.:Lee County Viriginia:.

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.:Daily Devotional..2:.
Author Message

Posts: 17323
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted December 17th, 2011 12:41 PM   IP              
Hope In Him

The virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. —Isaiah 7:14

As we drove home from a Christmas party one evening, my family and I approached a small country church nestled between glittering snowbanks. From a distance, I could see its holiday display. Strings of white lights formed the capital letters: H-O-P-E. The sight of that word shining in the darkness reminded me that Jesus is, and always has been, the hope of humankind.

Before Jesus was born, people hoped for the Messiah—the One who would shoulder their sin and intercede with God on their behalf (Isa. 53:12). They expected the Messiah to arrive through a virgin who would bear a son in Bethlehem and would name Him Immanuel, “God with us” (7:14). The night Jesus was born, their hope was fulfilled (Luke 2:1-14).

Although we’re no longer waiting for Jesus in the form of an infant, He is still the source of our hope. We watch for His second coming (Matt. 24:30); we anticipate the heavenly home He is preparing for us (John 14:2); and we dream of living with Him in His celestial city (1 Thess. 4:16). As Christians, we can look forward to the future because the baby in the manger was, and still is, “the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope” (1 Tim. 1:1).

That night so many years ago
Which brought the Savior’s birth,
Gave promise of a brighter hope:
Good will—and peace on earth. —Anon.

The key word of Christmas is “Immanuel”— God with us!

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted December 19th, 2011 12:03 PM   IP              
All Is Well

I will never leave you nor forsake you. —Hebrews 13:5

Recently, my husband and I were reacquainted with a young man we had known as a child many years ago. We fondly reminisced about a Christmas program when Matthew had sung—in a perfect boy soprano—the song “All Is Well” by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Michael W. Smith. It was a wonderful memory of a song beautifully sung.

All is well, all is well;
Lift up your voice and sing.
Born is now Emmanuel,
Born is our Lord and Savior.
Sing Alleluia, sing Alleluia, all is well.

To hear the words of that song at Christmastime is comforting to many. But some people are unable to absorb the message because their lives are in turmoil. They’ve experienced the loss of a loved one, persistent unemployment, a serious illness, or depression that will not go away. Their hearts loudly cry out, “All is not well—not for me!”

But for those of us who celebrate the birth of our Savior—despite the dark night of the soul we may experience—all is well because of Christ. We are not alone in our pain. God is beside us and promises never to leave (Heb. 13:5). He promises that His grace will be sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9). He promises to supply all our needs (Phil. 4:19). And He promises us the amazing gift of eternal life (John 10:27-28).

As we review God’s promises, we can agree with the poet John Greenleaf Whittier, who wrote, “Before me, even as behind, God is, and all is well.”

God’s peace pillows the head when God’s promises calm the heart.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

Posts: 17323
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted December 20th, 2011 02:33 PM   IP              
Always On Duty

Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. —Hebrews 13:17

As my kids were discarding their trash at the local mall food court, my oldest son was almost run into by a man who was clearly on a mission. My younger son jokingly remarked, “Maybe he stole something.” Thinking I might be able to use this as a teachable moment, I said, “That’s what the Bible calls judging.” He then asked with a smile: “Why are you always ‘pastoring’ me?” After I finished laughing, I told my sons that I could never take a vacation from shepherding them.

The apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders that they too could never take a vacation from shepherding God’s people (Acts 20). He was convinced that false teachers would try to ravage the church (v.29), and the elders needed to protect the group from them. Caring for God’s people includes feeding them spiritually, leading them gently, and warning them firmly. Leaders in the church are to be motivated by the incalculable price Christ paid on the cross (v.28).

Church leaders have a big responsibility to watch over our souls, for one day they will give an account to the Lord for their work among us. Let’s bring them joy now by responding to their faithful, godly leadership with obedience and submission (Heb. 13:17).

We join our hearts and hands together
Faithful to the Lord’s command:
We hold each other to God’s standards—
All that truth and love demand. —D. De Haan

After we hear the Word of God,
we should then take up the work of God.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

Posts: 17323
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted January 5th, 2012 04:23 PM   IP              
Facing The Future

If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that. —James 4:15

While going through some old files, I came across a 1992 special issue of TIME magazine titled “Beyond the Year 2000: What To Expect in the New Millennium.” It was fascinating to read the predictions made 2 decades ago about what the future would hold. Some general observations were on target, but no one foresaw many of the events and innovations that have radically changed our lives. The most telling statement to me was, “The first rule of forecasting should be that the unforeseen keeps making the future unforeseeable.”

James reminds us that any view of the future that omits God is foolish and proud. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. . . . Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15).

Many people used to begin their statement of plans with, “Lord willing.” The phrase may have become trite, but the acknowledgment of God’s overruling hand is not.

As we look ahead with God firmly in view, we can face the future with confidence in His loving plan.

God holds the future in His hands
With grace sufficient day by day,
Through good or ill He gently leads,
If we but let Him have His way. —Rohrs

Those who know Christ as Savior can face the future with joy.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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 Posted January 11th, 2012 02:53 PM   IP              
A Perfect Fit

Those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. —Titus 3:8

“What kind of skill set do you bring?” That question, posed in a job interview, was intended to determine if my friend would be a good fit for a position. My friend quickly did a mental review of his skills and talents, hoping to emphasize the unique characteristics he possessed that would contribute to the success of the company.

What if we already had the perfect set of skills required to accomplish what God wants us to do? Well—as a matter of fact—we do! The spiritual gifts we possess, along with our experiences, training, natural talents, and a submissive heart make up a unique individual who has the skills needed for the “good works” that God has “prepared beforehand” (Eph. 2:10). If God has something He wants to accomplish and that you feel He is calling you to do, He will provide what you need to complete the task. Or, as one paraphrase emphasizes, God wants us “to join Him in the work He does, the good work He has gotten ready for us to do” (Eph. 2:10 The Message). The one thing He requires of us is that we “be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2).

Have you found a place in God’s service where you can be used of Him? Let’s “do good” and “be rich in good works” (1 Tim. 6:18).

Think not that you are limited
Because of what you cannot do,
But think instead of all you have—
The talents God has given you. —D. De Haan

Spiritual gifts are meant to be used, not admired.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted January 12th, 2012 12:09 PM   IP              
Attracting The Lost

I have come as a light into the world. —John 12:46

My friend Anna often has people stop her on the street and ask for directions. This has happened to her even in countries where she is a foreigner. She wonders if it’s because she has an honest face and looks trustworthy. I suggested that perhaps it’s because she looks as if she knows where she’s going. Another friend said that maybe she attracts the lost.

All of those attributes should be true of God’s people in the spiritual sense. As believers, we have purpose and direction, we know where we’re going, and we know how to get there. This gives us confidence as we go about fulfilling God’s call in our lives. When this kind of confidence is evident to others, the lost will look to us for direction.

God has always maintained a presence on earth so that people could find Him. His first light for the world was the nation of Israel (Isa. 42:6). Then Solomon prayed that God’s great name would draw people to Himself (1 Kings 8:41-43). The light of the Jewish nation culminated in Jesus, “the light of the world” (John 9:5). And now, followers of Jesus are to be the light of the world (Matt. 5:14). As such, it is our responsibility to show people the way to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18).

You are called with a holy calling
The light of the world to be;
To lift up the lamp of the Savior
That others His light may see. —Anon.

To lead others out of the darkness of sin, let them see your light.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted January 13th, 2012 11:46 AM   IP              
Unhook The Chain
If you love Me, keep My commandments. —John 14:15

Jesus made it clear to His disciples that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He is the only way to the Father, and our belief and commitment to Him results in love and obedience—and leads to an eternal home in heaven.

Christina, a Bible student in Minsk, Belarus, wrote this testimony: “Jesus died for everyone, even the most desperate sinner. The worst criminal who comes to Him in faith, the Lord will accept.

“For a very long time, Jesus had been knocking at my door. Figuratively speaking, the door to my heart was open. I was a believer. But I kept the safety chain in place. I would not turn my life over to Him.”

Christina knew this was not right, and she felt that God was compelling her to make a change. “I knelt before Him and opened the door as wide as I could.” She took off the chain.

Committed followers of Jesus will do what He commands—without safety chains or back doors. No reserving little corners of our lives all for ourselves. No secret sins.

If, like Christina, you’ve been holding back from surrendering to God, it’s time to unhook that safety chain. Let go of those reservations. Throw open the doors of your life, and experience the joy of obedient discipleship.

Less of self and more of Jesus,
More and more each day like Thee;
Just to live in full surrender
For my Lord who ransomed me. —Wonder

No life is more secure than a life surrendered to God.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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 Posted January 14th, 2012 11:13 AM   IP              
Grieve Not The Spirit

I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever. —John 14:16

If money were missing mysteriously from your wallet, you would be angry. But if you discovered that your child was the one who stole it, your anger would quickly turn into grief. One use of the word grief is to describe the sorrow we feel when those we love disappoint us.

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Eph. 4:30) essentially means not to hurt the One who loves us and is here to help us. For we read Jesus’ words in John 14:26 that the Holy Spirit is sent to us by the Father to be our Helper.

When the Holy Spirit in us is grieved by our actions or attitudes, the result can be tremendous tension. The Spirit pulls us in one direction, but the lusts of the flesh pulls us in another. Paul describes this in Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” If this continues, we may begin to feel guilty and dissatisfied with life. Soon, joy and vigor may diminish within us, only to be replaced by listlessness and lethargy (Ps. 32:3-4).

So do not grieve the Holy Spirit who was given in love to help you. “Put away” the bad choices of the flesh (Eph. 4:31), and live faithfully for God.

Holy Spirit, all divine,
Dwell within this heart of mine;
Cast down every idol throne,
Reign supreme and reign alone. —Reed

The Christian’s heart is the Spirit’s home.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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 Posted January 15th, 2012 12:44 PM   IP              
Each Life A Gift

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. —Psalm 139:14

A young woman was pregnant but unmarried. And even though she lived in a society that didn’t place a high value on unborn life, she wisely chose to allow her baby to live.

The child, whom she generously made available for adoption, became part of a loving Christian family who nurtured their precious daughter, loved her, and showed her the way to Christ.

Before that girl reached adulthood, however, she died. Her death left a massive void in her family’s life, but it also left behind memories of childhood joy and youthful enthusiasm. Sure, her death created a gaping hole in the hearts of all who loved her, but imagine what they would have missed had they never held her in their arms, shared Jesus with her, laughed with her, taught her, and cherished her.

Every life—every child—is a wonderfully made sample of God’s handiwork (Ps. 139). Every human is an image-bearing likeness of God (Gen. 1:27) and a descendant of our first God-breathed parent, Adam.

Death robs us of a certain completion we desire in a life, but it also reminds us of the value of each life God creates (Col. 1:16). Cherish the gift of life and savor the joy of God’s handiwork.

Every life has been created—
God’s handiwork displayed;
When we cherish His creation,
We value what He’s made. —Sper

All life is created by God and bears His autograph.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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 Posted January 16th, 2012 01:23 PM   IP              
The Book Of Nature

Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. —Romans 1:20

Scottish-American John Muir (1838– 1914) was raised by a Christian father who placed great emphasis on Scripture memory. By young adulthood, John allegedly could recite from memory all of the New Testament and large portions of the Old Testament.

As a young man, Muir developed a great love for God’s creation and viewed it as a source for understanding God. Historian Dennis Williams says that Muir referred to creation as the “Book of Nature.” While exploring the wilderness, he was able to study the plants and animals in an environment that “came straight from the hand of God, uncorrupted by civilization and domestication.” Muir went on to lead the forest conservation movement and was instrumental in creating many US national parks, including Yosemite, Sequoia, and Mount Rainier.

To nurture the spiritual interest of children and youth, we should primarily focus on the Bible. But we can also take them to God’s outdoor classroom, where we can cultivate their love for the Creator by showing the majesty of creation: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Rom. 1:20).

O Lord, we can see all around us each day
The wisdom the creatures of nature display;
O help us to learn from Your marvelous world
The wonder and beauty Your hands have unfurled. —Bosch

In God’s pattern book of nature
we can trace many valuable lessons.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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 Posted January 17th, 2012 11:24 AM   IP              
A Time For Good Counsel

So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. —Exodus 18:24

Because of the busy lives many of us lead, it’s not hard to recognize ourselves in the over-extended situation of Moses in Exodus 18. As the sole judge for the masses, he was surrounded “from morning until evening” (v.13) by people who needed his help.

In fact, I’ve had people—particularly young parents—tell me that they identify with Moses. It seems that we need to learn two life skills for survival: an eagerness to listen (v.24) and the willingness to accept help (v.25). Sometimes we don’t accept help because of pride, but that’s not always the case.

With Moses, and often with us, it’s simply that life is moving so quickly and making so many demands on us (vv.13-15) that we barely have time to react—let alone to contemplate or go to someone else for advice. Perhaps this is one reason the Scriptures remind us to surround ourselves with counselors who will offer their experience and wisdom even when we’re too busy to ask for it. We see this in the story of what Jethro did for Moses when he told his son-in-law to delegate some of his responsibilities (vv.17-23).

Don’t be overwhelmed. Instead, seek godly counsel and then follow through on what you are told.

Lord, give us ears to hear advice
From loved ones wise and humble;
So when life’s challenges appear,
We will not have to stumble. —Sper

He who will not be counseled will not be helped.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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 Posted January 18th, 2012 12:28 PM   IP              
Regaining Our Balance

Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. —Ephesians 6:13

For the last few years, my wife, Marlene, has suffered from inner-ear problems that cause her to lose her equilibrium. Without warning, something inside her ear is upset and she becomes dizzy. If she tries to sit or stand, a condition called vertigo makes that impossible—and she has to lie down. No amount of effort can compensate for the power of the inner ear to disrupt and disturb. An active person, Marlene finds these unwelcome episodes frustrating.

Sometimes life is like that. Something unexpected upsets our routine, and we are knocked off-balance. Perhaps it’s bad news about our job being eliminated or disturbing test results from our doctor. It may even be an attack from our spiritual enemy. In each case, our emotional equilibrium is hammered, and we feel as if we can’t stand.

Those moments should cause us to turn to God. When we feel we are losing our balance, He can help. He provides spiritual resources to help us stand. Paul says, “Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:13).

When life knocks us off our feet, we don’t have to be frustrated. With God’s strength lifting us up and God’s armor protecting us, we can still stand strong.

With patience in His love I’ll rest,
And whisper that He knoweth best,
Then, clinging to that guiding hand,
A weakling, in His strength I’ll stand. —Pentecost

We can endure anything if we depend on God for everything.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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 Posted January 19th, 2012 01:36 PM   IP              
Magic Eye

[God] is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. —Hebrews 11:6

One of my nephews brought a book of Magic Eye images to a family gathering. Magic Eye images look like ordinary two-dimensional patterns, but when viewed in a certain way, the flat surface appears three-dimensional.

We took turns trying to train our eyes to make the three-dimensional image pop out. One family member had trouble seeing the extra dimension. Several times I noticed he had the book open, looking at it from all different distances and directions. But even though he couldn’t see the hidden image, he believed it was there because others had seen it.

His persistence made me think about the importance of having the same tenacity in matters of faith. The danger for those who doubt is that they stop looking for God because they believe He can’t be found. Moses warned the Israelites that future generations would wander from God. He promised, however, that those who seek God with all their heart and soul will find Him (Deut. 4:29). The book of Hebrews confirms that God rewards those who diligently seek Him (11:6).

If you struggle to believe, remember: Just because you don’t see God doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist. He promises to be found by those who seek Him.

I searched with all my heart to know
If God was really there;
He graciously revealed Himself,
His mercy, love, and care. —Cetas

Because God is great, He will be sought;
because God is good, He will be found.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

Posts: 17323
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 Posted January 20th, 2012 01:15 PM   IP              
Extending Grace

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. —Matthew 9:12

In the mid-1970s, divorce filings and final decrees appeared in the Public Records section of our local newspaper. Rev. Bill Flanagan, a pastor at our church, read those names week after week and began to picture people, not statistics. So he created a Divorce Recovery Workshop to offer help and healing in Christ to hurting people during a difficult time. When concerned church members told Bill he was condoning divorce, he softly replied that he was simply extending God’s grace to folks in need.

When Jesus invited Matthew the tax collector to follow Him, he accepted. Matthew then invited Jesus to dinner at his house. After the religious leaders criticized Him for eating with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matt. 9:12-13). Jesus, the Great Physician, wants to meet each of us at our point of need, offering forgiveness, healing, and hope. What we don’t deserve, He freely gives.

By reaching out to people in need, we can extend to others this grace of God in Christ—guiding them to His healing touch.

There’s advantage in our weakness,
There is blessing in our pain;
It is when we’re feeling helpless
That God’s grace and strength sustain. —Fitzhugh

When you know God’s grace, you’ll want to show God’s grace.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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 Posted January 21st, 2012 01:23 PM   IP              
Purge Out The Old

Purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. —1 Corinthians 5:7

Several days before their New Year celebration, many Chinese families give their home a thorough cleaning. There’s a Cantonese saying that goes: “Wash away the dirt on ninyabaat” (28th day of month 12). They practice this tradition because it is believed the cleaning sweeps away the bad luck of the preceding year and makes their homes ready for good luck.

When the apostle Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth, he asked them to give their lives a thorough cleansing—not for good luck but to please God. He told them to “purge out the old leaven” (1 Cor. 5:7).

Paul used the Jewish feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread (Ex. 12:1-28) as a backdrop for this statement. Leaven (yeast) was a symbol of sin and corruption and was to be removed from Jewish homes to celebrate these festivals (Deut. 16:3-4). Because Jesus is the Passover Lamb who cleanses us from sin, the Corinthians were to scour their hearts and remove the leaven of sexual immorality, malice, and wickedness from their lives and their assembly (1 Cor. 5:9-13).

Out of gratitude to Jesus for His sacrifice, let us purge out the sin in our lives and celebrate the holiness that only He can bring.

The holiness of God demands
A heart that’s pure within,
Yet grace unites with holiness
To purge the heart from sin. —D. De Haan

Sin’s contamination requires the Savior’s cleansing.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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 Posted January 22nd, 2012 01:42 PM   IP              
Thank God For Music

When the trumpeters and singers were as one, . . . the glory of the Lord filled the house of God. —2 Chronicles 5:13-14

Music plays a big part in the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, God enlists musicians to work on His behalf. He uses music to call people to worship and to send them to war, to soothe ragged emotions and to ignite spiritual passion, to celebrate victories and to mourn losses. Music is an all-occasion, all-inclusive art form. There are followers and leaders, simple songs and complex songs, easy instruments and difficult instruments, melodies and harmonies, fast rhythms and slow rhythms, high notes and low notes.

Music is a wonderful metaphor for the church because everyone participates by doing what he or she does best. We all sing or play different notes at different times, but we all perform the same song. The better we know our parts, and the better we follow the conductor, the more beautiful the music.

One of the best uses for music is praise. When Solomon’s temple was completed, the musicians praised and thanked God. As they did, “the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (2 Chron. 5:14).

We thank God for beautiful music, for it’s like a preview of heaven, where the glory of God will dwell forever and where praise for Him will never cease.

Bless the Lord and sing His praises,
Bless the Lord now, O my soul;
Join the song all heaven raises,
Let the anthem loudly roll! —Peterson

Those who praise God on earth will feel at home in heaven.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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 Posted January 23rd, 2012 01:48 PM   IP              
A Full Life

Of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. —John 1:16

During the celebration of the Chinese New Year, it is customary to use certain words in print and conversation. One word is often used by itself. It is the word full, meaning “abundance of” and is used to wish someone material prosperity for the year ahead.

Moses told the Israelites about the wealth and prosperity in the land of Canaan before they entered it (Deut. 8:7-9). They would have everything they needed and more. But he warned them of the danger of forgetting that God, the One who had brought them out of Egypt and protected them along the way, had given them that abundance (v.11). Thus Moses commanded them, “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth” (v.18).

“Wealth,” of course, is not just material things. Everything you have is from God. Our Lord Jesus told His disciples, “I have come that [you] may have life, and that [you] may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

We too may be tempted to forget that it’s the Lord who has blessed us and has met our needs. Our lives will be full, abundant, and satisfying only when we are connected to Jesus Christ.

You only are true Life,
To know You is to live
The more abundant life
That earth can never give. —Clarkson

Never let the abundance of God’s gifts
cause you to forget the Giver.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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 Posted January 24th, 2012 11:01 AM   IP              
Gutters And Windows

Love from a pure heart . . . and from sincere faith. —1 Timothy 1:5

While we were out for a family drive, a spotless white sign with perfect red lettering caught my attention: “Gutters and Windows—Quality Work Guaranteed.” The sign was pristine, but I feared the house and barn directly behind it might collapse at any moment. The paint was peeling, the windows were cracked, and the gutters were nonexistent!

Many of us “advertise” for Jesus, but our spiritual houses are in disrepair. We may attend church, speak in “Christianese,” and mingle nicely with others. But when our conduct does not align with our hearts, our first-class behavior is just a performance of piety. When Jesus confronted the Pharisees, He said, “You . . . outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt. 23:28).

Jesus had a different but equally direct message for His followers: “Do not be like the hypocrites” (6:16). The Bible encourages us to “love from a pure heart . . . and from sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). These inner attitudes should pour out through our words and actions (Luke 6:45).

Today, consider the state of your spiritual house. If people look beyond the beautiful outward display, will they discover an authentic heart?

Hypocrisy is a common sin
That grieves the Lord above;
He longs for those who’ll worship Him
In faith and truth and love. —Bosch

God desires that our actions be a reflection of a pure heart.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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 Posted January 25th, 2012 11:19 AM   IP              
Worth The Effort?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for . . . righteousness. —2 Timothy 3:16

I once resolved to read all 38 of Shakespeare’s plays in one year. To my surprise, fulfilling the task seemed far more like entertainment than work. I expected to learn about Shakespeare’s world and the people who inhabited it, but I found that Shakespeare mainly taught me about my world.

I went through precisely that same process in encountering the Old Testament. Why does it spend so much time on temples, priests, and rules about sacrifices that no longer exist? How can we make sense of the Old Testament, and how does it apply to our lives today?

As I worked past some of the barriers, I came to feel a need to read because of what it was teaching me. Eventually I found myself wanting to read those 39 books. They were satisfying a hunger in me that nothing else had. They taught me about life with God.

The Old Testament speaks to our hunger. It gives an advanced course of “Life With God,” expressed in a style both personal and passionate.

The rewards offered do not come easily. All achievements require a similar process of hard work; we persevere because the rewards will come.

A glory gilds the sacred page,
Majestic like the sun;
It gives a light to every age,
It gives, but borrows none. —Cowper

The Bible gives us a picture of who we really are.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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 Posted January 26th, 2012 05:37 PM   IP              
The Land Of And

We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. —2 Peter 3:13

In a TV commercial I saw recently, the kids argued in the back seat of the car about where to stop for dinner. One wanted pizza; another chicken. Mom, in the front passenger seat, said, “No, we’ll stop for a hamburger.”

Dad quickly solved the family disagreement with this idea: “We’ll stop at the buffet restaurant, and you can each have what you want and all you want.” The commercial closes with the words, “Take care of family squabbles about what’s for dinner. Go to _____ Buffet, the ‘Land of And.’”

When I saw that commercial, I thought of another “Land of And”: heaven. It is a place that will have all we need. Foremost, we will be in the very presence of Almighty God. In describing heaven, the apostle John said, “The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it” (Rev. 22:3). Our thirsty souls will be completely satisfied from the “pure river of water of life” that proceeds from His throne (22:1), for He says to His people, “I will give . . . freely to him who thirsts” (21:6). Another “and” in this land will be the tree of life for “the healing of the nations” (22:2). What we won’t find in this Land of And are the curse (22:3), death, sorrow, and tears (21:4).

We’ll be completely satisfied in that Land of And. Are you ready to go?

There is a land of pure delight,
Where saints immortal reign;
Infinite day excludes the night,
And pleasures banish pain. —Watts

Earth—the land of trials; heaven—the land of joys.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

Posts: 17323
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted January 27th, 2012 12:01 PM   IP              
Hidden In The Rock

The Lord is my rock and my fortress. —Psalm 18:2

The story is told of a young preacher named Augustus Toplady, who was taking a walk through the English countryside when a sudden storm swept across the landscape. Toplady spotted a wide rock formation with an opening—a cleft—where he sought shelter until the storm passed. As he sat out the deluge, he contemplated the connection between his shelter and God’s help in life’s storms.

He had no paper to write on but found a playing card on the floor of the cavelike structure and began to write the words to the beloved hymn “Rock of Ages.”

Written on that stormy day in 1775, this hymn has been a source of strength for Christians ever since.

Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Think of your struggles. Do you need a place to hide? Do you need Someone to shelter you from life’s assaults? Do you need the assurance that you’ve been forgiven? As Toplady experienced, we can find shelter and assurance in God.

Don’t stand out in life’s storms alone. Seek God’s shelter. Ask Him to protect you. Make sure you have received His forgiveness. Get close to the Rock of Ages. It’s life’s safest spot.

When the world around you is crumbling,
God is the rock on which you can stand.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

Posts: 17323
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted January 28th, 2012 12:01 PM   IP              
Feeding Frenzy

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. —Matthew 5:7

People who study sharks tell us that they are most likely to attack when they sense blood in the water. The blood acts as a trigger to their feeding mechanism and they attack, often in a group, creating a deadly feeding frenzy. Blood in the water marks the vulnerability of the target.

Sadly, this is sometimes how people in the church respond to those who are hurting. Instead of being a community where people are loved, cared for, and nurtured, it can become a dangerous environment where predators are looking for the “blood in the water” of someone’s failings or faults. And then the feeding frenzy is on.

Instead of kicking people when they are down, we should be offering the encouragement of Christ by helping to restore the fallen. Of course, we’re not to condone sinful behavior, but our Lord calls us to display mercy. He said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7). Mercy has been described as not getting what we deserve, and we all deserve eternal judgment. The same God who shows us mercy in Christ calls us to show mercy to one another.

So when we see “blood in the water,” let’s seek to show mercy. The day may come when we will want someone to show mercy to us!

Lord, help us to be merciful
To those who fall in sin,
Remembering You rescued us
And cleansed us from within. —Sper

We can stop showing mercy to others
when Christ stops showing mercy to us.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted January 29th, 2012 01:20 PM   IP              
Genuine Friends

No longer do I call you servants, . . . but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. —John 15:15

Experts who track the changing vocabulary of the English language chose unfriend as the New Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year for 2009. They defined it as a verb, “to remove someone as a friend on a social networking Web site,” such as Facebook. On that site, friends allow each other to access the personal information on their Facebook pages. They may never meet face to face or even exchange greetings online. In our world of fleeting cyber acquaintances, we are beginning to realize that having a true friend means more now than ever before.

When Jesus called His disciples “friends” (John 15:15), He spoke of a unique relationship involving mutual commitment. He was only hours from laying down His life (v.13), and He asked them to show their friendship by keeping His commands (v.14). Most astonishing, perhaps, is Jesus’ statement: “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (v.15).

In a genuine friendship, one’s faithfulness can shore up the other’s in times of discouragement or fear. That is what Jesus is to us—our always faithful, forever Friend.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Hallelujah! What a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end. —Chapman

The dearest friend on earth
is but a mere shadow compared to Jesus.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted January 30th, 2012 11:46 AM   IP              
When The Wind Blows

Blessed be the . . . God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation. —2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Harold and Cathy and their two sons were in a wooded area in Minnesota when a tornado touched down. Cathy described her experience to me several years later:

“My husband and older son were some distance away, but my younger son and I took cover in a cabin. We heard a sound like a hundred railroad cars and instinctively dropped to the floor in a tucked position. The cabin began to break apart, and I shut my eyes because of all the flying debris. It felt like I was going up in an elevator and then was shot into the air. I landed in a lake and clung to debris to stay afloat.”

Tragically, however, their younger son did not survive. Harold said of their loss: “We cried every day for 6 weeks. But we believe that God’s loving sovereignty allowed that tornado to come down where we were. And we also took comfort in the fact that our son knew the Lord.”

When a loved one is taken and we are left behind, it can create all kinds of questions. In times like these, Romans 8:28 can be of great encouragement: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This couple’s trust in God’s loving sovereignty brought them comfort in the midst of their grief (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

When we sustain a heartbreaking loss,
When grief overwhelms our soul,
The Savior who gave Himself on the cross
Reminds us that He’s in control. —D. De Haan

Our greatest comfort in sorrow is to know that God is in control.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted January 31st, 2012 01:55 PM   IP              
The Prince Of Peace

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. —John 14:27

Years ago I came to know a young man who rode with a motorcycle gang. He had grown up on a mission field where his parents served. When his family returned to the US, he seemed unable to adjust to life. He lived a troubled existence and was killed in a street fight with a rival gang.

I’ve helped at many funeral services, but this was by far the most memorable. It was held in a park where there is a natural grassy bowl surrounding a small lake. His friends parked their bikes in a circle and sat on the grass around a friend and me while we conducted the service. We spoke simply and briefly about peace among warring factions and the inner peace that Jesus’ love can bring.

Afterward, a motorcycle gang member thanked us, started to walk away, but then turned back. I’ve never forgotten his words. He said that he had “a putt, a pad, and an old lady” (a bike, apartment, and girlfriend), and then added, “But I ain’t got no peace.” So we talked about Jesus who is our peace.

Whether we’ve got a chopper or a Cadillac, a mansion or a tiny apartment, a loved one or no one—it makes no difference. Without Jesus, there is no peace. He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you” (John 14:27). This gift is for all who trust in Him. Have you asked for His peace?

Lord, I want to have peace in my life.
To be at peace with You, with others, and with myself.
Your Word says that comes from You.
Please give me Your gift of peace. Amen.

Jesus died in our place to give us His peace.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

Posts: 17323
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted February 1st, 2012 03:39 PM   IP              
The Spirit Of Christmas

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you. —Luke 1:35

The acts of generosity and good will that flourish in December often fade quickly, causing many to say, “I wish we could keep the Christmas spirit all year long.” Why does it seem that kindness and compassion are chained to the calendar? Is there an ever-flowing fountain of compassion deeper than warm holiday feelings that pass with the season?

In the first two chapters of Luke, it is striking that the Holy Spirit is mentioned seven times. His work is cited in the lives of the unborn John the Baptist (1:15), Mary (1:35), Elizabeth (1:41), Zacharias (1:67), and Simeon (2:25-27). Here, in what we often call “the Christmas story,” there is no mention of people having something just come to mind or of feeling strangely moved. Instead, the Holy Spirit is identified as the One who guided Simeon, filled Zacharias and Elizabeth, and created the baby in Mary’s womb.

Do we, like them, recognize the Spirit’s voice in the midst of all others? Are we alert to His promptings and eager to obey? Will we allow His warmth and love to fill our hearts and flow through our hands?

Today, the presence and power of Christ remain with us through the Holy Spirit, who is the true, eternal Spirit of Christmas—all year long.

Let the fullness of Thy Spirit
Fall upon us here this hour.
How we need a new anointing
Of the Holy Ghost and power. —Jarvis

Jesus went away so the Spirit could come to stay.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted February 2nd, 2012 11:13 AM   IP              
God’s Plan, Not Ours

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.” —Psalm 91:2

Everybody was wrong about the ark of the covenant (an item in the tabernacle that represented the throne of God). After losing a battle to the Philistines, Israel sent messengers to Shiloh to ask that the ark be hauled to Ebenezer, the site of their army camp.

When the ark arrived, the Israelites celebrated so loudly the enemy heard them all the way over in Aphek. The ark’s arrival caused the Philistines to fear and the Israelites to have courage.

They were both wrong. The Israelites took the ark into battle and were again clobbered by the Philistines, who captured the ark. Another mistake. The Philistines got sick and their false gods were destroyed.

We can understand the Philistines’ error—they were idol-worshipers. But the Israelites should have known better. They failed to consult God about using the ark. While they knew that the ark was earlier carried in battle (Josh. 6), they didn’t consider that God’s plan, not the ark’s involvement, allowed Israel to defeat Jericho.

No matter our resources, we will fail unless we use them according to God’s plan. Let’s study the Word, pray for God’s direction, and trust His leading (Ps. 91:2) before we step out in any venture of faith.

My times are in my Father’s hand;
How could I wish or ask for more?
For He who has my pathway planned
Will guide me till my journey’s o’er. —Fraser

We see in part; God sees the whole.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted February 3rd, 2012 12:26 PM   IP              
Pleading The Lord’s Cause

I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. —Philippians 1:17

Charles Finney, a 29-year-old lawyer, was concerned about his soul’s salvation. On October 10, 1821, he retreated to a wooded area near his home for a time of prayer. While there, he had a profound conversion experience. He wrote: “The Holy Spirit . . . seemed to go through me, body and soul. . . . Indeed it seemed to come in waves of liquid love.”

The next day, he met with a client who had come to him for legal representation. Finney told him: “I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead His cause and cannot plead yours.” He left his law practice and entered the ministry. Later, he would be used mightily of God to bring others to Christ.

The apostle Paul was also called to plead the Lord’s cause. He wrote, “I am appointed for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:17). The word translated “defense” was used in the ancient world for an attorney pleading his case in a court of law. All believers are called to share the wonderful news of the saving grace of God. “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

What a great privilege to be used of God to bring others to Christ!

Do we really care for those
Who live beneath God’s wrath?
The gospel must be shared with them,
To turn them from death’s path. —Sper

The good news of Christ is too good to keep to yourself.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

Posts: 17323
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted February 7th, 2012 10:33 AM   IP              
Great Is Your Reward

Your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. —Matthew 6:4

Many businesses have “points programs” that offer rewards to loyal customers. You can stack up these rewards by using their companies’ services, like eating at local restaurants, staying at certain hotels, or flying on particular airlines. Choosing to spend your money this way makes a lot of sense.

God has a rewards program as well. Jesus often spoke of His desire to reward us for loyally serving Him. When we are persecuted for His sake, for example, He says to “rejoice . . . for great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:12). In contrast to the Pharisees’ pious habit of giving, praying, and fasting in public, Jesus instructed us to do these things privately, because “your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (6:4,6,18). When it comes to living for Jesus, faithfulness never ultimately puts your life in a deficit position, regardless of what it costs.

But we don’t serve Jesus for the rewards. When He died for us on the cross, He did far more for us than we deserve. Loyalty to Him is an act of worship that expresses our loving gratitude for His love toward us. In return, He delights to encourage us with the assurance that ultimately His rewards will outweigh whatever we have given up for Him.

Live for Jesus—regardless of the cost.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

Posts: 17323
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted February 9th, 2012 11:25 AM   IP              
Glorifying God In Life And Death

This [Jesus] spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. —John 21:19

It seems we most often think about how we can glorify God through our lives when we are active and strong. But I wonder if we should also consider how we might glorify God through our death.

After Peter denied Jesus three times (John 18:15-27), the Lord gave him an opportunity to reaffirm his love (21:15-17). Three times, Jesus asked, “Peter, do you love Me?” Then in a surprising change of subject, Jesus said: “‘When you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.’ This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me’” (vv.18-19). Jesus told Peter that others would take him where he didn’t want to go, yet by that unchosen way of dying, he would glorify God.

Paul said that it was his “earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death” (Phil. 1:20).

We can bring honor and glory to God as we live—and as we die.

Lord, I want to bring You and Your name praise
in my daily life till the end. May I glorify You
even in the valley of the shadow as I pass from
this life into the next. Amen.

You are one of a kind—designed to glorify God as only you can.

God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger

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