Anchorage Reformed Presbyterian Fellowship Thought for Today

June 23, 2018
PEANUTS, PECANS AND...POTATOES? 





Psalm 34:8
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”
 




I'm a "foodie". Not only do I enjoy eating, but I pay a lot of attention to how things taste and what the ingredients are. Last night I prepared a hot fudge sundae for myself after dinner. As I was sprinkling on some granulated mixed nuts, I read the label. Serving size 2tbsp; calories 100 etc. When I got to the ingredients list, I was amused to discover that in addition to pecans, peanuts, filberts, Brazil nuts - which incidentally are a type of seed and not a nut - the nut topping contained potato.

Potato?

If I had to decide whether I wanted to use those mixed nuts as a topping for my ice cream based on ingredients alone, I think I would have declined. In my mind the foods potato and ice cream do not mix. In fact, they are so different in flavor that I almost gag just thinking about a hot fudge sundae with potato-nut topping. It sounds ridiculous doesn't it?

There are times when our life is sprinkled with some very unappealing ingredients. God has a way of using the things that are bitter or unsavory and making them into a more appetizing blend. All of us go through periods where life makes sense for the most part. Things go smoothly and we are able to experience a satisfying peace.

When we least expect it, the status quo can change on us. The important thing to remember is that the challenging parts of life are nothing more than a different ingredient being tossed into the mix to add flavor. At first we may not like the way it tastes, especially if it is initially overpowering. Over time, God gives us the appetite we need to be able to taste and see that the things He allows - as part of the flavor of our lives - are good. When we put our hope in Him and trust Him as our constant refuge, even life's stomach-churning recipes can be salvaged.

Lauren Beyenhof
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley


Previous thoughts

June 22, 2018
GROWING IN WISDOM



Proverbs 13:20
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” 
 


With whom do you walk (figuratively or literally) through life who offers you wisdom? Do you walk with your father or father-in-law, or mother or mother-in-law? When you walk with them are you slow to speak and quick to listen? Indeed, wisdom comes to those who listen more and talk less. Wisdom is a product of the people who pour into you. 

Your wisdom walk may be over the phone with a mentor who lives in another city or a neighbor across the street who, by God’s grace, has already raised God-fearing children. Look around you and learn from those wise ones the Lord has placed in your life. Pray for a “Paul” who can be your spiritual instructor:

“That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.”  (1 Corinthians 4:17) 

No one is ever too old or too wise to need a regular wisdom walk. Perhaps you take the time to walk with your spouse after dinner or a co-worker during the lunch hour. Vacations are ideal to walk with a wise family member. Walk while the brilliant sun arises or a majestic sunset kisses the horizon. A wisdom walk allows your soul to catch up with the hectic pace of your body. Indeed, walk with the wise, and you will grow wise.
 
Talk about topics that are relevant to your season of life. Maybe it is insight into parenting a teenager, financial management, decision making, how to love and respect your spouse, books to read, or devotion to Christ. Ask your wise walkers what mistakes they made and how you can learn from them. Listen to their ideas, process them in prayer, and apply them to your life. Otherwise, unused wisdom becomes fodder for foolishness! 

Above all, have wisdom walks with almighty God. Unlike Adam and Eve, learn to live in the intimacy of the moment with your heavenly Father:

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”  (Genesis 3:8)

Walk with Jesus, and you will become much the wiser. Keep Christ your closest companion. Who are wise people in your life with whom you can enjoy regular wisdom walks? What does it look like for you to have wisdom walks with your heavenly Father?

Wisdom Hunters


June 21, 2018
TRUE GREATNESS 
 

Matthew 18:1-5 
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,’ 


 
As a father of three, the majority of my life is lived in close proximity with young children. At times this can be exhausting and all consuming, as any parent can attest, yet it has also been one of the most beautiful and transformative experiences of my life. My children have taught me to be quick to forgive, to laugh freely and frequently, and to think the best of others.
 
As we grow, we seem to leave behind the innocence and humility of childhood and are told, implicitly and at times explicitly, to become people of significance and power, even if we must sacrifice our time, relationships, and integrity in the process. It is a life of taking rather than giving, of forcing rather than receiving, and it is so pervasive that it becomes our default posture and normative way of viewing the world and our place within it.
 
Jesus, as he often does, invites us to reassess the true nature of reality. In God’s Kingdom values are turned upside down. The powerful and successful in this world have, in their quest for greatness, lost something of what it means to be truly human.  Children, often dismissed for their weakness and dependency upon others, are instead elevated as an example of what is good, beautiful, and true.
 
Jesus extends an invitation into a life of transformation. It is the consistent call to conform our lives to his example, becoming like him in the process. The virtues of childhood – humility, honesty, simplicity, and selfless love – Jesus himself perfectly embodies. Jesus likewise dignifies and elevates children, and we should do the same. To celebrate and welcome children and their virtues into our own lives is to welcome Jesus himself. As St. Jerome said, “Whoever lives so as to imitate Christ’s humility and innocence, in him Christ is taken up.”
 
Give thanks today for the gift of children. Look to their example of humility and walk with them, becoming like them, and Jesus, in the process!
 
Where have you lost sight of the childlike faith and love that the Lord wants you to know and receive?

Tripp Prince


June 20, 2018
INVITATION




John 10:10
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” 




There is only one invitation it would kill me to refuse, yet I'm tempted to turn it down all the time. I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does. It doesn't come in an envelope. It's ushered in by a sunrise, the sound of a bird, or the smell of coffee drifting lazily from the kitchen. It's the invitation to actually live, to fully participate in this amazing life for one more day. Nobody turns down an invitation to the White House, but I've seen plenty of people turn down an invitation to fully live.

Turning down this invitation comes in lots of flavors. It looks like numbing yourself or distracting yourself or seeing something really beautiful as normal. It can also look like refusing to forgive or not being grateful or getting wrapped around the axle with fear or envy. I think every day God sends us an invitation to live and sometimes we forget to show up or get head-faked into thinking we haven't really been invited. But you see, we have been invited -- every day, all over again.

Bob Goff


June 19, 2018
CUTTING THE LINES



John 13:17
“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”



If you yourself do not cut the lines that tie you to the dock, God will have to use a storm to sever them and to send you out to sea. Put everything in your life afloat upon God, going out to sea on the great swelling tide of His purpose, and your eyes will be opened.

If you believe in Jesus, you are not to spend all your time in the calm waters just inside the harbor, full of joy, but always tied to the dock. You have to get out past the harbor into the great depths of God, and begin to know things for yourself—begin to have spiritual discernment.

When you know that you should do something and you do it, immediately you know more. Examine where you have become sluggish, where you began losing interest spiritually, and you will find that it goes back to a point where you did not do something you knew you should do. You did not do it because there seemed to be no immediate call to do it. But now you have no insight or discernment, and at a time of crisis you are spiritually distracted instead of spiritually self-controlled. It is a dangerous thing to refuse to continue learning and knowing more.

The counterfeit of obedience is a state of mind in which you create your own opportunities to sacrifice yourself, and your zeal and enthusiasm are mistaken for discernment. It is easier to sacrifice yourself than to fulfill your spiritual destiny, which is stated in Romans:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

It is much better to fulfill the purpose of God in your life by discerning His will than it is to perform great acts of self-sacrifice:

“And Samuel said, ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.'”  (1 Samuel 15:22)

Beware of paying attention or going back to what you once were, when God wants you to be something that you have never been:

"If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority." (John 7:17)

Oswald Chambers

June 18, 2018
LED BY THE SPIRIT 
 




Romans 8:14 
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” 





 
At one level, every human being is a child of God, created in his image and filled with the potential of relationship with him. This is why every single person you meet is worthy of respect and dignity. They are our fellow human beings and members of a race that is beloved by God. However, though we are all created by God, not everyone lives up to the potential of a truly flourishing human life.
 
According to Paul, the true children of God are those who are led by the Spirit of God. A child begins to recognize its parent’s voice while still in the womb- a remarkable thought! Yet the voice is muffled and an infant child isn’t able to fully comprehend what the parent is saying to it. However, I believe children are able to know and receive love in true and beautiful ways, even before they know how to reciprocate this love.
 
In a similar way, as children of God we must learn what it means to hear the voice of the Lord and respond with faith and gratitude. In the beginning, we may be a bit like a child in the womb. We receive the love of God even before we know how to respond or comprehend this love. Yet it is real and true and good.
 
Just as a child doesn’t remain an infant forever, so too must we grow in our faith and learn to move from infancy into spiritual maturity. We never outgrow our identity as children of God, yet we are meant to be mature children who learn what it means to be led by the Spirit. To be led by the Spirit is to have the entirety of your life shaped by the Spirit. The things you love, the places you go, the way you spend your time, all of these are meant to be attuned to the Spirit’s leading and lived in alignment with the Lord’s will.
 

To live a Spirit shaped life requires intentional and active listening. We must learn to cultivate a habit of stillness and silence in prayer before the Lord. It is easy to rush out ahead of God, thinking we know where he wants us to go or who he wants us to be. And yet, if we can quiet our hearts and lives, we will find he is faithful to lead us, at times even in surprising and remarkable ways. 

“But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’—”  (1 Corinthians 2:9) 

Are there areas of your life where you need to get back in line and let the Lord take the lead?

Tripp Prince

June 16-17, 2017
SERVE OTHERS WITHOUT EXPECTING TO BE SERVED



Matthew 20:28
“even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 
 


Joy comes when we join Jesus in giving away our life without expecting anything in return.  Young moms do this everyday---they serve those who can't (and sometimes won't) serve them. A  mother wipes bottoms, wipes runny noses, wipes food encrusted faces---not necessarily in that  order, ha!---all out of love and devotion to their little gifts from God. Barbara Bush rocked the cradle of a President of the United States---perhaps she prayed for her son George W. prior to his  days in the White House, when as a young man he battled with alcohol:
 
Dear Lord, bring my boy back to You. I have done everything humanly possible to selflessly  love and serve him. He is Your child, Your creation, so I trust You to do whatever it takes to  awaken him out of his sinful slumber and draw Him by Your Spirit to see himself as you see  him: forgiven, loved and precious in Your sight. Thank you Father, in Jesus’ name, amen.
 
Her prayers were answered, her son was able to complete his God given assignment to become  the leader of the free world. Sometimes our best service is to pray for someone and trust the Lord  to do a work of grace in their hearts. Prayer serves the Lord's greater purposes in His timing for  His glory!
  
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 often 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 can you serve without expecting to be served by them?

Wisdom Hunters

June 14-15, 2018
EMBRACE EXCELLENCE 




Matthew 5:48
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”   
 


We admire excellence in others. Professional athletes, attorneys, speakers, teachers, coaches, custodians, mothers, fathers, leaders, elected officials, and business men and women who excel motivate others to excel. Their commitment to thousands of hours in focused training and competition makes their flawless performance look easy. It is their obsession with perfection that leads them to excellence.
 

In Christ perfection is our position. Outside of Christ no one is perfect, but inside of Christ everyone is perfect. We are perfect because He is perfect. 

“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”  (Colossians 1:28)

 The challenge lies in our living in a sinful world with sinful people; therefore, perfection is diluted. Nonetheless, Jesus commanded His children to be perfect on the same level as their heavenly Father. So as we seek perfection in this life, we see glimpses of glory, and we do capture excellence in the process. What does excellence look like from the eyes of the eternal? Paul, a protagonist of perfection, describes our dilemma: 

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 3:12–14) 

People with an eternal perspective promote perfection. Therefore, embrace excellence as a core value in your life and work. Because you represent the Lord Jesus, be an excellent example of a Christian. Be it ministry or business, your vocation is a vicarious look at our Lord. Talk about Jesus from a platform of perfection, and people will stop to listen. Excellence is your entrée into promoting a loving relationship with God. 

“You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever.” (Psalm 45:2) 

Do you settle for mediocrity, or do you aspire to excellence? Are others attracted to the quality of your character, competence, and family?

Wisdom Hunters

June 13, 2018
LOVE AVOIDS RUDE WORDS 



1 Corinthians 13:4-5
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;”



 
I remember the hurt and shame of being called a slang name in middle school; the Vietnam war was winding down, but two classmates found entertainment by labeling me with a certain Asian slur. Not even knowing what the three word description meant, I knew their words were not meant as a compliment. I stuffed my feelings of inferiority and anger---and later vented my sense of condemnation through the organized violence on a football field. Sarcasm strips another of dignity and paints the perpetrator as ignorant, insecure and unkind. All unhealthy outcomes!
 

Love rejects rudeness because rudeness is reserved for the insensitive and the insecure. Rudeness is impolite and disrespectful. Indeed, a rude reply stands ready on the lips of an unlovely life. Rude people use coarse words that rub their listeners the wrong way. They pride themselves in being without airs, but they are insensitive in the timing and the tone of their conversations. They hurt feelings at the drop of a hat and seem to alienate people on purpose. Love is the light that leads rudeness out of darkness. 

“and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,”  (Romans 2:19) 

A rude person is a rascal to work alongside because you never know when they are going to offend you or someone else. You lose confidence in rude people because of their volatile nature. You don’t want to be embarrassed around one of their outbursts or social indiscretions, so you shun their presence. Rude people become loners by default. Over time, no one can tolerate a barrage of irreverence and sarcasm. Even the most accepting and forgiving saints grow weary of rudeness. Rudeness has no place in a caring culture.
 

Love expunges rudeness like a healthy body does a virus. It uses tough love to escort rudeness out the door of relationship. Because you love them and those they influence, you need to be very direct and matter-of-fact in your communication with a rude person. Direct conversation is the only way they begin to “get it.” Love takes the time to be very candid and clear with rude people who run roughshod over others. However, be careful not to be rude in dealing with the rude. Do not lower your standards to theirs. Be prayed up and filled up with the Spirit before you encounter the rude with truth. 

“I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—”  (Romans 9:1) 

Without patronizing, love is able to find at least one thing they admire in someone else. Even if a person is full of himself, there lies dormant within him or her, some redeeming quality. Love is able to pull out the potential for good that lies deep within a selfish soul; the way Barnabas saw possibilities in Saul:

“But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 9:27)

Love looks beyond the hard, crusty exterior of someone’s character and understands that fear may have locked his or her love into solitary confinement. They feel lost, lonely, and afraid. Nonetheless, love is able to get past this rude roadblock and inject faith. Faith in God, faith in oneself, and faith in others frees one from rudeness.
 
The Almighty’s rude awakening transforms an impolite heart into one full of kindness and grace. When love has its way, rudeness runs away. Love the rude, and watch what God can do. Their sarcasm is a smoke screen that hides a lonely, loveless, and hurt heart. Rude people are reaching out but they don’t know how.
 

Stay committed to your rude roommate, relative, parent, child, or colleague. Love them to Jesus, and your unconditional love will melt away their iceberg-like insecurities. Pray they will see themselves as Christ sees them, and pray they will love and be loved. Love loves the rude and is not rude. Be persistent by staying engaged in unconditional love. Watch the rude walls come down as you bombard them with consistent acts of love. 

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  (Ephesians 4:32) 

To whom have you spoken rudely and need to apologize and ask for forgiveness?

Wisdom Hunters

Previous thoughts

June 12, 2018,
THE HESITANT BRIDE



Revelation 19:7
“Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;”




I had an uncomfortable experience at a wedding recently. Everything was going along as planned until it came time for the minister to ask that all-important question of the bride, "Do you take John to be your lawfully wedded husband?"

Just then, for some unknown reason, there was an incredibly long and unbelievably awkward silence. No one, at the time, knew for sure if the bride had just zoned out for a moment, or if she was actually contemplating how she wanted to answer. I certainly hope it was the former, but not being a close friend, I never found out.

No groom deserves to have a hesitant bride on his wedding day.

This incident made me think of how the Church is the Bride of Christ, and how we can be reluctant in committing ourselves to Him. Just as it would crush a groom for his bride to have second thoughts about her commitment, it must be so disappointing to Jesus when we hesitate in our commitments to Him.

The good news, however, is that He doesn't turn and walk away. He waits patiently - however long and awkward our pause might be - always remaining at the altar, always waiting for us to say, "I do." 
 
Thomas Bevers
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

June 11, 2018
RECIPROCAL LOVE



John 13:14-15
“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”    
 



My mother-in-law is a stroke victim. But for 55 years Jean out-served James, my father-in-law. Many, many times he has expressed to me and our children how his sweetie selflessly served him with a tone and tenor that brought great joy to her and a grateful heart to him. Bills---she paid on time. School activities for Timmy and Rita, their son and daughter, ever present as an engaged parent. A clean, and more importantly, caring home---Jean lavished with her loving smile and stunningly attractive servant spirit. Meals, always appetizing and plentiful for a college student like me to enjoy in a relaxing, supportive environment. But then the stroke struck.
 
Strokes, as you probably know, restrict life giving blood. In Jean's case her brain suffered a temporary cessation of blood flow. It only took a short term shortage of blood to the brain to cause long term limitations to her speech and physical mobility. Speech therapy helped some, but after five years she is able to reason with her mind, but unable to clearly verbalize her thoughts. Now Jean requires James to serve her in the selfless ways she served him.
 
Beautifully, my father-in-law loves his bride with a heart of gratitude and with hands of selfless service. "She has served me all these years, I am honored to serve her. My purpose in life is to be there for her when she is afraid, frustrated and unable to take care of herself.” James out serves Jean, because he cherishes her and wants to honor her. He serves with great joy and gratitude!
  
Out-serve your spouse. This is not natural to our selfish self, but out-serve your spouse, and you will start to see positive differences in both of you. Service makes them feel cared for and makes you feel fulfilled; Service makes them feel loved and makes you feel rewarded; Service makes them feel respected and makes you feel significant. Of course, unappreciated service can wear you down over time, but trust God. Allow Him to supply the strength for your service. If the Lord is not empowering your service, you will eventually burn out and possibly become resentful. Bitter service does not last, but joyful service does.
 

Serve your spouse out of gratitude to God for giving them to you. Serve them in the routines of life and when they least expect it. Serve them where they want to be served, not just where you want to serve them. It may be unloading the dishwasher, taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn, maintaining the house, or taking care of the cars. Their service may include an organized family, dinner at home, being on time, keeping a calendar, or planning a trip. If you are unsure, ask them how they like to be served.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:” (1 Peter 4:10) 

Carry this attitude of out-serving into your occupation. Be one who serves in the work place, especially if you are a leader or manager. Quietly and clandestinely clean up the break room, even wipe out the gooey microwave with its burst of flavors matted on the inside. Service from a sincere heart values and respects others. Our Savior modeled service. He did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His very own life as the ultimate act of service. When we enlist in the service of God’s Kingdom, we become His full-time servants. Service for our Savior is a thread that runs through the life of everyone who is led by the Lord. If Jesus is your model for leadership and living life, you serve.
 
What need does your spouse have that only you can fulfill?

Wisdom Hunters

Previous thoughts

June 9-10, 2018
NECESSARY TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN 



1 Corinthians 15:17
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”  
 


How do we become a Christian? Belief in the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ for our sins. The cross of Jesus justified our forgiveness and the resurrection of Jesus validated our forgiveness. The God ordained miracle of bringing Jesus back to life after three days in the grave is the foundation of our faith. The risen Lord is evidence of His life fully alive in His followers. A person who claims to be a Christian but denies Christ rose from the grave is still lost in his sins. He only deceives himself. Faith in Jesus is based on His miraculous resurrection.
 

Paul gives a compelling argument to the necessity of believing in the resurrection as foundational for our faith. Preaching without the forgiveness of the cross and the power of the resurrection is a farce, fake and hellish in its outcome. Faith without the resurrection is faithless led astray by the most recent spiritual fad. If Christ is not risen from the dead we are false witnesses to what really happened and face no resurrection, no hope after we die. When we embrace the historical fact of Christ's resurrection we are forgiven, alive and envied by evil doers. 

“…It will be counted to us [by God] who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”  (Romans 4:24-25) 

Have you settled in your heart and mind the reality of the Lord Jesus' resurrection? If not ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to your soul the sweet love of Christ who is alive and ever interceding to His Father in heaven on your behalf. Don't be dismayed by modern atheists who attack your faith by belittling your beliefs. There will always be those who seek to justify their conduct and convince their conscience that Christ was not who He claimed to be. The lost love company. Pray for those who dismiss Christianity to be drawn to Jesus. You know better, you know Him.
 

Prayer time with the risen Lord is an eternal investment. He reminds you what's most important in this life and in the life to come. The more you are vulnerable with Jesus the more you will get to know Jesus and the more your trust in Him will grow. The more your trust in Him grows, the more faithfully and passionately you will follow Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is your solid rock of faith: unmovable, alive, miraculous, comforting and necessary to be a Christian.   

“and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”  (2 Corinthians 5:15) 

What area of your life can you better live out the resurrected Christ through your life?

June 8, 2018
LORD, KILL THE SPIDER



Hebrews 12:1-2
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” 



Last Sunday our pastor told an interesting story and, had it not been serious, it would have been funny. He told about a fellow in a support group who for months on end kept praying about a personal problem but never did anything about it. Week after week he would pray with seemingly great conviction, "Oh God, clean the cobwebs out of my life... clean the cobwebs out of my life!"

Finally, in utter frustration the leader of the group broke into the man's prayer and prayed rather boisterously, "Oh God, KILL THE SPIDER!" 

I can identify with this leader in that I, too, know of people who have been confessing the same sin and/or problem for years, asking God for deliverance but never doing anything about it.

If we are struggling with a besetting sin or bad habit, what can we do about it? Certainly pray and ask God for deliverance - but also pray that he will show us the root cause of our problem because, more often than not, our repetitive failures are the fruit of a deeper root. God not only wants to deliver us from habitual sins but also free us from the deeper root cause.

Dick Innes
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

Previous thoughts

June 7, 2018
WHEN YOUR FAITH IS SMALL 



Isaiah 42:3
“a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.”  
 



I don’t know about you, but there are days or even seasons when I have wrestled with trusting God. I have struggled with laying my concerns and cares at His feet, giving Him control of my life—and I have even struggled with unbelief.Perhaps you’ve felt the same. And, when you have wrestled with unbelief, perhaps you have wrestled with the thought that if you don’t have full, abundant, and perfect faith that God won’t do this or that and you won’t receive from Him.
 
If you have struggled in this way, you are not alone. All it takes is hearing one sermon that God doesn’t reward us when we doubt, or a “name-it-and-claim-it” message to begin to feel that whatever happens in your life is all up to you and the result of your faith—or lack of it.
 

Around Easter, I read a verse in Luke that made me sigh in relief about this and it reminded me that God is God and that He does miracles and performs more than our expectations even when our faith is miserably small. 

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they [Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome] went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.” (Luke 24:1) 

Did you catch that? The women went to Jesus’ tomb fully expecting to find His body. But He wasn’t there. Their expectation, their doubt, or their lack of faith didn’t stop Him from performing the miracle of His resurrection.
 

For someone who wrestles with thinking they have to believe enough for God to move, and trust Him fully and never struggle with doubt, this is a liberating message. Isn’t it awesome to know that God is God even when we fall so terribly short, and that His plans will still stand even when our faith is small?

“He said to them, 'Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.' (Matthew 17:20) 

So, what can you do if you are wrestling with trusting God or struggling to believe Him? Just tell Him. He already knows your heart. And when you confess your unbelief to Him, He will strengthen you. He is always ready to extend grace to the humble.

What situation do you need to give to God, trust Him and not stress over?

Shana Schutte

June 6, 2018
SEARCHING FOR THE LIGHT




John 12:32
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 





Have you ever seen lights piercing the sky and wondered what they were illuminating? Searchlights are used by the military and commercial industry. The 1933 World’s Fair used them to draw crowds. In past wars, the military used them to communicate, to detect enemy aircraft, as a beacon for damaged planes, and to illuminate battlefields at night. The light hovering between the sky and Earth drew people to it and brought help and rescue.

In the section leading up to today’s scripture, Jesus predicts His death and proclaims He has come to drive out the prince of the world and reclaim it for its rightful ruler. As a banner is flown in victorious battle, Christ proclaims Himself a rallying point when He is crucified. When the “Light” hung between Heaven and Earth, He defeated the enemy and now draws all nations to Himself.

Are you under attack? The Light detects the enemy. Are you injured or lost? The Light shows the way home. Do you need to communicate with God? The Light signals to Him. Search for the Light and pray to be drawn to Him.

June 5, 2018
PRACTICING THE GOLDEN RULE






Matthew 7:12
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
 




Last night, while watching the Woman's Softball Tournament, I was reminded of one of the most touching moments in women's sports history.  It took place at a women's softball game on April 26, 2008.  Central Washington and Western Oregon faced off against each other, with the winner to receive a bid to the NCAA's Division II playoffs.

Sara Tucholsky, a Western Oregon player, came to the plate in the second inning with the score tied 0-0 and two runners on base .  Sara had never hit a home run in her lifetime.  However, things were about to change.  She connected on a pitch and hit the ball over the center field fence.  Due to her excitement, she missed first base.  So she stopped and turned to go back to the base.  But when she made the sudden stop and turn, she collapsed to the ground, having torn her ACL.

Her first base coach wanted to run out and help her, but if she touched Sara, she would have been counted out.  As Sara lay on the ground, umpires conferred and determined that the best thing to do was to allow Western Oregon to substitute a pinch runner at first base (which would have canceled the home run).

The coach prepared to make the substitution when she heard a voice:  "Excuse me, would it be OK if we carried her around and she touched each bag?'"  You see, in softball, a teammate can't touch a player while running the bases, but there's no rule that says the opponents can't touch her.  So Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace, two players on the opposing team offered to carry Sara around the bases so that her home run would not be counted as a single.  These two players gently picked up Sara, and carried her around the bases, allowing her to tap each base along the way.  After reaching home plate, these two girls handed Sara off to her own teammates.

When asked later why she did it, Mallory Holtman said, "Honestly, it's one of those things that I hope anyone would do it for me..."  In other words, she was practicing the "Golden Rule":

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

There's not much I can add to a touching story like that.  May it serve as an inspiration to find ways in your own life to look for people who could use a hand.  When we are less concerned about "winning" than we are about helping others, we can truly begin to reflect Jesus Christ in our lives.

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

June 4, 2018
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY? 




Mark 12:30
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  


 
People who are emotionally healthy understand their flaws, and accept their imperfections as their need for God's grace and forgiveness. Because they embrace this powerful truth, they are able to extend the same grace and forgiveness they have received from God to other people.
 
Emotionally healthy individuals take captive their thoughts, understand their feelings and control their behavior. When facing life's challenges they become better not bitter. They learn to process pain, so it does not fester into ongoing relational conflict. The emotionally healthy love God, are loved by God, so they are able to love for God. They are peaceful people.
 

Jesus starts at the heart of the matter—our heart. What captures our passions and yearnings? Our heart is the seat of our feelings and affections. We are drawn to what we desire—what we value. Yes, the heart follows what it treasures above all else. In the same way an engaged couple each aggressively seeks to engage the heart of their lover, so as the bride of Christ we passionately pursue His heart. As our heart loves Jesus—He simultaneously settles and stirs our emotions. 

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) 

If we serve in our own strength we can quickly lapse into a loveless routine void of the Spirit's inner strength and power. Our emotions become frazzled and unruly, without the riches of God's grace which abundantly fuel our faith and love. So wise are we to grow our capacity to serve by being emotionally healthy. A healthy heart is able to encourage other healthy hearts.
 

Love is the most powerful weapon in our arsenal of faith. Like the tip of an arrow love points us to God. Love commandeers all other graces to engage the Lord’s affection and His eternal concerns. When Jesus defined love as the greatest command, He gave us a glimpse into what He wants for the world and His children. A life motivated by love is only limited by its capacity to love the Lord and be loved by the Lord. Love is a muscle we exercise, so it grows in stamina and strength. Jesus starts with the heart in His sequence of how we can love God. 

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8) 

How can you grow your heart of love for God and people?

Wisdom Hunters

June 3, 2018
TWO-WAY STREET



Acts 28:28
“Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” 




Have you ever tried to convey important information to a distracted listener, someone who is not completely engaged? It’s a challenge: kind of like trying to get to your destination using only one-way roads. Poor listening is a major roadblock to achieving good relationships. Whether it’s with your spouse, children, boss, realtor or hair dresser, one-way communication leads directly to misunderstanding.

Can you imagine God having the same frustration at times, seeking to speak but finding only preoccupied people with plugged up ears? In the Bible, Jesus identifies His disciples as the ones that actually hear His voice. Because they listen to Him, He interacts with them and gives them purpose and the power to accomplish meaningful things.

Tell those in your piece of the world about Jesus this week – but before you get up and go, sit down and listen. Start by spending a generous amount of time reading the Bible. It is God’s personal instruction book and road map for you. Invite the Holy Spirit to guide the thoughts in your heart and mind. As you sense His presence, be still, be quiet and really listen. His voice in your ear is a two-way street to the right destination.

“So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: ’Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen.’” (Acts 13:16)


June 2, 2018
LOVE AND THE REFINER’S FIRE





Malachi 3:3
“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver…”   




 

Some time ago, a few ladies met to study the scriptures.  While reading the third chapter of Malachi, they came upon a remarkable expression in the third verse: 

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver…” (Malachi 3:3) 

One lady decided to visit a silversmith, and report to the others on what he said about the subject.  She went accordingly, and without telling him the reason for her visit, begged the silversmith to tell her about the process of refining silver. After he had fully described it to her, she asked, "Sir, do you sit while the work of refining is going on?"
 
"Oh, yes ma'am," replied the silversmith, "I must sit and watch the furnace constantly, for, if the time necessary for refining is exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured."
 
The lady at once saw the beauty and comfort of the expression, "He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver."  God sees it necessary to put His children into the furnace; but His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying, and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for us.
 
Our trials do not come at random, and He will not let us be tested beyond what we can endure.
 
Before she left, the lady asked one final question, "How do you know when the process is complete?" "That's quite simple", replied the silversmith.  "When I can see my own image in the silver, the refining process is finished."
 
Author unknown

June 1, 2018
OPPORTUNITY LOST





Acts 26:28
“And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”





Years ago, Walter took his friend Arthur to see some land in open country where cattle were idly grazing. Walter explained about his dream for developing this area. He told his friend that in time the area would be surrounded by many restaurants, hotels and convention centers. He told Arthur that his plan would take all of his money and he needed others to develop the surrounding area. He wanted his friend to have the first opportunity to buy into this project.

But Arthur thought to himself, "Who in the world is going to drive twenty-five miles for this crazy project?" He said to Walter that he would think about it and decide later on. "Later on will be too late," Walter cautioned Arthur. "You'd better move on it right now."

And so Art Linkletter turned down the opportunity to buy up all the land that surrounded what was to become Disneyland. His friend Walt Disney tried to talk him into it. But Art thought he was crazy.

Life's like that. King Agrippa had the opportunity to accept Christ and become a Christian. He turned it down. Judas had one of the greatest opportunities in all history to become a follower of Jesus. Instead, he betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Unbelievable! The two thieves who were crucified with Jesus also had the opportunity to receive the gift of eternal life. One accepted. The other didn't.

Life offers all of us many opportunities. We all have the opportunity to become followers of Jesus.  That choice is ours.... Today!  We do not know what tomorrow holds.  

May 31, 2018
JUST ONE DOOR






Ephesians 2:18
“For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” 





Perhaps you’ve seen posters of the doorways of Tuscany or Provence showing many styles of entryways…heavy carved wooden doors with iron hinges, painted doors within graceful arches or under heavy stone beams. There are so many means of access.

God has provided a portal into Heaven – but only one. In the treatise of the Good Shepherd, Jesus proclaims He is that door:

“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9)

In today’s passage, Paul reminds the Christians of Ephesus that, whether Jew or Gentile, there is still but one way…and it runs directly through the cross of Christ. In Revelation, the Bible speaks of another door: the entry into the human heart:

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Written to Christians, it is a reminder that Jesus desires active communion with His own, but will not force His way in. A much-loved painting by Warner Stillman reminds you there is no knob, no latch on this door’s exterior. It must be opened from within.

Keep your heart’s door wide open. As you do, you can readily show others the One Way, Truth and Life…Jesus…the portal into Heaven. Intercede for those who have not yet found God’s loving provision and pray that the truth of His only way will invade their hearts.

May 30, 2018
THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD


Psalm 23
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."




The Lord is my Shepherd“  -  That’s Relationship!

“I shall not want“  -  That’s Supply!

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures“  -  That’s Rest!

“He leadeth me beside the still waters“  -  That’s Refreshment!

“He restoreth my soul“  -  That’s Healing!

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness“  -  That’s Guidance!

“For His name sake“  -  That’s Purpose!

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death"  -  That’s Testing!

“I will fear no evil“  -  That’s Protection!

“For Thou art with me“  -  That’s Faithfulness!

“Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me“  -  That's Discipline!

“Thou prepareth a table before me in the presence of mine enemies" -  That’s Hope!

“Thou annointest my head with oil“  -  That’s Consecration!

“My cup runneth over“  -  That’s Abundance.

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life"  -  That’s Blessing!

“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord“  -  That’s Security!

“Forever“  -  That’s Eternity!

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley


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May 29, 2018
ROYAL






1 Peter 2:9
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 






In the fall of 1997, I had my first closeup look at royalty. Zeeland, Michigan, the small Dutch town where I was born, was celebrating its 150th anniversary, and Princess Margriet and her husband honored the city with an official visit from the Netherlands.

Her Highness looked regal in her crisp, red suit as she walked behind the wooden-shoed Klompen dancers and smiled and waved to the crowd. She moved with a quiet gracefulness and dignity. But without her entourage and a police escort, she could have passed for just another Zeelander blending into the crowd.

Believers in Jesus Christ are also royalty. We have been spiritually reborn into the family of the King of the universe. Peter called us a “royal priesthood”:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

John declared that through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross we are “priests to His God and Father”: 

“and [Jesus] made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:6)

We may look like everyone else, but as Christians our speech and our actions should cause others to ask, “What’s different about her, about him?” We are royalty, of course! What a privilege to be members of God’s royal family. What a responsibility! Every day we represent One who is the “ruler over the kings of the earth”:

“and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” (Revelation 1:5)

Let’s make sure our conduct shows it. A child of the King should bear a family likeness.

Dennis J. DeHaan

Previous thoughts

May 28, 2018
JUST A COMMON SOLDIER





John 15:13 
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”






View Common Soldier video


May 27, 2018
EMBRACE EXCELLENCE 



Matthew 5:48
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
 


We admire excellence in others. Professional athletes, attorneys, speakers, teachers, coaches, custodians, mothers, fathers, leaders, elected officials, and business men and women who excel motivate others to excel. Their commitment to thousands of hours in focused training and competition makes their flawless performance look easy. It is their obsession with perfection that leads them to excellence.
 

In Christ perfection is our position. Outside of Christ no one is perfect, but inside of Christ everyone is perfect. We are perfect because He is perfect. 

“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”  (Colossians 1:28)

The challenge lies in our living in a sinful world with sinful people; therefore, perfection is diluted. Nonetheless, Jesus commanded His children to be perfect on the same level as their heavenly Father. So as we seek perfection in this life, we see glimpses of glory, and we do capture excellence in the process. What does excellence look like from the eyes of the eternal? Paul, a protagonist of perfection, describes our dilemma:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 3:12–14) 

People with an eternal perspective promote perfection. Therefore, embrace excellence as a core value in your life and work. Because you represent the Lord Jesus, be an excellent example of a Christian. Be it ministry or business, your vocation is a vicarious look at our Lord. Talk about Jesus from a platform of perfection, and people will stop to listen. Excellence is your entrée into promoting a loving relationship with God:

“You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever.”  (Psalm 45:2) 

Do you settle for mediocrity, or do you aspire to excellence? Are others attracted to the quality of your character, competence, and family?

Wisdom Hunters

Previous thoughts

May 26, 2018
STRIKE THREE AND YOU'RE IN 


Philippians 3:13-14

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 



Motivational speakers ask the question, "What would you like to do if you knew for certain that you couldn't fail?" Good question. I'm sure that many a life's dream, hope, and/or ambition is lost because of the fear of failure.

Perhaps a better question to ask is: "So what if you do fail?" What is the worst thing that could happen? Ninety-nine percent of the time you could learn from the experience and be better qualified to try again. I doubt if there is anyone who has succeeded in fulfilling their life's dream and goals who hasn't experienced failure--or even many failures before they succeeded.

What we need to realize is that there is no shame in failure. As another has said, "Low aim, not failure, is a 'crime.'" In fact, failure can be our greatest teacher. It's only as we are willing to risk failure that we can ever succeed and become a true winner. Remember, too, that failure is an event not a person. The only real failure is not to get up and keep trying one more time than we fall or get knocked down.

In baseball it may be strike three and you're out. Not so for a successful life where it's .... Strike Three & You're In!

We only succeed when we're willing to fail; We only score goals when we're willing to be tackled; We only hit home runs when we're willing to strike out; And we only win when we're willing to risk failing.

Consider the high jumper who only discovers how high he can jump when he reaches his failure point. Consider Babe Ruth, too, the year he broke the world record for hitting the most home runs, he also broke the record for scoring the most strike-outs!

Success, however exhilarating, doesn't teach one how to be a winner. In fact, failure is the greatest teacher to help one win in the game of life. So, if you want to hit home runs, stand at the plate, start swinging, be willing to strike out - and begin winning!

Dick Innes
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

May 25, 2018
THE DARK ENEMY




1 John 2:2
“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”  



Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe says this: “Every form of life has its enemies. Insects have to watch out for hungry birds, and birds must keep an eye on hungry cats and dogs. Even human beings have to dodge automobiles and fight off germs. The life that is real also has an enemy…sin.”

Sin is the darkness in life. It is outward disobedience and inner rebellion – refusal to submit to the law of God. You can’t whitewash it; neither can you cover it up without committing more sin. And that leaves you out of fellowship with God:

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

He cannot close His eyes to sin and yet because He is God, He is love and wants to save sinners:

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

At the cross, Jesus was the propitiation for your sins, suffering the punishment fully deserved by the sinner. Darkness vs. light is unbelief vs. belief. Set yourself right before God by confessing your sin and turning from it. Then declare this saving grace to those around you. People need to hear the truth of the gospel.
May 23-24, 2018
IRRITATED?




1 Corinthians 13:4-5

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;” 



If you’re like me and have cultivated over the course of your life a habitual indulgence in selfish irritation, it’s going to take some hard work to retrain ourselves in righteousness:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16)

We need something simple to call to mind when the oft-pulled irritation trigger is squeezed. The acronym S.T.O.P. might be helpful:

S — STOP, repent, and ask. We must awkwardly stop immediately — even mid-rant — to repent of our sin, and ask, ‘What am I desiring that is being denied, delayed, or disrupted?’

T  — TRUST a promise. Collect promises to trust that combat your areas of temptation to irritation:

“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.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11–13)

O — OBEY. Remember that your emotions are gauges, not guides. Don’t let irritation reign in you: 

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.” (Romans 6:12)

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

P — PLAN. Yes, plan. More forethought and intention can be a spiritual discipline, an act of love, and a weapon against sin by avoiding temptations to irritability. Ask yourself, "When am I frequently irritable?" To test your self-understanding, ask this question of those who know you best (and often may be the recipients of your irritation). And based on the answers, seek to put into place some systems and habits that will remove irritable stumbling blocks from your path. Pursue the escape from temptation offered by the Lord by taking advantage of the grace of planning.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Jon Bloom
Submitted by Kendra Bowers

Previous thoughts

May 22, 2018
ROYAL LIZARD




Proverbs 30:28
“the lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings' palaces.”




Most lizards are small and somewhat repulsive. Yet it’s amazing where they can go. I have seen a lizard on the 26th floor of a hotel in Acapulco, Mexico. 

How did it get there? Did it climb the stairs? Take the elevator? Scale the walls? Who knows? Lizards can get past guards and maids, and can end up in the best hotels. The author of Proverbs 30:28 marveled that a lizard could be found even in royal palaces. 

Something else that should cause us to marvel is the thought of who will live in the royal palaces of heaven. 

Think of the Christians you may be tempted to avoid: The old man with bad breath and body odor who gets too close to you when he talks. The woman who sings too loudly and a bit off key. The teenager whose hairstyle and clothing you don’t approve of. If you could see them now as one day they shall be, you would marvel at their beauty. And remember, because of sin, we too are unlikely future residents of heaven. But by God’s grace, we will inhabit heaven as sons and daughters of God. 

In the mystery of grace, God takes unlikely people and puts them into His palace for eternity. And we don’t have to climb the walls to get there. Wow!

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23) 

God claims by grace those who have no claim to grace. 

Haddon W. Robinson


May 21, 2018
GOD OF ALL ETERNITY





Psalm 145:2
“Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.” 




A music producer once commented that in the world of pop you can only really write four kinds of song: “I love you”, “I hate you”, “Go away” and “Come back”! That’s an amusing yet astute observation. But gladly, when it comes to writing songs about our God of all eternity, we have a whole different color palate to work with.

When I talk about the reasons for God’s worth and say there are “ten thousand reasons for my heart to find,” that’s actually the huge, poetic understatement. The reasons to praise God are so wide and wonderful that we could sing from now until forever and never run out of ideas about why He is quite so worthy.

Think about the world of nature for a moment. As of now, scientists have described over 1.7 million species of animals, plants and algae on earth. Mammals make up one of the smallest groups—with less than 6,000 members known. For insects on the other hand, we are aware of about 1 million different species. And in all categories, there are more species becoming known every year. In fact, in some places like the depths of the ocean, where we have hardly even begun to explore, there are countless more species to find and identify. But let’s stick for a moment to those 1.7 million species we know of so far. I think we can safely say that every kind of plant, animal and other living thing created by God is a reason for His praise.  

So we have hardly begun and we have found 1.7 million reasons why we might respond to Him. Next, look up at the stars—scientists are now saying there are more stars in the known universe than there are grains of sands on all of the world’s beaches and deserts. So, right there we have billions and billions more reasons to lift up an offering of praise. Next, we look to our own lives—the countless blessings woven into our everyday existences, and the miracle of life itself. We think about families and social circles, and provision in our lives. And we praise, and praise, and praise again. Perhaps that is why at the end of Psalm 30 the worshipper says:

“that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”  (Psalm 30:12)

The psalmist knows of a multitude of reasons to worship God . . . and he can’t think of a single resaon why he should remain silent. The same must be true for our own lives. The worship of Jesus should be vibrant, creative, and colorful as we unfold our hearts in praise. There will be an eternity of reasons to adore and revere Him.

Matt Redman


May 20, 2018
IT SEEMS TO BE TAKING FOREVER




1 Timothy 4:16

“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”  




A sort of "mini-crash" is what I termed it.  After an unknown computer error, the address book contacts, names and email addresses, were no longer.  I thought of just scrapping the whole project looming in front of me.  But then, it seemed the right thing to begin the arduous task of re-entering data.
 

It was painstakingly slow. I seemed to be getting nowhere fast. It wasn't the computer's fault, not really mine either. It was something that just happened.

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”  (James 1:12)

In life, things happen. The computer scenario seemed to take forever; in actuality it did not. It made me think of the real desert times, experiences of the 'dark night of the soul'.  Those times in our lives when we are waiting, hoping, praying.... and things seems to be taking forever.
 

If by any chance, you are in one of those places, you can know that it will not last forever.  We have to hang in there and hold onto the promises that God has given us in the Bible.  We have to do our part and stay faithful and allow God to work on His timetable.  He is faithful. 

“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)  

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley


May 19, 2018
WHEN SILENCE IS GOLDEN 




Leviticus 10:3
“Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the LORD has said: “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.”’ And Aaron held his peace.”   
 


Aaron lost two of his four sons because of their unwise decisions to disobey God. The emotions in Aaron’s heart must have been racing. Just before the death of his sons, Aaron experienced the ultimate in ecstasy by luxuriating in the glory of the Lord with his best friend, family, and friends. He went from the mountaintop of celebration to the valley of death. He knew to speak in this state of emotion was risky, unwise, and fleshly.
 

As anger and humiliation boil, our words become ripe to lash out at God and others. It is wise to refrain in the face of raw emotion. There are times not to speak our minds, spew our unguarded words and embarrass ourselves. Instead, by God’s grace we can remain quiet, cool, and contemplative. Smart silence sends a message of maturity. Patience waits to speak guarded words full of grace and truth—those golden to God. 

“Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.”  (Proverbs 25:12) 

It is hard to remain silent when we feel hurt or disappointed. It is hard to harness our tongues when we see our children hurting and we feel incapacitated to help. It is hard to keep quiet and pray when we feel the Lord has let us down. Like an intravenous procedure in a fevered patient, smart silence requires extra doses of God’s grace flooding our lives. His grace refrains us from speaking until a better time and day.
 

There are times to speak up in the heat of the emotion, but those situations are the exception. In most cases take a deep breath, send up a prayer to your heavenly Father, and wait before you speak. Wait until you are calm, and wait for others to cool down. At the appropriate time, make sure your words are birthed from a pure and prayerful heart. Silence is smart because it allows the Lord to soothe your soul. 

“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”  (Psalm 131:2) 

In what relationship do you need to trust God and be silent?

Wisdom Hunters


May 18, 2018
THE GIFT OF UNANSWERED PRAYER 
 

1 John 5:14-15
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” 


Many children are not shy in making requests of their parents: Can I have a snack? Can I watch a video? Can I play outside? Can I have a phone? As teenagers the pleas are more challenging: Can I drive the car? Can I attend the party? Can I date? Can I travel to another state with a friend? Similar to how the Lord answers our prayerful petitions, good parents weigh what's best for their child: Can he be trusted with more freedom? Is she mature enough to make wise decisions? Does he manage money well, so he can be trusted with more? Does she need to attend a community college for two years and then transfer to a University? Sometimes we tell our child, "no or not now" because they are not ready, likewise our wise heavenly Father protects us.  
 

John reminds us to be confident in approaching our heavenly Father in prayer. We can be confident because once we confess our sins, Christ cleanses our heart and gives us a pure heart to pray according to God's will. A pure heart bends toward God's heart and seeks through prayer to align with what He wants. Prayer is understanding from Christ how we need to change, instead of trying to get the Lord to change. Humble prayers protect us from our proud self. Whatever we ask aligned with God's will, we can rest knowing He knows what's best for our wants and needs: 

“behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you [Solomon] a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.”  (1 Kings 3:12) 

What do I mean by unanswered prayer? When God says “no” or “not now” to a need I have. The need may be marriage, money, healing or an opportunity. My understanding of God's best for my life is incomplete, because I do not know the complete landscape of my life like the Lord does. I walk in life's parade with limited vision, while Jesus is atop a skyscraper and sees the beginning and the end of the parade. He sees the unhealthy outcome of a relationship I would love to engage in, but the Spirit protects my heart with a “no”. I may think I'm ready for a career transition, but Christ knows what's best for me is to go deeper in relationships where I am, in order to grow my soul.
 

What if you ask for physical healing and your heavenly Father says “no” or “not now”? Isn't healing a good thing? Isn't the miraculous restoration of a broken body a compelling apologetic for God? Yes and Yes! But God's will can be more complex. Perhaps He wants to use a person's faithfulness, even in the face of a terminal illness, to save souls who are blind to belief in Christ. The bright light of a life of love in the face of a dark death, shines a spotlight on his or her Savior and Lord, Jesus. God's will is for all to be saved, so He can use your unanswered prayer for physical healing so another might experience spiritual healing. By God's grace embrace and celebrate the gift of answered prayer. He wants what's best for you, and what's best for others. 

“We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.”  (1 John 5:18) 

What unanswered prayer have you been praying that you need to trust the Lord to work through for His bigger picture for your life and the life of others?

Wisdom Hunters


May 17, 2018
COACHING THE WITNESS




Matthew 10:18
“and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.”
 


A good attorney will always prepare his witnesses before putting them on the stand. While it’s against the law to coach a witness on what to say since facts don’t change, almost everything else from style of dress to hair color is fair game in attempting to influence the judge and jury.

The Bible has several examples of followers of Jesus being brought before religious or state officials, charged with stirring up people by proclaiming the radical message of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Before he left Earth, Jesus told His disciples this would happen…foreknowing He, too, would also be brought before those seeking to destroy Him.

In this time as a modern-day disciple, you may be asked to answer for your beliefs as you proclaim your message in America. Don’t be a coached witness with memorized lines and practiced monologues. When the time comes to speak, God promises to fill you with His words and His wisdom: relax and let Him do it. The testimony of Jesus Christ conveyed to your friends and neighbors – in your words and in your way by His leading – may be the best gospel any could hear.


May 16, 2018
WHEN ROYALTY COMES TO TOWN






1 Corinthians 6:19 
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,”







My friend Tim Davis tells the story of being in Trinidad as a little boy when Queen Elizabeth came to visit their town. He recalls going with his missionary parents to join hundreds of others who gathered to greet the queen. Waving his little flag, he watched as the entourage came down the street—first the soldiers, then the mounted guard, and then the limousine from which Queen Elizabeth waved to the cheering crowd. He looked on as the queen drove out of town, leaving everyone to return to life as usual. In Tim’s words, “Royalty came to town and nothing changed!”

For those of us who have accepted Jesus as Savior, there was a day when royalty arrived—in our heart. As Paul put it, our body is “the temple of the Holy Spirit” 

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

This is a reality that has huge ramifications. His residence in our life is intended to transform us to live in a way that brings glory to Him. Our relationships, the way we serve our employer, how we use our money, how we treat our enemies, and everything else in our lives should reflect the wonderful reality that royalty lives within.

Has anything changed since King Jesus came into your heart? Does your world notice or do they think He was just passing through?

Joe Stowell


May 15, 2018
THE PARABLE OF THE TEA CUP




Isaiah 64:8
“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.’



There was a couple who went to England to shop in a beautiful antique store. They both liked antiques and pottery, and especially tea cups. On a trip to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary they found an exceptional cup. They asked "May we see that cup? We've never seen a tea cup quite so beautiful."

As the lady handed it to them, suddenly the tea cup spoke, "You don't understand." the cup said, "I have not always been a tea cup. There was a time when I was just a lump of red clay. My master took me and rolled me, pounded and patted me over and over, and I yelled out, 'Don't do that. I don't like it! "Let me alone,' but the potter only smiled, and gently said, "Not yet!!"

"Then, WHAM! I was placed on a spinning wheel and suddenly I was spun around and around and around. 'Stop it! I'm getting so dizzy! I'm going to be sick!' I screamed.  But the master only nodded and said, quietly, "Not yet." He spun me and poked and prodded and bent me out of shape to suit himself and then... Then he put me in the oven. I've never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. 'Help! Get me out of here!' I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as he shook his head from side to side, "Not yet."

When I thought I couldn't bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on the shelf, and I began to cool. Oh, that felt so good! 'Ah, this is much better,' I thought. But, after I cooled, he picked me up and he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. 'Oh, please; Stop it, Stop it!!' I cried. He only shook his head and said. "Not yet!".

Then suddenly he put me back in to the oven. Only it was not like the first one. This was twice as hot and I just knew I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried. I was convinced I would never make it. I was ready to give up.  Just then the door opened and he took me out and again placed me on the shelf, where I cooled and waited... and waited, wondering what's he going to do to me next? An hour later he handed me a mirror and said "Look at yourself." And I did. I said, 'That's not me; That couldn't be me. It's beautiful... "I'm beautiful!"

Quietly he spoke: "I want you to remember, then," he said, "I know it was uncomfortable to be rolled and patted, but had I left you alone, you'd have dried up." "I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled." "I know it hurt and it was hot and disagreeable in the oven, but if I hadn't put you there, you would have cracked." "I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all over, but if I hadn't done that, you never would have hardened. You would not have had any color in your life. If I hadn't put you back in that second oven, you wouldn't have survived for long because the hardness would not have held. Now you are a finished product. Now you are what I had in mind when I first began with you."

The moral of this story is this:  God knows what He's doing in each of us. He is the potter, and we are His clay. He will mold us and make us, and expose us to just enough pressures of just the right kinds that we may be made into a flawless piece of work to fulfill His good, pleasing and perfect will.

So when life seems hard, and you are being pounded and patted and pushed almost beyond endurance; when your world seems to be spinning out of control; when you feel like you are in a fiery furnace of trials; and when life seems to "stink", try this...  Brew a cup of your favorite tea in your most beautiful tea cup, sit down and think on this story and then... Have a little talk with the Potter.

Author Unknown
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley


May 14, 2018
THANKFUL FOR ANSWERED PRAYER




John 11:41-42
“So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.’




 
Jesus thanked His Father for answered prayer, before His prayer was answered. His heart was so in tune with the heart of the Father that He could boldly ask knowing it was the will of God. In the same way, our Savior calls us to align our hearts with our Heavenly Father’s heart. His plan is for our desires to be His desires, our wants to be His wants, our goals to be His goals, our will to be His will and our prayers to be His prayers. Hence, we can thank Him for answered prayers!
 

What prayers are yet to be answered, but need to be prayed? What is Christ asking you to confidently pray in His name knowing He will answer in the future? Perhaps it’s a yet to be determined job promotion you can thank God for now. You can praise the Lord today for your wayward child, who you have a peace in your heart will eventually come back to their Savior Jesus. Or, you pray with the Spirit’s certainty over an uncertain illness that threatens your joy. Whatever you face you can face down with faith in your Heavenly Father who hears your prayer. 

“If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14) 

We ask in Jesus’ name when we pray for Him to be glorified through answered prayer. When Jesus is lifted up all men and women are drawn to Him. We ask in Christ’s name when our desire is for our answered prayers to be a benefit for believers to grow in their faith, and for unbelievers to come to faith. Oh the joy of seeing someone come to know Jesus in personal salvation, because they saw the love of God transform the life of a loved one. Gratitude glorifies God!
 

Lastly, as we look to the Lord and thank Him for answered prayer, He may call us to be a part of His provision. Jesus told the disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest for laborers and as they prayed, He called them to labor for Him. So, what is your role in relation to the future prayers He wants to answer on your behalf? Perhaps you can resource the need or call on a relationship that can provide answers. Be grateful, God has you positioned to be a part of His answered prayers! 

“And he [Jesus] said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’  (Luke 10:2) 

What prayer can you thank God for answering?

Wisdom Hunters


Previous thoughts


May 13, 2018
A MOTHER'S WORK 
 


Proverbs 31:27–28 
“She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:”   



A mother’s work is never done. There is always another meal to prepare, a face to wipe, clothes to wash, an errand to run, a room to clean, and a dollar to manage. She serves unselfishly like Jesus. 

“Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:5)

A mother’s work makes those around her look good. She is God’s chosen one in the home. The law of love and kindness is written on her heart, but some days it is hard to have the right attitude. The work can become laborious, monotonous, and taken for granted. It is at this point of feeling unappreciated that a wise mom reminds herself of heaven’s applause. She is really serving for an audience of one, her loving Lord. Her Savior Jesus smiles at her service, and that is enough. The reward of doing right encourages her heart to do right. 

“and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”  (Titus 2:4–5) 

In addition, there are the rewards of a child’s smile and warm embrace and of hearing, “Thank you, mommy, for being my mommy.” Or there are the rewards of a loving husband who genuinely thanks his wife and serves her by listening, serving, and giving praise. She takes pride in her work because she recognizes everything she has is a gift from God. Her home and family are a reflection of her and her heavenly Father. She manages the home for her Master’s glory.
 

Lastly, your work is a model for your children to follow. Your actions become a teacher that prepares them for adulthood. Chores done well create children who work well. Assign them responsibilities so they learn thoroughness, cleanliness, and organization. Allow your domestic duties to bring calm into your home in the same manner the Lord quiets your soul. 

“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”  (Psalm 131:2) 

What are some ways for you to rest in the Lord and not worry over matters out of your control?

Wisdom Hunters


May 12, 2018
LIVING IN THE MOMENT 
 


Jeremiah 31:3

“the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”  


 


Have you ever struggled with letting go of unanswered questions about something that happened in your past? Have you ever thought that if God would just allow a particular event to happen in your life that you could finally be happy? If so, this story will encourage you.

About ten years ago I went through a rather odd time of transition. Rather than taking off without makeup to run to WalMart, as I’ve always done, I turned into the clone of a seventeen-year-old girl, only with a few more wrinkles and a lot more anti-aging cream.

Also, like a teen, I started spending more time in front of the mirror primping, fixing, smoothing, and shaping and wondered what I would do when I turned totally grey. Unfortunately, I also spent far too much time complaining about my age since I was just around the corner from the big “four-oh!” I imagine those closest to me noticed a new insecurity about my age creeping into my conversation, but they weren’t the only ones taking notice.
 

God noticed too. 

“Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.” (Psalm 139:4) 

There are times when I know I hear Him speak into my spirit; other times I’m not sure. But one afternoon during this bout of “time of transition” as I like to call it, it was clear God wanted my attention. It was one of those moments when He caught me off guard; I wasn’t expecting His still, small voice. Just as I bowed my head to pray, He beat me to the punch with a rebuke: “I want you to stop complaining about your age. You’re stealing my moments.”
 
Ouch.
 
I knew exactly what He meant, but the Holy Spirit went on to provide extra-added interpretation:
 
“Shana, these are my moments that I’ve given you. When you’re complaining about how old you are, you’re looking back to the past in regret and despairing of the future. If you’re longing for something you used to have, you’re not embracing my now. Therefore, you’re stealing the moments I’ve created—those that I’m working in.”

In the same way my complaints about my age chained me to the past and prevented me from experiencing the joys of the present, not letting go of unanswered questions about the past does the same.

There’s a gentle balance between grieving the past well so that we can move on to greater maturity and hope—and holding onto the past and refusing to move on. Sadly, there have been times when I have done the latter, and it created nothing but heartache and pain.
 

If we refuse to relinquish our questions about the past and demand answers about things we can’t change, we’ll miss out on the joy of today and hope for the future. Spending life looking through the rearview mirror brings emotional pain. Regretting the past and fearing the future brings torment but trusting God with our unanswered questions brings peace. 

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’  So we can confidently say, ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”  (Hebrews 13:5-6) 

Are you stealing God’s moments by complaining or by longing for something that once was? Ask the Lord to help you fully live in the present where He is at work.

Shana Schutte


May 11, 2018
THANKFUL FOR ANSWERED PRAYER


John 11:41-42
“So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, 'Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.'
 

Jesus thanked His Father for answered prayer, before His prayer was answered. His heart was so in tune with the heart of the Father that He could boldly ask knowing it was the will of God. In the same way, our Savior calls us to align our hearts with our Heavenly Father’s heart. His plan is for our desires to be His desires, our wants to be His wants, our goals to be His goals, our will to be His will and our prayers to be His prayers. Hence, we can thank Him for answered prayers!
 

What prayers are yet to be answered, but need to be prayed? What is Christ asking you to confidently pray in His name knowing He will answer in the future? Perhaps it’s a yet to be determined job promotion you can thank God for now. You can praise the Lord today for your wayward child, who you have a peace in your heart will eventually come back to their Savior Jesus. Or, you pray with the Spirit’s certainty over an uncertain illness that threatens your joy. Whatever you face you can face down with faith in your Heavenly Father who hears your prayer. 

“If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14) 

We ask in Jesus’ name when we pray for Him to be glorified through answered prayer. When Jesus is lifted up all men and women are drawn to Him. We ask in Christ’s name when our desire is for our answered prayers to be a benefit for believers to grow in their faith, and for unbelievers to come to faith. Oh the joy of seeing someone come to know Jesus in personal salvation, because they saw the love of God transform the life of a loved one. Gratitude glorifies God!
 

Lastly, as we look to the Lord and thank Him for answered prayer, He may call us to be a part of His provision. Jesus told the disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest for laborers and as they prayed, He called them to labor for Him. So, what is your role in relation to the future prayers He wants to answer on your behalf? Perhaps you can resource the need or call on a relationship that can provide answers. Be grateful, God has you positioned to be a part of His answered prayers! 

“And he said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’  (Luke 10:2) 

What prayer can you thank God for answering?

Wisdom Hunters


May 10, 2018
BEST FRIENDS




Proverbs 12:26
“One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”






When I signed up for a popular Internet social network, I was shocked to be greeted with the words, “You have no friends.” Although I knew it was untrue, I still felt sad for a moment. The idea that anyone, even an impersonal Web site, would call me friendless was upsetting.

Friends are essential for our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. Friends listen to our heartaches without blaming us for having problems. They defend us when we are under attack. They are happy when we succeed and sad when we fail. They give us wise counsel to keep us from making foolish choices. They even risk making us angry for the sake of making us right. My friends have done all of this and more for me.

Perhaps the best-known friendship in the Bible is that of Jonathan and David. Jonathan was heir to the throne of his father Saul. But he knew that the Lord had chosen David for that role, so he risked his own life to save his friend (1 Samuel 20). 
As the Bible shows us, we need to choose friends carefully. The very best friends are those who are friends with God and who strengthen our relationship with Him:

“And Jonathan, Saul's son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God.” (1 Samuel 23:16)

True friends are like diamonds—precious and rare.

Julie Ackerman Link


May 9, 2018
BENEFITS OF FRIENDSHIP




Ecclesiastes 4:9
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.”





Cicero was one of the greatest thinkers of the Roman Empire. He was a skilled orator, lawyer, politician, linguist, and writer. Still today he is quoted for his clear prose and practical wisdom.

For instance, of having friends he wrote: “Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.” Cicero understood the double benefits of friendship along life’s journey.

Nearly a millennium earlier, King Solomon had written about the value of friends as well. In Ecclesiastes we read:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Certainly a life without friends makes our sojourn lonely and hard to bear.

That famous Roman and that Jewish king were right: Friends are important. Friends serve as confidants, counselors, and burden-sharers.

Think about your friends. Have you been neglecting those God has provided to share your joys and sorrows? If so, seek out one of your friends for fellowship this week. Remember, “two are better than one,” because a friend can double our joy and divide our grief.

Friends are flowers in the garden of life.

Dennis Fisher


May 8, 2018
MARKET EXPERIENCE



Matthew 9:37
“Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;'” 




Imagine yourself at the grocery store, but there are no vegetables, fruit, or even bread. You ask why and are told the produce and grain was out there in the fields and ready – but there was no one to pick it.

When Jesus gave His agricultural example to the crowd standing around Him, He also told them to pray for workers.

Just as Jesus could look across the expanse of fields and see ripened heads of grain, He looks across His creation and sees men, women and children ready to receive His message of love, forgiveness, and salvation. Can you go into that harvest-ready mission field? Not everyone can. But you can certainly and earnestly pray for workers who do carry the message into those places.

And where is that ripe harvest found? Africa, Latin America, China? Yes, of course. And next door, down the block, across your community – even in your church and in your government! Jesus has compassion for the lost. 

Be motivated by His character to do what you can. Above all, be a solid witness to the love of Christ in your own life, and pray for all those who carry His message forth.


May 7, 2018 

GOD OF ALL FRIENDSHIP





James 2:23

…and he [Abraham] was called a friend of God.” 




We can have a friendship with God. We can pull up a chair next to us during devotions, knowing it’s not empty. We can speak to God as we are driving down the road, knowing He’s listening. And wherever we are, we can recognize that God is right there with us, and He will never leave us or forsake us.


David had a friendship with God and taught Solomon to have the same. David, the King of Israel, sat down with his son Solomon and wanted to give him the most important advice for his life. David advised Solomon to seek to know God, not just to know “about God”, but to know Him as “friend to friend.”


And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. (1 Chronicles 28:9)


Adam had the first friendship with God. Genesis speaks of how God created Adam, and put him in the garden, and gave him guidance to work in the garden by dressing and keeping it. This showed that the Lord desired to have a close relationship with man, but it was Adam who turned away from God. Man’s sin held him back from closeness with God, and unforgiven sin will always keep a gap between friends who are close to each other. 


And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”  (Genesis 3:8-9)


Adam’s sin put a wedge between Him and God, but God is came to look for his friend Adam, and called Him by name.  Why did God call Adam by name? You always call a friend by his or her name. Adam had friendship with God in the beginning and their friendship was reconciled through a blood atonement after the fall.


Abraham had a friendship with God. By faith, Abraham left his country because he had a friendship with God and believed by faith God’s promises, embraced them, and confessed them. 


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)


Moses had a friendship with God. During the time of the wilderness wandering, God told Moses to make Him a sanctuary so He could dwell among His people. When it was built, Moses went into it and talked with God. 


Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend… (Exodus 33:11)


Moses had a friendship with God, and his relationship with God influenced Joshua to follow after him.


All 12 tribes of Israel in the future Kingdom will have friendship with God. The new covenant relationship described in Jeremiah is one of a close relationship with God, where the people have a future personal knowledge of God because of salvation and forgiveness of sins. 


And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:34)


The disciples had a friendship with God. Jesus expressed the intimacy of closeness with His disciples when He 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)


Our friendship with God. Today, we too can have a close friendship with God built on the new covenant relationship of being saved from sins through Jesus and completely forgiven by God, who became the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 


Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)


God promises that if anyone seeks God with all his heart he will find Him. 


You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)


It is up to each of us. Will you accept this friendship with God?


Tom Cantor


May 6, 2018
LUST FOR LUXURY?


Luke 12:18-19
“And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’” 


 
Lust for luxury is the natural progression of a cultural craze for more stuff. This materialistic addiction is never satisfied, as it wants just a little bit more. Relationships are patronized, sacrificed and neglected for the purpose of material gain. Image, not intimacy, is what’s valued by those discontent unless they are able to upgrade. Ironically, insecurity drives this abnormal notion of security they strive in vain to achieve.
 

Bigger is not always better, because bigger brings complexity, not simplicity. Bigger requires added cost for upkeep and attention. What starts out as a desire for something nice can get out of hand and became a hindrance—instead of a help. A bigger bank account, a bigger house and a bigger car can become a distraction to God’s purposes. 

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and[a] we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”  (1 Timothy 6:6-9) 

Covetousness can creep up on us like a lion stalking its prey. When startled, we finally come to our senses, but find ourselves in the clutch of debt’s grip. The remedy for a rich man’s ruckus is found in being rich toward God. Our identity is not in the abundance of our possessions—who we “are” is defined by the abundance of our life in Christ.
 

What does it mean to be rich toward God? It means that wealth brings faith to a soul, not folly. Treasures are not meant to be stored for self, but in service to the Lord and others. Filthy lucre on earth is replaced with eternal reward in heaven. The wealth of the next world is pursued over the wealth of this world—when Christ captivates a heart! 

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34) 

Therefore, resolve to the wise way of engaging God and His eternal pursuits. Avoid the mind games that money plays on foolish souls—seek instead valid security in your Savior Jesus. Determine to build a bigger belief in the Lord and a smaller perception of stuff. Soul fulfillment comes from building the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. 

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  (Matthew 6:33) 

What material pursuit can you replace with a spiritual pursuit for God’s greater good?

Wisdom Hunters


May 5, 2018

GOD OF ALL PROVISION




Psalm 57:3
“He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!” 




In August 2010, the attention of the world was focused on a mine shaft near Copiapó, Chile. Thirty-three miners huddled in the dark, trapped 2,300 feet underground. They had no idea if help would ever arrive. After seventeen days of waiting, they heard drilling. Rescuers created a small hole in the mine shaft ceiling, and that hole was followed by three more, establishing a delivery path for water, food, and medicine.

The miners depended on those conduits to the surface, where rescuers had the provisions they would need to survive. On day sixty-nine, rescuers pulled the last miner to safety.

None of us can survive in this world apart from provisions that are outside of ourselves. God, the Creator of the universe, is the one who provides us with everything we need. Like the drill holes for those miners, prayer connects us to the God of all provision. 
Jesus encouraged us to pray:

“Give us this day our daily bread,”  (Matthew 6:11)

In His day, bread was the basic staple of life and depicted all the daily needs of the people. Jesus was teaching us to pray not only for our physical needs but also for everything we need—comfort, healing, courage, wisdom. Through prayer we have access to Him at any moment, and He knows what we need before we even ask:

“Do not be like them [the Gentiles], for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8)

What might you be struggling with today? 

“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”  (Psalm 145:18)

Prayer is the voice of faith, trusting that God knows and cares.

Bill Crowder


May 3-4, 2018
HEARING GOD ON THE JOB


1 Corinthians 1:26-27
"For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;”  



God is raising up a new kind of workplace believer who is experiencing the power of God in their daily work life. My friend, Emeka Nywankpa, was a barrister (lawyer) in Nigeria. Emeka spoke at a conference a few years ago on the subject of how the spiritual impacts the physical.
 
Emeka shared a story about arguing an important Supreme Court case in his country. There were five points to argue in the case. The morning the trial began, he prayed with his wife and junior lawyers in his chambers. During his prayer time, he sensed that the Holy Spirit was telling him, "Do not argue points one through four. Only argue point five."
 
Imagine making such a change just before you are to argue a case before the Supreme Court! In the courtroom, Emeka announced that he wished to drop points one through four and only wished to argue point five. The judge was shocked, but gave him permission to proceed. He argued point five and sat down. The other attorney got up, and then for twelve minutes stumbled around trying to defend his position, unable to get a coherent word out.
 
Finally, he approached the bench and said, "Your Lordship, it is unfortunate that my learned friend has dropped the first four points. I wish to yield the case." The other attorney had only prepared for the first four points. Emeka won the case. God had given him a strategy to win his case supernaturally. It made no sense to him, but he obeyed and God gave him victory in a very unusual way.
 

Isaiah tells us:

“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.”  (Isaiah 48:17) 

When is the last time you allowed God to give you a strategy to be successful in your work life call and bring glory to His name? This is his desire for you!

Os Hillman
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley


May 2, 2018
SERIOUS FAITH 



Titus 2:6
“Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.” 



 
Faith is a serious matter. What we believe and how we behave can be the difference between heaven and hell, life or death. An abundant life or one of misery and hopelessness are competing outcomes, based on our sober mindedness about eternal matters. Life sets us up for suffering so it’s imperative that we prepare our hearts and minds to persevere through difficulties and love one another. Faith in Christ and the character of Christ is wisdom to overcome deception, lies and arrogance.
 

Paul urges his protege Titus to call out young men to a higher standard of living that takes life seriously. The reality of being a responsible human being who is self-controlled and behaves wisely refrains from overindulging now, and instead learns to wait and prepare his character to handle the Lord’s favor. To behave wisely is to accept that life’s challenges have been around for millennia, and that wise behavior comes from God and learning from those who have faithfully followed Jesus over their lifetime. Taking life seriously means being a lifelong learner of God. 

“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.”  (Titus 2:2) 

Sadly, some older males need to grow up and become men, the kind of men younger men can follow and learn from. Trade in your t-shirt for a starched shirt and stop acting like a kid. Some women need to quit obsessing over their outward appearance and spend as much energy and attention in cultivating a kind, generous heart that finds ways to serve others. Taking God seriously means taking seriously what matters to Him: lost souls, poverty, injustice, unforgiveness, fear and unbelief. Seriousness over our sins that sent Christ to the cross calls us to repentance!
 

Self-control at work may call you to resist manipulating for a promotion now in exchange for supporting the team and growing long-term respect. Self-control at home may mean giving up a hobby or career in exchange for a season of unselfish service. What does it mean to take life seriously by behaving wisely? Instead of spending more than you make, wisdom instructs you to pay your taxes, save, give and spend what remains. Wise living leads to fulfilled living! Take the Lord more seriously and you will enjoy the freedom of grace and the joy of willful obedience. 

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  (1 Peter 5:8) 

What area of your life needs the serious attention of God’s grace and wisdom?

Wisdom Hunters


May 1, 2018
RIGHTEOUSNESS IS FROM FAITH TO FAITH 



Galatians 3:11
“Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”



 
When I came to Christ, not unlike many people when they are born again, my life was messy. I was hurting badly from a break up with a long-time boyfriend; I had moved out of my childhood home to go to college without a dime in my pocket, and I had no idea what I would do for a profession.
 
It seemed that in every major life area—financially, relationally, and vocationally—I was struggling. I knew my life was a mess and I needed help. And, I knew the only One who could save me from that mess was Jesus. He was literally the anchor for my sinking ship. So, when the waves of life threatened to destroy me and He called my name, I reached out to Him without fighting.

In those early days, I knew I had nothing to offer Him that would make me worthy of His love and I knew I was saved entirely by faith because He was good, not because I was. But I have to admit that after 30 years of walking with Him, there have been times when I have forgotten that the inadequacy that I started with is still true of me today. I may know more about Jesus and the Bible than I did when I started my faith journey, but I am still as unworthy as ever. I recently read Romans which reminded me of this truth: 

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:17)  

Like many people, it was easy for me to start with faith, knowing I couldn’t earn righteousness or His love. But continuing by faith has sometimes been a different story. After I had been walking with him for many years, there have been times when I have believed the lie that I had to earn His love or be “good enough” to keep His love. But the truth is that I started with grace; I will end in grace. The righteousness that Christ has given me was an undeserved gift then, and it will forever be an undeserved gift even after my dying breath.  
 

Believing anything less creates fear in the human heart: fear of losing His love, fear of His punishment and wrath, fear of not measuring up which can make anyone feel defeated, or angry, or depressed. Why work to please a God you can’t please? Why try to love a mean, ogre God? A better option is to believe God is love: 

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

That there is no darkness in Him:

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

And the grace and unconditional love that He gave to you in the beginning—even if your life was a mess like mine—is the same unconditional love that He extends to you now:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8)

You don’t have to earn His love or stave off His wrath. All of His love was given on the cross and His wrath was satisfied. That’s magnificent news:

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,”  (Titus 2:11) 

Tell the Lord thank you for His grace that will never end and that you will never have to earn His love.

Shana Schutte


April 30, 2018
TIME'S A WASTIN' 





Galatians 6:10 
“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  




I love it when God hits me over the head with something I need to learn by presenting the same truth to me several times in three different places in one day: 

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16) 

Okay, Lord, I understand that we are to make the most of every opportunity, but what does “the days are evil” mean?  In search of an answer, I found a couple commentaries and came up with the following treasure:
 
“Because the days are evil, because the times in which you live are evil, there are many allurements and temptations that would lead you away from that the proper improvement of time . . . and that would draw you into sin . . . to go places where time would be wasted.”  (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)
 
As I read this quote, I felt I haven’t been caught up with “allurements and temptations” not of God, but in questions of what I should do: “God, what do you want me to do? Lord, should I speak at this event or that one? Lord, do you want me to start another radio program? I’m not sure. I don’t know what I feel I should do.”
 
It was as if the Lord was reminding me, “Stop wasting time by emotionally spinning and becoming immobilized and paralyzed with your feelings, if you should do this or that.  Just get busy for me. I will guide you as you move forward and work. You don’t have an unlimited amount of time.”
 
I immediately thought of someone I once knew who spent years agonizing over how she was supposed to serve God. She sat at home doing nothing while her emotions led her into inactivity. In the meantime, time was a wastin.’ Tragically, the days she could have been serving Him were lost.
 
When we spend our days languishing in indecision, we can spend so much time wondering what we should do for Christ that we do nothing at all. We must remember that eternity is closing in, and that we only have a limited amount of time to make a difference. We must also remember there are a myriad of ways to serve Christ and show His love for others. All we have to do is look around and ask God to show us opportunities in our churches, neighborhoods, and even our own homes. The opportunities to serve and use our gifts and talents are limitless.
 

Perhaps this speaks to you today. If you don’t know what to do, do something. There are plenty of ways He has clearly shown us to serve Him in His Word while you wait on Him for more direction. What do you say? Let’s get busy for Christ. He will guide us as we work for Him and listen to Him. 

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”  (Hebrews 13:16) 

Look for opportunities to serve those around you today.

Shana Schutte


April 29, 2018
YOUR BROKENNESS, GOD’S COMPASSION




Acts 3:19

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,”



The University of Virginia was founded by Thomas Jefferson. A story relates how misbehavior of students led to a riot. When professors tried to restore order, they were attacked. The following day, university’s board held a meeting with the defiant students. As a member of the board, Thomas Jefferson spoke, "This is one of the most painful events of my life." Suddenly, overcome with emotion, he burst into tears. Another board member asked the rioters to come forward and give their names. They did. Later, one of them gave the reason for their confession, "It was not Mr. Jefferson’s words, but his tears."

Just like the student was moved by Jefferson’s brokenness, so God is moved by yours. When you are truly broken and sorry for sins, true repentance is the result.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Repentance involves confession, but it also involves making a 180-degree turn in lifestyle. God has assured that, for those who come to Him ready to forsake the past and turn over a new leaf, they will be abundantly pardoned. The One who blots out all sins, restores joy and peace to their souls.


April 28, 2018
CAPACITY BUILDING




Matthew 25:15
“To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.”  



 
Capacity is the ability Christ gives me to carry out His commands. And capacity varies from person to person. Some people can get by on five to six hours of sleep while I require seven to eight. Where I get out of balance is when I compare my capacity with someone of greater capacity. Indeed, capacity is meant to provide guardrails, not guilt.
 
So how can we use capacity to our advantage instead of our disadvantage? How can we understand our limitations and trust the Lord with the results? It starts by being honest about how God has made us. If we can only execute one project with excellence, then we limit ourselves to one. 
 
But isn’t there a way to build capacity at work, at home, and in relationships? Yes, indeed! As you remain faithful with small responsibilities, the Lord and others can trust you with additional tasks. When you manage a small amount of money on a budget, you can be trusted with more resources to steward well. When you treat one individual with a full complement of grace and truth, you build relational capacity for more quality friendships.
 
Furthermore, you are over capacity when cash in your bank account is overdrawn or when you have written a relational check your emotions cannot cash. Therefore, monitor your capacity in prayer before Jesus. Ask Him for courage to say no to something new so you can say yes to current obligations. As in weight lifting, you can increase your mental, emotional, financial, and relational capacity, but it takes time, focus, and discipline.
 

The Lord has unlimited capacity for empathy, wisdom, and character. So go to Him for your character-capacity building. Make sure your character capacity keeps up with your success, and you will be able to handle success. Does your heart have the same capacity for humility as your mind does for truth? So build capacity around Christ’s gifts to you. 

“Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you.”  (2 Corinthians 10:12–13) 

What capacities do you have that Christ wants to grow? To whom do you need to say no?


 April 27, 2018

PIT CREW HEROES



2 Timothy 1:16
“May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains,”




One of our ministry team is a pretty enthusiastic NASCAR fan. If you're into that sport, then you know that for many years, Jeff Gordon was one of the best in the business.

Several years ago, there was documentary about his pit crew.  When they interviewed the head of his pit crew (who, by the way, has a degree in organizational behavior), he revealed just how amazing the work of the pit crew is in a sport where seconds really matter. The pit crew chief said they will change up to 20 tires in one race.  Just think of what those speeds must do to a tire! And they change a complete set of four tires in thirteen seconds - that's faster than I can finish off a bite of my dinner!

The driver is the name everyone knows - but the driver knows he's nothing without his pit crew! There are unsung heroes whose support is the key to finishing the race - and not just at a speedway. For every one of us, at one time or another, it's our pit crew that has made the difference in us finishing our race.

In Paul's last letter, written shortly before his death, the great missionary pays tribute to one of his pit crew heroes - a man with the mouthful name of Onesiphorus. At one stressful season of Paul's life, Onesiphorus was the head of his pit crew - and kept Paul rolling. Here's the story of an unsung hero from the Word of God.  It's found in 2 Timothy:  

“May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me—may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.” (2 Timothy 1:16-18)

Man, we all need an Onesiphorus. We all need to be Onesiphorus - except maybe with a name that's easier to pronounce. You can't control if you HAVE a friend like this - but you can DECIDE TO BE A FRIEND like this! 

“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” (Proverbs 11:25)

You know some people right now who are at a tough time in their race.  They're slowing down...they're overheating... they're under heavy pressure...they may not feel like they can finish. And the difference is going to be someone who is willing to step up and be their Pit Crew. Someone like you. Someone who follows the example we just read about.   Someone who frequently asks, "Lord, what could I do that would refresh my hurting friend - a call, a note, a meal, babysitting, giving him some time off?" 

And notice what Paul wrote... "He often refreshed me."  You need to go out of your way to find that person.  You need to go out of your way to find out what's wrong.  "He searched earnestly for me."   We're talking about you being their "be there" person.  They need to know you will always be there.

God has a wonderful promise for you if you will be someone's unsung hero in the pit crew who keeps them in the race. The promise is in Hebrews:  

“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.”  (Hebrews 6:10)

Ron Hutchcraft
Submitted by Peggy Lasher


April 26, 2018
PRAYING FOR OTHERS





Ephesians 6:18
“praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,”   





A hospital chaplain visited a delightful old lady in the hospital. As he approached her bed, he noticed that with the index finger of one hand she was touching, one by one, the fingers of the other, with her eyes closed.  When the chaplain spoke to her she opened her eyes and said, "Oh, chaplain, I was just saying my prayers - the prayers my grandmother taught me many years ago."

The chaplain looked puzzled, so she went on to explain, "I hold my hand like this, my thumb towards me. That reminds me to pray for those nearest to me. Then, there is my pointing finger, so I pray for those who point the way to others - teachers, leaders, parents.  The next finger is the biggest so I pray for those in high places. After that comes the weakest finger - look it won't stand up by itself - so I pray for the sick and the lonely and the afraid. And this little one - well, last of all I pray for myself."

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  (Philippians 2:3)    

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley


April 25, 2018
GENTLE WITNESS


Acts 1:8
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”




Years ago, I was hospitalized following a life-threatening, 38-foot fall from a bridge.  While I was there, the wife of the man in the next bed stopped to speak to me. “My husband just told me what happened to you,” she said. “We believe God spared your life because He wants to use you. We’ve been praying for you.”

I was stunned. I had grown up going to church, but I had never imagined that God would want to be involved in my life. Her words pointed me to a Savior I had heard of but did not know—and marked the beginning of my coming to Christ.

I cherish the memory of those words from a gentle witness who cared enough to say something to a stranger about the God whose love is real. Her words conveyed care and concern, and offered purpose and promise.

Jesus challenged His disciples—and us—to tell others about the love of God:

“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Through the Holy Spirit, our words and witness can have the power to make an eternal difference in the lives of others.

Bill Crowder


April 24, 2018
FROM GRIEF TO JOY




John 16:20
”Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” 



Kelly’s pregnancy brought complications, and doctors were concerned. During her long labor, they decided to whisk her away for a Cesarean section. But despite the ordeal, Kelly quickly forgot her pain when she held her newborn son. Joy had replaced anguish. 
Scripture affirms this truth: 

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world” (John 16:21)

Jesus used this illustration with His disciples to emphasize that even though they would grieve because He would be leaving soon, that grief would turn to joy when they saw Him again:

“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:21–22)

Jesus was referring to His death and resurrection—and what followed. After His resurrection, to the disciples’ joy, Jesus spent another forty days walking with and teaching them before ascending and leaving them once again: 

“He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.”  (Acts 1:3) 

Yet Jesus did not leave them grief-stricken. The Holy Spirit would fill them with joy:

“And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:52)

Though we have never seen Jesus face to face, as believers we have the assurance that one day we will. In that day, the anguish we face on this earth will be forgotten. But until then, the Lord has not left us without joy—He has given us His Spirit:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,  obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8–9)

Alyson Kieda


April 21-23
TEARS OF COMFORT 



John 11:35
“Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”  
 


There is a non-verbal language of love that is communicated through compassionate tears. Empathy engages the heart at levels that verbal exchanges may not be able to penetrate. It is when emotion responds to emotion that a grieving soul senses they are cared for and understood. Tears quietly convey the aura that I feel your pain—I hurt because you hurt.
 

Comfort is the first step in seeking to serve another’s pain. Refrain from truth telling until the heart receives proper care. Fear and anger have to be flushed from a hurting heart before facts can be appropriately applied and comprehended. It’s from a context of love and acceptance that people trust and receive. Tears become a conduit for Christ’s care. 

“…Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord,” (2 Kings 20:5) 

We mourn with those who mourn so they are not alone. Desperation feeds at the table of aloneness, but security and peace preoccupy the person comforted by a community. It starts with a patient spouse or friend and spills over to sincere souls who believe in Jesus to bring wholeness and healing. Tears shed in love terminate isolation and invite intimacy.
 

Does your husband, wife or child need a response of compassion, rather than a reaction of passion? Does your team at work need you first to listen and understand, instead of feeling an automatic demand for your agenda? Yes, truth sets free—but the mind comprehends after the heart has been heard. Tears prepare the way for truth’s arrival. 

“Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:1) 

How is your heart? Do you have a safe environment to lay bare your soul? Self-reliance and self-condemnation are obstacles to intimacy with your heavenly Father and with those who love you the most. Dismiss driven discipline—instead practice vulnerable dependency. Replace shame with security in your Savior, and trusting transparency with a caring community. Your tears open your heart to emotional and spiritual healing. Free your soul to speak with moist eyes to your master Jesus—as He lovingly weeps with you. 

“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.”  (Hebrews 5:7)

Who can you weep with and comfort in Christ? What in your heart needs healing comfort?

Wisdom Hunters


Previous thoughts


April 20, 2018 
THE MOTIVATION OF OUR LOVE






1 John 4:19
“We love because he first loved us.” 





 
In the 1920s, Bobby Jones dominated the golfing world, despite being an amateur. In one film about his life, Bobby Jones: “Stroke of Genius”, there is a scene where a professional golfer asks Bobby when he is going to quit being an amateur and grab for the money like everyone else does. Jones answers by explaining that the word amateur comes from the Latin amo—to love. His answer was clear: He played golf because he loved the game. In a similar way we love others because of our heavenly Father’s great love for us.
 
Almighty God loves with an incredible love. His love has no boundaries or bias. The love of Jesus is limitless to the extent to which He will give us His grace. His love goes behind the enemy’s lines of deceit and rescues those lost in their loveless state of mind. Christ’s love looks for the unloved and offers comfort, care, compassion and forgiveness.
 

Jesus modeled loving people regardless of their “emotional baggage” or spiritual unbelief. He forgave a women caught in adultery and admonished her to sin no more. 

“…And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’ (John 8:11)

He cared for society’s outcast---a female Samaritan---by offering her the “Living Water” of Himself. 

“Jesus answered her [Samaritan woman], ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, "Give me a drink," you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ (John 4:10)

He patiently taught an inquisitive, but fearful religious leader---Nicodemus---in the need to be born again by the cleansing water of heavenly grace. 

“Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’” (John 3:4-5)

Jesus modeled for His disciples how they were to love one another by the way He cared for them with menial, but very meaningful tasks of service. Who do you know caught in sin, who you can love so they can learn of their freedom in Christ?
 

Why does the Almighty love you with such abandon? One reason is so that you can be a catalyst for Christ’s love. You have the inconceivable opportunity to love others on behalf of the Lord. While a friend or family member may writhe in physical agony or emotional pain, you are an extension of God’s eternal love on earth, because you are extremely loved by God. You have His extra love to administer to other’s loneliness and to their frantic fears. 

“But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”  (2 Thessalonians 2:13) 

Love is not received to be stored up in your soul like a savings account, rather to be paid forward to neighbors, work associates and enemies. Love is quick to forgive and slow to criticize. It looks for ways to bless those whose last blessing is long gone. Love grows a relationship into a beautiful garden of green plants, deep-rooted trees and the tantalizing smell of luscious flowers.
 

Love does not sit still, but searches out souls in need of its care. Take time to regularly receive the love of Jesus into your life. Commune with Christ, the lover of your soul, and you will experience His peace and security. Your rested spirit is positioned to be a robust lover for another hungry heart. Enter into God’s eternal love, so you can deploy it on earth. The Lord loves on you, so you can love on others. 

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16) 

Who needs your love and forgiveness who may be hard to love?

Wisdom Hunters


 April 19, 2018

WORSHIP WHEN WORRIED 




Psalm 100:1–3
“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” 
 



I cannot worship and worry at the same time. When Christ is my focus, they do not coexist, because worship pushes worry into its own wilderness. In my personal and corporate worship, almighty God becomes bigger than life. His holiness heals my heart, His beauty soothes my soul, His majesty humbles my pride, and His glory gets my full attention. Worship re-calibrates my thinking to trust and my emotions to the eternal.
 

Our worship is meant to move us toward our Master in a manner that transforms our weak faith to a bold proclamation of His faithfulness. Music is a facilitator for our heart to lift itself out of the worries of this world to the calming presence of Christ. As Christ followers we are privileged to approach Him anytime in authentic adoration and praise. We shout with thanksgiving or quietly whisper words of gratitude to our King. 

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!”  (Psalm 98:4–6) 

How is your daily and weekly worship? Is it rote or radical? Is it fresh or perfunctory? Worship is a way to wrap your mind around what matters. The cares and competition of this world become strangely dim as heaven comes into full focus in all its splendor. Like a giddy scientist peering through his Hubble telescope, your worship gives you glimpses into His glory. Your eyes of faith fall on the compassionate face of Christ.
 
Genuine worship focuses on your heavenly Father, but it changes you. You walk away wondering why you ever worried in the first place. You exit your place of worship having left the residue of your sin behind, because you came clean in confession and repentance. 

Sin cannot bow at the footstool of Holy God without melting away in fear.
 

Worship and worry no more, for this is your opportunity to engage God. Worship matters, because the Lord matters. Worship freely, and watch Him free you from worry. Like the sun cutting into a fog-covered bridge, He burns away your mind’s clouded cares. Worship works, because worry cannot coexist in the presence of our King Jesus Christ. 

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”  (Hebrews 12:28–29) 

Do you regularly replace your worry with worship? Do you authentically worship almighty God?

Wisdom Hunters


 April 18, 2018

WALKING EPISTLES






2 Corinthians 3:3
“And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”






Sammy Mason was a stunt pilot and a committed follower of Jesus Christ. He also was a flight instructor at the Santa Paula Airport in California. One day a man came to see him about some flight training, because he had recently purchased an antique Stearman biplane. The man’s name was Steve McQueen. Having conquered auto racing and motocross, the world-famous actor wanted to learn how to fly.

McQueen had been raised by an alcoholic mother who had little to no time for him, and he had spent time at the Boys Republic in Chino Hills. He had ascended to the top in Hollywood and was making millions of dollars, yet there was a big hole in his heart.

McQueen spent hours in the cockpit with Sammy Mason, and he admired him. One day he asked his instructor what his secret was, and Mason told him about his faith in Jesus Christ. Then McQueen asked if he could attend church with him. They went to Ventura Missionary Church, where Pastor Leonard DeWitt preached the gospel and invited people to come to Christ at each service. After a few weeks passed, McQueen had an extended conversation with the pastor, which resulted in McQueen’s committing his life to Jesus Christ.

We have heard of Steve McQueen, but we probably hadn’t heard of Sammy Mason. One person can make all the difference. We all have something to do. We all have a sphere of influence. We want to do what we can while we can.

If you’re a believer, then you are a representative of Christ. You may be the only Christian some people ever will know. It’s been said that Christians are walking epistles, written by God and read by men.

You may be the only Bible that some people ever read.

"Preach the Gospel always. Use words if necessary.” — St. Francis of Assisi 

Harvest Ministries
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley


 April 17, 2018

JOY






Psalm 92:4
“For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.” 





Even though the years are galloping by, and sometimes I’d like to slow them down, I have joy that sustains me. Each day is a new day given to me by the Lord. With the psalmist, I can say:

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,” (Psalm 92:1–2)

Even though my life has its struggles, and the pain and difficulties of others sometimes overwhelm me, God enables me to join the psalmist in singing for joy: 

“For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.” (Psalm 92:4)

Joy for blessings given: family, friends, and satisfying work.

Joy because of God’s wondrous creation and His inspired Word.

Joy because Jesus loved us so much He died for our sins.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”  (Romans 15:13)

Because of the Lord: 

“The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,” (Psalm 92:12–14)

What fruit is that? No matter our circumstances or season of life, we can be examples of His love through the life we lead and the words we say. There is joy in knowing and living for the Lord and telling others about Him.

Alison Kieda


April 16, 2018
PRAYER BUMPS



1 Timothy 2:8
“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;”


You’re smoothly motoring along, being only moderately attentive, enjoying the beauty of the drive, when you hit it – a speed bump. You’re momentarily jarred by the impact, and your forward motion is impeded. You pay more attention as you proceed.

Sometimes the Christian life is like that. You’re enjoying the beauty of time spent with the Lord in prayer, feel you’re moving forward in your relationships with Him and other people, and then along comes an unexpected spiritual prayer bump. Two of them are posted in today’s verse: anger and quarreling.

You have a choice to make. You can keep going as you were, allowing your spiritual life to slow down, maybe even come to an abrupt stop. Or you can pay more attention to your relationships with God and others, adjusting as you journey on. Confess to the Father what impedes you. Then work to smooth the road with the person you’ve quarreled with or held anger toward. Putting it off only guarantees more prayer bumps ahead.


April 14-15
FAMILY OF FAITH




Matthew 12:50
For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” 
 



Sometimes I forget to thank the Lord for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are like family. They are there to check on me, pray for me, encourage me, and hold me accountable. Blood is thicker than water, but the bond around the blood of Christ can be even thicker. My family in the faith is a gift from God not to be taken for granted.
 

Are you engaged with a community of Christ followers? Some of your family members may have forsaken you for your faith, but Jesus can more than compensate with those who love Him and His children. You have a family of faith that longs to love you. Have you initiated relationships at church or a Bible study? Look around you to love and be loved. 

“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”  (Acts 2:46-47) 

Be with those who want to do the will of their heavenly Father, and you will want to do the will of your heavenly Father. The family of faith is contagious in its commitment to Christ. But how do you respond to relatives who want to pull you away from the presence of Jesus? How do you stay true to the Lord when there is tension over your trust in Him?
 
You cannot ignore them, even when they are unruly, because God has family in your life to be a reflection of Him. Your behavior may be the only Bible they read, and your words may be the only Jesus they hear. You know better, so you forgive and extend grace while unbelieving family members do not know any better than to be harsh and hold grudges.
 
Lean into your family of faith so you in turn can lovingly serve your family outside the faith. Moreover, look for believers in your life who need family and invite them into yours. We need each other for the body of Christ is connected and sensitive to one another’s needs. When you have Jesus as a friend, you have a family in the faith. 
Paul said, 

“To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.”  (Titus 1:4) 

Whom do you count as family in the faith? How can you bless them? Who needs you to be family for them?

Wisdom Hunters


April 13, 2018

WORTH THE WAIT



Jeremiah 33:3
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”





God has wonderful dreams just for you! On those days when you feel hopeless and abandoned, remember He has not forgotten you. Jeremiah says:

“For I know the plans I have for you…plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Hope is the expectation of the belief that something better is yet to come. Hope is one of His greatest gifts to you. Hope is the promise that He has for your today and your tomorrows.

Your expectations of God and His promises may fall short of His grand plans because He sees the big picture and has in store the best for you. That means He may not always provide the answer you want on your timetable, but He will respond according to His plan. God loves you more than anyone! It’s worth the wait!

Pray with hopeful expectation. Bring your requests confidently to God. Put your hope in the Lord and be prepared for Him to go beyond everything you can imagine!
 


April 12, 2018
OUT OF PLACE





Jeremiah 29:12
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.” 





Theologian Richard John Neuhaus stated that Christians are by their nature a people out of place. You are not a citizen of this world; your true home is with God. You are a stranger in a strange land – an exile.

Chapter 29 of Jeremiah is a letter to exiles. The people of Judah had been taken captive to Babylon. Their world was dark. They were warned to be wary of false-hope givers. They knew not to expect anything good from the Babylonian government. But in the middle of their exile, they received a message of hope. God had a plan…to bring them back and restore their future. You, too, have a letter from the Lord, and it is a Bible full of hope and restoration.

Don’t despair when you look at the bleakness of this earthly place. Find encouragement in being reconciled to God through Christ. Know that all future hope is in Him. Keep your prayers tied to the Lord’s will and His plans. They will not be thwarted! 


April 11, 2018
NEVER DISCOURAGED


Romans 8:18
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”



Imagine that I dump 10,000 plastic eggs in your back yard. I assure you that inside one of those hollow eggs is a check for $1 Million dollars with your name on it. Would you get discouraged if you opened the first 100 eggs without finding the check? How about the first 1000 eggs? Of course not ! You'd just keep opening those eggs, just waiting for the moment when you'd find the check.

Paul knew the meaning of the word "suffering." He had been beaten, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked, starved, and rejected. And yet Paul said that his sufferings were nothing compared to the glory that would come. In other words, Paul had opened a lot of empty eggs, but he never gave up or got discouraged. He believed that something great was in his future - God's glory revealed in him.
    
Perhaps it feels to you as if your life has been nothing but empty eggs. You've already opened 99000 of them and you're not sure you've got the will to go on. Let me encourage you today. Don't give up. I don't want to trivialize the challenges you are facing, but I do want to help you put them into perspective. They are only temporary, and God has something much greater in store for you. Compared to the glory that will be revealed in us one day, our suffering doesn't merit discouragement.
      
Hang on.  Don't give up.  Keep going. One day God will replace your discouragement with incomparable glory!

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley


April 10, 2018

MAKING THE MOST OF LIFE



Psalm 90:12
"So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom."



One afternoon in 2010 I drove to a cemetery near my home. I wanted voices from the past to speak to me through the messages on their headstones. I parked my car in a shady spot then walked carefully and quietly where husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, and friends were buried:

"Beloved husband and father" 
“True love"
"My life is not over. Yesterday was not the end."
"Gone too soon; never forgotten.”

After about twenty minutes and pondering each headstone, I listed the years of my life from my current age to 100, each year scribbled inside tiny squares on a lined piece of notebook paper. I finished, then stared at the page. When reduced to single years on a single page, the brevity of life felt overwhelming. “That’s it? That’s all there is?” (Or could be, depending on how long the Lord keeps me alive.) Jesus’ words came to mind:

“...you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”  (James 4:14)

 Some of the lives represented in the cemetery were long, some were short—but all had the opportunity to make a difference for God in the time they had been given. Urgency shot through my heart as I looked out once more over the headstones. “I don’t have long! The chance they had to make a difference on the earth is over, but I still have a chance. My chance is now! I need to make the most of my time to make a difference for Christ and to love others to heaven.”

There is something in every person alive that longs to know that their presence on the earth matters. No one, when lying on their death bed hopes to say, “I wasted my days.” Rather, they want the dash on their headstone in-between their birth and death to mean something.

But what does it mean to make a difference? What does it mean to live a life of significance? When Jesus gave us the two greatest commandments, he said:

… 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:37-39)

“Love God and love others.” Since these are the two greatest commandments, we can be certain that anything we do that falls into the “Love God” or “Love others” categories is measured by God with favor. Whatever you do, do it with all of your heart as unto the Lord:

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24) 

Keep love in mind and when you get home to heaven, and someone is looking over your headstone, you will hear God say. . .

“…‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:23)

List your years on a piece of paper and ponder how you want to live out the remainder of your days.

Shana Schutte


April 9, 2018
WITNESS IN NATURE




Romans1:20
“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”




Lord Howe Island is a small paradise of white sands and crystal waters off Australia’s east coast. When I visited some years ago, I was struck by its beauty. Here, one could swim with turtles and with fish like the shimmering trevally, while moon wrasses drifted nearby, flashing their neon colors like a billboard. In its lagoon, I found coral reefs full of bright orange clownfish and yellow-striped butterfly fish that rushed to kiss my hand. Overwhelmed by such splendor, I couldn’t help but worship God.

The apostle Paul gives the reason for my response. Creation at its best reveals something of God’s nature:

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

The wonders of Lord Howe Island were giving me a glimpse of His own power and beauty. When the prophet Ezekiel encountered God, he was shown a radiant Being seated on a blue throne surrounded by glorious colors:

“And there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads. When they stood still, they let down their wings. And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire;[a] and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.” (Ezekiel 1:25–28)

The apostle John saw something similar: God sparkling like precious stones, encircled by an emerald rainbow:

“At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.” (Revelation 4:2–3)

When God reveals Himself, He is found to be not only good and powerful but beautiful too. Creation reflects this beauty the way a piece of art reflects its artist. Nature often gets worshiped instead of God:

“because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Romans 1:25)

What a tragedy. Instead, may earth’s crystal waters and shimmering creatures point us to the One standing behind them who is more powerful and beautiful than anything in this world.

Sheridan Voysey‎


April 8, 2018
THE SIN OF BEING TOO SERIOUS




Psalm 32:10-11
“Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”  




There is a sin of being too serious when my pride drives the tone of words and the tenor of my attitude. The sin of being too serious manifests itself with me being the center of attention: my agenda, my desires, my needs and most of all, my way. Selfish and self focused, I can even attempt to leverage the Lord’s name in seeking to gain a conversational edge or influencing an outcome. There are serious matters I need to take seriously: sin, salvation, heaven and hell, all call me to humble myself before the mighty hand of God. Gratefully, humility leads to trust and joy!
 

The woes of the wicked come from a distorted love that is self focused, not God focused. A selfish love fails on all occasions, while the unfailing love of the Lord surrounds those who trust in Him with the success of sweet peace and gladness. A life that releases its expectations is lifted up into the presence of angels on high, while a life bent on having its own way is dragged down into the dirge of demons. Pride fuels the sin of becoming too serious. Humility frees the heart to rest in righteousness and not brandish self-righteousness as a sword of self-serving seriousness. 

“In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.”  (Psalm 119:14) 

There is an otherworldly joy that accompanies a heart that follows hard after Christ’s commands. A hard heart congratulates itself and celebrates what it has acquired in the riches of this world, but a soft heart sings with thanksgiving to the only One---Jesus, who provides true riches! Joyful obedience to Jesus is attractive, not overly concerned with perfection, but trusts God’s grace to fill in the gaps of an imperfect life. Guilt free because of grace. Shame free because of salvation. Greed free because of generosity. Fear free because of trust. Faith and love refresh the soul.
 

Have you lost the joy of your salvation? Is the joy of the Lord your strength or has your faith become stale? Remember when you didn’t know any better than to gladly and gratefully obey God, and then something hard happened. The church let you down. A Christian failed you. Life was not fair. You were penalized for your faith. Or, you began to feel superior and demandingly serious, expecting others to become more like you and your ways. Perhaps you should start by taking yourself less seriously and the Lord more seriously. Humility finds freedom in faith and offers freedom to those around them. Grace creates a glad, grateful, obedient heart. Seriously---smile! 

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” (Psalm 51:12-13) 

In what area of your life do you need to give yourself permission to not take so serious and instead enjoy your freedom in Christ?

Wisdom Hunters


 April 7, 2018

SPRING TO LIFE




Isaiah 61:3
“…that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” 





Any day now, gardeners everywhere will develop a fever – spring fever, that is. It’s that special time when gardening gloves whisper your name and the grass winks as you walk by. Many have an overwhelming desire to dig, plant, water, and nurture what lies dormant and grey into thriving life, beauty and aroma.

In the Bible, the Holy Spirit is likened to a divine gardener. At times, the seeds of faith may be lying quietly in your heart enduring the winter of a seemingly insurmountable disappointment or challenge. Yet when you respond to the voice encouraging you to pray, read Scripture or worship in song, you suddenly sense resurrection and find the hope of new life in your heart.

That same Spirit is moving today…seeking people of faith who are willing to let the divine gardener cultivate the soil of their devotion. Will you faithfully plant the seeds of hope for the next generation? The prayers you offer for them today will be the blessings they see tomorrow. Intercede, that they would experience a revived desire to know God and the life He brings.


April 6, 2018
THE CHAIR 





Psalm 130:5

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;”





A man's daughter had asked the local pastor to come and pray with her father. When the pastor arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows. An empty chair sat beside his bed.

The pastor assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. "I guess you were expecting me," he said.

"No, who are you?", said the father. "I am the new pastor at your church," he replied. "When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up."

"Oh yeah, the chair," said the bedridden man. "Would you mind closing the door?" Puzzled, the pastor shut the door. "I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter," said the man. "But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the preacher talk about prayer, but it went right over my head."

"I abandoned any attempt at prayer," the old man continued, "until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with JESUS. Here is what I suggest. Sit down in a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see JESUS on the chair. It's not spooky because he promised:

… And behold, I am with you always …” (Matthew 28:20)

Then just speak to HIM and listen in the same way you're doing with me right now'.

"So, I tried it and I liked it so much that I have been doing it a couple of hours every day since. I'm careful though, if my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she'd either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to a funny farm."

The pastor was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him and returned to the church.

Two nights later the daughter called to tell the pastor that her daddy had died that afternoon. "Did he die in peace?" he asked. "Yes, when I left the house about two o'clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead.

But there was something strange about his death. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed." What do you make of that ?"

The pastor wiped a tear from his eye and said, "I wish we all could go that way".
   
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley


April 5, 2018
GOD KNOWS YOU BETTER THAN YOU KNOW YOURSELF 
 


Psalm 139:1-4 
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.”  
 

The Bible reminds us over and over again of the comfort and peace that comes from being known and loved by God. We are truly known and perfectly loved, even more clearly and truly than we know and love ourselves! In fact, it is often quite difficult for us to know ourselves well, to discern clearly our longings, needs, and deepest desires.
 
Simply put, what we think we need and actually need is not always one in the same. This is especially true in times of pain or suffering. We want to flag Jesus down and say, “Come over here! I’m hurting and need you to fix this right now!” And Jesus does want to heal us and comfort us, yet he desires to heal our deepest longings and truest needs, and does so even if we don’t know what that need is.
 
In the medical field, doctors often talk about treating the underlying issue rather than simply focusing on the presenting symptom. I wonder if this is true of our spiritual lives as well? Could it be that Jesus, the Great Physician, wants to free us from our sorrow and pain, yet does so by working his healing into the core of our very being? And in light of this, what does it mean for us to be calm in the midst of chaos, peaceful in the most unlikely of places?
 

Since God knows us better than we even know ourselves, we are free to take a deep breath, open our hands, and with humble hearts say to God, “Even in the midst of chaos and great pain, I trust that you know my deepest need. So I won’t try and run past you or tell you what’s best. I choose to instead acknowledge my limitations and weakness, trusting that you are always working for my good.” 

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14) 

In the mystery and beauty of God’s wisdom, instead of simply erasing pain and brokenness, he heals it by taking it upon himself and transforming it in the process. We see this perfectly and powerfully on the cross as Jesus takes death upon himself so that through it he can speak life and victory.

Take heart today and trust that the thing in your life that feels like it might be your undoing can instead be something you offer to God for healing and restoration. Though it may seem improbable or even impossible, nothing is too great for a God who knows you better than you know yourself!
 
What trial are you facing that you need to hand over to God with an open hand, trusting in his goodness and care for you?

Tripp Prince


 April 4, 2018

YOU ARE A MAGNIFICENT CREATION! 



Colossians 1:16
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” 
 

I have “Grandma’s Rights”. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. They are the rights every woman gets when she has grandchildren. When a grandchild is born, she automatically receives the right to blab on about how wonderful her grands are, show absolute strangers pictures of her cuties, and brag about all the wonderful things they are accomplishing. Love does that to you. It makes you proud.
 
One of the wonderful things my grandson, Hudson, has accomplished recently is ascending stairs. He’s not quite a year old, but my son-in-law says he’s going to be a mountain climber one day.
 

In an effort to capture these special memories, I have been writing letters in a journal to Hudson to give to him when he is a young man. Today, I am sharing my most recent entry, not just to brag, but to bless you. Because, what I share with Hudson is true of you, too. 

Dear Hudson, 

Grandpa and I talked to your mom and dad on the phone last weekend and your dad said, "Hudson probably climbs the stairs ten times a day.”

I just think it’s incredible how the Lord made people and animals and all of creation. You don’t have to tell a fish to swim, a plant to grow, a duck to quack, or a baby to roll, scoot, crawl, and then climb stairs. It just happens—and it’s utterly wondrous and beautiful! 

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”  (Genesis 1:31) 

As life goes on, it will be that you won’t believe your magnificence, wonder and the marvelous creation you are, knitted together by the hand of God in your mother’s womb:

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb." (Psalm 139:13)

And, there will even be times you see yourself through a dark lens created by the evil one designed for your destruction:

“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.’” (Revelation 12:10) 

But God is your champion, Dear One, cheering you on as the creation He has made. Satan will attack you, coming against you in your thoughts, telling you that you are a failure, a loser, that what you do is insignificant, that you aren’t worth loving, that you are rejectable, that you have to perform to earn God’s love, or any number of lies.But you must remember that these lies are simply untrue. You are created. And God loves His creation. 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

You are God’s fingerprint:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)

Never forget that, no matter what your failures, sin, the world, the devil, or people tell you. Believe the truth about who you are, and you will act out your true identity as a beloved child of God. Then, the world around you will see God’s glory. 

I love you, 

Grandma 

You are a wonderful creation of God too, made on purpose just the way you are. Just think about that. How marvelous! 

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16) 

Share what you learned today with someone else.

Shana Schutte


Previous thoughts

April 3-4, 2018
THE STORY OF THE THREE TREES 


Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”



Once there were three trees on a hill in the woods.  They were discussing their hopes and dreams when the first tree said, "Someday I hope to be a treasure chest.  I could be filled with gold, silver and precious gems.  I could be decorated with intricate carving and everyone would see the beauty."

Then the second tree said, "Someday I will be a mighty ship.  I will take kings and queens across the waters and sail to the corners of the world.  Everyone will feel safe in me because of the strength of my hull." 

Finally the third tree said, "I want to grow to be the tallest and straightest tree in the forest. People will see me on top of the hill and look up to my branches, and think of the heavens and God and how close to them I am reaching. I will be the greatest tree of all time and people will always remember me."

After a few years of praying that their dreams would come true, a group of woodsmen came upon the trees. When one came to the first tree he said, "This looks like a strong tree, I think I should be able to sell the wood to a carpenter" and he began cutting it down. The tree was happy, because he knew that the carpenter would make him into a treasure chest.

At the second tree a woodsman said, "This looks like a strong  tree, I should be able to sell it to the shipyard." The second tree was happy because he knew he was on his way to becoming a mighty ship.

When the woodsmen came upon the third tree, the tree was frightened because he knew that if they cut him down his dreams would not come true.

One of the woodsmen said, "I don't need anything special from my tree so I'll take this one", and he cut it down."

When the first tree arrived at the carpenters, he was made into a  feed box for animals. He was then placed in a barn and filled with hay.  This was not at all what he had prayed for.

The second tree was cut and made into a small fishing boat. His dreams of being a mighty ship and carrying kings had come to an end. The third tree was cut into large pieces and left alone in the dark. The years went by, and the trees forgot about their dreams.

Then one day, a man and woman came to the barn. She gave birth and they placed the baby in the hay in the feed box that was made from the first tree. The man wished that he could have made a crib for the baby, but  this manger would have to do. The tree could feel the importance of this event and knew that it had held the greatest treasure of all time.

Years later, a group of men got in the fishing boat made from the second tree. One of them was tired and went to sleep.   While they were out on the water, a great storm arose and the tree didn't think it was strong enough to keep the men safe.  The men woke the sleeping man, and he stood and said  "Peace" and the storm stopped. At this time, the tree knew that it had carried the King of Kings in its boat.

Finally, someone came and got the third tree. It was carried through the streets as the people mocked the man who was carrying it.

When they came to a stop, the man was nailed to the tree and raised in the air to die at the top of a hill.  When Sunday came, the tree came to realize that it was strong enough to stand at the top of the hill and be as close to God as was possible, because Jesus had been crucified on it.

The moral of this story is that when things don't seem to be going your way, always know that God has a plan for you.  If you place your trust in Him, He will give you great gifts. Each of the trees got what they wanted, just not in the way they had imagined.

We don't always know what God's plans are for us. We just know that His ways are not our ways, but His ways are always best. 
   
The Daily Encourager 
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley


April 2, 2018
AFTER THE RESURRECTION





Matthew 28:19-20
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”




Christians around the world have spent a lot of time over the last few weeks pondering the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection. During Easter week, we read the familiar stories of the Triumphal Entry, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion . . . and then with the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, the story ends. Right?

Not quite. While the Gospels of Matthew and Mark end shortly after the Resurrection, Luke and John provide extra detail about what Jesus did during the time between his resurrection and his ascent into heaven. If your Gospel reading stopped at the Resurrection, you’re missing out on several interesting stories.

Luke and John both describe at length Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances to his followers. (Mark mentions these briefly as well.) Jesus’ appearance before “doubting Thomas” and the other disciples (in John and in Luke) are well known and contain a number of little details. 

“So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25)

Jesus appeared:

“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' (John 20:19)

A minor sentence, but one that communicates the terror and bewilderment that must have plagued the disciples in the immediate aftermath of Jesus’ crucifixion. If you had been one of Jesus’ disciples, what might you have done in this situation—reeling from the death of your teacher, fearing for your life, and wondering if everything you believed in was really true?

“And he said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?'” (Luke 24:38)

The Gospel of Luke also describes an encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus:

“…saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:34)

With tantalizing but confused rumors of the empty tomb still spreading, Jesus appears in disguise to a pair of his followers. After visiting with and teaching them for some time, Jesus reveals himself in a beautifully-described scene:

“When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” (Luke 24:30-32)

The Gospel of John provides a few more memorable stories. First, Jesus (again, unrecognized at first) performs his last recorded miracle, overwhelming the disciples’ fishing nets with a huge catch.

“Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.’” (John 21:10-11)

At is at this time that Jesus gives Peter the famous charge to “Feed my sheep.” Matthew and Mark both close with the “Great Commission,” Jesus’ instructions to his disciples to go out into the world and spread the good news of salvation:

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:18-20)

“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’ (Mark 16:15)

These passages have long been the basis of the Christian emphasis on sharing the Gospel with the world through evangelism and missionary work. 

Mark and Luke describe Jesus’ Ascension, as “taken up into heaven”, after speaking to his disciples a final time:

“So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19)

“...two men in white robes stood by them and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.'" (Acts 1:10-11)

It is clear from the Gospel accounts that the story of Jesus reaches its culmination with the Resurrection. But the tidbits we do get about the post-Resurrection days not only satisfy some of our curiosity about how Jesus’ Resurrection was received by his followers, but also give us the evangelistic direction that guides Christ-followers to this day.

Andy Rau

April 1, 2018
HE IS ALIVE!



Luke 24:5–8

"Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again'”. Then they remembered his words."  Luke 24:5–8
 


He is alive, I am forgiven and my soul has been set free. He is alive and I am forgiven,  my joy I cannot contain. He is alive and I am forgiven, my faith is here to stay. He is alive and I am forgiven, my love flows deep and wide. He is alive and I am forgiven because He did what He promised—He arose after three days. He is alive! He is alive! He is alive!
 

What emotions did the friends and disciples of Jesus feel when they realized He was real? Certainly, they were surprised by the joy of knowing Jesus was back, even larger than in life. Even though they had watched Him raise Lazarus after four days of death, their faith had forgotten. But now they were glad again because God raised His Son to life:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1 Peter 1:3) 

If you look for Jesus among the dead you will not find Him. He has left the cold cemetery and risen to be with the warm love of His Father. Dead churches cannot claim the calming presence of Christ because they have forsaken the faith required to recognize Him. Look for the Lord among the living, those who live out their faith with bold grace.
 

Remember the words of Jesus, and your faith will resound with reassurance:

“When I [John] saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.’   (Revelation 1:17-18)

You serve a risen Savior who lives in your life by faith. Take Him at His Word, and joy will fill your innermost being as you celebrate His appearance almost two thousand years ago. Enjoy Jesus, anticipating your Lord’s second return. 

“so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28) 

How can you reassure your faith with the reality of a risen Savior? Where are the places you can find Christ among the living? What words of Jesus do you need to constantly remember?

Wisdom Hunters