Anchorage Reformed Presbyterian Fellowship Thought for Today

December 14, 2017
PEACEFUL REST IN A RESTLESS WORLD





Isaiah 32:18
"My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places." 





Everyone longs to see peace in the world and in their lives. We long for safety and security, to know that all will be well. And yet, at every level of society, from intimate family relationships to complex political and economic systems, we live in a chronically anxious world. Rarely do we engage the world around us with the courage and security that comes from our place within the Kingdom of God. Instead, we have allowed this chronic fear and anxiety to live and flourish within our hearts and lives in countless ways. 

When I think of the life of Jesus, I think often of his remarkable ability to maintain a state of peace, even in the midst of extreme chaos, fear, and uncertainty. From the vulnerability of the stable, to the raging storm at sea, all the way to the pain and suffering of the cross, we see the Lord embody perfect peace in every situation. 

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."  (Isaiah 9:6)

In one of the all time great works of Christian devotion, The Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis offers this profound prayer for peace, “Grant me, above all else, to rest in You, that my heart may find its peace in You alone; for You are the heart's true peace, its sole abiding place, and outside Yourself all is hard and restless. In this true peace that is in You, the sole, supreme, and eternal Good, I will dwell and take my rest.” Echoing St. Augustine before him, St. Thomas reminds us that our only true hope for secure dwellings and quiet resting places is when we place our desire for peace in Christ alone and being known by him. 

Just as Jesus found his peace in his intimacy with the Father (John 14), so too are we able to find peace in any trial when we find our life and rest in him alone. Though we search far and wide, anything other than Christ will leave us restless and unable to navigate the storms of life that come our way. In his earthly ministry, Jesus lived a life of peace in times of trial, a life of security in times of great uncertainty, and a life of rest in a restless world. As we find our life in him today, we are able to do the same! 

In what ways have you sought peace in people or circumstances other than Christ and the security of his Kingdom? 

Tripp Prince

Previous thoughts

December 13, 2017
ADVENT: GIFT OF TRUST





Jeremiah 17:7-8
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit."




One day while on retreat in New Mexico, I made a trek across a barren stretch and up a difficult slope to stand on top of a high mesa. As I walked, the whole area seemed desolate and empty. But once atop the mesa I got another view. From there, in the distance I could see the outline of a currently dry river bed. It was easily visible because all along its dry banks, life abounded.

From high above, the river bed was like a ribbon of green and gold. In the brilliant sunshine, green and gold leaves fluttered on trees and shrubs, whose roots stretched out to be watered by the stream when the rains came. These roots must have gone deep to sustain such abundant life even during a long, dry season.

We can easily become impatient with God and with one another, especially during difficult times. Trusting God means being willing to live courageously day to day. While Jesus has already come, we are still in the process of letting him complete the journey into our hearts.

Advent is a time to sink our spiritual roots deep, to let them stretch out to God, the source of all life. Because we are thus connected with God, we too can be sources of life to others in the way we live our daily lives. Christmas is not only the season of receiving gifts; it is even more so the season of taking delight in giving to others. We emulate what God has done for us and in that we find our deepest joy.

Let us prepare, then, to be generous in offering our family, coworkers, and neighbors spiritual fruit -- gifts such as patience, prudence, encouragement, counsel, faith, hope, and love.

There's a spiritual adage that says, “You can't give what you haven't got.”

During Advent, drink deeply of the spiritual gifts that God offers us. Then we can cherish within us the spirit of Christmas and bring to others the blessings of the Christ Child every day of the year.

Loyolapress.com

December 12, 2017
HOW BELIEF AND TRUST LEAD TO PEACE 





John 16:33
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."  




  
Each morning, I wake and head to the kitchen where I make a pot of java. And each morning, I read the quote on the spoon rest next to the coffee pot: “Trust Me. I will provide all your needs.” 
  

One morning as my eyes fell on those words, I was reminded that for the believer in Christ who wants to experience the fullness of the peace God promises, there are really only two choices: trust or torment. We must ask ourselves, “Will I rely on God, choosing to believe He can be trusted with all I don’t understand and the concerns that consume my thoughts, or will I choose not to believe and trust Him?” The first choice will bring rest and peace. The latter will only bring emotional and spiritual torment. Isaiah says:  

"...in quietness and in trust shall be your strength." (Isaiah 30:15)  

The one who chooses belief and trust experiences a confidence and quietness of spirit. They know the peace comes only from choosing to believe. The one who chooses not to believe and not to trust their Lord experiences a lack of confidence, and chaos overtakes their spirit. “What will happen now?” “Oh no! Awful things are going to happen; I just know it!” “How horrible! What am I going to do?” In this there is torment. 
  
Belief and trust go together like two peas in a pod and their result is peace. And, they are indeed chosen because life will always give you many reasons not to trust. It seems that every day life experiences invite us to unbelief, to focus on what’s going wrong and to look to the future in fear. 
  
When I look back on my own journey of faith, during those seasons when I have experienced peace, they have been times when I have agreed with God; I have believed and trusted Him. Times when I have experienced internal torment have always been a result of unbelief and a lack of trust. Granted, it’s not always easy to believe and trust, but we can choose both through a deliberate act of the will—even moment by moment. 
  

What will you choose this moment? What will you choose this day, this week, this month, this year? Will you determine to believe and trust the One who loves you so much that He came into this world as a baby and then died for you?   

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you."  (Isaiah 26:3)  

Look up as many scriptures as you can find today on trusting God and record your insights in your favorite notebook or journal. 

Shana Schutte 

December 11, 2017
THE CHRISTMAS INVITATION


Luke 2:7
"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." 


It was the biggest night of the year in a little town called Cornwall. It was the night of the annual Christmas pageant. It's an especially big deal for the children in town -- they get to try out for the roles in the Christmas story. Everybody wants a part.

Which leads us to the problem of Harold. Harold really wanted to be in the play, too, but he was - well, he was kind of a slow and simple kid. The directors were ambivalent - I mean, they knew Harold would be crushed if he didn't have a part, but they were afraid he might mess up the town's magic moment. Finally, they decided to cast Harold as the innkeeper - the one who turns Mary and Joseph away the night Jesus is to be born. He had only one line - "I'm sorry, we have no room." Well, no one could imagine what that one line was going to do to everyone's Christmas.

The night of the pageant the church was packed, as usual. The Christmas story unfolded according to plan - angels singing, Joseph's dream, and the trip to Bethlehem. Finally, Joseph and Mary arrived at the door of the Bethlehem inn, looking appropriately tired. Joseph knocked on the inn door and Harold was there to open the door.

Joseph asked his question on cue - "Do you have a room for the night?"  Harold froze. After a long pause, Harold mumbled his line, "I'm sorry - we have no room." And, with a little coaching, he shut the door. The directors heaved a sigh of relief - prematurely. As Mary and Joseph disappeared into the night, the set suddenly started shaking again - and the door opened.  Harold was back! And then, in an unrehearsed moment that folks would not soon forget, Harold went running after the young couple, shouting as loud as he could -- "Wait! Don't go Joseph. Bring Mary back! You can have MY room!"

I think little Harold may have understood the real issue of Christmas better than anyone else there that night. How can you leave Jesus outside? You have to make room for Jesus. And that may be the issue for you this Christmas.  What will you do with this Son of God who came to earth to find you?

Jesus is the One who trades a throne room for a stable, and the praise of angels for human mockery. This is the Creator who gives Himself on a cross!  The Bible gives us the only appropriate response: 

"The life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) 

You look at what Jesus did to pay for your sin on that cross, and you say those life-changing words - "For me."

Jesus is at YOUR door this Christmas. Maybe He's been knocking for a long time. Maybe He won't keep knocking much longer. All your life - even the events of the last few months - have been to prepare you for this crossroads moment with Jesus your Savior. Don't leave Him outside any longer. Open the door this Christmas Day. "Jesus, I cannot keep You out any longer. Come on in. You can have my room... my life."

Ron Hutchcraft Ministries
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

December 10, 2017
ADVENT: GIFT OF WAITING







Luke 2:19
"But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart." 






Waiting often evokes intense fear in us, because there is a stillness, a seeming nothingness, that envelops us. God may seem absent when we are waiting–for an answer to prayer, a miracle, a breakthrough–so we enter into the sterile darkness of fear.

Satan knows all too well that we are a people of movement, activity, and busyness. When we are asked to wait, we get a little antsy at first. And, the more time that elapses between our seeking and God’s response, the more we become agitated, anxious, and terrified. But God has another message for us: “Let your faith be bigger than your fear.”

We do not know what is ahead on our life’s journey, and fear only exacerbates the reality and inevitability of suffering. If we enter into a period of suffering with fear, we block God’s abundant grace that will lead us through the pain and into a place of resurrection. Fear carries us to regret, guilt, shame, depression, repression, and all sorts of other ugly places. Faith, however, carries us on eagle’s wings–above the fray, so to speak–not beyond the struggle and strife, but above it, to a place where “the Spirit overcomes the flesh.”
 
My faith during my last pregnancy was tested at my first prenatal appointment. It was the day before Thanksgiving, and my doctor couldn’t detect our baby’s heartbeat. It was one of those what-ifs that had crossed my mind on occasion, however briefly, and in that moment, all I could do was panic inside. I felt paralyzed. No prayers came. I couldn’t breathe momentarily, even when my doctor kindly smiled and said, “We’ll order an ultrasound today to see what’s going on.”

I had never been through anything like this with my other pregnancies. More waiting ensued. I waited in the radiology department at the hospital for what seemed like heart-wrenching hours, but was in actuality about ten minutes. I waited as the ultrasound technician prepped herself and me, and I waited in the room after the ultrasound ended.

But there was a moment, in the midst of my frightful and weak prayers, when I caught a glimpse of my baby.  When the tech noticed I had seen my baby on the screen, she turned toward me and grinned. “Your baby is moving so much that I can’t catch up long enough to register the heartbeat.”

Watching our child do back flips, somersaults, and all sorts of acrobatics with abandon added a strange irony to the situation. I felt the fear dissipate slowly, but it was followed by shame that I hadn’t trusted God. I had failed–once again.

This Advent hasn’t been one of solitude, contemplation, and hours spent “pondering these things” in my heart. Instead, it has been chaotic. But what God keeps whispering to me is, “Let your faith be bigger than your fear.”

Maybe Advent isn’t necessarily about setting unreasonable expectations for lofty moments of spiritual ecstasies. Maybe Advent is meant to be a period of expectancy and all the drama it entails, but above all the drama, a time to trust in God’s greater plan for our lives. Even in the waiting, we are given an opportunity to allow God to be silent in us for a time, trusting that He will fulfill His promises. Or we can wallow in unnecessary fear that grips and tortures us, so that we miss the moments of sublime bliss, however fleeting they may be.
 
This Advent, I am praying that I will grow in faith, so that I will never lose sight of the Light of the World, even in the midst of periods of darkness.

Jeannie Ewing

December 9, 2017 
THINK THE BEST
 




Luke 6:31
"And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them." 




Think the best of others because this is what you expect them to think of you. Give them the same benefit of the doubt you desire. Believe that they have your best interests in mind. The temptation is to default to cynicism and be suspect of their motives, but leave this to God. We cannot judge a man or woman’s heart. One role of the Holy Spirit is to convict and lead others to a higher level of Christian maturity. 

Our role is to trust the good will of those God has placed in our lives. It is especially important to think the best of those closest to us. Husbands, think the best of your wives. Wives, think the best of your husbands. If they love God, they want His very best for your life. Their questions are not meant to be critical, but to bring clarity, connection, and accountability. Pride resists this level of trust and maturity. 

Pride does not want to think the best of others. Pride would rather gut it out on its own and not have to listen to the loving counsel of those who care. This is especially tempting to teenagers growing into young adults. They want to figure things out on their own, and not be told what to do. But wise is the young person who will think the best of the authorities in their life. Their mom and dad who love Jesus are full of good will. 

They want God’s very best for their own flesh and blood. Your parents do not want to control you; they want to support you. There is a huge difference. Support means they trust you and they entrust you to God. They think the best of you and believe you will make the wisest decision. Your parents pray for you and care for you. Their intentions are pure and without wrong intent. Listen to them. Your parents are one of God’s means to His best. 

Lastly, think the best of others because God does. When God looks at His children, He sees Christ. He doesn’t look at them as sinners stuck on themselves. The Lord looks at His followers as full of potential for Him. They are still rough around the edges in sin, and the world does roughen them up at times, but beyond the fear and the sorrow are hearts that want to move forward with their heavenly Father. He reaches out to His children and offers opportunities. He thinks the best of us because we are His. You can’t get any thicker than the blood of Jesus Christ. 

It is easy to get into the eternal family of God; you believe, and it is impossible to get out; you’re secure. He does not disown us for our dumb mistakes. He forgives us, and thinks the best of us; so trust in God and others. Trusting others’ intentions does not mean you are irresponsible. You still follow up, verify facts, and ask questions. You still hold them accountable, but your defining attitude is trust. This is harder as we get older, but let your Savior put your suspicions to rest. Choose to think the best of people and circumstances. It is much more than just being positive. It is a deep-seated trust in the core of your being, given to you by God. 

Think the best of yourself, your spouse, your friends, and your work associates. You trust when you think the best. After all, this is how you want others to treat you. 

To whom do you need to give the benefit of the doubt and begin to think the best? 

Wisdom Hunters

December 7-8, 2017
CLINGING TO HOPE




Revelation 21:3-4
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.'"



The season of Advent receives its name from the Latin adventus, of which our word “arrival” is derived.  Advent is a time for Christians to prepare for the annual celebration of our Lord’s birth at Christmas. In the incarnation we see the humility and love of God on full display, entering into the chaos and brokenness of our world as a weak and vulnerable child. It is through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus that we find peace and hope, and we must embody this story so that we find our own stories within the great story God is telling over all of creation.

One of the great challenges of this season is the extreme sentimentality with which this story is frequently told. The babe in the manger is God made man, the king come to rule and reign over the nations, and yet culturally for us today this is a story for greeting cards, lawn decorations, and children’s pageants. Cute or joyful as those things may be, in times when we need it the most, they are never able to deliver genuine Christian hope.

Christians are people who cling to hope even in the depths of darkness and despair. Yet hope is so much more than warm sentiment or wishful thinking. Hope is never blind optimism but is the sure and certain trust in the never changing promises of God. As such, this season is a time to not simply look back to the first arrival of Christ in the manger, but it is a time to let our hearts fill with the hope of his second advent, the return of the king in glory.

One of the best ways to cling to hope is to set your sights on the final destination. A clear vision of the goal gives us the strength and determination to stay the course, even when it is painful and exhausting. Hope for the Christian can be an aching longing for home. As Proverbs says:

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life." (Proverbs 13:12)

As we journey towards the hope of Christmas, if your heart feels sick and sorrowful today, look with great longing towards the day when that hope will be fulfilled. Hope for the day when the Lord will return and make his home with us, wiping away every tear and ushering in his perfect love, joy, and peace. Come, Lord Jesus!

Are there ways that you have lost sight of our hope as Christians?

Tripp Prince

December 6, 2017
HOLD ON TO HOPE






Hebrews 10:23
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful." 





Faith creates hope, so where faith is conceived hope is birthed. Yes, hope is the daughter of faith. Those who profess to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior possess hope. Hard times try to hinder hope’s comforting company, but it is unhindered where faith in God is the focus. Those who hold on to hope are happy. Where faith peers hope makes clear. Where there is a wall, hope finds a door. Where there is darkness, hope looks for a light. Hope expects Christ to come through. 

What is hope? It is confidence in Jesus Christ, period. Confidence He is faithful. Faithful to follow through with His promise to provide us peace in the middle of our turmoil. Faithful to answer our prayers in His most productive process. Faithful to give our children what they need as long as they look to Him. Faithful to facilitate financial resources when we steward well what we already have. He is faithful by His restorative grace to heal relationships severed by sin. Hope bursts forth in possibilities when we embrace the promises fulfilled by the Lord’s faithfulness. 

"And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security."  (Job 11:18)

Since your security is in your Savior Jesus who has conquered sin, sorrow and death, hope is your wise weapon. Your Heavenly Father holds you in the palm of His hand, therefore nothing can reach you lest your divine protector gives permission. The Holy Spirit is your guide, thus you have a trusted leader who directs your path. “Your hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Your two-handed grasp of God includes His double fisted hold on you! 

When hope is deferred, avoid rejecting God and giving up. Wait on the Lord and hope in Him. He helps you when you feel helpless. He empowers you when you feel powerless. He encourages you when you feel discouraged. He gives joy when you feel joyless. Hope never disappoints. It gives life and a reason to live. If you let go of hope, your gracious Lord doesn’t let go of you. Like Mount Everest, your hope is unmovable, so hold unswervingly to your living hope: Jesus! 

"Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield."  (Psalm 33:20)

In what situation do you need to hope for the best and plan for the worse? 

Wisdom Hunters

December 5, 2017
WHY HOPE IS A SURE THING 





Proverbs 23:18
"Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off."





In conversations everyday, everywhere, people express their desires. “I hope I get to go on vacation.” “I hope I don’t lose my job.” “I hope that I get married.” In our world, the word “hope” is used to describe a sort of wish, a “maybe-it-will-happen, maybe-it-won’t” kind of thing. 

This worldly hope is no hope at all—but hope in Christ is a firm and secure anchor for the soul. Hebrews describes the hope we have in Christ:

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19)

The soul, according to the biblical definition, is the mind, the will, and the emotions. An anchor serves to hold a boat firmly. Therefore, when the winds of life are blowing, and the waves are rolling, and circumstances surrounding your purpose and life aren’t going how you planned, hope in God is an anchor to keep your mind, your will, and your emotions steady. 

There is, however, a very interesting thing about having one’s mind, will, and emotions anchored in the hope that is Christ. If you believe you have no anchor, even though you do, you will respond as if the wind and waves of life are overtaking you and that you are perishing. When you could have peace, you’ll be panicking, fretting and feeling hopeless. Even though God has said that you have a firm and secure hope, you will respond like you have no anchor. Sometimes, we only receive the benefits of faith by believing in faith. 

In the book of Mark, Jesus was in a boat with the disciples. He was sleeping in the stern on a cushion when a furious wind began. Terrified, the disciples:

"...woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?'” (Mark 4:40)

They panicked. Jesus rebuked the waves and:

"He said to them, 'Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”' (Mark 4:40)

The disciples had The Anchor in their boat, but when the wind came, they panicked and acted like they didn’t. There are some things that God has given that are undeniably yours, but you will only experience the joy and peace of knowing they are yours by believing. You have a hope, steady and secure. 

If you belong to Christ, you are tethered to Christ. During this Christmas Season, He is, and always will be your Anchor. 

"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)

Think about someone who you are hesitant to love, or who you have refused to love because they are different than you. Ask the Lord to show you how you can demonstrate your grace and love to them. 

Shana Schutte

December 4, 2017  
RESTORED FAILURES





Psalm 145:14
"The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down." 





A guest band was leading praise and worship at our church, and their passion for the Lord was moving. We could see—and feel—their enthusiasm.

Then the musicians revealed that they were all ex-prisoners. Suddenly their songs took on special meaning, and I saw why their words of praise meant so much to them. Their worship was a testimony of lives broken and restored.

The world may embrace success. But stories of past failure offer people hope too. They assure us that God loves us no matter how many times we have failed. Pastor Gary Inrig says that what we call the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 could well be entitled God’s Hall of Reclaimed Failures. “There is scarcely an individual in that chapter without a serious blemish in his or her life,” he observes. “But God is in the business of restoring failures . . . . That is a great principle of God’s grace.”

I love the comfort of Psalm 145, which speaks of God’s “awesome deeds”:

"On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness." (Psalm 145:5–6) 

And glorious kingdom:

"They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power," (Psalm 145:11)

It describes His compassion:

"The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made." (Psalm 145:8–9) 

It describes His faithfulness:

"Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. [The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.]" (Psalm 145:13)

Then immediately tells us that He lifts up those who have fallen:

"The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down." (Psalm 145:14)

All His attributes are expressed when He picks us up. He is indeed in the business of restoration.

Have you failed before? We all have. Have you been restored? All who have been redeemed are stories of God’s grace. Our stories of failure can be God’s stories of success.

Leslie Koh 
Our Daily Bread

December 3, 2017
THINK THE BEST OF OTHERS





Luke 6:31
"And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them."    






Think the best of others because this is what you expect them to think of you. Give them the same benefit of the doubt you desire. Believe that they have your best interests in mind. The temptation is to default to cynicism and be suspect of their motives, but leave this to God. We cannot judge a man or woman’s heart. One role of the Holy Spirit is to convict and lead others to a higher level of Christian maturity. 

Our role is to trust the good will of those God has placed in our lives. It is especially important to think the best of those closest to us. Husbands, think the best of your wives. Wives, think the best of your husbands. If they love God, they want His very best for your life. Their questions are not meant to be critical, but to bring clarity, connection, and accountability. Pride resists this level of trust and maturity. 

Pride does not want to think the best of others. Pride would rather gut it out on its own and not have to listen to the loving counsel of those who care. This is especially tempting to teenagers growing into young adults. They want to figure things out on their own, and not be told what to do. But wise is the young person who will think the best of the authorities in their life. Their mom and dad who love Jesus are full of good will. They want God’s very best for their own flesh and blood. Your parents do not want to control you; they want to support you. There is a huge difference. Support means they trust you and they entrust you to God. They think the best of you and believe you will make the wisest decision. Your parents pray for you and care for you. Their intentions are pure and without wrong intent. Listen to them. Your parents are one of God’s means to His best. 

Lastly, think the best of others because God does. When God looks at His children, He sees Christ. He doesn’t look at them as sinners stuck on themselves. The Lord looks at His followers as full of potential for Him. They are still rough around the edges in sin, and the world does roughen them up at times, but beyond the fear and the sorrow are hearts that want to move forward with their heavenly Father. He reaches out to His children and offers opportunities. He thinks the best of us because we are His. You can’t get any thicker than the blood of Jesus Christ. 

It is easy to get into the eternal family of God; you believe, and it is impossible to get out; you’re secure. He does not disown us for our dumb mistakes. He forgives us, and thinks the best of us; so trust in God and others. Trusting others’ intentions does not mean you are irresponsible. You still follow up, verify facts, and ask questions. You still hold them accountable, but your defining attitude is trust. This is harder as we get older, but let your Savior put your suspicions to rest. Choose to think the best of people and circumstances. It is much more than just being positive. It is a deep-seated trust in the core of your being, given to you by God. 

Think the best of yourself, your spouse, your friends, and your work associates. You trust when you think the best. After all, this is how you want others to treat you. 

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."  (Philippians 2:3-4)

Who do you need to value above your needs? 

Wisdom Hunters

December 2, 2017
GIFT OF HOPE‎





Ecclesiastes 3:4
"a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;" 





Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” followed the tradition of casting holiday-dreaders as Scrooge-like, sour-souled sad sacks who became downers and “buzz-kills” for every Cindy Lou and Tiny Tim with eager and innocent holiday aspirations.

But a quiet group of holiday-dreaders dwells quietly behind the scenes. You may be one of them. You try not to be noticed, but you wince as Thanksgiving and Christmas draw near. Your heart is not two sizes too small; your heart is broken.

When the time for family and mirth and joy-to-the-world draws near, you brace yourself for an onslaught of tears, anxiety, and anguish of the soul. For you, the holidays bring the grim reminder that someone loved and precious is missing. Everyone’s gain of gifts and lights and feasts seems to highlight your loss. The hand you once held is now gone. The hopes you carried in your heart have disappeared. Your ability to be casually delighted in carefree moments has been taken captive by oppressive and ever-present heartbreak.

But, hear this, dear holiday-dreader: the surprising reality and well-kept secret is that the holidays are more for you than anyone else.

The word “holiday” is derived from the sacred expression: holy day.  It is a day set apart.  It is a sacred time.  It is a time when God meets you where you’re at—not to see how much fun you’re capable of having, but to bring His grace, strength and consolation to life as it really is. The holidays celebrate the presence of God—closer to you than you can imagine:

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."  (John 1:14)

As we take a serious look at this struggle called “life,” we learn that our deepest need is for God to draw near.  Jesus quoted Isaiah 61 when He declared the answer to this yearning of the soul: 

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;"  (Isaiah 61:1)

This is what happened at Christmas.  This is why we express gratitude during Thanksgiving.  God has heard our cries and He has come down to save us:

"Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites." (Exodus 3:7-8)

I know what it’s like to sit in the darkness, to try to catch your breath from grief and loss, and to feel the tears well up while people laugh with friends and join in the chorus of “Fa-la-la-la-la.” But it is into those dark and lonely places that God whispers His soul-embracing promises and lets you know that the Word, His Son Jesus, became present for you. His outstretched arm of salvation reaches you and holds you fast. The Reason for the season allows you to step into the holidays with a sweet com fort in the midst of sour circumstances. Peel back the holiday hubbub and you’ll see Jesus. He gives you a deeper delight of what the holiness of the season is really all about.

If you’re dreading the holidays, take heart.  These days are meant to wrap you in hope.  The Gift you need is closer than ever.

Michael Newman

December 1, 2017
GIFT OF TEARS






John 11:35
"Jesus wept."







I called a longtime friend when his mother died. She had been a close friend of my mother, and now both had passed on. As we spoke, our conversation slipped easily into a cycle of emotion—tears of sorrow now that Beth was gone and tears of laughter as we recalled the caring and fun person she had been.

Many of us have experienced that strange crossover from crying one moment and laughing the next. It’s an amazing gift that emotions of both sorrow and joy can provide a physical release in this way. 
We are made in God’s image:

"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.'" (Genesis 1:26) 

Because humor is such an integral part of almost every culture, I imagine that Jesus must have had a wonderful sense of humor. But we know that He also knew the pain of grief. When his friend Lazarus died, Jesus saw Mary weeping. A short time later, he too began to weep:

"When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, 'Where have you laid him?' They said to him, 'Lord, come and see.' Jesus wept." (John 11:33-35)

Our ability to express our emotions with tears is a gift, and God keeps track of each tear we cry:

"You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle...." (Psalm 56:8)

But one day—we are promised:

"... God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Revelation 7:17)

Our loving heavenly Father, who washed away our sins, will also wipe away our tears.

Cindy Hess Kasper

November 30, 2017
DECISIONS






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






In the Canadian Rockies there is a stream called Divide Creek. This is a short creek near Kicking Horse Pass on the British Columbia/Alberta border. At a point in its course the creek divides around a large boulder. Waters which flow to the left of the boulder rush on into Kicking Horse River and finally into the Pacific Ocean. Waters which travel to the right go into the Bow River which courses into the Saskatchewan River, on into Lake Winnipeg, the Nelson River, Hudson Bay, and to the Atlantic Ocean.

Once the waters divide at the rock there is no turning back. Many of the choices we make in life are much like that, which is why it's so important that we always seek God's wisdom in every decision we make. 

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."  (James 1:5)

Rocky Henriques

November 29, 2017
EVIDENCES OF GENUINE FAITH  





James 1:27
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
  




What is true religion? Genuine faith that expresses itself in outward service to others and inward worship of God through Jesus Christ is true religion. Any other form of religion that deviates from outward ministry and inward devotion is unacceptable. If we serve just to be seen---it’s unacceptable to God. If we attend church just to meet our needs---it’s unacceptable to God. If we help those in the world, but become badly influenced by the world, it’s unacceptable to God. Real religion expresses itself in caring for society’s marginalized, by believers unsoiled by sin's stain. 
  

James very practically reminds followers of Jesus of our responsibility to "do good deeds" for the sake of the gospel, to "be purified" by God, and guided by moral boundaries in the process. Our service to orphans and widows is followed by personal accountability to be in the world, but not of the world. In the name of Jesus, we rescue the perishing and care for the dying. Anyone dismissed by the culture: the unborn, the homeless, the abused, the mentally ill, the elderly, need the care and concern of Christians who offer hope, healing and hospitality. Genuine faith serves!     

"I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me"  (Matthew 25:36) 

"And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." (Matthew 25:40)  

Perhaps you invest your organizational expertise by serving on a ministry board of directors that serves the underserved: widows, orphans, the poor and needy, and others who are marginalized by culture. Consider researching the non-profits in your community like Growing Leaders Habitudes, who are the most effective in educating the poor with a Christian worldview. Be persistent as you prayerfully initiate strategies that offer sustainable solutions to society’s ills. 
  

A God blessed ministry model that works well in an urban environment is City of Refuge where jobs are created, lives are lifted up and communities transformed by the Lord and His people. A reliable pathway out of generational poverty is the philosophy of this Christ-centered non-profit. "We is better than me", so pray for a faithful team and together exercise your faith in Jesus by taking the gospel to heal the broken hearted, to set the captives free and to love on the fatherless.   

"Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."  (Psalm 82:3-4)  

Who can you begin praying and working with who has a heart for the fatherless? 

Wisdom Hunters

November 28, 2017
WHY ME?





Romans 8:31
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"   




Dennis Byrd, the 6'5", 270 pound NY Jet whose career ended on Nov. 29, 1992 (just a few days after Thanksgiving) when he snapped his neck while sacking the Kansas City quarterback said, "They say you're always tested where you think you're the strongest.  What better way to test a professional athlete than through his body?  I could easily have been destroyed by what happened to me.  I could easily have been broken, just fallen apart.  In every material sense, I was weak and vulnerable.  But there is a verse in 2 Corinthians about that very thing. The Apostle Paul asked God three times to remove the suffering:

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me." (2 Corinthians 12:8)

God spoke to Paul:  

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

"People ask me time and again if I ever asked, 'Why me?'  When I hear that question I think of what Arthur Ashe had to say when he died of AIDS-related pneumonia.  [Ashe said:]  'If I say "Why me?" about this, then I've got to say "Why me" about all the good things that have happened in my life.’ 

". . . when I think back on all the years . . . all the blessings I've received throughout my life, with so much still ahead of me, how could I possible ask, 'Why me?'  That's the miracle.  That's the magic.  It's knowing that all of life is a blessing, that the Lord is with us even if we falter; He is with us even if we fail, He is with us when we break, and He can help to make us whole.  I've always believed that.  And I always will."  

From Rise & Walk, the Trial and Triumph of Dennis Byrd, Harper Collins, Pub.

November 27, 2017
GOD WANTS TO HEAL YOUR BROKEN HEART 
 


Luke 4:18
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,"   


 

Have you ever had a broken heart over something for so long that you wonder if God even wants to heal you? 

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted.” (Isaiah 61:1)

What does this mean? Jesus was sent on purpose, with an intentional plan to heal your broken heart! Luke gives us a moving insight of Jesus’ reaction to those who didn’t accept His coming to bind up the brokenhearted:

"And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation."  (Luke 19:41-44)

Scripture says that Jesus wept. Can you imagine God Almighty, the Lord of heaven and earth, the maker of all things, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, weeping for humanity? 

"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18) 

The original Greek text shows that the word “wept” is klaio, which means to “wail aloud.” This word is different than what was used to describe Jesus’ tears described in John which were silent:

"Jesus wept." (John 11:35) 

In contrast, klaio tears aren’t quiet. Why did Jesus wail? Because he loved the Jews, and He wanted to give them peace. He wanted to heal their hearts. But because they didn’t recognize that God had come to them, they rejected Him and couldn’t receive His blessings.
 

If Jesus wailed when the Jews rejected Him, can you imagine how He feels when He offers to bind up our broken hearts, but we don’t believe Him? How that must break His heart, especially considering the great sacrifice He made in dying for our sins. The Lord wants to heal your broken heart: 

"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32) 

Write a note expressing your grief to the Lord, then thank Him for healing you and binding up your wounds.

Shana Schutte


Previous thoughts

November 26, 2017
THANKS-LIVING





Psalm 23:6
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever." 





Wanting to mature in her spiritual life and become more thankful, Sue started what she called a Thanks-Living jar. Each evening she wrote on a small piece of paper one thing she thanked God for and dropped it in the jar.

Some days she had many praises; other difficult days she struggled to find one. At the end of the year she emptied her jar and read through all of the notes. She found herself thanking God again for everything He had done. He had given simple things like a beautiful sunset or a cool evening for a walk in the park, and other times He had provided grace to handle a difficult situation or had answered a prayer.

Sue’s discovery reminded me of what the psalmist David says he experienced. God refreshed him with “green pastures” and “still waters” 

"He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (Psalm 23:2–3)

He gave him guidance, protection, and comfort:

"He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23: 3–4)

David concluded: 

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever." (Psalm 23:6)

I’m going to make a Thanks-Living jar. Maybe you’d like to as well. I think we’ll see we have many reasons to thank God—including His gifts of friends and family and His provisions for our physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. We’ll see that the goodness and love of God follow us all the days of our lives.

Anne Cetas

November 25, 2017
REMEMBER TO SAY "THANK YOU"  







Luke 17:15-16
"Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan." 
  






A culture of entitlement is slow to say thank you, but the grateful are honored to express appreciation. Ungrateful people expect, even demand, good things with no gratitude in return. But grateful men and women are humbled and give God the glory for His blessings. The most gratefulness comes from those who least expect the Lord’s lavish love. It is the mercy of God that heals our heart and causes us to exclaim, “Praise the Lord!” 
  
Is it your regular routine to sincerely thank God for His healing power? Do you bow at the feet of Jesus when the body of a friend or family member was cured by God’s work through the miracle of modern medicine? Have you celebrated Christ’s blessing of keeping your body whole from a debilitating disease? Humility is a thank you waiting to happen. 
  

Listen to David’s prayer for healing:

"Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled."  (Psalm 6:2)

You can pray boldly for your physical healing. Pray depending on God, and with great faith ask the Great Physician to bring His healing power on your body. Your Creator understands how to bring wholeness to His creation. It is not a question of if He can, but if He will. However, whether He heals in this life or in the life to come, give Him thanks:

"pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  (1 Thessalonians 5:17–18)

Furthermore, gratitude to God expresses gratitude to people. Make it a goal to write a thank you note before you cash the check. Look a friend in the eye and express your thankfulness for his or her friendship. Show your gratitude to your server with a generous gratuity. Appreciate others and you invite appreciation into your life and work. 
  

Mostly, thank the Lord Jesus Christ for His death on the cross for your sin and salvation. Jesus came from living with sinners to die for sinners.

"For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'"  (1 Corinthians 11:23–24)  

Do you thank God often for His incredible gift of grace and forgiveness? Do you thank Him during the bad times as well as the good times? Are you quick to appreciate others? 

Wisdom Hunters

November 24, 2017 
THANKFUL LEADERS 





2 Timothy 1:2–3
"To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day."



  
Thank the Lord for past leaders who proclaimed a day of thanksgiving to God for His blessings and provision. Men and women worth following are not afraid to publicly profess their dependency on almighty God. Political correctness is not a part of their persona because they are more concerned about pleasing Jesus than people. 
  

Are you a leader who models thanksgiving to God for my associates? Are others drawn to your appreciation for them, or are you avoided for fear of my ungrateful attitude? Thankfulness is infectious and encouraging. Grateful leaders have the potential for greatness, while those stuck in an unappreciative mindset muddle through mediocrity.   

"I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints,"  (Philemon 1:4–5)  

At work and home it is more than words of affirmation and appreciation—though this is a good start. A community of thankful people creates a culture of gratitude. There is not a day that goes by that God is not thanked for food to eat, a place to work, or air to breathe. Children observe mom and dad, modeling what they see and hear. Is your home full of thanksgiving to Jesus and for each other? Is your family infected with grateful hearts? 
  
Perhaps you write a note of thanksgiving to your spouse for his or her unwavering love for you and your children. Pen a poem of gratitude to your children for their unique gift to your family. Thank your parents for their patient love. Email or call a friend and express thanks for his or her loyal friendship. Mostly, get on your knees and thank your heavenly Father. 
  

Thankful leaders learn the power of grateful prayers. They approach heaven with sincere supplications full of thanksgiving and praise to God for sending His Son Jesus to save them from their sins. Prayers of thanksgiving are light on personal petitions and heavy on gratitude to God for the faith of family and friends. Be a thankful leader, and watch Christ grow an army of thankful followers. Grateful leaders show appreciation above and below.   

"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)  

Are you a thankful leader who inspires gratitude in those you serve and influence? 

Wisdom Hunters

November 23, 2017
THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION





1 Corinthians 1:4
"I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,"





By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation. 

"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
 
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will  be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
 
and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
 
Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789."
 

Go: Washington


November 22, 2017
GRUMBLING OR GRATITUDE?






(Colossians 2:6-7)
"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving."






Imagine being given a bowl of sand containing tiny particles of iron, and you are told to remove the iron from the sand. You have two choices. You can pull your fingers through the sand, searching for specks of iron but finding very few. Or you can pull a magnet through the sand and watch it attract countless bits of iron.

Like the fingers in the sand, the grumbling heart finds very few mercies. But as the grateful heart moves through life, it finds countless blessings, just as the magnet finds iron.

Of all the choices we make in life, few affect us more powerfully than our choice between grumbling and gratitude. An honest look at our lives will reveal which choice we have made. If it’s grumbling, we probably see few blessings. If it’s gratitude, we not only find innumerable blessings—they seem to find us!

Paul taught that a heart overflowing with thankfulness comes from being grounded in faith: 

"rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." (Colossians 2:7)

In Philippians, he pled with the believers, even repeating himself: 

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice."  (Philippians 4:4)

Which choice have you made? Grumbling or gratitude? Grumbling overlooks blessings, but gratitude finds blessings everywhere—even in dry, sandy places!

With a little practice, anyone can master the art of thankfulness.

Joanie Yoder

November 21, 2017
CODE OF HONOR




Jeremiah 3:19
"... And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me.'" 
Galatians 4:5
"to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." 




"I love you as a son!" These words fell on the ears of a little girl as she lay on her bed in a Christian hospital near her village. Her father had just told her that he valued her as much as he did a son. This was unheard of in her Muslim culture. The little girl was deeply touched.

Western women might take offense at this father''s words - unless they understand the fathe'r's heart and the context of his culture. Then they would know that he had actually bestowed great honor on his daughter. This father had previously encountered Christ, and was showing evidence of changed thinking --- countercultural thinking.

Many biblical concepts come alive when seen from the perspective of the biblical world -- like the words: ""full rights of sons"."

In the ancient Near East, the role of the son was of great importance because inheritance was transferred from father to son. When the early Christian converts learned that through Christ they received "the full rights of sons" they would have realized this meant that regardless of their societal position (or gender), they had been adopted by God into a highly favored position: They had become rightful heirs in the Father''s household.

Such honor would have brought inexpressible joy to the countless who could never escape from their societal shame --- be they the poor, the deformed, women, children, or the outcasts. Biblical societies lived by a code of honor and shame; so when Jesus presented his listeners with God''s code of honor:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account."
(the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-11)

They would have known that this was the way to be "blessed," that is, honored and favored by God. The ones favored by God were those who admitted they were spiritually needy, those who mourn, the meek, the spiritually thirsty, the merciful, the pure of heart, peacemakers, and those persecuted for the sake of righteousness.

This code of honor was radically counter-cultural, and those who lived by it would inevitably be dishonored in society. They would even face rejection and persecution. This is why Jesus concluded his Beatitudes with reassuring words: 

"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, ... (Matthew 5:12)

In other words, these people could accept their suffering joyfully by remembering that their full inheritance was yet to come! Our society today is not more inclined to favor those who live by God's code of honor. Still, these are the people on whom God bestows the full rights of sonship:

"Theirs is the kingdom of heaven." In other words, theirs is the full measure of the blessing of Christ." 

"I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ." (Romans 15:29)

Diane Eaton

November 20, 2017
THANKFUL FOR THE THORNS





Psalm 58:9
"Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns, whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!"




Sandra felt as low as the heels of her Birkenstocks when she pulled open the florist shop door, against a November gust of wind. Her life had been as sweet as a spring breeze and then, in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a "minor" automobile accident stole her joy. This was Thanksgiving week and the time she should have delivered their infant son. She grieved over their loss. Troubles had multiplied. Her husband's company "threatened" to transfer his job to a new location.

Her sister had called to say that she could not come for her long awaited holiday visit. What's worse, Sandra's friend suggested that Sandra's grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. "She has no idea what I'm feeling," thought Sandra with a shudder. "Thanksgiving? Thankful for what?" she wondered. "For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life, but took her child's?"

"Good afternoon, can I help you?" Sandra was startled by the approach of the shop clerk.

"I... I need an arrangement," stammered Sandra.

"For Thanksgiving? Do you want the beautiful, but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the 'Thanksgiving Special'? I'm convinced that flowers tell stories," she continued. "Are you looking for something that conveys 'gratitude' this Thanksgiving?"

"Not exactly!" Sandra blurted out. "In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong." Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the clerk said, "I have the perfect arrangement for you."

Then the bell on the door rang, and the clerk greeted the new customer, "Hi, Barbara... let me get your order." She excused herself and walked back to a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and what appeared to be long-stemmed, thorny roses - except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped. There were no flowers.

"Do you want these in a box?" asked the clerk. Sandra watched for the customer's response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers! She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed. "Yes, please," Barbara replied with an appreciative smile. "You'd think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn't be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again.", she said, as she gently tapped her chest.

Sandra stammered, "Uh, that lady just left with, uh... she left with no flowers!"

"That's right," said the clerk. "I cut off the flowers. That's the 'Special'. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet."

"Oh, come on! You can't tell me someone is willing to pay for that!" exclaimed Sandra.

"Barbara came into the shop three years ago, feeling much as you do, today," explained the clerk. "She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had just lost her father to cancer; the family business was failing; her son had gotten into drugs; and she was facing major surgery."

"That same year, I had lost my husband," continued the clerk. "For the first time in my life, I had to spend the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too much debt to allow any travel."

"So what did you do?" asked Sandra. "I learned to be thankful for thorns," answered the clerk quietly. "I've always thanked God for the good things in my life and I NEVER questioned Him why those GOOD things happened to me. But when the bad stuff hit, I cried out, "WHY? WHY Me?" It took time for me to learn that the dark times are important to our faith! I have always enjoyed the 'flowers' of my life, but it took the thorns to show me the beauty of God's comfort! You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we're afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others."

Sandra sucked in her breath, as she thought about the thought that her friend had tried to tell her. "I guess the truth is, I don't want comfort. I've lost a baby and I'm angry with God."

Just then someone else walked in the shop. "Hey, Phil!" the clerk greeted the balding, rotund man.  "My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving arrangement... twelve thorny, long-stemmed stems!" laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.

"Those are for your wife?" asked Sandra incredulously. "Do you mind telling me why she wants a bouquet that looks like that?"

"No... I'm glad you asked," Phil replied. "Four years ago, my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord's grace and guidance, we trudged through problem after problem. The Lord rescued our marriage. Jenny, here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she had learned from "thorny" times. That was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific "problem" and give thanks for what that problem taught us." As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, "I highly recommend the Special!"

"I don't know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life." Sandra said to the clerk. "It's all too... fresh."

"Well," the clerk replied carefully, "my experience has shown me that the thorns make the roses more precious. We treasure God's providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember that it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don't resent the thorns."

Tears rolled down Sandra's cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on her resentment. "I'll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please," she managed to choke out.

"I hoped you would," said the clerk gently. "I'll have them ready in a minute."

"Thank you. What do I owe you?"

"Nothing. Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year's arrangement is always on me." The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. "I'll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you would like to read it first."

It read:

"My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to You along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much more brilliant."

Praise Him for the roses; thank Him for the thorns.

Author Unknown  
The Daily Encourager  
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

November 19, 2017
EXPERIENCING CHANGE 




Psalm 32:8
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you."




Last year, my husband and I considered making some significant life changes which I knew would take both of us out of our comfort zone. As I talked with the Lord about our situation, three life lessons came to mind. If you are in the middle of making a life change you have chosen, or even if you are in the middle of one that has been thrust upon you that you didn’t want, I hope these three truths encourage you like they encouraged me. 

You can never lose what really matters.

For those who belong to Christ, nothing this world offers—when removed—really matters. And what does really matter, we can never lose. Therefore, we can be free from being consumed by the fear of loss. We can never lose His love. We can never lose His guidance, or presence, or faithfulness. These are steadfast and sure when the world around us is changing. 

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Peace follows obedience.

As my husband and I began discussing our new plan, I wrestled with the decision. I cried a few times, scratched honest words in my journal, and prayed. But I sensed the Lord inviting me to surrender, so I gave in. I started saying things like, “I have made changes before and God has been faithful. I can do it again.” “We are the Lord’s servants. We do what He wants, when He wants.” Through surrender, I was reminded that where God rules, peace reigns. I honestly believe our trials are often more difficult than they need to be because we won’t give in to God’s way. When we rail against Him, we make it so much harder on ourselves. Give in and go with God. 

Focus on what you are gaining.

Jesus is so faithful. But sometimes we get so focused on what we are losing that we forget that God doesn’t just remove something from us; He removes us to something as well. We must remember that He has our best interest in mind, that He is working all things in light of His eternal purposes, and He never removes something from the believer without very good reason. 

"Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose."  (Psalm 25:12)

Write a letter to the Lord affirming your trust in Him. 

Shana Schutte

November 18, 2017
NEW NEIGHBORS





Luke 10:29
"But he [the lawyer], desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?





On December 26, 2004, masses of people suddenly became our new neighbors. They were left with broken lives after a monstrous tsunami swept across 12 Asian countries, killing tens of thousands of their friends, relatives, and countrymen. Millions of survivors became destitute. But how did they become our neighbors?

According to Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, a neighbor is one who shows mercy on the needy. A lawyer had asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus told him about an injured traveler who had been attacked by thieves, ignored by a priest and a Levite, and helped by a Samaritan. Then He asked:

"'Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?' He said, 'The one who showed him mercy.' And Jesus said to him, 'You go, and do likewise.'" (Luke10:36-37)

Needy people who cross our path become our new neighbors, and we must be a neighbor by helping them. Too often we think of neighbors as related to us by geography. Instead, Jesus indicated that we are to consider anyone in need as a neighbor regardless of who they are or where they live.

Look around. Someone needs your help, mercy, and love. They are your new neighbors.

Reach out in Jesus' name
With helping hands of care
To those who are in need
And caught in life's despair. —Dave Sper

Good exercise for the heart: Reach out and help your neighbor.

Dave Branon

November 26, 2017  
GOD KNOWS





Matthew 6:3-4
"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." 




When Denise met a hurting young woman in her church, her heart went out to her and she decided to see if she could help. Every week she spent time counseling her and praying with her. Denise became her mentor. However, some church leaders didn’t notice Denise’s efforts and decided to assign a church staff member to mentor the woman. No one, they commented, seemed to be taking care of her.

While she was not expecting any credit, Denise couldn’t help but feel a little discouraged. “It’s as if I wasn’t doing anything at all,” she told me. One day, however, the young woman told Denise how grateful she was for her comfort. Denise felt encouraged. It was as if God was telling her, “I know you’re there for her.” Denise still meets with the woman regularly.

Sometimes, we feel unappreciated when our efforts don’t get recognized. Scripture, however, reminds us that God knows what we’re doing. He sees what others don’t. And it pleases Him when we serve for His sake—not for man’s praise.

Perhaps that’s why Jesus gave us an example by telling us to do our giving “in secret,” so that “your Father, who sees what is done . . . will reward you” 

"And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:4)

We need not look to others for recognition and praise; we can take heart that God knows when we’re faithful in serving Him and others. God sees everything we do for Him.

Our Daily Bread

November 16, 2017
COMPASSION  
  



Matthew 14:14
"When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick." 


  
In Matthew’s gospel, we encounter several of the most famous scenes from Jesus’s ministry: feeding the five thousand, walking on water, and healing the sick. We walk with Jesus into the very heart of his mission, filling those who are hungry, comforting and emboldening those who are afraid, and giving life where there is death.  Behind these stories is a deep seated, unwavering compassion in the heart of Jesus towards those who are in need. 
  

Matthew tells us that when Jesus saw the great crowd, 

“...he had compassion for them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14)

And rather than a single, isolated incident, throughout the New Testament, this is the consistent posture of Jesus towards those who are in need and broken. Filled with pity and moved by great compassion, Jesus reaches out in love to a world in need and begins his great mission of restoration. 
  
If you identify with the characters in these stories, this is good news for you today. For those of us who are hungry, fearful, and sick, the Lord looks upon us with unimaginable compassion and love. He wants to draw near and bring healing and wholeness that can only be described as a gift of grace and a work of the Holy Spirit. In part, this is why we gather week by week in worship. We come to offer praise and thanksgiving for the goodness of God in our lives, yet we also come as those who are hungry and in great need. We gather seeking the compassion and kindness of the Lord in our lives. 
  
However, at the heart of our mission as Christians lies the invitation for us to be formed into the likeness of Christ. If this is to be true of us, we need to not only receive the compassion of Christ but we must become compassionate people ourselves. We must learn to open our hearts and lives to a world in need and be moved with compassion, joining Christ in the renewal of all things. 
  

May we receive the compassion of Jesus with great thanksgiving, and as we are conformed into his image, may we also boldly share that compassion with everyone we meet!   

"And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him."  (Matthew 20:34)  

Who in your life is in need of compassion? How can you reach out to them with the love of Christ? 

Tripp Prince

November 15, 2017
RIGHT FRIENDS




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




Mother Teresa said, “I can do things you cannot. You can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” Those are wise words we see demonstrated in many lives in Scripture. 

Moses accomplished God’s plan with the help of others; Nehemiah rallied helpers together to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall; the disciples relied on one another, Paul relied on Timothy and Barnabas, and even Jesus was dependent on His Father. 

Today, every pastor, football coach, disaster recovery leader, author, youth minister, company CEO, mother, and teacher accomplish the great things they do because they have supportive, servant-minded people standing with them who believe in their God-given mission. This is why it’s so important to surround yourself with those who will pull you toward God’s plan for your life and not away from it. It’s important to make friends with people who will celebrate what God is calling you to and who don’t shame you or tell you what you believe God is asking you to do isn’t possible. 

In Numbers 13, the Lord told Moses to send some men out from the Israelite camp to spy on the land of Canaan, the land He was giving them, and come back with a report. They did, and when they returned, they reported that the land was beautiful just as God promised, but that there were giants already living there:

"However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan."  (Numbers 13:28-29)

But Caleb, who believed what God promised said:

"But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it." (Numbers 13:30)

But the naysayers who had gone on the mission said:

"Then the men who had gone up with him said, 'We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.' So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, 'The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.'” (Numbers 13:31-33)

To make a long story short, the whole camp became very upset and some of them wished they had been left in Egypt. The Lord wasn’t happy:

"He said, 'How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?'” (Numbers 14:11) 

Can you imagine what would have happened if those naysayers hadn’t been naysayers at all and instead they supported Moses because they believed the Lord? They would have been inspired to go and take the land God had promised. But instead, they were afraid and paralyzed and refused to do the tasks God had called them to. 

This is a great example of why it’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in your God-given mission. That’s how great things happen. This is how you can fulfill your calling, and this is how you help others be all they can for the Lord, too. Be a believer. Don’t be a doubter or driven by fear. Nothing good can come from that. 

"Do not be deceived: 'Bad company ruins good morals.'"  (1 Corinthians 15:33)

If you haven’t already, make a list of several friends to be in your inner circle, who you can consult during times when you need support and direction. Then ask them if they will be a part of your inner circle. 

Shana Schutte

October 3, 2017  
CONCEIVED IN CRISIS




Psalm 57:1
"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by."



Marc recalls a moment from his childhood when his father called the family together. Their car had broken down, and the family would run out of money by the end of the month. Marc’s dad paused and prayed. Then he asked the family to expect God’s answer.

Today Marc recalls how God’s help arrived in surprising ways. A friend repaired their car; unexpected checks arrived; food showed up at the door. Praising God came easily. But the family’s gratitude had been forged in a crisis.

Psalm 57 has long provided rich inspiration for worship songs. We might imagine David gazing up at a magnificent Middle Eastern night sky or perhaps singing in a tabernacle worship service. But in reality David, fearful for his life, was hiding in a cave.

"My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts—the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords." (Psalm 57: 4)

David said in the psalm:

"Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!" (Psalm 57: 11)

David’s praise was conceived in crisis. Although he was cornered by enemies who wanted him dead, David could write these amazing words: 

"My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody!"  (Psalm 57:7)

Whatever crisis we face today, we can run to God for help. Then, we can praise Him as we wait expectantly, confident in His infinitely creative care for us. Your next crisis is your next opportunity to trust our unfailing God.

Our Daily Bread

November 13, 2017
FINDING FREEDOM








James 1:25
"But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." 







When what I do flows out of what I believe there is freedom. Freedom from the fear of eternity in hell, knowing the security of my salvation is based on faith in the gospel of Jesus. Freedom from guilt, knowing when my conduct aligns with what I believe my conscience is free. Freedom from hurt, knowing the grace of God brings healing to my heart. Freedom from striving, knowing the Holy Spirit fills and empowers my soul to find sustaining strength for life’s journey! 

James gives a very insightful, one sentence treatise into the truth of the Christian life. He describes how the creed of what we believe is to define the deeds of what we do. As we look intently into the perfect law of the gospel, our continued gaze on God produces faith’s fruit of good deeds. And, as we continue in this lifestyle of loving the Lord and obeying the Lord we will be blessed in the very act onf doing. The Holy Spirit ambushes us with blessings as we do good! 

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers."  (Psalm 1:1-3)

Do you take time to intently look into the things of God? You may possess faith, but does your faith possess you? Without the exercise of your faith applying what you hear and see, you only work against intimacy with Christ. Knowledge about God is like manure, you can store it up in the barn of your mind: proudly stacked, dried up and useless or you can spread it across the field of life and make other lives grow and flourish. Faith without works finds freedom elusive! 

Best of all---you are blessed in the process of blessing others. The Lord prepares you to be a blessing in your “being time” and then He blesses you during your “doing time”. In due time others become infected by faith in Christ and the cycle of becoming a blessing multiplies, as the Spirit draws and makes disciples through your love and obedience. Never forget works follow belief. First, lay the foundation of faith in Jesus then build custom rooms of good works! 

"For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:9-11)

What act of kindness can you quietly do today to bless another? 

Wisdom Hunters

Previous thoughts

November 12, 2017  
IMPERFECT, YET LOVED





Romans 5:8
"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."





In Japan, food products are immaculately prepared and packaged. Not only must they taste good but they must look good too. Often I wonder if I am purchasing the food or the packaging! Because of the Japanese emphasis on good quality, products with slight defects are often discarded. However, in recent years wakeari products have gained popularity. Wakeari means “there is a reason” in Japanese. These products are not thrown away but are sold at a cheap price “for a reason”—for example, a crack in a rice cracker.

My friend who lives in Japan tells me that wakeari is also a catchphrase for people who are obviously less than perfect.

Jesus loves all people—including the wakeari who society casts aside. When a woman who had lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at a Pharisee’s house, she went there and knelt behind Jesus at His feet, weeping:

"And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment." (Luke 7:37–38)

The Pharisee labeled her “a sinner”:

"Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, 'If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.'" (Luke 7:39)

But Jesus accepted her. He spoke gently to her, assuring her that her sins were forgiven:

"And he said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.'" (Luke 7:48)

Jesus loves imperfect, wakeari people—which includes you and me. And the greatest demonstration of His love for us: 

"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) 

As recipients of His love, may we be conduits of His love to the flawed people around us so they too may know that they can receive God’s love despite their imperfections.

Broken people are made whole by God’s love.

Our Daily Bread

November 11, 2017
VETERANS DAY







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





"While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime," officials write. "In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served - not only those who died - have sacrificed and done their duty."-- An excerpt from the Department of Veterans Affairs

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye. Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg-or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's alloy forged in the refinery of adversity. Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem. You can't tell a vet just by looking.  So, what is a vet?

  • He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.
  • He is the bar room loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.
  • She-or he-is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.
  • He is the POW who went away one person and came back another-or didn't come back AT ALL.
  • He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat-but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs.
  • He is the parade-riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.
  • He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.
  • He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb of the Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.
  • He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket-palsied now and aggravatingly slow-who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.
  • He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being-a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.
  • He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.
So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say ‘Thank You’. That's all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.

Submitted by Lauree McKeown



November 10, 2017
A GENEROUS NATION




Deuteronomy 28:12
"The LORD will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow."




Once we cease to be a generous nation we will cease to enjoy the generous blessings of God.  Jesus clearly says,

"....Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more."  (Luke 12:48)

What’s best for a country is not just defined within its borders, but in how free citizens seek to expand the freedoms of those outside of its borders. Our choice is not an either/or of us or them, but a both/and of us and them. Of course, as flight attendants remind us, we wisely need to first place the oxygen mask on our nation’s health, so we can care for those around us, but the oxygen of life and liberty must be shared. A generous nation helps other needy nations.

A stewardship of influence accompanies a respected nation of resources, religious freedom, and moral credibility. Similar to someone elevated to a position of authority, they have no option but to make wise choices if their desire is to do what’s best for all stakeholders. Selfishness has a very small view of the world, while unselfishness sees opportunities like a star-studded sky. Indeed not all needs can be met, but we can wisely work with those who want to grow a culture built on proven principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A generous nation shares the best practices of what made them great since greatness comes from joyfully serving others:

"But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves." (Luke 22:26)

Fortunately we have a nation of generous givers who are relentless in their efforts to share the gospel, eradicate disease, purify water and create jobs. Some are creatively and effectively reaching thousands of new Jesus followers worldwide and discipling them over a digital platform, while others are propagating God’s Word worldwide and others are unleashing unprecedented dollars to fund Kingdom work. The fruit of the gospel is far-reaching and forever! One organization continues to solve significant global healthcare problems with innovation and easily accessible inoculations. God is on the move, quietly working through citizens of our great nation, something to celebrate and accelerate!

You may ask, “What can I do in my little world?” Do not despise small things, because like faith a little bit of generosity goes a long way in quenching the needs of thirsty hearts, hungry stomachs and suffering children. What cause is your church behind that you can get behind? Pray as a family for other families who need medicine, food and water. Families for Families is a great resource to start engaging in a systematic approach to giving. Sign up for a mission trip. Give to your church and volunteer your time. A friend told me this week he gives his time to non Christian organizations so he can be “salt and light”! A generous nation is a God blessed nation!


"But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also."  (2 Corinthians 8:7)


What cause does your church support that you can support?

Wisdom Hunters

November 9, 2017
ROOTS BELOW, FRUIT ABOVE





2 Kings 19:30
"And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward."








For a tree to be healthy and bear much fruit, the root system that is unseen is just as important as what can be seen above ground. Roots must grow deep and anchor the tree in nutrient rich soil, quite literally laying the groundwork for the fruit that is to come. This is true of the plant kingdom, and it is also true of the spiritual life. 

The mistake we often make is attending to one or the other, seeking either a healthy internal and private life with God, or engaging fully in active love and care for others with little attention to our personal spiritual health. Rather than this “either/or” approach, it is essential that you and I embrace a “both/and” spirituality. 

We must be women and men who, like the remnants in Judah, take root below. In times of cultural change and division, when society seems to be fracturing and splintering in countless ways, we must like the ancient people of God learn to root ourselves in God. We must seek to find our rest, identity, and hope in the Lord so that we can stand firm when storms come our way. Rootedness in Christ is needed for when times are tough and we are pressed to the brink, feeling overwhelmed by anxiety or fear. 

"so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love," (Ephesians 3:17)

Fruit bearing as Christians is an invitation to bear fruit even when the conditions are averse and unfavorable. Like a fruit tree bursting with life in the midst of a drought, we are invited to live as light in the darkness, bringing hope where there is despair, love where there is hatred, and life where there is death. If we neglect the root systems of our faith, we will be unprepared and unable to meet the needs of our broken world. We will lack the strength and fortitude to join Christ on his great mission of healing and redemption. 

"rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving."  (Colossians 2:7)

And so, be the kind of Christian that longs to bear great fruit for God’s kingdom. Yearn for this and actively pursue it. But also intentionally attend to the depth of your roots. Have you developed the virtue needed to bear fruit in any circumstance? Have you spent time in private prayer and devotion with the Lord so that your public life can be sustained and fruitful for the whole of your life? 

God invites us to join him in his restorative mission. May we take deep root below so that we can bear great fruit above! 

Have you attended to both your private and public walk with the Lord? Is there an imbalance or neglect that you need to correct? 

Tripp Prince

November 8, 2017
RISING ABOVE DISCOURAGEMENT






Proverbs 13:12
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life."






"We don't like their sound.  Groups of guitars are on their way out."   This is what Decca Recording Company said in 1962 when they turned down a recording contract with a new singing group called "The Beatles". 

"That kid can't play baseball. He can't pull the ball."  This is what the manager of the Brave's Triple A team said  about Hank Aaron in 1952. Aaron went on to hit 755 home runs, breaking all previous records.

Sir Isaac Newton, the scientist who discovered gravity,  did so poorly in school that he was called “unpromising” by his teacher.

Albert Einstein, when he was 10 years old, was told by the headmaster of his school, (translated from German), "You will never amount to very much."  

Thomas Edison was told in grade school that he was too stupid to learn anything

Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he  “lacked imagination and had no original ideas.” 

Winston Churchill failed the 6th grade because he could not pass the standardized tests. 

Babe Ruth - the greatest baseball player of all times - struck out 1,300 times - a major league record

Michael Jordan
was cut from his high school basketball team. 

Remember - no matter what the critics say, in God's economy, everybody has a purpose, everyone has a talent, everyone has a spiritual gift and everybody has something of value to offer. Never give up until you know what your purpose is; allow God to develop and sharpen your talents and your spiritaul gifts in your life.  Dedicate your talents and abilites to God.  Take courage. Nothing you ever do for God will ever be in vain. Remember, too, that one of the greatest ways we can serve God is simply by helping others - and every one of us can do that every day.

Also, as long as what you are doing is in harmony with God's will, then dream big dreams, because God will use your talents and spiritual gifts in His Kingdom work.  Know your God-given dreams and keep hope alive, no matter what the setbacks  - and never, ever, ever give up.

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

November 7, 2017  
HUMILITY





1 Peter 3:8
"Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind." 




When asked to define his role in a community that was sometimes uncooperative with law enforcement, a sheriff didn’t flash his badge or respond with the rank of his office. Rather he offered, “We are human beings who work with human beings in crisis.”

His humility—his stated equality with his fellow human beings—reminds me of Peter’s words when writing to first-century Christians suffering under Roman persecution. Peter directs: 

"Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind." (1 Peter 3:8)

Perhaps Peter was saying that the best response to humans in crisis is to be human, to be aware that we are all the same. After all, isn’t that what God Himself did when He sent His Son—became human in order to help us? 

"but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2:7)

Gazing only at the core of our fallen hearts, it’s tempting to disdain our human status. But what if we consider our humanness to be part of our offering in our world? Jesus teaches us how to live fully human, as servants recognizing we are all the same. “Human” is how God made us, created in His image and redeemed by His unconditional love.

Today we’re sure to encounter folks in various struggles. Imagine the difference we might make when we respond humbly—as fellow humans who work together with other humans in crisis.

Humility is the result of knowing God and knowing yourself.

Our Daily Bread

November 6, 2017  
THE POWER OF EMPATHY





Hebrews 13:3
"Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body." 





Put on the R70i Age Suit and you immediately feel forty years older as you experience impaired vision, hearing loss, and reduced mobility. The Age Suit was designed to help caregivers better understand their patients. Wall Street Journal correspondent Geoffrey Fowler wore one and wrote, “The unforgettable, and at times distressing, experience shed light not just on aging, but also how virtual reality equipment can teach empathy and shape our perceptions of the world around us.”

Empathy is the power to understand and share the feelings of another. During a time of severe persecution against the followers of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews urged fellow believers to:

"Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body." (Hebrews 13:3)

Jesus calls us to stand with others as if we were in their place. This is exactly what our Savior has done for us. Jesus was made like us:

"Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:17–18)

Christ the Lord, who became like us, calls us to stand with others and calls us to stand with others as if we were in their place.

Our Daily Bread

November 5, 2017
MUCH FRUIT






John 15:5
"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."   





Much fruit that remains is the goal of a disciple of Christ. This glorifies God and accomplishes His purposes. Fruit- bearing glorifies God because He is the source of life for the fruit. No fruit can be produced without God. The branch is intrinsically dependent on the vine. 

Therefore, we as followers of Christ cannot take credit for the fruit because the fruit comes from Jesus. He is the manufacturer of fruit and we are the distributors. The fruit remains luscious as the Father prunes back the unproductive branches. We do not always invite pruning, as it is painful and disfiguring in the beginning. But over time, submission to painful pruning produces beautiful and long-lasting fruit. Trust your heavenly Father with the pruning process, and you will be much better off. 

So, what is the nature of this fruit He is creating and nurturing through us? It is the fruit of character and souls. As we abide in Christ, we become more like Christ. This is a natural result of remaining in Him. We become like the ones we hang out with the most. We start to love more unconditionally because God is love. We experience a fullness of joy because the joy of the Lord becomes our strength. A holy contentment flushes our countenance because the peace of Christ reigns over our hearts. An unselfish servant spirit fills our heart because Jesus set the ultimate example of servanthood. 

Fruit-bearing is character-driven on behalf of souls for the glory of God. Character is a conduit for the Holy Spirit to draw others to Himself. You are saved for more than goodness. You are saved to bridge others to God. Much fruit that remains is the result of God working through a humble, obedient, and submitted life for His glory. 

Therefore, it is imperative you remain in Christ for maximum fruit-bearing. This is the position from which God leverages His greatest works. It is from here that much fruit is produced, and where the results remain with eternal consequences. You remain in Christ by faith. It all comes back to trust in Him. You take Him at His word. You believe His word. You obey His word. Remaining in Christ is not an onerous task. It will be painful at times, but not burdensome. Early on, allow God to sever the small green twigs of sin that bud on the branch of your life. This is much better that waiting for His massive pruning. Bad branches distract and hold back fruit-bearing. 

You also remain in Him as you live in community with other believers. They become God’s encouragers and pruning shears as well. Men need to get real with men, and women need to be transparent with women. Relational honesty and unity is one of God’s ways of remaining in Christ. Learning, growing, and applying God’s truth automatically default to remaining in Him. Seek out truth religiously and relentlessly. Be a model of remaining so others will be inspired to do the same. Branches do not thrive in isolation, but in the orchards of evangelism and discipleship. As a result, we remain in Christ. Then the fruits of character and souls are harvested on an eternal scale, all for the glory of the great gardener, God. 

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."  (Galatians 5:22-23)

How can you better abide in Christ, so He can do a deeper work of grace in your heart?

Wisdom Hunters

November 3-4, 2017
THE VALUE IN LOSING






Luke 18:17
"Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."

Mark 10:16
"And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them."



 
When my son Sean was twelve, he played on a Little League baseball team. A week before the season started, I got an idea about how to show him - and his teammates - acceptance. I bought twelve coupons good for ice cream sundaes at a local restaurant, and took them to his coach. "Coach, these are for the kids," I said.
 
"Good," the coach said with a big smile. "This is great. I wish more dads took an interest like this. I'll take them for sundaes after our first win."
 
"No, Coach," I said quickly. "I want you to take them for sundaes after their first loss." Sean's coach looked at me strangely. What I was saying wasn't computing with his concept of winning, losing, and rewards for good play.
 
This is what I shared with him: "Coach, I don't know about you, but as I raise my kids I don't want to acknowledge their efforts as much as their being created in the image of God. I believe my son is created in the image of God and that he has infinite value, dignity, and worth which all have nothing to do with playing baseball. If he never played baseball an inning in his life, I would love and accept him just as much."
 
Sean's coach looked at me for a long moment. Finally, all he could muster was, "Well that's novel." The season started and Sean's team won their first few games. But they lost their fourth game, and the coach was true to his word. He gave each player an ice cream sundae coupon and they all went out to "celebrate" their loss.
 
Sean must have thanked me at least five times for the sundaes. In addition, over the next two weeks three of the kids on his team came up and thanked me for the special treat. I recall especially a boy named Jessie, who said, "Thanks a lot for the ice cream sundaes, Mr. McDowell. Wow!! it doesn't matter to you if we win or not - you love us anyway."
 

Nothing could have made me happier than to hear that. What I wanted to communicate is that their worth is not based upon their ability to play baseball. It's based upon the fact that they are each created in the image of God with infinite value and infinite dignity. 

"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."  (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Josh McDowell
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

November 2, 2017
MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE






Psalm 98:4
"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!" 





Back when I was searching for a church to attend regularly, a friend invited me to a service at her church. The worship leaders led the congregation in a song I particularly loved. So I sang with gusto, remembering my college choir director’s advice to “Project!”

After the song, my friend’s husband turned to me and said, “You really sang loud.” This remark was not intended as a compliment! After that, I self-consciously monitored my singing, making sure I sang softer than those around me and always wondering if the people around me judged my singing.

But one Sunday, I noticed the singing of a woman in the pew beside me. She seemed to sing with adoration, without a trace of self-consciousness. Her worship reminded me of the enthusiastic, spontaneous worship that David demonstrated in his life. In Psalm 98, in fact, David suggests that “all the earth” should “burst into jubilant song” in worship.

Verse one of Psalm 98 tells us why we should worship joyfully, reminding us that “[God] has done marvelous things.” 

"Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him." (Psalm 98:1)

Throughout the psalm, David recounts these marvelous things: God’s faithfulness and justice to all nations, His mercy, and salvation. Dwelling on who God is and what He’s done can fill our hearts with praise.

What “marvelous things” has God done in your life?  Lift your voice and sing! Worship takes the focus off us and places it where it belongs—on God.

Our Daily Bread

November 1, 2017
AVAILABILITY





Isaiah 6:8
"And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here I am! Send me.'" 





A man saw a job ad posted on a construction site, "Handy man wanted; apply within", so he went in to speak with the foreman.

"Can you drive a Bobcat?" the foreman asks.   "No."

"Can you plaster?"  "No."

"Have you ever done any carpentry?"  "No."

"If you don't mind me asking," says the foreman, "what's so handy about you?" 

"Well, I only live about five minutes down the road..."

It has been said that "The greatest ability is availability."  It is certainly true that some of the greatest members of the kingdom of God are not those with the most talents and abilities.  Rather, they are people who have made themselves available.  They are always there when you need them, always willing to see the need and respond.

No matter what skills you may have, you can't be helpful to someone else unless you are available.  You can't help a friend who is hurting unless you are available.  You can't lend a listening ear unless you are available.  You can't show the love of Christ to those who are in need unless you are available.  One things I have learned through the years -- what people remember most about people that they love is that they were there for them when they needed them.  Availability.

I am reminded of Isaiah who felt very unworthy to the task to which God had called him, but he said, "Here am I!  Send me."  

"And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here I am! Send me.'" (Isaiah 6:8)

Wherever you need me to go, whatever you need me to do, I'm here and I'm available. May that be our daily attitude toward God, and toward those around us -- "Here am I!  I'm available."
 
Author Unknown
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

October 31, 2017
A GOOD ENDING






Revelation 22:3–4
"No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads." 







As the lights dimmed and we prepared to watch the movie Apollo 13, my friend said under his breath, “Shame they all died.” I watched the movie about the 1970 spaceflight with apprehension, waiting for tragedy to strike, and only near the closing credits did I realize I’d been duped. I hadn’t known or remembered the end of the true story—that although the astronauts faced many hardships, they made it home alive.

In Christ, we can know the end of the story—that we too will make it home alive. By that I mean we will live forever with our heavenly Father, as we see in the book of Revelation. The Lord will create a “new heaven and a new earth” as He makes all things new:

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more." (Revelation 21:1)

"And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' Also he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'" (Revelation 21:5)

In the new city, the Lord God will welcome His people to live with Him, without fear and without the night. We have hope in knowing the end of the story.

What difference does this make? It can transform times of extreme difficulty, such as when people face the loss of a loved one or even their own death. Though we recoil at the thought of dying, yet we can embrace the joy of the promise of eternity. We long for the city where no longer will there be any curse, where we’ll live forever by God’s light:

"And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever." (Revelation 22:5)

God promises His people a good end to the story.

Our Daily Bread

October 30, 2017
I KNOW MY MASTER 





1 Corinthians 2:9
"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'—"






A sick man turned to his doctor, as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, "Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side."

Very quietly, the doctor said, "I don't know."

"You don't know? You, a Christian man, do not know what is on the other side?"

The doctor was holding the handle of the door; on the other side of which came a sound of scratching and whining, and as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness. Turning to the patient, the doctor said, "Did you notice my dog? He's never been in this room before. He didn't know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened, he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing... I know my Master is there and that is enough." 

Author Unknown
Submitted by Jackie Musgrave

October 29, 2017
DUE DILIGENCE






Luke 1:3-4
"it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught."




 
Simply put, due diligence is a process of gathering the facts. It is designed to validate assumptions and expose wrong thinking. Due diligence is necessary for wise decision-making. You go through due diligence when you buy a house. You explore comparable home prices in the neighborhood to affirm or deny the asking price of the house for sale. A home inspector is commonly hired to check out the nooks and crannies. He is an objective third party that looks for roof leaks, foundation damage, electrical hazards, safe plumbing, and overall sound structure of the home. His or her harvesting of information is vital to the final decision of the home purchaser.
 
In some ways, you apply due diligence to a prospective husband or wife. You observe his attitude toward his parents. You look for love and respect. The same can be said for their reverence of God. Are they submitted to Christ and in love with Him? First impressions may be positive, but more is required to be a wise decision-maker. Due diligence can take time, depending upon the complexity of the issue or the deal.
 
When hiring someone, you look at past career success and the opinions of references. A credit check reveals a lot about the responsible—or irresponsible—handling of money. Purchasing a business requires a lengthy process of poring over financial audits, researching market trends, interviewing employees and customers, and defining the criteria needed to value the enterprise. Due diligence is required in all levels of life to be a wise steward. So what has been the extent of your due diligence on God?
 
God deserves a thorough investigation, and your intellectual integrity requires a due diligence on God. Then you can have peace of mind knowing you objectively examined all the facts that relate to God. You may read books written by former atheists, such as C.S. Lewis, that document their struggles with truth and lies surrounding God. Their life experiences become a road map for your own search. More importantly however, is to read and research the Bible. Let the Scriptures stand alone. Do not depend on the conjecture and assumptions of others who may or may not be objective in their evaluation of Holy Scripture.
 
Read the Bible with an open mind and ask God to speak to your heart through His Word. Yes, use sound rules of interpretation such as context and cultural implications. It is necessary to understand the immediate audience for whom the Bible was intended, but consider Scripture’s timelessness. What applied yesterday, often applies today. The commands and principles of the Bible transcend civilizations and centuries.
 
In your due diligence of the Bible, explore the prophecies of the Old Testament. Consider the predictions that occurred hundreds of years before Christ and were fulfilled with mind-boggling accuracy. His place of birth, His method of death, and His provision of salvation are all embedded in the text.
 

Study closely the life of Christ; begin your due diligence in the book of John. Jesus claimed to be God and the only way to God. If that is true, his statement holds life-altering implications. Do not let the bias of another lead you down the path of least resistance. Your due diligence may very well lead you into a divine encounter. The Bible says, 

"Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways,..."  (Isaiah 58:2a) 

What relationship or opportunity do you need to do more homework on before you commit time and resources?

Wisdom Hunters

October 28, 2017
A WARNING WHEN ALL SPEAK WELL OF YOU






Luke 6:26
"Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets."





 
When we choose to follow Jesus not everyone will speak well of us. This comes with the territory of commitment to Christ. It should not alarm us, since this is how Jesus was treated. The crowds praised Him for His authoritative teaching, but there always seemed to be a jealous group lurking about. His authentic life condemned their hypocrisy. His clear teaching made the teaching of the religious leaders look complex and controlling. 

Not being well spoken of is part of the cup we must drink as a disciple of Christ. If we try to please everyone we run the risk of pleasing no one. People intimidated into pleasing people become anxious, fearful and exhausted. Pleasing all the people all the time is not possible—it is futile. You cannot do enough to satisfy some people. 

"Jesus answered, 'You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?' They said to him, 'We are able.'"  (Matthew 20:22)

Why are some people chronic complainers? Their insecurity craves attention, their pride demands attention and their pain requires attention. Their hurt has caused them to lose perspective and unfortunately, you may become the object of their frustration. But by God’s grace you can love them through this unsettling time. You know better. 

You can give them what they have denied you. Your patience and forgiveness will go a long way in loving them to Jesus. It is your life that validates your words during times of duress. Do not be surprised when others do not speak well of you. They may not have a context to understand, because they may not have Christ. 

What does matter is what God thinks about you. Fortunately, by faith, He accepts you in Christ. However, your ongoing maturity in the faith is a concern of His. He does expect you to trust Him more and fear man less. He desires for you a love relationship with Him that is intimate, interesting and instructive. His affection is your affirmation. 

When the Lord affirms your place in life, you can rest assured. Do not waffle when the conflicting opinions of others urge you their way. Your stability is in God. He is your rock and refuge. His validation matters most, so rest in Him and do not react to the unrealistic expectations of others.  Only you, led by the Holy Spirit, can define God’s expectations. 

There is a good chance someone will not understand your faith walk and give you grief. Doing the right thing may cost you a relationship or financial remuneration. Your obedience to Christ may draw out the firestorm of criticism from some, or it may be their subtle rejection that stings. Either way, pray for and love them regardless of their unfounded words. God knows, that’s all that really matters. Listen for His well-spoken words instead! 

"For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,'"  (2 Peter 1:17)

Do you value the well-spoken words of Jesus more than man’s? 

Wisdom Hunters

October 27, 2017
SURVIVING THE WILDERNESS
    





Hebrews 4:2
"For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened."  






In the 1960s, the Kingston Trio released a song called “Desert Pete.” The ballad tells of a thirsty cowboy who is crossing the desert and finds a hand pump. Next to it, Desert Pete has left a note urging the reader not to drink the water in the jar left there but to use its contents to prime the pump.

The cowboy resists the temptation to drink and uses the water as the note instructs. In reward for his obedience, he receives an abundance of cold, satisfying water. Had he not acted in faith, he would have had only a jar of unsatisfying, warm water to drink.

Click here to listen to "Desert Pete".

This reminds me of Israel’s journey through the wilderness:

"All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, 'Give us water to drink.' And Moses said to them, 'Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?' But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, 'Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?' So Moses cried to the Lord, 'What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.' And the Lord said to Moses, 'Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go." (Exodus 17:1–5)

When their thirst became overwhelming Moses sought the Lord. He was told to strike the rock of Horeb with his staff. Moses believed and obeyed, and water gushed from the stone.

"Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.' And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, 'Is the Lord among us or not?'" (Exodus 17:6-7)

Sometimes life can seem like an arid desert. But God can quench our spiritual thirst in the most unlikely circumstances. When by faith we believe the promises of God’s Word, we can experience rivers of living water and grace for our daily needs.

"For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened."  (Hebrews 4:2)

What does your heart thirst after? Only Jesus, the Living Water, can satisfy your thirst for God.

Dennis Fisher
Our Daily Bread

October 26, 2017
GET UP!





Jonah 1:1-3
"Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 'Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.' But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD." 






The story of Jonah begins with the Lord drawing near to Jonah in an intimate and personal way. He brings an invitation for Jonah to join him in his mission to bless the whole of creation, and yet this message is so radical and intimating to Jonah that he isn’t able to receive it. We could say that Jonah had checked out of the normal, ordinary rhythms of God’s grace that help to make us ready to receive the Lord when he draws near. How do we know this? Because the Lord has to tell him to “get up.” 

Why do people have to be told to get up? Because they aren’t moving. They’re asleep and checked out, disengaged from the work at hand. And, like Jonah, when we disengage from the ordinary daily practices of faithful devotion to God – things like Bible reading, prayer, silence, and solitude – then we are caught off guard when the extraordinary moments of life come our way. 

These extraordinary moments could be a word from the Lord like Jonah received. Go here. Do this. Join me in this mission. But there are other kinds of extraordinary moments in life that hit us and we never see them coming. Extraordinary pain and loss that we would never long for or hope for: cancer, infidelity, miscarriage. The list could go on and on. These are the losses and sorrows in life that you can count on one hand that forever shape and reshape your story. 

In these extraordinary moments God so deeply wants to draw near and be close to you, but if you are sitting down and asleep in your faith, when you need him the most, he will draw near and you will push him away. You will be so unprepared and caught off guard that you will flee from the very one that can give you rest. This is one of the great insights from Jonah’s story. When he was meant to be walking with the Lord, he was instead sitting down, unprepared for the intimacy of God’s presence. 

Each and every one of us needs and rightly desires the nearness of God in our lives, in good times and in bad. And we long to be the kind of people who can join him on mission, people that he can invite to partner with him in making all things new. So don’t neglect the ordinary rhythms of life. It is in the ordinary and seemingly mundane moments of life that you and I are shaped and formed into people who can receive the extraordinary. 

In what areas of your life do you need to “get up” and reengage the daily habits and disciplines of Christian living? 

Tripp Prince

October 25, 2017
THE BEST DECISION 






James 1:5-6
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind." 





How do we make the best decision? We ask God. We ask the One who has all knowledge and who has our best interests in mind. Our loving heavenly Father does not want us to lack anything necessary for His will for our life. Because He loves us so much, He gives us so much! The nature of our loving Father is He cannot not be generous when His child asks Him for good gifts. Our best decisions come when we first seek the heart of Jesus and find out from Him what is best. 

James writes from a Jewish worldview which keenly understands the contrast between God’s wisdom and man’s folly. Wisdom from God is not just an intellectual exercise to procure all the facts and analyze the probable outcomes. The wisdom of God is based on the fear of God. With bowed head in a holy hush our spirit communes with the Holy Spirit to hear what to do and how to carry out God’s will. Not self-reliant cleverness, but desperate dependency on Christ. We lack wisdom, because we are not all wise and our perspective is imperfect, so we trust our perfect Savior to give us what we need. When we humbly ask, believing, Jesus gives with no regrets! 

"And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual."  (1 Corinthians 2:13)

What uncertain decision faces you? Stay or go? Help or don’t help? Move or don’t move? Date or don’t date? Marry or don’t marry? Invest or don’t invest? One thing is for certain, Christ wants what’s best for you, so rest in Him. Make sure to settle your emotions, so you are not reacting out of anger or seduced by success. Your past decision-making process may be lacking for your current, more complex situation. Questions are a good guide to wisdom. What is God’s heart? His timing? What is best for everyone? What is my motive? What am I learning? Am I prepared? 

Most of all, lean into the Lord for understanding, insight and discernment. Look for Him to speak through your spouse, your financial limitations, objective advisers, your capacity and above all, God’s Word and the leadership, teaching and peaceful comfort of the Holy Spirit. Your best decisions are birthed when conceived by Christ’s wisdom, so stay intimate with Him. Your lavish love relationship with your Lord will procreate a community of wise decision-making. Man’s wisdom will question and criticize, but remain confident in Christ, He directs your course. 

"And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption," (1 Corinthians 1:30)

What decision are you facing where you need to slow down and seek your Savior’s heart?

Wisdom Hunters

October 24, 2017
A SATISFIED LIFE 








Psalm 17:15
"As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness." 







Satisfaction and contentment are two of the hardest virtues for us to cultivate in our contemporary culture. For most of us, from the moment we open our eyes each morning, we enter into a battle for peace, struggling to hold fast to the goodness and love of God. We find ourselves spending hours each day allowing relationships, media, and social media feeds to define our sense of identity, our expectation of affluence, and vision of what is important and worthy of our attention and affection. This cycle of desire and discontent can become if we aren’t careful, the constant posture of our lives.
 
Into this chaos, the LORD speaks peace over us and over his creation. He extends an offer of freedom, inviting us to reframe our understanding of self and the world in light of the self-giving love shown in Jesus. And in his written Word, we are reminded that our satisfaction is directly linked to our ability to intimately abide with him.
 
How would you define the first emotions of your day? Family brokenness may quickly rush you into a place of anxiety. Perhaps it’s simple exhaustion from a struggle to sleep through the night. You may find yourself in an abusive and toxic work environment, and so most mornings bring with them a sense of fear or even anger towards coworkers or your boss. Is it possible to join our hearts and lives with the psalmist when they say, “when I awake I shall be satisfied?”
 
Our ability to enjoy a satisfied life is directly linked to our willingness to behold the LORD in his beauty and faithfulness, allowing this likeness to be restored and remade within us.  We are constantly tempted to allow all sorts of sub-identities to become our primary identities. When we view ourselves primarily as an employee, our satisfaction or discontent is therefore dependent upon how well our job is going. The same is true of countless other identities that we take on: parent, child, athlete, collector, enthusiast. The list could go on and on. These identities contribute to who we are, yet they are all secondary to the primary identity that you and I bear: daughter or son of God.
 
As beloved children, we are set free to find our satisfaction in the goodness of God and the work of his Spirit within us, growing us day by day into people who reflect that image in every area of life. As we do this, our joy, contentment, and satisfaction is no longer dependent upon our circumstances but instead transforms them, speaking peace and hope over even the darkest parts of our hearts and lives.
 
How can you build a habit of healthy sleep, prayer, study, and reflection to help you awake each day in a place of satisfaction and peace?

Tripp Prince

October 23, 2017
EAGLES IN THE STORM







Isaiah 40:31
"but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." 







Did you know that an eagle knows when a storm is approaching long before it breaks? The eagle will fly to some high spot and wait for the winds to come. When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages, below the eagle is soaring above it. The eagle does not escape the storm. It simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm.

When the storms of life come upon us ...  and all of us will experience them... we can rise above them by setting our minds and hearts on God.

The storms do not have to overcome us. We can allow God's power to lift us above them. God enables us to ride the winds of the storm that bring sickness, tragedy, failure, and disappointment into our lives. We can soar above the storm. Remember, it is not the burdens of life that weigh us down, it is how we handle them. The Bible says, 

"...they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles;..."  (Isaiah 40:31)

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

October 22, 2017 
MORAL AUTHORITY







Proverbs 16:12
"Kings detest wrongdoing, for a throne is established through righteousness."
 





Moral authority gives leaders the creditability to lead the most effectively. Presidents, judges, congressmen, governors, mayors, businessmen, teachers, preachers and parents all require moral authority to be a leader worth following. It is the fabric of faith in God’s standards that bolsters respect from followers. So, what is your standard for conduct? Is your conscience governed by Christ’s character? Is He your baseline of behavior?
 

If everyone does what is right in his own eyes there is cultural chaos and moral confusion. 

"In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit." (Judges 21:25)

It may be a work culture that is inconsistent in its accountability or a home environment where the parents do not model the behavior they expect from their children. Rules are only followed consistently if righteousness rules. 

"There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 16:25)

Your Creator has given you rights based on His righteous standard of behavior. If however, we ignore the implementation of integrity, we forfeit our rights. God’s gift of freedom is fragile and only flourishes in a faith-based society. Those who are ungrateful to the Lord travel down a path of pride to their peril. Moral authority is accountable to Almighty God.
 

Therefore, I have to ask myself, “Do I detest wrongdoing?” “Do I engage injustice with Christ-like character? “Do I compromise God’s standards, or do I walk away from unseemly situations and shady deals?” The conscience of culture changes one heart at a time. Moral authority is the master of a leader’s fate. With it comes creditability and the Lord’s blessing. Without it is a shell of service at best, and corruption at worst. ‘Do I lead with the moral authority of my master Jesus?’ 

"Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus."  (1 Timothy 3:13) 

What behavior do you need to quit justifying and confess to Christ as sin and repent?

Wisdom Hunters

October 21, 2017  
WHEN BEAUTY NEVER ENDS





Psalm 63:3
"Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you." 




I love looking at the Grand Canyon. Whenever I stand at the canyon rim I see new brushstrokes of God’s handiwork that take my breath away.

Even though it’s just a (very large) “hole” in the ground, the Grand Canyon causes me to reflect on heaven. A very honest twelve-year-old asked me once, “Won’t heaven be boring? Don’t you think we’ll get tired of praising God all the time?” But if a “hole in the ground” can be so overwhelmingly beautiful we can’t stop looking at it, we can only imagine the joy of one day seeing the very Source of beauty—our loving Creator—in all of the pristine wonder of the new creation.

David expressed this longing when he wrote, 

"One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple."  (Psalm 27:4)

There’s nothing more beautiful than the presence of God, which draws near to us on this earth as we seek Him by faith, looking forward to seeing Him face to face. On that day we’ll never tire of praising our amazing Lord, because we will never come to an end of fresh, new discoveries of His exquisite goodness and the wonders of the works of His hands. Every moment in His presence will bring a breathtaking revelation of His beauty and His love.

We were created to enjoy God forever.

Our Daily Bread

October 20, 2017
BE DECISIVE 





Isaiah 16:3a
"'Make up your mind,' Moab says. 'Render a decision.'..."




Decisions can be as illusive as your shadow. They can haunt you from behind, or they can lead you from out front. Decisions are not designed to be delayed forever unless, of course, they are related to an evil or wicked act. Decisions are meant to drive you toward God’s purpose and plan for your life. He allows you to make decisions that determine His future for you. He gives you the counsel and the wisdom, but you make the decision. No one else can make the decision for you; God wants you to make it. This is your responsibility and opportunity.
 
Fear may be delaying your decision. Pride may be prolonging your decision. Lack of trust may be paralyzing your mind with indecision. You may be cautious because a similar experience in the past did not work out so well. But if you delay much longer, you may very well miss this window of opportunity. You have prayed about this, and there is peace. You have sought wise counsel, and there is affirmation. You have exceeded the normal amount of due diligence to make an informed decision. Now is the time to decide.
 

Say yes or no, but do not procrastinate any longer. It is not fair to those who depend on you, nor is it fair to those who believe in you. The bottom line probably relates to trust. Can God be trusted to lead you through the implications of this decision? Can He handle the “what ifs?” The answer, of course, is yes. God will not lead you into a decision that is detrimental to His plan for your life. There will surely be bumps along the way. The bottom may fall out, but He is still faithful. It is better to be in a storm with Jesus, than on the calm shore without Him. 

"What you decide on will be done, and light will shine on your ways."  (Job 22:28) 

“No decision” is still a decision. If you continue to be indecisive, you have decided not to move forward. But you do not have to stand still. You can take this first step and then trust God with steps two and three. Do not become overwhelmed with what might happen tomorrow. Just remain faithful today. Do your best now and trust the Lord with later.
 

The same holds true for others stuck in indecision. They have strung you along, way beyond what is reasonable. It is responsible for you to give them a deadline. It is bad stewardship for you to linger too long around a dead-end deal. It may be time to move on:

"And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them."  (Mark 6:11)

God may very well be shutting the door because of another’s inability to decide. Do not see them as the enemy because of their indecision. This may be God’s protection, so be grateful for this divine delay.
 

But now move on with Christ in quiet confidence and bold creativity. Use another’s indecisiveness to propel yourself forward without them. God has decided what is best. Decide to believe this and trust Him with the results. A life mired in indecision is messy and going nowhere. A life marked by wise decisions is moving forward with their Heavenly Father’s help. Be a bold decision maker because you can. Align your decisions with His wisdom, for He has it all figured out. Get the facts. Review the truth. Get counsel. Pray. Then decide to decide. By faith and by the grace of God, decide. This is the best decision. 

"Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7) 

What decision are you facing that needs validation from God’s word and a wise third party?

Wisdom Hunters

October 19, 2017
TELL OF HIS MIGHTY ACTS  
  





Psalm 145:4
"One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts." 
  






I recently had the privilege of spending a week in London, England. When I travel to a place like London, I spend every free minute I can find either in medieval churches or used bookshops, both of which are a small taste of heaven. On this most recent trip, I was particularly moved by a visit to the noonday service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. To walk into St. Paul’s is to take your place amongst tens of thousands of Christians who have, over countless generations, worshipped the Lord and longed for his presence in their lives and in their communities. It is a building that tells the story of a people, a story of pain and sorrow, yet more frequently a story that clings to the hope of heaven. 
  

As the service concluded, I worked my way through the expansive halls and unspeakable beauty that awaited me at every turn. Eventually I found myself in the underground crypt in which Christians have been buried for hundreds of years. As I walked through this holy space, I came across a tombstone from the 1700s, barely legible due to centuries of foot traffic. Yet as I looked closely, I found an inscription that read, “Laid to rest by her heartbroken husband in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection.” What a story of loss and hope these simple words contained!   

"Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;"  (Psalm 22:30)  

We can so quickly get caught up in the needs and concerns of our own day that we forget the countless people who have gone before us. People like the one I encountered in this tombstone, with hearts ripped apart due to grief and loss, yet in their grief clinging with all they have to the power of God and the promise that all will one day be well. If we can take the time to open our hearts and our ears to their voices, we can find in their stories fellow pilgrims on the way, friends to encourage us and call us forward in faithfulness and strength. 

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (3 John 4)  

As I encountered this tombstone and the story it told, I wondered if any part of my own life might be an encouragement to someone 300 years from now? Am I living in such a way that in my joys and in my sorrows I intentionally and explicitly tell the stories of God’s faithfulness in my life? You and I have been given just a few short years to live. While you still have breath, take time to tell of God’s faithfulness in your life, of his power and his loving kindness to you and those you love. Do not let your life be a missed opportunity to encourage and strengthen the faith of others, even those not yet born. Your faithfulness in life and death can be a story of God’s mighty acts that lives on for generations to come!  

"...Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God."  (Genesis 6:9)  

Is your life a living testament to your faithfulness and great love shown to you in Jesus Christ our Lord? Take time to write out the stories of God’s faithfulness in your life so that they can be preserved for future generations. 

Tripp Prince 

October 18, 2017
OFFERING PLATE





2 Corinthians 8:7
"But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also."




Ed Dobson, my former pastor, often said that he disliked preaching about financial giving to the church. He said his previous job required fundraising, so he didn't like putting any unnecessary pressure on people. But when he was teaching through 2 Corinthians, and he came to chapters 8 and 9, he couldn't avoid the topic of giving. What I remember most about his sermon was the illustration he used. He placed an offering plate on the floor, stepped into it, and stood there as he talked about the importance of giving our whole selves to the Lord, not just our wallets.

Those two chapters in Paul's second letter to the Corinthians give us a number of attitudes and actions that we are to display in our giving to the Lord:

Give yourself to the Lord first 

"and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us." (2 Corinthians 8:5)

Give, remembering the example of the Lord Jesus 

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Give according to your means 

"So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have." (2 Corinthians 8:11-12) 

Give enthusiastically because of God's love 

"for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them." (2 Corinthians 9:2)

Give generously and cheerfully, not grudgingly or because of outside pressure 

"The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully[c] will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)

Give trusting in God's grace 

"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)

Next time the offering plate comes around at church, imagine yourself stepping into it. It will help you to excel in the grace of giving. When we give ourselves completely to the Lord, all lesser giving becomes easier.

Anne Cetas

October 17, 2017
A LETTER ABOUT CHOOSING LOVE 





1 Peter 4:8
"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins."  





  

Before I married, I read an article online published by the Huffington Post written by Elad Nahori who says he was swooning with burning passion when he met his wife. But he also writes that he didn’t really love his wife when he married her. “This fire was burning in me, a fire that burned just like that second date: I was in love. But then we got married, and everything changed. Marriage, quicker than I was ready for, did this thing: It started sucking away that emotion.”   

Thankfully, Elad later learned a priceless secret some people never learn: when feelings fade, love is a choice, an act of the will. And when you choose love with God’s help, the emotion of love often follows. With this truth in mind, I wrote a letter to myself just before I walked down the aisle. If you are married or single, I hope it encourages you.

 Dear Self,   

As you enter into the holy covenant of marriage, there are some things you need to remember. These are godly principles that, if heeded, can prevent you from falling into marital destruction. You know:

  • that once the flower of romance fades, the warts of our humanity show and the flutter of love abandons the human heart, then the choice to love must be made.
  • selfishness and pride are the roots of contention, and that fighting with one’s mate instead of fighting for one’s marriage is a cause of much heartache. 
  • the need to control, blame, or the inability to be flexible causes strife. 
  • pride destroys relationships but humility draws people together. 

"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18) 

  • tenderness is necessary, and compassion required, to make any relationship work.
  • your internal wounds can cause you to unrealistically expect your mate to meet needs God never intended for them to meet. 
  • submission to your mate is about submitting to Christ.

"submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Ephesians 5:21)

  • If you refuse to keep a tender heart, admit your wrongs, put your mate first, exercise loving patience, and care for your mate like you care for yourself, you are in rebellion against your Lord. 
  • transparency often begets transparency, that tenderness begets tenderness, and that trust takes time to build but can easily be destroyed in a moment. You know contention, dissension and selfish ambition are works of the flesh and are agreements with the devil. 

"Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions," (Galatians 5:19-20) 

  • you cannot change your mate, but that with God’s help you can change yourself. You know love covers a multitude of sins. 

"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8)

  • forgiveness is required, and encouragement is needed for the human heart to feel safe. And, you also know God is the only one who can help you do the above well. 

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

So Self, throw yourself on Jesus. He is your Helper. He will remind you of truth:

"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." (John 16:13)

Guard against pride. Embrace humility and love, and consider your mate better than yourself: 

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

When both you and your mate practice these principles, you can win at love and your marriage can go the distance.   

"Let all that you do be done in love." (1 Corinthians 16:14)  

Let God help you to remember that He has given you the ability to create health and joy and hope in your relationships by how you treat others. Let Him help you not to lean on emotions, but help Him lead your heart with His truth and godly actions.  Let Him help you to love by an act of your own will.
  
Choose one loving action to put into practice today with the one closest to you, whether a mate, a friend, or a relative. 

Shana Schutte

October 16, 2017
ANGER IS TOXIC TO RELATIONSHIPS  





James 1:19-21
"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls."    




  
Anger has a way of coming out of nowhere and becoming a relational wrecking ball. But does it really come out of nowhere, or somewhere more subtle, ready to ruin a perfectly good day? In an instant, a conversation can shift to a defensive, detrimental tone because anger is released like a wasp’s nest smashed by an intrusive shoe on its camouflaged burrow. Poisonous are the stings, causing an allergic reaction of unrighteousness. The best remedy is an EpiPen injection of humility to contain the reddened, swelling of pride. Anger is toxic to relationships. 
  

Paul gives clear instructions on how to prevent pride from pouncing on people who want to avoid human anger and embrace what God desires---righteousness. A patient posture of listening is a highly effective deterrent to the destructiveness of anger. Instead of reacting defensively, “The reason I said what I said was...”, respond empathetically, “I'm sorry, it sounds like you feel really hurt’. Anger is diffused when it is rejected and replaced with patient listening. Put off pride and put on the humble word which is planted in our hearts, our salvation from anger’s harshness. 

"I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119:11)  

"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."  (Ephesians 4:31-32)  

Are you sometimes ambushed by anger, unable to see it coming? Perhaps you react in the moment with heightened emotions in a high pitched voice, instantly ashamed of your actions. If you find yourself in this unhealthy pattern of calm on the surface but simmering underneath, you can dig up the roots of pride with the shovel of humility. Identify the reasons for your anger: fatigue, rejection, feeling hurt or not getting your way. Instead of holding onto your hurt, release it with mercy and forgiveness. Speak forgiveness to another and ask forgiveness from a friend. 
  

Be careful not to justify your anger as righteous, reserve this lofty level for the Lord. A high percentage of anger on earth has its origins in human sinfulness. Grace extends the fuse of your frustrations, so you do not easily blow up and ruin relationships. Kindness deflects the blow of harshness and patience excludes disrespect from the conversation. Like hearty Zoysia overtakes weeds, the good fruit of the Spirit is able to prune and replace the bad fruit of angry actions. Confess anger as a toxic agent to your relationships and process it with patient love and listening.   

"...put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."  (Ephesians 4:22-24)  

Who do you need to ask forgiveness from for your angry attitude? 
  
Wisdom Hunters

October 15, 2017
DON'T TAKE YOURSELF SO SERIOUSLY





2 Samuel 17:23 
"When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and went off home to his own city. He set his house in order and hanged himself, and he died and was buried in the tomb of his father." 





Don’t take yourself so seriously, but take the Lord very seriously. It is tempting to have an inflated regard of our own views. We think our opinions are extra special. We expect everyone to believe that what we think is most important, or even preferred. What started out as humble recommendations for others to consider grew into mandates, from our point of view. 

Unfortunately, this type of conditional counsel and authoritative advice is driven by pride. The gift of discernment and wisdom is a great stewardship that requires a spirit of humility and graciousness. Otherwise, no one will be able to hear our insights over the roar of our arrogance. God does not need more self-appointed gurus; He desires humble servants who will submit to Him as vessels of truth. 

We set ourselves up for rejection and unreasonable expectations if we rely on the affirmation of others for our validation. If we are not careful, we tie our value to the degree to which our views are accepted. Acceptance becomes a barometer for our self-worth. This is dangerous because our views, of course, are flawed. We are ever growing in our understanding and learning of God’s expansive truths. 

If we are teachable and maturing, our views from the past will become more accurate in the present. For example, we will probably be less judgmental, and more motivated by mercy. We will most likely take ourselves less seriously, and God more seriously. And as we grow in grace, our words will build up more than tear down. Patience will become preeminent, and our inflated views will deflate, as we depend more on God. 

Healthy perspectives are born out of dependence on God. Your belief about God determines the way you approach life. If you get this right, everything else comes into alignment. An open mind traps truth.  When you are convinced of a principle, clamp down on it with conviction. It is wise to be close-minded around your convictions, just make sure it is a conviction from God, and not just a personal preference. One truth you can depend on is that God is engaged in everyday life. The Almighty is not absent, but is alive and well. 

Therefore, seek to lead others in seeing a grander view of God. Keep Christ the centerpiece of your counsel. Make the Lord the beginning and the end of your advice. If you lead people to be accountable to God, you are wise. If they ignore this insight, they miss their Master’s best. His view is the most valuable, so steer them toward the Almighty’s perspective. 

The Bible says, 

"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice."  (Proverbs 12:15)

What idea or advice of yours do you need to let go of and trust the Holy Spirit is at work around you?

Wisdom Hunters

October 14, 2017
POSITIONED FOR TEMPTATION





2 Samuel 11:2 
"It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful." 





The allure of temptation has a lot to do with proximity. If we position ourselves to be tempted, there is a high probability we will drift toward its deception. It is unwise to be out of position and enjoy the cheap thrill of temptation. This is why we do not position our eyes in ways that lead to wayward behavior. Our eyes can be sentinels for our Savior, or they can be seducers of Satan. We have the choice, but God has given us His Holy Spirit to check our wrong positioning. 

Beautiful people are easy on the eyes but they are not meant to mesmerize us into wrong thinking and, eventually, bad behavior. Temptation’s immediate gratification seems harmless, but once it has us in a vulnerable position, it pushes for more ground until it captures our heart. If we discover ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, we are at high risk for temptation. 

However, wise Christians position themselves to faithfully follow Christ. Following the Lord does not free us from temptation, but He empowers us to flee when we encounter its pull. Following God is not always fun, but it is fruitful, as He keeps us from caving into our covetous and carnal cravings. We properly position ourselves toward God and away from temptation by prayer. It purges pride and our tendency to take temptation lightly. 

It is also wise to position ourselves under the accountability of people. We cannot stand up to the seduction of temptation if we are secluded. Left to ourselves, we flirt with the fun that temptation offers at the outset, then get stung by its humiliation and hurt. We have all discovered that we do better when those around us remind us of the obvious. Temptation loves for us to ignore warnings and become obsessed with the foolishness of our own isolated thinking. Positioning ourselves away from authenticity with others is a recipe for disaster. We all do much better when others are watching us. 

Therefore, you position yourself wisely when you use power for people, instead of using people for power. Persons are meant to be blessed, not abused by power. So, use your influence for the sole benefit of others, while trusting that God will meet your needs. 

Otherwise, you are tempted to leverage others for yourself. You run ‘through relationships, and discard them like an old t-shirt. People become expedient for your own selfish desires, and your temptation to live for the moment becomes master. Therefore, stay positioned to serve others and fear God. Selfless love positions you away from the grasp of temptation’s talons. Above all else, do not depend on yourself alone. Discipline deteriorates without the forging fires of the Holy Spirit. With His wisdom and by His grace, avoid temptation’s invitation. 

The Bible says, 

"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."  (1Corinthians 10:13)

Who or what secretly tempts you that you need to tell someone about? 

Wisdom Hunters

October 13, 2017
HELP THE HELPLESS







Psalm 68:5
"Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation."  






God helps those who can’t help themselves. He is a defender of the poor and needy, for the disadvantaged are on His heart. Jesus came for those who recognized their need for God and appropriated His forgiveness and grace. Those who are poor in spirit are candidates for Christ’s true riches. It is only when you recognize your spiritual bankruptcy outside of a Savior, that you can receive the right kind of help. But the Holy Spirit hovers over the whole earth looking for those who need and desire Him. Every day, millions of people go to bed hungry and die from diseases. Thousands of people each year are being murdered for their faith and their race. Their need is for preemptive measures of food, medicine, justice, and Jesus.

There is also the need to minister to those who have been ravished by raw racism and poverty. They are waiting for someone to care. A little bit of healthcare, a little bit of money, and a little bit of time can provide for the poor in ways most of us take for granted. A few hundred dollars can build an indoor bathroom and kitchen in the slums. It can be seed money to start a microenterprise. A wooden cart can be purchased to transport fruits and vegetables to market. God’s heart is to help the helpless. Therefore, pray for the poor and ask God to send you someone who could use your help. Grace is drawn to the needy. Love edifies and kindness cares. Faith flushes out fear, and humility hunts down the hurting and hangs out with them. Compassion shows up with resources that resonate where people live, so help the helpless in the name of Jesus.

Or you may find yourself on the helpless half of the equation. We are all helpless to some extent. You may feel helpless in your current situation at work, with a family member, or in your physical condition. Your helpless position is poised for God’s helpful position. Engage your heavenly Father in your helpless circumstance. Lean on His love and request His wisdom. You cannot make it alone. There was a day when you may have thought you could make it without the help of God or other people. But rejection of help is not how God works.

Refusing help is refusing God’s provision. Indeed, you receive the help of heaven so you can help others get to heaven. Help is a gift that keeps on giving. Because someone believed in you and helped you, you desire to do the same for another. So gain fresh perspective by looking to heaven for help. Plead with Him to provide in ways you haven’t thought of, but then ask others to help. When others are engaged in eternity’s agenda they are happy and content. Blessed are those who become helpers in the purposes of God. Be a giver and a receiver of help. Above all else, be helpful by giving help to the helpless. Help those who can’t help themselves.

The Bible says beautifully,

"I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."  (Psalm 121:1-2)

How do you need to humble yourself and ask for help?

Wisdom Hunters

October 12, 2017
TITHE AND BLESSING





Acts 20:35
"In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"



 


Gordon Cosby, while serving as pastor of the Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC, tells of a widow whose income was barely adequate to feed and clothe her six children. Yet every week she faithfully placed $4 in the offering plate. A deacon suggested that Cosby go to her and assure her that she could use the money instead for her family’s benefit. It made no sense to him for a widow to donate her last few coins.

Cosby followed the deacon’s advice—to his regret. “You are trying to take away the last thing that gives me dignity and meaning,” she said. She had learned a key to giving: It can benefit the giver more than the receiver. Yes, those in poverty need financial help. But the need to give may be as important as the need to receive.

But in that woman’s act, Jesus saw a moving display of the proper attitude toward money.

"And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, 'Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on'" (Mark 12:41-44)

The act of giving reminds us that we live by the grace of God—like the birds and the flowers. Those creations don’t worry about their future; neither should we. Giving offers us a way to express our confidence that God will care for us just as He cares for the sparrow and lily:

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.T

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."
(Matthew 6:25-34)


We disarm the power of money by giving it away. 

Philip Yancey

Previous thoughts

October 10-11, 2017
TITHE




Matthew 25:21
"His master said to him, ‘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.'" 





A man spoke to his pastor one day and said, “I don’t know what’s wrong, but God is not real to me anymore.” The wise pastor asked, “Is there any sin in your life?” In a moment of honesty, the man responded, “Years ago I was tithing regularly to God, but one day I thought, ‘God doesn’t need the money as much as I do,’ so I stopped.”

The pastor said, “Will God say, 

‘My child has disobeyed Me. He cannot trust Me with his resources, so I think I’ll bless him with even more resources.’ 


Will God do this?”

Bob Lewis

Previous thoughts

October 9, 2017
PARENTS, ADULT CHILDREN AND THE IDOL OF MONEY 




Judges 17:3-4
"And he [Micah] restored [after he had taken it] the 1,100 pieces of silver to his mother. And his mother said, 'I dedicate the silver to the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a carved image and a metal image. Now therefore I will restore it to you.' So when he restored the money to his mother, his mother took 200 pieces of silver and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into a carved image and a metal image. And it was in the house of Micah."



What is an idol? Anything or anyone that competes for our attention, affections and worship of Almighty God. A life loyal to the Lord has no threatening rivals to Jesus, but a life attracted to shiny idols is easily distracted—and eventually led astray. Parents harbor idols in their home when they give a child all they want—instead of all they need. For physical safety, a loaded gun would never be entrusted to a child, yet a parent erodes their adult child’s character by giving prematurely the gifts of luxury cars, big houases and an excessive inheritance. Cash replaces Christ.
 

Micah (not the famous prophet) loved money more than he loved his mama or the Lord. Perhaps he feared being unable to take care of his family, so he took from his mother—probably the inheritance she would eventually give to him—impatiently he stole her security. Upon returning his mother’s money, she commissioned some of the silver to become a graven image. Mom only paid lip service to dedicating her dollars to God, when in reality she worshiped an idol she thought she could control. She invested her love of money into her son’s heart. 

"knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot."  (1 Peter 1:18-19) 

Money need not become an idol in your family, rather make it an agent for good in God’s hands. Let your family know all you have is from the Lord and dedicated to the Lord—your possessions are His possessions. Practice generosity. A family who gives together will grow joyful together. Nothing keeps the idols of greed more unwelcome and uncomfortable in your home than generous giving. Perhaps at the right time, you set up for each young adult child a giving fund and coach them in how to give away money. An adult child who can manage money well has a much better chance in managing life well.
 

Parents who model a healthy view of money are able to best influence their child about money. Indulgence only masks issues, but wise expenditures become teachable moments. For example, help your child learn the discipline of delayed gratification by saving for a house or an automobile—perhaps you can match their earnings, so they feel supported by your interest. The idol of money needs an intentional plan to keep your family from being seduced by its allure. Look for mentors who are a few years ahead of you and learn from them. Most of all, keep Jesus Christ the head of your home and seek to follow Him in how to patiently love your child well. 

"As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy."  (1 Timothy 6:17) 

What does your adult child need to trust the Lord to provide and how can you empower, them but not enable them, throughout the process?

Wisdom Hunters

October 8, 2017
ENOUGH






2 Kings 4:44
"So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the Lord." 





When my husband and I were first asked to host a small group in our home, my immediate reaction was to decline. I felt inadequate. We didn’t have seats for everyone; our home was small and couldn’t hold many people. I didn’t know whether we had the skills to facilitate the discussion. I worried that I’d be asked to prepare food, something for which I lacked both passion and funds. I didn’t feel like we had “enough” to do it. I didn’t feel I was “enough” to do it. But we wanted to give to God and our community, so despite our fears, we agreed. Over the next five years we found great joy in welcoming the group into our living room.

I observe similar reluctance and doubt in the man who brought bread to God’s servant, Elisha. Elisha had instructed him to give it to the people, but the man questioned whether twenty loaves could feed so many—one hundred men. He seems to have been tempted to withhold the food because—in his human understanding—it wouldn’t be sufficient. Yet it was more than enough because God took his gift, given in obedience, and made it enough.

When we feel inadequate, or think what we have to offer isn’t sufficient, let’s remember that God asks us to give what we have in faithful obedience. He is the one who makes it “enough.” God asks us to give what we have in faithful obedience.

If you fear what you have to give is insufficient do you trust God to make it “enough”?

An offering given in faithful obedience is just right.

Our Daily Bread

October 7, 2017
HONOR GOD'S NAME






Exodus 20:7
"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain." 
 




Be cautious how you use God’s name. Using God’s name with crude and obscene language is obviously inappropriate. This feeble attempt at dragging deity down to the sewer of man’s pathetic state is both ignorant and embarrassing for the offender. But there are more subtle uses of God’s name that constitute misusing and mishandling his name. It is taking the Lord’s name in vain, just in a more sophisticated manner.
 

For example, be very careful what you ascribe to God and how you communicate this. Avoid the statement, “God wants me to quit my job, what do you think?” This may be true, but wouldn’t a humble heart say something like, “I am praying about quitting my job, what do you think?” In this instance, you are really seeking godly counsel, while in the first example you trumped any solid advice with the ‘God card’. It is hard to question what you say with what God is telling you. Humility waits on prayerful validation from God and man. 

"I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving." (Psalm 69:30) 

The temptation is to drop God’s name and credit him with pending decisions. These are decisions in our heart of hearts we know need more prayer and counsel. But in our haste and impatience, we blame God. Be careful, we can talk ourselves into anything and proxy God in along the way. What is He really saying? Should we think twice before we glibly say, “The Lord wants this or that, or the Lord is leading me to do this.” How do you know? What is your objective criteria?
 
Or, are you just using God’s name to justify and get something you want so badly? Or, is it spiritual pride? Honor His name with wise words.
 

With some of us, it is a way to sound spiritual and attempt to gain the admiration and approval of others. Yes, do use God’s name very prayerfully, appropriately, and with respect and awe. His name is like a rare, expensive ointment, to be applied on occasion with a gentle and direct application. Use His name, but use it responsibly and with great humility. 

"If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless."  (James 1:26) 

How can you honor God’s name in your conversations about His great works?

Wisdom Hunters

October 6, 2017
TEST OF FAITH






Judges 3:4
"They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the LORD which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses."  





It is easier to be a Christian when everything is going well. But what happens when things do not go your way? God sends a test or allows a test, and suddenly your faith has an opportunity to come alive and go to a deeper level of dependency. Perhaps you are experiencing disappointment from a friend, an unfaithful spouse, a rebellious child, death of a loved one, a loss of your job, or your health is giving you fits.

You can rest assured a test is coming. You have either been through a test, you are in a test or you are in between tests, but they are coming, so be ready. It may be a relational test, a financial test, a physical test, a family test, a career test, or a character test, but in God’s school of faith, He gives regular exams with eternal consequences.

It may be a quick and unexpected pop quiz or an anticipated and grueling final exam. The answer key is abandonment to Almighty God. Your eternal instructor is trustworthy. Humbly learn what He is teaching you so that you can teach others and become a better follower of Christ. But what, you ask, is the purpose of these tests of faith?

Two possible reasons for God’s test of faith are to teach you how to battle the enemy and to validate your obedience to God during difficult times. Your battle is not against a person or persons. It is spiritual warfare with an unseen enemy who lurks behind any and every opportunity he can to deceive, discourage and destroy you.

Your protection against this spiritual enemy, Satan, is as Ephesians says:

"Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints," (Ephesians 6:13-18)

Furthermore, engage with a community of believers to cover your back with prayer. It is the believer’s preparation and posture that causes Satan to squirm and flee.

Another reason for your test of faith could be to validate your obedience to God. Will you remain faithful to Him, even when He seems very distant and uninterested? When life is hard, will you stay mad and blame others and God for your misfortune, or will you obey Him? Do the right thing even when you don’t feel like it and God will honor your efforts.

He has a much bigger plan that doesn’t waste pain. He is looking for trophies of grace to present to those in need of Christ and for those who may be stumbling and struggling in their faith. He is looking for men and women dead to themselves and their selfish desires, but alive unto Christ. Pain positions you to be a product of the grace of God.

Yes, it may be very difficult right now, but stay true to God. He is bigger than anything or anyone who may have you down right now. Tests are temporary but trust is forever.

"Serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews;"  (Acts 20:19) 

Are you trusting God with this test? Will you obey well?

Wisdom Hunters

October 5, 2017
MAKING SACRIFICE WITH JOY





Matthew 13:44
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." 





I heard a story once about two wealthy Christians, a lawyer and a merchant, who traveled with a group that was going around the world. As they were visiting in South Korea, they saw a field by the side of the road, in which a boy was pulling a crude plow and an old man held the plow handles and guided it. The lawyer was amused and took a snapshot of the scene.

He turned to the missionary, who served as their interpreter and guide, and he said, "That's a curious picture. I suppose they are very poor."

The guide replied, "Yes, that is the family of Chi Noue. When the place of worship was being built, they were eager to give something to it, but they had no money, so they sold their only ox and gave the money to the church. This spring, they are pulling the plow themselves."

The men were silent for several moments. Then the businessman replied, "That must have been a real sacrifice." The guide said, "They do not call it that. They thought it was fortunate that they had an ox to sell."

I am reminded of a parable Jesus told: 

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." (Matthew 13:44)

Notice carefully the words "in his joy." This man doesn't just sell everything he has; he does so with joy. He doesn't regret it. He doesn't complain about the sacrifice he has to make. In fact, he probably doesn't even consider it to be a sacrifice. He gives a lot for the field, but he gets so much more in return.

When I perform a wedding ceremony, I often include these words: "Whatever sacrifice you will be required to make to preserve this common life, always make it generously. Sacrifice is usually difficult. Only love can make it easy; and perfect love can make it a joy."

The same thing holds true in our walk with Christ. Sacrifices will be necessary, and only a deep love for Christ will make them a joy. The real test of our commitment is not so much whether we are willing to make sacrifices for our Lord, but whether we are able to make those sacrifices with joy. 
 
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

October 3-4, 2017
YOUR LOVE HELPS OTHERS SEE GOD 






John 13:34-35
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  




  

Each morning I cuddle up on our back porch in my favorite chair with a cup of coffee, my bible, and my journal to spend time with the Lord. This morning I've been thinking about love and how it “blankets”. What I mean is, it covers all other virtues. For example, where there is love, there is mercy. Where there is love, there is generosity. Where there is love, there is hope and patience, and faithfulness, and every other good thing.  

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

Through love, we show God’s face to one another. Do you want to know more about God and experience His love? Let Him help you move across town. Let Him help babysit your children. Let Him give you grace and forgiveness and speak to you tenderly. Let Him be your friend.” 
  

Love covers all virtues and through it, we reveal God to one another.   

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."  (John 15:12-13)

My bonus daughter, Allie, gave birth to a baby boy a few months ago. I am so grateful she has warmly embraced me as Grandma, which has, on numerous occasions made me cry tears of joy. (Only the Lord can make a woman a grandmother who has never been a mother!) Through Allie’s gracious acceptance, I have seen God’s face more clearly, and as I have looked into His eyes through her kindness, I hear Him saying to me, “See how much I love you!” When God’s kids love one another, they show God’s face to one another. 
  
My husband Clark loves me unselfishly. He’s very attentive to my needs and teaches me by example what it means to serve. One afternoon before we tied the knot, I took his car to the doctor’s office. While pulling out of the physician’s parking lot, I got in a fender bender. I felt horrible. I phoned Clark and apologized repeatedly. “I’m sooooo sorry. I’m so sorry!” I said. He told me not to worry about it, that it was okay. By the time I arrived at his house, he had a card waiting for me with a bear on the front. “Do you need a hug?” it read. Inside, he had written a lovely note assuring me that the cosmetic crunch I had given his Toyota wasn’t a big deal, that I was more important. Through Clark’s gracious response I saw God’s face, and I heard Him saying to me, “See how much I love you!” 
  

As I think of these stories and others like them when my family and friends have extended grace, kindness, and mercy to me when I didn’t deserve it, I am reminded of all the ways God has tenderly revealed Himself to me. And, I am convicted to love others well too, because through what I do and say, others can see the Lord. Is there someone in your life you need to show love to so they can see God’s face more clearly and hear Him say, “See how much I love you!”    

"And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us."  (1 John 3:23).   

Who needs to see Jesus in your loving act of service or from your generous gift? 

Shana Schutte 

October 2, 2017
STEWARDS OF OUR TALENTS





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




What are you really good at? Painting? Counseling? Maybe you’ve never met a car problem you can’t repair, or you’re an amazing chef. Perhaps you just find opportunities to help people wherever you go. Whatever your talent or skill is, guess what? God is behind it! But He didn’t bless any of us with a talent or skill simply so we could look awesome or earn lots of cash.

God wants us to steward those gifts for Him! . . . Stewardship is about everything in our lives—and that includes our talents.

If we want to please God—if we want to hear Him say, “Well done good and faithful servant” when we meet Him in heaven—then we must faithfully use our talents the way He wants us to. Colossians tells us that everything we do should be for Christ: 

"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)

So how exactly does God want us to use our talents for Him? Two ways: blessing others and building His kingdom:

1. God wants us to bless others.

In 1 Peter, we are called to use our gifts to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace. . . God doesn’t give us anything just for our own benefit. 

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

After all, we are blessed to be a blessing:

"And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing." (Genesis 12:2)

How can you put that into practice? Maybe there’s a ministry that uses your skill or talent to help others. If you love working on cars, volunteer to repair single moms’ cars for free. Or if you paint, hold art classes for nursing home residents. If you look in your community, you’re sure to find a need you can meet with the talents God has given you. And if nothing exists, you can always start your own ministry!

2. God wants us to build His kingdom for His glory.

God made us all different. That’s great, because together, all of us make up the kingdom. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul compares the body of Christ to a human body: Each of us is unique, but together we make the body complete.

"If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body." (1 Corinthians 12:18-20)

And Christ is the head of the body so everything we do points back to Him. He directs it all:

"For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior." (Ephesians 5:23)

In other words, God wants you to use your unique role in the body of Christ to glorify Him. So if God made you an amazing singer, sing for Him. If your talent is a little less conventional—maybe you’re good with numbers or with writing code—then find a way to translate that into a job for a God-honoring company or ministry. Use your God-given abilities to reach those who don’t know Him—and give Him the credit for your talents.

Jesus gives us two commandments: to love the Lord and to love others as we love ourselves:

"And he said to him, '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. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'" (Matthew 22:37–40)

And when we steward our talents to honor Him and to bless others, we are doing just that.

Chris Brown

October 1, 2017 
GO BACK TO GO FORWARD  




Mark 10:21 
"And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, 'You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'"  
  



It is easy for money to become a distraction. Just the making and management of money takes effort and focus. Indeed, money becomes a subtle master if it is not held in check. Our affections gravitate toward what we think about. If the majority of our waking moments are consumed by the thought of making more money, then we are distracted. 
  

Yes, we need to do our work with excellence as unto the Lord. However, if making money becomes our consuming focus, then its devotion competes with God. Billions of people wake up every day to make money, but are they making money or is money making them? If my life is consumed by money, very little is left for a life well spent.   

"No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."  (Luke 16:13)  

Time and energy for others become scarce in the wake of compulsive money making. You may think that your current obsession with making money is for the long-term purpose of autonomy. This is flawed thinking because a follower of Jesus Christ is never totally autonomous—they are tethered by trust to the will of God. We have a built-in eternal expectation in our community and to Christ that results in accountability and service. 
  
Yes, finances afford you options, but only options that are under the purview of God’s will. A life of unshackled leisure and self-indulgence is not a life well spent for the Lord. He may free you up to serve Him and others, but not to sit and soak. Too many options can be a distraction. So, where is the balance? How can you avoid money’s distraction? 
  
Stay close to Christ and let Him love you. He will love you away from money’s allurement and into heavenly investments. Let Him love you away from the seduction of possessions. Then you will want to reciprocate love to your lover. If your love quotients are met by stuff, then your affections will gravitate to the money-making mistress. 
  
When you allow money to love you, you feel a debt to materialism. Your emotions and energies feel obligated to love back. An affair with money and possessions leaves nothing for the lover of your soul. And, without an intense love relationship with your Creator, you will become sad and dissatisfied. Loving God satisfies the soul. 
  

Fortunately, there is a solution to money’s distraction. Let God love you—then you are compelled to love Him. Money’s distraction is derailed by a love relationship with Jesus. When you love Him wholeheartedly, there is no room for money to distract. Then give generously to whom He loves, especially the poor. Generous givers love God, not money. Eternal rewards await those who send ahead what they cannot keep.   

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[a] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  (Matthew 6:19-21)  

How can you use money as an expression of your love for the Lord and people? 

Wisdom Hunters

Link to previous thoughts for September