May 31, 2019
STONES OF REMEMBRANCE
“tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
In the Jewish faith, when visiting a loved-one’s grave, it is customary to leave a small stone on the grave. The visitor positions the stone on the grave using his or her left hand. Placing a stone on the grave serves as a sign to others that someone has visited the grave. It also enables visitors to partake in the mitzvah tradition of commemorating the burial and the deceased. Stones are fitting symbols of remembrance of the lasting presence of the deceased’s life.
Joshua used stones to help God’s people remember His goodness. After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, the Israelites experienced the power of God to roll back the waters of the Jordan River, enabling them to cross over and take possession of the Promised Land. Joshua then commanded them to build a memorial of stones as a public testimony of what God had done for them … stones that would remind them to keep on praising Him.
In Luke Jesus said:
“… ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’” (Luke 19:40)
Why would you and I remain silent, forfeiting to stones the joy of praising God for what He has done?
When God laid the foundations of the earth, hung the stars in place, set the planets in their orbits, halted the proud waves on the shore, wrapped the sea in clouds of mist, and taught the dawn to take the earth by its edges, all of the angels shouted for joy at the magnificent display of God’s glory and power in Creation!
When have you, too, shouted for joy over the display of God’s glory wrapped up in His character in each day of every year for your entire life?
What literal objects could you place in your home or office that would serve as reminders to you of your personal experiences of God’s power?
What are some other practical ways you can remember what God has done for you in order to cultivate and maintain an attitude of gratitude?
What testimony are you leaving behind for your children and grandchildren, and how will you be sure they get it?
Take a moment now to reflect on God’s blessings, grace, and power in your life.
Write down what you remember and make two copies . . . one to keep, and one to give to someone else as a witness of what He has done for you. Then praise God for Jesus, His living, lasting Stone.
Ann Graham Lotz
May 30, 2019
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,”
Most Christian churches have a cross displayed in plain sight. It is first of all a reminder of the sacrifice of the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Consider the shape of the cross. It has been stylized in many different ways. There is a Latin cross, the one most Americans are familiar with. But there is also a Greek cross, Egyptian crosses, a Jerusalem cross, a cross of St. Andrew, a Maltese cross, the Templar cross, and even an Iron cross that was, unfortunately, denigrated by the Nazis. Regardless, there are always two major parts—a standard (vertical) and a beam (horizontal).
By the standard, you are reminded of the vertical relationship you have with God. Consider your lifted or bowed head. Through the horizontal, though, you stretch out your arms to embrace those about you.
Sometimes emotional rifts develop between you and those you should embrace. It’s one thing to deal with anger of your own toward someone. You follow the mandate of scripture to let it go and seek forgiveness. But sometimes you just don’t know why someone might be angry toward you. “He’s the one with the problem,” you might say, suggesting he should come to you. Jesus didn’t see it that way. He wants you reconciled even with those who hold something against you. And for that, you need to plead for the mind of Christ that will give you the same sacrificial joy of stretching out loving arms to that person.
When you pray today, if you remember that a person has something against you, seek reconciliation. Thus restored, your vertical relationship expands. Pray that a new spirit of reconciliation could find its way, one person at a time, into the hearts of the nation’s leaders.
Presidential Prayer Team
May 28-29, 2019
NO UNFINISHED WORKS OF GRACE
"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
I have not had the opportunity to travel much, but several years ago my dad won a trip to Italy through his business and he asked me to go along. A highlight of the trip was visiting Florence, the great city of the Renaissance.
One afternoon out of curiosity I went to a museum where the some works of Michelangelo were displayed. As we viewed the half-finished sculpture of St. Matthew the tour guide explained that this unfinished work was a prime example of Michelangelo’s philosophy of art. He believed that in a stone there was a figure or statue waiting to be released.
The work of the artist was to free the statue from the stone. The statute was so lifelike that I thought any minute St. Matthew might just step out of that huge stone. As I looked at the half-finished statute, I could see that the artist had begun to free the statue but had not been able to complete it. The tour guide went on to explain that Michelangelo had numerous works he never finished.
As I thought about God’s work in us, I realized that God has begun a work in us to conform us to the image of Christ. However, unlike Michelangelo, God does not stop working in our lives until he finishes what he intends to accomplish. According to Philippians 1:6, God will finish what He has started. Ultimately, God has no unfinished works of grace.
Dr. Ron Meeks
Blue Mountain College
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
May 27, 2019
“…So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”
Joshua, Israel’s second leader, had just begun to take the people into the Promised Land. In order to cross the Jordan River, God held back the waters so they could cross on dry land - just as He had done at the Red Sea for their ancestors 40 years prior. The Lord commanded Joshua to have a man from each of the twelve tribes get two hefty stones; one was to be used to construct a monument in the middle of the Jordan, the other for a memorial at the place they lodged that night. When their children asked for an explanation, the fathers should tell the story of God’s provision, teaching them:
“so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:24)
Every country in the world does something similar. The Korean War memorial in Washington, D.C. includes a mural wall 164 feet long, as well as nineteen stainless steel soldiers representing each branch of the Armed Forces seemingly making their way up a grassy knoll beside it. Their reflection on the mural doubles their number to 38 symbolizing the dividing line between North and South Korea – the 38th parallel. This memorial stands as one of many in the District of Columbia area.
Americans need to be reminded of the past to understand that freedom isn’t free. The statues and walls can cause you to remember that the cost is high. Men and women struggle and sacrifice…some to their death. Don’t let today go by without guiding your children in prayer for those who still pay a price to make your country safe and secure.
Presidential Prayer Team
May 26, 2019
“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”
Sometimes the Lord makes His children create margin in their life. He understands that a life without real rest can become graceless and grumpy. It may be physical illness, emotional overload, spiritual fatigue or ruptured relationships that begin to scream for attention. The flesh thinks it can continue with little or no rest, but the spirit knows better.
We may work through our fatigue and fake it for a while, but eventually we hit an un-scalable wall, without anything to give anymore. Jesus knows we are extra vulnerable during these tired times and He makes a way of retreat and rest. His gentle and loving care calls us to come apart with Him. It’s much better to heed His invitation for intimacy than to move down the road without Him. Resting in the Lord invigorates and inspires.
Does rest have to be mandated by our Master or can it be done willfully? A wise man or woman understands the need for rhythms of rest in their schedule. This is why a good night’s sleep and occasional naps are necessary. Weekends, especially Sundays, are made for rest, reflection and rejuvenation. If we are intoxicated by activity, we run the risk of living in a restless hangover. Real rest allows us to recover and unwind in His presence.
Like green pastures are pleasant and fulfilling for any animal dependent on the earth, so God’s heavenly resources feed our soul, fill our mind and hydrate our heart. Are you tired and overwhelmed? Do you feel alone and deplete of any energy to engage with others? If so, take the time to get away with God. Say no to the unnecessary and yes to the necessary. The most productive life accomplishes more by doing less. It rests in Him.
Most importantly, allow the Lord to lead you by faith into a quiet place. Sit by the soothing silence of still waters and drink in the majesty of God’s creation. You know Jesus is leading you—when you intentionally engage in solitude for the purpose of hearing His voice. Lie on His green grass and look up, so your gaze is on God. Don’t resist His required rest—instead cease and desist activity, embrace and celebrate His rest. The grandeur of God’s glory comes down to care for you.
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)
Do you voluntarily engage with eternity in quiet places? Does your life rhythm require rest?
May 25, 2019
BENEFITS OF KINDNESS
“A gracious woman gets honor, and violent men get riches. A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.”
Kindness benefits everyone. It brings joy to the giver and peace to the receiver. The recipient reciprocates because respect is embedded in kindness. Kindheartedness facilitates respect as it treats others with dignity and honor. Even when offended or ostracized, a gracious heart takes the higher ground of humility and gentleness. It may not be liked, but it is respected. Kind actions attract the Almighty’s approval.
What is kindness? At its core it is a reflection of Christ. It is what we expect of the Lord when we desire good things. Listen to the heart of this employee’s prayer for his boss to experience God’s kindness in marriage. In the same way your Savior shows you kindness in salvation and with His severe mercy.
“And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham.” (Genesis 24:12)
Because of Christ’s great kindness, you are compelled to compassionate action. Ruthless men and women use fear and intimidation to gain wealth and power, but considerate adults do not compromise their character for cash or influence. Indeed, God’s great kindness grants us the favor we need.
“But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” (Genesis 39:21)
Who doesn’t need kindness? The undeserving especially need your kindness as a reminder of God’s lasting love and infinite forgiveness. Be kind to the unkind, and they will see what really rests in your heart of hearts. Your kindheartedness will lead others to your source in Jesus Christ. Here the kindness of the Lord leads to repentance.
“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)
Who can you extend kindness toward, even though they have been unkind to you?
May 23-24, 2019
"The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day."
Just before midnight on April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg sending it to the bottom of the North Atlantic. Even today, there continues to be tremendous interest in the ill-fated vessel. With the exception of Noah's Ark, the Titanic has intrigued more people than any other vessel in history.
Experts of its day hailed this "ship of dreams" as "practically unsinkable". One seaman even went so far as to say: "God Himself couldn't sink this ship!" Thomas Andrews, one of the Titanic's designers, boasted: "The ship is as perfect as human brains can make."
That's why the morning after the sinking, most people refused to believe the "unsinkable" had actually sunk. Even the Wall Street Journal printed an optimistic report: "The gravity of the damage to the Titanic is apparent, but the important point is that she did not sink."
I read a book on the inquiry that took place immediately following the arrival of the Titanic's survivors in New York. After fully investigating the reasons for the sinking, Senator William Smith reported: "No drill or station practice or helpful discipline disturbed the tranquility of that voyage; and when the crisis came, a state of absolute unpreparedness stupefied both passengers and crew. . . . Indifference to danger was one of the direct and contributing causes this unnecessary tragedy."
Fast forward 100 years, and things haven't changed much. Our hearts push us with words like icebergs. "Never depend on anyone." "Save face at all costs!" "Stand alone." And the root of this advice?
Pride is like a cancer that permeates every part of who we are. It affects how we look at ourselves and others. It's what we feel when we've made a mistake but refuse to admit it. Pride causes us to stand our ground when we ought to ask forgiveness. Pride lashes out and spews illogical blather, because it has no real basis for battle. Pride can blind us into thinking the world owes us an apology - or that God does.
The old prophet Obadiah said it well:
“The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’” (Obadiah 3)
Speaking to those who felt they were unsinkable, Obadiah teaches us that pride blinds us to the truth. Pride only shows us the tip of the iceberg. Devastation awaits the one who refuses to steer clear of it.
Take an honest look at your relationships, particularly the strained ones. If you're honest, isn't pride lurking beneath the surface of it all? Isn't it pride that points the finger to everyone else but yourself? It's time to abandon a foundering vessel. Walk humbly with your God.
If we find ourselves on the ship of pride, we should listen to the warning of Fredrick Fleet, the Titanic's lookout: "Iceberg, right ahead!"
"The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. (Isaiah 2:17)
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
May 22, 2019
FORGIVING YOUR BROTHER
“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
A story tells of a merchant in a small town who had identical twin sons. The boys worked for their father in the department store he owned and, when he died, they took over the store. Everything went well until the day a dollar bill disappeared. One of the brothers had left the bill on the cash register and walked outside with a customer. When he returned, the money was gone. He asked his brother, "Did you see that dollar bill on the cash register?" His brother replied that he had not. But the young man kept probing and questioning. He would not let it alone. "Dollar bills just don't get up and walk away! Surely you must have seen it!" There was subtle accusation in his voice.
Tempers began to rise. Resentment set in. Before long, a deep and bitter chasm divided the young men. They refused to speak. They finally decided they could no longer work together and a dividing wall was built down the center of the store. For twenty years, hostility and bitterness grew, spreading to their families and to the community.
Then one day a man in an automobile licensed in another state stopped in front of the store. He walked in and asked the clerk, "How long have you been here?" The clerk replied that he'd been there all his life. The customer said, "I must share something with you. Twenty years ago I was 'riding the rails' and came into this town in a boxcar. I hadn't eaten for three days. I came into this store from the back door and saw a dollar bill on the cash register. I put it in my pocket and walked out. All these years, I haven't been able to forget that. I know it wasn't much money, but I had to come back and ask your forgiveness."
The stranger was amazed to see tears well up in the eyes of the middle-aged man. "Would you please go next door and tell that same story to the man in the store?" he said. Then the man was even more amazed to see two middle-aged men, who looked very much alike, embracing each other and weeping together in the front of the store.
After twenty years, the brokenness was mended. The wall of resentment that divided them came down.
It is so often the little things—like resentments—that finally divide people. And the solution, of course, is to let them go. There is really nothing particularly profound about it. But for fulfilling and lasting relationships, letting them go is a must.
Refuse to carry around bitterness and you may be surprised at how much energy you have left for building bonds with those around you.
May 21, 2019
DO YOU NEED A TUNE UP?
“Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.”
No matter how smoothly a vehicle runs when it’s first purchased, it needs regular check-ups, tune-ups and repairs thereafter. How is your spiritual life running these days? Today’s verse says to remember what you received and heard from the Lord, and put it into practice. Turn from anything that is contrary. What are those tune ups that keep your spiritual life going?
All kinds of prayer
“praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:18)
“Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (Psalm 100:2)
“My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.” (Psalm 145:21)
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Remembering who you are in Jesus
“for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Galatians 3:26)
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,” (Matthew 6: 16-17)
Fellowship with other Christians
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Bible study and meditation
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Pslam 1:1-2)
However, like automobiles, though everything may be running smoothly, it’s useless if you don’t go anywhere. Like a car’s main function is to transport, a Christian’s main function is to love God and others. Plus, like a car needs gas, you need to be filled with the Spirit. Is His fruit evident in your life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
As you take a spiritual inventory, add any disciplines you lack and delete those things that are getting in the way of your spiritual growth. How can you practically show your love to God and others? Prayer is vital in both respects. Pray for your country and the people in your life. Pray for all who don’t know Jesus to receive His salvation. Pray for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is done in Heaven. Pray to be filled with His Spirit and the grace to walk in step with Him.
Presidential Prayer Team
May 19-20, 2019
THE FULLNESS OF TIME
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
It was quite a few months before I realized that what I thought was a coincidental meeting had been good timing on my future husband’s part. From the balcony of the church, he had seen me, deduced which exit I might be using, raced down two flights of stairs, and arrived seconds before I did. As he casually held the door and struck up a conversation, I was oblivious to the fact that his “impromptu” dinner invitation had been premeditated. It was perfect timing.
Perfect timing is rare—at least where humans are concerned. But God has specific purposes and plans for us, and His timing is always perfect.
We see that timing in the life of these Bible characters: Abraham’s servant prayed for a wife for Isaac. God answered his prayer by bringing the young woman to him:
Joseph was sold as a slave, falsely accused, and thrown into prison. But eventually God used him to preserve many people’s lives during a famine:
“And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45:5-8)
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20)
And we marvel at Esther’s courage as Mordecai reminded her:
“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
Are you disappointed in the pace of God’s plans?
“Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” (Psalm 37:3)
God will open doors when the timing is perfect.
Cindy Hess Kasper
May 18, 2018
“Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?”
Every Friday night until his death in 1973, the old man would visit a broken-down pier on the Florida coast. Walking slowly and somewhat stooped, he carried a large bucket of shrimp. Sea gulls flocked to the old man who fed them from his bucket.
During World War II, that man flew on a mission in a B-17 to deliver a message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea. Somewhere over the South Pacific, he became lost, fuel ran out, and he and his men ditched in the ocean. For eight days and nights, they lived in their rafts, surrounded by sharks, and fearing starvation.
But as Captain Eddie Rickenbacker(American fighter ace in World War I and Medal of Honor recipient. Founder of Eastern Airlines) recalled it, on the eighth day while he was nearly passed out from the oppressive heat, something landed on his head, and he knew it was a sea gull. He caught the bird, and the men ate its flesh, using other parts as bait for fishing.
They spent a total of 24 days lost at sea until their rescue. His Friday walks with buckets of shrimp were a remembrance of the long-ago day where a sea gull gave itself without a struggle so that he and his men might eat and find the strength to go on.
In today’s passage, Jesus urges his disciples to remember a miraculous event. But He also wanted them to develop spiritual insight, and the faith required for understanding who Jesus is and what He does. It is easy to remember without understanding. Do you remember what He has done for you with gratitude? Do you really trust His provisions for you?
“Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?” (Matthew 16:9)
Do you really understand the penalty Christ paid on the cross for you? How do you respond?
The Presidential Prayer Team
May 17, 2019
ZEAL WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE
“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.”
The following story is one that is reported to have been told by Napoleon to spark patriotism among his men:
Once, while visiting a province he came upon an old soldier in full uniform but with one sleeve hanging empty. He proudly wore the coveted Legion of Honor. Napoleon asked, "Where did you lose your arm?"
The soldier answered, "At Austerlitz, sire." Napoleon asked, "And for that you received the Legion of Honor?"
The man said, "Yes, sire. It is but a small token to pay for the decoration." Napoleon continued, "You must be the kind of man who regrets he did not lose both arms for his country."
The one-armed man asked, "What then would have been my reward? Napoleon answered, "I would have awarded you a double Legion of Honor."
And with that, the proud old fighter drew his sword and immediately cut off his other arm.
What a great story of patriotic duty! It apparently was quite effective in stirring up in Napoleon's men a desire to sacrifice even more for the cause of France!
There's only one problem with the story. You may have already noticed the inconsistency. But apparently it was years before anyone dared to ask Napoleon the question, "How did the soldier cut off his arm with only one arm to do it with?"
Nice story. Stirring, moving, motivating.... but it wasn't true. And it's possible for the same thing to happen to us in a religious sense. We can get all "fired up" without much thought as to the truth of what we're getting excited about. Paul said of those who were motivated in such a way:
“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” (Romans 10:2)
Zeal is good. We all need more of it. But we need to make certain that our enthusiasm is firmly based on our knowledge of God's will by reading His Word. .
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
May 15-16, 2019
TRUSTING ENOUGH TO LET GO
“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”
If you're anything like me, you've come face to face with situations in life in where, out of faith, you let go of trying to control things and turn them over to God. You may even agree with me that while letting go of our concerns is hard enough, it's even harder for some of us to refrain from taking them back!
We get impatient with God. We want results from Him the same way we expect to get our French fries from a drive-through window! And, all too often, we want things to develop according to OUR plan, not His.
Perhaps that's why the above verse means so much to me in regards to this spiritual dilemma. It's loaded full of comforting answers and reassurances to the reader. From just a few little words, it reminds us that:
So the question I must ask myself is this: Am I going to go through this day without any anxiety about the future; fully trusting that God is in control of all things and knowing that He loves me more than I can imagine? Well, so far - so good. But then again, it's only 5:00 a.m.
- God YEARNS to give us the very best.
- God is COMPASSIONATE, i.e., He suffers with our pain and understands our hurts.
- God is fair and His justice for our welfare far exceeds just giving us what we want.
- And out of our patience, encompassed in trust, we obtain that PEACE which can only be gotten when we see that no matter what, God's got our back!
Thank you, Lord, for your Word that reminds me whose I am and gives me strength to combat the anxiety monster and live peaceably in your arms this day!
Glenn W. Miller
May 13-14, 2019
UNIQUELY GIFTED BY GOD
“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;”
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.
"Be yourself. Don't strive to be someone else". Sage wisdom from a preaching professor in graduate school with a prophetic voice. When we reviewed the six minute video of my impassioned talk, I resembled a cheap knock off of the pastor at my home church. Same gestures. Same voice inflections. Even the same hair cut! It took years for me to find my own voice, my own unique style of delivering a speech and to be thoroughly comfortable in my own skin. I am learning as a relational being--when I am comfortable with me--others are comfortable with me.
Our generous Heavenly Father uniquely gifts His children for His glory. It may be the gift of service, encouragement, teaching, mercy or administration. Regardless of one’s role, all gifts are necessary in the Body of Christ. One may quietly serve as a prayer intercessor behind the scenes, while another may boldly proclaim truth in front of the faithful. Yes, the Lord specially equips individuals for His good works. God’s gifting is His distinctive stamp of value on each one of us.
What do you do well? How can you discover your sweet spot of service for your Savior Jesus? One way is to develop the abilities that come naturally for you and engage in activities that energize you. The Spirit wires you in a way that brings both of you pleasure when you exercise your gift. For example, a generous giver finds great joy in giving and an evangelist is ecstatic when they share the gospel. An administrator is not content until everyone and everything is in its place.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
You may be an analytical thinker who loves crunching numbers, managing data and interpreting trends from both. Your gift of linear deduction is critical for business, finance and engineering. Perhaps you are great with people. People love your company because they sense you know, understand and care for them. Thus, your ability to network, convene and lead others is valuable for accomplishing a big vision or executing a strategic initiative. Yes, steward well God’s gift.
Seek to marry your passion with your giftedness. For instance, if you love to see someone encouraged, use your gift of writing to convey God’s love to their hungry heart. If you love children, use your ability to nurture and train as a conduit for Christ’s truth. If you love sports, use your teaching gift to lead athletes in Bible study. If you love travel, use your aptitude for business to help entrepreneurs here and abroad. Be who God has uniquely gifted you to be!
"Be yourself, everyone else is already taken." Oscar Wilde
How can you better accept who you and seek to become the best version of yourself?
May 12, 2019
“For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
My mother's memorial service this past year was the saddest day of my life. The reality of my mom's love began to settle in and stretch my soul. Her love was unique, never to be replaced fully by any human substitute. My mom was a single parent, so her love was even weightier, as she carried an expanded capacity to fill the void of a father. So I wept and mourned over my mother.
My tears were a tribute to her love, how she raised me in an honorable way. Thankfully, I did not weep alone, as teary hugs from friends and family dampened my cheeks and shoulders. Love and grief wept together to bring comfort and peace. Comforted sorrow expands my capacity to care.
Life consists of losses. The loss of a child. Opportunity loss. Financial loss. Relational loss. Physical loss. Every day we lose a day of life. But one of the most significant is the loss of someone who is dearly loved. When Momma died, a part of me died. How can a mother's love ever be replaced? The one whose body I came out of lies horizontal 6 feet in the earth, never to verbally communicate her care for me again. Momma is gone and that still makes me sad.
I wish I could call Momma. Our every other day phone call doesn't seem frequent enough now. Perhaps we should have talked daily, and I shouldn’t have been weary of her warnings about the weather and her complaints about her health. Ashamedly, I skeptically listened to what was to be her last self diagnosis of severe abdominal pain---which turned out to be a body ravaged with cancer in the stomach area. A son cannot call his mom too many times. A five minute chat with momma was the highlight of her day and a reminder of who raised me. Momma deserved my listening ear.
“Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” (Proverbs 23:22)
Yes life is busy, but what matters most before we bury our parents? Working extra hours, making more money for some uncertain day, maybe having more time at our disposal or taking a day off and hanging out with the one who brought us into this world and who prepared us to live life to the fullest.
What would I do differently... if I knew twelve months ago mom would be gone in a year?
I would walk with her a dozen more times around her garden and hear how too much or too little rain is affecting the tomatoes, since nobody romanced home grown tomatoes like Momma. I would sit on the back porch with her, sip strong dark coffee, and listen to Momma's latest schemes to keep the deer out of her vegetables. I would brush off her three legged dog Dango a few more aggravating times and send him away with disgust at his smell and deformity. I know I should have more compassion and regard for animals, Momma was working on me, because she sure loved her dogs and cats.
Momma's gone, but the memories of her influence remain alive and well, like a rugged kitchen table beautifully stained and naturally scarred by boiling pots, food spills or permanent moisture rings from water glasses, she will forever mark my life with her warts, wisdom and hard work.
“Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.” (Isaiah 26:19)
How can you honor and love your mom in a way that makes her feel special?
May 11, 2019
HUMILITY HAS AN EXPIRATION DATE
1 Peter 5:5
“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”
Humility has an expiration date. For me its effectiveness runs out many times in 24 hours, other times 24 minutes and sometimes as soon as 24 seconds! And the scary thing is once humility has expired I am vulnerable to pride's power. In my own strength I cannot fight off sin's control that incubates in my proud heart--a humble heart is my best resource to resist pride's ugly influence. Pretense, anger and fear all clamor to bear the bad fruit of pride--while honesty, healing and love is the beautiful fruit of humility. How can a heart's humility be refreshed before it expires?
Peter uses the very practical example of our daily, sometimes multiple times daily, changing of clothes. Christians are commanded by Christ to clothe ourselves with humility. We put off pride and put on humility. Off goes the ugly, soiled undergarment of a proud heart which is then replaced with the Spandex of a selfless heart toward others and a submitted heart to God. Peter is very clear, pride invites opposition from the Almighty, while humility facilities our heavenly Father's favor. Each morning, before we engage the world--we ask the Spirit, "How does my heart look"?
“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)
Here are some helpful questions for us to ask our souls to discern if humility is close to expiration:
Do I expect others to serve me or am I seeking to serve others?
Am I easily hurt or offended or am I slow to become angry and quick to forgive?
Do I listen to others with empathy and kindness or am I directive and impatient?
Do I recognize a tear in every heart and first offer comfort or solutions and a pep talk?
Do I embrace another's success or am I driven to succeed no matter the relational cost?
Do I think of myself less and more of the Lord and others?
Can I rest and not strive or do I have to be control?
Ultimately, our humble Savior Jesus is the source and strength found in humility. "In Christ" we are humble, because Jesus is humble. By faith, we humble ourselves and "yoke up" with our Lord to learn of His humble, gentle ways. Gratefully, God uses imperfect people to fulfill His perfect will. The void left by humility's expiration is quickly filled by pride, so stay refreshed!
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
What area of your life do you seek to control, and how can you trust God instead?
May 9-10, 2019
THE FULLNESS OF TIME
“For there is a time and a way for everything,…”
Pastor Audley Black’s church near the south coast of Jamaica has been in a building program since at least 2005. That was the first time I visited his church and saw that they were expanding. The last time I was there—in the spring of 2011—some of the walls were up. By that summer, they had started on the roof. When I suggested to Pastor Black that perhaps the church would be done by 2013 when I thought I might return, he said it was a possibility.
There was no hint of disappointment that this project could take 8 years or longer! No, Pastor Black and his people are excited about what God is doing, and they are patient with His timing.
We are often not that patient. We want our church to grow quickly, our young people to mature right away, and our problems to be fixed today.
Maybe we need to be reminded that some things take time—God’s time. For instance, when the Israelites first left Egypt, God sent them on the long route to the Promised Land:
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.’ But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle.” (Exodus 13:17-18)
During that time He prepared them, taught them, and challenged them. In our microwave world, we want everything done instantaneously. But sometimes that is not God’s plan. Let us seek God’s help and learn to accept His timing.
“as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:10)
May 8, 2019
2 Timothy 1:16–18
“May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me—may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.”
Until Bob Greene wrote Once Upon a Town in 2002, most people had never heard about the North Platte Canteen.
World War II troop trains, carrying soldiers on their way to war, passed through the small Nebraska town. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, word spread that the next train would have soldiers from their town on it. Five hundred people were at the train station with food, gifts, and letters. But when the train arrived, it carried soldiers from Kansas rather than Nebraska.
The people gave what they had prepared for their own young men to those soldiers they did not know. Then they decided to keep doing it. Every day the troop trains were met with food, snacks, and drinks. The stop in North Platte was only ten minutes, and the people of the town did all they could to make the young men feel loved and appreciated. The North Platte Canteen touched the lives of six million men by the time the war effort came to an end. Greene said that without exception, every soldier he interviewed to find out about what North Platte had meant to them wept as they recalled the gift they had received.
The Bible tells us almost nothing about Onesiphorus. We don’t know anything about his background, education, or profession. The one thing that we do know is that again and again, both in Ephesus and in Rome, he was a blessing to the Apostle Paul. Every day we have opportunities to bless and encourage others, refreshing their hearts, and we must not miss them.
Dr. Paul Chappell
"DITW" - Daily in the Word
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
May 7, 2019
“and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.”
Very early on the morning of the third day some of the women had gone to the tomb. They were planning to anoint the body with spices but had a glorious encounter instead! Two men dressed in white first proclaimed the glorious resurrection message:
“And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (Luke 24:5-7)
“… they remembered his words,” (Luke 24:8)
Next, the women rushed back to tell the eleven disciples what had happened. Though it is not written in Scripture, the disciples were most likely discussing recent events and considering what the future held for them without their Leader. Upon the arrival of the excited women, we would surely expect them to receive the surprising news from the women with great joy and ready belief. After all, they had heard the phrase “and on the third day be raised again” more than once. They should have been jumping up and down, shouting, singing praises and doing high-fives, waking up the neighborhood.
But Luke records their stunning reaction:
“but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (Luke 24:11)
These disciples had worked so closely with Jesus during His earthly ministry yet they did not believe, and considered the message of the women “nonsense.”
Today there are many who consider the message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ nonsense. You probably know people who do, and many today are very forthright in their disbelief, even mocking those who do believe.
C.N Hostetter wrote, “When people have problems with miracles, it is not because miracles are unbelievable. The problem is that they have an inadequate view of God.”
What is your view of God today? How does this view impact the way you live your life? Do you believe the resurrection of Jesus Christ is nonsense or historical fact?
Each one of the disciples came to believe and went on to serve the risen Lord. Today let us also believe and joyfully serve the risen Lord of the universe!
Stephen and Brooksyne Weber
May 6, 2019
DILIGENCE CREATES OPPORTUNITIES
“The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.”
My father-in-law told me as a young man and still reminds me today, “Boyd, the harder I work the luckier I become". A lot of sage wisdom from a "gentleman farmer" who at 80 is still strong as an ox and can't wait each day to serve my sweet mother-in-law who experienced a severe stroke several years ago. God rarely works through lazy work, but often blesses hard work.
How hard do you work, or do you hardly work? God said to Adam:
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;” (Genesis 3:17)
“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)
And He explained to Moses:
“Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.” (Exodus 20: 9–10)
Has our culture become accustomed to receiving good things without great effort? Who is entitled to influence without being industrious? Perhaps there is a dearth of diligence that has depressed people and economies. Laziness leads to the control of others, while honest labor is given opportunities and advancement. Do not despair in your diligence for you are set up for success. Mind your business meticulously, and you will enjoy the business.
“The man Jeroboam was very able, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious he gave him charge over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph.” (1 Kings 11:28)
Intense industry can lead to preferment. Your faithfulness to your work is not going unnoticed. Your diligence is a distinctive that separates you from the average or lazy laborer. Security comes with this level of service. Promotion follows performance that produces the right results the right way. Be an industrious example others seek to emulate.
The Lord blesses hands that are hard at work. He smiles when He sees your service exceeds expectations. You go the extra mile to make sure others are cared for as you would like to be treated. God knows, because of your thoroughness on the job and your integrity in its execution, you can be trusted with more.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
Are you diligently working unto the Lord or just earning a paycheck?
May 5, 2019
A CLEAR IDENTITY
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
It is easy to think of the early church as a sort of gold standard. We assume that these communities that were closest to the earthly life, death, and resurrection of Jesus would have been exemplary models of faithfulness and holiness. Yet I continue to be amazed as I read Paul’s pastoral letters to these churches, especially the Christians in Corinth. They were filled with broken people whose desires and passions pulled them in countless different directions, making it hard for them to know if they were on the path to true discipleship. In short, they looked a lot like us!
Clarity on where you are headed is linked to clarity on your new identity in Christ. St. Paul quickly rattles off ways of life that are not in alignment with the kingdom of God, even noting how some members of the early church were guilty of these sins. Yet his argument isn’t weighted towards these offenses, significant as they are, but quickly moves from them into the greater and more abundant life that they came to know as baptized, spirit-filled believers.
Many of us have parts of our life story that we’d love to forget. Moments of incredible shame and pain, either inflicted upon us or that we inflicted upon others. Often these wounds cause us to walk through life with a limp, coloring and shaping us in countless ways. St. Paul is mindful of this temptation and so boldly reminds them, and us, of the transformative power of the gospel.
“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32)
You must never underestimate God’s ability to write a redemptive chapter to your story. The mission of Jesus is to find all that is broken and wounded in the world and speak peace and healing, and that includes you. “Justified” and “sanctified” become your primary source of identity, greater than your fears and past failures. Rest today in the fact that God tells good, long stories!
Where are you prone to give in to fear and lies about your identity in Christ?
May 3-4, 2019
LAST OF ALL AND LEAST OF ALL
1 Corinthians 15:6-9
“Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”
Paul is here referring to the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. The expression "last of all" in reference to Paul could have more than one meaning. In verse 7:
“Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” (1 Corinthians 15:7)
Paul had just mentioned how the risen Jesus appeared to the apostles, then at the start of verse 8 Paul commences with the expression "and last of all..."
“Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. ” (1 Corinthians 15:8)
Now since he had just mentioned the Apostles, Paul could well have meant that he (Paul) was the last of the Apostles to be called and chosen back in the First Century. Of this, major Bible commentator Adam Clarke wrote:
“It seems that it was essential to the character of a primitive apostle that he had seen and conversed with Christ; and it is evident, from the history of Saul’s conversion:
“And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?' And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.” (Acts 9:4-7)
Jesus Christ did appear to him; [though in a vision, and in a very dramatic encounter], and he pleaded this ever after as a proof of his call to the apostleship. (Adam Clarke Bible Commentary).
But Paul also considered himself to be the least of the apostles:
“For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9)
Because he had persecuted the church, perhaps he makes the "last of all" description of himself from this view, that is, from a view of humility. Finally, Paul might simply have been referring to the time order in which Jesus appeared to people post-resurrection.
I think there could be elements of all three of these points in the words of Paul, but perhaps the second point (Paul was the least of the Apostles because he had once persecuted the church), being the strongest. Paul referred to himself as one "abnormally born"—pointing out that his calling was very different to the other Apostles, since he never met nor conversed with the pre-resurrection Jesus Christ. The real meaning of the Greek here is something like, “an abortive.”
Of this, Bible commentator John Gill wrote,
“Several learned interpreters think the apostle refers to a proverbial way of speaking among the common people at Rome, who used to call such supernumerary senators in the times of Augustus Caesar, who got into the senate house by favour or bribery, ‘abortives,’ they being generally very unworthy persons; and therefore [he] calls himself by this name, as being in his own opinion a supernumerary apostle, and very unworthy of that office. Others rather think that he refers to a "posthumous" birth, to one that is born after the death of his father; because that the rest of the apostles were all chosen, and called, and sent forth, whilst Christ, their everlasting Father, was living on earth, but he not till after his death, resurrection from the dead, and ascension to heaven: but it seems best to understand him of an abortion, a miscarriage, or birth before its time; and may respect either the manner of his conversion, which was done both suddenly, immediately, and at once, by a sudden light from heaven, when he little thought of it, and had no expectation of it. (John Gill Bible Commentary).
We should perhaps define the word "supernumerary" which Gill uses here since its use has now virtually disappeared from the English language. “Supernumerary” is something of a put-down. It can mean an actor employed who does not actually have to speak, a person not on the regular staff but employed for extra work, maybe something which goes beyond what is necessary, or something of little merit or substance.
I have to say that the John Gill explanation seems to be a pretty sound explanation of the expression which Paul uses; it is a remark of humility, something typical of Paul; Paul sometimes wondered if he wasn't indeed the “least of the Apostles”, though today many of us would consider him, perhaps, the major Apostle because of his additional responsibility in taking the Gospel to the Gentile world.
Robin A. Brace
May 2, 2019
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
I compare the troubles which we have to undergo in a year to a great bundle of sticks, far too large for us to lift. But God does not require us to carry the whole at once. He mercifully unties the bundle, and gives us first one stick, which we carry today, and then another, which we are to carry tomorrow, and so on. This we might easily manage, but we choose to increase our troubles by carrying yesterday's stick all over again today, and adding tomorrow's burden to our load, before we are required to bear it.
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
May 1, 2019
“Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD,”
God’s favor is the fruit of friends who find wisdom. They seek wisdom by first watching at the doors of heaven and waiting patiently at the feet of their Savior Jesus. It is humbling to think each day Almighty God is available to commission our cause for Christ. The wisdom of Jesus is what we pursue, because His is pure and profound.
Like Abel, the Almighty looks for the best offering for blessing. Therefore, honor God by offering Him the first fruits of your day. Just as He deserves “first dibs” on your money, so He expects the beginning of your day. Get up and go to God first. There you discover a wealth of wisdom, and under the shadow of your Savior Jesus Christ you receive His favor.
Happiness happens to those who wait for wisdom. His blessing cannot be rushed, so rest in Him. The favor of God is absolutely worth the wait; like the arrival of a newborn, the joy is unspeakable. How many times have we rushed ahead outside the canopy of Christ’s blessing? The Israelites learned to stay under the cloud of God and be lead by faith.
Indeed, there is no spiritual oxygen to sustain those in an “out of favor” environment. It is lifeless and lonely. However, for those on whom their Heavenly Father’s favor rests, there is rest. His blessing provides strength for the journey, and perseverance to stay on the trail of trust. Jesus experienced the favor of His Heavenly Father when He submitted to public baptism (His confession of faith) and His commitment to public service (His commission to ministry).
On what issue of obedience do you need wisdom, so to continually experience the favor of your Heavenly Father? Your life is alive and vibrant, because the Lord favors you. You are a favorite of your Heavenly Father, because you are learning to wait on Him and to humbly walk with the wise.
The Bible says:
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)