Devotionals


 

Titles

  1. The Choices We Make
  2. True Value
  3. God's Power Despite the Doubt
  4. Relationships and Communication
  5. God Dwelt with Us
  6. Bow in Wonder
  7. Shaking the Earth
  8. Designed for Relationships
  9. Our Relationship with God
  10. Relationships with Individuals
  11. Relationships in Community
  12. Relationships are Difficult
  13. God Pursues Us
  14. How can we have a Relationship with God
  15. Our Greatest Need
  16. The First and Greatest Lie
  17. The Day of Small Things
  18. Cleaning Up
  19. True Joy
  20. Chicken Noodle Soup
  21. Living Protraits
  22. The Depths of God
  23. Simple Obedience
  24. Hide or Speak
  25. What Creates Success
  26. Compassion instead of Contempt
  27. The Incarnation: God Touching Us
  28. Content but not Satisfied
  29. The Curse of Thorns
  30. Choose your Company Well
  31. Our Unchanging Rock
  32. Fire and Salvation
  33. Not just Fight or Flight
  34. A Solid Foundation
  35. Godliness Through Example
  36. Release God
  37. Perseverance
  38. Prepare to Give
  39. Nothing is Impossible
  40. Prospering in Rough Places
  41. Give Yourself to Others
  42. Do What is Right
  43. God's Beautiful Treasure
  44. Go Forward
  45. Gratitude
  46. Cotton Candy
  47. Keep me with your People
  48. God is Watching
  49. Let's Celebrate
  50. Redeeming Life's Frustrations
  51. The Small Things
  52. The Only Way
  53. Faith that Remembers
  54. Do not Fear!
  55. Waiting in the Silences
  56. Grace to do what is Right
  57. A Clean Chalkboard
  58. All are Necessary
  59. God Blesses what is Right
  60. Faithfulness in the Basics
  61. Relying on the Holy Spirit
  62. A Rhythm with God
  63. From Glory to Glory
  64. God is Sufficient
  65. Snowflake
  66. An Impossible Distance: A Great Rescuer
  67. The Sluggard and the Upright
  68. Necessary Food
  69. Came to Pass
  70. Stage Fright
  71. The Everlasting Arms
  72. Toying with Wrong
  73. Calling Evil Good
  74. Guilt
  75. Do What is Right
  76. Justifying Sin
  77. Hay Maze
  78. Central Verse
  79. Mistaken Identity
  80. Small Faith and Great Forgiveness
  81. Standing Firm
  82. Forgive and Release
  83. The Foundation of Forgiveness
  84. Fancy Dinner
  85. Offering Peace
  86. Like Father
  87. Life is Frustrating
  88. Clarity Above the Chatter
  89. Down the Drain or like a Rock
  90. Eagle's Wings
  91. Joy and Sheep
  92. Longing for Home
  93. Changing our Clothes
  94. Leaning on the Beloved
  95. God's Will may be Tough
  96. Use the Manual
  97. Jesus as Human
  98. Cigarette Ad
  99. God does not owe us Comfort
  100. Mountains and Valleys
  101. Mary's Perseverance and Loyalty
  102. God Binds us up
  103. Why not just let God do it all?
  104. What do we ever get from a dummy?
  105. What is your Value?
  106. Waiting for Samuel
  107. Give and Give Some More
  108. Build your House and Live in it
  109. Waiting in the Silences
  110. God Strongly Supporting us
  111. Physical Resurrection vs Spiritual Rebirth
  112. Preparing our Faith
  113. God uses Ordinary People
  114. Do not Compare God's Work in you to Others
  115. Obeying from our Weakness
  116. God is in the Details
  117. Jesus Himself Alone
  118. Surrounded by God
  119. More Than the Grains of Sand
  120. Making the Best of a Situation
  121. A Tall Tower or a Lesson to Godliness
  122. Give Up the Grudge
  123. The Prickly Vines of Sin
  124. What is the Price of Value?
  125. The Discourses of a Dad
  126. Perspective
  127. Elijah
  128. Our Greatest Need
  129. The Greatest Evacuation
  130. Seeing Through the Swirl of Frustration
  131. Small versus Large
  132. Paralyzed by the Lack of God's Voice
  133. WIll you Rise or Fall?
  134. A Hitchhiker Christian
  135. Paid in Full
  136. Not There Anymore
  137. The Greatest Divider; the Greatest Joy
  138. Loss to Victory
  139. Choose
  140. Healing an Outcast
  141. The Intimacy of Healing
  142. Spiritually Healed at Great Expense
  143. Healing and then Giving
  144. The Healing of Forgiveness
  145. The Wholeness of Healing
  146. The True and Complete Healer
  147. Jesus the Head
  148. Giving like Jesus
  149. The Dynamic Church
  150. Solid Core
  151. Prisoners to Saints
  152. The Church's Three Faces
  153. The Joyous Church
  154. The Heart of Jesus
  155. Fear to Peace
  156. One Ring and no Circus
  157. It was Always There
  158. Carrying Extra Stones
  159. A Simple Bible to a Study Bible
  160. Spotlights
  161. A Glitzy Cover
  162. Still Singing
  163. A Lack of Gratitude
  164. Not Done Yet
  165. What Compelled Jesus?
  166. Always a Son or Daughter
  167. Guilt's Signpost
  168. One Debtor/Two Mistakes
  169. A Deep Response
  170. Missing Piece
  171. Misunderstanding
  172. The Colossus and the King
  173. Different Backgrounds, Perfect Harmony
  174. Meeting the Definition
  175. Identity
  176. A Leaky Boat
  177. Friend
  178. Preventing Jesus
  179. Poetry
  180. Bible Diary
  181. What We Really Need
  182. Mashed Potatoes
  183. A Treasure Hunt
  184. Patch of Ground
  185. The Law and Poison Ivy
  186. A 30 Shekels Ministry
  187. Styrofoam Filler or Wholly Lord
  188. True Value
  189. Rare and Costly; Rarer but Free
  190. Two Bank Accounts
  191. Don't Watch the Floor
  192. Sand Sculptures
  193. No GPS for the Christian
  194. Come See the Show
  195. True Hero
  196. Sure Justice
  197. Cheating
  198. Stability
  199. Looking Out for Number One
  200. Tree Versus Chaff
  201. What is the Value of a Person?
  202. God's Homerun
  203. All
  204. No Timidity
  205. Neglect or Come
  206. Participate with God
  207. Fired Up
  208. Who's the Boss?
  209. Markers
  210. Excuses
  211. Small Things
  212. True Heroes
  213. A Great Picture but not Quite There
  214. Staying within the Ropes
  215. A Bush, Really?
  216. Not a Costume
  217. Live the Journey
  218. Simple Obedience; Sometimes the Best
  219. Do
  220. Communicate and Don’t Stop
  221. An Ecosystem
  222. Mining
  223. Is the Bible a Mirror?
  224. Someone Worth Recognizing
  225. Overcoming the Deep Fears
  226. Getting it in the Right Order
  227. The Intricacies of Soccer
  228. Persevere: Jesus will Come
  229. The Awe Beyond the Clutter
  230. Explore
  231. Poem
  232. Dont Pull Down the Canopy
  233. Blending in or Standing Out
  234. Where do you Stand?
  235. Fill me up
  236. Fireworks and Religion

Devotionals

  • Isaiah 9:2-4

    The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2)

    THE CHOICES WE MAKE

    EVERYDAY WE ARE CONFRONTED with decisions asking “What is more important: my convenience or the other person’s benefit?” The choices that we make not only reveal who we are but what we think about others.
    In this passage, the shadow of death hung over people because they turned from God and justice. They were desolate and burdened with the heavy yoke of their sin. God had a choice. He could have left them to their deserved misery. Instead He chose to bring light and to break their yoke. And not just that He freed them but, even more so, He brought gladness and rejoicing, increase and harvest.

    Still today, many people are groping in their own darkness by rejecting or ignoring God. This passage foretells God’s greatest choice which was giving Jesus Christ to free us from our sins. John 8:12 Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." No one has ever had more and greater choices than God. But when faced with allowing sinners to suffer their deserved fate or to, instead, be born into this world to die for their sins He chose the latter. We can trust God not just because of what He says, but even more so because of what He has chosen to do.

    While reading your Bible, write in a notebook each choice that God makes concerning you.

    Published Light from the Word, (December 2009—February 2010), Monday December 21

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  •         Isaiah 9:6-8

    For to us a child is born, to us a son is given (Isaiah 9:6a)

    TRUE VALUE

    IN 2005, THIEVES broke into a British museum and stole a modern sculpture whose value was $6,000,000. It was never recovered and it is feared that they melted it down for perhaps a few thousand dollars of scrap metal. They did not understand or appreciate its value. Today we each have that same challenge when faced with someone of even greater worth.
    This passage has perhaps the greatest set of paired words of anywhere in the Bible. “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,” “Prince of Peace” (“of” is not in the Hebrew). These describe someone who is caring and wise, all powerful, timeless, loving, and harmonious. This is one who is transcendent and majestic; who sits on the throne of Heaven surrounded by angels who continuously cry out in adoration and worship, “Holy, holy, holy.”

    Yet perhaps the most glorious and also confounding pair of words in this passage are “to us.” We slander God and rebel against Him. We are sinners who deserve the full and eternal wrath of God; a people who do no good and whose mouths are full of cursing and bitterness (Romans 3). And yet, the One who is the most magnificent was given “to us” who are most undeserving so that He might redeem, regenerate, and glorify. This He did not grudgingly but with great zeal and with great love.

    Write down every attribute and action of God that proclaims His majesty.

    Published Light from the Word, (December 2009—February 2010), Tuesday December 22

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  •         Luke 1:32-35

    "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:34)

    GOD’S POWER DESPITE THE DOUBT

    THROUGHOUT THE BIBLE there are people who had a reason or excuse as to why God could not use them. There were those who never started (the rich, young ruler in Matthew 19), those who gave up (Demas in 2 Timothy 4), and those who compromised (Abram with Hagar in Genesis 16). But then there were the ones who believed God and acted despite their own inabilities. Moses protested, “I have never been eloquent” (Ex. 4:10). Abraham questioned, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old?” (Genesis 17:17) And here in Luke, Mary asked, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

    Sometimes these reasons are legitimate: we have a limiting weakness or, as with Mary, the situation seems impossible. Sometimes they are not: we are simply lazy or do not want to be bothered. But in all situations, God provides all sufficiency. God gives us His promises because He knows that we are weak and afraid. In this passage God provided to Mary that which He promises to all of us: “the Holy Spirit” and “the power of the Most High.” Because Mary obeyed and acted there was a great result: God was true and faithful and the virgin bore “the holy one… the Son of God.” The weak gave birth to the Almighty and the doubter gave us the surest thing: a Savior.

    List excuses that keep you from doing God’s will and determine to obey instead.

    Published Light from the Word, (December 2009—February 2010), Wednesday December 23

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  •         John 1:1-3

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1)

    RELATIONSHIPS AND COMMUNICATION

    GOD CREATED US FOR RELATIONSHIPS. This is the predominant theme throughout the Bible from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. The effect of sin is that we are separated from God (Isaiah 59:2), whereas one of the greatest benefits of salvation is that God adopts us as part of His family (Eph. 1:5). When we repent, God forgives us of our sins so that fellowship might be restored with Him (1 John 1:9).

    We see the high premium that God assigns to our relationship to Him by the phrases that He uses. He refers to us as brothers and sisters, as sons and daughters. We are the bride of Christ. The Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father.” These are connections of emotional intimacy.

    A key ingredient to a successful relationship is communication. Interestingly, the very first title that God calls Himself in John’s Gospel is “the Word.” By using this He emphasizes how vital it is that we understand God’s words, thoughts, and desires. He, above all else, wants to communicate with us. He gave us the Bible so that we can sit with Him and know Him individually and with certainty. We do not have to rely on other people’s antidotes, experiences, and oral history. God wants to speak to us personally. He wants us to know His heart and His ways. And He wants to hear our prayers.

    Starting today, determine to never miss a day of reading the Bible or of prayer.

    Published Light from the Word, (December 2009—February 2010), Thursday December 24

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  •         John 1:14-18

    The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

    GOD DWELT WITH US

    HOW CAN I KNOW that someone really exists? I can see his name in a telephone book, but maybe that is just someone else with the same name. I can interview someone who claims to have spoken to him, but perhaps she is lying. However, if I actually meet and talk to this person then I will be convinced.

    God is unseen. How do we know that He really exists and cares about us? The first time when God dwelt (tabernacled) with His people was in Exodus 13:21. He led Israel in pillars of cloud and fire at the Red Sea. This was evidence to many of the invisible. Then in Exodus 40:34 God took up residence in the temple as the Shekinah glory. But because Israel turned from God, the Shekinah glory left the temple in 586 BC (Ezekiel 11:23) and for hundreds of years God was again invisible.

    Then in God’s perfect timing He chose once again to dwell among us. But this time instead of appearing as a “consuming fire” He came in “grace and truth.” Instead of appearing at a distance, He walked among us. Because God became human we can read His actual words, weep at His brutal crucifixion, and rejoice at His resurrection. Does God exist and does He care? He became flesh and we saw His glory. What greater proof do we need?

    On this celebration of God’s Incarnation, praise God for dwelling among us.

    Published Light from the Word, (December 2009—February 2010), Friday December 25

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  •         Matthew 1:18-25

    All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet (Matthew 1:22)

    BOW IN WONDER

    THE UNIVERSE IS ESTIMATED to have over 100 billion galaxies with each galaxy containing billions of stars. Yet the one who created all of this with a word became a seven pound helpless baby squirming in straw. This should fill us with awe.
    In becoming a man, God did not choose a family that was royalty, rich, or resourceful. He chose a simple and unknown but righteous family. We should marvel.

    When Joseph was afraid and humiliated by Mary’s pregnancy, God sent an angel to reassure him that this was, indeed, God’s holy plan. We should worship in amazement.

    God foretold the wondrous event of the Incarnation some 700 years before He fulfilled it. It is one of over 300 prophecies regarding the coming Messiah in the Old Testament all of which have been completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ. All doubts should melt away replaced by unshakeable confidence.

    The coming of Jesus Christ was not a fortunate coincidence. It was determined before time began and was perfected in God’s most exact time and place by His sovereign will. “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,” “Prince of Peace,” “the Word,” “The Light of the World,” “the Glory of the Lord” was born to us. Welcome to the world holy child. Welcome to our lives Lord Jesus. May our hearts bow in wonder.

    In quiet solitude, worship God in wonder and adoration.

    Published Light from the Word, (December 2009—February 2010), Saturday December 26

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  •         Isaiah 40:1-5

    Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain (Isaiah 40:4)

    SHAKING THE EARTH

    WE HAVE MANY MODERN ENGINEERING marvels. The Big Dig (Boston) took 16 years and cost $15 billion. The Channel Tunnel that connects the UK to France took six years and $7 billion. The world’s longest suspension bridge (Akashi Kaikyo Suspension Bridge) at four miles long took two million workers 10 years to build. These great feats that moved a lot of dirt and steel were created to bring people from one place to another more easily,

    God also wants to move us; however, not from one location to another but from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). To accomplish this, as this passage foreshadows, He had to be born as one of us and, in His sovereignty, He would allow no obstacle to stop Him. If necessary, He would have leveled every mountain and lifted up every valley to prepare the way for the Savior. No barrier would hinder His being born a child, growing and living among us, and then dying for our sins. This engineering project would have infinitely eclipsed anything that we could ever do.

    God also greatly desires to show us compassion and comfort. This spiritual journey is impossible for us; we need God to tear down every barrier to reunite us with Him. God can shake the entire world to accomplish His purposes.

    Remove any impediment in your heart to God’s salvation and grace.

    Published Light from the Word, (December 2009—February 2010), Sunday December 27

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  • Designed for Relationships

    BIBLE READING: Colossians 3:8-11

    Suppose that I were to take our minivan and swerve off of the paved highway and into some rugged woods. It would not be long before the chassis would be torn into pieces and the car clunk to a halt, now a broken-down wreck. Why so much damage?—because a minivan was not created to be driven over harsh terrain. It functions best when driven on paved roads as the engineers designed it.

    We are created in the image of God and thus we have been endowed with aspects of God’s nature such as wisdom, love, justice, holiness, mercy, and patience. A key aspect of God designing us similar to Himself is that we can have a personal and endless relationship with Him. That we have similar natures draws us to each other. We see this principle throughout creation: Lions form a pride, fish swim in schools, and ants live in colonies. Whereas all the rest of creation has only one type that they are similar to—their own species—we are unique because there are two types that we are similar to and, therefore, can form deep relationships with: other people (individually and in community) and God.

    When we lack any of these relationships we feel incomplete. When we try to fill any of these voids with something other than with what God intended then we can make a wreck of our lives. But when we delight ourselves in the Lord and with His people, then He will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4).

    SONG: The King of love my Shepherd is

    PRAYER SUGGESTION: Consider how being made in the image of God allows us the infinite privilege of intimately knowing the holy and almighty God.

    Published Fruit of the Vine, (July—September 2009), 91

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  • Our Relationship with God

    BIBLE READING: Genesis 1:26-31

    The Bible is not a book of rules; it is a book about relationships and primarily our relationship with God. In Genesis 1 right after man and woman were created we read an amazing sequence in verses 27 and 28, “… He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them...”: creation, blessing, and then immediately personal interaction.

    Then 1189 chapters later we come to the last quote in the Bible. Revelation 22:20 is from Jesus, “Yes, I am coming soon.” We see God’s promise of coming to be more intimate with us. And everywhere in between these two passages we continually read the premium that God places on relationships with us. He is our Father, we are adopted as sons and daughters, we are the bride of Christ.

    It is crucial that we read the Bible not just to learn about God but to know God. A fascinating example of this is Job. In Job 1:1 Job was “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” He had a true heart for God, but there was one thing that lacked. It was not until he had persevered through his terrible trials that he was then able to conclude, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:5). Job had made that transformation from knowledge to relationship.
    We are incomplete unless we are in relationship with God. May we have a deep and constant desire to be with God and to be in His presence where there is “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11 NASB).

    SONG: O Master let me walk with Thee

    PRAYER SUGGESTION: Heavenly Father, may I be diligent to develop that greatest of all relationships: between me and a loving God.

    Fruit of the Vine, (July—September 2009), 92

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  • Relationships with Individuals

    BIBLE READING: Genesis 2:15-23

    God designed us to have personal, caring relationships with other individuals. Studies have shown that people who lack social contacts are more depressed and stressed, feel more deprived, and even have more physical ailments.

    At the beginning of Creation everything around Adam was perfect. He walked and spoke with God. He was surrounded by friendly animals. He had unblemished health and plenty of food. But we read in Genesis 2:20 that Adam was incomplete, something was missing. Even Adam needed the company of another person. So God created Eve and brought her to him.

    God could completely fulfill all of our needs directly. When we need advice He could whisper in our ear infinite wisdom. When we have doubts He could point to Scriptures that would strengthen our foundation. God does meet all of our needs but usually it is through other people. We are conduits of God’s character. God pours His grace through us to someone that is hurting. We are the ones who deliver the Good News of salvation to those who are lost. And, likewise, when we are needy we can go to others.

    1 Corinthians 3:16 says, “Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?” A temple was not an isolated building maintained by only one person. It was a central, busy area and the primary place of God’s presence. Similarly, as temples, we should be where many people can come to experience God’s mercy, love, compassion, and forgiveness.

    SONG: Brethren, we have met to worship

    PRAYER SUGGESTION: God, if I ever doubt that my life is without meaning then remind me that I do not have only myself to offer to other people but that I can give them You through me.

    Fruit of the Vine, (July—September 2009), 93

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  • Relationships in Community

    BIBLE READING: Colossians 3:12-17

    On one of my shirts I noticed a single thread dangling from the shoulder. So I gave it a quick tug hoping that it would break off. Rather, it pulled all along the seam and created a gaping hole. The shirt was ruined. That one thread had a big impact.
    An interesting verse is Colossians 2:2 (NASB). It states that we should be “knit together in love.” Each thread in a cloth weaves itself over and under many other threads. Whereas a single piece of thread can be easily broken, once it is woven into a cloth they form something strong. This cloth can offer protection, comfort, and even make a statement. Each thread was designed to be part of something else.

    Likewise, each Christian is like a single thread. Apart from a good community of believers we are weaker, more easily confused, and tempted. Our struggles can be lonely and overwhelming.

    God designed us to be woven into a body of believers. Some people we are woven under. We support them with mercy, fellowship, and giving. Other people we are woven over. They support us with discipleship, concern, and prayer. Together we form a community that is strong enough to protect us from the lions that prowl about seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8). We are better equipped to encourage one another and to forgive each other. And as a community we can be a greater force to make a statement for what is right: we can preach the Good News of Freedom, heal the brokenhearted, and open the prison doors of the enslaved. What sews and binds us together is love.

    SONG: Blest be the tie that binds

    PRAYER SUGGESTION: God, may I always have a great desire to be with Your people: to serve, worship, and love.

    Fruit of the Vine, (July—September 2009), 94

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  • Relationships are Difficult

    BIBLE READING: Colossians 3:18-25

    Relationships are complex and difficult. They can be the cause of severe depression, terrible self-esteem, addictions, and voluntary isolation. But they can also be our greatest joy, satisfaction, purpose, and source of love.

    In a culture where only accomplishments are considered noteworthy, many strive for friendships that only serve their own goals and ambitions. Oftentimes only the powerful, popular and influential are sought out. People who have nothing to offer are easily discarded and ignored. Friendships that are difficult or developing too slowly are inconvenient. We want our relationships like frozen dinners—easy and satisfying.

    Relationships take work. There must be a willingness to give of yourself knowing that there is the possibly that what you give may be rejected and shattered. It requires believing the best of what another person says and when their best clearly falls short then humbly restoring them (Galatians 6:1).

    What Proverbs 14:4 (NASB) teaches is tremendously important: “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much increase comes by the strength of the ox.” Consider the manger as your life and the oxen as relationships. If you want a life that is clean and unencumbered then keep people out of it. Just as a manager without animals, your life will be quite tidy, but you will also be empty and not be what God created you for. When you bring people into your life you are going to have to clean up some messes, but much strength comes from having those people there.

    Let us use God’s abundant grace to develop deep and intimate relationships. The rewards are well worth it.

    SONG: Let us break bread together

    PRAYER SUGGESTION: God, give me the desire and power to follow Your example of pursuing close relationships.

    Fruit of the Vine, (July—September 2009), 95

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  • God Pursues us

    BIBLE READING: John 6:41-47

    God could have done just as well without any of us. He did not need to create us, but He did. Then we sinned in The Garden of Eden and caused a great separation between us and God (Isaiah 59:2). He could have left us to forever struggle in loneliness and pain. Yet His desire for an intimate relationship with us drove Him to be born of a virgin and become a man. But did He receive the adoration and gratitude that He deserved for such a glorious act? Rather, He was refused adequate quarters at birth, hunted as a newborn, anonymous throughout His childhood, vilified as a fraud, accused of being aligned with demons, rejected by His family and friends, denied, mocked, spit upon, and tried as a criminal. Was this enough to cause Him to give up on us? His response was to pay the highest cost by suffering on the cross the justice due to a thousand generations of sinful people. Then we killed His disciples and persecuted His church. His response was to open His arms in forgiveness and ask every person to come to Him. He gives each one of us the possibility of having a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe.

    The Bible is about a loving God who continually pursues a sinful and self-centered people so that He might embrace us as sons and daughters. May we, above all else, worship God with thankful hearts for His diligent pursuit of each one of us.

    SONG: O love that wilt not let me go

    PRAYER SUGGESTION: Thank you, God, that without Your drawing me to Yourself I would left in darkness and despair.

    Fruit of the Vine, (July—September 2009), 96

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  • How can we have a Relationship with God?

    BIBLE READING: Job 22:21-30

    We talk about having a relationship with God, but how do we have a relationship with someone who we do not see and who rarely, if at all, speaks to us in an audible voice?

        Two keys to a great relationship are communication and commitment. God--the greatest communicator ever--has written the world’s most complete autobiography in which we can read about His thoughts, desires, actions, motives, and interactions with other people. It covers thousands of years and involves hundreds of people. It is layered with depth and meaning. Everyday we can read the Bible and learn something new about God.

        But God did not merely leave us a book and then go away. He asks us to talk to Him through prayer. He asks to hear our thanksgiving, requests, confessions, concerns, and everything else. He is with us wherever we go (Matthew 28:20). He assures us in Hebrews 4:16 that we can always approach Him in confidence.

        Friends and even family may leave us, but God promises His eternal commitment. He assures us in Hebrews 13:5, “…Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” And in Isaiah 49:15 God illustrates His fidelity with the most extreme comparison, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” God’s commitment is eternal.

        The more we know God the more we will trust Him. Our interactions with God may not be as visible and immediate as with another person, but that does not mean that they are not as personal, intimate, and deep.

    SONG: O for a closer walk with God

    PRAYER SUGGESTION: May everyday of my life be spent in intimate communion with You through your word and in prayer.

    Fruit of the Vine, (July—September 2009), 97

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  • Our Greatest Need

    BIBLE READING: Psalm 73:23-28

    What is our greatest need? Someone may say “air” since without air we would be dead within minutes. That would be correct if our primary need was simply to stay alive and the only life we have is the one between birth and death. Another might answer “our health” because if we are in poor health then we can be miserable for our entire lives. But that is assuming that the quality of our health must dictate our outlook on life. Someone else may believe that it is “love” since without love our lives are empty. That answer is getting closer, but love is merely the byproduct of something deeper.

        Our greatest need is to have a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Only by this can we be assured of our place in Heaven. Only by this do our lives have eternal meaning. Only by this can we endure sufferings (Romans 8:18). And only by this can we come to know true love as from a Savior who gave His life for us (John 15:13). Our relationship with God affects everything.

    Even the quality of our relationships with other people will improve if we use God’s character as our example. We will be able to love more deeply if we experience God’s love. We will forgive most completely if we understand God’s forgiveness of our abundant sins. We will sacrifice for other people when we grasp the tremendous sacrifice that God has made for us.

    Our eternity, self-esteem, friendships, marriages, and attitudes are all influenced by our relationship with God. The stronger that is, the stronger all of these other areas will be in our lives.

    SONG: Great God of Wonders

    PRAYER SUGGESTION: O God, set my heart to desire You first and foremost.

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  • The First and Greatest Lie

    Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?”
    Genesis 3:1 (NASB)

    When people are going through difficulties I usually hear variations of “Why me?” such as “I’ve been good. Why is God holding back on me?” In Genesis 3:1 we find the first question ever asked in the Bible. It was by the Devil to Eve, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” What was Satan getting at; what was his lie? It was that God was withholding good from them. And thousands of years later this is still his best lie to us today. Despite all of the people that God has saved, despite all of the prayers that He has answered, despite all of His abundant blessings, and, most of all, despite the fact that He suffered and died on the cross, when we are in a trial our first words are usually, “Why is God withholding good from me?” We must learn to quickly recognize this as a lie of the Devil. God’s ways may not be what we expect but they are always for our best. If God cared enough to give you His Son then do you think that He would withhold lesser blessings?

    Bible Reading
    Genesis 3:1-11

    Prayer
    No matter how difficult the times, God, let me never forget that You do truly care.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf

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  • The Day of Small Things

    For who has despised the day of small things?
    Zechariah 4:10 (NASB)

    In one Bible story, a group of people worked on a great project. It required a tremendous amount of planning, resources, and hard work. The results were spectacular. Another story is about one anonymous person who did something that took a few minutes and very little money. Which was greater? The first was the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. The second, in Mark 12, was about a widow putting two small coins into the temple treasury. In the first, God Himself had to stop the work least the people became proud. For the widow’s offering Jesus used it as a timeless example of faith.

    Today’s media teaches us to admire the great and the spectacular. But what is the greater display of grace: the baseball player who slugs the game winning home run or the single parent who is struggling to run a household and pay the bills but still makes the time to teach her children to be godly? Is it the millionaire who gives thousands of dollars to charity or the person whose health is failing but still manages to go to church every week and bless other people? Small things done with God’s grace are always great.

    Greatness is not measured by the grandeur of the project but by obedience to God no matter how small the task.

    Bible Reading
    Genesis 11:1-9; Luke 21:1-3

    Prayer
    God, teach me to see that grace is everywhere; in the small things and in the large.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf

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  • Cleaning up

    Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy;
    and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.
    Leviticus 20:26 (NASB)

    Someone asked me to help him to move. When I arrived, I was overwhelmed by the mess. Not a mess created by his preparations to move—he had not even started—but a mess that was part of his everyday existence. I could have gotten mad and walked away telling him to call me when everything was in order but instead I said, “Let’s get started.”

    When we are born-again God does not expect us to have our lives in complete order or He walks away in disgust. Together we work on an area of sin and disrepair. Then He will go into another room, find another mess, and we will start working there also. Our lives have many rooms and each one has some mess in it. Every day there is a challenge to clean up yet another sin. But each time that we triumph over another sin we are becoming more like the character of God. God is not impressed by celebrity or great athleticism, but He will wholeheartedly support the person whose heart is becoming like His own.

    Bible reading
    Leviticus 20:1-8

    Prayer
    God, remind me that the only time that I will be finally finish packing is when I make my trip to Heaven.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf

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  • True Joy

    Thou wilt make known to me the path of life;
    In Thy presence is fulness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.
    Psalm 16:11 (NASB)

    I normally do not watch much TV but one local station was having a marathon of a show that I used to like. I spent my entire Friday evening watching episode after episode. At the end I was not a better person; I was not elated. I simply went to sleep. That weekend I was running our church’s booth at a festival. We gave away over 1,000 tracts, many Bibles, salvation tapes, children’s Bible books and more. I was up early, was on my feet all day, and got a bad sunburn. But when I went to bed I was rejoicing. My heart was filled with joy and I had a deep feeling of satisfaction.

    Is there any greater blessing and joy than to be serving God? What greater pleasure can there be than to make a positive eternal difference in the life of another person? To give healing to the wounded; to give meaning to the hopeless; to give direction to those adrift—this gives true satisfaction. His commandments are our blessings; His presence is our joy. It is a pitiable life that needs to find its entertainment from the world and misses the joy of God.

    Bible Reading
    Psalm 16:1-11

    Prayer
    Cause me, Lord, to always remember that Your commandments are never burdensome but are, indeed, the very joy of my heart.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf

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  • Chicken Noodle Soup

    “In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.”
    1 Timothy 4:6 (NASB)

    Probably like many people, when I eat a bowl of chicken noodle soup my first few spoonfuls are usually just the broth off of the top. Then I start getting to the noodles and bits of carrots. Eventually as I get closer to the bottom of the bowl I find the chunks of chicken.

    This is what reading the Bible is like. If we read quickly and skim the surface of every chapter and book we will get a lot of broth. It is nourishing and good but we will rarely discover just how amazingly fulfilling God’s Word really is. We must set aside the time to study it and to let the Holy Spirit feed us with words that directly meet the true needs of our soul. If we are struggling with a sin (anger, lust, envy) or have a need (loneliness, discouragement, anxiety) then do an in-depth study of that subject in the Bible. Or pick just one book and spend a year examining it. You will be amazed how nourishing that time will be.

    Bible Reading
    1 Timothy 4:4-9

    Prayer
    God, give me a spiritual hunger for the rich sustenance of Your word.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf, (January—April 2009), 23

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  • Living Portraits

    “…put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him”
    Colossians 3:10 (NASB)

    In many places around the world you can see representations that rulers have created for themselves. These may be statues in the center of squares or portraits on the sides of buildings. These are to remind the citizens who their leader is. They often depict the ruler in a heroic pose or smiling benevolently to demonstrate that he really cares about his people. In some countries these depictions are everywhere.

    But there is a King, Jesus Christ, who is the greatest ruler of all and yet we have no paintings of Him, no statues, not even rough sketches carved in stone. This is because, in a very real way, He created millions of living portraits of Himself. They are called Christians. We are the ones who reveal God’s face to the world. The love and character of Jesus is “painted” as all races, social classes, and nationalities. His portraits are in cafes and stores, walking down sidewalks and living next to neighbors.

    It can be said that there are really five Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and each Christian. And for many people the only Gospel that they will “read” is the last one. May we always be a faithful image of God’s light, holiness, and love.

    Bible reading
    Colossians 3:5-10

    Prayer
    May people see in me the character of God.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf, (January—April 2009), 43

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  • The Depths of God

    Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?
    Job 11:7 (NASB)

    For our wedding anniversary we went on a cruise. Sitting on the deck and looking out over the vastness of the water was wondrous. Then at one stop we went snorkeling in 20-foot water and saw small coral reefs and brightly colored fish. A month later we watched a documentary about the creatures that live near the bottom. They were amazing in their diversity and complexity.

    The surface of the ocean is vast and marvelous, but it is much easier to sit in a boat than to explore the riches of its depths. Too often we treat God the same way. We listen to sermons, maybe read an occasional devotional book but never take that personal leap to truly learn more. It takes dedication to go deeper into the knowledge of God. A novice diver does not go straight to the bottom on his first dive. He descends each time a little deeper. But each time the wonders are greater. God is infinite not just in His vastness but also in every detail. This should be our passion. Let us not be the ones who sit at the surface with everyone else; let us be the ones who dive. When we are in awe of the majesty of God it is then that we are closer to touching the bottom.

    Bible reading
    Job 11:7-9

    Prayer
    Give me a heart for the depths of God.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf, (January—April 2009)

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  • Simple Obedience

    But Naaman was furious and went away and said, “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and cure the leper.’”
    2 Kings 5:11 (NASB)

    Naaman who was the captain of a foreign army was also a leper. He heard that a prophet in Israel was able to cure leprosy, so he came in all his splendor and stood at the doorway of Elisha. The prophet told him to simply wash in the Jordan seven times and he would be healed. But Naaman was furious because he thought that something great should happen. Perhaps marvelous signs would appear in the sky and the ground would tremble. Then he would know that it was from God. But, instead, the solution was simple. Fortunately a servant had a clearer perspective and talked him into obeying.

    How often are we like that? We want divine guidance for something important and are looking for a sign but God says, “Read my word.” We are hurting and are expecting a magical touch but God says, “Pray and go to church.” And perhaps most fundamental of all, we are unsaved and wanting some undeniable and personal confirmation but God says, “Believe.”

    God does not need to do tricks to prove anything. We should obey what He says in the Bible simply because He is God.

    Bible reading
    2 Kings 5:1-14

    Prayer
    Teach me, God, to simply obey.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf, (January—April 2009)

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  • Hide or Speak?

    “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.”
    Isaiah 1:18 (NASB)

    When you sin what do you think is God’s initial response? Is it swift judgment—“Now I’m going to get him”? Is it another tally mark on the sin board with your name on it? Is God angry, chiding, disappointed? Is He shaking His finger? Did He turn His back on you? If you picked any of these then consider this—when you sin, God’s first desire is for discussion.

    What did God immediately do after the very first sin? He asked Adam, “Where are you?” When Cain’s sacrifice was rejected God asked, “Why are you angry?” After the first murder God asked, “Where is Abel your brother?” Throughout the Bible God does not cast immediate judgment upon His children when they sin. Instead He wants us to talk to Him about it. Why? So we can see the error of our action or thought and confess. So we can understand the implications of it and repent. And so we can grasp God’s forgiveness and be restored. When we sin we want to deny, to hide, to blame, or to cower. God wants to talk.

    Bible reading
    Isaiah 1:18-20

    Prayer
    God, may coming to You be my first response to sin.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf, (January—April 2009)

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  • What Creates Success?

    The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise
    Psalm 51:17 (NASB)

    Every year I run a booth for our church at a county fair. We give away thousands of tracts and New Testaments. Some days we feel like a lot was accomplished whereas other days seem unrewarding. But God does not call us to be successful; He calls us to be humble and faithful.

    To whom does God look? To the busiest, the most public, the most assertive? God will look “to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2). Activities will always produce some kind of results; humility will always produce supernatural results. The humble one may be the busiest, the most public, or the most assertive but it is their relationship with God that produces the fruit. The glory is always the Lord’s.

    We can have great techniques on evangelism, a top notch program on discipleship, and a sincere, zealous heart, but if we do not know how to call upon God, if we do not know Him who “only doest wondrous things,” (Psalm 72:18) then who will bless our efforts? Who will supply the power? A ministry that is supported by the Almighty God will be a display of His glory and love. For that He asks for prayer, humility, and faithfulness. Then He can cause the growth as He pleases.

    Bible reading
    Psalm 51:14-17

    Prayer
    Teach me to pray and depend on You.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf, (January—April 2009)

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  • Compassion instead of Contempt

    And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.
    Matthew 18:27 (NASB)

    When someone offends or hurts me I usually think poorly of that person. Then I think not of his needs or qualities but what he did to me. And the longer my unforgiveness lasts the larger and more horrible his sin becomes. The problem is that I have made that one sin become greater than every other area of his life. I lose sight of who that person really is.

    When someone hurts us we can too easily make him out to be a monster in order to justify our own bitterness and bad attitude. If he has gossiped about us then it is as if he does nothing else in his life except to tell everyone he meets wicked lies about us.

    Yes, sin needs to be reproved so that the person can walk in God’s fellowship again. But we also need to learn to look beyond the sin and see the person again. We need to see someone who has fears and struggles; someone who is weak and needy. It is then that we, too, will be moved with compassion. We will see the person that God loves and died for. And then we will forgive.

    Bible reading
    Matthew 18:21-27

    Prayer
    God, may my compassion always be greater than my unforgiveness.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf, (January—April 2009)

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  • The Incarnation: God touching us

    And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, "Arise, and do not be afraid."
    Matthew 17:7 (NASB)

    Just over 2,000 years ago God became human flesh and walked in our midst as a teacher, leader, and friend. But why the incarnation as the starting point? Why did He not first appear as a great prophet? It may be because by becoming one of us in our most vulnerable state God gave us a sense of belonging. We are not left alone. He is not a distant God. He is not a God who created everything and then walked away to do more important things. Instead, by being among us, He proved that His attention is on us and that He cares deeply about each one of us.

    Everything about us is designed by God for relationships. From the second we are born we need other people to feed and clothe us. And when we are adults we have desires to feel needed, for intimacy, and to connect with others. And the greatest relationship that God has put into our hearts is to be with Him. He refers to us as brothers and sisters, as sons and daughters. We are the bride of Christ. He asks us to call Him Father. The incarnation was God connecting with us and giving us the greatest relationship of all.

    Bible reading
    Matthew 1:18-25

    Prayer
    Thank you, God, that we belong to You.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf, (January—April 2009)

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  • Content but not satisfied

    “Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”
    Philippians 4:11 (NASB)

    I was 43 when I got married for the first time. Was I glad that it took that long? No. But I had good friends and family and was involved in ministry. I was laid off three jobs in a row and was unemployed for long periods of time. Did the lack of income hurt? Yes. But in my free time I was able to serve God more abundantly. Content but not satisfied. Contentment comes from knowing that God is faithful and in control. It rests in the eternal, in the unseen. We can always be content.

    Satisfaction comes from a job well done in the temporal and visible. Though we should be satisfied with individual accomplishments, God does not want us to be permanently satisfied because we are never done. We will always have our own sin and are surrounded by the lost, the abused, and the poor. There is much to do inwardly and outwardly.

    We may hurdle from crisis to crisis, we may not like our finances or our marital status, but always present is that soothing contentment of God’s presence. It is like sitting at a Mozart Symphony. We may be fretting over life’s worries but at any time we can refocus on the music and be at peace.

    Bible reading
    Philippians 4:10-13

    Prayer
    May I stand on the eternal and with my hands fix the temporal.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf, (January—April 2009)

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  • The Curse of Thorns

    Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you…
    Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on His head…
    Genesis 3:17b – 18a, John 19:1 - 2a

    In the beginning God created a perfect world but we sinned and, as a result, the world was cursed. Pain and sorrow entered and death became the rule. One result was that the ground became difficult to work with thorns entangling our feet and cutting our skin. Every time a thorn caught someone’s flesh and blood trickled out it was a reminder of how we had sinned.

    This sin caused a separation between God and us. We could not defeat this curse on our own. So into this doomed world stepped the holy and righteous Creator. He united us by becoming the curse and fulfilling its requirement for punishment. To this end He was whipped and beaten and then had a crown of thorns placed on His head and beaten into His brow as the thorns, a symbol of sin, cut into His flesh and blood flowed out. He took upon Himself our curse so that we might have restored life with Him.

    Bible reading
    John 19:1-8

    Prayer
    Thank you, God, for becoming my curse so that I might be forgiven.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf, (January—April 2009)

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  • Choose your Company Well

    “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
    Proverbs 13:20 (NASB)

    There was a story in the newspaper about a boy who grew up in a good family. He always got excellent grades, never got into trouble, and was in youth ministry. But then in high school he fell in with a bad crowd. He started doing drugs, became rebellious and then was found dead.

    You will become like those whom you spend the most time with; those whom you let become a part of your life. If you spend time with vulgar, crass people then you will become vulgar and crass. If you spend every evening watching TV then you will become like TV characters; quick with the one-liner but thin of character and unable to develop true relationships. And if you are always alone then you will never change because you will only become more like yourself.

    But, if you spend time with God, if you get to know Him, and understand His ways and His motives then you will become more like God. You will develop His character and think more like Him. To become godly you must spend time with God. Choose well whom you spend your time with because it will shape your life forever.

    Bible reading
    Proverbs 13:18-21
    Prayer
    God, give me the wisdom to choose right companions

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf, (January—April 2009)

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  • Our Unchanging Rock

    For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.
    Malachi 3:6 (NASB)

    When I was growing up there was an abandoned sandpit that we made into an obstacle course with ropes, ladders, and homemade bridges. At one spot, you had to crawl backwards through a drainpipe that ended at an overhang and then blindly step out onto a ladder. One day, the ladder was missing and I stepped onto air. I fell about ten feet and landed on my back gasping for breath. That sandpit is now a grocery store and I have grown much older. Everything changes and sometimes the things that we count on are gone.

    Yet within this constant variation there is One who never changes and that is God. Nothing can change God because it is He who controls and holds all things together. He cannot change Himself because in all ways He is perfect and in complete harmony. Because God does not change we can be secure knowing that His attitude is always the same loving faithfulness towards us. His acceptance of us does not vary since it is not based on our moods but on His immutability. To have an intimate relationship with us God had but two options: that He degrade Himself to meet us or to glorify us to meet Him. Because He cannot change He changed us. We truly have a solid, unchanging Rock on which to stand.

    Bible reading
    Malachi 3:1-6

    Prayer
    Thank You for being my unwavering rock.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf, (January—April 2009)

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  • Fire and Salvation

    “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
    which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
    Ephesians 2:10 (NASB)

    On a cold winter night I would pile some wood in the fireplace and surround it with crumpled paper. Then I would light the paper and turn off the living room light. Eventually the wood will be in flames and the room will be lit up and warm. There have been times, though, that the paper would burn for a few seconds and then go out. The logs would still appear dark and cold. Since there was no heat, smoke, or light I would figure that the wood was not on fire and so would try again.

    Just as we can tell when a log is on fire by the heat and light that it produces so salvation leads to righteous deeds. Salvation is more than being handed a ticket to Heaven; it is a life changing experience. Just as some logs burst into flames instantly whereas others smolder before catching on so Christians may also begin their walks differently. But if that person remains dark and cool then there should be a question of whether or not that spark of salvation really took place. A life touched by God should be apparent to all of those around it.

    Bible reading
    Ephesians 2:8-10

    Prayer
    God, may I always burn bright for Your glory.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf, (January—April 2009)

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  • Not Just Fight or Flight

    “For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love,
    because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.”
    Philemon 1:7 (NASB)

    The two common options usually presented for when a person is put under stress is “fight or flight”—either attack the adversary or run. Yet the Christian has two additional and much better choices. The first is given in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” When we are overwhelmed we have a God who wants to hear what is happening and who can do something about it. The Bible’s solution to anxiety and to all other difficulties is prayer, prayer, and more prayer.

    Then God gives us yet another refuge and that is the church. In there we can find people who can encourage us, support us, and comfort us. It is where we can find godly counsel, regroup, and go out stronger than before.

    The world either attacks or hides. However, the Christian can rest in a loving God and be embraced by His people. We are never alone. What a wonderful assurance!

    Bible reading
    Philemon 1:4-9

    Prayer
    When I feel stressed, God, let me run to You and to Your people.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf, (January—April 2009)

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  • A Solid Foundation

    For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
    1 Corinthians 3:11 (NASB)

    In my area there are many wetlands where the soil is loose. Whenever there is a storm many of the trees growing there fall over. They do not crack at the trunk, rather, their roots pull up out of the ground and so you can see the entire tree including the bottom of its roots lying on its side. As you head north where the ground is firmer there are no fallen trees because they are more securely anchored.

    We, as Christians, can choose which type of soil we are in. Many of us are easily overcome by doubts, confusion, or temptation. We think, “God doesn’t love me” at the slightest inconvenience. We are easily toppled over. Other Christians rejoice in even the hardest trials.

    What is our foundation? We cannot get a more solid and trustworthy foundation than God. Our health may fail, our relationships may break, our career may be lost, but Jesus Christ will never fail us. The heart of Christianity is that we can have a personal relationship with God that can develop and grow. The more we read our Bible, go to church, pray, and worship the firmer our foundation will be and as our roots sink deeper into God the more stable and secure we will be as a person.

    Bible reading
    1 Corinthians 3:11-15

    Prayer
    God, sink my roots deep into You.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf, (January—April 2009)

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  • Godliness through example

    A slave will not be instructed by words alone; for though he understands, there will be no response.
    Proverbs 29:19 (NASB)

    I cannot ski, but one winter a friend wanted to take me skiing. So I bought a book on the subject. I envisioned each technique until I felt comfortable that I understood it. Then on that day I was not exactly confident but I was feeling assured. So I told him, “I know how to do this.” Needless to say, I went down the slope sliding on my side with my skis and poles trailing ominously. Ultimately, I had to watch him and let him teach me.

    We are not instructed by words alone. What we need in our own lives, we must first learn from God. The Lord does not command us to do something which He has not already accomplished Himself. He can tell us to “reach the world with the gospel” because He has already died for the world. He can command us to “rejoice always” because for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame. The Lord does not expect us to repent of and resist any sin which He has not already completely defeated and triumphed over at the cross. We can forgive because He has forgiven us. We love because He first loved us. He is the example set before us; we are not to compromise to anything lower.

    Bible reading
    John 13:5-15

    Prayer
    Give me a heart, God, to know You and to follow You.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf, (January—April 2009)

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  • Release God

    Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
    Psalm 37:3 (NASB)

    An ex-pastor told a story where he was sitting on his sofa with his healthy daughter on his lap. There was a story on TV about starving children in another country and he thought, “If You are a loving God then why do You allow this?” And he lost his faith.

    Life is not fair and anyone of us can recount stories, perhaps even in our own lives, of undeserved tragedy. And how often do these cruelties cause us to blame God? After all, He can do anything so why did He not stop this one or at least alleviate the suffering once it did happen? But in many ways, He has. Jesus came not to be served but to serve and we as Christians—“little Christs”—have the same calling. He has created us as an army with many resources: time, money, abilities, food, possessions, etc. Most of the poor, oppressed, and defeated are outside of the church and that is where we need to go. We need to release God into soup kitchens, missionary trips, hospital visits, orphanages, and nursing homes. We can fill boxes for the needy or donate to good Christian charities. We blame God for miseries but we keep him bound up when we do nothing. The pastor on his couch said, “Where is God” and the answer is “in you. When will you let Him out?”

    Bible reading
    Psalm 37:1-6

    Prayer
    God, make me the resource to fill that need.

    Published Daily Devotions for the Deaf, (January—April 2009)

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  • Perseverance

    Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.
    Psalm 27:14 (NASB)

    Abraham was told that he would be the father of a great nation, but his wife, Sarah, was barren. Joseph had a vision that he would be a great leader, but he was sold into slavery in Egypt. Moses was told to lead the Hebrews out of bondage, but Moses himself was driven out of Egypt.

    God, as always, was faithful and twenty-five years later Abraham and Sarah had a son, Isaac, who became the father of a great nation. Thirteen years later, Joseph was a ruler in Egypt. And forty years later, Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. None of them quit.

    We should persevere because God is not so much interested in making us comfortable as He is in making us joyful and more like Himself. Times of despair and discouragement can build in us the character of Jesus Christ. We learn patience as we wait for God’s timing. We learn faith as we trust God for what He knows to be best. We learn meekness as we put aside our personal desires. We learn self-control as we try not to run ahead of God. Perseverance is hard, but it forces us to focus not on results but, rather, on God.

    Bible reading
    Psalm 27:1-14

    Prayer
    Teach me, God, to wait for Your timing and to become more like You in the meantime.

    Accepted for publication Daily Devotions for the Deaf

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  • Prepare to Give

    Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap.
    Luke 6:38 (NASB)

    In my yard is a birdbath that collects rainwater. I never change the water and, as a result, the bottom is dirty and slimy. I also have a small fountain with a leaf-shaped bowl at the top that has a spout from which the water flows into a larger basin. This bowl is always clean and the water stays fresh and clear.

    We want blessings that will run over and fill our laps. But notice that the first word of this verse is “give.” Many times God wants to bless us abundantly but we are unable to receive it because we are still hoarding His previous blessings. Sometimes God has to prepare us before we can receive His gifts. But this preparation may not be for us to be able to receive them as much as to prepare us so that we will be able to give even more once we receive them. I could have simply filled the lower basin of my fountain and turned off the pump, but the beauty comes from watching the water circulate from one bowl to the next. The vessel most able to receive fresh water is the one that is most willing to pour out what it already has.

    Bible reading
    Luke 6:27-38

    Prayer
    Let me be a vessel that continually pours out God’s blessings to others.

    Accepted for publication Daily Devotions for the Deaf

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  • Nothing is Impossible

    And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.
    Luke 1:36-37 (NASB)

    “For nothing will be impossible with God.” We often associate that phrase with stupendous events. We use it when talking about preaching the Gospel to vast multitudes and seeing many saved. We quote it for a mighty healing or for getting Bibles into a closed country. But the context is about trusting God when all hope has been dashed. It is about believing that God is sovereign and can do what He wants. It is knowing that God is faithful and in the right time He will accomplish His purposes.

    A hope in our lives may have shriveled up and we are wondering where God is and why He has not given us strength or comfort. We may feel alone and abandoned. But that is never true. God is always with us and He always cares and when the time is right, He will accomplish a great thing in our lives. It may not be when we expect it and it may not be quite what we expected. But because God’s lovingkindness never ceases this much is guaranteed: it will be better. God’s blessings will always be better than our expectations.

    Bible reading
    Luke 1:26-38

    Prayer
    God, may I constantly trust in Your faithfulness.

    Accepted for publication Daily Devotions for the Deaf

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  • Prospering in Rough Places

    “Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease.”
    Jeremiah 29:5-6 (NASB)

    One of the most devastating times in Israel’s history was the Babylonian captivity in 597 BC. Thousands were forcibly taken from their homes and marched to a foreign country where they became slaves. Into this crisis stepped a prophet named Jeremiah who gave them a message from God. Was this message for them to stop everything and wait for things to get better? Did He tell them to be angry, to complain to every person that they could find, or to just give up? Rather, He told them to, “build, live, plant, eat, grow, and increase.”

    All too often when our lives seem to fall off of a cliff we want to lay there and feel sorry for ourselves and get others to feel sorry for us and see how much we are hurting. But God wants us to use whatever circumstances we are in to grow and prosper. We can allow circumstances to crush us or to use circumstances to shape us into the character of God.

    Bible reading
    Jeremiah 29:1-7

    Prayer
    Teach me, God, to use all circumstances as a lever to become more like Yourself.

    Accepted for publication Daily Devotions for the Deaf

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  • Give Yourself to Others

    Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
    Isaiah 58:7-8 (NASB)

    Life can be difficult and sometimes we can feel like we are living in the shadows. It is when we turn inwards and focus our eyes and thoughts on ourselves that we feel hopeless and overwhelmed. But of course that is the result because we do not have the power to overcome our greatest struggles and so we feel hopeless.

    It is when we turn to God that He comes like the sun cleaving through the dark clouds. This passage says that part of the solution is to meet the needs of other people. We may still have struggles, but there is hope that recovery will come. That might be emotional healing from something deep and traumatic or it may be forgiveness for the ravages of our own sins. There should be no defeated people in the kingdom of God. Give yourself to others and God will give Himself to you.

    Bible reading
    Isaiah 58:6-12

    Prayer
    Teach me to give myself to the needs of others and trust You for hope and healing and guidance.

    Accepted for publication Daily Devotions for the Deaf

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  • Do what is Right

    Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure, and washed my hands in innocence; for I have been stricken all day long, and chastened every morning.
    Psalm 73:13-14 (NASB)

    In the first twelve verses of Psalm 73, Asaph complains about how the wicked get all of the breaks. They are prosperous and healthy. They do not have the same problems and troubles that others do. They have such abundance that they do not know what to do with it all. In contrast, Asaph tried to do what was right and yet it got him nowhere. While the wicked were enjoying life he was plagued and punished (verse 14).

    Is there anybody who has not had those thoughts at one time or another? It seems as though life is not fair and we are tempted to think, “Why bother? Everyone else is cheating and they’re getting away with it. Why should I continue struggling to do what is right and get nowhere?” But the reality is that there is a just God who will reward good and judge evil. Do what is right and God will never forget to bless you. It is far better to have little yet dwell in God’s presence and pleasure then to have abundance and be forsaken by Him.

    Bible Reading
    Psalm 73

    Prayer
    God, when I am tempted to envy the wicked and desire success no matter what the means please correct me and lead onto the path of righteous.

    Accepted for publication Daily Devotions for the Deaf

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  • God’s Beautiful Treasure

    I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well.
    Psalm 139:14 (NASB)

    My father was a nature buff and when I was child we would walk through the woods and he would identify what tree a stick was from just by examining the bark and other characteristics. When I was in the Boy Scouts I made a vase for my father and all around it I pushed little sticks into the clay. It was truly one of the ugliest vases ever created. But when I gave it to him he treasured it with great joy and it is still displayed prominently.

    We may not like how we look or certain aspects of what we are but we must realize that when God made us He fashioned us into a wonderful creation in which He finds great joy. He created us the way that we are because that is the best way for us to serve Him. We are more than a static photograph that shows nothing more than our outward appearance. We can radiate God’s joy, love, grace, and mercy and, when we do, these will be the things that people will remember about us. Our beauty to God is what is in our hearts and not in what covers them.

    Bible reading
    Psalm 139:13-16

    Prayer
    Let me realize, God, that my greatest beauty is to shine Your love and grace out through me.

    Accepted for publication Daily Devotions for the Deaf

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  • Go Forward

    Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.”
    Exodus 14:15 (NASB)

    The children of Israel were feeling trapped. Ahead of them was the Red Sea; behind them was the Egyptian army that wanted to take them back to Egypt as slaves or slaughter those who resisted. To Israel they seemed to have only three choices: drowning, enslavement, or death. Sometimes in our own lives circumstances seem to give us only three choices: bleak, bleaker, and bleakest. In verses 13-14 Moses proclaimed his solution, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today… The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.”

    When we are in a terrible crisis oftentimes we want to stop trying and let God take control. But notice God’s response in verse 15. Many times when we want to stop, step aside, and let God take care of everything He wants us to “go forward.” We want easy, but God wants effort. Maybe we think that we are stepping aside and “getting out of God’s way” but, instead, God wants us to “go forward” with His strength. Our action coupled with God’s grace can produce astonishing results.

    Bible reading
    Exodus 14:8-16

    Prayer
    Dear God, when I am feeling trapped and want to give up please give me the grace to go forward.

    Accepted for publication Daily Devotions for the Deaf

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  • Gratitude

    But Hezekiah gave no return for the benefit he received, because his heart was proud; therefore wrath came on him and on Judah and Jerusalem.
    2 Chronicles 32:25 (NASB)

    Hezekiah was attacked by a great army, but God destroyed his enemies and delivered him. So Hezekiah became famous and many gifts were given to him by other rulers. Then he became sick unto death and asked God for healing and God answered his prayer. But instead of thanking God, he became proud and was a braggart. He showed everyone how wealthy he was and became more interested in his success then in being grateful for what God had given to him.

    Every good thing that we have is a gift from God. This may include our house, car, job, church, family, and friends. But many times we think that we have these things because we were smart or talented.

    God does not ask us for great gifts in return for His blessings. What He wants is our gratitude. When we succeed, the proud heart shows off and proclaims its cleverness; the humble heart lifts its praise to God knowing that it was only by His grace that we can do or have anything at all. “Always giving thanks for all things” (Eph. 5:20) is not merely a command but should be a lifestyle.

    Bible reading
    2 Chronicles 32:20-25

    Prayer
    May I offer to God a heart of continual thanks for all that He has given to me.

    Accepted for publication Daily Devotions for the Deaf

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  • Cotton Candy

    “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.”
    Isaiah 55:2 (NASB)

    Whenever I go to a carnival I always get some cotton candy. It is colorful and tastes sweet but it is quickly gone and provides no nourishment, no lasting sustenance. Sin is a lot like that. It is pleasing at first, but ultimately, it will never satisfy. And what is worse is that it keeps us from God’s blessings.

    Imagine that God has placed before you a huge table full of the most wonderful food. Behind you is a small, creaky table but on it is the most tempting cotton candy that you have ever seen. You have a choice but you cannot have both. When you sin you do not experience God’s blessings because you have turned your back on His table to eat the cotton candy that the world has to offer. God’s feast is still there for the taking; you just have to turn around. That is called repentance. It is to turn from your sin to God’s goodness and blessings, which are always there for you in abundance.

    Prayer
    Teach me, God, that You are my fortress, not alcohol or drugs; that You are my rock, not popularity or money; and that You are my hope, not power or retirement.

    Published Penned from the Heart, (2010), August 12

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  • Keep Me with Your People

    And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.
    Hebrews 10:24-25 (NASB)

    Last night I had a fire blazing in the fireplace. When I went upstairs there were three logs burning with a glowing fervor. Thirty minutes later I came back and saw that one of the logs had rolled off of the grating and was by itself. The other two logs were still together and flames were dancing joyfully all over them. But this one log had turned dark and provided no warm or light.

    Sometimes when we are struggling or going through a trial we become despondent and want to be left alone. Often the first thing that we give up is going to church. This is a big mistake. The times in my life when I least felt like going to church because of discouragement I forced myself and found them to be the best services ever. God will use others to warm us, to give us light, and to support us. When we sulk off by ourselves we will only become cold and dark and lonely.

    Prayer
    Keep me always longing for the presence of Your people, God, and draw me back when I am tempted to go it alone.

    Thought
    Only when we surround ourselves with other Christians will we burn with warmth and fervency.

    Published The Upper Room, 70, 6 (January – February 2005), 34

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  • God is Watching

    “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, watching the evil and the good.”
    Proverbs 15:3 (NASB)

    We have a dog and a cat that live amicably together. However, the dog always wants to eat the cat’s food even though he knows that he should not. So when no one is in the room he will pick up the cat’s small bowl in his mouth, carry it into the next room, put it down, and eat the food. If he is caught while carrying the bowl he will drop it and run.

    How many times do we take our sin to some isolated place thinking that no one will catch us? Jonah tried to escape God on a ship, Achan hide stolen treasures, and the wicked say, “The Lord does not see” (Psalm 94:7). We may close the door when we are on the internet or travel far from home expecting that no one will recognize us. But we forget that God is always watching. He sees our actions as clearly as if He was standing in the room with us and knows our thoughts as though we were speaking them out loud. If we would believe this then how much more ashamed would we be to sin? When we are tempted we should look over our shoulder, in a manner of speaking, and say, “Don’t worry, God, I’m not going to do it.” Then we will realize the joy that brings to Him and, consequently, the joy that victory brings to us.

    Prayer
    Let me always be aware of Your presence that I might be fearful to sin.

    Published Mustard Seed Ministries. 23 Feb. 2009. <www.mustardseedministries.org>.

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  • Let’s Celebrate!

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

    I read in the newspaper about a reclusive person who lived in a rundown house that was full of junk and piles of yellowed newspapers. It turned out that they had a huge amount of money in a bank account. He had so much money but used little of it. We tend to scoff at these type of people and think of them as foolish.

    Too often Christians can be like that stingy, rich person; not because we have hoarded money but because we have held back something even more valuable, God has given us so much and yet we can often lead frustrated lives full of complaining and trying to “one down” the next person. Sometimes we think that the most spiritual Christian is the one who is the most dour and serious. Many of us look like we are posing for the cover of the book of Lamentations. Yet in the Bible the words “rejoice,” “glad,” “happy,” “celebrate,” and “joy” appear 624 times. God wants us to be full of life, to glow and celebrate with His joy, and to be the type of people that others will be drawn to and want to be like. We have the blessings of God—we should act like it! Unlike giving away money which can be depleted, we can never give away enough joy that we will ever run out.

    Prayer
    God, teach me to focus on Your blessings that I might flow with Your joy.

    Accepted for publication Mustard Seed Ministries

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  • Redeeming Life’s Frustrations

    With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.
    Ephesians 6:18 (NASB)

    Like a lot of drivers, I can get frustrated if I keep catching red lights. I want to get where I am going and they only slow me down. And it especially makes me crazy if I get too many of them in a row. Then I was thinking about how I might use red lights for God’s glory instead of a source of frustration. Since each red light lasts at least 30 seconds that gives me an opportunity to pray for someone. What might have been a particularly annoying trip now means that more people will get prayed for.

    We can too easily rush through life wanting to get to where we are going and accomplish what we want to do. In all of that business we can forget to pray. Martin Luther claimed that when he had an especially busy day ahead of him he would get up even earlier so that he could spend more time in prayer. Life is full of greater frustrations than red lights. We need to learn to redeem those and use them as reminders to pray or as other means to obey God.

    Prayer
    Remind me throughout the day to look to You, God, and not get caught up in my business.

    Accepted for publication Mustard Seed Ministries

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  • The Small Things

    But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
    1 Corinthians 15:10 (NASB)

    A quarterback threw the winning touchdown in a game and during the interview afterwards he thanked God for giving him the grace to do that. As a Christian, my heart always leaps for joy when a Christian champion performs a great act of athleticism and then glorifies God. It shows how God’s grace can accomplish much.

    But what about the single parent who has to go to work, pay the bills, run the household, and still teaches her children to be godly? What about the person whose health is failing but who still goes to church and blesses people? What about the person born into poverty and abuse but grows up to be a minister or runs a soup kitchen? These are also all examples of how God’s grace can accomplish much. These are not the people on TV but are the people around us. They are our true inspirations. Most of us will never be a Christian celebrity but by His grace even those of us whose lives are more mundane we can still be a tremendous blessing to others. Let us be content to be blessings where God has placed us and not yearn for those fleeting moments of greatness.

    Prayer
    May I use Your grace to be faithful in the small things and so glorify You.

    Accepted for publication Mustard Seed Ministries

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  • The Only Way

    Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.
    John 14:6 (NASB)

    I bought a prefabricated shed that needed to be assembled. No instructions were included so I called the company. They told me to put it together any way that I wanted, it did not make any difference. I got on a plane for Los Angeles and the pilot said that he was going to go whichever way the wind was blowing, it did not make any difference. I went to buy baby food for a six-month old and the store manager told me to just give her whatever I had laying around in the refrigerator, it did not make any difference.

    In all of these cases we would be incredulous. Of course it makes a difference. You just do not screw boards together and hope that a shed comes out. You do not just fly wherever you feel like and expect that you will wind up at the correct destination and you just cannot feed a six-month old anything you want. Yet that is the way that many people approach religion. “All ways lead to God,” so they say. But the truth is that salvation can only come through Jesus Christ. All religions are not the same. Forgiveness of sins can only come from a Savior who died for those sins and then rose again. In life we will accomplish nothing if we are careless; we should we be even more careful to follow God’s only instructions to eternal life.

    Prayer
    Let me never become complacent or deceived and think that others can make it to Heaven apart from knowing Jesus Christ.

    Accepted for publication Mustard Seed Ministries

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  • Faith that Remembers

    They quickly forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel Psalm 106:13 (NASB)

    What if God miraculously provided you with all of your food and drink, your clothes never wore out, and if anyone annoyed you they soon transferred to another department or moved out of the neighborhood? And then God promised that your future would be filled with wonderful abundance. You would think that you would sneer at any temptation, persevere through any hardship, and always stay faithful to God.

    This was essentially what Israel experienced in the Exodus. So what was their response? They complained that the food was not good enough and that the leadership was getting all of the perks. They rebelled and created a golden calf and danced around it like it was their god. Why? Their faith lacked endurance. They judged God on their current situation and if it was not to their liking then they would yell, “Let’s go back.” Their faith had short-term memory; it was based only on how well the current circumstances were going.

    Out of around 2.5 million people only two men proved to reverence and trust God: Joshua and Caleb. The essence of their report was in Numbers 14:9, “… the Lord is with us; do not fear…” Too many of us are like the 2.5 million. We are like the child who screams “You don’t love me” because she did not get a pony for Christmas. God wants us, instead, to be like Joshua and Caleb. They remembered how good God is. Faith endures when it remembers.

    God, when I am pressed in on every side may I recall your goodness to me.

    Accepted for publication Mustard Seed Ministries

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  • Do not fear!

    Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (NASB)

    One time the opportunity was right for me to share the Gospel with my neighbor but because I did not want to be rejected I did not. Another time some co-workers were speaking badly about a person who was not there and I wanted to defend the person but because I did not want to appear as being self-righteous I remained silent. Many times in life I make decisions based not the Bible or on righteousness but to avoid pain or humiliation. I allow fear to make my choices.

    God knows how easily we can tremble, how vulnerable we are. Many of the Bible’s greatest heroes needed reassurance. These were people who would eventually stand against oppression and change the world; yet at first their hearts were faint and their faith was weak. What were the first words that God spoke to Abraham, Hagar, Isaac, Gideon, Daniel, and Mary? It was “Do not fear.” He had to first quiet their fears. Then they were able to take action relying on God’s promises and power.

    When we are faced with a choice of obedience to God or yielding to fear let us also be strengthened by God’s words to us, “Do not fear.” As 2 Timothy 1:7 reassures, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” Conquer fear with God’s promises

    When I am weak may I turn to Your Holy Spirit for grace and power.

    Published MustardSeed Ministries, 24 Aug. 2009. <www.mustardseedministries.org>.

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  • Waiting in the Silences

    When therefore He heard that he was sick, He stayed then two days longer in the place where He was. John 11:6 (NASB)

    Martha and Mary were sisters whose brother Lazarus was deathly sick. So they did the right thing and sent for Jesus. But Jesus waited. They did everything that they should have. Did Jesus immediately reward their trust in Him and remedy the current crisis? No. In fact, He waited until the situation got to the point where it appeared beyond help, to where Lazarus died. Were Martha and Mary frustrated? Were they confused with God’s dealings? I am sure they were. But God knew the outcome. God deliberately let the situation become bleaker.

    Are there times in our lives when we have been hammered and are reeling and we make the correct choice, which is to call upon God, and He does not do what we want? And things are getting worse and we are praying but there is no change or even answer?

    God delayed with Martha and Mary because He was not merely content to heal a sick man as much as He wanted to raise a dead man. God will oftentimes be silent in our darkest moments, but often that is because He has a greater desire than to merely make us comfortable.

    Do we trust God because of what He does for us or because of who He is? Do we love God because of His responses or because of His promises? We must trust God even in the silences.

    Teach me to not to desire comfort but to desire God’s will.

    Accepted for publication Mustard Seed Ministries

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  • Grace to do what is Right

    “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying…”
    Jonah 3:1 (NASB)

    Here is the case of Jonah, the disobedient prophet. God told him to go to Nineveh, a very wicked city, and preach a message of repentance and salvation. Jonah refused and ran away on a ship. But God created a storm and a great fish swallowed Jonah. After Jonah repented, the fish spit him up on a shore. So Jonah went throughout the city and preached repentance and the city turned to God.

    God is gracious to the unsaved and to the saved. To the Ninevites whose sins were many, God not only spared them judgement but, sent someone to share the magnificent news of God’s salvation. This is grace to the unsaved. For Jonah, God didn’t simply cast him aside when he disobeyed and get someone else. God patiently “came to Jonah the second time” and told him again what He wanted him to do. God wasn’t harsh or scolding. He simply gave Jonah another chance to obey. This is grace to the saved.

    Can anyone say that they have always been faithful and obedient to God? Grace allows us to lift up our heads after a mistake knowing that God will give us another chance.

    Prayer
    God, I want to obey you always but when I do stumble thank you that you are always there to lift me up and give me another chance.

    Thought
    Grace can give us another chance to do what we should have done the first time.

    Published The Upper Room, (March - April 2005), 58

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  • A Clean Chalkboard

    “And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
    Colossians 2:13-14 (NASB)

    I was teaching a Sunday school class and I asked everyone to call out some sins while I wrote them on a chalkboard. “Greed,” “jealousy,” “anger,” “laziness,” “selfishness,” and on went the list. Soon the chalkboard was filled so I took an eraser and wiped the entire board clean. But one student who was writing all of this down cried out, “But I didn’t get them all. Can you write the list back up on the board.” But no one could remember what was there.

    This is how God’s forgiveness is. Before we become a Christian, every time that we sin it is as though God adds that sin to a list on a giant chalkboard. For most of us that chalkboard can become miles long. But the second that we become a Christian, it is as though a giant hand holding an eraser makes one long sweep of that chalkboard and everything is wiped clean never to be remembered ever again.

    Prayer
    God, let me never forget that You have completely erased every remembrance of my sin so I don’t have to bear it any more.

    Thought
    No matter how long our list of sins, God’s forgiveness can erase them all forever.

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  • All are Necessary

    “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ”
    Ephesians 4:12 (NASB)

    To save money I was the General Contractor when my house was being built. I hired a carpenter, roofer, painter, mason, electrician, plumber, insulator, and so on. I watched as each one did their own part yet coordinated with the others so that all was done in its proper time. Eventually, I was able to move into a beautiful and solidly built home. Some of the contractors’ work was obvious for all to see and some of it was hidden. But all was necessary for the house to be completed.

    In the same way the worldwide spiritual church is a house that is being built by its members. Each one of us has a special gift from God that allows us to contribute to the building of this church. Some of the work may be obvious like the pastor or youth minister. Other work may be more hidden such as the one who coordinates the missionaries or gathers up the supplies for an outreach. But every one of these people is necessary for the church to be built up and completed.

    Prayer
    May I understand and fulfill my part in building up the body of Christ.

    Thought
    Since God has given each one of us a gift we are all extremely useful and necessary for the building up of the church.

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  • God Blesses what is Right

    A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.
    Proverbs 28:20 (NASB)

    I was at a home center to pick up a $200 item that had been backordered. The salesman looked at my receipt, thought that I had already paid for it and so told me that I could just take it out to my car and if anyone questions me then I should call him and he’ll vouch for me. I knew that I really hadn’t paid for it. Not only could I have taken it for free but, the salesman would have even helped me. But I knew that would have been stealing so I paid for it first.

    It is God who blesses us. We may be able to “get away with something” even with the possible help or perhaps mistake of the person we’re stealing from. But God knows. I could have gotten away with a $200 item but by doing what was right I’m sure that I got more than the equivalent of that in God’s blessings. Plus I had a clear conscience. The world tells us that we’re not getting our fair share, but obedience opens us up to God’s share.

    Prayer
    When I am tempted let me resist the momentary thrill of getting away with something and trust that Your blessings for doing what is right will be greater.

    Thought
    God has a far greater abundance to give to us then we can ever get from the world.

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  • Faithfulness in the Basics

    He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.
    Luke 16:10 (NASB)

    About eight years ago I started playing the violin. I ultimate want to play Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel. But everyday I have to practice scales on the violin in order to solidify the basics of where my fingers should go to play the proper note. I can never expect to play a great musical composition unless I first build up a foundation of good habits.

    Similarly, in the Christian life we need to be faithful with the basics. We must have a daily time set aside for prayer, Bible reading and study, and worship. We need to belong to a good church where we can support others and be built up by them. We need to love our neighbors, our co-workers, and our family members and we need to share the Gospel with those who are not saved. By doing these “little” things we will put away sin and develop the character of God. As we lay this solid foundation then God will use us in greater ways for His glory.

    Prayer
    God, I want to be faithful in the small daily things and then allow You to use me however You see fit.

    Thought
    Only when we are practicing the “scales” of these important Christian basics will God then use in His greater compositions.

    Published The Upper Room, 70, 3 (July – August 2004), 54

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  • Relying on the Holy Spirit

    And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
    Romans 8:26 (NASB)

    I was at a miniature golf course with some friends and their five-year old son was knocking the ball everywhere except near the hole. He simply wasn’t physically mature enough to properly hold the club and swing it with any coordination. So I got up behind him and, leaning over, I held his wrists. Then we both swung the club and the ball curved across the green felt, bounced off of a board, and landed a few inches from the hole. The boy was amazed and proclaimed, “Look what I did!”

    Similarly, as Christians on our own we can flail about never getting anything done quite right and looking awkward in the trying. But then we pray and the Holy Spirit comes to our side and helps us out and we are able to accomplish far more than we would have been able to do on own on. Then we can say, “Look what God did!”

    Prayer
    God, keep me from relying on my own plans, skills, or talents and in everything depend on your Holy Spirit through prayer.

    Thought
    Without God we are like a newborn bird flapping its wings frantically, but with God we can fly with the power of an eagle.

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  • A Rhythm with God

    In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.
    1 Timothy 4:6 (NASB)

    A metronome is a device that swings back and forth at a predetermined speed. Each time that it passes the center it makes a clicking noise. It is used by musicians to create a constant rhythm while they play or sing. Without this constancy the music would become too slow at the difficult parts and too fast at the easier parts. The music would sound terrible and everyone would be out of synch.

    The Christian has a metronome also. It is what keeps our lives steady during the difficult times and on course during the easier times. This metronome is our intimacy with God. We need that daily winding of the metronome by reading our Bible. Throughout the day we need that constant clicking of prayer and worship. Then when life becomes difficult we are not overwhelmed by our problems and when all is going well we do not lose focus.

    Prayer
    May my life be a constant rhythm of time spent with God, of never losing focus of who my guidance is from.

    Thought
    Life bombards us with noises that can send us careening in many directions, staying tuned to God keeps us focused on the right score.

    Published The Upper Room, (January – February 2006), 23

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  • From Glory to Glory

    But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
    2 Corinthians 2:18 (NASB)

    My cousin, who is an artist, once painted a picture of Jesus as He appeared to His disciples after His resurrection. The painting was wonderful; the disciples showed a mix of shock and reverence and Jesus was human but somehow so much more. Everyone who saw the painting was deeply moved. But then she said that she was going to redo parts of it. We pleaded with her not to—she could only do it harm. But she went ahead anyway. The result took our breath away. It was even better. The colors were deeper and the painting seemed so much more real.

    This is how we are in the hands of God. As Christians we are not being transformed from wretched to miserable; from miserable to not-too-bad. Instead, we are being transformed from glory to glory. Glory is not reserved for us in Heaven, God gives it to us here and today.

    Prayer
    When I think that I am worthless and unimportant, please God, remind me how you have made me to be glorious.

    Thought
    Christians are not just people who are going to Heaven, we are a people whom God has transformed and made glorious.

    Published The Upper Room, (July - August 2005), 65

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  • God is Sufficient

    Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.
    Exodus 4:12 (NASB)

    The Israelites were slaves in Egypt and God called Moses to deliver them. But the first thing that Moses did was to question his importance—“ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh…” (Exodus 3:11). The second thing that Moses had a problem with was rejection—“Then Moses answered and said, ‘What if they will not believe me, or listen to what I say? For they may say, “The LORD has not appeared to you.”’” (Exodus 4:1). The next thing that Moses questioned was his abilities—“Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since Thou hast spoken to Thy servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’” (Exodus 4:10). This prompted God to make His great promise in Exodus 4:12.

    We may feel weak and small and vulnerable. But God has said that He will empower us to do anything and everything that He wants us to do.

    Prayer
    When I make excuses for why I cannot do what You tell me to do, God, please remind me that it is not my talents and abilities that you are asking for but only a willing vessel for Your power.

    Thought
    In God I am important; with God I am strong; by God I am a champion.

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  • Snowflake

    “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
    Acts 2:42 (NASB)

    One snowflake by itself is frail and vulnerable. The slightest bit of heat or pressure and it melts. But put enough snow together and you can stop a city.

    The Christian is a lot like that. When we are off by ourselves we can easily wither under the heat of a difficult job or constant demands from people. The pressure from broken relationships or the world’s temptations can cause us to cave in. But when we surround ourselves with other Christians we can all help absorb the blows. We can hold each other up and guide each other away from wrong influences.

    Sometimes the world can be like a raging furnace and it is times like that where the fellowship of church can allow us to reset our priorities and chill out. We may find ourselves being devastated by some sin, but when we are with Christians and lean on each other then we can stop any sin. Satan can easily pick off individual Christians with his withering attacks, but against a righteous army he must turn and flee.

    Thought
    The best defense against temptation is holding God’s word and standing shoulder to shoulder with an army of Christians.

    Prayer
    If I ever feel capable enough to stand on my own then, God, show me this foolishness and bring me back to the fortress of fellow believers.

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  • An Impossible Distance—A Great Rescuer

    for “whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved”
    Romans 10:13 (NASB)

    You assemble the world’s greatest long distance swimmers and line them up on the shores of New Jersey. Then you told them to swim to England; a distance of 3,000 miles. Many of them might swim quite far, perhaps even several hundred miles. But eventually all of them will tire and drown. The fact that some drowned closer to England than others would not really seem to make that much difference. But suppose a few who were faltering summoned a rescue ship that took them all of the way to England. They did not complete the journey on their own efforts but, nonetheless, they made it and were safe.

    Salvation is like that. Many, even some of the best people in the world, try by their own efforts to bridge a distance that is not merely 3,000 miles but is infinite. Eventually all will fail and perish. But Jesus Christ is a rescuer--a savior—to those who call upon His name. He will pull out of the stormy seas those who see their need and helplessness and bring them into His Father’s arms on the distant shore.

    Prayer
    God, may those who are faltering and ready to go under call upon your name and be saved.

    Thought
    The distance to salvation is infinite and can never be bridged by our own efforts; only Jesus Christ can take us to the other shore.

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  • The Sluggard and the Upright

    The way of the sluggard is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.
    Proverbs 15:19 (NASB)

    Two of my friends lost their jobs at around the same time. One focused on how dreary his life was and became depressed. He stopped coming to church, he did not make an effort to find a new job, and he no longer spent time with his friends. My other friend, in contrast, started praying about the situation right away, he put together and executed a plan for finding a new job, and he gathered much support from his church and friends. What was the difference? The circumstances were the same. The first was like the sluggard who finds life too difficult and so does nothing about it. He sees everything as an obstacle. But notice that the second person is not called the ambitious but, rather, is called the upright. This is because the upright person relies on God and finds his or her motivation and strength in Him.

    God does not necessarily make circumstances any easier for the upright, but where the sluggard sees life’s problems as reason to quit, the upright sees these same problems as opportunities for God’s grace. Thorns or a highway—the choice is ours.

    Prayer
    When I am tempted to quit, God, give me the grace to move ahead.

    Thought
    Do not get tangled in life’s problems but let God use them to take you further than you have ever been before.

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  • Necessary Food

    I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.
    Job 23:12 (NASB)

    In survival, the rule of three states that you can survive no more than three minutes without oxygen, three hours without warmth, three days without water, and three weeks without food. The results of these deprivations are obvious. As you get close to these limits you will feel extreme discomfort. You will think about nothing else other than breathing, a thick blanket, a long glass of water, or spaghetti and meatballs as the case may be.

    But there is another type of deprivation that can be equally devastating. The problem is that the results are not as easily connected and so we continue to go without. This is when we neglect to spend time with God by not going to church, or not reading our Bible, or not praying. Then the consequences will be worry, anxiety, frustration, discouragement, anger or a host of other wrong attitudes or temperaments. Usually we attribute these behaviors to trying circumstances or bad relationships, but fail to make the connection that our time with God has been neglected. When we are spiritually healthy then we will be more joyful, confident, motivated, and peaceful.

    Prayer
    God, show me the urgency of my daily need for spiritual nourishment.

    Thought
    We must be just as diligent and concerned about our spiritual health as we are about our physical needs.

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  • Came to Pass

    Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.”
    Exodus 14:15 (NASB)

    An elderly woman was asked what her favorite verse in the Bible is. She replied, “…and it came to pass.” When asked why she chose this one she said, “Because it does not say, ‘…and it came to stay.’” The great majority of our problems are temporary and those that do stay may only do so because we refuse to leave them behind.

    Life is hard. There are many times when we want to give up and cocoon ourselves away from life’s storms. We can take our lives and put them into a box and seal it and they will be safe from hurt and pain. But in there they will also wither and die. God tells you to “go forward” and when you do He will be there to support you, to encourage you, and to bless you.

    The little soul prays, “Lord, let me off easy.” The great soul prays, “Lord, make me as big as my problem.” The small soul begs, “Lord, let me have a lighter load.” The giant soul asks, “Lord, give me strength sufficient for a hard day.” The weak soul says, “I got tired and quit.” The busy soul prays, “Lord, stand with me until I finish my task.”

    Prayer
    Lord, teach me to leave my problems behind and go forward with You.

    Thought
    When we walk with God there is not room enough for our problems also.

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  • Stage Fright

    Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
    Joshua 1:9 (NASB)


    When I was in college I had to present the results of my research before an annual meeting of hundreds of the nation’s top professors and students. While the presenter before me was speaking I was sitting in the audience terrified thinking, “I’ll just leave and when they call my name I simply won’t be there.” But I prayed and was assured of God’s grace and presence. I went up to the podium and all of my nervousness vanished. I did a great job and almost skipped off of the stage glorifying God. I realized that if I did not give God a chance to pour out His grace and to glorify Himself in my life then I will never know what He can accomplish. Ever since then, if I am nervous about doing something I will think back to this incident and remember how faithful God was and can assured that He is just as faithful now. Then I have a confidence and strength that my own willpower could never conjure up on its own.

    Prayer
    Whenever I am frightened and weak, God, let me remember that you are with me wherever I go.

    Thought
    Give God a chance to glorify Himself in your life and you may be amazed at what He will do.

    Published The Upper Room, (November – December 2005), 61

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  • The Everlasting Arms

    There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor. The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you.
    Deuteronomy 33:26-27b (New Living Translation)


    We have probably seen pictures of it. There is a burning building and someone is trapped on the third floor. She is leaning out of the window in a panic and thick, black smoke is pouring out from inside the building. Down below is a ring of firemen holding a safety net and assuring the woman that, if she jumps, they will catch her and she will be safe.

    The world is like a drought stricken forest filled with dry, brown leaves. It only takes the fire of one sin to ignite it. Then we are trapped. But how do we escape from a burning forest when that forest is our entire world? That is when we must turn to God because only He is outside of this sinful world. We will only find comfort, peace, and strength from this world’s trials when we jump into God’s arms by talking to Him in prayer, understanding Him by reading the Bible, and letting Him minister to us through fellowship with other Christians.

    Prayer
    When I feel the heat of the world, God, let me fall into your arms and not be consumed by sin.

    Thought
    No matter how intense the fires of sin and temptation, God is always there to deliver us to safety.

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  • Toying with Wrong

    Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab… Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king's house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing…
    2 Samuel 11:1a, 2a (NASB)

    David was supposed to lead his army into battle. Instead, he sent Joab in his place and David stayed at home. Being bored, he wandered up onto his roof and watched a woman bathing. He eventually slept with her and then had her honorable husband killed. If he did what he was supposed to be doing to begin with then he never would have been put into that temptation.

    Too often we fall into sin because we are somewhere that we should not be or are in a place where no one will see our sin. If being alone with that man or woman is too tempting then only meet in public places. If you are on the Internet looking at unrighteous things because you are bored then fill your time with ministry. Be where you should be and leave little room for temptation. Do what is right and leave little time for sin.

    Prayer
    God, keep me focused on doing what is right and keep my eyes and hands from toying with what is wrong.

    Thought
    Do not force others to take up your slack in ministry while you fill your boredom with temptations.

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  • Calling Evil Good

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

    It is bad enough how we have distorted the definition of a hero. In the past, our heroes were those who stood strong for their faith or for patriotism. They were those who were willing to sacrifice much of themselves for the benefit of the many even unto death. Today the hero is the one who can hit a game winning homerun or the actor who plays the rogue who gets the job done no matter what the means. We have substituted celebrities for heroes.

    But now we are going even further. The sports star who admits to adultery is wildly applauded and our children wear his jersey. The music star who comes out of drug rehab for the umpteenth time is cheered. Celebrity divorce is found to be fascinating rather than shameful. Somehow sin has become glamorous.

    But God never changes. He is never influenced by the media’s efforts to make sin appealing. He never finds immorality, drug addiction, or arrogance to be cool. He celebrates those who give of themselves for the sake of others. We should be the same.

    Prayer
    God, may I never find sin glamorous or interesting but rather hate it with Your hatred and to also love righteousness with Your fervor.

    Thought
    Refuse to cheer the “heroes” of our media but instead imitate the true heroes of righteousness.

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  • Guilt

    How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
    Hebrews 9:14 (NASB)

    What is the purpose of guilt? It is to bring us to God so that He can do what? —Forgive us. The purpose of guilt is not to make us feel bad or to make us miserable. These are the means of guilt. The purpose of guilt is to bring us to a place where God can wash us clean from all of our sin. Guilt is like a street sign that points the way to God’s forgiveness. But too often, instead of going to where the sign points, we pull it out of the ground and beat ourselves with it. When you sin, don’t beat yourself. Let God bathe you with forgiveness. God wants your thoughts to be free and not burdened. Let Him cleanse your conscience. God wants your focus to be on praising Him and not hiding from Him. Let Him make you as white as snow.

    What are dead works? They are good deeds done with no effect to try to please an offended God. There is only one live work that can cleanse our conscience and that is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    Prayer
    When I sin, forgive me. When I am guilty, forgive me. When I am distressed because of my failures, forgive me.

    Thought
    Guilt should point you to God’s forgiveness.

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  • Do What is Right

    When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
    Proverbs 16:7 (NASB)

    I have two neighbors who share a property line and were very close friends. Gus put up a white picket fence. The other neighbor, Jim, had some roses that were getting too tall. So Jim drove a nail into the fence and used it to tie up the roses. A few days later Gus pulled out the nail. The roses plopped everywhere. Jim came out, words were spoken, and from then on they became enemies. One would call the police if the other’s dog barked. The other would blow his fallen leaves back onto his neighbor’s side. Even the wives stopped talking. All because of one incident in which neither one did what was right.

    If Gus had offered a better way of tying up the roses then none of this would have happened. Or if Jim had apologized for driving a nail into the fence and patched the hole then they would still be friends. But because neither responded correctly a good friendship was lost and in its place came adversity. Rather than worry about our rights or privileges being trampled on we should instead do what is right and trust God.

    Thought
    You take care of your actions and God will take care of your mind and heart.

    Prayer
    Teach me to do what is right and I will trust you, God, to give me wisdom and understanding,

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  • Justifying Sin

    “And He said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.’”
    Luke 16:15 (NASB)

    A newspaper had a story about a thief who broke into over 200 houses in a criminal career spanning 30 years. When he was caught and asked about the people that he had robbed he said that they would lie to their insurance company about the value of the goods and actually make money on the crime so they were really no better than he was. It is amazing how people can justify their sin. “So what if I told lots of people nasty things about her. She started it by telling someone something bad about me.” “I know that I shouldn’t get drunk, but when I’m depressed it’s the only thing that makes me feel good.” “I admit that we’re having pre-marital sex but we love each other and are planning on getting married some day.”

    When we sin, God is not fooled by our justifications. When we gossip, get drunk or are immoral it is because we want to “enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). Instead of trying to justify our sin we must, rather, learn to cry out for forgiveness.

    Thought
    With God’s grace there is no justification, reason, or excuse for sin.

    Prayer
    Teach me, God, to hate sin as much as You do.

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  • Hay Maze

    “Make me walk in the path of Thy commandments, for I delight in it. Establish my footsteps in Thy word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.”
    Psalm 119:35, 133 (NASB)

    Around October a lot of farms will create mazes out of stacked bales of hay. Some only need a few turns to get through but others are quite complex. Usually the bales are stacked three or four feet high. Children cannot see over them and so they must work their way through the many turns trying to remember the dead ends that they had already stumbled upon. But an adult can easily see over the bales and find the best way to maneuver the maze.

    Life is like a maze with many choices along the way. Wrong decisions can lead us into pitfalls and stubbornness or forgetfulness can lead back to the same dead ends. We can become confused and frustrated. But God’s word can guide us along the right path. It enables us to see what the bad outcome would be for many decisions and helps us to avoid those consequences. The non-Christian must struggle through life’s maze but the Bible “lifts us up” so that we do not have to be stuck in so many dead ends.

    Thought
    Let God’s word guide you through life and you will finish a winner.

    Prayer
    God, teach me to rely on Your word to always make the right choice.

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  • Central Verse

    “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”
    Psalm 118:9 (NASB)

    The depth of our relationship with God can often be determined by what we take comfort in when we are under stress. On the extreme wrong end is alcohol, drugs, pornography, and violence. But there are subtler traps that, although, not necessarily bad in themselves, can keep us from running to God. These might include food, TV, shopping, or the Internet. We can come home beaten down by the world and turn to one of these for the whole evening rather than to God in prayer.

    Psalm 118:9 is the middle verse in the Bible and it should be the central verse in our lives. We can substitute any of the above mentioned activities or one of our own particular solaces for “princes.” These “princes” can be destructive or nothing more than a distraction. But in the presence of the Lord we find joy, wisdom, and comfort. It is a refuge that is readily available no matter the place, the time, or the circumstances. When we are being hammered our first reaction should be to turn to God and not to the devices of people.

    Thought
    Only in God will we find true rest.

    Prayer
    When opposed, beaten, or confused, God, teach me first to pray.

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  • Mistaken Identity

    “And He continued by questioning them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Thou art the Christ.’”
    Mark 8:29 (NASB)

    One of the first plays ever written, Oedipus Rex, was about mistaken identity. Many Shakespearean plays also have mistaken identity as their central theme. Even today, most mysteries or crime novels try to trick us into thinking that certain people are not whom we might think they are. Ultimately these twists are used to surprise us and whether we figured it out beforehand is not very important.

    But there is one case of mistaken identity that matters tremendously. When Jesus was with His disciples He asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” “And they told Him, saying, ‘John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets.’” The people had high regard for Jesus, but that was not good enough. Even some of the disciples did not understand that Jesus was the Son of God. But Peter made that great declaration, “Thou art the Christ.” It is crucial that we understand correctly who Jesus Christ is. He is God, Lord, and Savior. He is the sinless Lamb of God, the great “I Am.” It is only when we know Him correctly that we can have abundant life here and eternal life in Heaven.

    Thought
    There is only one person in all of history whose identity we must never mistaken and that is Jesus Christ.

    Prayer
    God, give me eyes to see You clearly and correctly.

    Published The Secret Place, (Winter 2009--2010), 16

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  • Luke 17:1-10                    Small Faith and Great Forgiveness

    THOUGHT FOR TODAY: “And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and be planted in the sea”; and it would obey you.’” Luke 17:6 (NASB)

    In this passage, Jesus just told the disciples that no matter how many times someone offends you, you need to forgive every time. But they replied, “We can’t do this; it’s impossible. Give us more faith!” Jesus’ response was, as usual, oblique. The tree mentioned is probably the black mulberry whose roots, it was thought, could remain in the ground for 600 years. This was deeply rooted and seemingly immovable—oftentimes like our anger. But faith as small as a mustard seed can remove it. What Jesus is emphasizing is that we do not need great faith to forgive, it just has to be genuine and flow from a great God.

    When we struggle with forgiving someone the problem is not that we do not have enough faith to forgive them but rather that we do not want to. We want to see them suffer for what they did. We want them to feel the same hurt that they made us to feel. We want to give them the message that if they hurt me then they will feel pain also, so they better think twice about hurting me again. It is only when we understand just how much God has forgiven us can we then desire to forgive others.

    When are sinned against we must focus not on the offense but on God’s forgiveness and move our heart to offer that same forgiveness to that person.

    PRAYER: God, teach me to forgive others as You forgive me.

    Published The Secret Place, (Winter 2009--2010), 33

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  • Standing Firm

    Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel
    Philippians 1:27 (NASB)

    There was a church that was small but was deeply into worshipping God, preaching the Gospel, and teaching truth from the Bible. Above their outside door was carved “We Preach Christ Crucified.” But then they thought that getting larger was of primary importance so they watered down the Gospel. Vines grew over part of the sign and now it read, “We Preach Christ.” But some people left because they felt that the sermons were too judgmental and convicting so they compromised the teaching from the Bible. The vines grew more and soon the sign read, “We Preach.” Then they decided that the congregation was more interested in hearing messages on how they can be happier and more comfortable in life. Then all that was left on the sign was, “We.”

    It is too easy to go from “only Christ” to “only us.” This will happen when we think of a church as a business rather than as the bride of Christ. Or when we are more concerned about the number of people than the deep of our relationship with God.

    Prayer
    God, keep us firm in always focusing on You.

    Thought
    We must keep Christ’s body, the church, pure and holy.

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  • Forgive and Release

    Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.
    Hebrews 10:18 (NASB)

    Almost always when someone sins against me I will ponder how they should and will pay for this offense. It may not even be me meting out the justice but I will at least wish for their failure or public embarrassment.

    When we struggle with forgiving someone the problem usually is not that we do not have enough faith to forgive them but that we do not want to forgive them. We want to see them suffer for what they did. We want them to feel the same hurt that they made us feel. We want to give them the message that if they hurt me then they will feel pain also, so they better think twice about hurting me again.

    But if they must suffer first before I will forgive them then that is not forgiveness because forgiveness involves releasing someone from a debt. But if I make them pay off that debt first then there is nothing left to forgive. Let us not think that if someone hurts us, that we can grab them by the neck and shake them real hard and then let go and say, “I forgive you” that we are being noble and Christ-like. Forgiveness means graciously releasing them from a debt, not making them do penance first.

    Prayer
    God, when I am hurt, fill my heart with forgiveness.

    Thought
    Forgiveness is hard, but very necessary.

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  • The Foundation of Forgiveness

    If Thou, LORD, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
    Ps. 130:3 (NASB)

    Suppose each one of us was born with a video recorder above our heads. And, all throughout our lives, every time that we made an unfair judgement or had a wrong thought regarding another person that recorder clicked on. And once we were finished with our sin the recorder would turn off. Then we die and stand before God and He rewinds it and plays everything that is on it. Then He asks, “Where do you stand?” We might say, “But Lord, I helped out all of those people and went to church every week.” Then He will rewind the recorder and replay it, and once again ask, “Where do you stand?” Forgiveness is our only hope. God’s forgiveness is always free, complete, and totally unconditional. We must understand this and embrace it otherwise we will always struggle with anger and bitterness when someone offends us.

    Forgiving others must always start with God’s forgiveness of us. A year ago a friend whom I had trusted inexplicably began to slander me behind my back. When confronted he would repent but then continue to slander me. My thoughts against him raged more and more. Finally, I realized that my solution was to first intensely study how God has forgiven me. Then, and only then, was I able to forgive.

    Prayer
    God, grip me with how You have forgiven me.

    Thought
    How we forgive must flow from our own forgiveness.

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  • Fancy Dinner

    And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
    Genesis 1:31 (NASB)

    My wife and I enjoy having groups of people over for dinner. A week ahead of time we will plan out a complete dinner including appetizers and soup, gourmet entrees and fancy desserts. The day of the dinner we set the table just right and even fold the cloth napkins into clever shapes so that when guests arrive everything wows them from the table settings to the variety and amount of food to even the background music. Everything is perfect for a great evening.

    Before God created people He prepared the universe for our arrival. Read Genesis chapter one and all of the things that God did by creating light and water, sky and earth, vegetation and animals. And when everything was just right, He created man and woman who did not step out into a world that was barren and needed a lot of work but into one that was teeming with life. When they felt the warm sun on their faces and heard the birds and animals squawking and saw the lush forest they were amazed. Everything was perfect for a great world. What a gift God has given to us!

    Prayer
    I marvel, God, at what you have prepared for us and thank You for such abundant gifts.

    Thought
    We should treasure the gift of this world with reverence and gratitude.

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  • Offering Peace

    Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
    Matthew 5:9 (NASB)

    One night my parents had a really bad argument. There was a lot of shouting and accusations. When they went to bed they still were not talking. My bedroom was next to theirs and their bedroom door was open. There was a thick silence. I could not see in but I knew that they were lying on each side of their bed, stiff as boards, arms crossed, and rigidly staring at the ceiling. I hated to see them that way. I desperately wanted to heal the situation but I had no words or counsel that would suddenly resolve everything. I paced my room and asked God for wisdom. Then it was obvious. I nervously crept into their room. I stood at the foot of their bed and in a bare whisper told them that I heard them fighting and asked if I could pray for them. Neither said anything so I started. My voice cracked and I was hardly louder than if I was standing there waving a tissue. I prayed for peace and reconciliation and that God would cover them with His grace. I finished and quickly left the room. For many minutes I heard nothing but then there was a whisper; then another. Finally they were talking again. Oh, the walls that prayer can break down.

    Prayer
    Where there is strife give me the courage to offer peace.

    Thought
    The healing of conflicts and quarrels is always our business.

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  • Like Father

    And those who know Thy name will put their trust in Thee; For Thou, O LORD, hast not forsaken those who seek Thee.
    Psalm 9:10 (NASB)

    I teach children’s class at church on Sundays. It is interesting to see what traits of their parents the children pick up. One mother who is very nervous and who sees the tragic potential in every situation has effectively instilled that same behavior in her eight-year old daughter. The father who is all business and has no need for small talk has a son who gets impatient when the answers to the lesson questions are not quickly to the point. Children imitate what they see in their parents.

        Likewise, we only develop godly character that we first see in God. At first this may seem silly. God is perfect and we all know that. But oftentimes our true perception of God is different. If we see God as being easily angered and unmerciful then we will likely be the same way. Or if we think that He abandons us just when we need Him the most then we will not stay with others in their times of crisis. The best way to strengthen our own weak characteristics is to first study those areas in God. When we see how He forgives then we will be able to forgive. To be patient we must see God’s patience.

    Prayer
    Each day, God, let me see You more clearly.

    Thought
    Godliness comes by first knowing God.

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  • Life is Frustrating

    “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.”
    Colossians 4:5 (NASB)

    Life can be frustrating. It may be that we are on a smooth path and then we run into a patch of thorns or that it seems that nothing ever goes well. Either way we feel our blood pressure rising and our jaw getting tighter. Oftentimes while driving I will keep catching red light after red light. Even at something this simple I can find myself becoming agitated. It is too easy for many of us to get annoyed. But this is not the way that God wants us to be. He wants us to have peace.

        One way to overcome these aggravating situations is to turn them around and use them for good; to make the most of the opportunity. Now, red lights are a reminder that this is a good time to pray for others. And so that minute has turned from frustration to sanctification. A longer commute to work because of traffic means more time to sing hymns, pray, and worship. That sore relationship with that neighbor provides a chance to exhibit the abundant grace of God. If we can only learn to see life’s annoyances and inconveniences as opportunities to seek God and to become more like Him then, oh, how great our peace will be.

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    Prayer
    God, as my frustration grows teach me to look more to You.

    Thought
    Give God your opportunities and not give your opportunities to sin.


  • Psalm 29:1-11                            Clarity above the Chatter

    Thought for Today: “The voice of the LORD is powerful, the voice of the LORD is majestic” Psalm 29:4 (NASB)

    My wife and I honeymooned in a foreign country where we did not know the language and very few people spoke ours. One afternoon we were in a market and a shop caught my eye so I said to her without looking, “I’m going over there” and, thinking that she was right behind me, briskly walked over to it. She, however, had her attention fixed elsewhere and thinking that I was following her went another way. Within minutes I knew that she was not there. I panicked and, in the midst of chatter that I could not understand, frantically searched everywhere. After ten long minutes I heard her familiar voice and relief washed over me.

        The world is a lot like that chatter. Its sin and the cruelty can set us into a panic and a frantic search for peace and righteousness. All around us are things that we are not a part of. But then we open God’s word and in it we hear a voice that is familiar and that we can trust. It is a voice that gives us wonderful promises and a hope that will never fail. As we read His word the foreign chatter of the world fades away and is replaced with the peace of God.

    Prayer: God, tune my ears to listen first to Your voice in this world of chatter.

    Published The Secret Place, (Winter 2009--2010), 46

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  • Psalm 46:1-11                        Down the Drain or Like a Rock

    Thought for Today: “For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” Isaiah 54:10 (NASB)

    White Lake in Bolotnikovo, Russia was a favorite for local swimming and fishing. It was almost fifty feet deep and a quarter-mile wide. There were carp and other fish and children would dive into the cool water from overhanging branches. Then within a few hours, it was gone. Fish, trees, and almost one million cubic yards of water were no longer there. All that remained was an expanse of mud and a deep hole in the middle. Investigators believe that a fissure in the ground opened up and drained all of the water into an underground channel.

    There are many things in our lives that seem stable and permanent and upon which we may base our personal value. This may be our careers, finances, good looks, popularity, health, status, etc. But then they are suddenly gone and we are shaken and confused. When our hope and trust are in these things then our fall will be great. God, His word, and His promises will never change. When we cling to God even if the bottom falls out in other areas of our lives we can still be confident because He will hold us up. Put your hope in God. Center your pleasure and value in the eternal. They will never fail.

    Prayer: Give me the faith to see the eternal and to put my confidence only be in You, God.

    Published The Secret Place, (Winter 2009--2010), 36

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  • Eagle's Wings

    You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself.
    Exodus 19:4 (NASB)

        When you picture God bearing us on eagles’ wings you think of smooth sailing flying high above the fray. But this is an intriguing verse when you realize the circumstances that it is referring to.

    The Israelites were opposed in Egypt, but God did not remove or scatter their abusers; rather, His solution was for them to pack up everything and leave their homes. They came to the Red Sea and the Egyptians cornered them and threatened to enslave them again. But God opened up the sea and delivered them. Then in the wilderness they grew thirsty and complained. God gave them water. Then they became hungry and complained. God gave them quail and manna. They grew thirsty again and complained. God gave them more water. Then peoples came out to fight them. God delivered them. They overwhelmed Moses with disputes; God gave counselors.

    God bearing us on eagles’ wings does not mean that life is easy and without conflict. There may be many trials and rough circumstances but each time God will pull us through if we trust Him. We may feel overwhelmed and think that God has abandoned us, but in truth He is bringing us along in His perfect way.

    Thought
    We want comfort in life; God wants Himself in our life.

    Published The Upper Room, (January – February 2008), 62

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  • Joy and Sheep

    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 which was lost!’
    Luke 15:6-7 (NASB)

    Luke 15:4-7 tells the story of a shepherd who loses one sheep. So he goes out looking for it and when he finds it, he brings it back and celebrates. In this passage there are five individuals or groups that are mentioned. The sheep, representing the unsaved person, was terrified and alone in the wild; vulnerable to being pounced on by a wild beast. But the shepherd, who would be a Christian sharing the Gospel, finds the sheep and brings it back to safety and comfort. The sheep is glad to be rescued, the shepherd is rejoicing that the sheep is back safe. So he celebrates with his neighbors who represent fellow Christians. And with this salvation all of the angels in Heaven and God Himself rejoice.

    Do you want to bring joy? Then share the good news of salvation. Then you, the newly saved person, other Christians, angels, and God will rejoice. That is a lot of joy! No matter what our social or economic position is in life. No matter what trials we are experiencing. No matter how new we are in Christ or how mature. Our capacity to bring joy is unlimited. What a great gift God has given to us.

    Thought
    We are bearers of great joy.

    Prayer
    God, give me a heart for the lost.

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  • Longing for Home

    But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age.
    Daniel 12:13 (NASB)

    Once a year my wife and go on vacation. Usually we go to another country or at least to some place that is quite different from where we live. We may see some fascinating sights, temporarily make new friends, and eat food that we have never had before. And although we may be having a great time after several days we have a longing to go back home, to be with family and friends, and to be where we belong.

    All of us have a similar and constant longing in our hearts to be back home; to be in a place that we were made for and that is made for us. How do we know that there is a Heaven? One reason is because even though our time on Earth may be filled with new experiences and wonderful relationships we never quite feel like this is where we truly belong; that this is our final destination. We yearn for where pain and sin will be vanquished and to be fully united with our Creator. Where even the greatest joys on Earth will be like a thimble of water compared to the ever-flowing sweet nectar of Heaven.

    Prayer
    Thank you, God, for the portion that awaits us.

    Thought
    Our hearts will be restless until we are finally home with God.

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  • Changing our Clothes

    And Jehoiachin changed his prison clothes, and had his meals in the king's presence regularly all the days of his life
    2 Kings 25:29 (NASB)

    The life of a prisoner is generally a miserable lot. You are told when to sleep, what to eat, what you can and cannot do, and who to associate with; not to mention the typically unstylish clothes. It is a life of restrictions and bondage.

    Sin is a lot like that. When we are enslaved to sin it can swamp our thoughts, dominate our emotions, and manipulate what we do. This is especially true before someone becomes a Christian and so lacks the power of the Holy Spirit. Then, sin is master and its demands can be oppressive. Sin can take even the richest or most powerful person and bring them into its dungeon.

    But thank God that when we were unsaved prisoners He heard our groanings and, in His mercy, set us free (Psalm 102:20). But God does not merely open the door to our cell and send us out into the world. He gives us the power to triumph over the oppression of sin. He changes our prison clothes and wraps us with robes of righteousness. And He brings us into His presence where we can constantly commune with Him and rejoice in His fellowship. The once miserable prisoner now sits with the King.

    Prayer
    Thank You, God, for freeing me.

    Thought
    Sin is a dungeon, forgiveness is true freedom.

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  • Leaning on the Beloved

    "Who is this coming up from the wilderness, Leaning on her beloved?"
    Song of Solomon 8:5a (NASB)

        A number of years ago I proposed marriage to a woman who turned me down. It was gut wrenching and it negatively impacted all areas of my life. I was depressed, I could not sleep, and I was stuck in a spiritual morose. I knew that I had to do something. I asked, “How can I crawl out of this wilderness?” I concluded that true joy comes only from knowing God and the more that I understood Him the more peace I would have. So I got a notebook and devoted each section to an attribute of God: holiness, love, all powerful, all knowing, forgiving, patient, etc. Then I read through the entire Bible and every time I came to a verse related to one of these attributes I wrote it into my notebook with some thoughts about who God is and how this affects my life. After finishing the entire Bible I went back to each attribute and put together a heartfelt, cohesive study. I put it all together into a book called “Contemplating the Almighty.” It changed my life. My spiritual foundation was more solid and my faith was riveted not to circumstances and emotions but to the living God. When you are in a desert or are feeling defeated and low, come out of that wilderness leaning on your beloved—God.

    Thought
    Do not faint, lean and walk.

    Prayer
    In the low points, You are there to carry me.

    Published The Upper Room. (September – October 1007), 56

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  • God's will may be Tough

    “And immediately He compelled the disciples get into the boat… the boat was… battered by the waves”
    Matthew 14:22a, 24a

    Does being in God’s will mean that everything will go well and smoothly? Is pain, suffering, or inconvenience ever a test of whether we were obedient or not? We can see in the Bible that sometimes being in God’s will is harder than not. In Matthew 14 Jesus compelled the Apostles to get into the boat. When there was an impending storm. They were being hammered by the waves and in fear of their lives. Yet Jesus came waling on those very waves. Jesus could easily have just cured the blind man in John 9 on the spot but instead He put mud in his eyes and sent him to the pool at Siloam. He regained his sight at the pool. Jesus wept in Gethsemane and bled on the cross. But three days later He was risen. Comfort and ease are not our umpires on God’s will but obedience to the Bible and righteous are. We can be easily frustrated and when the struggles come we are tempted to cry out, “Why should I bother trying to be when this is what I get?” But if we persevere, Jesus will come waling on those waves, and we will see again, and eventually we will be lifted into glory.

    Thought
    Life may not be fair but God is faithful.

    Prayer
    Teach me that serving may be inconvenient and righteousness may require sacrifice.

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  • Use the Manual

    “So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD…"
    Hosea 6:3a (NASB)

    I have an intricate mantle clock that broke. I decided to fix it myself. To replace the broken part I had to remove most of the gears and then put them back into their exact places. I did not have a manual but used logic and trial and error. At the end, everything looked correct so I wound it up. Nothing happened—no gears turned, no hands moved, no tick-tock.

        Too often this is how we try to figure out God. We are content to define Him based on opinion and experience. But mostly we end up in error. We create a God who is too judgmental or too uncaring or too unnecessary and then we turn our back on Him because we do not like what we see.

        God’s primary means for knowing Him is through a diligent study and meditation of the Scriptures. This is our manual. We will never properly appreciate and worship God until we know Him rightly. The greatest task to which we can devote ourselves is to knowing God. It is what gives us hope, meaning, stability, and motivates us to godliness. When we grasp the true knowledge of God through the Bible then it is that He will move in our lives and have power.

    Thought
    The more that we know God, the more we will worship Him.

    Prayer
    Give me a diligent heart that seeks to know the true God.

    Published The Upper Room, (July – August 2007), 19

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  • Jesus as Human

    What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him… Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God, and dost crown him with glory and majesty!
    Psalm 8:4-5 (NASB)

    Not much is written about the first thirty years of Jesus’ life. Why is that? Perhaps it is because His being human and living a simple and righteous life was enough. He did not need to be the center of attention and involved in big events and accomplishments. He gave dignity to simply being human.

        From this we can learn at least two lessons. First, our achievements do not give us dignity. Yes, God wants us to work while it is still day (John 9:4) and to do all to glorify His name. But in being human we are endowed with great honor. That Jesus was satisfied to dwell as a one of us certifies that forever.

        Secondly, it confirms that we should not honor someone only because they are rich, powerful, beautiful, a celebrity, or educated. For thirty of His years we have no record of Jesus possessing any of those things. Yes, Jesus became a human to die for our sins and be resurrected, but those early years were not merely preparation for that stupendous act. They demonstrated something nearly as wonderful: that being human is in itself of such great dignity that God was pleased to dwell as such for a nearly anonymous thirty years.

    Prayer
    Praise You, God, for being pleased to walk as one of us.

    Thought
    Being human carries with it honor and dignity

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  • Cigarette Ad

    “In Thy presence is fulness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.”
    Psalm 16:11 (NASB)

    When I was out this morning I saw two advertisements for cigarettes. One referred to pleasure and the other to being true. But to me they were not offering joy and loyalty but rather poison and illness. So much of the world is like that. The Devil blinds us with momentary pleasures so that we do not see that it is actually an invitation to death. Much of today’s advertising has become Jesus’ “whitewashed tombs.” On the outside they are promises of beauty and fulfillment but inside they are full of death and unrighteousness.

        What is truly satisfying has not changed since the beginning of creation. Technology and medicine have made our lives more productive and convenient but meaning and dignity still freely come from our Creator. Do you truly believe Psalm 16:11? Do you understand Jesus’ words in John 10:10, “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly”? Do you have fullness of joy? If not, then maybe God is too small a part of your life.

    The message behind these ads are envy, pride, and instilling a sense of incompleteness. Within God’s promises are joy, love, and power. We must believe God’s word and live our lives according to it.

    Thought
    True joy, deep to the bones, can only come from knowing God.

    Prayer
    God, may I find my completeness in You alone.

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  • God does not owe us Comfort

    Why should any living mortal, or any man, offer complaint in view of his sins?
    Lamentations 3:39 (NASB)

    I have seen many Christians have things go badly and blame God as though it was unfair for them to have to endure trials. Why does God owe us comfortable, easy lives? We disobey Him. We lust or envy or are unloving. We complain about the Sunday sermon or music if we even went to church at all. Then we call God unfair when life does not go how we want it. Does the vase say to its maker, “I don’t like the shelf that you put me on; I deserve better?”

    God has forever proven His love by being crucified, saving and forgiving us, and making us His child. So when something does not go well will we throw all of that away as though losing our job is somehow more significant than Jesus dying for our sins? Is God no longer faithful? Never.

    Do we always know what is truly best for our lives? Can we trust God in His perfect and infinite wisdom that He knows better? Maybe that trial will make us more godly or protect us from some hidden danger.

    When trials come, let us not be so prideful as to tell God that we deserve better and that He is messing up. Rather, let us turn from blame to prayer and draw near to Him.

    Thought
    God is always the solution to troubles and never the problem.

    Prayer
    You are blameless and holy, deepen my trust of You.

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  • Mountains and Valleys

    When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous has an everlasting foundation.
    Proverbs 10:25 (NASB)

        It was a long time before I finally got married. On my first day back to work from that joyous celebration I was laid off from my job. It then took five years before we were able to have a child. God gave us two wonderful girls but within a week of their coming home I found out that one of my close relatives had cancer. Oftentimes a joyous occasion is followed by a period of struggle or sorrow. Jesus and His disciples experienced the same thing. In Matthew 17 on the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus appeared in His glory, two of the greatest Old Testament prophets, Moses and Elijah, were present, and God the Father.spoke. After descending the mountain they were met by a man with a demon possessed son and by a lack of faith from the disciples who could not cure him. How quickly the exhilaration of the mountain experience was tarnished by this chaotic and frightening scene.

        Life can be like a seesaw: up high one moment and then jarred against the ground the next. What steadies us throughout this turmoil is the solid, unmovable foundation of God. Knowing God’s character and promises in the Bible, recalling His faithfulness, and walking in the Holy Spirit will carry through any chaotic situation.

    Thought: On the mountains and in the valleys we must stay firmly on God’s foundation.

    Prayer: Let You be my guide, God, and not circumstances.

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  • Mary’s Perseverance and Loyalty

    For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name.
    Luke 1:49 (NASB)

        When a tragedy hammers us we can be confused, shaken, and crushed. But what could make this situation even worse was a foreboding that something horrible may occur. Then we have the added troubles of anxiety and paranoia. Soon after Jesus was born, a prophet, Simeon, prophesied to Mary an ominous message, “A sword will pierce your soul.” This being one the few conversations with Mary recorded shows that it had a lasting impact. For 33 years she might have wondered every day what it foretold. She probably watched Jesus closely in every situation with nervous guardianship. It was not that something bad could happen, but that it definitely would. In time she saw her beloved son murdered in a most horrible fashion and Simeon’s prophecy must have quickly come to mind as her soul was ripped to pieces. Yet in all of this she was fiercely loyal to her family and to God’s will.

        In following God, all may not be smooth and carefree. There may be persecution, mocking, and the constant presence of evil. We may be tempted to leave God because life is difficult. Yet we, like Mary, must be fiercely loyal and persevere to the end for then we will have understanding and great reward.

    Thought: Especially in hard times we must strengthen our loyalty to God.

    Prayer: God, give me the power to persevere.

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  • God Binds us up

    He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.
    Psalm 147:3

        A few months ago, my wife gave birth to twin girls. They were 6 ½ weeks premature and very small and vulnerable. For the first couple of months they were kept tightly bundled not only to keep them warm but also to give them a sense of protection and comfort. We were taught by the hospital staff how to properly fold the blanket and tuck in all of the corners. If we did not do it right then an arm might be left out. But when done correctly, they looked like two burritos.

        When we are hurting and we allow God to heal and comfort us He does His work carefully and lovingly. The word “binds” in Psalm 147 is also used to refer to the careful wrapping of a turban. If done incompletely or sloppily a turban will fall apart or look bad and will reflect poorly on its owner. God knows our wounds. He was brokenhearted. He knows the exact way to wrap up what is hurting so that it may heal completely.

        How does God heal us? First we must avoid the world’s substitutes: drugs, alcohol, revenge, hatred. Then we must turn to God through prayer, trusting His promises, and being with His people. We must continue to obey and do what is right. In time, God will heal.

    Thought: When you are hurt, God wants to wrap His comfort around you.

    Prayer: In my pain may I seek your healing first, God.

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  • Why not just let God do it all?

    We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work.
    John 9:4 (NASB)

        I live where it is illegal to pump my own gasoline at the station. So I always wait for the attendant. Once while on a trip I pulled up to a pump and waited. After five minutes I thought, “Cars have been coming and going since I’ve been here. Am I being ignored because I am out-of-state?” Then I noticed people getting out of their cars and pumping gas; I was in a self-serve state.

        Many times in our Christian lives when we need something we just wait for God to show up and do it all. Yes, we may pray but otherwise we do nothing and nothing gets done. Then we blame God for not taking care of us and for preferring and taking care of others first. The truth is that grace and power were there but we were too sullen and lazy to take it. We want blessings handed to us. But to walk on water we need to get out of the boat, to pass through the Red Sea we need to go forward, and to turn water into wine we must first fill the jugs.

        Though God may not bless everything that we do, we can be sure that He will never bless our inactivity.

    Thought: Both success and failure come from trying but nothing is always the result from never trying.

    Prayer: May my hands always be quick to do God’s work.

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  • What do we ever get from a dummy?

    “I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts”
    Isaiah 65:2 (NASB)

    I was in a large department store and could not figure out where an item was located. I saw the back of what looked like a store employee standing next to a counter. I walked up from behind and said, “Excuse me” only to then realize that it was a mannequin. I certainly felt foolish and hoped that no one noticed. The designer did a great job making it look realistic, but it could never have helped me. I saw a real store clerk nearby but was too embarrassed to approach her so I wandered off still clueless.

    How many people in the world try to get guidance from that which is not real! They believe true happiness comes from buying certain products or from wealth or beauty. They follow false religious leaders. They ruin themselves with drugs or alcohol. When all along, the real God is standing there clearly signaling the true way. He points to the Bible asking us to read it, study it, and even challenge it confident that it will prove itself true in all circumstances.

    Why do we talk to dummies when the living God has the answers? And why do we walk away from Him when we are still searching?

    Thought: God’s way may be narrow but it is clearly illuminated.

    Prayer: Turn me when I am facing what is empty.

    Published The Upper Room, (March – April 2009), 70

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    Assurance for the New Year

    Then he said to Him, "If Thy presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.”
    Exodus 33:15 (NASB)


        A new year will always bring surprises. We may try to anticipate what lies ahead but usually something unpredictable lies beyond our sight. This can cause some anxiety. We usually prefer knowing what is in store so that we can prepare for it.

        In Exodus Moses had the same problem but instead of concern just for himself or his family he had to oversee an entire nation. God told Moses to “Bring up this people” but Moses wanted details; he wanted reassurance. He knew that the road ahead would be tough and that he would not be able to handle it without God. In today’s verse Moses says to God, “Do not take me anywhere if you are not going to be there with me every step of the way.” God gave His promise and Moses lead the nation to the Promised Land.

        In the same way, we need the assurance of God’s presence wherever we go; otherwise, we will be fearful and anxious. But many times in the Bible God has promised that He will always be faithful to be with us, to guide us, and to strengthen us. So let us know that though this new year will have unexpected events God’s presence will go with us.

    Thought: The year may be new but God’s faithfulness is as solid as ever.

    Prayer: Thank you, God, that Your presence will lead me throughout this new year.

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  • What is your Value?

    Thus says the LORD, “What injustice did your fathers find in Me, That they went far from Me And walked after emptiness and became empty?”
    Jeremiah 2:5

        Money itself is fairly worthless. Its importance comes only because of the value that we assign to it. What gives you your value as a Christian? Is it the ministries that you serve in or the church that you attend? Is it what you accomplish or how much money you give? It should be none of these things. Your value as a Christian and as a human being rests entirely on your relationship with God.

    Luke 8:43-44 says, “And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind Him, and touched the fringe of His cloak; and immediately her hemorrhage stopped.” This woman was most likely not powerful or rich. She was just one person in a crowd. But we read about her thousands of years later not because of who she was but because she touched God.

    When we push God out and fill that space with the things of the world we will be empty. But when we fight through the crowd of distractions and obstacles like that woman just so that we can be closer to God then He will say to us as He did to that woman, “My child, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
       

    Thought
    God gives us value that we can never achieve for ourselves.

    Prayer
    Teach me to obey because you have lifted me up.

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  • Waiting for Samuel

    Thus Samuel grew and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fail.
    1 Samuel 3:19 (NASB)

    At one time in Israel the spiritual atmosphere was pretty bleak. The current high priest, Eli, was lazy and callous to his responsibilities. The nation’s future spiritual leaders, Eli’s sons, were cheaters and disrespectful of the ways of God. They would steal the best parts of people’s offerings for themselves and then threaten them when challenged. The situation was reason for good people to despair. What they did not know was that there was a boy named Samuel whom God was preparing to be a righteous advocate for His people. Samuel would bring back a holy reverence for God and lead Israel in justice and truth. However, it would take several years for this to come about.

        Many times in our lives our situation looks bleak, not just the present but also for as far into the future as we can see. We are tempted to despair. Some even fall away from Christianity because God seems unconcerned and they have lost hope. But what we do not know is what God is preparing. We need to wait patiently for God and at the proper time He will provide a Samuel for us. It may be a person, a turn of events, emotional or physical healing, or something else. In the meantime, we must do what is right and let God rule.

    Thought
    In even the greatest trials we need to wait for God’s Samuel.

    Prayer
    Turn my eyes from despair to hope.

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  • Give and Give Some More

    But Hezekiah gave no return for the benefit he received, because his heart was proud
    2 Chronicles 32:25

    Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, Manoah’s wife, and Elizabeth were all barren. Moses was driven from his people, Joseph was sold into slavery, and Jesus was killed. Our own expectations are often crushed. Why do we often suffer such disappointment? One reason is to prepare us for what God wants to give, not that we might be able to receive it, but so that we will be able to give even more once we receive it.

    God wants us to be a giving people. He gives an ocean of blessings to us so that we might be a river of blessings to others. James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives,” What is the wrong motive? Is it showing off how much we have? Is it because we want more? The wrong motive is “so that you may spend it on your pleasures;” we want to keep and not to give.

    When we feel so empty we wonder why God is not there. But that is never true. God is always there and when the time is right and we are ready, He will accomplish a great thing in our lives. It may not be what we expect. It may not be when we expect it. It may not be who or how we expect it. But, it will be better, because God is generous.

    Thought
    Give until God stops giving to you.

    Prayer
    Make me one who sees others first.

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  • Build Your House and Live in it

    Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce.
    Jeremiah 29:5 (NASB)

        The company that I work for decided to layoff my entire department and transfer me to another group. I liked my original department and did not want to be in this new group. I had a choice: I could either have a bad attitude and complain or I could settle in and do my best.

        Israel had a similar choice. They were forced out of their homeland and exiled to another country. Their situation was far worse than mine because they had to leave their homes, culture, and all that they grew up with. The people generally complained or rebelled. So God sent a message to the exiles that began with Jeremiah 29:5. He told them to be productive where they were at and, even more so, in verse seven to “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.”

        Often in life we are forced into situations that we do not like. It is easy to grumble or feel sorry for ourselves. But, instead, we should do our best and prosper those around us. I have worked hard in my new group and God has blessed me.

    Thought: Do not sit and mope but instead build.

    Prayer: May my attitude always be positive even when a situation is not what I want.

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  • Waiting in the Silences

    When therefore He heard that he was sick, He stayed then two days longer in the place where He was. John 11:6 (NASB)

    Martha and Mary were sisters whose brother Lazarus was deathly sick. So they did the right thing and sent for Jesus. But Jesus waited. They did everything that they should have. Did Jesus immediately reward their trust in Him and remedy the current crisis? No. In fact, He waited until the situation got to the point where it appeared beyond help, to where Lazarus died. Were Martha and Mary frustrated? Were they confused with God’s dealings? I am sure they were. But God knew the outcome. God deliberately let the situation become bleaker.

    Are there times in our lives when we have been hammered and are reeling and we make the correct choice, which is to call upon God, and He does not do what we want? And things are getting worse and we are praying but there is no change or even answer?

    God delayed with Martha and Mary because He was not merely content to heal a sick man as much as He wanted to raise a dead man. God will oftentimes be silent in our darkest moments, but often that is because He has a greater desire than to merely make us comfortable.

    Do we trust God because of what He does for us or because of who He is? Do we love God because of His responses or because of His promises? We must trust God even in the silences.

    Teach me to not to desire comfort but to desire God’s will.

    Accepted for Publication MustardSeed Ministries

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  • God Strongly Supporting us

    For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.
    2 Chronicles 16:9 (NASB)

        I have two 17 month old girls who like to drag things all over the house such as chairs, pocketbooks, and boxes. I recently bought them a two-seat wagon to pull them around in. It is too large and clumsy for one of them to pull alone which usually results in a cry of frustration. Recently I heard them giggling and looked around the corner to see them successfully pulling the wagon together.

        God is searching for people who are totally focused on glorifying Him and when He finds them He will strongly support them. In the original Hebrew that word “strong” has a unique implication. It means “to make firm by binding together.” Things are made stronger by girding or binding together. Thin strands of string that are interwoven become sturdy rope. A single ant is unimpressive but an entire colony can be a force.

    When we give ourselves completely to God He promises to support and strengthen us by binding Himself to us. We do not have to defeat sin in our lives by our own willpower. We do not have to overcome our fears of sharing the Gospel by ourselves. We do not struggle through life alone. We will be stronger and like my two girls we will be joyful.

    Thought
    Life without God is despairing; life with God is victorious.

    Prayer
    Make my heart one given wholly to You.

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  • Physical resurrection vs. spiritual rebirth

    Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies”
    John 11:25

    Here Jesus is using a real funeral to illustrate spiritual rebirth. He intends to raise Lazarus from the dead physically, but even more importantly, He will raise from spiritual death anyone who believes in Him. Which is harder?

    Raising someone from the grave only involves breathing life back into him. But raising someone who is spiritually dead means removing the penalty from every last sliver of sin that we have ever committed. It means taking someone who dwells in the domain of darkness and raising him up to the kingdom of Jesus Christ. It means forgiving, sanctifying, redeeming, adopting, and reserving for him a place in Heaven. It means removing the barrier between an unrighteous, selfish person and a holy and pure God. It means taking someone who is dangling over Hell by the thinnest of gossamer threads and placing him on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ.

        We may wonder why God does not show His power more by raising more people from the grave. Yet every day He demonstrates an even greater power by raising thousands of people from a spiritual grave. A person raised from a physical grave will die again and all of that sorrow will be repeated. Someone raised from a spiritual grave will live forever and eventually every tear will be wiped away.

    Thought
    Our spiritual resurrection is one of God’s greatest miracles.

    Prayer
    Let me always marvel at God’s magnificent salvation.

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  • Preparing our faith

    And it was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.
    John 11:2 (NASB)

    The triumph of an athlete is preceded by many years of grueling exercise. The exuberant virtuosity of a soloist at a concert hall requires long hours of practice. The correct answers on a crucial test involve much studying. A victory in anything difficult requires preparation.

    Martha and Mary were sisters and their brother Lazarus was dying. It was a dire situation. There is no record of them complaining or pitying themselves. Instead, they went straight to God knowing that He was the source of all comfort and help; they trusted in Him and God came to them.

    Do not think that you can live a weak Christian life with a minimal devotion to God and then have faith like a mountain when disaster hits. If you cannot trust God enough to read the Bible on a daily basis, pray to Him consistently and attend church regularly they how do you think that you will have enough faith to trust Him when you have a crisis?

    Mary is described as one who was devoted to Jesus and who worshipped Him. She developed a deep faith and trust in God and so when there was a problem she was confident going to Him.

    Prayer
    Make me consistent in my devotion to you.

    Thought
    Faith cannot be turned on like a water faucet. It must be nurtured and developed.

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  • God uses ordinary people

    The LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?”
    Exodus 4:11 (NASB)

    Lazarus was a central figure in one of the Jesus’ greatest miracles yet the Bible never records anything that he said. We do not know his occupation or the sickness that caused his death. Even when he comes out of the tomb he gives no shouts, no cries of astonishment. Yet he was not merely a prop. He was a human being. He was someone who lived and who probably said a number of times, “Yes, I am the one that Jesus raised from the dead.”

    God does not work miracles only through spiritual giants. God does mighty works in people who commonly struggle through life.

    Who are the people on whom Jesus performed some of His greatest miracles? There were ten lepers, two blind beggars, a widow’s dead son, a paralytic lowered through a roof, a woman with a hemorrhage, a man living in a cave, and the list goes on. Do we know any of their names? They were ordinary, scared, needy people. But they were the people whom Jesus wondrously used. What was common with all of them? They came to Jesus knowing that they were needy and that He was sufficient. We should do the same.

    Thought
    Though the depth of our faith is important it is the power of God that is sufficient.

    Prayer
    May I realize that because God is great I do not have to be.

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  • Do not compare God’s work in you to others

    But some of them said, "Could not this man, who opened the eyes of him who was blind, have kept this man also from dying?"
    John 11:37 (NASB)

    Jesus was asked to heal Lazarus of his sickness, but He delayed and now was at his funeral. A contemporary reading might be, “God helped that person, why isn’t He helping me?”

    We may not actually say, “If God does not do what I want then what good is He?” But oftentimes that is how we feel. We must not evaluate God’s work in our lives by what He is doing for others. Just because God fulfilled another person’s desire but not your identical one does not necessarily mean that you are bad or that God is punishing you.

    God healed the woman of her flow of blood but He didn’t heal Paul of his thorn in the flesh. God freed Peter from prison but John the Baptist was beheaded. Paul was freed from prison in Acts 16 but eventually died in a different prison. God raised Lazarus from the dead but Stephen was stoned to death and was never raised.

    God does not consult a manual and follow set rules when a situation arises. Instead, He deals with each one of us intimately and personally knowing what is best for us even if it is not what we want. For that we must trust Him.

    Thought
    Trust God for His personal work in you.

    Prayer
    May I always trust God and never evaluate Him.

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  • Obeying from our Weakness

    Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves.
    Matthew 17:1 (NASB}

        Everyone has something that they are good at and enjoy doing and if God asked us how we want to serve Him we would probably choose this first. But what happens when God tells us to do something that we are poor at? The Bible has such a story. One day Jesus took Peter, James, and John aside and told them that they were going on a hike.

    So Jesus takes them to Mt. Hermon and says, “We’re going up there.” I wonder if their mouths hung limp. Mt. Hermon is the tallest mountain in Israel. It is 13 miles long and almost 9,200 feet high. Snow is usually on its top all year long and the melting water is a major source of the Jordan River and of life to the region.

    These guys were fisherman: water, flat, lots of swimming. And now they are being told to climb this foreboding mountain. In Luke it mentions that when they got to the top they were so tired they almost fell asleep. But they obeyed and followed Jesus and what they then saw was perhaps one of the most majestic events ever when Jesus was transfigured into glory. In following Jesus they did so in weakness but the reward was magnificent. We should also be so willing.

    Thought
    Follow God even when you do not think that you can.

    Prayer
    Teach me to look to Your support and not to my abilities.

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  • God is in the Details

    Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.
    Matthew 17:15 (NASB)

    The Mount of Transfiguration was probably Jesus’ greatest display of glory during His first coming. So what did Jesus do afterwards? Did His ministry take off and He only do stadium tours? Was He now too big for common, everyday people? The first thing He did was to show mercy and compassion to a hurting child. God is never too big for even the smallest of causes.

        When we leave church or another great spiritual time and go to our jobs or families or neighbors we may be confronted by them or overwhelmed by the numbers against us. We may not be able to answer questions like, “Where did all of the dinosaurs go?” or “What about people who never hear the Gospel?” But we can always say that “Jesus Christ changed my life and He can change yours also. He gave me hope, He gave me meaning, He gave me life forever and He can do the same for you.” It is because Jesus Christ is here that we can deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, lose our life, and forsake the entire world, if necessary.

        Why does Christianity give hope and endurance?—because Jesus Christ is always with us in every detail no matter who we are.

    Thought
    God is great but stoops down to our every detail.

    Prayer
    May I never think that God is not interested.

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  • Jesus Himself Alone

    And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.
    Matthew 17:8 (NASB)

        This verse has three words that are crucial to our life as a Christian and as the foundation of our beliefs: “Jesus Himself alone.” This is what Christianity boils down to. It is not primarily our tenets and traditions.  It is “Jesus Himself alone.” It is not necessarily where we go to church or what religious things we do. It is “Jesus Himself alone.” It is not our experiences or how spiritual we may or may not feel. It is “Jesus Himself alone.” These things are all important and crucial to our lives, but what is going to sustain us and carry us through the tough times? What is going to give us hope and encouragement? Will it be our willpower or will it be our relationship to Jesus Christ?

        It is sometimes easy to get caught up in the activities of Christianity and forget about the One for whom we should be doing it. “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord…” Colossians 3:23 states. God does reveal Himself through Bible reading, fellowship, counsel, prayer, communion, and obedience but in all of those things we must always see Jesus.

    In this story when the three were terrified it was Jesus who touched them and said, “Do not be afraid.” When you are struggling, when you need encouragement, when you need answers look to Jesus Himself alone.

    Thought
    Jesus is our all-in-all.

    Prayer
    Let me never forget the One on whom my faith rests.

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  • Surrounded by God

    Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand.
    Psalm 73:23 (NASB)

    When a solder goes into a war zone he does not want to be exposed and vulnerable. Danger can come from any angle. He prefers to be surrounded by as much armor as possible with the best option being inside an armored vehicle.

    There are many ways and angles that life can hurt us. Sometimes our past can haunt us or we may be heading into a bad situation. Other times we may be blindsided by a malicious attack from a colleague, friend, or relative. And often our fall can hurt even worse. But praise God that He is there for us.

    God protects us from our past. Isaiah 58:8, “The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.” God covers us from those who arrogantly stand above us and make accusations. Psalm 91:4, “He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge.” God goes before us so that we might make right decisions. Isaiah 45:2, “"I will go before you and make the rough places smooth.” God is under us to cushion and comfort us when we fall. Deuteronomy 33:7, “The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” God is to our left and to our right to guard us from unexpected attacks. Psalm 125:2, “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.”

    Of course, God does allow some attacks to get through but even then He is there to give wisdom, support, and comfort. We are truly surrounded by God.

    Thought
    Wherever battle we are in, God is right there with us.

    Prayer
    May I always have faith in God’s presence.

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  • More than the Grains of Sand

    How precious also are Thy thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with Thee.
    Psalm 139:17-18 (NASB)

    When one of my young daughters feels that I am not paying enough attention to her she will climb up into my lap and look at me face-to-face. God created us to interact with others and especially for us to interact with Him. When we are deliberately ignored by someone it pierces right to our hearts. However, we are always secure knowing that God will never turn away from us.

    Mathematicians at the University of Hawaii once tried to estimate the number of grains of sand in the world and arrived at over 7 billion billion (7 quintillion). If  we live to 80 years old then that means that God will think about us roughly 3 billion times per second. God never takes His eyes off of any one of us; we are always on His mind.

    It is crucial that we give everyone our attention and to make them feel as valuable as God does us. But even more important is that we not neglect our relationship with God. By reading the Bible and through prayer and obedience we turn our eyes towards God and see Him nearly face-to-face. And when we do, those 3 billion thoughts will be more precious then gems.

    Thought
    Turn my eyes away from myself and onto God and others.

    Prayer
    May my eyes always look on the face of God.

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  • Making the Best of a Situation

    Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce.
    Jeremiah 29:5 (NASB)

        The company that I work for decided to layoff my entire department and transfer me to another group. I liked my original department and did not want to be in this new group at all. I had a choice: I could either have a bad attitude and complain or I could settle in and do my best.

        Israel had a similar choice. They were forced out of their homeland and exiled to another country. Their situation was far worse than mine because they had to leave their homes, culture, and all that they grew up with. The tendency was for the people to complain or even rebel. So God sent a message to the exiles that began in verse five. He told them to be productive where they were at and, even more so, in verse seven to “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.”

        Often in life we are forced into situations that we do not like. It is easy to grumble or feel sorry for ourselves. But, instead, we should do our best and prosper those around us. I worked hard in my new group and now I enjoy it.

    Thought:
    Do not sit and mope but build instead.

    Prayer:
    May my attitude always be positive even when a situation is not what I want.

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  • A Tall Tower or a Lesson to Godliness

    It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.
    Psalm 119:71 (NASB)

    I have twin 19-month old daughters and two sets of nesting blocks (we have two sets of everything). One day they were trying to stack their own set of blocks as high as they could but not understanding that each block must be smaller than the one beneath it, an avalanche resulted every time. I could have handed them the correct blocks in proper order to ensure success but then they would not have learned how to make their own tall tower.

        Many times we set out to accomplish something but it fails and then we are quick to question God, “Why didn’t You help me out? Where were You when it all came crashing down?” God is not in the business of making us successful in all aspects of life but rather to be successful in godliness. Through failure we learn perseverance, hope, proven character, and trust in God. All of the great people in the Bible had spectacular failures that they rebounded from to eventually rise even higher. Failure does not mean that God is against us or that we are hopeless and inept. That failure may be exactly what God wants so that, in the end, we may not have a great accomplishment but we have become a better person.

    Thought
    True success is becoming more like God.

    Prayer
    May my “tall tower” be measured by righteousness and not by power, fame, or money.

    Published The Upper Room, (March – April 2010), 65.

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  • Give up the Grudge

    For although Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou dost comfort me
    Isaiah 12:1b (NASB)

    I have two daughters approaching two years of age. It is certainly within their desires and capabilities to ignore what I tell them. At times they will belligerently continue to do something that I am asking them not to do and infrequently, but sometimes, I lose my patience and yell at them to stop. Then they might cry or pout and I feel bad and wonder if they will be mad at me for the rest of their lives. But then a minute later we are all laughing again at something silly as though the previous scolding never occurred.

    The girls have taught me two great lessons. One is to not hold a grudge. I am a person who, when greatly offended, can easily never want to see that person again. If my girls held a grudge against me whenever I scolded them there would be a lot of laughter that would be lost.

    A second lesson is realizing that God’s anger is momentary but His mercy and comfort come like waves upon the shore. Yes, I should repent when I sin but afterwards I can bask in the glory of His fellowship.

    Thought
    Give up that which will isolate and tear me down

    Prayer
    May I be quick to receive back when offended

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  • The Prickly Vines of Sin

    "Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke?”
    Isaiah 58:6 (NASB)

    The back of where we live is wooded with one large patch of tangled prickly vines called bullbriers. One day as I was trying to find our property line I wandered too deeply into this thicket and got those tough, woody vines wrapped around my legs. The more I tried to pull out my legs the more the thorns caught my pants and the tighter I was bound. I was stuck and the more I strained to break free the worse it got. Finally I had to relax so that the vines were not so tight and then I carefully snapped enough of the stems to slip my legs out and go free. A few weeks later I cleared a good deal of the bullbriers.

    Bad habits and sin are like those bullbriers. They tenaciously grab us and refuse to let go. It is only through intimacy with God that we are able to defeat sin. By drawing near to God, in this verse by fasting, we can first loosen and then undo these bonds so that we can be free. But that is not enough. We must then do whatever is necessary to destroy that temptation so that we will not become tangled again.

    Prayer
    Draw near to God and He will draw you out of sin.

    Thought
    The positive power of grace can defeat any sin and temptation.

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  • What is the Price of Value?

    Since I am afflicted and needy, let the Lord be mindful of me.
    You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.
    Psalm 40:17 (NASB)

        Give someone a choice between gold and iron and, unless they need to defend themselves against an attacking lion, they would certainly pick the gold because it is more valuable. Greater value not only makes something more appealing it also increases the justice required when that object is sinned against.

    Take an ordinary rock and destroy it with a hammer and no one would care. Deliberately kill a dog and you will probably have to pay a fine because a dog is more valuable than a rock. Kill a human and your punishment is greater still because a human has even more worth. But even here your punishment would eventually be completed and justice satisfied. But what if you committed an offense against someone of infinite value? Would your punishment likewise be infinite? Yes.

        God is the only being who is of infinite value. Therefore when we sin against Him the justice that is required is infinite; we cannot pay it. That is why Jesus Christ had to die for our sins and resurrect from the dead. Being God, He has infinite value and so could completely pay our infinite punishment. For this we should believe, adore, and worship.

    Thought
    Let us never take lightly our infinite need for a Savior.

    Prayer
    Thank you, Jesus, for paying a debt that I could never satisfy.

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  • The Discourses of a Dad

    I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word.
    Psalm 119:16 (NASB)


    My twin two-year old daughters are riveted by any excruciatingly detailed description of what I am currently doing. My commentary exceeds in detail by ten times any baseball play-by-play that you will ever hear. “Now I am filling the jar with water. I’m putting the jar on the blender. I am putting powder into a measuring cup. I am pouring the powder into the jar. Now I’m putting on the lid. And…” Here there is a dramatic pause and then a great leap in volume, “I’m turning it ON.” This is followed by a fabulous description of pouring the newly mixed formula into bottles. They love this because they learn vocabulary, they learn sentence structure and intonation, but probably most of all, they love to have dad talk to them.

    We should be just as enthralled when our Heavenly Father speaks to us as He does in the Bible. We should be fascinated by every detail, have a heart to learn and practice whatever it is that we are reading, and be filled with joy that our Creator is speaking to us. Just as my girls actually drag their highchairs into the kitchen to see and hear when they know that I am about to make formula so we should with delight open our Bibles at least every day.

    Thought
    God’s word is our tutor and our joy

    Prayer
    May I always be eager to hear what You have to say to me, God

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  • Perspective

    But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.
    Psalm 73:28 (NASB)

    If someone is standing several hundred feet away you can easily fit them between your thumb and index finger if you close one eye and spread those two fingers an inch apart. But if a tiny spider crawls across your glasses it appears as though a monster is in your face. An aspect of perspective is how objects appear to us based on our relationship to them. The closer something is to us the larger it will appear. In the above situation we know that a person is larger than a spider but at that moment the spider is more intimidating.

    This same principle holds true for our problems and God. Whichever one we keep closer to us the bigger it will appear than the other. If we keep God at a distance by not reading the Bible, praying, or attending church then He will appear to be small and ineffective. We may occasionally yell to Him for help but it is like we are talking to someone on the other side of a parking lot. Whereas if we constantly focus on a problem, thinking about it, mulling its worst consequences then it will be like that spider on our glasses. Of course the reality is that God is greater than any problem but our perspective of these may be distorted because of which one we are keeping closest to us.

    It is only by being in the constant presence of God that we can begin to see just how great and powerful He is.

    Thought
    Only those who draw near to God will see Him as great

    Prayer
    May You always be the closest to my heart, to my thoughts, and to my desires.

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  • Elijah

    Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.
    1 Kings 17:3 (NASB)

        If there ever was a firebrand in the Bible it was Elijah. He rebuked kings, faced down armies, and challenged false prophets to a public contest. He raised people from the dead, called down fire from heaven, and parted the Jordan River. God said “Arise” and “So he arose.” God said, “Go, show yourself to Ahab” and “so Elijah went to show himself to Ahab.” Elijah was zealous in his obedience God. If we ran a ministry and had such a person come to us we would rub our hands together and think of the most vital and demanding task that we could give to him at once.

    But what was the first thing that God told Elijah to do? “Go… hide yourself.” God took Elijah and put him in place where he had to rely on faithfulness of God. He had no food, eventually no water, and he had to depend on scavenger birds to feed him. God took this zealot and put him into a position of weakness and dependence.

    Yes, we need to be zealous for God. We need to be people who make a difference whether it is standing with the oppressed or bringing the Good News to the lost. Yet we must always be aware that it is not zeal alone that changes lives but one whose heart is wholly given to and reliant upon God.

    Thought
    Zeal for God is not as powerful as zeal with God.

    Prayer
    Before I attempt to storm the forces of evil, hide me.

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  • Our Greatest Need

    Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
    Psalm 73:25 (NASB)

    Bible Reading: Psalm 73:23-28

    What is our greatest need? Someone may say “air” since without air we would be dead within minutes. That would be correct if our primary need was simply to stay alive and the only life we have is the one between birth and death. Another might answer “our health” because if we are in poor health then we can be miserable for our entire lives. But that is assuming that the quality of our health must dictate our outlook on life. Someone else may believe that it is “love” since without love our lives are empty. That answer is getting closer, but love is merely the byproduct of something deeper.

        Our greatest need is to have a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Only with this can we be assured of our place in Heaven, our lives have eternal meaning, and we are able to endure sufferings. And only with this can we come to know true love as from a Savior who gave His life for us.

    Even the quality of our relationships with other people will improve if we imitate God. We will be able to love more deeply if we experience God’s love. We will forgive most completely if we understand God’s forgiveness of our abundant sins. We will sacrifice for other people when we grasp the tremendous sacrifice that God has made for us.

    Knowing God is not a luxury; it is our greatest need.

    Thought: The deeper our relationship with God is the stronger every aspect of our lives will be.

    Prayer: O God, set my heart to desire You first and foremost.

    Focus: People with consistently poor relationships

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  • The Greatest Evacuation

    For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
    Colossians 1:13 (NASB)

    Bible Reading: Colossians 1:13-17

    An evacuation is when people are moved from a dangerous place to one that is safer. The largest ancient evacuation was in 480 BC when 100,000 people left Athens because of the approaching Persian army. More recent evacuations involved 3.75 million people in British cities starting in September 1939 due to World War II, 14 million Chinese in July 1998 because of flooding, and 2.5 million residents fleeing the Houston area from Hurricane Rita. All of these efforts required a huge amount of planning and resources. These people moved because they desired life over death.

    However, there is one evacuation that has involved hundreds of millions of people and has been ongoing throughout our entire human history. Its planning was before the foundation of the world and it required the greatest sacrifice from one person to bring others to safety.

    Before we are born-again we are prisoners in a place of darkness burdened with a yoke of sin. An eternal Hell awaits us. We could never be in greater danger. But Jesus Christ died so that we could be evacuated from this domain of misery to a place of supreme joy and abundance. The very instant that we are saved we are moved from darkness to light, from judgment to forgiveness, from oppression to true freedom, and from present and eternal danger to safety. Never has there been an evacuation as great.

    Thought: Through salvation, God moves us from death to life

    Prayer: Thank you, God, for the incomparable riches of our kingdom in Christ.

    Focus: Those who have had to vacate their homes

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  • Seeing through the Swirl of Frustration

    Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.
    Psalm 136:1 (NASB)

        I was 43 years old when I married for the first time and my wife was 40. We struggled for years trying to have children. We did not have the luxury of many additional years to keep trying; our timeframe was tight. Finally when I was 48 we got the news that my wife was pregnant and doubly pregnant at that! On July 21, 2006 we received from God two daughters: Sarah and Danielle.

        As with any toddlers, there are plenty of times when their demands and outbursts can tempt me to lose my temper and raise my voice. But I have found the best remedy is to be grateful. I will remember how I used to be discouraged because I saw so many people younger than me with children and how I was alone. Now when the girls are having one of their conniptions I think about how I once never believed that I would be standing here with my children. Then I am moved to thank God for His blessing in giving me such wonderful gifts. My heart calms and patience comes more easily.

        Psalm 136 lists a number of God’s characteristics and deeds and each one begins with “Give thanks.”

    Thought
    When we dwell on our inconveniences, trials, and problems we are cast down, but when we focus on being thankful we are lifted up.

    Prayer
    Despite the blinding swirl of problems, may I never lose sight of Your blessings.

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  • Small versus Large

    But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.
    Micah 5:2 (NASB)

    Tiny and immense. Insignificant and majestic. Hopeless and all powerful. God loves to couple opposites. We see this throughout the Bible. Genesis tells us that God used dust to create a being in His own image and then in Revelation we see a people who walked in darkness (Isaiah 9:2) joyfully standing before a God who is brighter than the sun. We can spend a lifetime creating a list of opposites that God has joined together yet perhaps the most magnificent and incomprehensible is the birth of Jesus.

    To an obscure couple was born Him of whom the entire creation proclaims. An unmarried, virgin girl gave birth to the Bridegroom of the church. From someone whose life spanned maybe 70 years came forth One from “the days of eternity.” And in a little, insignificant town far from the great centers of power was born the King of Kings.

    The Nativity was more than a small baby nestled in straw. It was not merely someone great being humbly born. We see something that should never be; something that is impossible. We see the One who fills the universe and who exists outside of time become a creation who was picked up and cradled while crying from hunger.

    It is because of God’s love that the greatest opposites in the universe—He who is utterly holy and us who are sinners—can call each other Father and child.

    Thought
    The Nativity may be inconceivable but, nevertheless most importantly, it is true.

    Prayer
    May a Nativity scene produce in me great worship.

    Read
    Micah 5:2-4

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  • Paralyzed by the Lack of God’s Voice

    Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.
    Exodus 14:15 (NASB)

    A relative’s old car keeps breaking down, but she will not buy a new one because she has not yet heard God’s voice. Someone’s job is close to being terminated but he will not job hunt until he is definitely prompted by the Spirit. A friend is estranged from her father but she will not attempt reconciliation because she has not received clear direction from God. These people have become paralyzed in their decision making because they believe that they need to hear God’s clear voice before they can act.

    Too often, many people blame their inaction on God’s lack of responsiveness. They prayed, but God still has not given them a clear answer. However, God never promised to supernaturally guide us on every decision or even for the important ones. Most times He expects us to use Biblical commands or guidelines, godly counsel, or even simple reason. If we are in the middle of the street and a car is bearing down on us we do not need to get on our knees and pray for God’s leading or intervention.

    Yes, we should definitely pray and listen for God’s leading. But meanwhile let us continue to use God’s many other means of guidance. Taking action does not always have to be a leap of faith from a supernatural prompt; sometimes it can be a careful walk of righteousness and reason.

    Thought
    Do not let the lack of something supernatural be the cause of inactivity.

    Prayer
    God, lead me with Your voice when You choose but may I keep going forward even when You do not.

    Read
    Exodus 14:1-15

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  • Will you Rise or Fall?

    For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity.
    Proverbs 24:16 (NASB)

    Many people in their spiritual journey commit a sin that is not merely a stumble but a great fall. It is a defining moment that will forever change their lives. But what will define them is not so much the sin itself but how they respond to it. The direction taken, whether towards God or away from Him, is entirely that person’s choice.

    In Genesis 37:26 Judah was a greedy opportunist. He counseled his brothers not to kill Joseph but, rather, to sell him for profit. Years later he committed adultery and disobeyed God’s law and in Genesis 38:26 we see how humiliated he was. Judah could not ignore his sin; he had to choose which path to take. His response was to turn to God and straighten up his life. In Genesis chapters 43-46 he is the one who counsels his brothers to do what is right and takes responsibility should it go badly. And ultimately it was through Judah that God’s greatest blessing, Jesus Christ the Messiah, came (Genesis 49:10).

    Just as the decision to sin is our choice so is what happens afterwards. Will we receive God’s forgiveness and cleansing and walk even closer to God or will we turn away? With the first comes blessing, the second leads only to greater heartache and misery.

    Thought
    After you fall, you should hold God’s hand even tighter.

    Prayer
    God, may all sin, small or great, bring me back to You.

    Read
    Genesis 38:1-36

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  • A Hitchhiker Christian

    But Ittai answered the king and said, "As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, surely wherever my lord the king may be, whether for death or for life, there also your servant will be."
    2 Samuel 15:21 (NASB)

    Several of us were driving down the interstate highway when we saw a young man hitchhiking. He was traveling light. We picked him up and asked him where he was going. He replied that it did not make any difference. When further asked where he ultimately wanted to go he said that it did not matter; he would go wherever anybody took him. He was just out seeing the sights.

    Unfortunately, many Christians are like this hitchhiker when it comes to attending church. They will go wherever they happen to land with no intention to stay. They are merely checking things out. But just like our hitchhiker these Christians often travel light; however, not in the bags that they carry but in their own spiritual life. Because they are not committed to one church they are less able to serve in local ministries, they are not under the shepherding watch of a pastor, and it is more difficult to develop close relationships with other Christians. If you are not already in a good church then find one and sink your roots into it. Ittai committed himself to David and eventually became one of his trusted commanders.

    Thought
    Do not be a “Hitchhiker Christian.” Be someone who commits to a church.

    Prayer
    May my life be rich with serving, consistency, and commitment.

    Read
    2 Samuel 15:18-22; 18:2

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  • Paid in Full

    But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
    Acts 2:24 (NASB)

    Recently I made a purchase and after the salesperson counted the money he wrote at the bottom of the receipt “Paid in Full.” Then if anyone tried to claim that I still owed on this purchase I could show him this receipt and the case is closed.

    The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is God the Father stamping “Paid in Full” on the cross. Jesus took all of our sins upon Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21) when He was crucified but it is only because the Father raised Him from the dead that we know for certain that Jesus’ payment was counted and accepted in full. God could have simply told us that He accepted Jesus’ payment and that would have been enough. But, as we can see throughout the Bible, God prefers to be with us rather than just tell us. After Jesus rose, He cooked fish, He talked with many people, He told the women at the tomb, “Do not be afraid,” and He said to Thomas, “Reach here…”

    It is because Jesus rose from the dead that we can know that our sins are forgiven totally and for all time (Romans 8:1). It is because Jesus stepped out the tomb alive forevermore that we can know that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13). And if anyone tries to tell me that I still owe on my sins then I can show them the Resurrection and the case is closed.

    Prayer
    Hallelujah, Jesus, You are alive and I am forgiven!

    Thought
    All believers’ sins are stamped “Paid in Full.”

    Read
    Acts 2:22-36

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  • Not There Anymore

    Come and see the works of God, who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men.
    Psalm 66:5 (NASB)

    The Incarnation is perhaps the greatest event that could ever occur. Yet if we were able to go to the exact spot where the infinite God became a tiny baby cradled by His mother we would not find Him there. It would be empty because, as incredible as that event was, God was not finished yet.

    Jesus Christ, fully God, died on a cross to pay for every sin of every person who will ever live. Yet if we go to Golgotha we will not see Jesus still hanging on a cross. The place is empty because God was not finished yet.

    Jesus was laid in a tomb in the side of a hill and a stone was rolled across the entrance. Yet today if we duck into that cave we do not see a body there. That is because, even with the full payment of our sins completed, God was not finished yet.

    After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples and walked among the people. But today we cannot go to the area of the Sea of Galilee and find Jesus still teaching and healing. That is because, even then, God was not finished yet.

    Jesus ascended into Heaven where He now sits enthroned. Then one day Jesus will return; there will be a new Heavens and a new Earth. There will be no need for the sun for God shall be our light. Then it will be finished.

    Prayer
    Thank you, God, for the hope that, one day, all will be completed.

    Thought
    God is still working in the world and in us.

    Read
    Psalm 66:1-5

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  • The Greatest Divider; the Greatest Joy

    “The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men… And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.”
    Matthew 28:4,9 (NASB)

    Throughout history people have been divided by many things: politics, class, race, and nationalities to name a few. But perhaps that which has caused the greatest division is what forms the foundation of Christianity: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And, furthermore, the consequences of each side could not be greater. In Matthew 28 we read about two groups of people: the guards who mocked Jesus on the cross and were now watching His tomb versus two women who were followers of Him. Jesus’ resurrection resulted in both falling to the ground but that is where the similarity ends. The guards fell from fear because they refused to embrace the idea of a risen Christ; the women fell in worship. The guards “became like dead men”; the women ran with “great joy.” Whereas the guards laid there cowering, Jesus told the women to rise up and go tell others. And finally the guards were told to lie about Jesus whereas the women gladly spread the truth.

    The reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is too powerful to be ignored. Is He a dead fraud or a Savior who is alive forevermore? Are we “dead men” forced to believe lies or those who rise up with joy and proclaim, “Jesus has risen! Hallelujah!”? I gladly and without doubt stand with the two women.

    Prayer
    Jesus, we worship You as the One alive forevermore!

    Thought
    The resurrection compels us today just the same as on that day: joy, worship, proclamation!

    Read
    Matthew 28:1-15

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  • Loss to Victory

    Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me."
    Matthew 28:10 (NASB)

    At one moment on a Friday nearly two thousand years ago the Light of the World (John 8:12) was extinguished. The Bread of Life (John 6:35) was cast out. The Holy One (Acts 3:14) was filled with our sin. The Word of God (Rev. 19:13) fell silent. And the Good Shepherd (John 10:11) was murdered.

    For the next three days those who had followed Jesus gathered together and wept and mourned (Mark 16:10). The cause that they had devoted the last three years of their lives had been destroyed. Their leader was dead tightly wrapped in a cold tomb guarded behind a large stone. What was left but to take their memories and return to their previous way of life?

    In what was perhaps their last act of memorializing the dead, two women went to tomb on a Sunday only to find the guards paralyzed in fear, the stone rolled away, and the tomb empty. The Resurrection and Life (John 11:25) appeared and said, “Do not be afraid.” The King of kings (1 Tim 6:15) was alive! In their joy and renewed conviction the disciples gathered around their Lord and then went into all the world and proclaimed the Good News of the Hope of Glory (Col. 1:27).

    Prayer
    Thank you, God, for eternal life that in three days went from crushing loss to hope forevermore for all.

    Thought
    Loss to victory demonstrated in God; hope for all of our lives.

    Read
    Mark 16:1-15

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  • Choose

    But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death.
    Matthew 27:20 (NASB)

    I ran a booth for our church at a town festival. We gave away Bibles, tracts, and brochures all for free and had people available to talk about who Jesus is and what He did for us. I was talking to one man when after a short time he blurted out, “Why do you bother with this nonsense? There are so many better things in the world to spend your time on.” Then he walked away before I could respond.

    So often people and the world’s culture try to persuade us to choose something other than Jesus. In Matthew 27 Pilate gave the people a choice of which prisoner to release: Barabbas or Jesus. Barabbas was a robber, murderer, was involved in a rebellion against Rome and noted as a notorious prisoner. Jesus healed the lame, blind, and lepers. He fed thousands. The choice seems obvious. However, some people went through the crowd and persuaded them to choose Barabbas. The Creator was rejected and led to His trial and death.

    Still today the voice of the world calls us to choose something other than the risen Savior. It wants us to give our time, money, loyalty, and attention to anything else. But like those disciples who followed Jesus to the empty tomb we need to resist those voices and press on with our eyes fixed firmly on Him.

    Thought
    May the Master’s voice, ever so gentle, cut through the din of the world.

    Prayer
    May my love for You, Jesus, be so great that it drowns out opposing voices.

    Read
    Matthew 27:11-26

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  • Healing an Outcast

    He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." (Mark 5:34)

    HEALING AN OUTCAST

    THIS WOMAN HAD suffered from a chronic bleeding that for twelve years had made her unclean. If anyone touched her they would also be unclean. Many people probably attributed her condition to sin in her life (see John 9:2) and treated her poorly. She was a social outcast. Here, she tried to sneak in and touch Jesus without drawing attention to herself knowing that if people did recognize her they would chase her away.

    Today we do not use Levitical Laws to shun people but have created our own cruel list of reasons to ostracize others. This may include someone with a deformity or who dresses poorly or who may have too large a nose, ears, or weight. The result is someone who sneaks around the periphery of society.

    Jesus was not merely interested in healing this woman physically; He also wanted to heal her fears. He sought her out and called her “daughter” and told her to “go in peace.” This was probably the first time in twelve years that anyone had drawn close to her.

    Jesus can take a social outcast and turn that person around. This may not come instantly and may take much remolding but with confidence from God’s acceptance (God sees the inward heart and not the outward appearance – 1 Samuel 16:7) even the outcast can become more like Christ and draw others to themself.

    Reach out to someone who might be socially awkward and show them God’s love.

    Published Light from the Word, (September 2011-November 2011), Monday, September 19

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  • The Intimacy of Healing


    Mark 5:35-42

    He took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. (Mark 5:40)

    THE INTIMACY OF HEALING

    HEALING IS ONE of God’s greatest times of intimacy. When God heals someone, that person is not merely a character in a big show. He is not a prop used to wow everyone and then left to go his way. Yes, many of Jesus’ healings were done publically, but if we examine them we see that His attention was on the person and not on the crowd. He did not approach an invalid and wave His arms and shout, “Come gather around and see what I am about to do.” Rather, He asked, “What can I do for you?”

    In this passage a 12-year old girl had died. When Jesus arrived at the official’s house there was a commotion. There were relatives and friends and, as in the tradition of the times, mourners hired to weep and wail. But Jesus put them all out and only took with Himself the child’s father and mother and His three companions. And in the silence of the room He took the child’s hand and spoke and the child rose up alive.

    There were three healings here: the child’s death and the grief and fear of the father and mother. And here in a small room in a dusty village Jesus healed all three and allowed them to release all of their emotions, all of their joy, and all of their praise in intimacy.

    When you need healing first go to Jesus and pour out your heart together alone.

    Published Light from the Word, (September 2011-November 2011), Tuesday, September 20

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  • Spiritually Healed at Great Expense

    Isaiah 53:3-5

    the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,  and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5b)

    SPIRITUALLY HEALED AT GREAT EXPENSE

    WE ARE A fragile people. So much can go wrong. Our hearts can be crushed. We can suffer an emotional breakdown. Our bodies can be broken and otherwise solid relationships can be destroyed by a few cruel words.

    But God knows our condition. Psalm 103:14 assures us that God “remembers that we are dust.” Complete spiritual healing takes more than the efforts of equally vulnerable people; it takes an all-powerful Creator. Jesus took upon Himself our infirmities and sorrows. The King of the universe was rejected. The Creator, despised. The Almighty was scourged; the Lord of Hosts was crushed. The One whose glory fills the whole earth carried our sorrows. Why? Because it was the only way. We could not be forgiven unless Jesus Christ became our sin.

    The Bible indicates that the moment we are saved (born-again) 33 irreversible and eternal riches are bestowed upon us. A few are that we are redeemed, reconciled, forgiven, adopted, justified, sanctified, and glorified. We are delivered from the domain of darkness, made citizens of Heaven, and in Him we are now complete. We are now light and salt, made a royal priesthood, and are placed firmly on rock of Jesus Christ. We cannot comprehend the amazing transformation that occurs in that one instantaneous moment. We who were broken by sin are now made whole by the blood of the Lamb.

    Praise God that you are indeed a new creation in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17).

    Published Light from the Word, (September 2011-November 2011), Wednesday, September 21

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  • Healing and then Giving

    2 Chronicles 32:24-26

    But Hezekiah's heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him. (2 Chronicles 32:25)

    HEALING AND THEN GIVING

    SARAH, REBEKAH, HANNAH, Manoah’s wife, and Elizabeth were all barren. Moses was driven from his people and Joseph was sold into slavery. We are crushed and left wounded. But why does that hurt often remain untouched? One reason might be to prepare us for God’s healing, not that we might be able to receive it, but so that we will be able to give even more once we do receive it.

    God wants us to be a giving people. He gives us an ocean of blessings so that we might be a river of blessings to others. But there is a problem. James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…” What is the wrong motive? It is “that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” We want to keep and not to give. Pray not just for your own healing but that you might then comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

    When we are hurting terribly we wonder why God is not there. But that is never true. God is always with us and when the time is right and we are ready, He will accomplish a great thing in our lives. It may not be what we expect or when we expect it, but this we can be assured, it will be better because God is faithful and compassionate.

    When God heals you in any way then look to help others.

    Published Light from the Word, (September 2011-November 2011), Thursday, September 22

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  • The Healing of Forgiveness

    Psalm 30:1-3

    O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. (Psalm 30:2)

    THE HEALING OF FORGIVENESS

    THERE ARE PROBABLY very few Christians who have not heard something like, “You’re no better than anyone else” or “Some Christian you are.” The more public our Christianity, the more people will watch us waiting for our fall from grace. And if we do slip up then they are ready to pounce.

    King David was one of the most watched people in the Bible. Yet he committed a number of very public and very terrible sins. Psalm 30:5-6 indicates that David was being punished by God for some sin provoked by pride. The result was much weeping and mourning. His detractors were rubbing their hands together ready to celebrate his fall. But then something inexplicable happened. David rejoiced. He danced. He gave thanks and praised God. David had experienced the healing forgiveness of God. Once we are forgiven we do not need to do any penance before God. Our forgiveness is complete. We are wholly cleansed (1 John 1:9).  God reassures us in Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” The sin has been removed. It is cast behind God’s back (Isaiah 38:17).   

    Guilt can make us feel like we are in a grave, in a pit. It is a wound that can last the rest of our lives. Only God’s mercy heals.

    When God forgives us, we need to forgive ourselves and praise Him for His mercy.

    Published Light from the Word, (September 2011-November 2011), Friday, September 23

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  • The Wholeness of Healing

    John 5:1-15

    Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (John 5:8)

    THE WHOLENESS OF HEALING

    PROVERBS 13:12 SAYS, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” I know how discouraging this can be. It took me 43 years before I got married and then five more years trying to have children. Fulfillment seemed like a tiny speck on a distant island.

    In John 5 there was a man who suffered from paralysis for 38 years and every time he thought that he might be healed someone else stepped in front and stole away his hope. Then Jesus came and, in His mercy, healed him. This man never gave up hope. He kept trying for 38 years. Had he been home feeling sorry for himself he would never have met Jesus. Whether our pain is emotional, physical, social, or spiritual, Jesus can heal us.  And Jesus can more than heal; He can restore. This man may never have walked and yet not only did Jesus heal his paralysis but He enabled him to carry his pallet and walk without falling. Jesus can do more than heal our crushing grief; He can give us joy. He can do more than heal our social fears; He can teach us to be a great friend. Jesus can do more than deliver us from hell; He can make us a citizen of Heaven. And in my case, Jesus did more than give me a wife; He gave me beautiful twin daughters.

    With whatever wounds you have, continue to seek God in prayer.

    Published Light from the Word, (September 2011-November 2011), Saturday, September 24

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  • The True and Complete Healer

    Psalm 104:25-35

    When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. (Psalm 104:28)

    GOD: THE TRUE AND COMPLETE HEALER

    ONE TIME A close friend turned against me. The impact on my life was devastating. For over a year I was locked in bitterness and mistrust. I tried several ways to break out of this terrible grip including trying to think positively about it to not thinking about it at all. Nothing worked. Then one day in church the pastor asked everyone to stand up who had been struggling with something. I stood up. Several people around me put their hands on me and then the entire congregation prayed for all of us who were standing. I had finally taken my situation to God and from that point on I felt freedom and a sincere ability to forgive.

    When life goes against us our tendency is to blame God. But rather than see Him only as someone who punishes we should approach Him as the One who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). True and complete healing only comes from the grace of God. He created us and only He knows exactly how to fix us. He may work through pastors, other Christians, books, doctors, and other means, but ultimately it is God who mends and restores. Indeed, He is “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). There is no betrayal, no grief, no fear that God cannot heal.

    When you are wounded, go to God first and seek His healing.

    Published Light from the Word, (September 2011-November 2011), Sunday, September 25

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  • Jesus the Head

    Colossians 1:17-24

    He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. (Colossians 1:17-18a)

    JESUS THE HEAD

    HISTORY IS FILLED with the broken statues of leaders who lead great empires but upon their death or defeat found their kingdom scattered and destroyed. Christianity’s leader also was killed and in His death He was publically humiliated and mocked. His few followers retreated to a place of mourning and weeping.

    But when a roll call is made in the afterlife of history’s greatest rulers all will answer “here” except for One. That is because He is no longer dead; He is alive forevermore and He will remain the head of His church. We do not sustain ourselves merely on the writings of our originator but are actively lead, nourished, encouraged, and strengthened by Him who is always with us.

    It is no coincidence that the verse about Jesus being head of the church is immediately followed by one of the Bible’s greatest proclamations of Jesus’ deity: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.”

    Even the gates of Hades shall not prevail. We can stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ knowing that the church is not a passing fad. But rather, it is a body that takes the broken and makes them glorious. It calls sinners and makes them holy. And it rescues those destined for Hell and brings them into the presence of God. Jesus our Lord and Savior, alive forevermore.

    Draw near to the church’s living head to become holy and without blemish.

    Published Light from the Word, (June 2011 - August 2011), Monday, July 18

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  • Giving like Jesus

    Acts 4:32-35

    All the believers were one in heart and mind. (Acts 4:32)

    GIVING LIKE JESUS

    FOR A TIME in my life I decided that I was going to stop reaching out to other people. If anyone wanted to be my friend then they were going to have to come to me. I sat by myself in church; I stood in the foyer waiting for someone to come over. It was the loneliest year of my life.

    We were created in God’s image and it is at the cross that God gives us new life. This is the same cross where Jesus totally denied Himself for the sake of others. When we are most focused on ourselves that is when we are the most empty. In contrast, Jesus emptied Himself (Philippians 2:7) so that we might be full of Him.

    In the Gospels we see Jesus going to where people were the neediest. In John 5:1-15 He goes to the pool of Bethesda where there were gathered the sick, blind, lame, and withered. In Mark 5:35-42 He goes to the house of a dead child. We cannot escape the Lord’s compassion. And we, too, should follow Jesus’ example in seeking out the needy so that we might give, standing with the oppressed to provide support, and being with those who are doubting to strengthen their faith. In doing these things we are indeed living the power of the resurrection in the generous grace of God.

    Seek out the needy that they might be filled.

    Published Light from the Word, (June 2011 - August 2011), Tuesday, July 19

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  • The Dynamic Church

    1 Thessalonians 5:12-24

    May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. (1 Thessalonians 5:23a)

    THE DYNAMIC CHURCH

    FOR SOME CHRISTIANS their church consists only of watching a service on TV. However, church is not merely a place to get good teaching; that would be a book. It is much more than that. It is alive and dynamic and provides that which is dear to God’s heart: relationships.

    In 1 Thessalonians there are four major church dynamics. The first is godly leaders. These are men who shepherd, guide, teach, admonish, and protect us. The second dynamic is serving others and developing caring relationships. There are people who struggle in many desperate ways. God has given each one of us gifts and abilities to admonish, encourage, and help these people. We should never be so deceived as to think that we have nothing to offer to other people. The third is that church helps us in our own personal living. We cannot “rejoice always” and “in everything give thanks” without the support of fellow believers. Just as our hands can mend the weaknesses in others so we too need their hands to strengthen our weaknesses. Finally, we can do any of these things only because it is the Lord who knits us together; He gives us grace and strength.

    All four of these are necessary to make us complete in Christ and it is only the church that is able to provide them all.

    Be active in a church to draw nearer to God and to other believers.

    Published Light from the Word, (June 2011 - August 2011), Wednesday, July 20

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  • Solid Core

    Ephesians 4:1-6

    One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:6)

    A SOLID CORE

    THE EARTH IS an extremely complex structure. At its center is a solid core of mostly iron that is 1500 miles across. In contrast, the Earth’s surface has great variety and beauty ranging from nearly desolate polar regions to richly diverse tropics. We have identified around 2 million species but there may be over ten times as many that are yet undiscovered. Yet in all of this diversity the world flows together in harmony.

    In many ways the church is similar. Across its surface there is great diversity ranging from underground churches in Asia to mega churches in North America. We worship God in boisterous charismatic celebrations and in solemn, meditative gatherings. Teenagers with spiked hair praise God next to men in suits. But at its core the church is bound together by seven great unities. There are the members of the Trinity: one God and Father, one Lord (Jesus), and one Spirit. Despite all of the various denominations, there is only one true church (body). We share one hope knowing that our future is with God in Heaven and one faith which is our common salvation in Christ. Finally, we are all united by our public identification with Christ in one baptism.  The church’s great differences are more than outweighed by its core unifiers. For that reason we need to work together to exalt God and proclaim His ways.

    Our goal is not to be the best but to do our best.

    Published Light from the Word, (June 2011 - August 2011), Thursday, July 21

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  • Prisoners to Saints

    Ephesians 4:7-16

    When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train (Ephesians 4:8)

    PRISONERS TO SAINTS

    SINCE PRISONS WERE costly to maintain in ancient times they were usually cramped, filthy and ridden with disease and starvation. They were places of terrible misery and passersby could hear the groans of great suffering. The end of most of these prisoners was usually death, disfigurement, or slavery.

    Our sins also make us prisoners but our prison consists of bitterness, anger, greed, selfishness, and many other spiritual diseases. These sins can destroy our relationships, jobs, and joy. We, too, groan. But God in His mercy did not turn away. Psalm 102:19-20 says that God looked down from Heaven “To hear the groaning of the prisoner, to set free those who were doomed to death.” He “led captives” from prison and brought us into His family, the church. But the church is not simply released prisoners, but with people who are much more than that. He elevated us to teachers, pastors, and evangelists. He gave us gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and mercy. To each one of us was given a special gift (1 Peter 4:10) so that every member might fit into the church in a God selected way so that we might build each other up.

    The church does not recruit heroes and turn them into leaders. It frees prisoners of sin and equips us to be vital parts in the living and dynamic body of Christ.

    Find your place in the church and serve to the building up of others.

    Published Light from the Word, (June 2011 - August 2011), Friday, July 22

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  • The Church’s Three Faces

    Titus 2:11-15

    to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:14)

    THE CHURCH’S THREE FACES

    THE CHURCH HAS three faces. With one face it looks at the past for its security and foundation. Its security does not lie with how much money it can accumulate nor with how many allies it can gather.  The church’s security is the eternal salvation given through Jesus Christ and its foundation is His unfailing grace.

    With its second face the church looks at the present to turn away from “ungodliness and worldly desires” and “to live sensibly, righteously and godly.” We are called to make an impact in this world: to stand with the oppressed, to be light and salt, and to bring the Good News of salvation to all people.

    With its third face the church looks to the future. We are not living merely living on past glories nor is our life only in the here and now. Our destiny is to be united with Jesus Christ at His great and glorious Second Coming, to rejoice as the bride at the marriage of the Lamb. It is a future of eternal rejoicing, praise, and worship.

    The church is firmly built upon the finished work of Jesus, zealously serving in the grace of Jesus, and eagerly awaiting the “blessed hope” of “our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” The church: a living cathedral to the glory of God.

    With your feet on a firm foundation, serve heartily and hope confidently.

    Published Light from the Word, (June 2011 - August 2011), Saturday, July 23

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  • The Joyous Church

    Psalm 100:1-5

    Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. (Psalm 100:4)

    THE JOYOUS CHURCH

    EVERY SO OFTEN we read a story about an outlandishly wealthy person who died and left behind a huge bank account and a house full of junk. They had so much money and yet used so little of it. We usually scoff at these foolish people.

    However, too often Christians can be like that stingy, rich person. Not because we have hoarded money but because we fail to grasp something even more valuable, Too many Christians lead grim, frustrated lives full of complaining and trying to “one down” the next person.

    God does not want us to enter His presence dragging our feet with our latest complaint on our lips, our heads hanging low and looking like we are posing for the cover of the book of Lamentations. Rather He wants us to “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.” The Bible uses the words rejoice, glad, happy, celebrate and joy over 600 times. We of all people have cause for rejoicing for our hope does not rely on power, money, or fame but on God whose “love endures forever” and whose “faithfulness continues through all generations.” The church should be a place that others are drawn to; a place where life is celebrated. We should welcome people with sincere joy and proclaim with our lives that we are God’s people. Praise His name!

    We have the abundant blessings of God—let’s act like it!

    Published Light from the Word, (June 2011 - August 2011), Sunday, July 24

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  • The Heart of Jesus

    BIBLE READING: John 19:25-27

    When I am going through a trial my main focus, unfortunately too often, is my suffering or my inconvenience. And if someone tells me that they went through something similar then of course my situation is ten times worse because, well, it is happening to me and that alone makes it worse.

    Jesus is very different from me. Whereas my primary focus is myself, Jesus’ focus was always others. In this passage in John 19 we see Jesus being crucified on a cross. His body was torn from the scourging, His head blooded from the thorns, and very soon He would die with the sins of world laid on Him. Yet when His mother and the apostle John were standing before Him rather than complain about the horrors He just experienced He, instead, ensured that they would be there to support and encourage each other.

    Everything that Jesus did was for others. His miracles were never dramatic shows just to impress everyone as to how great He was. Rather, they always benefited someone else whether it was feeding thousands, healing the sick, or calming terrified sailors. He was born so that we might be saved, He died so that we could be forgiven, and He rose from the dead that we might live forever with Him. The heart of Jesus was always aimed at making other lives more meaningful, more abundant.

    We, too, should develop a heart that carefully discerns the needs of others and then plans ways to improve their lives.

    SONG: Worthy Is the Lamb

    PRAYER: May I follow the example of Jesus and learn to put others before me.

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  • Fear to Peace

    BIBLE READING: John 20:19-23

    When I was in grade school I had a small part in a play. I was so nervous I was sure that my vocal chords would freeze and I would be unable to utter a sound let alone clearly recite my lines. I seriously thought about bolting. But then I felt a large hand on my shoulder and my father’s voice reassure, “There is nothing to fear, you’ll do great.” I went out and nailed my lines.

    After Jesus was killed His disciples went into hiding out of fear. The risen Jesus appeared to them and His first words were, “Peace be with you.” Much of our lives can be ruled by fear but Jesus’ response is still the same. We fear what will happen when we die. Jesus says, “Peace. I have risen and ascended to Heaven to prepare a place for you.” We fear that our faith is in vain. Jesus says, “Peace, your faith lies with a Savior who is alive forevermore.” We fear that if we do not follow the crowd and grab the pleasures of this world that we will miss out. Jesus says, “Peace. Do what is right and you will lay up treasures in Heaven.” We fear that our sin is too great, our guilt too heavy. Jesus says, “Peace. I died for all of those sins and rose again so that you can be assured of victory.”

    Life is full of fears but we have a risen Savior who walks with us, bows His ear to hear us, and strengthens and encourages us. We are a people who can truly live in peace.

    SONG: Because He Lives

    PRAYER: Tune my heart to Your promises, God, and let peace of Christ rule in my life.

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  • One Ring and no Circus

    Bible Reading: Mark 10:46-52

    Verse: And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “ Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!” Mark 10:51 (NASB)

    I took my twin four-year daughters to a circus. At various points the arena would go dark and a single spotlight shone on the ringmaster. He was dressed in vibrant, flowing clothes with an extra-large hat. Using a microphone his voice boomed as he called attention to himself and to the next act. The performers then came on dancing and swirling, playing to the audience. After each feat they would jump to their feet and raise their hands into the air summoning applause. When they were done with their act they leaped out of the ring. It was very entertaining.

    But Jesus was different. He did not stand on a box and wave His arms and shout, “Gather round and see the miraculous. Someone first confirm that this man is really blind and dirty. Now watch and be amazed!” Instead, He approached a filthy, rejected blind beggar and quietly asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus’ miracles were not drama simply to wow the crowd; rather, they were always focused on helping someone. His miracles impress us not so much because of their power but rather because they reveal His heart. That He multiplied fish and bread is quite amazing. But that He noticed that people were tired and hungry and needed to be taken care of and then did something about it is what really draws us to Him. Jesus did miracles because He cared. He cared about people then and He still has that same heart towards us today.

    Prayer: Give me the spiritual eyes to see the heart of Jesus

    Thought: All of Jesus’ miracles ultimately prove how much He cares about us

    Prayer Focus: The heart of Jesus

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  • It was Always There

    Bible Reading: Psalm 106:6-12

    Verse: Then they believed His words; They sang His praise. Psalm 106:12 (NASB)

    A while ago I had a little extra cash so I put it into an envelope and hid it in a book. Then, with my memory being more gauzy than photographic, I forgot about it. A year later my wife asked me about the money. My response was, “What money? I didn’t hide any money.” It was a few months after that when looking through my books that I found the envelope with the money in it. I had mixed feelings from “Hey, I have more money than I thought I had” to “My memory is not what it used to be.”

    Even though I forgot about it, that money was always in the same place and was always available. All I had to do was take it. The promises of God are much the same. They are always available. We may forget about them, ignore them, and doubt them. But when we humbly come back to them then we shall find that they are just as efficacious and just as much a blessing. The problem is not that God’s promises disappear but that we forget about them or do not believe them. When we want to leave the confusion of the world, God is ready to be our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1). When we are guilty, God’s cleansing and forgiveness is standing by to wash us (1 John 1:9). We may forget God, but God never forgets us and when we return to God’s promises we will likewise proclaim, “Hey, I have more blessings than I thought I had.”

    Prayer: God, help me to believe Your promises and cling to them

    Thought: God’s promises do not disappear when we close the Bible but are always near to our hearts

    Prayer Focus: Remembering and treasuring God’s word

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  • Carrying Extra Stones

    Suggested Reading: 1 Samuel 17:40-50

    Verse: “He took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:40 (NASB)

    For a number of years I ran a Singles Ministry at our church. One good thing that came out of it was that a widow and man met and got engaged. When they initially asked me to give the message at their wedding they told me that it would mostly be friends from church with some nearby Christian relatives. So I prepared a Christian focused message. But just in case, I also prepared a second message that was a more thorough presentation of the Gospel. When I arrived at the wedding there were many people that I did not recognize. The groom told me that a number of their non-Christian friends and relatives decided to come. Fortunately I had that second Gospel message prepared and was able to deliver the Good News to many people.

    When God called David to battle Goliath David knew that God was behind him, but David still gathered five stones from the brook. In the end he needed only one but he still had the wisdom and humility to have those four backups.

    Sometimes when God calls us to do something, the first try may not go the way that we hope. That does not mean that we have failed and so should give up. We should have alternative plans or extras so that if the first time is not a success then we still have those extra four stones ready in our pocket.

    Prayer: God, teach me diligence

    Thought: God does not promise success on every first try so press on and keep going

    Prayer Focus: Perseverance in obeying God

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  • A Simple Bible to a Study Bible

    Bible reading: Ecclesiastes 3:11-15

    Verse: He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NASB)

    For much of my life I had a simple Bible. It did not have any extras in the back nor any notes at the beginning of each book. But I loved that Bible. I read it diligently every day, wrote copious notes in the margins, and could go exactly to any section of that Bible within seconds. It served me well. But then I got a study Bible. It had maps and concordances in the back. There were detailed notes for each book and throughout every page. It was fuller, more interesting, and expanded my knowledge of Scripture.

    This parallels my life quite a bit. When I was unmarried I was involved in a lot of different ministries including running a Singles Ministry, leading an outreach team, and even writing a book on the attributes of God. It was an uncomplicated life that served me well in my quest to obey God. But then God brought a wife to me and my life was fuller and although certain types of ministry was scaled back many other types were expanded. Then when He gave us twin daughters it was like getting a huge Bible reference library.

    God gives us different phases of life. Each phase has its own benefits. Rather than constantly wish that we were in a different phase, let us seek to make the most of where we are at and to use the unique opportunities of that time to serve God the best.

    Prayer: May I make the most of each phase of my life

    Thought: Contentment comes from knowing that what I am now went entirely to God

    Prayer Focus: Serving God best from where I am now

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  • Spotlights

    Bible Reading: Proverbs 8:17-21

    Verse: “I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me. Proverbs 8:17 (NASB)

    A carnival came to our town. A friend who was not a Christian asked me to go with him. The problem was that we did not know where the carnival was and it was already dark. He decided to instant message all of his friends to find one who could tell him where to go. As we pulled out of my driveway he kept his head down while he typed furiously on his phone. Before I even drove to the end of the block I shouted, “Look there are spotlights circling around on the clouds. That must be where the carnival is.” He did not even look up. “Don’t worry; I’ll find someone who can help us soon enough.” No matter how many times I tried to tell him to look up and check out the spotlights he insisted on typing away. The spotlights, quite expectedly, took us right to the carnival. Even by then, my friend still had not found anyone who really knew where the carnival was.

    That incident reminds me of how most people’s search for God goes. God has put up many spotlights so that we can find Him. These include the Bible, the wonders of Creation, reasoning, the need for forgiveness, a sense of eternity, and, most of all, Jesus. Yet most people refuse to even look at these preferring instead to rely on what other people have to say. They never look up.

    The path to God may be narrow but it is not hidden. It is well lit with many signposts. God wants to be found; we just need to look up.

    Prayer: May I be one whom God uses to reveal Himself

    Thought: The problem with people not finding God is not that He is being difficult but that they are refusing to look.

    Prayer Focus: Those who refuse to look up and see the Savior.

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  • A Glitzy Cover, An Unsatisfying Product

    Bible Reading: Jeremiah 2:4-7

    Verse: Thus says the LORD, “What injustice did your fathers find in Me, That they went far from Me And walked after emptiness and became empty? - Jeremiah 2:5 (NASB)

    For Christmas, someone gave me a tie neatly wrapped in a Versace box. Versace is a very high end (read expensive) brand of clothing. I am not a Versace type of guy and could not see myself wearing this tie when one that costs a tenth would be just fine. I was working in New York City at the time and the Versace store was just a few blocks away. So I brought the tie, still neatly enclosed in the box to the store for a refund. I handed it to a sales clerk who took it out of the box. A few other sales clerks gathered around carefully examining the tie. Then they brought it over to me and proclaimed that this was not a Versace tie. For the first time I looked at the tag on the back and, indeed, it was not a Versace. With my face nearly as scarlet as the lines in the tie I muttered apologies and left the store.

    Much of what we see around us is wrapped in something impressive: premarital sex, expensive possessions, a high-powered career. We flash around the package and try to impress everyone. But what is inside never matches up to the glitz of the cover. There is a temporal thrill, a moment when we feel superior and on top of the world. But in the long run there is not that deep joy, that profound lasting sense that, yes, this is what really matters. These can never satisfy like forgiveness, hope, and love. God does not have to wrap His gifts in misleading covers; they are glorious in themselves.

    Prayer: May my eyes see past the glitz of the temporal and by faith see that which truly satisfies.

    Thought: The world’s baubles and trinkets can never compare to God’s abundant blessings.

    Prayer Focus: Those who miss God’s blessings because of the lust of the eyes

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  • Still Singing

    Bible Reading: Proverbs 30:2-4
    Verse: Neither have I learned wisdom, Nor do I have the knowledge of the Holy One. - Proverbs 30:3 (NASB)

    A friend of mine is the director of a specialized theatre company. During each event she is on the side of the stage behind the curtains directing all of the stagehands using a headset. One time her sound person called out sick so she had to quickly bring in a temporary person who was unfamiliar with the production. Several minutes into the first act the sound person asked the director through the headset, “Why is everyone singing?” Throughout the production he continued to ask quite bewildered, “Why are they still singing?” The director was laughing too hard to tell him that everyone was still singing because it was an opera.

    Too often, people, including Christians, ask the most misguided questions of God. “Where is God when I need Him the most?” “Why does God bless everyone else but me?” Sometimes we will even ask these same questions throughout our lives. If we only understood God better we would not be so perplexed. It is not even that we need deep theological treatises to satisfy our curiosity. A library of books is not required. The answer lies in something that we all can understand and that is in knowing God’s character. We can ask God many “how” and “why” questions but in the end His only necessary answer is “I am God. Here is what I am like. You can trust Me.” Yes, God is infinitely complex and profound, but He has also written an 1189 chapter book that tells us all about Him. Let us read it with great eagerness.

    Prayer: May I not be one who only questions but also one who seeks God’s answers

    Thought: Let us cup our hands to our ears and listen to what God has to say about Himself

    Prayer Focus: Doubters who do not ask, seek, or knock

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  • A Lack of Gratitude

    Bible Reading: Matthew 18:21-35

    In the story in today’s Bible reading the first slave owed 10,000 talents. A talent was worth around 15 years of wages which would be around 3 billion dollars today. What Jesus is saying is that this slave had an un-payable amount of debt. It would take 3,000 men 50 years to earn this much. But let us look at it another way. A talent weighed around 65 to 80 pounds so one man could carry one talent. Take each talent that this man owed and put them into the hands of 10,000 men and then put them into a line. That line would stretch six miles long. Then if they were put in front of the king and every four seconds a talent was placed at his feet, it would take 11 hours for every man to pass by the king and put down his talent. At the end, the king would have around 700,000 pounds of money at his feet.

    Another slave then owed the first slave 100 denarii. A denarius was a coin. So this amount could be carried in a bag. He could walk up to his debtor and within two seconds give it to him. That was the enormous difference in what was owed.

    The first slave, though released from a great debt, did not forgive the second slave from his small debt and because of that the king’s anger burned. God gives us an ocean of forgiveness; He only asks that we show a drop of forgiveness to the next person.

    Verse: Matthew 18: 35, “So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

    Prayer: May my forgiveness of others always be in light of God’s forgiveness of me.

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  • Not Done Yet

    Bible Reading: Matthew 5:43-48

    Pablo Casals is considered by many to be the greatest cellist who ever lived. When he was asked at 95 years of age why he still practiced six hours a day he replied, “Because I think I am making progress.”

    To become great at anything requires a commitment to learning and to doing. It means seeing a goal and moving towards it, studying with an endless appetite, and knowing that there is always further to go.

    God commands us in Matthew 5:48 to be perfect just as He is perfect. Here we see our goal: the character of God. The only way to reach this goal is to know God—know His patience, how He loves, His righteousness, His complete forgiveness, and all else. This requires a voracious desire to consume the Bible; to meditate on what it says. The sharper our goal the more likely we will come closer to it. Thus the more we understand who and what God is the more we will be able to become like Him. But crucial to all of this is to have a sense of discontentment, a restlessness that says “No, I don’t know the Bible well enough,” “No, my life is not good enough,” “No, I don’t pray enough.” Then no matter what our age or spiritual maturity we will continue to press on because we are always “making progress.”

    Verse: Matthew 5:48, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

    Prayer: May I always press on to be perfect like my heavenly Father is perfect.

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  • What Compelled Jesus?

    Bible Reading: Mark 1:40-45

    A leper came up to Jesus and knelt at His feet. Two characteristics of leprosy are that it causes deadening of the nerves so that there is a loss of sensation to touch and to temperature and also that it thickens the skin. This is why leprosy is such a good picture of sin when it becomes prevalent in our lives: we lose our sensitivity to God and it also thickens our conscience to more sin.

    Lepers were the ultimate rejects in life. People would throw stones at them in order to keep them away. Lepers were supposed to keep their distance and yell “unclean, unclean.” This leper broke the rules. He not only did not keep his distance but he even entered a crowd to get to Jesus. And because he fell on his knees before Jesus he forced Jesus to respond to him. Did Jesus scold him or push him aside? No. He was “moved [gripped] with compassion.” What seized and compelled Jesus was not the current agenda; it was compassion.

    Jesus takes the rejects of society and He works with them. Kings and politicians surround themselves with the wealthy, the powerful, and those who can contribute to them. Jesus surrounded Himself with those who had nothing to give so that He could give everything to them.

    Verse: Mark 1:40-41, “And a leper came to Him, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying to Him, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ And moved with compassion, He stretched out His hand, and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’"

    Prayer: God, I give my emptiness to You so that You can fill me with Yourself.

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  • Always a Son or Daughter

    Bible Reading: Luke 15:11-24

    Sometimes when I do something dumb at work I think, “I’m surprised they don’t demote me. I’m going to start again at the bottom of the company.” But that never happens.

    There was a situation in the Bible where someone messed up and expected a big demotion. In the case of the Prodigal Son he took his share of his inheritance and wasted it all away. He then had to take a job feeding swine but that did not pay enough. So he decided to go back to his father and humble himself. In Luke 15:21 the first thing that he says to his father is, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” He knew that he had dishonored his father and only expected the most minimal of relationships to be restored. He only wanted to be taken back by his father and maybe to talk to him a little every day. He certainly did not expect to receive many blessings and he certainly did not expect to be treated like a son. But in verse 24 what is the first name that the father calls him?—“son.” The father did not even flinch. He accepted him back fully, completely, and unconditionally. No matter how badly we sin or how little we may think that God loves us, the truth is that God will always and forever think of us as His son or daughter.

    Verse: Luke 15:24, “’for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.”

    Prayer: Thank you, God, that you are forever my Father and I will always be your child.

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  • Guilt's Signpost

    Bible Reading: Hebrews 9:11-14

    I am someone who feels guilty about everything that goes wrong. If I get mad at someone it is not that they made me mad but that I should not have gotten mad. If I break something it is not that someone put it in the wrong place but that I was not paying attention. But I do not walk around always being down on myself or feeling inferior. Quite the contrary; it gives me cause to rejoice.

    What is the purpose of guilt? It is not to make us feel bad or to make us miserable. These are the means of guilt. The purpose of guilt is to bring us to God so that He can forgive us. Guilt’s purpose is not to focus on our sin and how lousy a person we are but to point us to a place where God can cleanse us. It is not a wall to stop us in our tracks but a signpost to show us where we need to go. But too often instead of going to where the signpost points we pull it out of the ground and beat ourselves with it.

    When we sin, God does not want us to focus on our wrong. He wants our thoughts and heart to be free and not burdened. He wants us to focus on Him and on how He wants to cleanse us.

    Verse: How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? – Hebrews 9:14

    Prayer: When I sin, rather than beat myself, let God bathe me.

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  • One Debtor/Two Mistakes

    Bible Reading: Matthew 18:21-35

    This story is an analogy of God (the king) offering forgiveness (cancelling a debt) and how we (the first slave) can respond wrongly to that debt and forgiveness. The first slave owed 10,000 talents which in today’s money would be about 3 billion dollars. This was an insurmountable debt that could never have been paid off. But this slave makes two big mistakes which keep him from forgiving others.

    First he did not ask for forgiveness; he asked for an extension of time. He did not realize that what he owed was not payable. Likewise, if we have any attitude toward our sin thinking that we can do something to help pay for it or to do some kind of penance then we will struggle in forgiving others. This is because if we think that we can do something to help pay for our sin before God then we will require others to pay us for the sin that they commit against us. If we do not allow God to be gracious and forgiving then how we will ever be the same?

    His second mistake was a lack of gratitude. He showed no humility or thankfulness. He was forgiven much but then he met someone who owed him little. Now if the king’s forgiveness were on his heart then that would have flowed out of his life. But the only thing on his heart was himself.

    God forgives our great debt and then asks us to forgive others’ pocket change.

    Verse: Matthew 18:35, “So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

    Prayer: May I always be eternally grateful for God’s great gift of forgiveness.

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  • A Deep Response

    Bible Reading: Matthew 20:29-34

    Jesus had just left Jericho and was on His way to His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. This was His big moment. The crowds were excitedly following Him. If you had to pick the peak of Jesus’ ministry on the earth in terms of success and grandeur this was it. And then right in the middle of it what happened? Two dirty, blind beggars yell out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The mood was being ruined. The crowds told them to “shut up,” but they cried out even louder. Jesus’ big scene was being destroyed. So what emotion did He feel?--Disgust? Annoyance? Anger? No, He was “moved with compassion.” In the Greek, this phrase is all one word. It originally was used to denote the more noble inward parts of a sacrifice such as the heart, liver, lungs, and kidneys. The word eventually went on to mean the sacrifice itself and eventually it came to mean the “seat of feelings” and the “center of human feeling and sensibility.” It denoted the whole person with respect of the depth and force of feeling. So in using this particular word here, the Bible is saying that Jesus was moved to the very deepest part of His being and with all of His feelings and emotions. We are never an annoyance to God nor are we a mere task on His checklist. God responds to us with all of His being.

    Verse: Matthew 20:32, “And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’”

    Prayer: May I call out to God continually.

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  • Missing Piece

    Bible Reading: 2 Peter 1:5-8

    I have a mantle clock that stopped working. Rather than pay for an expert to repair it I bought a kit to fix it myself. I carefully replaced the springs and gears and put it back together. I wound it up and leaned back confidently waiting for that familiar ticking. Silence. I was confused. What could I have done wrong? Then I spied a missing gear that had rolled onto the floor. The clock could not work without that piece.

    2 Peter 1:5-8 lists great Christian qualities: diligence, faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Do we not wish that we had more of these? But verse 9 tells us why we may lack these qualities. It may be because we have forgotten our purification from our former sins. We lack character because we forget that we are forgiven. Godly character comes from God and a right relationship with God starts with knowing that we are forgiven. When our focus is on the guilt of our sin we are not concerned with developing godly character. We are, rather, worried about judgment and our efforts are directed toward removing guilt. Forgiveness frees us to become more like our Savior. It is that missing piece that makes us work like God desires.

    Verse: 2 Peter 1:9, “For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.”

    Prayer: May I understand God’s forgiveness and focus my eyes on praising God and pleasing Him.

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  • Misunderstanding

    Bible Reading: Isaiah 55:6-11

    Once I was with a friend at a Christian bookstore and there were two pictures on the floor. The clerk told me that they were chipped and so I could have them for nothing. I thought that she was kidding so I said, “Yea, sure” and went and looked at other stuff. My friend picked up the pictures and said, “I’ll take them.” The clerk put them in a bag and handed them to my friend at no charge. I misunderstood something and as a result I lost out on something good.

    Isaiah 55:8-9 are well known verses, “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” We apply this concept to many situations yet the true context is verse 7--forgiveness. God is rebuking us when we think, “God will never forgive that sin.” His response is, “For He will abundantly pardon. ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts.’” We may think our sin is too bad for God, but God assures us that we misunderstand Him. God does not forgive us because we are good; God forgives us because He is great.

    Verse: Isaiah 55:7, “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him, And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”

    Prayer: May I not lose out on God’s forgiveness because I misunderstand His ways.

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  • The Colossus and the King

    Bible Reading: Mark 10:46-52

    Before his conversion to Christianity, Emperor Constantine as a tribute to his victory in battle built the Colossus of Constantine around 312 A.D. It was mostly carved from white marble and was 40 feet high. One of the most significant parts of this statue was the giant head which was seven foot high itself. The larger-than-life eyes stared above and past everyone standing below. It was to give an impression of Constantine’s transcendence, of his almost divinity. The face was rigid and impersonal as if he was beyond the toil of everyone else.

    Contrast this to Jesus Christ. He built no statues to Himself. There were no tributes of exaggerated grandeur. He did not tower above us. Rather, He, the true king of the universe, walked on dirty roads with sandals along with the people. He knelt down and hugged children. He approached blind beggars and asked them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus did not merely look like us; He became one of us. He listened to us, wept with us, cooked for us. He could have dominated us; instead, He drew us to Himself.

    The Incarnation, His baptism, the crucifixion, the Resurrection all occurred surrounded by people. His miracles always helped people. This was no god who fought a cosmic battle in some spiritual realm and then told us the results. He did not stare above and past us. Rather, He engaged with us. He came to us. He supported us. Our King is truly great and worthy of all of our love.

    Song: Thou Didst Leave Thou Throne

    Prayer: May I draw near to God as much as He draws near to me.

    Published Fruit of the Vine

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  • Different Backgrounds, Perfect Harmony

    Bible Reading: John 17:20-26

    Each one of us has only one ancestry and background. We were born into only one family and even if our ancestry is mixed, such as Hungarian and Irish, that is still just our one ancestry. However, there is one who was different. Jesus is the only one who ever walked the Earth who had two backgrounds and it is amazing to see just how much they differed. Jesus was completely and fully God and just as completely and fully human.

    Jesus’ divine background could not have been more glorious. Isaiah 6:1-3 tells us, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him… and said, ‘“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’” He reigned in perfection and glory surrounded by an innumerable host constantly singing His praises. His existence was from eternity.

    Jesus’ human background, on the other hand, was not the most illustrious. In His ancestry was Rahab who was a harlot. He was born in Israel, which was an occupied country, and in Bethlehem which, at the time, was a small village. His parents were of humble means. His birth was in animal stable.

    Yet despite this contrast, He was in perfect harmony with every aspect of His being. There were no conflicts, no condescending, no domination of one side by the other. Jesus proved that despite such totally different backgrounds both God and humans can exist together in a wonderful and marvelous relationship.

    Song: Abide with Me

    Prayer: I praise you Jesus as proof that our relationship is not just possible but potentially perfect.

    Published Fruit of the Vine

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  • Meeting the Definition

    Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

    I was at a family gathering and some relatives were there who I was not familiar with. One relative was coming up the walk and a cousin said to me, “I hear that her brother is a marine who just came back from the war.” I replied, “Is he coming today?” My cousin pointed to the man that she was with and said, “That must be him.” I looked the man over. He was quite out of shape, had long hair, and a scraggily beard. I said, “Um, are you sure?” As the man walked by my cousin asked him, “Are you in the marines?” The man chortled and answered, “Why, of course I am.” Just then another man got out of her car and walked towards us in a firm, confident gait. He was in top shape with closely cut hair. I whispered to my cousin, “I think that that’s your man.”

    I was able to tell which man was the marine and which one was not based on what I already knew about marines. One clearly fit all of the characteristics and one fell short in several ways. Similarly, we know that Jesus is the one and only Messiah because He is the only one in all of history who completely met all 315 Old Testament descriptions regarding the coming Messiah. Many over the centuries have claimed to be the Messiah and many of them accumulated followers. But every one fell short of what the Bible said we should look for. Jesus is the only one who fit all of the criteria “according to the Scriptures.”

    Song: Blessed be the Name

    Prayer: Praise you, Jesus, that You are indeed the prophesied Messiah come to take away our sins.

    Published Fruit of the Vine

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  • Identity

    Bible Reading: Mark 8:27-33

    “Who am I?” and “Who are you?” are two of the most significant questions that have been asked since the beginning of man’s creation. Our identity is crucial. Many find their identity in things apart from God such as their job title, sports team, political party, or country. But the Bible tells us what our true identity is and how we are to live our lives in light of that. The Bible does not just tell us what to do, but, even more so, who we are or what we can be. For example, in Matthew 5:9 in the Beatitudes Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

    However, there is one identity that is crucial beyond all others to understand and that is, who is Jesus Christ? We see this played over and over in the Gospels. In Mark 8:27 Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And two verses later He asks, “But who do you say that I am?” Our answer is crucial. “For unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” – John 8:24b.

    At Jesus’ baptism where His ministry as priest and Messiah began we read the Father confirming Jesus’ identity, “and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.’” - Matthew 3:17. If we make a mistake with who someone else is that might not be so terrible, but our eternity lies on us getting Jesus’ identity correct.

    Song: His Name is Wonderful

    Prayer: Teach me who I am so that I might live out the life that God wants for me.

    Published Fruit of the Vine

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  • A Leaky Boat

    Bible Reading: Colossians 1:24-29

    A friend had an old rowboat that sat in his yard for many years. One day I said to him, “Let’s do something with that boat rather than let it rot away.” So we quickly cleaned it up, hauled it down to the lake, and started rowing out. It was not long before water began leaking in through cracks in the bottom. The boat quickly filled with water and we were stuck. A boat’s purpose is to float in water. But if water gets into the boat then it is in trouble. People are created by God to be filled with Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:27) and the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). That is our purpose. But if the world gets into a person instead then there will be problems. Instead of seeking the eternal things of God we seek after the temporary pleasures of the world. Instead of doing what is right we do that which is convenient. Instead of praying, attending church, and reading our Bibles we spend all of our free time watching TV or worse.

    Just as water continually presses against a boat trying to get in, so does the world constantly press against us. We must be diligent to guard against its influence. The best way to do that is to fill ourselves with Jesus by treasuring God’s word in our hearts, by devoting ourselves to fellowship with God’s people, and by a constant communion with God. Only then will we be tightly sealed against the world’s intrusions.

    Song: Fade, Fade, Each Earthy Joy

    Prayer: Guard my eyes and heart from the world’s infiltration.

    Published Fruit of the Vine

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  • Friend

    Bible Reading: Luke 5:17-26

    I have a Master’s degree in Animal Science, specifically pigs. One Wednesday things were just not going well and I was feeling pretty dejected. I went to our church’s midweek service that night and I guess that my mood showed because before the service someone put his arm on my shoulder and said, “Pigman, you’re looking kind-of glum. Anything you want to talk about?” That someone acknowledged me and cared about me was enough to lift my spirits.

    In Luke 5 we see a similar story. Here was a man who was paralyzed. He had to be carried everywhere on a pallet. More than likely he was downhearted over his condition and perhaps fearful about how the crowd and how Jesus was going to treat him. But notice the very first word that Jesus uses when addressing him: “Friend.” This word means “child” or an “adult son.” It is a kindly greeting. Jesus was not going to use this man as a prop in a show in order to prove something about Himself. Rather He gave this distressed man His full attention and showed that He cared by creating an immediate personal connection.

    And today, Jesus is the same (Hebrews 13:8). He asks us to come to Him for rest (Matthew 11:28). In Revelation 3:20 if we hear His voice calling to us and let Him in then He will dine with us. When we are struggling and need comfort and grace, Jesus does not force us to appease Him first; rather, He calls us brethren, friend, bridegroom, son and daughter. Our fears are gone and we can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16).

    Song: What a Friend we have in Jesus

    Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, the Prince of Peace for soothing my fears.

    Published Fruit of the Vine

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  • Preventing Jesus

    Bible Reading: Matthew 3:13-17

    In Matthew 3 Jesus came to John to be baptized but John tried “to prevent Him.” If John had succeeded then we would never have seen the Holy Spirit descend onto Jesus as a dove. We would never have heard God’s voice boom, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” We would never have read about one of the moments when the Trinity came together in one place on the Earth.

    We may not be so brazen as to put our hands up and tell Jesus, “No You can’t help me with this” but there are other ways that we can “prevent Jesus.” How many ways do I do this? Jesus wants to use my weaknesses to demonstrate His power (2 Corinthians 12:9), but I tell Him that I am afraid and slink away. Jesus wants to pour His grace and blessings into my efforts, but I do not ask Him for them and instead struggle on my own. Jesus wants to bring people to salvation through my sharing the Gospel, but I do not want to be rejected and so I make excuses.

    God’s promises of help are abundant in the Bible. 2 Timothy 1:7 is one, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” God does not ask us to be powerful; He asks us to admit our weakness and call on Him so that He can give us His power. He asks us to love with His love, to forgive with His forgiveness. What we could do if we only believe God’s word and let Him work in our lives would amaze even ourselves.

    Song: I Surrender All

    Prayer: God, let You have Your unhindered way in my life.

    Published Fruit of the Vine

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  • Poetry

    Bible Reading: Psalm 84:1-12

    When you read a really good poem you may not understand it but because of its rhythm and the beauty of its words you are amazed and satisfied in that order. It makes you want to think something or to do something new. It lingers long. It does not leave us unchanged even if in a small way. And it draws you back again and again hoping and expecting to find something new.

    God is a lot like this. We read a passage in the Bible and of its many levels we may barely grasp the top one but it catches us. God is saying something to us. Sometimes He startles us. Sometimes He quiets us. We read, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11) and it awakens us. The words are beautiful in their assonance: “is a sun and shield,” “gives grace and glory.” This single sentence takes us from the greatness and majesty of God to needy, sinful people in one sweep and fills all of the space in between with rich blessings.

    The Bible does not describe God in banal definitions but presents Him vividly and complex. Rather than list what God does: He is light, He gives life, He provides energy it tells us that He is a sun. This stops us. It makes us think. It draws us to Him. Our entire lives should be devoted to digging deeper and being more and more amazed and satisfied.

    Printed Verse: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” - Psalm 84:11

    Short Prayer: Show me God’s beauty, startle me, change me.

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  • Bible Diary

    Bible Reading: Psalm 119:17-24

    Every day I drive to work along the same route. I do not pay much attention to what I pass. If someone asks me what roads I pass, I cannot tell them the names. I cannot name any of the stores or how many traffic lights there are. It is one familiar blur.

    I read through the entire Bible once a year and have finished it 35 times. But all too often I read through familiar passages like I am driving to work. I am reading the words but not seeing any details or how it is speaking to me.

    So I decided to create a Bible diary. This is not a personal diary that records what I did that day or how I felt. Rather, it is only for what I learned while reading the Bible today. And, this is key, I must write something original each day. What that means is that when I read I must be reading to learn because if I just blankly read the words then I have nothing to write and so I either must re-read that chapter or read some more. This forces me to pay attention and, more so, it forces me to think, to learn, and to apply. No more is the Bible a blurry landscape. No more do I get the occasional nugget. Now every day there is a treasure awaiting me. Every day there is something new. Every day, God speaks.

    Printed Verse: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.” – Psalm 110:18

    Short Prayer: Each time that I open up your word, God, open my heart to see something new.

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  • What We Really Need

    Bible Reading: John 14:18-27

    People think that technology will make us a more united and peaceful world. That science will replace religion and open our eyes to greater possibilities. And political enlightenment will lead to greater harmony between governments and their people. Yet technology has been used to create even more effective ways to kill and oppress. Rather than give us meaning, science has defined us as just another group of chemicals. And governments are still attacking one another and killing their own people.

    Rudolph Rummel was professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii. He concluded that in the last century around 262 million people were killed by their own governments. This is six times as many people who have died in battle.

    The world will never improve on its own. It claims to offer a better life based on knowledge but knowledge can have a dark side that can be exploited. If anything, the world is getting worse. Jesus also offers better means but because His way is based on unconditional love it has no dark side. For true peace and harmony in the world we do not need better science; we need more of Jesus around us and in us. The rulers of this world will oppose and murder people to maximize their own power and control. Jesus, the King of the Universe, frees and gives life to His people to maximize their worth and joy.

    Printed Verse: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” - John 14:27

    Short Prayer: My hope and trust is in You alone.

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  • Mashed Potatoes

    Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

    I hate mashed potatoes. There is nothing about them that I can stand. But my mother used to make them all of the time. What was I to do? I could not pinch my nose and eat them. Even that was too appalling. I was always a slow eater (one of the benefits of being an only child, no competition) and so was always the last one at the table. Disposal, therefore, was easy. I would simply wrap a few potatoes up in my napkin and then put it on my lap. I would continue to do a little more several times over the next five minutes until they were all gone. But I could not just walk out with a large, lumpy napkin in my hand. So I put it into my sock (besides my birdy legs this was a second reason to never wear shorts). Then I flushed it down the toilet. I got away with this for years.

    God tells us to hide His word in our hearts (in contrast to our socks) in Psalm 119:11. But what we are more likely to hide are our sins. We wait until no one is around. We turn off lights. We concoct wrong thoughts that never leave the safety of our heads. We lie. But no matter what we do, God knows what is in that lumpy napkin. He knows what is in our mind. We need to act and think with the understanding that God is right there, watching us.

    Printed Verse: “Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened.” – 1 Corinthians 5:7

    Short Prayer: Make me constantly aware of Your presence.

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  • A Treasure Hunt

    Bible Reading: Psalm 13:1-6

    At my daughters’ birthday party I hid prizes in boxes around the yard and then gave every child a map with an “x” showing where each prize was hidden. Some of the children quickly gave up and just whined and cried because they did not find any prizes. A few found the treasure and happily brought back the unopened box thinking that was it. But others found the box and then worked to open it to discover the real prize inside.

    Many times we come to God with one of these three attitudes. He tells us, “There is something wonderful out there. Go and get it,” but we just stand there complaining. Sometimes we do make an effort and come back with something good like God’s blessings. But then there are those times when we dig deeper and go beyond the promises and encouragement and get to God Himself. That is where, in His presence, we find fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). In so much of life we make the same choices as to how we will approach God. When we are singing in church are we distracted by life, or are we praising God for what He has done, or are we worshipping Him for who He is? What choice do we make when we are a trial or when finances are rough?

    We see this progression in many of the Psalms such as 10, 13, and 22. The Psalmist starts off complaining, but then he acknowledges God’s goodness, and at the end he is praising God. Let us not just stand around and whine or even stop at the blessings, but let us dig deep and find the real treasure of God Himself.

    Printed Verse: “I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” – Psalm 13:6

    Short Prayer: In all circumstances may I always dig deep and embrace the treasure of God Himself.

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  • Patch of Ground

    Bible Reading: James 4:1-10

    This is a large patch of bare ground in our yard. My twin 7-year old daughters drew a small object with sticks on each side of this patch and both were quite pleased. But then one of them drew a line down the middle stating that the one side of the line was hers alone. So the other girl had to draw her own line with the same intention. Of course the lines overstepped each other and so for the next ten minutes they argued over which area was whose. There was no more creativity and no more fun. Their desire to have more than the other ruined everything.

    So too often, we likewise are so much more concerned about getting our share that we neglect what we already have. Adam and Eve lost the abundance that they had because they wanted the one thing that they did not have. David, who as king, had more than anyone else lost so much because he wanted one woman, Bathsheba, who was not his. Israel wanted a king like the other nations and that led to their ruin and exile.

    I am always telling my girls, “Don’t be grumpy and miss out on what is good and don’t miss out on the joy of what you do have because you want what someone else has. Enjoy life.” Even one blessing of God can give us great pleasure.

    Printed Verse: “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?” – James 4:1

    Short Prayer: Keep me from drawing lines and instead draw out gratefulness in my heart to You.

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  • The Law and Poison Ivy

    Bible Reading: Galatians 3:19-29

    I had a bad case of poison ivy on my arms. It was blisters on top of blisters. The temptation to scratch it was agonizing. I did what I could to not think about it, but then someone would say, “That really looks bad. Just don’t scratch it” and from that moment on I had no greater desire than to viciously scratch it. I would stare at it and grit my teeth. If that person had said nothing about the poison ivy then I might have been able to go a few more hours with some relief. Finally, it was so bad that I had to go to the doctor and get a steroid shot. Twenty-four hours later it was significantly better.

    Sin is a lot like that poison ivy. It is ugly and irritating and makes me want to scratch it and make it even worse. I can try my best to ignore it but then the law comes by and points out my sin and tells me how bad it is. Then I would think about it all of the time and beg for any way to get rid of it. The law likes to look us over and when it finds something wrong, it makes sure that we know about it.

    But when I went to The Physician, Jesus, He was able to provide the only cure for my sin. He applied His sacrificial death to my sin problem and it was taken away.

    The law told me that I had a problem that I could not ignore and it pointed me to Jesus, the healer of my soul.

    Printed Verse: “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” – Galatians 3:24

    Short Prayer: No matter how much the law tries to stick my nose into my sin may my eyes always look upon Jesus instead.

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  • A 30 Shekels Ministry

    Bible Reading: Zechariah 11:12-13

    Jesus was betrayed for a mere 30 shekels, an incomprehensible tragedy. But what was God’s eternal plan for those shekels? They were used to buy a potter’s field. This was a burial place for the most poor and unknown people. So the money paid to send Jesus to His death ultimately provided the bottom of society the dignity of a decent burial. And that is, indeed, the heart of God. At one of the most key moments in all of history, God’s heart was focused on compassion for those most beaten down and to elevate those most tarnished.

    We, likewise, are called to use our resources to help the opposed, the helpless, and the scorned. Throughout history, hospitals were often started by religious orders. In the United States, currently over 600 hospitals were founded by a religious organization. Leper colonies were often run by monastic orders. Today, the fight against child slavery is being led by Christians.

    But what can I, as one person, do now? Students can stand with those in school who are being bullied or shunned. At church we can befriend new people. In the world we can bring the Gospel to those in the chains of sin. Our resources do not have to spectacular—God can use our own tattered lives—but when we take whatever our “30 shekels” are and minister to the downtrodden and alone then people will watch and be drawn closer and God will be glorified.

    Verse: Zechariah 11:13, “Then the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.’ So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the LORD.” (NASB)

    Prayer: God, take everything in my life regardless of its condition and use it as a vessel for greatness.

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  • Styrofoam Filler or Wholly Lord

    Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 16:7-10

    I had to mail something large and it barely fit into the only box that I could find. To keep it from rattling around, I poured Styrofoam peanuts from a large bag into the few empty spaces. I only used about a tenth of the bag.

    Our lives are busy. We have work and home, the internet and social media, cooking, hobbies, holidays, and cell phone apps. So in our few free moments, we squeeze Jesus into those open spaces in our lives. We’ll pray for a few minutes or read our Bibles before breakfast if we did not oversleep. Jesus becomes “filler”—important filler—but filler none-the-less. We’re bringing Jesus down to us.

    What we should be doing, instead, is making our lives in all parts and in all aspects to become more like Christ. All of our thoughts should be taken captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Our words should be filled with grace (Colossians 4:6). Our plans should always have as their goal to glorify God in all ways (1 Corinthians 6:20). We are, in this case, bringing ourselves up to Jesus. He is not just filling in spaces; He is the determiner of every aspect of our lives. And this is the way that it should be.

    Verse: “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” 2 Chronicles 16:9 (NASB)

    Prayer: Reveal any area of my life that is not given wholly to You, Lord.

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  • True Value

    Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:18-23

    In 2000 a man paid $45 for two deteriorated boxes of glass plates that were mostly photographs of Yosemite. Ten years later when it was determined that these were original photographs from Ansel Adams they were valued at $200 million. The man at the garage sale saw them as just old, dusty photos and never realized their worth.

    Second Chronicles 1:17 tells us that a horse cost 150 shekels at that time. Then in Matthew 26:15 we read that the Creator of the Universe, the King of Glory, was sold for a mere 30 shekels or one-fifth the price of a horse. A horse that may live 25 years was worth more than the One who dwells in eternity. They did not realize what glory and grace was right in front of them. They only saw a trouble-maker with few followers and fewer possessions and they just wanted to get rid of Him.

    Today, we do not have to hope that we will be able to take advantage of someone else’s naivety to gain something great in value for little cost. We have the Spirit of God dwelling within us. The most valuable possession ever has been given to us as a free gift. Lest we forget how much God values us, we should remember that we belong to Christ and though others may have priced Him cheaply, we know that it is only because of His infinite value that we are able to be adopted, forgiven, redeemed, and glorified.

    Verse: Matthew 26:15, ““What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him.”

    Prayer: May I lay aside the world’s dazzle and seductions and grasp the One of incomprehensible worth.

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  • Rare and Costly; Rarer but Free

    Verse: John 4:14, “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

    In Hawaii many foods cost far more than on the mainland because they are scarce there and must be brought in. For example, a box of cereal can cost over $7 whereas it is half that price in New Jersey. When something is scarce its value goes up. We see that with gas prices during fuel shortages.

    In John 4 Jesus makes the contrast between the eternal and temporal by discussing water. Since Israel is a dry land wells are very valuable. We can see their importance throughout the Bible in that they were used as landmarks and sometimes even given names. The ownership of a well could be hotly disputed occasionally resulting in violence. So Jesus meeting this woman at a well was very significant. Verses 13 and 14 are the central point of this encounter. Here is Jesus making the contrast. As valuable as it is, earthly water will satisfy you only for a moment, but Jesus will satisfy forever. You pour out water onto your hand and it flows off and disappears into the dirt. But Jesus, even after being murdered on a cross and entombed in a small cave, rose from the dead and is still among us. His water comes from only one source. You cannot get it from any other religion. You cannot buy no matter how much money you spend. It is the rarest of all waters and yet it is free. A generous God indeed.

    Thought: Do not guard your earthly “water” so tightly that you miss Jesus’ free water.

    Bible Reading: John 4:7-14

    Focus: Share your endless well of Jesus’ water with everyone

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  • Two Bank Accounts

    Verse: Matthew 6:20, “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal”

    I knew someone who was on a trip when his wallet was stolen. He lost maybe $100 and the usual stuff that one keeps in his wallet. It was infuriating but that can happen to any of us at any time. However, that same person kept his real valuables—jewelry, expensive keepsakes, important documents—in a safe deposit box at a bank. The wallet was in a pants’ pocket where it could disappear in an instant. The safe deposit box is behind thick concreate and steel. It is near impossible for someone to break into that vault and rob it. Which place is the best to store our most valuable possessions? Would it be smart to put everything into a wallet which can disappear in an instant or to put the best and most valuable in that safe deposit box?

    The unsaved person has the equivalent of only one bank account: an earthly one. Everything that he earns goes into it and at the end of his life it is all taken away. He has no choice. But the saved person has two bank accounts: the earthly one but also a heavenly one that is forever safe. This heavenly account is protected by the promise and power of God. With every choice that we make we are either putting something into our earthly account or putting it into our heavenly account. God has given us a great opportunity. Let us fill our heavenly vault with the riches of a life lived for the eternal.

    Thought: Put your time, thoughts, words, and actions into your heavenly bank account.

    Bible Reading: Matthew 6:19-21

    Focus: Live for forever

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  • Don't Watch the Floor

    Verse: Colossians 3:2, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

    I was recently in a museum. As I approached one particularly famous painting my eyes were fixed on it. But then a guard told me to watch my step. Someone had spilled something which had been mopped up but the floor might still be wet and so slightly slippery. I briefly looked down as I stepped past that spot on the floor but then resumed my gaze upon the painting.

    Yes, the floor is certainly important but I don’t go to a museum to admire the floor. I am instead mesmerized by the immeasurable beauty of the art around me.

    This is how we should be: mindful of the earthly things but keeping our gaze fixed up the eternal. It is not that we should never think about the things of the earth. Scripture tells us to take care of our family and do well at our jobs. But here in Colossians God is telling us that these earthly things are not our real focus. They are not our goal or treasure nor should they be what determines our personal value. Rather our heart, soul, mind, and strength should be more focused on the things above. We need to make church, prayer, and Bible reading our priorities and have a constant mindset of God’s presence. Do not stare at the world, be mesmerized by God.

    Thought: Cultivate a constant attitude of heavenly things

    Bible Reading: Colossians 3:1-4

    Focus: Living every day with a constant eye on the heavenly

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  • Sand Sculptures

    Verse: Psalm 73:19, “How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!”

    Celebrities spend their lives making headlines and being famous. We peek inside their mansions on the internet. If they wear a daring or exquisite outfit their picture is splashed everywhere.

    Recently I saw an international competition of sand sculptures in Atlantic City. They created incredible pieces of work: intricate castles towering seven feet tall, fanciful mermaids riding giant snails, and a warrior battling a roaring lion. But when the rains come and the winds blow they will again become piles of sand. This is the life of the non-Christian celebrity. They build empires, amass great wealth but as Psalm 73:17-19 says, “Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!”

    Christians are different but not because we get up every morning and trudge to work or because the only time when many of us will be in the newspaper is our obituary. Our difference is because what we do for God, no matter how small and simple, will follow us into eternity. We may envy the celebrity now, but it is a false envy. Ultimately we are the ones who are rich because we can put our treasures into a heavenly bank. We may gape at their elaborate sand sculptures now but after our deaths when we are resting at the feet of God they will gladly give away all that they had to be in our place.

    Thought: Do not envy celebrities for you have greater riches than they ever will.

    Bible Reading: Psalm 73:17-28

    Focus: Believe the great but unseen riches that God has promised

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  • No GPS for the Christian

    Verse: John 6:39, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”

    I have a terrible sense of direction. I get lost in my own driveway. So having a GPS is a true blessing. I follow without question its every direction and if I do make a mistake then it recalculates and gets me back onto the correct road to my destination. But once when I was in a different state my loaner GPS broke while I was halfway between the airport and my hotel. I had no idea what to do. I did not want to make any turns because I was fearful that I would get even more lost. I had no idea if I was getting closer to my destination or further away. That situation is how it is for someone trying to get to Heaven without the Bible. How can they ever know that they are on the right road?

    However, the Christian does not have to constantly follow a supernatural GPS to get us to Heaven. Because of God’s promises we are guaranteed that we will arrive at our destination. Heaven isn’t a likely thing; it is a sure thing. That means that we can focus on and enjoy the journey that we are on. When we make our life choices we do not have to ask, “Is this going to mess up my chance to get into heaven?” Instead we can ask, “Is this going to delight God?” And that is a huge difference. One is a life of worry and uncertainly; the other is a life of peace and confidence.

    Thought: Live joyfully knowing that your destination is sure.

    Bible Reading: John 6:37-40

    Focus: Telling others about God’s sure destination

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  • Come See the Show

    Verse: Isaiah 33:13, “You who are far away, hear what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge My might.”

    When I was young going to the movies meant an outdoor movie theatre. These were large screens at the end of a parking lot where people sat in their cars with speakers hung on the inside of their windows. If I was on the highway driving by one of these theatres I might see a movie playing, but it would be small and I would not be able to hear anything. I knew that something interesting was playing but I could not quite tell what it was since I was not a part of it. Many times I wished that I was there at the drive-in.

    To many people that is how Christianity appears. They see flickers of something supernatural in nature, in other people’s lives, even in their own hearts, but they do not quite get it. It seems appealing and they may want to get closer, but they just are not sure how to. As born-again Christians we are at the “show.” We can read the Bible with clarity because the Holy Spirit illumines the Scriptures. We can know heavenly things because He has given us the mind of Christ. The supernatural is not a distant flicker anymore but, rather, is right there in front of us and in us.

    Our challenge is to get those people on the highway and bring them in. We need to tell them that, yes, it is appealing and even beyond. Come on and join us.

    Thought: What was once a distant flicker is now a living faith for the Christian.

    Bible Reading: Isaiah 33:13-17

    Focus: Bring in those on the outside

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  • True Hero

    Verse: “(men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.” Hebrews 11:38

    The media and advertisements often play upon our desire to be great. We see in movies superheroes who wear spandex and capes. In our fantasies we are the winning Super Bowl quarterback, rock superstar, or movie celebrity. These are the people the world sets up as heroes. But these heroes are all unattainable.

    So where does that leave us? Are we nothing more than the same as billions of other people? The Bible tells us differently. God’s definition of the hero is not the headliner, not the most popular, not the one with the most Facebook likes or Twitter friends. God’s definition of the hero is the person who does the will of God. Many of the Bible’s heroes are unnamed such as the midwives in Exodus 1 or the widow in Mark 12:42.

    Society’s heroes fly in jets; God’s heroes wandered in deserts. Society’s heroes live in mansions; God’s heroes lived in caves and holes in the ground. Society’s heroes are not anybody unless their names are splashed everywhere. God’s heroes are often not even named.

    When we get saved God gives each one of us the very real capability to be a true hero in His eyes. We do not have to be extraordinary. We just have to be obedient. God says that a hero can easily be you or me. We do not have to be someone who delights the crowds. God says that a hero is someone who only needs to delight Him.

    Thought: Faithful, righteous, persevering, these are the foundations of God’s heroes.

    Bible Reading: Hebrews 11:32-38

    Focus: Making a difference in others and being a true hero.

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  • Sure Justice

    Bible Reading: Revelation 20:11-15

    We read in the paper about an evil person who did great harm to some people but then died in jail before his trial even started. People at my job were mad because, to them, he got off easy. They complained that he should have rotted in jail for 50 years so that he would know what it feels like to suffer. They felt cheated because they think that he never really paid for their crimes.

    But that is not true. Yes, this life is not fair and, yes, justice is not always applied to those in this world. But the Christian knows that there is the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11) and the surety of Heaven and Hell. God will ensure that all justice will be applied to even the minutest detail. Death is not the end. There isn’t annihilation. Justice is not cheated because someone escaped punishment here on the earth.

    Knowing this should actually give us peace and assurance. Not because we know that people that we do not like will “get theirs” in the end. But more so because we know that God is faithful and His faithfulness is the basis not only of the wicked’s punishment but also the basis of the believer’s forgiveness (see 1 John 1:9). God’s justice also means that all of our sins were indeed forever paid in full on the cross. God is a righteous and faithful judge and in that we are secure and should rejoice.

    Verse: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9

    Prayer: Praise You, God, that Your justice means that I am forever secure in my forgiveness.

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  • Cheating

    Bible Reading: Psalm 45:1-9

    When I was young playing the board game Battleship I used to move my ships around to avoid being hit. I wanted to win at any expense. Before we are saved many people resort to cheating to overcome their limitations. They want to be winners, but they realize that they do not have what it takes to do it the right way. 70% of high school students cheat on tests. 65% of high school athletes admit to cheating. 42% of a major university’s incoming class cheats. In fact, studies show that the higher up the academic scale the more likely a student will cheat.

    But once we are saved all that changes. We no longer have to cheat to get ahead because we have something greater. The word “grace” is used 125 times in the Bible. Here is some of what grace gives to us.
  • Grace enlightens our eyes - Ezra 9:8
  • Grace blesses us - Psalm 45:2
  • Grace saves us - Acts 15:11
  • Grace builds us up - Acts 20:32
  • Grace guarantees that God’s promises will be fulfilled in us - Romans 4:16
  • Grace gives us victory over sin - Romans 5:20
  • Grace gives us spiritual gifts that we might have a place in God’s church - Romans 12:6
  • Grace gives us power - 2 Corinthians 12:9
  • As Christians we do not have to cheat not because grace guarantees that we will always win but because grace guarantees that we will always succeed at what God wants us to and, if not, then grace will give us the power to grow and change and learn His will.

    We do not have to win by being something else (cheating). We can be ourselves and be conduits of God’s grace.

    Verse: You are fairer than the sons of men; grace is poured [g]upon Your lips; therefore God has blessed You forever. – Psalm 45:2

    Prayer: Thank you, God, for a grace that never stops.

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  • Stability

    Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 6:11-19

    What does the non-believer have for their stability—wealth, health, popularity, beauty, power, family, talent? Yet how fleeting these are. One slip-up, one mistake, one tragedy and these can be gone in an instant. A politician is on top one day and then out of office the next because of immorality. A sports champion is stripped of all winnings because of cheating. A mega-rich businessman swindles a lot of money and spends the rest of his life in jail. What happens when the non-believer loses their foundation? They are devastated.

    But the Christian is secure because what is promised is guaranteed by the sovereign God Himself.

    If we lose our health we can say with the psalmist in Psalm 73:26, “My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” What equal does the world have for that assurance?

    If we lose our wealth we read in 1 Timothy 6:17, “not to… fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” God richly gives us peace, fellowship, eternal life, forgiveness, guidance, and much, much more. How much of that can money buy? If we lose our looks or never had them to begin with 1 Samuel 16:7 assures us, “…God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” Does the world look at our heart or are they all about image?

    Our stability is in our Savior. What security that is indeed.

    Verse: Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. – 1 Timothy 6:17

    Prayer: Thank you, God, that my stability is in the everlasting God who can never be shaken.

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  • Looking Out for Number One

    Bible Reading: Isaiah 58:1-11

    Bible Reading: Isaiah 58:1-11 Our culture tells us to “look out for number 1” because we should not expect that anyone else will. Most people are going through life looking to grab. Advertising isn’t about how you can make your family and friends better; it’s always about how you can make yourself better. We spend half of our time trying to get and the other half trying to keep what little we have managed to grab.

    But God changes this. He tells us that we should no longer live for ourselves but for others. But then won’t we become empty and unsatisfied? Won’t we be the ones who wear the wrong make-up and clothes, drive the wrong car, and have everyone laugh at us?

    But look at Isaiah 58:10-11. Do you see here what God is saying? If you give yourself to others and especially to the most needy then look what you’ll get back in return.
  • The darkness that you might feel that you stumbling in will begin to be filled with light.
  • Your gloom, despondency, and struggles will be replaced with the warmth of midday.
  • God will guide you.
  • You will be more content.
  • You will be strengthened.
  • And you will grow and prosper.
  • Not a bad deal. When we are born-again we are filled with the Spirit of Christ. We have abundance. We can give and give and never run out. Our gauge will never lean towards empty. This is important to God because He is an infinitely giving being and He commands us to be like Him.

    Verse: And if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday. – Isaiah 58:10

    Prayer: God, may my number one always be You

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  • Tree versus Chaff

    Bible Reading: Psalm 1:1-6

    In Psalm 1 God compares the believer to a tree and a non-believer to chaff. Chaff is the outer, dry shell of grain called the husk. It is loosened and removed from the grain in a process called threshing which is usually by pounding or milling. Once the threshing is done the chaff is separated from the grain by winnowing. Winnowing is tossing the grain and chaff mix up into the air and letting a light wind blow away the chaff leaving only the nutrient rich grain to fall to the ground. Chaff is chaff; no matter how mature it is it can still be easily blown away by a light breeze.

    As we read these contrasts think about someone who is a child of God versus someone who has no fear of God. A tree is solid and thick; chaff is flimsy and light. A tree grows stronger as it matures; chaff does not change. A tree has deep roots; chaff has no roots. A tree is hard to move sometimes even taking a major storm and, even then, may still remain standing; chaff blows away with a light breeze. A tree provides shelter and food; chaff is useless and waste. A tree’s value lasts a long time; chaff’s value is very short.

    The key is that a believer has stability. The wind of circumstances will not blow us away. Our roots are in the solid foundation of Jesus Christ who is the creator of all that exists. Nothing can tear us away.

    Verse: He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. – Psalm 1:3

    Prayer: May my eyes look upon God and not be frightened by circumstances.

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  • What is the Value of a Person?

    BIBLE READING: Psalm 8:1-9

    What is the value or worth of a person? Your answer may easily be determined by whether you are a Christian or not. If you are not a Christian then your answer might be, “It depends on what they mean to me” or perhaps a more subtle variation on “The more they contribute to my life the more valuable they are.”

    But once we are saved our perspective radically changes. We now see each and every person’s true value because they are someone for whom Christ died. 1 Peter 3:18 states, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit…” God was born as a baby for that person. He suffered scourging and thorns for that person. When we look at that person we should not see an annoyance or a bother but rather we should see the cross.

    That gives everyone tremendous worth and dignity. And so we have no right to belittle or look down on someone. There is no place for prejudice in God’s world. Neither race, age, country of origin, ethnicity, looks, or disability has any implication on someone’s worth because every single person meets equally at the cross.

    The Gospel completely changes how we view people. Our perspective shifts from what do they mean to me to what do they mean to God.

    VERSE: Psalm 8:5

    PRAYER: God, give me Your eyes that I might see the true value of each person.

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  • God's Homerun

    BIBLE READING: Job 38:4-7

    I was at a baseball game. Since our team had done nothing all game the stands were pretty quiet. We were losing 2 to 0 and in the last inning. Then our team got a hit. The crowd got excited and cheered and clapped. Then another hit and people were on their feet. The next batter hit the ball hard. Every eye watched the entire flight of the ball with held breath. It cleared the fence. A homerun! Our team won. The crowd was shouting and jumping up and down with joy. Everyone was ecstatic.

    This reminded me of the passage in Job 38 where God tells us about the time when He created the earth. At first there was nothing. Then the earth was created but it was formless and dark. Myriads and myriads of angels (the “morning stars”) were watching and when God laid the cornerstone of this new creation all of them burst into song and shouted for joy. The angels knew how much God would love us and how much we would mean to Him and they could not help but be ecstatic.

    We are not just the culmination of an evolutionary process nor are we simply the most advanced collection of chemicals that crept slowly and silently up the ladder of complexity. Rather we are the supreme creation of a timeless God. We are God’s winning homerun that suddenly, with that one swing of the bat, burst onto the scene amidst much noise and cheering.

    VERSE: Job 38:7

    PRAYER: May I always rejoice knowing that our creation set the Heavens ablaze with joy.

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  • All

    BIBLE READING: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

    For advertising to work effectively it must first convince us that we are incomplete, insufficient, or inadequate because, after all, if we are content with what we have and with who we are then why would we want to pay for their product? So they promise to fill in that hole but not too well because they want us to keep coming back and buying it again and again. But even if we throw our money at everything out there it will never be enough.

    But there is something that can fill in every hole and do it permanently. Read 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed”

    Notice how many words denoting completeness or fulfillment Paul uses in this one verse?

    “all grace”
    “abound”
    “always having”
    “all sufficiency”
    “in everything”
    “an abundance”
    “every good deed”
    And it starts with the one ultimate word for completeness—“God.”

    We have everything that we need to do whatever God wants us to do and to become what God wants us to be because the empowerment comes from God Himself. God does not advertise; He promises. Apart from God we struggle and flounder; with God we are overflowing with victory. And perhaps best of all, we do not have to go out and search for this. We do not have to save up for it. It is always within us in the Holy Spirit.

    VERSE: 2 Corinthians 9:8

    PRAYER: Everywhere and every time may I walked in the abundance of God’s grace.

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  • No Timidity

    BIBLE READING: 2 Timothy 1:3-9

    Though I have to do it, often I hate standing in front of an audience and speaking. Just these last few weeks I had to speak in front of 150 people at work, 200 people at a church outreach, and 500 people at a church service. To overcome my fears I do not try to pump myself up. I do not convince myself that I am a good speaker. Instead I rely on the promises of God. One great promise for this is 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” In this verse God gives us three things to conquer fear.

    Power gives me the strength and confidence to confront and overcome my fears. It tells me that in Christ I am a victor.

    Love replaces fear because instead of focusing on what others will think of me I am focused on what I can give to God and to others. Whenever I am overly concerned about my reputation or how I compare to others I will have anxiety because I put myself into competition. But whenever my eyes are on God then I am relaxed because it is just my Heavenly Father and me.

    Discipline pushes away those thoughts that tell me that I am no good or a loser. Everything around me tries to drag me down. Discipline instead anchors itself to righteous and God’s word.

    As God’s child fear has been vanquished; God conquers all.

    VERSE: 2 Timothy 1:7

    PRAYER: May power, love, and discipline be what rules my life.

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  • Neglect or Come

    Bible Reading: Mark 1:9-14

    One of my neighbors is a retired mechanic. He spends some time each day working on his car. It runs beautifully. My other neighbor knows nothing about cars and does not want to know anything about them. He never does anything with his car and it is in the shop a lot. This is the difference between effort and neglect.

    We see this same contrast in the Bible between Jesus and the Pharisees.

    The Pharisees:
    • Neglected the weightier provisions of the law (Matthew 23)
    • Neglected the condition of their hearts (Matthew 23)
    • Neglected their father and mother (Matthew 15)
    • Neglected sinners (Mark 2)
    • Neglected the commandment of God (Mark 7)
    • Neglected (rejected) God’s purpose for themselves (Luke 7)
    Jesus; however, came:
    • To start His ministry at His baptism, “Jesus came…” (Mark 1:9)
    • Preaching the Gospel, “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God…” (Mark 1:14)
    • When Peter, James, and John were scared and trembling on the Mount of Transfiguration, “And Jesus came to them…” (Matthew 17:7)
    • At Jesus’ greatest trial He willingly obeyed, “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane” (Matthew 26:36)
    • After the Resurrection when the disciples were scared, “Jesus came and stood in their midst…’” (John 20:19)
    • “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15)
    If we want to be Christ-like then we, likewise, need to come and do. That is when we and the church will run most beautifully.

    Verse: 1 Timothy 1:15

    Prayer: May I be one who comes to support others and comes to eager obedience to God.

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  • Participate with God

    Bible Reading: Philippians 2:1-13

    Elisha threw a stick into the water and an axe head floated and was recovered. (2 Kings 6:1-7)

    Jacob put almond and poplar and plane tree sticks in front of the strong members of the flock so that when they mated the offspring would come out striped, speckled, and spotted and so would be his. (Genesis 30:37-43)

    A bunch of people marched around a great city blowing trumpets and when they shouted the walls fell down. (Joshua 6:1-21)

    What do these have in common? They were all miracles. God made an unfavorable situation better. They show God’s care for people. But one least noticed commonality is that God had someone do something illogical or unreasonable that solved a problem.

    Would throwing a stick into water really make an iron axe head float? It was not like the stick stirred up the water and dislodged the axe head so that it could float to the surface. Iron doesn’t float at all.

    Would putting a peeled stick in front of breeding sheep actually affect the color of their offspring?

    And you can strike up an entire brass orchestra for as long as you want and they are not going to knock down solid brick walls.

    Doing none of these things would have on their own accomplished the end results. So why did God have those people do them? It is because God wants us to participate with Him in the miraculous and in the mundane. We are not spectators in the stands cheering God on while He does all of the work. We are the team on the field.

    Verse: Philippians 2:12

    Prayer: In the kingdom of God may I not be a spectator in the stands but a player on the field.

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  • Fired Up

    Bible Reading: Exodus 3:10-13, 4:10-13

    I have been on Christian retreats or have heard sermons and came away fired up. I am going to go and see the entire world saved. Nothing could possibly stop me. One time I heard a sermon on evangelism. I went home and planned how I would go from country to country preaching the Gospel. Then someone asked, “How are you going to pay for all of this?” A long pause followed by a deflated, “Oh.”

    There was a similar instance in the Bible. In Exodus 3 God told Moses that He wanted Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses said that he could not. But God reassured him, “Certainly I will be with you.” Moses then got fired up and said, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel and I will say to them…” He was ready to charge ahead. But then God says, “But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion.” Uh oh, this is not going to be easy. In fact, looks like there is going to be some serious confrontations here.

    Sometimes reality hits us and the emotional fire fades and we realize that it is not going to be all glory and fast track success. There might be rejection. We might look bad. Our confidence might be shaken.

    What is important to remember is that it is not who or what we are or how fired up we are. It is what we trust God to do through us.

    Verse: Exodus 3:12

    Prayer: Let my obedience not follow my emotions but to as constant as God’s faithfulness.

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  • Who’s the Boss?

    Bible Reading: Colossians 3:22-25

    At my job when I am passing people on their computers it is not unusual to see people shopping for shoes, watching videos, or browsing anything else instead of working. People seem to try to do as little as they can to get by. That is often because they do not see their boss as someone to whom they spend exert a lot of effort for. They may think that their boss does less than they do or that their boss is way overpaid.

    Contrast this to what God tells us in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”. As Christians, it is not our boss that we are trying to impress or who is our comparison. It is Jesus Christ. He is ultimately the One that we are working for and it is He who will ultimately reward us.

    So even if our boss is unrighteous we are righteous because Jesus is righteous. Even if our boss does not strive for excellence we still do because Jesus “has done everything well” (Mark 7:37). And even if our boss is lazy we should still work hard because Jesus gave all in completing His mission. Even if everyone else’s goal is simply to get a paycheck for as little effort as necessary we are different. When we go to work we are not trying to please a human boss; we serve a boss who knows all and rewards generously. We are there to serve the Lord Christ.

    Verse: Colossians 3:22-23

    Prayer: May my motivation, attitudes, and work ethic always be for You, Jesus.

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  • Markers

    Verse: “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5

    In 1920, the US opened its first coast-to-coast airmail delivery route. The problem was that there were no good aviation charts and so pilots had to navigate by landmarks. Therefore, bad weather and nighttime essentially grounded the airplanes. The solution was to build a system of 70-foot concrete arrows every ten miles from New York to San Francisco. Each arrow would have at its center a 51-foot steel tower with a beacon on top. As long as the pilots followed the markers they would reach their destination but if they veered off then they might get lost and have difficulty finding the path again.

    Similarly, God has given us a system of markers to direct our way. These are in the Bible and instead of being every ten miles there are many on every page. These markers are commandments, promises, precepts, and teachings. They are the stories of the Bible’s people and in every word about Jesus. They lead from our first seconds as a Christian, across the country of our life, and straight to love of God and the steadfastness of Christ. They guide us through the darkness of life and when we wander away from them we are lost and confused.

    As solid as aviation’s 70-foot concrete markers were, most of them are now gone having been worn away or destroyed. In contrast, God’s markers will endure throughout eternity. We can trust our emotional, financial, relationship, and spiritual lives knowing with utmost confidence that they will lead us directly to the heart of God.

    Thought: Follow God’s markers and your darkness will be well lighted.

    Bible Reading: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

    Focus: Those who are lost be shown and guided by God’s markers.

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  • Excuses

    Verse: And He said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.” Exodus 3:12

    I am certainly a person with flaws and not just moral failings but vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and limitations. All too often I discover something new that I cannot do well. My response is to want to spend my free time lying in bed watching TV. I really cannot fail at that unless I fall asleep and roll off of the bed.

    But these weaknesses do come in handy at times and that is when I need an excuse not to do something that the Bible tells me that I should do. Then I can say, “I can’t do that because I’m too…”

    There are many people in the Bible who were good at excuses but perhaps the one who stands out the most is Moses. In Exodus 3 God tells Moses that He sees the oppression of His people in Egypt and He wants Moses to lead them out. Verse 11 records Moses’ response, “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I…’” Moses’ excuse was, “I can’t do it. I’ve got too many flaws. You’re going to have to get someone else.” But God reassures him, “Certainly I will be with you.”

    We focus on our flaws and think that we are not smart enough, talented enough, or eloquent enough. But God doesn’t make us smarter or better looking or more famous to use us. Instead, He assures us that He is smart enough, powerful enough, and eloquent enough and that He will be with us. And that is all that we need.

    Thought: To use us, God does not have to make us greater, just more empty so that He can fill us.

    Bible Reading: Exodus 3:7-12

    Focus: Those who need a greater desire to serve God.

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  • Small Things

    Verse: “For who has despised the day of small things?...” Zechariah 4:10

    I spent six months working on a project at work. When it was completed it was barely acknowledged. At home, I worked with my young daughters on a craft. It took about 30 minutes but when it was completed the joy and pride was palatable.

    Today’s media teaches us to admire the great and the spectacular. But what is the greater display of grace: the baseball player who slugs the game winning home run or the single parent who is struggling to run a household but still makes the time to teach her children to be godly? Is it the millionaire who gives thousands of dollars to charity or the person whose health is failing but still manages to go to church every week and bless other people? Small things done with God’s grace are always great.

    In one Bible story, a group of people worked on a great project. It required a tremendous amount of planning, resources, and hard work. The results were spectacular. Another story is about one anonymous person who did something that took a few minutes and very little money. Which was greater? The first was the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. The second, in Mark 12, was about a widow putting two small coins into the temple treasury. In the first, God Himself had to stop the work least the people became proud. For the widow’s offering Jesus used it as a timeless example of faith.

    Greatness is not measured by the grandeur of the project but by obedience to God no matter how small the task.

    Thought: Put God into everything and everything will be great.

    Bible Reading: Zechariah 4:4-10

    Focus: Focus on being obedient rather than on being great.

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  • True Heroes

    THOUGHT FOR TODAY: “(men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.” Hebrews 11:38 (NASB)

    I confess that in my daydreams and fantasies I am usually heroic. I imagine myself as a great sports figure, or military hero, or am accomplishing something great that commands the cheers and admiration of the crowds. And I doubt that I am alone in this. One of our most basic needs is to be a hero. Being a hero gives meaning, value, and purpose.

    It is our heroes that we want to imitate. But when we deny or trivialize the supernatural then we must make our heroes from the visible world. So we admire the wealthy, famous, or powerful. But what we have done is to replace the hero with the celebrity. Celebrities get our adoration but not usually because they have done something noteworthy, even though they may be talented, but because they are well-known and for what they have. Character is rarely a factor.

    But we as Christians are not forced to pull our heroes from the internet. We have a book that is full of real heroes whom we can admire and imitate. We have Joseph’s perseverance, Noah’s obedience, David’s reliance on God, and Paul’s scholarship. We can imitate Moses’ diligence, Abraham’s faith in action, and even Rahab’s trust. We may not have the money or talent of today’s celebrities, but we do have something that the Bible’s heroes had and that is the power of the Holy Spirit. That means that we too can be a real hero in God’s sight by doing His will by His grace.

    PRAYER: May those I admire and imitate be those whom God has given me in the Bible.

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  • A great picture but not quite there

    Verse: but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

    I live in New Jersey and was visiting a friend in a northern Midwest state. On his wall was a photograph of a lighthouse on an ocean beach. Finally I realized, “You have a picture of a lighthouse that is not too far from where I live!” He said that he had bought it and had never been to the ocean. I asked what he thought being there would be like. He talked about hearing the waves and feeling the wind and the salt in the air. But he was merely saying words. He really was not hearing or feeling anything. It was a nice description, but it was not real.

    As we continued to talk I thought about Heaven. I read about it in the Bible and I can say the right words and quote the passages. I may even see myself there as if I were watching myself in a movie. I am there at the River of Life but it is not just clear bubbling water. It is as bright as crystal! And it is coming from the Throne of God. I can’t imagine. And, yes, that is the point. Next year my friend will visit me and we go to that lighthouse and he will close his eyes and truly hear the waves and really feel the salty breeze. So I, too, one day will really stand on the banks of the River of Life and see bright crystal water flowing from the Throne of God! Truly a blessed hope.

    Thought: The future looks great from a distance; its reality will be unimaginably bountiful.

    Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:6-13

    Focus: Our glorious future

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  • Staying within the Ropes

    Verse: having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. Colossians 2:7

    My twin eight-year old daughters take swim lessons at the YMCA. The indoor pool is long and has lanes separated by rope and buoys. There are three age groups. The youngest group looks more like they are swatting flies when they swim and keep zig-zagging into the lane ropes with each child, at least once, having to stop and untangle themselves, but they still always make it to the other end. My daughters’ group, the second youngest, was more coordinated but still wound up hitting the ropes at least once. The oldest and most experienced swimmers sliced through the water.

    Our Christian walk is often like this. When we first get saved we are excited and full of energy. But we are like Apollos in Acts 18. We need someone to take us aside and teach us the way of God more accurately; otherwise, we keep swerving out of bounds. But even at this spiritually young age, by the grace of God, we still can make it to the other side. But just as swimming straighter does not just come with age neither does walking the spiritual life. In both cases, improvement comes only with experience and obedience. The better swimmers listen to their instructors and practice. The more mature believers listen to the Bible and serve God. Undoubtedly no matter what our experience we will tend to swerve into the ropes especially on the tougher courses. But by staying the course and growing in faith we will make it to the other side every time.

    Thought: Strive to stay away from the entanglement of life’s ropes by keeping to God’s word.

    Bible Reading: Colossians 2:6-12

    Focus: Strengthening our faith and walking straight the narrow path

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  • A Bush, Really?

    Verse: The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. Exodus 3:2

    I live on wooded land with lots of trees and bushes. Sometimes I will look up at the trees and be impressed with how tall and sturdy they are. I planted wisteria twenty years ago and some have grown high up into the oak trees and in the spring produce a sweet, fragrant scent. The many bushes in the woods—eh—I hardly notice them. They are all over. They all look basically the same and there is nothing about most of them that would catch my eye.

    In the Old Testament there was a watershed event. God needed to tell Moses about an impossible task: lead an entire nation out of slavery and into God’s chosen country even though a formidable military will oppose them and a wilderness lies ahead of them. Through what means did God use to communicate this vital message? Was it a burning mountain in all its enormity? Or a burning redwood towering into the clouds. No, it was… a bush. The Creator of trillions of stars picked a bush.

    When God uses something the focus is never the object. Moses did not say, “God, a bush, really?” No, he recognized that he was on holy ground and he was fearful. We focus on the messenger, which, in many cases, is why we think we are not good enough. We may think of ourselves as just another common bush in the forest but when God speaks through us then we are holy and transformed because it is God and not us.

    Thought: When God uses us we are anything but common.

    Bible Reading: Exodus 3:1-6

    Focus: God’s power and not our weaknesses

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  • Not a Costume

    Verse: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” 1 John 4:2

    Every year at the end of October our church has a Harvest Festival that coincides with Halloween. Our twin daughters will dress in costumes such as cats, bees, and cowgirls. After a night of play, snacks, and a bonfire we take them home, wipe off the face paint, and remove the costumes and they are back to their old selves again.

    When God became a man it was not mere dress up. It was not like when my daughters dressed as bees or when the Greek mythical gods Zeus and Hermes disguised themselves as humans when they went on their earthly journeys. Jesus was not God on the inside and man on the outside. His complete humanity and deity was fully integrated throughout His body and personality.

    This is important because God can indeed relate to us. In the Bible we find Jesus suffering through nearly every crisis that we can: death of a friend/relative, hunger, betrayal, loneliness, homelessness, pain, and much more. This did not happen to a God sitting on His throne surrounded by an army of angels. It happened to a God whose heart felt hollow because of sorrow, whose confusion came from a Father’s abandonment, and whose skin was broken from thorns and nails. Jesus’ humanity was not a disguise easily removed. When we are hurting we can call upon God knowing that He will comfort us with a heart that is indeed one with ours.

    Thought: God did not just walk among us; He was us.

    Bible Reading: 1 John 4:1-6

    Focus: Jesus feels; Jesus knows

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  • Live the Journey

    Verse: Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. Ecclesiastes 5:18

    I lived in Kansas for a while and several times I traveled to the western part of the state. This part of Kansas is so flat that it is like driving on a giant pool table. Every once in a while, but not often, the occasional tree will break up the flat horizon of the prairie. Most of us find these hours of driving something to endure until we reach our destination. However, some people can truly admire the real beauty of the prairie. And instead of always staring silently at the road ahead, relationships can be created or deepened. After several of these trips I looked forward to them because they came to be an incredibly great time spent with the people that I was with.

    As a Christian I try to view life the same way. Though we are to look to the “Blessed Hope” (Titus 2:13) of Heaven the trip is not something to be merely endured. Yes, work can be difficult, people can be difficult, and so can health, finances and a host of other issues. If we hunker down and focus on and complain about what is unfavorable then it will be indeed a long journey. But there is much beauty both in the world around us and in the people that God has created. In Hebrews 12:2 we see that Jesus endured the hard parts of life because He also saw the joyful parts. Don’t just endure life; live its real beauty.

    Thought: See the joy in the journey.

    Bible Reading: Ecclesiastes 5:13-20

    Focus: People who are missing joy and beauty

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  • Simple Obedience; Sometimes the Best

    Verse: “For who has despised the day of small things…” Zechariah 4:10a

    A friend once donated a professional pinball machine to put into my basement for people to play. It was big and very heavy. To get it down the steps someone suggested that I build a hoist and use pulleys to gently lower it. I would have had to buy the lumber and the pulleys and then build it. After surveying the situation I said, “Let’s take the legs off, turn it on its side, and slowly slide it down.” After much vocal opposition about how it would careen down the stairs and shatter I overruled everyone and we did it. It went great.

    There is a Biblical story similar to this. In 2 Kings 5 Naaman was told to wash in the Jordan River seven times and he would be healed of his leprosy. His response in verse 11 was, “But Naaman was furious and went away and said, ‘Behold, I thought, “He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.”’” Naaman wanted spectacular. He wanted supernatural. But God wanted simple obedience. Naaman washed and was healed.

    All too often, our prayers ask for another Mount of Transfiguration, but God may want prayer and fasting. We want to part another Red Sea but He just wants a humble heart that will do what He asks. We equate spectacular with impressive, but when God does anything no matter how simple it is always impressive.

    Thought: Don’t try to dress up God; sometimes His ways are simple but they are always powerful.

    Bible Reading: Zechariah 4:4-10

    Focus: Those blinded by the spectacular and so miss the simple

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  • Do

    Verse: Psalm 111:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.”

    I am a computer programmer. Every few years there is a new programming language (the code that a program is written in) coming out. Once for a new language I read from cover to cover two books on it. For each section I made sure that I understood the concepts and the syntax (format of the code). My first practice program was only five lines long. I was pretty confident. But I could not even write the first line. There was a difference between knowing facts and truly understanding them. It was only as I started actually coding that it became clearer.

    When it comes to His commandments, God never tells us to just go and think about them. We can read all about prayer but we will never truly understand it until we are alone and in communion with our Heavenly Father. We can study evangelism techniques but it is only when we are actually presenting the one true Gospel of salvation to someone do we understand the urgency and the blessing in doing so. When we read the Gospels, we do not see Jesus sitting on top of a mountain doling out soundbites to a long line of people. Rather, we see Him in the streets, healing. We see Him in a garden, praying. We see Him on a cross, forgiving.

    Let us not merely study and read and listen. Let us also do.

    Thought: We do not watch Jesus’ steps go by; we walk in them.

    Bible Reading: Psalm 111:10

    Prayer: God give me the desire to follow my Lord and not just watch Him.

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  • Communicate and Don’t Stop

    Verse: “You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.” – Deuteronomy 13:4

    A friend and I used to talk on the phone every week. We were roommates at college and were very close. We would share everything. But then we started missing a week or two of calling. After a couple of weeks I was wondering if I had done something to him. Then I became sure that he was mad at me and was avoiding me. When we spoke again it was nothing of the sort. He was glad to talk again.

    We are such sensitive, self-focused people that it is easy for us to think that everything that happens has some source or cause in us. If someone walks past us and does not say anything then of course it could not have been that the person had something else on their mind (“Something other than me?”). It must have been because they are mad at me.

    Unfortunately we can get that same way with God. If we start losing contact with God then we can think that He does not care about us or, even worse, that He hates us. Every circumstance that does not go our way becomes more evidence of God being out to get us. Of course this is not true, but it shows how vital it is for us to keep in constant communicate with God. We need to be diligent to hear what He has to say by reading the Bible every day. We need to be in prayer throughout every day. And we need to see how God is working through all of us by keeping in fellowship with other Christians.

    Thought: Share everything with God.

    Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 26:16-19

    Prayer: May I always be in constant fellowship with You, O God.

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  • An Ecosystem

    Verse: Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust.” – Joel 2:25

    Lake Victoria in Africa was once a thriving, natural ecosystem. Then in 1952 the Nile Perch was introduced into to enhance sport fishing. However the 240 lb. fish quickly became the lake’s top predator and decimated the local tilapia and algae-eating fish populations. The algae then proliferated thus depleting the lake’s oxygen. More native species died and the lake was an ecological disaster. The lives of the people around the lake were also devastated. They were unable to catch the large and aggressive perch and so could not continue their local fishing businesses. Only large commercial fishing companies were able to catch the perch. Protein once supplied by the smaller native fish was nearly gone. An ecosystem and everything around it was destroyed.

    Our lives are also an ecosystem. God did not create us as a bunch of separate parts that fortunately work well together. Rather, He created each part—spiritual, personality, physical, emotional--to depend on all of the others. When we function the God created us then we thrive. But when we introduce sin it dominates us like the perch in Lake Victoria. Left unrepented, that sin will invades other parts of our lives. Our sense of God’s presence and holiness is depleted. Eventually our anger, bitterness, jealousy, unforgiveness will harm those around us.

    But God can cleanse us. He can restore the damage that sin has done. Nothing is so destroyed that God cannot recreate it whole. He can make us thrive.

    Thought: By God’s grace every aspect of our life can flourish.

    Bible Reading: Joel 2:21-27

    Focus: Living a holy life

    Prayer: God give me the grace to resist sin that can devastate my life.

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  • Mining

    Bible Verse: “But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?” – Job 28:12

    In Job chapter 28 the first eleven verses talk about how hard it is to mine the Earth’s treasures: gold, silver, copper, etc. Verse 3 and 4 says, “Man puts an end to darkness, and to the farthest limit he searches out the rock in gloom and deep shadow. He sinks a shaft far from habitation.” Mining is a tough job. It is considered the fourth most dangerous job in the world (1. Lumberjack, 2. Deep Sea Fishermen, 3. Bush Pilots). The average life expectancy of a miner is around 49 years. Miners will usually work 10 to 14 days in a row, 12 hours per day. The mines can be damp and dark and may require working on their knees or backs in confined spaces. Much effort must be made before finding treasure.

    Then in verses 12 through 28 Job says that the search for wisdom is even harder. No, that does not mean that if you diligently study the Bible then your life expectancy will be 49 years. But digging out the hidden treasures in the Bible will take a lot of time and diligence.

    In mining the tools are explosives, shovels, and pickaxes. In studying the Bible the tools are context, original languages, cross-references, commentaries, and prayer. For miners the prize is gold, silver, and jewels. For students of the Bible the goal is much greater: knowledge, wisdom, and knowing God better. God does not promise that the Bible’s treasures will be easy to find, but He does promise that they will change your life.

    Thought: Do not neglect the eternal riches in God’s word.

    Bible Reading: Job 28:1-22

    Prayer: Give me the heart to dig deep in God’s word.

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  • Is the Bible a Mirror?

    Verse: “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:10

    This morning I was looking in the mirror while shaving. Of course, the mirror reflected back exactly what I was doing. Is the Bible also a mirror? No, it does not merely reflect back to us a clearer vision of what we think we are or what our culture thinks we are. Rather it is a window that is an opening to an entirely new world, a world that we could never imagine on our own. Through it we see the creation of the universe, the first sin, and a shepherd becoming Egypt’s second in command. We see an ark that saved life so that this world could continue on despite its rebellion against its Creator. This window shows us prophets and priests, martyrs and apostles.

    It shows us a world filled with rebellious, wholly sinful people who shake their fists at God. And that very same God walking among us not to discover how bad we are and how much punishment we deserve, but to become one of us so that He might die to rescue us. This is a world where we have eternal mansions waiting for us and where angels and demons wage unseen battles for our souls. And finally we see the last seven years of Earthly history.

    The Bible reveals to us wonders and mystery. It brings deeper color and richness to our lives. We should ever be eager to open its pages and see beyond this world and into the next and be amazed.

    Thought: Read the Bible with wonder and amazement.

    Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

    Prayer: May the Bible open up to me a world more real than this one

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  • Someone Worth Recognizing

    Verse: “When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear.” – Matthew 14:26

    Prosopagnosia is a disorder in which someone cannot recognize faces including their own. A man suffering from this was sitting in a restaurant enjoying a meal alone when he looked up and saw someone staring at him. He tried to ignore him but every time he looked up the man was still staring at him. He gave him a dirty look but the man gave him back the same look. Finally he called the waiter over and asked him to tell the man against the wall to leave him alone. The confused waiter was silent for a while and then said that there was no man over there. That was simply a large mirror.

    Not recognizing someone is bad enough, but there is one person that if we do not recognize has even greater consequences and that is Jesus. In Matthew 14:26, the disciples did not recognize Jesus when He came to them walking on the water. How many people in history do not recognize Jesus for who He really is? Many other religions see Jesus only as a prophet. Others, such as atheists, see Jesus as a fraud. Some see Jesus as vindictive or lacking in moral character because He preached eternal damnation.

    Recognizing Jesus now is crucial because at one point (Revelation 20:11-15) everyone will see Jesus for who He really is. But for those who rejected Him now they will cry in terror not because they think that they are seeing a ghost but because they will see Him for whom He really is--God Almighty.

    Thought: Among the many attention grabbers of our life make sure that you always keep focus on Jesus.

    Bible Reading: Revelation 20:11-15

    Prayer: Keep Jesus always in front of me.

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  • Overcoming the Deep Fears

    Verse: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” – Colossians 3:23

    Everyone has fears and not just something common like public speaking or snakes. We all have deep fears. Mine is the fear of being disliked but not just someone not liking me as a person. I even fear that someone will not like something that I say or do. I was teaching an adult Sunday school class with a large attendance at the first session. The next week right before class I asked someone if he was going to attend again, and he told me that there was one thing that I said that he did not like and so he was not coming back. I was devastated. I did not want to teach that day’s class or any other. And throughout all twelve classes that was like a pall that hung over me.

    What we must realize is that what really matters is what God thinks about us. Are we bringing pleasure and joy to God? Are we working every day to become more holy as God is holy? I need to get over my fear of being disliked. As long as I do what is right and am pleasing to God then my world does not have to crash if someone is critical about me. If that person is correct then I now have an opportunity to change and become more like Christ. If they are wrong then I should be confidant in who I am in Christ. “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) and who’s love is more perfect than God’s?

    Thought: Focus on pleasing God and find true peace and joy

    Bible Reading: Colossians 3:22-25

    Focus: Those with deep fears

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  • Getting it in the Right Order

    Verse: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” – Romans 8:29

    I bought a toy for one of my daughters that required assembly. Usually I am pretty good at putting these things together, but this time was different. I think that the Egyptian pyramids were built in less time. I just could not figure out how to get this one piece into the other. I twisted it and turned it but nope. I stared at it trying to figure out which pieces I should break to make it fit. But then I thought to try putting the other piece into this one and, viola, it fit. I was just doing it backwards.

    We can get something more important backwards also. We do not read the Bible to see how to fit God into our lives; rather, we read the Bible to see how we fit into God’s plans. Christianity is not just about ourselves and what we need to do and what we need to think. Its main character is much bigger. Yes, we need to apply the God’s word to our lives but ultimately the Bible is about God. God is the focus. God is the main theme. God is bigger than we are. We do not select the parts of God that we like and slide them into the empty cracks in our lives. Instead we die to ourselves so that we might become more like Christ. Ephesian 4 tells us to “lay aside the old self” and “put on the new self.” That is how we fit into God.

    Thought: The pieces of my life only fit when I align them with God.

    Bible Reading: Colossians 1:9-12

    Focus: Conforming my life to God’s

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  • The Intricacies of Soccer

    Verse: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.” – Psalm 119:18

    Even though it is the most popular sport in the world, I must admit that I am not a soccer fan. I have watched exactly one game in my lifetime and it ended 0-0. That is just not enough points for me. I have talked to people who are soccer fans and they love those low scoring games because they appreciate the greater intricacies of the game. They spend many hours watching and studying games. They know the strengths of the players and their strategies. The teamwork and skill in setting up a shot on goal even if it is blocked is amazing to them.

    That is similar to reading the Bible is. If you do not really care about it and are only reading it because you want to see what all the fuss is about then, most likely, you will not get much out of it. The words will lie flat on the paper and be boring. But if you really care about the Bible and want to get the most out of it then you will spend many hours in quiet studying it. You will want to get to know the people, understand their flaws, but still see how God, in His grace, used them. You will be intrigued by the strategies that they used to proclaim the Gospel and by the community that they formed that is the Body of Christ. The more you understand the intricacies about God’s word, the more amazing it will become.

    Thought: Be fascinated with the Bible.

    Bible Reading: Psalm 119:17-24

    Focus: Loving the Bible

    Prayer: May I eagerly look forward to being amazed by the Bible every day.

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  • Persevere: Jesus will Come

    Verse: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.” – Psalm 27:14

    My daughters and I went hiking on a park trail. We had hiked for about an hour and were really dragging. There was no indication as to how near the end was. So we agreed to turn back. Once we got back to the starting point feeling like we were barely alive we looked at the map. Based on a curve in the trail that we recognized we were only about five minutes from the end when we turned back.

    In Matthew 14:22-27 the disciples were fighting a terrible storm in the middle of the Sea of Galilee for some eight to ten hours, and in all that time Jesus was not there. They despaired so much that when they saw something on the water they thought that it was a ghost come to foretell their death. But instead it was Jesus. Yes, Jesus did come, and He calmed the storm. Romans 5:3-4 gives us a sequence: Tribulation leads to Perseverance which leads to Proven Character which leads to Hope. Why is this true? In any trial, if we persevere and not give up we can be 100% assured that Jesus will come. And that gives us hope. Each time that we have endurance and wait for the Lord we know that we will see the grace and deliverance of God. This then gives us more confidence during the next trial. So when you are struggling and the trial seems like it will never end, keep going, persevere, have hope—Jesus will come.

    Thought: There is a light at the end of the tunnel—the Light of the world

    Bible Reading: Matthew 14:22-27

    Focus: Those who are tempted to quit

    Prayer: Lord, may I never give in, but, rather, always expect your coming.

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  • The Awe Beyond the Clutter

    Verse: “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts.” 1 Chronicles 28:9a

    I’ve always found astronomy fascinating. I can stand on the ground and look up at the sky and see planets, stars, and galaxies. I knew enough to even show my daughters a few constellations. But I live in New Jersey. No matter where you go you cannot get away from all of the lights. Once I went camping in the Rocky Mountains. The first night I looked up and said, “Wow, what is that in the sky?” My friend told me that it was the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. I was awe-struck. They filled the sky like someone threw a bucket of glitter. I had never seen the sky like that before. But even that cannot compare to the images that come back from the Hubble Telescope or probes sent deep into space.

    This experience made me think about my relationship with God. When I’m surrounding by the world’s clutter and noise and I give God a quick glance I am still fascinated but that is only a small part of who He is. When I get away from all of the competing distractions and open up my Bible in quiet contemplation then I see His glory in even greater magnificence and say, “wow.” I feel His presence and peace and I am awe-struck. But ultimately those times when I spend hours or even a day praying, fasting, and digging deep into the Bible are the times when I am transported.

    Thought: Get away from the noise and see the wonder of God unobstructed

    Bible Reading: Psalm 119:17-24

    Focus: Quality times with God

    Prayer: May I not be satisfied with seeing you dimly, God, but may I desire to be in the fullness of your glory.

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  • Explore

    Verse: “Your lovingkindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; Your judgments are like a great deep. O LORD, You preserve man and beast.” – Psalm 36:6

    God gave us a creation not just to sit and admire but to explore. Throughout history we have crossed oceans looking for undiscovered lands, hiked through unknown territory, and sent ships into space. We want to find new things. Discovery sparks in us wonderment. If we are off the beaten trail and we find a “secret” place that is easily missed we feel special. As individuals we see a mountain and we climb it. We come to water and we put a boat in it. We say, “Let’s check that out over there.”

    God created us to explore. He said that “it is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2). He wants us to explore new ways to bring joy and depth into our relationships. He wants us to explore how we can encourage, comfort, and bless those around us. But most of all He wants us to explore Himself. The language in Psalm 36:6 tells us not only that God’s attributes extend far beyond our imagination but it also beckons us to come and discover. Build a rocket ship and reveal the glory of God’s faithfulness. Put on your hiking boots and see how great God’s righteousness is. Climb into a submarine and plumb the depths of God’s judgments. Like any good exploration this will take time, but the joy of the journey and riches that we will find along the way will be unfathomable.

    Thought: Climb, dig, hike, do whatever it takes to discover the deep riches of God.

    Bible Reading: Psalm 36:5-10

    Focus: Searching the depths of God

    Prayer: May I never grow weary of learning more about God.

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  • Poem

    Verse: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

    Poetry can be many things. It can bring light and insight about something that is hidden. A poem can give strength to the despondent, encouragement to the despairing, and comfort to the depressed. It can transport us from drudgery to ecstasy and from ugliness to beauty. A poem can reveal truths some of which can seem horrifying and some which are glorious beyond our earthbound imaginations. It can cleanse us. It is a path, a window. Simple or complex, short or long, a poem always reveals. A great poem is written by a great artist.

    In Ephesians 2:10 God says that “we are His workmanship.” Our word “poem” comes from the Greek word for “workmanship.” God has written Himself on each one of us—“For we are His poems.” God knew that most people will not read the Bible so He gave us for them to read so that we can be a light to shine God’s hidden greatness. Through us God can provide His grace to the weak, His counsel to the doubting, and His joy to the downtrodden. As God’s poem we can bring His beauty to a world often awash in the ugliness of sin. People can climb out of their small seen world and into the vastness of the glorious unseen world. Just saved or a Christian a long time, we always have something to reveal. We are great poems because we are written by a great artist.

    Thought: Rejoice in that you are a divine poem written by God Himself.

    Bible Reading: Ephesians 2:4-10

    Focus: Bringing God to others in my life.

    Prayer: As others “read” me may the glory of God shine through.

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  • Don’t Pull Down the Canopy

    Bible Verse: “What injustice did your fathers find in Me, that they went far from Me and walked after emptiness and became empty?” – Jeremiah 2:4

    I have a double stroller for my twin daughters. It has a rigid canopy that normally stays over their heads like an umbrella. But it can be pulled down so that it covers their faces. We took them to the Philadelphia Zoo. But, for a reason that only a four-year old can imagine, they determined to keep the canopy pulled down across the eyes the entire visit. I would pull up the canopy and proclaim with great enthusiasm, “Look at the size of the giraffes,” but four little hands would immediately reach up and pull the canopy back down. There was so much around them but they missed it all. It was a frustrating three hours.

    But who am I to complain? How many times has God said, “Look at the comfort of My promises,” but I refuse to look by not studying the Bible? He says, “Talk to Me; I have so much to give to you,” but I daydream instead. He tells me, “You can do things that will not only bless you now but will store up treasures in Heaven,” but I go and waste my time doing other things. How many times have I reached up and pulled the blinders back down over my eyes?

    God has surrounded us with so many assurances, promises, and rewards. Let us reach out in faith and grab a hold of them. Then we will proclaim, “Look at the size of those blessings!”

    Thought: We need to look around and see God’s great blessings.

    Bible Reading: Jeremiah 2:4-7

    Focus: The abundant blessings of the Lord

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  • Blending in or Standing out

    Bible Verse: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…” Matthew 5:14

    My two ten-year old daughters in a class were each given a skein of colored yarn and told to make something. The catch was that there was one length of gold colored yarn. The teacher wanted to see what each student with do with the gold thread. They both made small rugs. My one daughter took each color of yarn and layered them like a rainbow. The gold thread was just another color. My other daughter also layered the colors but she took the gold thread and made it into a star in the middle. Everyone remarked on how colorful the first rug was but no one noticed the gold thread. For the second rug everyone commented about the gold star.

    God does not want us to blend into our society, culture, and community. God wants us to shine; He wants us to stand out. He has sanctified, redeemed, regenerated, and glorified us. We are now citizens of Heaven and a new creation. We are different. We are to be the leaders who move culture from selfishness to righteousness. When people look for a righteous example they should not be looking to actors, celebrities, politicians, and music stars. Their example should be us, the Christian.

    It is not just that we now have a membership card to Heaven; we are transformed. We will affect the world not by being like it but, rather, by being showing how we are beyond it. Do not blend in; make a difference. Be a star.

    Thought: Find your ministry, change lives.

    Bible Reading: Matthew 5:14-16

    Focus: Discovering what will make you stand out.

    Prayer: Give me the courage, desire, and grace to make a difference.

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  • Where do you stand?

    Bible Verse: “On the day that you stood aloof, On the day that strangers carried off his wealth, And foreigners entered his gate And cast lots for Jerusalem—You too were as one of them.” – Obadiah 1:11

    One day several of us at work were standing around waiting for the microwave to finish. One person started to complain about the boss, the seating arrangements, the workload, and anything else that he could think of. The others joined in. I soon echoed their complaints and added a few of my own. We sat at the lunch table and moved on to complaining about our co-workers. When I got back to my seat I felt lousy. I had just spent the last 30 minutes grumbling about everything. I knew that was wrong, but I felt most badly about what was said about the people that we worked with some of whom I felt very close to including two Christians. There was a similar situation in the book of Obadiah. The Edomites were descended from Esau and Israel was descended from Jacob. These men were brothers and so their descendants should have been friends. But when enemies came to ransack Jerusalem in Israel, Edom did not defend her but, rather, stood on her oppressor’s side and, indeed, did some looting themselves. God condemned this sin.

    Not only should we not gossip about others but, even more so, we should rush to their side and defend them. God wants us to shine but not because we are dramatic or flashy. Rather, God wants us to shine because we are righteous. We should stand with those who are unable to defend themselves. We should stand with the opposed. We should be as one of God’s.

    Thought: We are not as one of them; rather, we are as one with God.

    Bible Reading: Obadiah 1:10-14

    Focus: Putting away gossip

    Prayer: My I stand with God on the side of my friends and with the oppressed.

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  • Fill me up

    Bible Verse: “Who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

    We were at a summer church event at the beach and my wife got heat exhaustion. She was faint and nauseous. I only had a little amount of water in my bottle which helped a little but not enough. She needed more fluids. So I drove to a store and bought a large bottle of orange juice. She drank it all and recovered.

    People have struggles and 2 Corinthians 1:4 tells us that we should comfort others with God’s comfort. Jesus tells us that we need to support, encourage, and lift others. But what they need most is not quips from self-help books or general advice. What they need most is Jesus Himself. They need His words, His character, and His actions. But if we ourselves only have a small amount of Jesus in our own lives then we may help a little but not enough. We need to fill ourselves with as much Jesus as we can. We fill up with Jesus’ words by studying the Bible. We fill up with Jesus’ character by imitating His life. And we fill up with Jesus’ actions by doing His commands. Then we can give that person Jesus’ grace, His gentleness, His kindness. That, more than anything else, will strengthen them and lift them to their feet.

    Best of all, we can never empty ourselves of Jesus by giving Him to others. He is a resource that runs infinitely deep. So let us fill ourselves with what others desperately need the most and that is Jesus.

    Prayer: Jesus, I want You to fill every nook and cranny in my life

    Focus: Filling more and more with Jesus

    Thought: The world does not need me; rather, the world desperately needs Jesus in me

    Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

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  • Fireworks and Religion

    Bible Verse: “I, even I, am the LORD, and there is no savior besides Me.” Isaiah 43:11

    My family and I watched fireworks the last Fourth of July. When fireworks leave the ground they shoot up straight like a tree trunk. The stars (the individual balls that are the bursts of light and color that we see) are sealed tightly within the launch shell as they rocket up. But once they reach the sky they explode into multiple directions going every which way.

    This reminds me of how a comparison of religions appears. Many people think that all religions are equal and that, ultimately, they all teach the same thing. When you examine religions only on how they teach us to treat each other then that can appear to be true. When you keep religions close to the ground, so to speak, they can seem to be tightly close together. They all teach love, giving, mercy, peace, and so on. But when they get higher up and closer to God then they diverge in every direction. One religion has 330 million gods, another has one God, and another has no gods. One believes that Jesus Christ is God the Son, another considers Him to be only a prophet, and another sees Him as nothing more than a man. At this higher level, it is clear that all religions are not the same.

    Keep religion low to the ground and they do seem alike. But raise them up to God, where they should be, and they branch out everywhere. I believe that Christianity is the only true religion and is the most verifiable reasonably, historically, archeologically, and experientially.

    Reading: Isaiah 43:8-13

    Prayer: May my heart always be focused on the one and only true God.

    Thought: The wicked create their own gods, but I will worship the one God who reigns.

    Focus: Those who have blinded themselves to the one true God.

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  • Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: bob@disciplescorner.com