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!
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