Archive May 2017

May 31, 2017
PRIDE HUMBLED




Daniel 4:37
"Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right and all His ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble." 





Pride will eventually give way to humility. It may not happen overnight. It may have to follow a painful process because pride can be very, very stubborn. Like an embedded splinter deep in the flesh of your foot, it is hard to remove. You cannot remove it alone, and there is constant throbbing and pain until it is extracted. 

This is the plight of pride. Pain and suffering are its cohorts. Pride provides a false sense of security. Spiritually minded people know it is only a matter of time until a fall, as pride will catch up with you. Humility was once a staple in your spiritual diet, but success has squelched your humility and subtly replaced it with pride. Authority without accountability generates pride. 

The more authority you possess, the more you are required to submit to accountability. Otherwise, you cannot handle this freewheeling power. Your behavior defaults to pride without the checkmate of humility. This is true in relationships, business, ministry, and churches. Beware of obsessing over control. 

Paranoia is an application of pride. You are fearful of losing control. It is better to hand over control than to lose control. Humility gives control, while pride grasps for it. So be open and humble about your insecurities. We are all insecure to some degree. Humility builds security, and pride tears it down. The humble have nothing to hide. So root out pride, replacing it with humility. 

The process of pride’s removal begins with submission to Christ. It is acknowledging His lordship and ownership over your life. He is in control. He is large and in charge. Nothing in your life has sneaked up on God. He can be trusted. He holds your life, family, health, and career in His hand. You start by humbly bowing to God with your head and heart. He is to be feared and loved. 

"But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'"(James 4:6)

You have the awesome opportunity to worship and adore Him. When you walk with God, you walk in humility. Pride cannot coexist in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Pride is extinguished in the presence of Jesus. Pride is like a roach lurking in the dark recesses of your heart. The Holy Spirit’s light reveals pride and convicts you during times of prayer and Scripture meditation. 

The second offense to pride is praying people. Ask people to pray for humility to infiltrate and occupy your life. You want the occupation of humility on the soil of your heart and mind. Be transparent with others about your sins and shortcomings. Talk about them with the motive for change. 

Humble yourself, and trust God to humble others. It is easy to recognize pride in others while it is still looming in your spirit. Run from spiritual pride. It is the worst kind. It is insidious. It is self-righteousness in nature, and it chokes the Holy Spirit. Humility grows in an environment of honesty, openness, prayer, and change. Be a change agent on behalf of the humble. Humble pride! 

"Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you," (1 Peter 5:5–6)

How does pride keep you from trusting God and having to be in control? 

Wisdom Hunters

May 30, 2017
A LIFE OF HONOR


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


While delivering a well-publicized speech, a respected leader and statesman got the attention of his nation by declaring that most of his country's honorable Members of Parliament (MPs) were quite dishonorable.

Citing lifestyles of corruption, pompous attitudes, unsavory language, and other vices, he rebuked the MPs and urged them to reform. As expected, his comments didn't go well with them and they dispatched counter-criticisms his way.

We may not be public officials in positions of leadership, but we who follow Christ are a "... chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession,". As such, our Lord calls us to lifestyles that honor Him.

The disciple Peter had some practical advice on how to do this. He urged us:

"...as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul."  (1 Peter 2:11)

Although he didn't use the word honorable, he was calling us to behavior worthy of Christ.

As the apostle Paul phrased it in his letter to the Philippians, 

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."  (Philippians 4:8)

Indeed, these are the characteristics of behavior that honor our Lord.

We honor God's name when we call Him our Father and live like His children.

Lawrence Darmani

May 29, 2017
MEMORIAL DAY







John 15:13

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








Remember,

It is the VETERAN, not the preacher, 
who has given us freedom of religion. 

It is the VETERAN, not the reporter, 
who has given us freedom of the press. 

It is the VETERAN, not the poet, 
who has given us freedom of speech. 

It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer, 
who has given us freedom to assemble. 

It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer, 
who has given us the right to a fair trial. 

It is the VETERAN, not the politician, 
Who has given us the right to vote.

May 28, 2017
RESPONSIBLE CHRISTIAN CITIZENS 
 






Acts 22:28–29

"The tribune answered, 'I bought this citizenship for a large sum.' Paul said, 'But I am a citizen by birth.' So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him."   
Citizenship in a free country means something, especially for Christian citizens. Citizens who are followers of Christ have a platform to live out the teachings of Jesus. A responsible Christian citizen models his biblical values and principles modestly. Beliefs lived out are truly beliefs, while those unapplied are not real beliefs. 





  

This applies to our political beliefs as Christian citizens. We can endorse an independent political party, but we are not autonomous from the Almighty’s influence. Paul was persecuted for his faith, but he still spoke the truth with humble boldness. If we say we believe in the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage, then we elect women and men who cherish these values.   

"But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."  (Ephesians 4:20–24)  

If we say we believe in a government that spends less and balances a budget, then we elect leaders who will make hard choices and implement fiscally conservative changes. If we say we believe in free enterprise, then we elect loving leaders who support and improve the system, even if it requires businesses to fail. Responsible Christian citizens care more by engaging more in the political process. 
  

Because our citizenship is in heaven, we always keep an eye on eternity’s expectations while we deal with earthly issues. It is not creating an entitlement-motivated government that becomes the savior of the masses. On the contrary, it is a political system that ensures the freedoms and liberties of its citizens are not threatened and removed. A diverse people can only be truly unified around common values and principles espoused by God.   

"For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,"  (Ephesians 2:18–20)  

Are you a responsible Christian citizen who expresses your convictions by voting? 

Wisdom Hunters

May 27, 2017
TRUST IN TALENT OR TRUST IN THE LORD?





1 Samuel 16:18
"One of the young men answered, 'Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him.'" 




Those who are most talented are the most tempted to stop trusting in the Lord. Talent alone can get results, but at the expense of God not being glorified and humility lost. However, talent under the control of the Holy Spirit is beautiful to behold, like a champion race horse sensitive to their jockey’s every instruction—they see obstacles as opportunities to learn from their master. Our abilities unrestrained by self-have exponential impact in the hands of our heavenly Father.

David was a handsome multi-talented: musician, dancer, poet, warrior, leader and communicator who enjoyed the favor of God. But in spite of his incredible giftedness, he suffered a couple of major setbacks in his life: once as a young man due to his reactive anger and fearful panic toward his father-in-law King Saul, and again  later in life due to his hubris from success—he committed adultery and murder. Though a man after God’s heart, David sadly had seasons where he isolated himself and took matters into his own hands, resulting in the consequences of sin’s devastating effects.

He cried out in contrition:

"Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD! Good and upright is the LORD therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way." (Psalm 25:7-9).
  
Do you regularly dedicate your gifts and talents to God to be used for His purposes? A gifted speaker sees themselves as a channel of truth to help others follow God’s will—merely a messenger with words from the One who is the creator and sustainer of all good things. A talented leader reminds themselves often to first follow Christ before they attempt to lead others. It is through the ongoing process of self-surrender to your Savior that people are able to see Jesus in your life.

We are on the right track when we view our work and service as worship to the Lord. Thus a parent remains a dependent child of God—so they can gently, wisely and patiently parent their child. Praise to God frees us to appropriately praise another and not ourselves. We enjoy the Spirit’s habitation, as He quietly and precisely leads us in our moment by moment activities. A worshipful life focuses its admiration on Jesus Christ and refuses to take credit for good fruit. Humility gives credit to the originator and sustainer of all gifts and talents—Almighty God.

"Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."  (James 1:16-17)

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5)

How can you use your gifts to help another develop their gifts?

Wisdom Hunters

May 26, 2017
OPEN AND CLOSED DOORS




Proverbs 4:7
"The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight."




Maybe you have heard someone say they are trusting God, that if He wants them to do something that He will open a door, but that if He doesn’t want them to do it, that He will close the door. This is how they plan on making a decision to do this or that, go here or there.

Sure, living by open and closed doors can sometimes be a less assertive way to live out one’s faith and therefore, less frightening. Paul said that an “effective door” for ministry had opened to him:

"for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries." (1 Corinthians 16:9)

And in Acts he talks about a closed door:

"And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia." (Acts 16:6)

After he’d been working with the Galatian churches, he decided to go into the Province of Asia. However, he said that he was “forbidden” by the Holy Spirit. No matter how this forbidding came, it came in the form of a closed door. While God does direct us through open and closed doors, it’s unwise to make every decision based on open or closed doors:

"And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light."  (2 Corinthians 11:14)

I once prayed and asked God to give me the tools and money I needed to develop a Christian ministry. Within a week someone randomly crossed my path who offered to help me with a plan and provide the much-needed financial resources. It was exactly what I was looking for, so I naturally took this as God’s open door. After all, I had prayed, and . . . tada! There was the answer! This “open door” turned out to be a disaster that hurt me and others who worked with me. On the backside of that trial, I am convinced God allowed this person in my life to grow my discernment. Since then, He has reminded me of several lessons about open and closed doors. I invite you to keep these in mind as you pursue God’s will for your life.

When you experience an open door that looks exactly like what you need or want, don’t be in a hurry. God is a gentleman. He isn’t pushy. He leads those who belong to Him. For these reasons, you don’t need to be panicked, or in a hurried rush to make a decision about any open door.

Make sure to pray over the open door and seek wisdom in God’s Word. Submit your will to His. You might also seek wise counsel to make sure you are making the right choice. Sometimes others can see what we can’t because our desires cause us to miss important information.

Finally, remember there is no need to be afraid about making decisions. Rather, you can move forward in confidence knowing that God will lead. You can also rest assured that even if you get off track, that He is faithful to teach you and use it for His glory and your good. You can never get out of His hand.

"And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left."  (Isaiah 30:21)

Are you facing an open door? Put what you learned today into practice.

Shana Schutte

May 25, 2017
CONFLICT




James 3:17
"But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere." 





There are some things you can avoid in life. You can avoid long lines at the bookstore; just purchase what you want to read online. You can avoid eating a pile of cookies; just don’t buy them. You can avoid getting trick-or-treaters; you can just leave the house on the evening of October 31st. But there are some things in life that you just can’t avoid, no matter how much you don’t like them. Conflict is one of those things. It comes knocking on everyone’s front door at some time or another and it isn’t polite. It just comes right in and sits down on the couch. And, when that happens you have a couple choices: you can allow it to stay and really make a mess of your life and emotions, or you can handle it God’s way and experience peace. 

When I was growing up, I reeeeeallly disliked conflict. I was a middle kid and my mantra was, “Why can’t we  all just get along?” I did everything I knew how to solve conflict with others,  which often included trying to avoid the problem by being extra nice. Can you imagine that this didn’t work?! It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I learned that my avoidance tactics didn’t help at all. All they did was make me feel like an insecure victim who was afraid of people and that made other people uncomfortable. I didn’t understand that peacemaking and avoiding aren’t the same. Instead, peacemakers are often proactive. They are willing to make the first move toward the person with whom they are having the conflict. 

Okay, I know this is difficult. Who likes to have that hard conversation or that difficult meeting? Who likes to be the one who initiates when they would rather retreat and hope the whole messy mess goes away? No one. But the wise person knows that conflict usually doesn’t resolve itself. They know if they refuse to settle the conflict they will personally suffer because they won’t experience peace. And, they also know they will be blessed. 

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)

Peacemakers aren’t just blessed because God commands us to make peace. They are also blessed because the peace they create always comes rolling back to them, filling up their hearts. But holding onto offenses and grudges does the exact opposite. Bitterness and anger have no benefits. There is absolutely no blessing in not handling conflict—or handling it in the wrong way. 

Peacemaking takes self-control. It means that I don’t open my mouth and spout off meanness in response to meanness:

"Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing." (1 Peter 3:9)

Instead, it takes maturity to hold your tongue or keep your fingers off the computer keyboard when you would rather shoot back a snarky response. Peacemaking takes courage. Peacemaking takes wisdom. Peacemaking takes maturity. Be that person. Not just for the other person, but for God –and for yourself. You’ll be glad you did. 

"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."  (Proverbs 15:1)

"If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[a] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:18-21)

"Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:50)

"So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 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)

Shana Schutte


May 24, 2017
GOD LOVES FAMILIES





Psalm 22:10

"On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother's womb you have been my God." 
 




God loves families. It is in families that we encounter his promises. It is through families that he shares his loving faithfulness with each passing generation. And for each of us, no matter how complex or broken our family situations may be, it is to our families that God has called us and invited us to be instruments of his peace and goodness.
 
For some, the words of the psalmist ring true. Since your birth, the Lord has been your God. You were born into a faithful Christian family in which the promises of God were known and shared with you before you could even comprehend or understand them. What a gift! Take time today and give thanks to God for your family, and if they are still living, reach out to them and thank them afresh for the priceless gift that they gave to you.
 
Yet for others, Psalm 22 feels distant and entirely foreign. It may bring to the surface wounds long hidden. Your early years may have been fraught with brokenness and trial. For you, family memories aren’t cherished or treasured but are confusing, painful, and in need of healing.
 
Whether your memories of family are joyful or painful, or as is likely for most of us, a combination of both, the Lord invites you today to encounter his perfect love as a member of his family.
 
At the heart of his being, God is, above all, a family. This is one way for us to understand God as the Holy Trinity. If we are honest, the Christian belief in the Trinity can at times feel abstract and disconnected from daily life. It may not be something that you think about often, and when you do, it is often confusing and perplexing, leaving us scratching our heads and wondering how this relates to a life of discipleship and holiness. However, if we are to grow in our faith, we must see that it is foundational to who we are and all that we do!
 
Since before time began, God has existed as one God in three persons. God is a community of love. God is a family. And we are welcomed into this family for eternity as his sons and daughters. Your earthly family may have been for you a picture, a taste of this perfect eternal family. And when your earthly family failed to reflect this perfect love, God invites you today to look to him and find healing and hope, learning afresh what it means to belong to him and to one another.
 
What steps are you able to take today to help your family better reflect to one another and the world the perfect love of God?

Tripp Prince

May 23, 2017
MEMORIES






Psalm 103:2

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,"





Recently, a friend from my youth emailed me a picture of our junior high track team. The grainy black-and-white snapshot showed a vaguely familiar group of teens with our two coaches. I was instantly swept back in time to happy memories of running the mile and the half-mile in track meets. Yet even as I enjoyed remembering those days, I found myself thinking about how easily I had forgotten them and moved on to other things.

 

As we make our way on the journey of life, it is easy to forget places, people, and events that have been important to us along the way. Time passes, yesterday fades, and we become obsessed with the concerns of the moment. When this happens, we can also forget just how good God has been to us. Perhaps that is why David remembered as he wrote, 

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,"  (Psalm 103:1-2)

Never is this remembrance more needed than when the heartaches of life crowd in on us. When we are feeling overwhelmed and forgotten, it is important to recall all that He has done for us. In remembering, we find the encouragement to trust Him in the present and for the future.

Bill Crowder

May 22, 2017
VIRTUOUS WOMAN






Proverbs 31:10
"An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels." 





A woman of character is not easily found. She is rare and valuable. Because of her appealing attributes, she is a gift from God. Thank Him often if you are blessed with this quality of woman in your life. She is rare because we live in a self-crazed culture, yet a woman of character is others-focused. For the follower of Christ, selflessness is expected. But for our society as a whole, it is an anomaly. She refuses to demean herself to a standard of mediocrity. 

Her goal is excellence in living. Duplicity is far from her thinking as she serves with authenticity and industry. No skills or gifts remain dormant in her active life. She channels her energies into the welfare of her family and is resourceful with financial opportunities. A woman of character is an anchor for her family. Her character provides stability when challenges creep into her home. She is determined to do the right thing regardless of the difficulties it may require. Character is more important than compromise, therefore she models the way for her friends and family. She is a rock of hope and consistency because God’s Word has become that for her. 

However, be careful to not take the world on your shoulders—that is God’s job. Also, do not hold a standard of perfection over your head. Leave yourself some wiggle room for mistakes. You will make mistakes. Let mistakes be a reminder of what to do and what not to do in the future. They are reminders of your dependence on God. Your goal is not to live a mistake-free life but a life that loves God and loves people. Let Him continue to develop your character and grow you into a mentor of other women. Don’t waste your wonderful experiences. Share them with younger women so that they can grow in their character. 

"An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones."  (Proverbs 12:4)

Husband, love your wife of character. Tell her often how proud you are of her. Do not be intimidated by her level of spirituality. On the contrary, celebrate her passion for life and her spiritual maturity. Allow her life to challenge you and inspire you to the same level of character development. Your virtuous woman is a tremendous asset. Your best and most strategic business decision occurred when you married a woman of character. Her wisdom is unparalleled. Her discernment of human nature borders on the divine. She is uncanny in seeing things you do not see—and saving you a ton of money and time (that is if you listen to her). 

Her influence is ever-present in her work and home. Encourage her burgeoning influence and opportunities. Become her biggest cheerleader. If she wants to start a business, help her start a business. When she needs some help with the house and lawn, make that investment. Free her to do what she does best. It may be teaching, mentoring, being a mom, sewing or serving in a variety of capacities. It may be to take care of her parents during the latter stages of life. 

Allow her to reach her full potential. Give her the cash, confidence, and resources to reach for her dreams. Be grateful. A woman of character is not to be taken for granted. Yet this is easy to do. Make a big deal out of her accomplishments, because they are a big deal. Help her to pace herself and protect her from the encroachment of those with warped motives. Her character is a valued asset that needs to be managed with care. Care for her as she cares for you! 

"And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman."  (Ruth 3:11)

How can you reward a virtuous woman you know with a special gift? 

Wisdom Hunters

May 20-21, 2017 
SHOW UP 
 






Esther 5:2

"And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter." 





Successful living is about showing up, which means you arrive at the appointed time, ideally a little early. Your mode of operation is to say less and do more, as your actions speak for themselves. You show up for work as a diligent employee even when you don’t feel like it. You show up for a first date in spite of all the unknowns. You show up on behalf of another even though they may not expect your sincere concern. You show up to exercise when your body begs you to stay in bed. You show up for a funeral when you don’t know what to say. You show up for church even when you feel guilty and insecure. 

Make it a priority to show up, and you may be surprised at the result. Eager athletes show up on the bench next to the coach. Those who show up at the right place, at the right time, are the ones who experience God’s best. You may meet a new friend or become reacquainted with an old one, which may lead to an unexpected opportunity. So show up and listen up.   

You especially need to show up for God. Be relentless about not missing your God time. Show up for God when you are sleepy, lazy, or lonely. Your desire may be waning, but after you show up, your “want to” will grow. Show up for God, and watch Him show up. It takes time to show up for God, but it is time well worth the effort and expense. You can’t afford to not show up for your Savior. Our Lord is not one to be left waiting. How unwise to rush right past God on the way to orchestrate oblivion or rearrange obstacles. He is waiting patiently for you to show up and be loved by Him. Slow down and show up. Then pour out your heart to Jesus.   

It is time to level with the Lord, for His wisdom is waiting. You cannot maintain a breakneck pace with relational wreckage piling up around you. People feel manipulated and misunderstood, so pull up before you go over the cliff of complexity. You may need to burn busyness at the stake. Take the time now to show up for private prayer and petition to the great high priest, Christ. It is prudent to prepare to meet the grace, love, and holiness of God. So show up in humility, and see Him. Just show up for Jesus’ sake, and you will be radically served by an encounter with your living Lord. Show up in the presence of King Jesus, and He will invite you into His inner court of care and concern, like the five virgins who showed up prepared.

"Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps."  (Mathew 25:1-4)

Who needs you to show up and show your concern?

Wisdom Hunters

May 19, 2017
FINDING A HEALTHY BALANCE 






Luke 5:15-16
"But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray." 




 
By temperament, I am an introverted person. While I enjoy being with people and sharing life with those I love, social time depletes my batteries and I have to find intentional time to recharge and refresh. I know many people like me, yet many others who are the exact opposite. Too much down time or time alone and some people will go mad! Being with others is for them a constant source of energy and refreshment.
 
While most of us tend towards one of these temperaments, I’m slowly learning that faithfulness to the way of Jesus requires of us both an active engagement with the world and an intentional retreat into intimate times of prayer and reflection.
 

Jesus came that we might have life to the fullest: 

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

As such, in his earthly ministry he was constantly engaged with the world around him- present to the sickness and disease of those he met, the arrogance and pride of the religious establishment, and the need for redemption and renewal of the entire creation. And yet, as we see here in Luke 5, as news of his active ministry began to spread and people were increasingly drawn to him, Jesus withdrew into times of solitude and peaceful attentiveness to his heavenly father. As we are being renewed into his likeness, we must look to this example and go and do likewise.
 
If you are, like me, wired as an introvert, times of personal prayer and devotion may come more naturally to you. I believe the witness of Jesus challenges us to not stay exclusively in this private place but we must let this prayerful devotion lead us into intentional service and mission. We are filled with the life of God and his love not simply for ourselves but so that we can share God’s love with the world around us!
 
Likewise, if you are constantly on the go, even if it is in active service to Christ and his Church, the challenge to you today is to follow Jesus’ example and slow down. Take time to breathe and simply be present to God’s presence in your life. A life of service that isn’t fueled by the Spirit’s empowering presence will ultimately leave you burned out, weary, and fatigued.  
 
When we look to Jesus we learn afresh what it means to be fully present to God’s work in our hearts and souls, as well as the ways that reforming work is inviting us into a life of mission and service in God’s kingdom!
 
Do you tend towards one extreme or the other? This week how can you grow in the area you don’t gravitate towards naturally, either serving others more actively or seeking the Lord in quiet solitude?

Tripp Prince

May 18, 2017
MOTHER'S FINISH LINE





2 Timothy 4:7

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."





When Jeff learned that his mother's health was rapidly declining, he immediately caught a plane to be with her. He sat at her bedside holding her hand, singing hymns, comforting her, and expressing his love for her. She passed away, and at her funeral many told Jeff what a blessing his mother had been. She was gifted in Bible teaching, counseling others, and leading prayer groups. These were vital parts of serving Christ until near the end of her life. She finished strong for Christ.

To honor his mother's life, Jeff participated in a 26.2 mile race. During the race he thanked God for her life and grieved her loss. When he crossed the finish line, Jeff pointed his index finger toward heaven-"Where Mom is," he said. She had honored Christ to the end, which reminded him of the words of the apostle Paul: 

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing."  (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

We are all involved in a "long-distance race." Let's run in such a way that we may obtain the prize of "an imperishable crown".

"Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable [crown]." (1 Corinthians 9:25)

What could be more desirable than to finish strong for Christ and to be with Him forever? 

The Christian's race is not a sprint-it's a marathon.

Dennis Fisher

May 17, 2017
LESS IS MORE




Judges 7:4
"And the LORD said to Gideon, 'The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, "This one shall go with you," shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, "This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go."'"  



Less of some things can mean opportunity to trust in God with more things. This is why the sifting by your Savior need not be discouraging. His goal is not to harm you, but to strip you from any dependence on yourself or others and to rely solely on Him. Your financial limitations are an occasion to watch Him provide in ways that give Him the glory for your life. Less money means you have the occasion to trust Him with His creative provision. 

It stings when some of your friends fall away, but your best friend, Jesus, still remains. You can become involved with numerous relationships and miss engaging in intimacy with your heavenly Father. Fewer true friends will lead to richer relationships and more time with God. If your life is driven by one new relationship after another, you will drown in shallow living. Having fewer earthly relationships means you have more time for your Heavenly One. Less is more.

Take the time to shed the weight of worry and watch God work. A surrendered life can be efficiently leveraged. However, a life independent of God is severely limited in its influence. He is positioning you for unprecedented leadership and influence. Now is the time to quit mourning your losses and move on. You have a new lease on life with the Lord, so follow His lead.

Watch Him take your “five loaves of bread and two fish” and multiply them far beyond your efforts and enthusiasm.

"They said to him, 'We have only five loaves here and two fish.' And he said, 'Bring them here to me.' Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds." (Matthew 14:17-19)

What God breaks, He rebuilds to be dependent on Him and more influential. This rebuilding process has simplified your life; so don’t revert to complicated living. Less is truly more.

If “more is more” is your motto, you can easily become mean-spirited and hard to live with. A “more is more” mantra eventually becomes meaningless. You achieve and receive more, but to what end? There is no fulfillment outside of Kingdom-minded motives. If it is all about you, you will become miserable. If, on the other hand, it is less of you and more of Him, everyone is happy. This is how God works.

"he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;"  (Luke 1:52)

Therefore, lower the volume of activity and wait in quietness. It may be time to talk less and listen more. The calming presence of Christ is priceless, so tap into His reservoir of renewal. Less worldly thinking and more heavenly thinking leads to discerning the will of God. Don’t just stand in awe of His robust accomplishments through your meager efforts. Now is the time to use this momentum generated by your Master. God is on a roll, and you have the privilege of joining Him. By faith, stop doing two things before you add one. Slow down so God can speed up. Focus on quality, and watch Him multiply the quantity. God wants to do more with less, so He gets the glory. Decrease, so He can increase. Less is more—less of you and more of Him.

"He must increase, but I must decrease."  (John 3:30)

What can you do less of so you can do more somewhere else?

Wisdom Hunters

May 16,2017
CRUSHED IN SPIRIT






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





Like many people when they first come to Christ, I was on fire for God in my early Christian walk. But then something happened that broke my heart. Consequently, the tenderness I had known between me and my Lord waned. Even though I was unable to verbalize it, in my heart of hearts, I felt God had let me down. One day I called a friend and said, “My relationship with Christ isn’t what it was. I can actually feel that something has changed inside me and I don’t know what’s wrong.”  

During this time, I kept attending church. And, if anyone would have asked me, I would have said that I loved Jesus—and I did. But my gentle affection for Him was replaced by something I couldn’t define. Now I know that my heart was hardened because of what I went through. I later learned that God’s people experienced something similar. In Scripture, God warned the Israelites not to harden their hearts toward Him as they had done during a time of testing.  

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion” (Hebrews 3:13) 

Just like God’s people, many of us can struggle with hardening our hearts when we go through something difficult.  

"And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, 'Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?'" (Mark 8:17-18)

In these verses Jesus sets out for us the symptoms of a hardened heart: the inability to see, the inability to understand, the inability to hear, and the inability to remember. Tragically a hardened heart makes us deaf, blind, and unperceiving to the things God wants us to know and understand. It robs us of the abundant life He intends for us. 

The heart is a commander, and the senses follow the heart’s lead. Once the heart is hardened, the senses follow suit. If the heart is soft, the senses will be open, pliable, and receptive. If the heart is hard, the senses will be hard also, making it difficult—if not impossible—to see and hear God. Hardness of heart causes us to block out God stuff that we should be taking in—like truth, direction from the Holy Spirit, and love.   

The great news is that God never leaves us, even when our love for Him wanes. And, He has promised to bind up your broken heart. Talk with Him about what you are going through today. 

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

If you feel that your relationship with God is suffering because of some loss that has happened in your life, talk with Him about your pain. Ask for His comfort and confess your unbelief. 

Wisdom Hunters

May 15, 2017
RESILIENT MOTHERS







Proverbs 31:26

"She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." 






My wife Carolyn and I were walking in a park one morning when we spotted a mother squirrel scurrying along a power line with her baby in her mouth. She delivered the little squirrel to a new nest she had built in a tree. Then she ran back across the wire to fetch another baby from the old nest and transport it to its new home. Back and forth she scampered until she had deposited all six of her babies in their new home. "Being a mother is hard work!" Carolyn mused.

Indeed it is. The labor to bring a child into the world is only the beginning. How essential it is that she take care of herself spiritually so she can take care of her children! Of all concerns, the care for her soul is the greatest-to grow in wisdom and in the knowledge of God.

Susanna Wesley was a busy mother with 19 children, yet she set aside time each day to meet with God. Some days she spent that time in a chair with her apron over her head, praying. Woe be to the child who disturbed her!

"Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.ced a high value on wisdom, kindness, and a respect for the Lord" (Proverbs 31:30)

Let's honor the women in our lives who share their wisdom, show us kindness, and who seek above all to honor the Lord.

David H. Roper

May 14, 2017 #2
MOTHER'S DAY






Exodus 20:12

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you."





A mother’s love for her children is one of the strongest and most mysterious forces in the world. It carries her through the pain of childbirth. It washes over her face as she smiles at her baby for the first time. It endures through exhausting days and sleepless nights, over the course of months and years. It is nurturing, faithful, protective, and sacrificial. And that is why it is also one of the clearest pictures of God’s love for us, his children.

A mother’s love is nurturing

It causes a baby to grow and develop in a way it could not on its own, and is exhibited in nearly everything a mother does to help her little child—feeding him, rocking him, changing him, talking to him, smiling at him. Consider the example of a mother’s smile. “After a mother has smiled at her child for many days and weeks, she finally receives the child’s smile in response,” writes Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. “She has awakened love in the heart of her child.” When a mother smiles at her infant, she gives a glimpse of an even bigger truth: that God has loved us from the very beginning, especially through his Son Jesus, and that God’s love awakens in us the potential for love. That is why the apostle John wrote, 

"We love because he first loved us."  (1 John 4:19)

A mother’s love is faithful

It stays up late nights with a screaming baby, days and weeks and months on end. It endures exhausting days of changing diapers and cleaning messes. It patiently persists in innumerable and unmentionable ways, even when no thanks are given in return. When a mother faithfully attends to the needs of her baby, she reminds us of an even bigger truth: that God will always do what he has said and fulfill what he has promised. We can take him at his word and rely upon him. His love endures through sleepless nights and exhausting days, in myriad and unmentionable ways.

"God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?" (Numbers 23:19)

A mother’s love is protective

With her infant, a mother is always on alert, waking up at the slightest sound, caring during times of sickness, guarding against potential harm. As the infant grows into childhood and, later, adolescence, she remains alert and continues to be protective. When a mother protects her children, she provides a glimpse of God’s promise to protect his children. Consider especially the way a mother protects a small child who might hurt herself touching a burner, falling down the stairs, or stepping out into the road. In that same way, God offers to save us, to protect us from our own sin and its consequences. That is why Scripture declares:

"The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."  (Psalm 18:2)

A mother’s love is sacrificial

More than anything, a mother’s love is sacrificial. A mother stretches herself literally and metaphorically, from the time of conception until the twilight of her own life. A mother never stops being a mother. In this way, a mother’s love teaches us the deepest and most profound truth about God: that God loved us enough to come to earth, take a human body, and sacrifice himself on the cross for us.

Why would he do that?

Unlike other religions, Christianity teaches that each of us is born with a tendency to sin. The very first couple—Adam and Eve—refused to recognize God as God, and, like them, we do the same. We refuse to recognize God as God and we break his law repeatedly. Because God is the universal King and ultimate Law-giver, our sins are mutinous; they represent an attempt to dethrone him and rewrite his laws. The Bible teaches that the just penalty for our law-breaking is death. Yet the Bible also teaches that God’s love for us, his children, is sympathetic and sacrificial. He does not want us to suffer the penalty of our sin. For that reason, he took on a human body and came to earth as Jesus. When he did that, he “traded places” with us. He lived the sinless life that we should have lived, and died the death that we deserve to die. He took our guilty record, died for it, and offers us his perfect record in return. That is why the apostle Paul declared that:

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  (Romans 8:1)

No mother is perfect. Every earthly mother will let us down. But we love our mothers for the good we have seen in them and received from their hands. We love them for the ways they have nurtured us, been faithful to us, protected us, and sacrificed for us. And we thank them that they—even if they are unaware—have provided us with a real, even if imperfect, picture of God’s love for us.

Bruce Ashford

 


Previous thoughts

May 14, 2017
HONOR MOM 





John 2:3
"When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine.'"





 
Jesus honored His mom though He had the power and prerogative to delay her request. She saw His newly recruited disciples and realized her little boy was now a man of God. She reflected on her Holy Spirit conception and the joy of bringing her son and Savior into the world. So, she asked her Lord for a miracle for the sake of someone else. He honored her by allowing the wedding celebration to continue without the disruption of running out of refreshments. Love is honorable.

 

Our moms are needy and they need us. They cared for our needs for many years. As an infant, they fed us, comforted us, and woke up in the middle of the night to calm our cries. As a child they taught us, disciplined us, and laughed at and with us. As a teenager, if they prayed, they prayed even more for our protection from ourselves. As an adult they want us to pray for them, keep up with them and honor them. Mothers filled with God remind us of His unselfish love. 

"As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem." (Isaiah 66:13) 

Has your mother made a direct or indirect request of you? Has she implied a need, but not come right out and verbalized it? Perhaps the Lord is calling you to honor her by helping her, or by helping someone she is concerned about. Some moms have the admirable quality of always looking out for others, even if it requires giving up something themselves. When your mom senses your undivided attention and authentic concern, she’ll open up about her cares. Honor listens. 

If your wife is a mom, how can you support her dreams and desires? How can you better partner with her in parenting? It honors your wife when you pray with her for your children. It honors her when you listen to her fears and support her in her stress. Being a mom is oh so fulfilling, but it is hard. You honor her by being with her to laugh and cry over the children. You honor her when you offer emotional support. Yes, you honor your mom most, when you live honorably before God. 

"Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice."   (Proverbs 23:25) 

How can you honor Mom or the mother of your children in a way that makes her feel loved?

Wisdom Hunters


Previous thoughts

May 13, 2017
FEAR





Psalm 34:4
"I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears." 




Before I met my husband, I was preparing to make an important decision that would deeply impact my future. Someone in my life cautioned me about taking a path I was considering. They warned me that this particular choice could harm me. They listed a bunch of bad things that could happen to me as a result.

This person had some pretty strong opinions about the choice I should make, but I felt God was leading me in another direction. The problem was that the more I listened to their predictions of disaster, the more fear I felt—and the more I doubted my ability to make a good decision. That’s when I sought counsel from a very godly friend who told me not to make any decision out of fear. Then she said something that has stuck with me ever since: “Wherever there is fear, there is control.”

"for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."  (2 Timothy 1:7)

A light bulb went on. That’s when it struck me that the desire of fear isn’t just to cause us to feel some uncomfortable emotion. The desire of fear is to control our very lives. The desire of fear is to put us in emotional bondage. The desire of fear us to keep us from doing God’s will.

I also realized that because fear wants to control, fear is pushy. I don’t mean that fear is always obvious and in your face. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s subtle and it creeps up on you. But it’s pushy because it pushes people to go when they should stay. It pushes people to stay when they should go. It pushes people to avoid rather than confront, or to run rather than remain. Fear is pushy. Wherever there is fear, there is control.

One of the ways fear tries to control us is through imagination, because fear thrives on what is imagined. Fear wants you to dwell on the horrible, awful things that could happen to you if you do this or that, or if another person does this or that to you, or if this or that happens in your future. Through imaginations fear attempts to control, because imaginations manipulate emotions. Maybe that’s why you’ve heard the acronym for fear. False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear is nothing but a lion without teeth.

This doesn’t mean that some fear isn’t healthy. Healthy fear keeps you from walking down a dark alley or driving faster than you should. Unhealthy fear is when you are worried, scared, or shaken by what you face, rather than trusting God.  Thankfully, the Lord has an answer for fear,  love. Remember, there is no imagination that is greater than God’s good will toward you. His love is greater than anything you could possibly fear or that could possibly happen to you.

Believing God’s love gives us courage.

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." (1 John 4:18)

It doesn’t just give us courage when we stand before Him after we die but every day of our lives as we face uncertainties and questions, changes and challenges on the road of life and making decisions about the future.

"By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world." (1 John 4:17)

God’s love gives us courage because we know He has our back. There is nowhere we can go, there is no decision we can make, there is no failure we can experience, or any problem we will encounter that God won’t be there to help.

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

Talk with the Lord about what you fear, and then confess His presence and sovereignty over your life.

Shana Schutte


May 12, 2017
FOLLOW HIM 






Luke 14:27

"Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple."





 
You follow Jesus because of His invitation and His worthiness. You follow Jesus because His way is the best way and because you are His disciples. You follow Jesus because there is none other who offers an abundant life on earth and eternal life in heaven. You follow the Lord because He leads you toward His will. He is worth following because He can be trusted; He will never lead you astray. The Lord’s leadership is perfect, potent, and practical. Therefore, pursue Him as a faithful follower. Do not hold back one ounce of obedience and loyalty to your leader, Jesus Christ. Where He leads you, follow. Where He sends you, go. His path will be painful at times, but it is in your pain that He purifies. Follow Him and you will be forever grateful, for He does not disappoint.
 

 

Follow Him through your difficult days. Do not give in to the temptation to quit. Where else is there to go? This is the insightful question Peter posed out of frustration:

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

It is in your adversity that you desire the Almighty. He is not occupied with a celestial distraction somewhere far away. He is still leading you through this valley of despair. Do not give up on Him, for He has not given up on you. He still lovingly leads even though your soul feels resistance. 

He will pull you through this present predicament. Use this time of challenge to strengthen your faith in Him. Stay behind Jesus, and depend on His wisdom and care. If He can handle the forces of hell, He can handle whatever circumstance is crushing your confidence. Follow Him through the fog of fear. He is just ahead and can be trusted without reservation.  Follow Him in your success.
 
These good days may be for a season, so shower all the glory of God over your accomplishments. Progress and positive results are cause for celebration and praise to the Lord. Make sure everyone knows that you answer to a higher authority in Almighty God. He is the reason for your financial rewards and your accolades from impressed onlookers. Success is meant to inspire us to follow Him with even more abandon and humility.
 
The momentum your Maker has given you is there to propel you ahead in faithfulness. Follow Him through this season of success so you will not be tempted to depend on self. Self-followers self-destruct. Jesus-followers, on the other hand, handle success with humility. Give God the glory during these good times. Leverage the Lord’s blessing for His Kingdom. Follow Him.
 

Lastly, follow Him and become fishers of men:

"And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men." (Mark 1:17)

Jesus is in the soul-saving business. So, as you follow the Lord you become very interested in His business. You take stock in saving souls because this is the industry of His Kingdom. His investments provide the greatest long-term return. You fish for men and women because your heavenly Father longs for their love and loyalty. You follow Him so others may follow Him. Follow Him so your family, friends, and foes may follow Him. Faithfully follow God, and you will inspire others to do the same. Disciples follow their wise and loving leader, Jesus. 

Where is the Lord leading you that has an uncertain outcome, but you are certain He desires for you to go there?

Wisdom Hunters


May 11, 2017
THE CRAFTSMAN'S TOUCH






Ephesians 2:10

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."





I recently saw a documentary about the making of a Steinway piano. It traced the meticulous care that goes into crafting this fine instrument. From the cutting of trees until the piano appears on a showroom floor, it goes through countless delicate adjustments by skilled craftsmen. When the year-long process is complete, accomplished musicians play the piano and often comment on how the same rich sounds could never be produced by a computerized assembly line. The secret to the final product is the craftsman's touch.

 

 

When the tabernacle was built, we see that God also valued the craftsman's touch. He chose the craftsman Bezalel and said of him: 

"I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood" (Exodus 31:3-5)

Today, God dwells in the hearts of believers. Yet the call to craftsmanship has not ended. Now each individual believer is God's "workmanship" The Master Craftsman is the Holy Spirit, who chips away at flaws in our character to make each of us like Jesus:

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:28-29)

And as we yield to His workmanship, we will find that the secret to the final product is the Craftsman's touch.

    The Spirit is the Craftsman
    Who makes us like the Son;
    He'll mold and shape our being
    Until His work is done. 
-Dave Sper

The Father gave us the Spirit to make us like His Son.

Dennis Fisher


May 10, 2017
NEVER GIVE UP





Jeremiah 1:5

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."





"Beware of giving up too soon. Our emotions are not reliable guides." -- John Piper

In 1986, John Piper nearly quit as minister of a large church. At that time he admitted in his journal: "I am so discouraged. I am so blank. I feel like there are opponents on every hand." But Piper didn't walk away, and God used him to lead a thriving ministry that would eventually reach far beyond his church.

 

 

Although success is a word easily misunderstood, we might call John Piper successful. But what if his ministry had never flourished? The Father yearns for everyone to turn to Him. God gave the prophet Jeremiah a direct call:

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you..."  (Jeremiah 1:5)

God encouraged him not to fear his enemies: 

"Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord."(Jeremiah 1:8)

Jeremiah later lamented his commission with ironic language for a man with a prenatal calling:

"Woe is me, my mother, that you bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me."  (Jeremiah 15:10)

God did protect Jeremiah, but his ministry never thrived. His people never repented. He saw them slaughtered, enslaved, and scattered. Yet despite a lifetime of discouragement and rejection, he never walked away. He knew that God didn't call him to success but to faithfulness. He trusted the God who called him. Jeremiah's resilient compassion shows us the heart of the Father, who yearns for everyone to turn to Him.

Do you sense a call from God? Where in your calling have you encountered discouragement? How do you define success, and how do you react to it when you experience it?

Tim Gustafson


May 4-9, 2017
GOD'S STRENGTH






Isaiah 41:10

"fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."





No one could have mistaken the ancient Babylonian soldiers for gentlemen. They were ruthless, resilient, and vicious, and they attacked other nations the way an eagle overtakes its prey. Not only were they powerful, they were prideful as well. They practically worshiped their own combat abilities. In fact, the Bible says that their "strength [was] their god":

"Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!" (Habakkuk 1:11)

God did not want this kind of self-reliance to infect Israel's forces as they prepared to battle the Midianites. So He told Gideon (Israel's army commander):

 

"You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, 'My own strength has saved me'" (Judges 7:2)

As a result, Gideon discharged anyone who was fearful. Twenty-two thousand men hightailed it home, while 10,000 fighters stayed. God continued to downsize the army until only 300 men remained:

"Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’ Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. And the LORD said to Gideon, 'The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, "This one shall go with you," shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, "This one shall not go with you, "shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, 'Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.' And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And the Lord said to Gideon, 'With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.'" (Judges 7:3-7)

 

Having fewer troops meant that Israel was dramatically outnumbered-their enemies, who populated a nearby valley, were as "thick as locusts"

 

"And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance." (Judges 7: 12)

 

Despite this, God gave Gideon's forces victory. At times, God may allow our resources to dwindle so that we rely on His strength to keep going. Our needs showcase His power, but He is the One who says:

"fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)

Gideon's life clearly illustrates God's strength and man's frailty. God used Gideon to accomplish a great military victory and through him brought 40 years of peace to Israel (Judges 6-7). But this story also teaches us about the danger of pride. The circumstances surrounding Israel's victory over Midian clearly show that God, not Gideon, was responsible for Israel's success. Yet Gideon's pride led him to accept gold and to erect a monument in his own honor that would later become an object of worship and a snare to him and his family:

"Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, 'Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.' Gideon said to them, 'I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.' And Gideon said to them, 'Let me make a request of you: every one of you give me the earrings from his spoil.' (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) And they answered, 'We will willingly give them.' And they spread a cloak, and every man threw in it the earrings of his spoil. And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels [42 pounds]  of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and besides the collars that were around the necks of their camels. And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family." (Judges 8:22-27)

God wants us to depend on His strength, not our own.

Jennifer Benson Schuldt  


May 3, 2017
HAVE YOU TRULY FORGIVEN YOURSELF?








Romans 8:1

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  








Have you forgiven yourself? Have you really forgiven yourself? We know we have forgiven ourselves if we are free from guilt and self-condemnation. Otherwise, we are stuck in the crazy cycle of re-living bad decisions that are done and cannot be changed. It is impossible to continually guilt our conscience in order to make up for past mistakes. 

When we do not release ourselves from previous indiscretions we try to make up for them by overcompensating in the present. Perhaps you neglected your child in their early years, and now as an older teenager, you’ve tried to make up for your absence by enabling their poor decisions. Instead, they need to experience the consequences of bad behavior while they are with you, so they can learn and grow into responsible adults and citizens. 

 

Jesus tells the story of a loving father who allowed his son to hit bottom, and as a consequence the son came to realize and take responsibility for his reality: 

"But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you."'" (Luke 15:17-18)

Forgiving yourself begins by embracing the truth that your heavenly Father has forgiven you. The grace of God is in abundant supply; no one is beyond its reach. The Lord loves you unconditionally, and He forgives the objects of His love. Has the grace of God seeped deep into your soul, so you know in your heart and mind that you are set free from the guilt and shame of sin? If not, forgive yourself and trust the Lord to make up for lost time. 

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,"  (Ephesians 1:7)

When you forgive yourself, you are able to forgive others. Self-forgiveness is a key to unlocking real relationships. Authentic community with Christ and Christians comes from forgiveness from your heavenly Father, forgiveness from others, and forgiveness from yourself. What have you not released yourself from in forgiveness? Lay it at the altar of God’s grace and He will extinguish it with His eternal fire of forgiveness and love. 

"This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  (Matthew 22:38-39)

When you love yourself—you forgive yourself! 

What area of your life do you need to allow God’s love, grace, and forgiveness to heal? 

Wisdom Hunters


May 1-2, 2017
TOUCH





Luke 5:13

"While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy.And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, 'Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, 'I will; be clean.' And immediately the leprosy left him."





Commuters on a Canadian Metro train witnessed a heart-moving conclusion to a tense moment. They watched as a 70-year old woman gently reached out and offered her hand to a young man whose loud voice and disturbing words were scaring other passengers.

The lady's kindness calmed the man who sank to the floor of the train with tears in his eyes. He said, "Thanks, Grandma," stood up, and walked away.

The woman later admitted to being afraid. But she said, "I'm a mother and he needed someone to touch." While better judgment might have given her reason to keep her distance, she took a risk of love.


Jesus understands such compassion. He didn't side with the fears of unnerved onlookers when a desperate man, full of leprosy, showed up begging to be healed. Neither was He helpless as other religious leaders were-men who could only have condemned the man for bringing his leprosy into the village:

"The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp."  (Leviticus 13:45-46)

Instead, Jesus reached out to someone who probably hadn't been touched by anyone for years, and healed him. Thankfully, for that man and for us, Jesus came to offer what no law could ever offer-the touch of His hand and heart.

A prayer:  Father in heaven, please help us to see ourselves and one another in that desperate man-and in the merciful eyes of Your Son who reached out and touched him.

Mart DeHaan