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 Posted October 19th, 2011 11:11 AM   IP              
Investing In The Future

Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. —Matthew 6:20

Jason Bohn was a college student when he made a hole-in-one golf shot that won him a million dollars. While others may have squandered that money, Bohn had a plan. Wanting to be a pro golfer, he used the money as a living-and-training fund to improve his golf skills. The cash became an investment in his future—an investment that paid off when Bohn won the PGA Tour’s 2005 B.C. Open. Bohn’s decision to invest in the future instead of living for the moment was a wise one indeed.

In a sense, that is what Jesus calls us to do. We have been entrusted with resources—time, ability, opportunity— and we decide how to use them. Our challenge is to see those resources as an opportunity to invest long-term. “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” is how Jesus put it in Matthew 6:20. Those protected treasures cannot be destroyed nor taken away, Jesus assures us.

Think of your resources: talent, time, knowledge. These are temporal and limited. But if you invest them with an eye toward eternity, these temporary things can have enduring impact. What is your focus? Now or forever? Invest in the future. It will not only have an eternal impact, but it will also change the way you view life each day.



Whatever is done in love for Christ
Will one day have heaven’s reward;
Today let’s do what we can for Him,
Our loving Savior and Lord. —Hess

The richest people on earth
are those who invest their lives in heaven.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted October 21st, 2011 12:45 PM   IP              
One Heart At A Time

. . . no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother. —Philemon 1:16

Quaker John Woolman was an itinerant preacher who waged his own personal campaign to end slavery in colonial America. Woolman met with slave-holders to speak of the injustice of holding other human beings as property. Although Woolman did not eradicate slavery completely, he did persuade many masters to free their slaves. His success was due to individual, personal persuasion.

The book of Philemon contains a similar one-on-one appeal. Onesimus was a runaway slave who had escaped from his Christian master Philemon. Onesimus had come to faith through Paul’s ministry, and now Paul was sending him back to Philemon with these words: “Perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother” (vv.15-16). Although we don’t know if Onesimus was set free from slavery, his new faith in Jesus had changed his relationship with his Christian master. He was now also a brother in Christ. Paul was influencing his world one heart at a time.

By the transforming power of the gospel, people and situations can change. Like Woolman and like Paul, let’s seek to influence our world one heart at a time.



If I can help some wounded heart,
If I can by my love impart
Some blessing that will help more now—
Lord, just show me how. —Brandt

The kindest thing you can do for another is to show him the truth.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted October 22nd, 2011 10:44 AM   IP              
So Long

[Do not] sorrow as others who have no hope. —1 Thessalonians 4:13

My grandfather refused to say “goodbye”; he felt the word was too final. So, when we would drive away after family visits, his farewell ritual was always the same. Standing in front of the green ferns that lined his house, he would wave and call out, “So long”!

As believers, we never have to say “goodbye” to the ones we love, as long as they have placed their trust in Jesus as Savior. The Bible promises that we will see them again.

The apostle Paul said that we should not “sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13), because when Jesus returns, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves and—together with the believers who are still alive—will meet the Lord in the air (vv.15-17). We have confidence that one day in heaven there will be “no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying” (Rev. 21:4). It’s in that wonderful place that “we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).

Christians have the hope of an eternal reunion with Christ and with believing loved ones who have passed away. That’s why Paul exhorted us to “comfort one another with these words” (v.18). Today, encourage someone with the hope that allows us to say “so long,” instead of “goodbye.”



Beyond the sunset, O glad reunion
With our dear loved ones who’ve gone before;
In that fair homeland we’ll know no parting—
Beyond the sunset forevermore. —Brock

At death, God’s people don’t say “Goodbye,”
but “We’ll see you later.”



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted October 23rd, 2011 02:01 PM   IP              
He Guards Me Well

I lay down My life for the sheep. —John 10:15

During the quiet moments before a Sunday morning service, the organist played a hymn that was new to me. I turned to the page noted in the hymnal and read the words of the song “The Lord My Shepherd Guards Me Well,” a beautiful paraphrase of Psalm 23:

The Lord my Shepherd guards me well,
And all my wants are fed:
Amid green pastures made to lie,
Beside still waters led.
My care-worn soul grows strong and whole
When God’s true path I tread.

No matter how often we read or hear the familiar 23rd Psalm, it seems to come with a fresh message of God’s care for us.

Though I should walk in darkest ways
Through valleys like the grave,
No evil shall I ever fear;
Your presence makes me brave.
On my behalf Your rod and staff
Assure me You will save. (© Hope Publishing Co.)

This image was familiar to the people who heard Jesus say, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Unlike a hired person who runs away from danger, the true shepherd stays with the sheep to protect them. “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd . . . sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees . . . . I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep” (vv.12-14).

No matter what you’re facing today, Jesus knows your name, He knows the danger, and He will not leave your side. You can say with confidence: The Lord my Shepherd guards me well!

The Lamb who died to save us
is the Shepherd who lives to lead us.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted October 25th, 2011 02:06 PM   IP              
Poetic Justice

“Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. —Romans 12:19

For nearly a year, a former publishing colleague lived under a cloud of fear that he would be fired. A new boss in the department, for reasons unknown, began filling his personnel file with negative comments. Then, on the day my friend expected to lose his job, the new boss was fired instead.

When the Israelites were taken as captives to Babylon, a Jew named Mordecai found himself in this kind of situation. Haman, the highest noble of King Xerxes, expected every royal official to kneel down and honor him, but Mordecai refused to bow to anyone but God (Est. 3:1-2). This outraged Haman and he set out to destroy not only Mordecai but every Jew in the whole Persian empire (vv.5-6). Haman convinced Xerxes to sign a decree authorizing the destruction of all Jews and started building a gallows for the execution of Mordecai (5:14). But, in a startling turn of events, Haman was executed on the gallows he had built for Mordecai, and the Jewish people were spared (7:9-10; 8).

In literature, this is called poetic justice. Not everyone gets justice in such dramatic fashion, but Scripture promises that God will one day avenge all injustice (Rom. 12:19). While we wait, we are to do what we can to work for justice and leave the results in God’s hands.



The call for justice must be strong
To show what’s right, to thwart what’s wrong,
But let’s reject the smallest part
Of vengeance harbored in the heart. —D. De Haan

The scales of Divine justice always balance—
if not here, then hereafter.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted October 26th, 2011 08:46 PM   IP              
Divine Appointments

Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. —Acts 16:25

Have you ever been stuck in an airport? For 24 hours? In a city where you can’t speak the language? Four thousand miles from home?

It happened to a friend recently, and we can learn from his response. While most of us would find such an inconvenience intolerable, my friend John saw God’s hand in his delay. As he waited out his forced stay, he looked for opportunities to connect with fellow passengers. He “happened” to find some fellow Christians from India—and in talking to them he heard about a ministry they were involved with. In fact, because John’s interests matched his new friends’ ministry, they invited him to India to participate in a short-term project.

How often do we experience delays, changes of plans, and redirections and treat them as intrusions? It could be that God is detouring us so we can do something different or new for Him. Consider Paul’s trip to Philippi in Acts 16. He had gone to Macedonia because of a God-directed vision (vv.9-10). How could he know that he would end up in prison there? But even that trip to jail was God-led, because He used Paul to bring salvation to a jailer and his family (vv.25-34).

God can use inconveniences in our lives if we look at them as divine appointments.



“Disappointment—His appointment,”
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God’s better choice for me. —Young

God can turn obstacles into opportunities.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted October 28th, 2011 11:38 AM   IP              
Why Me?

The secret things belong to the Lord our God. —Deuteronomy 29:29

Recently I read Psalm 131, one of my favorite psalms. In the past, I viewed it as an encouragement to understand that mystery is one of the hallmarks of God’s character. It challenged me to let my mind be at rest, since I am unable to understand all that God is doing in His universe.

But then I saw another side of David’s calm spirit: I am unable to understand all that God is doing in me, and it is impossible to try.

David draws a comparison between a weaned child that no longer frets for what it once demanded, and a soul that has learned the same lesson. It is a call to learn humility, patient endurance, and contentment in all my circumstances—whatever they are—though I do not understand God’s reasons. Divine logic is beyond the grasp of my mind.

I ask, “Why this affliction? Why this anguish?” The Father answers, “Hush, child. You wouldn’t understand if I explained it to you. Just trust Me!”

So, I turn from contemplating David’s example to ask myself: Can I, in my circumstances, “hope in the Lord”? (v.3). Can I wait in faith and patience without fretting and without questioning God’s wisdom? Can I trust Him while He works in me His good, acceptable, and perfect will?



It may not be for me to see
The meaning and the mystery
Of all that God has planned for me
Till “afterward”! —Anon.

In a world of mystery, it’s a comfort
to know the God who knows all things.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted October 29th, 2011 01:50 PM   IP              
The Right Ingredients

Always be ready to give a defense . . . with meekness. —1 Peter 3:15

Although my culinary skills remain undeveloped, occasionally I use a box of premixed ingredients to make a cake. After adding eggs, vegetable oil, and water, I stir it all together. To bake a palate-pleasing cake, it’s vital to have the correct balance of the right ingredients. That helps me picture the relationship of the greatest commandment (Matt. 22:36-38) and the Great Commission (28:19-20) as we spread the gospel.

When Jesus told His followers to go and make disciples of all nations, He did not give them permission to be rude and uncaring as they did so. His own citing of the “first and great commandment”—to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind—was quickly followed by the call to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39). Throughout the New Testament, we find this model of compassionate, respectful living restated many places, including “the love chapter” (1 Cor. 13) and Peter’s instruction to give a reason for the hope within us “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV).

In our eagerness to share Christ with others, we must always include a healthy balance of those two ingredients—the true gospel and godly love. This wonderfully sweet cake bakes best in the warmth of God’s love.



Lord, help me to love with both words and deeds,
To reach out to sinners and meet their needs;
Lord, burden my heart for those lost in sin,
With mercy and love that flows from within. —Fitzhugh

They witness best who witness with their lives.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted October 30th, 2011 01:40 PM   IP              
Father Of Lies

When [the devil] speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. —John 8:44

Satan’s sway over mankind began when he turned the minds of Adam and Eve against God. In order to pull it off, he had to lie to them about God—and they had to fall for it. In that defining moment, he lied to them about God’s goodness, God’s Word, and God’s intentions (Gen. 3:1-6).

Satan is still up to his old tricks. Jesus said that when the devil “speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar” (John 8:44). It should not be surprising, then, that when trouble interrupts our lives, the father of lies whispers in our ears and suddenly we are questioning God’s goodness. When we are told to follow His commands, we wonder if His Word is really true in the first place. When Jesus tells us things like, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matt. 6:19), Satan tells us that the good life is about piling up things here, causing us to doubt God’s good intentions.

Our problem is that we, like Adam and Eve, believe Satan’s lies. And when we do, our loyalty to God is compromised. Then our enemy slithers off to his next assignment, leaving us alone to face our regrets and the realization that his lies have seduced us away from our truest and dearest Friend. Who have you been listening to lately?



Satan can catch you by surprise
And stop you in your tracks,
So keep on guard and trust God’s Word,
Resist his strong attacks. —Branon

The power of Satan is no match for the power of God’s Word.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted October 31st, 2011 11:42 AM   IP              
Surprise!

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! —John 1:29

A writer for The Washington Post conducted an experiment to test people’s perception. He asked a famous violinist to perform incognito at a train station in the nation’s capital one January morning. Thousands of people walked by as he played, but only a few stopped to listen. After 45 minutes, just $32 had been dropped into the virtuoso’s open violin case. Two days earlier, this man—Joshua Bell—had used the same $3.5 million Stradivarius for a sold-out concert where people paid $100 a seat to hear him perform.

The idea of a person not being recognized for his greatness isn’t new. It happened to Jesus. “He was in the world,” John said, “. . . and the world did not know Him” (John 1:10). Why did people who had been expecting the Messiah give Jesus such a cold reception? One reason is that they were surprised. Just as people today don’t expect famous musicians to play in railway stations, the people in Jesus’ day didn’t expect Messiah to be born in a stable. They also expected Him to be a political king—not the head of a spiritual kingdom.

The people in the first century were blinded to God’s purpose in sending Jesus to this world. He came to save people from their sins (John 1:29). Receive God’s surprising gift of salvation that He offers freely to you today.



Amazing thought! that God in flesh
Would take my place and bear my sin;
That I, a guilty, death-doomed soul,
Eternal life might win! —Anon.

God broke into human history to offer us the gift of eternal life.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted November 2nd, 2011 12:29 PM   IP              
Mouth Guard

The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness. —Proverbs 15:2

I was walking in a subway in Minsk, Belarus, with my friend Yuliya and her daughter Anastasia when I suddenly fell face first onto the dirty concrete floor. I don’t remember the fall, but I do remember suddenly having a mouth filled with sand, gravel, and grit. Ugh! I couldn’t get that stuff out of my mouth quickly enough!

I didn’t enjoy what went into my mouth on that embarrassing occasion. But Scripture teaches that it’s more important to guard what comes out of our mouths. When the writer of Proverbs 15 said that “the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness” (v.2), the word translated pours forth literally means “explodes out.” Rash accusations, angry words, and verbal abuse can do immeasurable and lifelong harm. The apostle Paul spoke bluntly about this: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth” (Eph. 4:29)—no dirty talk. He also said to “[put] away lying” and to “speak truth” (v.25)—no lies. And later, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you” (v.31)—no character assassination. What comes out of our mouths should be wholesome and uplifting.

We guard carefully what goes into our mouths—and rightly so. To honor God, let’s also keep tight control on the words that come out of our mouths.



Lord, help us to control our tongues,
To clean up what we say,
To use words that will edify,
To honor You today. —Sper

Be careful of your thoughts—they may become words at any time.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted November 4th, 2011 01:31 PM   IP              
Lambs May Wade

All Scripture . . . is profitable. —2 Timothy 3:16

Author C. S. Lewis says that reli- gious concepts are like soups—some are thick and some are clear. There are indeed “thick” concepts in the Bible: mysteries, subtleties, and complexities that challenge the most accomplished mind. For example, “[God] has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens” (Rom. 9:18). And yet, in the same volume there are thoughts that are crystal “clear”: simple, attainable, and easily grasped. What could ever surpass the simplicity of the clear affirmation in 1 John 4:16, “God is love”?

John Cameron, a 15th-century writer, suggests, “In the same meadow, the ox may lick up grass, . . . the bird may pick up seeds, . . . and a man finds a pearl; so in one and the same Scripture are varieties to be found for all sorts of conditions. In them, the lamb may wade, and the elephant swim, children may be fed with milk, and meat may be had for stronger men.”

All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in God’s Book, the Bible—ocean depths that can stir the most sophisticated mind, and shallow areas that can be negotiated by any simple, honest soul.

Why hesitate? “All Scripture . . . is profitable” (2 Tim. 3:16). Jump in!



Thy Word is like a deep, deep mine,
And jewels rich and rare
Are hidden in its mighty depths
For every searcher there. —Hodder

God speaks through His Word—take time to listen.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted November 5th, 2011 01:08 PM   IP              
Peace In Crisis

Peace I leave with you. —John 14:27

Ted, one of the elders in our church, used to be a police officer. One day after responding to a report of violence, he said the situation turned life-threatening. A man had stabbed someone and then menacingly turned the blade toward Ted. A fellow officer had taken position and fired his weapon at the assailant as he attacked Ted. The criminal was subdued, but Ted was shot in the crossfire. As he was driven by ambulance to the hospital, he felt deep waves of peace flowing over his soul from the Holy Spirit. Ted felt so tranquil that he was able to offer words of comfort to the law enforcement officer who was emotionally distraught over the crisis.

The Lord Jesus promised us peace in crisis. Just hours before His own crucifixion, Christ comforted His disciples with these words: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

What is your worst fear? If you should have to face it, Christ will be there with you. Trusting Him through prayer makes available “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,” and it “will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).



O the blessedness to nestle
Like a child upon His breast;
Finding ever, as He promised
Perfect comfort, peace, and rest. —Hennessay

The secret of peace is to give every anxious care to God.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted November 6th, 2011 11:55 AM   IP              
Mighty Waters

His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters. —Revelation 1:15

While in Brazil, I went to see Iguazu Falls, one of the greatest waterfalls in the world. The massive falls are breathtaking, but what impressed me most at Iguazu was not the sight of the falls or the spray of the water. It was the sound. The sound was beyond deafening—I felt as if I was actually inside the sound itself. It was an overwhelming experience that reminded me how small I am by comparison.

Later, with this scene in mind, I couldn’t help but think about John in Revelation 1:15. While on the island of Patmos, he saw a vision of the risen Christ. The apostle described Jesus in the glory of His resurrection, noting both His clothing and His physical qualities. Then John described Christ’s voice “as the sound of many waters” (v.15).

I’m not sure I fully appreciated what that meant until I visited Iguazu and was overwhelmed by the thundering sound of the falls. As those mighty waters reminded me of my own smallness, I better understood why John fell at the feet of Christ as if dead (v.17).

Perhaps that description will help you grasp the awesomeness of Jesus’ presence and prompt you to follow John’s example of worshiping the Savior.



Pay honor to our marvelous Savior—
Daily His wonders proclaim;
Dwell always in the presence of Jesus,
And worship His holy name. —Branon

True worship of Christ changes admiration into adoration.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted November 7th, 2011 12:03 PM   IP              
Plowing Straight Lines

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 3:14

It’s my first day on the tractor! A crisp morning breeze brushes across the field. Crickets and country silence yield to the roar of the engine. Dropping the plow into the soil, I head out across the field. I look down at the gauges and gearshift, squeeze the cold steel of the steering wheel, and admire the power at my disposal. Finally, I look back to view the results. Instead of the ramrod straight line I was expecting, I see what looks like a slithering snake, with more bends and curves than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

We know better. “Plow with your eye on the fence post,” we’ve been told. By staying focused on a point across the field, a person plowing is assured of a straight line. On the return I comply, with telling results: The line is straight. The row was messed up only when I didn’t have a focus point.

Paul had similar wisdom when he wrote of having his focus on Jesus Christ and the impact it had on him. Not only did he ignore distractions (Phil. 3:8,13), he set the focus (vv.8,14), noted the result (vv.9-11), and observed the pattern it sets for others (vv.16-17).

Like Paul, if we focus on Christ, we will plow a straight path and accomplish God’s purpose in our lives.



Lord, help us keep our eyes on You
And focused on the task
Of bringing glory to Your name
By doing what You ask. —Sper

When you keep your eyes on Christ,
everything will come into focus.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted November 8th, 2011 01:04 PM   IP              
What A Great Neighborhood

For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. —Romans 14:17

Where you live has a way of making certain demands on how you live. In my neighborhood, the garbage collector comes on Tuesday mornings, so it’s my responsibility to get our garbage can out to the curb the night before. Letting the trash pile up on the curb for days before doesn’t make for happy neighbors. And we have lots of children playing outside, so signs are posted everywhere reminding drivers to slow down. That means I drive slowly and watch for little ones who, without looking, chase wayward balls into the street.

It’s important to remember that God has placed us into the “kingdom of the Son” (Col. 1:13). Living in His neighborhood means there are life-transforming behavior patterns that should clearly reflect our spiritual location. This is why Paul reminds us that God’s kingdom is not about arguing and bickering over earthly stuff but about “righteousness and peace and joy” (Rom. 14:17). Living by God’s right standards, living to be a peacemaker, and living to be a source of joy in our relationships are what kingdom life is all about. And, when we live like this, our lives please God and bless others (v.18).

Sounds like the kind of neighborhood anyone would love to live in!



The world gets a glimpse of God
When those who claim to be
The followers of Jesus Christ
Are living righteously. —Sper

If you’re part of the kingdom of God,
it will make a difference in how you live.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted November 10th, 2011 01:02 PM   IP              
It’s All About Him

He must increase, but I must decrease. —John 3:30

When Sheri got engaged, her single friend Amy celebrated with her. She planned a bridal shower, helped pick out her wedding dress, walked down the aisle just before her, and stood by her side during the ceremony. When Sheri and her husband had children, Amy gave baby showers and rejoiced in her friend’s blessings.

Sheri told Amy later, “You’ve comforted me during hard times, but the way I especially know you love me is that you rejoice with me in my good times. You haven’t let any jealousy hold you back from celebrating with me.”

When John’s disciples heard that a new rabbi named Jesus was gaining followers, they thought John might be jealous (John 3:26). They came to him and said, “He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!” But John celebrated Jesus’ ministry. He said, “I have been sent before Him. . . . The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled” (vv.28-29).

An attitude of humility should also characterize us. Rather than desiring attention for ourselves, everything we do should bring glory to our Savior. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (v.30).



Not I but Christ be honored, loved, exalted;
Not I but Christ be seen, be known, be heard;
Not I but Christ in every look and action;
Not I but Christ in every thought and word. —Whiddington

If we want an increase of Christ, there must be a decrease of self.



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 Posted November 11th, 2011 01:28 PM   IP              
True Security

In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. —Romans 8:37

During the Cold War—a period of unrest between major world powers in the last half of the 20th century—Americans lived under the threat of nuclear war. I recall that during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, we seemed to be a heartbeat away from annihilation. It was heady stuff for a sixth-grader.

One of my strangest memories of those turbulent times was the school safety drill. An alarm would sound, and we would hide under our desks—for protection from atomic bombs. Looking back, I’m certain it wouldn’t have helped us in the event of a nuclear holocaust. It may have even given us a false sense of security.

While we may not face the same level of nuclear threat today, there are still many dangers that scare us—and some of them are spiritual. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our battles are “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” These are mighty foes indeed, but God has given us His protective love (Rom. 8:35,38-39) and the spiritual resources of His armor (Eph. 6:13-17).

The result? While we face powerful enemies, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37). In our heavenly Father, we have true security.



Though danger lurks on every side,
In Christ our Lord we will abide;
Our God is strong, our hope is sure—
In Him alone we are secure! —Fitzhugh

Safety is not found in the absence of danger,
but in the presence of God.



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 Posted November 12th, 2011 12:35 PM   IP              
The Road To Blessing

So [Moses] cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. —Exodus 15:25

Robyn and Steve have a counseling ministry that provides very little income. Recently, a family crisis forced them to embark on a 5,000-mile round trip in their well-used minivan.

After attending to the crisis, they started back to Michigan. While about 2,000 miles from home, their van began to sputter and stall. A mechanic looked at it and told them, “It’s done. You need a new engine.”

Unable to afford one, they had no choice but to coax the van home. Three days, a case of oil, and a lot of prayers later, they miraculously limped into their driveway. Then they heard of a “car missionary” who assisted people in ministry. Amazed that the van had made it, he offered to replace the engine free of charge. If Steve had gotten the van fixed en route, it would have cost him thousands of dollars he didn’t have.

In Exodus 15, the Israelites were led by God into the desert. Three days into their trip, they ran out of water and had no way to get it. But God knew about the problem. In fact, a solution awaited them in Marah (v.25) and Elim (v.27). God not only fixed their water problem but also provided a place to rest.

Even when our situation looks difficult, we can trust that God is leading. He already knows what we’ll need when we get there.



I know not by what methods rare
The Lord provides for me;
I only know that all my needs
He meets so graciously. —Adams

Facing an impossibility gives us the opportunity to trust God.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted November 14th, 2011 12:35 PM   IP              
Grieving From A To Z

Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion. —Lamentations 3:32

Jerusalem was engulfed in flames, and the prophet Jeremiah wept. His prediction of divine judgment had largely gone unheeded. Now his terrible prophecy had come to pass with horrifying vividness. The short book of Lamentations records the prophet’s grieving process over the destruction of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah organized the book around the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, using a technique of alphabetic acrostics to aid the reader in memorizing the passages more easily. But using this technique also shows that he didn’t cut short his grieving process. He took deliberate and intentional time to reflect upon and even to write down his heartbreak. You might say he was learning to grieve from A to Z.

In the midst of his grief, the comfort of God surfaced. Reminders of God’s sovereignty and goodness gave the prophet hope as he faced the future: “The Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies” (Lam. 3:31-32).

If you’ve recently experienced a painful loss, remember to take adequate time to grieve and to reflect upon God’s goodness. Then you will be able to experience His comfort and hope for the future.



To experience God’s comfort
While you’re suffering with grief,
Try to focus on God’s goodness,
And He’ll bring your heart relief. —Sper

God allows sorrows and tears today
to open our hearts to the joys of tomorrow.



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 Posted November 18th, 2011 12:50 PM   IP              
Becoming Bilingual

In Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, “For we are also His offspring.” —Acts 17:28

Is it possible—in a society that seems increasingly indifferent to the gospel—to communicate the Good News to people who don’t share our faith?

One way to connect with people who are unfamiliar with the things of Christ is to become culturally “bilingual.” We do this by communicating in ways people can easily relate to. Knowing about and discussing music, film, sports, and television, for example, can offer just such an opportunity. If people hear us “speak their language,” without endorsing or condoning the media or events we refer to, it could open the door to sharing the timeless message of Christ.

Paul gave us an example of this in Acts 17. While visiting the Areopagus in Athens, he spoke to a thoroughly secular culture by quoting pagan Greek poets as a point of reference for the spiritual values he sought to communicate. He said, “In Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring’” (Acts 17:28). Just as Paul addressed that culture by knowing what they were reading, we may have greater impact for the gospel by relating it to people in terms they can readily embrace.

Are you trying to reach a neighbor or a co-worker with the gospel? Try becoming bilingual.



To earn your neighbor’s ear
And prove you really care,
Use terms he understands
To show you are aware. —Branon

The content of the Bible must be
brought into contact with the world.


"SO True" today

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 Posted November 20th, 2011 11:26 AM   IP              
A Family Trait

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

There’s an old Sunday school song that periodically comes back to my mind. Its words testify to the blessing of the peace that Jesus so generously gives: “I have the peace that passes understanding down in my heart—down in my heart to stay!”

There is something missing in that well-intentioned song, however. The peace of God is truly a gift we enjoy in our hearts as we fellowship in His presence (John 14:27; 16:33). But He never intended for us to keep all of that peace to ourselves. Peace is a gift to be shared with those around us. As Christians, it should mark our relationships and characterize the environment of our churches.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matt. 5:9), which indicates that we are to be intentional about bringing peace to our relationships. Since we are prone to be troublemakers instead of peacemakers, this is important advice. So, what does peacemaking look like? Peacemakers are those who turn the other cheek (v.39), go the extra mile (v.41), and love their enemies while praying for those who persecute them (v.44).

Why should we do this? Because God is a peacemaker, and when we make peace we are “called sons of God” (v.9). Peacemaking is a family trait.



Lord, thank You for the peace we have down in our
hearts. And that we can be peacemakers with others
through our attitude, words, and deeds.
Help me to show Your mercy and peace. Amen.

Because of the peace of God and peace with God,
we can be peacemakers for God.



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 Posted November 22nd, 2011 11:50 AM   IP              
Unexpressed Gratitude

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! . . . Let the redeemed of the Lord say so. —Psalm 107:1-2

The whole reason for saying thanks is to let the giver of a gift know how much you appreciate something. Author G. B. Stern once said, “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”

When our son was young, he sometimes needed to be reminded that avoiding eye contact, looking down at his feet, and mumbling some unintelligible words was not an acceptable “thank you.” And after many years of marriage, my husband and I are still learning that it’s important for us to continually express our gratitude to each other. When one of us feels appreciative, we try to verbalize it—even if we’ve said it many times before about the same thing. William Arthur Ward said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

Showing our gratitude is obviously important in human relationships, but it’s even more essential in our relationship with God. As we think about the many blessings we have received, do we express our thanks to Him throughout the day? And when we think of the amazing gift of His death and resurrection for forgiveness of our sins, do our hearts bubble over with awe and thanksgiving? (Rom. 6:23; 2 Cor. 9:15).

Take the reminder in Psalm 107:1 to heart each day: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!”



How great should be our gratitude
To God our unseen Friend!
The volume of His gifts to us
We cannot comprehend. —Hess

God’s highest Gift should awaken our deepest gratitude.



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 Posted November 27th, 2011 02:44 PM   IP              
Feeling Poor?

I am poor and needy. —Psalm 86:1

In one way or another, we can all relate to Psalm 86:1 where David says, “I am poor and needy.” Even the richest among us should understand that poverty and need relate more to the spirit than to the wallet. When billionaire Rich DeVos speaks to groups he often says, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.”

Psalm 86 tells us that the help God provides is not measured by a monetary ledger sheet. When we acknowledge that we are poor and needy, it’s not so God will lavish material riches on us. No, we do so to open the door to other, more valuable treasures.

Here’s what God does for the poor and needy. He will “preserve” our lives and “save” all those who trust in Him (v.2). He will be “merciful” and “ready to forgive” (vv.3,5). He will listen to and answer prayer (vv.6-7).

But we’re not to take God’s blessings without giving back. We have a responsibility to learn God’s ways, walk in His truth, “fear [God’s] name,” praise the Lord, and “glorify [His] name” (vv.11-12).

Do you consider yourself among the “poor and needy”? If so, welcome to the club. Let’s not forget all the spiritual blessings God has for us and the godly response we should have toward His generosity.



We’re thankful for the blessings, Lord,
You give us day by day;
Now help us show our gratitude
By walking in Your way. —Sper

The poorest man is he whose only wealth is money.



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 Posted December 2nd, 2011 11:47 AM   IP              
Never Too Busy

The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. —Psalm 145:18

College students rent a house from my sister and her husband. One night, a thief attempted to break in. When the young woman living there called the police to tell them that a break-in was in progress, the operator responded in an unusual way: “You’ll have to call back in the morning. We’re just too busy right now.” That response was very disturbing! The young woman had done the right thing by calling the police, but for some reason her plea for help was disregarded. That kind of indifference is upsetting.

But indifference never happens when we go to God in prayer. We may not always feel that God is listening, but He is. He cares, and He will respond. The Bible reminds us that we can take comfort in the fact that our God is deeply concerned with what concerns our hearts: “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” (Ps. 145:18). When we call out to Him, we will never get a disinterested response.

Rather than distancing Himself from us when we cry to Him, our heavenly Father draws close to us in our time of need. He is never too busy for His child’s prayers—He hears us when we call.



For answered prayer we thank You, Lord,
We know You’re always there
To hear us when we call on You;
We’re grateful for Your care. —Branon

You’ll never get a busy signal on the prayer line to heaven.



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 Posted December 10th, 2011 05:06 PM   IP              
Risky Business

Then Joseph . . . did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. —Matthew 1:24

On some of the Christmas cards you will receive this year, no doubt there will be a man standing in the background looking over the shoulder of Mary, who is prominently displayed caring for the baby Jesus. His name is Joseph. And after the nativity narratives, he isn’t heard from much again. If we didn’t know better, we would think Joseph was an insignificant bystander or, at best, a mere necessity to undergird Jesus’ claim to the throne of David.

But, in fact, the role that Joseph played was strategically important. If he had disobeyed the angel’s command to take Mary as his wife (Matt. 1:20), he would have, from a human perspective, put the entire mission of Jesus at risk. Taking Mary as his wife was a risky assignment. Public perception that he was the baby’s father put him in serious violation of Jewish law and made him a public disgrace. Yet today all of us are thankful that he was willing to risk his reputation to participate in and facilitate God’s unfolding drama.

Most of us are insignificant compared to the major players in this world. But all of us are called to obey. Who knows what God has in store when we are willing to surrender to God’s will—even when it puts us at risk!



When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey. —Sammis

It’s no small thing to trust and obey.



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 Posted December 11th, 2011 12:13 PM   IP              
Breathtaking

A man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life. —Ecclesiastes 8:15

A popular slogan says, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” I see the phrase everywhere, on everything from T-shirts to pieces of art. It’s a catchy phrase, but I think it’s misleading.

If we measure life by breathtaking moments, we miss the wonder of ordinary moments. Eating, sleeping, and breathing seem “ordinary” in that we do them every day, usually without much thought. But they are not ordinary at all. Every bite and every breath are miracles. In fact, having breath is more miraculous than anything that takes our breath away.

King Solomon may have had more breathtaking moments than anyone. He said, “I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure” (Eccl. 2:10). But he expressed cynicism about it by saying, “All of it is meaningless” (v.17 NIV).

Solomon’s life reminds us that it’s important to find joy in “ordinary” things, for they are indeed wonderful. Bigger is not always better. More is not always an improvement. Busier doesn’t make us more important.

Rather than look for meaning in breathtaking moments, we should find meaning in every breath we take, and make every breath meaningful.



All that I want is in Jesus;
He satisfies, joy He supplies;
Life would be worthless without Him,
All things in Jesus I find. —Loes

Breathing is more miraculous than anything
that takes our breath away.



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 Posted December 12th, 2011 05:06 PM   IP              
A Growing Belligerence

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. —Romans 12:18

On a recent trip, the flight attendant asked if I flew very often. When I said I did, he asked, “Have you noticed people on planes becoming increasingly more belligerent and aggressive in recent months?” I had to confess that I agreed with him. We began talking about what might be contributing to it—things like increased airport security, higher costs, fewer services, and a general dissatisfaction with travel. As if to prove the point, our conversation was interrupted by a passenger who refused to sit in his assigned seat because he liked someone else’s seat assignment better!

When we encounter anger and belligerence, the follower of Christ can be a peacemaker. Paul wrote to the church at Rome with this challenge, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18). What does that mean? For one thing, it means that we must control what we can control. We can’t control the attitudes of others, but we can control our response.

When we see angry or hostile attitudes displayed around us, we can show the heart of the Prince of Peace by responding graciously in a peaceful manner. In this way we will demonstrate the attitude of our Savior in a world filled with a growing belligerence.



Sometimes in a conversation
Words of anger can be heard;
If in peace we can defuse it,
We are living by God’s Word. —Hess

The world needs a peace that passes all misunderstanding.



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 Posted December 13th, 2011 03:28 PM   IP              
Free Pizza!

I am the bread which came down from heaven. —John 6:41

Money is tight when you’re a college student. So when free food is available, students will show up anytime, anywhere. If a company wants to recruit new employees, it will entice young people on college campuses to come to a presentation by offering free pizza. Some students attend presentation after presentation—just for the pizza. The food in the present seems to be more important than the job for the future.

Jesus fed a crowd of 5,000, and the next day many searched for Him (John 6:10-11,24-25). He challenged them: “You seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (v.26). It seems that the food was more important to some of the people than the everlasting life Jesus offered in Himself. He told them He was “the bread of God . . . who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (v.33). Some didn’t believe, wouldn’t accept His teaching, and “walked with Him no more” (v.66). They had wanted the food, but they didn’t want Him and what would be required of them to follow Him.

Jesus calls us today to come to Him—not for the blessings from His hand but to receive the eternal life He offers and to follow Him, “the bread of God.”



Examining our motives
For following the Lord
Will show if we’re authentically
Believing in His Word. —Sper

Only Christ the Living Bread can satisfy our spiritual hunger.




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 Posted December 14th, 2011 06:18 PM   IP              
The Horse And Her Boy

[We are] strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience. —Colossians 1:11

When I was about 5 years old, my father decided that I needed a horse of my own to care for. So he bought an old bay mare and brought her home to me. I named her Dixie.

Dixie was a formidable beast for me at my age and small stature. No saddle was small enough, no stirrups short enough for my legs, so I rode bareback most of the time.

Dixie was plump, which meant that my feet stuck straight out, making it difficult to stay astride. But whenever I fell off, Dixie would simply stop, look at me, and wait while I tried to climb on her back again. This leads me to Dixie’s most admirable trait: She was wonderfully patient.

I, on the other hand, was less than patient with Dixie. Yet she bore my childish tantrums with stoic patience, never once retaliating. I wish I could be more like Dixie, having patience that overlooks a multitude of offenses. I have to ask myself, “How do I react when others aggravate me?” Do I respond with humility, meekness, and patience? (Col. 3:12). Or with intolerance and indignation?

To overlook an offense. To forgive 70 times 7. To bear with human frailty and failure. To show mercy and kindness to those who exasperate us. To gain such control over our souls—this is the work of God.



God of grace and God of goodness,
Teach me to be ever kind,
Always gentle and forgiving
With the Savior first in mind. —Brandt

Love that is born at Calvary bears and forbears, gives and forgives.



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