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?
July 29-30, 2019
THE NECESSITY OF COMMUNITY
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
I just experienced an engaging weekend in the mountains with eight friends. This was our thirteenth consecutive year sharing our hearts with a relational deep dive. The second night one of the men asked the group, "What truth have you learned from God over the past 4-6 weeks?" Answers varied from peace in the midst of a new grandchild's birth defect to the Lord's loving support through a severe health challenge, to a child's drug addiction that brought a man and his wife into intense prayer and love for their daughter. One man shared the joy and honor of spending time with and influencing a grandchild for Christ. Tears and truth mingled together to transform all of us. Sharpened by one another in the Spirit, each man grew into a better version of himself.
I was freshly reminded of the necessity for community. Without relational engagement with others I am only a shell of myself. The blade of my life becomes dull while cutting through the clutter and chaos of everyday life. Only by the whetstone of another righteous life am I able to learn from and feel the sparks from his story grind away the impediments to my relational intimacy with God and others. Character is forged by the caring combustion of a vulnerable community.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” (Hebrews 10:24)
Pride smothers in community for lack of air to the ego. Do you have a band of brothers or a group of sisters who love you for you? Friends who don't require anything to earn their love and there is nothing you can do to lose their love? You can be yourself, and in the process better understand yourself. Love thrives where it feels listened to and understood. Peace blankets a heart that is freely comforted and cared for by an empathetic group of friends. Sparks of truth will rub pride the wrong way from time to time, only to soften the ego and humble the heart.
Most importantly is your community of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Linger long in the presence of the Trinity and your trust and love will grow without end. Ask for your Father's wisdom and He will open your mind to thoughts only seen by eyes of faith. Seek your Savior's forgiveness and He will wash away your guilt and shame with His purifying grace and love. Rest in your Comforter's care and the Holy Spirit will give you rest and rejuvenation to your soul. Divine community draws your heart into ongoing communion. The cords of faith, hope and love cannot be broken, when you come broken before the community of the Divine.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)
How can you develop a humble and vulnerable heart with a small group who loves you?
July 28, 2019
“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
John Newton understood God’s mercy. When he was a child, his mother taught him Scripture and prayed he would become a minister. But Newton became a rude, profane captain of slave ships. However, during a 1748 voyage to England, a severe storm almost sank his ship. That day at the helm, Newton cried out to God and repented of his sin. He later wrote, "On that day the Lord sent from on high and delivered me out of deep waters." Newton eventually left slave-trading. Then his mother’s prayers were answered when he began preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He also joined with William Wilberforce, a member of Parliament, in succeeding to abolish British slavery.
Newton lived to be 82 and preached for 43 years until the last two or three years of his life. He never ceased to be amazed by God's grace and told his friends, "My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior." Newton often composed hymns from the lessons and Scripture from the Sunday church services. His most well-known hymn is “Amazing Grace.”
Repentance is a military term meaning “about face.” So when you’re facing temptation, listen for the Lord’s kind voice calling you to turn away. If you’re deeply entangled in a pattern of sin, don’t wait until your ship is falling apart. Call upon the amazing grace of your Heavenly Father. He never ignores the call of a repentant sinner.
Presidential Prayer Team
July 27, 2019
SEATED ON HIGH
“Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?”
This week marked the fiftieth anniversary of perhaps the crowning achievement of human creativity and ingenuity. On July 20, 1969, two Americans, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, landed their spacecraft on the surface of the moon.
Most people think that the crew of Apollo 11 were the first human beings to travel to the moon, but that is only partly correct. In December 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 (Jim Lovell, William Anders, and Frank Borman) traveled to, but did not land on, the moon. On Christmas Eve of that year, Apollo 8 entered into orbit around the moon. The crew read from Genesis 1 as they transmitted to approximately one billion people worldwide a breathtaking view of the earth rising above the surface of the moon.
Our immense earth—a little blue jewel in the vast darkness of space. Our earth, one little speck in the solar system surrounding an ordinary star. Our sun, one of approximately four hundred billion stars in the Milky Way. Our galaxy, one medium-sized galaxy among a couple of trillion galaxies!
In the documentary “In the Shadow of the Moon,” astronaut Jim Lovell says:
“We learned a lot about the moon, but what we really learned was about the earth: The fact that just from the distance of the moon, you can put your thumb up, and you can hide the earth behind your thumb. Everything that you’ve ever known, your loved ones, your business, the problems of the earth itself—all behind your thumb. And how insignificant we really all are, but then how fortunate we are to have this body and to be able to enjoy living here amongst the beauty of the earth itself.”
We rightly marvel at the extraordinary Apollo moon missions that transported human beings to our nearest cosmic neighbor. The Apollo spacecrafts traveled at a top speed of approximately twenty-four thousand miles per hour on their journey to the moon. How incredible that such machines were created fifty years ago and accomplished so much while being controlled by a computer with far less computing power than your cell phone!
What an accomplishment. Yet what a small fraction of the universe we have explored. What a small fraction of the universe we can explore. Even traveling at the top speed of the Apollo spacecraft, it would take 122 thousand years to reach the nearest star other than the sun. It would take more than seventy billion years to reach the nearest galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy.
As big as the creation is, the Bible shows us that our Creator is even bigger. The vast oceans of the earth, which when perturbed by an earthquake create tsunamis powerful enough to wipe out provinces, all can be measured by God in the hollow of his hand:
“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?” (Isaiah 40:12)
The enormous heavens are described by David as the work of God’s fingers—not even his whole hands:
“You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.” (Psalm 8:3)
Whether we are in the heavens or in the depths, our God will be there with us:
“If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” (Psalm 139:8)
He “upholds the universe by the word of his power”:
“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” (Hebrews 1:3)
The creation is big; our God is unfathomably bigger. Our infinite Creator cares about every single one of his creatures:
“The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 113:4–9)
The picture of God given to us in Psalm 113 is of One so awesome and big that he has to stoop down to see the heavens and the earth he created (“Let me stoop down and find that beautiful blue earth. Oh, there it is down there! Wow, that is a pretty one!”). Jim Lovell was rightly humbled by how small we and our earth are in comparison to the expanse of God’s creation. Yet amazingly, we are precious in the Creator’s eyes.
The biblical picture of God is not merely that of a powerful and omnipresent Creator, but also of a God who actually cares about seemingly insignificant people located in a tiny corner of the universe. He is a compassionate Father who cares for the poor and needy, and draws near to them:
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.” (Psalm 34:4-7)
He takes note of weak and vulnerable people, and works for their good:
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our LORD, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.” (Psalm 147:3-6)
We ask along with David:
“what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4)
God so loved weak and sinful sinners like us that he sent his one and only Son to the tiny blue speck orbiting an ordinary star on the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy, so that:
“… whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:15)
What an amazing God!
Stephen W. Stein
July 26, 2019
“For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.”
When building a fire, you start with little pieces called tinder, such as twigs. When that catches, you add kindling, small sticks. Then on to firewood, logs, that keeps the fire burning into the night. Likewise, an argument can start by something little, an unkind word or misunderstanding. Hashing it out with a third party can turn into a gossip session, fanning the flames to a full-fledged fight.
The Bible condemns gossip:
“They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,” (Romans 1:29)
“For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.” (2 Corinthians 12:20)
“Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.” (1 Timothy 5:13)
The apostle Paul advises:
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)
“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:35-37)
The word "careless" implies not giving much thought to what you say. You may not mean to hurt a person by talking about them. Even listening to prayer requests at a prayer meeting can become gossip. Be careful to not add kindling to a fire when you speak. Pray that gossip, rumors and blatant lies will cease so disputes will fizzle out like a campfire on a wet day.
Presidential Prayer Team
July 24-25, 2019
LOVE DOES SOMETHING
“Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.’”
When we hear the story of the Good Samaritan, I think it is easy to default to seeing ourselves as the hero of this story. We are also meant to be the ones who reach out in love to heal and restore those who are beaten and bruised, no matter who they are or where they come from. And of course, there is great truth in this perspective, yet I wonder how the story changes when we choose to read it from the perspective of the man left for dead on the road?
Far too often you and I live and view the world from positions of superiority. We think we are the ones who “have” and are meant to bless those who “have not.” Yet true discipleship, true love for the other, requires that we see our shared frailty and humanity, to remember that to be human is to be someone in need, someone who is affected by the brokenness of the world. We are the ones in need, Jesus is the Good Samaritan who brings our healing.
In Jesus we encounter the perfection of love for God and perfection of love for neighbor. Jesus moves in love and compassion towards each and every person affected by the weight of sin and death. Jesus the Good Samaritan moves towards the world in love and compassion, not stopping to ask if we are deserving of his love. His mission is to heal the world and that requires a radical willingness to lead with love, a love that transcends neat boundaries and easy definitions.
This is the good news of the gospel. This is good news for you! God moves towards us in love and compassion when we find ourselves isolated from him and from others. In countless ways we make decisions that leave us empty and hollow, shattered and scattered. Our hope is that when, not if, we find ourselves in these situations, God’s love is not shaken nor does it waver. As a popular worship song reminds us, “There’s no shadow you won’t light up, mountain you won’t climb up, coming after me.”
Do you believe this is God’s heart towards you today? Wherever you find yourself, do you believe God can find you there? And not only find you there, but approach you with love and compassion and bring you to a place of healing and hope? This is the heart of the Good Samaritan.
How does the story of the Good Samaritan reframe your own struggle and give you newfound hope?
July 22-23, 2019
REST FOR THE WEARY
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
God’s plan for His people includes rest of soul. He wants to refresh your mind, will, and emotions. What’s so awesome about Christ’s call to come in Matthew 11:28 is that He isn’t calling you to a religious tradition. He isn’t calling you to a church, or a particular religious method of prayer. He isn’t calling you to a theological system. He’s calling you to Himself.
“Come to me,” he says. He is opening His arms and waiting to envelope you in His love. There is healing, truth, and hope in His love. When you want to lay down and want to quit and give up on life, He is saying “Come to me.” When your kids aren’t behaving how you desire and you’re carrying the burden of worry for them, He is saying, “Come to me.” When you’re tired of following religious rules, and you’re tired of trying to prove that you’re good enough for God, He is saying, “Come to me.”
When your mate is struggling with unemployment.
When your finances are a mess.
When work is tiring you out.
When coworkers are testing your patience.
When social media is exhausting.
When your marriage is in trouble.
When a special friend betrays you.
When you feel ashamed, worried, anxious, frustrated, or angry. . .
He is saying, “Come to me.”
He wants to help you carry the burden that you can’t carry on your own. We will always have burdens to bear in this life. But He wants to make your load lighter so you aren’t crushed under the weight. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. His call isn’t for people who seem holier than others. It’s not for the nicest Christians or those who have the prettiest histories. It’s not for those who look like they have it together. It’s not only for the spiritually mature or those who have been walking with Him the longest. It’s for everyone. It’s for me. It’s for you. It’s for all who are weary and heavy laden.
Are you weary? Do you feel burdened, tired, burned out and worn out? The beloved Savior is calling. “Come to me.”
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:7)
Do you have a burden? Answer his call to come. He’s waiting to give you the rest you need.
July 21, 2019
THE LION AND THE GAZELLE
1 Peter 5:8
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or a gazelle; when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."
When we awaken each morning, we must realize that the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
In Psalm 5, we read that David came to God early in the morning and asked for his protection and help:
“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5:3)
We also need to pay attention to the vital importance of prayer.
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
July 20, 2019
“ONE SMALL STEP . . .”
“…Jesus was walking in the temple courts…”
Fifty years ago today, on July 20, 1969, American astronaut Neil Armstrong made history by becoming the first person to set foot on the moon. His timeless and famous remark at the time, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," will go down as one of the most iconic phrases of all time.
When Armstrong visited Israel in 1994, he was brought to the Old City of Jerusalem by his host and noted archaeologist Meier Ben-Dov. When they came to the Hulda Gate, atop the stairs leading to the Temple Mount, Armstrong asked Ben-Dov if Jesus himself actually would have walked there.
"I told him, 'Look, Jesus was a Jew,'" recalled Ben-Dov. These are the steps that lead to the Temple, so he must have walked here many times."
Armstrong asked if these were the original steps, and Ben-Dov said that they were.
"So Jesus stepped right here?" asked Armstrong.
"That's right," answered Ben-Dov.
"I have to tell you," Armstrong said to the Israeli archaeologist, "I am more excited stepping on these stones than I was stepping on the Moon."
July 19, 2019
DARK SIDE OF THE MOON
1 Kings 19:12
“After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
You have, no doubt, heard of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. They were the astronauts who first walked on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. But did you know the mission had another astronaut? His mission might have been even more important than the other two. His name was Michael Collins and his job was to navigate the command module around the surface of the Moon three times during the 22 hours Armstrong and Aldrin were jumping around on the Moon.
Three times, for 47 minutes each, Collins found himself on the dark side of the Moon with no contact between Earth or his fellow astronauts.
In a statement to the public, NASA described his situation. “Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins is experiencing during this 47 minutes of each lunar revolution when he is behind the Moon with no one to talk to except his tape recorder aboard Columbia.”
Collins described the feeling that he had as he was literally all alone. I don’t mean to deny a feeling of solitude. It is there, reinforced by the fact that radio contact with the Earth abruptly cuts off at the instant I disappear behind the Moon. I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.”
Most cars today have a GPS tracker. It tells us when to make a turn and when to get off at an exit. For most of the time, especially on longer trips, the GPS is silent. How many times do we think, “Am I still going the right way?” Wouldn’t it be nice if the GPS voice would encourage us? “You are on the right road, don’t worry just keep driving.” Wouldn’t that be comforting when we have that fear that somehow we have gotten off of the path?
God works in the same way as that GPS tracker. Many times we panic when we don’t hear from Him. When He tells us what to do, we need to have faith to carry out that mission unless He tells us differently.
We as humans would like to have the Moses experience where God is speaking audibly in a loud voice. That is not how God usually works in our world today. It is with a still small voice in the quiet times that He can talk to us. Those are the times when He can tell us exactly what we should be doing!
It is like getting instructions from our boss. If you or I were receiving special instructions on doing a job, would we have our headphones on? Would we be playing with our phone or have our TV on so loud that we couldn’t possibly hear? Or would we cut off all of the competing noise so that we could hear exactly what to do? The answer is obvious, but the next question is “Why don’t we give God the same kind of attention so he can instruct us?”
Collins had already received his instructions before his mission. He knew precisely what he was supposed to do. If he had not been prepared, the silence would have brought fear and doubt.
Many of us are not like Michael Collins the astronaut. We have not been in front of God with closed mouth and open ears. It is in these times that God can and will talk to us. It is in these times that the silent night will have a “still small voice” breaking the silence. When we decide to silence the world’s activities and seek Him, God will talk to us and give us His instructions.
Then, with His help, we can execute our mission while we are here. Christians everywhere question what their purpose in life is. What is God’s plan for me?”, they will ask. The answer can be found, but it won’t be with countless voices talking to us.
In the silence, we find our mission. And in the silence, many times we carry it out. That is what faith is. Like the GPS, we are to assume that if we are given a mission and we are carrying it out, God will break in if we have gotten off track.
Somehow Collins was able to stay focused and keep his module on course through the enormous silence. Three times he had to endure the blackout, and each time he put his faith over his fear. After the third trip around, the other astronauts docked with his module and they were shortly on their way home.
Some day our missions will be over too, and the silence of faith will be replaced by joy, love, peace, and jubilation!
July 17-18, 2019
COMMUNION ON THE MOON
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
July 20th marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, when two men changed history by walking on the surface of the moon. But what happened before Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong exited the Lunar Module is perhaps even more amazing, if only because so few people know about it.
I’m talking about the fact that Buzz Aldrin took communion on the surface of the moon. Some months after his return, he wrote about it in Guideposts magazine:
"The background to the story is that Aldrin was an elder at Webster Presbyterian Church in Texas during this period in his life, and knowing that he would soon be doing something unprecedented in human history, he felt he should mark the occasion somehow, and he asked his pastor, Dean Woodruff, to help him. And so the pastor consecrated a communion wafer and a small vial of communion wine. And Buzz Aldrin took them with him out of the Earth’s orbit and on to the surface of the moon.
July 20, 1969, the day of the lunar landing was a Sunday. Aldrin and Armstrong had only been on the lunar surface for a few minutes when Aldrin made the following public statement: “This is the LM pilot. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.” He then ended radio communication and there, on the silent surface of the moon, 250,000 miles from home, he read a verse from the Gospel of John, and he took communion. Here is his own account of what happened:
“In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the Scripture,
"I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)
I had intended to read my communion passage back to earth, but at the last minute [NASA] had requested that I not do this. NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle with Madelyn Murray O’Hare, the celebrated opponent of religion, over the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas. I agreed reluctantly. …I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements.”
And of course, it’s interesting to think that some of the first words spoken on the moon were the words of Jesus Christ, who made the Earth and the moon — and Who, in the immortal words of Dante, is Himself the “Love that moves the Sun and other stars.”
Eric Metaxas" July 16, 2019
“Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.' When he had said this, he breathed his last.”
Noise. Vibration. Pressure. Fireball. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield used these words to describe being launched into space. As the rocket raced toward the International Space Station, the weight of gravity increased and breathing became difficult. Just when he thought he would pass out from the pressure, the rocket made a fiery breakthrough into weightlessness. Instead of lapsing into unconsciousness, he broke into laughter.
His description made me think of the days leading to my father’s death. The heaviness of life kept increasing until he no longer had the strength to breathe. He was then released from his pain and broke free into the “weightlessness” of heaven. I like to think of him laughing when he took his first breath in Jesus’ presence.
On the Friday we call “good,” something similar happened to Jesus. God placed on Him the weight of the entire world’s sin—past, present, and future—until He could no longer breathe. Then:
“Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.' When he had said this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:46)
After being suffocated by the weight of our sin, Jesus received back from God the life entrusted to Him and now lives where sin and death have no power. All who trust Christ will one day join Him, and I wonder if we will look back at this life and laugh.
The sacrifice of Jesus points us to the joy of heaven.
Julie Ackerman Link
July 15, 2019
LIGHTEN YOUR LOAD #4
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I don’t know what burden you are carrying. I don’t know what is weighing you down. But I do know the answer: Jesus says,
“Come to me, ...Take my yoke upon you . . . Learn from me...” (Matthew 11:28-30)
For many years I never understood that verse, because I didn’t know what a yoke was. When Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you,” it sounded to me like he was going to give me something else to deal with. My burden is already heavy enough, Lord. I don’t need to take your problems on me, too.
A yoke actually is a board with two arches in it that is placed over two cattle so they can pull a cart. The value of a yoke is that it halves the load. Without a yoke, one cow must pull that entire load by itself. But if you yoke up the cow with another cow, then the two cows pull the load together, and the load is half as heavy.
When Jesus says to take his yoke upon you, he is not saying that he is going to give you his problems (Jesus doesn’t have any problems!). He is saying that he will share your problems. He is going to share your load. He is going to take your stress on himself and bear it with you.
Jesus uses three verbs in this verse: come, learn, and take. Jesus says, “Come to me. Team up with me. Then, learn how I do it. Take on a lighter load. This is going to reduce your stress. This is going to make it easier for you to navigate.”
When you are yoked with Christ, you move together with him. You move in the same direction and at the same speed. And you move in the right direction and at the right speed.
Questions for further reflection:
How difficult is it for you to accept help from someone who wants to share your burdens and make it easier on you? Do you have people in your life who are willing to do that for you? How are you offering yourself to others to help reduce their stress?
God already knows all about your stress. How will you show him that you are ready to take on his yoke?
July 13-14, 2019
WHERE IS YOUR STING?
1 Corinthians 15:55
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
A family on vacation were driving along in their car, windows rolled down, enjoying the cool breeze of the warm, summer's day. All of a sudden a bee darted in the window and started buzzing around inside the car. A little girl, highly allergic to bee stings, cringed in the back seat. If she were stung, she could be in serious trouble.
"Oh, Daddy," she screeched in terror, "It's a bee! It's going to sting me!"
The father pulled the car over to a stop, and reached back to try to catch the bee. Buzzing towards him, the bee bumped against the front windscreen where the father trapped it in his fist. Holding it in his closed hand, the father waited for the inevitable sting. In pain from the sting, the father let go of the bee.
With the bee loose in the car again the little girl panicked. "Daddy, it's going to sting me!" The father gently said, "No, honey, he's not going to sting you nowy. Look at my hand." He showed her the bee's stinger in his hand."
And that's exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross. He took the sting of death for us … as the songwriter put it, "You will know him by the nail prints in his hands." And as the Bible says, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
July 11-12, 2019
TRAVELING LIGHT #3
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”
Whether we are an athlete running a race, a world traveler touring the globe, or simply a human being trekking through life, we each have a choice as to what and how much we are going to carry with us. What are we lugging around? What might be hindering us?
Another way to look at this idea is to consider what is crowding our mental or emotional lives. I am embarrassed to say that, right now, I can’t drive my car into my garage because my garage is packed to the rafters with boxes. No two physical objects can occupy the same space at the same time. This is just basic physics: I have to choose between the boxes or my car.
The apostle Paul, who was once shipwrecked, knew that sometimes the challenges of life require us to throw out or throw off anything that will sink our ship. Acts records how the ship’s crew even threw their tackle and needed supplies overboard in order to survive the violent storm.
“On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.” (Acts 27:19)
Choices like these are not easy.
Physical clutter—like a crowded garage—is obvious, but we can mistakenly believe that because mental or emotional clutter is invisible, it doesn’t carry weight. We may keep large cabinets in our minds filled with memories of each grief, sorrow, mistake, missed opportunity, hurt, and injustice from our past.
It is simply exhausting to live that way—trying to trek through life carrying all that baggage. Too much crowding in our minds and hearts prevents us from enjoying life, breathing the fresh air, and enjoying the people around us.
We have to ask ourselves some difficult questions:
Am I ever going to use the anger, the anxieties, the worries, and the negative thoughts? Are they really necessary? Do I really need to carry all this with me? Can I use this mental and emotional space in a more useful, healthy way?
Traveling light takes courage, and a great deal of faith.
Consider what might be hindering you, whether it be sin, temptation, or hurts from the past. What will you choose to take with you? What will you choose to leave behind?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” (Hebrews 12:1)
July 10, 2019
TRAVELING LIGHT #2
“Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.”
When my son flies home from Nashville to Pennsylvania, he typically jams all his belongings into a carry-on. He wants to avoid the time and hassle of baggage claim. His few short years of flying have taught him the importance of “traveling light.”
Jesus, in sending out the seventy-two disciples, warned them to “travel light.” No wallet. No bags. No sandals. Evidently they would not be able to accomplish the mission if they were carrying excess baggage. But I think Jesus may have been including some other kind of “baggage” when he further instructed them on how to deal with people’s responses to their message.
When they encountered towns that did not welcome them, Jesus told them they were to dust their feet and move on:
“Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’” (Luke 10:8-11)
He knew rejection of the gospel was inevitable, and he didn’t want them to be weighed down with the baggage of defeatism or resentment. On the other hand, Jesus warned his disciples to drop any notions of self-advancement when “even the demons submitted.” No space for conceit or self-reliance. Only humble rejoicing that their names were written in heaven:
“The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’” (Luke 10:17-20)
All of us encounter success and failure on the Christian journey. How we deal with the ups and downs may be determined by whether we are carrying unnecessary weight.
So how does your suitcase look these days? Do you have some excess baggage you want to get rid of? Need to leave some attitudes at the security gate? It actually feels pretty good to “travel light.”
Take a survey of your “luggage.” Ask God to help you get rid of anything that is slowing you down.
July 9, 2019
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
If you are planning a backpack trek through the wilderness, step one is to gather everything you might need. Step two is to get rid of half of what you have gathered. Step three is to get rid of half of that.
When you realize that everything you want to take along on your two or three days of hiking will be borne along on two straps digging into your shoulder muscles, it makes you a little more judicious about what you stuff into that backpack. Traveling light will help you enjoy the view with eased up shoulders, enabling you to travel faster and rest easier.
Life could be like that too. Many of us have the tendency to carry too many burdens as we march ahead. Scripture, however, tells us to walk in the Spirit and to daily cast all our cares on Jesus who cares for every detail in our lives. We might fool ourselves by thinking that the more we carry and the faster we go, we are accomplishing and pleasing the Lord. In fact, the very opposite might be true.
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)
When we over-pack our lives without taking adequate time to rest, it may look outwardly heroic but there is a frenetic quality to our work that lacks true effectiveness as we lose our ability to be fully present, and to discern what is really needed in our situation.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)
July 8, 2019
“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
Aging is God’s idea. It’s one of the ways he keeps us headed homeward. We can’t change the process, but we can change our attitude. Here is a thought. What if we looked at the aging body as we look at the growth of a tulip?
Do you ever see anyone mourning over the passing of the tulip bulb? Do gardeners weep as the bulb begins to weaken? Of course not. We don’t purchase tulip girdles or petal wrinkle cream or consult plastic-leaf surgeons. We don’t mourn the passing of the bulb; we celebrate it. Tulip lovers rejoice the minute the bulb weakens. “Watch that one,” they say. “It’s about to blossom.”
Could it be heaven does the same? The angels point to our bodies. The more frail we become, the more excited they become. “Watch that lady in the hospital,” they say. “She’s about to blossom.” “Keep an eye on the fellow with the bad heart. He’ll be coming home soon.”
“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23)
Are our bodies now free? No. Paul describes them as our “lowly body”
“who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:21)
Or as other translations state:
“the body of our humble state” (NASB)
“these weak mortal bodies” (NLT)
“our vile body” (KJV)
“ "our simple bodies” (NCV)
You could add your own adjective, couldn’t you? Which word describes your body? My cancerous body? My arthritic body? My deformed body?
My crippled body? My addicted body? My ever-expanding body? The word may be different, but the message is the same: These bodies are weak. They began decaying the minute we began breathing.
And, according to God, that’s a part of the plan. Every wrinkle and every needle take us one step closer to the last step when Jesus will change our simple bodies into forever bodies. No pain. No depression. No sickness. No end.
This is not our forever house. It will serve for the time being. But there is nothing like the moment we enter his door.
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
July 7, 2019
APPLE OF MY EYE
“keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye;”
The expression “apple of my eye” goes back to biblical times. In those days, there was no word to describe the pupil of the eye. So they referred to it as an apple--the most common solid round object they knew. The “apple” continues to be considered very precious and valuable since it is essential to vision. Thus, when someone is referred to as the “apple of my eye,” that person is highly cherished.
Throughout Scripture, God instructs His people to hold His wisdom and guidance in high regard:
“Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.’” (Isaiah 48:17)
However, the Pharisees, who had classified over 600 Old Testament laws, often tried to distinguish which ones were the most important. When one of the Pharisees posed this question to Jesus, the Lord summarized the Ten Commandments and the other Old Testament laws by quoting them:
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:18)
Jesus gave the essence of God’s commands by instructing them to love Him and love other people. He said by fulfilling these two directives, a person will keep all the laws and commandments.
God has called you to bear much fruit and to be a shining light in this world. To do so, you must have a clear vision from Him. And it’s simple. Love God and love others. Cherish those directives daily and your life will be focused and filled with purpose. Pray this also becomes the first priority for all of your local and national leaders.
Presidential Prayer Team
July 6, 2019
WALKING IN THE LIGHT
“For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,”
Stubbing your toe in the night as you try to make your way in the dark can cause great pain. Wearing a shoe could have been your protection, or just a glimmer of light might have saved you the agony of this experience.
In the same way, living your life can either be one of walking in the darkness with its hidden perils or being guided by a light for your protection. Today’s culture would have you believe that you should do what you feel is right for yourself, forget the old ways. But that is a very narcissistic, and dangerous, viewpoint. The Old Testament book of Proverbs has a profound, ongoing relevance to today’s issues. As Bruce Waltke, professor of Biblical studies, writes: “[Its] significance lies in its affirmation that the Lord brought ‘wisdom’ into existence, revealed it to humanity, and, as Guarantor, upholds its revealed moral order.” Daniel Webster once wrote that to preserve the government we must preserve morality.
“Without getting familiar with God’s Word and learning how to effectively shine its light on our problems, we will certainly stumble in the blackness” (Dr. Charles Stanley). The Lord provides commandments as paths to follow; His teachings give light to the blessings of taking heed to His direction. They are given to preserve you:
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Seek Him as you daily read the Bible. Call upon God to draw this nation’s leaders to Him, seeking His ways and the wisdom to do right.
Presidential Prayer Team
July 5, 2019
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
In the US, the Fourth of July is a national holiday when outdoor grills are heated up; beaches are packed; and cities and towns have parades and fireworks displays, picnics, and patriotic celebrations. All of this is in remembrance of July 4, 1776, when the 13 American colonies declared their independence from England.
Independence appeals to all ages. It means “freedom from the control, influence, support, and aid of others.” So it is not surprising that teenagers talk about gaining their independence. Many adults have the goal of being “independently wealthy.” And senior citizens want to maintain their independence for as long as possible. Whether anyone is ever truly independent is a discussion for another time and place—but it sounds good.
Craving political or personal independence is one thing; daring to pursue spiritual independence is problematic. What we need instead is a recognition and acceptance of our deep spiritual dependence. Jesus said:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Far from being self-reliant, we are totally and eternally dependent on the One who died to set us free. Every day is our “dependence day.”
Our greatest strength comes from dependence on our strong God.
July 4, 2019
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”
When you think about July 4th in the United States, what comes to mind?
Perhaps you think about a day off from work with picnics, fireworks, and those red, white, and blue flags displayed in front yards along your neighborhood.
This is all good, but the one word that comes to my mind is freedom. We live in a country where we can voice our opinions freely and can vote for the people of our choice. We should never take our freedom for granted.
My father served in World War II. My mother was a Red Cross volunteer during that war. My niece and her husband served in Desert Storm. I also have had loved ones in the Vietnam War and a friend now in Afghanistan.
Because of their contributions in keeping us all free, I proudly display the US flag.
Have you thought about the American flag and all that it stands for? This emblem of our nation is placed on the graves of our honored dead who fought for us to remain free, and it flies high during times of peace, as well as war.
There is another real freedom we can have. We can display it every day of the year. That is our freedom “In Christ” to live a life to glorify Him, so that His banner of love, truth, and peace can be seen by everyone around us.
We can be free in our spirit to serve the Creator of the whole universe, and that, my friends, is True Freedom.
“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2)
Just like our flag that represents freedom, Jesus is a banner over us, protecting and shielding us. He is the “Glory and the Lifter of our heads” at all times. Let freedom ring out in your heart today.
“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” (Psalm 3:3)
July 3, 2019
“For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;”
It seems people are often on a quest for more knowledge. In 1953, there were only 100 computers in use around the entire Earth. Those machines weighed tons and filled large rooms. In 2017, there were approximately 120 million personal computers sold in the world. And, by the year 2020, there will be an estimated 6.1 billion users of smartphones, hand-held sized and even more powerful miniature computers. What used to be an arduous and lengthy process to find information, is now simplified by consulting a phone in a matter of seconds. Yet the more people learn, the more they desire a faster, smarter way to access knowledge.
However, the world’s knowledge and wisdom can never measure up to God’s. In 1 John 3, the Apostle John explicitly stated that He knows everything. The Lord is the only source of all knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Theologians use the word “omniscient” to describe the fact that He is all-knowing. Psalm 147 says,
“He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” (Psalm 147:4-5)
Imagine. The Creator knows each star in the universe by name! That’s at least 70,000 million million million stars. What an incredible picture of the omniscience of God!
So remember that your best source for wisdom is not found online. Seek the Lord through prayer and in His Word for direction and answers for every situation. He knows everything about you and loves you unconditionally. Pray also that America’s leaders will seek His wisdom for every private and public decision.
Presidential Prayer Team
July 1-2, 2019
HOPE IN A HARD SITUATION
1 Kings 19:4
“But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.’”
Years ago, when I was in-between jobs and struggling to make ends meet, I felt as if I was in the wilderness, a dry, trying and testing place. Naturally, I wanted my trial to quickly end. I couldn’t wait for relief to come. Then, I sensed that the Lord wanted me to take advantage of my trial because there would come a time when it would end, and it would be unfortunate if I looked back with regret, knowing that I had wasted my days by complaining.
Perhaps you are having your own wilderness experience. Maybe you’re not struggling with unemployment, but perhaps you’ve recently divorced, your child has moved to college, you’ve moved to a new town, or you’re struggling with unexpected illness. There are many circumstances that can cause us to feel as if we are in the wilderness. While you’re waiting for God to release you from your trial, here are some things to remember about your testing time.
While in the wilderness, like me, you may wish that the trial would quickly pass so you can get on with life. That’s normal. But in your desire to experience joy again, don’t miss the good that God is doing.
In every wilderness experience God is at work in the believer’s life, doing something beautiful. He’s doing something in you—something that, when you look back, you’ll be able to see that He was stretching you, growing you, and making you more of who He created you to be for His glory. While in the wilderness, you can ask the hard questions. The Lord is not put off by your honesty, or your lament. His ears are open to your cries and He wants to bear your burden:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
The wilderness is a time of vulnerability, and vulnerability is necessary for all relationships to flourish, including your relationship with Christ. In the wilderness, God is inviting you to hear Him in a unique way. He wants you to hear His voice afresh so you can experience greater intimacy with Him and experience greater joy. In the wilderness is where you can become more self-aware, aware of your motivations, aware of your heartache, and aware of your need for God.
It’s God’s desire that the wilderness move you from trying to control your life and bear your own burdens. He wants you to cast your cares on Him. In the wilderness, God is working to release you of bondages you may have that are rooted in fear, pride, or a lack of trust.
Ultimately, in the wilderness God wants to lead you to a place where you can experience His presence in greater measure, understand His love more fully, and experience more peace in the days to come.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)
June 30, 2019
A FRUITFUL FAMILY
“Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.”
The fruit from a family who fears the Lord is tasty and delicious. However, this type of fruit does not happen immediately, but is cultivated over time. A fruitful wife sets the tone for the home. By God’s grace she weeds out criticism and replaces it with creativity. The home is her pride and joy. It is a reflection of her, as it is her nest.
A home to the wife is like an office to the husband. Things need to be just right or she feels violated. Be grateful for a conscientious wife who wants to express herself through the home. The fruit of a clean, decorated, and ordered home is calming. It provides an environment of stability, and frees family members to focus on other people and each other. A husband is free to do what he does best at work with a supportive wife at home.
A mother’s influence spreads like a lovely vine throughout the house. No area is left untouched. The children are nurtured and encouraged by her sensitivity. When instilled from birth, the fruit from children becomes obedience to God and love for the Lord. Their heart for God grows when parents read Bible stories to them as they wait in the womb.
Family fruit flourishes when the man of the house models faithfulness. A husband’s intentional effort to follow the Lord ignites faith at home. A fruitful wife has no problem submitting to a husband who submits to God. A God-fearing man is quick to confess sin to his heavenly father and to his family. It is not uncommon for him to say, “I am sorry” or “I was wrong.” Authentic confession encourages confession in others.
Confessed-up hearts are family fruit. It is probable the family will pray, read their Bible, and go to church if the leader of the home does the same. Family fruit has a direct correlation to the faithfulness of the family head. Family fruit flourishes when the man fears God. Regardless of the circumstances, he is committed to doing what God expects.
Your home becomes a hot house of character. The fruit threatens to bust through the glass panels for all to see. People are encouraged when they visit your hospitable home. Sinners need a safe environment, as acceptance comes from the fruit of Christ’s acceptance. Heaven’s dew and rainfall keep the fruit coming to a home submitted to Christ.
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)
Fruit is proof of faithful families. Does your character cultivate fruit that glorifies God in your family?
June 29, 2019
PEAKS AND VALLEYS
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.”
“Mountain top experiences”… we’ve all had them. That rush of adrenaline and satisfaction that accompanies our defining moments—our wedding day, the birth of a child, landing a new job, or purchasing our first home.
All “peakers” will know that the peak is usually just the climax of an otherwise long and arduous process. It is our ultimate place of strength in the journey. Peaks get all the attention, but real growth happens in the gaps between. My wise mother taught me years ago: “Mountain tops are great, but you cannot live there. It is in the valleys where life thrives.”
In life, God allows us to move from strength to strength when we rely on Him. When we find ourselves in life’s inevitable valleys, that is our time to grow and strengthen for the next peak. During the course of our lives, we must summit many peaks—overcoming disagreements, conquering habits, and building a strong family. These are achievements worth fighting for, but between them we must learn to thrive in the valleys—enjoying and using each one to grow and prepare for our next mountain top.
Look again at verses 5 & 6:
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.” (Psalm 84:5-6)
At the beginning of the stanza, it plainly states that our strength should be in the Lord, with the “highways to Zion” in our hearts. Given the context, this is an exhortation for the reader to rely on and wait on God. We must find our strength in God; this is always the first step. The next verse gets interesting. Where is this “Valley of Baca” and what does it mean? As we know, names in biblical times were packed with meaning.
The name “Baca” is derived from the Hebrew verb “bakah,” which means “to weep bitterly,” or “to sob continually.” One commentator also notes that the name may be used in a way to allude to the presence of Mulberry Trees, which grow in barren places despite having no apparent source of water. Because of the presence of Mulberry Trees, travelers would dig many holes in hopes of finding the water that the trees had tapped.
The psalmists go on to say that:
“they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.” (Psalm 84:6)
To find a spring in the middle of a parched land, one must dig deep. Though the ground above may seem barren, springs of water may be found below the surface. Additionally, only rain could fill the numerous holes to create pools.
Be refreshed and strengthened.
Here’s the point: When we are traversing valleys of our own—dry, desolate, and weeping—we can patiently wait on the Lord, find strength in him, and dig deeper. When we “dig” deep into God’s word and into His rest, we will find refreshment. With God’s help, we can truly make the driest valleys “a place of springs”!
And while we dig, God will take care of us when he brings “early rain.” The situations which are out of our control are in God’s hands, just like the rain. “The early rain” will fall on the hole-filled land and make pools where we can be refreshed. We may face valleys that feel like the Valley of Baca, but as long as we find our strength in Him first while waiting patiently and digging, we will surely find ourselves in a place of springs and pools of water.
Find your next peak and start climbing.
Perhaps you feel like your life is a perpetual Valley of Baca. Just remember that this your time to seek God like never before, placing your faith and strength in Him. Perhaps you are staring up at a looming peak—it may be a challenging circumstance that you fear is too much for you to conquer or even survive. Gather your strength in Christ, dig deep, and be refreshed by Him. Then start climbing! The climb may be difficult, and you may experience pain, but with His power you can move on to your next strength.
How have you seen God provide refreshment in your valleys? What peaks can you begin climbing in your life?
June 28, 2019
“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.”
At the zenith of all history, you see the Creator, God in flesh, nailed on a cross beam, beaten, broken and dying. With the culmination of that scene, sunlight recedes and darkness covers the land for three hours. C.H. Spurgeon, the Christian apologist calls it “A Miracle Which Amazes Us.”
Why is the mid-day darkness during Christ’s crucifixion so amazing?
It’s unnatural. The full moon at Passover could not produce a total eclipse of the sun, it was not in the right position in the sky. Some suggest a sandstorm, but whatever the physical explanation, as the Light of the world was limiting himself, holding back, refusing to respond in glory, the sky twisted itself into a peculiar darkness.
It’s a hiding place. The face of sin is so ugly it may only exist in blackness. As sinful mankind was expiring under the intense light of God’s holiness, His shadow provided protection until the enemy was completely defeated. Grace was brought forth that day, in the shadow of God’s protection.
It’s a signpost for eternity. As darkness came and went, Redemption’s story was told. Evil attempted to enslave all flesh for eternity but Love overcame it. Salvation was accomplished and mankind is redeemed. Spiritual night may become bright day for all who will believe.
Only the mystery of God can fully explain the hours of darkness at Christ’s crucifixion, but you can consider it a beautiful picture of redemption.
Today, pray America’s story will be similar—a nation of people rescued from sin and redeemed into life through Jesus Christ.
Presidential Prayer Team
June 27, 2019
CHOOSING THE TRAIL
“For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
I have a beautiful autumn photograph of a young man on horseback in the mountains as he contemplates which trail ahead to follow. It reminds me of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.” In it, Frost ponders two pathways that lie before him. Both are equally inviting, but he doubts he will return to this place again, and he must choose one. Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
In Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, the Lord told His listeners:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13–14)
On our journey through life, we face many choices about which road to travel. Many pathways seem promising and attractive but only one is the pathway of life. Jesus calls us to travel the road of discipleship and obedience to God’s Word—to follow Him instead of the crowd.
As we ponder the road ahead, may God give us wisdom and courage to follow His way—the road of life. It will make all the difference for us and those we love!
Choose to walk the road of life with Jesus.
David C. McCasland
June 26, 2019
1 Timothy 6:10
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
News services and television talk shows often discuss financial scams being perpetrated on unsuspecting and trusting people. Men and women alike get caught up in “love” affairs on the internet that cost them dearly in time, emotional investment, and finances, sometimes to the point of near bankruptcy. But heavy-duty corporations, too, have sometimes been caught “cooking the books,” cheating customers and investors.
Of Jesus’ 39 parables, 16 were about how to handle money and possessions. The late Richard Halverson, a chaplain of the U.S. Senate, wrote, “Jesus Christ said more about money than any other single thing because money is of first importance when it comes to a man’s real nature. Money is an exact index to a man’s true character.”
The parable that concludes with today’s verse is about a dishonest money manager. His employer commended him in his dishonesty for being shrewd. The Pharisees ridiculed Jesus for decrying the lack of financial integrity of the manager.
“The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him [Jesus].” (Luke 16:14)
“… “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15)
Does the management of your finances meet God’s heart test? Can He trust you? We must remember that all the wealth in the world belongs to God. He isn’t interested in our leftovers; He wants our firstfruits. He does not have first place in our life if He is in last place in our checkbook! Pray for wisdom in finance management, and for the appropriators in Congress to be honest managers of the government’s funds.
Presidential Prayer Team
June 25, 2019
TRAITS OF A TRUSTING HEART
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Have you noticed that this journey on planet earth is an adventure? Just when you think that things are set, life throws you a curve and calls you to a challenge or a change. That’s what my husband I are dealing with now. We are facing down some life-altering decisions in the upcoming months and those decisions that we have to make may lead us down a path we don’t want to walk.
I mean, we really, really don’t want to walk this particular path. So yesterday, I prayed.
My prayer wasn’t casual. It wasn’t a “Lord-if-you-feel-like-it” prayer. It was a begging, heart-aching prayer. “Lord! Please don’t let this happen! Please, please don’t make us walk this path.” My words were filled with passion and my heart ached.
Just a few seconds after pouring out my prayer, I thought, “I know I should be more surrendered. And, as much as I want things to work out the way I desire, I know I don’t understand the whole picture. I don’t see the beginning from the end or what the Lord has in store.”
With this, I prayed again. “Lord, you know my heart. You know my husband’s heart. We reallllllly don’t want to walk this path. I really don’t want this to happen. But Lord, no matter what, we are here to serve you. We want to glorify you. I trust you and I surrender to you. It’s not what I want, but I will trust you for whatever you choose for our lives.”
A quiet peace came into my heart at the recognition that He is Lord and I am not.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)
This morning I gathered my Bible and journal to cuddle up in my quiet-time spot. While reading, I came across Matthew 26:39 when Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane right before His death. He did not want to suffer:
“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’” (Matthew 26:39)
I immediately recognized that Jesus’ prayer looked a lot like mine. He prayed with passion. He called out to His Father and asked Him to give what He wanted. But then . . . He surrendered.
Jesus’ prayer was filled with ache and agony. He wanted God to give Him what He desired. But He still gave up to the Father who knew what was best and loved Him. This is our model for prayer. Ask for what you want. Trust God for what He gives.
This is not easy. It involves laying down your life and believing that even though you cannot see what is ahead, that He knows the beginning from the end and will choose what is right for you and for His glory.
“I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23)
Pray over your desires today and use Jesus’ model of prayer as your guide.
June 24, 2019
“so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,”
The supreme surprise of God’s love is that it has nothing to do with you. “God is love” the scripture says.
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
God loves you because he is he. You don’t influence God’s love. Your actions don’t alter his devotion. Success signals God’s love no more than struggles indicate the lack of it.
When you feel unloved, take a trip to the cross and look at Jesus, cross-nailed and thorn-crowned. Choose God’s love. For the sake of your heart. The prayer is powerful and simple: “Lord, I receive your love. Nothing can separate me from your love.” Take a breath and descend so deeply into his love that you see nothing else.
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
June 23, 2019
A FATHER WHO KEEPS LOVING
“I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them.”
A young Christian dad took his parenting role seriously. When his son was an infant, he protected him. As the boy grew, his dad played ball with him, encouraged him, and tried to teach him about God and life. But in his teen years, the boy went too far and too fast in his move toward independence.
Like the prodigal son in Luke 15, he rejected his father’s values. He made foolish decisions and got into trouble. The father was deeply disappointed, but he never gave up on him. “No matter what he has done,” he said, “he is still my son. I will never stop loving him. He will always be welcome in my house.” The joyful day finally came when father and son were reunited.
The people in Hosea’s day followed a similar pattern. Although God had rescued them from Egypt and nourished them, they turned their backs on Him. They insulted His name by worshiping the gods of the Canaanites. But still God loved them and longed for their return:
“How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.” (Hosea 11:8)
Do you fear that you may have strayed too far from God to be restored? He who saved and cares for you longs for your return. His arms are open in forgiveness and acceptance. He will never drive you away.
How glad we can be for our Father’s love!
David C. Egner
June 22, 2019
“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
See what “sparks joy” in you, and get rid of everything that doesn’t! That’s the viewpoint promoted by a best-selling author. The philosophy of minimalism has recently become popular and is all about downsizing and living with less. The people who follow this way of life basically get rid of excess stuff and donate clothes, books, mugs, electronics, artwork, and even delete social media apps on their phones. As a result, they commit to live life based more on experiences rather than worldly possessions.
In today’s verse, Jesus uses the word “renounce.” This verb is found five other times in the New Testament, and in each case, it means “bid farewell.” However, in each of the other uses, the term refers to people bidding farewell to people, not things. Followers of Christ must acknowledge that everything belongs to God and is at His disposal. That doesn’t mean that Christians must get rid of their material possessions and live as poor. However, they must be willing to sacrifice pleasures, distractions, material possessions, former false beliefs, and even family or friends, if they compete with their relationship with Him. A disciple must be willing to give up everything for the Lord.
As you pursue a deeper relationship with Christ, acknowledge that all you own belongs to God and is His to use as He desires. Be willing to get rid of something if it competes with your primary devotion to Him. Be willing to meet someone’s need with what God has entrusted you. As a result, you will truly experience joy!
Presidential Prayer Team
June 21, 2019
A FATHER WHO SINGS
Zephaniah 3:17 NIV)
“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
No one told me before my wife and I had children how important singing would be. My children are now six, eight, and ten. But all three had problems sleeping early on. Each night, my wife and I took turns rocking our little ones, praying they would nod off quickly. I spent hundreds of hours rocking them, desperately crooning lullabies to (hopefully!) speed up the process. But as I sang over our children night after night, something amazing happened: It deepened my bond of love and delight for them in ways I had never dreamed.
Did you know Scripture describes our heavenly Father singing over His children too? Just as I sought to soothe my children with song, so Zephaniah concludes with a portrait of our heavenly Father singing over His people:
"...he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
Much of Zephaniah’s prophetic book warns of a coming time of judgment for those who had rejected God. Yet that is not where it ends. Zephaniah concludes not with judgment but with a description of God not only rescuing His people from all their suffering:
“Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” says the Lord.” (Zephaniah 3:19–20)
but also tenderly loving and rejoicing over them with song:
“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
Our God is not only a “Mighty one who saves” and restores, but also a loving Father who tenderly sings songs of love over us.
Our heavenly Father delights in His children like a parent singing to a newborn baby.
June 20, 2019
“And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.”
Most people have something saved for retirement or for a rainy day. Across the centuries, the items used for such currency have differed greatly. In Jesus’ day, items of value were retained for such times. They could include investments of gold jewelry, exotic spices and rare ointments, all of which were portable and could be easily bartered or sold for cash. Nard was an expensive aromatic oil extracted from the root of an herb from India, and nard was what Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, poured over the head of Jesus.
Her actions disturbed some, because they felt Mary was being wasteful. Even though Jesus had been honored as he entered Jerusalem only days before, they did not regard Him as worthy of such extravagant worship and adoration. They scolded Mary, especially their treasurer, Judas, who quickly calculated the ointment could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and used to help the poor.
But the Lord accepted her devotion, perhaps knowing that he would carry the aroma of that expensive perfume all the way to the cross! Poured out nard had no comparison to the Savior’s blood that would soon be poured out for the salvation of all mankind.
Is your adoration of the Savior costing you anything? Do you demonstrate extravagant devotion to Him as you study, work, give, or minister to others? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. For He is worthy!
Presidential Prayer Team
June 19, 2019
WE NEED EACH OTHER
1 Corinthians 12:19-21
“If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’”
In post-apartheid South Africa, as an entire culture sought healing and health after years of turmoil and racial division and injustice, Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke with great boldness and clarity, calling an entire society to see the humanity and dignity in the other, famously saying, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” While this sentiment finds native expression in the African philosophy of Ubuntu, Archbishop Tutu was most certainly looking explicitly to the teaching of Jesus and the Biblical vision of unity within diversity, which St. Paul so famously speaks to through the image of a “body.”
It is remarkably easy to build a worldview that is entirely informed and shaped by our personal interests and individualistic impulses and desires. We eat what we want to eat, shop where we want to shop, and play where we want to play. If you don’t fit into the categories that I find interesting or compelling, why should I bother getting to know you or your passions? You do you and I’ll do me, as we say. And while at one level this is a cultural inevitability, as South Africa reminds us, the stakes of division are often much, much higher than fashion or musical preferences.
We must never underestimate the cost of division within the body of Christ. As Jesus reminds us in the High Priestly Prayer, our unity is directly linked to the mission of God and is our testament to the unifying power of God’s love in the face of hatred and division.
“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:22-23)
One of the great joys of serving as a pastor is serving the communion meal to the congregation. In this act, the beautiful diversity of the church is on full display! I am frequently reminded that the church is one of the only places in our entire lives in which such racial, cultural, and economic diversity comes together in a posture of humility and equality. Before the Lord, we are simply sons and daughters, equally loved and cherished by him. A Fortune 500 CEO and a 5th grade student pray the Lord’s Prayer in unison, their voices uniting in petition and praise. A man suffering from severe mental and physical limitations and a woman who is a world-class athlete receive the same bread and drink from the same cup.
We come together, not as individuals who happen to brush shoulders, but as family united together by the same Lord who reminds us that our identity is deeply bound up in our ability to dignify, honor, and embrace the other.
Where can you show dignity and worth to someone you might otherwise be tempted to avoid, ignore, or write off?
June 16-18, 2019
1 Thessalonians 5:18
“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Greg Anderson, in "Living Life on Purpose" tells a story about a man whose wife had left him. He was completely depressed. He had lost faith in himself, in other people, in God - he found no joy in living. One rainy morning this man went to a small neighborhood restaurant for breakfast.
Although several people were at the diner, no one was speaking to anyone else. Our miserable friend hunched over the counter, stirring his coffee with a spoon.
In one of the small booths along the window was a young mother with a little girl. They had just been served their food when the little girl broke the sad silence by almost shouting, "Momma, why don't we say our prayers here?"
The waitress who had just served their breakfast turned around and said, "Sure, honey, we can pray here. Will you say the prayer for us?" And she turned and looked at the rest of the people in the restaurant and said, "Bow your heads."
Surprisingly, one by one, the heads went down. The little girl then bowed her head, folded her hands, and said, "God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food. Amen."
That prayer changed the entire atmosphere. People began to talk with one another. The waitress said, "We should do that every morning."
"All of a sudden," said our friend, "my whole frame of mind started to improve. From that little girl's example, I started to thank God for all that I did have and stopped majoring in all that I didn't have. I started to be grateful."
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
June 15, 2019
“But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”
About the same time as the American Revolutionary War, many impoverished people from the English countryside were moving into the cities to find work. One factory in Gloucester manufactured pins. Children as young as eight worked six days a week in gruesome surroundings for a pittance. Other children who did not find work often ran in street gangs, like the urchins written about by Charles Dickens. Not infrequently, the working children would run with the others on their only day off—Sunday—getting involved in petty crimes.
During this time, God gave a special vision and burden on Robert Raikes: why not start a school on Sundays for these poor children where good Christian people could teach them to read and write, and teach them the Ten Commandments and instruct them in moral living? But though many church people opposed him, he persevered, and before long had developed the first “Sunday School curriculum.” The idea spread across the Atlantic to America where the New York Sunday School Union was established.
When Jesus’ disciples tried to quiet the children and “keep them in line” as the crowds thronged about Him, the Bible says the Lord became indignant, and instead drew the children to Himself. How are you with the children where you worship? Take every opportunity to encourage young parents to bring their children to Jesus. Pray for them today.
Presidential Prayer Team
June 14, 2019
THE GIFT OF TODAY
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
I get busy. I forget. I take for granted. What? That today is a gift. A gift from God. There will never be another today---unique and full of possibilities. Will I rush through on my way to the next activity or will I drink it in, like a cool glass of lemonade on a hot summer day? Delicious. Soothing. Refreshing. Yes, some days I wish were over due to stress, strife and pain. But even on bad days, how can I receive the gift of life and learn how to better live life? How can I become less enslaved from self and more and more set free to love others. How can I live today for God?
Here are some ways to enjoy the gift of today:
Thank The Giver
"Thank you Lord for giving me the gift of today", might be a good prayer to start our day. Gratitude has a way of getting us into the right frame of mind. Before we complain about what's wrong, we can thank God for what's right and not surprisingly, what's wrong diminishes in importance. Think about the extent of our heavenly Father's love as He prepared for us the beauty of today. A radiant sunrise. A cool morning. Brilliant flowers. A chorus of birds awakening the day. A healthy body. A clear mind. An affectionate heart. When we take time to thank God for the gift of today---we live for today, asking for wisdom and love to give away.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the LORD Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
Joy and gladness are natural outcomes of a Christ-centered life, living in the moment. Not demanding more out of life, but celebrating the fruit of an abundant life: love, peace, joy, healing, service and fulfillment. A hug of happiness, a tear of empathy, a word of encouragement, a look of love, an affirming pat on the back or a generous gratuity all flow out of a heart celebrating the gift of today. A celebration today lets go of past regrets and future fears. A celebration of the Lord's incredible generosity and love feeds our soul with hope and peace.
“May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!” (Psalm 70:4)
Rest In Reassurance
When you live for today, you are free to not strive in your own strength, but to rest in the Holy Spirit's power. For example, the financial need you might be facing can be easily handled by the owner of all you have---your creator of today and security for tomorrow---Almighty God. A soul at rest is able to shift the need for a solution to the ultimate problem solver and the all wise one, your heavenly Father. Your feelings of loneliness can be filled by the lover of your soul---Jesus. Rest in the reassurance of God's gift of today. Unwrap His present of perfect love brimming with innovative ideas, exciting experiences and fulfilling relationships, yet to be discovered today.
“for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:10)
What issue, person or problem do you need to let go of, and quit striving to solve?
June 13, 2019
A FIELD HOSPITAL
“And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.”
Several years ago, Pope Francis gave an interview in which he discussed, amongst many things, his vision of the church’s role in the world today, likening it to that of a field hospital. He said, “I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up.”
For most of us, hospitals are stationary things. You go to them, they don’t come to you! If you are hurt or sick, they will be there ready and waiting, hoping that you can make it there in time! How often do we have this mindset within the church? We say we have the hope of the world and a message that will transform lives, yet so often we stay within the safe confines of the church, welcoming (in theory, at least) anyone who might stumble through our doors.
By contrast, field hospitals are responsive and never stationary. Like medics in a battle, they rush into places of great need. When was the last time you actively and intentionally entered into a chaotic place of need in order to heal a wound?
I think of that popular quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” If we have eyes to see, there are hard battles being fought all around us. And while I appreciate the sentiment, as we understand it, I’m not sure “kindness” is all that is asked of us as Christians.
One understanding of kindness leaves us still stuck in passive thinking, saying we won’t be rude or harsh if someone happens to cross our path. Yet Christian kindness is always proactive and intentional, seeking others out in the name of Jesus. Perhaps we might put it this way: “Sacrificially give your life away, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” “Love others as we have been loved by Jesus, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” “Serve and do not seek to be served, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
The love of God makes us bold and invites us daily to enter into chaotic places, trusting that He is with us and goes before us!
Where can your kindness move from being passive to being proactive?
June 12, 2019
IF YOUR FACE IS TOWARDS ME
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Pastor James Moore of Houston, Texas tells a story about a young man whose wife had died, leaving him with a small son. Back home from the cemetery, they went to bed early because there was nothing else he could bear to do.
As he lay there in the darkness--grief-stricken and heartbroken, the little boy broke the stillness from his little bed with a disturbing question, "Daddy, where is mommy?"
The father got up and brought the little boy to bed with him, but the child was still disturbed and restless, occasionally asking questions like "Why isn't she here?" and When is she coming back?"
Finally the little boy said, "Daddy, if your face is toward me, I think I can go to sleep now. And in a little while he was quiet.
The father lay there in the darkness, and then in childlike faith, prayed this prayer: "O God, I don't see how I can survive this. The future looks so miserable. But if your face is toward me, somehow I think I can make it."
That's what the Messiah came to teach us: that God's face is always towards us. Therefore, let the Messiah replace your insecurity with the following bedrock conviction: God and you are in this together.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
June 11, 2019
WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE IS STRUGGLING
“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
All of us experience times when a family member or friend is going through a trial. Perhaps they are edgy, irritable, depressed, or impatient—and it hurts us to see them hurting. So, we may want to take away their pain—not only because we want to see them delivered but because we want to be delivered ourselves from carrying their burden. If you are in relationship with someone who is struggling, here are a few things to remember:
You are not responsible for the other person’s emotions. If you are a people pleaser who likes to always get along with others, or if you grew up in a family where there was a lot of unhealthy conflict, you may be uncomfortable when things aren’t going perfectly smoothly in your relationships. This may make you feel that you have to “fix” the other person.
But here’s a liberating truth: You aren’t responsible for another person’s feelings. Admitting this doesn’t mean you stop caring. It just means that you don’t take responsibility for their experience. It’s something they need to work out with God. He will heal them. The best thing you can do is pray. You aren’t responsible to make them happy.
When you understand that you aren’t responsible for another person’s emotions, you will know that you aren’t responsible to make them happy. If you are a positive person, you may feel uncomfortable with sadness so you will try to cheer them up. But this can make them feel as if you are not hearing them. So instead of being cheery, practice empathy. This means you will be willing to sit with them in their pain.
To do this, you can say something like, “I am so sorry that you’re hurting. This must be difficult for you.” When you practice empathy, you are showing them that you care, and you are not taking on the responsibility of their emotions or trying to fix them by being positive. It makes them responsible for their emotions and you responsible for yours.
When you feel drained, it’s okay to lay down a boundary.
Sometimes if you practice empathy often, you may feel emotionally drained. And this may feel like too much. So, you can calmly say, “I care about how you feel and I’m sorry that you are sad, but I’m just feeling a little overwhelmed right now. I’d like to talk about this later.” You can even dismiss yourself if necessary. Again, this means you are not ultimately taking responsibility for their pain, but still showing that you care. Finally, if needed you can seek out godly counsel who can help both you and your loved one through your difficult time.
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” (1 Peter 3:8)
June 9-10, 2019
NO STRINGS ATTACHED
1 Corinthians 12:7
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
Though we are hesitant to admit it, one of the driving questions behind many of our decisions in life is “What’s in it for me?” Even when doing a good deed and serving a greater cause, we still like to be rewarded for it or at least be acknowledged for our efforts. For example, think of the annual public broadcasting telethon, with the “rewards” increasing with each level of donation you make. We give, but we want to receive as well.
This inclination towards self isn’t a modern phenomenon but is at the core of what it means to be a human being in a broken world. We are, by default, turned in on ourselves, and this temptation was escalating in the early church. Having recently been taught about the Holy Spirit as a giver of good gifts, the early Christians were eager to receive them. Why? Because we like to receive gifts! They hoped these gifts would make them spiritually enlightened and fulfilled. In fact, an argument was emerging as to who in their community was, in fact, the most “spiritual” of them all. In the face of this escalating debate, Paul steps in to remind them of a foundational truth: God gives you gifts so you can give them away for the good of others!
Rather than getting caught up in comparing gifts or envying others for what they have, Paul reminds us that the Lord is the one who gives gifts, and it is our job to receive them with humility and joy. Do you believe God knows you even better than you know yourself? Do you trust that he desires your good and will empower you to live a flourishing life in his kingdom? If so, rather than focusing on what you lack, cultivate a heart of gratitude and joy for what you have been given! Take time to discern the unique gifts you have been given, and honor that gift by nurturing and cultivating it.
One of the greatest ways to tend to the work and gifts of the Spirit in your life is to continually look for ways to give your life away without any strings attached! Remember that God’s plan isn’t just your private joy and salvation but that he gives himself away for the life of the world:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51)
How can you take your part in the grand story of redemption God is telling over creation? In your willingness to give without expecting anything in return, you model and embody a life lived for the sake of others and to the glory of God!
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)
Who can you serve today without expecting anything in return?
June 8, 2019
A HEALTHY MINDSET
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
In 2014, I became a part of a blended family when I married for the first time at age 46. Before I tied the knot with my husband, I faced some moments of grief when I realized that my life was not turning out the way I dreamed—and it never would.
I wouldn’t birth children, marry young, and spend years raising a family. I wouldn’t go to little league games, school plays, or attend little girl tea parties. I wouldn’t know what it was like to go through my twenties and thirties with a mate. I would never have a biological mother-daughter or mother-son relationship. Nope. My white picket-fence life wasn’t going to happen.
While this saddened me, there were wonderful experiences waiting for me on the other side of the altar that I hadn’t even thought about. One of those experiences was becoming a grandma. I was so focused on blending with my bonus kids that the thought of such a joy hadn’t even crossed my mind.
But two years ago, one of my delightful bonus daughters announced she was pregnant with a little boy—and I cried tears of joy. Then, even before that little bundle was born, I decided to love Hudson as my own. He is my grandson, after all. God ordained it. And to prove it, I am doing all the things grandmas do, such as asking total strangers in the airport, “Can I show you a picture of my grandson?”
Not too long before his birth while on a walk, I lamented that Hudson wouldn’t look anything like me, the way that some children resemble their grandparents. I was talking with the Lord about this and a quiet thought came to me: “No, but he will look like Me.”
In that moment the Lord revealed to me that my blessing is not that I am the blood relative of anyone in my family. And my greatest gift isn’t that anyone looks like me. My greatest blessing is that my loved ones know Christ, and the greatest gift I have to offer is to point those I love to Jesus—including my grandson.
The most important thing I can do for Hudson is to view my relationship with him in light of eternity. How will my life affect his life here and now so his life is positively affected in the then and there?
So many times, we get caught up in the temporary, when the Lord wants to give us an eternal perspective. Our challenge is to see our situation from his viewpoint and not our own.
Your story may not have turned out the way that you imagined. But God has a plan to use your experience for eternal good—and what has happened has not caught him by surprise. Therefore, you can experience great joy as you serve Him, do his will, and love the way that he wants you to love. In this, you can make an eternal impact that will last forever.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Praise God for how He can use every circumstance in your life for eternal glory.
June 7, 2019
DEATH IS DESTROYED
1 Corinthians 15:25-26
“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
As a kid, I remember hearing people comment on Christian leaders who had a great deal of integrity. Usually this meant they were honest with their money and faithful to the relational promises they had made. As such, I came to think of “integrity” and “honesty” as interchangeable words and ideas. And while that is partially true, there is another definition of integrity that helps us understand the truly remarkable nature of the victory of God in Jesus.
When the Titanic struck an iceberg, we could say that its integrity was compromised. It lost a clear boundary and barrier between its outer wall and the ocean that surrounded it. As a result, chaos, death, and destruction tragically rushed in. This horrific event in human history illustrates something that is true of all of creation.
When sin and death entered the world, the integrity of creation was compromised. In our quest for freedom and autonomy from God, we human beings tore down the safe boundaries given to us by God, the way in which he intended the world to be rightly ordered for our flourishing and joy. As a result, we find ourselves in a world defined by chaos and death.
And yet, the great Christian hope is that Jesus Christ entered the world to do again that very same thing that he did in Genesis 1 and 2: enter into chaos in order to speak life and re-establish boundaries to rightly order the world. Putting “all his enemies under his feet” is a statement of restored integrity and true boundaries. Jesus looks at his enemies, including death itself, and says I go here, ruling and reigning as Lord, and you go there, submitted under my reign and at my feet. In the resurrection, Jesus looks death in the face and says, “You are off-limits. You have no place in my kingdom!”
Where have you pressed outside the safe boundaries of God’s kingdom in the pursuit of false freedom?
June 6, 2019
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
We look for great things from Eisenhower and Montgomery. Shall we not expect greater things from God?
God has not forgotten His Church. The Spirit waits to revive it and the time of revival may well be now, beginning, as before, with the few in the Upper Room.
How much the Church needs revival, renewal, before our soldiers return after the war on the Continent! What if they return after their experience as Crusaders to find a Church which is half dead, half asleep in a Valley of Dry Bones, which gives God only half-time service and partial obedience, and therefore only experiences a partial outpouring of His Spirit, a Church which distrusts enthusiasm and fears initiative.
What will revival mean to the Church which has long known of the Spirit, which has experienced in her long history His quickening power many times already? Does it not mean that as often as the Church grows cold and despondent and spiritually impatient, so often she needs a new experience of Pentecost, first as the great wind, then as the shaking of the house, and always as the baptism of fire?
In other days, revival has come by means of preaching and mass excitement. It may be so in our day also. But this time it seems to be starting differently. It is coming, it has come, now to Peter the apostle, now to Cornelius the soldier, now to the unnamed Ethiopian; first to one, then to another soldier in God’s army.
God has, like the Allies, “a plan — and what a plan”, for it has room in it, not only for cosmic forces and for great movements in history, but also for the calling and the training of the individual for special tasks which, perhaps, he alone can do. The spiritual energy of individuals is somehow vital. For when one loving spirit has, like Barnabas, “been filled with the Holy Ghost”, he will set another’s soul on fire, and he another, and he a fourth, till there are enough individuals aflame with God to generate the spiritual power needed to set the Church ablaze.
“for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.” (Acts 11:24)
Let there be D Day for the Church, as well as the nation. The Mount of Adoration runs down to the embarkation beaches, where the Forces of God are ready to sail on His errand of deliverance.
Who will go for God to take part once again in the age-old warfare against the Prince of this World, entrenched in the dark servitude of Europe, infiltrating, too, even into our Church? On this D Day the invading armies of the Spirit will land on the spiritual beaches ready to come to close grips, once again, with the Satanic Forces of doubt and despondency which bind our nation fast.
But before the embarkation, for us, must come the battle school. God’s armies can only go with any hope of success if they go in the power of the Spirit. Equipment must be sorted, new weapons learned, old ones brought up-to-date. Do we not need to follow St Paul’s advice at last, to try on our armour and to pray at all times—as we sit at our desks, as we sit at our food, as we stand in bus or crowded tube, as we lie in our beds?
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11)
What, then, shall we pray? “Come, Holy Ghost. Set your Church afire, set my life ablaze.”
We have been bidden by King George to be thus instant in prayer for our invading armies, at last ashore on the coast of France. Shall we not pray too for the invading armies of the Spirit, that the Church may regain her commando courage, may recover initiative, may regain enthusiasm, and may rise as a great army to follow Christ, her warrior King, in His great warfare against evil and for the coming of His kingdom—partially, at least, even in our day, upon Britain’s green and pleasant land?
For it is Christ who reigns, and He, whose is the kingdom, will also enter into His glory when He will give His waiting Church, the Church of our generation, at last the gifts of power and joy, the gifts of the Holy Ghost.
From the archives of the Church Times, 16 June, 1944
June 5, 2019
STORMS OF LIFE
“And he [Jesus] awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be still!' And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”
Storms on the Sea of Galilee could happen quickly and without notice. When western winds came off Mount Hermon and collided with the warm lake water, sudden and violent storms could erupt. That’s what happened in today’s account. Many of those disciples were fishermen, they knew that inland sea, they knew what their boat could handle, and they began to panic. They aroused a sleeping Jesus with cries of, “Don’t you care?”
“But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?'” (Mark 4:38)
Everyone has had storms that erupt without warning: A child falls into the drug culture, a spouse seeks a divorce, a cancer diagnosis is delivered, a warrior-son returns with post-traumatic stress. It might be simpler: work is not going well, a mechanic failed to properly repair your car, your fixed income is adjusted downward. Are you being overwhelmed? Are you nearing panic? Are you asking, “Jesus, don’t you care?”
Perhaps you need to be reminded—as He reminded the disciples—that God is not asleep, and He does care. The winds and sea obeyed the Lord when He quieted them, because the Creator was in control. The same Jesus who could still the storm with a word, can still your soul in the midst of your storm. You only need to relinquish your fear to Him. He is loving, faithful, fully able, and He cares!
Hymn writer Catharina von Schlegal wrote, “Be still, my soul, your God will undertake to guide the future as He has the past. Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake.” Today, intercede for those in the midst of storms to find faith in the One in whom all confidence must lie.
Presidential Prayer Team
June 4, 2019
GOD’S AMAZING HANDS
“Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.”
Twenty minutes into a flight from New York to San Antonio, the flight plan changed as calm gave way to chaos. When one of the plane’s engines failed, debris from the engine smashed through a window causing the cabin to decompress. Sadly, several passengers were injured and one person was killed. Had not a calm, capable pilot been in the cockpit—one trained as a Navy fighter pilot—things could have been tragically worse. The headline in our local paper read, “In Amazing Hands.”
In Psalm 31, David revealed that he knew something about the Lord’s amazing, caring hands. That’s why he could confidently say,
“Into your hands I commit my spirit…” (Psalm 31:5)
David believed that the Lord could be trusted even when life got bumpy. Because he was targeted by unfriendly forces, life was very uncomfortable for David. Though vulnerable, he was not without hope. In the midst of harassment David could breathe sighs of relief and rejoice because his faithful, loving God was his source of confidence:
“Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God. I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD. I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul,” (Psalm 31:5–7)
Perhaps you find yourself in a season of life when things are coming at you from every direction, and it’s difficult to see what’s ahead. In the midst of uncertainty, confusion, and chaos one thing remains absolutely certain: those who are secure in the Lord are in amazing hands.
Our Daily Bread
June 3, 2019
“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”
In her book, "A Closer Walk", Catherine Marshall writes: "One morning last week He gave me an assignment - for one day I was to go on a 'fast' from criticism. I was not to criticize anybody about anything. For the first half of the day, I simply felt a void, almost as if I had been wiped out as a person.
This was especially true at lunch... I listened to the others and kept silent... In our talkative family no one seemed to notice. Bemused, I noticed that my comments were not missed. The federal government, the judicial system, and the institutional church could apparently get along fine without my penetrating
But still I didn't see what this fast on criticism was accomplishing until mid-afternoon. That afternoon, a specific, positive vision for this life was dropped into my mind with God's unmistakable hallmark on it - joy! Ideas began to flow in a way I had not experienced in years. Now it was apparent what the Lord wanted me to see. My critical nature had not corrected a single one of the multitudinous things I found fault with. What it had done was to stifle my own creativity.
Criticism is a poison that infiltrates friendships, relationships in our businesses, and even our own families. Like a wrecking ball to a condemned building, our criticism destroys the spirit of those who are scrutinized. It has been said, "A statue has never been set up in honor of a critic." The apostle Paul recognized that criticism stings. He faced it throughout his ministry. Maybe it was after hearing criticism of others that he wrote:
“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” (Romans 14:13)
Why don't you join me in a 'fast' from criticizing others and let's see what our Father teaches us!"
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
June 1-2, 2019
“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”
Sometimes when we face times of trouble, we may get spiritual amnesia and forget the grace of God. But a good way to reestablish a thankful heart is to set aside undistracted time and deliberately remember God’s past provisions for us and give thanks.
When the children of Israel found themselves in a barren, hot desert, they developed memory loss about the grace of God. They began to wish they were back in Egypt, enjoying all its foods:
“And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’” (Exodus 16:2-3)
They later complained about their water supply:
“Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ And Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?’” (Exodus 17:2)
They had forgotten the mighty acts of God in their deliverance and how He had showered them with wealth:
“And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.” (Exodus 12:36)
They were dwelling on their current circumstances and forgetting God’s gracious past provision. The psalmist challenges us:
“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 118:1)
He has promised to be present always to care for His children. By remembering specific ways God has provided for us in the past, we can change our perspective for the better. God’s steadfast love endures forever!
May 31, 2019
STONES OF REMEMBRANCE
“tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
In the Jewish faith, when visiting a loved-one’s grave, it is customary to leave a small stone on the grave. The visitor positions the stone on the grave using his or her left hand. Placing a stone on the grave serves as a sign to others that someone has visited the grave. It also enables visitors to partake in the mitzvah tradition of commemorating the burial and the deceased. Stones are fitting symbols of remembrance of the lasting presence of the deceased’s life.
Joshua used stones to help God’s people remember His goodness. After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, the Israelites experienced the power of God to roll back the waters of the Jordan River, enabling them to cross over and take possession of the Promised Land. Joshua then commanded them to build a memorial of stones as a public testimony of what God had done for them … stones that would remind them to keep on praising Him.
In Luke Jesus said:
“… ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’” (Luke 19:40)
Why would you and I remain silent, forfeiting to stones the joy of praising God for what He has done?
When God laid the foundations of the earth, hung the stars in place, set the planets in their orbits, halted the proud waves on the shore, wrapped the sea in clouds of mist, and taught the dawn to take the earth by its edges, all of the angels shouted for joy at the magnificent display of God’s glory and power in Creation!
When have you, too, shouted for joy over the display of God’s glory wrapped up in His character in each day of every year for your entire life?
What literal objects could you place in your home or office that would serve as reminders to you of your personal experiences of God’s power?
What are some other practical ways you can remember what God has done for you in order to cultivate and maintain an attitude of gratitude?
What testimony are you leaving behind for your children and grandchildren, and how will you be sure they get it?
Take a moment now to reflect on God’s blessings, grace, and power in your life.
Write down what you remember and make two copies . . . one to keep, and one to give to someone else as a witness of what He has done for you. Then praise God for Jesus, His living, lasting Stone.
Ann Graham Lotz
May 30, 2019
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,”
Most Christian churches have a cross displayed in plain sight. It is first of all a reminder of the sacrifice of the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Consider the shape of the cross. It has been stylized in many different ways. There is a Latin cross, the one most Americans are familiar with. But there is also a Greek cross, Egyptian crosses, a Jerusalem cross, a cross of St. Andrew, a Maltese cross, the Templar cross, and even an Iron cross that was, unfortunately, denigrated by the Nazis. Regardless, there are always two major parts—a standard (vertical) and a beam (horizontal).
By the standard, you are reminded of the vertical relationship you have with God. Consider your lifted or bowed head. Through the horizontal, though, you stretch out your arms to embrace those about you.
Sometimes emotional rifts develop between you and those you should embrace. It’s one thing to deal with anger of your own toward someone. You follow the mandate of scripture to let it go and seek forgiveness. But sometimes you just don’t know why someone might be angry toward you. “He’s the one with the problem,” you might say, suggesting he should come to you. Jesus didn’t see it that way. He wants you reconciled even with those who hold something against you. And for that, you need to plead for the mind of Christ that will give you the same sacrificial joy of stretching out loving arms to that person.
When you pray today, if you remember that a person has something against you, seek reconciliation. Thus restored, your vertical relationship expands. Pray that a new spirit of reconciliation could find its way, one person at a time, into the hearts of the nation’s leaders.
Presidential Prayer Team
May 28-29, 2019
NO UNFINISHED WORKS OF GRACE
"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
I have not had the opportunity to travel much, but several years ago my dad won a trip to Italy through his business and he asked me to go along. A highlight of the trip was visiting Florence, the great city of the Renaissance.
One afternoon out of curiosity I went to a museum where the some works of Michelangelo were displayed. As we viewed the half-finished sculpture of St. Matthew the tour guide explained that this unfinished work was a prime example of Michelangelo’s philosophy of art. He believed that in a stone there was a figure or statue waiting to be released.
The work of the artist was to free the statue from the stone. The statute was so lifelike that I thought any minute St. Matthew might just step out of that huge stone. As I looked at the half-finished statute, I could see that the artist had begun to free the statue but had not been able to complete it. The tour guide went on to explain that Michelangelo had numerous works he never finished.
As I thought about God’s work in us, I realized that God has begun a work in us to conform us to the image of Christ. However, unlike Michelangelo, God does not stop working in our lives until he finishes what he intends to accomplish. According to Philippians 1:6, God will finish what He has started. Ultimately, God has no unfinished works of grace.
Dr. Ron Meeks
Blue Mountain College
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
May 27, 2019
“…So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”
Joshua, Israel’s second leader, had just begun to take the people into the Promised Land. In order to cross the Jordan River, God held back the waters so they could cross on dry land - just as He had done at the Red Sea for their ancestors 40 years prior. The Lord commanded Joshua to have a man from each of the twelve tribes get two hefty stones; one was to be used to construct a monument in the middle of the Jordan, the other for a memorial at the place they lodged that night. When their children asked for an explanation, the fathers should tell the story of God’s provision, teaching them:
“so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:24)
Every country in the world does something similar. The Korean War memorial in Washington, D.C. includes a mural wall 164 feet long, as well as nineteen stainless steel soldiers representing each branch of the Armed Forces seemingly making their way up a grassy knoll beside it. Their reflection on the mural doubles their number to 38 symbolizing the dividing line between North and South Korea – the 38th parallel. This memorial stands as one of many in the District of Columbia area.
Americans need to be reminded of the past to understand that freedom isn’t free. The statues and walls can cause you to remember that the cost is high. Men and women struggle and sacrifice…some to their death. Don’t let today go by without guiding your children in prayer for those who still pay a price to make your country safe and secure.
Presidential Prayer Team
May 26, 2019
“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”
Sometimes the Lord makes His children create margin in their life. He understands that a life without real rest can become graceless and grumpy. It may be physical illness, emotional overload, spiritual fatigue or ruptured relationships that begin to scream for attention. The flesh thinks it can continue with little or no rest, but the spirit knows better.
We may work through our fatigue and fake it for a while, but eventually we hit an un-scalable wall, without anything to give anymore. Jesus knows we are extra vulnerable during these tired times and He makes a way of retreat and rest. His gentle and loving care calls us to come apart with Him. It’s much better to heed His invitation for intimacy than to move down the road without Him. Resting in the Lord invigorates and inspires.
Does rest have to be mandated by our Master or can it be done willfully? A wise man or woman understands the need for rhythms of rest in their schedule. This is why a good night’s sleep and occasional naps are necessary. Weekends, especially Sundays, are made for rest, reflection and rejuvenation. If we are intoxicated by activity, we run the risk of living in a restless hangover. Real rest allows us to recover and unwind in His presence.
Like green pastures are pleasant and fulfilling for any animal dependent on the earth, so God’s heavenly resources feed our soul, fill our mind and hydrate our heart. Are you tired and overwhelmed? Do you feel alone and deplete of any energy to engage with others? If so, take the time to get away with God. Say no to the unnecessary and yes to the necessary. The most productive life accomplishes more by doing less. It rests in Him.
Most importantly, allow the Lord to lead you by faith into a quiet place. Sit by the soothing silence of still waters and drink in the majesty of God’s creation. You know Jesus is leading you—when you intentionally engage in solitude for the purpose of hearing His voice. Lie on His green grass and look up, so your gaze is on God. Don’t resist His required rest—instead cease and desist activity, embrace and celebrate His rest. The grandeur of God’s glory comes down to care for you.
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)
Do you voluntarily engage with eternity in quiet places? Does your life rhythm require rest?
May 25, 2019
BENEFITS OF KINDNESS
“A gracious woman gets honor, and violent men get riches. A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.”
Kindness benefits everyone. It brings joy to the giver and peace to the receiver. The recipient reciprocates because respect is embedded in kindness. Kindheartedness facilitates respect as it treats others with dignity and honor. Even when offended or ostracized, a gracious heart takes the higher ground of humility and gentleness. It may not be liked, but it is respected. Kind actions attract the Almighty’s approval.
What is kindness? At its core it is a reflection of Christ. It is what we expect of the Lord when we desire good things. Listen to the heart of this employee’s prayer for his boss to experience God’s kindness in marriage. In the same way your Savior shows you kindness in salvation and with His severe mercy.
“And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham.” (Genesis 24:12)
Because of Christ’s great kindness, you are compelled to compassionate action. Ruthless men and women use fear and intimidation to gain wealth and power, but considerate adults do not compromise their character for cash or influence. Indeed, God’s great kindness grants us the favor we need.
“But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” (Genesis 39:21)
Who doesn’t need kindness? The undeserving especially need your kindness as a reminder of God’s lasting love and infinite forgiveness. Be kind to the unkind, and they will see what really rests in your heart of hearts. Your kindheartedness will lead others to your source in Jesus Christ. Here the kindness of the Lord leads to repentance.
“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)
Who can you extend kindness toward, even though they have been unkind to you?
May 23-24, 2019
"The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day."
Just before midnight on April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg sending it to the bottom of the North Atlantic. Even today, there continues to be tremendous interest in the ill-fated vessel. With the exception of Noah's Ark, the Titanic has intrigued more people than any other vessel in history.
Experts of its day hailed this "ship of dreams" as "practically unsinkable". One seaman even went so far as to say: "God Himself couldn't sink this ship!" Thomas Andrews, one of the Titanic's designers, boasted: "The ship is as perfect as human brains can make."
That's why the morning after the sinking, most people refused to believe the "unsinkable" had actually sunk. Even the Wall Street Journal printed an optimistic report: "The gravity of the damage to the Titanic is apparent, but the important point is that she did not sink."
I read a book on the inquiry that took place immediately following the arrival of the Titanic's survivors in New York. After fully investigating the reasons for the sinking, Senator William Smith reported: "No drill or station practice or helpful discipline disturbed the tranquility of that voyage; and when the crisis came, a state of absolute unpreparedness stupefied both passengers and crew. . . . Indifference to danger was one of the direct and contributing causes this unnecessary tragedy."
Fast forward 100 years, and things haven't changed much. Our hearts push us with words like icebergs. "Never depend on anyone." "Save face at all costs!" "Stand alone." And the root of this advice?
Pride is like a cancer that permeates every part of who we are. It affects how we look at ourselves and others. It's what we feel when we've made a mistake but refuse to admit it. Pride causes us to stand our ground when we ought to ask forgiveness. Pride lashes out and spews illogical blather, because it has no real basis for battle. Pride can blind us into thinking the world owes us an apology - or that God does.
The old prophet Obadiah said it well:
“The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’” (Obadiah 3)
Speaking to those who felt they were unsinkable, Obadiah teaches us that pride blinds us to the truth. Pride only shows us the tip of the iceberg. Devastation awaits the one who refuses to steer clear of it.
Take an honest look at your relationships, particularly the strained ones. If you're honest, isn't pride lurking beneath the surface of it all? Isn't it pride that points the finger to everyone else but yourself? It's time to abandon a foundering vessel. Walk humbly with your God.
If we find ourselves on the ship of pride, we should listen to the warning of Fredrick Fleet, the Titanic's lookout: "Iceberg, right ahead!"
"The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. (Isaiah 2:17)
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
May 22, 2019
FORGIVING YOUR BROTHER
“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
A story tells of a merchant in a small town who had identical twin sons. The boys worked for their father in the department store he owned and, when he died, they took over the store. Everything went well until the day a dollar bill disappeared. One of the brothers had left the bill on the cash register and walked outside with a customer. When he returned, the money was gone. He asked his brother, "Did you see that dollar bill on the cash register?" His brother replied that he had not. But the young man kept probing and questioning. He would not let it alone. "Dollar bills just don't get up and walk away! Surely you must have seen it!" There was subtle accusation in his voice.
Tempers began to rise. Resentment set in. Before long, a deep and bitter chasm divided the young men. They refused to speak. They finally decided they could no longer work together and a dividing wall was built down the center of the store. For twenty years, hostility and bitterness grew, spreading to their families and to the community.
Then one day a man in an automobile licensed in another state stopped in front of the store. He walked in and asked the clerk, "How long have you been here?" The clerk replied that he'd been there all his life. The customer said, "I must share something with you. Twenty years ago I was 'riding the rails' and came into this town in a boxcar. I hadn't eaten for three days. I came into this store from the back door and saw a dollar bill on the cash register. I put it in my pocket and walked out. All these years, I haven't been able to forget that. I know it wasn't much money, but I had to come back and ask your forgiveness."
The stranger was amazed to see tears well up in the eyes of the middle-aged man. "Would you please go next door and tell that same story to the man in the store?" he said. Then the man was even more amazed to see two middle-aged men, who looked very much alike, embracing each other and weeping together in the front of the store.
After twenty years, the brokenness was mended. The wall of resentment that divided them came down.
It is so often the little things—like resentments—that finally divide people. And the solution, of course, is to let them go. There is really nothing particularly profound about it. But for fulfilling and lasting relationships, letting them go is a must.
Refuse to carry around bitterness and you may be surprised at how much energy you have left for building bonds with those around you.
May 21, 2019
DO YOU NEED A TUNE UP?
“Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.”
No matter how smoothly a vehicle runs when it’s first purchased, it needs regular check-ups, tune-ups and repairs thereafter. How is your spiritual life running these days? Today’s verse says to remember what you received and heard from the Lord, and put it into practice. Turn from anything that is contrary. What are those tune ups that keep your spiritual life going?
All kinds of prayer
“praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:18)
“Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (Psalm 100:2)
“My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.” (Psalm 145:21)
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)
“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)
Remembering who you are in Jesus
“for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Galatians 3:26)
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,” (Matthew 6: 16-17)
Fellowship with other Christians
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Bible study and meditation
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Pslam 1:1-2)
However, like automobiles, though everything may be running smoothly, it’s useless if you don’t go anywhere. Like a car’s main function is to transport, a Christian’s main function is to love God and others. Plus, like a car needs gas, you need to be filled with the Spirit. Is His fruit evident in your life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
As you take a spiritual inventory, add any disciplines you lack and delete those things that are getting in the way of your spiritual growth. How can you practically show your love to God and others? Prayer is vital in both respects. Pray for your country and the people in your life. Pray for all who don’t know Jesus to receive His salvation. Pray for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is done in Heaven. Pray to be filled with His Spirit and the grace to walk in step with Him.
Presidential Prayer Team
May 19-20, 2019
THE FULLNESS OF TIME
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
It was quite a few months before I realized that what I thought was a coincidental meeting had been good timing on my future husband’s part. From the balcony of the church, he had seen me, deduced which exit I might be using, raced down two flights of stairs, and arrived seconds before I did. As he casually held the door and struck up a conversation, I was oblivious to the fact that his “impromptu” dinner invitation had been premeditated. It was perfect timing.
Perfect timing is rare—at least where humans are concerned. But God has specific purposes and plans for us, and His timing is always perfect.
We see that timing in the life of these Bible characters: Abraham’s servant prayed for a wife for Isaac. God answered his prayer by bringing the young woman to him:
Joseph was sold as a slave, falsely accused, and thrown into prison. But eventually God used him to preserve many people’s lives during a famine:
“And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45:5-8)
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20)
And we marvel at Esther’s courage as Mordecai reminded her:
“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
Are you disappointed in the pace of God’s plans?
“Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” (Psalm 37:3)
God will open doors when the timing is perfect.
Cindy Hess Kasper
May 18, 2018
“Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?”
Every Friday night until his death in 1973, the old man would visit a broken-down pier on the Florida coast. Walking slowly and somewhat stooped, he carried a large bucket of shrimp. Sea gulls flocked to the old man who fed them from his bucket.
During World War II, that man flew on a mission in a B-17 to deliver a message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea. Somewhere over the South Pacific, he became lost, fuel ran out, and he and his men ditched in the ocean. For eight days and nights, they lived in their rafts, surrounded by sharks, and fearing starvation.
But as Captain Eddie Rickenbacker(American fighter ace in World War I and Medal of Honor recipient. Founder of Eastern Airlines) recalled it, on the eighth day while he was nearly passed out from the oppressive heat, something landed on his head, and he knew it was a sea gull. He caught the bird, and the men ate its flesh, using other parts as bait for fishing.
They spent a total of 24 days lost at sea until their rescue. His Friday walks with buckets of shrimp were a remembrance of the long-ago day where a sea gull gave itself without a struggle so that he and his men might eat and find the strength to go on.
In today’s passage, Jesus urges his disciples to remember a miraculous event. But He also wanted them to develop spiritual insight, and the faith required for understanding who Jesus is and what He does. It is easy to remember without understanding. Do you remember what He has done for you with gratitude? Do you really trust His provisions for you?
“Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?” (Matthew 16:9)
Do you really understand the penalty Christ paid on the cross for you? How do you respond?
The Presidential Prayer Team
May 17, 2019
ZEAL WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE
“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.”
The following story is one that is reported to have been told by Napoleon to spark patriotism among his men:
Once, while visiting a province he came upon an old soldier in full uniform but with one sleeve hanging empty. He proudly wore the coveted Legion of Honor. Napoleon asked, "Where did you lose your arm?"
The soldier answered, "At Austerlitz, sire." Napoleon asked, "And for that you received the Legion of Honor?"
The man said, "Yes, sire. It is but a small token to pay for the decoration." Napoleon continued, "You must be the kind of man who regrets he did not lose both arms for his country."
The one-armed man asked, "What then would have been my reward? Napoleon answered, "I would have awarded you a double Legion of Honor."
And with that, the proud old fighter drew his sword and immediately cut off his other arm.
What a great story of patriotic duty! It apparently was quite effective in stirring up in Napoleon's men a desire to sacrifice even more for the cause of France!
There's only one problem with the story. You may have already noticed the inconsistency. But apparently it was years before anyone dared to ask Napoleon the question, "How did the soldier cut off his arm with only one arm to do it with?"
Nice story. Stirring, moving, motivating.... but it wasn't true. And it's possible for the same thing to happen to us in a religious sense. We can get all "fired up" without much thought as to the truth of what we're getting excited about. Paul said of those who were motivated in such a way:
“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” (Romans 10:2)
Zeal is good. We all need more of it. But we need to make certain that our enthusiasm is firmly based on our knowledge of God's will by reading His Word. .
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
May 15-16, 2019
TRUSTING ENOUGH TO LET GO
“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”
If you're anything like me, you've come face to face with situations in life in where, out of faith, you let go of trying to control things and turn them over to God. You may even agree with me that while letting go of our concerns is hard enough, it's even harder for some of us to refrain from taking them back!
We get impatient with God. We want results from Him the same way we expect to get our French fries from a drive-through window! And, all too often, we want things to develop according to OUR plan, not His.
Perhaps that's why the above verse means so much to me in regards to this spiritual dilemma. It's loaded full of comforting answers and reassurances to the reader. From just a few little words, it reminds us that:
So the question I must ask myself is this: Am I going to go through this day without any anxiety about the future; fully trusting that God is in control of all things and knowing that He loves me more than I can imagine? Well, so far - so good. But then again, it's only 5:00 a.m.
- God YEARNS to give us the very best.
- God is COMPASSIONATE, i.e., He suffers with our pain and understands our hurts.
- God is fair and His justice for our welfare far exceeds just giving us what we want.
- And out of our patience, encompassed in trust, we obtain that PEACE which can only be gotten when we see that no matter what, God's got our back!
Thank you, Lord, for your Word that reminds me whose I am and gives me strength to combat the anxiety monster and live peaceably in your arms this day!
Glenn W. Miller
May 13-14, 2019
UNIQUELY GIFTED BY GOD
“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;”
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.
"Be yourself. Don't strive to be someone else". Sage wisdom from a preaching professor in graduate school with a prophetic voice. When we reviewed the six minute video of my impassioned talk, I resembled a cheap knock off of the pastor at my home church. Same gestures. Same voice inflections. Even the same hair cut! It took years for me to find my own voice, my own unique style of delivering a speech and to be thoroughly comfortable in my own skin. I am learning as a relational being--when I am comfortable with me--others are comfortable with me.
Our generous Heavenly Father uniquely gifts His children for His glory. It may be the gift of service, encouragement, teaching, mercy or administration. Regardless of one’s role, all gifts are necessary in the Body of Christ. One may quietly serve as a prayer intercessor behind the scenes, while another may boldly proclaim truth in front of the faithful. Yes, the Lord specially equips individuals for His good works. God’s gifting is His distinctive stamp of value on each one of us.
What do you do well? How can you discover your sweet spot of service for your Savior Jesus? One way is to develop the abilities that come naturally for you and engage in activities that energize you. The Spirit wires you in a way that brings both of you pleasure when you exercise your gift. For example, a generous giver finds great joy in giving and an evangelist is ecstatic when they share the gospel. An administrator is not content until everyone and everything is in its place.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
You may be an analytical thinker who loves crunching numbers, managing data and interpreting trends from both. Your gift of linear deduction is critical for business, finance and engineering. Perhaps you are great with people. People love your company because they sense you know, understand and care for them. Thus, your ability to network, convene and lead others is valuable for accomplishing a big vision or executing a strategic initiative. Yes, steward well God’s gift.
Seek to marry your passion with your giftedness. For instance, if you love to see someone encouraged, use your gift of writing to convey God’s love to their hungry heart. If you love children, use your ability to nurture and train as a conduit for Christ’s truth. If you love sports, use your teaching gift to lead athletes in Bible study. If you love travel, use your aptitude for business to help entrepreneurs here and abroad. Be who God has uniquely gifted you to be!
"Be yourself, everyone else is already taken." Oscar Wilde
How can you better accept who you and seek to become the best version of yourself?
May 12, 2019
“For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
My mother's memorial service this past year was the saddest day of my life. The reality of my mom's love began to settle in and stretch my soul. Her love was unique, never to be replaced fully by any human substitute. My mom was a single parent, so her love was even weightier, as she carried an expanded capacity to fill the void of a father. So I wept and mourned over my mother.
My tears were a tribute to her love, how she raised me in an honorable way. Thankfully, I did not weep alone, as teary hugs from friends and family dampened my cheeks and shoulders. Love and grief wept together to bring comfort and peace. Comforted sorrow expands my capacity to care.
Life consists of losses. The loss of a child. Opportunity loss. Financial loss. Relational loss. Physical loss. Every day we lose a day of life. But one of the most significant is the loss of someone who is dearly loved. When Momma died, a part of me died. How can a mother's love ever be replaced? The one whose body I came out of lies horizontal 6 feet in the earth, never to verbally communicate her care for me again. Momma is gone and that still makes me sad.
I wish I could call Momma. Our every other day phone call doesn't seem frequent enough now. Perhaps we should have talked daily, and I shouldn’t have been weary of her warnings about the weather and her complaints about her health. Ashamedly, I skeptically listened to what was to be her last self diagnosis of severe abdominal pain---which turned out to be a body ravaged with cancer in the stomach area. A son cannot call his mom too many times. A five minute chat with momma was the highlight of her day and a reminder of who raised me. Momma deserved my listening ear.
“Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” (Proverbs 23:22)
Yes life is busy, but what matters most before we bury our parents? Working extra hours, making more money for some uncertain day, maybe having more time at our disposal or taking a day off and hanging out with the one who brought us into this world and who prepared us to live life to the fullest.
What would I do differently... if I knew twelve months ago mom would be gone in a year?
I would walk with her a dozen more times around her garden and hear how too much or too little rain is affecting the tomatoes, since nobody romanced home grown tomatoes like Momma. I would sit on the back porch with her, sip strong dark coffee, and listen to Momma's latest schemes to keep the deer out of her vegetables. I would brush off her three legged dog Dango a few more aggravating times and send him away with disgust at his smell and deformity. I know I should have more compassion and regard for animals, Momma was working on me, because she sure loved her dogs and cats.
Momma's gone, but the memories of her influence remain alive and well, like a rugged kitchen table beautifully stained and naturally scarred by boiling pots, food spills or permanent moisture rings from water glasses, she will forever mark my life with her warts, wisdom and hard work.
“Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.” (Isaiah 26:19)
How can you honor and love your mom in a way that makes her feel special?
May 11, 2019
HUMILITY HAS AN EXPIRATION DATE
1 Peter 5:5
“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”
Humility has an expiration date. For me its effectiveness runs out many times in 24 hours, other times 24 minutes and sometimes as soon as 24 seconds! And the scary thing is once humility has expired I am vulnerable to pride's power. In my own strength I cannot fight off sin's control that incubates in my proud heart--a humble heart is my best resource to resist pride's ugly influence. Pretense, anger and fear all clamor to bear the bad fruit of pride--while honesty, healing and love is the beautiful fruit of humility. How can a heart's humility be refreshed before it expires?
Peter uses the very practical example of our daily, sometimes multiple times daily, changing of clothes. Christians are commanded by Christ to clothe ourselves with humility. We put off pride and put on humility. Off goes the ugly, soiled undergarment of a proud heart which is then replaced with the Spandex of a selfless heart toward others and a submitted heart to God. Peter is very clear, pride invites opposition from the Almighty, while humility facilities our heavenly Father's favor. Each morning, before we engage the world--we ask the Spirit, "How does my heart look"?
“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)
Here are some helpful questions for us to ask our souls to discern if humility is close to expiration:
Do I expect others to serve me or am I seeking to serve others?
Am I easily hurt or offended or am I slow to become angry and quick to forgive?
Do I listen to others with empathy and kindness or am I directive and impatient?
Do I recognize a tear in every heart and first offer comfort or solutions and a pep talk?
Do I embrace another's success or am I driven to succeed no matter the relational cost?
Do I think of myself less and more of the Lord and others?
Can I rest and not strive or do I have to be control?
Ultimately, our humble Savior Jesus is the source and strength found in humility. "In Christ" we are humble, because Jesus is humble. By faith, we humble ourselves and "yoke up" with our Lord to learn of His humble, gentle ways. Gratefully, God uses imperfect people to fulfill His perfect will. The void left by humility's expiration is quickly filled by pride, so stay refreshed!
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
What area of your life do you seek to control, and how can you trust God instead?
May 9-10, 2019
THE FULLNESS OF TIME
“For there is a time and a way for everything,…”
Pastor Audley Black’s church near the south coast of Jamaica has been in a building program since at least 2005. That was the first time I visited his church and saw that they were expanding. The last time I was there—in the spring of 2011—some of the walls were up. By that summer, they had started on the roof. When I suggested to Pastor Black that perhaps the church would be done by 2013 when I thought I might return, he said it was a possibility.
There was no hint of disappointment that this project could take 8 years or longer! No, Pastor Black and his people are excited about what God is doing, and they are patient with His timing.
We are often not that patient. We want our church to grow quickly, our young people to mature right away, and our problems to be fixed today.
Maybe we need to be reminded that some things take time—God’s time. For instance, when the Israelites first left Egypt, God sent them on the long route to the Promised Land:
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.’ But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle.” (Exodus 13:17-18)
During that time He prepared them, taught them, and challenged them. In our microwave world, we want everything done instantaneously. But sometimes that is not God’s plan. Let us seek God’s help and learn to accept His timing.
“as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:10)
May 8, 2019
2 Timothy 1:16–18
“May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me—may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.”
Until Bob Greene wrote Once Upon a Town in 2002, most people had never heard about the North Platte Canteen.
World War II troop trains, carrying soldiers on their way to war, passed through the small Nebraska town. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, word spread that the next train would have soldiers from their town on it. Five hundred people were at the train station with food, gifts, and letters. But when the train arrived, it carried soldiers from Kansas rather than Nebraska.
The people gave what they had prepared for their own young men to those soldiers they did not know. Then they decided to keep doing it. Every day the troop trains were met with food, snacks, and drinks. The stop in North Platte was only ten minutes, and the people of the town did all they could to make the young men feel loved and appreciated. The North Platte Canteen touched the lives of six million men by the time the war effort came to an end. Greene said that without exception, every soldier he interviewed to find out about what North Platte had meant to them wept as they recalled the gift they had received.
The Bible tells us almost nothing about Onesiphorus. We don’t know anything about his background, education, or profession. The one thing that we do know is that again and again, both in Ephesus and in Rome, he was a blessing to the Apostle Paul. Every day we have opportunities to bless and encourage others, refreshing their hearts, and we must not miss them.
Dr. Paul Chappell
"DITW" - Daily in the Word
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
May 7, 2019
“and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.”
Very early on the morning of the third day some of the women had gone to the tomb. They were planning to anoint the body with spices but had a glorious encounter instead! Two men dressed in white first proclaimed the glorious resurrection message:
“And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (Luke 24:5-7)
“… they remembered his words,” (Luke 24:8)
Next, the women rushed back to tell the eleven disciples what had happened. Though it is not written in Scripture, the disciples were most likely discussing recent events and considering what the future held for them without their Leader. Upon the arrival of the excited women, we would surely expect them to receive the surprising news from the women with great joy and ready belief. After all, they had heard the phrase “and on the third day be raised again” more than once. They should have been jumping up and down, shouting, singing praises and doing high-fives, waking up the neighborhood.
But Luke records their stunning reaction:
“but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (Luke 24:11)
These disciples had worked so closely with Jesus during His earthly ministry yet they did not believe, and considered the message of the women “nonsense.”
Today there are many who consider the message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ nonsense. You probably know people who do, and many today are very forthright in their disbelief, even mocking those who do believe.
C.N Hostetter wrote, “When people have problems with miracles, it is not because miracles are unbelievable. The problem is that they have an inadequate view of God.”
What is your view of God today? How does this view impact the way you live your life? Do you believe the resurrection of Jesus Christ is nonsense or historical fact?
Each one of the disciples came to believe and went on to serve the risen Lord. Today let us also believe and joyfully serve the risen Lord of the universe!
Stephen and Brooksyne Weber
May 6, 2019
DILIGENCE CREATES OPPORTUNITIES
“The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.”
My father-in-law told me as a young man and still reminds me today, “Boyd, the harder I work the luckier I become". A lot of sage wisdom from a "gentleman farmer" who at 80 is still strong as an ox and can't wait each day to serve my sweet mother-in-law who experienced a severe stroke several years ago. God rarely works through lazy work, but often blesses hard work.
How hard do you work, or do you hardly work? God said to Adam:
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;” (Genesis 3:17)
“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)
And He explained to Moses:
“Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.” (Exodus 20: 9–10)
Has our culture become accustomed to receiving good things without great effort? Who is entitled to influence without being industrious? Perhaps there is a dearth of diligence that has depressed people and economies. Laziness leads to the control of others, while honest labor is given opportunities and advancement. Do not despair in your diligence for you are set up for success. Mind your business meticulously, and you will enjoy the business.
“The man Jeroboam was very able, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious he gave him charge over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph.” (1 Kings 11:28)
Intense industry can lead to preferment. Your faithfulness to your work is not going unnoticed. Your diligence is a distinctive that separates you from the average or lazy laborer. Security comes with this level of service. Promotion follows performance that produces the right results the right way. Be an industrious example others seek to emulate.
The Lord blesses hands that are hard at work. He smiles when He sees your service exceeds expectations. You go the extra mile to make sure others are cared for as you would like to be treated. God knows, because of your thoroughness on the job and your integrity in its execution, you can be trusted with more.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
Are you diligently working unto the Lord or just earning a paycheck?
May 5, 2019
A CLEAR IDENTITY
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
It is easy to think of the early church as a sort of gold standard. We assume that these communities that were closest to the earthly life, death, and resurrection of Jesus would have been exemplary models of faithfulness and holiness. Yet I continue to be amazed as I read Paul’s pastoral letters to these churches, especially the Christians in Corinth. They were filled with broken people whose desires and passions pulled them in countless different directions, making it hard for them to know if they were on the path to true discipleship. In short, they looked a lot like us!
Clarity on where you are headed is linked to clarity on your new identity in Christ. St. Paul quickly rattles off ways of life that are not in alignment with the kingdom of God, even noting how some members of the early church were guilty of these sins. Yet his argument isn’t weighted towards these offenses, significant as they are, but quickly moves from them into the greater and more abundant life that they came to know as baptized, spirit-filled believers.
Many of us have parts of our life story that we’d love to forget. Moments of incredible shame and pain, either inflicted upon us or that we inflicted upon others. Often these wounds cause us to walk through life with a limp, coloring and shaping us in countless ways. St. Paul is mindful of this temptation and so boldly reminds them, and us, of the transformative power of the gospel.
“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32)
You must never underestimate God’s ability to write a redemptive chapter to your story. The mission of Jesus is to find all that is broken and wounded in the world and speak peace and healing, and that includes you. “Justified” and “sanctified” become your primary source of identity, greater than your fears and past failures. Rest today in the fact that God tells good, long stories!
Where are you prone to give in to fear and lies about your identity in Christ?
May 3-4, 2019
LAST OF ALL AND LEAST OF ALL
1 Corinthians 15:6-9
“Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”
Paul is here referring to the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. The expression "last of all" in reference to Paul could have more than one meaning. In verse 7:
“Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” (1 Corinthians 15:7)
Paul had just mentioned how the risen Jesus appeared to the apostles, then at the start of verse 8 Paul commences with the expression "and last of all..."
“Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. ” (1 Corinthians 15:8)
Now since he had just mentioned the Apostles, Paul could well have meant that he (Paul) was the last of the Apostles to be called and chosen back in the First Century. Of this, major Bible commentator Adam Clarke wrote:
“It seems that it was essential to the character of a primitive apostle that he had seen and conversed with Christ; and it is evident, from the history of Saul’s conversion:
“And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?' And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.” (Acts 9:4-7)
Jesus Christ did appear to him; [though in a vision, and in a very dramatic encounter], and he pleaded this ever after as a proof of his call to the apostleship. (Adam Clarke Bible Commentary).
But Paul also considered himself to be the least of the apostles:
“For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9)
Because he had persecuted the church, perhaps he makes the "last of all" description of himself from this view, that is, from a view of humility. Finally, Paul might simply have been referring to the time order in which Jesus appeared to people post-resurrection.
I think there could be elements of all three of these points in the words of Paul, but perhaps the second point (Paul was the least of the Apostles because he had once persecuted the church), being the strongest. Paul referred to himself as one "abnormally born"—pointing out that his calling was very different to the other Apostles, since he never met nor conversed with the pre-resurrection Jesus Christ. The real meaning of the Greek here is something like, “an abortive.”
Of this, Bible commentator John Gill wrote,
“Several learned interpreters think the apostle refers to a proverbial way of speaking among the common people at Rome, who used to call such supernumerary senators in the times of Augustus Caesar, who got into the senate house by favour or bribery, ‘abortives,’ they being generally very unworthy persons; and therefore [he] calls himself by this name, as being in his own opinion a supernumerary apostle, and very unworthy of that office. Others rather think that he refers to a "posthumous" birth, to one that is born after the death of his father; because that the rest of the apostles were all chosen, and called, and sent forth, whilst Christ, their everlasting Father, was living on earth, but he not till after his death, resurrection from the dead, and ascension to heaven: but it seems best to understand him of an abortion, a miscarriage, or birth before its time; and may respect either the manner of his conversion, which was done both suddenly, immediately, and at once, by a sudden light from heaven, when he little thought of it, and had no expectation of it. (John Gill Bible Commentary).
We should perhaps define the word "supernumerary" which Gill uses here since its use has now virtually disappeared from the English language. “Supernumerary” is something of a put-down. It can mean an actor employed who does not actually have to speak, a person not on the regular staff but employed for extra work, maybe something which goes beyond what is necessary, or something of little merit or substance.
I have to say that the John Gill explanation seems to be a pretty sound explanation of the expression which Paul uses; it is a remark of humility, something typical of Paul; Paul sometimes wondered if he wasn't indeed the “least of the Apostles”, though today many of us would consider him, perhaps, the major Apostle because of his additional responsibility in taking the Gospel to the Gentile world.
Robin A. Brace
May 2, 2019
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
I compare the troubles which we have to undergo in a year to a great bundle of sticks, far too large for us to lift. But God does not require us to carry the whole at once. He mercifully unties the bundle, and gives us first one stick, which we carry today, and then another, which we are to carry tomorrow, and so on. This we might easily manage, but we choose to increase our troubles by carrying yesterday's stick all over again today, and adding tomorrow's burden to our load, before we are required to bear it.
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
May 1, 2019
“Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD,”
God’s favor is the fruit of friends who find wisdom. They seek wisdom by first watching at the doors of heaven and waiting patiently at the feet of their Savior Jesus. It is humbling to think each day Almighty God is available to commission our cause for Christ. The wisdom of Jesus is what we pursue, because His is pure and profound.
Like Abel, the Almighty looks for the best offering for blessing. Therefore, honor God by offering Him the first fruits of your day. Just as He deserves “first dibs” on your money, so He expects the beginning of your day. Get up and go to God first. There you discover a wealth of wisdom, and under the shadow of your Savior Jesus Christ you receive His favor.
Happiness happens to those who wait for wisdom. His blessing cannot be rushed, so rest in Him. The favor of God is absolutely worth the wait; like the arrival of a newborn, the joy is unspeakable. How many times have we rushed ahead outside the canopy of Christ’s blessing? The Israelites learned to stay under the cloud of God and be lead by faith.
Indeed, there is no spiritual oxygen to sustain those in an “out of favor” environment. It is lifeless and lonely. However, for those on whom their Heavenly Father’s favor rests, there is rest. His blessing provides strength for the journey, and perseverance to stay on the trail of trust. Jesus experienced the favor of His Heavenly Father when He submitted to public baptism (His confession of faith) and His commitment to public service (His commission to ministry).
On what issue of obedience do you need wisdom, so to continually experience the favor of your Heavenly Father? Your life is alive and vibrant, because the Lord favors you. You are a favorite of your Heavenly Father, because you are learning to wait on Him and to humbly walk with the wise.
The Bible says:
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
April 30, 2019
THE PRICE HAS BEEN PAID
“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!"
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
April 29, 2019
“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.
Our Daily Bread
April 27-28, 2019
NO GOOD IN THE WORLD?
“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
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?
April 25, 2019
SPRING IN OUR LIVES
“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.
April 24, 2019
“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?
April 23, 2019
A CHILDLIKE AMAZEMENT
"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.
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
“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.’
“…’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?
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?
April 18-19, 2019
“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?
April 17, 2019
KEEPING YOUR FOCUS WHERE IT BELONGS
“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
“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?
April 14, 2019
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
April 13, 2019
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
“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?
April 10-11, 2019
STRENGTH TO LOVE
“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
“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.
April 7, 2019
200 POUNDS OF TRASH
“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.
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
April 6, 2019
HE SAID / SHE SAID
“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?
April 5, 2019
“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
“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
“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?
April 2, 2019
“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
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
March 31-April 1, 2019
“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
March 29-30, 2019
1 Corinthians 13:12
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
My sister is a very organized garage sale enthusiast and having someone to go along with her on that Saturday seemed to spur her on. We set off with anticipation and it wasn't long before her early-bird-gets-the-worm philosophy paid off. We were poking around in a large garage full of interesting stuff when I spotted a large oval mirror. It was covered in a thick layer of dirt but it looked like it was about the size and shape that Leisha had said she wanted for above the fireplace in their home. I called her attention to it. She pulled it out and her eyes lit up. Then the negotiating started with the owner. I was amazed at how low the price went and Leisha was beaming as she walked away with the deal of the day.
It was some time before I was able to visit again, and when I did, Leisha immediately called my attention to the space above the mantle on their fireplace. My jaw dropped. The old mirror we'd found in that garage was beveled and the frame was solid oak. My brother-in-law had done a great job restoring it. It looked beautiful.
The great thing about the mirror was that it made the room seem bigger and brighter, as mirrors are designed to do. The reflection of a warm fire always made the room a comforting place to sit on a cool evening. I thought of the layers of dirt that had coated it and wondered how long it had been sitting in that old garage, like a gem waiting to be discovered.
Then I realized that we are all, in a way, like that old mirror. We've been used and abused and are often layered with the effects of sin and the trials of life. How tremendously encouraging it is to know that God is in the business of finding the gems that are hidden. How heartening it is to know that He is skilled at restoring minds and souls. How blessed it is to believe that He can remove every speck of tarnish, heal the brokenness and make us all into reflections of His love and mercy.
That's the great thing about redemption - it reveals His image in us all. Just as that mirror became a thing of beauty that enhanced the room, we become the true essence of God's creation, bringing His light and life to the world. It is what we were all designed to do. We are all meant to be mirrors that reflect His grace. All we have to do is say yes to Jesus so that the work can begin.
Marcia Lee Laycock
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
March 28, 2019
"The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant."
One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books.
I thought to myself, "Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd."
I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him.
He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So I jogged over to him as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, "Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives." He looked at me and said, “Hey, thanks!" There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.
I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to a private school before now. I would never have hung out with a private school kid before. We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends. He said yes.
We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him. Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, "Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!" He just laughed and handed me half the books.
Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown and I was going to Duke. I knew we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor and I was going for business on a football scholarship.
Kyle was valedictorian of our class. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak. On graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out, and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than I had, and all the girls loved him. Boy, sometimes I was jealous! Today was one of those days. I could see he was nervous about his speech. So I smacked him on the back and said, "Hey, big guy, you'll be great!"
He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. “Thanks,” he said.
As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began…"Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach...but mostly your friends....I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story….”
I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told about the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over that weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his mom wouldn't have to do it later, and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me in the audience and gave me a little smile.
"Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable."
I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth.
Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person's life. For better or for worse.
"Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly."
God puts us all in each others lives to impact one another in some way. Look for God in others.
March 26-27, 2019
FULLY KNOWN AND FULLY LOVED
“with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,”
Marriage has changed me in many ways for the better. I am more organized and less scattered. I am more giving and less selfish. But one thing has liberated me in a way I would have never understood before I walked the aisle: being fully known but still being loved. This, more than just about any other experience of marriage, has helped me to experience inner healing from past rejection in a way I would have never thought possible. Being known but still being loved is healing for the human heart.
In his book The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller writes:
“When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience. To be loved but not known is comforting, but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
Indeed, it can.
These words are true, not only for marriage, but for every kind of relationship. When we are fully known and others see our frailties and faults and love us still, there is a peace that comes into our souls and we are strengthened to deal with life’s difficulties.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
I know two young women who have struggled with addictions, the result of Satan taking advantage of their wounded hearts that were abused during childhood. But both of these wise young ladies surrounded themselves with a support network to help them get free from the grip of sin as part of their recovery. What both of them discovered is that they are loved in spite of their sin, failure, and flaws. And this acceptance has given them the courage they need to beat their troubles.
They have overcome their addictions, not in spite of being known; they have overcome their addictions because they have been fully known.
It’s only when we are fully known that we can be fully loved—and being fully loved provides strength for our journey that we just can’t experience in life any other way.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)
Is there someone in your life you can show love to today in spite of their sins?
March 25, 2019
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:”
This past Wednesday was the first day of spring in the northern half of the world. If you live in Australia, it was the first day of autumn—the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere and the autumnal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere, when the sun shines directly on the equator, and the hours of daylight and nighttime are nearly equal around the world.
New seasons are important for many people. Some count down the day because of what they hope the new season will bring. Perhaps you’ve been marking off a calendar for spring in Wisconsin to signal the end of another winter. Or maybe you live in Melbourne, and you can’t wait for autumn to bring relief from the Australian sun.
We also go through seasons of life that don’t have to do with the weather. The author of Ecclesiastes told us there is a season for every activity under the sun—a time appointed by God during which we live our lives:
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–11)
Moses spoke of a new season in his life after he led the people of Israel through the wilderness:
“And he said to them, ‘I am 120 years old today. I am no longer able to go out and come in. The LORD has said to me, “You shall not go over this Jordan.”’” (Deuteronomy 31:2)
and he had to give up his leadership role to Joshua. And Paul faced a lonely season while he was under house arrest in Rome—asking for visitors but realizing that God was standing by him:
“But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth.” (2 Timothy 4:17)
Regardless of the season of life, let us give thanks to God for His greatness, His help, and His companionship.
March 24, 2019
QUALITY OF LIFE
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
What is quality of life for the Christian? How does Christ define quality living? He gives abundant life, but what does this look like for those who love the Lord? Abundant life begins by receiving the gift of God in the life of Christ:
“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (1 John 5:11)
Quality of life begins with eternal life as the end goal. God offers abundant life as a reward for our salvation.
Quality of life means we live life motivated by what outcomes will live on into eternity. Perhaps I get less and give more. By adjusting down my standard of living, I am able to give more toward what matters to Jesus. The Lord modeled well for us a life of quality. One example was His unselfish service:
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 2:4-5)
Service to others brings quality of life to all parties:
“For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)
Quality of life may not lead to ease and comfort, as our culture likes to advertise. Paul described his life of obedience to the Lord as a dangerous way:
“on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;” (2 Corinthians 11:26)
You face danger by faith, but knowing you live for Christ makes you persevere and trust Him.
How is your quality of life? Is it abundant in its obedience to Christ? Is He your life to the point His priorities are your priorities? Do you let go of earthly indulgences so others can gain eternal rewards?
“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. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)
Is your quality of life defined by Christ’s life at work in and through you?
March 23, 2019
A STOUT FAITH
1 Corinthians 10:31
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
I’d like to tell you a story about something genuinely Irish that may surprise you. I’m referring to Guinness stout.
Very few people hoisting pints of Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day know about the Christian vision that animated the brewery’s founder, Arthur Guinness. The connection between “brewery” and “Christian vision” is the subject of “The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World” by Stephen Mansfield.
As Mansfield documents, for people in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, beer was “more than a pleasurable drink.” For instance, the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower, whom no one would characterize as hedonistic, “had plenty of beer for the voyage onboard.” That is because, like most Europeans, they drank beer “for fear of drinking water.” And for good reason: The water in most European cities well into the nineteenth century was unsafe to drink. That left people with two options: beer, which was regarded as a kind of liquid food, or distilled spirits, in particular gin, which destroyed both bodies and souls.
And that is where Arthur Guinness enters the story. Guinness was influenced by John Wesley, who taught his followers to “Make all you can, save all you can, [and] give all you can.” Guinness “recognized that he could use his wealth and the way he went about his business for the glory of God as surely as any money given at church.”
Part of this whole was producing a product that could be substituted for the destructive distilled spirits. Plus his beer was more filling, so folks would be less likely to get drunk. The other part is what Guinness did with the money he made from selling his product.
He became the governor of Meath Hospital, whose mission was the relief of the poor in the surrounding area. He worked to abolish dueling among his peers; he “promoted Gaelic arts and culture as a mean of instilling an ennobling sense of heritage among his countrymen.”
Perhaps the cause that best reflected Guinness’ faith and social concerns was the founding of the Sunday Schools in Ireland. He was convinced that offering a basic education for the poor, including the Bible, literacy and other subjects, offered them the best chance to avoid a life of crime.
Guinness’ descendants maintained his commitment to doing good, including one of my favorite Christian thinkers, Os Guinness. Another example—in 1900, the brewery’s chief medical officer surveyed the homes of its workers and the people living in the nearby vicinity. Appalled by his findings, he sought and obtained permission from the board to clean up the problems.
Hiring nurses, health workers and providing decent housing cost a lot of money, but it was in keeping with the ideals espoused by Arthur Guinness.
As Mansfield reminds us, none of this would have been possible if Arthur Guinness “had not been skilled at brewing beer.”
While craft microbrews may not be the next great mission field, all of us are called to integrate our Christian and professional lives in the way Arthur Guinness did.
March 21-22, 2019
“The rich and the poor meet together; the LORD is the Maker of them all.”
Legends say that after the death of John D. Rockefeller, a man was curious to know how much he left behind. An aide to Rockefeller said, “All of it.”
Why God selects some to be rich and others to be poor can only be understood in the light of His overall plan to redeem mankind. The financially wealthy are imbued with the gift of giving. If they are spiritually minded, they might also have time to exercise a gift of serving. The poor, on the other hand, have a need for the basics of life. But they, too, have been given spiritual gifts that can provide them with far greater blessings than material things would bring.
Regardless of where you are on the financial spectrum, God is interested in how you are dealing with your spiritual wealth. Each person has the same charge from the Lord in the Great Commission:
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:16-20)
When you kneel before Him today, have gratitude for all that you have, and then seek to know God’s will for the way you employ your resources – both financial and spiritual. Pray, too, for all who are spiritually impoverished to find the richness of God in Jesus Christ.
Presidential Prayer Team
March 20, 2019
LIBERATED FROM THE LOVE OF MONEY
“And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.’”
Jesus has a remarkable way of turning established values upside down. He calls into question things that would have been universally seen as good and desirable. And as he does, he invites us to look at them with fresh eyes.
The Lord wants you to know that life in his Kingdom is more real and substantial than the circumstances and challenges you face. He wants you to know that you have an identity that transcends your bank account or list of followers. In fact, according to Jesus, you can be poor and destitute and yet live this very moment as an inheritor of God’s kingdom.
Do we actually believe this?
If you live in the developed West, by historic standards you are incredibly wealthy. It is ironic then to consider how deeply we fear the loss of wealth and devote so much of our time to the pursuit of greater and greater affluence. Yet we often fail to realize how this pursuit is significantly shaping and forming us as human beings. This way of living can make us inward focused, self-absorbed people who miss God’s invitation to live in freedom and give ourselves away for the sake of others.
A significant leader in the early church, St. John Chrysostom, once said, “luxury often leads to forgetfulness.” How true this is! We can forget others and their needs. We can forget our own need for God. And we can forget that luxury is here today and gone tomorrow. To put our hopes and dreams in comfort and affluence is to look at a way that ultimately leads to death and to call it the way of life.
On the other hand, Jesus invites us to join him in the way of life even when it is hard and you are filled with pain and doubt. He wants you to know that there is always a way forward in which your fears and sorrows do not have to define you or derail your faith. Because we are loved and known by God, we are set free from the love of wealth and the endless pursuit of affluence.
Learn afresh the joy that comes from celebrating simplicity and modesty! It turns you outward from your own obsession with self and liberates you to freely give your time, talent, and treasure for the sake of Christ and his Kingdom!
Where does the love of money have a grip on your heart?
March 19, 2019
DAILY SURVIVAL KIT
1 Corinthians 3:14
“If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.”
What is in your survival kit?
TOOTHPICK - to remind you to pick out the good qualities in people.
“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
RUBBER BAND - to remind you to be flexible; things might not always go the way you want, but it will work out.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
BAND AID - to remind you to heal hurt feelings - yours or someone else's.
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12-14)
PENCIL - to remind you to list your blessings everyday.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 1:3)
ERASER - To remind you that everyone makes mistakes, and it's OK.
“When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.’ So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, ‘Your father gave this command before he died: “Say to Joseph, ‘Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.’” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’ But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:15-21)
CHEWING GUM - to remind you to stick with it and you can accomplish anything.
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
MINT - to remind you that you are worth a mint!
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)
CANDY KISS - to remind you that everyone needs a kiss or a hug everyday.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)
TEA BAG - to remind you to relax daily and go over that list of blessings.
“...give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
March 18, 2019
“Before destruction a man's heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.”
Charles Schultz, the cartoonist of Peanuts, has a way of poking fun at the human condition. In one cartoon, Linus tells Charlie Brown, “When I get big, I’m going to be a humble little country doctor. I’ll live in the city, see, and every morning, I’ll get up, climb into my sports car, and zoom into the country! Then I’ll start healing people…I’ll heal people for miles around.” In the last frame of the cartoon, Linus exclaims, “I’ll be a world famous humble little country doctor.”
God wants you to be humble, under His mighty hand:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” (1 Peter 5:6)
Humility is not a naturally sought-after path. It is not taught in school, or any on-the-job training. But for every Christian who wants to be more like Christ, it is an essential trait. In his Biblical Foundation for Freedom, Paul Bucknell said that “humility is accepting ourselves as we really are before God.”
Read your Bibles to see the humility of Jesus Christ…it occurs everywhere. Through it, He joyfully served others, and thus served the purposes of the Father. Emulate His example whenever you can. Don’t let pride cause you to stumble. Pray for the Lord’s help, and He will surely give it. And pray for humility to take hold among the nation’s leaders, so that they may have the greatest of all joys in being true servants of the American public.
Presidential Prayer Team
March 17, 2019
“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.”
How do you feel since your home has emptied of children? Mad, sad, glad, lonely, without purpose, or freed up, may all be legitimate emotions you are processing. You have raised them well, and now they are on their own. You are proud of them, but you miss them. They call from college (especially daughters), but it is not the same. It is not easy to export your babies into adulthood; however, this is their faith walk to really know God.
We raise them the best we know how with love, discipline, and belief in Jesus Christ. Sometimes they frustrate us by not cleaning their crib (room). Like an animal in a barn, they can be messy and smelly. There are days you want a little peace and quiet because they are angry and loud when fighting with their siblings. But the empty nest is void of noise. The kids are nowhere to be found; so enjoy them while you can.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
You send them off to grow up and gain a heart of gratitude. By God’s grace they will visit with a new sense of appreciation and maturity. Distance causes friendship with your adult child to grow, not be taken for granted. It is harder to keep up and communicate, but in some ways it is more gratifying. You prepared them to leave so they can cleave to the one the Lord has for them in marriage. Our empty nest is a test of trust in God’s plan.
Engage with your spouse in your empty nest. Do you feel like you have drifted apart over the years? If so, be intentional to regain the intense intimacy with your best friend. Make these days of marriage your best; believe the Lord has given you your lover to grow old together. Anticipate the gift of grandkids, as they will keep you busy and lively. The empty nest is a season to enjoy the fruit of your family.
“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous.” (Proverbs 13:22)
Consider a marriage intensive course as part of your empty nest preparation.
March 15-16, 2019
TIME TO GROW UP
1 Corinthians 3:1-3
“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?”
As a young child, my relationship with my parents was primarily transactional. Yes, they gave me unconditional love and affection from day one, but my chief concern was that I was fed, sheltered, and entertained. In many ways, this posture continued well into adolescence! Yet as I moved into adulthood and eventually had children of my own, the relationship began to shift in subtle but significant ways. I came to appreciate their self-giving love in new and profound ways. And while their posture towards me remained constant over all the years, as I grew I began to see them in an entirely new light.
One of the key concerns of St. Paul’s pastoral ministry to the Corinthian church is that they move from an infant relationship with God into the full and flourishing life of mature faith. While new birth necessitates a season of infancy, it is meant to be primarily that: a season. No one scolds a toddler for being a toddler! Yet if the toddler progresses in years but stays developmentally unchanged, there is real cause for concern.
How would you assess your own life with God? Are you a new Christian and rightly in need of a season to receive the foundations of faith before you move deeper into the life of God? Or, on the other hand, have you professed Christian faith for many years but have now settled for a comfortable yet shallow walk with the Lord? Is your view of Jesus more or less the same as it was a decade ago? Are you on a milk-only diet when your body and soul are ready for solid food?
A sign that we are pressing into faithful discipleship is that we begin to see Jesus as more beautiful, more glorious, and more worthy of devotion than we did before. If Jesus is truly inexhaustible in his goodness and love, then there is always more to be known and received. The Lord is patient and kind and does not force himself upon us, yet like a loving parent he rejoices to see us grow deeper into the life of the Spirit.
The Christian life is an ever-expanding adventure into the depths and riches of God’s love- don’t settle for anything less!
Where has your faith stalled out or settled for a simple and shallow understanding of the spiritual life?
March 14, 2019
MY PERSUASION OR GOD'S POWER?
1 Corinthians 2:4-5
“and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
“If God were to get up and walk out of the building, would any of us notice?” This was a question posed by a pastor in a sermon that I heard years ago, and it has haunted me ever since. While there is much to be said about organizational efficiency and productivity, they were commenting on the fact that as our church communities grow in size and complexity, they require an ever-increasing degree of care-taking and creativity. Is it possible that we become so compelling and winsome in our presentation that we miss the power of God in the process?
St. Paul was writing to a church in Corinth that was accustomed to well-rehearsed, perfectly executed presentations. They had no time for amateur hour, no patience for anything less than the best. Yet Paul refused to play into this expectation or try to win them over with anything less than the power of God at work through the life-giving Spirit. In fact, the more he embraced his weaknesses and limitations, the more the power of God was able to shine forth in clear and compelling ways. Are you and I able to do the same?
As the rest of his letter makes clear, St. Paul not only knew about the power of the living God, but that power had transformed him in the core of his being. When God infuses his life into yours, you become a living, embodied “demonstration of the Spirit and of power”
“and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” (1 Corinthians 2:4)
Do you believe that your life could be so transformed by the love of God that someone could come to encounter the living God simply by being in your presence?
More than your ability to think clearly about the Bible or theology, more than your gifts and skills in speaking faithfully about God, people are first and foremost drawn to the lived experience of the Holy Spirit that they encounter in you. There is certainly a place for thinking clearly and speaking faithfully, but if this is separated from a life aflame with the fire of God, it will leave you empty and hollow.
Whatever else may be true of our church communities, may they always first and foremost be known as places where the power of God can be encountered in the life and witness of their people. The world is desperate to know the transforming power of God – let us never settle for anything less!
Where have you relied on your skills, gifts, and strategy instead of upon the power of God?
March 13, 2019
BUILD ON MOMENTUM
“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”
Momentum makes progress, but lack of momentum loses ground. It is the impetus we need to ignite our life, work, ministry, or intimacy with the Lord. The early church experienced momentum at Pentecost. Jesus’ death on the cross discouraged the masses from moving forward, but His resurrection propelled trust in Him back into their hearts.
You may need an “Upper Room” prayer meeting to bolster your faith, seeking the Lord for wisdom on how to move forward with momentum. Your leadership may require transformation. New leaders may need to infuse life into the organization. Perhaps you replace old programs with newer exciting ones and let some initiatives mercifully die.
Be creative, for creativity flourishes in a climate of chaos. Limitations lead to innovations. Momentum makes you better because it builds your confidence and moves you toward more excellent outcomes. Athletic teams are familiar with this; whoever seizes the momentum in the game garners the advantage.
“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,” (Hebrews 6:1)
In the same way, the momentum of Jesus’ message exploded after His resurrection, following Peter’s preaching about Jesus to men and women from all nations. Keep Christ central as you advance boldly by grace. Harness trust in your Savior and Lord, and He will ignite forward motion.
Mostly, seek momentum in your walk with Christ. Is your intimacy stuck in inertia? If so, begin praying with intercessors, and ask God for the confidence to do the next right thing. Momentum builds on focus. Keep pushing the slow moving flywheel of faith, and eventually others will join you in advancing the mission. Paul said:
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
Where is God working? How can you build on His momentum?
March 12, 2019
THE SECRET TO UNDERSTANDING
2 Corinthians 1:4
“who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
It was the late 1940s and Eastern Airline's chairman, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, had a problem. Customers were complaining because the airline was mishandling luggage far too often. When nothing else seemed to work, he decided to take drastic action.
Rickenbacker called a special meeting of the management personnel in Miami. Eastern's management flew to Miami and was told their baggage would be delivered to their hotel rooms. Instead, Rickenbacker had the luggage stored overnight.
It was summer, the weather was hot and humid and the hotel had no air-conditioning. The various managers showed up to the meeting the next morning unshaven, teeth unbrushed and wearing dirty clothes.
There was no sign of the baggage all that day. But that night Rickenbacker had it delivered, at 3:00 AM, with a great pounding on all the doors.
He opened the next morning's session by saying, "Now you know how the customer feels when you mishandle his luggage." He knew his team would be ineffective until his people empathized with their customers!
The same is true with us. Until we understand another's problem, we will never be effective in business, in relationships or most importantly, in ministry. The deepest understanding occurs when we actually sense what the other person is feeling. When husbands and wives, parents and children, friends, colleagues, and associates will take time to feel what the other is feeling, something wonderful will happen.
"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher
March 11, 2019
IF YOU SAY SO
“And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.’”
In this well-known and beloved gospel story, Simon Peter is faced with a difficult decision. He finds himself pulled in two very different directions. On the one hand, he is an expert fisherman who knows these waters well, and having fished all night to no avail, knows when to call it quits. On the other hand, Jesus, who presumably has little to no fishing experience or expertise, tells him it’s time to go fishing! Though few of us still fish for a living, we in our own ways will likely face a moment in which our perceived expertise and the Lord’s leading come into conflict.
How do you respond when Jesus asks you to do something that you don’t understand? In this moment, Simon Peter could have responded in a variety of ways. “Jesus, you’re a preacher and a carpenter. In all humility, leave the fishing to the experts.” Or, after the boats begin to sink from the weight of the catch, he could have dismissed it as beginners luck or tried to explain it away. Yet instead of these quite natural responses, we see him take a step of bold and faithful discipleship.
In this moment, Simon Peter is filled with doubt and obedience. He expresses his uncertainty and hesitation with the plan, yet his allegiance to Jesus as “master” is greater than his fears, and so he is willing to follow and obey even in the midst of doubt. Can the same be said of you? Is your faith in Jesus able to endure very real moments and even seasons of doubt?
Like Simon Peter, you will face times in life when knowledge that once felt certain now feels elusive and up in the air. People you once thought that you could rely on will instead fail you and let you down. The church goes from being a place of safety and security to a place where you doubt that you could ever belong or trust again. In these moments, you and I need a trust in God and a faithful obedience that can weather even our deepest fears and doubts.
If you wait until every single doubt is resolved and question is answered, you will be waiting for a very long time! Instead of getting stuck in a spiral of doubt, Jesus wants you, right now, as you are, to join him on mission. Trust him as Master and Lord. Can you join your voice with Simon Peter and say to Jesus today, “if you say so.”
What does it look like to be obedient in a season of doubt?
March 10, 2019
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
Many believe that lemmings commit mass suicide by jumping off cliffs. In truth, driven by strong biological urges, many of them drown as they migrate across a body of water too wide for their physical capabilities to take them.
Similarly, you can be drawn to do things which destroy you. It is the call of the woman Folly luring you with “stolen water”:
“The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, ‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ And to him who lacks sense she says, ‘Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.’” (Proverbs 9:13-17)
Pastor and teacher Dr. Charles Stanley wrote: “There is a certain thrill in doing forbidden things…An adrenaline rush often accompanies this kind of ‘living on the edge’ – but it ends when you fall off the cliff.”
“Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” (Proverbs 9:5-6)
Having a humble reverence for an awesome God is the beginning of wisdom. Accept correction with a teachable heart. Be united with others in drinking from the sweet waters of God’s Word.
Presidential Prayer Team
March 9, 2019
HOW TO HEAL HURTING RELATIONSHIPS
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
There have been times in my life, as I imagine there have been in yours, when I have experienced relational discord or conflict. There were times when someone mistreated me. There have been other times when I was the one at fault. And, finally, there were still other occasions when both I and another person hurt one another.
Regardless of what happened, God always wants to bring healing to hurting relationships. Certainly, you can’t control how another person responds during a relational crisis, but you can do your part to move toward relational healing by following biblical principles.
Here are two things you can do to help heal your hurting relationships:
Surrender the right to be offended.
Oh, boy. This can be a tough one, right? When our ego gets bruised, or when the other person is offended because of something we did or that they perceive we did, it’s easy to respond with offense. But this isn’t God’s plan because offense breeds offense.
To live in obedience to Christ means you lay down the right to be offended. This doesn’t mean you don’t acknowledge you have been mistreated. It just means you keep your heart free from bitterness and you embrace humility. This attitude will help you think clearly about what is really happening in the relationship; you’ll experience greater peace, and your actions and words will reveal the condition of your heart. Both go a long way toward making peace with the other person.
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)
Humbly assess the condition of your own heart.
When offense becomes a part of any relationship, finger pointing and blaming can begin to define us. Don’t become this person. It’s unwise. A better response is to ask the Lord if there is anything in your own heart or actions that needs to change. Then make a sincere effort to repent and do what He says. Just as offense breeds offense, humility and tenderness can breed humility and tenderness. Again, there’s no guarantee that the other person will respond in a godly way when you do. (And there are times when someone is physically or emotionally unsafe. These are extreme situations.) But, one thing is certain: biting and fighting will never heal a relationship. Let relational healing begin with you by humbly assessing the condition of your own heart.
Are you experiencing relational discord? Choose God’s way of relating and see what He will do.
“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:17-18)
Take a look back at the relational strife and conflict you have had in your life. Could there have been anything you could have done to live in greater peace with the other person? If so, talk with the Lord about it, receive His forgiveness, then put the above principles into practice in the future.
March 8, 2019
“for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips.”
Several years ago, a Charisma Magazine article warned that “believers reject moral absolutes for what feels right.” They are falling prey to the relativism of the world’s system. A 2016 study by George Barna said 22 percent of adults believe in moral absolutes; and among those who claim to be born again, only 32 percent. How far God’s people have come from the time of martyr John Huss (1370-1415); he said, “Seek the truth. Listen to the truth. Teach the truth. Love the truth. Abide by the truth and defend the truth…Unto death.”
How well do you measure yourself when it comes to standing for absolute truth in this relative age? Have you let the world squeeze you into its mold? Do you fear social backlash for calling evil by its name?
Founding Father Alexander Hamilton has received attribution for saying, “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”
Be encouraged by Jesus’ high priestly prayer when He asked the Father to keep His children in the truth. Know truth by studying His Word of truth – the Bible. Pray that God would illuminate His words for you.
Presidential Prayer Team
March 7, 2019
WHEN LOVE IS TRIED
1 Corinthians 13:7
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Like many people, I enjoy the Google homepage artwork that appears on special days and holidays. Last Valentine’s Day, the artistic logo showed an older couple—a man with a cane and a white-haired woman—walking hand in hand as the woman held two heart-shaped balloons. It was a beautiful reminder that while our culture glorifies youthful romance, true love has many stages during our journey through life.
Paul’s great essay in 1 Corinthians 13 celebrates the depth and tenacity of the love that carries us beyond self-interest and mere affection:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Brian Wren captured this reality in his moving hymn, “When Love Is Found”:
“When love is tried as loved ones change,
Hold still to hope though all seems strange,
Till ease returns, and love grows wise
Through listening ears and opened eyes.”
When our commitments are tested in the fires of life, no matter what difficulties we face, may God grant us a greater experience of His enduring love and the grace to demonstrate it each day.
God’s love is a fabric that never fades, no matter how often it is washed in the water of adversity.
March 6, 2019
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.”
Every May Day (May 1) in Oxford, England, an early morning crowd gathers to welcome spring. At 6:00 a.m., the Magdalen College Choir sings from the top of Magdalen Tower. Thousands wait in anticipation for the dark night to be broken by song and the ringing of bells.
Like the revelers, I often wait. I wait for answers to prayers or guidance from the Lord. Although I don’t know the exact time my wait will end, I am learning to wait expectantly.
In Psalm 130, the psalmist writes of being in deep distress facing a situation that feels like the blackest of nights. In the midst of his troubles, he chooses to trust God and stay alert like a guard on duty charged with announcing daybreak.
“my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” (Psalm 130:6)
The anticipation of God’s faithfulness breaking through the darkness gives the psalmist hope to endure even in the midst of his suffering. Based on the promises of God found throughout Scripture, that hope allows him to keep waiting even though he has not yet seen the first rays of light.
Be encouraged if you are in the middle of a dark night. The dawn is coming—either in this life or in heaven! In the meantime, don’t give up hope but keep watching for the deliverance of the Lord. He will be faithful.
God can be trusted in the light and in the dark.
March 5, 2019
LOVE IS SLOW TO ANGER
1 Corinthians 13:4-5
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful”
Love is slow to anger and it is not easily angered. It is not in a hurry to get angry because it knows God is at work. Love knows God can handle the irregular person and the stressful situation. Most of the time, the best thing love can do is refrain from anger. A calm response diffuses an angry outburst:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
Poverty, injustice, and terrorism should work us up much more than traffic, forgetful waiters, and not getting our way.
Apply anger appropriately and proportionately to the degree of injustice experienced by the underdog. But love overlooks the silly things that really don’t matter that much in the big scheme of things. A friend or family member who is rarely on time is no reason to get angry. Instead, adjust your expectations and build a time buffer into your schedule. Why get angry when a little bit of adjustment remedies the situation? Love adjusts rather than stews in anger; it calms the nerves, while anger wreaks havoc with your blood pressure. Love-filled living is by far a healthier way to live physically and emotionally.
“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” (Proverbs 10:12)
Love is able to keep the big picture in mind. It understands that tomorrow is another day and there is no need to stress over this temporary setback. God will work things out in His timing, for He can be trusted. It is much wiser to trust God with your spouse, instead of attempting to whip him or her into shape with your anger. God’s discipline is much more thorough and precise. He puts His finger on an attitude or action and won’t let up until He is satisfied with the resulting change. Love knows how to trust God.
Pray to God before you get angry. Ask the Lord to increase your love quotient before you lash out in anger. Love understands there are better ways and a better day ahead. However, there are times love sees the need for anger. Your love needs to rise up in anger over the abuse of drugs and alcohol. These are enemies of the state and deceivers of unsuspecting souls that wreck relationships and take lives. Your love can confidently invite anger to rise up and rebuke these artificial enhancers of hope that logically lead to death. Love doesn’t stick its head in the sand of isolation and detachment, but engages by offering wise choices and compassionate counseling.
Love is all about solutions to the seduction of sin. Love is angered by sin’s control of a loved one’s soul. It drives us to our knees in our own confession of sin and to our feet to be a part of the solution. Love gets angry at times, but it is anger that is reserved for the right occasions. Even Jesus administered anger at the appropriate time:
“And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” (Mark 3:5)
“And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.” (John 2:15)
Love understands that anger—used selectively and prayerfully—it has the greatest effect. The passion around love means you are concerned and invested.
So aggressively love without flying off the handle just to make a statement. Love unconditionally instead of trying to intimidate through anger. Love for the long haul gets healthy and happy results. Love will anger at times, but only after much prayer and patience. Love more and be angry less. Above all else, be rich in love and slow to anger:
“The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Psalm 145:8)
This high road to heaven illustrates the long-suffering love of the Lord.
Who has caused you to become angry that you need to love and honor with your words and actions?
March 3-4, 2019
“'Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, "I repent," you must forgive him.' The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith!'”
Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was reminded one day of a vicious deed that someone had done to her years before. But she acted as if she had never even heard of the incident. "Don't you remember it?" her friend asked. "No," came Barton's reply, "I distinctly remember forgetting it."
General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley, "I never forgive and I never forget." To which Wesley replied, "Then, Sir, I hope you never sin."
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
March 1-2, 2019
“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”
Any mother can tell you that waiting to give birth is an experience that builds patience. It takes about 22 months for an unborn elephant to mature to birth! The shark known as the spiny dogfish has a pregnancy duration of 22-24 months. And at elevations above 4,600 feet, the Alpine salamander endures a gestational period of up to 38 months!
Abraham could have identified with these examples from nature. In his old age, the Lord made a promise to him:
“I will make of you a great nation…” (Genesis 12:2)
But as the years passed, Abraham questioned how the fulfillment of the promise was possible without even the basic building block of a son:
“But Abram said, ‘O LORD GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (Genesis 15:2)
So God assured him:
“And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: 'This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.'” (Genesis 15:4)
Despite his advanced age, Abraham believed God and was called righteous:
“And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
Yet he waited 25 years from the time of the initial promise for Isaac to be born:
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, 'I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless'” (Genesis 17:1)
“Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’” (Genesis 17:17)
Waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled is part of trusting Him. No matter how long the delay, we must wait for Him. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us:
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)
God always performs what He promises.