Anchorage Reformed Presbyterian Fellowship - Thought for Today Archive

February 28, 2017
CAN YOU REALLY GET FREE FROM SIN? 




Titus 2:11-12

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,"  




I once watched a video in which a woman talked about her temptation to have an affair. She shared how she was almost unfaithful until she spoke with a couple of friends who urged her to work things out with her mate. And then she confessed something that piqued my curiosity. “I think I am polyamorous and always have been. I’m just one of those people who can’t be fulfilled with one partner.” 

I hadn’t ever heard the term “polyamorous” before. (If you have, forgive me if it seems I have been hiding under a rock.) The woman’s confession sounded as if she had an unavoidable condition, like being born with one leg. So, I naturally had to look up the definition of “polyamorous”. Here’s what I found: “The state of having multiple sexually or romantically committed relationships at the same time, with the consent of all partners involved.” So, this woman was basically saying, “This is just the way I am. I can’t help it if I am unfaithful to my mate.” 

This grieved me. Why? First of all, because she is deceived. Second, because the world says, “I can’t help it” or “I was made this way” to justify sin. Because, if we can’t help it, then we can embrace it and even celebrate it, which means we can say what we’re doing is okay, even when it’s not. We can say something is right, even though it’s very wrong. We convince ourselves that we are living in freedom, when we’re really all bound up. God has a better plan for those who belong to Him: true freedom. 

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire."  (2 Peter 1:3-4)

This doesn’t mean we won’t wrestle with sin. It doesn’t mean there will never be times when we won’t love sin more than we love God and make wrong choices. It just means that we don’t have to sin when we know something is wrong. We don’t have to say something is right or “It’s just the way I am” to make us feel better about ourselves. We don’t have to justify. We can choose God’s way. 

Think back before you came to Christ. You probably had behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs you thought were alright with God. But then, He began to make you more like Him. And when He did, you recognized that those behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs really weren’t alright at all. 

Which brings me to my main point: When God reveals to us that something is sinful, we don’t have to give in to it. We don’t have to be mastered by it. As believers, we have been given the amazing choice to live in freedom. We can choose the life:

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live," (Deuteronomy 30:19)

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:10-11)

How marvelous! 

"For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace."  (Romans 6:14)

Ponder the thought that God has already set you free from sin which means you have the power to choose His way. Ask Him to help you believe Him so you can walk in the plans He has for you. 

Shana Schutte


February 27, 2017
FIRST LADY ABIGAIL ADAMS







Ecclesiastes 9:11

"... the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong...." 








Abigail Adams, the wife of the second president of the United States and mother of the fifth president of the United States, is one of the most distinguished and influential of American first ladies. Her courage was never more apparent than during the Revolutionary War. While her husband was at the Continental Congress, she was home alone caring for their four children and their farm.

The battle raged nearby. In fact, Abigail could see the smoke above Charleston from their home. And yet, she wasn't afraid. In William Bennett's book "Our Sacred Honor," there is a transcript of a letter Mrs. Adams wrote to her husband.

"Dearest Friend," the letter begins, "The Day; perhaps the decisive Day is come on which the fate of America depends."

Obviously, she was aware there was so much at stake for her life and the future of the United States. She goes on in the letter to describe the battle in Charleston. Then she quotes Scripture to her husband, "The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people."

Mrs. Adams assures her husband that although she is surrounded by fear, she is not afraid because her faith is in God.

The letter is amazing. When I think of how frightful her circumstances were, and how alone she must have felt, I realize the strength of her faith. As I read this account, I am grateful that we have such a heritage in America. From our earliest days, many of our nation's founders were men and women who walked with God and trusted Him.

I realize the powerful influence a godly wife has on her home. When she operates out of biblical faith, and not fear, her loved-ones are helped to trust God.

John Adams wrote back to his wife, "It gives me more pleasure than I can express to learn that you sustain with so much fortitude, the shocks and terrors of the time. You are really brave, my dear, you are a heroine. And you have reason to be. For the worst that can happen, can do you no harm."

He goes on to explain that her faith makes her strong.

Wives and mothers are influential, both positively and negatively. When a wife and mother is full of fear and worry, others in the home sense that. When she is full of faith and confidence, it is contagious.

If you are a wife and mother, I challenge you to set the kind of example Abigail Adams did. Though the war was raging around her, she kept her calm by acknowledging that "the God of Israel gives strength and power to His people."

"Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel—he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!"(Psalm 68:35)

Stay in the Word, dear friend. Trust God. Pray instead of panicking. Be the one in your home who establishes that attitude.  Your faith will be as contagious as Abigail Adams' was in the Adams household more than 200 years ago.

Harvey and June Schneider


February 26, 2017
COMPLETE ACCESS






Ephesians 3:11-12

"This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him." 





A few years ago, a friend invited me to join him as a spectator at a pro golf tournament. Being a first-timer, I had no idea what to expect. When we arrived, I was surprised to receive gifts, information, and maps of the golf course. But what topped it all was that we gained access to a VIP tent behind the 18th green, where we had free food and a place to sit. I couldn’t have gained entry to the hospitality tent on my own though. The key was my friend; it was only through him that I had complete access.

Left to ourselves, we would all be hopelessly separated from God. But Jesus, who took our penalty, offers us His life and access to God. The apostle Paul wrote:


"so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places."(Ephesians 3:10)

This wisdom has brought Jew and Gentile together in Christ, who has made a way for us to come to God the Father. Because of the cross of Christ, we can become friends of God. When we put our trust in Jesus, we receive the greatest access of all—access to the God who loves us and desires relationship with us. 

Because of the cross of Christ, we can become friends of God.

Our Daily Bread


February 25, 2017
PRAYING HUSBAND





Genesis 25:21

"And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived."





A praying husband appeals to the Lord for the sake of his wife. He bombards heaven on behalf of his bride with big things like having babies, and he is consistent in praying for his wife every day for important matters such as peace and security. Prayer is one of God’s select weapons that a husband can wield in defense of his woman. God has called you to be the spiritual warrior of your home, and prayer is your first line of defense. If prayer is compromised, then you have no air support from your heavenly Father. 

Without prayer covering your home and wife, you and your family are open to blistering assaults from the devil and his demons. So pray for God’s hedge of protection.

"Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land." (Job 1:10)

The strategy of the stealth enemy is to keep you busy with only a token of prayer on your breath. An overly active man is probably a prayerless man; a man consumed with his own deal is probably a prayerless man; a man absorbed by pride is probably a prayerless man; a man who serves a small God is probably a prayerless man; a man angry at his wife is probably a prayerless man. A husband whose prayers are hindered is a man who knows he needs to pray for his wife but doesn’t. He is a man powerless as a spiritual leader 

"Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered." (1 Peter 3:7)

Prayer for your wife leads you to forgive your wife, prayer for your wife leads you to love your wife, and prayer for your wife leads to the abundant life. You cannot pray for your wife and stay mad at her. You cannot pray for your wife and not want to hang out with her, for prayer facilitates intimacy. Prayer changes your heart and hers. Therefore, agree together for a time apart just to pray for prayer unleashes the resources and the blessings of God. 

"Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." (1 Corinthians 7:5)

Satan shudders at the thought of a praying husband. A husband will win the battle for his family if he fights the enemy on his knees. It is a posture of desperation for God that brings victory and reconciliation. Husbands, prayer is your most potent marriage resource. 

Therefore, get on your knees and do not get up until you have persevered in prayer for your helpmate. Courageously cry out to God on her behalf. Pray for her inner beauty to be reflected in her gorgeous countenance. Pray for her to feel God’s love and security. Pray for her to feel your love, support, and respect. Pray for her to be at peace with God, herself, and you. Pray for her to forgive herself and to love herself. Pray for her to have wisdom and discernment as a wife and a mom. Pray for her to love God and hate sin. 

As you pray, see her as God sees her. She is a child of God, and in Christ she is holy and acceptable. Thank God for your wife and thank Him for her love for you. Thank Him for her unselfish service. Thank Him that she puts up with your idiosyncrasies. Pray for your wife that she will receive spiritual nourishment from God’s Word and spiritual leadership from you. Pray for her daily and deliberately. Pray for her when you are happy, and pray for her when you are sad. However, hang on, because as you pray, neither of you will ever be the same. Prayer for your wife is profitable; it solicits heaven on her behalf. 

What time of day is best to pray with your spouse? 

Wisdom Hunters


February 23-24, 2017
A GOOD REPUTATION  






Ruth 2:11

"But Boaz answered her, 'All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before.'"






  
It’s no secret that in our culture, we care a great deal about how we are perceived and what people think of us. If there was any lingering doubt, a quick glance at social media will confirm this statement. In our online profiles, we go to great lengths to create a carefully curated image of who we want to be and how we want to be perceived. Yet the inherent challenge here is, of course, our public personas and our private lives don’t always line up. And if we are honest, the more time we spend crafting a public image, the less time we have to give to the pursuit of true wisdom and character. 
  
When we remember the life of Ruth, we are given an example of someone who had an incredible reputation, yet was entirely unaware and unconcerned with her image or status. 
  
Ruth was a woman who knew great pain and difficulty in her life. Though she was a widow without any promise of protection or provision, she had so fully encountered the goodness of God and received a new identity as a daughter in the family of God, that she knew there was nowhere else for her to go, even if the road was painful and fraught with danger! 
  
This radical dependence upon God in the midst of trial is the foundation of Ruth’s true identity and character, and it was impossible for others not to take notice and marvel with wonder. And yet, the heart of our reflection today is this: though the reputation of her faithfulness and her character had spread far and wide, she was so busy living out that character that she didn’t even notice! 
  
Ruth never took time to “read her own headlines,” or make sure others had heard of her trust in God or faithfulness in a time of trial, and neither should we. 
  
In an age when Christians are unfortunately known for corruption, abuse, financial scandal, or the quest for political power, how we should instead long to live lives like our sister Ruth, where we have a reputation that precedes us in which we are first and foremost known for our trust in God and our faithfulness to his Word, even in dark and difficult times. And most importantly, let us be so busy doing the work the Lord has given us to do, that we don’t even take the time to notice or celebrate that reputation. 
  
May we be filled with the life of Christ today and devote ourselves fully to the work of his Kingdom! 
  
Take time today for a “social media audit,” asking yourself if you have spent too much time caring about and crafting your online presence. What habits can you develop to help you think about yourself less and of Christ and his Kingdom more? 

Tripp Prince

February 22, 2017
OUR WEAKNESS CAN BE OUR STRENGTH





2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."





A 10-year-old boy decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident. The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn't understand why, after three months of training, the master had taught him only one move.   "Sensei," the boy finally said, "Shouldn't I be learning more moves?"

"This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you'll ever need to know," the sensei replied.  Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training.

Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals.

This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened. "No," the sensei insisted, "Let him continue."

Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: He dropped his guard.  Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion.

On the way home, the boy and the sensei reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind.  "Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?"

"You won for two reasons," the sensei answered. "First, you've almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.

The boy's biggest weakness had become his biggest strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10  "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

inJesus
Submitted by Peggy Lasher

February 21, 2017
SUBTLE SOURCES OF SEDUCTION






Genesis 3:1 

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, 'Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?'"  






I’ve always thought that there are two camps when it comes to views about the devil: one group sees Satan under every rock; the other thinks he is kind of a cartoon character, so they don’t take him seriously at all. He’s that guy with horns and a pitchfork that you saw on Looney Tunes when you were a kid, right? 

While I’m not convinced the devil is directly responsible for everything, (we can get ourselves into trouble just because of our own sin nature, thank you very much) the Bible does say that we are in a spiritual battle with forces we can’t see:


"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."  (Ephesians 6:12) 

According to Scripture, the whole world is under the sway of the evil one:

"We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one." (1 John 5:19)

And that he prowls around seeking someone to devour:

"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."  (1 Peter 5:8)

There are many ways that our Adversary attempts to persuade us to sin or turn away from God. And there is one way that we often don’t think about: he uses the influence of those who are close to us or close to us in proximity. Now, don’t go telling your friends or mate that they are from the devil, but take Job’s life as an example. Do you remember what Satan’s goal was for Job? He wanted Job to “curse God.” And do you remember what Job’s wife said to Job after he had lost his flocks and everything he owned and was sitting in ashes scraping himself with a piece of pottery?

"Then his wife said to him, 'Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.'" (Job 2:9)

Don’t you wonder what was going on behind the scenes in Job’s wife’s mind as she watched Job suffer? Don’t you wonder who was influencing her to tell Job to turn against God and curse Him? Don’t you wonder who Job’s wife had been listening to? We may not wrestle directly with flesh and blood, but flesh and blood can definitely be influenced to attempt to draw us into sin. Keep this truth in mind. Remember that seductions of your Adversary are often subtle and they can come from unlikely sources.   

"Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."  (1 John 4:4)

Pray and ask God to make you mindful of what you learned today as you interacted with others.

Shana Schutte 


Previous thoughts

February 20, 2017
WHINING, SHAMING, COMPLAINING 




Exodus 17:2-4

"Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, 'Give us water to drink.' And Moses said to them, 'Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?' 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, 'Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?' So Moses cried to the Lord, 'What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.'"




Physical discomfort, coupled with an immediate fear of death cause the weak hearted to become tone deaf to the chord of inner truth that vibrates within them. When unmet physical needs are accompanied by a fragile faith, an ugly outcome may express itself with whining, shaming and complaining. Immature people act immature—this creates an even deeper disappointment when all parties claim to be followers of Christ—we expect better behavior from believers. Testy people put the Lord to the test—they need our patient reminder to remain true to God’s promises.

Moses had just led God’s people out of their imprisonment in Egypt—they celebrated with their Song of Deliverance to the Lord (Exodus 15)—yet their grateful praise had degraded into a dirge of discontentment—their dreams had died. Wisely, Moses took their grumbling to God in prayer. When faced with fussy followers—he sought the face of the Lord. Immediately, the Almighty reminded His people of His presence, power and provision by blessing Moses’ faithful obedience. Those who seek to shame are put to shame when they experience answered prayer.

"Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free." (Psalm 118:5)

Who in your world is agitated and angry because their expectations remain unmet and unaddressed? You may not be able to change your  
circumstances or meet the expectations of those who rely on you, but you can seek the Lord in humble dependence for His provision. If you lack wisdom, seek it from above to give you insight and confidence in what you need to do below. Offer a plan, even an imperfect plan, to those who are mad for not getting their way—and they will know you care and you do want to make a difference in the situation. Prayer hears God.

Whining is the world’s way to get its way, but followers of Jesus first bring their complaints to Christ before they confront their critics. A heart softened and directed by a conversation with the Lord is able to better communicate with those who have hurt and anger in their heart. No need for us to defend ourselves with frantic feelings—rather we are called to elevate the conversation to seeking Spirit-led solutions that honor everyone involved. Do not reward shameful manipulation by rashly reacting in false guilt—instead rest in God’s reassuring faithfulness.

"But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one." (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

What prayerful solutions can you offer to a difficult person or situation?

Wisdom Hunters


February 18-19, 2017
LOVE IS SLOW TO ANGER  




1 Corinthians 13:4-5

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;"    





Love is slow to anger and it is not easily angered. It is not in a hurry to get angry because it knows God is at work. Love knows God can handle the irregular person and the stressful situation. Most of the time, the best thing love can do is refrain from anger. A calm response diffuses an angry outburst:

"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (Proverbs 15:1)

Poverty, injustice, and terrorism should work us up much more than traffic, forgetful waiters, and not getting our way. 
  
Indeed, apply anger appropriately and proportionately to the degree of injustice to the underdog. But love overlooks the silly things that really don’t matter that much in the big scheme of things. A friend or family member who is rarely on time is no reason to get angry. Instead, adjust your expectations and build a time buffer into your schedule. Why get angry when a little bit of adjustment remedies the situation? Love adjusts rather than stews in anger; it calms the nerves, while anger wreaks havoc with your blood pressure. Love-filled living is by far a healthier way to live physically and emotionally.

"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God." (James 1:19-20)  

Love is able to keep the big picture in mind. It understands that tomorrow is another day and there is no need to stress over this temporary setback. God will work things out in His timing, for He can be trusted. It is much wiser to trust God with your spouse, instead of attempting to whip him or her into shape with your anger. God’s discipline is much more thorough and precise. He puts His finger on an attitude or action and won’t let up until He is satisfied with the resulting change. Love knows how to trust God. 
  
Therefore, pray to God before you get angry. Ask the Lord to increase your love quotient before you lash out in anger. Love understands there are better ways and a better day ahead. However, there are times love sees the need for anger. Your love needs to rise up in anger over the abuses of drugs and alcohol. These are enemies of the state and deceivers of unsuspecting souls that wreck relationships and take lives. Your love can confidently invite anger to rise up and rebuke these artificial enhancers of hope that logically lead to death. Love doesn’t stick its head in the sand of isolation and detachment, but engages by offering wise choices and compassionate counseling. 
  
Love is all about solutions to the seduction of sin. Love is angered by sin’s control of a loved one’s soul. It drives us to our knees in our own confession of sin and to our feet to be a part of the solution. Love gets angry at times, but it is anger that is reserved for the right occasions. Even Jesus administered anger at the appropriate time: 

"And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored." (Mark 3:5)

"And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables." (John 2:15)

Love understands that anger—used selectively and prayerfully—has the greatest effect. The passion around love means you are concerned and invested. So aggressively love without flying off the handle just to make a statement. Love unconditionally instead of trying to intimidate through anger. Love for the long haul gets healthy and happy results. Love will anger at times, but only after much prayer and patience. Love more and be angry less. Above all else, be rich in love and slow to anger: 

"The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." (Psalm 145:8)

This high road to heaven illustrates the long-suffering love of the Lord. Who has caused you to become angry that you need to love and honor with your words and actions? 
  
Wisdom Hunters


February 17, 2017
THE ANTIDOTE TO DISCONTENT





Psalm 103:2

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits," 





Many years ago, a magazine related the story of a young man by the name of Ben who had a habit of grumbling. He complained about the weather, found fault with his family and friends, and allowed the smallest things to upset him.

Then one day he read this rhyme: "When you have truly thanked the Lord for every blessing sent, then you'll have very little time to murmur or lament." He realized that his spirit of discontent had made him overlook the gifts God was constantly showering on him.

Ben determined that with God's help he would rid himself of this habit. So whenever he became irritated or began to complain, he would stop and thank God for the many good things he was enjoying. It worked! By centering his attention on praising rather than pouting, he found it much easier to avoid a grouchy mood.

As Christians, we have so much for which to praise the Lord. Thankfulness and an attitude of gratitude ought to be characteristic of every believer:

"I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth." (Psalm 34:1)

"giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," (Ephesians 5:20)

All of life takes on a different hue when we spend our time counting our blessings rather than airing our complaints. Let's be grateful! Blessings hemmed with praise won't unravel.

Henry G. Bosch


February 16, 2017
DO YOU PROMISE?  




Isaiah 55:10-12 

"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."  



In recent years, my young children have come to realize that promises are a big deal. I can tell them directly and explicitly all sorts of things, such as “I’ll be home by 5 o’clock,” “We’ll go to the library this weekend,” or “You can have dessert if you eat your vegetables.” Yet these statements never seem to give them the confidence and assurance that they are seeking. To each of these questions and countless more, I’m confronted with a familiar question, “Do you promise, Daddy?” 
  
I think my children’s desire for a promise is rooted in their deep desire for assurance that what I’ve said will, in fact, come true. 
  
Throughout the Bible we encounter the promises of God, words that have offered comfort, hope, and peace to countless people throughout all of human history. We are told that the Lord will bless his people and through them bring his blessings to the entire world:

"And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing." (Genesis 12:2)

We are reminded that the Lord is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble:

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)

And we know that the Lord will never leave us or forsake us:

"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)  

Yet what we often find in Scripture, such as this passage from Isaiah, is our need for the Lord to reassure us of his faithfulness to the promises he has made. Especially in a world that so often suffers under the crippling weight of injustice, at times it is hard to see the hand of God at work in our midst. We, like my young children, look around us and say, “Lord, do you promise?” 
  
When we are invited to have a child-like faith, part of that invitation is to trust in the goodness and love of God just as a child trusts the love and care of their mother or father. When God promises to lead his children into joy and peace, he does so as a loving father who delights to give good gifts to his children:

"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11)

And as our creator and sustainer, the one in whom we live and move and have our being we trust that he is strong enough and powerful enough to bring about that which he commands:

"for in him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.'"  (Acts 17:28)

Even when we don’t understand, even if we aren’t sure how he is going to bring good out of so much pain and tragedy, we must take heart and remember that the word of the Lord never returns empty and always achieves its purpose. 
  

"And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed."  (Joshua 23:14)

Other promises of God:

"For thus says the LORD: 'Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken, and the prey of the tyrant be rescued, for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children.'" (Isaiah 49:25)

"But he said, 'What is impossible with man is possible with God.'" (Luke 18:27)

"And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)

"And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life." (1 John 2:25)

Tripp Prince 
February 15, 2017
ETERNAL REWARDS 





Revelation 20:12

"And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done." 




Those saved by grace and faith in Jesus are eternally secure. But, eternal rewards are based on a disciple’s efforts on earth. Believers who ignore their spiritual opportunities and obligations will miss out on their Heavenly Father’s affirmation and remuneration. Those sober saints who take seriously their Savior’s expectations will enter into the joy of their Master. Christ rewards obedience to Him. 

Rewards in heaven are meant to be godly motivation. Yes, our first response is to serve Jesus out of love and our overflowing gratitude for His goodness and grace. And it is wise to fear the Lord and allow our holy awe of the Almighty to be foundational for our life of faith and works. But there is an end in mind: Jesus wants His children to be devoted and compelled by anticipating His generous gifts. 


"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)

It is a process of renewing your mind with an eternal decision-making filter that facilitates biblical thinking and doing. Ask the Lord in prayer how He wants you to invest your life in others. How does God want you to use your experience, your assets, your time, your money, and your influence for His purposes? In other words, how can you make eternal investments on earth that bear fruit for God’s glory—forever? 

What you do does not get you to heaven—this comes only by faith in Christ and God’s amazing grace. But what you do after becoming a follower of Jesus does determine the quality of your eternal experience. The persecuted and martyred in this life have a great reward waiting in the next life. Those who initiate resources and influence on behalf of the poor and needy bring great satisfaction to Jesus which He expresses in bountiful blessings. Indeed, He rewards all those who diligently seek Him by faith. 

Love God and your reward will be great. Be a faithful witness who plants or waters the gospel of Jesus Christ and you will be rewarded by spending forever with eternally grateful souls. Send your investments ahead to heaven, by aggressively giving it away on earth. Resist; even reject rewards from the culture, so you are positioned to receive Christ’s rewards. Remain faithful to God’s call and look forward to His reward. 

"He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward." (Hebrews 11:26)

How can you live your life in a way that honors the Lord and looks forward to His rewards? 

Wisdom Hunters


February 14, 2017
GOD IS MY LOVER-HE IS ENOUGH





Isaiah 62:5

"For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you." 





I married late in life. Late as in several of my high school classmates were already grandparents. Late as in I had been coloring my hair for ten years, and late as in I had just found my first grey eyebrow hair. Yep! It was late.

Right after my engagement, I felt stretched beyond my comfort zone as I prepared to transition from being Shana the single, Shana the writer, and Shana with the family from southern Idaho to Shana the wife and stepmom to five fabulous grown children and two sons-in-law.

Now, two years after saying “I do” there are still some days when I feel stretched beyond my comfort zone, days when I am forced to press into Christ out of desperation. At these times, I need to experience His sufficiency. I need Him to be my Enough.

I have needed Him to be my Enough as I have wrestled with the normal insecurities that come with becoming a part of a blended family. I have needed Him to be my Enough as I have moved from “I still show up to family holiday gatherings without bringing a dish since I am unmarried” to “I am the Thanksgiving chef in this family” even though—up until the time my husband and I tied the knot—I had never made a turkey, or even purchased a can of cranberry sauce. In so many ways I have needed Him to be my Enough. 


"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:8)

But the need to experience Christ’s sufficiency hasn’t just been a marriage thing. It’s been a life thing. I also needed Him to be my Enough during my single days when I was alone and lonely. I needed Him to be my Enough as I prayed through tear-filled nights, friendship failures, ruined romances, money messes, and dashed dreams. In fact, there hasn’t been a moment in my entire life when I haven’t needed Him. I have always needed Him to be my sufficiency, and I am so grateful that He always has been—even during those times when I thought He wasn’t.

I don’t share my story because it’s all that interesting or unusual. Rather, I share it because it’s so typical. It’s so typical of God to be so good because He is goodness. It’s so typical of Him to be so loving because He is love. It’s so typical of Him to be so faithful in demonstrating His sufficiency, because that’s what He is. He is our Sufficiency.

He is the same yesterday, today, and forever:

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)

His love never fails:

"...for his steadfast love endures forever." (Psalm 136:1-26)

He is always Enough. You may feel as if God can’t possibly be your Enough because you are in a very difficult place on your journey. Maybe you are unhappily single, unhappily married, or unhappily divorced. You are shy, unemployed, or in a financial fix. You feel rejected, unwanted, overlooked, unseen, unimportant, or like you are without purpose. Let me encourage you: Jesus is Enough for anything you are experiencing. He wants to be your sufficiency and He died on the cross to prove it.

Since He has given us such a great and precious gift, won’t He also give us all things? I pray that you will also come to know that He is your Enough too, no matter what you are going through. Grow complete in God’s love.

"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32) 

Shana Schutte
February 13, 2017
TOMMY





1 John 4:16

"So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."




Some years ago, I stood watching my university students file into the classroom for our first session in the Theology of Faith. That was the day I first saw Tommy. He was combing his long flaxen hair, which hung six inches below his shoulders. It was the first time I had ever seen a boy with hair that long. I guess it was just coming into fashion then. I know in my mind that it isn't what's on your head but what's in it that count, but on that day I was unprepared and my emotions flipped. I immediately filed Tommy under "S" for strange...very strange.

Tommy turned out to be the "atheist in residence" in my Theology of Faith course. He constantly objected to, smirked at, or whined about the possibility of an unconditionally loving Father/God. We lived with each other in relative peace for one semester, although I admit he was for me at times a serious pain in the back pew.

When he came up at the end of the course to turn in his final exam, he asked in a cynical tone, "Do you think I'll ever find God?" I decided instantly on a little shock therapy. "No!" I said very emphatically. "Why not," he responded, "I thought that was the product you were pushing."

I let him get five steps from the classroom door and then I called out, "Tommy! I don't think you'll ever find Him, but I am absolutely certain that He will find you!" He shrugged a little, and left my class and my life. I felt slightly disappointed that he had missed my clever line -- "He will find you!" At least I thought it was clever.

Later, I heard that Tommy had graduated, and I was duly grateful. Then a sad report came. I heard that Tommy had terminal cancer. Before I could search him out, he came to see me. When he walked into my office, his body was very badly wasted and the long hair had all fallen out as a result of chemotherapy. But his eyes were bright and his voice was firm, for the first time I believe.

"Tommy, I've thought about you so often. I hear you are sick," I blurted out.

"Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer in both lungs. It's a matter of weeks."

"Can you talk about it, Tom?" I asked.

"Sure, what would you like to know?" he replied.

"What's it like to be only twenty-four and dying?"

"Well, it could be worse."

"Like what?"

"Well, like being fifty and having no values or ideals; like being fifty and thinking that booze, seducing women, and making money are the real biggies in life."

I began to look through my mental file cabinet under "S" where I had filed Tommy as strange. (It seems as though everybody I try to reject by classification, God sends back into my life to educate me.)

"But what I really came to see you about," Tom said, "is something you said to me on the last day of class." (He remembered!) He continued, "I asked you if you thought I would ever find God, and you said 'No!', which surprised me. Then you said, 'But He will find you.' I thought about that a lot, even though my search for God was hardly intense at that time. (My clever line. He thought about that a lot!) But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it was malignant, that's when I got serious about locating God. And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging bloody fists against the bronze doors of heaven. But God did not come out. In fact, nothing happened. Did you ever try anything for a long time with great effort and with no success? You get psychologically glutted, fed up with trying. And then you quit."

"Well, one day I woke up, and instead of throwing a few more futile appeals over that high brick wall to a God who may be or may not be there, I just quit. I decided that I didn't really care about God, about an afterlife, or anything like that. I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more profitable. I thought about you and your class and I remembered something else you had said: 'The essential sadness is to go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally sad to go through life and leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you had loved them.'"

"So, I began with the hardest one, my Dad. He was reading the newspaper when I approached him. "Dad."

"Yes, what?" he asked, without lowering the newspaper.

"Dad, I would like to talk with you."

"Well, talk."

"I mean. It's really important."

The newspaper came down three slow inches. "What is it?"

"Dad, I love you, I just wanted you to know that." 

Tom smiled at me and said it with obvious satisfaction, as though he felt a warm and secret joy flowing inside of him. 

"The newspaper fluttered to the floor. Then my father did two things I could never remember him ever doing before. He cried and he hugged me. We talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning. It felt so good to be close to my father, to see his tears, to feel his hug, to hear him say that he loved me."

"It was easier with my mother and little brother. They cried with me, too, and we hugged each other, and started saying real nice things to each other. We shared the things we had been keeping secret for so many years. I was only sorry about one thing --- that I had waited so long."

"Here I was, just beginning to open up to all the people I had actually been close to. Then, one day I turned around and God was there. He didn't come to me when I pleaded with Him. I guess I was like an animal trainer holding out a hoop, 'C'mon, jump through. C'mon, I'll give you three days, three weeks.' Apparently God does things in His own way and at His own hour. But the important thing is that He was there. He found me! You were right. He found me even after I stopped looking for Him."

"Tommy," I practically gasped, "I think you are saying something very important, and much more universal than you realize. To me, at least, you are saying that the surest way to find God is not to make Him a private possession, a problem solver, or an instant consolation in time of need, but rather by opening to love. You know, the Apostle John said that. He said: 'God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him.' "


"So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." (1 John 4:16)

"Tom, could I ask you a favor? You know, when I had you in class you were a real pain. But (laughing) you can make it all up to me now. Would you come into my present Theology of Faith course and tell them what you have just told me? If I told them the same thing it wouldn't be half as effective as if you were to tell it."

"Oooh.. I was ready for you, but I don't know if I'm ready for your class." 

"Tom, think about it. If and when you are ready, give me a call."

In a few days Tom called, said he was ready for the class, that he wanted to do that for God and for me. So we scheduled a date. However, he never made it. He had another appointment far more important than the one with me and my class. Of course his life was not really ended by his death, only changed. He made the great step from faith into vision. He found a life far more beautiful than the eye of man has ever seen or the ear of man has ever heard or the mind of man has ever imagined.

Before he died, we talked one last time. "I'm not going to make it to your class," he said.

"I know, Tom."

"Will you tell them for me? Will you...tell the whole world for me?"

"I will, Tom. I'll tell them. I'll do my best."

So, to all of you who have been kind enough to read this simple story about God's love, thank you. And to you Tommy, somewhere in the sunlit, verdant hills of heaven --- I told them, Tommy, as best I could.

This is a true story and is not enhanced for publicity purposes.

With thanks, Rev. John Powell, Professor,
Loyola University, Chicago


February 12, 2017
LOVE IS NOT ENVIOUS







1 Corinthians 13:4

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant" 






Love is not envious. It celebrates the good fortune of others and smiles when someone succeeds because love is an envy eraser. It can’t wait for someone else to reach their goals and get the attention and accolades, for it is emotionally secure and mature. Love does not depend on the “desire to get” for contentment, because its contentment rests with Christ. It is content knowing that God “rains on the just and on the unjust”: 

"so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:45)

God’s grace and blessing cannot be figured out or bottled in a formula, for He withholds or gives His blessing at His discretion. Love understands this and is not envious of those who are lavishly blessed by the Lord. Christ, of course, has established principles that, if obeyed, lead to blessing: 

"Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart," (Psalm 119:1-2)

If you obey your parents, you will be blessed by their wisdom, experience, and love. If you follow the laws of the land, you will be free from serving a prison term or paying fines. God’s truth can be applied and benefited from by both believers and unbelievers. His ways work; so don’t get worked up when the wicked succeed. Success in life is an option for anyone who implements the principles embedded in God’s Word. 

Therefore, choose to ignore envy and its dead-end road that results in comparison and disappointment. Envy attracts the immature, the insecure, the greedy, and the faithless. Comparison with people is an incubator for envy. Instead, reserve your comparisons for the character of Christ and be comfortable with yourself. Your personality, your looks and your gifts are from God, so be who God created. Love is content to be God’s unique creation. Envy looks at the stuff of others and salivates for the same. Envy wants to get, while love wants to give. It wants a woman’s smooth skin, a man’s car, or wealth’s options. Love overcomes these sometimes surreal and selfish desires by finding contentment in Christ. Therefore, go to Jesus, your Savior, for security, love, and affection. Seek the affirmation of Almighty God in place of the acquisition of stuff. 

Love is well versed in congratulating by making milestones into big deals. Love takes time to revel in the moment of accomplishment and looks for reasons to recognize the good in others. For example, completed projects, anniversaries, and birthdays are celebrated as a team. A sure remedy for envy is giving. Love gives sincere compliments, money, credit and time, and it gives the benefit of the doubt. Love’s generosity deflates envy’s influence. Wish well those who have done well and be grateful to God for their good fortune. 

A mature man or woman is motivated to excellence by those who have achieved. Love those who succeed, and recognize their achievements. Promote your protégé or be glad for the success of your ex-spouse. Learn from, don’t loathe, your competition. Love your enemies 

"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." (Luke 6:35) 

And pray for them, and love those who forgot you after you helped them succeed. Envy leads to a life of discontentment and sorrow, but love is Christ-centered, content, and joyful. Envy has no place for a person who lavishly loves God and people. 

Who can you throw a party for that has accomplished a milestone in their life? 

Wisdom Hunters


February 11, 2017
HAPPINESS AND JOY





2 Corinthians 6:10

"as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything." 





My wife, Merryn, and I spent last Christmas on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. With its snow-capped mountains and vivid landscape, it is a truly beautiful place! One moment we drove through snowstorms, the next we saw double rainbows appear from end to end. To me, Mull is a place of fairytales.

Natural beauty makes me happy. So do long train rides, second-hand bookshops, and the giggles of a child. French crepes served with sugar and lemon make me happy, as well as cherries dipped in dark chocolate.

Scripture tells us that every good and perfect gift is from God, including things like sunshine, food, and happy moments 
"so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:45)

"Every god 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)

But all these enjoyable things have one shared flaw-they are temporary. The chocolate-dipped cherries are soon gone. Mull's rainbows fade as quickly as they appear. What happiness can we find when these things leave or end, or when life is just plain difficult?

The apostle Paul found the answer. In the midst of being chased, beaten, slandered, and unjustly imprisoned-even when he was hungry, exhausted, and impoverished-he could say that he had "joy" 

"beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything." (2 Corinthians 6:5-10)

How? Because he knew that with God no pain is wasted:

"through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:2-5)

But even more significantly, his joy was sourced in the Holy Spirit who brings joy no matter the circumstances:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)

Happiness is often found in outside circumstances, but real joy flows from the Holy Spirit who lives within us. So savor today's moments of happiness-the tastes, the conversations, the sunlit valleys. They are good gifts to be enjoyed. But find the fullness of joy in the One who can lift and comfort you even in the unhappiest of times.

Are you basing your happiness mainly on temporary things? How will you draw on the Holy Spirit to experience joy in Jesus today?

Sheridan Voysey


February 10, 2017
EAT YOUR VEGETABLES! 



Revelation 10:8-10

"Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, 'Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.' So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, 'Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.' And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter."  



 
A friend of mine works as an urban gardener in one of the poorest neighborhoods in our city. He grows vegetables to feed a neighborhood and change their entire outlook on food. Why? Because in a neighborhood where the closest grocery store is a three-hour bus ride away, honey buns and sweet tea from the local convenience store are the staple foods for countless people in his community. Though it tastes sweet going down, this food is actually destroying their health and dramatically shortening their lifespans.
 
If you’ve had a steady diet of junk food your entire life, it may be a shock to your system when you’re presented with something healthy and good! What is good for your long-term health and wholeness may feel like a bitter affront to your well being. A stomach that has only processed refined sugars for years is unconditioned and caught off guard when vitamins and minerals flood into the system. Yet if given enough time, what once feels strange and foreign has the potential to transform you from the inside out, filling you with health, vitality and strength. The same is true when we open ourselves up to receive the Word of God into our lives.
 
In our lives we desire so many things that appear to be sweet and nourishing yet ultimately contribute to our sickness and brokenness: the quest for power, the need to be beautiful and desirable to others, the sense of security that comes from wealth and affluence. When we dine on these false promises, we eat a plate full of honey buns, yet convince ourselves that it is nothing short of a nourishing feast!
 
The Lord is inviting you to receive his Word into the depths of your being. He wants you to feast on his Word, for he knows that in so doing you receive healing and wholeness for your soul and body. He wants to transform and renew you from within. Yet he also knows that what is best for us requires the transformation of our desires.
 
We must learn to desire His feast, even if it feels bitter and sour at first, knowing that it is potent medicine that brings health and healing to our sick and weary souls. As this happens, we acquire a taste for healthy food and seek it out more and more. Once we have feasted at the table of the Lord, may we never content ourselves with convenience store junk food!
 
Have you developed a faithful habit of daily feasting upon the Scriptures through faithful reading, study, and prayerful application?   

Tripp Prince

February 9, 2017
THE ADVOCATE






1 John 2:1

"My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."  






From a Florida prison cell in June 1962, Clarence Earl Gideon wrote a note asking the United States Supreme Court to review his conviction for a crime he said he didn’t commit. He added that he didn’t have the means to hire a lawyer.

One year later, in the historic case of Gideon v. Wainright, the Supreme Court ruled that people who cannot afford the cost of their own defense must be given a public defender—an advocate—provided by the state. With this decision, and with the help of a court-appointed lawyer, Clarence Gideon was retried and acquitted.

But what if we are not innocent? According to the apostle Paul, we are all guilty. But the court of heaven provides an Advocate who, at God’s expense, offers to defend and care for our soul 

"He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2)

On behalf of His Father, Jesus comes to us offering a freedom that even prison inmates have described as better than anything they’ve experienced on the outside. It is a freedom of heart and mind.

Whether suffering for wrongs done by us or to us, we all can be represented by Jesus. By the highest of authority He responds to every request for mercy, forgiveness, and comfort.

Jesus, our Advocate, can turn a prison of lost hope, fear, or regret into the place of His presence.

The one who died as our substitute now lives as our advocate.

Our Daily Bread


Previous thoughts

February 8, 2017
GOD MAY NOT BE WHO YOU THINK HE IS







Psalm 136:1

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever."







A funny thing happens between people when they start to distrust one another. . . they attribute motives, attitudes, and character traits to each other that may—or may not—be accurate.

For example, if a woman imagines her neighbor to be unfriendly, even though they have never spoken, she may be unfriendly in response. If a man perceives that the man who sits next to him at the office is closed-minded and judgmental, he will respond by not sharing personal information. How we perceive others affects how we respond to others.

The same can be true in our relationship with God. How we perceive God affects how we respond to God. If we perceive—or believe—that He is a hateful bully, we may become fearful, angry, or we’ll hate Him in return. If we perceive that He is passive or uninvolved, we may become performance driven or prone to striving. Just as our perceptions of others can affect how we respond to them, our perceptions of God can affect how we respond to Him, too.

"So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." (1 John 4:16)

Our perceptions of God can be shaped by many things: the media, our childhood experiences, our parents, church leaders, our denied desires, our joys, heartaches, and a million other things. But we must be careful lest we respond to God out of faulty perceptions of Him.

I recently encountered a woman on Facebook I have never met. She responded to the quote on a beautiful picture that declared God’s love. “That’s not the God I came to know through church. He’s hateful and angry.” My heart went out to this woman. She is missing out on the amazing love of God because of her faulty perceptions of Him! The lies she believes about Him are keeping her from receiving His love. My prayer is that the believers she encounters in the future show will show her the true God through their love and patience.

Thankfully, even though many of our experiences may have painted a bad picture of God, or Satan would have us think that God is not good because of the things that have happened in our lives, we can trust what He says about Himself in His Word. He is exactly who He says He is.

"God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?" (Numbers 23:19)

When we choose to believe what He says about Himself and His love for us, it enables us to respond to Him with right hearts—and this makes all the difference.

"We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

Will you choose to believe what God says about Himself and His love for you today? Take a few moments to quietly reflect on what you learned today. Ask the Lord to reveal to you if you have any perceptions of Him that aren’t correct. Then, go to the Word and find the truth about Him.

Shana Schutte


February 7, 2017
JOY




Philippians 4:8

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."




A young Japanese woman's book on decluttering and organizing has sold two million copies worldwide. The heart of Marie Kondo's message is helping people get rid of unneeded things in their homes and closets-things that weigh them down.

"Hold up each item," she says, "and ask, 'Does it spark joy?'" If the answer is yes, keep it. If the answer is no, then give it away. The apostle Paul urged the Christians in Philippi to pursue joy in their relationship with Christ:

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice."  (Philippians 4:4). 

Instead of a life cluttered with anxiety, he urged them to pray about everything and let God's peace guard their hearts and minds in Christ:

"do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

Looking at our everyday tasks and responsibilities, we see that not all of them are enjoyable. But we can ask, "How can this spark joy in God's heart and in my own?" A change in why we do things can bring a transformation in the way we feel about them. Paul's parting words are food for thought and a recipe for joy:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8)

How can you spark joy in the tasks you face today?

A focus on the Lord is the beginning of joy.

David McCasland



February 5-6, 2017 
HUMILITY VERSUS PRIDE 





Romans 12:10

"Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." 





Every day my pride and ego relentlessly seek to smother whatever breath of humility is in my heart. Once the virtue is vanquished, my ego continues its conquest with Napoleon like occupation of my entire being. I feel immobilized, frustrated, imprisoned. Pride’s symptoms begin to expose my sickly soul: reactive anger because I didn’t get my way, harsh words from projecting my hurt on someone who represents the person who has hurt me, or a smug sense of superiority, since I am surely more spiritual and more successful than most. Oh, how ugly, sad and selfish my pride and ego must seem to my humble Savior and servant Jesus. 

The acronym for EGO is Edging God Out—so true, as pride acts like is does not need God—while humility is keenly aware of its desperate need for divine intervention. Pride has everything all figured out, nicely categorized into perfected preferences (treated as convictions)—while humility remains a learner, always looking for ways to flush out tired lies and aged deceptions, once held with seemingly sacred devotion, but now replaced by truth’s timeless liberation. Pride takes—humility gives. Pride judges—humility offers mercy. Pride reacts—humility responds. Pride is demanding—humility defers. Pride comes from the devil—humility comes from Christ. 

Humility may require joyful endurance:

"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 12:2)

Pride is like a slick, overly aggressive salesperson: persuading, berating and guilting me into buying something: I don’t need, I can’t afford and I later regret purchasing. How totally opposite to the satisfaction of humility, which is an invitation—prayerfully penned in faith-felt calligraphy by Christ—summoning my presence into His presence for a banquet of blessings, a sense of hope and a relationship of peace all stuffed into an envelope of His eternal pleasure—not to mention the grace and love that humility offers to facilitate and deepen our relationships with people. One coerces our will to be unlike Christ, the other immerses our will into Christlikeness. 

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom" (Proverbs 11:2)

Gratefully, humility is the gateway to grace: for God gives grace to the humble, but He resists the proud: 

"But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" (James 4:6)

Since we are to live the Christian life the same way we became a Christian—by grace through faith—it’s imperative we humbly and daily infuse our souls with God’s grace. If we think we are humble we are not, but we can rest knowing humble Jesus lives in us, with us and through us. Humility happily defers in love, “How can I honor you above myself?” I learn to walk in humility by doing what’s best for the whole, not what’s best for me! 

Sometimes humility is sorrowful submission:

"And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.'(Matthew 26:39)

The One who emptied Himself, became a servant to all:

"but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2:7)

Who do you need to defer to in joyful willingness with your 100% support? 

Wisdom Hunters

February 4, 2017
FAITH VERSUS FEAR



Psalm 56:3-4

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?" 



Fear is a formidable foe of faith. It lurks about, looking for ways to lead us into distrust of our Lord. Fear is subtle with its sneak attacks on our attitude and bold in its frontal barrage on our beliefs. Fear always fights back, even when we extinguish it for a time with our total trust in God. And it doesn’t let up until we get to heaven. Fear is like fire ants. You can eliminate their unholy mound with a powder-like deterrent, but they regroup and rebuild nearby.

Trust in the Lord is the terminator of fear, but fear seems to recreate itself with whatever appendage of doubt is left. It grows within the next uncertain circumstance that comes our way. Fear thinks it has us in check on the chessboard of our life, but the truth is that Jesus checkmated fear on the cross. Now it is up to us to appropriate His triumph by trusting in God.

There are many times when we are in transition from fear to faith. It’s in the transition of trust in God that our cares co-mingle with Christ’s care. There is a holy tension that transpires in our transition into trust. It is in this dawn of trust that light gradually overcomes darkness. Faith dissolves doubts as the sun drives away the mist. Your mind may be a little murky, but you renew your thinking with the truth that God is ever present.


"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2)

Your confidence may be crumbling, but you keep your eyes on your Savior. Your prayers may be clumsy, but you still cling to Christ. Your relationships may be reluctant, but you rely on the Lord. Use this transition from fear to faith to grow your mercy and compassion. Indeed, doubting can drive us to God, and grows us into more patient and humble human beings. It strengthens our trust and makes us hold faster to heaven. Hope trusts in this transition from fear to faith.

Moreover, mortal man has not made a permanent impression on the saints of God. Immortal and Almighty God is your new insignia. Embedded on the coins of your character is the faith-filled inscription, “In God I Trust.” Followers of Jesus have the eternal seal of their Savior as their newfound identity:

"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." (Ephesians 4:30)

Do not allow the patterns of your old life to feed any fading fears in your new one:

"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." (Romans 6:6)

The fears of your proud past have been replaced with faith, love, and hope in your humble here and now. Faith has banished fear.

Therefore, you can continually celebrate. Praise points you to Providence. After all, it’s all about Him. This is why faith brings forth praise. When you trust, you can’t help but sing from your soul. Indeed, faith in the Lord facilitates praise and is a product of praise. It is in our praise of God that our fears fade and our faith flourishes. So praise Him, trust Him, and fear no one. No one can take from you what you have already given to Him. Faith is a fear-killer; it overcomes.

What fear do you need to release to Christ and rest in His reassuring presence?

Wisdom Hunters


February 3, 2017
FINANCIAL FAITHFULNESS 





Proverbs 22:7

"The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender." 





The use of money is an indicator of a person’s heart. Generosity or greed, maturity or immaturity, faithfulness or unfaithfulness— these are all motives exposed by money. Every dollar has a motive attached. Money is neutral, but not its use. Borrowing money is not a sin, but not repaying the debt labels you as wicked—harsh but true words. 

This is reason enough to be faithful in our financial obligations and even more reason to avoid debt. In fact, why not avoid debt unless it is absolutely necessary? Possible exceptions might be for a home mortgage, especially if you pay it off as soon as possible. Or, it might be prudent to take on a short-term debt to get a business off the ground, but only if you don’t jeopardize the security of your family. 

Debt is inviting from a distance, but the closer it comes, the more you can see it is covered with warts. Do not become too familiar with debt and think you must have it. It can be a ruthless master. It lacks compassion and does not care about you or your family. Here’s a comforting fact: You do not have to worry about repaying debt if none has been incurred. If you have debt, pay it back. You are no different from a conscienceless world if you easily default to bankruptcy. 

Anyone can walk away from responsibility, but what a testimony you demonstrate by doing the right thing. Creditors and friends will be amazed and even drawn to God through your financial faithfulness. At the very least, you will please God and will be able to sleep well at night. Do not be overwhelmed by the overall amount of your debt. Just be concerned about paying back what is owed today and trust God for tomorrow. 

Indeed, one of the biggest reasons to avoid debt is so that you can become a generous giver. Generous giving is also a matter of financial faithfulness. It is a trust issue. You really can increase your giving in the face of greater financial obligations. This is God’s economy. The greater your needs, the more your giving may need to increase. 

It does not make sense, humanly speaking, and it could even be construed as irresponsible, but in fact, generosity is being responsible. It is through generosity that our faith is tested and refined. If we give according to how we can make the math work, then we miss a faith opportunity. Our faith grows most when we are generous. 

And generosity is not defined by amount. It is defined by motive and capacity. A dollar given in faith with a capacity of two dollars is radical faith, while a dollar given with a capacity of ten dollars is minimal faith. Often givers are the best fundraisers. People want to give toward generosity. So do not let your modest income and small net worth limit your giving. A generous giver is a generous giver, regardless of the gift size. 

Generosity starts where you are, not where you want to be. If God can trust you with a small amount of money, then He can trust you with a lot. The more you hold what you have with an open hand, the more you can be trusted. 

Lastly, we can be generous givers and generous livers because of the debt of gratitude we owe God. Of course we can never pay Him back for the great love He has bestowed on us, but we can imitate His giving. There is no greater compliment than imitation. He gives to the undeserving. He gives to the ungrateful. He gives to the unsuspecting. He gives generously, lavishly and hilariously. 

Generous giving is His nature, and the very nature of God lives in your life through Jesus Christ. Simply put, be who you are. Be a generous giver, because He gave first and still gives to you. You can’t outgive Him, but you can certainly join Him in this great adventure of generosity. Financial faithfulness is f r e e d o m ! 

"The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives;" (Psalm 37:21) 

What are some ways to reduce debt and increase your giving? 

Wisdom Hunters


February 1-2, 2017
DOUBT YOUR LIFE MAKES A DIFFERENCE? 
 




1 Corinthians 10:31

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 




Most of us have times when we wonder if our lives matter. We hear stories of people on the news and online we believe are making a big impact, and we feel small and insignificant. We roll through our days. We get up, go to work, sit at a computer, teach in a classroom, or work on a construction crew. We go home, eat dinner, slide into bed and wonder if any of it mattered. We doubt our lives really count, and deep down we may fear that we’ll get to the end of our time on earth and wonder if we accomplished anything of significance. 

Recently, I was encouraged about this tension that we feel about wondering if what we do makes a difference. Why? Because I believe that most of the impact we have is hidden from us. We won’t fully know how our lives have truly counted until we get to heaven. 

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepare beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)

Take my grandmother for example. My Grandma Freda, or “Grandma Nick” as we called her, had a huge impact on my life in a way that she knows nothing of. She was a spunky, energetic, intelligent, curious, creative, and positive woman who had a knack for embracing family, accepting others, and bringing people together. These traits shined brightly when she married my Grandpa Gerald before I was born. You see, Gerald’s first wife died of cancer. He had two teenage boys. Grandma embraced Grandpa’s boys as family and loved them like they were her own. As a result, I have always seen these two men as my uncles, and their children are my cousins. They are family. I have never doubted they are a part of me, because Grandma accepted them as part of her. She loved well. 

Fast forward fifty-five years or so. There I was standing at the crossroads of singleness and marriage to a man who had five (yes, five!) grown kids. Even though my husband had the scriptural right to remarry, I still wrestled with becoming part of a blended family. But as I prayed about my decision, I also thought about Grandma. Her example of love and embracing my uncles in particular deeply touched my heart and helped just when I needed some guidance about the decision to tie the knot. God used her example to help me choose to love not only my husband but all of my new stepkids, too. Now, I adore each one and am so thankful for them. 

"whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:11)

Grandma never knew how her service and love caused me to praise my God. As I was saying, “I do” she was in a memory care unit in my hometown and passed away about a year later. I can’t wait to see her in heaven one day and share my story. But, perhaps she already knows. 

As you go about your days, remember that your impact may not be felt by you, but as you serve God in all that you do and glorify Him, lives will be impacted. Others will praise Him. Your life makes a difference. 

"Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."  (1 John 3:18)

Call someone who has made an impact in your life and may not know it. Tell them thank you and let them know that they make a difference. 

Shana Schutte




November 30, 2016
COVENANT OF LOVE





Revelation 15:5
"After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened,"





The Lord’s covenant law is completed by His covenant of love with Israel and His covenant of love with His church, the Bride of Christ. We are united with Christ in the bonds of love forever. Yes, those who fall in love with Jesus stand at the altar of trust and vow to remain faithful until death brings them into eternal oneness with their Lord. Our fidelity of faith is evidence of our genuine love and commitment to God. His covenant of love compels us to be loved and to love.

We are loved by God unconditionally, even when we fail to reciprocate His love. Though the Lord’s love is jealous, He does not jettison us from His presence when we ignore Him. We may drift away from Him with our unwise decisions, but His love is available to bring us back to the security and serenity of His presence. Christ’s covenant of love to His forgiven bride keeps us humble and grateful. Because of His great love for us—we long to love and obey the Lord Jesus.

"And I said, 'O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments,'" (Nehemiah 1:5)

We love the Lord, because He first loved us. We pursue the Lord, because He first pursued us. We serve the Lord, because He first served us. We remain faithful to the Lord, because He remains faithful to us. Yes, we love Him and keep His commands, because of what His grace and love have already done for us. It is a divine gift that provides what we need most. Our greatest need is to be loved by our Heavenly Father. Christ’s covenant of love grows love in our heart.

God’s covenant of love is not to be taken for granted. It is not an emotional acknowledgement we act on only when our feelings cooperate. No, when we entered into covenant with Christ we committed to Christ and to all He represents: love, obedience, generosity, holiness, service, worship, prayer, scripture, mercy, grace, forgiveness, evangelism, discipleship and the church. Since He keeps His covenant of love, we are the bride of Christ who loves, cherishes and obeys.

"So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." (1 John 4:16)

What does the Lord’s covenant of love look like lived out through your life?

Wisdom Hunters


November 29, 2016
THANKFUL FOR ADVENT






2 Corinthians 9:15
"Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!" 






Today I am thankful to be setting out on a journey, one that will take 40 days and lead us to the Nativity of Christ.

Everywhere we go, we are inundated with advertising, busyness, food, stuff, and then more food and more stuff. We are told that joy and peace can be bought with credit and that happiness comes in pretty packages. Meanwhile, the Church quietly calls us away from these distractions and toward Christ.

It is a season of preparation, and yes, we will buy some stuff, we'll continue to eat, and we'll inevitably be busier than we would like. But we will also intentionally turn ourselves away from gluttony through eating simpler meals, fewer treats, less mindless eating. We will try to "unplug" more often so we can be more connected to one another.

We will actively seek to remember that it is more blessed to give than to receive by taking part in various giving projects as a family, of trying to be more aware of others' needs before our desires. We will focus on the meaning of this time by reading together from the Old Testament, reading the old, old story that started in Eden and led to the manger.

What would we do if we learned that in 40 days we would be visited by a King? How would our lives change as we prepared for his coming? If he were to visit our home, if he were to stay with us, wouldn't we declutter  and clean and decorate and save the best for when he arrived? And wouldn't he want to see that in all our preparations, we didn't forget the least of these, his very brethren, but shared with them from our abundance? And wouldn't we want to practice showing love to each other, because we know that is what pleases Him best?

A King is coming, and so we make ready. We will attempt to prepare our hearts as well as our home. And when He comes? We will feast and celebrate! But now is the time for preparation, and I am grateful for that.

When Christmas morning comes, and the gifts have been opened, we will just be getting started. (We keep the 12 days of Christmas, after all!) I am thankful to be setting out on this journey today, one that leads to the Prince of Peace!

Carried on the Wind


November 28, 2016
IMAGINATION UNDER WRAPS 





Numbers 13:33

“And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers and so we were in their sight.”





If you go to the British museum today, you will find an exhibit there with an old mariners chart of the east coast of North America and the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. This old chart was designed in the year 1525, and it has some interesting markings on it. Areas of the map that had not yet been explored have inscriptions that say “here be giants.” And in other areas, where explorers had never ventured, the inscriptions say “here be dragons” or even “here be fiery scorpions.” Now the map-maker didn’t know for a fact that there were giants, dragons or scorpions in these areas, but when it came to these unknown places, his imagination went into overdrive! Mentally he could probably see huge giants, fire-breathing dragons and dangerous scorpions, but in reality these things did not exist.

There is also some other writing on this old map. At some point in history, this chart became the possession of the scientist, Sir John Franklin. He scratched out the markings that said, “Here be giants, here be dragons and here be fiery scorpions.” Instead he wrote, “Here be God.” 

Satan loves to work through the vehicle of our imaginations, because nothing will sap our strength and quench the fire of our faith like our imaginations. The imagination is a vehicle which requires no props, no people, no planning, no expense and no set-up. The evil one simply plants a tiny seed in the mind, and if it finds fertile ground, that seed grows faster than the weeds in your garden. God says that because of our carnal natures, “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth...” 

"And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, 'I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.'" (Genesis 8:21)

And 

"He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;" (Luke 1:51) 

Yet an imagination can be a wonderful gift when it’s in the right hands...Almighty hands, to be specific. I have been blessed with a very colorful imagination, and it’s undoubtedly a blessing from God. It is a great tool when I am writing brochures for Esperanza, or writing the outlines for new TV programs or when I am writing new songs. But let me tell you, if I don’t keep a handle on my imagination, I can say “here be giants” and “here be scorpions” with the best of them! 

That’s why we need to have the Word of God in our hearts and minds. So when our minds start thinking this could happen, or this or that, then we say, 

"On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God." (Psalm 62:7) 

And we say, 

"no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. ...." (Isaiah 54:17)

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1) 

In the book of Numbers there’s a story recorded where the children of Israel said, “There be giants.” Moses sent ten spies to check out the promised land for 40 days. It was incredible! They came back with huge clusters of grapes and pomegranates and figs and stories of the fruitful and beautiful the land! But they also came back with the report of giants in the land. They said,

“And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:33)

Here the Israelites had a choice. They could believe God and be blessed, or they could believe man and lose everything. In essence, God said, “Here you go, here’s the promised land, go and possess it.” But man said “but we can’t because of the giants.” This was a “God said,” “man said” problem. And I have found in my own life that every problem and fear and struggle that we have is a “God said” or “man said” problem. Are we going to do what God said, or are we going to do what man says? This story about the Israelites and the promised land gives us a clue of which way not to go, for this story concluded as probably the biggest spiritual disaster in the Bible with the entire population of Israel (over twenty years old) dying without entering the promised land. They lost everything! That’s why if we want to be a happy, blessed, joyful people, we need to know what God says and we need to do what God says. Undoubtedly it takes push, it takes perseverance and it takes prayer, but the results are worth it! 

Paul talks about this victory where he says:

"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ," (2 Corinthians 10:5)

And that’s where I want to be. So folks, don’t give up, keep the faith, keep looking up, and keep your imaginations under wraps...wrapped in the promises of God!

Linda Shelton


November 26-27, 2016
GRATEFUL HEARTS 






Psalm 92:1-2
"It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,"




 
My grandfather was a voracious reader. I remember spending the Thanksgiving holiday visiting him and my grandmother, and how I would find him every morning and every afternoon hidden away in the corner of a room, quietly working his way through his latest selection, likely a novel about the American Old West or a legal thriller. However, on any given day I was even more likely to find him meditating upon the gospels or memorizing portions of the psalter. This man was admired and respected as a person of great character and virtue, yet in these still, quiet moments I was shown the source of his stature. I saw a man who was a senior leader in his community and executive at a multi-national company, yet never lost sight of the fact that he was a humble servant of Almighty God and received each new day as a gift to be cherished and celebrated.
 
Each day my heart is filled with gratitude to God for the gift of my grandfather. I give thanks, not only for the man that he was, but the way in which he intentionally and faithfully passed these values and habits of faith on to me. Never was I left simply to observe him in prayer, nor was I made to feel like a nuisance or distraction. I was always invited in, shown in small, simple ways the joy that is found in knowing the Lord as he reveals himself through the Scriptures.  
 
Today, I invite you to give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love in your life.
 
First, take time to give thanks for the people God has placed in your life that have been for you constant sources of grace, love, hope and joy: family, friends, mentors, coaches. The list could go on and on. You are who you are today because other people selflessly invested in you and prayed for you, celebrated life’s joys and wept with you in life’s great sorrows.
 
Secondly, let this heart of gratitude for others serve as an invitation for you to go and do the same. Having received from others, how can you now become a source of life and hope for someone else? Who has God placed in your life that is in need of the same self-giving love that you have received? We overflow with love and thanksgiving toward God when we love others just as we have been loved- may it be true of us today and every day!
 

"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving."  (Colossians 2:6-7)

Give thanks everyday to God for the men and women who have shown his love to you, but also take time to think afresh of ways that you can be a source of grace and love to someone else.

Wisdom Hunters


November 25, 2016
THANKS BE TO GOD - FOR WHAT?






1 Thessalonians 5:18
"give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."






Thanksgiving is one of the most precious times of the year because we have so much to be thankful for: our nation, family, life, health, opportunity, the list never ends.
But what if you’re in a season of uncertainty, if you’re asking what God is doing in our nation or your family is struggling or your health is questionable or you’re unemployed? What if you’re living in confusion and fear and don’t know how to respond to what is happening to you? How can you be thankful?

The apostle Paul faced that exact situation. He had written a letter of rebuke to the Corinthians and then sent his prime trouble-shooter, Titus, to follow up. When he arrived at the place they had agreed to meet so Titus could update Paul, the younger man was not there, and Paul was greatly troubled. What if the Corinthians had rejected Titus or something had happened to him? What if they were angry over his letter? What if Paul had made a mistake in writing as he did? Paul was distressed. He could find no rest for his spirit and, although he had a wide open door for ministry, he could not stay. He was driven to search for Titus. 

"my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia." (II Corinthians 2:12-13)

Having described his stress and confusion, the words that come the next passage in don’t make sense.

"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere." (II Corinthians 2:14) 

Thanks be to God. . . How could Paul be thankful under such overwhelming stress? The answer comes later in II Corinthians where Paul explains that he found Titus and received a good report. 

Although the Corinthians had been offended at first, they had changed their attitude, and Paul’s action was confirmed. Notice that Paul’s thanksgiving came after the fact of what God was doing even though Paul had lived in the fear that he had done wrong. Through this experience Paul learned one of the greatest realities concerning thanksgiving: we must live in constant thanksgiving for what God is doing even when we don’t know what that is. God doesn’t usually tell us what He’s doing; He just does it and shows us when we need to know.

So if you are living in fear for our nation or for your family or for your health or for you economic well being, know that God is at work, and you can be thankful for what He’s doing even when you have no idea what that is. Now, of course, God may not always work things out the way we want Him to, but He will keep His word and meet your needs no matter what happens. There is no reason for you to live in fear or in stress. Thank Him no matter what He’s doing and find His peace in the most difficult situations of life.

Remember this: We never know what God is doing until He does it, but we can be thankful while we wait. I hope your Thanksgiving will be a happy one, but I hope even more it will bring you to a new level of trusting God as you find His triumph in Christ.

The Broken Leadership Blog
Submitted by Kathy Hamilton


November 24, 2016
THANKSGIVING





Psalm 100:4-5
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations."




In 1789, after adopting the Bill of Rights to our Constitution, among the first official acts of Congress was approving a motion for proclamation of a national day of thanksgiving, recommending that citizens gather together and give thanks to God for their new nation's blessings.

The first Thanksgiving Day designated by the United States of America was proclaimed by George Washington on October 3, 1789:

"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best."

"Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789."

Go. Washington


November 23, 2016
STARTING THANKSGIVING EARLY





Ephesians 1:15-16
"For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers," 






On Thursday, those of us who live in the United States will celebrate our national holiday of Thanksgiving. On this day, we convene with friends and family to offer thanks to God for personal and national blessings. Sometimes we gather together for organized worship services in which we offer gratitude to God. But, for the most part, our Thanksgiving celebrations focus around food and even football (American football, that is, not what we Americans call soccer). We eat far more turkey (with all the trimmings) than is healthy and top it off by watching some of our favorite college and professional teams pummel each other with gratitude on the gridiron.

Now, I don't know about you, but I would have to admit that I need more than just Thanksgiving Day to express and experience the gratitude that God deserves and my soul needs. Don't get me wrong. I love the Thanksgiving holiday. But I just don't have much time on that actual day for intentional, thoughtful gratitude. Too much to do and too much to eat! So, in the past few years, I have started thinking of Thanksgiving more as a season than as a single day. I try to make time around the Thanksgiving holiday for deeper and wider gratitude than I would ordinarily include in my personal daily devotions. Perhaps you would like to join me in this tradition.

Today's devotion will get you started.

To begin, you might try imitating Paul's example of nonstop thanksgiving. When he says that he has "not stopped giving thanks," Paul does not mean that he is literally praying every moment. Rather, he is speaking of a thankful frame of mind that finds expression in consistent prayers of gratitude. Perhaps daily, or perhaps several times throughout the day, Paul briefly thanked the Lord for those believers who were faithfully living as God's people in the world.

I try to structure my life with regular times of gratitude each day, including morning devotions, praying before meals, and evening prayers. But, often my prayers of thanksgiving are brief and relatively predictable. How might my prayers be different, I wonder, if I spent a few additional moments thinking about how God has blessed me? What would happen if I asked the Holy Spirit to bring to mind blessings I had never even considered before? What if I asked the Lord to help me live each day with a consistent sense of gratitude? What if I paid attention to each gift of the day, offering thanks to the Lord? How different my faith would be! How different my life would be!

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him."(Psalm 28:7)

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

Let me encourage you to consider the questions I have just asked myself above. How might you make this week a true season of gratitude?

What might you do by yourself?

What might you do with family and/or friends?

A PRAYER:

Gracious God, thank you for the example of Paul in this passage from Ephesians, for his consistency in thanksgiving. Help me, Lord, to imitate this example in my own life. May I learn to thank you, not only in predictable times and ways, but also throughout the day. Help me to pay attention to the manifold gifts you shower upon me and to offer nonstop thanks for them. May this whole week be filled with gratitude to you. May it be a season of Thanksgiving. Amen.

Mark D. Roberts


November 22, 2016
THANK YOU!





1 Chronicles 16:34
"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!"






Dear God:

I want to thank you for what you have already done.

I am not going to wait until I see results or receive rewards. 
    I am thanking you right now.

I am not going to wait until I feel better or things look better.
    I am thanking you right now.

I am not going to wait until people say they are sorry or until they stop talking about me, 
    I am thanking you right now.

I am not going to wait until the pain in my body disappears. 
    I am thanking you right now.

I am not going to wait until my financial situation improves. 
    I am going to thank you right now.

I am not going to wait until the children are asleep and the house is quiet, 
    I am going to thank you right now.

I am not going to wait until I get promoted at work or until I get the job, 
    I am going to thank you right now.

I am not going to wait until I understand every experience in my life that has caused me pain or grief. 
    I am going to thank you right now.

I am not going to wait until the journey gets easier or the challenges are removed,
    I am thanking you right now.

I am thanking you because I am alive. 
I am thanking you because I made it through the day's difficulties.
I am thanking you because I have walked around the obstacles.
I am thanking you because I have the ability and the opportunity to do more and do better.
I am thanking you because, Father, you have not given up on me.

God is good, all the time; and all the time, God is Good!

THANK HIM!!!

Based on an article/sermon by T.D. Jakes
Submitted by Peggy Lasher


November 21, 2016
FEAR OF THE LORD




Revelation 15:4
"Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed."




I had two types of high school football coaches: the first I was afraid of because of his tirades and his angry, intimidating language. I was motivated for a short time, but fearful I would not do precisely what he wanted. The second coach expected a high standard of performance, but he was both instructional and inspirational. I knew I had room for failure but my goal was growth. My perception of one coach was an angry man who expected perfection and was never totally pleased with me. The second coach brought out the best in me—and expected the best from me.

The fear of the Lord is fundamental to finding wisdom. Without awe of the Almighty, there is no access to His insight. Where reverence for His holiness is void, there is lack of understanding in the ways of God. The first step in acquiring wisdom from almighty God is to fear Him:

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight." (Proverbs 9:10)

There is a worship of the Lord’s majesty and a dread of His judgment. Once a healthy fear of the Lord has been embraced, the result is peace and knowledge in submission to and love for the Holy One.

"Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!" (Psalm 112:1) 

If you are driven by guilt or shame or feel the need for perfect behavior to be accepted by God, you will always believe you fall short and that the Lord is probably not pleased with you. But if you see your heavenly Father’s love and holiness as a refuge in a world of chaos and confusion, you will learn to rest in Christ and learn from Him. You fear God by fearing the consequences of sin, but you freely receive His forgiveness when you do sin. Fear of the Lord draws you closer to the Lord.

The fear of God is the pathway to freely worship and praise God. Those who have experienced salvation in Jesus—rescued from the wrath of the Almighty—have a holy cheerfulness they lift to the Lord in gratitude and thankful praise. Joy in Jesus is the language of heartfelt worship. The more we fear the Lord in His holiness, the more we are free to love and worship Him for who He is—our heavenly Father, the Maker of heaven and earth. Hell has no fury, nor flames of fear—for those who fear God, but are not afraid!

"Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling." (Psalm 2:11)

What does it mean for you to fear God, but not be afraid of God?

Wisdom Hunters


November 20, 2016
HEAVENLY HEROES





Hebrews 12:1
"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,"






Dead heroes inspire you to live life to its fullest. Those who have endured hardship and were treated unfairly inspire us through our current tests and temporary trials. Most of us have not suffered to death because of our faith in Christ. But some have. Others have been down the road that denies earthly wealth, only to receive heaven’s riches. Heroes of the faith knew a better way. Theirs was the way of faith in God and obedience to His expectations. No temptation of the world was strong enough to pull them away from the moorings of their walk with God. With some, even on their deathbeds, there was an uncharacteristic unselfishness and generosity.

Heavenly heroes do not languish without hope on the eve of their home going. Instead, they are busy bestowing blessings on those who will be left behind. These heroes of the faith have an eye on heaven in worship, while they quietly wind down for the conclusion of their earthly assignment. 

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."   (Psalm 116:15)

Look for heavenly heroes who may have lived within your lineage. You may be surprised to discover the faith of former generations was robust and lively. Or, you may need to adopt one of heaven’s saints who can represent one of God’s finest heroes. Let them motivate you to live a life worthy of God’s calling. Let their past faithfulness propel you to do the same in the present.

We all need heroes who have overcome adversity by faith in God, and who knew how to enjoy Him whether in times of difficulty or times of peace. Your heavenly hero may be a godly grandparent who walked faithfully with the Lord and is now peering down from heaven’s portal. You watched your grandmother and/or grandfather persevere through adverse conditions. They kept a relationship with God that flourished and grew, up to the very end of their life on earth. Money was not an issue for them because they learned to be content with home, food, and clothing. Relationships are what mattered the most to them. They always seemed to have time for you. Phone conversations did not seemed rushed and their door was always open. In their presence there was a serenity and stability that had heaven as its origin. You experienced a little bit of heaven each time they graced your presence.

Now is the time to allow the death of your heaven-bound hero to have even more impact on your life. Let their going home galvanize your faith. They remained faithful to the end, even though they did not receive their full reward in this life. Their life of perseverance with God is a tremendous motivation for you to do the same. You worship Christ, but you can still let your heavenly hero facilitate a deeper walk with God. Your hero is dead, but their influence is greater now than when they walked the earth. Ask God to engraft their passion for His word into your heart and mind. Remember their words of encouragement, and become more secure and confident. They were bigger than life. Now in their death they have heaven’s platform for even greater Kingdom leverage. Your greatest hero is Jesus, but be encouraged to remain true to the faith by these lesser ones who reside in heaven. Because one day, you may very well do the same for another.

Who has died and gone to heaven that is a good example for you to follow and grow your faith in Jesus?

Wisdom Hunters


Previous thoughts

November 19, 2016
GOD'S PAYMENT PLAN  





Hebrews 10:30-31
"For we know him who said, 'Vengeance is mine; I will repay.' And again, 'The Lord will judge his people.' It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." 




  
Someone may be in debt to you. They may owe you money, a reputation, an apology, a job, or a childhood. But God is asking you to let go and let Him. Let Him handle this. He has a payment plan for those who are in debt to his children. It may mean He wipes their slate clean with minimal repercussions. It may mean their stiff neck forces God to bring them to the end of themselves through trials and tribulations. Or, it may mean that what awaits them is an eternity of reaping in hell what has been sown on earth. But God’s position is one of judge and jury. You do not have to carry this burden or responsibility. Your role is to forgive and to trust God with the proper judgment and consequence. 
  
Life gets complicated and draining when we take on the responsibility of making sure a person gets what he deserves. This is arrogant and unwise on our part. How can we know what others deserve for their injustices, neglect, and self-absorption? Our role is not to play God, but to serve God. Playing God provides never-ending disappointment. We were not made for that role. Only the Almighty can fill those shoes. And He does have it under control. There is no indiscretion or blatant injustice that is off His radar screen. He picks up on every “little” sin. 

"Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'" (Romans 12:19)

So, rest in the assurance of knowing God will pay back in His good timing and His good way. Give this person or issue over to God. Do not bear the responsibility of executing payback time. Your role is to forgive and let go. God’s role is to establish a payment plan of justice and judgment. Yes, your parents may have blown it through their own selfish tirades. Their immature choices may have built up over time and led to divorce. Because of their indiscretions and unwise decisions, you grew up in a less than favorable home environment. 
  
But look at their faces. The hurt and the consequences are etched in their countenances. The results of their wrongs have caught up with them. They need your grace and forgiveness. Be a good son or daughter, so you may facilitate healing for your parents’ soul. Sin has its own harvest of heartache, not to mention breaking the heart of their heavenly Father. Trust God with your parents. Let Him worry about what they deserve. 
  
You can bring reconciliation to a fractured family relationship by forgiving. Once you have forgiven, trust God to administer whatever punishment He sees fitting. He may see a broken and contrite heart in your offender that leads to their salvation and freedom in Christ. Your forgiveness and unconditional love may be the very thing God uses to illustrate what they can experience up close and personal. Forgive and give. Forgive them of their hurt, insensitivity, and selfishness; then give them over to God. Trust Him with His repayment plan. He owns the payback process. His vengeance may be swift, it may be delayed, or it may be dissolved. Regardless, you do the right thing, and trust God to do the same. Vengeance is His, not ours. Payback time is up to God. We have enough in our own lives to consider. Pray for yourself and others to avoid falling into the hands of the living God, for it is a dreadful thing. 

Whom do you need to forgive instead of obsessing over your hurt and your need to get back at them? 

Wisdom Hunters


November 18, 2016
HARVEST OF UNHOLINESS







Revelation 14:19
"So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God." 







The promise of eternal judgment and hell is not fun to talk about, but is a somber reality relayed by our Savior Jesus. He is our Savior because He saves us from our sins and from eternal damnation in hell. Hell brings separation—Jesus brings reconciliation. Hell brings torment—Jesus brings peace. Hell brings darkness—Jesus brings light. Hell hurts—Heaven heals.

Our same loving Lord who promises heaven, also promises hell. Indeed, heaven is sweeter, because of the sour taste eternal separation from God leaves on the lips of our soul. We begin our experience of hell on earth when we choose our own way, in contrast to Christ’s way. Separation from God on earth is a precursor to separation from the Almighty in eternity. It is a fearful place of loneliness that lacks love and security. An angel from heaven will swing his sickle of judgment on earth, harvesting unholy grapes (evildoers) destined for God’s winepress of wrath.

"But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!" (Luke 12:5)

It is the fear of the Lord that brings focus to His holiness and our unholy condition outside of Christ. You may experience the wrath of men because you choose to fear God. But, better to be known as a God-fearing man or woman than to experience the wrath of God. The power of man looks powerless in the presence of the One who has the power to cast the unsaved into hell. Sinners in the hands of a holy God desperately need His grace.

So, you and I are blessed to have the opportunity to appropriate belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of the living God. He not only saves us from hell, but He saves us from our sins, and from ourselves. By His sacrificial love, He replaces eternity in an unrighteous hell with a righteous heaven. Yes, you can repent on your deathbed, but why not start heaven’s journey now? Hell’s fury is for the faithless, but when you walk by faith you have only the Lord to fear.

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2)

What unholy attitude is your heavenly Father asking you to change by His grace?

Wisdom Hunters


November 17, 2016
STAY AWAKE





Matthew 24:42
"Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming."





Have you ever noticed how easy it is to drift unintentionally through life? Workdays, school events, social commitments, and recreational pursuits begin to blur together, with days turning to weeks, weeks to months, and months to years. When we finally stop to catch our breath, we look back and ask ourselves, “How did I get here?” and even more importantly, “Is this where I want to be?”

Christ-like living is something you and I have to intentionally, actively, and alertly pursue with every fiber of our being. No one ever stumbles upon Christian maturity and Christ-like character by accident, nor does it happen overnight.

"And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’" (Matthew 20:6)

I believe we can all think of people whom we know personally or respect from a distance that choose to live intentionally meaningful and devout lives, people who bear the fruit of a life spent focused upon Christ and His Kingdom. They are the beautiful souls who view Christ’s likeness as the ultimate goal and aim of their life and are willing to reframe every other desire in light of that pursuit. We are deeply motivated by the humble, simple faith of ordinary men and women who choose to live each day as though it could be their last, eagerly anticipating and hoping for the day in which the Lord returns in glory to rule and reign.

If you’ve ever tried to stay awake all night, you know that the easiest way to stay awake is to remain active and engaged in work that engages your entire person: mind, body, and soul. If you crawl into bed, turn out the lights, and then resolve to stay awake, you’re setting yourself up for almost certain disappointment! The same is true of our life with Christ.

The best way to “stay awake” in your faith is to stop passively drifting through life and choose instead to passionately pursue Christ with every fiber of your being. Look to the example of others who have stayed awake in their faith and learn from them. If you’re able, seek them out and ask for their wisdom and advice on how to live an intentional Christian life.

Life is too short to let it pass you by. As William Wilberforce famously said, “There is no room to be idle. There is so much misery to alleviate.” May we remember these words when we are tempted to idly drift through life and choose instead to fill our lives with love of God and love of neighbor!

Can you identify ways you have fallen asleep in your life with Christ?

Tripp Prince


November 16, 2016
BOMBS AND BLESSINGS






Romans 8:28
"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.

David Jeremiah
Submitted by Peggy Lasher


November 15, 2016
HEART PRINTS





Ecclesiastes 9:10
"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going."




Whatever our hands touch...
We leave fingerprints!
On walls, on furniture
On doorknobs, dishes, books.
There's no escape.
As we touch we leave our identity.

Oh God, wherever I go today
Help me leave heartprints!

Heartprints of compassion
Of understanding and love.
Heartprints of kindness
And genuine concern.

May my heart touch a lonely neighbor
Or a runaway daughter
Or an anxious mother
Or a frustrated co-worker
Or a hurting friend
Or perhaps an aged grandfather.

Lord, send me out today
To leave heartprints.
And if someone should say,
"I felt your touch,"
May that one sense YOUR LOVE
Touching through ME.

-
- Author Unknown

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher


November 14, 2016
TRUST






Proverbs 3:5-6
"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." 





A new school Principal was checking over his school on the first day. Passing the stockroom, he was startled to see the door wide open and teachers bustling in and out, carrying off books and supplies in preparation for the arrival of students the next day. The school where he had been a principal the previous year had used a check-out system only slightly less elaborate than that at Fort Knox.

Cautiously, he asked the school's long time custodian, "Do you think it's wise to keep the stockroom unlocked and to let the teachers take things without requisitions?"

The custodian looked at him gravely and said, "We trust them with the children, don't we?"

Trust. A simple and short word, but one that implies so much. If I trust someone in one area, but not in another, have I really trusted them?  Can trust be area specific?  I know confidence can be, but trust implies the whole package.

How do you trust God? Do you, as many people do, trust Him for your salvation, but you don't trust Him to take care of your daily needs? Do you trust Him to forgive you of your sins, but not to help you in personal areas that you lift to Him in prayer? In other words, do you trust the Lord for the big things, but doubt Him (distrust Him) for the relatively little things?

We need to make a decision right now! Do you trust God for EVERYTHING or do you pick and choose where you trust Him? How does God want you to trust Him? I'm so glad that God forgave me of ALL my sins, not just the ones He thought about, rationalized, and made a decision based on my life experience or my worthiness.

God can be trusted in ALL things; we need to show Him that we trust Him in ALL areas by giving Him our WHOLE life, not just certain areas.

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher


November 13, 2016
COMPOUNDING 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."  





Comfort is not a one-time act, it is recurring and compounding. It is a gift that keeps on giving, as it can cut through any calamity and bring healing and peace. It can transcend circumstances because it is the very nature of God. He is the God of all comfort, and no one is immune from His comfort. There is no trouble looming that can outpace God’s comfort. If you slow down and listen, His comfort will catch up and cover you. He is relentless in His comforting pursuit. He comforts the comfortless. Life may currently have you in a very uncomfortable place. You are a little embarrassed and a lot unsure of yourself, but one thing you can be sure of is the comfort of God.
 
Your situation is not unique, for He has been there before with His battalion of comfort comrades. Let Him in, and do not continue to wrestle alone in your discomfort. You were made to be comforted. It is not a sign of weakness to be comforted by God. On the contrary, it is strength and wisdom. He is your celestial comforter. His blanket of comfort is always available to bring rest and deep sleep. Do not toss and turn in your troubles.
 
No matter how terrible your circumstances, His comfort has you covered. His comforter of compassion and love compensates for adversity. It is a warm, soft, and soothing comforter that is tailor-made for your bed of life. Do not toss off its warm embrace; it is for your benefit, not your harm. Yes, it probably means slowing down so you can receive his calming comfort; so trust Him. Rest and relax in the arms of your heavenly Father.
 
Lastly, He comforts you so you in turn can comfort others. You can express your comfort without even saying you have been there. Handling yourself with grace and concern speaks to the comfortless friend to whom you are extending a helpful hand. The small things inject comfort. Take care of a stressed-out mom’s child so she can relish a much-needed break. Pay someone more than they deserve so they can feel some financial comfort. Leave a pertinent prayer on a friend’s voicemail so they can hear your comforting intercession on their behalf. Write an encouraging note of concern and love to bolster a comfortless heart. God created your comfort for you to pass on to someone else. Comfort compounds because this is the purpose of its creation.
 
You are a facilitator of God’s comfort. You are not responsible for the recipient’s response. Their anger may blunt their gratitude. Their hurt may hinder their faith. But keep in mind that your motive for extending comfort is your own gratitude to God for His comfort in your life. Give comfort, not to receive from the comfortless, but because God has comforted you. His comforter covers all of life’s bed of troubles.

The Bible says,

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4)

What pain do you need to bring to the Lord, so you can help someone else who experiences a similar hurt?

Wisdom Hunters


November 12, 2016
BE HONEST!





Proverbs 19:1
"Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool." 







Dishonesty, even in the smallest matter may severely damage a believer's credibility. You never know how closely you are being watched.

A businessman was invited to speak to a men's church group. His topic was honesty in the workplace and he spoke very strongly and unwaveringly on the topic. The next morning, he boarded a city bus for the ride to work. He handed a dollar bill to the driver and received some change, which he counted as he proceeded down the aisle. Before he reached his seat, he realized he had been given a dime too much. His first thought was that the transit company would never miss it. However, deep inside he knew he should return the money. So he went back to the driver, "You gave me too much change, sir." 

To his amazement, the driver replied, "I know, a dime too much. I gave it to you on purpose. Then I watched you in my mirror as you counted your change. You see, I heard you speak yesterday, and if you had kept the dime, I would have written you off and everything that you said."

We may be the only Bible some people ever read!
 
The Daily Encourager 
Submitted by Peggy Lasher


November 11, 2016
VETERANS' DAY





"Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you, Jesus Christ and the American GI.  One died for your soul, the other for your freedom."





In the early morning hours of November 11, 1918, representatives of France, Britain, and Germany met in a railroad car near Compiègne, France, to sign an armistice ending World War I, or the Great War, as it was known at that time. The cease-fire took effect at 11:00 a.m. that day—the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Up and down the trenches, after four long years of the most horrific fighting the world had yet known, the guns fell silent. “The roar stopped like a motor car hitting a wall,” one U.S. soldier wrote to his family. Soldiers on both sides slowly climbed out of the earthworks. Some danced; some cheered; some cried for joy; some stood numbed. The Great War had left some 9 million soldiers dead and another 21 million wounded. No one knows how many millions of civilians died. Much of Europe lay in ruins. But finally, with the armistice, it was “all quiet on the Western Front.”
 
For many years November 11 was known as Armistice Day to honor those who fought in World War I. In 1954 Congress changed the name to Veterans Day to recognize all American veterans.
 
Every November 11 at 11:00 a.m., the nation pays tribute to its war dead with the laying of a presidential wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C.
 
But Veterans Day honors more than the dead. Memorial Day, observed in May, is for remembering soldiers who lost their lives in the service of their country. Veterans Day is set aside to honor and thank all who have served in the U.S. armed forces—particularly our 23 million living veterans.

Some other thoughts:

"A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to and including my life." (Unknown)

“No arsenal, no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.” (Ronald Reagan)

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling, which thinks that nothing is worth war, is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." (John Stuart Mill)


November 10, 2016
IN GOD WE TRUST



Psalm 56:4
"In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 33:16-17
"The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue."



We are tempted to put our hope and trust in countless things: military might, economic strength, education and beauty, to name but a few. Each of these offers a promise of significance, success, and safety. Yet if we have learned anything from history, we know that armies are defeated, economies can crumble, and beauty is fleeting:

"Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." (Proverbs 31:30)

When we live surrounded by prosperity and success, it is easy to think that these promises are true. As a result, though we may not say it, we live in ways that show how we’ve placed our hope and trust in these earthly powers. We misplace our hope when we allow anxiety and fear to arise within us when one of these powers begins to fail. In times of political strife and turmoil, for example, are we as Christians able to remain hopeful in the steadfast love and unshakable power of the Lord? This is the way of life that the Psalmist invites us into.

"Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you." (Psalm 33:20-22)

In each and every generation, God’s people must learn and live out this profound truth. The Lord alone is our source of help and protection. Our joy and happiness is not linked to our personal success or national strength but is found only in the love of God that he freely lavishes upon us. And when we encounter times of great trial, conflict, or pain, we are never to despair for we know that the Lord is with us. As we are reminded in the book of Isaiah:

"'For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you." (Isaiah 54:10)

If you are tempted today to put your trust in the empty promises of this world, turn again to the Lord and trust in him. If the storms that swirl about you cause fear and turmoil within, hear afresh the words of the Lord Jesus,

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." (John 14:27)

Trust in the Lord, for he alone is our strength and our salvation! Are there areas of your life where you have placed your hope and trust in things other than the unfailing love of God?

Tripp Prince


November 9, 2016
WAIT ON THE LORD




Isaiah 40:31
"but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."



November 8, 2016
HE WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU 
 




Psalm 139:3 
"You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways." 





Last summer, my sweet husband rented a condo for me a couple of hours from home in Galena, Illinois so I could spend some undistracted time with the Lord. I needed refreshment for my tired soul. As I drove to my destination, the Holy Spirit immediately began to minister to me and He continued to fill me with His peace while I was away. He ministered to me while I sat on the porch, took walks, and scribbled notes in my journal while I read my Bible. A still calm was my companion as I drove back home. I was filled with joy.  

Last week as I settled into my favorite arm chair in the morning, I spoke with the Lord. “I want to always experience your peace and presence like I did when I was in Galena.” In that quiet moment, I sensed the Lord reminding me that I did not leave Him there in that condo when I packed up and locked the door. There was nothing magical about that place that caused me to experience Him more intimately. 

It’s as if He was saying, “You didn’t leave me there, Shana. I am always with you. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you” 

"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)

That simple, yet profound truth penetrated my heart. “You will never leave me. You will never leave me.” 

Tears of gratitude flowed. My thoughts turned to those who have left me because I failed them, because they wrestled with some inner shame that caused them to run, because God took them home to heaven before I was done loving them, or just because the Lord took us on different life paths. “But you, O Lord. You will never leave me. Ever.” 

And He will never leave you. Praise God! Those who are in Christ Jesus are literally never alone. He is always right by your side, every moment of every day. He is the third person in your marriage and friendships. He is with you as you drive your car, make dinner, walk the dog, and do your work. He provides hope, help, comfort, and truth. He corrects you when you need it. He lifts you when you are down. He is there to guide you and teach you. He loves you, not because of who you are, but because of who He is. His faithfulness flows out of His unchanging character. 

He never ever leaves. Stop. Read it again. . . slowly. Let that simple, yet profound truth sink in. He. Will. Never. Leave. You. For this reason, you can be content with what you have:

"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)

You are filled with joy in His presence:

"You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence." (Acts 2:28)

You don’t need to fear the words or actions of others:

"The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" (Psalm 118:6)

You can sleep in peace:

"In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." (Psalm 4:8)

You can laugh at the days to come:

"Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come." (Proverbs 31:25 )

He is always, always there. Thank you, Jesus. 

"It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." (Deuteronomy 31:8)

As you go about your day, thank your loving Lord that He is right by your side in everything you do and everywhere you go. Amen.  

Shana Schutte


November 7, 2016
DONALD OR HILLARY?





John 9:2
"And his disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, ....?'" 






Who is the worst sinner, Donald or Hillary?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer may have said it best in The Cost Of Discipleship: "By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are." In the question of who's the worst sinner, between Donald and Hillary, the answer is simple and straightforward. It's you and me . . . or whoever judges Donald and Hillary.

Jesus said it even better than Dietrich: 

"Judge not, that you be not judged."  (Matthew 7:1)

The invitation from the Son of God was for us to focus on our issues, however big or small they are, as opposed to glorifying someone else's, as big or small as their sins may be. It's the "plank in our eye".? . .

"For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:2-3)

Christ came to save us from our sin, but also to save us from the idea that we could be saviors (or judges) of ourselves, or anyone else. He made it clear to the religious leaders of His time (who loved to compare levels of sin) that lust was just as bad as adultery, and hatred was just as bad as murder.

So yeah, we are all as bad as Donald/Hillary. And we need Jesus just as much as they do. There are legitimate things that need to be discussed about their behavior, their platform and their character. I know, that you know, that both Donald and Hillary have clear and distinctive things that they need to repent for. But so do you. And most especially so do I.

God doesn't share our rating system. To Him, all sin is equally evil, and all sinners are equally lovable.

You see, our hearts are addicted to comparison. We balance our achievements and failures with those of others in order to feel better about ourselves. We think things like, "I struggle with sin . . . but not THAT sin!"

We also categorise the sins we are "ok" with (divorce, stretching the truth, forgetting the poor, etc.) and only make a big deal about the sins we are uncomfortable with (abortion, homosexuality, addictions, etc.)

But we all need salvation. Everyday...All the time...From our past, our present and our future.

"You were saved when you believed in Jesus. You got transformed when you realized He believed in you." - Kris Vallaton

Now don't fall into the trap of minimising sin in order to misuse grace. Your iniquity is a big issue. We all miss the mark. Repentance is beautiful and necessary. But the ultimate truth is that you are one with Christ. United forever with Him. And holy in the Father's sight. Yes, the fact is that you are as sinful as any other sinner. But the truth is that you are as holy (and loved, and accepted, and anointed) as Christ Jesus Himself.

So the next time you see Hillary or Donald on TV, and want to judge them for how horrible they are, remember that Jesus died for them, with the same conviction He died for you.

Pray for them...Believe what God believes about them. And take the opportunity to review your own heart, so you can surrender once again to the love of Christ.

Carlos Rodriguez


November 6, 2016
PARANOIA IN REVERSE





1 John 4:18
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." 





I remember watching television news reports in 1991 as the nonviolent revolution took place in the streets of Moscow. Russians who had grown up in totalitarianism suddenly declared, "We will act as if we are free," taking to the streets and staring down tanks.

The contrast between the faces of the leaders inside and the masses outside showed who was really afraid, and who was really free. Watching the newsreels from Red Square on television, I came up with a new definition of faith: paranoia in reverse.

A paranoid person organizes his or her life around a common perspective of fear. Anything that happens feeds that fear. Faith works in reverse. A faithful person organizes his or her life around a common perspective of trust, not fear. Despite the apparent chaos of the present moment, God is still on His throne and He reigns.

Regardless of how I may feel, I truly matter to a God of love. What could happen if we in God's kingdom truly acted as if the words of the apostle John were literally true: 

"Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."  (1 John 4:4)

What if we really started living as if the most-repeated prayer in Christendom has actually been answered-that God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven?

"Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'" (Matthew 6:9-13)

Feeding your faith helps starve your fears.

Philip Yancey


November 5, 2016
HONOR GOD


John 7:18
"The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood."



God is easy to honor because He is the most honorable. We honor and esteem God because he is God. His position is without comparison. His role of King of Kings and Lord of Lords is matchless. Nothing can compare with the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is high and lifted up, never to sin and always to forgive. He is not always understood, but He can be trusted exclusively. Honor and glory goes to the One who can be thoroughly trusted. His word is His bond; it is never to be broken. This is trust at the highest level.

Therefore, He solicits honor by His very nature. He is the most deserving of honor. His character calls for it and His holiness demands it. Foolish and unwise are we when we honor ourselves. Self-honoring is as awkward as the physical act of patting yourself on the back. It looks strange for one thing and secondly, it draws attention to the wrong person. Honor is to be given, not taken. It is to be bestowed, not withheld. The act of honoring God facilitates authenticity. Honor means you are about truth and you flee from what is false. There is a divine dignity in your behavior and speech. It is easy to honor God because he is honorable. It is a privilege to honor God because He has honored us with His presence. Do not substitute God’s place of honor with anyone or anything, especially yourself.

Honoring God starts with attitude. Honor by definition means you revere, respect, and fear God. You hallow His name and speak it with humility. There is God and there is none other besides Him. Your words are a reflection of your attitude; therefore, they are honorable, and you esteem Him by the way you live. You do certain things—like honor others—because you honor God. You do not do certain things—like abuse your body—because you honor God. You recognize your body as the temple of His Spirit; therefore, you honor Him with clean living.

Your speech is free of obscenities because you honor God. You love your wife because you honor God. You respect your husband because you honor God. You honor your parents because you honor God. The bottom line is you honor what God honors, and you dishonor what He dishonors. This is why you embrace righteousness and abhor sin. Honor is what God desires and what He deserves. Honor Him first, and it becomes natural to honor others. If you reverse the order, it is impossible to honor Him with a whole heart. Your true life in Christ flows out of honor for God.

A life of honoring God and others means you graduate to heaven with honors. Honor Him with your time, treasures, and talents.

"... but now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor..." (1 Samuel 2:30)

What does it look like for you to honor the Lord in all you say and do?

Wisdom Hunters


November 4, 2016 
LOVE LOVES THE TRUTH 





Revelation 14:5
"and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless."  
  




Truth reveals hidden realities. Hence, the lover of truth daily discovers new opportunities to walk wisely in the ways of Christ. Because He is the Truth, a love relationship with Jesus illuminates truth by His Spirit and illustrates truth by His life. The fruit of truth grows in a life of educated faith. Those who romance truth in God’s Word grow to know Him in deeper intimacy. Just as a loving husband pursues his wife, so loving followers of Jesus seek out His truth and His life. 
  
Is the foundation of your relationships based on honest truth or dishonest deception? If you commit to open agendas, pure motives and transparent communication, you value truth. Honesty is a tool for loving correction, not a club for angry retaliation. You speak the truth in love to one another and so bear one another’s burdens. You rejoice, as you truly do life together. Truth talking facilitates freedom to trust, as fear of a secret life fades away and is forgotten. 
  

"...[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth."  (1 Corinthians 13:6)  

Love loves truth because it knows truth sharing is caring. When we love someone enough to not leave them in their ignorance we show we care. Love takes the time to explain and instruct, not complain and erupt. Yes, you patiently instruct your child in the teachings of Christ, so they will come to know Him and grow in His grace. Under pressure it is hard not to take the easy route of resisting full disclosure, fear can cause facts to be withheld. Help your child not hide the truth. 
  
Season your passion of truth with the spices of humility and grace. Truth is volatile in the hands of pride, but embedded in a heart of humble grace it experiences transforming results. 

"But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God." (2 Corinthians 4:2)

Also, use humor to illustrate hard facts that seem harsh when spoken directly—levity can lighten the mood when the seriousness of a situation begins to become real. Above all, love Jesus, Truth personified. His Spirit will direct you in all truth, so you can live truth in a spirit of love. 
  

"Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." (1 John 3:18)  

With whom do you need to clarify the truth, so there are no misunderstandings? 

Wisdom Hunters


Novemeber 3, 2016
THE BASKET




Hebrews 4:12-13
"For 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. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account." 




The story is told of an old man who lived on a farm in the mountains of eastern Kentucky with his young grandson.  Each morning, Grandpa was up early sitting at the kitchen table reading from his old worn-out Bible.  His grandson who wanted to be just like him tried to  imitate him in any way he could.

One day the grandson asked, "Papa, I try to read the Bible just  like you but I don't understand it, and what I do  understand I forget as soon as I close the book. What good does reading the Bible do?"

The Grandfather quietly turned from putting coal in the stove and said, "Take this coal basket down to the river and bring back a basket of water."

The boy did as he was told, even though all the water leaked out before he could get back to the house. The grandfather laughed and said, "You will have to move a little faster next time," and sent him back to the river with the basket to try again.

This time the boy ran faster, but again the basket was empty before he returned home. Out of breath, he told his grandfather that it was "impossible to carry water in a basket," and he went to get a bucket instead. The old man said, "I don't want a bucket of water; I want a basket of water. You can do this. You're just not trying hard enough," and he went out the door to watch the boy try again.

At this point, the boy knew it was impossible, but he wanted to show his grandfather that even if he ran as fast as he could, the water would leak out before he got far at all. The boy scooped the water and ran hard, but when he reached his grandfather the basket  was again empty.

Out of breath, he said, "See Papa, it's useless!"

"So you think it is useless?"  The old man said, "Look at the  basket."  The boy looked at the basket and for the first time he realized that the basket looked different. Instead of a dirty old coal basket, it was clean!  "Son, that's what happens when you read the Bible. You might not understand or remember everything, but when you read it, it will change you from the inside out."

That is the work of God in our lives...  To change us from the inside out and to slowly transform us into the image of His son.  Take time to read a portion of God's word each day.

"Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days." (Job 12:12)

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher


November 1-2, 2016
PREDICTION 





Psalm 31:15
"My times are in Your hand;..."





November 8 is election day. By the end of that day, we will know a lot about the future of the United States. You might be surprised to learn that I am about to predict the outcome. I am about to predict what will happen after the election. Before all the votes are counted, even before the voting booths close, I can predict with 100% accuracy that the following will happen...

 1. The Bible will still have all the answers.
 2. Prayer will still work.
 3. The Holy Spirit will still move.
 4. God will still inhabit the praise of His people.
 5. God will still comfort His people.
 6. God's grace will still abound.  
 7. There will still be God-anointed teaching and preaching.
 8. There will still be singing of praises to God.
 9. There will still be room at the Cross.
10. Jesus will still save the lost.

Whatever the outcome of this election, remember, God is still in control.

"The Lord of hosts has sworn: 'As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand,'" (Isaiah 14:24)

Today, tomorrow, forever... God is still in control. 

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord." (Isaiah 55:8)

The Daily Encourager



May 31, 2016
WHEN CONFIDENCE IS TOPPLED BY CONDEMNATION




Ephesians 1:5
"he [God] predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,"




I bet there are days when you are standing. You are standing in the confidence of God’s love for you. You are standing on the truth that you have been adopted by God that you are His child, and that nothing can separate you from His love

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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." (Romans 8:28-29)

You are standing in the confidence of your redemption, salvation and unchanging favor with the Almighty because you belong to Him.

"because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)

Then something happens and your confidence gets toppled by condemnation. Toppled when you remember the horrible things you did in the past. Toppled when you think about some unholy attitude in the present. Toppled when you wonder if God will accept you in the future.

During these times when confidence is toppled by condemnation, it’s important to remember one thing: It’s not about what you have done—and what you do—for God. It’s about what He has done for you. Because of His sacrifice on the cross and the unbreakable covenant He made, if He is your Lord and Savior, you can always stand on the truth that His love and favor for you are unchanging. His covenant guarantees it. It cannot be altered. You are His daughter. You are His son. And for Christ’s children, the news is overwhelmingly good.

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1)

There is no condemnation about your past. There is no condemnation in your present. There is no condemnation in your future.

You are God’s and because you are His, He may convict you; He may discipline you; He may rebuke you, but He will never condemn you, no matter what you have done, what you do, or what you will do. What liberating news! When your inner voice tells you that you are blowing it and that you deserve to be condemned, stand on Christ’s covenant. When your Adversary accuses you and tells you that you deserve everything you get, stand on Christ’s covenant. When others accuse you and tell you God will not forgive you, stand on Christ’s covenant. You are His daughter. You are His son. “...there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...”

What marvelous news that His favor cannot be changed. His sacrifice on the cross guarantees it for His children.

Have you confessed your sins to the Lord? Have you then thanked Him that they are covered by His unchanging covenant of forgiveness and grace guaranteed by the cross?

Shana Schutte


May 30, 2016
MEMORIAL DAY








John 15:13
"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." 







Memorial Day is a day set aside to honor the military personnel who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country. 

The day is sometimes confused with Veterans Day, though the two events have distinctly different purposes. Memorial Day is for remembering those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle, according to the Veterans Administration. Veterans Day, held in November, is set aside to thank and honor all those who served in the military – in wartime and peace. The day does honor veterans who have died but is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service. This underscores the "fact that all of those who served- not only those who died – have sacrificed and done their duty," the VA said.

Now observed on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day and dates back to the years following the Civil War. At the time, groups would decorate the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers, a practice still acknowledged with people often visiting cemeteries to decorate veteran graves. 

While the tradition existed throughout the U.S., in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York – which had commemorated the day since May 5, 1866 - the official birthplace of Memorial Day. In 1868, May 30 was set aside as a nationwide Decoration Day, with the date selected because it didn't correspond to the anniversary of any particular battle. 

After World War I, the day became known to honor veterans of both the Civil War and the more recent conflict. It remained on May 30 until 1968, when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May to create a three-day holiday for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971, the same day Memorial Day was designated a federal holiday.

Click here for Memorial Day Tribute by President Ronald Reagan



Previous thoughts

May 29, 2016
I AM SORRY





2 Corinthians 7:10
"For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."




“I am sorry” are three freeing words. “I was wrong;” “You were right;” “I apologize;” “Please forgive me.” All of these phrases communicate culpability. Sincere sorrow means taking responsibility. You initiate peace because you desire to repair the relationship. Disharmony and disconnection are not acceptable options. Yes, someone may take advantage of your goodwill, but that’s in God’s hands. Have faith that God expects behavior that brings reconciliation. You put the relationship at risk if you resist humbling yourself and apologizing. Someone has to start by saying, “I am sorry.” It is smart to extend your apology as soon as possible. A more powerful apology occurs when you admit your error, transgression, or sin before you are found out. You take the first step by asking forgiveness because you know it is the right thing to do.

Godly sorrow sends a message of change, for you want to change for Christ’s sake. You have sinned against your Savior and those you love. The pain inflicted is not worth continuing on with the same bad habits. No one ever regretted repenting of sin. Godly sorrow leads to repentance, which results in transformation. Change occurs around a humble and honest heart. So, where do you start? Family is a logical place to extend your apologies. You hurt your parents by breaking off communication and care. You have intentionally gone out of your way to not go there. There is a widening rift in the relationship. Now is the time to reach out and recover your relationship with your mom and dad. Take the time during the holiday season to pay a surprise visit or place a long overdue phone call. Start the conversation by saying, “I am sorry.”

Sincere sorrow is a relational magnet, and trust reoccurs around repentance. When others sense you have really changed, they extend trust. However, they may withhold that trust until you prove yourself worthy of it. People who have been burned in the past by shallow and insincere sorrow will not automatically engage. They need time to see that your apology is authentic. Sorrow that does not lead to change results in relational death. Sincere sorrow hurts your heart, for you weep visible or invisible tears of remorse. It makes you sick to think you let down the One who loves you the most.

On the flip side, be patient with those who ask your forgiveness. Forgive and give them a chance to change, while releasing your anger and their broken promises to Jesus. Give them over to the Lord and pray for their repentance. God can do more with a person’s heart in a minute than a lifetime of your nagging could ever accomplish. Do not hold them in contempt. Rather, entrust them to Christ. Give time for repentance to root out bad habits and destructive behaviors. Lies can be extracted by the everlasting love of God and replaced with His transforming truth.

Accept apologies at face value and hope for the best. Pray for the work of the Holy Spirit to have His way in a humble heart. Be quick to forgive and just as quick to ask forgiveness. Replace fear with faith. Your sorrowful confession connects with Christ and with others. Therefore, take the first step and apologize. Ask for forgiveness and surrender to your Savior. Become broken, for brokenness leads to freedom. Say, “I am sorry,” and see how your Savior blesses your apology.

Do you have the humility to say "I’m sorry" and the grace to forgive.

Wisdom Hunters


Previous thoughts

May 28, 2016
REMAIN TRUE





Acts 11:23
"When he [Barnabas] came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,"





Remain true to the Lord, for He has remained true to you. Remain true because the grace of God compels you to. Remain true, for He knows what is best for you; Remain true because you know it is the right thing to do; Remain true while others encourage you; Remain true because your obedience encourages others; Remain true with all your heart so that the Kingdom of God advances aggressively for His glory. 

It is easy to sign up as a Jesus follower, but follow through requires faithfulness, so remain true to your commitment to Christ. It does matter that you follow through for Him. It matters to Him, to you, to your family, and to your credibility. It matters to those you have encouraged, those you are encouraging, and those you will encourage. It matters that you remain true. 

Satan will try to suppress your commitment by his limited power of disease, discouragement, and discontentment. He wants you to forget God’s faithfulness and fall into his trap of temptation. He wants you to walk away from your family and follow your own selfish desires. He wants you to think you are an exception to the rule of law and accountability. He will feed your pride until you starve humility into non-existence. 

Jesus said,

"I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith..." (Revelation 2:13)

The hand of the Lord is on those who remain true with all their hearts. However, He moves on from those who drift into hypocritical behaviors of pretending one thing and doing another. Begin by exposing any unauthentic living, and seek to reconnect with Christ and others.

The grace of God creates an environment of encouragement. You can encourage others to remain true because God’s grace has been extended to you. Grace encourages faithfulness. Grace realizes there is room for mistakes but still offers opportunities to remain true. Failure and faith can coexist. Encouragers engage others on a heartfelt level. You have the opportunity to come alongside husbands and wives, friends and relatives, new and mature Christians. You can encourage them to remain true to the Lord and to each other. 

Encouragement extends hope rooted in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Your eternally based encouragement is not sentimental or shallow. It is a heavenly hope evidenced by answered prayer. You encourage others exponentially when you petition Christ on their behalf.

Cry out to your heavenly Father and ask that He keep your teenagers true to Him. Pray for your friend’s body to be healed by the hand of God; Pray for married couples to learn how to love and respect each other under the influence of the Holy Spirit; Pray for your Pastor to remain true to his calling and to the One who extended his call; 

Pray for opportunities to pray with those you are encouraging. Prayer is without exhaustion in its encouragement. Above all else, receive encouragement from the Lord and others to remain true. Then simultaneously and spontaneously extend encouragement to others to remain true with all their hearts. Remain true because there is no limit to what the Lord can do. Giving up is not for you.

Wisdom Hunters

 

May 27, 2016
ANONYMOUS ACHIEVEMENTS







Matthew 6:1
"Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven."






Millions of Jesus followers practice their righteousness behind the scenes in the shadows of success. No one near to admire their good work, no one to esteem them—only the wonderful satisfaction of knowing their Savior is pleased with their service. Similar to plant life that dies for lack of sun light, so pride shrivels when out of the lime light of success. Anonymous achievements deny ego and gain access to heaven’s rewards unrecognized by man, but recognized by God.

Jesus describes an insecure Christian whose need for approval and admiration from people drives them to do acts of kindness for self fulfillment. To be seen as spiritual on the outside was more important than being spiritual on the inside—religious hypocrisy seems more unsettling, because there is a direct violation of an agreed upon ethical code. Refreshingly, a remedy for pretentious behavior is faithful service, expecting nothing in return. Regret for not receiving our heavenly Father’s reward and missing His words of “well done” motivate our anonymous achievements.

"For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's." (Romans 14:7-8)

Be encouraged if your acts of service are not seen by the masses, as your Master Jesus is a keen observer of your investment in the “little things”. Little things are big things from God’s vantage point. Your constant care of a special needs person is very special to your Savior—it’s a big deal for you to love unselfishly. Sitting day after day by the sick bed of a loved one is huge in heaven. Walking with a neighbor who needs a hopeful word, taking a friend to lunch expecting nothing in return and attending church not to be seen, but to see God—are all sound heavenly investments.

Maybe you skip a meal twice a week and use the extra time to feed your soul with scripture memory, listening to prayer or enjoying a good book. Achievements that matter the most come to those who make the most of their free time—not wasted on the world—but invested in the next world. No worries over who gets credit—sends credits ahead to heaven. Spiritual anonymity is your opportunity for intimacy with the Almighty. 

"Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind," (Colossians 2:18)

Who needs your anonymous gift or act of kindness?

Wisdom Hunters


MAY 25, 2016
MEMORIAL DAY






John 15:13
"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." 







Memorial Day Weekend is fast approaching and with it the usual consumer chaos that surrounds the holiday more than its true meaning; to honor those who have died in our nation’s wars.

Last Memorial Day, I was inside the grocery store here in sunny Southern California. I stood in an aisle watching the mayhem all around me. Shoppers were over-running the place as they threw cases of beer, steaks and bags of chips into their carts. As I looked on, I saw an older gentleman standing next to me. He was a tall figure who wore a WWII Veteran ball cap. He seemed to notice my 7th Cavalry ball cap as well.

“They just don’t get it.” I said to him.

“They never will.” The WWII vet said to me. We talked for a while as we looked on at the madness around us. He told me he had been a B-17 pilot and had flown missions over Nazi Germany. I told him about my service with the 7th Cavalry in the Gulf War.

Even though he was at least 40 years older than me, I had more in common with him at that moment than I would have had with any of the maniacal shoppers racing through the aisles. Today, I was back in the same grocery store. When I was checking out, the cashier told me excitedly that she had Memorial Day off and couldn’t wait to party. Yeah…party…

What did Jesus say on the cross? 

"Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'" (Luke 23:34)

The attitude of the people in the store last year, the callous and quite clueless attitude of the young girl checking me out today is symptomatic of how the whole nation now looks upon Memorial Day in 2016. With the majority of Americans never having served in the military in peacetime or war, we now have a whole nation oblivious about the true meaning of the holiday.

It is not now, nor has it ever been just a day for barbecues, boating, beer drinking and softball games.

It seems that veterans are the only ones who understand and treasure the true meaning of Memorial Day. Many vets have not only seen the horrors of war, but have lost friends in war. To a vet, Memorial Day can never just be a day at the beach with hot dogs and Frisbees. The number of Americans killed in action in US wars since and including the American Revolution equals 664,000 combat deaths and including non-combat deaths, 1.3 million, plus 1.5 million US service personnel wounded in battle.

Even vets from other countries seem to understand more about Memorial Day than our own citizens. Twenty-five years ago, I was riding in a taxi at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany. The driver, a German, had a red poppy attached to the steering wheel. When I enquired why he was displaying the poppy on an American holiday, he remarked, “We are all Kamaraden. We are all comrades.”

He went on to tell me that he had served in U Boats in WWII. Considering that three fourths of the U Boat crews went to their deaths, he was not only a respectful man, but a lucky one as well. Yep, even the guys trying to blow our heads off 70 years back, have more reverence for the holiday than many Americans.

“We are all comrades.”

We are indeed.

The true sadness of Memorial Day is remembering the hundreds of thousands of young men and women who died in the prime of their lives. They never had the chance to stand in the booze aisle and decide whether to buy a case of Budweiser or Corona. They never had a chance to return home and have a cheeseburger. They never had a chance to fulfill their individual dreams. They never had another chance to “party”.

It seems hard or nearly impossible for the narcissistic, shallow, callous, America of 2016 to contemplate supreme sacrifice and true patriotism. Americans are too caught up in taking another selfie or liking some banal video on Facebook, to focus on the battlefield deaths of WWII, or even the most recent casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is up to veterans to continue the Memorial Day traditions of wreath laying and parades and to try and impart the real meaning of the day to especially young Americans.

Perhaps General MacArthur said it the most eloquently in his speech at West Point in 1962, when he described the eternal sacrifices of American service personnel:

"My estimate of him was formed on the battlefields many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then, as I regard him now, as one of the world's noblest figures; not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless.

His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. He needs no eulogy from me, or from any other man. But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. 

From one end of the world to the other, he has drained deep the chalice of courage. As I listened to those songs of the glee club, in memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs on many a weary march, from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle deep through mire of shell-pocked roads; to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always for them: Duty, Honor, Country. Always their blood, and sweat, and tears, as they saw the way and the light.

And twenty years after, on the other side of the globe, against the filth of dirty foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts, those boiling suns of the relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms, the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails, the bitterness of long separation of those they loved and cherished, the deadly pestilence of tropic disease, the horror of stricken areas of war.

Their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory - always victory, always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men, reverently following your password of Duty, Honor, Country."

Somehow, in the last decades, Duty, Honor and Country has metastasized into 'This Bud’s For You'.

Those who gave their lives for this nation deserve the respect of this nation."

RAY STARMANN

 

May 25, 2016
CHANGING MY HEART




Psalm 51:10
"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."




"You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." -- C. S. Lewis

Therein lies the problem.  We are born in bondage to our body.  Overpowered by our feelings, gripped by emotion, and with an underdeveloped mind in need of knowledge.  It is such as state that the Lord provides Eternity deep within us – to drive us, motivate us to reach for something more than our five senses.  Our heart longs for more because our soul is connected to it.

You are a soul.  You have a body.  If you are a soul and have a body, it means that your soul should be in complete control of your body because it is superior while flesh is superficial.  What or who you are can never be taken from you.  What you have can be by that which is stronger, mightier or more powerful.

I am not a body, I am a soul.  My soul should be the driving force of motivation and the head of my life rather than my physical or emotional being which is dying even as we speak. . .

The Holy Spirit has been given the task of changing my heart and mind to live in agreement with God.  What a task that He has been given!

The Holy Spirit has been commissioned to guide my life.  However, my sinful nature or flesh is in direct opposition to such a surrender.  It wants to do evil.  The Spirit gives us desires opposite of this.

Welcome to the fight for your life!  So much for the devil or an outside adversary.  We are fighting with ourselves to accept God’s Grace, live in His Righteousness and completely turn from evil to do good.

"So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want."(Galatians 5:16-17)

When these two forces collide, we are caught up in the battle.  Sometimes we win and discover more hope.  Other times we fall short only to discover the vast capacity of His Mercy, Grace and Love.

Lori Thomason


May 24, 2016
CONSIDERED TRUSTWORTHY



Nehemiah 13:13
"I put Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and a Levite named Pedaiah in charge of the storerooms and made Hanan son of Zakkur, the son of Mattaniah, their assistant, because they were considered trustworthy. They were made responsible for distributing the supplies to their fellow Levites."



God’s primary prerequisite for service is trustworthiness. He is not looking for the most gifted, the most talented, the wealthiest, the most attractive, or the most popular. God is interested in bestowing His blessing on those who can be trusted. Trustworthiness is an attribute that invites God to participate. It is an invitation for His encouragement, His wisdom, and His responsibilities. Being in a position where God can trust you is a humbling place. His trust is both energizing and daunting. The God of the universe trusts you to implement His will for your life. Because of your good name and faithfulness, He trusts you to represent Him well. He trusts you with His reputation, His truth, His children, His wisdom, His church, His spirit, His work, and His Kingdom.

You serve and love a trusting heavenly Father who enjoys extending Himself to those who can be trusted. Therefore, do not shrink back from God’s trust. He has given you this opportunity because He trusts you. You are responsible because He has put you in this position of authority. Your role is to represent Him responsibly, so be quick to give Him the credit for the success you are experiencing. Remain trustworthy, for He can withdraw His blessing as quickly as He gave it.

Continue to bathe each day in prayer and thanksgiving. Seek wisdom and counsel from those smarter and more experienced than you, for a trustworthy individual is teachable. You are a lifetime learner who understands the need to grow with the organization. Education and experience are meant to be tools for developing and extending your trustworthiness. Daniel trusted God in the middle of his test.

"The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God." (Daniel 6:23)

People trust others who are trusted by God. The character qualities that are attractive to God are the same traits that elicit the trust of family, friends, and work associates. Your good name is your most valuable asset. Guard it with a God-fearing vigilance. People love and respect you. This is an honor much greater than fame or fortune. People follow those they trust. Their investment of time and money is in direct proportion to your level of trustworthiness.

"This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” (Titus 3:8)

So let your life and actions—not your words—prove you are trustworthy. Do more than what’s expected. Keep your word and follow through. Attention to the little things builds big blessings. But, above all else, focus on “being” rather than “doing.” Be who you are in Christ, and the proper “doing” will follow. In Christ, you are loved, accepted, forgiven, and trusted. Abide in Him, and others will clamor for your attention and time.

Are you considered trustworthy? If so, your life is an invitation for God and people to join you. Trust Him and others, and you will be trusted by both.

Wisdom Hunters


May 23, 2016
WHO PACKED YOUR PARACHUTE?






John 13:35

"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."






Captain Charlie Plumb graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis and went on to fly the F-4 Phantom jet on 74 successful combat missions over Vietnam. On his 75th mission, with only five days before he was to return home, Plumb was shot down, captured, tortured, and imprisoned in an 8-foot x 8-foot cell. He spent the next 2,103 days as a Prisoner of War in communist war prisons.

During his nearly six years of captivity, Charlie Plumb distinguished himself among his fellow prisoners as a professional in underground communications, and served for two of those years as the Chaplain in his camp. Captain Plumb’s Military honors include a Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, (2) Purple Hearts, and the POW medal.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, "You're Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!"

"How in the world did you know that?" asked Plumb.

"I packed your parachute," the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, "I guess it worked!"

Plumb assured him, "It sure did. If your chute hadn't worked, I wouldn't be here today." Plumb couldn't sleep that night, thinking about that man.

Plumb says, "I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat, a bib in the back, and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said 'Good morning, how are you?' or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor."

Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn't know. Now, Plumb asks his audience, "Who's packing your parachute?"

Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. Plumb also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory. He needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these supports before reaching safety.

Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say “hello”, “please”, or “thank you”, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason.

As you go through this week, this month, and this year recognize the people who pack your parachute.

Let us be quick to recognize those people that strive to make our life better. When we show our appreciation to those who have thankless jobs, we will not only be encouraging them, but also showing them the love of God through our life.

WHO IS PACKING YOUR PARACHUTE? 

WHOSE PARACHUTE ARE YOU PACKING?


May 22, 2016
ATTITUDE 




Philippians 2:4-5

"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind[set] among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus," 





The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company. . .a church. . . a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. . .we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you. . .we are in charge of our Attitudes.

Chuck Swindoll


May 21, 2016
IN TIMES LIKE THESE




Ecclesiastes 1:9
"What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun."




Looking at the time in which we are living is very difficult. It truly seems that there is almost no good news to be heard. The economy, millions without jobs, the wars going on worldwide, and the riots we read about in places that are supposed to be stable, food shortages, fuel shortages and then there is death and destruction which we will never understand. The list could grow quite long if we wanted it to, but these are the times in which we live.

Paul Harvey wrote these words about our times: "In times like these, it is helpful to remember that there have always been times like these."

Keeping things in perspective is sometimes hard to do, but I heard about a wise grandmother that could help us all in this area.

It seems that a little boy is telling his Grandma how "everything" is going wrong: School, family problems, health problems, etc. Meanwhile, Grandma is baking a cake. She asks her grandson if he would like a snack, which of course he does. "Here, have some cooking oil." "Yuck" says the boy. "How about a couple raw eggs?" "Gross, Grandma!" "Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?" "Grandma, those are all yucky!" To which Grandma replies: "Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake!" She continued, "God works the same way in our lives."

"Is there a thing of which it is said, 'See, this is new'? It has been already in the ages before us." (Ecclesiastes 1:10)

What can we do, how do we react when our world is falling apart and we have been warned that history is going to repeat itself or our world (even our personal world) has no chance to avoid unwanted changes, no matter what we do? I would suggest to you, that we must focus on that which is unchanging, that which gives us hope for the future that will never change.

King Solomon reminds us: 

"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) 

Do you want Security? Do you want Stability? Do you want the promise of a life that is not subject to the changes of this world? Then put your faith, your life, and your trust in the hands of our God! In our unstable world there is stability if you know where to look! Paul writes:

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Romans 8:35-39 )

In times like these, where is your trust, your security, your stability?

Russ Lawson
Messages From The Heart

Submitted by Peggy Lasher

May 20, 2016
A COMMUNITY OF LOVE




John 16:12-15
"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 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. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you." 



If someone on an elevator ride asked you to explain what it means that Christians believe in the Trinity, what would you say? If you were to respond by saying that God is one divine being existing eternally as three distinct yet equal persons, you would certainly be theologically correct, but you might leave them more confused than when they first asked!

I’ve found one of the most helpful ways to speak of God as Trinity is to use the language of community. When we say that we believe in a triune God, fundamentally we are saying that we believe God is a community of love.

Have you ever heard it said that God created the world and human beings because he was lonely? I’ve heard this from time to time, but when we see God as a community of love, we must realize that there was never a time when God was alone! In fact, you could say our very desire for community, to be known and know others, exists because we are made in the image of a communal God.

“Community” and “love” are two words that get thrown around a lot. We all seek community and want to be loved, yet why then is community so elusive and love so confusing? In part I think it is because we aren’t exactly clear on what we are looking for! When we say that we value community, what do we actually mean? When we look for love, what are we looking for? As Christians, we learn how to live in community and how to love by looking to our triune God.

We see the Father who in love sends the Son and Spirit:

"Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me. These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:24-26)

The Son who reveals the Father:

"All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (Matthew 11:27)

And the Spirit who glorifies the Son:

"He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you." (John 16:14)

It is here that we see three persons who exist for the good of the other. Here we see a love that gives itself so fully that it can’t help but overflow and invite others into this way of being. Does your life reflect this kind of community? Is your family life at home characterized by this kind of radical, self-giving love?

Rather than thinking of the Trinity as an abstract Christian belief that is confusing or irrelevant, seek instead to see it as nothing less than the eternal community of love from which all love flows. And the great mystery is that, as we are united to Christ, we are invited into this eternal community of love. As we respond to this invitation, we learn what it truly means to live in community, to love and be loved in return.

How does your life reflect this community of love?
Tripp Prince


May 19, 2016
MOVING IN MY HEART




Psalm 92:14
"They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,"




As we walk with our Father each day, we continually bear fruit. Jesus said that if we remain connected with Him, that we will bear good fruit. As we get older, we cannot always do what we used to do, but we can still do things for the kingdom of God. One thing that is so important that can be done by a person of any age, is prayer. Prayer is the key to all the victories in the kingdom, and God is looking for those who will lay down their lives for someone else. As we take time and let the Holy Spirit lead us in our prayer life, He will show us people that we might not even be thinking about but He is, and we can partner together with Him to help someone else out.

I really wonder how many people we are going to meet in heaven who will tell us that it was the prayers that we prayed when no one else was around that saved them or protected them. One other thing I know is that if I pray for others, then there is someone else praying for me.

So do not say, “Well, I am just getting older and I cannot do what I used to do.” No! Say, “Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world, and even if my outward body is getting older, my spirit is getting stronger in Him!” See yourself having the powerful Holy Spirit living inside of you and moving in your heart. Maybe you cannot run physically like you used to, but you can still run in the Spirit and set devils to flight!

Rejoice today no matter what your age, because God, your Father, wants you to bear good fruit even in your old age. If He wants you to do it, then look out, you will!

A confession:

The Greater One lives in me, and if the Greater One is in me, then I know that my spirit is being renewed day by day. Today, I am going to do greater things for the kingdom of God, and I am going to continue to bear fruit as I get older. I am going to be fresh and flourishing!

Tom Feola

 

May 18, 2016
LIVING IN THE PRESENT IS A PRESENT





Luke 8:18
"Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away."






Recently a friend took me to lunch. His agenda? Just to hear how I was doing. What a gift! For more than an hour Bill just wanted me to talk about what the Lord was teaching me, how my family was doing and how he could pray for me. Like a disruptive child in timeout, his phone was nowhere to be seen or heard, his eye contact was riveting and his emotional engagement was energizing. My special friend gave me the gift of his uninterrupted presence. With unhurried interest, I felt loved, understood, valued and heard. My friend’s presence was a gift of love!

Jesus taught compellingly about the importance of truly paying attention and listening to the life lessons found in His teachings. Because He illustrated truth with everyday examples, clearer comprehension was available, but the deepest understanding only came to those who were intellectually, spiritually, physically and emotionally engaged in hearing what Christ had to say. For believers, being present in the presence of Jesus is not passive prayer, but proactive listening. The heart hears best when it’s been cleansed by the Spirit and eagerly communes with Christ.

"It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces." (Psalm 119:71-72)

Suffering can be the Spirit’s megaphone to speak to our spirit. When we become too busy with our business—the Lord knows how to slow us down so we pay attention to His business. Instead of pushing through a sickness, maybe we take a few days off—rest—and be present with our heavenly Father. Better to learn what the Lord is attempting to say to our heart in a small setback, than be sidelined for a significant period of time—and be forced to give God our focused presence. Worship is awareness of God’s ever presence—and being ever present to praise Him!

Who hungers for you to be all there when you are with them? A spouse, child, friend or work associate? Being truly present is the fruit of trust. You trust other responsibilities can wait, and by taking a break from obsessing over critical issues—you can reengage, invigorated with new and better insight. By investing in being 100% in a conversation with a co-worker, you can trust the Lord is at work in ways all around you. He is moving the hearts of authorities and procuring resources to support your opportunities. Being present trusts God is presently at work! Be generous with your presence, as the Lord generously provides all that’s needed for His work.

"My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart." (Proverbs 4:20-21)

Wisdom Hunters

May 17, 2016
HOW TO FIND GOD




Amos 5:4
"For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: 'Seek me and live;'"





Did you play hide ‘n seek growing up? Perhaps like me you hid in a hallway closet hoping like mad that no one would find you. In Jeremiah there is good news:

"You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)

God doesn’t hide where He can’t be found, but invites us to look for Him and find Him when He says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.” In the Hebrew, the word “seek” specifically involves seeking God through prayer and worship. I love this because contrary to what some people say, God isn’t found by following a long list of legalistic rules and religious regulations. Instead, He’s found in sincerity of heart by focusing on nurturing your relationship with Him.

There are few guarantees in life but this Scripture provides one: When you seek God with all your heart, you will find Him. There’s no wondering if you’ll find Him, doubting if you’ll be able to make your way to Him, or if you will be allowed to find Him. There’s no question. He will show Himself to you when you genuinely search for Him through prayer and worship.

"He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

In The Case for Faith, journalist Lee Strobel interviews Peter Kreeft, a world-class philosopher, who makes the following statement: “The Bible says, ‘Seek and you shall find.’ It doesn’t say that everybody will find him; it doesn’t say nobody will find him. Some will find him. Who? Those who seek.”

When I reflect on my history with Christ and all the times I’ve sat quietly seeking Him and studying His Word, He has always come to meet me. In my early days of knowing Him, I thought that my quiet times with Him had to include moving emotion for me to believe He was there. I have since learned that He is always with me, even if I don’t sense His presence. But there have been those remarkable times when I have felt overwhelming emotion during our moments together. And in those moments, it’s like finding one of my childhood friends in a hall closet, who jumped out with a shout of joy, “You found me!” I can only imagine that because God invites us to seek Him and find Him through prayer and worship, that He is thrilled when we do.

Have you spoken to the Lord today and thanked Him that He has revealed Himself to you through prayer and His Word?

Shana Schutte


May 16, 2016
WAYS TO GROW A HEART OF PEACE




Philippians 4:6-7
"do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."




In the military there is a vanguard in the front of the army that protects from threats or surprises. In the rear of the army is the rearguard who is ever vigilant to watch for flank attacks from the enemy. And among officers or royalty there may be a lifeguard focused on the safety of one individual. In physical battles there are strategic preparations that increase the probability of victory and securing sustainable peace. Ongoing peace is not a passive exercise. My weakness is God’s chance to show up and show off. When I am down to nothing, He is up to something.

In a similar fashion the human heart requires a prayerful plan to experience ongoing peace. A child of God is blessed by the vanguard of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is out in front of a life to discern truth and provide wisdom. Good decisions result from the Holy Spirit on point. Our heavenly Father is the rear guard of grace who supports His child with inner strength. Jesus is the lifeguard whose presence brings peace and calm and over the individual believer is the banner of the Lord’s love to protect from the enemy’s aerial attacks. God’s peace guards humble hearts.

"Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." (Proverbs 4:23)

Anger may try to ambush you from the rear guard of your life. Hurt may quietly simmer in a small shadow of your heart waiting to be flushed out by fatigue or rejection. Preemptively, apply God’s grace to heal your hurt. When lies boldly attack out front in the form of head to head combat—say truth out loud and ask the Spirit for wisdom and discernment. Worry will try to wreck your relationship with Jesus and steal your peace and joy. If that’s the case—be still, focus on Jesus by faith. Let the covering of the Lord’s love comfort your heart and give confidence to your mind.

Pride tries to push out peace and replace it with anxious self-reliance. Reject pride’s overtures by remaining loyal in humble dependence on God. Talk with your heavenly Father about your needs and wants—rest in His reassuring presence. Thank Him for past, present and future blessings. Circumstances can be chaotic, and relational confusion can swirl around you—but God’s peace stills your soul, and guards your heart and mind in Christ. Peace of heart is the product of heartfelt prayer. To guard your heart is to release your heart to God and receive His peace.

"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)

How to grow a heart of peace?

1) Pray thankful prayers
2) Open yourself to sharing your fears with God and others
3) Daily renew your heart and mind with truth

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."(John 14:27)

Wisdom Hunters

 

May 15, 2016
MADE RICH




2 Corinthians 9:11
"You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God."   




God’s grace makes you rich in His ways. You are rich in mercy, love, patience, compassion, and wisdom. When Jesus Christ became the Lord and Savior of your life you received access to an eternal portfolio of resources. You no longer have to complain about not having everything you need. In Christ, you have just what you need, when you need it; there are no shortfalls with the Lord. No one can make a run on heaven’s bank.

In other words, the resources of God are within your reach. You can tap into the Holy Spirit moment by moment, on any occasion. The wisdom of the Almighty is available for you in real-time prayer. “What does God think?” and “What would Jesus do?” are two questions to ask before you act. If you are not sure of the answers, then by all means wait, pray, and ask people you trust for advice and godly counsel.

You are rich with the resources of God. Like someone with oil reserves under the surface of property they manage, you have an abundance of energy of which you can take advantage. As the character of Christ continues to consume you, you can’t help but receive the richness of His grace. People will begin to clamor for your time because they want to learn how to leverage love or apply patience. It is a remarkable truth that you have been made rich in the ways of God. Your eternal balance sheet is robust and real, so review what you already have in Christ, then daily count your many blessings. Account for the acts of God that overflow from your life.

Because you have been given so much, you are uniquely positioned to give. Grace can permeate your giving because grace permeates your life. You receive Christ so you can give Christ; You receive God’s mercy so you can give mercy; You receive God’s love so you can give love; You receive God’s patience so you can give patience; You receive God’s compassion so you can give compassion; You receive God’s wisdom so you can give wisdom; You are rich in the ways of God so you can give the resources of God. This is his circle of generosity. The reason God makes anyone rich is for the purpose of astounding generosity.

Happy are the generous, for thanksgiving and appreciation explode from the heart of a generous giver. God provides money and the capacity for serving others to be given away. A blessing that is not passed on can become a curse. Therefore, look on every occasion as an opportunity to give. Give spontaneously and give with structure, but with both, give prayerfully.

Give money; Give time; Give expertise; Give hospitality; Give opportunity; Give grace; Give forgiveness; Give resources. The best way to give is out of love, gratitude, and obedience to God. And when you give, you will receive. You will receive the peace and contentment of Jesus, knowing you modeled His motives and His generosity. God has made you rich in His ways, for His sake, and the sake of others. Therefore, allow generosity to govern your giving for the glory of God.

As Jesus says,

"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)

Are you grateful for God's rich grace, so that it grows your generosity to others?

Wisdom Hunters


May 14, 2016
RESTING AND WAITING




John 4:34
"Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.'





It was high noon. Jesus, foot-weary from His long journey, was resting beside Jacob’s well. His disciples had gone into the city of Sychar to buy bread. A woman came out of the city to draw water . . . and found her Messiah. The account tells us that she quickly went into the city and invited others:

"Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?" (John 4:29)

The disciples came back bringing bread. When they urged Jesus to eat:

"Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.'" (John 4:34)

Now I ask you: What work had Jesus been doing? He had been resting and waiting by the well.

I find great encouragement in this story for I am living with physical limitations. This passage tells me that I do not have to scurry about — worrying myself about doing the will of my Father and getting His work done. In this season of life, I can rest and wait for Him to bring His work to me.

Similarly, your tiny apartment, your work cubicle, your prison cell, or your hospital bed can become a “Jacob’s well,” a place to rest and to wait for your Father to bring His work to you.

I wonder who He’ll bring to you today? 

If you want a field of service, look around you. Jesus met the Samaritan woman while he was waiting. Are you prepared for the service that God might bring you while you are resting and waiting? If God asks you to serve someone who is very different from you, or with whom you are estranged, how will you respond?

David Roper

 

May 13, 2016
FEAR OF GOD, NOT AFRAID OF GOD




2 Samuel 6:9
"And David was afraid of the Lord that day, and he said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?" 




I had two types of high school football coaches: one whom I was afraid of because of his tirades and his angry, intimidating language. I was motivated for a short time, but fearful I would not do precisely what he wanted. The second coach expected a high standard of performance, but he was both instructional and inspirational. I knew I had room for failure but my goal was growth. My perception of one coach was an angry man who expected perfection, who was never totally pleased with me. The second coach brought out the best in me—and expected the best from me.

David had a misconception of God’s anger, which led him to be angry at God. The Lord took the life of Uzzah for irreverently managing the sacred ark of God. David feared for his life, because he wondered what might happen to him if he took possession of the ark of the Lord. A mature man in the faith, Obed-Edom received the ark from David into his home and modeled how to worship the Lord well. God blessed Obed-Edom’s reverence. David learned that to fear the Lord brings blessing, but to be afraid of the Lord is a burden. Being afraid of God destroys peace and joy.

"Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!" (Psalm 112:1)

How do you know if your fear of the Lord is healthy and not misguided? If you are driven by guilt or shame or feel the need for perfect behavior to be accepted by God, you will always believe you fall short and the Lord is probably not pleased with you. But if you see your heavenly Father’s love and holiness as a refuge in a world of chaos and confusion, you will learn to rest in Christ and learn from Him. You fear God by fearing the consequences of sin, but you freely receive His forgiveness when you do sin. Fear of the Lord draws you closer to the Lord.

The fear of God is the pathway to freely worship and praise God. Those who have experienced salvation in Jesus—rescued from the wrath of the Almighty—have a holy cheerfulness they lift to the Lord in gratitude and thankful praise. Joy in Jesus is the language of heartfelt worship. The more we fear the Lord in His holiness, the more we are free to love and worship Him for who He is—our heavenly Father, the Maker of heaven and earth and our reigning King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Hell has no fury, nor flames of fear—for those who fear God, but are not afraid!

"Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling." (Psalm 2:11)

"And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,"(Isaiah 11:3)

Do you know what it means to fear God, but not be afraid of God?

Wisdom Hunters


May 12, 2016
FAINT-HEARTED FAITH




Psalm 61:2
"from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,"




Sometimes it seems like you are a million miles away from Jesus. It’s as if He’s doing big business on the other side of the world in Africa, India, and China. Your small concerns seem trivial in the big scheme of our Savior’s strategy. As in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25), your Master has left you to faithfully manage His stuff while He has gone away. However, you grow impatient, bored, and even faint-hearted from fear and/or fatigue. You wonder if faithfulness to your heavenly Father is really worth the effort and you question the cause and your calling. It was exciting when you first started on this journey of faith, but now it is unfocused and uncertain. You may become melancholy or depressed.

Your heart may grow faint without the fire of fresh faith. Left unchecked, a crevice of concern can become a canyon of crisis between you and Christ. Life may have backed you onto a fearful ledge and you are paralyzed for fear of falling. However, now is the time to grab hold of the Lord’s arm for stability. Even when you are on the verge of despair, God is there. No spot is too dreary or condition too deplorable. Even in life or death situations, prayer is available.

Prayer helps you plow through heaven’s portal in the midst of your trials. You may be experiencing provocation from insensitive souls. An undiagnosed illness that saps your energy may be gnawing on your nerves. Your faithfulness goes unnoticed and unrewarded and that perplexes you. You may be overwhelmed because of your total lack of control over the cruel circumstance you wake up to every morning. One or all of these trials may be smothering your heart.

Because your heart is faint, it is unable to pump the blood of belief to the extremities of your faith. Your eyes are moist with tears. It’s okay to cry. Cry out to Christ, for it is heaven’s substitute for spiritual speech. God is the center of life, hope, love, and joy. Christ is the spiritual cardiologist for your suffering heart. Look to the Lord to lead you into His next steps as He guides you to higher ground.

God wants to lead you from survival to revival. A revival initiated by the Holy Spirit brings new life to lethargic faith. Lean into the Lord and lean on the Lord during these lean times. Christ carries you to His tower of truth to renew your mind and revive your heart. Move away from the ledge of illegitimate longings and move toward your trustworthy Lord. You lean into Him for grace upon grace. You ask Him to embolden your beliefs. Climb up with Christ while your heart pumps the blood of bold belief. Above all else, you are faith-hearted, not faint-hearted when you journey with Jesus. Your trust in Him is a strong tower against your foes. 

When your faith grows faint do you look to God for focus and strength?

Wisdom Hunters

 

 

May 11, 2016
FRIEND OF GOD



James 2:23
"and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness'—and he was called a friend of God."




What does it mean to be a friend of God’s? It’s like a child who becomes an adult and begins to relate to their dad or mom like a friend, but they still treat them with honor and respect. So it is with your heavenly Father—in the infant stages of faith you cannot fathom friendship until you mature through the elementary applications of: submission to God, trust in God, obedience to God, fear of God, and love of God and people. 
  
Once we relate to our heavenly Father in holy surrender, dependence, and belief, we are in a position to appreciate engaging Him as a friend. But this friendship cannot bypass His Lordship in our lives. Candidates for friendship with God have to first travel down the path of perseverance, brokenness and character development. Friendship comes with a history of faithful service to Jesus; not with a flippant attitude but one of awe. 
  

"No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you."  (John 15:15)

Jesus extends friendship to His faithful disciples. Do you enjoy this level of intimacy with Jesus? Is your friendship with Him a healthy mixture of laughter and joy, weeping and grief, encouragement and accountability and confession and forgiveness? Friendship with Jesus means access to grace and truth that’s revealed in His word. Your qualification for friendship has the benefit of His blessing. 
  
When you are known as a friend of God you can be assured you will be labeled as an enemy of evil. FOG’s cannot be friends with both the world and heaven. There is a fidelity to faith and following the Lord that comes with friendship. It is an honor and privilege not to be taken lightly—indeed; it gives us credibility in our Christian life. 
  

"You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."  (James 4:4)

Happy and content are those who can genuinely say they are a friend of God. Has your faith grown to this level of intimacy and friendship? Your heavenly friendship is best nurtured by humble submission to God. It grows as you relax in His presence and really learn to enjoy being with Him, listening to His heart and learning what it means to be a loving friend. Friends of God look forward to being blessed by their best friend as they spend time with Him. 
  

"as I was in my prime, when the friendship of God was upon my tent"  (Job 29:4)

Are you intentional in pursuing a friendship with your heavenly Father? 

Wisdom Hunters


May 10, 2016
WHEN SCRIPTURE MAKES YOU WANT TO DANCE





1 Corinthians 1:30
"And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,"





I love it when scripture jumps off the page, grabs you by the heart, and makes you want to dance. That’s how I felt when I recently read Colossians 3:1-17. Among other things, this passage says:

"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." (Colossians 3:2)

"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5)

"But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth." (Colossians 3:8)

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,"(Colossians 3:12)

Okay, maybe you are wondering why this passage made me want to dance. Good question. Here’s why. . . when this portion of Scripture is read as a list of commands to secure God’s acceptance, it feels condemning because it’s a list no one can measure up to. Even on my best days, I only get a few things on it right. The great news is when this passage is read in its entirety from the perspective of already belonging to Christ, it's freeing. Why? Because these commands are preceded by identity statements about who the Christian is in Christ.

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God."(Colossians 3:1)

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,"(Colossians 3:12)

Essentially, God is saying, “Since you are My child and because you have been raised with Christ, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Set your minds on things above. Get rid of whatever belongs to your earthly nature because this is who you are in Me. Act in accordance with your identity as My child.”

If these commands in Colossians were given in an effort for us to earn favor with God they would read like this: “So that you will become God's chosen people holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness us and patience. . .” or “So that you will be raised with Christ, rid yourselves of anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips.” But isn’t it wonderful that Colossians 3 isn’t a laundry list of how to earn God’s favor? If you are in Christ, you already have His favor. You are holy and dearly loved.

"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)

Shana Schutte


May 9, 2016
THE TONGUE


Psalm 39:1
"I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence.” 
Proverbs 18:21
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits."



It is a helpful tool
That is used as a dangerous weapon

It is so light
Yet we fail to hold it

Instead of using it as a magic wand
To tap a bit of encouragement upon one’s heart
Or a smile upon one’s face
We use it as a sword to cut people down
Leaving their hearts broken
And their self-esteem low

Instead of using it
To turn ourselves into little angels
Placing blessings upon one’s life
We use it to turn ourselves
Into fire-breathing dragons
Who insists on one’s life being taken

We use it to curse others
Not realizing we are really cursing ourselves
We must learn to hold this dangerous weapon
Before we kill others as well as ourselves

We must learn to watch the words
That we allow to roll off of it

We must allow it to be known
As a piece of gold from heaven
Instead of the flames from hell

A MountainWings Original by Christina Bronner, age 17
Submitted by Peggy Lasher


May 8, 2016
WHY GOD MADE MOMS



Proverbs 31:26-27
"She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness."




Answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions:

Why did God make mothers?
1. She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
3. God made my mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?
1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
2. They had to get their start from men's bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom?
1. We're related.
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people's mom like me.

What kind of a little girl was your mom?
1. My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
3. They say she used to be nice.

What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?
1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your mom marry your dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my mom eats a lot.
2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
3. My grandma says that mom didn't have her thinking cap on.

Who's the boss at your house?
1. Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because dad's such a goof ball.
2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
3. I guess mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What's the difference between moms and dads?
1. Moms work at work and work at home and dads just go to work at work.
2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
3. Dads are taller and stronger, but moms have all the real power cause that's who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friends.
4. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your mom do in her spare time?
1. Mothers don't do spare time.
2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your mom perfect?
1. On the inside she's already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
2. Diet. You know, her hair. I'd diet, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I'd get rid of that.
2. I'd make my mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.


May 7, 2016
SHINE THROUGH



Matthew 5:16
"In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."



A little girl wondered what a saint might be. One day her mother took her to a great cathedral to see the gorgeous stained-glass windows with scenes from the Bible. When she saw the beauty of it all she cried out loud, “Now I know what saints are. They are people who let the light shine through!”

Some of us might think that saints are people of the past who lived perfect lives and did Jesus-like miracles. But when a translation of Scripture uses the word saint, it is actually referring to anyone who belongs to God through faith in Christ. In other words, saints are people like us who have the high calling of serving God while reflecting our relationship with Him wherever we are and in whatever we do. That is why the apostle Paul prayed that the eyes and understanding of his readers would be opened to think of themselves as the treasured inheritance of Christ and saints of God: 

"having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints," (Ephesians 1:18)

So what then do we see in the mirror? No halos or stained glass. But if we are fulfilling our calling, we will look like people who, maybe even without realizing it, are letting the rich colors of the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control of God shine through. 

Saints are people through whom God’s light shines.

Our Daily Bread


May 6, 2016
WITNESSES OR STARGAZERS?


Acts 1:8-10
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes,"


As we encounter the ascension of Jesus, we reach the fulfillment of his earthly mission. However, so often this portion of the life and ministry of Jesus is overlooked, relegated to the footnotes section of history or viewed as a simple way to wrap the story up. Yet nothing could be further from the truth!

For us to understand the mission of the church and God’s ongoing work in the world, we have to see the crucial importance of the ascension of Jesus Christ.

While the ascension of Jesus is on the one hand a finish line, it is on the other hand the continuation of God’s mission to love and redeem the world. When Jesus ascended into heaven, it wasn’t a simple departure or the removal of his presence. Instead, it is directly linked to the gift of the Spirit and the empowering of the early Christians to live out the mission of the church. As Jesus himself said, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”

When we speak of Jesus and our relationship with him, we often focus on his love and care for us. We thank him for his healing grace and unconditional love that renews and restores our souls. Yet the ascension challenges us to remember that his love and renewing presence is meant to lead us into faithful lives of mission and bold witness.

Christian discipleship isn’t simply about our own spiritual needs and fulfillment. It is also directly linked to God’s desire to bring his love and blessing to the world, and we as the church are his chosen means to bring this about! Yet so often we focus on our private and personal lives with God and neglect this calling that he has given to us. In fact, even the early disciples were slow to grasp it! When Jesus tells them to go into the world as witnesses of God’s power and love, they are instead left staring off into the distance. It takes an angelic exhortation to kick-start their mission! As John Stott once said, “their calling was to be witnesses not stargazers.” Perhaps we need the same reminder.

The love of God is moving throughout the world today in powerful, earth shaking, transformative ways. It is the love that brings hope to the hopeless and joy to the brokenhearted. It is the love that inspires and animates God’s work of restoration and renewal. And it is the love that we have known and encountered, yet are also meant to boldly witness and proclaim in our homes, neighborhoods, cities, and beyond.

How can you bear witness today to God’s kingdom and great love for the world?

Wisdom Hunters


May 5, 2016
HOW TO ADDRESS BAD BEHAVIOR




1 Samuel 3:13
"And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them."




If I say I love someone, but I do not lovingly address their bad behavior—I do not love them in the way God wants me to love them. If I say to myself it is none of my business—I cop out— because love makes it its business to help people not self destruct. Love addresses bad behavior early and often—to help a friend or family member’s habit not become addictive and destructive. To ignore and act as if bad attitudes or actions will go away is unloving and irresponsible. To engage relationally and make constant emotional deposits earns the right to discuss what’s right.

We do not know for sure the relationship Eli had with his two sons Hophni and Phinehas while they were small children. Perhaps the dad traveled doing ministry work or maybe when Eli was home he was directive and not very instructive with his children. However the home culture—the adult sons ambushed their father’s values and expectations. They treated the sacrifices to God with contempt:

"Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt." (1 Samuel 2:17)

And they sexually seduced women who sought to serve the Lord:

"Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours." (1 Samuel 2:22-23)

The elderly Eli confronted his sons with their wickedness, but it was too little too late for judgment was coming:

"And this that shall come upon your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day. And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever." (1 Samuel 2:34-35)

Furthermore:

"...the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will."  (2 Timothy 2:25-26)

Parenting is not for the faint of heart, but the opportunities for effective parenting come from a heart of love that learns how to emotionally engage the heart of the child. For example, help your child understand why they had their feelings hurt by an insensitive schoolmate. Show them how to process anger into forgiveness and pray with them to receive their heavenly Father’s grace to heal their heart. The beginning of bad behavior can be acting out feelings of being misunderstood, embarrassed or rejected. An emotionally healthy child learns to process pain.

First confess bad behavior in yourself, so you are qualified to humbly address it in others. Followers of Jesus have higher behavioral expectations than non-Christians. A person who claims to be a Christian but does not behave like a Christian, needs a kind reminder of who their attitudes, actions and words represent: JESUS CHRIST. A person may not suddenly change, but over a prayerful process of comforting, confronting and speaking the truth in love—a heart can be transformed by God’s grace. Help a struggling friend by paying for their first few sessions with a Christian counselor. Invite them into a small group of other hearts hungry for God.

"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye." (Luke 6:41-42)

Whom do you need to lovingly confront about their bad behavior?

Wisdom Hunters


May 4, 2016
JESUS THE "INTOLERANT BIGOT"



Luke 13:3
"...but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."



“The Gospel of Christ doesn’t care about ‘tolerance.’ It cares about truth.”

Matt Short, Missions Pastor at One Community Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, had just uttered from the pulpit a profound reality that, regrettably, we hear far too infrequently from this millennial generation (or any generation for that matter).

After several weeks of having worshiped with this young church body, I’ve been repeatedly shocked, and pleasantly so, that, under the headship of lead pastor Paul Dudley and, clearly, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, this group of faithful 20 and 30-somethings does not sidestep truth, in love, as concerns transcendent issues that in today’s politically correct and postmodern culture (to include much of Christianity) are considered highly controversial.

Pastor Short judiciously stacked his words – words that blossomed from the very Vine of Truth Himself – upon that elusive sweet spot in the tense continuum between truth and grace: two central features of Christ’s nature that are neither mutually exclusive nor at odds with one another:

"What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun."(Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Indeed, by today’s secular-progressive standards – and, more vexing yet, by the standards of lukewarm Christians and ministries that, under the intense thaw of postmodern paganism, fall away from the berg like vast chunks of ice – Christ Jesus Himself would, like so many of his followers today, be slandered as an “intolerant bigot” and crucified all over again.
To be sure, under the contemporary misconception of “tolerance,” which supposes that one must not only tolerate sin of every stripe, but refuse to call it even that, Christ was (and is) intolerant indeed. 

"...Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.'" (John 8:11)

Rather than admonishing the adulterous woman postmodernism, to include the moral relativist yeast that leavens the body of Christ, demands, at once, that our never-changing Lord change the unchangeable: “Go now and continue your life of sin.” This is not true grace. It is cheap grace. And it is apostasy. While it is true that none of us is without sin (I’m the first to drop my stone in the sand for this reason), we are nonetheless commanded to repent of our sins:

"'...but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.'" (Luke 13:3)

The first step to repentance is recognizing sin for what it is and rejecting deceptive attempts to sanitize it by calling it something else (i.e., “choice,” “sexual orientation,” “she’s not my wife, but we’re soul mates” and the like). Alas, ’tis true: 

"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20)

Indeed, far too many “seeker friendly” and mainline Christian denominations do just that. They call evil good. They intentionally omit the central “repent and go and sin no more” elements of the good news (or otherwise affirm sin altogether) for fear of driving away would-be fish in the net – those slippery little buggers (aren’t we all?) who prefer whirling about in a toxic sea of temptation, rather than surrendering to the ultimate Fisher of Men.

Pastor Short, to his credit, did no such thing. In fact, he went on to address Paul’s rebuke of the church in Galatia. Much like today’s “nicer than Jesus” set, they, too, for different reasons perhaps, adopted a false gospel that, in their eyes, made them more “relevant” and palatable to the world around them.

Sound familiar? Wrote Paul: 

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:6-8)

Not very tolerant. But grace, tempered with truth, nonetheless:

"As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 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." (Galatians 1:9-10)

And so, according to Paul, those who shrink from the “full counsel of God,” are not only out of line, they are under “God’s curse.” The fall he took on the road to Damascus clearly knocked free his ability to skate the thin ice of political correctness.

Still, like the Galatians, far too many in today’s church are more concerned with not offending others, most especially those who are without Christ, and, rather than being fearless “servants of Christ,” instead have busied themselves with “trying to please people.”

And, like the Galatians, they have created a false gospel to that end. Pleasing the world is not taking up your cross and suffering for Christ. Pleasing the world is a cakewalk. 

"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)

Does the world hate you? It should. We can’t belong to the world and to Christ. We must choose.

Matt Barber


May 3, 2016
DID YOU GET ELECTED?





Romans 9:11
"though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—" 





Like multitudes of Americans, you may be sick at heart from hearing all the news about elections. But take heart, because this message has nothing to do with the people you will vote for. Rather, it is about whether you yourself have been elected, by someone, or by Someone.

The Bible talks about your being elected. Wouldn’t it be nice to get elected to some easy-going position, with a well-equipped office, and lots of perks — whatever they are. But that’s not exactly what kind of position, or what kinds of amenities you are likely to receive. Let’s face it: the Bible usually speaks about spiritual things and not material or worldly things. So what am I driving at?

I’m talking about getting elected by God to take, if you will, your “office” in heaven. Now, the Bible uses the word “elect” or some close derivative of it, twenty-seven times. Further, only one of those times the election does not refer to people but to angels:

"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality." (1 Timothy 5:21)

Did you ever think about the idea that even angels had to be elected by God to go to heaven? Some angels are going to be in heaven forever; they are there even now. So they beat us there, didn’t they? Other angels, therefore, were not elected by God to go to heaven, and they will never get there, no matter how hard they try.

You may be thinking by now, “Do I really have to be elected, or chosen, by God in order to get to heaven? After all, I thought I had to be good enough to get there.” If that is what you have been thinking all along, then you are partly right, but only in one sense. I’m making it pretty complicated. Let’s try to piece it all together to make sense of the whole thing. After all, it’s pretty important to know whether you yourself are going to heaven, or whether you aren’t going to make it.

Let’s start with the most important element. That is, God is God, which means if He is all-powerful, all-knowing, always gets His way. Let’s face it, if you could decide to do something God did not want you to do, you would lose every time, or else you would be God and not He. But He is God, and you are out of the running for that position, election or not.

Next point. If you believe the Bible to be true, then you must believe that God elects all the people He wants to go to heaven to be with Him. If you don’t believe the Bible to be God’s word and true, then please show me some other document or person that is more important or more reliable to tell you about God. Ha! I got you there. So God says He elected everyone who goes to heaven.

“…at the present time there is a remnant, chosen [elected] by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened:

"as it is written, 'God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.'" (Romans 11:8)

I shall let you search for the other places where the Bible says God elects those He wants to go to heaven. Also, you may read for yourself the four places where God says He has predestined certain ones of us to go to heaven. “Elect” and “predestined” have virtually the same meanings in our discussion here:

"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." (Romans 8:29)

"And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." (Romans 8:30)

"he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will," (Ephesians 1:5)

"In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will," (Ephesians 1:11)

But you have not yet finished your search for the whole truth. You still have that uneasy feeling that the Bible says that you yourself must receive Jesus Christ as your own Savior and Lord in order to get to heaven. After all, isn’t that what Paul and Silas told the Philippian jailor who asked how to be saved:

"And they said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.'" (Acts 16:31)

Now, you must do some thinking for yourself, if you know for sure you are going to heaven. Did the Philippian jailor ask for Paul and Silas to come to that city, or did he put them in jail? Did Paul and Silas know that they were going to jail, or that the jailor would be there to talk together about salvation? Did any of them cause the earthquake that opened all the doors of the jail, to give occasion for their conversation? No human prepared any part of that setting, but God wanted that jailor to go to heaven. But why? Did the jailor deserve to go to heaven? Of course not. But God planned the scene and provided the occasion.

Lastly, think about your own life. Did you decide who would be your parents, to talk to you about God? Did you volunteer to go to Sunday school, or did you choose your teacher who began to show you the way of God? Did you choose your friend so you could talk to him about Jesus’ love for you and His dying for you? Did you choose to live in this land of freedom (very few people did)? You were born here. You see, so many things in your life happened to you, not because you wanted to go to heaven, but because God planned every detail of your life, so some Pauls and Silas’ and earthquakes would confront you with the news of Jesus and how to get to heaven. God did it all for you, because He elected you from a time before the world was created.

Now, if you have not received Jesus as Savior and Lord, so you can go to heaven, perhaps it was God who by some quirk of circumstance got you to read this thought for the day. Talk to Him right now about it. And may God be gracious to you and reveal to you that He chose you to be with Him forever.

Dr. Thomas R. Teply

 


May 2, 2016
UNCERTAINTY IS GOD'S OPPORTUNITY




Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."



God knows the plans He has for His children—and His plans are good, because God is good.

But a child does not always understand the overall plan, it’s more a realtime experience, enjoyed in the moment—where memories are made. Just as godly parents can be trusted to nurture and care for their child, so our heavenly Father is 100% trustworthy to plan ahead for His children. Especially during uncertain days, we can lean into Christ’s certainty. God opportunities are all around waiting patiently for eyes of faith to lock in on and see the Spirit’s delightful work.

Jeremiah writes much needed encouragement to the community of God’s people held captive by the Babylonians—for exile breeds people desperate for help from heaven—and perseverance grows stronger where a future hope abides. Living in a culture counter to a people’s values and beliefs becomes a test of trust and obedience. Is the Lord still at work when a small group of His followers are surrounded by a mostly secular society? Maybe more so, because the futility of the faithless grows darker in contrast to the loving light of felicity found in faithful living. Like an innovative entrepreneur God capitalizes on uncertain times with the certainty of Christ’s love.

 

"Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name." (Malachi 3:16)

Though it may be camouflaged in uncertainty, what God opportunity waits to surprise you? Is the Spirit flushing you out to lead at a larger level? Improved leadership skills are developed beyond the pages of a good book discussion—real life is where you apply what you know, and learn what you don’t know. Followers do not expect perfection in a leader, but they do look for a leader who admits and learns from their mistakes. It may be wise to problem solve by including those in the decision making process who are most affected by any new policies and procedures.

Most of all, be intentional in communion with Christ. There is no better way to find the way of God’s will than to hear His heart in His word—the Bible. The Spirit’s message is best discerned by a listening and teachable soul. To better understand your life’s blueprints, invest time with your architect—Jesus Christ. Every detail matters to your Maker—like your wedding day—His plan is customized just for you. You can be certain that your life is an opportunity for the Lord to shine His love through you. By faith, accept the certainty of Christ’s perfect plan—just for you.

"You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told."  (Psalm 40:5)

What is the Lord teaching you about Himself during your days of uncertainty?

Wisdom Hunters

 




March 31, 2016

FORTY DAYS



Acts 1:3
"He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God."




During the 40 days between His resurrection and ascension to heaven, Jesus appeared again and again to His disciples. It seemed as if He came out of nowhere, then just as mysteriously He would vanish from their sight. He spoke to them about the kingdom of God:

"He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God." (Acts 1:3)

And even ate with them:

"They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them." (Luke 24:42-43)

These appearances were not some figment of their imagination.

When I was a boy, I used to ponder those mysterious events. Where did Jesus come from when He appeared, and where did He go when He disappeared? I came to believe that Jesus was able to slip from heaven to earth and back again during those 40 days. Then on the 40th day He ascended and disappeared into a cloud to remain at the Father’s right hand until the time comes for Him to return:

"And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.'" (Acts 1:9-11)

"that he [God] worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come." (Ephesians 1:20-21)

Mystery still remains, but I find comfort in the fact that the Bible records those events. They strengthen my faith in knowing that before Jesus’ disciples began to preach the gospel, they were absolutely sure He was alive. They also reassure me that heaven is near at hand.

How wonderful to know that Jesus is alive and that heaven is only a step away!

Herbert VanderLugt



March 30, 2016
SOME DOUBTED



Matthew 28:17
"And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted." 




Jesus’ disciples were not easily convinced.  When they heard the excited testimony of the women who had been to the empty tomb, they did not believe them:

"but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them." (Luke 24:11)

And when Jesus suddenly appeared to them that evening, they still did not believe:

"And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, 'Have you anything here to eat?'" (Luke 24:41) 

They were so overjoyed and stunned at the sight of their risen Lord that they questioned their own senses. Some time later, when Jesus appeared to His disciples in Galilee, even then some doubted:

"And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted." (Matthew 28:17)

Before worshiping Him, they had to be sure they weren’t seeing a phantom. It had to be demonstrated to Thomas:

"So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord.' But he said to them, 'Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.'” (John 20:25)

I am glad the Bible records that the disciples were skeptical, for it proves that they were not easily fooled.  As a result, their testimony carries more weight.  Their desire for proof helps us to be sure that Jesus actually did rise from the dead.  It also assures us that God doesn’t want us to be gullible, and that He can bring sturdy faith out of doubt.  Even His gentle rebuke of Thomas evoked a firm confession:

"Thomas answered him, 'My Lord and my God!'" (John 20:28)

I am thankful for these former skeptics, aren’t you? Honest skepticism can be the first step to a strong faith.

Herbert VanderLugt



March 29, 2016
SURPRISE!




Luke 24:31
"And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight." 





Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610), an Italian artist, was known for his fiery temperament and unconventional technique.  He used ordinary working people as models for his saints and was able to make viewers of his paintings feel they were a part of the scene.

"The Supper at Emmaus" painting shows an innkeeper standing while Jesus and two of His followers are seated at a table when they recognize Him as the risen Lord.  One disciple is pushing himself to a standing position while the other’s arms are outstretched and his hands open in astonishment.

Luke, who records these events in his gospel, tells us that the two men immediately returned to Jerusalem where they found the eleven disciples and others assembled together:

"And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread." (Luke 24:33-35)

Oswald Chambers said, “Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical connections.  The only way a worker can keep true to God is by being ready for the Lord’s surprise visits.”

Whatever road we are on today, may we be ready for Jesus to make Himself known to us in new and surprising ways. Are your eyes open to see Jesus who is alongside you and at work in the circumstances of your lives today?

David McCasland



March 28, 2016
IT DEFIES NATURAL LAW


Acts 2:24
"God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it."



In the spring of 1984, I remember reading an interview in the Baton Rouge newspaper with incoming governor, Edwin Edwards. This was several years before I entered the political arena -- I was still working in law enforcement, and attending LSU, so I didn't closely follow the routine political controversy. What grabbed my attention was Edwards' response to a question asking if he believed Jesus died on the cross, was buried and resurrected.

"No," Edwards responded. "I think Jesus died, but I don't believe he came back to life because that's too much against natural law. I'm not going around preaching this, but he may have swooned, passed out or almost died, and when he was taken down, with superhuman strength, after a period of time he may have revived himself and come back to life."

To believe as Paul said, that God raised Jesus from the dead is the key to our salvation.

"God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it." (Acts 2:24)

Such belief does in fact run counter to the laws of nature -- as a result, those who believe it and openly confess it are then open to mockery and ridicule. But religion or politics that compromises essential truth to appease skeptics holds no hope for the present or the future.

The death and the literal resurrection of Jesus are just as essential in our redemption as His virgin birth and sinless nature. While the skeptics and critics may scoff at belief in the resurrection, there can be no victory over the grave for you and me without it. 

He Is Risen

The resurrection of Jesus was the most decisive, glorious, and astonishing event in history. Conceived in a virgin, sinless in nature, human in body, fully God and fully man, Jesus was raised to life, His body not resuscitated but renewed and transformed.

He could appear and, just as suddenly, disappear. He could ascend from earth and pass through walls and yet prepare grilled fish and urge one of His disciples to place his fingers in the wounds in His body. Only God can do all of these things.

Why? Why does His resurrection mean so much?

Before the resurrection came the cross. On the cross, Jesus bore the punishment for sin that each of us deserves and the Father poured His rightful anger at all human sin into His Son. Jesus's physical suffering was unparalleled, but His inner suffering – experiencing the judgment of hell, the separation from the Father, on our behalf – was what purchased our redemption. Only an eternal and infinite being could experience eternal and infinite pain in time and space.

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

He bore the penalty for our sins so we don't have to. He is our Savior – but He wouldn't be our Savior unless He was a risen one. Jesus's resurrection proved that once His atoning work on our behalf on the cross was finished, the sinless God-man could not be held in the grave.

His resurrection also showed that Jesus's claim to be God in human flesh was true. "The Resurrection serves as the … demonstration of the truth of His claims about Himself," writes theologian R.C. Sproul. It was "an act by which the Father universally vindicates the authenticity of His Son. In this sense, Christ is justified before the whole world by His resurrection."

Jerry Bridges served with the Navigators ministry for roughly 60 years. He went home to be with his Lord earlier this month at the age of 86. Jerry was not an imposing figure, or an eloquent preacher. He simply knew, deeply, the Risen One, and wrote classic books (The Pursuit of Holiness, "Respectable" Sins) that have helped hundreds of thousands of believers draw closer to the living Christ. In 2008, Jerry wrote this about the resurrection:

The resurrection of Jesus assures us of our justification. Paul wrote, 

"And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." (1 Cor. 15:17)

If Christ were still in the tomb it would mean God's wrath was not satisfied, and we would still stand guilty before God. But as Paul also wrote:

"...It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." (Romans 4:24-25) 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a fact of history. It provides the assurance of eternal life to all who will trust in Christ alone for their forgiveness. And it offers them the confidence of knowing there is a living Savior, Lord, and Friend Who "is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them." 

"Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25)

If there's better news than that, no one has ever heard it. And here's the most joyous thing of all: It's true!

Tony Perkins



March 27, 2016
ALIVE AND WELL


Mark 16:14
"Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen." 



  
Jesus Christ is alive and well. His earlier followers, taken aback by His death, initially denied His resurrection. They rejected reliable testimonies and refused to receive the truth of Christ rising from the dead. However, when they encountered the risen Lord, He rebuked them and then loved them. Unbelievers can loathe the Lord. Deists can deny Christ’s deity. Agnostics can be apathetic over His resurrection, but He is alive and well. 
  
Contemporary Christ-less cultures could care less about Christ’s resurrection, but it does not lessen His lordship over them. Everyone will one day confront Christ. 

"so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10–11)

Easter is the grandest stage for Jesus followers to celebrate His resurrection and His relevance. 
  
The Lord is alive and well in your heart. His resurrection resulted in Christ taking up residence in your soul and transforming your life. By faith you believed, and God gave you grace upon grace. Because He has risen from the grave, He has given all who confess Him as Lord abundant grace on earth and the promise of heaven with Him.

"For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ."  (Romans 5:17)

He is all you need. 
  
Lastly, you can live large for the Lord because He has triumphed over sin, sorrow, death, and hell. Easter is your eternal encouragement that He is alive and well. There will always be doubters, but do not dwell there. Focus on the undeniable force of faith that has captured you and millions before you. Because He has risen, you can rise above your circumstances, your hurt, and your fears. 

"And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all."  
(Acts 4:33)

Wisdom Hunters



March 26, 2016
SUFFERING SAVIOR



Isaiah 50:6

"I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting."




The sufferings of Jesus cannot be totally comprehended. One thing is clear: Jesus experienced voluntary suffering. He offered himself as a sacrifice on behalf of the human race, and it was a volitional act on His part. He willfully submitted to the will of His heavenly Father, which meant suffering. His heartache and mistreatment were the will of His heavenly Father:

"And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, 'Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.'" (Mark 8:31-33)

This principle is hard to process for those who want to enjoy problem-free living. The way of the cross is not always a smooth road, for it is marked with its own bumps along the way. Jesus suffered for the sake of others, and He calls His followers to be willing to do the same. The Bible says:

"For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake," (Philippians 1:29)

Suffering leads you to your Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus offered Himself to His tormentors as His adversaries plotted and schemed to bring Him down. They wanted to put Jesus on display as a mad man. If He were truly God, they reasoned, He would not allow this injustice to occur. However, the Creator allowed His creation to beat and bludgeon His only Son. Christ’s back was bruised and beaten for your sake. His ribs were whipped with sharp bits of rock that dug into His flesh indiscriminately. These mob-motivated men inflicted inhumane lashes across His body; facial hair was torn from His flesh. He did not hide his face or scowl back.

Rather, with a gaze up to heaven, as if to say, “Father this is for your glory,” He displayed a grim face of grace. This face of forgiveness was baptized in the spit of sinful man. They desecrated His friendly face with determined drool. The frenzy of the crowd took over with verbal lashes. These ungrateful sinners beat Him down emotionally and mentally, as well as physically. It was a horrific sight, similar to a one man concentration camp. But Jesus submitted to this suffering only because He first submitted to God. Ironically, those committing these hideous crimes were the very ones who could benefit from its results. They could have embraced His atonement for sin and received His resurrected life.

Jesus carried this burden on your behalf and that of all mankind. It was not an exercise in how much pain could be endured by one person. It was pure love, as Jesus loved you all the way to the cross: 

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

Without the love of God, the events at the cross would not have happened. The dreadful day’s activities would have culminated in the death of just another good man. Death would have been the end.

But Jesus conquered death, sin, and Satan so that you could do the same. His pain was your gain. He bore the cross so you could bear your cross. The way of the cross is the path to redemption. He bought you from the servitude of sin. No longer are you bound up in yourself and others, for He has set you free. You are exonerated by faith because He endured the cross, despised its shame, and is now interceding on your behalf at the right hand of His heavenly Father.

"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 12:2)

This is cause for celebration. God really does use all things for His good on behalf of those who love Him:

"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)

Therefore, allow gratitude to well up and burst forth from your heart. You can because of the great love of God exhibited in the sufferings of Christ Jesus. He suffered for you. Can you do any less? You serve a suffering Savior. You worship a suffering Savior who rose from the dead so He could save you from the uttermost punishment. He lives!

Jesus submitted to suffering only because He first submitted to His heavenly Father.

Wisdom Hunters


Previous thoughts

March 25, 2016
GOOD FRIDAY



John 19:16-18
"...So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them."





Good Friday is really good for those who have come to the foot of the cross of Jesus in repentance and faith. It is a commemoration for Christians of the ultimate and final sacrifice for the sins of the world. Through a cruel and grueling death, Christ gave His life—His body wreathed in pain, so the sick could be healed. He was abandoned, so the rejected could be accepted. He knew no sin, but became sin, so sinners could be forgiven.

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Oh what salvation and love—the Lord’s life consummated on Calvary. Oh what forgiveness—His raspy voice reiterated. Oh what compassion—His swollen face communicated. Oh what grace—His nail pierced hands activated. Oh what good news—His nail pierced feet initiated. Oh what humility—His crown of thorns demonstrated.

It is Good Friday, because the good news of Jesus Christ’s love and forgiveness has been proclaimed around the world for almost two millennium. Taste and see that the Lord is good. He is good on Friday, but He is great on Sunday—because on the first day of the week He rose from the dead. Friday is good—but three days later is better—for He lives! Indeed, some who killed Him instantly recognized Him for who He was—they believed.

"And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:39)

Good Fridays come and Good Fridays go, but how is it with your soul? Does the cross of Christ move you to emotion—are you a grateful and engaged follower of Jesus? If not, embrace and celebrate the Cross. Ask your heavenly Father to restore the joy of your salvation, or maybe you are coming to Him for the first time in faith and trust. Surely, this man must be the Son of God—who came to save you and the world from their sins.

Make today a meaningful memory of what your master Jesus did for you. Linger long in reflection of the love that flowed down, and mingled with His precious blood. See His hands, see His feet; oh what love that makes your joy complete. You serve a risen Savior, who’s in the world today—He walks with you—He talks with you—He gave His life just for you. Good Friday is good—because Jesus is good—and His cross is God’s loving gift.

"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

Wisdom Hunters


March 24, 2016
LOVE ONE ANOTHER




John 13:34-35
"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."



On this day, Christians around the world prepare for Easter by recalling the Last Supper between Jesus and his disciples. Traditionally this day is referred to as Maundy Thursday, which at first glance may appear to be a misspelling! However, this seemingly odd phrase actually gives us a window into the very heart of Easter and the lives we live as Christian disciples.

Maundy is an English word derived from the Latin word for commandment. As such, this is the day we as Christians remember the new commandment that Jesus gave to his apostles: “as I have loved you, so you must love one another.” In this single sentence, Jesus gives his followers a model of love and the expected way for them to love one another and the world around them.

In many ways, Holy Week is the explanation of Jesus’ phrase “as I have loved you.” When we ask how Jesus loves us, we need not look any further than the events of this week. On the cross of Christ we see the love of God on full display! When we look to the cross we see the Son of God who offers himself for the life of the world:

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." (John 6:51)

We see a picture of humility, where the Son of God “made himself nothing” and was “obedient to death, even death on a cross.”

"but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Philippians 2:7-8)

Yet we also see the Son of God exulted to the highest place, triumphant over sin and death, ruling and reigning on high and beckoning us to join him in this radical and beautiful journey of love.

Jesus models for us self-sacrificing, humble, and radical love, and he invites us to join him in this way of life. In fact, he says this is the primary way that we will be identified in the world as his disciples! Your humble love for others is the primary way you show your faith in Jesus to be credible, attractive, and true.

As we look at our world today, we see a world that desperately needs this kind of love. With each passing day it seems that we find yet another way to divide, accuse, and attack one another. Our culture is overflowing with anger and hatred towards those we are called to love. Yet we as Christians are meant to be the aroma of Christ in the midst of this chaos! We must show the world a “more excellent way”:

"But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way." (1 Corinthians. 12:31)

Jesus has loved us with an unimaginable love. Let us be known as people who love one another and the world around us in the same way!

How can you love someone else this week with the same love Jesus has shown you?

Tripp Prince



March 23, 2016
JESUS' PROMISES



John 8:32
"and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."





We can easily find ourselves under a clod of ngative and defeating thoughts but Jesus promises that the truth will set you free. To help you examine whether you're believing lies about yourself or not, check out these 12 statements that might be familiar. Then see what God says.

You Say: "I can't figure it out"
God Says: "I will direct your steps" 

"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)

You Say: "It's impossible"
God Says: "All things are possible"

"But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God." (Luke 18:27)

You Say: "Nobody loves me"
God Says: "I Love you"

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." 
(John 3:16)

You Say: "I can't forgive myself"
God Says: "I forgive you"

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1)

You Say: "It's not worth it"
God Says: "It will be worth it"

"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)

You Say: "I'm not smart enough"
God Says: "I will give you wisdom"

"And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,"
 (1 Corinthians 1:30)

You Say: "I am not able"
God Says: "I am able"

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:8)

You Say: "I can't go on"
God Says: "My grace is sufficient"

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

You Say: "I can't do it"
God Says: "You can do all things"

"I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

You Say: "I can't manage"
God Says: "I will supply all your needs"

""And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)

You Say: "I'm afraid"
God Says: "I have not given you fear"

"for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:7)

You Say: "I feel all alone"
God Says: "I will never leave you"

"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'"(Hebrews 13:5)

Which one, or more, statements do you recognize as yours?

Poppy Smith
www.PoppySmith.com



March 22, 2016
HERE IS GOD


Matthew 28:20
"...And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."



 
When ancient sailors sketched maps of the oceans, they disclosed their fears. On the vast unexplored waters, cartographers wrote words such as these:

“Here be dragons.”
“Here be demons.”
“Here be sirens.”

 
Were a map drawn of your world, would we read such phrases? Over the unknown waters of adulthood, “Here be dragons.” Near the sea of the empty nest, “Here be demons.”
 
Next to the farthermost latitudes of death and eternity, do we read, “Here be sirens”? If so, take heart from the example of Sir John Franklin.
 
He was a master mariner in the days of King Henry V. Distant waters were a mystery to him, just as they were to other navigators. Unlike his colleagues, however, Sir John Franklin was a man of faith. The maps that passed through his possession bore the imprimatur of trust. On them he had crossed out the phrases “Here be dragons,” “Here be demons,” “Here be sirens.” In their place he wrote the phrase “Here is God.”
 
Mark it down. You will never go where God is not. You may be transferred, enlisted, commissioned, reassigned, or hospitalized, but—brand this truth on your heart—you can never go where God is not. 

Jesus promised:

"...And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."   (Matthew 28:20)

Max Lucado



March 21, 2016
YES MAN



Luke 15:6
"And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.'"





A few years ago, a movie came out called "Yes Man”, which tells the story of a loan officer named Carl, who, in the wake of a divorce, becomes embittered at the world. Carl attends a self-help seminar whose keynote presenter challenges the audience to never say “no” to any potential request that comes their way. The challenge is given to Carl to say “yes” to every opportunity that comes before him. The speaker's enthusiasm is infectious and Carl is transformed.

Get together with his friends? Carl says “yes”. Help plan a bridal shower? Carl says “yes”. Learn Korean? “Yes”. Take flying lessons? “Yes”. Start approving any sort of loan, no matter how crazy, at the bank? “Yes”.

Saying “yes” so many times leads Carl into some very uncomfortable situations which provide much of the film's humor. Eventually Carl answers “yes” to an ad for a lead singer for a band, where he ends up meeting a girl who becomes the love of his life.

"Yes Man" hits an important point on the meaning of the word “yes”. “Yes” is the riskiest word in the English language, with all sorts of uncomfortable possibilities and uncertain outcomes as soon as you say it.

This brings us to today’s Gospel lesson from Luke's 15th chapter. Today’s Gospel contains two short parables on the meaning of “yes”: the parable of the Lost Sheep and the parable of the Lost Coin. These parables set up the better known parable of the Prodigal Son.

When considering the meaning of Jesus’ parables, one must remember that these were not spoken with the intent of inducing smiles or snickers. These parables were told with the idea to shake up all previous ideas regarding how God actually works. Jesus' parables were given in a context intended to shock. Our parables for today both involve individuals displaying very strange behavior to pursue lost items.

The first parable is the Parable of the Lost Sheep. In this parable, a shepherd with 100 sheep abandons 99 to find one lost sheep in the wilderness. This parable stands out because the Pharisees would have understood that most shepherds would have just dismissed that one lost sheep as a lost cause. The lost sheep would have been unruly and more trouble than it was worth. The parable stands out because the shepherd didn’t think losing even one sheep out of 100 was acceptable. The shepherd had a personal devotion to this lost sheep and didn’t dismiss the missing sheep as the cost of doing business.

Go find the one lost sheep? "Yes!"

The other parable, the Parable of the Lost Coin, tells the story of a woman who stays awake all night to find one missing coin. Not only did this woman spend more time trying to find the coin than it was worth, she then threw a celebration for all her friends and neighbors over the coin's being found, thereby certainly spending at least the value of the coin.

Go find that lost coin? "Yes!"

What these parables do is highlight the nature of grace. These parables highlight the nature of God’s mercy. These parables highlight the nature of the Gospel. These parables paint a picture of a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. These parables draw a sharp contrast between our yes and God’s yes.

The reason that saying “yes” is the riskiest word in life is because “yes” involves potential consequences. When you say “yes” to a new employee, you see the cost right away, but the benefit requires imagination. When you say “yes” to a spouse, you run the risk of having your heart broken, you run the risk of having your life turned upside down, you run the risk of being dragged kicking and screaming to some undesirable corner of the earth. “Yes” is dangerous because yes introduces the possibility of failure and disappointment. So our everyday experiences make it very easy to say “no” to other people.

Whereas we run from the word “yes”, the Grace of God is different. Whereas our “yes” is given with conditions, the "yes” given to us on the Cross is given unconditionally.

Consider the meaning of the word “yes”. “Yes” is the most hopeful word in the world. Hearing “yes” is a putting to death all the reasons you tell yourself “no”, all the reasons those around you might tell you “no”, and all the reasons that you think God might tell you “no”.

Yes is God’s forgiveness in Christ Jesus.

Stew Carlson



March 20, 2016
GENTLE AND HUMBLE


Zechariah 9:9
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."





Jesus is gentle and humble, and He is aggressive and brave. Gentleness does not eliminate aggression, nor does humility cross out courage. Jesus is King of creation and ruler over the world, but He rules and leads with gentleness and humility. He describes Himself this way:

"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." (Matthew 11:29)

Power is not a rod of rejection for the gentle and humble leader. A gentle and humble leader uses his position of influence to serve others and help them be their best. He brings to bear resources and relationships that facilitate the unity of the team. His gentle and humble approach to people increases their probability of success. There is no need to inflict fear as your mode of operation. Why cause people to cower in contempt because they are afraid?

Fear is a leadership technique of the insecure and incompetent leader. Obtaining results is no excuse to use intimidation as a tool. Certainly there are seasons of intensity that call for elevated effort and focused attention above the norm. But these windows of change are opportunities for the leader to provide stability and calm. It is a demeanor dependent on the Lord. Gentleness and humility lubricate the relational machinery of a home or enterprise. Gentleness is aggression under the control of the Holy Spirit, and humility is courage that is first committed to Christ.

Yes, some will take advantage of you and the situation, but over the long haul humility wins. You win over people and you win accounts. You win over adversity and you win the team’s loyalty. You win the respect of your family and friends. Most importantly, you win God’s blessing. Yes, gentleness and humility risk rejection and risk being trampled upon, but you cannot go wrong emulating the character of Christ. Your position of influence as a parent, pastor, executive, volunteer, sole proprietor, or teacher is not a place for pleading or passive aggression. Instead, use your influence to gently lead by example and to humbly confront those who are stuck on their own agenda.

Gentleness and humility are children of great faith. This prideless posture seeks daily filling from the Holy Spirit and wisdom from God:

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:14-19)

A gentle follower of Christ has been broken before God. Like a wild and brawny stallion, your will must be broken and aligned with the Almighty’s purposes. Use this time of resistance to graft the gentleness of Jesus into your soul, and to embed the humility of your heavenly Father into your heart. Stay true to your personality and temperament; be loud and bold if this is your wiring. But whoever you are, do everything in a spirit of gentleness and with a humble heart. Deflect attention from yourself, and trust Him for the proper recognition in His timing. Turn away from arrogance and pride. Embrace gentleness and humility, for they are twins birthed from transformation in Jesus. 

What situation requires your gentle humility, rather than your forceful pride?

Wisdom Hunters



March 19, 2016
SUPPLICATION


Ephesians 6:18-20
"praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak." 



Supplication generally is not something I struggle with. I ask God for stuff all the time. I ask God to help my friends. I ask God to send miracles for loved ones. I even ask God for tangible things when I feel they are needed.

Supplication "for all the saints"—supplication that requires perseverance—however, sounds harder. I am good at asking God for what is right before me. I am not so good, though, at broadening the scope of my prayers to include all the saints and to think about what they might need. That is a lot of people. That is a lot of supplication.

Perhaps we could pray with the newspaper or with our social media feed. Perhaps we could pray at different times throughout the day for the different people we encounter. Perhaps today we could all pray for someone we have never prayed for before.

Breathing in: Spirit, I pray... 

Breathing out:. . . for all the saints.




March 17, 2016

SAY "YES": THE STORY OF SAINT PATRICK



2 Corinthians 12:9

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."




St. Patrick was born sometime in the 5th century in either Scotland or Britain.  He was born in a Christian family and raised in the Church, but he was not a practicing Christian in his early youth.  At 16, he was captured and enslaved by Irish pirates.  He would later write about how his time in captivity allowed him time to reflect on his sins, and it was during this time that he "said yes" and embraced the Christian faith.  After 6 years of living as a slave, he escaped and returned to his family in Britain.

Eventually he was ordained a priest and after being called to proclaim the Gospel to the Irish through a vision, he "said yes" and returned to Ireland as a missionary.

His life in Ireland was not an easy one.  The Druids saw him as an enemy and he had no protection from any king or kin.  He was robbed, beaten, and for a short time imprisoned.  Yet he remained courageous and faithful to God's call, planting seed which would later flourish and grow into a vibrant Church.

Later in life he became the first bishop of Armagh and the Primate of Ireland.  He is honored as a saint by all major branches of the Christian Church, and the Eastern Orthodox venerate him as "Equal to the Apostles" and "The Enlightener of Ireland."

There are many legends associated with the story of St. Patrick, including the famous tale that he drove all of the snakes out of Ireland.  Most of what we actually know about him comes from his own writings.  We have a letter that he wrote to soldiers who had murdered a group of Irish Christians, and we have his Confessions.  These writings show us a saint with a simple yet fervent faith in the God that he believed loved him; in a God with whom he had fallen in love.  This love was so intense that Patrick only wanted what God wanted;  He lived his life listening to God's call and "saying yes" by following God's direction in loving obedience. 

Hardships and disappointments could not dissuade him, because he was confident that God's love for him would bring him home to God, and that the work that God desired to accomplish through him, would in fact be accomplished in spite of his own weaknesses and any obstacles that others might place in his path.

Paul writes that God's grace is enough for us, and that God's strength is made perfect in weakness: 

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

The story of salvation certainly bears this out.  God called stammering Moses to stand before Pharaoh and demand the emancipation of the Hebrews.  God called a little shepherd boy named David to stand against the oppressor Goliath.  God called a young, unmarried virgin to be the Mother of the Savior.  God called Patrick, an unlearned, unsophisticated man to convert the Irish.

Is God asking you to do something that you feel unqualified to do?  Spend some time reflecting on the call and what gifts God has in fact given you that can be used for this ministry.  What is holding you back from following God's guidance?  What keeps you from saying "Yes" to God's call?

Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the courage to "say yes" and to trust that the God who called you, will perfect His strength in your weakness, and bless the work that he is calling you to do.



March 16, 2016
SELF CARE




Mark 6:3
"And he said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.' For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat." 




After my husband underwent heart surgery, I spent an anxious night by his hospital bed. Mid-morning, I remembered a scheduled haircut. “I’ll have to cancel,” I said, raking my fingers distractedly through my straggly hair. “Mom, just wash your face and go to your appointment,” my daughter said.

Sometimes self-care means allowing others to help carry our burdens. “No, no,” I insisted. “It doesn’t matter. I need to be here.” “I’ll stay,” Rosie said. “Self-care, Mom. . . . Self-care. You’re of more use to Dad if you take care of yourself.”

Moses was wearing himself out serving alone as judge over the Israelites. Jethro cautioned his son-in-law Moses: “You will only wear [yourself] out. The work is too heavy . . . you cannot handle it alone.”

"You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone." (Exodus 18:18)

He then explained ways that Moses could delegate his work and share his heavy load with others. Though it may seem paradoxical for the Christian, self-care is essential for a healthy life:

"And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:37-39)

"For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body."(Ephesians 5:29-30) 

Yes, we must love God first and love others as well, but we also need to get adequate rest to renew our body and spirit. Sometimes self-care means stepping away and graciously allowing others to help us with our burdens. Jesus often slipped away to rest and pray:

"The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.' For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves." (Mark 6:30-32)

When we follow His example, we will be more effective in our relationships and better able to give care to others.

Is your life in balance as you juggle your responsibilities?

Daily Bread




March 12, 2016
ABIGAIL’S REMINDER



Proverbs 16:7
"When a man's ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him."




David and 400 of his warriors thundered through the countryside in search of Nabal, a prosperous brute who had harshly refused to lend them help. David would have murdered him if he hadn’t first encountered Abigail, Nabal’s wife. She had packed up enough food to feed an army and traveled out to meet the troops, hoping to head off disaster. She respectfully reminded David that guilt would haunt him if he followed through with his vengeful plan:

"my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation himself. And when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant." (1 Samuel 25:31)

David realized she was right and blessed her for her good judgment. David’s anger was legitimate—he had protected Nabal’s shepherds in the wilderness and had been repaid evil for good:

"But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal's wife, 'Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master, and he railed at them. Yet the men were very good to us, and we suffered no harm, and we did not miss anything when we were in the fields, as long as we went with them. They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know this and consider what you should do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his house, and he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.'" (1 Samuel 25:14-17) 

However, his anger was leading him into sin. David’s first instinct was to sink his sword into Nabal, even though he knew God did not approve of murder and revenge:

"You shall not murder." (Exodus 20:13)

"You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:18)

When we’ve been offended, it’s good to compare our instincts with God’s intent for human behavior. We may be inclined to strike at people verbally, isolate ourselves, or escape through any number of ways. However, choosing a gracious response will help us avoid regret, and most important it will please God. When our desire is to honor God in our relationships, He is able to make even our enemies to be at peace with us:

"When a man's ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him." (Proverbs 16:7)

We can endure life’s wrongs because we know that God will make things right.

Jennifer Benson Schuldt



March 14, 2016
THE BEST ADVICE



Revelation 3:18
"I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see." 




The advice of well meaning people is not always best. They advise when we should buy or sell something, or borrow money: when we should save money or save more money, when we should give more money. In the case of a relationship, when we should give it a second chance or continue in a relationship, or when we should break it off. When we consider changing jobs, when we should stay or remain in a job, when we should change jobs. Sincere counsel that sounds right—may not be the best advice. Only Christ gives counsel that is accurate 100% of the time.

In Revelation, Jesus’ very insightful counsel exposes the church’s inability to see its unhealthy condition. His remedy is the application of His Spirit’s salve to reveal their need to be clothed in righteousness. Those who recognize their needy state are in a position to receive counsel, but those stuck in denial live in a dream state—perpetually in pain. Money can mask issues, but eventually severe dysfunction drives people and organizations to recognize their sickly condition. The longer the delay—the harder it is to fully recover. Only spiritual riches can truly satisfy!

"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:6-7)

Wealth of heart gets to the heart of what our heavenly Father desires most for us. Riches can be a roadblock to relationships or can provide additional options for spiritual and emotional growth. Abundance is the asset our generous God offers to His children. Abundance of life, relationships and all we need and desire to live a fulfilling life. The riches of Christ are not without cost. As our faith is tried by the fires of adversity and success we remain faithful to be a channel of the Lord’s acceptance, intimacy and fruitfulness. The best advice comes from our Creator’s wisdom.

Are you open to advice? Have you truly humbled yourself to admit you are in need of help from God and others? Remember, more money is not the answer to issues that set up residence in the heart. The closer a person is to an issue—the harder it is for them to see the best solution. Faith takes a step back and invites in a third party to help parse the problem. The best counsel comes from Christ. What does He think about your situation? How does Jesus want to love you in your pain? Listen to the Lord, look around to see Him at work—and receive His best advice.

"... 'Inquire first for the word of the Lord.'" (1 Kings 22:5)

To whom do you need to submit and learn from their experience and wisdom?

Wisdom Hunters



March 13, 2016
GOD ENABLES



Habakkuk 3:19
"God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places...."




God is your enabler for there is nothing you cannot do that He has destined you to accomplish. It is His eternal enablement that carries you forward. The next phase of your character growth may be painful. The development of your business or ministry to the next level could be daunting. The skills you need as a parent are scary, and it seems impossible to balance work, home, and hobbies. But God is bigger than your frailties, fears, and family. He will enable you if you let Him, so do not carry this burden of becoming better alone. Your Savior is your enabler of bigger and better things. In your own strength you will remain frustrated, frazzled, and stuck. There is no amount of self-discipline that by itself can accomplish God’s results. It is through the empowering of the Holy Spirit that you are able to endure and execute the will of the Lord.

"Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses and his people. Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit," (Isaiah 63:11)

As a child of God, you can offload your fatigue to your heavenly Father and rest in Him. You can outsource your anxieties to the One who can enable you to execute eternity’s agenda. His grace qualifies you to carry out this life’s assignment. You have been crucified with Christ.

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

and sealed by His spirit:

"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." (Ephesians 4:30)

You are a valued member of Christ’s community. Others have traveled this road of trust and did much more than survive. They thrived because the Lord enabled them with His wisdom and grace.

This season of life may be hard for now. It is difficult because you are not sure how to navigate everything that needs to be done, and some things need to be left undone. Allow the Sovereign Lord to enable your action or inaction. Seek His power before you traverse this next path of trust. Pray for His eternal enablement, for He is your strength as you embark on the next steps.

Part of accepting God’s enablement is admitting areas of weakness. No amount of prayer can transform you into something God never intended you to be. This is important to accept. He will not enable what doesn’t contain the raw skills or gifts to develop. If you are good with numbers, then allow Him to grow you in this area of data analysis. If not, then free yourself by allowing another to enjoy the responsibility of drawing financial conclusions and estimates. Stop striving to be someone you are not. Know your limitations and humble yourself by confessing them to others.

To get to the next level, both professionally and personally, probably means giving up some responsibility for the sake of progress. You could handle this role up till now, but others more skilled are available to step in and do a better job. Successful people understand this natural transition of responsibilities. Allow Him to enable you with this different level of leadership. Change and transition expose weaknesses and strengths. Use this time of vulnerability, and let God enable your leadership development. He is exposing your professional profile in a fresh way, as would a photo developer in a darkroom. This dark time is illuminating the Lord’s best for you. God’s enablement may mean letting go of the good, and focusing on what you do best. Cooperate with the Holy Spirit; He strengthens what He enables. God’s enablement gives you the resources and the wisdom to carry out His plan. Look to the Lord often for His eternal enablement. His enablement strengthens and lasts forever.

What area of your life do you need to invite God’s love to give you strength from above?

Wisdom Hunters



March 12, 2016
HOPEFUL WAITING



Micah 7:7
"But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me."



 
Hope allows you to wait patiently on the Lord. It is hope in Him that is heaven’s guarantee of grace. Because of the things that are out of your control, it is wise to practice hopeful waiting. Otherwise, you will live in frustration and fear over matters you cannot mandate or manipulate. This is where hopeful waiting pays great dividends. You choose to hope in Christ rather than place your trust in ever-changing circumstances. This is a wise bet. If, however, your hope is in an organization or institution, all bets are off. Both can and will fail to meet your expectations, but hopeful waiting trumps the company’s broken promises. It gets you to place your trust and hope in God’s provision rather than in the corporation’s ever-changing commitments.

The same can be said of what we should expect from people. They can be fickle and undependable. Indeed, some people hurry away when things get tough. They make excuses or excuse themselves from responsibilities. Difficult times raise up heroes and bring down imposters. Therefore, patient people learn hopeful waiting in their dealings with others. They wait on people, not in a naïve or irresponsible way, but in a way that honors them and Christ.

They are hopeful while waiting for him or her to follow through with their original commitment. If there is no progress on their part, then there are consequences to their concessions. If there is a pattern of non-productive living and working, then hopeful waiting is trumped by wise stewardship. You always wait on the Lord, but as you wait, be an excellent steward of His resources. Waiting does not mean wasting. As did the faithful manager, you work wisely while you wait on your Master.

"To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents."(Matthew 25:15-28)

Wait on Him and hope in Him, for this is a wise sequence of activity and thinking. God is not going anywhere without you.

"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)

Circumstances change and people leave, but He is still there for you to trust and obey. There is no need to run away and hide, for God has revealed Himself just for you. His wisdom is there for the asking. Your Savior gives you stability because a firm footing is found by faithfully waiting on Him in hope. Do not be shaken. Stay put until He tells you differently. All hell may break loose around you, but heaven is still in control within you. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you even while people swirl out of control.

God is listening, so speak to Him often in prayer. It may be difficult to get an audience with your adversary, but you can always meet with your Savior. So go to Him quickly. This is what hope does. It depends on Christ. He will come through as He has in the past. You can wait hopefully on Him because He fulfills His promises with pleasure. Be patient and hopeful as you wait on Him. He will do what He originally set out to accomplish. Trust Him with this and do not be overwhelmed by inactivity. His hope is certain and true. Therefore, remain faithful to the One who is most trustworthy. Wait on Him and hope in Him, for this prayerful sequence with your Savior is security indeed. Watch, wait, and hope, for He hears your heart and feels your pain.

Wisdom Hunters



March 11, 2016
TOTAL COMMITMENT



Hebrews 12:1-2
"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." 




In 1952 Florence Chadwick attempted to swim 26 miles from the coast of California to Catalina Island. After 15 hours, a heavy fog began to block her view. She became disoriented, and she gave up. To her chagrin, Chadwick learned that she had quit just one mile short of her destination.

Two months later Chadwick tried a second time to swim to Catalina Island from the coast. Again a thick fog settled in, but this time she reached her destination, becoming the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel.

Chadwick said she kept an image of the shoreline in her mind even when she couldn’t see it.

When the problems of life cloud our vision, we have an opportunity to learn to see our goal with the eyes of faith. The New Testament book of Hebrews urges us to 

"...run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith..." (Hebrews 12:1)

When we feel like quitting, this is our signal to remember not only what Jesus suffered for us but what He now helps us to endure — until the day we see Him face to face. We can finish strong when we focus on Christ.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)

Dennis Fisher



March 10, 2016
MADE TO BEAR FRUIT



Luke 13:6
"And he told this parable: 'A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.'




Throughout the Bible, God’s people Israel are often referred to as a vineyard. This image can be found in both the Old and New Testaments where the consistent message linked to this image is that healthy vineyards bear fruit! When a vineyard is true to its design and purpose, it overflows with life and fruitful production. Conversely, when they fail to bear fruit, they have rejected their purpose, their mission, and their design.

Though God is patient and merciful, the parable Jesus tells in Luke 13 reminds us that God does indeed expect us to live fruitful lives! How can we say we love God and desire to follow him if that love is not reflected in the way we treat one another? I think of these words from 1 John:

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20)

Likewise, John the Baptist invites us to follow Jesus:

"Bear fruit in keeping with repentance." (Matthew 3:8)

Love of God and fruitful, faithful living always go hand in hand. You can’t say you love God without living sacrificially for the sake of others. And you can’t truly love without that love being inspired and empowered by Love himself.

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me."
 (John 15:4)

The key to fruitful Christian living is to remain crystal clear on the source of our life and health. As Jesus reminds us, if we are to bear much fruit, we have to abide in our source of life: Him and Him alone. However, this is harder for us to do than you might think! We are culturally so full of self-help, self-affirmation, and positive self-worth that I think one of the single greatest challenges to following Jesus in our day is the simple acknowledgement of our need! We must truly believe that we cannot save or help ourselves. Though we’re told that the answers to every problem we face in life are found inside of us if we just dig deep enough, it simply isn’t true!

If we believe the lie that we are self-fulfilled people who just need God to help out from time to time, we run the great risk of being like the fruitless vineyard Jesus speaks of in this parable. May we instead boldly and unashamedly abide in Christ, who is our only source of life and hope!

"And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." (Colossians 1:9-10)

How can you grow in loving God, not only in word, but in deed as well? How much fruit do you bear?

Tripp Prince



March 9, 2016
HOUSE OF LOVE



Luke 6:47-49

"Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great."




Years ago in Oklahoma we bought our first new home from a builder we trusted. Dean was meticulous with details and obsessed by quality. Though he constructed the house for our growing family of five—he was motivated by excellence, as if he were building a place to take care of his mom. The foundation was strong and sturdy, able to withstand the winds ‘sweeping down the plain.’ The walls were measured to perfection—level all the way around. The roof was sealed tight to resist hail and rain. Our house was built solid. Dean even gave us a refrigerator!

Jesus describes two home builders: one who took the time to do the job right and one who took shortcuts. One was motivated by quality first—money second, and one who looked for ways to make an extra dollar on a home that was not built to last. The bad builder claims to be a Christian, but does not put into practice what Jesus says to do. A person who says the right things without real belief—will one day be rejected by the Lord. Their life will be like a house without a solid foundation: unstable, unsafe, insecure and spiritually destructive.

"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:1-2)

A house of love is built on the foundation of faith in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Some of its most frequented rooms are intimacy, acceptance and fruitfulness. A person who often lingers in these rooms experiences intimacy to grow their affection for their loving Lord Jesus, enjoys 100% acceptance from their gracious heavenly Father and are fulfilled by a fruitful life produced by the fullness of the Holy Spirit through their humble and surrendered life. A house of love is the permanent residence of those who place their trust in Christ alone. Love never fails!

A house of fear is built on the deceptive foundation of sin, Satan and self. Some of its most visited rooms are isolation, disapproval and failure. A person who gets sucked into these hopeless spaces is tormented by loneliness—a victim mentality—“it’s someone else’s fault.” They fear disapproval from the few people who tolerate their tortured soul. Fear is emotionally exhausted, incapable of caring for others. And fear of failure taunts you to the point it becomes a self fulfilling outcome of your insecure imagination. Love or fear, which house are you building?

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love."(1 John 4:18)

What is one way you can love better today?

Wisdom Hunters



March 8, 2016
ATTITUDE



James 1:2
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,"




A famous writer was in his study. He picked up his pen and began writing:

Last year, my gall bladder was removed. I was stuck in bed due to this surgery for a long time.

The same year I reached the age of 60 and had to give up my favorite job. I had spent 30 years of my life with this publishing company.

The same year I experienced the death of my father.

In the same year my son failed in his medical exam because he had a car accident. He had to stay in the hospital with a cast on his leg for several days.

And the destruction of the car was a second loss. His concluding statement: “Alas! It was such bad year!!”

When the writer's wife entered the room, she found her husband looking dejected, sad and lost in his thoughts. She carefully and surreptitiously read what he had written, and silently left the room and came back shortly with another piece of paper on which she had written her summary of the year’s events and placed it beside her husband’s paper. When her husband saw that she had written something in response – he read her “take” on the year’s events:

Last year I finally got rid of my gall bladder which had given me many years of pain.

I turned 60 with sound health and retired from my job. Now I can utilize my time to write better and with more focus and peace.

The same year my father, at the age of 95, without depending on anyone and without any critical conditions, met His Creator.

The same year, God blessed my son with life. My car was destroyed, but my son was alive and without permanent disability.

At the end she wrote: This year was an immense blessing and it passed well!!

The same incidents but different viewpoints.

Moral: In daily lives we must see that it's not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy. There is always, always, always something for which to be thankful!

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds," (James 1:2)

Attitude is the one thing over which we can have control, in every circumstance.

"The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem"--Captain Jack Sparrow



March 7, 2016
HOT HEARTED FOR GOD




Revelation 3:15-16, 19
"I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth....Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent."




As a young dad, I couldn’t wait to bring my wife and our first newborn home from the hospital. Damp, dreary and chilly outside, I built a roaring fire in our new wood burning stove to assure our 1,200 sq. ft. ranch home was warm and toasty. Our precious baby girl’s little pink fingers and toes never felt a tinge of coolness, because I kept feeding the fire with dried logs from a cord of wood just outside the back door. In preparation for the dark, cold night I filled the furnace and barely opened the flue. Like a hot fire, a hot heart for God needs its faith fueled.

The Lord looks displeasingly on a lukewarm life or on the institutional church that has lost its fiery faith for Christ. A mediocre church or Christian who coasts through life are unacceptable to God. In Revelation Jesus calls out the church for blending in with the world. He would rather the church be totally dead and cold than a spiritual zombie, acting as if it were alive. Death knows it is dead, but being alive and going through the motions is deadly. But God’s great desire is for His bride the church and each disciple to burn brightly for the faith.

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house." (Matthew 5:14-15)

What does it mean to be a lukewarm Christian? One indicator is that we use faith to further our self serving agenda. A politician who uses faith to get elected, but whose behavior does not back up their beliefs—is lukewarm. A business person who attends church to be seen and uses their influence to acquire customers, but whose life lacks integrity—is lukewarm. A student who says they are saved, but blends in with the crowd—is lukewarm. A family who smiles at church, but experiences hell at home—is lukewarm. Lukewarm is dishonesty.

Because the Lord loves us, He rebukes and disciplines us in our lukewarm condition. Christ calls us not to be like everyone else, but to stand courageously for the sake of the gospel. He calls us to be zealous in our faith—a zeal based on the knowledge of His word and knowing Him. As our Lord says—repentance is the remedy for being lukewarm. Turn from your cold, dead past—let go of your lukewarm present and fuel your faith with loving obedience to God. The flue of faith is opened on our knees in prayer and praise to our Savior Jesus. Hot hearts ever glow for God.

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21)

What area of your life is lukewarm, in need of repentance and loving obedience?

Wisdom Hunters



March 5-6, 2016
FOR HIS TIME




Psalm 31:15
"My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!"





When South African pastor Andrew Murray was visiting England in 1895, he began to suffer pain from a previous back injury. While he was recuperating, his hostess told him of a woman who was in treat trouble and want to know if he had any counsel for her. Murry said, "Give her this paper which I have been writing for my own encouragement. It may be that she will find it helpful." This is what Murry wrote:

"In time of trouble say:

First--God brought me here. It is by His will I am in this strait place. In that I will rest.

Next—He will keep me in His love and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.

Then—He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.

Last—In His good time He can bring me out again—how and when He knows.

I am here—by God’s appointment, in His keeping, under His training, for His time.”

We want the instant solution, the quick fix, but some things cannot be disposed of so readily; they can only be accepted. God will keep us by His love. By His grace, we can rest in Him.

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)

Our Daily Bread




March 4, 2016
MAKE ROOM FOR SUCCESS



Numbers 27:18-19
"So the Lord said to Moses, 'Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him. Make him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and you shall commission him in their sight.'"




After 16 years of leading Ministry Ventures, the Lord called me to serve on the National Christian Foundation team. God’s will is what’s best for all parties and I certainly experienced this during my career transition. Over a four year process I discovered the necessity to move on and make room for the success of the other MV team leaders. If I remained in charge the organization could not grow into a more sustainable fee based ministry soon enough. I was our greatest growth constraint. By God’s grace—I made the decision to move on and make more room for success.

Moses led Israel as far as he was capable—God stated clearly that he was not the man to lead the people into the promised land. Instead, the Lord called Joshua—Moses’ apprentice—to be his successor for Israel’s next season of success. Joshua was a gifted leader who experienced the good, the bad and the ugly under Moses’ mentorship, but most of all the younger leader observed the favor of God working through the work of Moses. The leadership transition was respectful to all and honored the Lord. Moses prayerfully laid hands on Joshua, commissioning him publicly.

"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands," (2 Timothy 1:6)

Do you need to make room for success by moving on? What’s holding you back? The flesh loves to feel wanted and in the process of self absorption drives good people away. Our ego likes to enjoy the prominence of a position that others admire, but when our ambition becomes an idol we miss the blessing of enjoying God’s favor. Better to transition under terms we can prayerfully influence and facilitate than to be forced out because we overstayed our welcome. Humility and faith make room for the success of others and the mission of the enterprise above its own agenda.

Do you need to step up into a more responsible leadership role so the organization can grow to the next level? What’s holding you back? Fear of failure is like a common cold—there is no cure, so use a healthy sense of hesitation as an opportunity to grow your faith in your team and your intimacy with your heavenly Father. Leaders with no fear, risk being a leader whose definition of reality is skewed. Those the Lord calls:

"See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze," (Exodus 31:2-4)

He equips with skills, He empowers with wisdom and He encourages with results. Failure is an option for learners. So step up and make room for success!

"Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for him." (Acts 7:45-47)

Are you willing to move on to make room for the success of others? Where is the Lord calling you to step up with more responsibility for the success of the organization’s mission?


Wisdom Hunters



March 3, 2016
LEAP THE WALL



Proverbs 25:21
"If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink." 





Sgt. Richard Kirkland was a Confederate soldier in the US Civil War (1861–1865).  When the Union’s failed charge at Marye’s Heights during the Battle of Fredericksburg left wounded Union soldiers abandoned in no-man’s land, Kirkland got permission to help them.  Collecting canteens, he leaped the stone wall and bent over the first soldier to lend assistance.  At great personal risk, the “Angel of Marye’s Heights” extended the mercy of Christ to enemy soldiers.

While few of us will face an enemy on the battlefield, those who suffer can be found all around us — people struggling against loneliness, loss, health issues, depression and sin.  Their cries, muted by our many distractions, plead for mercy and comfort, for hope and help.

Kirkland’s example of Christ-like compassion put action to Jesus’ command to “love your enemies” 

"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," (Matthew 5:44)

Paul expanded on that theme when he quotes Proverbs: 

"To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."   (Romans 12:20-21)

Paul’s challenge compels us to emulate Sgt. Kirkland.  Today is the day for us to “leap the wall” of safety to lend comfort from God to those in need.

Do you have the courage to reach out to those you may not want to reach?  Will you show God's love in ways that will bring glory to Him and true peace in your corner of the world?

"Kindness is in our power even when fondness is not." —Samuel Johnson

Randy Kilgore



March 2, 2016
SYSTEM MAINTENANCE




Philippians 3:13-14
"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."





My computer has a folder of temporary Items. It's full of data that was once needed, but isn't currently necessary. I don't intentionally create those files; they seem to appear out of thin air, occupying space on my computer. Those who know about computers say that these files need to be deleted now and again, or they will slow down my computer's operating system. One rule of thumb says that if the date on those files isn't today's date, they can be safely erased.

I have a similar folder inside my head. Unfortunately, the contents of this folder aren't as harmless as what's inside the temporary Items in my computer. This folder contains a complete archive of bad things that have happened in the past, both things that I've done and things that have been done to me. I've got video, audio, and text, a whole multimedia display of negativity. When I least want them to, these things worm their way out of my past into my present.

I remember the times I embarrassed myself. I remember the times that I hurt other people. I remember my failures. I remember my sin.

I remember the times I was mistreated. I remember the ways that people hurt me, the things they said, the things they did. I remember those times that other people let me down.

I remember none of that does me any good. Those things from the past only serve to slow things down, to spoil today with yesterday's hurts. Like those temporary files on my computer, what I really need to do is get rid of them.

The apostle Paul wrote:

"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14)

We have to put our past in the past and set our eyes on what lies ahead. We have a God who is willing to forgive anything and everything that we've done, if we'll only let Him. And He'll teach us to do the same with other people.

Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher



March 1, 2016
LEAP OF FAITH



Hebrews 11:8
"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going."




During a baseball game in the summer of 2006, Boston Red Sox centerfielder Coco Crisp made a spectacular play. David Wright of the New York Mets hit a ball toward left centerfield. The ball was moving away from Crisp as he raced after it. Just as it began to fall to the ground, Crisp dove headlong toward it. With his body flying through the air, he stretched his gloved hand as far as possible — and caught the ball. Some called it the best catch they had ever seen.

What were his thoughts as the ball sliced through the air? Crisp said, “I didn’t think I could get there. I decided to go for it. I took a leap of faith.”

In Hebrews 11, we read of what Abraham discovered “by faith.” God called him to leave his country and family and go “to a land that I will show you”.

"Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you." 
(Genesis 12:1)

By faith, Abraham obeyed.

Is God calling you to do something difficult? Perhaps to take a missions trip to help people in need. Or to witness to someone throwing her life away with bad decisions. Or to show kindness and love in a relationship that needs encouragement.

If you aren’t sure you can do it, ask God to help you. Then, trusting your loving heavenly Father, dive toward that goal. It could be the best play of your life!

When God presents you with a challenge, take a leap of faith.

Dave Branon

 

 

January 20, 2016
GOD'S NAME: HANDLE WITH CARE



Exodus 20:7
"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain."
 

 

One afternoon I was having a discussion with a friend I considered my spiritual mentor about misusing God's name. "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God," says the third commandment. We may think this only refers to attaching God's name to a swear word or using His name flippantly or irreverently. But my mentor rarely missed an opportunity to teach me about real faith. He challenged me to think about other ways we profane God's name. When I reject the advice of others and say, "God told me to go this way," I misuse His name if all I am doing is seeking approval for my own desires.

When I use Scripture out of context to try to support an idea I want to be true, I am using God's name in vain. When I teach, write, or speak from Scripture carelessly, I misuse His name. Author John Piper offers this reflection on what it means to take God's name in vain:"The idea is . . . 'don't empty the name.' Don't empty God of His weight and glory." We misuse His name, Piper says, when we "speak of God in a way that empties Him of His significance."

My friend challenged me to honor God's name and to pay closer attention to using His Word carefully and accurately. Anything less dishonors Him. 

RANDY KILGORE


January 19, 2016
GROWING CLOSER TO GOD




James 4:8
"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded."





The word sanctification means a dedication to seeking God and becoming more Christ-like while turning away from sin and a world-centered lifestyle. Here are three steps to help believers in the process of sanctification:

1. Put God's Word in Your Heart

Read it, believe it, study it, memorize it, think on it, and obey it. Start by establishing a time of daily Bible reading. Some Bibles provide a schedule to help you read through God’s Word in a year. Prior to each reading, ask God to give you insight into His Word and thank Him in faith for doing so. Write down scriptures that the Holy Spirit quickens to you. During the day, memorize and think about what you have read. Prayerfully ask God to show you how the scriptures apply to your life. Do what the Word and the Spirit — both are always in agreement — tell you to do.

"And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul," (Deuteronomy 11:13)

2. Pray Regularly

In addition to a daily intake of the Word, Christians need to pray regularly in order to hear from God and remain sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Dedicate a time for prayer each day. Perhaps you could start by committing to pray for at least 15 minutes in the morning or evening, whichever time works best for you. Begin by praising God and thanking Him for salvation, for other benefits He has provided for you in Christ, and for specific things He has done for you in your life.

Pray for those in authority:

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." (1 Timothy 2:1–2)

Pray for your pastor, family, local church, and personal needs. Pray with your understanding and in the Spirit. You will soon find your prayer time growing.

3. Actively Serve God

Start actively serving God. You can invest your talent to help in the work of the Lord. Your talent may be painting, cleaning, organizing, or something else. But whatever it is, you can get involved in your local church by using the talents God has given you to bless others.

"You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you."(Exodus 23:25)

Growth in God comes from exposing ourselves consistently to Him by reading and thinking on His Word, doing what God’s Word tells us to do, maintaining a consistent prayer life, and wholeheartedly serving God. Putting these three steps to work in a consistent way will make a difference for the better in your life this year (and every year)!

Keith Hagen Ministries

 


January 18, 2016
ONE WAY TO PLEASE GOD




Habakkuk 2:4
"Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith." 





If you were to ask several people to draw a crooked line on a piece of paper, no two lines would be identical. There is a lesson in this: There are many ways to be crooked, but only one way to be straight.

The Lord tells us that the righteous person has only one option -- to “live by his faith”. In the chapter prior to this declaration from the Lord, the prophet Habakkuk had complained about the violence and injustice around him. It seemed as if the wicked were swallowing up the righteous:

"You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?" (Habakkuk 1:13)

God responded to Habakkuk by saying that His people were to be “just” and were to live by faith. They were not to be like the one who is “proud” and “not upright”:

"Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith." (Habakkuk 2:4)

A proud and self-sufficient person will rationalize his faults and imperfections. He doesn’t want to admit that he needs God. His ways are crooked. Wickedness seems to prevail in our world. God urges us to live our lives in faith, taking to heart His assurance to Habakkuk that there will be a day of reckoning for the wicked. The only way to please God now, and to be ready for that day of reckoning, is to live by faith.

A prayer:

 Lord, grant me grace throughout this day
 To walk the straight and narrow way,
 To do whatever in Thy sight
 Is good and perfect, just and right.
 -- Huisman

The only right way is the straight and narrow way.

Albert Lee


 

January 17, 2016
DOUBT GOD? 



Genesis 3:1
"Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, 'Did God actually say, "You shall not eat of any tree in the garden"’?”



 
Satan’s first goal is to get you. If he is unable to get you, his next step is to get you to doubt God. After all, what good is faith that is watered down by doubt? This isn’t to say we may not go through seasons of doubt as disciples of Christ. But doubt is not the ongoing pattern of a serious and faithful follower of Jesus. Thomas was a doubter for a time, but when he came face-to-face with his resurrected Savior and Lord, his doubts fled like an exposed bandit. Do not underestimate the enemy’s endeavors to get you to doubt God. If he is successful in planting and growing seeds of doubt, your faith will be stunted. Your faith will be choked to death by the weeds of worry, by the crabgrass cares in this world. 
 
In some ways, it was easier to trust God when you first believed. Now that you have aged in years as a Christian, you may have formalized your faith to the point where the miraculous has been replaced by the mundane. Questions and doubt have replaced God’s promises of assurance. 
 
Did God really say my relationship with Him is based on my belief in Jesus Christ as His son and the only way to heaven?

"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

Did God really say that those who believe in Jesus go to heaven, and those who reject him are separated from God eternally in hell?

"And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:15)

Did God really say that I am to pay my taxes that are due the government as an example of good citizenship?

"Jesus said to them, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.' And they marveled at him." (Mark 12:17)

Did God really say I am to honor my parents, even if they are undeserving of honor?

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother' (this is the first commandment with a promise), 'that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.'" (Ephesians 6:1-3)

Satan may be seducing you with these subtle messages of doubt. Did God really say to volunteer in the church, start tithing, stay in this marriage, forgive my friend, invest in my family, and help my neighbor? Did He really say to trust Him, even when I don’t feel Him? Am I to obey Him when I don’t understand why or how? The answer, no doubt, is yes. 

Just say yes to God’s Word in opposition to the enemy’s subtle and sometimes not so subtle questions of doubt. Answer the devil’s leading questions of doubt with a resounding vote of confidence in what God has told you to be true. Satan will try to convince you that God is somehow holding back on what’s best for you. He may be holding back, but only for your good, not for your detriment or frustration. Be aware of Satan’s schemes. He is determined for you to doubt God and thus doubt yourself and others. But you know better. Replace his temptations to doubt God with God’s assurance of faith. 

God has given you eyes of trust to see the unseen: 

"as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Your Lord has proven Himself time and time again as faithful and dependable. Even when we have strayed, our Savior has been there for us when we made the turn back to truth. Christ is totally trustworthy. There is no need for any inkling of doubt in Him or His word. Believe His warnings as His protection; believe His promises as His assurance; believe His principles as His rules for living; believe in His track record as His promise of provision; believe His truth that sets you free from the dregs of doubt. Doubt the doubter. Remind him of what God really said. Faith flourishes in a doubt-free environment. God can be trusted beyond the shadow of a doubt. 

Doubt the devil, yes. Doubt God, no! 

Wisdom Hunters


January 16, 2016
WHAT'S IN THE BANK?


Hebrews 4:16
"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."




In the winter of 2009, a large passenger plane made an emergency landing in New York's Hudson River. The pilot, Captain Chesley Sullenberger, who landed the plane safely with no casualties, was later asked about those moments in the air when he was faced with a life-or-death decision "One way of looking at this," he said, "might be that for 42 years I've been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education, and training. And on [that day] the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal."

Click to see the reconstructed simulation

Most of us will at some time face a crisis. Perhaps it will be a job termination or the results of a medical test, or the loss of a precious family member or friend. It is in those times that we must dig down deep into the reserves of our spiritual bank account. And what might we find there?

If we have enjoyed a deepening relationship with God, we've been making regular "deposits" of faith. We have experienced His grace.

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9)

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."(Ephesians 2:4-7)

We trust the promise of Scripture that God is just and faithful:

“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is  he."
(Deuteronomy 32:4)

"But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one." (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

God's love and grace are available when His children need to make a "withdrawal".

"And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you." (Psalm 9:10)

Remembering God's faithfulness in the past strengthens us far the future.

Cindy Hess Kasper


 

January 15, 2016
CULTURE OF CANDOR


Matthew 5:37
"Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil."




From time to time I play mind games that become mentally exhausting and relationally unhealthy. Because of my need for approval and my fear of rejection—I can choose the path of least resistance—harmony—over a vulnerable course of action: healthy conflict. A short term false humility only masks my pride—instead of revealing my scared soul to those who can help me and learning to rest in a long term reliance on the Lord. A person with humble candor frees others to be real, while those who cover up their true feelings create a culture of false security.

Jesus addresses the wisdom of sincere conversations, which then become seeds that grow into authentic living. Truth spoken in love makes the recipient of what can be cold, hard facts—feel the relational warmth of feeling understood and valued.

"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ."  (Ephesians 4:15)

Wise and gracious words promote instruction. Prayerful directness addresses the real issues, while offering ways to help solve the problem. Jesus’ words—full of the Spirit—spoke to the heart and mind with life-giving clarity.

"The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life." (John 6:63)

We all know the value of direct conversations: “Just to be clear, I can help you for three months, but afterwards I need to care for my mom who is moving in with us.” or “After much thought and prayer, I do not have peace about giving time or money to this project—it is not my area of passion and I do not believe the Holy Spirit is leading me to participate.” A culture of candor flushes out fears and protects against misplaced expectations and passive aggressive behaviors.

A culture of candor at work looks out for one another by addressing work habits that may not be healthy. If you notice an associate whose emotional intelligence is less than adequate, help them learn to listen more and talk less. Perhaps a peer consistently sends emails and copies too many people. Discuss with them the value of direct conversation by phone or in person and not to rely on impersonal electronic information that may or may not be understood. Also, bravely set the example and ask for candid feedback from friends and colleagues. Honest evaluation leads to better decisions, a more efficient process and improved execution. Candor creates trust.

"The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered." (Proverbs 17:27)

"The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction." (Proverbs 16:21)

How can you facilitate a culture of candor at work and home? What are ways you can be real about your feelings and ask for honest feedback?

Wisdom Hunters


 

January 14, 2016
CHITO




Colossians 3:23
"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,"





“Chito” Martiarena of Del Rio, Texas might just be the hardest working man you’ve ever seen. This wonderful story by Texas Country Reporter shows how Chito has become somewhat of a local hero and inspiration to those in his community. I would agree that anyone that is mowing grass along the highways in the middle of the night is one hard-working man. Chito has many people looking after him, including Russell Stidham, who is featured in this video. 

I hope Chito has many more years ahead of him but that they are easier than the ones he currently is experiencing. We all could learn from Chito, and if we were more like him our country (and world) would be a far better place.

Click here CHITO 

"But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Timothy 5:8)

Submitted by Gerry Pearson

 


 

January 13, 2016
GENEROUS HEAVENLY FATHER


Jude 1:2
"May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you."




Christmas day is always an exercise in expectancy: gift giving and gift receiving. I marveled at the joy of our children and grandchildren, as their beautifully wrapped boxes and packages became tangled ribbons and wrinkled wrapping paper, but what gave me the most pause was their genuine gratitude to one another for their gifts. I thanked the Lord for putting in their hearts and minds a spirit of true thankfulness. I also prayed for all of us to grow more and more grateful for God’s blessings. Yes, an abundant Christian life is a life ever growing in God’s graces.

Jude, brother of James and half brother of Jesus experienced first hand the mercy, peace and love of Christ. He probably saw Jesus show mercy to the woman caught in adultery who was forgiven, but instructed to sin no more.

"This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, 'Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.' And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground." (John 8:6-8)

Perhaps Jude was one of the disciples post resurrection in the presence of the Lord when He breathed the Spirit on them and twice tsaid, “Peace be with you.”

"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'". (John 20:19-22)

And oh how like torrential rain Christ poured out His love on those poor in spirit.

"and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 1:14)

He fed. He healed. He taught. He suffered. He died. He rose from the dead. All for the sake of His vast love.

"But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life." (Jude 1:20-21)

Does your spiritual balance sheet show an excess in God’s graces? Are your line items of mercy, peace and love under or over budget? Those rich in the true riches of Christ are attractive in showing mercy to the deviant, while careful not to condone the sin.

"If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?" (Luke 16:11)

Those who grow more and more in peace are calm, because they have learned to submit to the rule of Christ’s peace over their heart. Their softened face exudes love, their kind words communicate love and their supportive actions express love. Why? Vibrant Christians continue to grow more and more in God’s graces.
 
As we learn to receive more and more from our heavenly Father—His mercy, peace and love—we are able to give more and more mercy, peace and love. Generosity in God’s grace is the greatest generosity. Unable to be bought with money, generosity expresses itself in aggressive giving. Next time we are offended, we can immediately show mercy and not allow hurt to have its way in our heart.

"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful." (Colossians 3:15)

When fear raises its head in our mind’s eye, we can avoid eye contact by looking into the peaceful eyes of Jesus. Best of all: when we are loved well, we can love well.

"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."  (Peter 3:18)

Who needs your mercy and forgiveness? What do you need to trust the Lord with so you can experience His peace? How does God want to love you right now?

Wisdom Hunters


Previous thoughts

 

January 12, 2016
INCLUSIVE AND EXCLUSIVE

Acts 10:36
"As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all),"
Acts 10:43 
"To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

I met my wife Rita in 7th grade when we couple skated on her birthday. We remained friends until we began to date exclusively at the Valentine’s dance our senior year of high school. A year later we were engaged to marry—an exclusive life long commitment to each other based on our shared beliefs and behaviors. Our love was inclusive of family, friends and acquaintances, but our marriage covenant before God was based on our exclusive relationship with one another.

The good news of peace through Jesus Christ is an inclusive invitation to all human beings. God’s love is inclusive for all who live on planet Earth. However, forgiveness and a personal relationship with our heavenly Father comes from an exclusive belief in Christ’s death as payment for our sins and His resurrection from death to give us life. Cornelius was instructed to take the inclusive gospel to the Gentiles, so they could believe in Jesus and have an exclusive relationship with Him. God’s inclusive love invites an exclusive relationship through Christ.

"This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:11-12)

Have you exercised a formal faith commitment in Christ as your Lord and Savior? God’s inclusive love is not personal until by faith you have an exclusive relationship with Jesus. Salvation is free to all who believe, but remains an unopened gift to those who only passively play around with religion. The Lord’s love is inclusive for all who are alive. God’s salvation is exclusive for all who trust His son Jesus. His grace gives you an option: to trust or not to trust.

Furthermore, do not neglect sharing the gospel with those who are of a different culture or ethnicity. Jesus was clear, we are commissioned to go into all the world with the world changing good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God. An updated passport is a prescription for generosity’s immunization against greed, contentment’s influence over a drive for more stuff and souls being saved from sin’s condemnation. When we carry Christ’s inclusive love to all human beings, some will experience God’s exclusive salvation in His son Jesus. The gospel, when received, alters a believer’s eternal destiny from hell to heaven and transforms their old life to one of abundance.

"I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:9-10)

Have you thanked God for His inclusive love that invites you into an exclusive relationship through His son Jesus?

Wisdom Hunters


 

January 11, 2016
EPIPHANY, THEOPHANY AND CHRISTOPHANY



John 1:18
"No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known." 




What does God look like?  Our first problem is this -- no-one knows.  This claim is repeated in 1 John:

"No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us." (1 John 4:12)

When something is affirmed in the Bible we need to consider and accept it, but when it is said twice, we should sit up and take notice.
Paul, when writing about God in 1 Timothy, says he

"...alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen." (1 Timothy 6:16)

Objection: Men walked and talked with God in Old Testament times!

Surely there were instances in Old Testament times when people did see God. Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden (Genesis 3).  Abraham met God in the plain.  He saw three men walking past and, hurrying to invite them into his home, prepared them a meal.  The two who left to go to Sodom, were probably angels, but the one who stayed behind to talk with Abraham was God:

"And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place." (Genesis 18:33)

Jacob wrestled all night with a man, but said:

"... For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered."  (Genesis 32:30)

Moses spoke with God face to face:

"Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend...." (Exodus 33:11)

Joshua and Gideon saw the Angel of the Lord, which was no ordinary angel because He accepted worship.  Didn’t Elijah, on Mount Horeb, see the back parts of God?  God was seen by men, was He not?

One important principle of biblical interpretation is that no verse should ever be interpreted in a way that contradicts another verse.  If, therefore, the Bible says that no man has seen God at any time that must be so. What is the explanation, then, behind these appearances of God? They  are "theophanies."  A theophany is an appearance of God in visible form, yet it is an appearance of God in a form other than His own, a form He takes temporarily and for the purpose of His visit.

Both Abraham and Jacob wrestled with God, who appeared to be a man.  Yet Joshua and Gideon saw an angel, the Angel of the Lord. But God is neither a man nor an angel.  A theophany is not God in His real form.

The second explanation is that every appearance of God in Old Testament times was actually an appearance of the Son of God -- the Son is always the one who comes out from the Father to reveal the Father.  Every theophany is actually a "Christophany."

Thus it was the Son of God who sat in Abraham’s tent, who wrestled with Jacob and who accepted the worship of Joshua and Gideon.  Even in New Testament times it was the Son of God who came out from God, becoming man to be seen by men and to be one of them.

John says, 

"No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known."  (John 1:18)

Ian Rees


January 10, 2016
COULD THIS BE THE YEAR?




1 Thessalonians 4:17
"Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord."




My dad was a pastor, and on the first Sunday of each new year he preached about the return of Christ, often quoting from 1 Thessalonians 4.

His point was always the same: “This could be the year that Jesus will return.  Are you ready to meet Him?”

In an increasingly chaotic world, what a hopeful thought that this could be the year Jesus returns.  More comforting still is the anticipation that all who trust Him for salvation will be gathered together, relieved from this world’s suffering, sorrow, and fear. 

Best of all, we will be with the Lord forever!

Perhaps today!

M. R. De Haan


 

January 9, 2016
PURSUIT OF PLEASURE


Proverbs 21:17
"Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich."





The pursuit of pleasure leads to poverty. The logical conclusion of pleasure, void of eternal influence, is a man or woman poorly principled, poor with people, poor in soul and a poor manager of God’s provision. Pleasure, without a greater purpose, produces a lame life. However, earthly enjoyments, wed within God’s will, open up the windows of heaven.

"making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ" (Ephesians 1:9)

His pleasure is good.

Pleasure in and of itself is not evil, but when it becomes competition with our devotion to Christ it is down right dangerous. Paul said in the last days we will live with this tension.

"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people." (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

The Lord is not suggesting a ‘both/and’ proposition to loving Him and pleasure, but rather an ‘either/or’. We choose to love Christ or amuse ourselves to death. Luxurious living without the Lord is vain and unfulfilling. When you make pleasure subservient to serving your Savior, you will find fulfillment and peace. Thus retreat to the beach or mountains to find pleasure in God’s creation, while enjoying Him and those you love. Enjoyment of life on earth is an outcome of obedience to eternal expectations in heaven.

Lastly, find pleasure where your Heavenly Father finds pleasure.

"His delight is not in the strength of the horse, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love." (Psalm 147:10-11)

His pleasure is for us to do His good pleasure, which is humble trust and submission to Him. Therefore, take pleasure in Him.

Wisdom Hunters


 

January 8, 2016
STOP DOING


Luke 10:41-42
"But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'"



American culture is plagued by hyperactivity without productivity. We think being busy equals importance or a frantic pace is a path to success. Like a pack mule loaded down with an overabundance of supplies, we pack our calendar to the breaking point. We play mind games with ourselves that busyness is what’s best for our family, when in fact the real outcomes are: relational emptiness, health challenges and irritable emotions. We even justify being over active for Jesus.

Perhaps a wiser start to the year is a stop doing list. As Jesus instructed Martha, we need to take an inventory of our activities and ask what is really needed. What has served its purpose for a season, but is now unnecessary, even an obstacle to what’s best? Let go of emotional attachments and embrace some margin for meaningful relationships. Is it time to stop a sports program, a long commute or a tired volunteer role? Become better with contemplation and strategic availability.

"Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side." (Matthew 8:18)

It takes courage to take the route trafficked infrequently, but the ride is less stressful and more enjoyable. Avoid going where everyone else is going; nowhere fast. A fast track is too fast when it starves our faith. We find ourselves with very little left over time for prayer, Bible study, worship and community. Give what’s important first priority on the calendar. Worry works itself out of a job when we work out our bodies, feed our minds, heal our emotions and rest our souls. 

By faith stop doing something each week or month that has passed its prime time. Be patient not to rush and fill a gap in your calendar already crowded with appointments. Blocks of discretionary time give you availability for spontaneous service. Take a step back from the myopic view of trees bunched together, so you can see the imaginative forest of faith. Anyone can be busy, some can be productive, but few walk by faith and watch God do more. Stop doing good to do better.

"One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple." (Psalm 27:4)

Do you have the faith to let go of the good, so you can enjoy God's best?

Wisdom Hunters


 

January 7, 2016
TOTAL DEVOTION


Matthew 19:29 
"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life."




For most of us, we spend the majority of our lives pursuing the very things Jesus identifies in this verse: a home to call our own, a family to love and laugh with, and a meaningful and life-giving vocation. These are so widely accepted as virtuous and noble pursuits that few people would ever question their value or worth. Yet, here in Matthew 19, we see Jesus promising a hundredfold reward for those who have left them behind! What’s going on here?

In this verse, Jesus is teaching us a central aspect of faithful discipleship: it’s possible to love good things in the wrong way.

Not once does the Bible say that a home, family, or career are evil or sinful pursuits. Far from it! Each is a great gift from God that should be received as a blessing and sign of his love and care for us. However, we constantly face the temptation to make good gifts from the Lord into our primary source of meaning, worth, and value. This is what Jesus is speaking against when he invites us to leave them behind for the sake of eternal life.

At times, our quest for a fulfilling career or perfect family can be all consuming! It animates our actions during the day and captures our imaginations in the evening. Though we may not say it explicitly, our decisions betray the fact that our identity and self-worth is directly tied to how successful we are in this pursuit. If family and work are going well, then we feel satisfied and valued. If we have strained relationships at home or a challenging season at work, we are tempted to believe that we are inferior or incomplete.

Jesus is inviting us to live a life of total devotion to him. In order to do this, we must submit every part of our lives to his kingdom purposes. We must learn to filter our decisions and desires through his value system, not ours. This means asking hard questions: “Am I purchasing this new home for my own comfort and status or to be a blessing to others?” “Will this career decision help me use my gifts and talents in service of God’s kingdom, or does it simply promise wealth and security?” 

When we begin to ask these sorts of questions about our work and home lives, we learn how to rightly receive and use good gifts from God for his glory!

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)

What aspect of your life at home or work can you recommit to God’s kingdom purposes?

Tripp Prince


 

January 6, 2016
EPIPHANY:THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS


Matthew 2:1-2
"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'"




The gifts have all been opened. Shredded wrapping paper has been bagged and tossed. On many street curbs, dried-up evergreens await  
disposal. But Christmas isn’t over, not yet! January 6, a quiet and (thankfully) uncommercialized observance takes place around the world — Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night, or Three Kings Day.

Epiphany is not the sort of word that one hears on ESPN or reads in the New York Times. If you were to tell a friend, “I had an epiphany,” he might reply, “My Uncle Ralph had one of those, too, but his doctor removed it and he’s doing fine now.”

“Epiphany” means “an appearance” or “something revealed.” An angelic visitation would be considered an epiphany. The car keys you  
misplaced after last year’s office party would not. January 6 commemorates the visit a group of astrologers paid to Jesus not long after his birth. Matthew is the only gospel writer to record this event.

These men have been referred to as “the three kings,” the Magi and the Wise Men. Scholars have suggested that they were wealthy,  
though not necessarily royal. They likely came from Saudi Arabia or Egypt. They were observers of the heavens, astronomers, who had  
noticed a new star and correctly guessed that it brought news of some great event.

Legend has it that the birth of Alexander the Great was presaged by the appearance of a new star — it was commonly assumed that the  
birth or death of great men would be foretold in the sky. So the Magi set out on a costly journey to find this child, having somehow  
determined that the one they were looking for was to become “The King of the Jews.”. This same title would later surface at Jesus’  
crucifixion:

"And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." (Matthew 27:37)

Matthew records that Herod and all of Jerusalem were greatly disturbed by the arrival of the Magi and news of their mission. After  
conferring with them privately, Herod takes their information seriously enough that he plans to have the child murdered. Why this  
sudden burst of worry? 

Surely Herod had already heard of the virgin birth of Jesus and the angelic appearances that had announced that birth? Or, perhaps not. Bethlehem was a hick town. Perhaps the news had not reached Herod. Or did Herod simply dismiss these rumors,  until the arrival of the Magi? To Herod, the Jews were just a bunch of religious wackos. They were always having visions, always hearing the voice of God, always seeing angels. It was like a whole country tripping on acid — you never knew what hallucinogenic hoo-hah would grab the headlines  next.

But the Magi were different. These were learned men who made their living advising kings, sultans and sheiks. If CNN had been in  
existence, the Magi would have been the talking heads of the first century, providing instant analysis and carefully-considered  
opinions about world events and the signs of the times. In a word, the Magi had credibility. They were gentiles, not Jews. They had  
no personal stake in the birth of a Jewish Messiah. And yet, these men had come following a star convinced that a child of great  
importance had been born in Israel. They had come bearing gifts; they had come prepared to bow down and worship this young king:

"After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it  
came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him  gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by  another way." 
(Matthew 2:9-12)

Among the reasons that Christians observe Epiphany is this: it is the first recorded instance of non-Jews' paying homage to —yes,  
even worshiping — the Messiah of Israel. If Jesus is the King of the Jews, he is also my King, though I am a gentile, just like the  
Magi. I have been adopted into God’s family: 

"And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'abba! Father!'" (Galatians 4:6) 

I have been grafted into the vine:

"But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in  the nourishing root of the olive tree," (Romans 11:17) 

I was an outsider, but now I have been ushered into the House of God:

"Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all." 
(Colossians 3:11)

All of this, because Jesus was crucified and on the third day rose again from the dead. I am no astronomer, but like the Magi, I am a stranger from a distant land. Like the Magi, I go to the King to offer my gifts and my  worship.

They followed the star until they found Him. They placed their gifts at His feet and worshiped Him. And thus, the identity of this  
child was revealed not only to the people of Bethlehem, but to the entire world. 

Epiphany!

Charles Lehardy


January 5, 2016
TRUTH




Psalm 86:11
"Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name."


 

Early in Church history, Church leaders made a decision that apostolic succession was the way to maintain truth in the Church. This idea sounded good—just make a connection with the original Apostles, and all would be fine. However, even the best of men get things messed up--look at the divisions in the Church today, and the great diversity of thought on the major doctrines of the Church.

God had a better way. Not succession back to the Apostles, but a firm stand on the Scriptures God had the Apostles, and those closely associated with the Apostles, write. These men were the only instruments God used to record His Word:

"knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:20-21)

Yes, God Himself chose to reveal truth about Himself and His purposes to men:

"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high," (Hebrews 1:1-3)

"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me," (John 5:39)

God not only revealed Himself, because He is Truth His Scriptures are true and trustworthy. He inspired (breathed out) the Scriptures by His Own Holy Spirit:

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

In addition to giving us Scriptures we can trust, God has given all believers a Teacher-Helper to give us understanding of the meaning of the Scriptures:

"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:26)

"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me." (John 15:26)

"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)

Here is advice for two priorities for a blessed 2016:

Spend time in God’s trustworthy Scriptures, first praying that the Holy Spirit of God will guide you into understanding and applying the Truth.

Ron Sanders


Previous thoughts

January 4, 2016
PROXIMITY CREATES OPPORTUNITY


John 19:26-27
"When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother,'Woman, behold, your son!' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home."



Rita and I sometimes struggle with how and what to teach our four daughters and now their husbands. We instructed our children and teenagers to surround themselves with those they wanted to become like. We encouraged them to spend time with good students, athletes, teachers and coaches who modeled humility, hard work and a strong faith in Jesus. The closer relationships our children built with their classmates and authorities, the more opportunities they experienced to serve others and to grow their own interests. Our adult children still need wisdom, encouragement and grace to best determine God’s will for their lives. Close proximity to Christ and His followers creates the best opportunities.

Jesus knew John was the best choice to care for His mom. Why? The Lord knew first hand his love and compassion for people, but even more so—Christ trusted John to remain faithful when others abandoned their commitment. The beloved disciple was loyal to the end—but Jesus’ brother James could not be found in their family’s greatest time of need. Because John remained close by Christ during His dire moments—Jesus gave him the opportunity to care for His most treasured relationship—His mom, Mary. Proximity to Jesus opens doors to serve the needs of Jesus’ heart.

"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." (James 4:7-8)

Are you in proximity to people you want to become like? Maybe this next year at work you meet monthly with a work associate who has a particular skill you want to develop. Emotional intelligence, technological savvy or financial astuteness may be a few opportunities for personal or professional growth. Perhaps there is a family at church you would like to emulate. Invite the mom and dad into your home for dinner and ask them about their guiding principles for marriage and parenting. Proximity to quality people helps grow your quality of life.

Most importantly, we stay in proximity to our heavenly Father. We follow Jesus best when we stay close enough to breathe in the dust from His sandals. Proximity to our Savior is self evident through continual prayer. The Holy Spirit seduces a heart surrendered to Him—He romances those whose love affair is faithful obedience to living in the truth. Just like our proximity to a roaring fireplace toasts our cheeks and fingertips, so our close proximity to Christ ignites our faith and warms our soul. Proximity to God creates opportunities from God—with God, for God.

"O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart;" (Psalm 15:1-2)

Where is the Lord leading you to be intentional in a relational investment?

Wisdom Hunters


January 3, 2015
HAPPY NEW YEAR!



Romans 12:1
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."




During this first week of January, many of us will begin anew. New diets and exercise programs. New Bible studies and reading plans. New organization and time management routines. We will commit to break bad habits, restore broken relationships, and be “better” people. We call these New Year’s resolutions.

I confess I have made more than my fair share of these in the last 25 years. But most, like me, soon forget our good-intended resolutions. We mean well, but life gets busy. We return to our old habits, to that which is comfortable and doesn’t require so much sacrifice. I want something better. Something new. What about you? Will you join me in doing a new thing this year?

Let’s begin the very best place we can . . . God’s Word. Romans says,

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:1-2)

Using this passage, let’s write a New Year’s Prayer (better than a resolution!). 

Re-read Romans 12:1. There is powerful little words tucked in that first sentence. Paul tells us to take our lives and place them before God as a living sacrifice (offering).

Together, let’s make a New Year’s offering. We can make all the resolutions we want, but we can’t change ourselves. But when we willingly offer our lives to God, He will change us.

Romans 12:2 says, “. . . be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The renewing of our mind requires inward change that comes from God at work in us. It requires diligence on our part. It requires changing our thoughts, our priorities, and goals to be aligned with those of Christ. 

It's baby steps. And it doesn’t require changing everything all at once. Let’s begin today with our first step . . . a simple prayer, offering our hearts to God. How do we do this? We are going to write a prayer together. I will start. You finish.

Heavenly Father, I praise You . . . You are the Author of my life. You are the Strength of my heart and my Portion forever. You are all I need. My heart’s desire in this New Year is to grow closer to You. In knowing You better, I will know myself more because my identity is found in You.

God, I ask You to help me each day carve out time to spend with You. Give me eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart to receive, and a mind to understand all that You will teach me. Make my heart tender to hear Your voice each time I meet with You.

Take Your Word and penetrate my heart. Create a hunger deep inside my soul for more and more of You. May nothing else satisfy me more than You.

Give me a heart of humility. If there is anything in me that keeps me from hearing You, reveal it to me. Convict me. Move me to confession. Cleanse my heart and renew a right spirit within me so I can be in perfect fellowship with You.

Fill my heart with Your truth. Plant it deep so that it takes root. Move me. Change me. Transform me. Empower me to live out what I hear and learn.

Every day of this New Year, make my life one long walk of obedience in response to Your Word and Your Holy Spirit, who lives and reigns in me. Let Your love and Your Word shape my life.

[Add your own words . . . ]

This is my offering. I ask this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Let’s commit to pray our prayer throughout the New Year . . . asking God to change us from the inside out . . . in baby steps, one step at a time.

Wendy Blight



January 2, 2016
NEW THINGS IN A NEW YEAR



Isaiah 43:19
"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."





Thanks to Christmas, we all end the year with new things — new toys for the kids, new clothes (not always the right color or size, but still new), new pounds on our bodies. We start the year off with new things, too — a new calendar on the wall, new bills to pay, and new resolutions for the days ahead.

Everybody likes new things, including God. He is called the Ancient of Days, but He says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” God begins His book with the story of His creating a new world; He ends it with His plans to make a new heaven and new earth.

Our heavenly Father wants to do new things in the lives of His children too. He desires to teach us new truths about Himself, provide new opportunities for ministering to others, take us to higher levels of worship and deeper levels of trust.

But too often we are like the Israelites when they were traveling in the wilderness. God promised to provide for them by raining down bread from heaven six days a week. He instructed them to gather only enough manna for each day, except for the day before the Sabbath when they were allowed to store up two days’ worth. When some of the people disobeyed and tried to hoard extra manna, it became rotten and full of worms by the next morning.

I am like that sometimes. God wants to do new, fresh things in my life and in my ministry for Him. But often I try to hold on to yesterday’s stale manna. I don’t want to let go of what is comfortable and familiar — some old way of thinking, a certain way of doing things, my usual area of service to Him. I may miss new and exciting things God has planned for me if I don’t fully trust His guidance, even when He seems to be leading me down unfamiliar paths.

One of the best ways to keep our faith fresh and new is to develop a habit of daily Bible study. God’s Word is timeless —. old and new at the same time. Just as God’s “compassions are new every morning”:

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)

A daily dose of His Word can give us new understanding, fresh insights, and renewed strength. We can drink in the Psalms to help us to:

"Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts." (Psalm 33:3)

We read in Ezekiel about God’s promise to give us “a new heart and a new spirit”:

"And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh," (Ezekiel 11:19)

"Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 18:31)

"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26)

We rejoice along with Paul as he declares:

"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)

Studying Paul's letters to the Colossians and Ephesians reminds us that we should:

"...not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices" (Colossians 3:9)

"and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:24)

If we need motivation to live like a new creation, God has provided two keys in His Word. It is important to look backward to the New Covenant, the source of our salvation. We can meditate on Hebrews and thank God again that the sacrifice of Jesus made “a new and living way” for us to enter His presence:

"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:19-22)

And we also keep looking forward to our future by reading Revelation. We can find comfort in thinking about the time when God will right all wrongs, heal all hurts, and give us a new name and a new home.

A good way for a child of God to celebrate the New Year is to let go of anything that has gone stale or rotten. Then we will be free to live each day expecting new, fresh things from the One Who promises, “I am making everything new!”:

"And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' Also he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'" (Revelation 21:5)

Dianne Neal Matthews 


January 1, 2016
AMBITIOUS GOALS



1 Thessalonians 4:11
"and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you,"




On January 1st we find ourselves filled with ambitions and dreams for the year ahead. On this day each year countless individuals set goals for themselves in hopes of improving and bettering their lives. Common resolutions include eating healthy, exercising more, getting out of debt, or taking up a new hobby.

If you’re anything like me, your ambition for these resolutions greatly exceeds what you’re actually able to accomplish! I’ll set a dozen highly ambitious goals and faithfully pursue them for a few weeks, but by the time March rolls around I can barely remember what those goals even were. Perhaps you can relate?

As we look to the Scripture today, we’re confronted with a rather unusual resolution. We’re told to be ambitious, yet our ambition is to pursue a peaceful and quiet life. What a paradox! On the one hand, we’re told to have great ambition, to strive and seek after the goal set before us. Yet unlike virtually all other resolutions, our ambition is directed towards a calm and gentle spirit that finds peace in the simple and the ordinary.

"But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me." (Psalm 131:2)

At the root of our ambition we often find discontent. We are unhappy with our lives, our health, or our jobs, so we seek new ways to expand our identities or enhance our lifestyle. Yet so often this striving fails to deliver what it promises, and instead of finding contentment and peace, we find ourselves stuck in a vicious cycle of unrest and anxiety.

This year, I challenge you to make one very simple yet profoundly radical resolution: be content to live a quiet life.

Look for ways to find peace and joy in who God has made you to be. Encounter his blessings in small and simple ways, finding satisfaction in his presence and in time spent with those you love. Free yourself from the pressure to perform, to land your dream job, or to have a perfect body. Instead, take time this year to ambitiously pursue the peace and contentment that comes from leading a quiet and simple life with God and others.

What goals do you need to free yourself from in order to ambitiously pursue a simple and quiet life?

Tripp Prince



December 1, 2015
A REAL ERROR?


Numbers 24:11-13

“Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy.  Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.’”

I happen to believe that 100% of the Bible is utterly true.  This contradicts Emil Brunner of Zurich, who made two claims in a class I attended in 1951.  One claim was that he was the greatest theologian in the world then; but Karl Barth of Basel made the same claim for himself.  Brunner’s other claim was that the Bible is filled with thousands of errors and contradictions.  The students challenged him to give one such example.  He chose one miracle Jesus had performed that was reported in one Gospel, and pointed out that the record of the same miracle in another Gospel had different details.  The students jumped all over him (figuratively), and showed that the differences were not contradictory but supplemented each other.

Lately I began reading through the Old Testament in the original Hebrew for my morning devotions again, and the statement above from Moses’ book of Numbers caught my attention as it had never done before.  I began to wonder, and worried briefly, “How could Phinehas have a ‘perpetual priesthood’ today, since the temple was destroyed in 70 AD and no sacrifices could be made after that? And who is that priest today -- with or without making sacrifices?”

This seemed to be a good event, and promise of God, to try to track down.  So I pulled down my dictionaries and began digging into this newfound situation.  And here is what I discovered.

There may be some priesthood that we do not consider very often today.  One thing I thought of is that Jesus Christ is identified by three titles:  Prophet, Priest, and King.  Surely each of those three titles is a perpetual one, lasting not only though the history of the world, but also into eternity.  But there is a problem.  Jesus is of the tribe of Judah, a Descendant, even called a Son, of David, surely of the tribe of Judah, not of the tribe of Levi, from whom all the Israelite priests came.  And Phinehas was obviously from that tribe, since he was the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the first priest appointed by God Himself from the tribe of Levi.  So how then did the tribes of Judah and Levi get mixed up?

That is pretty easy to tell, because through much of the Old Testament, there was an intermingling of the tribes.  Both young men and young women skipped over tribal lines to get married.  Not only that, but even a few Gentiles got mixed up in the genealogy immediately before David:  Matthew tells us:

“... Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab [the Gentile harlot from Jericho], and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth [the Moabitess],and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.”  (Matthew 1:5-6)

Now it is Luke who tells us that the tribes of Judah and Levi were connected.

“In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah.  And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.”  (Luke 1:5)

So Elizabeth was from the priestly tribe.  But there is another most interesting connection that Luke also tells us. Mary learned from the angel that she would bear Jesus.  The angel also told her that:

“... your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.”  
(Luke 1:36)

That interesting - even amazing - thing is that the angel called Mary Elizabeth’s “relative”!  And the reason it is amazing is that the Greek word for “relative” is suggeni,j, pronounced sun-genn-is' and means “related by blood.”  And this is why it is so amazing:  it means that Elizabeth and Mary, although it was acknowledged that they were normally from different tribes of Israel, still they were blood relatives, which means that Mary surely had some priestly blood somewhere in her background, so she was likely a descendant of Phinehas the priest, to whom God had promised that a descendant of his would be a priest forever.  So that Priest had to be Jesus, the eternal Prophet, Priest, and King, born of Mary who had priestly blood in her veins.  So in this way the prophecy to Phinehas was fulfilled.

You see, I was right!  There is not one detail in scripture that is not totally true.  So if God said in His word (and He did) that the only way you can get to heaven is to repent of your sins and accept Jesus’ punishment for your sins, then you will go to heaven when you die and be with Him forever!

Dr. Thomas R. Teply


Previous thoughts
November 30, 2015

LOVE LETTERS 



2 Timothy 3:16
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,"

In his book When I’m Longing for God, Dan Stuecher tells a touching story about the great composer Beethoven. The  

music man never married but was in love with a woman scholars have spent years trying to identify, a woman Beethoven  
called his “Immortal Beloved.” When he was forty-two years old, Beethoven penned a letter of affection to her. “Oh,  
why must one be separated from her who is so dear?” he wrote. “However much you love me—my love for you is even  
greater.”

After his death, the letter was found in a bureau belonging to Beethoven, undated and unaddressed. Some people have  
wondered if the woman ever knew how valuable she was to Beethoven because of this secret, undelivered note. Can you  
imagine being the recipient of such a love letter and never reading it?

"But he answered, “It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of  
God.'"
 (Matthew 4:4)

A few times over recent years, I have heard someone say God doesn’t speak to them through Scripture. One man told me,  
“I just don’t hear His voice through the Bible. I hear from Him in other ways, like through signs.” When I hear  
something like this, I want to sit down and cry. The Word is His voice! It’s His love letter to us—the greatest love  
letter ever written. But tragically, life itself is sometimes left forgotten in a drawer. True love is denied and  
wisdom is ignored.

I do wonder where some people have gotten the idea God isn’t really speaking unless He speaks “supernaturally,” for  
example through a miracle, a vision, or a dream. Early in my Christian walk, I had a hard time believing God was with  
me unless I felt Him. I thought I had to sense His presence to believe I had heard Him. When I read the Bible, I was  
often bored. I even went through a time of feeling like there was nothing exciting in it.

Now I look back and think, Whoa! You were so wrong. Scripture is a never-ending well of refreshment and truth. God  
speaks through His Word, inviting us to find Him. And when we do, we may not always experience emotional fireworks,  
but our minds will be quietly and gradually transformed from glory to glory. God speaks in many ways, but the primary  
way He speaks is through His Word. It’s powerful. It’s life-changing. It’s refreshment for a thirsty soul.

"For 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)

Do you have a hunger to know God more intimately through His Word?

Shana Schutte

 

November 29, 2015

LIFE OR DEATH? 


Revelation 1:18

"...I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades."  

We all live in a life or death situation. For the elderly, aged by life’s elements—death is more imminent. For others life is just beginning —youthful possibilities pulsate with enviable energy. Still others enter a new reality while battling a terminal illness. The truth is we are all terminal 

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

But for some, the window in this life is quickly closing. Whether facing the beginning of a full life, the ending of a full life or the real probability of a shortened life, we all need the Lord of Life: Jesus Christ. Only as we prepare for death are we really ready for life. 
 
Jesus is the Living One. He is the Lord over the living and the dead. In the same way the Word [Jesus] became flesh and lived among us, so the Word [Jesus] became dead to live through us. Faith, without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is only a shell of salvation—not real, only hollow heresy. Jesus holds the keys that unlock our spirit from the cell of our earthly body to become like His glorified body.

"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." 
(Philippians 3:20-21)

Because Christ is the first and the last we trust Him in life and with death. We rely on the One who offers us grace for an abundant life and a victorious death. 

“Just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” 
(Romans 5:21)

Is death constantly calling on you or a loved one? If so, you have a friend in Jesus to walk with you through the scary shadows in front of death’s door. Here in your darkest hour is the loving light of your Lord. Let Him guide you by His grace to a good place. God’s good place is full of peace and assurance. As your tears freely flow—your heavenly Father freely bestows heaven’s endless aid on your earthly sorrows. If you bare your heart and soul—the Holy Spirit will bear your burdens. 

"Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." (Psalm 68:19)

The prospects of death call forth the prospects of your faith and hope in Christ. 
 
How can we make the most of our lives? Start by engaging Christ as the Lord of your life. Your submission to our Savior Jesus gives you the freedom to enjoy His life expressed through your life. Submission to God means we get under His mission. What is God’s mission? To make disciples, to love people—especially those difficult to love. The Lord’s purpose is for His people to share the gospel. Souls are justified by faith in Jesus so injustice can enjoy justice by an abundant life in Christ. 

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)

In life or death we come alive when we surrender to the Living One: Jesus Christ! 

"...These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again." (Revelation 2:8)

Who do you know that needs to come to know Jesus as their living Lord? 

Wisdom Hunters



November 28, 2015
CHARACTER IN CRISIS 

Romans 5:3-5
"Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." 


Crisis reveals my character. A crisis can build my character. I have not always responded well to crisis. There was a season I felt paralyzed by my financial issues. Fear kept me from seeing the creative options Christ had for me. I had a mid-life crisis when my dad died and my heart sank into a depression. I struggled with self-pity and grief in his absence. More recently, a health crisis caused me to angrily obsess over the worst case scenario. I lost my perspective of the hope I have in the Lord. God doesn't waste a crisis, nor does He want me to waste one either. 

Paul, a fellow sufferer for his savior Jesus—gives us reason to persevere through our season of suffering. Adversity is meant to advance our faith and for us to fulfill God’s will. Our hope is in Christ. The overflow of His love is poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Our heavenly Father gives us the hope of His profuse and perfect love in our imperfect condition. Perseverance grows our patience and elevates our prayer life. The more we feel dependent on the Lord—the more we depend on the Lord. A crisis is a God occasion to grow our capacity to love. 

"For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised." (Hebrews 10:36)

Perhaps you find yourself in a relational crisis. You are frustrated and emotionally fatigued. It is a spiritual stalemate because both of you love the Lord, but it’s hard to love one another. One idea is to humbly reflect on the “one another’s” outlined in God’s word. 

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count one another more significant than yourselves." (Philippians 2:3)

"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight." (Romans 12:16)

"Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God." (Romans 15:7)

"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Galatians 5:13)

"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)

A crisis is your opportunity to care for another. 

Substitute the phrase “one another” with the person’s name and pray how you might apply these truths to your relationship. A crisis can draw us closer to Christ and to each other or it can drive us away. Humility is relational glue that keeps sin and suffering from pulling us apart. Thus, we stay faithful to follow Jesus and love one another, especially when we don’t trust them. We persevere in prayer and ask Christ grow us in His love for others. Our kindness in a crisis can be a catalyst for change. We can’t change others, but by God’s grace we can change ourselves. 

"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," (Hebrews 12:1)

Wisdom Hunters




November 27, 2015
BLACK FRIDAY



Matthew 6:21
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."




Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States is known as "Black Friday" -- the day when retailers finally begin to earn a profit (going from "in the red" to "in the black"). It is the beginning of the Christmas shopping season and is marked by extended shopping hours and enormous sales promotions. Many Americans engage in a frenzy of shopping on Black Friday.

Here is a list of my top-10 things that I hope we as Christians will consider and take to heart on Black Friday:

#10. The timing of Black Friday could not be more ironic. Seriously -- it is almost laughable. The day after we pause to be grateful for what we have, we revert to alternate personalities by camping out in the Wal-Mart parking lot and throwing punches over Cabbage Patch Kids? That does not sound very thankful to me. This year, may we consider what thankfulness and contentment really look like -- not just on Thanksgiving, but every day of the year.

#9. We are called to be people who are different from the world around us. The word “holy” means “different” or “set apart.” As Christians, we are called to be a testimony to a God who is different from anything in all creation, by living differently. This means that Jesus followers are invited this year to opt out of American consumerism, and strive for a simpler way -- one that does not focus so much on consuming.

#8. Our Black Friday behavior might be greed, and greed is the second most condemned sin in all of scripture. Greed is simply defined as the “selfish and excessive desire for more.” The Bible also describes this as a form of idolatry, which we as Christians must shed wherever we find it in our lives. This year, may we purchase what we need but resist the desire to always have the "next big thing," and to have more of it.

#7. The Bible teaches that whatever possessions we own should be modest. When Paul warns about modesty in the Bible, he goes as far as saying that we should not wear “costly apparel” (1 Timothy 2:9-10). Sure, God wants us to have our needs met, but he does not want us to flaunt what we have, or to indulge in excess. Whatever we purchase, we should purchase in a way that is modest -- we do not need the biggest and best of everything. Moreover, we should be people who are content with what we have.

#6. Remember, you won’t be taking any of the stuff you buy with you! 1 Timothy 6 warns us against the pursuit of “things” and reminds us of the ultimate truth: all this stuff is staying after you go. I think one of the most eye-opening truths someone ever told me was the reminder that everything I now own will one day be sold at a lawn sale for a couple of bucks. Why? It is just stuff, and it will not go with us when we die. We are far better off practicing detachment from “things” right here, right now.

#5. Think about the poor around us who look to us to model the Kingdom of God. On Thursday, many of the poor in America spend the day like any other day, because big Thanksgiving meals are beyond their means. What kind of “Christian” message do we send the poor when they can barely eat, but we spend wildly on things we don't need on Black Friday?

#4. Consider the message our Black Friday consumerism might send to our children. Are we teaching our children that life is all about having lots of “stuff” or are we teaching them that there are more important things in life? Furthermore, when we shower our children with too much “stuff,” we push them into consumerism -- “enough is never enough” -- that can haunt them in adulthood. Let us teach them that enough actually is enough.

#3. While we are out amassing stuff on Black Friday, people around the world will die from causes that you and I could help prevent if we spent some of our money differently. On Black Friday, the following will happen: over 9,000 people will die from lack of clean water, over 21,000 will die from hunger, and thousands more will die from other causes that would largely be preventable if you and I spent more of our money on people instead of things. Consider taking some of the money you would spend on Black Friday and giving it to a reputable charity.

#2. Jesus never asked us to buy a bunch of "stuff" for his birthday. Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Christ -- a homeless Rabbi who famously told one of his disciples to sell everything and give it to the poor -- the same Rabbi who taught that those who do not feed the hungry, clothe the naked or welcome strangers, will not go to heaven. Loading up on the latest electronics and spending our money on more things for ourselves, is perhaps the most insulting way we could celebrate the birth of someone who lived and taught simplicity and generosity.

#1. Remember the words of Jesus: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” This principle is easy to understand and apply: the more you spend your money on things, the more you love things. The more you spend your money on people, the more you love people. The choice for a Jesus follower should be an easy one to make -- we must invest in people while rejecting the desire for more and more “things.”

This year, may we -- the people of Jesus -- live differently than the world around us. May we reject the need for excess material possessions, may we embrace lives of simplicity and generosity, and may we remember that loving people should always be more important that having more “things.”

Benjamin L. Corey


November 26, 2015
THANKSGIVING




Psalm 100:4-5
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations."




The first Thanksgiving Day designated by the United States of America was proclaimed by George Washington on October 3, 1789:

"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

"Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

"And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

"Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789."

Then-governor Thomas Jefferson followed with this 1789 proclamation in Virginia: 

"I appoint ... a day of public Thanksgiving to Almighty God ... to [ask] Him that He would ... pour out His Holy Spirit on all ministers of the Gospel; that He would ... spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners of the earth; and that He would establish these United States upon the basis of religion and virtue."

Governor John Hancock proclaimed, 

"I appoint ... a day of public thanksgiving and praise ... to render to God the tribute of praise for His unmerited goodness towards us ... [by giving to] us ... the Holy Scriptures which are able to enlighten and make us wise to eternal salvation. And [to] present our supplications ... that He would forgive our manifold sins and cause the benign religion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to be known, understood, and practiced among all the inhabitants of the earth."

The Patriot Post



November 25, 2015
YOUR VERY BEST FRIEND



Exodus 33:14
"And he said, 'My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'"




What more do you need in a friend, than to be with you wherever you go and help you to carry your burden - whether it be a physical load, the loss of a friend or loved one, the mental exercise that has you stumped, or a load of guilt that you cannot shake off?

Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egypt into the wilderness, on the way to their Promised Land. Shortly after they left Egypt, they came to Mount Sinai, on which top God gave Moses the Ten Commandments engraved on two tablets of stone. While Moses was with God, the people demanded that Aaron make for them a gold calf, so they could worship it and commit gross immoral acts. When Moses discovered their debauchery he truly needed a friend to comfort and strengthen him.

Moses was accustomed to going to the “tent of meeting” daily to consult with God and receive instructions from Him. His young protege Joshua accompanied Moses on those daily treks. In fact, he remained at the tent of meeting after Moses went home - somewhat like Anna in the New Testament, of whom it was said,

“...she did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour [when the baby Jesus was presented by Mary and Joseph] she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:37-38)

Surely Anna gave great comfort to Mary and Joseph when she met them on that stupendous occasion when they had traveled to Jerusalem as parents of the very special Child Who was to be the Friend of the world.

But Moses, in his position as leader of the recalcitrant nation of Israel, needed much more consolation than a mere young Joshua could provide. God had even said to him earlier,

“...I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.” (Exodus 33:12)

Those words were slim comfort to the bedeviled Moses, so he cried out to God,

"...if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight..."  (Exodus 33:13)

It was then that God replied to the beleaguered Moses with the words of assurance of His presence with him throughout His ordeal. Further, God even allowed Moses to see His back, but not His face.

"And he said, 'I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name "The LORD." And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But, 'he said, 'you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.' And the LORD said, 'Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.'" (Exodus 33:19-23)

As God was Moses’ very best Friend in his days and years of distress, He also can be the very best Friend you can possibly have, if only you are willing to allow Him that role in your life. Now I say this not to demean any friend you may have had or now have, but God alone is able to be a better Friend to you than any earthly friend, or a parent or brother or sister or child, or even spouse, could possibly be. God your Creator and Savior yearns to be your Friend; He calls you to receive Him as your Friend, Adviser, Leader, and especially your Savior, if only you repent of your sins and receive Him as the only One who can lift whatever burden you have. Right now, make Him your Best Friend!

Dr. Thomas R. Teply


Previous thoughts


November 24, 2015
THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE
 



Job 4:16
"...A form was before my eyes; there was silence, then I heard a voice:"



A fishing buddy of mine observed, "Shallow streams make the most noise," a delightful turn on the old adage, "Still waters run deep." He meant, of course, that people who make the most noise tend to have little of substance to say.

The flip side of that problem is that we don't listen well either. I'm reminded The lips of the of the line in the old Simon and Garfunkel righteous nourish song "Sounds of Silence" about folks hearing many without listening. Oh, they hear the words, but they fail to silence their own thoughts and truly listen. It would be good if we all learned to be silent and still.

"...a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;" (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

Good silence is a listening silence, a humble silence. It leads to right hearing, right understanding, and right speaking. 

"The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out." (Proverbs 20:5)

It takes a lot of hard listening to get all the way to the bottom of what is being said.

And while we listen to others, we should also be listening to God and hearing what He has to say. I think of Jesus, scribbling with His finger in the dust while the Pharisees railed on the woman caught in adultery. 

"but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, 'Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?' This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, 'Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.' And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' She said, 'No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.'" (John 8:1-11)

What was He doing? May I suggest that He could have been simply listening for His Father's voice and asking, "What shall we say to this crowd and this dear woman?" His response is still being heard around the world.

DAVID ROPER

Do you listen first to God's voice and then try to understand the hearts of others? Do you know when to speak and when to be quiet?

Well-timed silence can be more eloquent than words.



November 23, 2015
OUT GIVE GOD




Luke 6:38

"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."




It is impossible to out give the Lord, because He augments any gift given in Jesus’ name with His almighty influence. He can take a penny and make it a dime. He can take a dime and make it a dollar. He can take a dollar and make it a hundred dollars. He can take a hundred dollars and make it a thousand. Eternally motivated gifts grow exponentially.

He can take one life surrendered to Jesus and influence a family. He can take a family under the Lordship of Christ and influence a church, a ministry and a community. He can take a Christ-centered community and influence a state. He can take a state that stands for God’s standards and revive a nation. Indeed, He has taken a nation founded on His principles and influenced the world. One submitted life is leverage in the Lord’s hands.

"Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor." (Proverbs 22:9)

Would you be interested in an investment with a 100% guaranteed return? In God’s economy this is how He multiples gifts given for His glory. He takes our ordinary faith offerings and converts this act of worship into extraordinary eternal results. Money is not an end in itself, but there are times that nothing warms the heart like cold cash. Look to give toward movements that manage His financial resources well.

When you give in Jesus’ name you are giving to Jesus. The Lord is the righteous recipient of your good and generous gifts. Would your giving amount and motivation be any different if you gave to Jesus in person? Would your heart and posture bow in holy reverence and gratitude? Yes, giving is an act of worship to holy God—not because He needs anything—but because we need to recognize our need for Him and His reward.

"Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed." (Proverbs 19:17)

Your master Jesus matches your giving with His incredible resourcefulness and reward. The Lord has chosen to meet the needs of His people through His people—and He even uses unbelievers to care for believers. To those outside the faith, it’s the kindness of God through godly people that leads to repentance. Your gracious gift, combined with God’s grace, is a conduit for people to know Christ. You cannot out give God, but your generosity joins Him in bringing people into the saving knowledge of His son Jesus.

"He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God." 
(2 Corinthians 9:10-11)

Where is the Lord calling you to join Him to give aggressively in the name of Jesus?

Wisdom Hunters




November 22, 2015
WHEN IN DOUBT




Matthew 11:2–3
"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?

Wisdom Hunters



November 21, 2015
WEALTH OF GOD 


Luke 10:34-35
"He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’"  


What does it mean to be a good goer? It involves giving time and resources. We roll up our sleeves and do whatever it takes to meet the need in front of us. Our head assesses the situation and diagnoses the need while our heart engages our calendar and our checkbook. Good goers understand the correlation between serving and greatness. Jesus said, 

"...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." (Mark 10:43b-45)

Good goers have the gumption to get involved and even get messy if needed. They initiate service to others in the name of Jesus. They don’t wait for the needy to come to them—instead they are quick to show up and serve. It may mean leaving someone an anonymous gift to relieve pressure from huge medical bills. Perhaps the Lord is calling you to short or long-term missions to love the poor and needy. 
 
It could be keeping the lawn of a neighbor who travels a lot, or paying a mechanic to repair the car of a single mom. Being a good goer could involve opening your home to a prodigal who is trying to find their way, but desperately needs an environment of love, hope and acceptance. Good goers have the uncanny ability to look around, and like radar, lock onto to those who need a helping hand. 

The Lord Jesus could have demanded to be served, but on the contrary served. He did not use His position for Himself, but for others. He 

"...emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2:7)

It is bold and unnatural to make yourself nothing for the sake of others, but this is the way of Christ. He takes your nothing and makes it something of great significance. However, as you follow Jesus, you are on the track for greatness, because you will engage your time and money for others in His name. So break free from feeling like you can’t get involved and become great for God, by going where it’s messy to serve. 

"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Galatians 5:13)

Who is God calling you to serve that others are passing by?

Wisdom Hunters



November 20, 2015
LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS


John 1:5
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."



Due to its location among sheer mountains and its northern latitude, Rjukan, Norway, does not see natural sunlight from October to March. To lighten up the town, the citizens installed large mirrors on the mountainside to reflect the sun's rays and beam sunlight into the town square. The continuous glow is made possible because the giant mirrors rotate with the rising and setting sun.

I like to think of the Christian life as a similar scenario. Jesus said His followers,

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden." (Matthew 5:14)

John the disciple wrote that Christ the true light and

"...shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:5)

So too, Jesus invites us to reflect our light into the darkness around us: 

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

That is a call for us to show love in the face of hatred, patience in response to trouble, and peace in moments of conflict. As the apostle Paul reminds us, 

"for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8)

Jesus also said, 

"...'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12)

Our light is a reflection of Jesus the Son. Just as without the sun the large mirrors of Rjukan would have no light to reflect, so too we can do nothing without Jesus.

Do you reflect the Son and shine for Him?

Lawrence Darmani



November 19, 2015
WHAT’S YOUR DEEPEST DESIRE?




Mark 10:51-52
"And Jesus said to him, 'What do you want me to do for you?' And the blind man said to him, 'Rabbi, let me recover my sight'. And Jesus said to him, 'Go your way; your faith has made you well.' And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way."






Have you ever wanted something so badly that you were willing to rearrange your entire life in order to get it? Whether it’s a romantic relationship, a dream job, or an athletic achievement, we all have things that we deeply desire and pursue wholeheartedly. In fact, we can give ourselves so fully to these pursuits that we never stop and ask if they are, in fact, worthy of our investment of time, money, and emotion.

God deeply desires that we live full and meaningful lives. And yet, so often our picture of “life to the fullest” fails to match up with God’s desire for us. Culturally, we are bombarded daily with a tidal wave of competing promises of fulfillment and happiness. We’re told that happiness is found in sex, money, power, education, and social status. If we have all of these, then surely we’re living the good life! What else could we possibly want or desire?

If we buy into this picture of the good life, then fail to achieve all of these things, we believe that we are failures and we start telling ourselves lies: “If God truly loved me, he would have given me that job.” “If God knew just how deeply I wanted this relationship to work out, he never would have let him leave.” We must remember that the full and meaningful life is never found in our situations or circumstances. Our deepest desires are met when we seek to know and follow Jesus, not because of what he does for us, but simply because he loves us.

In Mark’s gospel, Bartimaeus asks Jesus to heal his blindness. This is a deep desire of his heart, yet he doesn’t simply view Jesus as a miraculous healer passing through town. He isn’t asking Jesus to swoop in and solve his problem so he can get on with living the good life. He knows that in Jesus the deepest desires of the human heart are met; in following Jesus every longing he’s ever had for identity and purpose is now met.

Jesus is inviting you today to explore the deepest desires of your heart. If you’ve sought to find answers in other places but have been left wanting, turn afresh to Jesus. Free yourself from empty promises of fulfillment and find your identity, purpose, and worth in “following Jesus on the way.”

What desires do you have in your heart that you need to turn over to God and ask him to replace with a deep desire to know and follow him?

Tripp Prince



November 18, 2015
SERVANTS OF LIGHT 



Revelation 2:1
"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.'" 





My two favorite times of day are sunrise and sunset. The beautiful ball of fire enflames my faith. The warm glow and revealing light reminds me of the gentle all encompassing love of my Creator. He reassures me in the morning—“I’m with you today.” He gives me rest in the evening—“You can rest in Me.” I once lived in darkness—aimless, afraid and arrogant. But now I live in the Light—purposeful, peaceful and humbled. My allegiance shifted from the master of darkness—the devil, to the Master of Light—the Lord Jesus. Servants of the light love the Light. 

John gives an illustrative exhortation to the early church and its messengers with timeless principles. The resurrected Christ walks among the churches providing spiritual direction. He also holds in His right hand the messengers or leaders of the local gathering of believers to direct and protect them. Yes, our Savior and Lord Jesus is the source of the churches power and influence. And as the leader of His leaders, He guides them in His will and reveals to them His wisdom. Jesus is absent from the body, but present in the Spirit—in the spirit of His followers. 

"He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world." (John 1:8-9)

As Christians we live as light beams of the Lord. Light is invisible, but it points to the visible source—the sun. Our light of salvation is invisible, but it points to the visible source of the light—the Son. In a believer's life any ray of hope, any illumination of wisdom and any beam of belief comes from the Holy Spirit. If our life for Christ flows from our life in Christ then the Spirit becomes our power source. Because we walk with the Light, we walk in the light. Are you in a dark place—unsure, afraid? Trust in the Lord of Light—Jesus. Faith has eyes to see God. 

God’s messengers (the leaders in our churches) have the light of Christ to lead them, so they can gently and lovingly shepherd God’s people. Their service does not mean they do the bidding of all. To some they say no. To some they say wait. To a few they say yes. Helpful service means the capacity of our leaders keeps up with their ministry. Yes, we pray for our pastors and leaders to keep their wicks trimmed in prayer and Bible study, so their light burns brightly for the Lord. All who are Servants of the Light serve, so others will trust in the Lord of the Light—Jesus! 

"We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9:4-5)

What area of darkness in your life needs the Lord’s loving light? Where can you be a light of love to point another to the Lord Jesus? 

Wisdom Hunters


November, 17, 2015
THREE INGREDIENTS FOR A HEALTHY MARRIAGE 



Ephesians 5:20-21
"
giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." 


 
I like fresh fruits and vegetables in the summer: tomatoes, squash, zucchini and okra, slightly grilled, all taste delicious and contribute to a healthy diet. What I eat contributes to how I look and feel. In a similar way my marriage is a reflection of what Rita and I ingest into our relationship. A healthy marriage diet may include: prayer together, daily engaged conversation, ongoing marital training, having a mentor couple, being a mentor couple, reading and discussing the Bible and worshiping together at church. Thriving marriages intentionally follow best practices. A healthy marriage prepares us to persevere through trials. Here are three principles that work: 
 
Be Thankful

It is hard to grumble when we are grateful. If we obsess over our spouse’s traits that irritate us, we live perpetually frustrated. If however, we thank God for the reasons we married our mate in the first place—their humor, good heart, sweet smile, cute looks and love for the Lord—we are reminded of what matters most. Thankfulness is content in growing an imperfect marriage. We think the best of them, we serve them and we love them like they desire to be loved. We speak from our heart how much we love and appreciate them. Gratitude is committed to giving comfort. 

"rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." (Colossians 2:7)

Submit to One Another 

Submission is an act of love and respect. It supports the mission of its mate, so they are fulfilled in how God has gifted them. For example, help your wife with her desire to develop her professional goals. Prefer her interests over your own. Be available to serve so your spouse is free to follow their dreams. Or, as a wife you may put your career aspirations on hold for a season as you invest in your child. You submit to the higher purpose of raising children who love Christ and who grow in character. When you both submit to the Lord—you can submit to one another. 

"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Galatians 5:13)

Fear God 

Married couples who fear God also love God. Because they love God, they want to obey God—thus they are committed to stay faithful to their marriage vows. They vow faithfulness to one another under the authority of the Almighty. Also, the fear of God grows a deep humility in our hearts, so we are able to put our spouses needs above our needs. We defer to what they prefer. We want to honor the child of our King. Our fear of God leads us away from sin and into awe and worship of the One who died for us. A healthy fear of the Lord leads to a healthy marriage. 

"Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!" (Psalm 128:1)

Wisdom Hunters




November 16, 2015
WHY?



Job 2:9-10
"Then his wife said to him, 'Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.' But he said to her, 'You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?' In all this Job did not sin with his lips." 


I have been asked the question several times, many times: Why does God allow it? 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, three daughters. He lost all his possessions. He even lost his health. Even his wife and his friends turned against him. His wife said: "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 senseless acts of violence are committed]?

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. And it speaks of evil in First Thessalonians as a mystery. 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 attempt to forget. It tells us that there is a devil, that Satan is very real and he has great power.

It also tells us that evil is real and that the human heart is capable of almost limitless evil when it is cut off from God and from moral law. That's your heart and my heart without God. That's one reason we each need God in our lives. For only He can change our hearts and give us the desire and the power to do what is right and keep us from wrong.

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 souls, 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.

Billy Graham


November 15, 2015
TIME



Ecclesiastes 3:20
"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die;..." 





Alexander the Great, after conquering many kingdoms, was returning home. On the way, he fell ill and it took him to his death bed. With death staring him in his face, Alexander realized how his conquests,his great army, his sharp sword and all his wealth were of no consequence. He now longed to reach home to see his mother's face and bid her his last adieu. But, he had to accept the fact that his sinking health would not permit him to reach his distant homeland. So, the mighty conqueror lay prostrate and pale, helplessly waiting to breathe his last.

He called his generals and said, "I will depart from this world soon, I have three wishes, please carry them out without fail."

With tears flowing down their cheeks, the generals agreed to abide by their king's last wishes.

"My first desire is that", said Alexander, "My physicians alone must carry my coffin."

After a pause, he continued, "Secondly, I desire that when my coffin is being carried to the grave, the path leading to the graveyard be strewn with gold, silver and precious stones which I have collected in my treasury".

The king felt exhausted after saying this. He took a minute's rest and continued. "My third and last wish is that both my hands be kept dangling out of my coffin".

The people who had gathered there wondered at the king's strange wishes. But no one dared bring the question to their lips.. Alexander's favorite general kissed his hand and pressed them to his heart.

"O king, we assure you that all your wishes will be fulfilled. But tell us why do you make such strange wishes?"

At this Alexander took a deep breath and said:

"I would like the world to know of the three lessons I have just learnt. Lessons to be learnt from last three wishes of King Alexander...I want my physicians to carry my coffin because people should realize that no doctor on this earth can really cure any body. They are powerless and cannot save a person from the clutches of death. So let not people take life for granted.

The second wish of strewing gold, silver and other riches on the path to the graveyard is to tell People that not even a fraction of gold will come with me. I spent all my life Greed of Power, earning riches but cannot take anything with me. Let people realize that it is a sheer waste of time to chase wealth.

About my third wish of having my hands dangling out of the coffin, I wish people to know that I came empty handed into this world and empty handed I go out of this world".

With these words, the king closed his eyes. Soon he let death conquer him and breathed his last. . . .

The best present that you can give to your family and friends is your TIME.

May God grant YOU plenty of TIME, to share with all.

"All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return." (Ecclesiastes 3:20)

 

November 14, 2015
IS ANYBODY OUT THERE?



Psalm 139:11-12
"If I say, 'Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,' even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you."




In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?” The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is she now?”

The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of her. It is in her that we live. Without her this world would not and could not exist.”

Said the first: “Well I don’t see her, so it is only logical that she doesn’t exist.”

To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive her presence, and you can hear her loving voice, calling down from above.”

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth." (Psalm 139:13-15)

Útmutató a Léleknek



November 13, 2015
CONVERSATIONS NOT COMMANDS


Ephesians 4:29
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."



I am learning that good leadership involves ongoing conversation, not instant commands. Our leadership team of five have two 30 minute calls a week to talk through the implementation of strategic initiatives. We all trust each other and think the best of one another. Our free flowing conversations over three or four topics create clarity, provide solutions and offer support. Respect for all is a result. Conversations can take longer, but the execution is shorter and more efficient. 
 
For instance, on one of our recent calls a team member needed content ideas around leadership topics. He and his team had a deadline to develop quality material, but he wanted to make sure the articles, webinars and newsletters were valuable for the audience. In 40 minutes, five engaged thinkers came up with six compelling themes. By himself, the leader in charge could have come up with good ideas, but not the best—and it would have taken much longer. We is better than me. 

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

In a crisis, collaboration may take a back seat while a serious situation is resolved, but normally ongoing discussion and debate discovers the best outcome. Do you work well with others, or would you rather do your work by yourself? Take the time to invest in discussions with other team members and it will save you time. You may be able to make quicker decisions by yourself, but who will own the follow through of the project? Conversations create understanding, trust and support. One perspective is adequate at best, but several insights harvest the best solutions. 
 
If you lead a group, team or organization, avoid the temptation to intimidate with your anger or displeasure. Anyone can get mad and pitch a fit in hopes of driving the team to results through guilt. But temper tantrums are not a sustainable leadership style. You may see short term results, but you sacrifice the long term health of the work culture. In humility and faith be vulnerable in ongoing conversations with your team. Admit you know “what” needs to be done, but you need input from the team on “how” to execute. Humble leaders are conversational not commanding. 

"So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding." (Romans 14:19)

Wisdom Hunters


November 12, 2015
YOUR VERY BEST FRIEND




Exodus 33:14.

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”




What more do you need in a friend, than to be with you wherever you go; and help you to carry your burden - whether it be a physical load, the loss of a friend or loved one, the mental exercise that has you stumped, or a load of guilt that you cannot shake off?

Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egypt into the wilderness, on the way to their Promised Land. Shortly after they left Egypt, they came to Mount Sinai, on whose top God gave Moses the Ten Commandments engraved on two tablets of stone. While Moses was with God, the people demanded that Aaron make for them a gold calf, so they could worship it and commit gross immoral acts. When Moses discovered their debauchery, he truly needed a friend to comfort and strengthen him.

Moses was accustomed to going to the “tent of meeting” daily, to consult with God and receive instructions from Him. His young protege Joshua accompanied Moses on those daily treks. In fact, he remained at the tent of meeting after Moses went home - somewhat like Anna in the New Testament, of whom it was said,

“She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour [when the baby Jesus was presented by Mary and Joseph] she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:37-38)

Surely Anna gave great comfort to Mary and Joseph when she met them on that stupendous occasion, after they had traveled to Jerusalem and became parents of the very special Child who wanted to be the Friend of the world.

But Moses in his position as leader of the recalcitrant nation, needed much more consolation than a mere young fellow could provide. God had even said to him earlier,

“I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.” (Exodus 33:12)

Those words were slim comfort to the bedeviled Moses, so he cried out to God,

“If I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways.” (Exodus 33:13)

It was then that God replied to the beleaguered Moses with the words above of assurance of His presence with him throughout His ordeal. Further, God even allowed Moses to see His back, but not His face,

"And he said, 'I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name "The Lord." And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. "But", he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, "Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.'" (Exodus 33:19-23)

As God was Moses’ very best Friend in his days and years of distress, He also can be the very best Friend you can possibly have, if only you are willing to allow Him that role in your life. Now I say this not to demean any friend you may have had or now have, but God alone is able to be a better Friend to you than any earthly friend, or even a parent or brother or sister or child or even spouse could possibly be. God your Creator and Savior yearns to be your Friend; He calls you to receive Him as your Friend, Adviser, Leader, and especially your Savior, if only you repent of your sins and receive Him as the only One who can lift whatever burden you have. Right now, make Him your Best Friend!

Dr. Thomas R. Teply



November 11, 2015
FREEDOM IS NOT FREE




2 Timothy 2:3

"Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." 


Hundreds of thousands of our countrymen have unselfishly fought and died over the course of our nation’s history to protect the freedoms, rights and beliefs for which America stands. Today, nearly one and one-half million uniformed Americans serve in 130 nations around the globe to protect our nation, the idea of democracy, and to stand up to terrorism.

Seventy years ago, in the last year of the Second World War, American troops liberated the city of Prague from brutal Nazi Germans who had captured it several years before. A young boy of eight years of age was given a baseball glove by one of the Americans, who taught him how to play the game of baseball. When it was time for the Americans to leave, the boy tried to give the glove back, but the man told the boy to give the glove to the next Soldier he saw, knowing all the Americans were departing. 

The boy never saw another American, so he kept the glove and used it for years. That is, until this past spring. As part of a NATO training exercise, a convoy of American troops rolled into Prague for the first time since World War II. A 78-year-old-man, overcome with emotion, gingerly approached the Soldiers from a crowd of onlookers. In his hand was the weathered, well-used leather glove he had been given long before, as a small boy. Touched by his story, the Soldiers accepted it. They knew it was a piece of meaningful, moving history. That glove now rests in a museum.

That baseball glove today represents much more than a piece of leather. It represents an act of kindness that links American Soldiers of the past with those of the present. It symbolizes the best of humanity – the spirit of giving and of caring for others. But it symbolizes even more – the freedom for which Americans in uniform in all the military services have given their “all” for throughout our history.

For Americans, the freedoms we enjoy are a way of life – a birthright, so to speak. We sometimes take our liberty for granted but, let me assure you, the reason America is a free country today is because our forefathers protected it, suffered for it, and died for it. Today, opportunities abound – if a young person obtains higher education and dedicates him or herself to a career field and works hard, success and happiness will follow. We live in the greatest country on earth, and we must never take that for granted.

So what is a simple definition of the meaning of Veterans Day 2015? To me, it comes down to one sentence -- one phrase that can never be heard too often. It is this: Freedom is not free.

Col. Randy Murray, Commander of U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground



November 10, 2015
TRUST REQUIRED 
 



Psalm 22:9

"Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother's breasts."
 



God requires us to trust from our birth. In the beginning we are totally dependent on others. God uses doctors, nurses and midwives to navigate us out of the birth canal. There is nothing we could do to gain access into this life other than wait on the warm embrace of others. Furthermore it was God’s work that brought us into the world. He conceived us and brought us out of our mother’s womb. God stamped on our infant soul, “Trust in Me is required”. 
 
We were born desperately needy. The milk from our mother’s breast sustained our life. She was our lifeline. She was the nurturer we trusted without reservation. In the same way we depend on the milk of God’s word. We are babies in need of the elementary principles of the faith. At the genesis of our faith we were infants who sucked life from our Savior Jesus. We trusted Him totally as our redeemer and refuge. Trust was required then and is still required now. 

"for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child." (Hebrews 5:13)

In this life we never graduate from our Savior’s school of trust. We are in Christ’s classroom of trust until we graduate to heaven. It is a required course for Christ followers. He loved us as an infant and He does not cast us off in our riper years. He was our God when we left our mother and He will be our God when we return to mother earth. Be glad that God requires trust in Him. Trust connects us to Christ. The closer our walk with Jesus—the higher our level of faith. 
 
Moreover trust in others is required for robust relationships. Do not replace trust with skepticism because of the few who have fractured your faith in people. If you trust God you can trust others. Little faith in God leads to little faith in people. A big faith in God thinks the best of others. Don’t be defensive with your spouse or co-workers. Trust them until they cannot be trusted. Trust facilitates trust. A robust and growing relationship with Jesus and people requires trust. 

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." 
(Romans 15:13)

What is the result of total trust in God’s trustworthiness? How can you grow in righteousness?

Wisdom Hunters



November 9, 2015
CORRECTING THE INSIDE



Colossians 3:10

"and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." 

In our media-saturated age, image consultants have become indispensable. Entertainers, athletes, politicians, and business leaders seem desperate to manage the way they are perceived in the eyes of the world. These high-priced consultants work to shape how their clients are viewed — even if sometimes there is a stark contrast between the public image and the real person inside.

In reality, what people need — what all of us need — is not an external makeover but an inner transformation. Our deepest flaws cannot be corrected cosmetically. They are directly related to who we are in heart and mind, and they reveal how far we have fallen from the image of God in which we were created.

But such transformation is beyond any human ability to accomplish. Only Christ offers us true transformation — not just a facelift or an outward adjustment.

Paul said that those who have been raised to eternal life in Christ 

"...have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." (Colossians 3:10)

New! What a tremendous word full of hope! Christ transforms us into new people in Him — people with a new heart, not just fixed up to look good on the outside.

"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)

The Holy Spirit develops inside us the clear image of Christ.

Bill Crowder



November 7-8, 2015
HEARING GOD'S VOICE 
 



Jeremiah 33:3

"Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known." 




Last summer, I traveled into Chicago by train from my home west of the city. On the way, I didn’t notice the clickety-clack of the tracks because I was engrossed in thought about hearing God’s voice. The following ideas came to me; I wrote them down, and I’d like to share them with you. I hope you are encouraged. 

If we know about God without being connected to God, Christianity will seem flat and empty, like it isn’t real or authentic. Christians may seem like they are faking it, because at some level we are faking it; we aren’t living in authentic relationship with Christ and we project onto the body of Christ what we feel ourselves. And speaking of relationship, that’s something I have been thinking about, too. In Christian circles, we throw the word “relationship” around a lot. Don’t get me wrong, being a Christian is about relationship. 

"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)

But I find it so interesting that we can say we have a relationship with Jesus, but rarely talk with Him, and maybe even more rarely listen to Him. That would be like a woman saying she has a relationship with her husband but she rarely speaks to him and doesn’t listen to a word he says. That’s not a relationship. What we need is a redefinition of relationship with Christ. And part of that definition involves listening. Which, I might add, is very exciting. 

I can’t think of anything in life more thrilling than hearing the tender, sometimes convicting, always life-giving voice of God. I am not talking about a big, booming voice that comes out of the heavens. But instead, a still, small voice that meets you in your quiet place as you read His Word and listen for Him. Those moments are some of the most amazing times anyone can experience in life. Personal connection with the Living God! Frankly, there is nothing better. Are you listening? 

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27) 

Do you listen?

Shana Schutte



November 6, 2015
JOYFUL ATTITUDE 




1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
 



I can tell when I begin to lose my happy face. My failure to thank God turns my smile upside down. But when I remember to show gratitude to my heavenly Father—regardless of the situation I find myself in—I am filled with the joy of the Lord. Prayerful gratitude gives me a joyful attitude. Recently, I was overwhelmed with a challenge at work. I went into “solve the problem” mode and missed an opportunity to seek God in prayer. After a day of stress and anxiety I paused and thanked God for His track record of faithfulness. Joy was restored. Jesus gave me a solution. 
 
The Apostle Paul experienced more than his share of trials and tribulations: imprisoned for his faith, shipwrecked on his missionary journey and chronic pain from health issues. Yet, he reminds himself and his readers to have an unceasing attitude of gratitude in prayer, which results in joy. Then he punctuates the end of the verse with an exclamation that this mindset is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus. Some aspects of the Lord’s will are unclear, but continual prayer, gratitude and joy are clearly God’s desire for His children. In Christ Jesus we have joy. 

"yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places..." (Habakuk 3:18-19)

Do you count your blessings or do you demand to be blessed? One of the enemy’s traps is to talk you into forgetting what the Lord has already done in your life and have you obsess over what He ought to do in your life right now. Sometimes the Spirit needs to do a deeper work in your heart before He works out an opportunity. If you have what you insist on today—you might not be able to handle the blessing in a Christ honoring way. So, continue in grateful prayer to God. Be joyful in His strength, so the Spirit can tame your spirit with truth. Joy comes as you wait. 
 
Gratitude is a humble attitude that asks how we can help others. Maybe we take care of a friend’s child for a day, so they can enjoy some adult conversation with their community. Or, because we have been blessed with mentors—we can bless others with encouragement and insight into life. Gratitude to God leads us to serve others in Jesus’ name. In the process we experience the joy of giving. Joy is not bought, but wrought out of our thankful prayers and humble service. Look no further for the Lord’s will. Our grateful prayers give us joy in Jesus, so we can share Jesus’ joy! 

"Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality."
 (Romans 12:12-13)

How do you need to express your gratitude to God? Who can you serve in Jesus name?

Wisdom Hunters


November 5, 2015
SCHOOLS OF LOVE 



1 John 4:9

"In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him." 


 
The very heart of the Christian message is that God shows his love to us by sending Jesus into the world to give us new life through his death and resurrection. Everything we say and do is built upon this foundational truth. Yet when we read a passage like 1 John 4, it’s important to ask ourselves “how?” How do we now live this new life through him? 
 
The beautiful message of Scripture is that God invites us to live this new life in community with others that he is drawing to himself. We see this in the opening words of Scripture, 

"Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." (Genesis 2:18)

We see it again in the Psalms, 

"God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land." (Psalm 68:6)

And we see it in the very words of Jesus, 

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12)

These verses remind us that faith in Jesus is personal but not private, individual but not individualistic. We learn how to love God primarily by learning how to live life together with others, and in Scripture the two primary communities we are called to are church and family. 
 
Families have often been called “schools of love,” and I find this a helpful identity to embrace. It is in a family that we learn to love and to be loved in return. It is in a family that we encounter God’s covenantal faithfulness to his people and see that faithfulness continued through history. And it is in a family that we learn the very nature of God: that He is a gift-giving God who desires to bless the world by inviting us into the eternal community of love. In short, a family is not only the place where we learn the content of our faith, but it is also where we encounter the love of God and are invited to live out this mission of love. 
 
In Christian circles we often talk about the need for faith to be renewed and deepened in our churches, both at a local and a national level. However, I am convinced that our churches will never be stronger or healthier than the individual families that make them up. In other words, the renewal of the church and its ability to bless the world will never move faster than the renewal of families as the primary means of discipleship, spiritual formation, and growth. 
 
In light of this ask yourself, “Who has God placed in my life to help me learn how to love?” Most often, the answer is someone very close to you! Every relationship we have is a gift from God and an invitation to learn how to love others just as he has loved us. 
 
How can you make God’s love real to your family this week? 

Tripp Prince



November 4, 2015
QUALIFICATIONS FOR CLOSENESS 
 

Psalm 24:3-5
"Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation." 

 

Sincere worshippers of God long to be close to Christ. This is our eternal end game. This is the outcome we crave. It is closeness to Christ that places us in proximity for Him to wipe away our tears. It is closeness to Christ that reveals our sin and leads us to repentance. It is closeness to Christ that instills the best perspective. It is closeness to Christ that calms our heart and engages our mind. The holy hill of the Lord is ascended by steps of repentance. Purity brings us closer to Jesus. 
 
Closeness comes from cleanliness. We came from the dirt. We started out unclean. Dirt in our heart throws dust in our eyes. We struggle to see God when we have not cleansed our heart. The pure in heart see God. But the impure of heart are like blind bats fluttering around in futility. We are from the dirt in the valley and He is high atop His holy mountain. The snow capped mountain of God is pure and clean. We ask the Holy Spirit to clean us so we can ascend. 

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8)

So we approach the holy hill of the Lord with clean hands and a pure heart. It is an outward and inward purification that we pursue. Our behavior and our beliefs both need sanitizing. Closeness to Christ comes when we align both our actions and our attitudes. We would not expect a server to bring our meal with soiled hands. Nor are we to serve our Lord with the dirt of denial under our fingernails. 
 
God trusts those whom He holds close. He trusts them because they are nearby to hear His instruction and obey His command. They are hungry for His heart and thirsty for His trust. Closeness continually communes. It is not like the adult child who only comes home when they need something. There is intentionality in intimacy. God blesses those who are close by. Stay cleansed and close to Christ! 

"The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Timothy 1:5)

How is the Spirit purging your heart toward purity? What does it mean to have a good conscience?

Wisdom Hunters



November 3, 2015
DEALING WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE 
 


Luke 6:27
"But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you," 



 
I am married to a man who believes an adventurous, full life begins with three letters: Y-E-S. So he likes to live by the motto, “Say yes more than you say no.” In the Christian life, there are many things that are easy to say yes to. Yes, Lord. I receive that blessing! Yes, Lord. I’ll give you that burden. Yes, Lord. I’ll take that promotion. But there can be more difficult yeses like, Yes, Lord. I’ll forgive. And, Yes, Lord. I’ll pray for my enemy (or that person who is driving me crazy). 
 
The majority of what I write about comes from truths God has revealed to me through Scripture or through life’s circumstances. Right now, God is teaching me about dealing with difficult people. So if you are dealing with a difficult person or someone you would even call an adversary or an enemy, I hope the following helps you say yes to doing spiritual battle God’s way. Paul tells Timothy to gently instruct those who oppose him. . . 

"and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:26)

The word “devil” in this sentence reminded me things are often not as they seem because there is a spiritual realm we can’t discern, and that people can be taken captive by the devil to do his will. Immediately Ephesians 6:12 came to mind. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 
 
Is it time to get your eyes off the one you see as your adversary and identify your real Adversary? Moving your gaze from flesh and blood to evil powers and forces you can’t see in the spiritual realm can transform you from a blamer and finger pointer aimed at the wrong target to a righteous pray-er who does battle for Christ. When life throws us a difficult relationship, it’s easy to focus solely on the person who seems to be causing our problems. But if we want to do spiritual battle for Christ and foil the devil’s scheme to stir up trouble, isn’t the superior alternative to say Y-E-S to prayer? What if we turn the tables on Satan and come against him for the benefit and freedom of the difficult person in our lives? One of my Facebook friends said it best, “Note to self: My adversary is in need of my prayers for deliverance, [they are not in need of] my anger, bitterness, and resentment.” 

"But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:44-45) 

If you are dealing with a difficult person in your life, pray for them right now and ask God to bless them. 
 
Shana Schutte


November 2, 2015
WALK WITH JESUS 

 



Revelation 3:4
"Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy." 



Three or four times a week Rita and I walk together in our hilly neighborhood. Our purpose is not to train for an Ironman, but to increase our heart rate and decrease our stress. On the level stretches or when we gingerly step downhill, we take turns talking about what we like the best and the least about our week. Our conversation tends to complement real hurts with hopeful healing. We discuss (sometimes debate!) topics like financial management and calendar coordination. We walk together so we can share and understand each other’s thoughts and feelings. 
 
John, the Apostle of Love, compliments the few among the church in Sardis who have remained pure in the face of impure peer pressure. This remnant was just enough spiritual salt to preserve a dying body of believers. This local church was not persecuted because it was in a spiritual coma. Scripturally incoherent and void of prayer, these church attenders were not a threat to the enemy’s strategy to silence the church. But the few who really knew God, walked with Jesus. Though imperfect now—they looked forward to perfection in heaven. Purity makes us worthy of glory. 

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)

Is your walk with the Lord contingent on circumstances or does it transcend all situations? It’s not enough to just go to God when the going gets rough. Your spiritual health needs attention at all times. Consistently walk with Jesus on the level, less stressful stretches of life. Hold His hand on the downhill steps of success—then you are better prepared to persevere in prayer up the steep hills of adversity. During treacherous ascents—Christ, the experienced mountain climber—pulls you up by the secure ropes of radical trust. Perseverance requires one step of faith at a time. 
 
You are God’s seasoning for the salvation of souls. Some within your church congregation are not saved. You are planted by the Holy Spirit to be a loving reminder as an authentic follower of Jesus. Your greatest mission field may be those you worship with on Sunday morning. Look for opportunities to initiate friendships. Invite acquaintances into a small group to study the Bible. Do life together, so when life happens you are available to help out. Life is preparation for the next life. Christ desires His bride, the church, to be adorned in a dress without blemish. As the sun reflects its brilliance off pure driven snow—your purified soul will one day reflect God’s glory! 

"when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed." (2 Thessalonians 1:10)

Who needs your life investment in preparation for the next life? 

Wisdom Hunters



November 1, 2015
GODLY GOAL SETTING 



Luke 13:32 
"And he said to them, 'Go and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.'" 



 

Goal-setting was a part of Christ’s thinking. First and foremost His goal was to do the will of His heavenly Father. This is the goal that got Him out of bed in the morning. It was a joint mission with the Holy Spirit. His goal was also to serve the people. He cast out demons, healed, and taught. Jesus was a focused individual with specific goals in mind. 
 
His example is a model for goal-setting; so keep God and people the priorities. If you set no goals, you will reach them every time. If you do set goals, you will reach some, modify others, and miss a few. For the extremely thorough and cautious temperament, it is hard to plan toward something, and not see it accomplished. However, this is part of trusting God to help you meet necessary goals and wait on others. 
 
On the other hand, there are some personalities that set too many unrealistic goals. Yes, all things are possible with God, but not to the point of irresponsible planning. Too many goals can overwhelm you and water down your effectiveness in reaching the right ones. This is where prayer is critical in goal-setting. 
 
Ask God what His best is for your life. Ask Him how to pace yourself over the long term, so your family develops robustly and your health is enhanced in the process. Goals are a guide to be adjusted daily, weekly, monthly, and annually depending on their nature and the timing of their necessity and implementation. There is a logical flow in goal-setting. Make sure your goals flow out of your God-given purpose. If your purpose is to glorify God by being a faithful husband, an available father, a loyal friend, and a loving leader, then start there. Let your purpose statement be a filter for your goal-setting. If a goal does not pass muster with your purpose, then omit it and move on. Goals are not meant to be barnacles that slow down your life ship. Goals are meant to free you up to focus on God’s will. Goals are like billowing, white sails powered by the winds of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s empowerment moves you forward by faith. 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5)

Daily time with God is a good goal. A regular marriage conference and marriage teaching with your spouse is a good goal. Give 10% and save 10% is a good goal. Using your work as a platform for ministry is a good goal. Exercising three times a week and eating a balanced diet are good goals. You may even have a God-given goal to travel around the world. Go for it! Write down what God is putting in your heart. Set a timetable that is not so rigid that it cannot be adjusted. God works through goals, so be a prayerful goal-setter, and watch Him work. You may be surprised what He can accomplish through you. Simply writing down your goals may give you just the needed inspiration and accountability to attempt great things for God. Prayerfully set goals and watch Him work. 
 
The Bible says, 

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9)

What big goal do you need to trust the Lord to accomplish in His timing? 

Wisdom Hunters



October 31, 2015
HANDS



Psalm 73:23

"Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand."



Grandpa, some ninety plus years, sat feebly on the patio bench. He didn't move, just sat with his head down staring at his hands. When I sat down beside him he didn't acknowledge my presence and the longer I sat, I wondered if he was OK. Finally, not really wanting to disturb him but wanting to check on him at the same time, I asked him if he was OK. 
 
He raised his head and looked at me and smiled. "Yes, I'm fine. Thank you for asking," he said in a clear strong voice. 
 
"I didn't mean to disturb you, Grandpa, but you were just sitting here staring at your hands and I wanted to make sure you were OK,"  I explained to him. 
 
"Have you ever looked at your hands," he asked. "I mean really looked at your hands?" 
 
I slowly opened my hands and stared down at them. I turned them over, palms up and then palms down. No, I guess I had never really looked at my hands as I tried to figure out the point he was making. 
 
Grandpa smiled and related this story:

"Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how they have served you well throughout your years. These hands, though wrinkled, shriveled, and weak have been the tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life. They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back.

* As a child my mother taught me to fold them in prayer. 
 
* They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots. 
 
* They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bent. 
 
* They were uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son. 
 
* Decorated with my wedding band they showed the world that I was married and loved someone special. 
 
* They trembled and shook when I buried my parents and spouse and walked my daughter down the aisle. 
 
* They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and cleansed the rest of my body. 
 
* They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw. 
 
* And to this day, when not much of anything else of me works real well, these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue to fold in prayer. 
 
* These hands are the mark of where I've been and the ruggedness of my life. 
 
* But more importantly it will be these hands that God will reach out and take when he leads me home. 
 
* And with my hands He will lift me to His side and there I will use these hands to touch the face of Christ." 

I will never look at my hands the same again. But I remember God reached out and took my grandpa's hands and led him home. 

When my hands are hurt or sore I think of Grandpa. I know he has been stroked and caressed and held by the hands of God. I, too, want to touch the face of God and feel His hands upon my face. 

"For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, 'Fear not, I am the one who helps you.'” (Isaiah 41:13)

Submitted by Randy Foster




October 30, 2015
PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE




Philippians 3:17
"Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us." 



In his painting “An Allegory of Prudence,” the 16th-century Venetian artist Titian portrayed Prudence as a man with three heads. One head was of a youth facing the future, another of a mature man eyeing the present, and the third, a wise old man gazing at the past. Over their heads, Titian wrote a Latin phrase that means, “From the example of the past, the man of the present acts prudently so as not to imperil the future.”

We need that kind of wisdom to overcome the anxiety created by our past failures and the fear of repeating them in the future — an anxiety that can keep us from enjoying life to the fullest right now.

Paul was able to “forget” his past and anticipate his future:

"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)

This doesn’t mean that his memory was erased; it means that because God had forgiven him, Paul was free of any guilt or pride he may have felt from his past. As he lived in daily fellowship with Christ, trials could only make him more like his Savior. So he had one driving passion — to know Christ better.

As we face the future, let us rededicate ourselves to Christ and follow His example. Jesus will enable us to live fully in the present as we gain wisdom from the past and face the future with courage.

Dennis J. De Haan



October 29, 2015
UNEXPECTED PROVISION 



1 Samuel 17:31-33
"When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. And David said to Saul, 'Let no man's heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.' And Saul said to David, 'You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.'" 



I was recently reading the story of David and Goliath with my children, which we’ve read countless times before. In classic stories like this one it’s easy to feel like we’ve exhausted them, drawn every bit of insight or direction they have to offer. However, I never cease to be amazed by the ways God speaks to us afresh from his word, and this time was no different. 
 
When we read the Bible, our temptation is to always identify with the heroes of the story: Moses parting the sea, Joshua and Caleb courageously following the Lord into a new land, or David conquering Goliath. Yet as I read this story with my kids, I was shocked to find myself resonating with an unlikely character: Saul. 
 
At first, to be honest, I found this slightly concerning! If you know the story of Saul, then you know he has some significant character flaws, including pride, envy, and the love of power. What can Saul possibly teach us from this passage? In spite of all that he gets wrong, Saul gets one thing very right: he recognizes that God can provide for his people in the most unlikely of ways. 
 
Now granted, Saul has his doubts. How could David possibly be the man chosen to defeat this “man of war”? Surely this was a suicide mission! And yet, crazy though it may seem, in this moment Saul discerns the mystery of God’s providence and trusts that God’s ways are higher and greater than he can understand: 

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord." (Isaiah 55:8)

"And David said, 'The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.' And Saul said to David, 'Go, and the LORD be with you!'" (1 Samuel 17:37) 

Notice that Saul doesn’t simply say “Go”. He doesn’t say “Go, and rely on your strength, wisdom, and years of training for this battle.” He knows this would be simply untrue! Yet the wisdom and insight from this passage rests in this wonderful phrase: “the LORD be with you!” Saul, in these five simple words, recognizes a profound truth and in so doing helps us remember that God always provides for his people, yet the provision can at times seem unlikely, untimely, and uncertain. 
 
If we think about it, is this not true of Jesus? 
 
When we look to Jesus, we see the ultimate example of unexpected provision. Who in their right mind would have guessed that a poor handyman from the countryside who died a criminal’s death would three days later rise from the dead and reconcile all things to himself?

"and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross."
 (Colossians 1:20)

God in Jesus meets the needs of his people in the most unexpected of ways. May we look to him and, like Saul with David, trust fully in God’s loving, unexpected provision. 
 
How does God’s grace and provision meet you in unexpected and unlikely ways? 

Tripp Prince

Note: Here is a link to a theory about how Goliath died.



October 28, 2015
TRUST OVERCOMES FEAR 
 


Psalm 23:4 
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."



 
Fear engages an ongoing assault on our heart and mind. If left unchecked, fear can whip our imagination into a frenzy of anxiety. Though only an ounce of what we fear may come to pass, we tend to give it a ton of attention. It is madness when we are overcome by fear. It may be the fear of death that dilutes our faith. It may be the fear of failure that drives us to control. It may be the fear of losing a job that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But we are not alone in our fears. 
 
Jesus walks with us through our valleys. He may not deliver us out of the valley, but He most assuredly does not abandon us there. He walks with us through the valley of doubt. He walks with us through the valley of shame. He walks with us through the valley of transition. He walks with us through the valley of disease. He walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death. A shadow assumes a light, so Christ is there to guide us. Trust overcomes fear. 

"Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!" (Psalms 40:4)

Pain can create insecurity and confusion. But no amount of pain can separate us from the love of God. Pain may smother our soul, but we do not give up on God. We immerse ourselves in the Psalms where David sometimes drowns in doubt, but by faith wisely lifts his soul to the Lord. No one suffers well alone. It is with the Almighty and the prayers of others we make it through. 
 
So go to Christ for comfort. He draws us close with His rod and His staff. He heals our crushed heart with His caring touch. When we stray as lost sheep He doesn’t give up on us, rather He goes after us. Indeed love is not passive. It initiates contact, comfort and connection. Love helps us make sense out of a senseless situation. The Holy Spirit can bring clarity to our confusion. So, we saturate our soul with truth that flushes out our fears. Trust in the Lord overcomes fear! 

"He said to them, 'Where is your faith?' And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?" (Luke 8:25)

What fear do you need to replace with trust in the Lord? 

Wisdom Hunters



October 27, 2015
A CHILD'S VIEW OF THUNDERSTORMS



Job 37:15
"Do you know how God lays his command upon them and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine?"





A little girl walked to and from school daily. Though the weather that morning was questionable and clouds were forming, she made her daily trek to school. As the afternoon progressed, the winds whipped up, along with lightning. 

The mother of the little girl felt concerned that her daughter would be frightened as she walked home from school. She also feared the electrical storm might harm her child. Full of concern, the mother got into her car and quickly drove along the route to her child's school. As she did, she saw her little girl walking along. 

At each flash of lightning, the child would stop, look up, and smile. More lighting followed quickly and with each, the little girl would look at the streak of light and smile. 

When the mother drew up beside the child, she lowered the window and called, "What are you doing?" 

The child answered, "I am trying to look pretty because God keeps taking my picture."

Submitted by Starlene Smith



October 26, 2015
ALMOST DEAD CHURCH 



Revelation 3:1
"And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.'"


 
Sadly, I have visited churches that once preached the gospel but are now closed, boarded up and deserted. I have visited churches that are still open, but spiritually anemic. Only a shell of cold religion with a handful of attendees. I have visited other churches half full in a big beautiful building. They are endowed with man’s wealth—but not endowed with heavenly riches—they are spiritually bankrupt. Thank God, many churches are still alive. Better to be a church alive that disturbs the world than a dead church, ignored by the world. Christ gives life to His bride! 
 
The church at Sardis was spiritually asleep. John’s dramatic letter was a wake up call. God’s spokesman called out the local church for its conformity to the culture and society’s mores. The Christian community as a whole—instead of being a vessel of transforming grace—had lost its influence on the world. Moral distinctiveness had eroded into moral relativeness. The Sardis church had a past reputation for faithfulness, but now was found faithless. Like a separated couple once admired for their model marriage—the church struggled with separation from God. 

"...Therefore it says, 'Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'" (Ephesians 5:14)

How can we as sincere followers of Jesus be a solution to a slumbering church? One way is to lead our church to pray. Before the work day begins—perhaps a few of us gather at the church to pray. Pray for our own hearts to walk in humility, mercy and justice. Pray for our church leaders to grow in their love for the Lord, their families, the faithful and love for the lost. Pray all who name the name of Christ to experience an awakening of the Holy Spirit’s fire. 
 
The same fire of God that fell in answer to Elijah’s prayers is the fire from heaven that will startle our souls to attention. The Holy Spirit’s fire that immersed the masses at Pentecost so thousands were saved, is proof of the gospel’s life-changing. The Spirit’s influence burns brightest where Christians worship unashamedly, witness freely and thoroughly repent of their sin. Like a comatose body that suddenly becomes conscious—our almost dead churches will be revived when we as individual believers come alive. Ask Jesus to breathe His Spirit on His bride. 

"Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" (John 20:21-22)

How can you support the prayer effort at your church? 

Wisdom Hunters


October 25, 2015
SPIRITUAL CHECKUP


MARK 12:30
"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."




To detect health problems before they become serious, doctors recommend a routine physical exam. We can do the same for our spiritual health by asking a few questions rooted in the great commandment Jesus referred to:

Do I love God with all my heart because He first loved me? Which is stronger, my Love the Lord your desire for earthly gain or the treasures God with all your that are mine in Christ? 

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God."
 (Colossians 3:1)

He desires heart and with that His peace rule our hearts. 

Do I love God with all my soul? Do I listen to God telling me who I am? Am I moving away from self-centered desires?

"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry."  (Colossians 3:5)

Am I becoming more compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient?

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience," 
(Colossians 3:12)

Do I love God with all my mind? Do I focus on my relationship with His Son or do! let my mind wander wherever it wants to go?

"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." (Colossians 3:2)

Do my thoughts lead to problems or solutions? To unity or division? Forgiveness or revenge? 

"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)

Do I love God with all my strength? Am I willing to be seen as weak so that God can show His strength on my behalf? 

"And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27) 

Am I relying on His grace to be strong in His Spirit?

As we let "the message of Christ dwell among us richly with all wisdom" He will equip us to build each other up as we become spiritually fit and useful to Him. 

"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)

Julie Ackerman Link


October 24, 2015
BATTLE FATIGUE



2 Samuel 21:15
"There was war again between the Philistines and Israel, and David went down together with his servants, and they fought against the Philistines. And David grew weary." 



 
When we’re exhausted we are excellent candidates for encouragement. We cannot continue alone in our exhaustion. Our body and soul cry out for care. If we ignore exhaustion’s warning signals, we will likely fail. Our health may fail; our judgment may fail; our faculties may fail; our faith may fail. Exhaustion increases our probability for failure. It is imperative that in our exhaustion, we recognize, and receive help from others. We have to trust that they will keep our best interests in mind. We are unwise if we think we can do everything. This overwhelmed state compromises the quality of our work. Things that would otherwise be taken care of slip through the cracks. It is in our exhaustion that excellence exits our work and life. 
 
Moreover, our character becomes fragile under the weight of exhaustion’s pressure. As with a clove of garlic in a press, the sweet juices of God’s grace are squeezed out of us and we are left dry. Our patience becomes thin, and we lash out at undeserving souls. What would never bother us during times of rest soon become stressful, and an exhibit in embarrassment. Meaningless arguments begin to fill our minds, so there is no room left for pleasant thoughts. Exhaustion pushes us to the edge of unwise engagements, as we listen to sympathetic words from flirtatious lips. Exhaustion urges us to engage with any understanding warm body. There is a propensity to relax one’s conservative convictions, so make sure you confide in your spouse, not someone else’s. Intimacy is meant for marriage, so leverage exhaustion for a deeper relationship with your husband or wife. 
 
Exhaustion is also God’s way of getting your attention. You cannot continue to run hard in life and leave out the Lord. He wants much more than surface acknowledgement on Sunday. Exhaustion is meant to engage you with the eternal. You are reminded, in your weakened state, that He is your rock. He is your fortress, your deliverer, your shield, your stronghold, and your salvation. Because God is your refuge, you can rest in Him. You do not have to strive in your own strength. You can be infused with the Almighty’s eternal energy and everlasting love. It is in your exhaustion that your heavenly Father wants to love you wholeheartedly and unconditionally. 
 
So, let go and let Him. Let go of your unrealistic expectations that wear you down. Let go of your way of doing things. Let go of your timetable. Let go of the relationship that is wearing you out. Engage in activities and relationships that energize you. Yes, you need to be available, but rest in Him. Rest in Him, and leave the rest to Him. 
 
Your gracious heavenly Father is the answer to your battle fatigue. Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you up by faith, and allow God’s grace to flush out your fears. The Bible says, 

"For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him." (Psalm 62:5)

What area of your life needs a rest, so you can regroup with God?

Wisdom Hunters


October 23, 2015
ACCESS TO POWER 



Revelation 2:26 
"The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star."


 
A few years ago a tornado ripped through the small town where I grew up. Everything in its path was uprooted and destroyed. For a period of time my in-laws were powerless—until we were able to find a generator and personally deliver it to their home. In a similar fashion my life can be in disarray from sin’s destruction. I feel powerless to forces outside my control, but God gives me access to His power. Grace is His generator to empower my life during destructive times. 
 
John wrote to Christians who were dismissed and suppressed for their beliefs and their behavior. Humanly speaking, they were powerless in the face of an overreaching government and a hostile culture. However, the Holy Spirit speaking through the pen of the Apostle reminded this influential minority—a band of believers in Christ—to remain faithful in their love for the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit’s power supersedes society’s criticism and apathy toward God. We diligently serve until the sunset of life—anticipating the morning star of our Savior’s glory! 

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) 

Do you feel powerless with a problem or person? You may feel hopeless—even helpless, but your heavenly Father has the power to energize your faith in your fragile condition. The Spirit specializes in taking the weak and making them strong. An ailing condition qualifies you to be a recipient of God’s grace. Satan tries to short circuit your trust with his destructive lies: “Your spouse doesn’t really care—he doesn’t love you.” “There are no solutions, you will always be frustrated.” But Jesus has answers: “Remain in My love—I will empower you with My wisdom”.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." (James 1:5)

Seek the Lord’s wisdom in His word. Truth is our “flu shot” against the virus of sickly thinking. Empowered by God’s grace we are positioned to serve for the benefit of others. Our life on earth is a test in the faithful management of the Spirit’s blessings, so we can be entrusted with more favor in eternity. The Lord’s power used for His glory electrifies all of us who are citizens of the Kingdom. The world will one day bow down to the One who gave away all power to empower. So, be bold—not shy about the Gospel’s incredible power. Access God’s power for His glory! 

"for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:7)

Who needs your influence, support and love to be empowered?

Wisdom Hunters



(Note that Oct 11-22 thoughts have gone missing)


October 10, 2015
PROCESS ANGER


1 Samuel 19:10
"And Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he eluded Saul, so that he struck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night."




Process anger, or it will control your attitude and your actions. Anger is a self-fulfilling prophecy of destruction, as it destroys peace and quiet and ravishes relationships. Anger is acidic; it eats away at your credibility, your health, and eventually your ability to function successfully in life. Anger is an ugly emotion, as it easily embarrasses itself, and humiliates others for sport. It has a way of expressing itself at the most inappropriate times. For example, one outburst of anger can turn a pleasant family drive to church into one full of fear and intimidation.

Work environments build walls of distrust due to seething, unresolved anger. Relationships never get beyond the surface because of the fear of anger’s rejection. No one wants to be around an angry person. The Bible even says,

"Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?" (Proverbs 27:4)

Where does anger come from? There are probably a variety of sources. One is the result of not being loved and/or not loving. When a heart is perpetually unloved, it has a void that is first influenced by—and then filled with—anger. On the contrary, a heart full of love has no room for anger. Love melts anger the way the sun melts a milk chocolate bar at the beach. Cold anger is no match for the warm flames of love. 

Love responds with understanding, instead of seeking to argue or defend itself. Love learns to forgive instead of storing up resentment in someone who has been deeply disappointed. Love moves on instead of seething in the stew of what should have happened. Love matures over mistakes made, while anger whines in immaturity. 

Furthermore, anger incubates in a hurting heart. A heart raw with emotion is a candidate for anger. Suffering may be hurting your heart and you can’t take it anymore. Your heart is crushed and wrung out by pain. You are extremely vulnerable to the influence of anger, so let the compassion of Christ heal your heart. Invite the Lord to love you, and process your pain in prayer. Listen intently to the Lord, for He really does care. He loves you right in the middle of your mess. Invite the love of Jesus to do surgery on your soul. After the Almighty has loved you, let others love you. Love is salve for your soul, as you need the love and prayers of people to help you process your anger. 

Moreover, you may be the brunt of another’s angry outbursts, but do not take their anger personally. See that person as Jesus does, and extend forgiveness. Anger may be the defense mechanism another uses to keep you at bay. But kill him or her with kindness instead. Initiate forgiveness seven times seventy, and pray for this person to be loved by God and by you. Anger is an ugly mask, so unveil it with acceptance. Anger is not our excuse to fight or flee—but to forgive and accept. 

The Bible says,

"A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back." (Proverbs 29:11)

Do you feel loved? What hot button of yours needs healing and not an angry reaction?

Wisdom Hunters



Previous thoughts

October 9, 2015
FAITH OVERCOMES


Revelation 2:7
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God], I will grant [the privilege] to eat [the fruit]of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." 


 
Sometimes I question my faith. Is God really just and loving? If so, why is there so much injustice and hatred on the planet? Is my life really making a difference or am I just another voice crying in the wilderness? But when I question—the Holy Spirit gives me answers. He reminds me through Scripture what Christ has done—is doing and will do. Fortunately, when my questions are answered by the Bible, my faith grows stronger. Conquering trust in Jesus engages doubt with truth. Trust and truth resist giving up—they go forward. Faith overcomes my doubts. 
 
John reminds the churches of Christ’s restoration of the Garden of Eden. Jesus’ death and resurrection made a way beyond the flaming angel who blocked the entrance into Paradise:

"therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life." (Genesis 3:23-24) 

He replaced it:

"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,'" (John 11:25)

The Tree of Life is accessible to those who embrace Christ as their life. Heaven is top of mind for an aggressive trust in the Lord. Our faith on earth overcomes, because Jesus overcame life and death and made a way for eternal life. Trust in Jesus eventually wins for He is already victorious. 

"For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith."
(1 John 5:4)

Are you overwhelmed by life? Or feel stuck in a no win situation? If so, have faith. The Lord has not brought you this far to abandon you. God has not given up on you—so don’t give up on Him. Our experiences on earth are corrupted, but one day in heaven they will be incorruptible. We see glimpses of God’s glory in the face a cooing infant, the cascading of a surging waterfall and in the words of a forgiving friend. Look for God in life’s small things and watch your faith grow. 
 
Exercised faith is an overcoming faith. Like a healthy body needs resistance and rest, so our faith grows stronger when stretched and challenged. Everyday life is an exercise of faith in Jesus. Will hard times harden or soften our heart? Will good times grow our generosity or feed our greed? Our faith overcomes when we persevere in a job where we feel underpaid and under appreciated. Our faith overcomes when God’s grace is sufficient in our painful circumstance. Our faith overcomes when we remain faithful to Jesus. Trust conquers this world—anticipating the next. 

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

What life situation requires you to have an aggressive trust in the Lord? 
 
Wisdom Hunters

Also:
“Faith is not intelligent understanding; faith is deliberate commitment to and trust in a Person when and where I see no way."
Oswald Chambers

 


October 25, 2015
SPIRITUAL CHECKUP


MARK 12:30
"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."




To detect health problems before they become serious, doctors recommend a routine physical exam. We can do the same for our spiritual health by asking a few questions rooted in the great commandment Jesus referred to:

Do I love God with all my heart because He first loved me? Which is stronger, my Love the Lord your desire for earthly gain or the treasures God with all your that are mine in Christ? 

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God."
 (Colossians 3:1)

He desires heart and with that His peace rule our hearts. 

Do I love God with all my soul? Do I listen to God telling me who I am? Am I moving away from self-centered desires?

"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry."  (Colossians 3:5)

Am I becoming more compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient?

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience," 
(Colossians 3:12)

Do I love God with all my mind? Do I focus on my relationship with His Son or do! let my mind wander wherever it wants to go?

"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." (Colossians 3:2)

Do my thoughts lead to problems or solutions? To unity or division? Forgiveness or revenge? 

"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)

Do I love God with all my strength? Am I willing to be seen as weak so that God can show His strength on my behalf? 

"And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27) 

Am I relying on His grace to be strong in His Spirit?

As we let "the message of Christ dwell among us richly with all wisdom" He will equip us to build each other up as we become spiritually fit and useful to Him. 

"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)

Julie Ackerman Link


Previous thoughts


October 24, 2015
BATTLE FATIGUE



2 Samuel 21:15
"There was war again between the Philistines and Israel, and David went down together with his servants, and they fought against the Philistines. And David grew weary." 



 
When we’re exhausted we are excellent candidates for encouragement. We cannot continue alone in our exhaustion. Our body and soul cry out for care. If we ignore exhaustion’s warning signals, we will likely fail. Our health may fail; our judgment may fail; our faculties may fail; our faith may fail. Exhaustion increases our probability for failure. It is imperative that in our exhaustion, we recognize, and receive help from others. We have to trust that they will keep our best interests in mind. We are unwise if we think we can do everything. This overwhelmed state compromises the quality of our work. Things that would otherwise be taken care of slip through the cracks. It is in our exhaustion that excellence exits our work and life. 
 
Moreover, our character becomes fragile under the weight of exhaustion’s pressure. As with a clove of garlic in a press, the sweet juices of God’s grace are squeezed out of us and we are left dry. Our patience becomes thin, and we lash out at undeserving souls. What would never bother us during times of rest soon become stressful, and an exhibit in embarrassment. Meaningless arguments begin to fill our minds, so there is no room left for pleasant thoughts. Exhaustion pushes us to the edge of unwise engagements, as we listen to sympathetic words from flirtatious lips. Exhaustion urges us to engage with any understanding warm body. There is a propensity to relax one’s conservative convictions, so make sure you confide in your spouse, not someone else’s. Intimacy is meant for marriage, so leverage exhaustion for a deeper relationship with your husband or wife. 
 
Exhaustion is also God’s way of getting your attention. You cannot continue to run hard in life and leave out the Lord. He wants much more than surface acknowledgement on Sunday. Exhaustion is meant to engage you with the eternal. You are reminded, in your weakened state, that He is your rock. He is your fortress, your deliverer, your shield, your stronghold, and your salvation. Because God is your refuge, you can rest in Him. You do not have to strive in your own strength. You can be infused with the Almighty’s eternal energy and everlasting love. It is in your exhaustion that your heavenly Father wants to love you wholeheartedly and unconditionally. 
 
So, let go and let Him. Let go of your unrealistic expectations that wear you down. Let go of your way of doing things. Let go of your timetable. Let go of the relationship that is wearing you out. Engage in activities and relationships that energize you. Yes, you need to be available, but rest in Him. Rest in Him, and leave the rest to Him. 
 
Your gracious heavenly Father is the answer to your battle fatigue. Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you up by faith, and allow God’s grace to flush out your fears. The Bible says, 

"For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him." (Psalm 62:5)

What area of your life needs a rest, so you can regroup with God?

Wisdom Hunters


October 23, 2015
ACCESS TO POWER 



Revelation 2:26 
"The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star."


 
A few years ago a tornado ripped through the small town where I grew up. Everything in its path was uprooted and destroyed. For a period of time my in-laws were powerless—until we were able to find a generator and personally deliver it to their home. In a similar fashion my life can be in disarray from sin’s destruction. I feel powerless to forces outside my control, but God gives me access to His power. Grace is His generator to empower my life during destructive times. 
 
John wrote to Christians who were dismissed and suppressed for their beliefs and their behavior. Humanly speaking, they were powerless in the face of an overreaching government and a hostile culture. However, the Holy Spirit speaking through the pen of the Apostle reminded this influential minority—a band of believers in Christ—to remain faithful in their love for the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit’s power supersedes society’s criticism and apathy toward God. We diligently serve until the sunset of life—anticipating the morning star of our Savior’s glory! 

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) 

Do you feel powerless with a problem or person? You may feel hopeless—even helpless, but your heavenly Father has the power to energize your faith in your fragile condition. The Spirit specializes in taking the weak and making them strong. An ailing condition qualifies you to be a recipient of God’s grace. Satan tries to short circuit your trust with his destructive lies: “Your spouse doesn’t really care—he doesn’t love you.” “There are no solutions, you will always be frustrated.” But Jesus has answers: “Remain in My love—I will empower you with My wisdom”.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." (James 1:5)

Seek the Lord’s wisdom in His word. Truth is our “flu shot” against the virus of sickly thinking. Empowered by God’s grace we are positioned to serve for the benefit of others. Our life on earth is a test in the faithful management of the Spirit’s blessings, so we can be entrusted with more favor in eternity. The Lord’s power used for His glory electrifies all of us who are citizens of the Kingdom. The world will one day bow down to the One who gave away all power to empower. So, be bold—not shy about the Gospel’s incredible power. Access God’s power for His glory! 

"for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:7)

Who needs your influence, support and love to be empowered?

Wisdom Hunters



(Note that Oct 11-22 thoughts have gone missing)


October 10, 2015
PROCESS ANGER


1 Samuel 19:10
"And Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he eluded Saul, so that he struck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night."




Process anger, or it will control your attitude and your actions. Anger is a self-fulfilling prophecy of destruction, as it destroys peace and quiet and ravishes relationships. Anger is acidic; it eats away at your credibility, your health, and eventually your ability to function successfully in life. Anger is an ugly emotion, as it easily embarrasses itself, and humiliates others for sport. It has a way of expressing itself at the most inappropriate times. For example, one outburst of anger can turn a pleasant family drive to church into one full of fear and intimidation.

Work environments build walls of distrust due to seething, unresolved anger. Relationships never get beyond the surface because of the fear of anger’s rejection. No one wants to be around an angry person. The Bible even says,

"Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?" (Proverbs 27:4)

Where does anger come from? There are probably a variety of sources. One is the result of not being loved and/or not loving. When a heart is perpetually unloved, it has a void that is first influenced by—and then filled with—anger. On the contrary, a heart full of love has no room for anger. Love melts anger the way the sun melts a milk chocolate bar at the beach. Cold anger is no match for the warm flames of love. 

Love responds with understanding, instead of seeking to argue or defend itself. Love learns to forgive instead of storing up resentment in someone who has been deeply disappointed. Love moves on instead of seething in the stew of what should have happened. Love matures over mistakes made, while anger whines in immaturity. 

Furthermore, anger incubates in a hurting heart. A heart raw with emotion is a candidate for anger. Suffering may be hurting your heart and you can’t take it anymore. Your heart is crushed and wrung out by pain. You are extremely vulnerable to the influence of anger, so let the compassion of Christ heal your heart. Invite the Lord to love you, and process your pain in prayer. Listen intently to the Lord, for He really does care. He loves you right in the middle of your mess. Invite the love of Jesus to do surgery on your soul. After the Almighty has loved you, let others love you. Love is salve for your soul, as you need the love and prayers of people to help you process your anger. 

Moreover, you may be the brunt of another’s angry outbursts, but do not take their anger personally. See that person as Jesus does, and extend forgiveness. Anger may be the defense mechanism another uses to keep you at bay. But kill him or her with kindness instead. Initiate forgiveness seven times seventy, and pray for this person to be loved by God and by you. Anger is an ugly mask, so unveil it with acceptance. Anger is not our excuse to fight or flee—but to forgive and accept. 

The Bible says,

"A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back." (Proverbs 29:11)

Do you feel loved? What hot button of yours needs healing and not an angry reaction?

Wisdom Hunters



Previous thoughts

October 9, 2015
FAITH OVERCOMES


Revelation 2:7
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God], I will grant [the privilege] to eat [the fruit] of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." 


 
Sometimes I question my faith. Is God really just and loving? If so, why is there so much injustice and hatred on the planet? Is my life really making a difference or am I just another voice crying in the wilderness? But when I question—the Holy Spirit gives me answers. He reminds me through Scripture what Christ has done—is doing and will do. Fortunately, when my questions are answered by the Bible, my faith grows stronger. Conquering trust in Jesus engages doubt with truth. Trust and truth resist giving up—they go forward. Faith overcomes my doubts. 
 
John reminds the churches of Christ’s restoration of the Garden of Eden. Jesus’ death and resurrection made a way beyond the flaming angel who blocked the entrance into Paradise:

"therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life." (Genesis 3:23-24) 

He replaced it:

"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,'" (John 11:25)

The Tree of Life is accessible to those who embrace Christ as their life. Heaven is top of mind for an aggressive trust in the Lord. Our faith on earth overcomes, because Jesus overcame life and death and made a way for eternal life. Trust in Jesus eventually wins for He is already victorious. 

"For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith."
(1 John 5:4)

Are you overwhelmed by life? Or feel stuck in a no win situation? If so, have faith. The Lord has not brought you this far to abandon you. God has not given up on you—so don’t give up on Him. Our experiences on earth are corrupted, but one day in heaven they will be incorruptible. We see glimpses of God’s glory in the face a cooing infant, the cascading of a surging waterfall and in the words of a forgiving friend. Look for God in life’s small things and watch your faith grow. 
 
Exercised faith is an overcoming faith. Like a healthy body needs resistance and rest, so our faith grows stronger when stretched and challenged. Everyday life is an exercise of faith in Jesus. Will hard times harden or soften our heart? Will good times grow our generosity or feed our greed? Our faith overcomes when we persevere in a job where we feel underpaid and under appreciated. Our faith overcomes when God’s grace is sufficient in our painful circumstance. Our faith overcomes when we remain faithful to Jesus. Trust conquers this world—anticipating the next. 

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

What life situation requires you to have an aggressive trust in the Lord? 
 
Wisdom Hunters

Also:
“Faith is not intelligent understanding; faith is deliberate commitment to and trust in a Person when and where I see no way."
Oswald Chambers


October 8, 2015
CORRECTING THE INSIDE

Colossians 3:10
"and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." 



In our media-saturated age, image consultants have become indispensable. Entertainers, athletes, politicians, and business leaders seem desperate to manage the way they are perceived in the eyes of the world. These high-priced consultants work to shape how their clients are viewed — even if sometimes there is a stark contrast between the public image and the real person inside.

In reality, what people need — what all of us need — is not an external makeover but an inner transformation. Our deepest flaws cannot be corrected cosmetically. They are directly related to who we are in heart and mind, and they reveal how far we have fallen from the image of God in which we were created.

But such transformation is beyond any human ability to accomplish. Only Christ offers us true transformation — not just a facelift or an outward adjustment.

Paul said that those who have been raised to eternal life in Christ and

"...have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." (Colossians 3:10)

New! What a tremendous word full of hope! Christ transforms us into new people in Him — people with a new heart, not just fixed up to look good on the outside.

"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)

The Holy Spirit develops inside us the clear image of Christ.

Bill Crowder


October 7, 2015

HEART PROBE 


Psalm 17:3
"You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night, you have tested me, and you will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress." 



God’s spirit is interested in probing our heart. He knows the heart is the source of our speech and conduct. If our heart goes unexamined we drift into a sick state of denial. We lose touch with reality and relegate others to our wrong thinking. Indeed a healthy heart keeps us honest and engaged. It is the tender touch of Jesus that reminds us to look inward. Our heart can be a hindrance or a help for wise living. So how do we exercise the Spirit’s probe? 
 
A heart probe by God does not happen accidentally. It occurs intentionally. Just as we determine to take care of the physical dimension of our heart each day, so we are instructed to exercise our spiritual condition. We cannot spend all of our time doing the work of God while ignoring the voice of God. Good works from an unguarded heart only give an illusion of selfless service. Our works cannot resolve a conflicted heart. Under the Holy Spirit’s probe we see our true selves. It is in these moments of discovery that we invite God’s grace to strengthen our conflicted hearts. 

"Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them." (Hebrews 13:9)

Our words or lack thereof, are evidence of what dwells in our heart. Sometimes the Holy Spirit checks our heart and moves us to silence. Trust trumps the trouble we face and we exhibit long suffering with the Lord and His people. This is a heart of faith. Other times the Spirit prompts us to speak up. We may be unclear of the outcome, but He gives us the courage to converse. This is a heart of boldness. Whether in silence or speech we submit to the Holy Spirit to govern our heart. 
 
Your heart probe can come in a variety of ways. It may be a prescription of perpetual prayer that penetrates your heart with grace and forgiveness. It may be the treadmill of trust that builds endurance and creates within you a stronger heart of faith. Sometimes our Savior’s stethoscope of conviction discovers sin that needs confession and repentance. A Spirit probed heart produces right speech, spoken the right way. Intimacy with the Almighty hinges on a healthy heart. 

"I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds."
 (Jeremiah 17:10)

What heart motives is the Spirit probing in you? How will you be strengthened by God’s grace? 

Wisdom Hunters



October 5-6, 2015

AT THE CROSSROADS OF LOVE AND SELF PROTECTION 
 



John 13:34

"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." 



 
There are times in all of our lives when we stand at the crossroads of love and self-protection. We can choose self-sacrifice and selflessness or selfishness and comfort. At these times, love requires great courage. This crossroad can come during relational conflict, when health problems or financial worries strain a relationship—or when we aren’t sure if the love we give a child, grandchild, friend, mate, neighbor, or coworker will be returned. 
 
During these times, we must remember that when Christ calls us to love, we need to follow His example of courage. Jesus loved sinners. He loved those who wouldn’t return His love. He loved those who would break His heart.  

"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)  

When Christ stood at the crossroads of love and self-protection, He chose love. He was able to love selflessly and avoid the trap of self-protection because He lived to please His father:

"Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.'" (John 4:34) 

A few months ago, I stood at the crossroads of love and self-protection. For part of a day, I chose self-protection. Then I remembered Jesus loved because He entrusted Himself to His Father and I also remembered that love requires courage. Sure, it would have been easier to run to protect myself. But when I decided to make it my goal to obey the call to love like Christ—rather than focus on my own fears and feelings—my anxiety subsided, my courage grew, and my compassion for those I was called to love increased. 
 
Jennifer Fox wrote, “Loving someone with no promise of any return is a sacred kind of love.” Indeed it is because it takes faith. It takes being willing to follow Christ’s example to lay down your life. It takes a courageous heart.  

"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35)  

Who needs your love, even though they may not love you in return? 

Shana Schutte


October 4, 2015
COURSE CORRECTION




Psalm 119:105

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." 




On a road trip with a friend, we used his GPS navigation device to guide us as we drove each day. After entering our destination on the screen, a voice told us which road to follow, as well as when and where to make each turn. When we left the route, whether accidentally or deliberately, the voice would say, “Recalculating.”. Then it would tell us how to get back on the right road.

Timothy describes the Bible as a spiritual navigation system for our journey through life:

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and fortraining in righteousness," (2 Timothy 3:16)

Teaching tells us which road to travel.

Reproof tells us when we are off the road.

Correction tells us how to get back on the road.

Training in righteousness tells us how to stay on God’s road.

The mistakes and choices that detour us from the Lord are not to be taken lightly. But failure is seldom fatal and few decisions are final. The moment we veer off on our own, the Holy Spirit is “recalculating” and urging us to return to the Father’s way.

If we have drifted off course, there is no better time than right now to heed God’s voice and return to His road. To stay on course, trust the compass of God’s Word. 

David McCasland


October 3, 2015
MUST I LOVE EVERYONE?




Matthew 22:39

"...You shall love your neighbor as yourself."



“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25)

“Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.”  (Ephesians 5:28)

“Whoever loves his brother abides in the light.” (1 John 2:10)

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God.”  (1 John 4:7)

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  (1 John 4:11)

“The whole law is fulfilled in one word:  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

“Love your enemies, and do good ... and you will be children of the Most High.” (Luke 6:35)

Here are just a few verses from scripture that tell me I must love everyone.  I have tried to put them in descending importance of the people in the life of each of us to show in general that we are required to love everyone in the world.  However, you may have noticed that I have omitted the one “category” that by far exceeds all the rest put together.  Have you thought of it yourself yet?

"And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"   (Matthew 22:37-39)

This is all well and good; I’m sure every one of us who is an earnest Christian would agree wholeheartedly.  However, Jesus had to spoil it all by telling us forcefully something very different:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

What are we to say to this stunning quotation, especially coming from our Savior Himself?  I thought we are required to receive and accept without question every word of scripture contained in the Bible.  But there seems to be here a stunning contradiction.  If we are told in so many places in scripture that we must love every human being, beginning with our nearest and dearest acquaintances, then how can we be forced to hate every one of our very closest relatives?

There must be a solution, and I have a way out.  Perhaps you can think of a better one.  My thought is that since we are required to love God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) with absolutely all we have, then our love for mere human beings, no matter how close and beloved they may be to us, we must never, no never, love even one of them as much as we love our God, the Creator of the universe.  For He is very Love Himself, and thus showed us how to love even our enemies.  I think Jesus says the same thing a few verses after what He said in Luke 14:26:

"So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:33)

Another possible thought to aid us in accepting all that Jesus said is that scholars say that there are many “oriental exaggerations” in scripture.  For instance, in Mark we read that:

"John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins." (Mark 1:4-5)

I am sure we could all agree that not every individual who lived in the whole country of Judea including the metropolis of Jerusalem could have gone down to the Jordan River, for any purpose.  Surely there were sick people, the aged, mothers with newborn babies, and people in prison, who could in no wise have left home to be baptized. or for any other purpose.  Such a statement therefore was not an error in the Bible.

Perhaps I could give you an idea of renouncing “all” to follow Jesus.  When God called me into His service I was engaged to a girl.  In the middle of a conversation I happened to let her know that I loved Jesus more than I loved her.  She immediately erupted in a violent tirade, stamping her feet and shouting.  I suddenly realized that I could not serve the Lord effectively if I were married to such a person, so I broke the engagement.  I was very sad, but I was convinced that I had to put my Savior above anyone.  I trust that you who read this will agree that I did the right thing.  I did love everyone, including the girl I had been engaged to, but I loved God more.

Dr. Thomas R. Teply


October 2, 2015
100% TRUSTWORTHY






Jeremiah 17:5,7

"Thus says the Lord:  Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord...Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord."   
  





People are unpredictable, but our heavenly Father is predictable. A person’s word may not be their bond, but the Lord’s word is dependable. What He says—He does—in His timing. A family member may be fickle—but our precious Savior is always precise in fulfilling His promises. A “friend” may say “I’ll be there for you,” but is nowhere to be found when circumstances crumble—but Jesus never leaves or forsakes us. Confidence in people sets us up for disappointment, but confidence in Christ gives us sufficient grace—100% of the time! 
  
Jeremiah knew firsthand the curse of trusting in himself or others in place of the blessing of trust in the Lord. Just as fish are made for the sea, birds are made for the air and monkeys are made for trees—humans are made for God. Our habitat on earth is with the Lord, and ultimately with Him in heaven. We are not comfortable in our current mortal condition, because we are made for immortality. Our soul groans until it gets to God. We are created for our Creator. The material world cannot satisfy our immaterial spirit. Our heart will feel at home once its home is in heaven.   

"Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!"  
(Psalm 40:4)  

Trust in a person over trust in God impairs our judgment. Our decisions will lack wisdom if we hope in what man might do rather than completely trust in what Christ can do. Discernment comes into focus through eyes of faith. Accurate perceptions are clarified by confidence in Christ. There is an unseen conspiracy in our culture that seeks to pluck out eyes of faith and replace them with blind humanism. Sadly, the godless grope around deceived by untrustworthy idols like intellect, wealth and power. Trust in God leads us to fulfilling destinations blessed by God. 
  
Trust in Christ is fruitful. The more He has of us the more abundant the fruit of the Spirit is evident in our life. A person can have character and not have Christ. But when Christ has a person—they will have character. So, what are the results of our trust in the Lord? Trust in God gives us the courage to continue with God. Trust in Jesus gives us grace to persevere through pain. Trust in the Spirit sees us through. So we trust the One who is 100% trustworthy. We are blessed by God’s peace when we trust Him 100%!   

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."  (Romans 15:13)

How is your trust in God affected by His 100% trustworthiness? What am you facing that requires 100% trust in the Lord? 

Wisdom Hunters


October 1, 2015 
ARE YOU A SAINT? 





1 Corinthians 1:2

"To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:" 




 
Years ago I had the privilege of visiting the United Kingdom, touring many of the great cathedrals of that country. Those medieval buildings soar high above the homes and businesses that surround them, pointing our eyes heavenward and inviting us to enter into the worship of Almighty God. Whenever I encounter these types of sacred spaces, I am reminded of the prayers and witness of the men, women, and children who have gone before us, this “great crowd of witnesses”:

"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," (Hebrews. 12:1) 

However, when we look to the past, there is a constant temptation to view it through rose-colored glasses, forgetting that those Christians were broken and needy humans, just like we are today. Culture and technology may have changed, but the human heart remains the same. As Paul reminds us, Christians in every place are called to be saints. 
 
Is it intimidating to think of yourself as a saint? It is for me! I certainly don’t expect to find my way onto a stained glass window in the near or distant future. Yet I wonder, is this really what Paul meant when he said that each of us is called to sainthood? 
 
Perhaps we’ve set the bar too high. 
 
When Paul was writing to the church in Corinth, he certainly didn’t view them as perfect or a “pure” class of Christians. The Christians in that day were greatly challenged; struggling with drunkenness, sexual immorality, and abuses of authority and power. Yet he called them sanctified ones, saints who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus. How can this be? 
 
In the Bible sainthood is linked not to our level of holiness, but to the free gift of God’s grace. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect or never mess up. What God asks of us is to acknowledge our need and consistently turn to him for forgiveness and new life. Remember, God gives his grace to the needy, not to the person who thinks they have it all together. A true saint is someone who knows their sin, but also knows the faithfulness and sustaining love of their Savior: 

"who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Cor. 1:8-9)

If you call upon the name of the Lord for salvation and new life, then this word today is a word of great hope, because the Bible calls you a saint! Rejoice in this news, and seek to live a life worthy of the saintly identity God has given you 

"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)

Wisdom Hunters


September 30,2015
STAND STILL? or GO FORWARD?




Deuteronomy 4:10

“Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.” 



Often in life, we really, really don’t know what to do. I recently gave this message to a group of retirees, ages 80 to 100. But I’m positive it was as important a message to hear as for you though you be in your mid-teens. The old folks have already made decisions like: “Should I go to college? Or should I go right to work? Maybe I should get married first, and have a partner to help us to decide.” Their decisions are more like: “Should I really take this new medicine, or just give up? Should I favor my daughter over my son in their inheritance? Do I have enough brains left to lead a Vesper Service?”

Friends and family love to give you advice, just as I do. But their advice often conflicts with each other’s. It is always guided by their hopes, demands, or motives for you. For instance, parents may urge, “Take my business.” Grandma may say, “Your great-uncle was a wonderful Minister.” Once a Pastor asked me, “Have you ever thought of becoming a Minister?” I said, “Yes, I have.” Brightening, he said, “And what was your decision?” My curt reply was, “I decided not to.” Without further discussion, that sad Pastor turned on his heel and walked away, instead of discussing with me whether I had talked with God about it. Of course your young friends may simply advise, “Live it up!”

But who is likely to be your best advisor? Your parents are always the closest to you. But they have their deep-seated reasons for giving their own child the best advice they can think of. And even your Pastor may just want to add your name to his little black book of people he got to go into the ministry. I even had my own aspirations. I didn’t want to struggle like my dirt-farmer dad had to do; I wanted to fly fighters off carriers. Just think if I had done that (and I almost did!), and I had been one of those pilots who ran out of fuel at the Battle of Midway. Not even I am my best advisor.

Then, whose advice must you seek, or choose? Why, even Moses gave pretty poor advice. After he bravely led the children of Israel out of their excruciating bondage in Egypt, he got trapped in the escape route. We read about it in Exodus 14. The people were desperate. They blamed Moses for their plight. They said,

“Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: 'leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’” (Exodus 14:11-12)

The Israelites were not sure that Moses was the best leader available. He claimed God had sent him to lead them out of bondage; he had even performed miracles to prove that to them. But now they were in a terrible fix. They had arrived at the Red Sea; there were mountains on their left hand; there were mountains on their right side; and the Egyptian armies had chased after them and were right behind them. What could Moses say? I might have given them the very same advice.

“Fear not, stand firm [or stand still], and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today.”(Exodus 14:13)

What else could Moses say? But he spoke too soon. God had another plan, and Moses had not waited for God to reveal that plan to him. But of course God had the solution to the people’s problem. He not only had the solution, He had the power to provide that solution. So He chided Moses:

“Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.” (Exodus 14:15)

If you do not recall, or have not yet read, the rest of the story, I urge you to open your Bible to Exodus 14 and read the miraculous way God made it easy for His people to “go forward.” To me, one of the most miraculous things about God’s solution was that it was not some supernatural thing He did. He merely caused a “strong east wind” to blow the waters of the Red Sea apart, and even dry the bottom of the sea, so that the children of Israel could walk across where the sea had been without getting wet.

After the Israelites had crossed safely, then God let the wind die down, and the Egyptian army, and as far as we know, even the Pharaoh with them, were drowned in the sea because they pursued the people of God into the sea. The apostle Paul says about that:

“... our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-2)

As a good Presbyterian, I must point out that the baptized Israelites were saved, although they were no more than sprinkled; while it was the Egyptians who were lost although they were the only ones immersed.

So where then will you receive absolutely correct advice every time? The only way you can be sure it is correct is to listen to good advisors, but heed them only after diligently asking God in prayer what His advice is. That alone will point you in the right direction, every time.

Dr. Thomas R. Teply


September 29, 2015
CAN ANGER HELP YOU GET CLOSER TO GOD? 
 


John 4:24

"God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."
 



In one of my former jobs I hung a poster outside my cubicle showing Lucy from “Peanuts” screaming, “Look out, everybody! I’m gonna be cranky for the rest of the day!” Lucy’s announcement became a joke with my coworkers, because she’s so not like me. I don’t usually show anger. In my youth I learned that anger was unacceptable, possibly because I often saw it misused. When I came to Christ, this faulty message was reinforced in church. After all, good Christian boys and girls never get angry, right? Wrong. Not only is this teaching wrong, but God expects that we’ll experience anger. Jesus never said, “Don’t get angry,” but rather Paul instructs us:

"Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger," (Ephesians 4:26) 

In this scripture He acknowledged that people would get angry. Why? Because anger is a secondary response to emotional pain. No doubt there’s a lot of emotional pain to go around on this sin-filled planet. Anger will happen! Anger is a red light on the dashboard of a car signaling that something’s wrong under the hood—there’s a hurt we need to give to God, or forgiveness we need to grant someone. Anger also has the potential to take us to places of deeper intimacy with Christ when we bring our disappointments to Him for healing.  

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:6-7)  

How can you do this? Yell or scream when no one is around, or run outside and holler. Clobber your pillow. You can also do what author Muriel Cook calls “hot pen journaling.” Write down your true emotions without sweetening them. Be real. Tell God the truth. Then ask Him to show you what’s fueling your anger so He can minister to your pain through prayer and His Word. Conversing with God about your anger thwarts Satan’s plan to destroy your affection for Christ, because it keeps communication open with Christ. 
 
For some people, being real with God about their anger may sound sacrilegious. After all, aren’t most people composed and postured, even when the world and the devil walk all over them? The psalmists, inspired by the Holy Spirit, were honest with God about their rawest emotions—including anger. To cry out in anger and anguish because life hurts is normal. 
 
I’m not saying it’s okay to mock God or treat Him with irreverence. Certainly there’s a difference between taking your anger to God for healing and aiming your anger at God in defiance and rage. Taking your anger to God in humility means you’re operating in faith, that you feel safe enough to trust Him with your most uncomfortable and ugly emotions, and to approach His throne of grace with confidence to find mercy in your time of need:

"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

It also means you’ve opened your heart to Him in faith so He can heal you.  

"Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart." (Psalm 51:6)  

Shana Schutte


September 28, 2015
THE LOOSE GRIP



2 Corinthians 4:16-18 

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)


In football a tight grip is vitally important to an eventual victory and the same is true regarding our hold on the spiritual things in life. But there is also a very important application to maintaining a loose grip in life! Let me explain.

Several years ago I went to a meeting where Larry Burkett was the main speaker. Larry had a longstanding, fruitful ministry concerning a Biblical view of financial stewardship that many of us benefited from. He was very ill at the meeting and speaking was a major effort for him in his physically compromised condition. He shared the interesting perspective of having a terminal illness and how it had changed his life. Eight years earlier he had been diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer that is virtually incurable. He shared that of the 73 people who had been diagnosed with the cancer, and were in a medical study with him, 72 had already died. Larry passed on about 6 months after this meeting in July of 2003.
 
We are all terminal as far as our physical bodies are concerned. Most of us are indefinitely terminal; that is, we have no idea of when we will die and generally assume that our death is far off; that we will live to a ripe old age. But a diagnosis of a terminal disease places a definite finality on our physical existence. This is what Larry meant when he shared how his disease had changed his life, living with this perspective each day.
 
Of course in reality this is the perspective we should always live with. Not in a morbid, negative sense but it should motivate us to keep a loose grip on the perishable and a tight hold on the imperishable. As we feed on the Word faithfully our spiritual appetite will be growing and our affections for heaven will be increasing as we anticipate our face to face meeting with Jesus when we finally behold Him in His full glory. Just keeping a vision of that glorious moment in our hearts will deeply impact our attitude in all that we process on this day. Paul writes, 

"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ," (Philippians 3:20) 

Apostle Paul shares the perspective we should be living with. Essentially he's describing a loose grip by contrasting the seen (physical) which is temporary with the unseen (spiritual) which is eternal. 

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
(2 Corinthians 4:17-18) 

I am particularly intrigued by the phrase "so we fix our eyes." This translates a Greek word that is in the present active meaning "to fix one's gaze upon, to concentrate one's attention upon." That is sure the outlook in which we want to live our lives and when we do so we experience the inner peace that is our inheritance in Christ. But when we focus on the things pertaining only to this life our inner peace quickly diminishes. Frankly we would be driven to deep despair if we were placing much hope in seeing this world's problems solved politically!
 
There's a wonderful description of this outlook in the faith chapter in Hebrews, initially written to encourage persecuted believers, that is so illustrative of this "loose grip" outlook that we want to conclude with.  

"These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city."(Hebrews 11:13-16)

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber


September 27, 2015
BRUTAL FACTS




2 Samuel 19:5-6

"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, because you love those who hate you and hate those who love you. For you have made it clear today that commanders and servants are nothing to you, for today I know that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased.'" 
 



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”. 

"His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." (Matthew 3:12)

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? 

Wisdom Hunters


September 26, 2015
DILIGENCE RULES 
 



Proverbs 12:24

"The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor."
 




How hard do you work, or do you hardly work? God said to Adam, 

"...cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; (Genesis 3:17)

"By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread,..."(Genesis 3:19)

And He further explained to Moses, 

"Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates." (Exodus 20:9-10) 

Has our culture become accustomed to receiving good things without great effort? Who is entitled to influence without being industrious? Perhaps there is a dearth of diligence that has depressed people and economies. Laziness leads to the control of others, while honest labor is given opportunities and advancement. Do not despair in your diligence, for you are set up for success. Mind your business meticulously, and you will enjoy the business. 
 
Indeed, intense industry leads to preferment. The Bible says, 

"The man Jeroboam was very able, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious he gave him charge over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph." (1 Kings 11:28) 

Your faithfulness to your work is not going unnoticed. Your diligence is a distinctive that separates you from the average or lazy laborer. Security comes with this level of service. 
 
Lastly, the Lord blesses hands that are hard at work. He smiles when He sees your service exceeds expectations. You go the extra mile to make sure others are cared for, just as you would like to be treated. God knows because of your thoroughness on the job, and your integrity in its execution, you can be entrusted with more. 
 
The Bible also says, 

"Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching."
(1 Timothy 5:17) 

Does your work honor the Lord with its focused diligence and commitment to quality? 

Wisdom Hunters


September 25, 2015
THREE REASONS NOT TO BE FEARFUL  
  



Isaiah 41:10

"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." 



  
Fear is a persistent foe. I am unable to live 100% fear free. I can rest in the Lord’s reassurance one minute and the next minute fear making payroll. Friends I love depend on the Lord and on their paycheck to take care of their family. God’s peace floods my soul during an uplifting worship service on Sunday, but Monday morning I can wake up worried about a circumstance or person out of my control. How can I move more toward a life of faith—than a life riddled with fear? Trust in the Lord is the short answer. Here are three reasons why we need not be fearful: 
  
God’s Got It—Whatever It Is 

What does it mean…God’s got it? God’s got it means we don’t have to bear our burdens alone. As Jesus aptly describes—because we are yoked with Him we can find rest for our souls. God’s got our health issues, so we can rest in His wellness. God’s got our financial challenges, so we can look to His abundant provision. God’s got a rogue relationship, so we can trust Him with their protection. God’s got our family, finances, career, health and the moral deterioration of our culture. Since the Lord is in control, we can let go of our control in confidence. God’s got it!   

"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."  (Joshua 1:9)  

The Holy Spirit is at Work 

The Holy Spirit is at work where we are not. In the same way God’s Spirit was brooding over an unseen creation, so He is still at work creating something out of nothing. So, as we pray for lost souls to be saved, the Holy Spirit is at work softening sinful hearts and drawing the unsaved unto Himself. As we wait on the Lord, the Holy Spirit is at work lubricating the door hinges of opportunity to swing open in His timing. We may not like an authority’s decision, but we know the Spirit is at work to reveal His truth. We dismiss fearfulness—trusting God’s Spirit is at work.   

"The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will."  (Proverbs 21:1)   

Jesus is a Faithful Friend 

When we feel alone and misunderstood we have a faithful friend in Jesus. He sticks closest to us when we are emotionally far away from others. When we experience loss—Jesus is there to weep with us, comfort us and give us hope through the grieving process. When we are forsaken by a friend—Jesus walks with us in acceptance as we bear our cross of rejection. When we don’t feel loved—Jesus loves us with empathy and understanding. Best friends have an uncanny way of initiating interest and intimacy during our struggles. Jesus is always with us to calm our fears. 

"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!"  (Romans 8:15)  

What do you need to give to God trusting Him with the outcome? 

Wisdom Hunters


September 24, 2015
LET’S ALL SERVE JESUS





Revelation 4:11

"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."




God created every person, nay, every thing, to glorify Himself.

One important thing you can do to glorify and serve Jesus is to pray earnestly and regularly for your Pastor, if you are not a Pastor, Missionary or other full-time professional servant of Christ yourself. I had started my professional life as an engineer. But God called me into His service by such a clear and powerful call that after many weeks of struggling I could no longer resist His obvious challenge. I knew that I had absolutely no equipment to be His servant.

Finally, I realized I could no longer resist His command, so I bartered with Him: “Lord, I hear You. I now give my life to serve You, wherever You want me to go, to do what You want me to do, any time -- on one condition! I will obey You as long as You give me absolutely everything I need to do it.” Immediately I had peace in my decision, and I have never doubted His call. Throughout my ministry I have relied on Him to provide me with what I needed to obey Him. Whenever troubles have come, I sought His help to escape. Now I give Him all the credit for whatever may have been accomplished in my life for Him.

God has used me for more than six decades now. I thank Him for giving me opportunity to continue to serve Him in these last days of my life. I think often of what Solomon said:

“No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.” (Ecclesiastes 8:8)

We all are in a spiritual war that will end only when Christ comes to take us home with Him. You can, and must, be active in that struggle by praying for those who have been called to the front lines of service. You need to do this, because Paul reminds us that we need to:

"...be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith." (II Thessalonians 3:2)

There continue to be many people who reject God, and are empowered by Satan to fight to destroy all of us who are serving Him. But your prayers on behalf of those called into full-time active service are at least as effective in the overall warfare as if you were doing the witnessing yourself. Never diminish your call to glorify our Creator with everything He has given you to do it.

It may be that there are “wicked and evil men,” and “not all have faith”. But we have the Victor’s promise that:

"...the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one." (II Thessalonians 3:3)

You can serve the Lord. I know you can. I know it, because your hearts are directed to and by:

“... the love of God and ... the steadfastness of Christ.” (II Thessalonians 3:5)

Onward, Christian Soldiers! Every one of you!

Dr. Thomas R. Teply


Previous thoughts

September 22-23, 2015
GRATEFUL FOR GOOD 




Psalm 13:6 

"I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me."



 
God has been good to us. His goodness is liberal and long lasting. His goodness is far reaching. Because He is God, He is good. There is nothing bad that soils the character of our Savior. The salvation we have in Jesus is good. The comfort we have in Christ is good. His wisdom is good. His answers to prayer are good. His forgiveness is good. His grace is good. Heaven is good. We sing to the Lord because His goodness compels us. God’s goodness accounts for all goodness. 
 
Gratitude gushes forth from a heart that has been tamed by the goodness of God. God has been good to us. The recognition of His goodness governs our gratitude. To the extent we remember how good God is to us; is the degree of appreciation we apply in our everyday life. It may be He has given us a good job, good health, good sense, a good house and a good family. It is the grace of God that allows us to experience His goodness. When we linger under the cross of Christ we encounter the shade of His goodness. God is so good to us!  

"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) 

Therefore when we are under the bright light of God’s goodness, any bad influence is blinded. Gratitude and a bad attitude cannot coexist. Take the time and list what good things the Lord has done for you. Keep your list close by so when you are tempted to complain over trivial issues like traffic, another’s tardiness, waiting in line or not getting what you want—you can apply gratitude. Passion may possess an unbridled body, but patience controls a grateful soul. The Lord’s goodness calls us to be good. 
 
Goodness gives off goodness. It rubs off on others. God’s goodness infects us so we can infect others with our good deeds. We are good to others because God has been good to us. Our goodness does not discriminate. We are good to others even when they are undeserving. Be patient with the one who doesn’t deserve patience. Love the one who doesn’t deserve love. Forgive the one who doesn’t deserve forgiveness. Be grateful for God’s goodness!  

"The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made." (Psalm 145:9) 

How has the Lord blessed you? What does it mean to praise God for His goodness? 

Wisdom Hunters


September 21, 2015
TRIBULATION IN CHRIST 






Revelation 1:9

"I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus."





 
Followers of Jesus travel along paths of inevitable tribulation (trouble). As citizens of God’s kingdom, our life in Christ invites trials. Jesus is very clear, 

"Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," (2 Timothy 3:12)

Nominal “Christians” who embrace the world are not a threat to the world. But those who are ruled by Christ will rule with Christ—not just later, but now. Righteous rulers are cause for the unrighteous to be uncomfortable. Adversaries of Jesus seek to discredit His followers. Jesus suffered unjust accusations, we can expect the same. Tribulations test our faithfulness. 
 
John writes as a fellow partaker of suffering for Christ’s sake. He had matured beyond his early days of seeking Kingdom power for selfish motives to submission to King Jesus as a spirit filled servant of the Lord. Exiled by his persecutors to isolation and virtual martyrdom, he remained true to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Since by faith he sided with his Savior—John had all he needed at his side. The best adversity is an adversity not wasted on fear.  

"If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory[a] and of God rests upon you."
(1 Peter 4:14) 

What blessings are behind your tribulation? Perhaps unfair allegations are softening your family’s hearts—drawing them closer to each other and closer to Christ. Persecution flushes out false faith and validates genuine trust. Because of your bold belief in Jesus, you may be labeled narrow minded—even bigoted, but you know in your heart God’s love motivates you. Integrity may cost you; if so—remain humble—knowing you suffer reproach for the sake of the gospel. Christ followers are partakers of Christ’s suffering. Blessings come when we suffer for His sake. 
 
How can we patiently endure tribulation as active citizens in God’s kingdom? One way is to support fellow followers of Jesus who have been exiled for their faith. We become a refuge of help, healing and hope. Soldiers of the faith need our assistance when they are wounded by the world. Moreover, during persecution we stay faithful to the Word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ—His death for our sin and His resurrection over death. Persecution is our chance as true believers to overcome untruths by our love. A reality: a life in Christ experiences tribulation.  

"This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—" (2 Thessalonians 1:5) 

Is the tribulation in your life causing you to trust in God?

Wisdom Hunters


Previous thoughts

September 20, 2015
ROUTINE WORK 




Proverbs 12:11

"Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense."



 
Routine work may not be sexy, but it is necessary. It is necessary to meet our needs and the needs of those who depend on us. The same work day in and day out can seem simple and even boring, but it is a test of our faithfulness. Will I continue to faithfully carry out uncomplicated responsibilities, even when my attention span is suffering? If so, this is God’s path to blessing. 
 
The contrast to routine work is chasing after phantom deals that are figments of our imagination. Be careful not to be led astray by fantasies that lead nowhere. It is false faith to think a gimmick, or some conniving circumstance can replace hard work. Wisdom stops chasing after the next scheme and sticks instead to the certainty of available work. What does your spouse say is the smart thing to do? Give them all the facts and listen.  

"The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty."(Proverbs 21:5) 

Furthermore, work is easily carried out when everything is going well, and there are no indicators of job loss, or an increase in responsibilities with less pay. However, it is during these uncertain times that Christ followers can step up and set the example. Your attitude of hope and hard work are a testimony of trust in the Lord. 
 
Stay engaged in executing your tasks with excellence, and you will inspire others to their labor of love. Lastly, see routine work as your worship of the Lord. He is blessing your faithfulness to follow through with the smallest of details. Are you content to serve Christ in your current career? 
 
The Bible says, 

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." (Colossians 3:23-24)

Is your work a compelling testimony to the excellence of God’s gracious work?

Wisdom Hunters


September 19, 2015
SETTLE MATTERS 







Matthew 5:25

"Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison." 
 





Settle matters sooner than later, so all parties can focus on other significant issues. Lawsuits drain the life from relationships and can easily bring long-term relational harm. It is a financial bottomless pit that throws stewardship to the wind. Check everyone’s motivation, if fear, greed or anger is driving the legal process, then it is unhealthy. 
 
Why go through the emotional torture of a long drawn out litigious process? A call for justice is legitimate, but can there be a fair settlement without having to drag the relationship through an adversarial trial? Can’t someone be the mature Christian adult and bring a close to the conflict? Money can be made again, but broken relationships may not be mended. Early Christians struggled with these issues of how to settle matters well.  

"To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!" (1 Corinthians 6:7-8)

Maybe you are in a legal contract that is onerous, even unbearable. Circumstances have changed in your work environment and you are straddled with a commitment you are struggling to fulfill. Have you gone to the other party and explained your situation? Have you ask them for concessions and for a new contract? Perhaps there are other options that can be worked out between you. Humble yourself and trust God to work it out.  

"My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor. Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler." (Proverbs 6:1-5) 

Be honest and from a prayerful position seek to understand the needs of the other and then offer reasonable solutions to the situation. Pray the Lord will open the heart of the other party and bring creative alternatives to the table for discussion. Remember to keep your Christian testimony pure and attractive. Your kingdom is not of this world, so bring honor to King Jesus by doing the right thing in the right way. Settle matters soon. 

How do you settle matters in a manner that honors the Lord and all parties?

Wisdom Hunters


Previous thoughts

September 18, 2015
SPIRITUAL KINDERGARTEN 
 




James 1:25

"But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." 
 





A couple of years ago I felt as if the Lord was inviting me to graduate from spiritual kindergarten, when I thought I had already received my diploma. For over twenty years, as I have walked with Christ, my understanding has often been like that of many believers who have been told, “Just ask Jesus into your heart and you’ll go to heaven.” 
 
Certainly Romans says, 

"...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)

But a couple of years ago, I realized that confession is the beginning of belief. Then comes discipleship. This means following Christ. Perhaps this is why Matthew's Gospel says… 

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.'" (Matthew 7:21)  

Whoa! Talk about heavy words! In this scripture, we are reminded that Christ isn’t here to serve us; we are here to serve Him. We are here to do His will. And it’s not just about saying we believe while we live our own lives. It’s sobering to think that Jesus asks those who know Him to live for Him—and nothing less. So it’s not about God making all my dreams come true and making me happy, healthy, and wealthy. It’s not about just saying I believe but not backing up my words with action that proves my love. It’s about Jesus being Lord. 
 
I wonder if in our attempt to emphasize grace—which of course, is critical—we have missed the seriousness of “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” 

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," (Philippians 2:12)

We must remember that yes, we are saved by grace. We can’t do anything to earn our way into heaven:

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

It’s only Christ’s gift on the cross that has justified us by washing away our sin so we can be with Him forever in eternity. But we must also remember that faith without works is dead:

"Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?" (James 2:20)

In any relationship—including the one with Christ—action doesn’t prove love, but true love is always proven by action. That said, all genuine works for Christ begin with the motivation of the heart, in relationship with Jesus. Or, they are just dead works. The condition of our heart is central—and the beginning of—true discipleship. Knowing these things, is God asking you to graduate from spiritual kindergarten too?  

"And immediately they left their nets and followed him." (Mark 1:18)  

Shana Schutte


September 17, 2015
TAMING THE TONGUE  




James 3:7-10

"For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so."  


  
Have you ever said something and then immediately wished you could take it back? If you’re like me, you’ve done this more times than you can count! So often we speak without thinking. We hear words come out of our mouths and think, “Where did that come from?” At times this can lead to simple embarrassment or a laugh between friends, yet often our words are the source of deep pain and brokenness.  Perhaps even now as you read this you feel in your heart the wounds of someone’s words toward you or the burden of having wounded another with your words. 
  
As James reminds us, each of us is capable of great good and devastating harm. We can speak words of blessing, encouragement, and hope over those we love and those who need to be uplifted. Yet we can then turn around and with the same tongue lash out in anger, put someone down so we look better than we are, or simply lie and deceive to get what we want. 
  
This capacity for good and evil should remind us that our lives are always works in progress. No matter how long we’ve followed Christ or served him, we never fully arrive at maturity; there are still parts of our hearts that need to be given over to his will for our lives. When we speak a blessing over others, it is a sign of God’s renovating work in our hearts. On the other hand, when we speak harmful words, they reveal motives in our hearts that are not yet conformed to the will of God. 
  
The tongue makes public that which the heart keeps private. 
  
If you find yourself struggling to tame your tongue, don’t simply focus on behavior modification. The Lord doesn’t want us to merely change our actions, but desires that our changed behavior come from a heart that has been set on fire with love for Him! Therefore, let the Lord into the deep, dark places of your heart and allow Him to bring about real and lasting change. As we do, the Lord will renew our hearts and place words of joy and hope upon our lips. Then we will be able to join with the words of Scripture:

"therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope." (Acts 2:26)  

Is your tongue under control?

Tripp Prince


September 16, 2015
FLAWLESS WORDS    






Psalm 12:6

"The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times."   
  





The words of the Lord are flawless. There is no dross in Christ’s conversation. Men may lie, but He is the truth. Men may deceive, but Jesus enlightens. Men may flatter, but the Lord edifies. Men may boast, but Jesus gives the glory to God. Words can be wonderful or terrible depending on their source. The words of the Lord are rooted in righteousness. You can trust what God says. He is appropriate and applicable. It is the words of heaven that make earth better. Indeed the words of the Lord have stood the test of time. They have been tried by fire and have come forth faithful. 
  
The Holy Scriptures have not been without criticism and consternation. Some “scholars” have stripped them of miracles even though Jesus warned there are severe consequences for adding to His word,

"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book," (Revelation 22:18)

Furthermore, God’s Word does not need help. His words have survived the ravishing of faithless liberalism and loveless legalism. The Bible has been burned, belittled and ignored. Nonetheless: the Holy Scriptures are translated into more languages today than ever in the history of mankind. It has stood the test of time.   

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."  (Luke 21:33)  

So take the Lord’s flawless words by faith. Read them daily and apply them moment by moment. Study them and struggle with them. Seek to understand the context of the Bible and why God chose to speak specific infallible words through fallible followers. The Holy Spirit is the author of the Holy Scriptures,

"For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."
 (2 Peter 1:21)

The pen of men moved under the instruction of divine inspiration. We have a stewardship of truth. Scripture is our handbook for holiness and happiness. 
  
We honor and value His words when we take them to heart. We listen for instructions in our obedience. We listen for encouragement. We listen for rebuke. We listen to the Lord’s flawless words because we know we are loved by Him. We have infinite access to wisdom. Like a precious jewel the clarity, cut, color and carat of Christ’s word is flawless and invaluable. They are matchless compared to man’s meager trinkets. By God’s grace we apply His flawless words to our flawed lives.   

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."  (Psalm 119:105)  

Do you look to God's perfect Word to instruct your imperfect life?

Wisdom Hunters


September 15, 2015
BEWARE WHAT YOU SAY




James 3:5 

"So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!"





Many years ago, after I had been a Pastor in a new church for several weeks, a lady chatted with me about how I liked my new job. After mentioning several things I really liked about the church, I began telling her my thoughts about the unusual secretarial situation. One mature lady worked every afternoon. She was exceedingly helpful, but she could type only “hunt and peck” very slowly. She was kind and would stop everything to do instantly what I needed. The morning lady, on the other hand, could type up a storm. However, she had a mind of her own, and did just what she wanted, in her own time. My new friend stopped me, and said, “You know, you are talking about my mother!”

How easily and quickly your friend can become your enemy, when you forget to guard your tongue! So often your confidant tells the person you were talking about. Or it may be that the person you discuss is standing right behind you, and you didn’t know it. Joseph’s ten brothers were caught in a far different situation. When they went down to Egypt to buy food for themselves and their flocks, they talked about Joseph right in his presence:

“They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them.” (Genesis 42:23)

You see, the brothers did not recognize Joseph, and he had spoken to them only through his interpreter although he understood them plainly, until later on when he revealed his identity to them. Surely they then remembered Joseph’s dreams he had before they sold him into slavery in Egypt in which he claimed that they, and even their father, would bow in obeisance to him one day.

"Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, 'Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.' His brothers said to him, 'Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?' So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, 'Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.' But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, 'What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?' And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind."(Genesis 37:5-11)

And here it happened. Jesus warned His disciples that such would happen:

“Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:2-3)

There is something much worse than having merely a brother or a friend discover what you said about him. The author of the Chronicles said this:

“The Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9)

Because of some ill-spoken word, your friend may turn from you; your enemy may harm you; but God’s punishment is far more severe. Let us seek to follow the example of our Savior:

“I have spoken openly to the world .... I have said nothing in secret.” (John 18:20)

And let us do what the Psalmist encouraged us to do:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Dr. Thomas R. Teply



September 14, 2015
CHRIST'S CALLING





Matthew 4:19-20  

"And he said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.' Immediately they left their nets and followed him."   
  





Disciples of Jesus are called by the Lord to minister in their home and in the marketplace. However, Christ does call some of His followers to vocational ministry. It is a calling that many times comes to ordinary men and women who accomplish extraordinary results. Who does He call out? Christ’s call comes to those who have a heart hungry for God. 
  
Like Paul you might have been suddenly struck by a revelation of Jesus as Lord, or you were like David who gradually went from feeding sheep what’s perishable, to feeding God’s people the imperishable. Wherever Christ calls, His first command is to love God and people. A calling without love is like a car without gasoline. It may be attractive on the outside but it’s not going anywhere. Thus, love large where the Lord has called you. 
  
Furthermore, He has called you to endure hardships, 

“You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:3)

Christians are not immune to conflict; in fact your faith at times invites difficulty. So don’t seek to shelter your life from adversity, rather position yourself in obedience to Christ’s calling. It is out of your regular routine of serving Him that you will see what He has in store next. 
  
Make sure you minister first to your spouse and children. Don’t be like the cobbler who has no shoes for his family. Your creditability for Christ is seeing your faith lived out with those who know you the best. What does it profit a man if he saves the whole world and loses his family? A calling to family first frees you to evangelize and disciple with God’s favor. His calling aligns with His commands, so service for Him is seamless. 
  
Above all, the Lord is looking for those already engaged in His word, growing in their character and active in sharing their faith. His calling comes to Christians who desire the Holy Spirit to conform them into the image of Christ. Your humble imitation of Jesus comes out of your intimate walk with Him. He calls those in whom He can trust. So don’t look for your calling, look for Christ and He will reveal His calling to you.   

"I, even I, have spoken and called him; I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way."  (Isaiah 48:15)  

What is Christ’s calling for your life? Are you steadfast in loving the Lord and people?

Wisdom Hunters


September 13, 2015
NO GREATER LOVE IN ACTION





Luke 23:34

"And Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'..." 





July 28, 2014, marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I.  In the British media, many discussions and documentaries recalled the start of that 4-year conflict.  Even the TV program Mr. Selfridge, which is based on an actual department store in London, included an episode set in 1914 that showed young male employees lining up to volunteer for the army.

As I observed these portrayals of self-sacrifice, I felt a lump in my throat.  The soldiers they depicted had been so young, so eager, and so unlikely to return from the horror of the trenches.

Although Jesus did not go off to war to defeat an earthly foe, He did go to the cross to defeat the ultimate enemy — sin and death.  Jesus came to earth to demonstrate God’s love in action and to die a horrendous death so that we could be forgiven of our sins.  And He was even prepared to forgive the men who flogged and crucified Him: 

"And Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' And they cast lots to divide his garments."
(Luke 23:34)

He conquered death by His resurrection and now we can become part of God’s forever family: 

"No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:13-16)

Jesus came to earth to demonstrate God’s love in action.
 
Anniversaries and memorials remind us of important historical events and heroic deeds.  The cross reminds us of the pain of Jesus’ death and the beauty of His sacrifice for our salvation.

Do you thank the Lord for loving you so much that He left his home in heaven, came to earth, and willingly went to the cross for you? Do you thank Him for paying the penalty for your sins and forgiving you.

"The cross of Jesus is the supreme evidence of the love of God." --Oswald Chambers

Marion Stroud


September 12, 2015
UNJUST TREATMENT




Matthew 4:12

"Now when he [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee."
 




There are days of mistreatment that come from disloyal and jealous people. Sometimes good people experience bad consequences, so the glory of God can be made known through their lives. John boldly took a public stand for his faith and was punished for his courageous obedience to God. Do you feel like you have been wronged for doing right? Has your faith been put on trial and were you convicted for speaking the truth? 
 
Your circumstance of ill treatment may not result in a physical rescue from Christ. It is in your trapped condition that He wants your intimacy with Him to grow deeper and sweeter. Your authorities at work may have broken a promise or used an unscrupulous process to get their desired results. You feel used and abused. So how will you respond? Will you return evil for evil, or will you extend grace in the face of extreme frustration? 
 
"Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.'" (Romans 12:17-20)

A radical response of love is a remedy for being isolated by an unjust person. 
 
What are you learning as a result of feeling rejected or misunderstood? Has your determination grown in its resolve and do you have more focused attention on the mission of the organization? Loss of freedom and/or resources realigns us to the essentials of an effective strategy and efficient execution. 
 
Use this time of limited options to build sustainable systems and the most productive processes. Cling to your core values as your compass for behavior. Your optimism is an insurgent against other’s insecurities. Lastly, let the Lord be your source of strength. Faith forged on the anvil of adversity becomes solid steel in mental toughness, emotional stability and spiritual maturity. 
 
When people see Jesus in your humble, non-defensive attitude, they hear His voice of truth. Learn your lessons from the Lord during stressful situations and leave it with Him to educate others in what needs to be done. Perseverance pays with respect and results. 
 
Are you consumed with trusting Christ or your unjust treatment? How can you, by God’s grace, love the unlovely? 

Wisdom Hunters

September 11, 2015
SEVEN WAYS TO BECOME JOYFUL 
 




1 Thessalonians 5:16

"Rejoice always,"




Joyful followers of Jesus are fun to be around. Because God is so good, they are glad and joyful in their faith. Through the ups and downs of life people of joy are stabilized by the Holy Spirit. Their joy is not contingent on circumstances, but on Christ alone. They engage life and often have energy to spare. Because of their uplifting attitude they are able to be productive in their efforts. Like mental software, joyful people program their thinking with Biblical principles. So, what are some joy factors that facilitate a happy life? Here are a few: 
 
Feed on God’s Faithfulness 

Similar to a nourishing meal—we can feed on God’s faithfulness and not eat the morsels of man. The Holy Spirit satisfies and fills our soul’s longings. We can’t help but be glad when we go to God and experience His consistent care and concern. Our heavenly Father is faithful, even when we experience a drought of faith—His love is a stream in the desert of our spirit. Joy comes to those who go to Christ in humble dependence. His eternal security brings a smile to our soul.  

"Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness." (Psalm 37:3) 

Learn from the Lord’s Discipline 

We don’t have to like the Lord’s discipline, but we must learn what God wants to teach us. A teachable heart sets us up to be glad, not sad. When we look back on a hard circumstance and see how our Savior grew our capacity for grace and love—we can laugh at ourselves for fretting over our unfounded fears. Joy learns from Jesus. If we resist instruction from the Lord, we may forfeit the joy of the Lord. God may withhold a good thing, until we learn a thing or two.  

"Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law," (Psalm 94:12)  

Rest in God’s Refuge 

Rest sets us up for joy. When exhausted—our tendency is toward a negative, even critical attitude. Fatigue can bring out our worst, while a restored body and soul sings praises to God Almighty. A sense of protection gladdens the heart. When we lift our voices to the Lord in joyful praise—He lifts our spirits. God’s orchestra of glad tidings performs in His place of refuge. If we take the time to enjoy heaven’s harmony— we can engage the world with a glad heart. 

"But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you." (Psalm 5:11) 

Trust Christ to Change Your Mourning Into Rejoicing 

A heavy heart is the Holy Spirit’s opportunity to lighten our load. The natural outcome of our loss is grief and mourning. We mourn the loss of life, but we rejoice in the life we gain in Christ. Our temporary exile from our departed loved one is an opportunity to be loved by the Lord. Joy comes in the morning, after a night of mourning. The depth of our hurt will be surpassed by the depth of joy we have in Jesus. When our laughter returns—pain’s perspective is clearer.  

"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,"
(Psalm 30:11)  

Celebrate God’s Call to Worship 

Worship awakens our glad heart. God seems bigger when we sing His praises—He is larger than life. His presence is calming. In the same way a volcano’s molten lava erupts from deep within, so hope in Christ erupts joy deep within our bubbling soul. Just simply proclaiming the victory we have in Jesus brings tears of joy. Our countenance glows when we give God the glory He desires and deserves. As we bring sacrifices of joy to God—His presence makes us happy!  

"Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face," (Psalm 89:15) 

Enjoy Your Successful Work 

The satisfaction of a job well done brings a smile to our heart. When we are a vessel of the Lord’s faithfulness, we can enjoy the fruit of our labor. Successful work is a way to display Christ’s calling on our life. We have great joy when we know our fulfillment of God’s will brings joy to Him. When we work in our giftedness, we work with a glad heart. Yes, our gratitude for a good job brings us joy. So, take the time to enjoy the fruit of your hard work.  

"You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you."(Psalm 128:2)  

Fear the Lord and Follow His Ways 

Just as forgetting the Lord contributes to fear, so fear of the Lord is a force for joy. Joyful assurance comes as we see our Savior Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father interceding on our behalf. We are glad in God when we fear God. Joy also comes when we follow His ways. The way of the Lord is not loathsome. Sin is a snare and discouraging, while joyful obedience liberates and is encouraging. Our loving heavenly Father gives us strength and joy when we do His will. We discover joy as we fear and follow the Lord. We find joy in Jesus!  

"Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!" (Psalm 128:1) 

Are you a gracious, joyful follower of Jesus?

Wisdom Hunters


September 10, 2015
ENDURING FAITH
  



Luke 21:19

"By your endurance you will gain your lives."



  
Have you ever tried a fad diet? From low carb to paleo, for decades now, our culture has created a steady stream of weight loss products and methods, all promising dramatic results. Though the strategies vary wildly, one thing unites them: speed. While we may have spent years adopting unhealthy eating or exercise habits, these diets promise that this can all be reversed in just a few short days. And so we believe their promises, often see dramatic results, and yet a few months down the road find ourselves right back where we started. Why is this? 
  
For us to truly be healthy, we must make enduring and lasting changes to our behavior and habits. This is true of our physical bodies, and it is certainly true of our spiritual health. As C.S. Lewis once said, "Mere change is not growth. Growth is the synthesis of change and continuity, and where there is no continuity there is no growth." 
  
Has your Christian faith ever looked like a fad diet? Have you embraced a long list of good and Godly practices, yet found them too challenging to sustain and therefore abandoned them shortly thereafter? In my own journey, the most lasting growth has come, not in the spurts of religious fervor, but in the slow and steady work of daily surrender to the will of God, learning to hear his voice and follow his lead.   

"Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)  

If you’ve struggled to grow in your relationship with Christ, today’s challenge is to seek ways to be consistent in your faith. Think quality, not quantity. Find a rhythm of prayer, worship, and service that is sustainable for you and your family, and commit to live by it. As Paul reminds us, 

"...endurance produces character, and character produces hope," (Romans 5:4) 

It is in the life long commitment to an enduring faith that God conforms us to his image. Don’t settle for the quick fix.

Wisdom Hunters


September 9, 2015
KINGS AND PRIESTS




Revelation 1:6

"and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." 
 





A humbling thought: by faith in Jesus, He makes us kings, queens and priests. Not only are we to reign with Him in His future kingdom—we also reign with Christ now. We have dominion over ourselves and the world around us. When we bow to our Master Jesus—He empowers us to master the good and the bad in our life. Jesus became the Son of Man, so we could become sons and daughters of the Most High. Christ became like us so we could grow into His likeness. 
 
What does it mean for us to have dominion over ourselves? We are no longer slaves to sin since our righteous Savior overcame death—we can overcome unrighteousness. We rule over sin because our Ruler won and still wins the fight against evil forces. Living in defeat is like a prisoner of war who remains in the enemy camp even though the prison doors are unlocked and wide open. Not only have we been set free from sin, self and Satan—we rule over them. We are royalty!  

"For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith."
(1 John 5:4) 

Why has Jesus made His followers priests? He made us priests—because He was the great high priest who sacrificed Himself for our sins: 

"But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption." (Hebrews 9:11-12)

Our priesthood means we have direct access to our Heavenly Father. We lift up our offerings of praise, thanksgiving and repentance to Him. We bring our sacrifices to God since Christ sacrificed His life for us. Every follower of Jesus is a priest who daily surrenders and points people to Jesus. Priests mediate for God. 
 
How can you use your royal priesthood for the advancement of God’s kingdom? Prayerfully develop your professional platform. Model your culture after the gospel of Christ with excellent work, collaboration and compassion. Maybe you engage insiders in the faith and outsiders in Bible study, prayer or fun outings. It may mean you are more involved in your child’s education so you have increased influence over their spiritual and material role in the world. Invite friends to church so they learn how to have a friend in Jesus. A royal priesthood governs with grace.  

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9) 

How can you better govern your life for God? With whom can you share the gospel of Jesus? 

Wisdom Hunters


September 8, 2015
IS MORAL CHRISTIANITY ENOUGH? 



John 3:3

"Jesus answered him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.'" 

 
I once heard someone use the phrase “moral Christianity” to describe what they believe is the current temperature of faith in America, and it grieved me. Moral Christianity points people toward godly—or moral—answers without pointing them toward Christ. It shows people how to live by good rules without showing them how to be disciples of the Good Shepherd. 
 
Don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with teaching others to live by godly principles. We are told to share God’s truth. And after all, God’s Word is our instruction manual for a god-honoring, holy life. It’s a light for one’s path: 

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (Psalm 119:105)

But there is something wrong with teaching “moral, do-good Christianity” without showing others how to connect with the Savior. If we simply do what’s right without being disciples of the Author of Life, we may look more like the unbelieving Jews or the Pharisees than the disciples. 
 
In John Jesus said to the Jews: 

"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)

Knowing truth and knowing the Author of Truth are two entirely different things—and only one of them leads to the life we desperately need. Knowing the right answers will not transform you. Going to church alone will not transform you. Being religious will not transform you. Only being in right relationship with Christ while you experience these things will transform you. I’m sharing this because over the past couple of years, the Lord has been repeatedly reminding me that good principles minus relationship with the Savior are empty. I have been asking myself, “Shana, does what you share cause others to want Jesus, not just want to do the right things or have a better life so they can be more comfortable?” If I only offer moral Christianity without pointing you to Christ, what good am I honestly doing? 
 
People who are experiencing war overseas, divorce in the United States, and death in their families don’t need to know just good principles without knowing the Prince of Peace. They need to know the One who gave them life, not just how to live. To give them good principles without pointing them to The Truth is dishonoring to the Lord—and offers a balm to the wounded that does not heal. What does this have to do with you? A lot, actually. Just like me, you are preaching a sermon with your life. You may not be standing in a pulpit or putting words on a page. But every day, you are a witness for Christ. Will you merely show others what it means to be a moral, religious Christian—or will you demonstrate what it looks like to intimately walk with the Savior?  

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might."(Deuteronomy 6:5)

Do you recognize the awesome privilege you have of bringing Jesus' light to a broken world? What are you doing to demonstrate that light?
 
Shana Schutte


September 7, 2015
ALL CREATURES OF OUR GOD AND KING





Psalm 148






"Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created. And he established them forever and ever;   he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Beasts and all livestock,  creeping things and flying birds! Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and maidens together, old men and children! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven. He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him. Praise the Lord!"

Listen to ALL CREATURES OF OUR GOD AND KING


September 6, 2015
MENTOR YOUNG PEOPLE 
 



Proverbs 7:6-7

"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 loving and wise 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. 
 
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, 

"and so train the young women to love their husbands and 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?

Wisdom Hunters


September 5, 2015
JESUS WAS WITH AARON





Exodus 28:1-2

“Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests .... And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.”





Jesus, the Son of God the Father, was physically present with Aaron whenever he went into the tabernacle to minister for the people before God. I doubt you have ever heard that before, but I shall show you from scripture that it was so.

In order to prove this, I need to outline a description of the garments which God instructed Moses to have made for Aaron. All this is set forth in Exodus 28. God required not only that the garments be “for glory and for beauty,” but He also had “filled [the workers] with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood” 

"You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron's garments to consecrate him for my priesthood." (Exodus 28:3)

The first garment described was an ephod. That was a sort of tight-fitting sleeveless tank-shirt with straps to go over the shoulders. Attached to the top of each of the straps was an onyx stone, each set in a filigree of gold. One stone had inscribed on it the names of the first six tribes of Israel, while the second stone had the names of the other six inscribed.

Next, a breastplate was fashioned, which was attached permanently by rings of lace to the straps of the ephod. The breastplate held twelve large precious stones, each inscribed with the name of one of the tribes of Israel. Thus all the names of tribes of Israel were carried twice by Aaron the high priest into the tabernacle: one on the two onyx stones, and the other on the twelve precious stones on the breastplate. There was then a robe made of blue cloth, which had alternate golden bells and pomegranates made of blue, purple and scarlet material attached to its bottom fringe. The robe was separate from the ephod, and because it was sleeveless it may have looked like a skirt.

Now we come to the interesting part:

"And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron's heart, when he goes in before the Lord. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly."
(Exodus 28:30)

The Bible does not describe what the Urim and Thummim looked like, or the material of which they were made, or their size. All that is left to our imagination. But one think is utterly certain, and of great importance. That is, the word Urim begins with the first letter aleph in the Hebrew language; and the word Thummim begins with the last letter tau in the Hebrew language. You have probably already guessed what comes next:

“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’”(Revelation 1:8)

In the English language we talk about “from A to Z,” as all-encompassing. The Greek language of the New Testament has as its first and last letters Alpha and Omega. Likewise, the first and last letters in the Hebrew of the Old Testament are Aleph and Tau. Therefore, when Aaron the high priest went into the holy tabernacle to minister for the people, he invariably carried the Aleph and the Tau, the Alpha and the Omega, the A to Z of the Godhead over his heart.

Some people attempt to claim that it is Jehovah who they claim is the only “Almighty” God. But that cannot be. The only Person “who is and who was and who is to come” is our Lord Jesus, the eternal God who “was” in the world in His incarnation, and “is to come” one day to take with Himself the people He saved by the shedding of His blood on Calvary’s cross, so that we who believe may be in heaven with Him forever. He accompanied Aaron into the holy place in the wilderness, and will accompany us who believe into His holy heaven, to remain with Him forever.

Dr. Thomas R. Teply


September 4, 2015
FOUR WAYS TO LOVE GOD




Mark 12:30

"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." 



 
Love is the most powerful weapon in our arsenal of faith. Like the tip of an arrow love points us to God. Love commandeers all other graces to engage the Lord’s affection and His eternal concerns. When Jesus defined love as the greatest command, He gave us a glimpse into what He wants for the world and His children. A life motivated by love is only limited by its capacity to love the Lord. Love is a muscle we exercise so it grows in stamina and strength. Here are four ideas to develop our love for God: 
 
Love God with Your Emotions 

Jesus starts at the heart of the matter—our heart. What captures our passions and yearnings? Our heart is the seat of our feelings and affections. We are drawn to what we desire—what we value. Yes, the heart follows what it treasures above all else. In the same way an engaged couple each aggressively seeks to engage the heart of their lover, so as the bride of Christ we passionately pursue His heart. As our heart loves Jesus—He simultaneously settles and stirs our emotions.  

"Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us." (Psalm 62:8) 

Love God with Your Soul 

In the beginning God breathed life into the soul of man 

"then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." (Genesis 2:7)

So our soul is our entire being brought into being by the Spirit of the Lord. It is here, deep within the recesses of our spirit, that we communion with Christ. Our marriage to Jesus was consummated when, by grace through faith, He saved our soul. Prayer is our bedchamber of intimacy for us to love our Lord with all our soul. Christ is our companion and confidant. A soul in love with God seeks God by faith.  

"As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God." (Psalm 42:1) 

Love God with Your Mind 

A mind in love with the Lord wants to do the Lord’s will. In the same way a noble idea captures our imagination so much that it drastically influences our actions, so to know and do God’s will is the goal of those in love with Jesus. Mental romancing with the mind of Christ marks the thoughts of those who trust and obey. Knowledge of God acquired out of love starves our pride and feeds our humility. Big, worshipful God thoughts expand our love for our sovereign Lord.  

"What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"
(1 Corinthians 2:9)

Love God with Your Strength 

Energy in eternal matters is what matters most. When our focused attention is on the important (like giving) and not the trivial (like worry) we thrive in our love for the Lord. What activity may be competing with your time with Christ? Avoid activities that create sideways energy. Our strength increases as we engage with other followers of Jesus on fire for Him. Like a bonfire ignited by gasoline, so the prayers and encouragement of God’s people flame our fire of faith and love for God. Being around people in love with Jesus grows our love for Jesus. Yes, love strong!  

"I love you, O Lord, my strength." (Psalm 18:1) 

What limits your love for the Lord? How can you grow your capacity to love God?

Wisdom Hunters 


September 3, 2015
LIBERATED BY LOVE 
 




Revelation 1:5

"...To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood" 




 
As a nineteen year old freshman in college, I was shackled by my sins. I felt chained to my past pain, held captive by my present guilt and fearful of the future consequences from my misdeeds. Fortunately, I was introduced to the love of God by a godly family whose evangelism was love. They invited me to church. There, I understood for the first time the seriousness of my sins, and the abundance of God’s grace. I trusted in Jesus. He forgave my sins and set me free. Like some communist countries post 1989—I was liberated. Our Lord Jesus liberates us by His love! 
 
The blood of Christ on the cross not only washes away the stain of our sins—it breaks the bondage of sin’s control over our being. Our lustful thoughts become thoughts of true love. Our motivation for more money grows into quiet acts of generosity. Our angry outbursts are tamed into a spirit of gentle patience by the Holy Spirit. Jesus loved us—loves us—and will love us. Our exalted Christ in heaven loves us, just as on earth our humble servant Jesus loved us. Each nail driven into the cross had a resounding thud of emancipation. His shed blood—was our Liberator.  

"how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God." (Hebrews 9:14) 

Are you held back by a besetting sin? If so, release it to the love of Jesus. His loving forgiveness will heal your malady and replace it with His righteous strength so you can overcome. Sin is an affront to Almighty God. Yes, because of His holiness, but also because of His great love. Rejected divine love says the fleeting affections of my little idols are enough. Accepted divine love can’t get enough of eternity’s embrace. Your compassionate Lord looks down in empathy and extends His love to you. Will you let go of your trinkets and trust Jesus? His love liberates. 
 
Furthermore, live in ongoing worshipful celebration of Christ’s love. Like a post war victory parade, Jesus has overcome sin, Satan and death. We are more than conquerors, because Jesus has conquered, is conquering and will conqueror. He came to forgive on earth riding a lowly donkey but He will emerge from heaven ready to judge mounted on a conquering stallion. The victorious love of Christ flows from hearts full of Him. So, believe in the love of Jesus, receive the love of Jesus and be set free by the love of Jesus! We worship our Liberator and trust Him to overcome by His love.  

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.'No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." (Romans 8:35-37) 

Do you trust in Jesus to set you free from your great sin—by His great love?
 
What besetting sin do you need to let go? 

Wisdom Hunters


September 2, 2015
JESUS NEVER LEAVES YOU






Isaiah 32:18

“My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.”





Occasionally, perhaps even right now, you feel sad, ill, hurt by other people, or very alone. If so, change gears in your mind, and take heart, because Jesus is with you to ease your pain.

Place your mind in that “peaceful habitation,” that “quiet resting place.” That is where you will find your Savior, the Lord Jesus. It is a place where the phone or the door-bell may sound, but it is likely that you can take care of the interruption quickly. Turn your thoughts to Jesus, and He will ease your heart. Isaiah said again,

“Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself for a little while until the fury has passed by.” (Isaiah 26:20)

Please note that Isaiah encourages you to close your door and hide yourself from the world of people, just for a “little while.” Only then can you garner the greatest benefit from Jesus’ presence with you, to make your troubles float away on silent wings. The world is a troublous place; shut it out as much as you can while you meditate on what He is able to do for you in your tension. He alone knows for sure what causes that pain; He alone is able to ease the pain; He is likely to do so gradually over time, so take time to let Him prepare you for the respite.

Isaiah has a series of encouraging suggestions to ease your mind and heart when the hurt grows. Please note that these quotations come from Isaiah, one of the greatest prophets in our Bible. Also, you may be interested to see that each of the following quotations, all from the book of Isaiah, are found in succeeding chapters of Isaiah, and each is from verse 20 of its chapter.

“The bed is too short to stretch oneself on, and the covering too narrow to wrap oneself in.” (Isaiah 28:20)

Have you been so knotted up in your troubles that you toss and turn when you most need sleep, so that your sheet and blankets are so kinked they can no longer keep you warm? The hurt in your heart causes you to make your bedding bind you here and dig into your ribs there. You must then turn your mind to Jesus, who is not present physically to goad you, but will gently knead your mind and straighten out the kinks where the real hurt abides. You discover that nothing in this world, either in your shuttered bedroom or outside your home, can ease the seeming perpetual restlessness. You feel that not even your doctor can heal you; your Pastor has the wrong words to comfort you; your closest friend antagonizes you instead of warming your heart. You must remember that Jesus is there. Only He can straighten the worldly knots that dig into your most sensitive spots. Let Him have full sway in your thoughts.

“The ruthless shall come to nothing and the scoffer cease, and all who watch to do evil shall be cut off.”(Isaiah 29:20)

You may think that the people surrounding you are all bent on tormenting you, whether they be your closest friends, or truly bitter enemies. You may sense that, although their motive may be a sincere desire to help you, they are “out to get you.” Of course, the real oppressors may harm you for a time, but you must wait for Jesus. Turn your mind upon Him, and the hurt will fade away as He gently enfolds you. If some are true oppressors, Jesus alone has the power to deliver you from them, and prevent them from returning to torment you. He is the best Friend, who will never leave you nor forsake you.

“And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.” (Isaiah 30:20)

This comforting verse reminds me of what Job said in his terrible affliction:

“... after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” (Job 19:26-27)

Job was so sure that he would rise from the dead, just as Jesus had risen, that he would see his Savior with his own eyes. None of us has ever been as tormented as Job, so we must take hope and heart in the full assurance that we too will be delivered by our Teacher, our Savior, Jesus. It is true that the Lord HImself brings trouble, hurt and sadness upon us from time to time. But we must be comforted in the thought that He always does it for an important purpose, even as punishment for turning from Him in disobedience; but He always returns to us to make our joy even more blessed after our pain.

“Happy are you who sow beside all waters...” (Isaiah 32:20)

When Jesus is present with us, He brings us abundant joy. But our joy can never be complete until we love Him so much for bringing us that joy and giving us eternal life, that we take heavenly delight in serving Him by sowing the seed of His word wherever He chooses to send us.

Dr. Thomas R. Teply


August 31-September 1, 2015
GRACE CULTURE



Colossians 3:12-14

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."


I ruined my first car's engine because I never replaced the oil. Without oil to lubricate its parts, friction destroys the engine. The same is true of the engine that is our human society. Whenever people interact, there will be friction. That is the way of the world. People have different, often strong personalities. Friction between them can destroy. But Jesus has the answer: Grace. 

Colossians teaches us to use the lubricating oil of grace -- compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with each other and forgiving when we have a grievance against someone; forgiving as the Lord forgave us; and over all these, putting on love. This is our new identity and our new hope in Jesus. When we know who we are in Christ, we can relax. We are in Grace Culture. Thanks to the Cross, we have experienced grace. The challenge for us now is to show others the same grace that Jesus has shown to us. 

The eight shining lights of Grace Culture are compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness and love. Jesus is all these things, so must we be also. When we focus on what God has done for us, it naturally overflows from us to others. The source of grace isn't ourselves -- there is not a lot of grace naturally in our hearts. We need to remember that the source of grace is Jesus.

We are like the moon. It shines in the sky. But it doesn't emit any light of its own. It reflects light from the sun. Grace doesn't come from us. It comes from the Son and is reflected by us to others. A culture of grace is beautiful -- beautiful because it harmonizes our differences. 

When we see the differences between us, sometimes those difference can cause friction: different backgrounds, ages, social status, positions, nationality and race. Should we all try to be the same? No. This is heaven -- full of differences. In this world today, we have racism -- people thinking their race and culture are the best. But there is no difference in Christ between nationalities, races, men and women. Grace works because we are all different . . . imperfect. Grace culture is beautiful because we are imperfect and grace harmonizes us.

There are two ways to look at weaknesses -- compassion or condemnation. Condemnation leads to alienation and estrangement. Compassion leads to healing and repentance. Because from God's fullness we all have received grace upon grace. 

"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." (John 1:16) 

At the Last Supper, Jesus was eating with his disciples. He knew that one of his disciples would betray him, and that the rest would run away. What did he do? Did he condemn them? No, He was humble and graceful. He forgave them in advance for what they would do. He knelt before them and washed their feet. He washed Judas' feet. He washed Peter's feet. He washes our feet. Jesus' last words to them were:

"If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet." (John 13:14)

This is the Grace that came that into our broken world, and washed our feet. And told us: 

"For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you." (John 13:15)

"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."
 (John 13:34)

This is the path to healing and repentance and reconciliation. We cannot do this unless we have Jesus in our hearts. It will not come from us. But when His love is overflowing in our hearts, we can share our abundance with others. Do we do it grudgingly because we know we have to? That doesn't work. The only thing that works is letting Jesus enter our hearts and sharing the grace overflowing in us with others. This is the Grace Culture. This is heaven on earth.

When I visit the American embassy here in Tokyo, I am aware of a very interesting thing. We are in Japan, but inside that building, Japanese laws do not apply. When I enter the embassy building, it is not Japan. It is America.

Here is what I am trying to say: When we enter into Grace Culture, we are not in Japan, or America, or any nation. This is heaven. Let God's grace overflow in your life and live in Grace Culture. Look around. Do you see people with strong differences? Differences of opinion? Whom do we need to show grace to?

Steven Kaylor 
(from a sermon preached on August 30 at Hope Church, Nishifunabashi, Japan)


August 30, 2015 
ECONOMIC STORM 




Proverbs 10:25 

"When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever."



 
Economic storms expose evil. When the ocean tide goes out, you are able to see those naked in the water. Dead wood is swept away, no more to be seen. It may seem like the wicked are prospering, but eventually they will be found out. The Holy Spirit shakes out sin so it can be seen and judged. As the Lord promised His children in the past, 

"...I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall to the earth." (Amos 9:9) 

What use is it to make a lot of noise, draw the attention of the elite, and then lose your creditability under scrutiny? Economic storms collapse businesses and ministries that are dependent on debt and, conversely, cause good churches to increase in attendance. There is a purging of pride, and all manner of excess is exposed. What really matters in life becomes the priority: faith, family, friends, food, and shelter. Storms reveal worth. 
 
Moreover, those who cling to Christ are not shaken. He is our cornerstone, which no degree of chaos can challenge. The righteous cannot be moved because their Master is immovable. Therefore, stand firm in the Lord.  

"Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever." (Psalm 125:1) 

Worldly wisdom has a way of reducing heaven’s wisdom to an afterthought. After using our worldly wisdom, we pray, seeking to discern the Lord’s ways, but only after our ways do not work. It is tempting to rely on what seems to work instead of asking what principles to live by based on God’s economy. 
 
Furthermore, your stability in your Savior is security for your family, friends, and work associates. Your unwavering faith during difficult days helps them replace panic with peace, fear with faith, and compromise with conviction. Indeed, if all you have left is a firm foundation of faith, begin rebuilding God’s big vision. Are you a wise builder?  

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock." 
(Matthew 7:24) 

Do you build your life, home, and work on the solid rock of Jesus? 

Wisdom Hunters


August 29, 2015
TEMPERED TALK 
 



Proverbs 10:19

"When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent." 



 
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.  

"Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent." (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.

"The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool." (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 beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;" (James 1:19) 

Whom do you need to listen to more and talk less? 

Wisdom Hunters

Also,

"It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."

Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain


August 28, 2015
FOUR WAYS TO LOVE YOURSELF




Matthew 22:39

"...You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 




 
What? Self love sounds narcissistic. It can be, but the self love the Bible teaches results in selflessness. Dignity and respect for ourselves develops dignity and respect for others. A healthy love of ourselves contributes to a healthy love of others. Lack of self love results in self loathing, even disgust. We are emotionally stunted and struggle to receive outside love if we cannot accept and love ourselves. Because our Creator loves us unconditionally, so can we. Once we receive the gracious love of God here are four ways we can love Him, others and ourselves well: 
 
Soul Care 

We care best for our soul by first experiencing our soul’s salvation in Jesus Christ. Only a saved soul is capable of loving itself in a healthy manner. Prayer encounters the Spirit’s affections. When Spirit filled we are full of love. Yes, we feed our soul when we delight in God’s word. His truth reminds us of our 100% acceptance in Christ. We feel loved when we see ourselves as the Lord sees us. A cared for soul seeks Jesus. It avoids sin. It loves the Lord, others and itself well.  

"We love because he [God] first loved us." (1 John 4:19) 

Emotional Care 

What does it mean to care for our emotions? It means we first receive Christ’s care. He forgives our sins. He heals our broken heart. He comforts our sadness. He holds us secure. Secondly, we begin to process our feelings in a way that helps us understand how God made us. We may have a need for approval, so we learn to seek God’s pleasure over people’s. Emotionally we are limited, so we know our limits and trust the Lord with what’s left unfinished. Emotional care paces itself in prayer. Hope, faith, gratitude and community contribute to loving ourselves well.  

"Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." (Proverbs 4:23) 

Physical Care 

The Holy Spirit is a resident of our body. Are we a good landlord for our special tenant or one that just gets by? A healthy intake of food and drink is responsible physical management. Sleep depravation and lack of exercise is not. Since we cherish the Spirit’s presence, we care for our body. The body is our expression of what God is doing within our spirit. We are the hands and feet of Jesus. We aspire to good health, so we can help others. Love nourishes the body. 

"In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself."
(Ephesians 5:28) 

Care for Others 

Yes, the quality of our love for others is determined by the quality of our love for ourselves. We are able to love our neighbor well when we love ourselves well. For example, we desire a nice home—love wants this for its friends. We help our child with homework—love tutors a needy child. We attend a marriage retreat—love sponsors a couple to attend. We go on vacation—love invites a friend. We want fulfilling work—love works to help someone find work. When we care for others we care for ourselves. God made us to serve. Self love is selfless in its love for others.  

"Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law."(Romans 13:8)


Wisdom Hunters

August 27, 2015
LIFE TOGETHER 



Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!"
 


Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “we pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.” Of all the gifts we take for granted, friendship and community are often at the top of the list. In fact, it isn’t until we find ourselves without meaningful friendships or relationships that we realize just how vital they are to our health and spiritual growth! 
 
Have you noticed that in our increasingly “connected” world of social media and technology, we somehow seem to be more and more disconnected? We read the passing updates posted by online friends, but neglect the deeper and more meaningful work of true friendship. We may have countless social acquaintances, but do we allow people into the deepest parts of our being, inviting them to know our hopes and fears, our dreams and desires? 
 
Today, I encourage you to take up the lost art of friendship. It isn’t hard, but true friendship requires intentionality and consistency. Plan in advance several simple yet meaningful ways to deepen old friendships or foster new ones. When was the last time you hand wrote a letter to a friend to tell them how much you appreciate them? When was the last time you used your phone to not only text or check email but to call someone and ask how they are doing or if you can pray for them? What about recreational time, carving out an evening or weekend afternoon to share life with people you love? 
 
When Jesus invited us to pray to God as “Father,” he was inviting us out of autonomy and isolation and into community and family. Just as God is a community of persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so too are we invited to share life together, horizontally with one another, and vertically with God who is communal, relational, and an intimate Father. May we give thanks that God loves us and will never leave us, while celebrating this wonderful yet seemingly ordinary gift called friendship. 
 
Tripp Prince

August 26, 2015
LIPS OF CHILDREN 
 




Psalm 8:2

"Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger." 




 
The lips of children lift up the greatness of God in praise and adoration. They do not know any better than to believe God and take Him at His word. They are trusting and pure in their devotion. It is the children that embraced the coronation of Christ in His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. They shouted “Hosanna in the highest.” Humility praises Jesus, but pride is silent. Humility invites Jesus, but pride is threatened by Jesus. Humility wants to sit in His lap, but pride rejects His affection. 
 
Children live in a constant state of dependency. They depend on their parents for food, clothing and shelter. Children look to their parents to teach them about God and religion. Parents are a plethora of resources for their children. Boys and girls depend on mom and dad for direction around what they do well and how they can excel best. Parents are a warehouse of wisdom for their offspring. A wise child learns from and depends upon their parents. They are dependents.  

"...'Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'"(Matthew 18:3) 

Our relationship with God is no different. We are His children in desperate need of His direction. We may spurn His discipline at times, but we come back because we know He is what we need. We need His wisdom. We need His forgiveness. We need His comfort, love and hope. We need His patience to work effectively with people. We need His security found in Christ. We need His courage in crisis. We need His grace in the middle of criticism. We need His humility to defeat our pride. 
 
Children are the conscience of adults. They remind us of our dependency on Jesus. We are but a grain of sand on the seashore of humanity. Jesus is Lord of all and we serve and worship Him alone. The lips of children naturally lift up the glory of God. And we do so supernaturally by the power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot keep quiet because of His lavish love and abundant grace. It’s in our childlike faith that God reveals Himself. We are God’s child; therefore we praise Him!  

"In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, 'I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.'"
 (Luke 10:21) 

Wisdom Hunters


August 25, 2015
GREAT EXPECTATIONS 
 


Jeremiah 29:11

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." 
 

One of my good friends often says, “Never put a period where God puts a comma.” It’s her way of reminding herself to stay flexible to God’s rule and to submit to His sovereignty over her life. This can be especially difficult when we’ve got big plans or hopes that have led to great expectations. 
 
Expectations can be awesome. They have the potential to bring us great joy when fulfilled and focused energy when we need to complete a particular task. They also have the potential to usher in great disappointment when they are dashed. It’s then that we must remember to“never put a period where God puts a comma.” We must submit to His will if we want to live with joy. To continue to demand our way only leads to internal death.  

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)  

There have been times in my life when my expectations haven’t lined up with God’s will: when I wanted to marry a particular young man, when I wanted to move to a particular state, when I wanted to receive a particular job offer. I have to admit there have been times when I have wanted to shut down hope, silence expectations, and never dream again when the pain of unfulfilled expectations pierced my heart. But a better way is to surrender to Christ in faith. 
 
Surrender doesn’t mean giving up; it means giving in. It means giving Him control. We put our plans in His hands as we work. We give Him our children as we raise them. We surrender the outcome of our job search as we look. And, when things don’t go as we planned, we do not live as those who have no hope and become cynical and tell themselves, “Don’t dream because you’ll just be disappointed.” No, we remember that God has a plan—and it’s always a good plan—even if it’s not our plan.  

"Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, 'The Lord reigns!'" (1 Chronicles 16:31)  

Shana Schutte


August 24, 2015
GRACE AND PEACE 
 


Revelation 1:4-5

"...Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood"



 
Grace and peace are gifts from God that every human heart craves. Grace for sustaining strength during sickness and peace in the process. Grace for repeatable forgiveness in a challenging relationship and peace that produces patience. Grace for ongoing gratitude and peace when things don’t go our way. Grace for generous giving and peace in God’s faithful provision. A heart governed by grace and peace is a heart loved by the Lord. Grace and peace come from Jesus. 
 
John, secluded in exile, saw His Lord more clearly once departed than when he was with Him. Jesus Christ the faithful witness gives His children grace and peace. How? Because we know He is the faithful witness of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus offered testimony to the reality of who God is. Jesus’ sonship gave His story veracity, so He stated the facts with humble authority. Jesus testifies to truth. His reassuring words extend grace and peace.  

"Then Pilate said to him, 'So you are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.'"
(John 18:37) 

Moreover, grace and peace come to those who believe Jesus is the firstborn from the dead. Others, like Lazarus, rose from the dead—but they died again. Jesus Christ was the first to rise, never to die. Faith in the resurrection is essential for the Lord’s grace and peace. We cannot remove the supernatural from Jesus and just keep the natural. Trust in Christ’s resurrection is the key that unlocks the treasure chest of riches found in His grace and peace. Those who embrace miracles embrace Jesus. These hugs from heaven warm our hearts by His loving care. 
 
Furthermore, we serve a benevolent King who freely gives His grace and peace. Tranquility only comes to a heart that trusts in Christ as their Lord. Crown Him conqueror over death—and enjoy His grace and peace while dying. Crown Him Lord over fear—and receive His grace and peace while afraid. Crown Him all wise King—and learn how to make the best decisions. Crown Him Lord over sin—and apply His grace and peace when in need of forgiveness. Whatever we face, Christ has faced—and has overcome. Thus, we come to the One who is full of grace and peace!  

"according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you." (1 Peter 1:2)

How often do you thank God for the grace and peace he gave you in His son Jesus Christ?

Wisdom Hunters


August 23, 2015
LOVE FORGIVES
 



Proverbs 10:12

"Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses."



 
True love forgives regardless of the infraction because it transcends mistreatment. So what is your process for forgiveness? Is it conditional, based on the way you are treated, or is it unconditional? Hatred has no hope but to stir up dissension and rally a defense. However, love looks at being wronged as an opportunity to replace insult with encouragement. Love seeks to lead all parties into a healthier, happier place. 
 
Indeed, hatred is not at home in a heart of love. It sows discord, while love plants peace. It embraces enmity, while love cuddles compassion. Hate stirs up, but love calms down. How do you handle those who are hard to be around? Perhaps out of love you serve them. Seek to serve rather than be served.  

"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Galatians 5:13) 

Furthermore, love forgives because you have been forgiven by the matchless love of God. It is the Lord’s love toward you that empowers you to lovingly forgive another. Human love alone is unable to love without boundaries. Left to our own limited love, we only love those who love us. Jesus said, 

"For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?"(Matthew 5:46) 

Therefore, look at love as an opportunity to give others what they do not deserve. Lean on the Lord as your source of unconditional love. Christ’s love is all-inclusive and all-forgiving. In the same way, actively and appropriately love those in your life; maybe with a kind word, a note of appreciation, a thoughtful gift, or a listening ear. How do you harness love into a habit of forgiveness?  

"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8) 

Do you forgive others as He has forgiven you? Whom do you need to love, forgive, and serve in honor of God’s great love?

Wisdom Hunters


August 22, 2015
BEGINNING OF WISDOM 




Proverbs 9:10 

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight."




The fear of the Lord is fundamental to finding wisdom. Without awe of the Almighty, there is no access to His insight. Where reverence for His holiness is void, there is lack of understanding in the ways of God. The first step in acquiring wisdom from almighty God is to fear Him. There is a worship of the Lord’s majesty and a dread of His judgment. 
 
His Holy Word—the Bible—is taken to heart as truth for the purpose of life transformation. At first, fear of the Lord may be so overwhelming that it casts out love and distracts our desire for intimacy. Anyone who has been broken understands this process. However, once a healthy fear of the Lord has been embraced, the result is peace and knowledge in submission to and love for the Holy One.  

"and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion's treasure." (Isaiah 33:6) 

Moreover, we mock God when we move away from the language of fear; He is not one to be mocked. So as devoted followers of Christ, we sow the seeds of respect, reverence, and fear of the Lord. This discipline of faith results in a harvest of holiness, happiness, and wisdom. Fear of Him leads to knowledge of Him. Therefore, bowing before Him on your knees in prayer, seek His face for forgiveness and relational restoration. 
 
Celebrate together with Christ our conquest over sin, sorrow, and death. What is counterintuitive on earth is intuitive in heaven. Listen to David admonish his son Solomon, who became the wisest man in the world.

"And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever." (1 Chronicles 28:9) 

Is your heart’s desire to walk in wisdom and do you fear the Lord?

Wisdom Hunters


August 21, 2015
THREE WAYS TO LOVE YOUR CHILD 
 





Proverbs 13:24

"Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him." 




 
I am an imperfect parent. Over the years I have tried my best (with the help of God, my wife, family, church, school and friends) to parent imperfect children. Aside from marriage—parenting may be the adult responsibility that requires the most amount of faith and work. Parenting styles vary based on upbringing, culture, family dynamics and personalities. However, there are a few parenting principles that are timeless in their application and positive outcome. Hope these help: 
 
Boundaries 

Children feel loved when they know there are limits to their behavior. A passive parent communicates disinterest, while an engaged parent says, “Because I love you so much, I will install guardrails around your heart, mind, activities and actions.” Yes, it is necessary for parents to define clear behavioral guidelines. How a child acts matters. What a child says and how they say it matters. Instill values such as respect, honesty and obedience. Adherence results in reward. Violation of family values results in discipline. Boundaries provide peace and delight.  

"Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart." (Proverbs 29:17) 

Training 

It is not enough for a parent to just tell their child what to do. We need to show them how and explain to them why. For example, we can illustrate to our child how words are like salt. Salt creates flavor, preserves from decay and melts ice. So when the tone of our words is comforting we give life to the recipient. The decay of a diseased heart infected by lies needs us to speak truth that heals and preserves. As we offer encouragement, we melt away fear and soften hard hearts. Training takes more time, but results in lasting life change. We train and entrust them to God.  

"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) 

Modeling 

What a parent does is what a child tends to do. So when we are kind—they are motivated to be kind. When we are patient—they are challenged to be patient. When we are honest—they see the fruit of honesty. As we serve—they observe how to serve. As we pray—they are inspired to pray. Modeling love for God and people shows what it looks like to live like Jesus. Words exemplified by positive action invites the favor of angels, but nice speech not backed up by good behavior enhances the devil’s devices. Modeling may be the most effective teaching method of a parent.  

"Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom."
(James 3:13) 

Do you have the wisdom and patience to parent like God parents you? 

Wisdom Hunters


August 20, 2015
WHY MUST THE INNOCENT PAY THE PRICE?



Romans 15:1-3

"We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, 'The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.'" 




A question many people ask is "Why should the innocent pay the price for evil, or why should the 'good' have to suffer with the 'bad'?"

Perhaps we would have a right to ask this as Christians it it were not for one blazing fact which looms above all others: that God gave His own Son, the only truly good and perfect human being who ever lived, for us without question, without weighing our worth against Christ's, merely knowing that it was the only way mankind could ever be saved.

And today, as we send our beautiful young men, the cream of the race, to stand in the breach between evil and the innocent who are to come, we cannot help but understand in a new way what God was saying when He made the first personal sacrifice of His innocent Son for us who are not worthy to be compared with Him.

Only as we comprehend the entire picture of humanity the struggle of God and Satan for the souls of men - can we realize that this necessity of the strong bearing the infirmities of the weak, the good suffering with the bad, is in reality the service we as God's people give Him out of love for what He has first given to us .

"The Samaritan woman said to him, 'How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?' (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, "Give me a drink," you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”'The woman said to him, 'Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?'"  (John 4:9-11)

Which is easier? Focusing upon your loss or focusing on God's loss?

Daily Family Devotions


August 19, 2015
TROUBLEMAKERS 
 




Psalm 7:15

"He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made." 




 
Troublemakers tend to self-destruct. There is no need to get worked up over their acts of deception. They are dishonest. They lie when the truth will suffice. The harm they intend to inflict on others comes back to hurt them. Troublemakers attempt to discredit those they are jealous of and in the process discredit themselves. Troublemakers conceive elaborate plans with evil intent. It is all about them and their agenda. They can easily tell you one thing and do another. In their mind desired outcomes justify a polluted process. 
 
Beware of troublemakers but do not urge them on with too much attention. Keep an eye on them but do not be consumed by them. Stand up to them in the right spirit without crushing their spirit. They are totally insecure and fearful, but are afraid to admit their insecurities. Because their acceptance is based on performance they are always looking for ways to impress others. It is not what we do that keeps us secure it is who we are and whose we are. In Christ we have all we need.  

"As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same." (Job 4:8) 

Trust God with troublemakers. You are not their judge and jury. He can handle them in His timing and in His way. We have our own sins to confess and repent of on a regular basis. Our sins may not be as blatant but they are still present. We may not sin in as pronounced a manner as a troublemaker nonetheless we still struggle with dishonesty and deception. It may be on a smaller scale but we still weigh in as one who struggles with being a troublemaker. 
 
So let’s contrast the life of a troublemaker by being a blessing maker. Let’s be a blessing instead of a curse. Let’s extend consolation instead of consternation. Let’s focus on giving instead of taking. Let’s be a solace instead of a pain. Let’s serve instead of being served. Let’s encourage instead of discouraging. Kill them with kindness and watch God turn their hearts toward Him. Give them the respect they never had and they may begin to respect themselves. God’s grace can change troublemakers into blessing makers. We are proof!  

"He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure."
(Psalm 40:2)

Do you trust God to deal with troublemakers in His timing?

Wisdom Hunters


August 18, 2015
THE HOLY SPIRIT MADE ME DO IT


John 14:26

"...the Holy Spirit...will teach you all things..."

John 16:13
“...the Spirit of truth...will guide you into all the truth...”

John 15:26-27
"...the Spirit of truth...will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness..."



My first call to ministry was to start a Sunday school and then grow a church from that start in a wealthy suburb of Albany, New York. That was wonderful way to start a church. In fact, I believe the only other possible way to grow a church than by strongly emphasizing Christian education is to have a strong program of visitation. The little work my wife and I started began on a Sunday that had a foot of new snow on the ground. I was sure no one would come through that to a new Sunday school. But twenty-three showed up.

We attempted to have one Sunday school class for every grade school class. But the second grade had only one pupil. Rather than combine with another class, the teacher offered to try to recruit others. In less than four months she had eleven pupils, including two sets of twins. After two years we organized a church with forty-eight charter members. A year later we had 60 members; the next year 75 members. But by then our Sunday school enrollment was 169! That’s the lazy man’s way to grow a church. But I didn’t do it. My wife didn’t do it. The Holy Spirit did it through getting people to learn about God.

That special Sunday school teacher had a high school daughter who told me early on, “I wouldn’t invite my worst enemy to Youth Fellowship, it’s so boring.” Of course I was leading that group of youth. But after a few weeks that girl found Christ as Savior in a youth rally, and was immediately transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit in her. She was the spark plug that made the group interesting, and by the end of the school year those five young people turned into 28 eager teenagers. I didn’t do it; the Holy Spirit did it through a previously rebellious teen who was embraced and taught by the Holy Spirit.

That same girl that came on fire for the Lord wanted to be a medical doctor like her father. But in addition, she wanted to be a medical missionary. She met a fellow in medical school lab who also wanted to be a medical missionary. They were married and called to Nepal, one of the two last countries in the world where the gospel had not yet been taken. They spent their career there, winning many to Christ. Only they didn’t do it: the Holy Spirit worked through them, and taught through them and their several special talents. Now there is not one country in the world that has not had Spirit-filled people come to them with the message of salvation through Christ alone.

The Holy Spirit is in the whole world now, reaching people everywhere through followers He has filled, and given a zeal to teach the word of God to everyone they can meet. And you; you don’t need to be a minister, or a medical doctor, or a college graduate. You only need to learn the word of God, by yourself and in groups, and ask the Spirit to fill you and use you as His spokesman wherever He sends you.

You can do it, because the Holy Spirit prevails. Even though the ruler of this world is here,

"...for the ruler of this world is coming...." (John 14:30)

you can be sure you are the victor, because the ruler of this world has already been judged, 

"...because the ruler of this world is judged." (John 16:11)

and the Holy Spirit is in you to bear witness about Jesus, the Savior. 

"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me." (John 15:26)

Dr. Thomas R. Teply


August 17, 2015
PURPOSE OF PRAISE 
 




Revelation 5:13

"And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!'" 
 




We tend to think less of those who want us to think more of them. People who demand praise or require affirmation for every little action are emotionally unfit. An enlarged ego has to be told how much it is esteemed. A small ego esteems others better than itself. 

"Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." (Romans 12:10)

Yet, the Lord Almighty expects us to praise Him. Why? He is all sufficient, but God knows we are not—we are needy. When we praise Him our life perspective is healthy and we are motivated to pray. Furthermore, the Lamb (Jesus) accompanies God the Father who sits on His heavenly throne, surrounded by His Spirit.

"John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne," (Revelation 1:4)

This heavenly expression of the triune God causes the spirit of Christ followers to exclaim accolades of: “praise, honor, glory and power for ever and ever.” Our home in heaven is a worship fest of God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit. Just the mention of the name Jesus stirs our soul to thanksgiving and wholehearted devotion. Praise points us to the Lamb who was slain for our soul’s salvation. Praise expresses gratitude.  

"The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'"
(John 1:29) 

Moreover, praising Jesus is our opportunity to tell people about Jesus. Just as we praise a film, “You have to see this movie” or a book, “This book will challenge your thinking and make you a better person”—thus we praise God so others might experience Him. “I still have issues, but since I trusted Jesus as my Savior I have forgiveness, peace and purpose.” We release our inner praise with outer thanksgiving to the Lord. Praise consummates our full appreciation of Christ. 
 
What is the purpose of praise? It is soul alignment for those saved by the grace of God. It is offering up to our Lord and Savior—not what He needs—but what He deserves and desires. The Lord knows our praise of Him is what’s best for us. Praise Him for His majestic creation—for He is the Creator. Praise Him for His precious children—for He is their heavenly Father. Praise Him for His good gifts—for He is a generous Giver. Praise Him in the morning—praise Him in the noon time—praise Him when the sun goes down. Praise His holy name!  

"Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name." (Psalm 30:4)

Wisdom Hunters


August 16, 2015 
INVITE INSTRUCTION 
 


Proverbs 9:8–9

"Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning." 



Wise people invite instruction. They understand correction and rebuke are necessary to grow in wisdom and righteous behavior. Without well-meaning instructors willing to get in our faces, we aspire to average at best. However, an invitation to mettle in my affairs defines authentic accountability. Effective correction makes us uncomfortable at times, but we become wiser as a result. Indeed, conflict is inherent in accountability. 
 
So if your relationships are conflict free, you can bet you are not being held accountable in the truest sense. Wisdom comes in the form of raw relationships that reek with loving reproof and willingness to change. It is out of a rebuke that you wake up and understand the realities you are facing. Your spouse is not nagging, just nudging you to act responsibly. Therefore, invite instruction, and you will increase in wisdom and understanding. There are no regrets from recipients of wise reproof.  

"Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear." (Proverbs 25:12) 

Furthermore, be willing to be the bearer of bad news. With love and grace, go to your friend who has asked for your counsel and give him or her truth. Pray first; then deliver the unpleasant news. It is much better for others to see the error of their ways before they reach a point of no return. Talk to them, not about them. Pray for them privately, not publicly with a pious prayer request. 
 
Love motivates rebuke and then becomes a recipient of love. Your relationship will retreat in anger or rise to a higher level of respect through righteous rebuke. Take the time to prod another toward perfection because you care. Be respectful; instruct with patience. One day the student may exceed the wisdom of the teacher.  

"A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher." (Luke 6:40)

To whom do you need to listen, learning from their correction and rebuke?

Wisdom Hunters


August 15, 2015
THREE WAYS TO LOVE YOUR WIFE
  




1 Corinthians 13:4

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant..."   





  
I am a work in progress—a lifetime student in the school of learning to love my wife well. Though I have known Rita since 7th grade (we couple skated at Archie’s skating rink), I feel like I am only beginning to love her like she likes to be loved. Thankfully, she is patient with my snail’s pace progress all these years. By God’s grace I will continue to give her my very best. So, from one imperfect husband to another here are some ideas on how to better love our sweeties. 
  
Talk 

Rita loves me, but she really loves my words. My capacity for conversation is a mini-bike gas tank and her’s is an eighteen wheeler fuel tank. Husbands normally need to engage more in eye to eye discussions with their wives. We can use the excuse that we are tired, but when we are fatigued at work or a sporting event we get caffeinated, so we can stay fired up. Whatever it takes men—we are called to love our wives with our words. Show up, man up and speak up!   

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."  (Ephesians 4:29)  

Listen 

Listening equals love. When we take the time to discern what our spouse is feeling by what they say—we say I love you. It is what’s behind the words that matters most. Speech is a mirror of the soul. If your wife says, “I am sad”, you can ask why and/or you can ask how you can help. Listening that loves seeks to understand, not rush on when matters get emotional. With an empathic tone offer comfort first, not how to’s of instruction. Warmly listening makes her feel loved.   

"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;"  (James 1:19)  

Work 

God made you to work. Your wife expects you to work. Work gives your spouse security. Retirement for her is too much husband and not enough money! Especially if you don’t have to work—work. Work helps you better understand God’s will. Work helps you relate to the rest of us. Work keeps you out of trouble. Work gives you influence with those who work. Stay engaged in employment, so you can employ others in God’s kingdom. Your work announces: I love you!   

"We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work."(John 9:4)  

Do you love your wife the way the Lord loves your wife?

Wisdom Hunters


August 14, 2015 
THREE WAYS TO LOVE YOUR HUSBAND  
  



Ephesians 5:33
"However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."   



  
I am blessed by the Lord with a wife (Rita) who loves me well. She knows my need for encouragement, so when I share a big idea her response is a positive “wow” instead of a negative “how”. She helps me process my thoughts in a way that honors me, even though some of my ideas will never happen. Rita is quick to give me a hug and a kiss, she knows affection makes me feel close to her. Because she knows me well, she loves me well. Here are three ways to love your husband: 
  
Respect 

For many men love equals respect. In marriage this could be defined as admiration, honor or value. So, respect his leadership. You can and should help him think through decisions, but be at peace where he leads. Respect his financial support. His capacity may not be at the level of your parent’s provision, so be content. Respect his manhood. See hobbies or male friends, not as competition, but an opportunity for your husband to be a man. Maybe most importantly, respect yourself. Be your very best as a woman to inspire your man’s very best. Respect invites respect.   

"So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, for it is vast, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike."  (Esther 1:20)  

Trust 

Men mess up. Your husband will be imperfect until he gets to heaven. If you hold him to a standard higher than your Savior Jesus, you are set up for disappointment. Therefore, be quick to forgive and slow to become angry. Give your husband room for failure and trust he will learn from his mistakes. Trust your heavenly Father with His son—your husband. Ultimately, look to God to hold him accountable. As your trust in Christ increases, so will your trust in your man.   

"Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses."  (Exodus 14:31)  

Companionship 

Friendship and romance go together. Not only is passion in physical intimacy important, but so is growing old as best friends. Really listen to your husband’s heart. What brings him to life? In what ways can you enjoy life together and grow closer as friends? Perhaps you pray out loud together. You serve together. You travel together. You suffer together. You celebrate together. Discover what brings you together as companions and do it. Above all, both of you grow your companionship with Christ and you will grow the closest to each other. Love him at all times.   

"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."  (Proverbs 17:17)

Wisdom Hunters


August 13, 2015
COME INTO THE SECRET PLACE 
  



Matthew 22:37

"And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."
   



Some of us speak about God, but rarely experience Him. We quote scripture, talk about Christian books we have read, throw up prayers in the shower, go to church and say a few corporate prayers, but often will not carve out a portion of our day to enter into the secret place to listen to the Master. Why? Because it’s hard. Because it’s scary. Because it takes time. Because it makes us feel small and vulnerable and afraid. We doubt our ability to hear. (Was that really God?) We come face-to-face with our sin as His Word penetrates our hearts, (I can’t believe that sinful attitude is in me!), and we know that if we actually listen that God might expect us to do something with what we hear. 
  
If I don’t spend time in His presence, if I don’t enter the secret place, I can still be a Christian without feeling like I am accountable to my Creator. I can live a self-focused life without being confronted with the depravity of my own soul. I can stay safe and avoid the discomfort of God asking me to do anything that upsets the apple cart of my carefully-arranged life. If I don’t hear from God, I won’t hear truth, and truth can at times be very uncomfortable, even when it’s healing.   

"For 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)   

So we make excuses for why we don’t have time. But the reality is that anyone can find time for that which they truly want to do. Look at how people behave when they are in love. Nothing can stop them from expressing affection to their beloved. They find time because they want to, because it’s important to them. So when it comes to spending time in the Master’s presence, saying we don’t have time is, well . . . a cop out. 
  
So rather than spend time in the secret place, we only get second-hand messages from our pastor, or an author who has spent time with the Master in the quiet place writing down His secrets. We read or hear them from these messengers of God, and—thankfully—we may even apply the truths we hear to our lives. But how tragic that we have received just a cup of water from someone who went to the Spring of Living Water for us, but we won’t go to the Spring ourselves to get filled to overflowing! The distractions that can pull us away from spending authentic time with the One who made us are too many to list: our kids, our mate, our job, our parents, our sleep schedule, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, and a Saturday baseball game. But if we really believed that the God of the Universe was listening, would we stop in a quiet place, prostrate ourselves in prayer and really listen to Him?   

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty." (Psalm 91:1) 

Where is your secret place?

Shana Schutte


August 12, 2015 
CHOSEN BY GOD  
  




Psalm 4:3

"But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him."   




  
God chooses His children for Himself. Our relationship with our Lord is all about Him. It is all about His desires, His pleasures, His vision, His goals and His will. When we came to God we came empty handed clinging only to the cross of Christ. So in our surrender to our Savior we emptied ourselves and received Jesus. We went from self-sufficient to God dependent. We went from ungodly to godly. We went from an impersonal relationship with a distant God to an intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father. God chose us for Himself. 
  
Furthermore, the Lord wants you to know and not forget to follow His heart. He owns your life. You may be struggling with traveling overseas for the sake of His cause. But Jesus commands are clear to go into all the world and make disciples. Or you may be too busy to build a relationship with your neighbors. But your sensitive Savior implores you to love your neighbors. You are at His disposal to carry out His desires.   

"Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride."
(Psalm 31:23)  

Moreover God offers a clear channel of communication for His children. He hears when we call to Him. Prayer is not passive for our Heavenly Father. He is interested in our intense circumstances and our heartfelt fears. He listens to and answers our prayers. It is not always an answer of our choice. He defines His will for us with His answers of ‘no’ and His answers of ‘yes’. We have no need to fear for our Heavenly Father is near. 
  
The more we constantly converse with Christ surely we will speak all the more boldly to men. Prayer is a purging and a preparation. It is God’s platform to launch us out into fields that are ripe for harvest. It is a preparation for engagement in the lives of people. Prayer fills us with love so we can be emptied of love. We are chosen by God. What He chooses He makes holy. Without holiness we cannot see our Savior. Because He was poured out we are sold out!   

"Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord."  (Hebrews 12:14)  

Wisdom Hunters


August 11, 2015
A DIFFERENT KIND OF SACRIFICE






John 15:13

"Greater love hath no man than a man lay down his life for a friend."







Yet this does not always mean the single moment of dying, sometimes a man or woman lays down his life in love over a period of many years . . . the sacrifice is not a single, dramatic gesture but a daily laying down of strength and life, the day-to-day surrender of one's own desires and wants to the needs and demands of a beloved.

Too often we think of the "spotlight" sacrifices as being the greatest yet think how many lives have been saved, how many homes have been bound up, how many hearts healed and souls revived by the quiet, day-to-day ministry of one selfless person.

Any act which lays aside our will for the good of another is sacrifice and each time we give up our own way a small piece of ego dies; we literally die to that portion of ourselves.

But it is that portion which becomes sacred and dearest to God.

You may never be asked to give your life in battle; perhaps your gift to God will be as a mother and wife, the constant, steady drain upon your utmost reserves . . . or as a teacher, as a nurse you will have to be the buffer for those weaker than yourself . . . as a father your life may be shortened because of your faithfulness to provide and protect your family. But as you have done it to these, you have done it to God. 

"And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'"
 (Matthew 25:40)

Daily Family Devotions


August 10, 2015
OUT SERVE OTHERS 
  



Mark 10:44-45

"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."
   




Selfless service does not come naturally—self serving does. I am learning how family life is a laboratory for unselfish service. How can I serve my family and others in this season of life? This best questions my accountability. My selfless service gives life to them and to me. I am able to serve others well when I am not a servant to my own vices. For example, we have a simple rule in our kitchen: whoever cooks doesn’t clean up and whoever doesn’t cook, cleans. Other-centered service is when my actions reflect death to my self-centered desires. 
  
Jesus and His disciples lived in a servitude society of masters and slaves. Masters had the power and slaves served at their master’s command. Christ reversed this image of human indignity. As He sensed his followers’ unhealthy hunger for ambition, power and wealth—our Master Jesus said the greatest are the least. Humility and generosity in service to others is the new paradigm for people who seek God’s kingdom above any other competing kingdoms. Christ’s counterintuitive and countercultural words are radical. Out serving others gains God’s favor!   

"Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations."  (Isaiah 42:1)  

How can we out serve others? We begin at home by looking for ways to make life better for those we know best. We keep mental notes of what uniquely motivates various family members. Decluttered space brings peace and fulfillment to some. If needed, we can plan a day to organize the garage, attic, closets, pantry or play room. Cleanliness may be next to godliness for others. If so, a deep cleaning of the kitchen, bathroom or cars will bring a smile to those who value sanitized environments. Take the lead to initiate service in what brings fulfillment to others. 
  
Work is another convenient arena to place others ahead of our own goals and aspirations. How can we support a co-worker’s interests ahead of our own? So for instance, in a planning meeting we can listen more than we talk. We offer input when asked. We support the agenda by not high jacking the meeting to meet our expectations. Others feel valued when we value what they value. We come alive when we die to being in control. Pray how to out serve, not be served. Out serve with Jesus!   

"who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men."  (Philippians 2:6-7)  

Do you selflessly serve others? Who needs you to quietly and sacrificially meet a need in their life? What process can you integrate into your lifestyle to facilitate service to others?

Wisdom Hunters


August 9, 2015
GOD'S FAVOR  




Proverbs 8:34–35 

"Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord,"
  



God’s favor is the fruit of friends who find wisdom. They seek wisdom by first watching at the doors of heaven, waiting patiently at the feet of their Savior Jesus. It is humbling to think that each day almighty God is available to commission our cause for Christ. The wisdom of Jesus is what we pursue because His is pure and profound. 
  
Like Able, the Almighty looks for the best offering for blessing. Therefore, honor God by offering Him the first fruits of your day. Just as He deserves first dibs on your money, so He expects the beginning of your day. Get up and go to God first. There you discover a wealth of wisdom, and under the shadow of your Savior Jesus Christ you receive His favor.   

"then man prays to God, and he accepts him; he sees his face with a shout of joy, and he restores to man his righteousness."
 (Job 33:26)  

Happiness happens to those who wait for wisdom. His blessing cannot be rushed; so rest in Him. The favor of God is well worth the wait; like a newborn, the joy is unspeakable. How many times have we rushed ahead, outside the canopy of Christ’s blessing? The Israelites learned to stay under the cloud of God and be led by faith. Indeed, there is no spiritual oxygen to sustain those in an out-of-favor environment. It is lifeless and lonely. However, for those on whom their heavenly Father’s favor rests, there is rest. 
  
His blessing provides strength for the journey and perseverance to stay on the trail of trust. Jesus experienced the favor of His heavenly Father when He submitted to public baptism. On what issue of obedience do you need wisdom to continually experience the favor of your heavenly Father? Your life is alive and vibrant because the Lord favors you. You are a favorite of your heavenly Father because you are learning to wait on Him and humbly walk with the wise.   

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"  (Micah 6:8)

Wisdom Hunters


August 8, 2015 
POLITICAL WISDOM  




Proverbs 8:15–16  

"By me [wisdom] kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly."   



  
The wisdom of God overshadows the best and brightest thinking of man. This is why our ancestors accessed the Almighty for knowledge and understanding in crafting our constitution. Its remarkable effectiveness is contingent on faith: faith in God, faith in government, and faith in its citizens. Indeed, politicians w