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.