your calling to be the catalyst to transform you into a more loving person. Let God refine you while you walk the path alone.
There are times when even those who are closest to you won't want to walk with you. You will walk the path into fulfilling your desires alone. But you won’t truly be alone. The Lord is with you. You can do it.
“… I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
Take five minutes to talk with the Lord about how to rest in His approval and not strive to please other noisy voices.
March 16, 2018
SWORD OR SCALPEL?
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Words of great leaders have brought healing and hope to nations, such as Winston Churchill’s, “Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer.” Words also bring discouragement, death and destruction. Words can be sharp like swords, wounding the hearts of the people you are speaking to or about, but they can also be sharp like a surgeon’s knife, cutting out the bad tissue to enable healing.
“… the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
People often rebel at the truth because it can mean letting go of something valued, or involve making changes difficult to implement. Many doctrines abound; usually the most pleasant are the most popular.
Yield to God’s Word, though it may be uncomfortable. Allow Him to work in you, from the inside out until the adjustments you need to make become less difficult. Speak words in agreement with His, words that unite, build up and strengthen, not divide or tear down.
March 15, 2018
2 John 1:8-9
“Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”
In just a few short sentences, 2 John reminds us of a persistent temptation that we must actively and intentionally resist. Though many of us may follow the Lord faithfully for years, actively seeking to join him in the work of his Kingdom and the renewing work of his Spirit, it is still possible to carelessly lose focus of the Lord and turn away from the life he invites us to lead. While this can at times result in a complete loss of faith, it is often more subtle and difficult to identify. We still profess faith and even seek to follow Jesus with our lives, yet we want to follow him on our terms, and as this passage reminds us, at our pace.
When Jesus invites people to be his disciples, he says:
“And he said to them, ’Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” (Matthew 4:19)
Jesus leads, we follow. This is life as it is meant to be. It is the surest path to a faithful, meaningful, and fulfilled life. It doesn’t guarantee a painless or trouble free journey. There are always trials and sorrows along the way, yet Jesus leads us through them and we are safe and secure when he is our guide and shepherd.
And yet, each and every one of us faces the temptation to “run ahead” of Jesus. It’s hard to stay in line, trusting that he knows what’s best, that he sees a way forward when everything seems to be falling apart. The very first disciples had to learn this lesson, and in our own lives we must do the same.
“But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’” (Matthew 16:23)
Are there ways that you have run ahead of Jesus? Have you found yourself battling impatience and frustration with God’s pace and lack of urgency in answering a prayer or resolving a tense situation? Could it be that he wants you to stay in line behind him and learn to trust that he knows what he’s doing and that his timing is perfect?
We run ahead of God thinking we know what is best, yet this passage reminds us that we can run ahead so fast that we lose God in the process. Yet if you and I continue in the slow and faithful work of discipleship, the Scriptures promise that God is with us and will draw us closer and closer into relationship with himself!
Are there any ways you have run ahead of Jesus in your life with him?
March 14, 2018
“A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.”
Voltaire is credited with saying, “Common sense is not so common.” What was true in the eighteenth century—and dare it be said, at the time of King Solomon as well— is no less true today. According to Merriam-Webster, common sense is “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.”
It isn’t complicated. But it seems the people who do have common sense are rapidly becoming a minority. Look at what goes on in Congress. Listen to their debates. It often seems as though both houses forsook common sense long ago.
Today’s verse seems a common sense statement. Be kind or be cruel, either way it comes back to you. Jesus often spoke common sense things to His followers:
“Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?“ (Matthew 7:9)
“A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:18)
“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.” (Luke 11:33)
It is a common sense thing for believers to seek and follow God’s will. If His will is not clear to you, follow Proverbs, which says:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Won’t you ask God today to help you live a common sense Christian life; and while you ask it of yourself, intercede also for others, especially those in positions of authority.
March 13, 2018
ALL THAT IS PRECIOUS
1 Peter 2:4
“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,”
Throughout my life, I have accumulated a lot of stuff. I have boxes of things that at one time were important to me but over time have lost their intrigue. And, as an unrepentant collector, I have realized that the thrill is in searching for and acquiring a new piece to add to the collection. Then my attention turns toward the hunt for the next item.
While we pile up many things that seem important to us, very little of it is really precious. In fact, over time I have learned that the most precious things in life are not material items at all. Rather, it is the people who have loved me and built into my life who are precious. When I find my heart saying, “I don’t know what I would do without them,” I know that they are indeed precious to me.
So when Peter refers to Jesus as “a cornerstone chosen and precious” , it should resonate in our hearts that He is truly precious — our prized treasure above everything and everyone else.
“For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’” (1 Peter 2:6)
Where would we be today without the constant unfailing companionship of His faithful presence, wise and perfect guidance, merciful patience, comfort, and transforming reproof? What would we do without Him? I can’t even imagine!
Do you know the joy of reveling in Jesus and His loving presence and provision in your life?
March 12, 2018
1 John 4:11
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
His name was David, but most just called him “the street fiddler.” David was a disheveled, older man who was a regular fixture in popular places in our city, serenading passers-by with unusual skill at his violin. In exchange for his music, listeners would sometimes place a dollar in the open instrument case before them on the sidewalk. David would smile and nod his head in thanks as he continued to play.
When David died recently and his obituary appeared in a local paper, it was revealed that he spoke several languages, was the graduate of a prestigious university, and had even run for the state senate years ago. Some expressed surprise at the extent of his accomplishments, having assessed him on the basis of appearance alone.
Scripture tells us that:
“…God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
This reveals an inherent worth within each of us, regardless of how we look, what we have achieved, or what others may think of us. Even when we chose to turn from God in our sinfulness, God valued us so much that He sent His only Son to show us the way to salvation and eternity with Him.
We are loved by God, and all around us are those who are precious to Him. May we express our love for Him in return by sharing His love with others.
March 11, 2018
1 Corinthians 11:28
“Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
Every year I have a physical—that periodic visit to the doctor’s office where I’m poked and prodded, screened and studied. It is something that can be easy to dread, and even to fear. We aren’t sure what the tests will show or what the doctors will say. Still, we know that we need this evaluation to understand our physical well-being and what is needed as we move forward.
The same is true spiritually . . . We need to pause from time to time and reflect on the condition of our hearts and lives.
One place for an important self-study is at the Lord’s Table. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, some of whom were eating in an unworthy manner:
“Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” (1 Corinthians 11:28)
In the remembrance of Christ’s death for us, there can be a sobering clarity of thought and understanding, for as we consider the price Jesus paid for us, it is the best time to consider the condition of our heart and our relationships. Then, with honest understanding of our spiritual well-being, we can turn to Him for the grace we need to move forward in His name.
Search me, O God, my heart discern;
Try me, my inmost thoughts to learn.
Help me to keep from sin, I pray,
Guarding my mind throughout this day. —Anonymous
Is it time for your checkup?
March 10, 2018
GOD’S LONG-TERM GOAL
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
Talk about things going horribly wrong. One day Joseph was on top of the world, running an errand for his father, and the next day he literally was in the bottom of a pit. He was sold to Midianite slave traders and ended up in Egypt as a servant in the house of a man named Potiphar.
But through God’s providence, he was elevated to a position of great authority and became the second-most powerful man in the world. He was able to help his father and brothers and do much good. In the end, Joseph, with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, was able to look back and say to his brothers,
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[a] should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20)
I have seen a lot of things happen in my life that I didn’t understand at the time. As a few years have passed by, however, I’m able to look back and see why the Lord allowed what He did. There will be things we go through in life, hardships we experience, difficulties we must face, that will not have a convenient answer. There will be some unanswered questions. There will be some things that, even at the end of our lives, we will not be sure why the Lord allowed.
But on that final day when we stand before Him, all of our questions will be answered. All of our problems will be resolved. As Paul tells us:
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
God allows us to go through trials, but He has a long-term goal: to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ.
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
March 9, 2018
THE GREATEST REWARD
2 Timothy 4:7
”I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
There is an old story about the Greek Marathon. Muscular, conditioned runners paced nervously near the starting line for the long-distance race. The time was near. They "shook out" their muscles, inhaled deeply, and put on their "game faces."
In the midst of it all, a young stranger took his place at the starting line. His physique was awesome. Taking no notice of the other contestants, he stared straight ahead. Two prizes would be awarded the winner of the Marathon: a magnificent bouquet of flowers and the honor of standing beside the king until the conclusion of other contests.
There seemed to be no question among the runners about who would win the prize. It is alleged that the stranger was offered money not to run. Someone else attempted to bribe him with property. Refusing the offers, he toed the mark and awaited the signal to run. When the signal was given, he was the first away. At the finish line, he was the first to cross, well ahead of the rest.
When it was all done, someone asked the young man if he thought the flowers were worth as much as the money and property he had refused. He replied, "I did not enter the race for the flowers. I ran so that I could stand beside my king!"
Those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ are "running the race":
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)
It is a race that has a prize for those who finish (notice, not those who finish first, but all who finish). This prize, according to Paul, is an "imperishable wreath.” The rewards for those who enter heaven are described in scripture with a lot of terms -- "many mansions", "streets of gold", "tree of life", and the list goes on and on. All of those things are attractive. That's why God tells us about them.
But I would be willing to give up all the streets of gold and settle for a small corner of a shack as long as I can know the reward of being able to stand beside my King. That's what I look forward to more than anything else. It is the one thing that will make heaven the wonderful reward that it will be.
“No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.” (Revelation 22:3)
Run the race with diligence. Your King is watching and waits for you at the finish line!
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
March 8, 2018
HIDING AND PROCLAIMING GOD'S WORD
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
Growing up in a faithful Christian home, these words from Psalm 119 were shared and known within our family before I could even speak. And for a single verse of Scripture, it certainly covers a lot of ground! It reminds us that God can be known, that he speaks creation into being and sustains it with his word and continually desires to be known by his children. It also reminds us of our inclination to move away from this relationship of love and instead choose the path of autonomy and self-fulfillment.
Sin turns our desires away from the life of God, like a misaligned car that pulls away from the straight path set before it. And so, the remedy presented is to hide the word of God in our hearts, to open ourselves to the renewing presence of God and invite his Spirit to renew and transform us, teaching us what it means to be truly human and fully alive to his work in our lives and in the world.
And yet, if we read this verse in isolation, I fear we may only understand one half of the story. Our transformation into the likeness of Christ is not meant simply for our good or personal happiness. God places his word in our hearts so that we can share that word with the world around us. We are invited to be agents of his Kingdom mission to heal and restore the world.
“I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.” (Psalm 40:10)
Though it may sound paradoxical, the call of God on our lives is to at the same time hide and not hide his word within our hearts. A healthy life of discipleship must pay attention to both of these realities, and in my experience, most of us are more naturally drawn to one or the other.
For some, private prayer and devotion is the heartbeat of your life. You love to meet the Lord in the intimate moments of prayer and meditation, letting your thoughts and desires be formed by his word. Yet the thought of speaking to others about your faith is foreign and unchartered territory! The Lord might be inviting you today to step out in a bold and courageous way.
Likewise, many of us are drawn to an active and public faith. You may feel most alive in times of public worship, evangelism, or service to your community in the name of Christ. And yet, your activism has run ahead of your personal walk with the Lord, and you may be running the risk of burnout and exhaustion. You must nurture your hidden walk with the Lord in order to sustain your love for the needy and the lost.
Hear afresh the words of the Psalms and learn to both faithfully hide and boldly proclaim the word of God!
Is there an imbalance in your life in the area of hiding and proclaiming God’s word? What steps can you take to move towards a healthy balance?
March 7, 2018
WHOSE NAME WAS AT STAKE?
“Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’”
These were the words of men who planned to build the Tower of Babel. There was every reason why their plans should succeed. They had the know-how. They were all of one mind and they had a common purpose - to accomplish something lasting in life, something that would outlive them.
There was a strange old man named Noah. He built an enormous ark while people laughed at him for years. But he didn't care. He was working under orders - and he was not concerned that he might have looked ridiculous.
The Tower of Babel was a failure...
The Ark became an instrument of success...
Perhaps the difference in accomplishment stemmed from the difference in incentive - "Whose name was at stake?"
"Kings and Kingdoms will all pass away, but there's something about that name" (From "There's Something About That Name" by Bill and Gloria Gaither.)
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
March 6, 2018
IT IS FINISHED!
“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
These words are the next-to-last words Jesus spoke from the cross before He completed His payment for the sins of the world.
What a relief it is for each one of us to disgorge this thought once we have completed an onerous task. We may have looked forward to doing something pleasant, but as time passes we realize the completion is not as near as we had expected. Not only that, but we realize as time goes on that the work is far more burdensome than we had dreamed of, and the end keeps fleeing far ahead of us. But the end result is what drives us onward, because that is a wonderful accomplishment we dreamed of.
I just finished my work of editing and correcting a book I have been working on for two years. I am now assured that the work's end is almost assured. So I am already breathing easier. Now I can look forward to the satisfaction of knowing that at least some people will receive my work as a great benefit to their study of scripture.
In like manner, Jesus had spent not just thirty years on earth, but an eternity in heaven with His Father, working constantly to pay the penalty for every sin of every person who would ever live in the world. He said:
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
You may balk at the hint of an idea that Jesus died not just for those who receive Him as Savior and Lord but also for all who reject Him. However, John wrote in his first letter:
“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2)
If you are worried about this, one thing you can do is tell as many people as you can about Jesus so that they will receive Him. However, the Greek word for "propitiation" means merely "availability" and not "accomplishment." That is, Jesus' death was truly sufficiently great to pay the full price for every sin. But a word in Romans will ease your concern. There Paul said of Christ:
“whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” (Romans 3:25)
Here the word "propitiation" is a mis-translation of a different Greek word, which here should be "expiation" and means complete expungement of sin. This expiation is effective only, as Paul says, "through faith, in his blood." Christ's blood was sufficient to save everyone, but did save only those who believe in Him.
Anyway, Jesus is glad His work of salvation is done. And I'm glad my book is done.
Dr. Thomas R. Teply
March 5, 2018
BEARING YOUR CROSS
“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
When I bear my cross, I give up what I want for what someone else needs. Perhaps I give up a cool opportunity so someone else can enjoy this unique experience. I might give up work travel because my family needs for me to be home, available and all there. Am I willing to give up a new car when someone needs dependable transportation to commute back and forth to their job? What want of mine is the Spirit leading me to give up, so others can gain what they need? Beautifully, in God’s Kingdom, I bear my cross to follow Jesus and gain His precious presence and pleasure.
In the days of Christ, the cross was Rome’s ultimate instrument of death. Tortuous. Horrific. God used a hellish process to accomplish His heavenly outcome. Jesus modeled and taught the path to life is to daily take up my cross---sacrifice, death/forgiveness, life---and follow Him. If I avoid bearing my cross, I miss being a disciple along with the intimate fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. The cost of discipleship is death to my old sinful self and joyfully embodying Christ’s resurrected life.
“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7)
What want of yours is the Spirit prompting you to wait on, as there is ample time for its future fulfillment, while in the meantime you can graciously and happily meet the desperate need of another? Instead of a new house, appliance or car---you can help someone with a mortgage down payment, pay down medical bills or purchase much needed clothes. Your burden of having to wait is much less than someone’s current crisis. As you give up a want you gain God’s peace and love.
The cross you bear may have you at a breaking point. The pain is too heavy and you feel crushed under the weight of worry, weakness and the need for relief. You may feel rejected, misunderstood and forgotten, but your Savior Jesus has walked this painful path and He has not forgotten you. It is for you that He suffered, died and rose from the grave, so your broken heart might be healed by His grace, your burden of shame lifted by His love and your feeling of loneliness filled by His precious presence. Invite Jesus and others to bear your burdens. He will.
“Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
What want do you have that you can give up for another’s real need?
March 4, 2018
“Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’”
Doubt seeks to destroy our faith. It is in our discouragement—even despair—that we begin to question God. “What did I do wrong?”, “Lord, did you call me to this place of confusion?”, “Where is my joy and hope?”, “Are you even real or just a figment of my imagination?” Left to its natural conclusion, doubt crushes our faith in Christ.
Fortunately, faith does not have to take a furlough when we are frustrated and fatigued. It is in your confinement that Christ wants to remind you of His great power. So cry out to Him in your confused circumstances, and He will earnestly listen in love.
"In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I called. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears." (2 Samuel 22:7)
He does not leave His loved ones alone and in doubt.
It is okay to be in doubt, but not to remain in doubt. What doubt challenges your faith in God? Is it His provision, His promises, His presence, His character, or His care? When these questions assault your confidence in Christ, take a step back and review His track record. The reality of your salvation sets you on the productive path of peace and forgiveness. Answered prayer over the years is proof enough of His love and concern.
Furthermore, use this temporary time of distrust to go deeper with Jesus. The pressure you feel on all sides is your Savior’s way of soliciting your attention. When in doubt, seek out the Lord, learn to love Him completely, and discern more fully His profound promises. Use doubt to dig deeper into the truth of Scripture; marinate your mind.
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8)
When in doubt, stay steadfast in seeking your Savior. Wait on Him, especially when you wonder what is next. Where there is true faith there may be a mixture of unbelief; so remain faithful, even when questions manipulate your faith. Perseverance will one day free you as a stronger and more-committed follower of Christ. See Jesus for who He is. Doubt dissolves in His reassuring presence. Doubt starves to death when it is not fed.
“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever;” (Psalm 146:5–6)
What doubts do you need to acknowledge and release to God? Is Christ trustworthy?
March 3, 2018
2 Samuel 19:5
“Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, ‘You have today covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who have this day saved your life and the lives of your sons and your daughters and the lives of your wives and your concubines,’”
Brutal facts are not always pretty or inviting, but they are reality. Initially brutal news may take you back and even make you feel beat up. But take heart, it is good for bad news to travel fast. You are better off to hear negative news first, before the information becomes filtered through other perspectives, or the facts fester and become worse.
Brutal facts that are not given attention move from an inflamed infection to relational and organizational gangrene. Inevitably an amputation follows; someone or something has be severed. This extreme action could have been avoided if the brutal facts had been revealed, recognized and acted upon. Brutal facts are our friends; so do not dismiss the messenger because the message is bad; he or she is just the delivery person.
Yes, the messenger’s attitude and character may not always be stellar, but the content of their words can be extremely accurate. The wise receiver of brutal facts will extract the “chaff and keep the wheat”. Brutal facts may mean you have lost touch with those who love you the most. In your zeal to provide for them, you have failed to get to know them.
A brutal fact may relate to your finances. What is the reality of your cash situation? Come clean with your spouse and seek accountability from a trusted third party. Perhaps the state of your physical health may be a heart attack waiting to happen. Take care of your ‘temple’ or it will take care of you by collapsing around you. Do you rationalize that all of your activity is for the Lord? The truth is He can get by without any of us just fine.
So where can we find these brutal facts? Your spouse, parent or friend is a good starting point. They have a vested interest in you, so normally their perception of the facts is fairly accurate. Listen with an ear to learn; if you become defensive or argumentative they will eventually shut down. Because they care, they want you to be aware.
Why not change on your own terms rather than being forced to change on another’s? This is the essence of brutal facts—there are some things that need to change. You, the work culture, your family are always in flux, so use this as an opportunity to move from mediocrity to excellence. Embrace the brutal facts, learn from them and become better.
“Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul.’” (2 Samuel 12:7)
Who currently has concerns that you need to seriously consider? How do you need to change?
March 2, 2018
IS THERE A CATFISH IN YOUR TANK?
1 John 3:13
“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
I heard a story about some fish suppliers who were having problems shipping codfish from the East Coast. By the time the fish reached the West coast, they were spoiled. They froze them, but by the time the fish arrived, they were mushy. They decided to send them alive. But the fish arrived dead so they tried sending the fish alive again, but with one difference. They included a catfish in each tank. You see, the catfish is the natural enemy of the codfish. By the time the codfish arrived, they were alive and well, because they had spent their trip fleeing the catfish.
This is my point. Maybe God has put a catfish in your tank to keep you alive and well spiritually. It's called persecution. Maybe there's a person at work who always has eight hard questions for you every Monday morning regarding spiritual things. Maybe it is that neighbor who is giving you a hard time for your faith in Jesus. Maybe it is a spouse or family member who doesn't believe. You are wondering why this is happening. It is like that catfish. That person is keeping you on your toes.
Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus told the disciples,
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19)
God will allow persecution in the life of the believer. If you're experiencing persecution, here are two things to remember:
1. Persecution confirms that you are a child of God.
2. Persecution causes you to cling closer to Jesus.
When you are suffering persecution for your faith, remember that this world is not your home.
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
March 1, 2018
THE GIFT OF LIFE
1 Corinthians 4:7
“For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”
When I was young, I longed for originality and distinctiveness. I sought to separate myself from those who had nurtured and shaped me in countless ways. I wanted to chart my own course, to be, as we say, an independent and self-made man. And yet, the older I get the more aware I become of my dependence upon others for who I am and what I have.
Life is a gift. In saying this, we often emphasize the value and dignity of every human life, as we rightly should. Yet what do we learn if we weight these words towards the idea of “gift?” Life, our very existence, does not originate with us nor do we will ourselves into being. Creation itself, is gift. It is the overflow of love from the eternal love of the Trinity. We cannot demand to exist, neither can we claim life as a right. All is gift.
St. Paul reminds us of the human temptation to construct false realities. We boast of our accomplishments and believe them to define our sense of worth and success. We exploit the marginalized and oppressed yet believe it is a necessary step towards growth. We ignore the desires and dreams of our neighbors, seeking the good of everyone only to the extent it is first and foremost the good for me. In short, we take and demand what is meant to be given and received.
Lent is a 40-day journey of reorientation to the true nature of reality. We are invited to realign our stories with God’s story, to carve out space to learn what is good, beautiful, and true. It is an opportunity to invite the light of Christ into the dark places of our hearts and lives. And though it is often a painful process of self-denial and repentance, the aim is the restoration of gift.
To receive our own life as a gift given from the Lord, and to rejoice in the beauty and diversity of his creation, join him in calling it “good!” As Ignatius of Loyola once said, “All the things in this world are gifts of God, created for us, to be the means by which we can come to know him better, love him more surely, and serve him more faithfully.”
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)
How can you more fully embrace and celebrate the gift of life this Lenten season?
February 28, 2018
“but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
I confess, sometimes as a husband I drift into selective listening, when my wife says things that I either don't want to hear or my mind becomes deaf when I am preoccupied with a project or a problem. The consequences of my unwillingness or inability to listen well, or not at all, is at best being insensitive to my sweetheart and at worse being disrespectful and unloving. When she calls me out of my fog I’m wise to not lamely defend myself and say, “I was listening”, but to confess my folly in checking out while in her presence and ask her forgiveness. Listening requires attention!
Jesus illustrates very clearly that I am truly a sheep in His flock if I believe. If I believe in Him as my Shepherd who leads me, I listen to His voice and follow. All types of voices compete for mindshare, but it’s the voice of my Lord that deserves my undivided attention and discernment. Do I listen intently to His directives to beware straying into the danger areas of temptation and disobedience? Am I seeking my approval from the One whose acceptance matters the most? Jesus says, if I truly love Him I will listen to Him, learn from Him and follow Him wholehearted.
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)
Are you in tune with the Lord? What is He saying that might be counter-cultural, but best for you and your family? Courage to say no or faith to say yes, both require the Holy Spirit’s leadership and:
“… the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
Don’t dismiss the example of other faithful followers in the flock of God. Look to those who have labored to listen, who know how to hear the voice of their sympathizing Shepherd, who feast with delight in green pastures of His provision and rest by still waters at peace, secure. The Lord’s voice becomes clearer in quietness. Get quiet, focus and learn wisdom in the secret place of the soul, where only your Savior dwells:
“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” (Psalm 51:6)
Your Father finds great pleasure in sharing His ways with the humble and upright of heart. Your integrity is an instrument of God’s will---He uses it to bless you so you can bless others. Whatever success you experience, offer it to Jesus as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. You are the most vulnerable to temptation when you are triumphant, so stay surrounded by those who will tell you the truth. Listen to their godly advice as you listen to the one who spoke in your mother's womb!
“Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.” (Isaiah 49:1)
“And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.” (Luke 10:39)
Spend five minutes in silence and write down how the Spirit instructs your heart.
February 27, 2018
1 Samuel 16:7
“…For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’”
The preacher placed two identical jars on the table next to the pulpit. He said, “These jars came from the same factory, were made of the same materials, and can hold the same amount. But they are different,” he explained.
Then he upset one and it oozed out honey. He turned over the other, and vinegar spilled out. When a jar is upset, whatever is in it comes out. Until the jars were upset, they looked alike. The difference was within, and could not be seen. When they were upset, their contents were revealed.
“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Until we are upset we put on a good front. But when we are upset, we reveal our innermost thoughts and attitudes:
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” ( Luke 6:45)
What if someone tipped you over today? What would flow out? Would you reveal the "honey" of grace and patience, or the "vinegar" of anger and sarcasm?
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
Have a terrific day knowing that the one who upsets you may be just looking for some honey.
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
February 26, 2018
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
John Wayne once said "Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." There's a lot of spiritual truth in that statement. The worst part of fear isn't the emotion of feeling afraid. It's allowing that emotion to stop you from fulfilling the plan God has for you. Many times, we don't admit that it's fear that holds us back from going forward. We justify our cowardice in these ways:
It's not the right time. Sometimes it isn't the right time, but we can move in the direction God wants us to go until the time is right. When it's the right time, we can depend upon Him to open up the doors.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
I don't have time. There's an old adage that says we find time for what we really want to do. In this busy world, we need to adjust our schedules to find time for what's important.
“Then David said to Solomon his son, 'Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the LORD God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished.'” (1 Chronicles 28:20)
I don't have the ability or resources. God rarely gives us a mission or goal where we have the ability and resources to carry it out on our own. If He did, we wouldn't need to rely upon Him.
“fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
Plan B. Many times, we fear that if we move forward with what God wants us to do, we might fail. So we develop a plan B instead of burning our bridges behind us and trusting God to work things out. One of the greatest examples of a plan B was when Sarah gave her servant to Abraham, and Ishmael was born. God wants us to have faith. Plan B often shows our lack of faith.
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13)
I admit I've been guilty of all of these. But let's commit to going forward with the plans God has for us. I've decided that when I'm scared, I'm going to saddle up anyway.
February 25, 2018
“I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.”
Many a young man with romance on his mind presented an engagement ring to his young woman on Valentine’s Day. Perhaps they’ve set a June wedding date. Now the time of preparation begins. Bridal counselors hand out detailed calendars for the bride-to-be and her bridesmaids to be fully prepared for the big day. In order for the “perfect wedding” reward, she must diligently adhere to the schedule.
You know, don’t you, that as a part of the Bride of Christ, you need to be eagerly and diligently preparing yourself for the One you love. Like the young woman learning everything about her intended and desiring to please only him, are you getting better acquainted with Jesus every day?
Just as that same young woman wants to spend time with her love, do you desire to be alone with the Lord, to find a more intimate relationship with Him? the Bible says:
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near:” (Isaiah 55:6)
He rewards those who seek Him:
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
While you attend to your own bridal preparations for your heavenly wedding celebration, pray for others to seek after the Lord for wisdom, grace and their salvation.
The Presidential Prayer Team
February 24, 2018
“But Esau ran to meet him [his brother, Jacob] and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.”
Just like the prodigal son (Jesus describes in Luke 15) became broken and repentant, so Jacob does. As the loving father forgives, embraces, and weeps with the son, so Esau does with Jacob. It is a beautiful, beautiful picture of forgiveness. Deception was overcome by forgiveness. Stealing was overcome by forgiveness. Hurt was overcome by forgiveness. Anger was overcome by forgiveness. Pride was overcome by forgiveness.
Running away was overcome by forgiveness. Coming back together was facilitated by forgiveness. Forgiveness through Christ and toward each other is the great reconciler. Otherwise, we live life like most miserable men and women, still blaming others and lamenting over injustice inflicted on us and those we love. It is not fair because life hurts our idealism and optimism; however, to be healed is to forgive. So how do we forgive?
Forgiveness begins with an encounter with God, as the originator of forgiveness embraces us. He is the one with the limitless capacity to forgive. His forgiveness engulfs us with ability, a mandate, and a reservoir of forgiveness. Because He has thoroughly forgiven us through Christ, we can and will forgive others for Christ’s sake. It is the essence of being a Christian. If you are a Christian, you forgive.
Why is forgiveness hard? One reason is our immature faith lacks a cure. Our focus is still on our needs and hurts, but God is calling us to forgive. It is from a faithful stance of loving Him and loving people. When you choose to live by faith, you forgive. When you forgive, you trust that God is working to make you and others more like Jesus. Begin today; let God embrace you, you embrace another, and then watch forgiveness do its work.
The Bible says,
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16)
Whom can you forgive today and begin the process of healing?
February 23, 2018
FAITHFUL TO THE END
2 Timothy 4:7
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
While watching the 2018 Winter Olympics tonight, I was reminded of the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico. John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania was excited. He was about to run the marathon with runners from around the world.
The starter’s pistol fired and the race began. A little over 2 hours later, the first runner crossed the finish line. Other runners finished the race shortly afterwards, but John was not among them. Over an hour after the winner had crossed the finish line, with only a few spectators remaining in the stands, John Stephen Ahkwari finally entered the stadium.
Bandaged and bloody, John finally crossed the finish line. Bud Greenspan, the renown sports reporter, asked John why he didn't just quit. He answered, "My country did not send me 5000 miles to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me here to finish."
John Stephen Akhwari did not receive a prize or a medal, but he did endure. He didn't just start the race, he finished it. God did not call us just to start the Christian race, he called us to finish it!
"Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
February 22, 2018
ONE FAITHFUL WITNESS
“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’”
Many of you have read the story about a Sunday School teacher named Edward Kimball. Mr. Kimball was a timid shoe salesman who gathered the nerve to share the gospel with a co-worker named Dwight.L. Moody. D.L. Moody made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and went on to become one of the greatest evangelists in history.
Do you know the rest of the story? D.L. Moody went to England and worked a profound change in the ministry of F.B. Meyer. F.B. Meyer, with his new evangelistic fervor, influenced a college student named J. Wilbur Chapman. Chapman accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and employed a converted baseball player in his ministry named Billy Sunday. Billy Sunday became the greatest evangelist of his generation.
Billy Sunday preached the gospel in Charlotte, North Caroline and had such a tremendous impact that he was invited back. However, when he was unable to return, he recommended a preacher named Mordecai Ham. Ham went to Charlotte and preached his heart out, but there was only a limited response to his preaching.
On the last night of Mordecai Ham's revival, a tall, lanky boy who worked on a dairy farm walked forward and asked Jesus to come into his heart. The local folks knew him as Billy Frank, but we all know him as Billy Graham.
Today, as we reflect on the tremendous life and ministry of Billy Graham, it is also a wonderful time to reflect on the fact that it all started with a laymen named Edward Kimball, who took seriously Christ's commission to be a witness in his world.
It is highly unlikely that you and I will ever become a Billy Sunday or a Billy Graham, but every single one of us can be an "Edward Kimball". Every one of us can share the gospel with those we see every day of our lives. .
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, I'm available for you to use; please use me today and every day to be an effective witness for you, and to be 'as Jesus' in some way to every life I touch. And grant that they, seeing Jesus in me, will want you for themselves. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
February 21, 2018
And Jesus called them to him and said to them, 'You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'”
George Washington is the face on the one-dollar bill and--these days--the smiling face of Presidents’ Day sales. Most of us know he was the first president of the United States. But why is that important? What else do we know about him?
George Washington was the man who established the American republic. He led the revolutionary army against the British Empire, he served as the first president, and most importantly he stepped down from power.
In an era of brilliant men, Washington was not the deepest thinker. He never wrote a book or even a long essay, unlike George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams. But Washington made the ideas of the American founding real. He incarnated liberal and republican ideas in his own person, and he gave them effect through the Revolution, the Constitution, his successful presidency, and his departure from office.
What’s so great about leaving office? Surely it matters more what a president does in office. But think about other great military commanders and revolutionary leaders before and after Washington--Caesar, Cromwell, Napoleon, Lenin. They all seized the power they had won and held it until death or military defeat.
John Adams said, “He was the best actor of presidency we have ever had.” Indeed, Washington was a person very conscious of his reputation, who worked all his life to develop his character and his image.
In our own time, Joshua Micah Marshall writes of America’s first president, “It was all a put-on, an act.” Marshall missed the point. Washington understood that character is something you develop. He learned from Aristotle that good conduct arises from habits that in turn can only be acquired by repeated action and correction-- “We are what we repeatedly do.” Indeed, the word “ethics” comes from the Greek word for “habit.” We say something is “second nature” because it’s not actually natural; it’s a habit we’ve developed. From reading the Greek philosophers and the Roman statesmen, Washington developed an understanding of character, in particular the character appropriate to a gentleman in a republic of free citizens.
What values did Washington’s character express? He was a farmer, a businessman, an enthusiast for commerce. As a man of the Enlightenment, he was deeply interested in scientific farming. His letters on running Mount Vernon are longer than letters on running the government. (Of course, in 1795 more people worked at Mount Vernon than in the entire executive branch of the federal government.)
He was also a liberal and tolerant man. In a famous letter to the Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, he hailed the “liberal policy” of the United States on religious freedom as worthy of emulation by other countries. He explained, “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.” And most notably, he held “republican” values--that is, he believed in a republic of free citizens, with a government based on consent and established to protect the rights of life, liberty, and property.
From his republican values Washington derived his abhorrence of kingship, even for himself. The writer Garry Wills called him “a virtuoso of resignations.” He gave up power not once but twice--at the end of the revolutionary war, when he resigned his military commission and returned to Mount Vernon, and again at the end of his second term as president, when he refused entreaties to seek a third term.
Give the last word to Washington’s great adversary, King George III. The king asked his American painter, Benjamin West, what Washington would do after winning independence. West replied, “They say he will return to his farm.”
“If he does that,” the incredulous monarch said, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”
February 20, 2018
Jumping Off a Bridge and Trusting God
“So also Abraham ‘believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’”
When compared to many other small communities in the U.S., I imagine my hometown in Southern Idaho is as interesting as most. If you visit, you’ll see lots of pickup trucks; you can purchase a famous Idaho Spud candy bar at just about any gas station, and if you’re in the mood for a real Idaho baker, you can find one at any grocery store since it’s certified potato country.
Twin Falls is also where Evel Knievel unsuccessfully attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon on his steam-powered “skycycle” in 1974. If you visit, you can still see his dirt ramp on the south side of the canyon. It’s also where more than 500 people come from all over the world every year to strap on their parachutes and throw themselves off our famous Perrine Bridge into the Snake River Canyon, 486 feet below.
These jumpers do their research. They know which way the wind should be blowing, and what type of equipment to use to get safely to their landing. They trust their equipment; they trust their teams. So, they jump. If they didn’t believe they would make it to their destination, they wouldn’t take the leap. What they believe affects how they act. Life with God is the same. In 1 Peter it says of Jesus:
“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)
What Jesus believed affected his actions. He believed His Father was just; He believed He would get Him safely home and accomplish His purposes; He believed He would make all things right, so He willingly laid down His life without fighting against His accusers.
What we truly believe about our Lord affects how we act too. Like Christ, when we entrust ourselves to Him, it means we truly trust and believe Him. We are not like those who say we believe without action. Instead, we are do-ers, not just hearers. And in this, we are blessed.
When money is short, we do not panic. Instead, we entrust ourselves to Him who provides for His kids. When our hearts are grieving, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Instead, we entrust ourselves to Him who comforts those who mourn.
When we are lonely, we do not despair. Instead, we place our hope in Him who will never leave us or forsake us. When we are waiting for the future to unfold, we trust God is leading us.
Is your trust and belief in Christ affecting how you respond to life and life’s challenges? The Lord wants to provide you with the peace and confidence that comes through trust and belief.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)
Take a few minutes and think about your life. Is there any area in which you need to choose to believe and trust Him fully?
February 19, 2018
THE BIG COVER-UP
“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.”
Peter Ustinov, the famous actor and ambassador for UNICEF, once said “love is an act of endless forgiveness.” Think about how much forgiveness is needed in society today. Open a newspaper or flip on a news channel and you’re likely to see stories of hate and the effects of it. People are killing, raping, stealing, hurting – all causing strife. The Forgiveness Project, started by Marina Cantacuzino, uses people’s personal experiences with crime and violence to explore forgiveness and how it can transform someone’s life. Many people involved in the project reveal their ability to forgive came through their relationship with Jesus.
Today’s verse says love covers all offenses. “Cover” does not mean to conceal or hide, but rather to pardon or forgive. The immeasurable love of Christ can give you the power of “bearing with” and forgiving the offenses of others
“bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)
Are you struggling with a wrong committed to you? In your prayer time, ask God to demonstrate His free gift of forgiveness so you can experience the power it has to transform your life.
February 18, 2018
HELP US REMEMBER
"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
Help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.
Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can't make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.
Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.
Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.
Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love.
"give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." (Luke 6:38)
Submitted by Joan Morgan
February 17, 2018
THE FACE OF CRITICISM
"For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ."
Before I became an author, I realized I’d been waiting for someone to encourage me to write a book. I thought if another, more successful writer validated me, then I could start moving toward the dream that God had placed in my heart. Deep down I didn’t want to look foolish and I feared the criticism of others.
One day as I browsed the bookstore for inspiration from an accomplished writer, I sensed that still quiet voice I had heard so many times speak to my heart: “Why are you looking for a leader outside yourself? Write what I have given you.” No matter who you are, or what you want to accomplish, the only leader you need to move toward your purpose is the Holy Spirit.
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)
Even Jesus knew when to ignore naysayers who wanted to prevent Him from accomplishing God’s plan for His life.Those in His hometown became furious when He said He was sent by God. To destroy Him:
"....they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. " (Luke 4:29)
What did Jesus do? He walked through the crowd and went on His way:
"But passing through their midst, he went away." (Luke 4:30)
Because He knew who He was and who His Father was, He decided He would fulfill His purpose, even if no one but His Father agreed. Sometimes the best way to move on to God’s plan for you is to ignore negative evaluations and comments and, just like Jesus, go merrily on our way. Can you imagine what Christ’s life on earth would have been like if He had been self-protective and feared criticism?
He would have kept His mouth shut when He was falsely accused. He would have defended Himself. When His enemies spit in His face, He would have retaliated. When they called Him names, He would have called down a legion of angels to defend Him. When they marched Him to Golgatha, He would have run. And rather than laying down His life to give His all to those He loved, the redemption of the human race would have been lost in His misguided passion of self-protection and the fear of criticism.
When we fear criticism and are overly self-protective, we can miss out on being a gift to others. You see, what God wants you to accomplish is not just about you; it’s about many people that God wants to influence and help through you. Ask the Lord to give you the strength you need to move forward in faith in the face of criticism. And remember, you are living your life for the approval of just One.
February 16, 2018
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."
During World War II, a man in Sussex, England, sent some money to the Scripture Gift Mission. He enclosed a letter saying that he longed to give more, but the harvest on his farm had been very disappointing because of a lack of water. He was also fearful because German bombs were being dropped in the area, and his family and farm were at risk. He asked the workers of Scripture Gift Mission to pray that no bombs would fall on his land.
Mr. Ashley Baker wrote back from the mission and said that while he didn't feel led to pray that exact prayer, he had prayed that God's will for their lives would prevail. Shortly after, a huge German missile crashed down on the farm. None of the man's family or livestock were harmed, but the bombshell went so far into the ground that it liberated a submerged stream. The stream yielded enough water to irrigate the man's farm as well as neighboring farms. The next year, due to a bountiful harvest, the man was able to send a large offering to the mission.
Sometimes even "bombs" are blessings. They fall from heaven, make a lot of noise, and liberate something wonderful within us - streams of living water that refresh us and draw us closer to Christ.
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
February 15, 2018
DWELL WITH US
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.'"
What does it mean for God to be our God? In many ways, this is a core question that human beings have asked since time began. Humans have a deep, built in longing for meaning, purpose, and significance. Religious expression can be studied and observed in the earliest accounts of human history. As a species we have built within us an unshakable sense that there is something more, something greater to behold and encounter.
In some cases, this sense has led to great fear and anxiety. “God” is seen as unknowable and distant, disconnected from the intimate details of human experience. Or, if he is connected, he must constantly be appeased with bribes, gifts, and offerings. The relationship, if we can call it that, is always one way, us reaching up yet never actually expecting a god to hear and respond, let alone come and draw near to us.
And yet, the story of Israel is unique amongst all religious expressions in one incredible way. The Bible tells us a story of God drawing near and making his home with his people. He isn’t unaffected or unconcerned with the needs of his creation. In fact, creation itself is an overflow, an outpouring of his eternal love. God makes his home with us because he loves us and wants to dwell with us and us with him.
When the God of the Bible says “he will be our God,” he supports this remarkable claim by coming and making himself like us so that we can know him. In the incarnation, the unknowable is made known:
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)
God moves into our lives and wants to dwell with us, teaching us what it means to truly live in the depths of our being. He is with us in our hopes and dreams, as well as our fears and failures. To be a person of faith is to trust and believe that God is near to you, and this nearness is not simply wishful thinking but is rooted in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God drew near to his people in Jesus over 2,000 years ago, and by his Spirit he continues to draw near this very moment if you will but open your heart and invite him to dwell with you afresh.
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Colossians 3:16)
February 14, 2018
"Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold,"
What could you do with multiple millions of dollars? Every week, scores of lottery tickets are sold while billboards keep grand totals on jackpots up-to-date and neon colors punctuate words like “Jackpot” and “Mega-Millions.” Everybody wants to get rich quick.
The fascination with money isn’t new. In the Bible, Achan’s desire for riches was his downfall. He was stoned when the Israelites discovered he hid gold, silver and a beautiful robe under his tent. God had given specific directions not to take the choice “devoted things” from the Canaanites, but Achan was disobedient:
"But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel." (Joshua 7:1)
Today’s verse shows God wants you to treasure His instructions more than silver or gold. His wisdom is more valuable than riches. People focus on money probably more than they would like to admit. Take time today to ask God to examine your heart. Do you desire financial gain more than what He wants you to have?
Search God’s Word for riches that can never be stolen. Ask God to give a desire for wisdom over money and the false security it gives.
February 13, 2018
RELIEF FROM PAIN
"For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning."
Lily, our eight year old granddaughter writhed in pain. Tears flowed as she frantically sought relief from an intrusive needle sized splinter. The nemesis, with an ambush like attack had invaded the soft tender area of her palm just below the thumb. Her mom comforted her---a personified God hug, calmly and lovingly assured her first born all would be ok, while gingerly explaining how extraction brings relief---but only after additional pain. The thought of digging into her sensitive skin caused our precious baby to howl in fear, tears flooding out like a raging river after a heavy rain. Childhood often does not have a context for how to process pain. Aunts, uncles, grandparents---we all stood around sympathetic, but feeling helpless. Pain hurts.
How many of us have multiple splinters embedded in our souls---forgotten, festering or fresh? Your hurt may be buried deep in the recesses of your memories, but on occasion it raises its ugly head because you discover your pain was buried alive. Forgotten from denial, but not dead because ongoing forgiveness in the power of the Spirit is the only remedy to remove the pain of past sins inflicted on your heart. You may never hear the words, “Will you forgive me?”, but you can still forgive and by God’s grace not be controlled by someone else’s past shaming.
"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32)
A festering hurt like a physical wound lingers with infection just below the surface: puffy, red and swollen intently waiting for love’s lance to bring relief. The puss of pride infects the blood of our emotions as it flows through our hurting heart with venomous affect---only the antivenin of humility can counteract pride’s deadly outcome. Humility recognizes and admits the struggle of unresolved conflict corrodes relationships and clouds our judgment. Only when we go to our offender or the one we have offended and seek reconciliation can we clear our consciences.
"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)
Or maybe your wound is fresh. Take courage and forgive fast so the hurt doesn’t fester and lie dormant in resentment ready to attack unaware. When you are hurt or offended the amount of time it takes you to thank God and forgive is an indicator of how close your walk is with Christ. Some die in bitterness, for others it takes years to forgive, fewer months, fewer weeks, even fewer days, the more mature in their faith hours, saints seconds and those who walk closest to Christ, their thanksgiving and forgiveness are simultaneous to the offense. By God’s grace keep no record of wrongs and you will be free to love others as your heavenly Father loves you.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Mathew 11:28-29)
What hurt do you need to process with friends, so you can begin the healing process?
February 12, 2018
"Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out."
“I cannot tell a lie.” America’s first president was famous for many things, but one of the most popular legends about George Washington involves a hatchet, a cherry tree and his inability to fib. The nation’s sixteenth president was fondly known as Honest Abe: after accidentally making wrong change while working at a small store, Lincoln was said to have journeyed a long way to return the change to its rightful owner.
This nation was built on men filled with integrity. Unfortunately, over the years things have changed. Stories of corruption and deceit in the Washington D.C. halls of government have become so commonplace in recent decades, they’re becoming accepted as normal.
Today’s verse gives insight from God’s Word about those who walk in integrity. Eventually all lies will come to light and the truth will reign.
As you interact with others, be forthright in all things and be confident in the truth. Pray for God to point out areas in your life where you need to work on honesty. Then pray for our nation’s leaders to have the wisdom to act and serve with integrity, to seek God in all aspects of their political responsibilities – and avoid the crooked consequences.
"The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them." (Proverbs 11:3)
February 11, 2018
"Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?"
Sometimes God’s will is not logical and does not even seem possible. Abraham certainly struggled with the idea of being a parent as a centenarian and his wife conceiving at ninety years of age. It was not possible; it did not make sense. Yet in reality all things are possible with God, and this was one of them.
The Lord made a promise that was out of the ordinary. He wanted to mark this occasion with an indelible stamp of a “God thing.” Abraham tried to let God off the hook on this miraculous scheme by offering Him another plan. However, God was not interested in another plan; He was interested in setting the stage for a blessing that would validate His sovereignty, taking the faith of Abraham, Sarah, and an entire nation to a whole new level. God wants us, and He wants us to take Him at His Word.
Why is it hard to take God at His Word? Why do we struggle with believing in something that is not logical or takes us out of our comfort zone? One reason we struggle is our perception of God. We make Him so small. We bring Him down to our level rather than allowing Him to pull us up to His level! This is man-centered thinking; instead, let’s allow God to be God.
Faith allows us to travel places with God that we would never experience otherwise. Would you not rather be in the middle of a lake in a storm with Jesus than on the calm shore around a warm fire without Him? This is where faith trumps logic. We trust Him when it does not make sense; we follow Him when we are not sure of the destination.
We believe the Lord when others think we are strange, too religious, or even fanatical. Let your Savior stretch your faith, trusting Him with the opportunity in front of you. Has your laughter turned to trust and awe in God and His accomplishments?
The Bible says,
"Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad." (John 8:56)
What impossibility are you facing and will trust that God will make it possible?
February 10. 2018
"Whoever winks the eye causes trouble, and a babbling fool will come to ruin."
Jeff and Greg are identical twins. In every physical respect, their growth, weight gain, appetites and curiosity are on schedule. But at age three, they don’t speak…except to each other. Their “twin talk” is a perpetual, completely non-understandable language only they seem to know. And they haven’t clued anyone else in on it. They are babblers.
Pediatricians say that babbling is a stage in child development that ultimately results in language acquisition as children learn to produce recognizable words. There are numerous hypotheses to explain how babbling transitions to language. But Jeff and Greg don’t seem to care; they’ve created their own language world and are happy to dwell in it, for now.
Babbling for adults is foolishness, however. You know people who just “prattle on” as if to keep any moment from being a quiet one. They can be irritating. Ongoing foolish utterances can “drive you nuts.” In today’s verse, God says they will come to ruin, ultimately driving people away from them, and leaving them in a lonely state.
Today, measure your words. Check yourself. Guard your mouth against divisive words, against over-confidence, against aimlessness. Pray for God’s help. Seek the Lord’s wisdom and aid to temper your language and tone.
February 9, 2018
LEADERS WITH INTEGRITY
"Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens."
Leaders with integrity are a rare breed within a group of citizens whose utmost concern is “What is in it for me?” A selfish society does not always select a leader for his integrity, but for his ability to manipulate a quick fix for chronic problems. It is this short sightedness that can set back a generation, because of their leader’s greed and corruption.
Men and women of integrity understand the big picture of principled leadership, and they value fear of God, trustworthiness and honest economics. A leader of integrity looks out over the long term, and discovers what is best for the culture, its citizens, churches and families. There is a resolve to do the right things, with the right people, for the right reasons. Leaders of integrity integrate uprightness with their quiet influence.
"And the LORD said to Satan, 'Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.'" (Job 2:3)
Select capable men and women who hold Christ and His commands in high esteem, who you can trust to do and say the right things, implemented in the right way. Leaders of integrity surround themselves with leaders of integrity. There is a high standard in their selection of leaders, because they want to represent the people extremely well. Competence and character are valued over loyal but incompetent friends with suspicious standards of behavior. A leader of integrity delegates to capable leaders.
So, select your leaders in government and church prayerfully, and only after extensive due diligence of their policies, integrity and track record. Blindly betting on one person is a bad process. Instead, select statesmen who will serve the people in the best interests of the country—who surround themselves with the best and the brightest, full of character. Most importantly, choose those who will submit to the accountability of God and man.
The early church experienced a similar selection process of leaders:
"Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:3-4)
Who will you select as a leader that is best for your country, your family and your God?
February 8, 2018
WHAT ARE YOU SEEKING?
"Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, 'What are you seeking?' And they said to him, 'Rabbi' (which means Teacher), 'where are you staying?'"
Each and every one of us is searching for meaning, purpose, and direction. We find ourselves asking the big questions of life: “Is there more to life than this?” “Does anything that I’m doing matter or contribute to something bigger?” “What does it mean to be truly happy?” These are the questions that rise to the surface of our thoughts and imaginations when we take the time to be still and silence the distractions and noise.
Jesus knew how to speak to the deepest desires of these early disciple’s hearts. As they found themselves drawn to him and following after him, he turned, looked at them with love, and asked the only question that truly matters: “What are you looking for?” I love the honesty and authenticity of their response. Perhaps surprised or startled by the directness of the question, all they can get out in response is a simple, “where are you staying?”
The greatest longing of your heart is met in the nearness and intimacy of Jesus. Though we look far and wide for things to give us meaning and significance, they ultimately come up short and leave us empty and hollow inside. I recently heard a story of a man who had reached unimaginable levels of success and cultural influence. Yet having done so, his only response was, “I wish someone had told me that when I got to the top there wouldn’t be anything here.”
If you’ve searched far and wide for the answers to the big questions in life but still haven’t found something to satisfy that desire, perhaps you can hear Jesus’s words afresh today. Into all the doubts, longings, and fears of every heart he looks with great compassion and asks, “What are you looking for?” May we, like these early disciples, see him in his beauty and wonder and desire nothing more than to be near to him. To join him wherever he is going and in whatever he is doing, knowing that it is there that life finds its meaning and true significance.
"Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life," (John 6:68)
February 7, 2018
"Oh, that I had one to hear me! (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!) Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary!"
In her book Listening to Others, Joyce Huggett writes about the importance of learning to listen and respond effectively to those in difficult situations. As she relates some of her own experiences of listening to suffering people, she mentions that they often thank her for all she’s done for them. “On many occasions,” she writes, “I have not ‘done’ anything. I have ‘just listened.’ I quickly came to the conclusion that ‘just listening’ was indeed an effective way of helping others.”
This was the help Job sought from his friends. While it is true that they sat with him for seven days in silence:
"And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great." (Job 2:13)
They didn’t listen when Job started talking. Instead, they talked and talked but failed to comfort him:
"I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all." (Job 16:2)
Job cried out:
"Oh, that I had one to hear me!..." (Job 31:35)
Listening says, “What matters to you matters to me.” Sometimes people do want advice. But often they just want to be listened to by someone who loves and cares about them. Listening is hard work, and it takes time. It takes time to listen long enough to hear the other person’s true heart, so that if we do speak, we speak with gentle wisdom.
David H. Roper
February 6, 2018
"But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!"
As I sat in the surgical waiting room, I had time to think. I had been here recently, when we received the jarring news that my only brother, much too young, was “brain dead.” And so on this day, waiting for news about my wife who was undergoing a serious surgical procedure, I penned a lengthy note to her. Then, surrounded by nervous chatter and oblivious children, I listened for the quiet voice of God.
Suddenly, news! The surgeon wanted to see me. I went to a secluded room to wait. There, on the table, sat two tissue boxes, conspicuously available. They weren’t for the sniffles. They were for cold, hard phrases like I heard when my brother died—“brain dead” and “nothing we can do.”
In such times of grief or uncertainty, the honesty of the psalms makes them a natural place to turn. Psalm 31 was the heart-cry of David, who endured so much that he wrote,
"For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away." (Psalm 31:10)
Compounding that grief was the pain of abandonment by his friends and neighbors:
"Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me." (Psalm 31:11)
But David had the bedrock of faith in the one true God:
"But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!" (Psalm 31:14-15)
His lament concludes with resounding encouragement and hope:
"Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!" (Psalm 31:24)
This time in the waiting room, the surgeon gave us good news: My wife could expect a full and complete recovery. Of course we were relieved and grateful! But even if she hadn’t been “okay,” our times still remain in God’s capable hands.
When we put our problems in God’s hands, He puts His peace in our hearts.
February 5, 2018
HAND OF COMFORT
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."
“The patient is combative,” the nurse’s notes read.
What she didn’t realize until later was that I was having an allergic reaction as I awakened after a complicated open-heart surgery. I was a mess, with a tube down my throat. My body began shaking violently, straining against the straps on my arms, which were there to keep me from suddenly pulling out my breathing tube. It was a frightening and painful episode.
At one point, a nurse’s assistant to the right side of my bed reached down and simply held my hand. It was an unexpected move, and it struck me as especially gentle. I began to relax, which caused my body to stop shaking so badly.
Having experienced this with other patients, the nurse’s assistant knew that a hand of comfort could minister to me as well. It was a vivid example of how God uses comfort when His children suffer. Comfort is a powerful and memorable tool for any caregiver, and Paul tells us speaking to the church in Corinth that it is an important part of God’s toolbox:
"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." (2 Corinthians 1:3–4)
Not only that, but God also multiplies the impact of His comfort by calling us to use the memory of the comfort He gives us to comfort others in similar situations:
"For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort." (2 Corinthians 1:4–7)
It is but another sign of His great love; and one we can share with others—sometimes in the simplest of gestures which can bring powerful comfort.
February 4, 2018
A WEIGHTY MATTER
"The Lord detests dishonest scales, but delights in an accurate weight."
There was a time not too long ago when scales at the grocery produce section were not regulated by Bureaus of Weights and Measures. A customer was at the mercy of the merchant, who often calibrated the scale in his favor. Even after the introduction of government standards, it was not uncommon for the butcher to “put his thumb on the scales” when calculating the weight of a chicken or other meat. Once again, the buyer was the loser.
From the earliest part of their history, the Israelites understood the necessity of an accurate system of weights, measures, and an honest handling of them. Leviticus and Deuteronomy called for economic righteousness:
"You must not act unjustly in a legal case involving measures of length, weight, or volume. You must have accurate scales and accurate weights, an accurate ephah [about 20 quarts] and an accurate hin [about one gallon]. ...." (Leviticus 19:35-36)
"Don’t have two different types of money weights in your bag, a heavy one and a light one. Don’t have two different types of ephahs in your house, a large one and a small one. Instead, you must have only one weight, complete and correct, and only one ephah, also complete and correct, so that your life might be long in the fertile land the LORD your God is giving you. What’s more, all who do such things, all who do business dishonestly, are detestable to the LORD your God." (Deuteronomy 25:13-16)
Just as God set out standards for commerce, He set standards for living. Honoring parents, caring for widows and orphans, acting with justice and righteousness, protecting the vulnerable, are just a few. Therefore, pray today that in your own life, you will love mercy, do justly and walk humbly with your God:
"He has told you, human one, what is good and what the LORD requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)
February 3, 2018
TALK LESS, LISTEN MORE
"With lots of words comes wrongdoing, but the wise restrain their lips."
Tempered talk is evidence of wise conversation. It is when our words are many that we run the risk of soliciting sin. Increased words increase the probability of improper speech. For example, respectful conversation does not repeat the same words and phrases in a confined period of time. This impatient cadence frustrates.
Perhaps a look of misunderstanding requires questions for clarification or definition for comprehension. Proud conversationalists can highjack a listener’s understanding with a hoard of words without meaning. If your goal is to communicate, then take the time to listen to the needs of your audience. People who feel cared for and understood have a keener sense of hearing and understanding.
"Fools who keep quiet are deemed wise; those who shut their lips are smart." (Proverbs 17:28)
Wise people weigh their words before they speak. They allow their minds to catch up with their hearts. Furthermore, in the face of inappropriate behavior, emotions sometimes need to express themselves. Let the other person know if you feel mistreated or misinformed. Concealed anger leads to living a lie but tempered talk is truthful and to the point.
"Lying lips conceal hate, and those who spread slander are fools." (Proverbs 10:18)
Lastly, you reserve your words out of respect for the other person. If you do all the talking, you are the center of attention. It is condescending conversation when the other individual does not feel important enough to speak up. So honor others by speaking less, listening more intently to how you can love them. Wisdom can be found in the words of each person you meet. Therefore, intentionally talk less and be wise.
"Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry." (James 1:19)
To whom do you need to listen to more and talk to less?
February 2, 2018
STEPPING INTO OPPORTUNITY
"Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity."
Like lots of people, I struggle to get enough exercise. So I recently bought something to motivate myself to move: a pedometer that counts steps. It’s a simple thing. But it’s amazing how much difference this gadget makes in my motivation. Instead of grumbling when I have to get off the couch, I see it as an opportunity to get a few more steps. Mundane tasks, like getting one of my kids a cup of water, become opportunities that help me work toward a larger goal. In that sense, my pedometer has changed my perspective and my motivation. Now I look to get extra steps in whenever possible.
I wonder if our Christian life isn’t a bit like that. There are opportunities to love and serve and interact with people every day, as Paul exhorts in Colossians 4:5. But am I always aware of those moments? Am I paying attention to opportunities to be an encourager in seemingly mundane interactions? God is at work in the lives of every person I relate to, from my family and coworkers to a clerk at the grocery store. Each interaction offers a chance for me to pay attention to what God might be doing—even if it’s something as seemingly “small” as kindly asking a server at a restaurant how she’s doing.
Who knows how God might work in those moments when we’re alert to the opportunities He sends our way.
Take every opportunity to serve someone.
February 1, 2018
"Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness."
There’s a scene in the movie City Slickers where three friends are discussing how their lives have turned out. One man laments about how he’s messed up his entire life. He lost his wife, his child, his job and his self-respect. “I’ve lost everything,” he concluded. Billy Crystal, the actor portraying one of the friends, tells him it’s not true. He’s actually been handed an opportunity for a fresh start – a do-over.
Many people get so caught up in yesterday’s mistakes they can’t see what God has planned for tomorrow. God doesn’t want you to focus on your past, but on your future. Today’s verse talks about the new beginning God wants for your life. He says to forget what has happened before. Instead, look to the fresh things He is going to do.
Do you need a do-over in life? Start by realizing you are powerless to make changes yourself. Then pray for God to give you a new start.
January 31, 2018
"For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out."
There is a park atop Beachy Head, the tallest chalk cliff on England’s Channel coast, where grazing sheep from various flocks keep the grass mown. When a farmer rolls up in his pick-up truck and gives a whistle, only the sheep that belong to him respond. While some think that is curious, Bible readers understand. While Jesus said His sheep know His voice, how many more times did He say, “He who has ears, let him hear?”:
"He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Matthew 11:15)
"He who has ears, let him hear." (Matthew 13:9)
"Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." (Matthew 13:43)
"And he said, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'" (Mark 4:9)
"And some [seeds] fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold. As he said these things, he called out, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'” (Luke 8:8)
"It [salt] is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Luke 14:35)
What’s the difference between knowing His voice and understanding what He says? Hearing God is your responsibility; it requires that you be quiet and ready. It takes time and discipline. His words are found in His Word, so regular Scripture reading is essential. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.” His schedule isn’t always yours. If you are a good sheep, you will answer when He calls and go where He sends you.
January 30, 2018
ARE YOU JESUS?
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
A group of salesmen went to a regional sales convention in Chicago. They had assured their wives that they would be home in plenty of time for Christmas night’s dinner. In their rush through the airport, one of these salesmen inadvertently kicked over a table which held a display of apples. Apples flew everywhere. Without stopping or looking back, they all managed to reach the plane, just in time. All but one. He told the others to go on without him and went back to where the apples were all over the floor. He was glad he did.
The little girl, the apple seller, was totally blind! She was softly crying, tears running down her cheeks, as she groped for her spilled produce, the crowd swirling about her, rushing to their flights.
The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them back on the table and helped reorganize her display. He set aside the bruised and battered apples in a separate basket. When he had finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, “Here, please take this $40 for the damage we did.
Are you okay?” She nodded through her tears. He continued, “I hope we didn’t spoil your day too badly.”
As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind girl called out to him, “Mister….” He paused and turned to look back.
She continued, “Are you Jesus?”
He couldn’t get that question out of his head for days. It was such a simple, small-scale event, but it made him see clearly what following Christ was really all about. “Love one another as I have loved you.”
January 29, 2018
RUNNING THE RACE
"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,"
On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister became the first man in history to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Within 2 months, John Landy eclipsed the record by 1.4 seconds.
On August 7, 1954, the two met together for an historic race. As they moved into the last lap, Landy held the lead. It looked as if he would win, but as he neared the finish he was haunted by the question, “Where is Bannister?”. As he turned to look, Bannister took the lead.
Landy later told a Time magazine reporter, “If I hadn’t looked back, I would have won!”
One of the most descriptive pictures of the Christian life in the Bible is of an athlete competing in a race. Discipline is the key to winning:
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
In Hebrews, we are encouraged to lay aside anything that might hinder our spiritual advancement and to stay focused on Christ:
"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)
And in Philippians the apostle Paul said:
"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead," (Philippians 3:12-13)
You can't make spiritual progress by looking back.
Henry G. Bosch
Our Daily Bread
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
January 28, 2018
"The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing."
What is flirtatious folly? It is enticement into reckless living. You may ask, “What does it look like?” Its coyness is conceived in attractive idiots, as these disguised fools seek to lure naïve ones into their stupidity. Foolishness loves friends. It approaches in the form of a well-dressed, well-spoken man or woman. They draw you in with their looks and latch onto you with their words.
Folly can be found among the experienced and educated or run rampant in lives of the young and simple. It forces itself on the middle-aged father who has grown discontent with his faith, family, or vocation. Instead of listening to the voice of reason, he socializes with silliness and invites irresponsibility. However, he does not harvest happiness, because the fruit of folly is death: relational, spiritual, and emotional:
"she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house." (Genesis 39:12)
Moreover, wise men and women recognize the futility of folly and flee from its influence. They avoid sexual folly by cultivating a caring marriage. A happy wife is a happy life, and a happy husband is a happy home. Furthermore, financial folly is fleeting for a family who lives well within their means, growing in generosity. Their money becomes a means of honoring their Master Jesus:
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21)
What form of folly is staring you in the face? Wisdom is your warning to flee where good judgment is absent. It may require changing schools, breaking off a relationship, or moving to another neighborhood. Wisdom may not be sexy, but it brings success and satisfaction. Walk in wisdom and you will reap rich relationships, robust faith, and peace of mind.
"Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly." (Psalm 85:8)
Who has been flirting with you that you need to disclose to your spouse?
January 26-27, 2018
BEFORE THE EULOGY
"because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now."
In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom, Huck Finn, and Joe Harper slinked off for a few days away without telling anyone. Back home, their distraught loved ones assumed they had drowned, so they held a funeral. The boys—being boys—sneaked back into town and watched the funeral from the rafters of the church. There they enjoyed hearing the good things that were said about them.
A friend of mine took to heart the idea of telling people the good they had done in life—not waiting for their funeral service to do it. He wrote “eulogies” for several friends as birthday gifts. The response was exceedingly positive. The apostle Paul understood the value of genuine praise and encouragement. He began most of his letters by building up his intended audience. In his letter to the Philippians, he called them partners from the beginning:
"because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now." (Philippians 1:5)
He expressed confidence that they would be standing together with one spirit and one purpose:
"Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel," (Philippians 1:27)
He spoke of their faithful service:
"Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all." (Philippians 2:17)
and called them his my joy and crown:
"Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved." (Philippians 4:1)
He praised them for their generous financial support of his ministry:
"And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again." (Philippians 4:15-16)
All this praise was couched in the context of a faith and unity deeply rooted in Jesus. Paul said:
"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)
This will result in the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ which in turn will bring much glory and praise to God:
"filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." (Philippians 1:11)
Those of us who follow Christ are dead to sin:
"So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." (Romans 6:11)
Paul made his life a vibrant eulogy of gratitude to God. We can too.
January 25, 2018
WONDER OF PRAYER
1 Timothy 2:1
"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,"
Eighty-plus years ago, some businessmen gathered at W. Frank Graham’s dairy farm for a prayer meeting. They had met several times at different locations around Charlotte, North Carolina, to pray for revival in their city, across their state and to the ends of the Earth. That particular day, one man suggested they pray that God would raise up someone from Charlotte to spread the gospel to the world.
At that moment, 15-year-old Billy Graham was in the barn doing his chores. None of the men who prayed were thinking of young Billy, who had not yet even given his heart to Jesus Christ. Of course, God answered that prayer in an unimaginable way. Graham later said, “A mystery and wonder of prayer is that God often waits until someone asks.”
Commit to boldly pray for those in your city and this nation to discover a relationship with the Lord this year. Then ask God for a fresh anointing of His Spirit upon all Christian leaders in America. Your prayers will make a powerful difference!
January 24, 2018
ALWAYS ALONGSIDE US
"And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules."
A student named Steve Winger from Lubbock, TX was taking a challenging class in Logic. The course and teacher were known for exacting and demanding exams. The final exam was looming, and the professor mercifully told the class that each student would be permitted to bring in a single 8 x 11 ½ inch sheet with as much information as they could put on that one sheet for help during the test.
On exam day, each student came to class clutching their precious pieces of paper with as much information as possible. Some students had crammed lines and lines of font so tiny and so numerous onto that single sheet that you had to wonder how they could read it. But Steve walked in with a single blank sheet and a friend who was a senior student and who had an 'A' in logic. Steve bent down and placed that single, blank sheet of paper on the floor next to his desk. His expert friend stood on the paper.
The professor noticed the extra body in the room and asked what he was doing. Steve piped up, "You said we could bring in whatever we could fit on a single piece of paper for help on this test, well, this is my help and he can fit on the paper!" He had followed the instructions to the letter and was the only student in that class to score an 'A' since he had his expert friend standing alongside him.
The Holy Spirit is like that friend, standing alongside us, supporting us, and guiding us - except that He is not only alongside of us, but He lives inside of us, guiding our every footstep, directing our paths, encouraging us to follow His direction daily and empowereing us with mercy and grace:
"Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)
The Daily Encourager
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own," (1 Corinthians 6:19)
"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." (John 16:13)
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
January 23, 2018
WHEN GOD ASKS, SAY "YES"
"For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'"
Walking with God for 30 years has taught me that when you dare trust Him, He may take you into narrow places that require faith. From 2005 to 2011, Colorado Springs, Colorado was my home. I loved the people, the ministry opportunities, and the nature. Many afternoons I pulled on my tennis shoes, grabbed my iPod, and headed out for a hike.
One afternoon as I rounded a curve on one of my favorite hiking trails, I sensed a gentle whisper. It wasn’t audible, but it was as clear as if it had been spoken. “I want you to give me your life. Even Colorado Springs. If I keep you here, I want you to be okay with it, and if I take you from here, I want you to be okay with that too.”
I turned to face the majestic Rockies. Tears puddled and ran down my cheeks. Colorado was so special to me but in the previous months I had felt a tugging on my heart. It was time to give up this beautiful state that I had come to call home. And, not only did I feel as if the Lord wanted me to leave Colorado, but that I was to rid myself of many of my possessions so I could lighten my load to minister to groups on a multi-state book tour.
So, one sunny afternoon while I was sitting on the porch at my favorite coffee shop, I came across the story of the rich young ruler in Mark 10. This familiar story spoke to my heart in a new way. His possessions and riches were too important to him, and my comfort had become too important to me. God was asking me to step out in faith.
After several other confirmations from the Lord in my circumstances and through Scripture, I knew it was time to move. I placed my furniture for sale on Craigslist and within two weeks it was gone. I gave away most everything else: my television, pictures, dishes, and I was off on a new adventure with Christ in my itty, bitty Volkswagen which I called “The Rollerskate.” Over the next year, I lived out of a suitcase and shared about Jesus with groups big and small.
As soon as I made the decision to follow Christ into the unknown, unexpected miracles began to happen. He faithfully provided financially for me each step of the way even though I started my road trip with little.
He gave me the precious opportunity of wiping away people’s tears and encouraging them—and the gift of sharing His love was worth more than any kitchen table or my favorite comfy couch.
God may not ask you to sell your possessions, but at some point in your journey, He may ask you to follow Him into the unknown. And, what He asks of you may stretch you beyond your resources. When He asks, say yes. Why? Because your yes will prepare you for a later time when you will need greater faith to say yes to an even bigger calling. You will experience fulfillment and know you are pleasing your Father.
"Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you." (Luke 12:31)
The next time God asks, say "yes".
January 22, 2018
KNOWING AND BEING KNOWN
"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."
We cannot know ourselves by ourselves, we require the grace and truth of other loving relationships that reveal who we are and how we need to change for the good. I was reminded of this recently in our couples small group. My temperament looks for ways to be glad and not sad, yet the realities of life offer ongoing opportunities for hard, even heartbreaking experiences. I was called out by my group of friends for glossing over gloomy events. Only after I admit my faults, am I able to confess them to Christ and others for forgiveness, healing and transformation. Through this process of transparency, I truly understand who I am and who I need to become.
Very insightfully, James describes the power of knowing ourselves and being known by others. The outcome of honest confession and prayer is healing. The application of healing can include the physical, emotional, spiritual, mental and relational. Wow, what a simple, difficult process, with life changing results! The body is strengthened when sin is admitted, emotions grow self-aware, the soul is at rest, the mind is renewed not confused, and relationships grow in intimacy. Prayer goes to another level of effectiveness when people are honest about their imperfections.
"Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy." (Proverbs 28:13)
If your only understanding of yourself is yourself---you are a target for the devil’s half truths and deceptions. Isolated thinking can ignore who you really are in Christ---condemn you on one hand and exalt you above correction on the other extreme. It’s only when you look into the Scripture and, like viewing into a mirror, see growth by God’s grace with scattered pockets of pride in need of humility’s exposure. You grow to better know yourself when you reveal your vulnerable self.
Do you feel known by those who know you the best? If not, share with them your struggles and fears, listen to their hopes and dreams, and seek to know others at the core of who they are---the good, the bad and the ugly. When you are brave enough to bare your soul, you give others permission and courage to reveal their flaws. When you take the time to process your pain, you free your heart from anger and resentment. Like a splinter needing extraction from the flesh, removing the source of your pain may cause more pain---but then real relief. Be bold to know and be known.
"I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another." (Romans 15:14)
What area of pain in your heart needs to be processed in prayer and with friends?
January 21, 2018
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God."
John Dahlem’s goal is to continually reach new heights! At 67 years of age, John was the second-oldest American to summit Mount Everest. He’s also the oldest to complete the Explorers Grand Slam, which is climbing the seven summits – the tallest mountains on each continent – plus pulling a sled to the North and South Poles. So what did John do to celebrate his seventieth birthday? He and his wife returned to Nepal to trek to Everest Base Camp!
"I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings." (1 Corinthians 9:23)
After God captured Paul's life and heart, the apostle always looked upward toward heavenly goals. Paul's perspective on life was to become more like Jesus Christ and bring as many people as he could to Heaven.
Whatever mountains you may face this year, strive to put heavenly priorities into daily practice. Spend quality time with God. Look for opportunities to share His love with others through your actions and your words. Pray also that you will focus on the eternal rather than the temporal in personal and public decisions.
January 20, 2018
"As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven."
It breaks my heart when I learn of leaders who don’t finish well. It’s doubly painful when someone I respect is discovered to have been living dual lives. One publicly moral persona, while at the same time a privately immoral one. These men and women, somewhere along the way, traded trust in God with trust in themselves. They became exceptions to the standards they once expected of others. It grieves me to perceive how it must feel for the fallen to face their family and friends in disgrace. Christ’s Kingdom continues, but my heart still breaks for broken leaders.
Nehemiah sat down to weep, fast and pray once he heard and understood the serious plight of his people. He enjoyed the status of serving the King, while his family and friends struggled to survive back in his home city—Jerusalem. Nehemiah was moved by compassion for those who suffered without while he had plenty. He was compelled to use whatever influence and resources God had given him for the good of his people. Nehemiah was burdened to help the burdened.
"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)
What needs around you deserve your passionate support? What breaks your heart, because it breaks the heart of your heavenly Father? Maybe you suffered from the heartache of divorce. Now your empathy naturally engages with those in divorce recovery. Because of your experience you can love them through this process of healing to wholeness. Or, you might help young couples avoid the common mistakes made early on in marriage. Teach them the skills of effective communication, authentic forgiveness and how to emotionally engage. What breaks your heart?
Once we identify a need that moves us to action, let’s first fast and pray for the Lord’s plan. A prayed through process is much better than a knee jerk reaction in our own strength. It’s important we start with a clean heart. We confess our sins, so we are able to best serve those scarred by sin. By God’s grace we organize and implement ministry methods that give God the glory, not ourselves. We are free from self-serving motivations, so we can bring to bear the best resources for those under a heavy burden. A heart broken by God is a heart blessed by God.
"But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you." (1 Chronicles 29:14)
How can you be more accountable to not drift into bad habits that don’t end well?
January 19, 2018
ARE YOU WAITING TO BE CALLED?
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."
Back when the telegraph was the fastest method of long-distance communication, a young man applied for a job as a Morse Code operator. Answering an ad in the newspaper, he went to the office address that was listed. When he arrived, he entered a large, busy office filled with noise and clatter, including the sound of the telegraph in the background. A sign on the receptionist's counter instructed job applicants to fill out a form and wait until they were summoned to enter the inner office.
The young man filled out his form and sat down with the seven other applicants in the waiting area. After a few minutes, the young man stood up, crossed the room to the door of the inner office, and walked right in. Naturally the other applicants perked up, wondering what was going on. They muttered among themselves that they hadn't heard any summons yet. They assumed that the young man who went into the office made a mistake and would be disqualified.
Within a few minutes, however, the employer escorted the young man out of the office and said to the other applicants, "Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming, but the job has just been filled."
The other applicants began grumbling to each other, and one spoke up saying, "Wait a minute, I don't understand. He was the last to come in, and we never even got a chance to be interviewed. Yet he got the job. That's not fair!" The employer said, "I'm sorry, but the last several minutes while you've been sitting here, the telegraph has been ticking out the following message in Morse Code: 'If you understand this message, then come right in. The job is yours.' None of you heard it or understood it. This young man did. The job is his."
We are so busy, living in a world that is full of noise and clatter, just like that office. People are distracted and unable to hear the still, small voice of God as He speaks through His creation, through His Scriptures, and through His Holy Spirit, who lives in us:
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own," (1 Corinthians 6:19)
So I ask you, as I ask myself, "Are you listening, or are you waiting to be called?" Do you hear the Lord when he speaks to you? Is your spiritual ear atuned to Him or are you blocked from hearing His voice because you're focused on all the other voices in your life?
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27)
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
January 18, 2018
ARE YOU SLEEPING?
"...the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, ..."
Our God is a promise-keeping God! And the time had come when He was ready to see His people return to their land. He had shown Himself faithful by sovereignly protecting them while in the Babylonian captivity, but now it was time to return to Jerusalem. And so the Lord put the desire to carry out His will into the heart of the new king.
The word translated “stirred up” in today’s verse comes from the Hebrew “ur.” In addition to meaning stir up, it also means to wake up, lift up, raise up. God, who does not slumber nor sleep had to awaken Cyrus in order that His plans and promises might be fulfilled.
"Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." (Psalm 121:4)
When God wants to move to keep a promise, He will stir the heart of someone to action. Is that someone you? You might not be a king, but Is the Lord influencing you to do something today? Is your heart available to be turned in the direction the Lord desires? Or are you asleep? Nothing can ever stifle God’s plans nor keep Him from His promises when He deems the time to be right. Pray you will be obedient, with a willing heart awakened and stirred up to do His will.
"The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will." (Proverbs 21:1)
Presidential Prayer Team
January 17, 2018
WALK WITH CARE
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,"
For every minute of every day since July 2, 1937, select military have guarded the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. But they aren’t standing still. The follow a precise pattern: 21 steps across the tomb, turn and face the tomb for 21 seconds, then turn again and walk 21 steps back across. This is repeated over and over, ever the same. The numeral 21 represents America’s highest honor.
In the same way those who perform that duty know their steps, Christians have been given precise steps to follow in a life worthy of their calling. The Bible says you are to walk a different way – following Christ – with steps of humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, compassion and love. No matter your circumstances, good, bad or beyond your control, and no matter how blurred the path into the future, Jesus calls you to order each step.
Walking in a way that honors the Lord is a daily commitment. Pray for wisdom to know which steps to take. Then intercede for others, especially those in positions of authority, to make their steps follow Him.
Presidential Prayer Team
January 16, 2018
NOT RUINED, BUT REDEEMED
"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you."
I recently had a conversation with a woman who shared about her disappointments and specifically shared about her biggest heartbreak. While speaking about her troubles, she said, “That experience ruined my life.” Her comment saddened me.
I went home, crawled into bed, and her words rolled around in my heart and mind all night long. Sometime between wake and sleep, an answer came to my mind for her. “No, your life is not ruined. It’s redeemed.” I remembered that redemption is the absolute best way to choose to see all of life’s challenges lest we be overcome with utter despair. The next day, inspired by my conversation with this woman, I wrote a letter to my eight-month old grandson in a book of letters that I am creating for him which he will receive when he is a young man:
“During life, you’ll experience lots of firsts. Some of them, you’ll choose. Some of them you won’t. Some will be thrust on you. Some will be delightful, some won’t. You’ll experience firsts your entire life: the first time you laugh, walk, and sing a song. The first time you catch a ball, eat macaroni and cheese, and skip.
As you get older, your “firsts” will get a little more complicated. Like the first time a friend hurts you, or the first time a young woman you like doesn’t reciprocate your affections. (Oh, I would love it if this never happened to you!) My prayer is that your days would be filled with many joy-filled and delightful firsts.
But as much as your parents, or Grandpa and I would love to protect you from difficult firsts, we can’t. And, these firsts are important to shape you into the person God desires that you become.
But here’s a secret: Difficult firsts can turn out for your good. They can strengthen you. Or they can become a crippling thing that you never get past. One way to guarantee that not only your difficult firsts, but all challenging or heartbreaking experiences in life, don’t rob your joy or cause you to become bitter and steal the life of your heart is to “reframe” them.
What I mean is, you choose to look at them through the lens of God’s redemption. You deliberately decide to see them as God sees them. Difficult? Yes. Hurtful? Yes. Challenging? Yes. Able to be redeemed and used for a greater good? Absolutely. This is the promise of Romans:
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)
As you choose to see your struggles and life challenges in God’s redemptive light, then you may even begin to see them as a gift, experiences that have caused you to become more discerning, prayerful, compassionate, courageous, or kind. Only you have the power to decide how your struggles will shape you.
They can make you bitter, or they can make you better. Always choose better. You will be glad and those who know you will be glad too. There’s no telling the number of people you will be able to inspire by choosing this inner greatness. It’s the stuff that heroes are made of.
I love you.
So, what’s your greatest life challenge? How have you been choosing to see it? Are you viewing it through the lens of God’s redemption?
"...The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." (1 John 3:8b)
Think about your greatest life challenge. Next, “reframe” it by thinking about it the way God thinks about it. What have you learned, not in spite of what happened, but because of it? How can you cooperate with God so it’s used for a greater good?
January 14-15, 2018
"I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me."
I have been asked the question several times, many times: Why does God allow it? People suffer disasters and devastating losses. Perhaps the most painful is the loss of a child. Why does a God of love and mercy that we read about and hear about allow such a terrible thing to happen?
Over 3,000 years ago, there was a man named Job who struggled with the same question. He asked "Why?" because he was a good man and yet disaster struck him suddenly and swiftly. He lost seven sons and three daughters. He lost all his possessions. He even lost his health. Even his wife and his friends turned against him. His wife told him "Curse God and die." And in the midst of his suffering he asked this question: "Why?"
And yet, Job found there were lessons to be learned from his suffering even if he didn't fully understand it. And that is true for all of us as well. What are some of the lessons that we can learn when we suffer a devastating loss?
First, there is a mystery to it. I've been asked why God allows it. I don't know. I can't give a direct answer. I have to confess that I never fully understand even for my own satisfaction. I have to accept by faith that God is a God of love and mercy and compassion even in the midst of suffering.
The Bible says that God is not the author of evil. There is something about evil that we will never fully understand this side of eternity. But the Bible says two other things that we sometimes forget. It tells us that there is a devil, that Satan is very real and he has great power. It also tells us that Satan seeks to separate us from God and destroy us.
Times like this will cause one of two things to happen: They will either make us hard and bitter and angry toward God, or make us tender and open, and help us to reach out in trust and faith.
I pray that you will not let bitterness and poison creep into your soul, but you will turn in faith and trust in God even if we cannot understand. It is better to face something like this with God than without Him.
January 13, 2018
IN A LITTLE WHILE
"A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me."
Two weeks before Christmas in 2000 my dad breathed his last breath. I stood by his bedside and wept, because I had just lost my earthly father. I knew in my head I would see him again—“in a little while”—in heaven, but my heart ached. As I searched for reassurance, my heavenly Father comforted my soul. It was surreal. I was the oldest child, now in a new season of added responsibility. I needed the Spirit’s support and I needed to know one day I would see my dad again. I rested in peace knowing my father rested in peace. In a little while I will see Jesus and Dad.
Jesus took time to tell the disciples of His departure so they could be hopeful to see Him again. The reality of His cross, resurrection and ascension meant seeing their Savior with fresh eyes of faith. Since Jesus would not physically be with them, they would have to elevate their trust in Him. Emotionally, the disciples debated among themselves what “in a little while” meant, instead of simply asking Jesus. Their conversation could have received clarity by going to Christ. The revelation of God’s will can be mysterious, thus we wait on the Spirit to give us understanding.
"For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever," (Philemon 1:15)
Are you waiting on clarity in your career, what to do with a child or how to approach a life issue? You may be wearied from competing conversations with people and now you need to draw strength from communion with Christ. Obey God in what you know to be true. In a little while obedience will bring clarity, but disobedience only creates confusion. Trust Jesus when you don’t understand and He will elevate your faith to another level of loving patience. For a little while you won’t know what to do, but in a little while you will. Faith waits on God.
Above all, we anticipate being with our Lord Jesus in a little while. Our body aches, but in a little while we will rest. Our soul sorrows, but in a little while we will rejoice. Our emotions conflict, but in a little while we will be calm. Our mind forgets, but in a little we will remember. Our faith wavers, but in a little while we will be secure. Our hope fades, but in a little while we will be at peace. Our love is imperfect, but in a little while it will be perfected. We see our heavenly Father dimly in a mirror, but in a little while we will see Him face to face! Faith anticipates seeing God.
"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)
What inconvenient place is Christ leading you to willingly serve?
January 12, 2018
RESEMBLANCE IN GRIEF
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."
The loss of a dear relative or friend plunges us into painful grief that we cannot understand or control. How and why are we wired to feel such grief?
I have been thinking over the past couple of weeks how much we must resemble God in our grief. We are created in His image, so He must also feel grief. I read that animals also spend much of their lives grieving over their lost ones, so it must be a common emotion we all share--a mark of our Maker. God is a joyful, happy God who also feels grief deeply with us, so much so that He sent Jesus into our world to rescue us permanently from death.
Jesus was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief":
"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Isaiah 53:3)
He even wept openly when his friend Lazarus died:
"Jesus wept" (John 11:35)
The Jews were moved to comment:
"... 'See how he loved him!'" (John 11:36)
We also read in Ephesians that it is possible for us to cause the Holy Spirit to grieve when we sin:
"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." (Ephesians 4:30)
The pain of my own grief is a startling reminder that the Spirit, who exists to comfort me in my grief, has felt grief at my own hand. This makes me want to avoid sin even more.
The ultimate grief on earth and in heaven was the crucifixion. God the Father must have felt devastating grief when He watched His Son die painfully on the cross. But He has a plan to use that grief for our salvation. Nobody could have understood it at the time. And we can’t understand the devastating losses we suffer today. But we can be certain that God loves us, and is working out a plan that we will understand someday.
Jesus wept. God weeps with us. It is a mystery today, but God will restore your joy. Please be very confident in that.
James A. Brewer
January 11, 2018
Zechariah 8:6 (NRSV)
"Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Even though it seems impossible to the remnant of this people in these days, should it also seem impossible to me, says the LORD of hosts?'"
The New Year always brings with it a renewed sense of ambition and motivation. It feels like a fresh start, a blank slate. We often set goals and challenge ourselves to take ground in new and uncharted areas. Whether it’s a goal of improved fitness, kicking a bad habit, healing a relational wound, or pursuing a new business adventure, we all have something we’d like to achieve. Yet whatever the goal may be, usually we choose them because they feel achievable. They seem to be within our grasp, within our power to control and achieve. And while this is good and helpful, what about the goals in life that we desperately desire yet can never achieve on our own?
The people of Israel deeply desired an impossible dream. They found themselves exiled in Babylon and longing for home, yet entirely helpless to do anything about their situation. Into the bleakness of this moment, Zechariah speaks words of hope and healing: what is surely impossible in your own strength is never impossible for the Lord.
Are there dreams that you’ve never dreamed because they seemed too far-fetched and impossible? Is there a healing of past wounds that you desire more than anything in the world, yet the wound has always felt too deep and wide, like a chasm that can never be crossed? Is there something that you want to do for God’s Kingdom that seems to combine your unique gifts and the particular needs of your community, yet you think, “surely it’s more than I can handle.”
To follow Jesus is to believe in impossible goals. It is a posture of humble dependence upon the Lord, acknowledging our own weaknesses and limitations yet daily celebrating his infinite strength and power. There are dreams that God has for his creation that he longs to bring into being, and he delights in inviting us to join him in that holy work.
God wants to accomplish wonderful things in you and through you. Allow yourself to dream big dreams with God this New Year, trusting and believing that he is able to bring them to life!
"But Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" (Matthew 19:26)
Are there God-given dreams and desires that you’ve laid aside that he’s asking you to pick back up?
January 10, 2018
DO HARD THINGS
"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."
I don’t like to do the hard things. I tend to put them off. Hard conversations, hard financial decisions, hard trips, visits to the dentist, doctor and gym tend to interest me the least. It’s easier to do the easy things first: eat, forget, worry, gossip, review email, check social media, or call a friend. Ironically, the pain of waiting to confront the hard thing is worse than addressing the hard issue or hard person up front. Hard things are my opportunity for courage and trust in the Lord.
Abraham and Sarah faced a divine test—something hard to believe. In their current elderly state God promised them a son. Their faith wavered. They would be blessed by a son, but Sarah was beyond the age for childbearing and they knew for sure their energy for raising a little one was on the wane. Both were startled at this unrealistic expectation—Sarah even laughed within herself, but when confronted with her crisis of faith denied her doubts. This opportunity from the Lord was hard to accept, but by faith Sarah eventually received this promise of God’s faithfulness:
"By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised." (Hebrews 11:11)
What hard thing do you need to face sooner than later? If you failed to meet someone’s expectations, don’t pretend it didn’t happen. The awkwardness will not go away, it will only exasperate. Schedule a coffee and have an honest discussion of what transpired and express your desire to make things right. Humility gives grace and courage to do hard things. Moreover, make hard financial decisions now, so you have better options later. Trust God will provide, but only after you provide Him reasons showing you are a faithful manager of His resources. Make hard choices.
Most of all, by faith—let’s believe what the Lord has promised—as we face hard things. Jesus is with us and will never leave us regardless of the degree of difficulty we face. God gives us wisdom to understand and discern His ways. When we ask and listen the Spirit speaks to our mind and heart. Christ in us is our courage. He infuses us with faith and resolve to finish the task. Our heavenly Father wants us to draw near to His loving heart as we encounter hard situations. Nothing is too hard for our Creator, Savior and Lord. All things are possible with God!
"But he [Jesus] said, 'What is impossible with man is possible with God.'" (Luke 18:27)
What hard thing do you need to press through and trust the Lord is at work?
December 9, 2018
"You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward"
Will 2018 be different than 2017? Will you "press on" in your faith this year and focus on what lies ahead, or will you continue to focus on your past?
Listen to this wonderful challenge from Ruth Graham. "Either we can be victimized and become victims, or we can be victimized and rise above it. Often it is easier to play the victim than take off our masks and ask for help. We get comfortable with our victim status. It becomes our identity and is hard to give up. The Israelites often played the victim card, and I love what God finally tells them,
"You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward" (Deuteronomy 2:3)
Turn north! It's time to move on! self-pity, fear, pride, and negativity paralyze us. Taking off our masks takes courage, but if we don't do it, we will remain in our victim status and end up stunted."
What about you?
The time has come!!! You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north!
- Do you keep talking and talking and talking about something you just can't get over?
- Are you living in the past because you just can't "let it go"?
- Do you keep wallowing in self-pity wondering what "could have been"?
- Have you discussed it over and over with different people but you've never taken action?
- Have you worried and worried about it but you've never done anything?
- Are you still living in misery because it's something you can't forgive or forget?
- Have you circled and circled and circled this issue all your life?
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
January 8, 2018
"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life."
Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby writes of the “uncanny ability of experts to get things hopelessly, cataclysmically wrong.” A quick glance at recent history shows he’s right. The great inventor Thomas Edison, for instance, once declared that talking movies would never replace silent films. And in 1928, Henry Ford declared, “People are becoming too intelligent ever to have another war.” Countless other predictions by “experts” have missed the mark badly. Genius obviously has its limits.
Only one Person is completely reliable, and He had strong words for some so-called experts. The religious leaders of Jesus’s day claimed to have the truth. These scholars and theologians thought they knew what the promised Messiah would be like when He arrived. Jesus cautioned them:
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life...” (John 5:39)
Then he pointed out how they were missing the heart of the matter:
"it is they [the Scriptures] that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." (John 5:40)
As another new year gets underway, we will hear predictions ranging from the terrifying to the wildly optimistic. Many of them will be stated with a great deal of confidence and authority. Don’t be alarmed. Our confidence remains in the One at the very heart of the Scriptures. He has a firm grip on us and on our future. Knowing the future is uncertain; knowing the One who holds the future is a sure thing.
January 7, 2018
LIGHT TO THE NATIONS
Matthew 12:18, 21
"Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles... and in his name the Gentiles will hope."
This week Christians around the world celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, a well-known and widely celebrated feast in many parts of the world, yet lesser known and even less frequently celebrated here in the United States. When we hear the word “epiphany,” I think we most frequently associate it with a great idea that comes to you suddenly and unexpectedly. An epiphany helps you move forward when you think you’ve reached a dead end and a shut door. Previous convictions and conclusions are cast into a new light as the impact of the epiphany unfolds.
The assumption in the Jewish community into which Jesus was born, was that God’s plan of salvation and redemption was a particularly Jewish hope and expectation. Israel, long suffering in bondage and exile, longed for God’s promises to come true, for him to right their wrongs and establish the work of their hands:
"Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!" (Psalm 90:17)
Yet within these hopes and dreams there was little to no imagination that the promises given to them were to be extended to the whole of creation, and that they were chosen explicitly to join God in this expansive mission!
Though largely minimized and ignored, this vision of blessing the nations pops up from time to time in the Old Testament, and in Matthew’s gospel we see these words quoted from Isaiah and applied to the mission of Jesus. Through him justice will be proclaimed to the Gentiles:
"and in his name the Gentiles will hope." (Matthew 12:21)
Christians associate this Epiphany celebration with the Magi, and see these wise men as representative of the nations coming to Jesus. It is the celebration of the ends of the earth drawing near to Jesus and finding in him hope, peace, and healing for the nations.
What was true over two thousand years ago is still true today. The nations long for hope, peace, and healing and search far and wide until they find it. Jesus continues to enter into the chaos and darkness of our world and shines his light for all to see. May we join the Magi and draw near to him afresh, offering our gifts of thanksgiving and praise and celebrate the light that shines for all to see!
How can you reach out to a non-Christian friend and invite them to consider the life that Jesus offers freely to them?
January 6, 2018
MENTOR THE EMERGING GENERATION
"For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense,"
Most young people yearn for someone to invest time and wisdom in them. They know deep in their heart they need help handling their heartaches. Their naïve level of knowledge has yet to graduate them from the ‘school of hard knocks’, so they need wise and loving instruction. Who in your circle of influence is a candidate for your caring attention?
It may be a son or daughter, a colleague at work or a friend from church. God places people in our lives for a purpose. Perhaps you prayerfully pursue a mentor relationship with a teachable young person. They can learn from your mistakes as much or more as from your wise choices.
Mentors are not perfect, just wiser from failure and humbled by successes. Look around and ask the Lord to lead you to a young person who may be edging toward the wrong direction. Reach out and you will have returned the favor to someone who loved you.
"This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare," (1 Timothy 1:18)
Indeed mentors take time for others because they are eternally grateful for those who took time for them. Gratitude to God is a great reason to go the extra mile with someone younger. Read books together; maybe a book a month for a year. Meet over coffee to discuss how the book challenged your thinking or changed your behavior for the better.
A young leader can preclude problems when she is able to model the wise habits of her mentor. Always invite an older adult into your life who can educate you in the ways of God. Moreover, the mentoring process is valuable to both parties. It provides accountability, encouragement, love and obedience to Christ’s commands. Mentor young people so they follow the right path, and in turn, help someone else do the same. The Bible says,
“… encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children… Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.” (Titus 2:4,6)
In whom is the Lord leading you to invest time, wisdom and resources?
January 5, 2018
WHAT DO THE EXPERTS SAY?
"You [religious leaders] search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life."
Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby writes of the “uncanny ability of experts to get things hopelessly, cataclysmically wrong.” A quick glance at recent history shows he’s right. The great inventor Thomas Edison, for instance, once declared that talking movies would never replace silent films. And in 1928, Henry Ford declared, “People are becoming too intelligent ever to have another war.” Countless other predictions by “experts” have missed the mark badly. Genius obviously has its limits.
Only one Person is completely reliable, and He had strong words for some so-called experts. The religious leaders of Jesus’s day claimed to have the truth. These scholars and theologians thought they knew what the promised Messiah would be like when He arrived. Jesus cautioned them:
"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." (John 5:39–40)
As another new year gets underway, we’ll hear predictions ranging from the terrifying to the wildly optimistic. Many of them will be stated with a great deal of confidence and authority. Don’t be alarmed. Our confidence remains in the One at the very heart of the Scriptures. He has a firm grip on us and on our future.
Knowing the future is uncertain; knowing the One who holds the future is a sure thing.
Our Daily Bread
January 4, 2018
"So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom."
Your day is like everyone else’s. God has given you 24 hours, or 1,440 minutes, or exactly 86,400 seconds each day. Time management experts tell you to make every second count. Whether you do or you don’t, one thing is clear: life can be long or short; it largely depends on how you determine to live it. For some, time is a thing taken for granted; for others, it may be that a physician has said there are but a few months to live. Your perspective on time dictates how you use it:
"So it was not you [Joseph's brothers] who sent me [Joseph] here [Egypt], but God..." (Genesis 45:8)
Things that robs individuals of time are unforgiveness, fearfulness and regret. Emotions sneak up and before long, too much thought has been taken over by them; too many seconds, hours or days have been lost. Joseph could have said that life wasn’t fair, and he’d have been right. Once sold by his brothers, he knew his future was uncertain. But he also knew he had a relationship with a very certain God. God used all of his circumstances to mold character, and that included forgiveness, fearlessness and relief.
As you look to the time given you in the New Year, how will you make the most of it? Begin by forgiving those who’ve wronged you, by finding a spirit of full trust in God, and living without regrets. Find a spirit of forgiveness as you move forward into 2018—and find a spiritual relationship with the certain God in uncertain times.
What will you do with your time remaining?
January 3, 2018
2 Corinthians 5:17
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
Typical resolutions in January are to lose weight, exercise more, spend less time at work and more time with family—maybe even stop chatting on the cell phone while driving. It’s not surprising that we want to change the things in our lives that we are unhappy about—even though most New Year’s resolutions are kept for no more than three weeks. What if you were to ask God what He wants you to change, improve, or begin this year? He might tell you:
Demonstrate more of the fruit of the Spirit in your life:
"... love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; ..." (Galatians 5:22-23)
He might also say:
"... love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," (Matthew 5:44)
"...'Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.'" (Mark 16:15)
"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.'" (Hebrews 13:5)
"... walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it." (2 John 1:6).
As believers and new creations, we can be free from old patterns and failures. We must ask God to help us live each day in the power of the Holy Spirit. Then we can shed the old and embrace the new:
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Resolutions are easier to keep when you rely on God.
Cindy Hess Kasper
January 2, 2018
"And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed."
Following his failure in parliament, William Wilberforce, a Christian statesman in Great Britain over a century ago, remarked on its possible cause. He said the problem may have been that he had not spent enough time in his private devotions earnestly seeking the will of God.
Jesus’ schedule was busy, but He made time with His Father the day’s first priority. Many distractions could have disrupted Him, but He avoided them by going to an isolated place so His attention could be fully focused. Jesus prayed. We know from other Bible verses that He prayed for himself, but He also prayed for those closest to Him and their needs, and for the whole world to be filled with the knowledge of God.
In this New Year, use your devotional time to commune with the Lord, reading His Word and praying for others. Ask that those who know Him will be filled with His wisdom, and that the “eyes” of those who do not yet know Him would be opened so they will come to a saving faith in Jesus.
January 1, 2018
NEW YEAR RECIPE
"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success."
Google the word “success” and you’ll quickly discover that people are interested in everything from how to be successful, to who is successful and why, to what it takes to realize one’s dreams. For many, success is an obsession. What is the recipe for success as described in today’s verse from Joshua? The book of Psalms describes the person who meditates on God’s Word as:
"... like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers." (Psalm 1:3)
"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)
In this New Year, delight in the Lord and mediate on the truth of the Bible. He’ll shape your desires according to His will and then grant them:
"Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)
"And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us." (1 John 5:14)
Then pray that all people will turn to God as their source of genuine success.
Vantage Point Devotional
Link to archives