August 30-31, 2019
THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING TO BE THANKFUL FOR
“giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,”
A famous writer was in his study room. He picked up his pen and started writing:
- "Last year, I had a surgery and my gallbladder was removed. I had to stay stuck to the bed due to this surgery for a long time.
- The same year I reached the age of 60 years and had to give up my favorite job. I had spent 30 years of my life in this publishing company.
- The same year I experienced the sorrow of the death of my father.
- And in the same year my son failed in his medical exam because he had a car accident. He had to stay in bed at hospital with the cast on for several days. The destruction of car was another loss."
At the end he wrote:
- "Alas! It was such bad year!!!"
When the writer's wife entered the room, she found her husband looking sad lost in his thoughts. From behind his back she read what was written on the paper. She left the room silently and came back with another paper and placed it on the side of her husband's writing. When the writer saw this paper, he found this written on it:
- "Last year I finally got rid of my gall bladder due to which I had spent years in pain.
- I turned 60 with sound health and retired from my job. Now I can utilize my time to write something better with more focus and peace.
- The same year my father, at the age of 95, without depending on anyone or without any critical condition met his Creator.
- The same year, God blessed my son with a new life. My car was destroyed but my son stayed alive without any disability."
At the end she wrote:
- "This year was an immense blessing of God and it passed well!!"
Wow!!! The same incidents but different viewpoints. If we ponder with this viewpoint that what could have happened more, we would truly become thankful to the Almighty.
Moral: In our daily lives we must see that it's not happiness that makes us grateful but gratefulness that makes us happy.
There is always, always, always something to be thankful for!! Stay Blessed !!
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
August 28-29, 2019
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
Do you enjoy road construction… especially trying to identify your driving lane when it is a bit different than the day before? In life the only constant is change. Even the Earth changes continually, fluctuations in radiant energy or humidity bring responses in the clouds and weather. Likewise, your life is being perpetually restructured. Daily pressure from difficulties and even blessings change you in striking ways over time.
Balancing the three main components of life - Physical, Emotional and Spiritual - can be challenging. For example, some people are very good at physical things such as staying healthy and enjoying nature, but pull back when faced with intense emotions or are put under the spotlight of testifying of their faith in public. In an attempt to manage what is uncomfortable, some try to shut down emotions or spiritual reflection. However, when one area of your life is left unattended, the side effects of neglect spread everywhere.
God knows it is hard to live out your faith in a broken world so He sent the Holy Spirit to you. Jesus called God’s Spirit “the Helper” because He builds understanding through revelation. He forms hope and peace in your mind, body, and soul.
What area of your life is under construction today? Invite God’s Spirit to bring insight as you read His Word and pray. As your spirit develops a new confidence and knowledge of God, a fresh strength will form. Pray for America’s leaders to allow the Spirit to do a re-construction project in their lives also.
Presidential Prayer Team
August 27, 2019
STUCK IN AN ELEVATOR
1 Peter 3:15
“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”
Talk about a captive audience! When Jenny signed up for evangelism training last December, she didn't know she'd get such immediate practical experience. Her unexpected opportunity came when she was trapped in an elevator in the hotel where the conference was being held.
She was confined in the small space with ten other people (including Ashley and Jessica from her youth group and one of their sponsors). Jenny, who was standing next to an airline pilot from South Africa, began to talk with him about her faith in God.
When he had a question, Ashley and Jessica showed him Bible verses. Before the doors of the elevator opened 90 minutes later, the man had prayed to accept Jesus as his Savior.
The young women didn't see him again, but left a Bible and a note for him at the front desk of the hotel. When Jenny got home from the conference, she found an e-mail from the pilot. He wrote that the young women who had chosen to share with him would never know how much he needed to receive Jesus.
Opportunities to share our faith are not always planned out. In fact, most times they are not. They're unexpected, orchestrated by God. The person you sit next to in class. An old friend who sends you an e-mail. A relative you see once a year at a family reunion. Or even a stranger on an airplane, in a store ... or stuck in an elevator.
God uses Scripture to change people's lives.
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
Your responsibility is to share what the Bible says, then stand back. Let the Holy Spirit do the convincing and convicting. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Have I ever found myself in an unplanned situation in which I was able to speak to someone about my faith? Do I think that was just a coincidence?
- If I were in such a situation, would I be ready to share what Christ has done for me? How can I prepare myself?
“…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15)
- Have I ever prayed that God would bring across my path someone who needs him? Am I willing to offer that prayer?
From CUP O'Cheer via The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
August 26, 2019
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”
According to my judgement, the most important point to be attended to is this: above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord.
Other things may press upon you, the Lord’s work may even have urgent claims upon your attention, but I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek above all things to have your souls truly happy in God Himself!
Day by day seek to make this the most important business of your life. This has been my firm and settled condition for the last five and thirty years. For the first four years after my conversion I knew not its vast importance, but now after much experience I specially commend this point to the notice of my younger brethren and sisters in Christ: the secret of all true effectual service is joy in God, having experiential acquaintance and fellowship with God himself.
As you look forward to this day and the days that come after, remember, your first work, your best work, the work that God requires, is that you believe in his Son, whom he has sent. Do that, and everything else will follow.
August 23-25, 2019
2 John 12
“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”
Some things are best communicated face to face. A proposal for marriage, a job interview, a mentor relationship, family time, explaining an issue, or showing appreciation all thrive in a one-on-one relational environment. Fear tends to force us away from direct engagement with people. We sometimes avoid human contact because of overwhelming insecurity, fear of rejection, or busyness. The season of face time with family evaporates unwittingly. They are off with friends, attending college, and then married. Just as the song says, “The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon. Little Boy Blue and the Man in the Moon. When you coming home, Dad? I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then. You know we’ll have a good time then.”
Calendar time daily, weekly, monthly and yearly with those you love. Invest time and money in face time with your son, your daughter, your spouse, your parents, and your friends. Face time is when you see the fear in their eyes and extend the encouragement to continue. Face time allows your smile to shine a ray of hope across a discouraged heart. Face time is your opportunity to discuss those hard issues and to be sure the sincerity of your love is not missed. So, show up and love on them in person. Most important, you need face time with your heavenly Father.
By faith, the eyes of our soul need to gaze at God. If we chronically miss coming alongside Christ, we burn out in our own strength. We desperately need face time, by faith, with Jesus. We need His affirmation and love; we need His instruction and correction; we need His warm embrace, face to face; we need His discernment and wisdom. He can give us all of these, at any time. Our Savior is spontaneous for our sake. Christ is on call for His children, but we still need structured time with Him. It is imperative that we instill in our lives the discipline of daily face time in prayer and engrafting God’s Word into our minds and hearts. Regular face time with God in Scripture is what transforms our thinking with truth and keeps us from being changed by the lies of lazy living.
You can tell when someone has been with Jesus. They have peace that brings calm; They have patience that extends a second chance; They have boldness based on wisdom; They have love that forgives; They have service that is relentless; They have faith that is strong; They have a hope that perseveres. People who have regular face time with Jesus are unique and pleasant. Therefore, linger with the Lord face-to-face. Invest time in your relationship with the Almighty. Keep an eye on eternity. Furthermore, create face time with family, friends, and those you lead and serve. Trust and intimacy comes from looking into each other’s eyes. Take the time to discuss hard issues in person. Provide constructive and courageous feedback. Forging face time means you care. Faithfulness in face time leads to robust relationships. Therefore, enjoy the joy of being with Jesus and friends. Moses experienced this.
“The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. …” (Exodus 33:11)
How do you need to adjust your calendar for more face time with your family and with the Lord?
August 22, 2019
CHARACTER TRAITS OF GOD
“For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.”
Writers of both the Old and New Testaments declare the goodness, loving kindness, and forgiveness of God. However, His character traits don’t stop there. They also describe a holy, just God who requires atonement for sin:
“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22)
Another factor is also at play: faith. Paul teaches from the Old Testament that Abraham was justified by faith:
“For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’” (Romans 4:3)
and without faith it’s impossible to please God:
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were required to sacrifice sheep and goats annually for their sin. Faith motivated their actions and in turn, their belief in God and in His laws motivated their faith. In faith, the Israelites looked ahead to the promised sacrifice:
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time[a] the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” (1 Peter 1:10-11)
Today Christians look behind them at the sacrifice of Christ. In the New Testament Hebrews says:
“And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)
In 1 John we read:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Followers of Christ are declared righteous:
“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,” (1 Corinthians 1:30)
We are invited to God’s holy throne to find help in time of need:
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Aren’t you glad that you don’t have to sacrifice an animal each year to have your sins forgiven? Know that what makes you different from the sinners of the world is your faith in Christ and the forgiveness and righteousness you received. Pray for all people to receive this wonderful gift of salvation by faith. When political arguments are heated over issues, don’t forget the most important issue is reconciliation with God in Jesus. And out of that relationship love for others flows.
Presidential Prayer Team
August 20-21, 2019
2 Samuel 24:14
“Then David said to Gad, ‘I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.’”
Everybody ISN’T your friend… That phrase was a reoccurring theme when a group of 30- year-olds were asked to give advice to their younger self. It is a hard-learned lesson in life to realize the smiling person in the breakroom might also be your adversary in the boardroom. Trust is the “make it or break it” element in most relationships.
David, the unlikely but chosen leader of the infant nation Israel, struggled like everyone else to figure out where he could put his confidence. As a skilled warrior in the Iron Age of swords and daggers, he was well-equipped to make things happen for himself, and at times he did exactly that. He went his own way outside of God’s direction. Straying from fellowship and counsel, his circumstances eventually became desperate. Yet, even in the fallout, David knew where to look for sanctuary. In the end he trusted God over anyone else.
God is a trustworthy friend because He is inherently Good. David called him a refuge because He is the author of salvation, offering forgiveness and restoration to all. David’s life was proof. Regardless the size of the mess you’re in, God loves you fiercely and will go to great lengths to rescue you.
Do you feel safe in God’s love like David? Consider going to Him with your most distressing situation and see what happens. Pray for America’s leaders facing difficult circumstances to also place their hope in the mercy of God, a heavenly Friend to all who believe.
Presidential Prayer Team
August 19, 2019
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE RICH TOWARD GOD?
“But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Am I building my barns bigger? Or, am I building God's barns better? Jesus, with striking contrast transitions from two brothers bickering over their inheritance to illustrate a heart of greed. Subtly, wealth simultaneously decreases the need for stuff---with less of a felt need for God. If I act like I am the owner of my possessions, then the acquisition of more possessions becomes my motivation. But, if I live like the Lord is the owner of my stuff, and I am His steward, then the distribution of His possessions becomes my passion. Generosity starves greed.
The parable Jesus unpacks is packed full of emotion, wisdom and warning. He calls out a prosperous man for his foolishness: shortsightedness, self indulgence and self deception. The productive man deceptively thought he owned his possessions: "my crops, my barns, my grain, myself". The farmer even missed stating the obvious: the Creator of the soil, his soul, and the harvest, was Almighty God. This foolish man failed to be rich toward God by living for himself.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’” (2 Corinthians 9:8-9)
Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, was extravagantly rich toward God. He was rich in his relationships by giving personalized encouragement, wisdom and financial generosity. He was rich toward orphans and foster children by providing facilities and opportunities for them to feel loved and taken care of. Though leading a billion dollar company, he lived modestly, so his team members could take off from work on Sundays and take care of their families. Truett famously said about business, "If we focus on becoming better, our customers will demand we become bigger". As followers of Jesus, if we focus on becoming more like Christ, others will look to learn about following Christ. Being rich toward God is valuing what God values over ourselves.
Here are some questions we can all pray over to assess how rich we are toward God:
1. Dear Lord, how do you love me and how do you want me to love others?
2. Dear Lord, how can I build your barns better, and avoid building my barns bigger?
3. Dear Lord, as my possessions increase, how can I increase my need for you?
4. Dear Lord, what is your heart for the possessions I manage for you?
5. Dear Lord, how can I be wise and not foolish in your eyes?
6. Dear Lord, show me the peril to my soul of meeting the demands of bigger barns for me.
7. Dear Lord, how would you like for me to be rich toward you?
What does it mean to be rich toward God? It means to treasure what He treasures: my relationship with Him and others, lost souls, love and compassion for hurting human beings. To be rich toward God is to be rich in good deeds, rich in generosity and rich in relationships.
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
What can I learn from the life of Truett Cathy on how to be rich toward God?
August 18, 2019
NOT A VICTIM MINDSET
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Followers of Jesus are not victims, they are victorious and more than conquerors. You have overcome because Christ has overcome. There is no need to give in to the temptation of victimized thinking. A “woe is me” attitude places the focus on you instead of your Savior. Victims seek out sympathy from unsuspecting souls. Their desired outcome is you feeling sorry for them. Ironically, their goal is to make you feel guilty for their sorry state of mind. They want someone else to fix their circumstances.
Meanwhile, the victim remains immobile while stuck in a fear-based quagmire. Victims refuse to take responsibility, but when you take responsibility for your choices and your circumstances, you cease to be a victim. People who languish in a victim mindset do not last very long. Their life’s inertia gets them nowhere, and they finally experience the self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.
On the contrary, Christ frees you from the vicious cycle of victimized living. Christ is your confidence and the object of your faith. He gives you the security and strength to carry on even when you feel misunderstood, marginalized, or rejected. People who embrace victimless living get on with life. They shed feeling sorry for themselves and begin to serve others. They lift their discussions from the depths of despair to the heights of hope.
Non-victims need God and people for the sole purpose of obeying Christ’s commands. This is a healthy dependency that leads to overcoming the obstacles of fear, failure, and faithless living. Therefore, do not allow your circumstances to define you. Christ has already defined you as more than a conqueror through Him. You are victorious in Him.
Help those seduced by and stuck in a victim mindset. Be patient while they process what possesses their thinking. Help them break what may be a family trait of defeatist living. Their parents may have been victims. Their grandparents may have been victims. For generations back, their legacy may have been marred by a victim mindset.
Through Christ, lead them to break the chain of this corrosive thinking. Help them discover that they need people to pray for them, not to feel sorry for them. They need the power of God to prevail in their lives; they don’t need the manipulation from man. They can rise out of the mire of a victim mindset by placing their family, faith, and friends in the care of Christ.
Jesus has overcome pain, suffering, and death. He transforms His children from victims to victorious followers. Be authentic in your adversity and honest about your fears and frustrations, but offer solutions not complaints. Pray for the power of God to fall fresh on you, for by faith, you can go from victim to victor. Because Jesus has overcome, you have overcome.
The Bible says,
“They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14)
What area of your life have you chosen to be a victim and not an overcomer in Christ?
August 17, 2019
WHO IS WALKING IN YOUR STEPS?
"As they were going along the road, someone said to him, 'I will follow you wherever you go.'"
My three year-old was on my heels no matter where I went. Whenever I stopped to do something and turned back around, I would trip over him.
I patiently suggested fun activities to keep him occupied. But he simply smiled an innocent smile and said, "Oh that's all right, Mommy. I'd rather be in here with you." Then he continued to bounce happily along behind me.
After stepping on his toes for the fifth time, I began to lose patience. When I asked him why he was acting this way, he looked up at me with sweet green eyes and said: "Well Mommy, my teacher told me to walk in Jesus' footsteps! I can't see Him, so I'm walking in yours!"
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
August 16, 2019
LOVING LEADERS FOLLOW-UP
“Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded. So Moses blessed them.”
Follow-up is necessary for effective leaders. It is necessary in your work and family. It is necessary as you manage and hold others responsible. Follow-up means you care about the person who is performing the task and you care about the work being done. You follow up with your children because you care for them too much not to stay involved in their lives. They may seem distant and disinterested, but you still follow up. Relationships retreat for lack of follow-up.
Ego and pride resist follow-up and expect others to initiate, but people forget. People do not place as high a priority on your activities as you do. They may even commit to a certain time, but because of busyness, fail to follow through. Extremely active people need more follow-up than is normally necessary. You may feel rejected when a person appears disinterested. They may be, but you are responsible to provide gentle reminders and reengage them at a more robust level. Effective follow-up is as much an art as a science. Yes, have a systematic style to your communications, but do not badger people by bombarding them with too much, too often.
People do better when you “inspect what you expect.” So, take the time to inspect. Create margin for inspection and accountability. Follow-up is an appropriate time to revisit expectations. The longer disconnected expectations are left unaddressed, the higher the probability for misunderstanding and failure. Frequent inspection leads to clarification and correction. Small adjustments along the way defuse frustrations and avert subtle surprises down the road. Do not assume that someone understands the first time. Don’t assume you understand the first time. Make sure everyone is on the same page and that there is a coalition of efforts and resources.
“Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?” (2 Thessalonians 2:5)
Also, be willing to adjust, as thinking and engaged people will discover a better way of doing things. Encourage and reward their wise and resourceful innovation. Follow-up frees people to give much needed feedback. Above all else, make sure the project and the process revolve around God’s principles of work and relationships. It is imperative that everyone be aligned around the Almighty’s agenda. His way is the best way; so do not compromise the non-negotiables that define the values and mission of the enterprise.
Follow-up keeps a focus on the purpose of glorifying God. Follow-up is for the purpose of wise stewardship, excellent communication, and affirming accountability. Use your frequent follow-up as a way to bless the other person. Make the follow-up of the transaction or task a small percentage of the conversation. Use this excuse for relational engagement to find out about the person. Listen for their fears, their frustrations, and their dreams. People want to know they are cared for, before they care to listen. Follow-up leads to follow through, all for a greater purpose than any one individual. Use your faithful follow-up as an opportunity to bless others on behalf of God.
“Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14-15)
Who needs your loving follow up, so your are timely in finishing the task at hand?
YOU ARE SAFE
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
One of the great challenges in modern life is learning to slow down long enough to see God’s hand at work in our midst. It is remarkably easy to rush from one place to the next without once pausing to be mindful of God and his faithful provision in our lives. As a result, busy days turn into busy seasons and busy seasons become our default posture in life.
Busyness is often rooted in a posture of self-reliance. Though we may never explicitly say it, our actions reveal an underlying belief that says, “If I don’t take care of myself, who will?” And while this sentiment may be deeply American, it isn’t Christian.
Faithful discipleship is an invitation into a daily process of letting go of your need for control. It is a process of learning to be at peace, even in the midst of a storm. It is ever-increasing clarity on who God is and his unfailing protection and care for you. As the psalmist reminds us:
“The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life;” (Psalm 121:7)
What does it mean to be “kept from all harm?” Does this mean we should cling to this verse as our promise of financial prosperity, relational harmony, and pain-free living? While many have built entire theological systems around such claims, I fear they are missing the heart of this ancient prayer and the heart of what it means to walk through life with the LORD on our side. As the psalmist says:
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
For David and countless others throughout history, and possibly for you in this very moment, the journey of life takes you through seasons of dark valleys, intense sorrow, and great uncertainty. The promise of God is not that we will be immune and unaffected by brokenness, but that God will not abandon us in the face of evil. That there is no place we can go or find ourselves where He cannot reach us or enter into our greatest pains or fears.
If the LORD is with you, you are perfectly safe and secure, regardless of what your circumstances may say. Slow down and have eyes to see the LORD’s protection and provision in your life which means you can rest in peace and awake in safety.
“he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:4)
How does the LORD’s nearness and protection reframe your current trials and challenges?
August 13-14, 2019
10 REASONS TO HOPE WHEN YOU'RE HURTING
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
1. God is truly in control.
If God is God, then nothing happens apart from His knowledge and permission. While it is difficult to imagine why God allows some painful things to happen, His character, revealed in the Bible and through the testing of generations, leads us to the conclusion that He is willing and able to sustain you during the worst of times.
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)
2. There is an eternal life to come.
““He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:8)
3. The story isn't finished yet.
Time after time, the Bible records hopeless situations that ultimately ended in victory. Think of Job's sickness, Joseph's betrayal by his brothers, David's adultery and the many who were healed in mind, body and spirit.
“But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.’” (Genesis 50:19-20)
4. God has not given up on you! Don't give up on him.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)
5. There is likely purpose in your pain.
Ask God to reveal His purpose in allowing this difficulty in your life. That's a legitimate question to ask. Often, the answer comes in the process of dealing with your circumstance.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
6. You are loved!
Even the most unlovable person in the world is actually loved so much by God, that He let His Son die a terrible death to restore their relationship. God does love you! He sees your pain and weeps with you.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)
7. Your prayers are heard.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?” (Matthew 7:9-10)
8. You are not facing this alone.
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6)
9. Others have made it through - you can too.
Try to connect with others who have gone through similar situations. You will find hope, strength and encouragement.
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
10. Reach out to someone else who's struggling.
Place your focus on someone else and invest your life in him or her. You may discover that your peace of mind is found in being a source of hope for another.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Steve Arterburn and Mike Marino
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
August 12, 2019
“in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
The U. S. post office began making Forever stamps in 2007. When you buy a Forever stamp, you don’t have to pay extra postage as the prices go up. Likewise, Jesus paid the price for salvation once and for all:
“Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” (Hebrews 7:27)
As today’s verse says, the grace from that one act is good forever. Now, all can receive “the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us” In the following chapter, Paul prays for the Ephesians:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)
Because God has been kind to you in Jesus, He desires you to be kind to others:
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Pray that Christ’s kindness will flow through you to subsequent generations. Pray for the United States as a whole to be known as a kind nation and one that lifts up the name of Jesus who performed the ultimate act of kindness.
Presidential Prayer Team
August 10-11, 2019
WHAT IF GOD TOOK THE SUMMER OFF?
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
At the beginning of my first summer as a pastor, Louise Vandergrift, the only senior adult in our tiny congregation in Tennessee brought me a little article that she had clipped out of a magazine decades before. I never forgot the point of the article, so years later I called “Mrs. Louise” and asked her to fax it to me. I share it today with the hope that it sticks in your heart and mind the same way that it has in mine over the past 17 years:
“God Takes The Summer Off
We are sorry to inform you that God will not be available during the summer beginning June 1st. He feels He deserves some time off, so He has canceled His normal duties for the summer.
He has agreed to send the sun and rain occasionally when He happens to be in town, but so far as answering prayers for the needs of your family, please don’t count on Him.
God has let church leaders know that they should not plan any outreach efforts or mission trips during the summer—or at least if they do, they will have to do it without Him because He plans to be gone a lot to see relatives, baseball games and the lake. God has expressed the opinion that we should find someone else to take His place.
Then we reminded Him of His promise, “Surely I will be with you always,” but He said He didn’t realize when He said it that it meant going two or three years without a break. He expressed His sincere regret and hopes that it will not cause anyone any inconvenience.
God may be contacted anytime after September 1st, at which time He hopes to get back into the normal routine. “Please defer all requests until then,” He requested.”
Aren’t you glad God doesn’t take the summer off? This summer, make it your determination to bring yourself and your family to God’s House on Sunday. He will be waiting for us to worship Him.
August 8-9, 2019
“You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
Have you ever skipped rocks across a pond or lake? Or maybe you had a contest with a friend to see who could throw a rock the farthest into the water? Did you ever see any of those thrown rocks again? Do you ever wonder if God keeps a record of the things you’ve done wrong?
Micah 7 can help answer that question, as it helped to give the Israelites a picture of what was to come. God promised to have compassion on His people. He promised that He would not only trample their sins, but that He would cast them “into the depths of the sea”. The wording used in this verse was a reference to how God defeated the Egyptians when the Israelites were freed from slavery. Just as God cast the Egyptians in the sea—never to be seen again—God promised to do the same with His people’s sin. And this applies to you, too. God will not only cleanse you from your sins, but He will also deliver you from their power. You will never have to see them again.
So as you talk with God today, picture yourself handing Him all your “rocks” full of sin. Imagine watching God throw them out into the sea…gone forever. Thank Him for his mercy and compassion. Ask Him to give you boldness and confidence to approach Him, knowing you are forgiven. Pray for America’s leaders. Ask God to give them His heart of compassion and mercy. Pray that they would look to God for guidance to lead in a way that honors Him.
Presidential Prayer Team
August 7, 2019
ENDLESS SUMMER AND THE PERFECT WAVE
“who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the sea;”
Like waves that continually roll onto the earth’s sandy shores, Christ is continually with us. He told us:
“… to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
I had the pleasure of watching a group of surfers hone their skills off the North Shore of Oahu. There were various ages, sizes and shapes represented among the surfers. But all were keen on one specific idea—catch the perfect wave and ride it in.
Jesus Christ, in many ways, is our perfect wave. He washes over all who come to Him, keeping us balanced and bringing us safely through foaming seas, to a solid destination. Only Jesus provides that perfect fluid balance, allowing us to maneuver through a tough and treacherous course. We are aware of Jesus’ mighty presence when we know His name, and like unending waves, perpetually seek His guiding love.
And just like water, Jesus totally engulfs us when we fall. Cry out to Jesus when you are in despair, and He will surround you with who He is and what He is capable of doing. This action propels us closer to God, allowing us to be swept up in His mercy and grace.
Reading scripture about Jesus will help us remember His love—
“nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)
Life itself is uncontrollable, just like the mighty waves of the ocean. We have no ability to know for certain what our future will hold. One truth alone is clear—Jesus will always surround us with His love. He loved us 2,000 years ago and He continues to love us today. Jesus continually provides our balance, simply because He loves us.
He is our Perfect Wave.
August 6, 2019
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
Don’t let summer make your soul shrivel. God made summer as a foretaste of heaven, not a substitute. If the mailman brings you a love letter from your fiancé, don’t fall in love with the mailman. That’s what summer is: God’s messenger with a sun-soaked, tree-green, flower-blooming, lake-glistening letter of love to show us what He is planning for us in the age to come:
“But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him-’” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Don’t fall in love with the video preview, and find yourself unable to love the coming reality. Jesus Christ is the refreshing center of summer. He is pre-eminent in all things:
“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.” (Colossians 1:18)
He is pre-eminent in all things including vacations and picnics and softball and long walks and cookouts. He invites us this summer:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
This is serious summer refreshment. Do we want it? That is the question. Christ gives himself to us in proportion to how much we want his refreshment:
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
Peter’s word to us about this is:
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,” (Acts 3:19-20)
Repentance is not just turning away from sin, but also turning toward the Lord with hearts open and expectant and submissive. What sort of summer mindset is this?
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
In the summer, the earth is very much with us. And it is God’s earth! But it is all a prelude to the real drama of heaven. It is a foretaste of the real banquet. It is a video preview of the reality of what the eternal summer will be like:
“And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:23)
So you see: the summer sun is a mere pointer to the sun that will be. The glory of God. Summer is for seeing and showing that. Will we have eyes to see? Do you want to have eyes to see? Lord, let us see the light beyond the light. Seek that this summer.
Seeking more, because I have been found,
August 5, 2019
“I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon;”
It was a summer morning, and the first rays of sun were falling across my garden. The prior evening the leaves on the tender corn were drooping from intense heat and lack of rain. But in the morning, the spikes were straight and fresh, and each leaf was adorned with sparkling drops of dew. During the night, the cooling air caused moisture to condense into dewdrops, refreshing the wilted vegetation.
This, according to the prophet Hosea, is a picture of what the Lord would do for His people. God said:
“I will be like the dew to Israel…” (Hosea 14:5)
When our spirits droop, when we are burdened by a load of cares, or when we are carrying the guilt of sin, the Lord offers His mercy and grace to be like refreshing dew to our souls.
Just as the dew appears in the quiet of the summer night to moisten the plants, so too the refreshing dew of God’s forgiveness, comfort, and strength comes in the quiet times of prayer and meditation on His Word.
Why are the lives of so many Christians faded, wilted, and powerless? In most cases, it is because they neglect spending time alone each day with God in prayer and in the study of His Word.
Do you need the refreshment of God’s dewdrops?
August 4, 2019
SHARPEN YOUR SKILLS
“If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.”
Life is not meant to be full of endless activity and busyness. Without pause it loses its edge. A life worth living is one that takes the time to sharpen its skills. Skill-sharpening is an investment that will serve you well the rest of your life. Do not settle for mediocrity; by God’s grace seek to be the best in your life roles. Your commitment to sharpen yourself is much like that of a farmer.
A wise farmer will use his seasonal down time to upgrade, replace, and repair his equipment. He literally sharpens the tips of his plow, rebuilds the tractor engines, and upgrades and cleans his equipment. A prepared farmer will not only survive, but will thrive with this type of motivation to always improve. In the same spirit, there is a time to execute and a time to regroup and sharpen yourself for the next initiative. A person with sharpened skills is an effective tool in the hand of God. He wants to use you to your full potential. Your part is to continually improve. Your activities and work will produce more lasting results when you take the time to hone heaven’s gifts.
God wants to use your life to cut through life’s issues the way a sharp knife slices through a juicy ripe tomato. A skilled concert pianist practices the piano. A skilled writer searches out new words and becomes engrossed in sentence structures. A skilled speaker learns how to understand his audience and communicate one point in a variety of ways. A skilled mom quizzes other moms on how to become a better mother. A skilled golfer continues to hit balls way after the tournaments end; he smashes the little white objects into the night. So, seek out new ways to keep your mind sharp and engaged in new ideas.
Read about and learn from wise leaders of the faith whose writings have stood the test of time.
Books are tremendous skill-sharpeners. Join a book club to ramp up your commitment and accountability. You can attend seminars or pursue a graduate degree. Use a variety of tools to stay sharp. Sparks fly when steel is sharpened, which means there will be some discomfort and growing pains. You are either moving forward or shrinking backward; there is no standing still.
As you sharpen your skills, you are moving forward. You are stewarding God’s talents and gifts to their fullest. Swinging at issues with a dull life will lead you to the brink of giving up. Sharpen your mind with the Word of God. Nothing sharpens a mind like wisdom from above. God’s principles are like a whetstone on a battered blade. He smoothes the jagged edges of your roughed up life. Like an axe that has become chipped and blunted over time, your life is refurbished by God till it regains its radiant and shiny silver edge. Discover your skills through assessments and the counsel of others. A hint: when you operate within your skill set, executing the plan is almost effortless. Stay sharp, and your skills may swing open some impressive doors.
“Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” (Proverbs 22:29)
What skill like “listening” do you need to develop and learn?
August 3, 2019
“But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’"
My kids are remarkably talented at multitasking. In addition to doing whatever it is that I’ve asked them to do, they are also able to keep close tabs on their siblings, letting me know any time their brother or sister is failing to do their job as well. Though I’m “impressed” by their attentiveness, I always respond with some version of “just focus on what I asked you to do.”
While this talent may take different forms as we age, Martha and Mary remind us that this impulse to keep tabs on others remains well into adulthood. Like a kind and patient parent, Jesus tenderly calls Martha out for being “anxious and troubled about many things.” Contrary to many popular reads of this story, Jesus isn’t upset with Martha for her active service and preparation, which is a good and faithful thing. He’s upset with the way she was also trying to manage the faithfulness of her sister!
Do you find yourself overly concerned with the spiritual life and faithfulness of others? Do you feel it is your duty to remind them of their duty before the Lord? Do you take the position of arbiter and judge, deciding on behalf of others whether or not they are in the right? This is quite different than a healthy form of accountability in which we remind one another of our shared devotion and commitment to Christ, encouraging by example faithfulness to Jesus and fidelity to his Kingdom.
Jesus wants us to remember that our primary responsibility before God is our own walk with the Lord and following his lead with integrity, character, and virtue. Jesus wants our hearts fully focused on him and our hands and feet given to the work he’s called us to do. We must daily resist the urge to also judge and size people up on our left and right, wondering if they’re also doing what they’ve been asked to do.
When tempted in this way, I often return to the ancient “Jesus Prayer,” which reminds us of our need for God’s mercy and grace as we seek to follow him with a heart of singular devotion and focus:
“In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.’” (Luke 10:21)
Where has comparison or a judgmental spirit crept into your heart?
August 2, 2019
“The LORD passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed, 'The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,'”
Hasty words and impulsive actions… most people can list a few times when emotions take control and things regrettably get out of hand. Moses, God’s chosen leader for the ancient people of Israel is no exception.
Moses was called to a mountain-top meeting with God on the people’s behalf. While there, he received two beautiful tablets of stone carved by God’s own hand. They were to be given to the people as a reminder of the covenant of love between the people and God. Descending the mountain, Moses heard singing and dancing coming from the camp, but it wasn’t a welcome back party. Soon he realized that while he was on the mountain representing them, they were below engaging in vile pagan worship rituals, breaking God’s covenant of love even as it was being written.
“And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses' anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.” (Exodus 32:19)
Maybe the disappointments in your life are not as dramatic as the story of Moses and the tablets but you may fully understand his frustration and why he smashed them to pieces in view of the entire group.
Don’t be discouraged by difficult people today or disheartened by leaders caught up in an endless game of power politics. Remember God’s love towards mankind is not of human origin. His patience is not fickle or conditional. He is steadfast and fiercely faithful to those He loves. If you have fallen short in loving and serving God’s people, like Moses, pray for grace, He gave Moses another chance to do his good work and he will give you one, too.
Presidential Prayer Team
July 31-August 1, 2019
THE GIFT OF HOSPITALITY
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.”
We spend much of our life coming and going, busily rushing from one place to the next – the gym, coffee shop, grocery store, work – yet if we are honest, these are not the primary spaces in which our true selves are formed. These are not the places where intimate relationships are nurtured and strengthened. Intimacy is cultivated and celebrated in the privacy of a home. Though there are many lessons learned in the story of Martha and Mary, we cannot miss that it is a powerful testimony to what we might call “domestic spirituality.” The life of discipleship is lived with Jesus around the kitchen table and in the holy, ordinary rhythms of everyday life.
And yet, many of us are terrified of what awaits us in these intimate spaces. We don’t want to deal with our deep thoughts, with relational challenges, with what God might want to teach us and show us in that space, and so we avoid them and stick with the “safety” of the public space. We stay at the gym a little longer, work a few hours later, fill every open slot on our calendars so we stay active and busy and never have to deal with the big questions that lie just below the surface. I wonder, though, if we might be missing something profound that the Lord wants to do in each and every one of us?
Martha, though often (unfairly) maligned in this story, begins with a bold act of faithful discipleship: she invites Jesus into the intimacy of her home. Are we willing to do the same? It is easier to keep Jesus at a distance, observing his ministry as a bystander or assessing his teaching as a disengaged intellectual exercise. To invite him into your home is to invite his close scrutiny of your most personal and private spaces. It is to give him access to the parts of your life that we are tempted to hide and keep in the dark.
If we have ears to hear and eyes to see, in our intimate spaces the Lord seeks in love to offer tender words of compassion and redirection, as he did with Martha. Discipleship is not God simply seeing and affirming everything about us, leaving us just as we are. It most often includes God inviting us to bring our shame and sin into the light and allowing him to heal and restore us, setting us back on the path that leads to life. This is the gift of encountering Jesus in close and intimate ways. He draws near, not to shame us, but in kindness to lead, shepherd, and teach us.
Where have you kept Jesus at arm’s length, afraid to let him into your most vulnerable and private spaces?
Go to July 2019 Archive