Anchorage Reformed Presbyterian Fellowship Thought for Today

February 21, 2018

PRESIDENT WASHINGTON





Mark 10:43-45

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, 'You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'




George Washington is the face on the one-dollar bill and--these days--the smiling face of Presidents’ Day sales. Most of us know he was the first president of the United States. But why is that important? What else do we know about him?


George Washington was the man who established the American republic. He led the revolutionary army against the British Empire, he served as the first president, and most importantly he stepped down from power.


In an era of brilliant men, Washington was not the deepest thinker. He never wrote a book or even a long essay, unlike George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams. But Washington made the ideas of the American founding real. He incarnated liberal and republican ideas in his own person, and he gave them effect through the Revolution, the Constitution, his successful presidency, and his departure from office.


What’s so great about leaving office? Surely it matters more what a president does in office. But think about other great military commanders and revolutionary leaders before and after Washington--Caesar, Cromwell, Napoleon, Lenin. They all seized the power they had won and held it until death or military defeat.


John Adams said, “He was the best actor of presidency we have ever had.” Indeed, Washington was a person very conscious of his reputation, who worked all his life to develop his character and his image.


In our own time, Joshua Micah Marshall writes of America’s first president, “It was all a put-on, an act.” Marshall missed the point. Washington understood that character is something you develop. He learned from Aristotle that good conduct arises from habits that in turn can only be acquired by repeated action and correction-- “We are what we repeatedly do.” Indeed, the word “ethics” comes from the Greek word for “habit.” We say something is “second nature” because it’s not actually natural; it’s a habit we’ve developed. From reading the Greek philosophers and the Roman statesmen, Washington developed an understanding of character, in particular the character appropriate to a gentleman in a republic of free citizens.


What values did Washington’s character express? He was a farmer, a businessman, an enthusiast for commerce. As a man of the Enlightenment, he was deeply interested in scientific farming. His letters on running Mount Vernon are longer than letters on running the government. (Of course, in 1795 more people worked at Mount Vernon than in the entire executive branch of the federal government.)


He was also a liberal and tolerant man. In a famous letter to the Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, he hailed the “liberal policy” of the United States on religious freedom as worthy of emulation by other countries. He explained, “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.” And most notably, he held “republican” values--that is, he believed in a republic of free citizens, with a government based on consent and established to protect the rights of life, liberty, and property.


From his republican values Washington derived his abhorrence of kingship, even for himself. The writer Garry Wills called him “a virtuoso of resignations.” He gave up power not once but twice--at the end of the revolutionary war, when he resigned his military commission and returned to Mount Vernon, and again at the end of his second term as president, when he refused entreaties to seek a third term.


Give the last word to Washington’s great adversary, King George III. The king asked his American painter, Benjamin West, what Washington would do after winning independence. West replied, “They say he will return to his farm.”


“If he does that,” the incredulous monarch said, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”


David Boaz 


Previous thoughts

February 20, 2018

Jumping Off a Bridge and Trusting God  




Galatians 3:6

“So also Abraham ‘believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’”





When compared to many other small communities in the U.S., I imagine my hometown in Southern Idaho is as interesting as most. If you visit, you’ll see lots of pickup trucks; you can purchase a famous Idaho Spud candy bar at just about any gas station, and if you’re in the mood for a real Idaho baker, you can find one at any grocery store since it’s certified potato country.

 

Twin Falls is also where Evel Knievel unsuccessfully attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon on his steam-powered “skycycle” in 1974. If you visit, you can still see his dirt ramp on the south side of the canyon. It’s also where more than 500 people come from all over the world every year to strap on their parachutes and throw themselves off our famous Perrine Bridge into the Snake River Canyon, 486 feet below.

 

These jumpers do their research. They know which way the wind should be blowing, and what type of equipment to use to get safely to their landing. They trust their equipment; they trust their teams. So, they jump. If they didn’t believe they would make it to their destination, they wouldn’t take the leap. What they believe affects how they act. Life with God is the same. In 1 Peter it says of Jesus:

“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)

What Jesus believed affected his actions. He believed His Father was just; He believed He would get Him safely home and accomplish His purposes; He believed He would make all things right, so He willingly laid down His life without fighting against His accusers.

 

What we truly believe about our Lord affects how we act too. Like Christ, when we entrust ourselves to Him, it means we truly trust and believe Him. We are not like those who say we believe without action. Instead, we are do-ers, not just hearers. And in this, we are blessed.

 

When money is short, we do not panic. Instead, we entrust ourselves to Him who provides for His kids. When our hearts are grieving, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Instead, we entrust ourselves to Him who comforts those who mourn.

When we are lonely, we do not despair. Instead, we place our hope in Him who will never leave us or forsake us. When we are waiting for the future to unfold, we trust God is leading us.

 

Is your trust and belief in Christ affecting how you respond to life and life’s challenges? The Lord wants to provide you with the peace and confidence that comes through trust and belief.

 

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”  (James 1:22)

 

Take a few minutes and think about your life. Is there any area in which you need to choose to believe and trust Him fully?

 

Shana Schutte


February 19, 2018

THE BIG COVER-UP 





Proverbs 10:12

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” 





Peter Ustinov, the famous actor and ambassador for UNICEF, once said “love is an act of endless forgiveness.” Think about how much forgiveness is needed in society today. Open a newspaper or flip on a news channel and you’re likely to see stories of hate and the effects of it. People are killing, raping, stealing, hurting – all causing strife. The Forgiveness Project, started by Marina Cantacuzino, uses people’s personal experiences with crime and violence to explore forgiveness and how it can transform someone’s life. Many people involved in the project reveal their ability to forgive came through their relationship with Jesus.


Today’s verse says love covers all offenses. “Cover” does not mean to conceal or hide, but rather to pardon or forgive. The immeasurable love of Christ can give you the power of “bearing with” and forgiving the offenses of others 


bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:13)


Are you struggling with a wrong committed to you? In your prayer time, ask God to demonstrate His free gift of forgiveness so you can experience the power it has to transform your life. 


February 18, 2018
HELP US REMEMBER





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




Heavenly Father,

Help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.

Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can't make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.

Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.

Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love.

"give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." (Luke 6:38)

Author Unknown
Submitted by Joan Morgan

February 17, 2018
THE FACE OF CRITICISM




Galatians 1:10
"For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ."  





Before I became an author, I realized I’d been waiting for someone to encourage me to write a book. I thought if another, more successful writer validated me, then I could start moving toward the dream that God had placed in my heart. Deep down I didn’t want to look foolish and I feared the criticism of others.

One day as I browsed the bookstore for inspiration from an accomplished writer, I sensed that still quiet voice I had heard so many times speak to my heart: “Why are you looking for a leader outside yourself? Write what I have given you.” No matter who you are, or what you want to accomplish, the only leader you need to move toward your purpose is the Holy Spirit.

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

Even Jesus knew when to ignore naysayers who wanted to prevent Him from accomplishing God’s plan for His life.Those in His hometown became furious when He said He was sent by God. To destroy Him:

"....they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. " (Luke 4:29)

What did Jesus do? He walked through the crowd and went on His way:

"But passing through their midst, he went away." (Luke 4:30)

Because He knew who He was and who His Father was, He decided He would fulfill His purpose, even if no one but His Father agreed. Sometimes the best way to move on to God’s plan for you is to ignore negative evaluations and comments and, just like Jesus, go merrily on our way. Can you imagine what Christ’s life on earth would have been like if He had been self-protective and feared criticism?

He would have kept His mouth shut when He was falsely accused. He would have defended Himself. When His enemies spit in His face, He would have retaliated. When they called Him names, He would have called down a legion of angels to defend Him. When they marched Him to Golgatha, He would have run. And rather than laying down His life to give His all to those He loved, the redemption of the human race would have been lost in His misguided passion of self-protection and the fear of criticism.

When we fear criticism and are overly self-protective, we can miss out on being a gift to others. You see, what God wants you to accomplish is not just about you; it’s about many people that God wants to influence and help through you. Ask the Lord to give you the strength you need to move forward in faith in the face of criticism. And remember, you are living your life for the approval of just One.

Shana Schutte

February 16, 2018
UNEXPECTED BLESSINGS






Romans 8:28

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."







During World War II, a man in Sussex, England, sent some money to the Scripture Gift Mission.  He enclosed a letter saying that he longed to give more, but the harvest on his farm had been very disappointing because of a lack of water. He was also fearful because German bombs were being dropped in the area, and his family and farm were at risk. He asked the workers of Scripture Gift Mission to pray that no bombs would fall on his land.
 
Mr. Ashley Baker wrote back from the mission and said that while he didn't feel led to pray that exact prayer, he had prayed that God's will for their lives would prevail. Shortly after, a huge German missile crashed down on the farm. None of the man's family or livestock were harmed, but the bombshell went so far into the ground that it liberated a submerged stream. The stream yielded enough water to irrigate the man's farm as well as neighboring farms. The next year, due to a bountiful harvest, the man was able to send a large offering to the mission.
 
Sometimes even "bombs" are blessings. They fall from heaven, make a lot of noise, and liberate something wonderful within us - streams of living water that refresh us and draw us closer to Christ.

David Jeremiah
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

February 15, 2018
DWELL WITH US  






Revelation 21:3 
"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.'"  






  
What does it mean for God to be our God? In many ways, this is a core question that human beings have asked since time began. Humans have a deep, built in longing for meaning, purpose, and significance. Religious expression can be studied and observed in the earliest accounts of human history. As a species we have built within us an unshakable sense that there is something more, something greater to behold and encounter. 
  
In some cases, this sense has led to great fear and anxiety. “God” is seen as unknowable and distant, disconnected from the intimate details of human experience. Or, if he is connected, he must constantly be appeased with bribes, gifts, and offerings. The relationship, if we can call it that, is always one way, us reaching up yet never actually expecting a god to hear and respond, let alone come and draw near to us. 
  
And yet, the story of Israel is unique amongst all religious expressions in one incredible way. The Bible tells us a story of God drawing near and making his home with his people. He isn’t unaffected or unconcerned with the needs of his creation. In fact, creation itself is an overflow, an outpouring of his eternal love. God makes his home with us because he loves us and wants to dwell with us and us with him. 
  

When the God of the Bible says “he will be our God,” he supports this remarkable claim by coming and making himself like us so that we can know him. In the incarnation, the unknowable is made known:

"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)  

God moves into our lives and wants to dwell with us, teaching us what it means to truly live in the depths of our being. He is with us in our hopes and dreams, as well as our fears and failures. To be a person of faith is to trust and believe that God is near to you, and this nearness is not simply wishful thinking but is rooted in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God drew near to his people in Jesus over 2,000 years ago, and by his Spirit he continues to draw near this very moment if you will but open your heart and invite him to dwell with you afresh.     

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."  (Colossians 3:16)

Tripp Prince

February 14, 2018
SPIRITUAL JACKPOT





Proverbs 8:10
"Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold," 




What could you do with multiple millions of dollars? Every week, scores of lottery tickets are sold while billboards keep grand totals on jackpots up-to-date and neon colors punctuate words like “Jackpot” and “Mega-Millions.” Everybody wants to get rich quick.

The fascination with money isn’t new. In the Bible, Achan’s desire for riches was his downfall. He was stoned when the Israelites discovered he hid gold, silver and a beautiful robe under his tent. God had given specific directions not to take the choice “devoted things” from the Canaanites, but Achan was disobedient:

"But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel." (Joshua 7:1)

Today’s verse shows God wants you to treasure His instructions more than silver or gold. His wisdom is more valuable than riches. People focus on money probably more than they would like to admit. Take time today to ask God to examine your heart. Do you desire financial gain more than what He wants you to have?

Search God’s Word for riches that can never be stolen. Ask God to give a desire for wisdom over money and the false security it gives.

February 13, 2018
RELIEF FROM PAIN  






Psalm 30:5
"For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning."





Lily, our eight year old granddaughter writhed in pain. Tears flowed as she frantically sought relief from an intrusive needle sized splinter. The nemesis, with an ambush like attack had invaded the soft tender area of her palm just below the thumb. Her mom comforted her---a personified God hug, calmly and lovingly assured her first born all would be ok, while gingerly explaining how extraction brings relief---but only after additional pain. The thought of digging into her sensitive skin caused our precious baby to howl in fear, tears flooding out like a raging river after a heavy rain. Childhood often does not have a context for how to process pain. Aunts, uncles, grandparents---we all stood around sympathetic, but feeling helpless. Pain hurts. 

How many of us have multiple splinters embedded in our souls---forgotten, festering or fresh? Your hurt may be buried deep in the recesses of your memories, but on occasion it raises its ugly head because you discover your pain was buried alive. Forgotten from denial, but not dead because ongoing forgiveness in the power of the Spirit is the only remedy to remove the pain of past sins inflicted on your heart. You may never hear the words, “Will you forgive me?”, but you can still forgive and by God’s grace not be controlled by someone else’s past shaming. 

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

A festering hurt like a physical wound lingers with infection just below the surface: puffy, red and swollen intently waiting for love’s lance to bring relief. The puss of pride infects the blood of our emotions as it flows through our hurting heart with venomous affect---only the antivenin of humility can counteract pride’s deadly outcome. Humility recognizes and admits the struggle of unresolved conflict corrodes relationships and clouds our judgment. Only when we go to our offender or the one we have offended and seek reconciliation can we clear our consciences. 

"So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."  (Matthew 5:23-24)

Or maybe your wound is fresh. Take courage and forgive fast so the hurt doesn’t fester and lie dormant in resentment ready to attack unaware. When you are hurt or offended the amount of time it takes you to thank God and forgive is an indicator of how close your walk is with Christ. Some die in bitterness, for others it takes years to forgive, fewer months, fewer weeks, even fewer days, the more mature in their faith hours, saints seconds and those who walk closest to Christ, their thanksgiving and forgiveness are simultaneous to the offense. By God’s grace keep no record of wrongs and you will be free to love others as your heavenly Father loves you. 

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Mathew 11:28-29)

What hurt do you need to process with friends, so you can begin the healing process? 

Wisdom Hunters

February 12, 2018
MORE INTEGRITY




Proverbs 10:9
"Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out." 




“I cannot tell a lie.” America’s first president was famous for many things, but one of the most popular legends about George Washington involves a hatchet, a cherry tree and his inability to fib. The nation’s sixteenth president was fondly known as Honest Abe: after accidentally making wrong change while working at a small store, Lincoln was said to have journeyed a long way to return the change to its rightful owner.

This nation was built on men filled with integrity. Unfortunately, over the years things have changed. Stories of corruption and deceit in the Washington D.C. halls of government have become so commonplace in recent decades, they’re becoming accepted as normal.
Today’s verse gives insight from God’s Word about those who walk in integrity. Eventually all lies will come to light and the truth will reign. 

As you interact with others, be forthright in all things and be confident in the truth. Pray for God to point out areas in your life where you need to work on honesty. Then pray for our nation’s leaders to have the wisdom to act and serve with integrity, to seek God in all aspects of their political responsibilities – and avoid the crooked consequences. 

"The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them." (Proverbs 11:3)


February 11, 2018
FAITH STRETCHER





Genesis 17:17
"Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" 




Sometimes God’s will is not logical and does not even seem possible. Abraham certainly struggled with the idea of being a parent as a centenarian and his wife conceiving at ninety years of age. It was not possible; it did not make sense. Yet in reality all things are possible with God, and this was one of them. 

The Lord made a promise that was out of the ordinary. He wanted to mark this occasion with an indelible stamp of a “God thing.” Abraham tried to let God off the hook on this miraculous scheme by offering Him another plan. However, God was not interested in another plan; He was interested in setting the stage for a blessing that would validate His sovereignty, taking the faith of Abraham, Sarah, and an entire nation to a whole new level. God wants us, and He wants us to take Him at His Word. 

Why is it hard to take God at His Word? Why do we struggle with believing in something that is not logical or takes us out of our comfort zone? One reason we struggle is our perception of God. We make Him so small. We bring Him down to our level rather than allowing Him to pull us up to His level! This is man-centered thinking; instead, let’s allow God to be God. 

Faith allows us to travel places with God that we would never experience otherwise. Would you not rather be in the middle of a lake in a storm with Jesus than on the calm shore around a warm fire without Him? This is where faith trumps logic. We trust Him when it does not make sense; we follow Him when we are not sure of the destination. 

We believe the Lord when others think we are strange, too religious, or even fanatical. Let your Savior stretch your faith, trusting Him with the opportunity in front of you. Has your laughter turned to trust and awe in God and His accomplishments? 

The Bible says, 

"Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad."  (John 8:56) 

What impossibility are you facing and will trust that God will make it possible? 

Wisdom Hunters

February 10. 2018
BABBLING




Proverbs 10:10
"Whoever winks the eye causes trouble, and a babbling fool will come to ruin." 




Jeff and Greg are identical twins. In every physical respect, their growth, weight gain, appetites and curiosity are on schedule. But at age three, they don’t speak…except to each other. Their “twin talk” is a perpetual, completely non-understandable language only they seem to know. And they haven’t clued anyone else in on it. They are babblers.

Pediatricians say that babbling is a stage in child development that ultimately results in language acquisition as children learn to produce recognizable words. There are numerous hypotheses to explain how babbling transitions to language. But Jeff and Greg don’t seem to care; they’ve created their own language world and are happy to dwell in it, for now.

Babbling for adults is foolishness, however. You know people who just “prattle on” as if to keep any moment from being a quiet one. They can be irritating. Ongoing foolish utterances can “drive you nuts.” In today’s verse, God says they will come to ruin, ultimately driving people away from them, and leaving them in a lonely state.

Today, measure your words. Check yourself. Guard your mouth against divisive words, against over-confidence, against aimlessness. Pray for God’s help. Seek the Lord’s wisdom and aid to temper your language and tone.

February 9, 2018 
LEADERS WITH INTEGRITY






Exodus 18:21
"Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens."






Leaders with integrity are a rare breed within a group of citizens whose utmost concern is “What is in it for me?” A selfish society does not always select a leader for his integrity, but for his ability to manipulate a quick fix for chronic problems. It is this short sightedness that can set back a generation, because of their leader’s greed and corruption. 

Men and women of integrity understand the big picture of principled leadership, and they value fear of God, trustworthiness and honest economics. A leader of integrity looks out over the long term, and discovers what is best for the culture, its citizens, churches and families. There is a resolve to do the right things, with the right people, for the right reasons. Leaders of integrity integrate uprightness with their quiet influence. 

"And the LORD said to Satan, 'Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.'"  (Job 2:3) 

Select capable men and women who hold Christ and His commands in high esteem, who you can trust to do and say the right things, implemented in the right way. Leaders of integrity surround themselves with leaders of integrity. There is a high standard in their selection of leaders, because they want to represent the people extremely well. Competence and character are valued over loyal but incompetent friends with suspicious standards of behavior. A leader of integrity delegates to capable leaders. 

So, select your leaders in government and church prayerfully, and only after extensive due diligence of their policies, integrity and track record. Blindly betting on one person is a bad process. Instead, select statesmen who will serve the people in the best interests of the country—who surround themselves with the best and the brightest, full of character. Most importantly, choose those who will submit to the accountability of God and man. 

The early church experienced a similar selection process of leaders: 

"Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."  (Acts 6:3-4)

Who will you select as a leader that is best for your country, your family and your God? 

Wisdom Hunters

February 8, 2018 
WHAT ARE YOU SEEKING?






John 1:38
"Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, 'What are you seeking?' And they said to him, 'Rabbi' (which means Teacher), 'where are you staying?'"




Each and every one of us is searching for meaning, purpose, and direction. We find ourselves asking the big questions of life: “Is there more to life than this?” “Does anything that I’m doing matter or contribute to something bigger?” “What does it mean to be truly happy?” These are the questions that rise to the surface of our thoughts and imaginations when we take the time to be still and silence the distractions and noise. 

Jesus knew how to speak to the deepest desires of these early disciple’s hearts. As they found themselves drawn to him and following after him, he turned, looked at them with love, and asked the only question that truly matters: “What are you looking for?” I love the honesty and authenticity of their response. Perhaps surprised or startled by the directness of the question, all they can get out in response is a simple, “where are you staying?” 

The greatest longing of your heart is met in the nearness and intimacy of Jesus. Though we look far and wide for things to give us meaning and significance, they ultimately come up short and leave us empty and hollow inside. I recently heard a story of a man who had reached unimaginable levels of success and cultural influence. Yet having done so, his only response was, “I wish someone had told me that when I got to the top there wouldn’t be anything here.” 

If you’ve searched far and wide for the answers to the big questions in life but still haven’t found something to satisfy that desire, perhaps you can hear Jesus’s words afresh today. Into all the doubts, longings, and fears of every heart he looks with great compassion and asks, “What are you looking for?” May we, like these early disciples, see him in his beauty and wonder and desire nothing more than to be near to him. To join him wherever he is going and in whatever he is doing, knowing that it is there that life finds its meaning and true significance. 

"Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life," (John 6:68)

Tripp Prince

Previous thoughts

February 7, 2018
GOOD LISTENER





Job 31:35
"Oh, that I had one to hear me! (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!) Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary!" 




In her book Listening to Others, Joyce Huggett writes about the importance of learning to listen and respond effectively to those in difficult situations. As she relates some of her own experiences of listening to suffering people, she mentions that they often thank her for all she’s done for them. “On many occasions,” she writes, “I have not ‘done’ anything. I have ‘just listened.’ I quickly came to the conclusion that ‘just listening’ was indeed an effective way of helping others.”

This was the help Job sought from his friends. While it is true that they sat with him for seven days in silence:

"And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great." (Job 2:13)

They didn’t listen when Job started talking. Instead, they talked and talked but failed to comfort him:

"I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all." (Job 16:2) 

Job cried out:

"Oh, that I had one to hear me!..." (Job 31:35)

Listening says, “What matters to you matters to me.” Sometimes people do want advice. But often they just want to be listened to by someone who loves and cares about them. Listening is hard work, and it takes time. It takes time to listen long enough to hear the other person’s true heart, so that if we do speak, we speak with gentle wisdom.

David H. Roper

February 6, 2018
TISSUE BOXES





Psalm 31:14-15 
"But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!"





As I sat in the surgical waiting room, I had time to think. I had been here recently, when we received the jarring news that my only brother, much too young, was “brain dead.” And so on this day, waiting for news about my wife who was undergoing a serious surgical procedure, I penned a lengthy note to her. Then, surrounded by nervous chatter and oblivious children, I listened for the quiet voice of God.

Suddenly, news! The surgeon wanted to see me. I went to a secluded room to wait. There, on the table, sat two tissue boxes, conspicuously available. They weren’t for the sniffles. They were for cold, hard phrases like I heard when my brother died—“brain dead” and “nothing we can do.”

In such times of grief or uncertainty, the honesty of the psalms makes them a natural place to turn. Psalm 31 was the heart-cry of David, who endured so much that he wrote, 

"For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away."  (Psalm 31:10)

Compounding that grief was the pain of abandonment by his friends and neighbors:

"Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me." (Psalm 31:11)

But David had the bedrock of faith in the one true God:

"But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!" (Psalm 31:14-15)

His lament concludes with resounding encouragement and hope:

"Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!"  (Psalm 31:24)

This time in the waiting room, the surgeon gave us good news: My wife could expect a full and complete recovery. Of course we were relieved and grateful! But even if she hadn’t been “okay,” our times still remain in God’s capable hands.

When we put our problems in God’s hands, He puts His peace in our hearts.

Tim Gustafson

February 5, 2018
HAND OF COMFORT




2 Corinthians 1:3–4
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."





“The patient is combative,” the nurse’s notes read.

What she didn’t realize until later was that I was having an allergic reaction as I awakened after a complicated open-heart surgery. I was a mess, with a tube down my throat. My body began shaking violently, straining against the straps on my arms, which were there to keep me from suddenly pulling out my breathing tube. It was a frightening and painful episode.

At one point, a nurse’s assistant to the right side of my bed reached down and simply held my hand. It was an unexpected move, and it struck me as especially gentle. I began to relax, which caused my body to stop shaking so badly. 

Having experienced this with other patients, the nurse’s assistant knew that a hand of comfort could minister to me as well. It was a vivid example of how God uses comfort when His children suffer. Comfort is a powerful and memorable tool for any caregiver, and Paul tells us speaking to the church in Corinth that it is an important part of God’s toolbox:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Corinthians 1:3–4) 

Not only that, but God also multiplies the impact of His comfort by calling us to use the memory of the comfort He gives us to comfort others in similar situations:

"For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort." (2 Corinthians 1:4–7)

It is but another sign of His great love; and one we can share with others—sometimes in the simplest of gestures which can bring powerful comfort.

Randy Kilgore

February 4, 2018
A WEIGHTY MATTER






Proverbs 11:1
"The Lord detests dishonest scales, but delights in an accurate weight." 





There was a time not too long ago when scales at the grocery produce section were not regulated by Bureaus of Weights and Measures. A customer was at the mercy of the merchant, who often calibrated the scale in his favor. Even after the introduction of government standards, it was not uncommon for the butcher to “put his thumb on the scales” when calculating the weight of a chicken or other meat. Once again, the buyer was the loser.

From the earliest part of their history, the Israelites understood the necessity of an accurate system of weights, measures, and an honest handling of them. Leviticus and Deuteronomy called for economic righteousness:

"You must not act unjustly in a legal case involving measures of length, weight, or volume. You must have accurate scales and accurate weights, an accurate ephah [about 20 quarts] and an accurate hin [about one gallon]. ...." (Leviticus 19:35-36)

"Don’t have two different types of money weights in your bag, a heavy one and a light one. Don’t have two different types of ephahs in your house, a large one and a small one. Instead, you must have only one weight, complete and correct, and only one ephah, also complete and correct, so that your life might be long in the fertile land the LORD your God is giving you. What’s more, all who do such things, all who do business dishonestly, are detestable to the LORD your God." (Deuteronomy 25:13-16)

Just as God set out standards for commerce, He set standards for living. Honoring parents, caring for widows and orphans, acting with justice and righteousness, protecting the vulnerable, are just a few. Therefore, pray today that in your own life, you will love mercy, do justly and walk humbly with your God:

"He has told you, human one, what is good and what the LORD requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)


February 3, 2018
TALK LESS, LISTEN MORE  





Proverbs 10:19
"With lots of words comes wrongdoing, but the wise restrain their lips."    
  



Tempered talk is evidence of wise conversation. It is when our words are many that we run the risk of soliciting sin. Increased words increase the probability of improper speech. For example, respectful conversation does not repeat the same words and phrases in a confined period of time. This impatient cadence frustrates. 
  

Perhaps a look of misunderstanding requires questions for clarification or definition for comprehension. Proud conversationalists can highjack a listener’s understanding with a hoard of words without meaning. If your goal is to communicate, then take the time to listen to the needs of your audience. People who feel cared for and understood have a keener sense of hearing and understanding.   

"Fools who keep quiet are deemed wise; those who shut their lips are smart."  (Proverbs 17:28)  

Wise people weigh their words before they speak. They allow their minds to catch up with their hearts. Furthermore, in the face of inappropriate behavior, emotions sometimes need to express themselves. Let the other person know if you feel mistreated or misinformed. Concealed anger leads to living a lie but tempered talk is truthful and to the point. 

"Lying lips conceal hate, and those who spread slander are fools." (Proverbs 10:18)

Lastly, you reserve your words out of respect for the other person. If you do all the talking, you are the center of attention. It is condescending conversation when the other individual does not feel important enough to speak up. So honor others by speaking less, listening more intently to how you can love them. Wisdom can be found in the words of each person you meet. Therefore, intentionally talk less and be wise.   

"Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry." (James 1:19)  

To whom do you need to listen to more and talk to less? 

Wisdom Hunters

February 2, 2018
STEPPING INTO OPPORTUNITY





Colossians 4:5
"Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity." 





Like lots of people, I struggle to get enough exercise. So I recently bought something to motivate myself to move: a pedometer that counts steps. It’s a simple thing. But it’s amazing how much difference this gadget makes in my motivation. Instead of grumbling when I have to get off the couch, I see it as an opportunity to get a few more steps. Mundane tasks, like getting one of my kids a cup of water, become opportunities that help me work toward a larger goal. In that sense, my pedometer has changed my perspective and my motivation. Now I look to get extra steps in whenever possible.

I wonder if our Christian life isn’t a bit like that. There are opportunities to love and serve and interact with people every day, as Paul exhorts in Colossians 4:5. But am I always aware of those moments? Am I paying attention to opportunities to be an encourager in seemingly mundane interactions? God is at work in the lives of every person I relate to, from my family and coworkers to a clerk at the grocery store. Each interaction offers a chance for me to pay attention to what God might be doing—even if it’s something as seemingly “small” as kindly asking a server at a restaurant how she’s doing.

Who knows how God might work in those moments when we’re alert to the opportunities He sends our way.

Take every opportunity to serve someone.

Adam Holz 

February 1, 2018
DO-OVER




Isaiah 43:19
"Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness." 





There’s a scene in the movie City Slickers where three friends are discussing how their lives have turned out. One man laments about how he’s messed up his entire life. He lost his wife, his child, his job and his self-respect. “I’ve lost everything,” he concluded. Billy Crystal, the actor portraying one of the friends, tells him it’s not true. He’s actually been handed an opportunity for a fresh start – a do-over.

Many people get so caught up in yesterday’s mistakes they can’t see what God has planned for tomorrow. God doesn’t want you to focus on your past, but on your future. Today’s verse talks about the new beginning God wants for your life. He says to forget what has happened before. Instead, look to the fresh things He is going to do.

Do you need a do-over in life? Start by realizing you are powerless to make changes yourself. Then pray for God to give you a new start. 

January 31, 2018
YOUR RESPONSIBILITY




Ezekiel 34:11
"For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out." 




There is a park atop Beachy Head, the tallest chalk cliff on England’s Channel coast, where grazing sheep from various flocks keep the grass mown. When a farmer rolls up in his pick-up truck and gives a whistle, only the sheep that belong to him respond. While some think that is curious, Bible readers understand. While Jesus said His sheep know His voice, how many more times did He say, “He who has ears, let him hear?”:

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Matthew 11:15)

"He who has ears, let him hear." (Matthew 13:9)

"Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." (Matthew 13:43)

"And he said, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'" (Mark 4:9)

"And some [seeds] fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold. As he said these things, he called out, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'” (Luke 8:8)

"It [salt] is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Luke 14:35)

What’s the difference between knowing His voice and understanding what He says? Hearing God is your responsibility; it requires that you be quiet and ready. It takes time and discipline. His words are found in His Word, so regular Scripture reading is essential. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.” His schedule isn’t always yours. If you are a good sheep, you will answer when He calls and go where He sends you. 


January 30, 2018
ARE YOU JESUS?




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." 




A group of salesmen went to a regional sales convention in Chicago. They had assured their wives that they would be home in plenty of time for Christmas night’s dinner. In their rush through the airport, one of these salesmen inadvertently kicked over a table which held a display of apples. Apples flew everywhere. Without stopping or looking back, they all managed to reach the plane, just in time. All but one. He told the others to go on without him and went back to where the apples were all over the floor. He was glad he did.

The little girl, the apple seller, was totally blind! She was softly crying, tears running down her cheeks, as she groped for her spilled produce, the crowd swirling about her, rushing to their flights.

The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them back on the table and helped reorganize her display. He set aside the bruised and battered apples in a separate basket. When he had finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, “Here, please take this $40 for the damage we did.

Are you okay?” She nodded through her tears. He continued, “I hope we didn’t spoil your day too badly.”

As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind girl called out to him, “Mister….” He paused and turned to look back.

She continued, “Are you Jesus?”

He couldn’t get that question out of his head for days. It was such a simple, small-scale event, but it made him see clearly what following Christ was really all about. “Love one another as I have loved you.”

January 29, 2018
RUNNING THE RACE






Hebrews 12:1

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,"







On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister became the first man in history to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Within 2 months, John Landy eclipsed the record by 1.4 seconds.

On August 7, 1954, the two met together for an historic race. As they moved into the last lap, Landy held the lead. It looked as if he would win, but as he neared the finish he was haunted by the question, “Where is Bannister?”. As he turned to look, Bannister took the lead.

Landy later told a Time magazine reporter, “If I hadn’t looked back, I would have won!”

One of the most descriptive pictures of the Christian life in the Bible is of an athlete competing in a race. Discipline is the key to winning:

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."  (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

In Hebrews, we are encouraged to lay aside anything that might hinder our spiritual advancement and to stay focused on Christ:

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

And in Philippians the apostle Paul said:

"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,"  (Philippians 3:12-13)

You can't make spiritual progress by looking back.

Henry G. Bosch
Our Daily Bread
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

January 28, 2018
FLIRTATIOUS FOLLY  







Proverbs 9:13 
"The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing."  






  
What is flirtatious folly? It is enticement into reckless living. You may ask, “What does it look like?” Its coyness is conceived in attractive idiots, as these disguised fools seek to lure naïve ones into their stupidity. Foolishness loves friends. It approaches in the form of a well-dressed, well-spoken man or woman. They draw you in with their looks and latch onto you with their words. 
  

Folly can be found among the experienced and educated or run rampant in lives of the young and simple. It forces itself on the middle-aged father who has grown discontent with his faith, family, or vocation. Instead of listening to the voice of reason, he socializes with silliness and invites irresponsibility. However, he does not harvest happiness, because the fruit of folly is death: relational, spiritual, and emotional:  

"she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house." (Genesis 39:12)  

Moreover, wise men and women recognize the futility of folly and flee from its influence. They avoid sexual folly by cultivating a caring marriage. A happy wife is a happy life, and a happy husband is a happy home. Furthermore, financial folly is fleeting for a family who lives well within their means, growing in generosity. Their money becomes a means of honoring their Master Jesus:

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21)  

What form of folly is staring you in the face? Wisdom is your warning to flee where good judgment is absent. It may require changing schools, breaking off a relationship, or moving to another neighborhood. Wisdom may not be sexy, but it brings success and satisfaction. Walk in wisdom and you will reap rich relationships, robust faith, and peace of mind.   

"Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly." (Psalm 85:8)  

Who has been flirting with you that you need to disclose to your spouse? 

Wisdom Hunters

January 26-27, 2018
BEFORE THE EULOGY







Philippians 1:5
"because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now."







In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom, Huck Finn, and Joe Harper slinked off for a few days away without telling anyone. Back home, their distraught loved ones assumed they had drowned, so they held a funeral. The boys—being boys—sneaked back into town and watched the funeral from the rafters of the church. There they enjoyed hearing the good things that were said about them.

A friend of mine took to heart the idea of telling people the good they had done in life—not waiting for their funeral service to do it. He wrote “eulogies” for several friends as birthday gifts. The response was exceedingly positive. The apostle Paul understood the value of genuine praise and encouragement. He began most of his letters by building up his intended audience. In his letter to the Philippians, he called them partners from the beginning:

"because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now." (Philippians 1:5)

He expressed confidence that they would be standing together with one spirit and one purpose:

"Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel," (Philippians 1:27)

He spoke of their faithful service: 

"Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all." (Philippians 2:17) 

and called them his my joy and crown: 

"Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved." (Philippians 4:1)

He praised them for their generous financial support of his ministry:

"And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again." (Philippians 4:15-16)

All this praise was couched in the context of a faith and unity deeply rooted in Jesus. Paul said:

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."  (Philippians 1:6)

This will result in the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ which in turn will bring much glory and praise to God:

"filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."  (Philippians 1:11)

Those of us who follow Christ are dead to sin:

"So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." (Romans 6:11)

Paul made his life a vibrant eulogy of gratitude to God. We can too.

Tim Gustafson

Previsous thoughts

January 25, 2018
WONDER OF PRAYER





1 Timothy 2:1
"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people," 






Eighty-plus years ago, some businessmen gathered at W. Frank Graham’s dairy farm for a prayer meeting. They had met several times at different locations around Charlotte, North Carolina, to pray for revival in their city, across their state and to the ends of the Earth. That particular day, one man suggested they pray that God would raise up someone from Charlotte to spread the gospel to the world.

At that moment, 15-year-old Billy Graham was in the barn doing his chores. None of the men who prayed were thinking of young Billy, who had not yet even given his heart to Jesus Christ. Of course, God answered that prayer in an unimaginable way. Graham later said, “A mystery and wonder of prayer is that God often waits until someone asks.”

Commit to boldly pray for those in your city and this nation to discover a relationship with the Lord this year. Then ask God for a fresh anointing of His Spirit upon all Christian leaders in America. Your prayers will make a powerful difference!

January 24, 2018
ALWAYS ALONGSIDE US




Ezekiel 36:27

"And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules."




A student named Steve Winger from Lubbock, TX was taking a challenging class in Logic. The course and teacher were known for exacting and demanding exams. The final exam was looming, and the professor mercifully told the class that each student would be permitted to bring in a single 8 x 11 ½ inch sheet with as much information as they could put on that one sheet for help during the test.

On exam day, each student came to class clutching their precious pieces of paper with as much information as possible. Some students had crammed lines and lines of font so tiny and so numerous onto that single sheet that you had to wonder how they could read it. But Steve walked in with a single blank sheet and a friend who was a senior student and who had an 'A' in logic. Steve bent down and placed that single, blank sheet of paper on the floor next to his desk. His expert friend stood on the paper.

The professor noticed the extra body in the room and asked what he was doing. Steve piped up, "You said we could bring in whatever we could fit on a single piece of paper for help on this test, well, this is my help and he can fit on the paper!"  He had followed the instructions to the letter and was the only student in that class to score an 'A' since he had his expert friend standing alongside him.

The Holy Spirit is like that friend, standing alongside us, supporting us, and guiding us - except that He is not only alongside of us, but He lives inside of us, guiding our every footstep, directing our paths, encouraging us to follow His direction daily and empowereing us with mercy and grace:

"Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16) 

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

 
"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)   

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

January 23, 2018
WHEN GOD ASKS, SAY "YES" 





Romans 1:17 
"For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'"





Walking with God for 30 years has taught me that when you dare trust Him, He may take you into narrow places that require faith. From 2005 to 2011, Colorado Springs, Colorado was my home. I loved the people, the ministry opportunities, and the nature. Many afternoons I pulled on my tennis shoes, grabbed my iPod, and headed out for a hike. 

One afternoon as I rounded a curve on one of my favorite hiking trails, I sensed a gentle whisper. It wasn’t audible, but it was as clear as if it had been spoken. “I want you to give me your life. Even Colorado Springs. If I keep you here, I want you to be okay with it, and if I take you from here, I want you to be okay with that too.” 

I turned to face the majestic Rockies. Tears puddled and ran down my cheeks. Colorado was so special to me but in the previous months I had felt a tugging on my heart. It was time to give up this beautiful state that I had come to call home. And, not only did I feel as if the Lord wanted me to leave Colorado, but that I was to rid myself of many of my possessions so I could lighten my load to minister to groups on a multi-state book tour. 

So, one sunny afternoon while I was sitting on the porch at my favorite coffee shop, I came across the story of the rich young ruler in Mark 10. This familiar story spoke to my heart in a new way. His possessions and riches were too important to him, and my comfort had become too important to me. God was asking me to step out in faith. 

After several other confirmations from the Lord in my circumstances and through Scripture, I knew it was time to move. I placed my furniture for sale on Craigslist and within two weeks it was gone. I gave away most everything else: my television, pictures, dishes, and I was off on a new adventure with Christ in my itty, bitty Volkswagen which I called “The Rollerskate.” Over the next year, I lived out of a suitcase and shared about Jesus with groups big and small. 

As soon as I made the decision to follow Christ into the unknown, unexpected miracles began to happen. He faithfully provided financially for me each step of the way even though I started my road trip with little. 

He gave me the precious opportunity of wiping away people’s tears and encouraging them—and the gift of sharing His love was worth more than any kitchen table or my favorite comfy couch. 

God may not ask you to sell your possessions, but at some point in your journey, He may ask you to follow Him into the unknown. And, what He asks of you may stretch you beyond your resources. When He asks, say yes. Why? Because your yes will prepare you for a later time when you will need greater faith to say yes to an even bigger calling. You will experience fulfillment and know you are pleasing your Father. 

"Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you."  (Luke 12:31)

The next time God asks, say "yes". 

Shana Schutte

Previous thoughts

January 22, 2018
KNOWING AND BEING KNOWN





James 5:16
"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."





We cannot know ourselves by ourselves, we require the grace and truth of other loving relationships that reveal who we are and how we need to change for the good. I was reminded of this recently in our couples small group. My temperament looks for ways to be glad and not sad, yet the realities of life offer ongoing opportunities for hard, even heartbreaking experiences. I was called out by my group of friends for glossing over gloomy events. Only after I admit my faults, am I able to confess them to Christ and others for forgiveness, healing and transformation.  Through this process of transparency, I truly understand who I am and who I need to become. 

Very insightfully, James describes the power of knowing ourselves and being known by others. The outcome of honest confession and prayer is healing. The application of healing can include the physical, emotional, spiritual, mental and relational. Wow, what a simple, difficult process, with life changing results! The body is strengthened when sin is admitted, emotions grow self-aware, the soul is at rest, the mind is renewed not confused, and relationships grow in intimacy. Prayer goes to another level of effectiveness when people are honest about their imperfections. 

"Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy." (Proverbs 28:13)

If your only understanding of yourself is yourself---you are a target for the devil’s half truths and deceptions. Isolated thinking can ignore who you really are in Christ---condemn you on one hand and exalt you above correction on the other extreme. It’s only when you look into the Scripture and, like viewing into a mirror, see growth by God’s grace with scattered pockets of pride in need of humility’s exposure. You grow to better know yourself when you reveal your vulnerable self. 

Do you feel known by those who know you the best? If not, share with them your struggles and fears, listen to their hopes and dreams, and seek to know others at the core of who they are---the good, the bad and the ugly. When you are brave enough to bare your soul, you give others permission and courage to reveal their flaws. When you take the time to process your pain, you free your heart from anger and resentment. Like a splinter needing extraction from the flesh, removing the source of your pain may cause more pain---but then real relief. Be bold to know and be known. 

"I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another." (Romans 15:14)

What area of pain in your heart needs to be processed in prayer and with friends?

Wisdom Hunters

January 21, 2018
CLIMB HIGHER






Colossians 3:1
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God."






John Dahlem’s goal is to continually reach new heights! At 67 years of age, John was the second-oldest American to summit Mount Everest. He’s also the oldest to complete the Explorers Grand Slam, which is climbing the seven summits – the tallest mountains on each continent – plus pulling a sled to the North and South Poles. So what did John do to celebrate his seventieth birthday? He and his wife returned to Nepal to trek to Everest Base Camp!

Paul said: 

"I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings." (1 Corinthians 9:23)

After God captured Paul's life and heart, the apostle always looked upward toward heavenly goals. Paul's perspective on life was to become more like Jesus Christ and bring as many people as he could to Heaven.

Whatever mountains you may face this year, strive to put heavenly priorities into daily practice. Spend quality time with God. Look for opportunities to share His love with others through your actions and your words. Pray also that you will focus on the eternal rather than the temporal in personal and public decisions.

January 20, 2018
HEART BROKEN




Nehemiah 1:4
"As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven."




It breaks my heart when I learn of leaders who don’t finish well. It’s doubly painful when someone I respect is discovered to have been living dual lives. One publicly moral persona, while at the same time a privately immoral one. These men and women, somewhere along the way, traded trust in God with trust in themselves. They became exceptions to the standards they once expected of others. It grieves me to perceive how it must feel for the fallen to face their family and friends in disgrace. Christ’s Kingdom continues, but my heart still breaks for broken leaders. 

Nehemiah sat down to weep, fast and pray once he heard and understood the serious plight of his people. He enjoyed the status of serving the King, while his family and friends struggled to survive back in his home city—Jerusalem. Nehemiah was moved by compassion for those who suffered without while he had plenty. He was compelled to use whatever influence and resources God had given him for the good of his people. Nehemiah was burdened to help the burdened. 

"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."  (Galatians 6:2)

What needs around you deserve your passionate support? What breaks your heart, because it breaks the heart of your heavenly Father? Maybe you suffered from the heartache of divorce. Now your empathy naturally engages with those in divorce recovery. Because of your experience you can love them through this process of healing to wholeness. Or, you might help young couples avoid the common mistakes made early on in marriage. Teach them the skills of effective communication, authentic forgiveness and how to emotionally engage. What breaks your heart? 

Once we identify a need that moves us to action, let’s first fast and pray for the Lord’s plan. A prayed through process is much better than a knee jerk reaction in our own strength. It’s important we start with a clean heart. We confess our sins, so we are able to best serve those scarred by sin. By God’s grace we organize and implement ministry methods that give God the glory, not ourselves. We are free from self-serving motivations, so we can bring to bear the best resources for those under a heavy burden. A heart broken by God is a heart blessed by God. 

"But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you." (1 Chronicles 29:14)

How can you be more accountable to not drift into bad habits that don’t end well? 

Wisdom Hunters

January 19, 2018
ARE YOU WAITING TO BE CALLED?






John 10:27
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."





Back when the telegraph was the fastest method of long-distance communication, a young man applied for a job as a Morse Code operator.  Answering an ad in the newspaper, he went to the office address that was listed. When he arrived, he entered a large, busy office filled with noise and clatter, including the sound of the telegraph in the background. A sign on the receptionist's counter instructed job applicants to fill out a form and wait until they were summoned to enter the inner office.

The young man filled out his form and sat down with the seven other applicants in the waiting area. After a few minutes, the young man stood up, crossed the room to the door of the inner office, and walked right in. Naturally the other applicants perked up, wondering what was going on. They muttered among themselves that they hadn't heard any summons yet.  They assumed that the young man who went into the office made a mistake and would be disqualified.

Within a few minutes, however, the employer escorted the young man out of the office and said to the other applicants, "Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming, but the job has just been filled." 

The other applicants began grumbling to each other, and one spoke up saying, "Wait a minute, I don't understand. He was the last to come in, and we never even got a chance to be interviewed. Yet he got the job. That's not fair!" The employer said, "I'm sorry, but the last several minutes while you've been sitting here, the telegraph has been ticking out the following message in Morse Code: 'If you understand this message, then come right in. The job is yours.' None of you heard it or understood it. This young man did. The job is his."

We are so busy, living in a world that is full of noise and clatter, just like that office. People are distracted and unable to hear the still, small voice of God as He speaks through His creation, through His Scriptures, and through His Holy Spirit, who lives in us:

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

So I ask you, as I ask myself, "Are you listening, or are you waiting to be called?" Do you hear the Lord when he speaks to you?  Is your spiritual ear atuned to Him or are you blocked from hearing His voice because you're focused on all the other voices in your life?

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27) 

The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

January 18, 2018
ARE YOU SLEEPING?





Ezra 1:1
"...the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, ..." 




Our God is a promise-keeping God! And the time had come when He was ready to see His people return to their land. He had shown Himself faithful by sovereignly protecting them while in the Babylonian captivity, but now it was time to return to Jerusalem. And so the Lord put the desire to carry out His will into the heart of the new king.

The word translated “stirred up” in today’s verse comes from the Hebrew “ur.” In addition to meaning stir up, it also means to wake up, lift up, raise up. God, who does not slumber nor sleep had to awaken Cyrus in order that His plans and promises might be fulfilled. 

"Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." (Psalm 121:4)

 
"The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will."  (Proverbs 21:1)

When God wants to move to keep a promise, He will stir the heart of someone to action. Is that someone you? You might not be a king, but Is the Lord influencing you to do something today? Is your heart available to be turned in the direction the Lord desires? Or are you asleep? Nothing can ever stifle God’s plans nor keep Him from His promises when He deems the time to be right. Pray you will be obedient, with a willing heart awakened and stirred up to do His will.

Presidential Prayer Team

January 17, 2018
WALK WITH CARE




Ephesians 4:1

"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called," 




For every minute of every day since July 2, 1937, select military have guarded the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. But they aren’t standing still. The follow a precise pattern: 21 steps across the tomb, turn and face the tomb for 21 seconds, then turn again and walk 21 steps back across. This is repeated over and over, ever the same. The numeral 21 represents America’s highest honor. 

In the same way those who perform that duty know their steps, Christians have been given precise steps to follow in a life worthy of their calling. The Bible says you are to walk a different way – following Christ – with steps of humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, compassion and love. No matter your circumstances, good, bad or beyond your control, and no matter how blurred the path into the future, Jesus calls you to order each step.

Walking in a way that honors the Lord is a daily commitment. Pray for wisdom to know which steps to take. Then intercede for others, especially those in positions of authority, to make their steps follow Him.

Presidential Prayer Team

January 16, 2018
NOT RUINED, BUT REDEEMED



Romans 16:20
"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you."




I recently had a conversation with a woman who shared about her disappointments and specifically shared about her biggest heartbreak. While speaking about her troubles, she said, “That experience ruined my life.” Her comment saddened me.

I went home, crawled into bed, and her words rolled around in my heart and mind all night long. Sometime between wake and sleep, an answer came to my mind for her. “No, your life is not ruined. It’s redeemed.” I remembered that redemption is the absolute best way to choose to see all of life’s challenges lest we be overcome with utter despair. 
The next day, inspired by my conversation with this woman, I wrote a letter to my eight-month old grandson in a book of letters that I am creating for him which he will receive when he is a young man:

“During life, you’ll experience lots of firsts. Some of them, you’ll choose. Some of them you won’t. Some will be thrust on you. Some will be delightful, some won’t. You’ll experience firsts your entire life: the first time you laugh, walk, and sing a song. The first time you catch a ball, eat macaroni and cheese, and skip.

As you get older, your “firsts” will get a little more complicated. Like the first time a friend hurts you, or the first time a young woman you like doesn’t reciprocate your affections. (Oh, I would love it if this never happened to you!) My prayer is that your days would be filled with many joy-filled and delightful firsts.

But as much as your parents, or Grandpa and I would love to protect you from difficult firsts, we can’t. And, these firsts are important to shape you into the person God desires that you become.

But here’s a secret: Difficult firsts can turn out for your good. They can strengthen you. Or they can become a crippling thing that you never get past. One way to guarantee that not only your difficult firsts, but all challenging or heartbreaking experiences in life, don’t rob your joy or cause you to become bitter and steal the life of your heart is to “reframe” them.

What I mean is, you choose to look at them through the lens of God’s redemption. You deliberately decide to see them as God sees them. Difficult? Yes. Hurtful? Yes. Challenging? Yes. Able to be redeemed and used for a greater good? Absolutely. This is the promise of Romans:

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

As you choose to see your struggles and life challenges in God’s redemptive light, then you may even begin to see them as a gift, experiences that have caused you to become more discerning, prayerful, compassionate, courageous, or kind. Only you have the power to decide how your struggles will shape you.

They can make you bitter, or they can make you better. Always choose better. You will be glad and those who know you will be glad too. There’s no telling the number of people you will be able to inspire by choosing this inner greatness. It’s the stuff that heroes are made of.

I love you.

Grandma”

So, what’s your greatest life challenge? How have you been choosing to see it? Are you viewing it through the lens of God’s redemption?

"...The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil."  (1 John 3:8b)

Think about your greatest life challenge. Next, “reframe” it by thinking about it the way God thinks about it. What have you learned, not in spite of what happened, but because of it? How can you cooperate with God so it’s used for a greater good?

Shana Schutte

January 14-15, 2018
WHY?



Job 10:2
"I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me."



I have been asked the question several times, many times: Why does God allow it?‎ People suffer disasters and devastating losses. Perhaps the most painful is the loss of a child. Why does a God of love and mercy that we read about and hear about allow such a terrible thing to happen?

Over 3,000 years ago, there was a man named Job who struggled with the same question. He asked "Why?" because he was a good man and yet disaster struck him suddenly and swiftly. He lost seven sons and three daughters. He lost all his possessions. He even lost his health. Even his wife and his friends turned against him. His wife told him "Curse God and die." And in the midst of his suffering he asked this question: "Why?"

And yet, Job found there were lessons to be learned from his suffering even if he didn't fully understand it. And that is true for all of us as well. What are some of the lessons that we can learn when we suffer a devastating loss?

First, there is a mystery to it. I've been asked why God allows it. I don't know. I can't give a direct answer. I have to confess that I never fully understand even for my own satisfaction. I have to accept by faith that God is a God of love and mercy and compassion even in the midst of suffering.

The Bible says that God is not the author of evil. There is something about evil that we will never fully understand this side of eternity. But the Bible says two other things that we sometimes forget. It tells us that there is a devil, that Satan is very real and he has great power. It also tells us that Satan seeks to separate us from God and destroy us.

Times like this will cause one of two things to happen: They will either make us hard and bitter and angry toward God, or make us tender and open, and help us to reach out in trust and faith.

I pray that you will not let bitterness and poison creep into your soul, but you will turn in faith and trust in God even if we cannot understand. It is better to face something like this with God than without Him.

Billy Graham


Previous thoughts

January 13, 2018
IN A LITTLE WHILE




John 16:16
"A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me."





Two weeks before Christmas in 2000 my dad breathed his last breath. I stood by his bedside and wept, because I had just lost my earthly father. I knew in my head I would see him again—“in a little while”—in heaven, but my heart ached. As I searched for reassurance, my heavenly Father comforted my soul. It was surreal. I was the oldest child, now in a new season of added responsibility. I needed the Spirit’s support and I needed to know one day I would see my dad again. I rested in peace knowing my father rested in peace. In a little while I will see Jesus and Dad. 

Jesus took time to tell the disciples of His departure so they could be hopeful to see Him again. The reality of His cross, resurrection and ascension meant seeing their Savior with fresh eyes of faith. Since Jesus would not physically be with them, they would have to elevate their trust in Him. Emotionally, the disciples debated among themselves what “in a little while” meant, instead of simply asking Jesus. Their conversation could have received clarity by going to Christ. The revelation of God’s will can be mysterious, thus we wait on the Spirit to give us understanding. 

"For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever,"  (Philemon 1:15)

Are you waiting on clarity in your career, what to do with a child or how to approach a life issue? You may be wearied from competing conversations with people and now you need to draw strength from communion with Christ. Obey God in what you know to be true. In a little while obedience will bring clarity, but disobedience only creates confusion. Trust Jesus when you don’t understand and He will elevate your faith to another level of loving patience. For a little while you won’t know what to do, but in a little while you will. Faith waits on God. 

Above all, we anticipate being with our Lord Jesus in a little while. Our body aches, but in a little while we will rest. Our soul sorrows, but in a little while we will rejoice. Our emotions conflict, but in a little while we will be calm. Our mind forgets, but in a little we will remember. Our faith wavers, but in a little while we will be secure. Our hope fades, but in a little while we will be at peace. Our love is imperfect, but in a little while it will be perfected. We see our heavenly Father dimly in a mirror, but in a little while we will see Him face to face! Faith anticipates seeing God. 

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)

What inconvenient place is Christ leading you to willingly serve? 

Wisdom Hunters

January 12, 2018
RESEMBLANCE IN GRIEF



Genesis 1:27
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." 



The loss of a dear relative or friend plunges us into painful grief that we cannot understand or control. How and why are we wired to feel such grief?

I have been thinking over the past couple of weeks how much we must resemble God in our grief. We are created in His image, so He must also feel grief. I read that animals also spend much of their lives grieving over their lost ones, so it must be a common emotion we all share--a mark of our Maker. God is a joyful, happy God who also feels grief deeply with us, so much so that He sent Jesus into our world to rescue us permanently from death.

Jesus was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief":

"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Isaiah 53:3)

He even wept openly when his friend Lazarus died:

"Jesus wept" (John 11:35)

The Jews were moved to comment:

"... 'See how he loved him!'" (John 11:36)

We also read in Ephesians that it is possible for us to cause the Holy Spirit to grieve when we sin:

"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." (Ephesians 4:30)

The pain of my own grief is a startling reminder that the Spirit, who exists to comfort me in my grief, has felt grief at my own hand. This makes me want to avoid sin even more.

The ultimate grief on earth and in heaven was the crucifixion. God the Father must have felt devastating grief when He watched His Son die painfully on the cross. But He has a plan to use that grief for our salvation. Nobody could have understood it at the time. And we can’t understand the devastating losses we suffer today. But we can be certain that God loves us, and is working out a plan that we will understand someday.

Jesus wept. God weeps with us. It is a mystery today, but God will restore your joy. Please be very confident in that.

James A. Brewer

January 11, 2018
IMPOSSIBLE GOALS  





Zechariah 8:6 (NRSV) 
"Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Even though it seems impossible to the remnant of this people in these days, should it also seem impossible to me, says the LORD of hosts?'"



  
The New Year always brings with it a renewed sense of ambition and motivation. It feels like a fresh start, a blank slate. We often set goals and challenge ourselves to take ground in new and uncharted areas. Whether it’s a goal of improved fitness, kicking a bad habit, healing a relational wound, or pursuing a new business adventure, we all have something we’d like to achieve. Yet whatever the goal may be, usually we choose them because they feel achievable. They seem to be within our grasp, within our power to control and achieve. And while this is good and helpful, what about the goals in life that we desperately desire yet can never achieve on our own? 
  
The people of Israel deeply desired an impossible dream. They found themselves exiled in Babylon and longing for home, yet entirely helpless to do anything about their situation. Into the bleakness of this moment, Zechariah speaks words of hope and healing: what is surely impossible in your own strength is never impossible for the Lord. 
  
Are there dreams that you’ve never dreamed because they seemed too far-fetched and impossible? Is there a healing of past wounds that you desire more than anything in the world, yet the wound has always felt too deep and wide, like a chasm that can never be crossed? Is there something that you want to do for God’s Kingdom that seems to combine your unique gifts and the particular needs of your community, yet you think, “surely it’s more than I can handle.” 
  
To follow Jesus is to believe in impossible goals. It is a posture of humble dependence upon the Lord, acknowledging our own weaknesses and limitations yet daily celebrating his infinite strength and power. There are dreams that God has for his creation that he longs to bring into being, and he delights in inviting us to join him in that holy work. 
  

God wants to accomplish wonderful things in you and through you. Allow yourself to dream big dreams with God this New Year, trusting and believing that he is able to bring them to life!   

"But Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'"   (Matthew 19:26)  

Are there God-given dreams and desires that you’ve laid aside that he’s asking you to pick back up? 

Tripp Prince

January 10, 2018
DO HARD THINGS





Genesis 18:14
"Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son."





I don’t like to do the hard things. I tend to put them off. Hard conversations, hard financial decisions, hard trips, visits to the dentist, doctor and gym tend to interest me the least. It’s easier to do the easy things first: eat, forget, worry, gossip, review email, check social media, or call a friend. Ironically, the pain of waiting to confront the hard thing is worse than addressing the hard issue or hard person up front. Hard things are my opportunity for courage and trust in the Lord. 

Abraham and Sarah faced a divine test—something hard to believe. In their current elderly state God promised them a son. Their faith wavered. They would be blessed by a son, but Sarah was beyond the age for childbearing and they knew for sure their energy for raising a little one was on the wane. Both were startled at this unrealistic expectation—Sarah even laughed within herself, but when confronted with her crisis of faith denied her doubts. This opportunity from the Lord was hard to accept, but by faith Sarah eventually received this promise of God’s faithfulness:

"By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised."  (Hebrews 11:11)

What hard thing do you need to face sooner than later? If you failed to meet someone’s expectations, don’t pretend it didn’t happen. The awkwardness will not go away, it will only exasperate. Schedule a coffee and have an honest discussion of what transpired and express your desire to make things right. Humility gives grace and courage to do hard things. Moreover, make hard financial decisions now, so you have better options later. Trust God will provide, but only after you provide Him reasons showing you are a faithful manager of His resources. Make hard choices. 

Most of all, by faith—let’s believe what the Lord has promised—as we face hard things. Jesus is with us and will never leave us regardless of the degree of difficulty we face. God gives us wisdom to understand and discern His ways. When we ask and listen the Spirit speaks to our mind and heart. Christ in us is our courage. He infuses us with faith and resolve to finish the task. Our heavenly Father wants us to draw near to His loving heart as we encounter hard situations. Nothing is too hard for our Creator, Savior and Lord. All things are possible with God! 

"But he [Jesus] said, 'What is impossible with man is possible with God.'"  (Luke 18:27)

What hard thing do you need to press through and trust the Lord is at work? 

Wisdom Hunters

Previous thoughts

December 9, 2018
TURN NORTH


Deuteronomy 2:3
"You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward" 



Will 2018 be different than 2017?  Will you "press on" in your faith this year and focus on what lies ahead, or will you continue to focus on your past?

Listen to this wonderful challenge from Ruth Graham.  "Either we can be victimized and become victims, or we can be victimized and rise above it. Often it is easier to play the victim than take off our masks and ask for help. We get comfortable with our victim status. It becomes our identity and is hard to give up. The Israelites often played the victim card, and I love what God finally tells them, 

"You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward" (Deuteronomy 2:3)

Turn north! It's time to move on! self-pity, fear, pride, and negativity paralyze us. Taking off our masks takes courage, but if we don't do it, we will remain in our victim status and end up stunted."

What about you?

  • Do you keep talking and talking and talking about something you just can't get over? 
  • Are you living in the past because you just can't "let it go"?
  • Do you keep wallowing in self-pity wondering what "could have been"?
  •  Have you discussed it over and over with different people but you've never taken action?
  • Have you worried and worried about it but you've never done anything?
  • Are you still living in misery because it's something you can't forgive or forget? 
  •  Have you circled and circled and circled this issue all your life? 
The time has come!!! You have circled this mountain long enough.  Now turn north!

David Langerfeld
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley

January 8, 2018
NEW YEAR


John 5:39–40
"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life."



Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby writes of the “uncanny ability of experts to get things hopelessly, cataclysmically wrong.” A quick glance at recent history shows he’s right. The great inventor Thomas Edison, for instance, once declared that talking movies would never replace silent films. And in 1928, Henry Ford declared, “People are becoming too intelligent ever to have another war.” Countless other predictions by “experts” have missed the mark badly. Genius obviously has its limits.

Only one Person is completely reliable, and He had strong words for some so-called experts. The religious leaders of Jesus’s day claimed to have the truth. These scholars and theologians thought they knew what the promised Messiah would be like when He arrived. Jesus cautioned them:

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life...” (John 5:39)

Then he pointed out how they were missing the heart of the matter:

"it is they [the Scriptures] that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." (John 5:40)

As another new year gets underway, we will hear predictions ranging from the terrifying to the wildly optimistic. Many of them will be stated with a great deal of confidence and authority. Don’t be alarmed. Our confidence remains in the One at the very heart of the Scriptures. He has a firm grip on us and on our future. Knowing the future is uncertain; knowing the One who holds the future is a sure thing.

Tim Gustafson

January 7, 2018
LIGHT TO THE NATIONS





Matthew 12:18, 21
"Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles... and in his name the Gentiles will hope."





This week Christians around the world celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, a well-known and widely celebrated feast in many parts of the world, yet lesser known and even less frequently celebrated here in the United States. When we hear the word “epiphany,” I think we most frequently associate it with a great idea that comes to you suddenly and unexpectedly. An epiphany helps you move forward when you think you’ve reached a dead end and a shut door. Previous convictions and conclusions are cast into a new light as the impact of the epiphany unfolds.

The assumption in the Jewish community into which Jesus was born, was that God’s plan of salvation and redemption was a particularly Jewish hope and expectation. Israel, long suffering in bondage and exile, longed for God’s promises to come true, for him to right their wrongs and establish the work of their hands:

"Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!" (Psalm 90:17)

Yet within these hopes and dreams there was little to no imagination that the promises given to them were to be extended to the whole of creation, and that they were chosen explicitly to join God in this expansive mission!

Though largely minimized and ignored, this vision of blessing the nations pops up from time to time in the Old Testament, and in Matthew’s gospel we see these words quoted from Isaiah and applied to the mission of Jesus. Through him justice will be proclaimed to the Gentiles:

"and in his name the Gentiles will hope." (Matthew 12:21)

Christians associate this Epiphany celebration with the Magi, and see these wise men as representative of the nations coming to Jesus. It is the celebration of the ends of the earth drawing near to Jesus and finding in him hope, peace, and healing for the nations.

What was true over two thousand years ago is still true today. The nations long for hope, peace, and healing and search far and wide until they find it. Jesus continues to enter into the chaos and darkness of our world and shines his light for all to see. May we join the Magi and draw near to him afresh, offering our gifts of thanksgiving and praise and celebrate the light that shines for all to see!

How can you reach out to a non-Christian friend and invite them to consider the life that Jesus offers freely to them?

Tripp Prince

January 6, 2018
MENTOR THE EMERGING GENERATION  



Proverbs 7:6-7
"For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense," 



  
Most young people yearn for someone to invest time and wisdom in them. They know deep in their heart they need help handling their heartaches. Their naïve level of knowledge has yet to graduate them from the ‘school of hard knocks’, so they need wise and loving instruction. Who in your circle of influence is a candidate for your caring attention? 
  
It may be a son or daughter, a colleague at work or a friend from church. God places people in our lives for a purpose. Perhaps you prayerfully pursue a mentor relationship with a teachable young person. They can learn from your mistakes as much or more as from your wise choices. 
  

Mentors are not perfect, just wiser from failure and humbled by successes. Look around and ask the Lord to lead you to a young person who may be edging toward the wrong direction. Reach out and you will have returned the favor to someone who loved you.   

"This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,"  (1 Timothy 1:18)  

Indeed mentors take time for others because they are eternally grateful for those who took time for them. Gratitude to God is a great reason to go the extra mile with someone younger. Read books together; maybe a book a month for a year. Meet over coffee to discuss how the book challenged your thinking or changed your behavior for the better. 
  

A young leader can preclude problems when she is able to model the wise habits of her mentor. Always invite an older adult into your life who can educate you in the ways of God. Moreover, the mentoring process is valuable to both parties. It provides accountability, encouragement, love and obedience to Christ’s commands. Mentor young people so they follow the right path, and in turn, help someone else do the same. The Bible says,

“… encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children… Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.” (Titus 2:4,6)  

In whom is the Lord leading you to invest time, wisdom and resources?

Wisdom Hunters

January 5, 2018
WHAT DO THE EXPERTS SAY?





John 5:39–40
"You [religious leaders] search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." 




Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby writes of the “uncanny ability of experts to get things hopelessly, cataclysmically wrong.” A quick glance at recent history shows he’s right. The great inventor Thomas Edison, for instance, once declared that talking movies would never replace silent films. And in 1928, Henry Ford declared, “People are becoming too intelligent ever to have another war.” Countless other predictions by “experts” have missed the mark badly. Genius obviously has its limits.

Only one Person is completely reliable, and He had strong words for some so-called experts. The religious leaders of Jesus’s day claimed to have the truth. These scholars and theologians thought they knew what the promised Messiah would be like when He arrived. Jesus cautioned them:

"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life."  (John 5:39–40)

As another new year gets underway, we’ll hear predictions ranging from the terrifying to the wildly optimistic. Many of them will be stated with a great deal of confidence and authority. Don’t be alarmed. Our confidence remains in the One at the very heart of the Scriptures. He has a firm grip on us and on our future.

Knowing the future is uncertain; knowing the One who holds the future is a sure thing.

Our Daily Bread

January 4, 2018
TIME REMAINING





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





Your day is like everyone else’s. God has given you 24 hours, or 1,440 minutes, or exactly 86,400 seconds each day.  Time management experts tell you to make every second count. Whether you do or you don’t, one thing is clear: life can be long or short; it largely depends on how you determine to live it. For some, time is a thing taken for granted; for others, it may be that a physician has said there are but a few months to live. Your perspective on time dictates how you use it:

"So it was not you [Joseph's brothers] who sent me [Joseph] here [Egypt], but God..."  (Genesis 45:8)

Things that robs individuals of time are unforgiveness, fearfulness and regret. Emotions sneak up and before long, too much thought has been taken over by them; too many seconds, hours or days have been lost. Joseph could have said that life wasn’t fair, and he’d have been right. Once sold by his brothers, he knew his future was uncertain. But he also knew he had a relationship with a very certain God. God used all of his circumstances to mold character, and that included forgiveness, fearlessness and relief.

As you look to the time given you in the New Year, how will you make the most of it? Begin by forgiving those who’ve wronged you, by finding a spirit of full trust in God, and living without regrets. Find a spirit of forgiveness as you move forward into 2018—and find a spiritual relationship with the certain God in uncertain times.

What will you do with your time remaining?

January 3, 2018
NEW YEAR





2 Corinthians 5:17
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." 





Typical resolutions in January are to lose weight, exercise more, spend less time at work and more time with family—maybe even stop chatting on the cell phone while driving. It’s not surprising that we want to change the things in our lives that we are unhappy about—even though most New Year’s resolutions are kept for no more than three weeks. What if you were to ask God what He wants you to change, improve, or begin this year? He might tell you:

Demonstrate more of the fruit of the Spirit in your life:

"... love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; ..." (Galatians 5:22-23)

He might also say:

"... love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,"  (Matthew 5:44)

"...'Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.'"  (Mark 16:15)

"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'"  (Hebrews 13:5)

"... walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it."  (2 John 1:6).

As believers and new creations, we can be free from old patterns and failures. We must ask God to help us live each day in the power of the Holy Spirit. Then we can shed the old and embrace the new:

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Resolutions are easier to keep when you rely on God.

Cindy Hess Kasper

January 2, 2018
FIRST PRIORITY





Mark 1:35
"And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed." 





Following his failure in parliament, William Wilberforce, a Christian statesman in Great Britain over a century ago, remarked on its possible cause. He said the problem may have been that he had not spent enough time in his private devotions earnestly seeking the will of God.

Jesus’ schedule was busy, but He made time with His Father the day’s first priority. Many distractions could have disrupted Him, but He avoided them by going to an isolated place so His attention could be fully focused. Jesus prayed. We know from other Bible verses that He prayed for himself, but He also prayed for those closest to Him and their needs, and for the whole world to be filled with the knowledge of God.

In this New Year, use your devotional time to commune with the Lord, reading His Word and praying for others. Ask that those who know Him will be filled with His wisdom, and that the “eyes” of those who do not yet know Him would be opened so they will come to a saving faith in Jesus.

January 1, 2018
NEW YEAR RECIPE





Joshua 1:8
"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." 





Google the word “success” and you’ll quickly discover that people are interested in everything from how to be successful, to who is successful and why, to what it takes to realize one’s dreams. For many, success is an obsession. What is the recipe for success as described in today’s verse from Joshua? The book of Psalms describes the person who meditates on God’s Word as:

"... 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 1:3)

Jesus says:

"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." (John 15:5)

In this New Year, delight in the Lord and mediate on the truth of the Bible. He’ll shape your desires according to His will and then grant them:

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)

"And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us." (1 John 5:14)

Then pray that all people will turn to God as their source of genuine success.

Vantage Point Devotional

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