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?
September 27-28, 2019
“But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
Several years ago, the growing season had been unusually good in eastern Michigan. Farmers were elated at the thought of their potential profits. Then, just before harvest, the rains came—and stayed.
Potatoes rotted in the ground; beans molded in their pods. The entire harvest season remained wet. Anticipation of a record yield quickly faded. One discouraged farmer was quoted as saying, “You ask yourself, ‘Why? What have we done wrong?’ ”
People have always asked “Why?” when faced with reversal and hardship. Their question is significant because it reflects the fact that nothing happens by chance. God is in control. Neither Satan nor man can go any further than is allowed by the Almighty.
The story of Job, however, makes it clear that we should not become preoccupied with the question “Why?”
God often keeps His reasons to Himself. He may hold them high above our understanding and far beyond our natural field of vision in order to develop our faith. Our response to trouble should be like that of Job at the beginning and at the end of his problems:
“But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10)
“Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent[a] in dust and ashes.”” (Job 42:1-6)
Obediently trust God in your circumstances—even when you can’t understand what He is doing.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)
When through life's darkened maze I go
And troubles overwhelm my soul,
O grant me, Lord, Your grace to know
That You are surely in control.—Dennis J. DeHaan
When God conceals His purposes, He consoles with His promises.
September 26, 2019
WHO'S PACKING YOUR PARACHUTE?
1 Corinthians 12:20-22
“As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,”
Charles Plum, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was a jet fighter pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent six years in a Communist prison. He survived that ordeal and now lectures about lessons learned from that experience.
One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man from another table came up and said, “You're Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”
“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb. “I packed your parachute,” the man replied.
Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!” Plumb assured him, “It sure did - if your 'chute hadn't worked, I wouldn't be here today.”
Plumb couldn't sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb said, “I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform - a Dixie cup hat, a bib in the back and bell bottom trousers. I wondered how many times I might have passed him on the Kitty Hawk. I wondered how many times I might have seen him and not even said good morning, how are you, or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.”
Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn't know.
Now, Plumb asks his audiences, “Who's packing your parachute?”
This is a great reminder of the truth that, individually, every Christ-follower is an important member of the body of Christ. Each one of us plays a vital role and without each individual’s contributions, we are all weakened. Someone, recently, has no doubt “packed your parachute” with a word of encouragement, a spiritual insight, a positive role-modeling of the Christian life, or simply by giving you a hand with a task. Today, why not send an e-mail or make a phone call, thanking that person for “packing your parachute”?
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
September 25, 2019
“Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.”
So what is a precept? Essentially, it is a guiding principle or rule that is used to control, influence or regulate thought and conduct. A perfect example of a precept is a commandment found in the Ten Commandments. Psalm 119 has much to say about precepts. Among them are:
God has commanded they be kept:
“You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.” (Psalm 119:4)
You should meditate on them:
“I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” (Psalm 119:15)
Their purpose can be understood:
“Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.” (Psalm 119:27)
They are to be desired:
“Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!” (Psalm 119:40)
They’ve not been abandoned:
“They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts.” (Psalm 119:87)
And they are right:
“Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right; I hate every false way.” (Psalm 119:128)
The laws written by God’s own finger atop Mount Sinai tell you clearly who God is and what He is like. They set you apart from the world. They provide the pathway to a free and abundant life. And they are far more trustworthy than today’s cultural codes where “each man does what is right in his own eyes” a form of spiritual anarchy.
“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6)
At a time when morality and ethics in America lack the clarity of God, it would be good for each person to have a primer on those Ten Commandments. They are the most basic and still relevant instruction for living a fulfilled life. As the One who came to fulfill the law, let Jesus teach you of the precepts of God. Dive deep into the Sermon on the Mount. Then live out a life that allows your light to shine before others. Pray for all who live in darkness in Washington, DC to experience the Light of Life, and to then grow in the precepts of the Lord.
The Presidential Prayer Team
September 24, 2019
RIPE FOR HARVEST
“For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
In early fall, we went for a walk in the New Forest in England and had fun picking the blackberries that grew in the wild while watching the horses frolicking nearby. As I enjoyed the bounty of the sweet fruit planted by others perhaps many years before, I thought of Jesus’s words to His disciples:
“I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor. (John 4:38)
I love the generosity of God’s kingdom reflected in those words. He lets us enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labors, such as when we share our love for Jesus with a friend whose famil ;has been praying for her for years. I also love the implied limits of Jesus’s words, for we may plant seeds that we will never harvest but someone else may. Therefore, we can rest in the tasks before us, not being hoodwinked into thinking that we are responsible for the outcomes. God’s work, after all, doesn’t depend on us. He has all of the resources for a bountiful harvest, and we are privileged to play a role in it.
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” (John 4:35)
We can reap what others have sown.
Amy Boucher Pye
September 22-23, 2019
“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
While removing the price tag from an item of winter clothing I had purchased, I smiled at these words on the back: “WARNING: This innovative product will make you want to go outdoors and stay there.”
When properly clothed for the climate, a person can survive and even thrive in harsh and changing weather conditions. The same principle is true in our spiritual lives. As followers of Jesus, our all-weather spiritual wardrobe has been prescribed by the Lord in His Word, the Bible:
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:12–13)
These garments that God provides—such as kindness, humility, and gentleness—allow us to meet hostility and criticism with patience, forgiveness, and love. They give us staying power in the storms of life. When we face adverse conditions at home, school, or work, the “clothing” God tells us to wear protects us and enables us to make a positive difference.
“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:14)
“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:9-10)
Dressing according to God’s guidelines doesn’t change the weather—it equips the wearer.
David C. McCasland
September 21, 2019
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
Do you remember the movie The Mighty Ducks? There’s no particular reason why you should- it was, on the whole, a forgettable, underwhelming children’s movie from the early 1990’s. But for me, it was a definitive moment in my childhood, filling my imagination with dreams of ice hockey glory. The one obvious obstacle to this dream was that I grew up in the Deep South, hundreds of miles away from ice hockey conditions and culture.
Yet, not to be deterred, I took to the streets and spent countless hours in my neighborhood perfecting the skills of roller hockey. Since I played in isolation, I was convinced I was the next Wayne Gretzky! I was the fastest skater I knew, with the best shot in town. Years later when I finally joined a community rec team, I learned a vital lesson: hockey is a team sport!
When playing with others, I quickly realized my gifts were limited and others excelled where I struggled. I was one of the slowest skaters on the team, couldn’t play defense to save my life, but I could hit the puck very hard! This was my contribution, my gift that I had to offer to the team. This gift was an essential element, but was only a part of the picture. My particular gifts and skills only made sense in the context of the greater whole.
The Christian faith is a team sport. It is infinitely more exciting and enjoyable when it is lived with others in the life of the church. Life in community fosters a humble and charitable spirit. You learn to celebrate and appreciate the talents and gifts of others, seeing them as a compliment rather than a threat. Similarly, life in community frees you from the impossible burden of believing you have to be all things to all people. You are liberated to learn who God has uniquely made you to be, and by his grace to become that version of yourself.
You and I belong to one another, and our gifts only flourish when they are offered for the good of the body. This is the church at its very best, coming together to be something more beautiful and compelling and true than it is in isolated independence. Press into the gift of community, and find the joy of living the Christian life as a team sport!
Where have you kept community at arms length and struggled to embrace this “team sport” vision for your faith?
September 20, 2019
BIG SMALL THINGS
“For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.”
Small things are big to God, so they are not to be discounted or despised. After all, our Savior is in the small things. Our pride wants to get on to the larger and more important opportunities. It dismisses the mundane or the monotonous. But success and significance are also found in the small things.
A quiet smile at a restaurant server is small, but significant. A little gift for an unsuspecting sanitation worker is small, but significant. Learning the children’s names of a blue-collar worker in your company, and occasionally joining him for lunch is small, but significant. Attention to small things makes people big. Celebrate an office employee’s birthday over breakfast, or an important personal milestone over lunch or dinner. When we give attention to small things, we say we care. Private acts of love foster public loyalty and long-term commitment. It is the attention to small things that build great people and grow great companies.
This is also true with our children. If we want influence with them when they face big issues as teenagers and adults, it is imperative we show interest in the small things of their childhood. Parental investment in ballgames, recitals, school plays, scouts, church camps, outdoors, homework, shared hobbies, and church all add up to an invitation to big things. Little things like tucking them in at night will one day give them the trust to invite us into the dark night of their soul. Investment in the small things invites influence with the big things.
Do not despise this season of small things. They are like seeds that eventually grow into grand and glorious opportunities of influence. There is a definite sequence of seed planting, watering, fertilizing, and cultivating. The process can become boring and seem unproductive, but this illustrates how God works. Your Savior is into stringing together a sequence of small activities that leads to larger outcomes. So stay with the small things, for in due season you will reap the harvest.
God may allow you to harvest far beyond what you could have imagined in the beginning. How much is it worth for your spouse to become your best friend? It won’t happen overnight, but faithfulness to the small things will facilitate the reality of your hopes and dreams. Furthermore, when you experience a string of small things with Jesus, your faith becomes large. So, be aware of the need for a little prayer to the Lord. Stay dependent on God along life’s path of small steps. When He sees you being faithful with His small opportunities, He can then trust you with the larger ones.
The small things you do honor God: bowing your head before a meal, showing up early for an appointment, memorizing a brief Bible verse, or giving a small anonymous gift. Any small expression with the Lord in mind goes a long way. The Almighty values small things because everything is small to Him. He is large and in charge, but His small tests lead to His best opportunities. Don’t miss this, or you may miss Him. Big things often are disguised as small things, so treat them with respect. You never know when you might be serving Jesus or entertaining angels. Therefore treasure small things. They are big and they matter, and they may matter most.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2)
What small matter needs your consistent and focused attention?
September 19, 2019
1 Peter 5:7
“casting all your anxieties on him [God], because he cares for you.”
Several years ago, health experts publicized a new category of blood pressure level that they called "pre-hypertension". This category affects millions of Americans whose blood pressure is 120-139 over 80-90. These individuals do not have high blood pressure yet and do not need medication, but unless they change their lifestyle and eating habits, it's highly likely that eventually they will.
The word "cast" means to throw something onto someone else. When we "cast" our anxieties on God, we let go of them. We turn them over to him. This is a present tense command, so that we are to make this decision continually. Every time the worry comes back, give it to God. Again and again and again. it's an imperative, so that if you're carrying anxiety in your own hands and heart, you're disobeying the word and will of God. He wants you to give him your worries, the moment they arise in your mind.
ALL YOUR ANXIETIES
"All your anxieties" is the next phrase. "All" leaves no exceptions. "Anxieties" points to any stress, problem, or worry. We are allowed none of these for ourselves. Mark it down: there is no problem so large you cannot trust it to God, and none so small you can trust it to yourself. My tendency is to solve my problems myself, turning to God only when I must. But I've learned that he would much rather guide me into his will than repair the mistakes made by my own will.
Cast your anxieties "on God," trusting them into his power, providence, and provision. The Creator of the universe can be trusted with any problem encountered therein. You go to a doctor for physical problems and a lawyer for legal advice, because they are the best qualified in their respective fields. Go to God with your anxieties, for his omniscience and omnipotence are the best resources in all of creation.
BECAUSE HE CARES FOR YOU
Make this decision "because he cares for you." "Cares" means that he feels compassion for you. He knows your problems, for he faces them with you. He feels your pain, shares your stress, suffers your grief. He is Immanuel, God with us. History is filled with men who would be gods, but only one God who would be man.
What anxiety most burdens you this morning? What will you do with it, right now?
“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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.” (Philippians 4:6-8)
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
SEPTEMBER 18, 2019
LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
“Remember, O Lord, how your servants are mocked, and how I bear in my heart the insults[a] of all the many nations,”
“Believers are feeling significant pressure,” said David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Research Group. “There is a shared sense that the cultural tide is turning against religious conviction, and people of faith are starting to feel the effects of this growing antagonism in tangible ways.”
Vice President Mike Pence recently drew attention to the persecution of Christians around the world, telling a summit in Washington, D.C., that “no people of faith today face greater hostility or hatred than the followers of Christ.”
A 2015 Pew Research Center report on global religious restrictions found that Christians have been harassed in more countries than any other religious group.
Barna’s research found that the broadest segment of practicing Christians - a group that includes Catholics, evangelicals, and mainline churchgoers - say they feel misunderstood (54 percent), persecuted (52 percent), “marginalized” (44 percent), “sidelined” (40 percent), “silenced” (38 percent), “afraid to speak up” (31 percent), and “afraid to look stupid” (23 percent), to describe living their faith in today’s world. However, almost all evangelicals (98 percent) believe their faith is a force for good and more than nine in 10 (93 percent) believe their faith is essential.
During Jesus’ time on Earth, His followers were reproached and ridiculed by the Scribes and Pharisees for professing Him as Lord. In today’s culture not much has changed. But those who ridicule or harass are in desperate need of God’s love. So as a follower of Christ, remember that He commands you to be a Light in this dark world, no matter the cost. As a result, people will put their trust in Him. Pray that believers on Capitol Hill will also boldly share the love and truth of the gospel with others.
Presidential Prayer Team
September 17, 2019
“You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.”
After the 2010 census, the U.S. government estimated there were 22,200 assisted living facilities across America (compared to 15,700 nursing homes), and that 713,300 people were residents of those facilities. As baby-boomers age, the number of assisted living facilities has increased dramatically. While assisted living covers a broad spectrum, it is accepted that those who utilize such facilities are no longer capable of living independently. Yet, they are not yet in the place where full-time intensive care is required.
Psalm 71 is sometimes called “The Senior Citizen’s Psalm” or “The Assisted Living Psalm.” Indeed, for the psalmist, help for sustaining life came from a deep dependence on God. He praised the Lord for being a refuge, and continued to be in awe of the way God handled things for him even from his youth.
Today’s verse acknowledges that life hadn’t been without its challenges; yet the Lord was ever faithful and still reliable. Even though the writer spoke of his old age and grey hairs, he recognized that God still had a purpose for him—proclaiming the power of the Lord to the generations after him!
If you are young and cannot yet relate to this senior citizen’s psalm, don’t worry, your time is coming. God has plans for you today, and grey hairs (or no hair at all) will come soon enough. For those in their assisted living years… the years where your reliance on the Savior grows stronger day by day… remember His purpose for you also. The next generation in your family, your church, your community, your nation, needs to know of your experience with God’s power. Be a faithful witness today!
Presidential Prayer Team
September 15-16, 2016
LOVE KEEPS GIVING
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
A pastor friend has quietly and faithfully loved his flock and those in his community over the past 20 years. Hospital visits, funerals, weddings, counseling, celebrating and preaching allowed he and his wife to love, give and serve, growing trust with some families over three generations. Beautifully, while suffering his own personal pain, Pastor David lays down his life for his sheep.
There are wolves who pose as shepherds, but only for what they can get. Self serving, these hired hands do not serve people as a calling, but only for their career advancement. The hired hands run away when the going gets rough. But good shepherds stay, and even search for abandoned sheep when hard times hit. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, laid down His life so all who believe could be saved from their sins. This greater love reflects God's heart, helping people love and be loved. Here are three ways love keeps giving:
Love Keeps Giving Time
“just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:15)
Love can be spelled T.I.M.E. When someone is hurting, love shows up, shuts up and listens up. Giving time to a person trapped in aloneness, is a love investment that may flourish into a friendship that grows over a lifetime. A new mom may feel overwhelmed and ill prepared, but your reassuring words can soothe her soul, give her hope and practical ways to love her little one well. Love gives time to know another, be known and in the process experience rich relationship.
Love Keeps Giving Trust
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Trust is earned over time. When we keep our word, we build trust. When we break our promises, we erode trust. When we follow through on a commitment, especially when it’s difficult, we respect ourselves and we earn the respect of others. Faithfulness, even if we fail, solicits trust. Sometimes telling the truth makes us look irresponsible, or dumb, but being honest means we can be trusted to be vulnerable, even at the expense of being embarrassed. Love is trustworthy.
Love Keeps Giving Truth
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,” (John 10:14)
Truth is a gift of love that is not always cheerfully received, or even received at all. But truth wrapped in love, offers freedom and understanding to grow into a better version of ourselves. If someone only tells us what we want to hear, we will stay stunted in our spiritual, emotional and relational growth, immature and unable to be self aware of our strengths and weaknesses. But when we receive truth as a serum against selfishness, we become more like Jesus. Love tells the truth with the right tone at the right time. Truth received sets us free to fully love others.
“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
What does it mean for me to lay down my life for my friends?
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
September 14, 2019
YOU BELONG HERE
1 Corinthians 12:27
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
Even though you and I do not know each other, with complete confidence I can say to you: you have gifts to offer for the good of the whole body of Christ! Though our culture prioritizes the skills, money, and beauty of an elite few, within the life of the church you and I are meant to be reoriented to what is actually true and eternal. Church is meant to be a taste of heaven, a place where we step out of the chaos and confusion of the world around us and remember afresh what is ultimately good and true.
Have you ever visited a great Gothic cathedral? These buildings, in their very bones, were meant to draw your eyes heavenward, to feel as though you’ve just entered into another realm, another dimension. And while this may sound and feel a bit airy and abstract, this vision is also profoundly practical for how we live day by day!
The “taste of heaven” that these churches remind us of is a world in which the whole of creation – every nation, every tribe – is living in perfect relationship with God as our creator and sustainer. This means that right here, right now, you have gifts to offer to the body that makes us more of who we are meant to be, a truer reflection of the church as it is meant to be.
Paul uses the image of a body to drive this point home. He is mindful of our temptation to prioritize parts of the body over and against the others. We decide the eye is more important than the hand, ears more than the nose. Perhaps, using his list of gifts within the church, we decide prophets and teachers are more significant and valuable than gifts of healing or tongues. To undercut this sizing up of gifts, Paul reminds them (and us) of a powerful truth: whatever you do for God is always secondary to the fact that you are loved by him and belong to Christ.
Do you believe this? Are you comfortable in your own skin? Are you able to be at peace with the gifts God has given you that only you have to offer? Can you celebrate and cultivate those gifts rather than thinking about what you wish you had that you don’t have?
You and I belong to one another, and you belong here. We must be able to celebrate the gifts God has given to others, while at the same time boldly embracing and cultivating the unique people he has made us to be!
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:” (1 Peter 4:10)
How can you more faithfully celebrate and cultivate the unique gifts God has given to you?
September 13, 2019
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, …’”
In the forests of northern Europe and Asia lives a little animal called the ermine, known for his snow-white fur in winter. He instinctively protects his white coat against anything that would soil it.
Fur hunters take advantage of this unusual trait of the ermine. They don’t set a snare to catch him, but instead they find his home, which is usually a cleft in a rock or a hollow in an old tree. They smear the entrance and interior with grime. Then the hunters set their dogs loose to find and chase the ermine. The frightened animal flees toward home but doesn’t enter because of the filth. Rather than soil his white coat, he is trapped by the dogs and captured while preserving his purity. For the ermine, purity is more precious than life.
The Lord wants His people to keep themselves separated from the filth of this world at all cost. In today’s Bible reading, the Lord told the Jews to put a blue thread on the borders of their clothes:
“Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner.” (Numbers 15:38)
When they saw the blue, they were to remember God’s holy purpose for their lives and to keep a distance from sin.
Do we remind ourselves often of our high and holy purpose for living?
September 11-12, 2019
FASHION OR FAITH?
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
Os Guinness tells of a Jewish man, imprisoned 15 years by Soviet authorities for political dissidence, who became a Christian while in the terrible Gulag. He was sustained throughout that long ordeal by his faith in the Savior, and by the memory of his 4-year-old son he hoped to see again one day.
When he was finally released, the man anticipated the reunion with heart-pounding excitement. How thrilled he was to notice as they hugged each other that his son was wearing a cross!
After they had talked about many things, he asked his son, now 19 years old, just what the cross meant to him. His heart was crushed by the answer: “Father, for my generation the cross is just a fashion statement.”
The apostle Paul saw the cross as a symbol of the very core of his faith. It bore witness to his radically transformed life. He testified:
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)
What about you? Is the cross just a fashion statement? Or does it inspire you to echo Paul’s heartfelt boast in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ?
September 10, 2019
“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”
In her book Wearing God, author Lauren Winner says our clothes can silently communicate to others who we are. What we wear may indicate career, community or identity, moods, or social status. Think of a T-shirt with a slogan, a business suit, a uniform, and what they might reveal. She writes, “The idea that, as with a garment, Christians might wordlessly speak something of Jesus—is appealing.”
According to Paul, we can similarly wordlessly represent Christ. Romans tells us to:
“clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Romans 13:14)
What does this mean? When we become Christians, we take on Christ’s identity. We are “children of God through faith”:
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:26–27)
That is our identity. Yet each day we need to clothe ourselves in His character. We do this by striving to live for and to be more like Jesus, growing in godliness, love, and obedience, and turning our backs on the sins that once enslaved us.
This growth in Christ is a result of the Holy Spirit working in us and our desire to be closer to Him through study of the Word, prayer, and time spent in fellowship with other Christians:
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
When others look at our words and attitudes, what statement are we making about Christ? When others see us, may what they see speak well of our Savior.
September 8-9, 2019
“then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,”
Pride forgets where it came from. Humble beginnings and dependence on others seem to get erased from the memory of someone influenced by pride. Pride may get promoted, but it forgets those who contributed to the process of success. It is forgetful either intentionally or unintentionally. Pride loses its focus on who was really responsible in furthering its career. There is too much credit given to self and too little credit given to others. Pride forgets its family. Sometimes it gets so busy in work or play that it fails to involve the ones who provide the platform for its performance. Pride takes family for granted and ignores their needs. It is selfishly wrapped up in itself. Pride forgets the feelings of others; it is insensitive and obnoxious.
Pride is not afraid to crush someone’s spirit on the way to success. Pride forgets others, while humility includes others; Pride takes all the credit, while humility shares the credit; Pride discourages, while humility encourages; Pride pontificates, while humility prays; Pride talks too much, while humility listens liberally; Pride blames, while humility takes responsibility; Pride is oblivious to good manners and courteous conduct. It is all about itself, with little or no regard for the needs of others.
Above all else, pride forgets God. It may talk about God but only as needed to rubber-stamp its plans. Pride subtly uses God to carry out its agenda, and it forgets to see God for who He is. Almighty God is high and lifted up. He is holy, and His expectations are love, fear, and obedience. Pride forgets that God governs the universe and all its inhabitants. God is engaged with you up to the smallest of details, and He knows where you are and where you need to go. He wants you to remember His pristine track record of faithfulness. His past provision is a predictor of His future provision. Pride forgets this; it has amnesia to the things of the Almighty. Pride may say it believes in God, but its actions communicate agnosticism. It is too busy to create margin for its Master.
It is imperative you allow Christ to keep your pride in its place. It can only be conquered with humble dependence on God and obedience to His commands. Humility displaces pride and bows down before Divinity in prayer. Humility remembers God’s faithful deliverance from darkness into light. It remembers God’s salvation from sin and self to grace and service. Humility remembers to love God and people first, and subjugates its needs so that they are second. It has tremendous recall for good because God is its leader. Humility remembers how generous God is, and is generous in return. It understands and remembers what’s important to the Lord, and then invests its energies toward His initiatives. Humility remembers to thank others and to pray for them. It is extremely grateful, and appeals to heaven on behalf of people.
Humility remembers because it cares. The Bible says,
“Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD.” (Zephaniah 2:3)
Consider joining a community of Christ followers who walk in humble love and obedience.
September 7, 2019
“Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!”
King David was intoxicated. He was under the influence of his wealth, power and fame. David had become proud and self-reliant. His prosperity had lulled him into a state of undue security and independence from God. However, when calamity struck his life, David cried out to God for mercy. He acknowledged his sin and repented. And then he thanked God for His deliverance, having learned a priceless lesson through his painful ordeal.
Becoming secure in the Lord is a process of learning to rely more and more on the love and grace of God in your life. No matter what the media and today’s culture tell you, your identity and confidence should come from Him and not your own abilities or possessions. You are made in the image and likeness of the Creator of the universe. Your value is priceless. You are “fearfully and wonderfully made””
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14)
His loving thoughts toward you are too numerous to count:
“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.” (Psalm 139:17-18)
The Father values you so much He sent His Son Jesus to die so you could have a close relationship with Him. Your sin is covered with Christ’s precious blood so that when God sees you, He sees His Son’s righteousness.
Be intentional about turning off the media sources each day and spend time soaking in God’s Word. Allow the Holy Spirit to reveal your true identity. Praise God for His incredible mercy in your life. Thank Him that your security rests in His grace, not in your personal merits. Pray that your leaders on Capitol Hill will also depend on God for their security instead of power, prestige and possessions.
Presidential Prayer Team
September 6, 2019
THE BLESSINGS OF CONFESSION
1 John 1:9
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
When I was in my late twenties, I lived in Houston, Texas where I was an elementary school teacher. During Sunday morning church service one week, I noticed an announcement in the bulletin for a special Wednesday evening event called a Solemn Assembly. I wasn’t sure what it was about, but I liked attending special events at my church, so I decided to go. When I arrived, I was handed a small booklet at the door, then I found my seat in the sanctuary and waited for the event to start.
One of our church leaders stood, welcomed everyone and introduced us to another man, a special guest, who said he would help us overcome obstacles in our lives. (Sounds great to me!) He said he would be leading us through the booklet we had received at the door and that many people would be released from bondages (Awesome!). He said many others would overcome unforgiveness (Fantastic!). And, he said we would leave feeling renewed, refreshed, and restored. (Can I get an “Amen!”). But then, the man announced how this would all happen: through confession. (Really?!) That didn’t sound exciting—or fun.
For over 90 minutes, the man read one scripture after another on particular sins with each page of the booklet being dedicated to one sin. One page at a time, he described sins in detail, read their corresponding scriptures, then invited everyone in the congregation to kneel, seek their hearts, and quietly confess to the Lord if needed and ask for forgiveness. We asked God to forgive us for gossiping, slander, stealing, lying, adultery, and other sins. You name it, we addressed it.
In those quiet moments with my head bowed, I became acutely aware of how filthy my heart was. Sins that I had overlooked became obvious. But even though I became aware of my sin, I became equally aware of God’s goodness, love, care, kindness, and mercy. I cried tears of cleansing as the man reminded us of the Lord’s faithfulness and when I stood to leave, I felt lighter. Weight had been lifted. I knew I was loved even though I had often dishonored and disobeyed the Lord through my attitudes and actions.
So often, confession gets a bad rap. After all, who wants to be reminded of all the horrible things they have done, said, or thought? But there’s good news: when confession is coupled with the truth that God loves us in spite of our sin, and that He is waiting with open arms when we confess to Him, refreshing comes.
Confession can be liberating, cleansing, and life giving. And, when we know that our confession is being gently received by our tender, Sacrificial Savior, it’s easier to say, “God, I’ve really blown it.”
I invite you to talk with the Lord today and ask Him to reveal your sins to you. Then, when He has placed a loving finger on a heart attitude or action, ask for forgiveness, do what you need to do to right your wrong, then thank the Lord for His loving reconciliation. Confession, when coupled with receiving forgiveness is something to be celebrated!
“I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.’” (Psalm 32:5)
Ask the Lord to reveal your sin to you, then ask for forgiveness and receive His love.
September 4-5, 2019
“And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'"
The first Bible I consciously remember receiving as a child was a small, pocket-sized Gideon King James New Testament. It’s bonded white leather cover and gift box made it feel like a prized possession, and at age 5, it likely was the nicest book I had to my name. I kept it in the box at all times, taking it out only occasionally to look at it with great wonder and awe. And while this reverence and devotion to scripture is commendable at one level, it also planted a seed that took years to uproot. Namely, the belief that the New Testament was essential to the Christian life, and the Old Testament an optional backstory that one could take or leave as they saw fit.
Simply put, the New Testament is unintelligible apart from the Old. If we do not know the promises of God and the hopes and longings of his people, how then do we rightly understand Jesus as the way in which God chose to keep his promises and renew the world? St. Luke was crystal clear on this point, and in many ways set out to write his gospel with this in mind. As he says in his opening introduction, his aim was to write an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled:
“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us,” (Luke 1:1)
In his book Scripture and the Authority of God, N.T. Wright uses the image of boats crossing the ocean to help us understand how the Old and New Testaments fit together. We as followers of Jesus are people who have crossed the sea and are walking on dry land, and as a result the ship is no longer needed in the same way that it was before, and yet, the ship always remains a central part of our story and identity. As he says, “When travelers sail across a vast ocean and finally arrive on the distant shore, they leave the ship behind and continue over land, not because the ship was no good, or because their voyage had been misguided, but precisely because both ship and voyage had accomplished their purpose. During the new, dry-land stage of their journey, the travelers remain – and in this illustration must never forget that they remain – the people who made that voyage in that ship.”
I believe this is a key insight that keeps us from dismissing the Old Testament on the one hand, and from missing the fulfillment in Jesus on the other. God’s story reaches its climax in Christ. As St. Paul reminds us:
“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)
Jesus reminds us that God is faithful to keep his promises and not one of them is forgotten. This was great news to Ancient Israel as they hoped and longed for God’s coming redemption, and it is great news for us today. If you feel forgotten or unseen by God, the witness of Scripture from beginning to end reminds us afresh that God tells good, long stories.
How does Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises help you navigate tricky and confusing parts of the Old Testament?
September 3, 2019
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
Have you ever been invited to a formal dinner with people you’re not entirely comfortable with? You may have been thinking about what fork to use, how to place your napkin, or how to engage in small talk without making a fool of yourself. Then think about having a picnic with friends. You don’t worry so much about a little grease on your fingers or what to say, you just enjoy their company.
Likewise, people often tend to be so busy minding their manners with God that they forget about what a gracious, loving, forgiving God He is. Jesus demonstrated what God is like by healing the sick, feeding the poor, and casting out demons. He put up with close contact with a bunch of regular guys for over three years.
Before He died on the cross, Jesus said:
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)
Also, the church is referred to as the bride of Christ, indicating an intimate relationship:
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
You feel more comfortable around friends you’ve known for a while and like. Similarly, as you spend more time in prayer and getting to know God’s word, trusting in His love and sacrifice, you will increasingly enjoy His company and not be so concerned about minding your p’s and q’s. Meditate on God’s character, grace, and mercy. He is Holy and just, but He is good. Pray for a deeper friendship with God, and for people of this nation and all over the world to receive His love in Jesus.
Presidential Prayer Team
September 2, 2019
HOW DOES JESUS DEFINE GREATNESS?
“It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:26-28
Servant leadership is service to others. It is not jockeying for position, nor is it politicking for power. Instead, it is posturing for the opportunity to serve. This does not bode well for the insecure soul in need of abundant attention. Servant leaders avoid the limelight and serve in ways that many times go unnoticed. It is the little things that make a servant leader. It may be taking out the trash at home, or making the coffee at work.
No task is too menial for the servant leader, but there is something bigger than behavior that distinguishes a servant leader. It is attitude—an attitude of how to make others successful. He or she knows if those around them are successful then there is a good chance they will experience success. They are wise to want what’s best for others.
Self-service on the other hand builds a culture of mediocrity. It is all about taking care of my little world, not giving any thought to the needs of other team members. It is every man for himself – survival of the fittest. This self-service contributes to a scarcity mentality. If I serve you then you may look better than me—you may get all the credit. This fear of not being noticed facilitates competition instead of cooperation.
Servant leadership on the other hand is not caught up with getting the credit. The servant leader has put to death the need for self-recognition. The attention and credit can easily flow to others. This is the place where it belongs, as our humility cannot handle the attention. Like a lily-white body in a tanning booth, our humility burns up. Servant leadership resists this temptation to linger in the limelight. Instead, the servant leader may give away opportunities that come his or her way. Seek to serve and let status find you.
Jesus served quietly on most occasions and boldly as needed. No sincere seeker was neglected. His motive was to serve for the glory of God. His ultimate service was laying down his life for the human race. Consequently, followers of Christ can become a better servant leader because Jesus seeks to serve through you. You can’t, but He can.
Submit to Him and watch Him use you to serve. Die to getting attention and credit while celebrating the success of others. Quietly volunteer for the next lowly task. Set up others to succeed. Give away your life and you will find it. This is the way of Christ. This is the way to serve and lead. Submit to God, serve people—and others will follow!
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)
Who do you need to serve for Christ’s sake that does not deserve your service?
September 1, 2019
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
Ed DeWeese came home one afternoon to find that his home had been burglarized. Thieves had taken the TV, stereo equipment and jewelry--about $3,000 worth. He called his wife, Beth, at work and she rushed home. The police arrived and took a report. But the DeWeeses didn’t have homeowner’s insurance. So they prayed, “Lord, we have no insurance and cannot afford to replace these things. Please return them to us.” But then God reminded Ed that he himself was an ex-offender and had previously gone to jail for embezzlement. He said to Beth, “We must first forgive.”
After the thief had been arrested and released on bond, Ed asked a police officer to take him to the offender’s home. When Ed met the man who had robbed him, he said, “I’m the man you ripped off. But brother, I forgive you in the name of Jesus.”
Ed continued to visit him and gave a Bible to his little brother who had assisted in the crime. Soon, the thief told the police where the stolen items were hidden, and they recovered all the DeWeeses’ belongings. When the young man pleaded guilty to burglary, Ed testified on his behalf. He then helped the young man find a job. Most important, he and his brother received Jesus Christ!
Your past failures make you more sensitive to those who need mercy in the same areas in which you received forgiveness. Ask God for such opportunities to minister to others who need to experience His mercy.
Presidential Prayer Team
Go to August 2019 Archive