October 30-31, 2019
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,”
The familiar bing of an arriving email caught my attention while I wrote at my computer. Usually I try to resist the temptation to check every email but the subject line was too enticing: “You are a blessing.
Eagerly, I opened it to discover a faraway friend telling me she was praying for my family. Each week, she displays one Christmas card photo in her kitchen table “Blessing Bowl” and prays for that family. She wrote:
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,” (Philippians 1:3)
She then highlighted our efforts to share God’s love with others—our “partnership” in the gospel.
Through my friend’s intentional gesture, the apostle Paul’s words to the Philippians came trickling into my inbox, creating the same joy in my heart I suspect readers received from his first-century thank-you note.
It seems Paul made it a habit to speak his gratitude to those who worked alongside him. A similar phrase opens many of his letters:
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” (Romans 1:8)
In the first century, Paul blessed his co-laborers with a thank-you note of prayerfulness. In the twenty-first century, my friend used a Blessing Bowl to bring joy into my day. How might we thank those who serve in the mission of God with us?
Whom can you thank and bless today?
October 29, 2019
TRUST IN THE LORD
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
Have you ever felt that God has let you down, that He has been unfaithful in some way because He didn’t give you what you asked for, or what seemed good and right? Has an unanswered prayer caused you to doubt His faithfulness? If so, perhaps you have felt that you can’t be honest with him about how you feel. Maybe you’ve got the idea that if you admit how you really feel that God will be displeased.
Indeed, being honest with God about the ugly things in our hearts doesn’t always come easily. Many believe that it’s not okay to say we’re angry with God or that we feel He’s lied to us, let us down, or betrayed us. Right? We’ve been led to believe that messy emotions are not okay and that being honest about our doubts is spiritual taboo—that “Hallelujah!” and “God is good!” should be constantly on our lips.
There’s a better way.
When we’re brokenhearted due to loss or disappointment, God wants us to be honest with Him. Why? Because being truthful creates an open door for Him to walk through to heal us. That’s the way grief works. When we let it out, He comes in to apply His healing truth to the places that hurt.
One day it hit me afresh that the Psalmist did this very thing. Then I unexpectedly got the idea to do something I used to do when I was in the second grade—color in my Bible. I picked two of my favorite hues: pink and green. Every phrase in which the Psalmist expressed feelings, I highlighted pink. In the places he proclaimed God’s truth, I colored the words green. The result was an interesting pattern: Pink, green. Pink, green. Pink, green. Feelings, truth. Feelings, truth. Feelings, truth.
This reminded me that God shows that His plan for my life involves the blending of my emotions with His truth. One without the other never brings emotional healing or keeps me from believing the lie that God has betrayed me.
What if a woman lives only according to her feelings? There will be no healing for her broken heart, because emotions alone are often untrustworthy and can be based on lies. But what if she acknowledges God’s truth only and stifles her emotions because “It’s the Christian thing to do?” Healing remains elusive, because she’s living a life of denial about what’s really going on in her heart.
God wants to merge what we know in our heads about His Word with what we feel in our hearts, even if it means admitting some ugly things such as we’re angry with God, believe that He’s lied to us and let us down—or that He’s betrayed us. It’s only when we’re honest that He can change our song of betrayal to a song of joy.
Faith requires that we live not just from our heads but also from our hearts. Only then can faith be transforming. This means that we allow God to touch the messy places of our internal lives; we engage our emotions and cooperate with God to blend them with His truth.
“And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)
If you are angry with God about an unanswered prayer or a disappointment, talk with him about it today.
October 28, 2019
GOD CARES FOR YOU
1 Peter 5:6-7
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
God cares about you. He cares about your job; He cares about your fears; He cares about your spouse; He cares about your children; He cares about your parents; He cares about your worries; He cares about your finances; He cares about your car and your house; He also cares about your character, and He cares about you caring about Him and caring for others. He is a caring God.
You cannot out-care God. His capacity to care is infinite and his competence to care is matchless. You can care because He cares. There is no care of yours that God does not care about. If it is important to you, then God cares about it. Yes, you will experience misdirected cares, but God’s desire is to come alongside you and realign your cares with what He cares about the most. He cares enough to bear your anxieties and to replace them with His peace and assurance.
When you give God your worries, you in turn receive His calming presence. God’s system of care is countercultural. God transforms your cares into what He cares about; so cast your cares on Christ. Equally spiritual people may cast their cares on God in polar opposite ways. One may find release in a quiet written prayer, while another may feel cared for by God through raucous worship. Let another’s processing of anxiety be a guide, not a guilty comparison.
You know God cares immensely. So how do you cast your cares on Him? By faith, you let Him care. He cares and can be trusted. Therefore, allow Him to do what He does best. You allow Him to care for you. This takes humility on your part. You are acknowledging a desperate need for God. Your declaration of dependence is two-fold. You admit you are anxious, and can’t handle your worry alone.
Secondly, you submit to the fact that only God can handle this level of concern. Hence, your submission to God allows His care to consume your anxieties. Your care-giving to God is recurring. Over time, He helps bring your feeble faith and misguided mind into focus on Him. What started out as a burden, He transforms into a blessing. Your pain becomes productive.
You become free to care for others, because He has freely cared for you. Your perspective takes on a heavenly flavor. Do not wait until matters get worse before you offload on the Lord. Go to God first, because He cares the most. Let bad news travel fast, because He already knows. An all-caring God cultivates a carefree attitude. The more you allow Him to care about your worries, the less you have to care. Then you can focus your care on people and eternal issues.
Let God be consumed with your cares so you are not. Then you can lead others to your all-caring Christ. Care for them as Jesus does. Your care will lead to His care. This is the beauty of the circle of care. You do it right, and they will want your God. You care for others, and they will want the God that cares for you. Keep your caring Christ-centered. You care because He cares. You can care because you have let Him care for you. Keep the circle of care rotating.
Do not grow weary of caring; He doesn’t. He cares for you. Therefore, give Him your cares and experience His care. Christ is your number one caregiver.
Jesus said it well:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)
What worry do you need to leave with the Lord, so you have emotional energy to care for another?
October 27, 2019
THE FROG HAT
“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.”
Last fall my 9-year-old son, Austin, had his tonsils removed. Before the surgery, Austin's anesthesiologist came to start an IV. He was wearing a cool surgical cap covered in colorful frogs. Austin loved that "frog hat."
The doctor explained that he had two choices. He could either try to start the IV, or he could wait until Austin was up in the operating room. In the OR, the doctor would give Austin some "goofy" gas, and start the IV when he was more relaxed. "So, Austin," he asked, "which do you want?"
Austin replied, "I'll take the gas." But when the doctor started to leave, Austin called, "Hey, wait." The doctor turned. "Yeah, buddy, what do you need?"
Austin asked, "Do you go to church?" "No," the doctor admitted. "I know I probably should, but I don't." Austin then asked, "Well, are you saved?"
Chuckling nervously, the doctor said, "Nope. But after talking to you, maybe it's something I should consider."
Pleased with his response, Austin answered, "Well, you should, 'cause Jesus is great!"
"I'm sure He is, little guy," the doctor said, and quickly made his exit. After that a nurse took me to the waiting room. Someone would come and get me when Austin's surgery was done.
After about 45 minutes, the anesthesiologist came into the waiting room. He told me the surgery went well and then said, "Mrs. Blessitt, I don't usually come down and talk to the parents after a surgery, but I just had to tell you what your son did."
Oh boy, I thought. What did that little rascal do now? The doctor explained that he'd just put the mask on Austin when my son signaled that he needed to say something. When the doctor removed the mask, Austin blurted, "Wait a minute, we have to pray!"
The doctor told him to go ahead, and Austin prayed, "Dear Lord, please let all the doctors and nurses have a good day. And Jesus, please let the doctor with the frog hat get saved and start going to church. Amen."
The doctor admitted this touched him. "I was so sure he would pray that his surgery went well," he explained. "He didn't even mention his surgery. He prayed for me! Mrs. Blessitt, I had to come down and let you know what a great little guy you have."
A few minutes later a nurse came to take me to post-op. She had a big smile on her face as we walked to the elevator. "Mrs. Blessitt, I couldn't wait to tell you something exciting that your son did."
With a smile, I told her that the doctor already mentioned Austin 's prayer. "But there's something you don't know," she said. "Some of the other nurses and I have been witnessing to and praying for that doctor for a long time. After your son's surgery, he tracked a few of us down to tell us about Austin's prayer. He said, 'Well girls, you got me. If that little boy could pray for me when he was about to have surgery, then I think maybe I need his Jesus too."
She then recounted how they joined the doctor as he prayed to receive Christ right there in the hospital. Wow! Austin had played a small part in something wonderful. But then, so did the nurses who prayed and witnessed.
I thought about John's words in his Gospel:
“For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.'” (John 4:37)
Austin's experience taught me that, although we never know which role we may be called to play, in the end it doesn't matter. What's important is that we remain faithful in sharing the gospel.
“… a little child will lead them." (Isaiah:11:6)
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
October 26, 2019
ARE YOU LISTENING?
“And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
You and I have been gifted with incredible witnesses to our Christian faith. Not only do we have the story of God’s people in the Old and New Testaments, we have the witness of saints over thousands of years who have faithfully embodied the self-giving love of Jesus in ways that are meant to inspire and encourage us to do the same. And yet, in each and every age, people must decide if they have ears to hear the words of Jesus spoken to them.
Can you hear the voice of the Master calling you? Is your heart receptive to the message of his gospel? If we take the time for honest self-reflection, we realize that it is so easy for us to be hardened to the truth. We can sear our souls by inattentiveness to the work of the Spirit and deep seated selfishness that turns us away from the ones we love and from the love of the Lord.
In the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, this is the rich man’s ultimate undoing- he is hardened to the point that he fails to discern where God can be heard and found. If he were to search for God, he would be convinced that God is to be found in power, success, affluence, and riches. Yet that journey will only leave us empty and more lost than when we started!
We must seek out Jesus in the places he has promised to meet us. Jesus is a friend of sinners, rest for the weary, and near to the downhearted and outcast. As such, we must go and find him in the faces of the poor and neglected, and most difficultly, to see in them our own story and our own desperation. Though we spend much of our lives trying to insulate ourselves from our frailty and convince ourselves we are fine in and of ourselves, the Lord in his kindness invites us daily to embrace our weakness and hear his word afresh to us: “Your sins are many, but my mercy is more.”
Where is your life overly focused on your own wants, needs, and desires? How is this focus keeping you from hearing the voice of the Lord to you afresh?
October 25, 2019
GOD IS LOVE
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;”
Bill Bright, the co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (now called CRU), was so motivated by Christ's command to carry the gospel throughout the world, that in the 1950s he wrote an evangelistic booklet, "The Four Spiritual Laws." When Bright originally wrote it, the first law was, “Man is sinful and separated from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God's love and plan for his life.” Then the second law read, “God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.” But the night before publishing, the Holy Spirit awakened Bright and impressed him to reverse the sequence. Then he realized that the Lord wanted to emphasize that His love for people is His only motivation.
Love is the supreme expression of God’s personhood and flows out of His goodness. The Bible doesn’t say that “God is holiness” or “God is power.” But it does state “God is love”:
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
His heart overflows with His supernatural, unconditional and never-ending love for His children.
“For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5)
Your Heavenly Father’s love is the only reason you exist. It is why you were born. Love demands an object and you are created as the object of God’s love. As you spend time in prayer this week, remember how much He loves you. Know that you are always on His mind and in His heart. Pray also that Christians across America will experience a fresh revelation of Christ’s love toward them.
Presidential Prayer Team
October 24, 2019
GOD OWNS THE NIGHT
1 John 4:4
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
You may be in a night season right now, but your God owns the night! In fact, that's usually when you can see Him best. Like the moon. As long as it's light, you can only see a pale moon, at best. But when it's dark, that's when you can see the brightness of the moon. When it's spiritually dark, that's when you can clearly see your Master. Just like the military who get a lot done in the night because they have night vision goggles, your Lord gets a lot done in the nighttimes of our life; often some of His greatest missions.
No matter how dark it is around you right now, your God is able to lead your steps, protect you from all harm, show you where to walk, and enable you to complete your mission, unhindered, undiminished, uncompromised, and undefeated no matter what's out there in the dark. Because, as John tells us:
“…for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4)
So, don't make the mistake of just trusting what you can see, or trusting what you can feel. You need to know that your Heavenly Father is walking on ahead of you every step of that night you are in. So, keep on walking and keep on trusting. Your Father owns the night!
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
October 23, 2019
WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?
“He [the lawyer] answered [Jesus’ question about how to inherit eternal life], ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
When Fred Rogers died February 27, 2003, scores of newspapers carried the story as front-page news, and almost every headline included the word “neighbor.“
As host of the long-running children’s television show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, he was well known to millions of children and their parents as a kind, gentle, warm person who genuinely believed “each person is special, deep inside, just the way they are.”
Mr. Rogers once told a journalist: “When we look at our neighbor with appreciative eyes, . . . with gratitude for who that person truly is, then I feel we are arm in arm with Christ Jesus, the advocate of eternal good.” Because Rogers recognized the value of each person, he believed in being a good neighbor to all.
When Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” He told the parable of the Good Samaritan:
“… A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”” (Luke 10:30-35)
At the conclusion of this story, the Lord asked:
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” (Luke 10:36-37)
Jesus calls us to show love and compassion to others as we love God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves. Who in your “neighborhood” needs a kind word, an arm of friendship, or an act of encouragement today?
David C. McCasland
October 19-22, 2019
CASTLES IN THE SAND
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Before the sun was up too high and it would be hotter than blue blazes, my granddaughter and I ventured down to the beach.
Right away we noticed a beautiful sandcastle! It had survived the night somehow. Even though it was intricate and had obviously taken some time to do, the rising morning tide would surely wash it away.
We can build our lives on many things. Possessions, money, business, identity. They will all one day be gone, washed away. We didn't bring anything into this world, and we can't take anything out of it except our relationship with the Lord. That is forever:
“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” (1 Timothy 6:7)
I thought about an Sunday school action song the kids used to sing based on Luke 6:47-49:
The wise man built his house upon the rock....
and the rain came tumbling down.
The rain came down and the floods came up....
and the wise man's house stood firm.
But, the foolish man built his house upon the sand...,
and the rain came tumbling down.
The rain came down and the floods came up,...
and the foolish man's house went SPLAT!!
So, build your life on the Lord Jesus Christ....
and the blessings will come down.
The blessings come down and the prayers go up....
so, build your life on the Lord!
As beautiful as the sandcastles of our lives may be, they are still just that: sandcastles. How awesome we can build our lives on the love and faithfulness of the Lord and the principles of His Word.
That is good news.
Sally I. Kennedy
Contributed by Peggy Lasher Bentley
October 18, 2019
“but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”
Think about the best friends you’ve had over time. Can you see a common thread? Are they all beautiful people, wealthy and successful? Probably not! The most common theme in real friendship is heart. True friends are the people who are interested in who you really are, warts and all! With them, you can be yourself, share your feelings, and still feel their acceptance and love.
At times, it’s hard to understand that God has a personality. Yet, He has all the attributes of feeling and emotion you do! And much of the Bible is about His feelings. For example, the Old Testament describes God’s disappointment when his people reject and mistrust Him. James says:
“and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God.” (James 2:23)
You too will only know God fully in a real relationship. One reason He put on flesh and became a man, Jesus, is so you can know Him. Take a moment right now and consider the quality of your connection. Do you enjoy spending time talking with Him and discovering new aspects of His personality?
Seek to know God through Jesus Christ, the Man, and you will find Him. And don’t be shy about revealing who you are! As you trust Him, you will see His friendship extends to the very depths of your heart. Pray for others, including leaders in America’s highest offices to join you in pursuing the greatest Friend one will ever know, Jesus.
Presidential Prayer Team
October 17, 2019
“But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.”
In her book Kindness: Reaching Out to Others, Phyllis J. Le Peau relates this story: “Some seminary students were asked to preach on the story of the Good Samaritan. When the hour arrived for their sermon, each one was delayed en route to class. As the students raced across campus, they encountered a person in need. Ironically, not one of the students stopped to help.” Le Peau commented, “After all, they had an important sermon to preach.”
Followers of Christ can preach powerful sermons to the world when they reflect God’s kindness by showing Samaritan kindness to others, and not just talking about it.
What about us? Every time we meet someone in need, we live the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Do we take the time and trouble to get involved? Perhaps we can assist a neighbor who is in material need, or lend a sympathetic ear to a troubled person. Maybe we can share the gospel with someone the Lord brings into our lives today.
Or will we be like the religious leaders who quickly passed by on the other side and offered no help?
Let us honor our Lord by responding to the needs of others as He would.
Kindness is never out of season.
David C. Egner
October 16, 2019
“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,”
When I first graduated from college, I found myself needing to adopt a strict grocery budget—twenty-five dollars a week, to be exact. One day, while entering the checkout line, I suspected the groceries I had selected cost slightly more than my remaining money. “Just stop when we reach twenty dollars,” I told the cashier, and I was able to purchase everything I had selected except a bag of peppers.
As I was about to drive home, a man stopped by my car. “Here are your peppers, ma’am,” he said, handing the bag to me. Before I had time to thank him, he was already walking away. Remembering the simple goodness of this act of kindness still warms my heart and brings to mind Jesus’s words in Matthew. Criticizing those who made a show of giving to the needy Jesus taught His disciples a different way:
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matthew 6:2)
Instead of making giving all about them and their generosity, He urged that giving should be done so secretly that it is as if their left hand isn’t even aware their right is giving! As one person’s anonymous kindness reminded me, giving should never be about us. We give only because of what our generous God has so lavishly given us:
“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ’He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ [Psalm 112:9] He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:6–11)
As we give quietly and generously, we reflect who He is—and God receives the thanksgiving only He deserves.
October 15, 2019
DESTROYING OUR ENEMIES
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
During the US Civil War, hatred became entrenched between the North and South. In one instance, President Abraham Lincoln was criticized for speaking of benevolent treatment for the Southern rebels. The critic reminded Lincoln that there was a war going on, the Confederates were the enemy, and they should be destroyed.
But Lincoln wisely responded, “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.”
Lincoln’s comment is insightful. In many ways it reflects Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount:
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45)
We will encounter difficult people in our lives—some on whom we will need to set limits. But to give in to the temptation to undermine or hurt them in any way is not God’s way. Instead, we should pray for them, show consideration, look out for their best interests, and emphasize the positive.
This may result in changing an enemy into a friend. Not everyone will respond positively to us, but we can pray and plan for a more harmonious relationship. What difficult person can you start befriending?
It is hard to hate someone when you are praying for that person.
October 14, 2019
LOVE PURSUES YOU
"So he told them this parable: 'What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, "Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost." Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.'"
Love pursues you. The love of the Lord is relentless in its resolve to bring you into right relationship with Him. Heaven's love is in pursuit of you to get you to heaven and continues to pursue you to enjoy communion with Christ on earth and community with His followers. The love of God is not just a one time event to forgive you of your sins, it is an ongoing process of intimacy with the Almighty. Like a husband and wife who grow daily in knowing how to love and be loved by each other, so God is your groom in hot pursuit of your heart. He loves you! Never forget: love is in pursuit of you. Be loved. Listen to love. Be known, know love's voice.
Jesus explained His radical love to hypocritical religious leaders. They were blind to true intimacy with their eternal God, because these teachers of the law were motivated by money and prestige. Jesus described them as hired hands who only posed as shepherds, who sought admiration from their position and paycheck to inflate their importance. Instead of serving the poor, they exploited the poor and were no where to be found when others suffered injustice.
Consider those leaders in contrast to the Good Shepherd who looks after the good of the people. Leaving the security of the 99 sheep, he embarks on the look out for his one lost sheep. Lost in a confused state, lost to the security of the flock and lost to being able to hear the voice of love. Ah, the voice of love---tender, distinct and close by. Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling lost sinners to come home...he who is weary come home. Healthy sheep hear their Savior's voice and know they are known by Him. Green pastures and still waters restore a lost, languishing soul with life giving love.
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (Psalm 23:1-3)
Or perhaps, there is one that Love is calling you to love. She has strayed away, afraid and alone. Unsure. Unknown. Undone. Prayerfully, full of the Spirit, pursue her. Leave your comfort zone for the sake of one---as perfect love will open doors of favor and acceptance. The Father's relentless love flowing through you is irresistible to the lost one. Love builds up and lifts up. When she comes to Christ, join heaven in rejoicing over another one captivated by pursing love.
"My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:19)
Have you surrendered your soul to God's love? A love so pure, that once it does its work, you are cleansed, full of faith and hope. Do you know the voice of the One whose spoken word creates life in abundance? Listen, for love speaks to you. You are His beloved, precious in His flock of followers. Love pursues you because you are worth being pursued. Embrace your radical Lover!
Who do you need to pursue with your patient love and kindness?
October 12-13, 2019
“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
Sometimes our spouses experience hurt. It may be for a moment, for months, or in some chronic situations they may hurt for years. Hurt can come from a variety of sources. Busy parents who lacked love can lead to childhood hurt, disappointments deposit hurt, lack of control contributes to hurt, shattered dreams hurt, and health issues exacerbate hurt. Hurt may linger on the surface of your spouse’s heart, or it may have inflicted deep wounds into the soul—a soul that desperately needs God’s healing hand. Sadly, the scars of hurt can disfigure his or her countenance. So be aware because your insensitivity can compound the hurt, or your sensitivity can cure the hurt. Hurt hurts.
When your spouse hurts, you hurt. You may hurt because of the empathy you feel for her pain, or you may hurt because of the pain he has knowingly or unknowingly imposed on you. Hurt cannot be ignored as it will expose itself mildly in public and wildly in private. Hurt will not go away unless there is healing. Your tender touch brings healing. Your extra patience eases the pain. Your kind words are an ointment that soothes anxiety. Your gracious attitude is a legion of love ready to recapture your spouse’s heart. Don’t give up reaching out to your hurting husband or wife. Yes, it’s inconvenient, and your goals may be on hold for now. You are in survival mode.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
If you are the one who is hurting, go to your heavenly Father for healing. Let Him love you through this. Lay down your burden before it crushes your spirit. You cannot bear this burden by yourself or fix this alone. Your loving Lord wants to lead you into forgiveness and freedom. Release your regrets and disappointments to Him, and let go of your need for control. Demands for control are the fruit of fear. Remember that Jesus can be trusted during this time of turmoil.
Don’t buy into a false feeling of freedom that comes from pushing back. Instead, open up and let the Lord and your lover into your heart. Healing is the outcome of applying the outrageous love and forgiveness of God. Indeed, you may be in a mid-life reflection. You are tempted to walk away from your family, friends, and faith, but it is a long and lonely walk that only enflames the pain.
Take your Savior’s advice, and experience His healing for you and your spouse. Jesus said to go to Him for rest in your weariness, and for wholeness for your heart.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
How can you become a safe environment for your spouse to share their shame, pain and sin?
October 11, 2019
BELLY BUTTON THEOLOGY
1 Chronicles 29:14
“But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.”
A pastor friend of mine frequently uses a teaching illustration that he calls “belly button theology.” Odd as it may sound, there are two profound truths that you can learn by turning your eyes downward towards your midsection: you are not self-originating and you are not self-sustaining. And while these may seem to be obvious points, we so often try to convince ourselves otherwise!
On the one hand, you are not self-originating. You did not simply will yourself into being. You are not a self-made man or woman. When you enter the world you step into a long and beautiful story that precedes you and will outlive you, and this is true on multiple levels. Your family of origin has a story: beloved places to vacation, cities and towns that carry incredible significance, a love for music that extends through multiple generations, as well as unhealthy relational habits and patterns of brokenness and abuse that need to be identified and broken so you can be free. Similarly, your national identity is a great story of triumph and heroism, as well as systemic injustice and inequality.
As a Christian, you enter into the story God is telling over all of creation, with Jesus at the center and you and I learning of his faithfulness in the past, in our present realities, and pointing others to the hope that is to come. In every area, our job is to learn to identify the stories of which we are a part, receive the best parts of them, heal wounds as best we can, and pass these stories on to those that come after us.
Similarly, not only are you not self-originating, your ongoing role in the story of life is entirely sustained and supported by others. We learn this as infants supported in our mother’s wombs, yet we are forgetful people and quickly think this is something we must “grow out of,” and the sooner the better. Yet how often do the scriptures seek to remind us of our dependency, that our days are fleeting:
“O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” (Psalm 39:4)
That it is the Lord who sees us and cares for us:
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:26-30)
That it is in him that we “live and move and have our being”:
“for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” (Acts 17:28)
To acknowledge your limitations is not a sign of failure or weakness but is the beginning of wisdom! As Proverbs reminds us:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10)
To fear the LORD is to see him as he truly is, and to see ourselves as we truly are meant to be seen. We are dependent creatures who cannot save ourselves and are in need of his grace to daily sustain us and make us whole.
If you find yourself wearied and beaten down by the expectation to constantly do more, be more, produce more, achieve more, breath deeply today and be reminded of these central truths: you are always safe because you are a part of God’s great story of salvation, and he will forever sustain and keep you as you make your way on your journey.
Where have you lost sight of the fact that you are neither self-originating nor self-sustaining?
October 10, 2019
1 Thessalonians 5:11
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
In the workplace, words of encouragement matter. Studies show that members of the most effective work groups give one another six times more affirmation than disapproval, disagreement, or sarcasm. Least productive teams tend to use almost three negative comments for every helpful word.
Paul learned by experience about the value of words in shaping relationships and outcomes. Before meeting Christ on the road to Damascus, his words and actions terrorized followers of Jesus. But by the time he wrote his letter to the Thessalonians, he had become a great encourager because of God’s work in his heart. Now by his own example he urged his readers to cheer one another on. While being careful to avoid flattery, he showed how to affirm others and reflect the Spirit of Christ.
In the process, Paul reminded his readers where encouragement comes from. He saw that entrusting ourselves to God, who loved us enough to die for us, gives us reason to comfort, forgive, inspire, and lovingly challenge one another:
“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9–11)
Paul shows us that encouraging one another is a way of helping one another get a taste of the patience and goodness of God. What could be better than working to bring out the best in one another?
October 9, 2019
NOTHING TO FEAR
1 Corinthians 16:10-11
“When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.”
In recent weeks the global stock market has had its ups and downs. It is fascinating to me to observe, in others and in my own heart, how our levels of trust and anxiety seem to rise or fall based on these market trends. When phrases like “historic highs” are thrown around, we ease into a false sense of security and trust in a future defined by comfort and ease. Yet how quickly does this security evaporate when we hear threats of recession and market collapse, only to be replaced by an unshakable sense of fear and dread.
While this sort of global anxiety is real and ever-present, there are other, more subtle fears that each one of us faces on a daily basis. We worry about the health of a loved one, about the decisions our children make, or whether we will be accepted or rejected at work, school, or church. Fear seems to be a constant threat to our life with God and those we love.
In 1 Corinthians St. Paul said many difficult things to that church community. He boldly called for them to repent of their sexual sins, their desire for power and influence, and their misguided worship practices. If he was unable to visit them in person as he wished Timothy, a much younger and less experienced leader, would visit in his place, presumably to ensure Paul’s teaching was received and enforced:
“I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.” (1 Corinthians 16:5-7)
As such, he acknowledged the need for them to replace a culture of fearful intimidation with utmost love, care, and respect. We are freed from our fears when selfless love takes root at the core of our being. As 1 John 4:18 reminds us:
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)
If we are flooded with the love of God and love for our neighbor, fear simply has no place to call home, no ground in which to take root. Instead of trying to rid yourself of fear, choose to actively and passionately pursue a life shaped in every way by the love of God. Believe that his love can overcome every fear, no matter how big or how small:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
What fears, big or small, have taken root in your life and kept you from trusting in the goodness, provision, and love of God?
October 8, 2019
T H I N K
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Alan Redpath once formed a "mutual encouragement" fellowship at a time of stress in one of his pastorates. The members subscribed to a simple formula applied before speaking of any person or subject that was perhaps controversial.
T - Is it True?
H - Is it Helpful?
I - Is it Inspiring?
N - Is it Necessary?
K - Is it Kind?
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
October 7, 2019
WHEN WE DISAGREE
“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”
I remember hearing my dad talk about how difficult it was to walk away from unending arguments over differing interpretations of the Bible. By contrast, he recalled how good it was when both sides agreed to disagree.
But is it really possible to set aside irreconcilable differences when so much seems to be at stake? That’s one of the questions the apostle Paul answers in his New Testament letter to the Romans. Writing to readers caught in social, political, and religious conflict, he suggests ways of finding common ground even under the most polarized conditions:
“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.” (Romans 14:5–6)
According to Paul, the way to agree to disagree is to recall that each of us will answer to the Lord not only for our opinions but also for how we treat one another in our differences:
“Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;” (Romans 14:10)
Conditions of conflict can actually become occasions to remember that there are some things more important than our own ideas—even more than our interpretations of the Bible. All of us will answer for whether we have loved one another, and even our enemies, as Christ loved us.
Now that I think of it, I remember that my dad used to talk about how good it is not just to agree to disagree but to do so with mutual love and respect.
We can agree to disagree—in love.
October 6, 2019
“but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
There are more than 60 different species of eagle. They are widely acknowledged as the king of birds due to their superior strength, speed and elevations in flight, inborn fierceness, and the fear they impart in their prey. Some eagles have short wings and long tails, enabling them to hunt in the tight confines of a forest, while others have short tails and broad long wings that allow them to soar high above open plains and water. Some eagles can fly hundreds of miles just looking for food.
It is interesting that God doesn’t say he’ll give you wings like an albatross or a hummingbird, nor of an ostrich, kiwi or chicken. You aren’t meant to be on long flights alone, or in brief fast-beating efforts looking for your next meal. Ostriches use their wings in battle, but they run instead of fly; kiwis’ wings all but disappear for lack of use, and chickens—well, those wings are for baking, coated in Buffalo sauce, to eat while you watch football on television. No, He wants you borne up on the king of the sky.
There is a key to securing so lofty a ride—it is waiting on the Lord. This is not the kind of waiting you might do at a doctor’s office. This waiting is acknowledging your dependence upon the Lord, being reliant upon something greater than yourself. Just as the eagle depends on the power of air for his strength, you must submit yourself fully to God, placing Him in full charge of your life. As you “wait,” fill your mind with the truth about His character. Catch the updraft of heavenly-mindedness and find the ability to “soar” in His strength.
Presidential Prayer Team
October 5, 2019
THE POWER OF STORY TELLING
“He told them another parable. …”
Jesus loved to teach in parables. In fact, roughly one third of his teaching was in this format. Time and time again he used these metaphorical stories to communicate great truths about the kingdom of God. Parables are stories that create a worldview that allows us to see something or someone differently than we otherwise would. As such, when we enter into the world of Jesus’ parables, when we place ourselves among the crowd gathered around him, we begin to experience these stories in remarkably different ways. New Testament scholar Ken Bailey puts it this way:
"A parable is a house in which the reader/listener is invited to take up residence. (And) If the parable is a house in which the listener/reader is invited to take up residence, then that person is urged by the parable to look on the world through the windows of that residence."
I am continually amazed at Jesus’ ability to speak in such a way that drew people in – those who were for him and against him – not just in intimate, private conversations, but in public, chaotic spaces as well. In my own life, most sidewalk preachers that I’ve seen have had an incredible ability to be loud and boisterous, yet few people if any would stop to hear them out, let alone be drawn in and compelled by the message.
Yet here is Jesus, surrounded so often by tax collectors and sinners on one side, and Pharisees and teachers of the law on the other, two groups that typically want nothing to do with one another, yet for different reasons they are drawn in and want to listen to Jesus. In him they are forced to confront their greatest hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, beliefs and doubts.
In the parables of Jesus we are drawn deeper into the story of God, further into his vision of what is good, beautiful, and true. For some of us, these stories bring incredible hope and consolation. When culture and society has left us feeling unseen or unloved, we find incredible dignity and love. Yet in other ways, like the religious establishment in his own day, we are forced to confront our own prejudices and assumptions. We are invited out of our own narrow vision and into the expansive freedom of Kingdom living, a world in which the neglected are dignified, the shamed are restored, and the lost are found.
“All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.” (Matthew 13:34)
The Gospel of Luke contains both the largest total number of parables (24) and eighteen unique parables; the Gospel of Matthew contains 23 parables of which eleven are unique; and the Gospel of Mark contains eight parables of which two are unique.
Take time today to read the parables of Jesus contained in Matthew 13.
October 4, 2019
“The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”
How are you doing in the bug war? You know the battle—trying to make your summer lawn green and your house plants looking alive rather than on their last leaf. The secret in winning is all about the bugs! Just under the surface of anything living in soil is an intense battle of bacteria and insects fighting for dominance. If the good bugs win, everything stays alive and healthy, but if the bad bugs win, it means yellow crunchy death. The dominant culture underground determines the quality of life above.
In today’s world, just beneath the surface lies an undercurrent of fear. Lives and businesses are irrevocably changed at the very whim of public perception. In response, many people decide to hide rather than standing for their authentic beliefs because the stakes are so high.
Cultural hostility may be new for many Americans but historically it’s not new for the followers of Christ. Early Christians expected suffering. Jesus said:
“Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (John 15:20)
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)
The more earnest you become about being the Light of the World, the more likely you will be challenged. However, you can face opposition boldly because of the resurrected Christ. With Jesus shining out from just under your surface, friends and neighbors will see the beauty of a saving faith and turn to Him. Pray today many across America and in government will humbly yet resolutely proclaim their faith. And be assured the light of Christ shines in the darkness, and the darkness will never overcome it.
Presidential Prayer Team
October 3, 2019
1 Peter 5:10
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
Sonya had 23 siblings and spent most of her childhood in foster care. She only had a third-grade education. At 13, Sonya tried to escape poverty by marrying an older man. But he turned out to be a bigamist. When the marriage ended, she was left poor with two boys to raise. Yet Sonya had faith in Jesus Christ and hope that her sons could have a better life. She took housekeeping jobs to pay the bills while enforcing a rigorous plan of reading and homework for her sons.
Years later, Sonya never imagined that through all her suffering, God was preparing her to raise one of the world’s finest Christian neurosurgeons. Dr. Ben Carson, who now serves as the 17th U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development says, “I not only saw and felt the difference my mother made in my life, I am still living out that difference as a man.”
The Lord never promises that only good things will happen to His children. Yet He does promise that whatever happens, He will use for His glory and your eternal benefit. You may not always understand the reason for your suffering, but God can and will use bad circumstances to draw you closer to Him. And remember that your adversity--although overwhelming at the time—is insignificant compared to the marvelous future that awaits you in Heaven as a faithful child of the King!
So thank your Heavenly Father right now for people like Sonya who are examples of His hope in action. Pray also that leaders like Dr. Carson will continue to leave an eternal legacy on Capitol Hill.
Presidential Prayer Team
October 2, 2019
“I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness.”
Downhill skiing race courses are often marked by swaths of blue paint sprayed across the white, snowy surface. The crude arcs might be a visual distraction for spectators but prove to be vital to both the success and safety of the competitors. The paint serves as a guide for the racers to visualize the fastest line to the bottom of the hill. Additionally, the contrast of the paint against the snow offers racers depth perception, which is critical to their safety when traveling at such high rates of speed.
Solomon begs his sons to seek wisdom in hopes of keeping them safe on the racecourse of life. Like the blue lines, wisdom, he says:
“I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble.” (Proverbs 4:11–12)
His deepest hope as a father is for his sons to enjoy a rich life, free from the damaging effects of living apart from the wisdom of God. God, as our loving Father, offers us “blue-line” guidance in the Bible. While He’s given us the freedom to “ski” wherever we like, the wisdom He offers in the Scriptures, like racecourse markers, are:
“…life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.” (Proverbs 4:22)
When we turn from evil and walk instead with Him, our path will be lit with His righteousness, keeping our feet from stumbling and guiding us onward each day:
“When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble.” (Proverbs 4:12)
“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” (Proverbs 4:18)
September 29 - October 1, 2019
SON DAY HARVEST
“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure[a] on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;”
Sunday is my only day to rest. That’s true! But rest from what?
I remember as a boy my grandmother would do most of her cooking Saturday night. There was no farming on Sunday morning. You couldn’t listen to R&B on Sunday. It was the Lord’s Day. There was a sacred expectation that the family would go to church to worship together. It was a special feeling and filling on Sundays.
Now we are taking a break from God on Sundays because that’s our day to sleep in from Saturday night or to run errands. God wants us to rest. Sabbath means to rest. God created the heavens and the earth in six days and rested on the seventh.
The Jewish people celebrate the sabbath on Saturday but Christians celebrate the day Jesus got up from the grave. Every Sunday is our chance to get out of the grave of our beds to celebrate our rest in God. Jesus calls us every Sunday morning with this invitation:
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavyladen, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
Sunday morning in worship is your opportunity to be spiritually refueled so you can have an effective and productive week. “One week without Jesus makes one weak.” God has some instructions for us on how to ride high all week and to soar above all the things we may encounter in our week:
1. Don’t use my day (Sunday) for your personal advantage. Sundays are a great time to relax and enjoy your family AFTER you’ve worshipped together in God’s house. This day is so important for how the rest of the week turns out.
"If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;" (Isaiah 58:13)
2. Treat Sunday as a day of celebration. Sunday shouldn’t be a day you dread because you have to go to church. Sunday is a day of victory to celebrate what God is doing in your life. Church should be your celebration station! Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise!
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Psalm 100:4)
3. Don’t treat Sunday like a day where you do “Business as Usual,” making money and running here and there. This is a Holy Day. All God asks of us is to give him a couple of hours on his special day to worship him and rest in him.
What do we get out of it? We will be free to enjoy God. We will be empowered to soar on wings of eagles. We will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.
Where will you be this Sunday?