ARCHIVE APRIL 2019

 April 30, 2019
THE PRICE HAS BEEN PAID



Ephesians 1:7
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”
 



Today I was walking in the supermarket and suddenly I heard a noise of things breaking. I turned down an aisle and saw a group of people staring at an older lady who had hit a shelf containing plates and glasses with her cart. Many had fallen to the ground and broken. Kneeling on the floor embarrassed, the lady was frantically picking up the shattered pieces, while her husband peeled off each bar code saying: "We have to pay for all this."
 
What a sad scene. Someone has a mishap, and all eyes were on her. When I knelt beside her to help, a man also knelt beside us and said, "Leave it, we will pick this up. Let’s get your information, so you can go to the hospital and have that wound in your hand looked at." 

The lady looked at him and said, "But I have to pay for this."

The man said, "No ma'am, I'm the Manager & we have insurance for this. You don't have to pay anything. Let's get you taken care of."

God will do the the same for you.  He will collect the pieces of your broken heart from all the missteps and blows that life has thrown at you. God will heal your wounds and your sins and mistakes will be forgiven.

This is the "warranty", It's called "Grace", that when you accept God as your only Savior, the manager of the existence of the universe (GOD) will tell you: "Everything is already paid for... go on your way!"

Author Unknown
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

April 29, 2019
ENJOYING BEAUTY




Ecclesiastes 3:11
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” 




The painting caught my eye like a beacon. Displayed along a long hallway in a big city hospital, its deep pastel hues and Navajo Native American figures were so arresting I stopped to marvel and stare. “Look at that,” I said to my husband, Dan.

He was walking ahead but I hesitated, bypassing other paintings on the wall to gaze only at that one. “Beautiful,” I whispered.

Many things in life are beautiful indeed. Master paintings. Scenic vistas. Inspired crafts. But so is a child’s smile. A friend’s hello. A robin’s blue egg. A seashell’s strong ridges. To relieve the burdens life can bring:

“He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

In such beauty, Bible scholars explain, we get a glimpse of the perfection of God’s creation—including the glory of His perfect rule to come. We can only imagine such perfection, so God grants us a foretaste through life’s beauty. In this way, God:

“…has also set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Some days life looks drab and futile. But God mercifully provides moments of beauty to ponder. The artist of the painting I admired, Gerard Curtis Delano, understood that. “God [gave] me a talent to create beauty,” he once said, “and this is what He wanted me to do.”

Seeing such beauty, how can we respond? We can thank God for eternity to come while pausing to enjoy the glory we already see.

Patricia Raybon
Our Daily Bread

April 27-28, 2019
NO GOOD IN THE WORLD?



Mark 16:14
“Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.”
 


Have Christians in America become calloused? Or disillusioned? The madness of the world, seen in social media, television newscasts, evolutionist documentaries, even the grocery-store tabloids, can blur the minds and eyes of the beholders to believing there is no longer any good to be found.

The hearts of people in 2019 are the same as they were in Jesus’ time. There is a vast majority who will not believe, despite proof that Jesus was raised from the dead. Being doubters because they have not seen it with their own eyes, in their error they choose death over life for themselves. They have hardened their hearts. In many ways, it is uncomfortable to rebuke a world that doesn’t know the redeeming power of the blood of Jesus.

But you believe that Jesus is, indeed, alive. His Spirit bears witness with your own that this is true. As His follower, then, are you taking the opportunity to proclaim that Jesus has risen from the dead, His Holy Spirit lives in you, He is now seated with His Father in Heaven, and will one day return? Be brave enough to allow your light to shine into their darkened hearts. Be sensitive to be truthful, and be compassionate, for they don’t know how lost they are.

Pray for Christians in leadership in Washington to keep their testimonies real, and that they, also, would show compassion for the lost souls among them.

Presidential Prayer Team

April 26, 2019
UPROOT SIN





1 Corinthians 5:1-2
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.”





How do you respond when confronted with sin? Do you find yourself open and receptive to the feedback of others, believing that they may see something in your life, family, or community that you don’t, or are you dismissive and defensive of their uninvited intrusion? Perhaps framed another way, do you have trusted mentors that you have invited into your life in intimate and vulnerable ways, giving them permission to speak loving words of correction if and when they are needed?

It is remarkably easy to live life in the shadows. Especially in the digital age, so much of our life is known only to us. This is a remarkably modern concept and would have been utterly foreign to St. Paul and the early Christian churches he founded. They lived life in a fishbowl, with their virtues and vices clearly known by others. Yet whether the sin is held in secret or widely known by all, the ailment and the treatment is the same.

A sign of the Holy Spirit’s work is a consistent sensitivity to patterns of sin in your life and an unease with allowing them to root and establish themselves. I believe this was St. Paul’s fear for the church in Corinth. They had members of the church community living in open and notorious sin, a kind of brokenness that would have been scandalous even to their surrounding pagan, free-thinking culture. And yet rather than feeling sorrowful and mourning how this had harmed the integrity of their community and witness, they shrugged it off as no big deal. Sin had moved in and they were happy to let it set up shop.

Are there longstanding patterns of sin in your life that you’ve allowed to persist? While it may be tempting to find excuses to justify the behavior, faithfulness to Jesus requires us to flee prideful arrogance and instead bring our sin out into the light. Painful as it surely is, this is the only step towards true and lasting health and freedom, trusting and believing that God longs to restore to us his joy, freedom, and perfect love.

What sin patterns in your life do you need to uproot and bring out into the light?

Tripp Prince
Wisdom Hunters

April 25, 2019
SPRING IN OUR LIVES




John 12:24
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” 




During Passover week, Jerusalem was swarming with visitors, including some Greeks who asked if they could see Jesus. Contrary to what His listeners may have anticipated, Jesus compared His life to a seed, which must die in order to live and bear fruit.

As believers in Christ, we shrink from the thought of dying to self. Yet in nature we easily accept that a seed must pass through death to produce new life in the spring season. We know that seeds germinate under the ground’s surface, though we don’t see it happening.

Years ago my daughter was given a seed-planting kit. The soil in the kit was transparent jelly, which allowed us to observe the buried seed. Many days later we rejoiced as we witnessed the first sign of life emerge from that seed and eventually rise to full bloom.

In today’s circumstances, if we die to self and let the Spirit control our lives, we can be confident that spiritual fruit will germinate within us, even though we can’t see it yet.

We can rejoice over every seed of self that dies, for it is a sign of the coming of spring to our lives.

Fruitfulness for Christ begins when we die to self.

Joanie Yode

April 24, 2019
SPRING BEAUTY





Isaiah 40:8
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” 





As we strolled through the woods together, my 9-year-old granddaughter taught me something about plants. I had scarcely noticed, until Kelsey pointed it out, that the forest floor was painted light pink with thousands of tiny flowers. “Those are spring beauties,” she informed me. She went on to show me dogtooth violets, Dutchman’s-breeches, and trillium.

After Kelsey called my attention to the wildflowers, I saw them everywhere. What a delicate beauty they brought to the landscape! And what interest and delight a young girl and her grandfather could share!

“If we come back in a week or so,” I commented, “these flowers will be all gone. They’re beautiful, but they last only a short time. We’ll have to wait till next year to see them again.” Kelsey already knew that. She had studied the seasons in school.

What Kelsey didn’t know is what wildflowers teach us about the Bible. The flowers last a few days and are gone, Isaiah told us, but the Word of God lasts forever:

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

God’s Word never fades, dries up, or blows away. Its treasures are there for us to appreciate each day.

Have you taken a walk through God’s Word lately? Did you catch the beauty and majesty there?

David Egner

April 23, 2019
A CHILDLIKE AMAZEMENT
 



Matthew 18:3

"And He said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'"





When my daughter was four years old, we read about young Samuel. While discussing this story, my daughter showed me the excited faith God calls us to maintain. Perhaps her faith could teach us all...

As a young boy, Samuel was ministering with an old priest named Eli. One night God called to Samuel, but Samuel thought it was Eli's voice. Eli said he didn't call and told Samuel to go back to bed. After God called a few more times, Samuel realized who was calling: 

“And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant hears.’”  (1 Samuel 3:10)

God then gave Samuel a message - but the message was all about Eli:

“On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.” (1 Samuel 3:12-14)

My daughter asked, "Why did God speak to Samuel if the message was really to Eli?" We talked about how we must be ready and willing to hear God. I said Eli may have had some problems or distractions in his life which kept him from hearing God, so God spoke His message through a child. I said little kids (like her) can often hear God better than older people (like me).

"But, I don't hear God talk to me," she said, with a little disappointment in her voice. I explained how God doesn't usually speak so we can hear Him with our ears; rather, His Spirit speaks to our heart and we hear Him as we listen to our heart. Her little eyes widened, "Like today when I was going to sit on one of the baby toys - Jesus told my heart I was too big and shouldn't do it so I listened to what He said."

I encouraged her that this is exactly how God speaks to us, we just need to learn how to listen and then obey. My daughter thought for a moment and then slowly shook her head in amazement: "Wow! That's sooooo cool!!"

Heavenly Father, I pray that Your Word never becomes just an interesting collection of stories. You created us, loved us, and will one day call us Home to be with You for all eternity - and Father, that's sooooo cool!! Help us to come into Your presence with a thankful and loving heart. Strengthen our faith every day and allow us to continually look on You and Your wonders with a childlike amazement.

Steve Troxel
God's Daily Word Ministries

April 22, 2019
CARING ABOUT RESULTS



1 Corinthians 12:3
“Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” 





Millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 2000, have been accused of being lazy – but what generation hasn’t? By nature and through readily accessible technology, Millennials expect “efficiency of effort for maximum impact”…in other words, the best outcome with the least work.

Robert A. Heinlein’s story, The Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail tells of an enterprising hero charged with milking cows. He didn’t enjoy being up at dawn, but he’d been told it was the time of day cows required milking. This Millennial-thinking guy soon discovered cows didn’t actually care about the time of day; they cared only about frequency and results. Ultimately, he had the cows’ schedule and a successful business on his terms.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” (Author Unknown)

Coming generations will have to overcome a cultivated tendency to do things in their own way to understand God’s plan for their salvation – because there is no other way to know God than through His risen Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Today, pray that the Holy Spirit will move upon America’s future leaders so they will be open to welcoming God’s way to know Him, submitting their lives and the nation they will lead to the power of the risen Lord…the very best outcome of all.

Presidential Prayer Team

April 21, 2019
EASTER



Matthew 28:6
“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.’

Luke 24:34
“…’The Lord has risen indeed…’”



How do we become a Christian? Belief in the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ for our sins. The cross of Jesus justified our forgiveness and the resurrection of Jesus validated our forgiveness. The God ordained miracle of bringing Jesus back to life after three days in the grave is the foundation of our faith. The risen Lord is evidence of His life fully alive in His followers. A person who claims to be a Christian but denies Christ rose from the grave is still lost in his sins. He only deceives himself. Faith in Jesus is based on His miraculous resurrection.

Paul gives a compelling argument to the necessity of believing in the resurrection as foundational for our faith. Preaching without the forgiveness of the cross and the power of the resurrection is a farce, fake and hellish in its outcome. Faith without the resurrection is faithless, led astray by the most recent spiritual fad. If Christ is not risen from the dead we are false witnesses to what really happened and face no resurrection, no hope after we die. When we embrace the historical fact of Christ’s resurrection we are forgiven, alive and envied by evil doers.

“…It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”  (Romans 4:24-25)

Have you settled in your heart and mind the reality of the Lord Jesus’ resurrection? If not ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to your soul the sweet love of Christ who is alive and ever interceding to His Father in heaven on your behalf. Don’t be dismayed by modern atheists who attack your faith by belittling your beliefs. There will always be those who seek to justify their conduct and convince their conscience that Christ was not who He claimed to be. The lost love company. Pray for those who dismiss Christianity to be drawn to Jesus. You know better, you know Him.

Prayer time with the risen Lord is an eternal investment. He reminds you what’s most important in this life and in the life to come. The more you are vulnerable with Jesus the more you will get to know Jesus and the more your trust in Him will grow. The more your trust in Him grows, the more faithfully and passionately you will follow Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is your solid rock of faith: unmovable, alive, miraculous, comforting and necessary to be a Christian.

“and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”  (2 Corinthians 5:15)

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)

What area of your life can you better live out the resurrected Christ through your life?

Wisdom Hunters

April 20, 2019
BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED



1 Corinthians 7:17
“Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.”





I have a short daily commute that takes me on the same three city roads every morning. The sights are routine and predictable, comforting in their consistency. Yet one day I noticed the early stages of a new mural, bringing art and beauty to a neglected and otherwise unremarkable side of a building. As the floral arrangement slowly took shape, I eagerly anticipated the completion of the work. And while the art was lovely and inspiring, the part that caught my attention was a small bit of script added on the final day: “Bloom where you are planted.”

While I doubt the artist had St. Paul’s words in mind, I think this common phrase is in many ways a modern expression of Paul’s heart in 1 Corinthians 7. He was writing to a community that deeply wanted to follow Jesus, yet found themselves in all sorts of situations that made them unsure of how to do this faithfully. Should they divorce a non-believing spouse? Should they become Jewish if they were Greek? If they were Jewish should they hide it? If they were slaves how could they possibly walk in the freedom Christ promised to them?

To each of these, Paul in essence says, “Never underestimate the power of God to free you and give you the strength to flourish right where you find yourself.” So often we think God is over there, never right here. God can be encountered on a silent retreat, but not in the complexity and brokenness of my marriage. He can be encountered at church, but not in my cubicle. He is surely with the missionaries overseas, but life with my neighbors in community can’t possibly be just as likely of a place to encounter his Spirit.

If God is the primary source of your life and identity, you can live as a free woman or man in every moment of every day. This identity not only transcends the particularities of your life, it also transforms them. Rather than avoiding them, you are able to press in deeper to the seemingly routine and mundane parts of life, believing that they are pregnant with the potential for God’s presence. As the late pastor Eugene Peterson once said, “There is no place on earth without the potential for holiness, right where you are, with the people you are with.”

Instead of longing for a better job, a new city, or different relationships, press in deeper to the places God has called you, believing he is present and at work in your life right now, just as it is, and he longs to meet you there.

How can your belief that God is present and at work in every area of life help to settle you and help you flourish and bloom, right where you are?

Tripp Prince
Wisdom Hunters

April 18-19, 2019
GOOD FRIDAY




John 19:16-18
“Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.”




Good Friday is really good for those who have come to the foot of the cross of Jesus in repentance and faith. It is a commemoration for Christians of the ultimate and final sacrifice for the sins of the world. Through a cruel and grueling death, Christ gave His life—His body wreathed in pain, so the sick could be healed. He felt abandonment so the rejected could be accepted. He knew no sin, but became sin so sinners could be forgiven.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Oh, what salvation and love—the Lord’s life consummated on Calvary. Oh, what forgiveness—His raspy voice reiterated. Oh, what compassion—His swollen face communicated. Oh, what grace—His nail pierced hands activated. Oh, what good news—His nail pierced feet initiated. Oh, what humility—His crown of thorns demonstrated.

It is Good Friday because the good news of Jesus Christ’s love and forgiveness has been proclaimed around the world for almost two millennia. Taste and see that the Lord is good. He is good on Friday, but He is great on Sunday—because on the first day of the week He rose from the dead. Friday is good—but three days later is better—for He lives! Indeed, some who killed Him instantly recognized Him for who He was—they believed.

“And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’”  (Mark 15:39)

Good Friday comes and Good Friday goes, but how is it with your soul? Does the cross of Christ move you to emotion—are you a grateful and engaged follower of Jesus? If not, embrace and celebrate the Cross. Ask your heavenly Father to restore the joy of your salvation, or maybe you are coming to Him for the first time in faith and trust. Surely, this man must be the Son of God—who came to save you and the world from their sins.

Make today a meaningful memory of what your master Jesus did for you. Linger long in reflection of the love that flowed down and mingled with His precious blood. See His hands, see His feet; oh what love that makes your joy complete. You serve a risen Savior, who’s in the world today—He walks with you—He talks with you—He gave His life just for you. Good Friday is good—because Jesus is good—and His cross is God’s loving gift.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8)

How can you celebrate Good Friday as a sacrifice of praise and gratitude to God?

Boyd Bailey
Wisdom Hunters

April 17, 2019
KEEPING YOUR FOCUS WHERE IT BELONGS



Colossians 3:2
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  




A pastor tells a story of how he spent a summer teaching in Mexico and took both of his children with him. To pass the time as they drove, his 13-year-old son watched for license plates. The trip to Mexico netted him plates from 24 states!

So when they started back, the son was almost halfway to having seen plates from all 50 states. And their return trip would take them through Yellowstone National Park—a license plate collector’s paradise. By the morning of the second day there, he had just one more state to go: Delaware.

When the three stopped to see Yellowstone’s magnificent sights, the boy wouldn’t even glance at them. He preferred to run up and down the parking lots, looking at license plates. He had become so obsessed with finding that Delaware plate, it was as if his life depended on it. When they stopped near the picturesque Yellowstone Falls, he kept looking for license plates.

“Come here! You’ve got to see it!” the father heard. As they ran to the parking lot, they saw a blue Volkswagen bus with Delaware license plates. The family still has that picture, and even today, that picture that tells more about what they did in Yellowstone than anything else.

It’s easy to become so focused on the petty things of life that you miss the big things that really matter. So don’t let life’s distractions keep you from focusing on God. Instead, concentrate on what really matters in life: knowing God and making Him known!

What are some things in your life today that are competing for God’s attention? How can you put those things into perspective so that you don’t miss God because of trivial things?
 
Daily Living For Seniors
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

April 15-16, 2019
COURAGE 




Matthew 14:29
“He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.”  




A few days ago, I jumped out of an airplane. For years I thought “Yeah! I’d like to try skydiving!” But, when the opportunity arose to actually do it, I wasn’t so sure. Reality and fantasy felt like two entirely different things. But I decided to forge ahead with the encouragement of my husband.

Plus, I felt I would be in good hands because a young woman named Kasey, who is an accomplished skydiver, and who will soon be my new daughter-in-law—would be my tandem instructor.

Still, I was a little nervous.

I don’t know about you, but I have heard Christians say, “I’m not going to do this—or that—because I don’t have a peace about it,” which actually means, “I’m afraid.”

When I was looking out the door of the airplane and saw two people ahead of me jump and disappear into the thin blue, I wasn’t focusing on how peaceful I felt. I was thinking “Whoaaaaa!”

But then I jumped anyway—even though I felt fear.

Here’s a big truth: Some things in life are just frightening even though they are the right thing to do. Sometimes they might even be downright scary.

It can be frightening to pull up roots and move to a new city alone.

It can be frightening to have that tough conversation with your teenager—or your husband, your wife, or your boss.

It can be frightening to stand at the altar and say “I do.”

It can be frightening to take a new job or start a new company when you know it means you could fail.

And, it can certainly be frightening to jump out of an airplane for the first time at 12,500 feet.

Sometimes people have the wrong idea that being in God’s will means you won’t feel fear and that you should always experience perfect peace if you’re called to do a particular something.

We may also wrongly believe that being courageous means you won’t feel fear.
Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage means you move forward in the face of fear. Courage sometimes means you have to “do it scared.” You can’t always rely on your emotions to make your decisions for you. They may betray you because they aren’t a consistent gauge of truth.

Think about Jesus. When He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He knew He was doing His Father’s will, going to the cross and giving up His life. But, He was still filled with anguish, so much so that he sweat drops of blood. He didn’t feel peaceful. And, if He had solely relied on His emotions to be His guide, He would have run.

When Nehemiah went to King Artaxerxes to ask for permission to be released from his duties as cupbearer so he could rebuild the wall in Jerusalem, he wasn’t thinking, “I feel so confident and peaceful.” Instead, he confessed, he was very afraid:

“And the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.’ Then I was very much afraid.” (Nehemiah 2:2)

But he asked the king anyway. If he had solely used his fickle emotions as his guide, he would have run.

Remember, if you feel inadequate, like you can’t, or as if you’re afraid and don’t have a peaceful feeling, it doesn’t mean you’re out of God’s will. And, it doesn’t mean you aren’t courageous. It just means that you might have to do it scared.

Is God calling you to do something that is out of your comfort zone? Do you need to move ahead and do it scared?

Shana Schutte
Wisdom Hunters

April 14, 2019
PRAYER



2 Thessalonians 1:11
“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,” 




America is a nation founded and nurtured on prayer. However, according to a recent Pew Report, prayer in America has “gone rogue.” In other words, anything goes: from spirit drumming to mystical chanting. People across the USA are praying, but most confess they are merely addressing “someone out there.”

In 1787, about five weeks into the Constitutional Convention, the framers were frustrated in their attempts to draft the U. S. Constitution. Benjamin Franklin challenged them to return earnestly in prayer to God on behalf of their nation. He asked, “If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” (Matthew 10:29)

Is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured: 

“Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

God is still shaping America’s future in the hearts of those who seek Him. Today, pray specifically for those blindly praying to “someone” that they may discover the true identity of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ; placing all hope for themselves, and for America, in His great power. 

The Presidential Prayer Team

Previous Thoughts

April 13, 2019
SPRING FLOWERS




Song of Solomon 2:11-12
“for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” 




Two weeks ago all over Japan, cherry blossoms were blooming in enormous clouds of pink and white flowers, marking the beginning of spring.

Japanese people love the cherry blossoms because they are so beautiful, and also because they are fragile and last only a short time—intensifying people’s appreciation of their special beauty.

“Hanami” (cherry blossom viewing) may last as long as two weeks, but an untimely storm can knock all the delicate cherry blossom petals off the trees almost immediately. Japanese people appreciate hanami because it reminds them of the beauty and fragility of our lives.

God’s greatest gift to us came in a fragile human body that lasted on earth only a brief time. Why would almighty, eternal God choose to send His Son into our world in such a fragile form? Jesus had to be fragile, just like us, in order to save us.

As we enjoy the beauty of spring flowers blooming all around us, let us thank our Lord for becoming small and fragile for us.

James A. Brewer

April 12, 2019
TEMPERED TALK



Proverbs 10:19
“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” 




Tempered talk is evidence of wise conversation. It’s when our words are many that we run the risk of soliciting sin. Increased words increase the probability of improper speech. For example, respectful conversation does not repeat over and over again the same words and phrases in a limited period of time. This inconsiderate cadence frustrates.

Perhaps a look of misunderstanding requires questions for clarification, or definitions for comprehension. Proud conversationalists can highjack a hearer’s understanding with a hoard of words without meaning. If your goal is to communicate, then take the time to listen to the needs of your audience. People who feel cared for and understood have a keener sense of hearing and understanding.

“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (Proverbs 17:28)

Wise people weigh their words before they speak. They allow their minds to catch up with their hearts. Furthermore, in the face of wrong behavior emotions need to sometimes express themselves. Let the other person know if you feel mistreated or misinformed. Concealed anger leads to living a lie:

“The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.” (Proverbs 10:18)

Tempered talk is truthful and to the point.

Lastly, you reserve your words out of respect for the other person. If you do all the talking, you are the center of attention. It is condescending conversation, because the other individual does not feel important enough to speak up. You honor others when you speak less, and listen more intently for ways you can love them. Wisdom can be found in the words of each person you meet. Therefore, intentionally talk less and be wise. 
The Bible says: 

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” (James 1:19)

Who in your life should you listen more to their words and talk less with mine?

Boyd Bailey
Wisdom Hunters

April 10-11, 2019
STRENGTH TO LOVE






Galatians 3:28
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”






In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. published a small volume he titled, “Strength to Love.” This collection of his sermons challenged Christians to connect their faith to action. He saw racial unity, justice for all, and recognition that we were all created “out of the same stuff” by the Lord God, as a means to behave toward each other with love, fellowship, tolerance, and righteousness. 

King. quoting Amos,  said he would not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)

It has been 56 years since then. The nation, the church, individuals aren’t doing so well. The achievement of unity ought to be practical. Start by talking less and listening more. Acknowledge that every human being is worthy of respect. Look for ways to help others in their need. Focus on what is positive, even if you’re having a bad day. Remember that cheerfulness is a choice. Share wisdom with kindness. Give deference to those with more experience or age than yourself. And never forget, what Jesus instructed:

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

The Presidential Prayer Team
April 9, 2019
THE WEEK BEFORE HOLY WEEK






Amos 5:8
“He who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is his name;” 





Holy Week is sneaking up on us. We spend Lent getting ready for Easter, but if we are not careful, we may let Holy Week get to us without being ready.

Holy Week begins on a Sunday. If we are prepared and engaged, we will be carried along by the emotions of the week from the “Hosannas!” of Palm Sunday to the “Crucify Hims!” of Good Friday to the deafening silence of Holy Saturday. And we will be ready for the miracle that is Easter morning.

But once we get to Palm Sunday, the time for preparation will have passed. If we want to REALLY get it this year—if we REALLY want to experience Holy Week for the earth shattering set of events that it is—now is the time to make ourselves ready. 
So how do we REALLY prepare for Holy Week? Here are few suggestions for the next few days:

Slow down. Create blank space in your life this week. Let this week be a reminder that nothing is more important than your relationship with your Creator. Leave room this week for God, for family, for prayer, for silence. Start preparing yourself—and your calendar—to experience the holy.

Focus. What should we focus on this week? We should focus on what it will take to get us all the way to the cross on Good Friday by asking questions like, "How do we prepare ourselves to experience the arrest and trial and death of Jesus? How do we prepare ourselves to engage in God’s suffering? How do we brace ourselves for the humbling experience of God engaging our suffering?" The power of Easter lies squarely in the events of Good Friday. If we don’t make it all the way to the cross, we miss it.

Be aware. When we read the Biblical accounts of Holy Week, we learn that the Jerusalem of the first Holy Week was a place of energy, of almost supernaturally tangible electricity. So be quiet. Be still. Start to feel the eternal—the infinite—break into our world like a supernatural electricity in the air. Don’t let anything crowd out time to listen for—and begin to feel—God’s presence.

Read scripture. What scripture should we read? Read the prophets (Amos 5, Micah 6, Hosea 6, Isaiah 61). Hear strong words of justice and mercy and salvation. Hear powerful voices proclaim a future that is better than our present or our past. Read the words of Jesus. Read the parables in Luke and Christ’s teaching in John and the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. Hear in the words of the prophets a vision that challenges the current order of things. Hear in the words of Jesus a radical and revolutionary message that consistently calls us to side with the weak and the forgotten over the powerful and the well-connected. Marvel at the courage to speak so boldly, and realize just how powerful words and ideas can be.

Pray. This is a week to pray. Pray for forgiveness. Pray for God’s mercy. Pray for justice and righteousness. Pray for courage. Pray for a new vision that allows us to see our world as God sees it. Pray for the coming of God’s kingdom. Just pray. 

And finally, this is a week to be in church. 

Matt Sapp, (Heritage Fellowship, Canton, Georgia)

April 8, 2019
SEEING CHRIST CLEARLY



1 John 3:1
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” 



I once watched a documentary in which crime investigators studied how people report crimes. What they found was that two people could witness the exact same car accident, robbery, or carjacking at the exact same time from the same location and see it totally differently. Their reports might even be contradictory.

This got me thinking about how two people can hear the same thing and hear it totally differently, too. For example, two people can read God’s Word, and one person, through that reading, becomes convinced that God deeply loves and cares for them while the other person who reads comes to believe that God is uncaring and unkind. Why does this happen?

In addition to the drawing that happens when the Holy Spirit woos us to Christ, the condition of our heart plays a huge role in how we see God. Paul writes:

“having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might” (Ephesians 1:18-19)

Isn’t this amazing? This scripture from Paul reveals that seeing hope in the future God has prepared, believing He has a glorious inheritance for us, and that He has incomparably great power toward us is a head thing and a heart thing---all by faith.

“for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

You see, you “see” God’s truth with your heart. This is how two people can read the exact same words in the Bible and perceive them completely differently.

With the eyes of the heart, you see Christ, either with the truth enlightening your perspective, or you see Christ darkly, through a lens tainted by the lies of the Adversary, by unbelief, by worldly perspectives, or through the shadow of life’s disappointments. When you read God’s Word, the eyes of your heart will affect how you interpret it.

The Adversary wants to twist what God has told and promised you so that you perceive Him as harsh, unloving, condemning, judgmental, passive, or uncaring.

But He is love.

And every word on every page of the Word was written to convince you of His love. Every word was written to uplift, enlighten, strengthen, correct, guide, exhort, help, give hope, and draw you to Christ.

If there are times when you struggle with believing that God loves you, just look at the cross. A mere man would never die for someone he does not love. But when Jesus died for you, how great was that love!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

When you sit to read Scripture, ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten the eyes of your heart so that you can perceive His promises and truth rightly.

Shana Schutte
Wisdom Hunters

April 7, 2019
200 POUNDS OF TRASH



Philippians 3:7-8
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” 



Fred Craddock tells the story of a missionary family in China who was forced to leave the country sometime after the communists took over.

One day a band of soldiers knocked on the door and told this missionary, his wife, and children that they had two hours to pack up before these troops would escort them to the train station. They would be permitted to take with them only two hundred pounds of stuff.

Thus began two hours of family wrangling and bickering -- what should they take? What about this vase? It's a family heirloom, so we've got to take the vase. Well, maybe so, but this typewriter is brand new and we're not about to leave that behind.  What about some books?  Got to take a few of them along.  On and on it went, putting stuff on the bathroom scale and taking it off until finally they had a pile of possessions that totaled two hundred pounds on the dot.

At the appointed hour, the soldiers returned. "Are you ready?" they asked.  "Yes." "Did you weigh your stuff?" "Yes, we did." "Two hundred pounds?" "Yes, two hundred pounds on the dot." "Did you weigh the kids?" "Um, . . . no."  "Weigh the kids!"

And in an instant the vase, the typewriter, and the books all became trash.  Trash!  None of it meant anything compared to the surpassing value of the children.

If only it were that easy for us. If we had to make a physical choice, the choice would be easy.  What's worth more -- your child or a computer? If you could only take one with you, which would it be?  That's easy; it's a no-brainer.  But seldom does the choice come wrapped in such easy-to-open paper.

Too often, it sounds more like this: What's more important -- spending time with your family or staying at work a couple of extra hours to get caught up?  "Don't ask me to make that choice! My family is important to me.  It's just that I really need to get this done! After all, I'm only doing it for provide for them." Still, there are times when the question won't go away:  Which is more important?

And there are times when we are forced to admit that we've been gathering hundreds of pounds of "trash" while neglecting that which is of greatest importance.

"But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ." (Philippians 3:7-8)

But God bless each one of you with the wisdom to choose that which is of greatest value.

Alan Smith
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

April 6, 2019
HE SAID / SHE SAID


Genesis 3:12-13
“The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” 



I remember as a 52 year-old man struggling with the reality of having early stage prostate cancer. “Lord how could you allow this to happen to me? I am doing your work. I don't have time for the distraction of this disease”. My physical pain revealed my unhealthy heart of fear, not faith, and of blame instead of taking responsibility in my sickness. Lamenting to the Lord was my reaction for being in a circumstance out of my control, but I soon learned it was out of my desperation that God wanted me to grow in my dependency on Him. Pain led to intimate prayers.

Adam and Eve in a perfect environment made an imperfect decision. Out of their shame and the fear of their sin against God, they naively tried to shift their sinful actions to someone else. Adam blamed Eve, and even more brazenly God, "The woman you put here with me". And Eve, in Flip Wilson fashion declared her version of "The devil made me do it". Because of their unwillingness to take responsibility for their actions, each one suffered a unique consequence for their sin. Adam would suffer from the pain of toil and Eve the pain of childbirth. The long term result of blame is greater pain, compared to the lesser pain of taking responsibility.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.”  (Psalm 51:1-4)

Are you ashamed of an act you know was unwise, even wrong in the moment? A harsh word, a selfish taking of another's deserved opportunity or an action done in the darkness of deception, but now has come to light? Sin concealed will one day be revealed---certainly at the judgment seat of Christ. The sooner a confession the better---delay makes worse the ultimate discovery. There will be consequences, but a contrite heart receives forgiveness and the grace to grow.

Kneel before God a sinner in need of a Savior, then stand a saint cleansed and made whole. Leave your shame at the feet of Jesus and claim Christ's identity in your heart. Take responsibility instead of assigning blame by asking forgiveness from the one you offended, "I'm so sorry for my insensitive remarks. I'm sure I made you feel dismissed and disrespected; will you forgive me?" Hurting hearts often need space and grace to recover and enjoy relational restoration. Be patient and prayerful. Consequences may linger longer so lean into the Lord's love and peace.

“If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the LORD’s commandments ought not to be done, though he did not know it, then realizes his guilt, he shall bear his iniquity.”  (Leviticus 5:17)

What hurtful action do you need to take responsibility for?

Boyd Bailey
Wisdom Hunters

April 5, 2019
SUNRISE




Luke 1:78
“because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high” 





The sunrise has inspired poems and paintings. There’s something awesome about darkness of night ending and light for a new day beginning. When Zechariah prophesied about Jesus, what a beautiful word picture he painted – the sunrise: 

“to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:79)

Because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high. 

In a few weeks, Christians will remember “Good Friday,” the day that Jesus, the only One who was truly good, was punished for all sin for all time. His body was held captive in the dark tomb only for a little while. Sin keeps people in darkness, but because of what Jesus did, the Bible describes believers as children of the day: 

“For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” (1 Thessalonians 5:5)

Prophet Isaiah said:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.”  (Isaiah 9:2)

And Jesus said:

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ (John 8:12)

Today as you remember that dark day of Christ’s crucifixion, thank Him for your spiritual sunrise. Pray for unbelievers’ eyes to be open to the great light of His love and salvation this month of the Easter season.

Presidential Prayer Team

April 4, 2019
THE ROAD MAP TO PERFECT PEACE






Isaiah 26:3
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” 






A retired couple decided they would start walking two miles a day to stay in shape. The lived out in the country, so they thought they would walk a mile down their lonely country road, and then turn around and come back.

On the first day, they made it out to the one-mile mark just fine. As they began to turn around to walk back, the man asked his wife, “Can you make it back or are you too tired?”

The wife responded, “Oh, I’m great. I can make it just fine!”

“Good,” the man replied, “I’ll just wait here while you go back, get the car, and come get me!”

In the middle of life’s challenges, it’s always tempting to find the easiest way out possible. Maybe you’re looked down upon because of your faith, so you’re tempted to compromise. Or, perhaps you’re struggling with depression, so you’re tempted to numb the pain in a way that doesn’t honor the Lord.

The right way out of a hard situation isn’t always the shortest. So in hard times, seek God’s guidance in prayer and in Scripture.  That’s where you’ll find the road map to His perfect peace.

Daily Living For Seniors

April 3, 2019
KEEP SILENT




Exodus 14:14
“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” 




Sometimes silence is the best strategy. We replace exhausting striving with energizing silence. Our flesh wants to engage in an emotional debate, but our spirit says wait. The outcome is much better when we pause for the Holy Spirit to calm our conflicted heart before we confront the issue. Our daily battles are best fought with faith in Jesus at the forefront. The proud and prestigious are no match for God’s power which empowers our quiet and humble prayers.

A person may agitate us, but by God’s grace, we can refrain from a rude reaction and pray for them. We won’t allow another’s bad day to ruin our day. We might even think empathetically, “They are under a lot of pressure, how can I help?” We can choose to see an antagonist as a needy human being with their own unresolved issues. Perhaps our silent response settles their soul into seeking an eternal solution to their angst. God can speak clearly when we are quiet.

“For thus said the LORD GOD, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling,”  (Isaiah 30:15)

Our flesh screams for its way, but faith in the Lord’s faithfulness is foundational to our remaining silent. Our words may delay the work of God’s word. For example, if someone we know is seeking wisdom from their heavenly Father, better to pray with them than to assume we know what they need to do. Instead of prescribing a solution for them based on our own experience, we can refer them to Scripture references relevant to their situation. God speaks through His Word.

Our silence invites the Lord’s inner strength for our soul. Trusting resolve grows patience. In place of saying something we later regret, we wait on the Spirit to speak into the situation. He may impress humility upon our heart and forgiveness on the heart of one we let down. God can use another caring believer to bring clarity to the confusion or a solution to the problem. Surrender to Christ and invite Him to fight for you. Your silence releases His resources.

“And he said, ‘Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.”’”  (2 Chronicles 20:15)

What situation or person are you facing that invites you to be still, silent and wait on the Lord to speak to all parties?

Boyd Bailey
Wisdom Hunters

April 2, 2019
NO CONDEMNATION!!!




Romans 8:1
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”   



Stop condemning yourself!  God says:

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”  (Isaiah 43:25)

When God says He forgets your sin and you insist on remembering it, it's like saying your standards are higher than His. That's akin to idolatry! The Bible says:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

In the Old Testament when someone sinned they brought a lamb to the priest and he would shed its blood on the altar as payment for their sin. Once that was done the record was expunged and the issue was settled.

You say, “But I don't feel forgiven.” Forgiveness comes by faith, not by feelings. As long as you live by feelings, Satan has a weapon he can use against you at every turn.

You say, "But what I did was so wrong”. As long as you truly repent, whatever you have done can be pardoned.

You say, “But Satan keeps bringing it up.” That's because he is called the "accuser”:

“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.’” (Revelation 12:10) 

But notice how you overcome Satan, the accuser:

“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12:11)

Next time Satan accuses you, say, "I'm glad you brought that up."  Then tell him what the blood of Jesus has accomplished on your behalf. If you do that, he will flee.

Learn from your failure, grow stronger through it, use it to bless others, move on with your life and stop condemning yourself!

Bob & Debby Gass
Christian Voices
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

March 31-April 1, 2019
MOTHER’S MODEL




Proverbs 31:26
“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
 




Dr. Bill Bright personally led thousands of people to Christ before his death in 2003. As co-founder of the worldwide ministry Campus Crusade for Christ, his influence has had an eternal impact on countless more for God’s kingdom. However, it was his mother, Mary Lee, who dedicated Bright to the Lord before his birth and prayed for him until her death in 1983.

Bright said, “She modeled authentic Christianity before me in dozens of ways. Although we rose early to begin our dawn-to-dusk hard work on the ranch, my mother was always up before the rest of the family, reading the Bible and praying. I remember her softly humming hymns of worship to the Lord all day long, and after the rest of us had gone to bed, she would again read her Bible and pray.”

The book of Proverbs begins with the command to fear the Lord:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)

and ends with the picture of a woman who fulfills this command:

“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:29-31)

Ask God to give you that desire each day. Pray also that all Christians commit to leaving a spiritual legacy…starting with those in their own household.

“Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor. The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away; the desire of the wicked will perish!” (Psalm 112)

Presidential Prayer Team