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.:Daily Devotional..2:.
Author Message
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 Posted March 23rd, 2011 11:44 AM   IP              
Gracias!

Oh, give thanks to the Lord! —1 Chronicles 16:8

When I visited Mexico, I wished I knew how to speak Spanish. I could say gracias (thank you), muy bien (very good), and hola (hello). But that was about it. I grew tired of just saying gracias to everyone who talked with me or did something for me.

But we should never grow tired of giving words of thanks to God. David knew the importance of saying thanks. After he became king over Israel and had a tent constructed to house the ark of the covenant (where God’s presence dwelt), he appointed some of the Levites “to commemorate, to thank, and to praise the Lord” (1 Chron. 16:4). Many people remained there to offer sacrifices and give thanks to God daily (vv.37-38).

David also committed to Asaph and his associates a song of thanks (1 Chron. 16:8-36). His psalm gave thanks for what the Lord had done: “His deeds among the peoples” (v.8), “His wondrous works” (v.9), “His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth” (v.12), and His “salvation” (v.35). David’s song also gave praise for who the Lord was: good, merciful, and holy (vv.34-35).

Like David, we should never grow tired of saying gracias to God for who He is and for all He’s done for us. Take time today to offer your sacrifice of praise to Him.



Praise, my soul, the King of heaven,
To His feet thy tribute bring;
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Evermore His praises sing. —Lyte

The heart filled with praise brings pleasure to God.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted March 24th, 2011 11:28 AM   IP              
Money Worries

Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. —Luke 12:32

Of His words recorded in the Bible, Jesus has more to say on money than any other topic. Luke 12 offers a good summary of His attitude. He does not condemn possessions, but He warns against putting faith in money to secure the future. Money fails to solve life’s biggest problems.

Although Jesus speaks to many aspects about money, He seems to concentrate on the question: What is money doing to you? Money can dominate a person’s life, diverting attention away from God. Jesus challenges us to break free of money’s power—even if it means giving it all away.

Jesus urges His listeners to seek treasure in the kingdom of God, for such treasure can benefit them in this life and the next one too. “Do not worry,” He says (v.22), for God is the one who provides for our needs. And then to emphasize His point, He brings up King Solomon, the richest man in the Old Testament. Jesus said that a common wildflower is clothed more gloriously by God than a royal king. So do not have an anxious mind (vv.27-29), “but seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you” (v.31).

Better to trust in the God who lavishes care on the whole earth than to spend our lives worrying about money and possessions.



For Further Study
Learn more about this subject by reading
Jesus’ Parables About Money
The real measure of our wealth is what will be ours in eternity.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted March 25th, 2011 11:33 AM   IP              
Failures Anonymous

As soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. —John 21:9

It’s my duty to grill the burgers, brats, steaks, or whatever else my wife has on the menu. And while I’m not the greatest chef when it comes to outdoor cooking, I love the unforgettable aroma of grilling over a charcoal fire. So the mention of a “fire of coals” in John 21:9 catches my attention. And I find myself wondering why John would include this detail in the story about Jesus calling a failing Peter back to serve and follow Him.

In verses 1-3, it’s apparent that Peter had reopened his fishing business. Just a few days before, Peter was warming his hands over a charcoal fire when he denied Jesus to save his own skin (John 18:17-18 ESV). So why not go back to fishing?

While Peter and his cohorts were casting nets, Jesus built a fire on the beach. Coincidence? I doubt it! And as Peter approached Jesus, I wonder if the pungent aroma of the burning charcoal brought back memories of that other fire where he had failed Christ. Yet Jesus in His mercy took the initiative to call Peter back into His service.

Think of it: Jesus is willing to forgive our failures and call us into His service. After all, if only perfect people qualified to serve Him, He wouldn’t have anyone to choose from!



Although we are imperfect,
The Lord can use us still,
If we confess our sins to Him
And seek to do His will. —Sper

Being imperfect doesn’t disqualify us from serving God;
it just emphasizes our dependence on His mercy.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted March 26th, 2011 01:04 PM   IP              
Columbus’ Eclipse

We are not, as so many, peddling the Word of God. —2 Corinthians 2:17

On one of Christopher Columbus’ voyages, he found that his crew’s food supply was almost depleted. Anchored off the island of Jamaica, he was grateful to be given food by the islanders. But as time went on, the gifts of food decreased so that the crew began to starve.

Columbus knew from an astronomy book that a lunar eclipse would soon occur. He called the native chiefs together and told them God was angry about their selfishness and would blot out the moon. At first the islanders scoffed. But when they watched the night’s silver disc slowly become dark, they became terrified and quickly brought food. Columbus said that if he prayed, the moon would be restored. Though we may empathize with his circumstances, Columbus’ “message from God” was dishonest and self-serving.

Aware of religious charlatans who “peddled” God’s Word for their own desires, the apostle Paul wrote, “We are not, as so many, peddling the Word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 2:17).

At all times we must be on guard not to misrepresent God’s message to acquire what we want from others. With a heart yielded to God, we must honestly share spiritual truths that will benefit those who hear.



Don’t compromise the Word of God
Or twist what He has said;
For blessing comes from faithfully
Proclaiming truth instead. —Sper

The purpose of sharing God’s truth is to profit others,
not to prosper ourselves.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted March 27th, 2011 12:58 PM   IP              
Theology Is For Everyone

I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. —Jeremiah 9:24

Some say that theology is only for “professionals.” But the situation in the days of the prophet Jeremiah illustrates why it’s important for everyone to know what God says about Himself.

The religious experts in Jeremiah’s day were misrepresenting God by prophesying “the delusions of their own minds” (Jer. 23:26 NIV) and leading people astray with their lies (v.32). Due to their dishonesty, the people did not know the true nature of God.

Today there are people who portray God as angry, vengeful, and eager to punish people for every minor offense. God, however, describes Himself as “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth” (Ex. 34:6). Others show the world a picture of a loving God who is too kind to punish wrongdoing. But God describes Himself as one who exercises judgment and righteousness (Jer. 9:24). He is both a just Judge and a loving Father. If we emphasize one over the other, we paint a false picture of God.

The most important thing we can know about God and proclaim to the world is that God does not want to punish people; He wants them to repent so that He can forgive (2 Peter 3:9). But to be truly loving, He must also be absolutely just.



Though love for God should always move
My heart to do what’s good and right,
It’s wise to fear His judgments true
And stand in awe of His great might. —D. De Haan

Everyone must face God as Savior or as Judge.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted March 28th, 2011 12:05 PM   IP              
Gold-Medal Effort

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. —Philippians 2:4

At the 2009 Kansas high school state track championship, an unusual thing happened. The team that won the girls 3,200-meter relay was disqualified. But what happened next was even more unusual. The team that was awarded the state championship by default turned right around and gave their medals to the team that had been disqualified.

The first school, St. Mary’s Colgan, lost first place because judges ruled that a runner had stepped out of her lane as she handed off the baton. That meant the second team, Maranatha Academy, moved up to first. After receiving their medals, the girls from Maranatha saw the downtrodden looks on the faces of the St. Mary’s girls, so they gave them their individual medals.

Why did they do this? As Maranatha’s coach Bernie Zarda put it: “Our theme for the year was to run not for our glory, but for God’s glory.” As a result of the girls’ action, their story was told throughout Kansas, and God’s name was lifted up.

When we set aside our own interests and accomplishments to recognize that it’s better to care for the interests of others (Phil. 2:4), we see God’s name glorified. Acting with grace and kindness toward others is one of the best ways to point people to God.



Love is not blind but looks
Abroad through others’ eyes,
And asks not, “Must I give?”
But, “May I sacrifice?” —Ziegler

When we love God, we will serve people.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted March 29th, 2011 12:20 PM   IP              
Talk Low, Talk Slow

A soft answer turns away wrath. —Proverbs 15:1

John Wayne, famous American actor and film icon, once said, “Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much.” His advice is hard for me to follow since I’m a fast talker and I don’t always speak quietly or limit my words. However, this idea of controlling our speech can be a useful tool when dealing with anger. The Bible says we are supposed to be “slow to speak” (James 1:19), and that “a soft answer turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1).

Gideon gave a soft answer during a verbal scuffle with some fellow Israelites (Judg. 8). Just after his army defeated the Midianites, a group of his countrymen criticized him sharply (v.1). They were miffed because they missed out on the main part of the battle. Gideon did not fling back a rough response. Instead, he reminded them that they had captured and killed the Midianite princes. He also honored the men by asking, “What was I able to do in comparison with you?” Finally, “their anger toward him subsided when he said that” (v.3).

With the Lord’s help, we can defuse heated situations by reining in our words. Responding gently and carefully to angry people can promote unity, for God’s glory.



Lord, set a guard upon my lips,
My tongue control today;
Help me evaluate each thought
And watch each word I say. —Hess

Bite your tongue before your tongue bites others.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted March 30th, 2011 01:30 PM   IP              
Serve Him Today

You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. —1 Samuel 12:20

Most of us have wanted something so badly that even though we knew it was wrong, we plunged after it anyway. Later we have felt sorrow for our spiritual stubbornness and stupidity. In the aftermath of willfully disobeying God, we may become angry with ourselves, numbed by regret, or resigned to the consequences of our foolish mistake. But there is another choice.

When the people of Israel insisted on having a king despite the warnings of Samuel the prophet (1 Sam. 8:4-9), God allowed them to have their way. But when they realized the tragic results of their choice, they asked for Samuel’s help and prayers (12:19). Samuel told the people, “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart” (12:20).

We can’t undo yesterday, but we can act today to influence tomorrow. Samuel promised to pray for them and teach them the right way. He urged them, “Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you” (v.24).

God invites us to serve Him today, humbly acknowledging His forgiveness and His faithfulness.



Sins confessed you must forget;
Look not back to yesterday—
Full of failure and regret;
Look ahead and seek God’s way. —D. De Haan

Don’t let yesterday’s failures bankrupt tomorrow’s efforts.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted March 31st, 2011 11:55 AM   IP              
Valid Entry

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” —John 14:6

On a teaching trip outside the US, my wife and I were denied entry into our country of destination because of visa problems. Although we were under the assumption our visas had been correctly issued by the country we planned to visit, they were deemed invalid. Despite the efforts of several government officials, nothing could be done. We weren’t allowed in. We were placed on the next flight back to the States. No amount of intervention could change the fact that we did not have the proper validation for entrance.

That experience with my visa was inconvenient, but it can’t begin to compare with the ultimate entry rejection. I’m speaking of those who will stand before God without valid entry into heaven. What if they were to present the record of their religious efforts and good deeds? That would not be enough. What if they were to call character references? That wouldn’t work. Only one thing can give anyone entry into heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Christ alone, through His death and resurrection, paid the price for our sins. And only He can give us valid entry into the presence of the Father. Have you put your faith in Jesus? Make sure you have a valid entry into heaven.



There aren’t many ways into heaven;
The Bible says there’s only one;
Good works won’t gain anyone entrance;
It’s only through faith in God’s Son. —Sper

Only through Christ can we enter the Father’s presence.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted April 2nd, 2011 11:59 AM   IP              
Known For Compassion

He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. —Acts 11:24

During Major Gen. Mark Graham’s 2 years as commander of Fort Carson, Colorado, he became known and loved for the way he treated others. One US Army colleague said: “I have never come across another general officer who was so compassionate and so concerned about the well-being of soldiers and their families.” After losing one son to suicide and another who was killed in action, Mark and his wife, Carol, dedicated themselves to helping soldiers and their families cope with service-related stress, depression, and loss.

In the book of Acts, a follower of Christ was well known for his care and concern toward others. His name was Joseph, but in the early church, the apostles called him Barnabas—“son of encouragement.” It was Barnabas who vouched for the newly converted Saul when others doubted the sincerity of his faith (Acts 9:26-27). Later, Barnabas brought Saul from Tarsus to teach the believers in Antioch (11:25-26). And it was Barnabas who wanted to give John Mark a second chance after his failure on a previous missionary journey (15:36-38).

Compassion is an inner feeling resulting in outward action. It should be our daily uniform of service (Col. 3:12). By God’s grace, may we be known for it.



Lord, help us be compassionate
To people in their grief;
Then tell them of the love of Christ,
Who’ll bring their souls relief. —Sper

True compassion is love in action.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted April 3rd, 2011 11:57 AM   IP              
Time For A Checkup

Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. —1 Corinthians 11:28

Every year I have a physical—that periodic visit to the doctor’s office where I’m poked and prodded, screened and studied. It is something that can be easy to dread, and even to fear. We aren’t sure what the tests will show or what the doctors will say. Still, we know that we need this evaluation to understand our physical well-being and what is needed as we move forward.

The same is true spiritually in the life of the Christ-follower. We need to pause from time to time and reflect on the condition of our hearts and lives.

One place for an important self-study is at the Lord’s Table. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, some of whom were eating in an unworthy manner: “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:28). In the remembrance of Christ’s death for us, there can be a sobering clarity of thought and understanding, for as we consider the price Jesus paid for us, it is the best time to consider the condition of our heart and our relationships. Then, with honest understanding of our spiritual well-being, we can turn to Him for the grace we need to move forward in His name.

Is it time for your checkup?





Search me, O God, my heart discern;
Try me, my inmost thoughts to learn.
Help me to keep from sin, I pray,
Guarding my mind throughout this day. —Anon.


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted April 6th, 2011 12:49 PM   IP              
Spiritual Superstars

When one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? —1 Corinthians 3:4

Superstars abound in today’s culture. Great soccer players can create such excitement that fans have been known to riot in the bleachers. Popular musicians have fans who stand with adoration throughout entire concerts. And Hollywood celebrities hire bodyguards to protect themselves from adoring stalkers.

The first-century Corinthian believers had become divided over their own “spiritual superstars.” Paul viewed such favoritism as a reflection of the sinful nature in a believer’s unyielded heart. “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?” he asked (1 Cor. 3:4).

The apostle’s teaching on how we view Christian leaders puts the topic in a biblical perspective that provides mutual appreciation for those who minister: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (v.6). Each person did his part: Paul had planted spiritual seed through evangelism, and Apollos had watered it with his eloquent Bible teaching. But it was God alone who made the seed of spiritual life grow. He alone is the “superstar.”

We should be careful not to put any Christian leader on a pedestal. Instead, let’s appreciate how God is using a variety of spiritual leaders for His honor and His glory.





Lord, give us wisdom. We know it’s good to follow the
example of our godly leaders, but help us not
to think so highly of them that we worship them
instead of You. Amen.





Each person has his place in God’s service,
and only God deserves the glory.


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted April 8th, 2011 11:41 AM   IP              
Getting It

Though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more. —1 Corinthians 9:19

A Christian sports reporter was visiting a major league baseball clubhouse. While he was chatting with a Christian player, a team official came by and noticed that they were talking about “Christian stuff” after a tough loss. He scolded the reporter for not talking about the game and then he left. The All-Star pitcher said to the reporter, “Sorry. He just doesn’t get it.”

We live in a world of people who “don’t get it.” They don’t understand that while we strive to be the best at what we do, the most important thing in life is to please God. For the believer, it is for God’s glory and the gospel of Jesus that we play ball, sell insurance, run a printing press, or teach school.

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul explained that the disciple of Christ should “endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ” (v.12). The goal of the believer is getting the word out about Jesus. “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” he said (v.16). One way to do that is to live out a godly lifestyle that prompts others to ask about the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).

Around us are people who think the things of this world are most important. But instead of becoming frustrated at the resistance we meet, our goal should be to advance the gospel by helping others to “get it.”





Dim not, little candle,
Show Jesus through me!
Glow brightly till others
The Light clearly see! —Adams


May God make your life a lighted window of Christian example.


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted April 9th, 2011 11:23 AM   IP              
Bel Bows Down

I will carry you! —Isaiah 46:4

The prophet Isaiah draws a picture for us in Isaiah 46 of the siege of Babylon and the evacuation of its idols. The carts and carriages that carry them creak, and the weary animals groan under the load (v.1).

In contrast, Isaiah says that God carries His children from birth (v.3). “Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you!” God declares (v.4). The contrast is precise and vivid in the Hebrew text: The carts and carriages are “loaded” with the weight of the idols (v.1), but we are loaded upon God (v.3). Idols are a “burden,” a thing carried (v.1), but God has gladly “carried” us from the womb (v.3).

The Lord has made us (v.4). Nothing could be more comforting, for our Father loves and cares for His children. He promises, “I will carry you!” and that includes every care and worry that comes our way throughout our lifetime.

So we may let Him carry us and our every burden. This song by Annie Johnson Flint challenges us to experience God’s care: “Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision, / Our God ever yearns His resources to share; / Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing; / Thy Father both thee and thy load will upbear.”





Heavenly Father, I want to unload my
burdens on You today. Help me to leave them with You.
I trust You with my past, present, and future.
Thank You for Your goodness to me. Amen.


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted April 10th, 2011 06:37 PM   IP              
A Forever Service

Behold, I make all things new. —Revelation 21:5

Two young brothers sat on the front row in church every Sunday, observing their dad as he led the worship service. One night after sending the boys to bed, the dad overheard one of his boys crying. He asked him what was wrong, but the boy was hesitant to answer. Finally, he confessed, “Daddy, the Bible says we’re going to worship God in heaven forever. That’s an awfully long time!” Because he pictured heaven as one long worship time with his dad up front leading, heaven sounded pretty boring to him!

While I sometimes wish we had more information about what heaven will be like, we know this for sure: boring can’t possibly be the right word to describe it. We will see beauty like we’ve never seen before, including “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal” (Rev. 22:1). We will experience “the glory of God,” which will illuminate heaven (21:23; 22:5). And we will enjoy a life without pain or sorrow (21:4).

Yes, we will definitely worship in heaven. People “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (5:9) will rejoice in praising Jesus, the worthy Lamb who died for us and rose again (5:12).

We will bask in the glory of the Lord’s presence—forever. But not for one second will we be bored!





In heaven we’ll see our Savior
And like Him we will be;
We’ll praise Him and we’ll serve Him
For all eternity! —Fitzhugh

The pleasures of earth cannot be compared to the joys of heaven.





God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted April 11th, 2011 12:14 PM   IP              
The Penny Syndrome

The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion . . . , He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine. —1 Samuel 17:37

The penny has been called the most despised unit of US currency. Many people will not bother to pick up a one-cent coin if they see it lying on the ground. But some charities are finding that pennies add up to significant sums, and that children are generous givers. As one participant said, “Small contributions can make a huge difference.”

The Bible account of David and Goliath describes a seemingly insignificant person whose confidence in God was greater than any of the powerful people around him. When David volunteered to face the giant Goliath, King Saul said, “You are not able to go against this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:33). But David had faith in the Lord who had delivered him in the past (v.37).

David did not suffer from “the penny syndrome”—a sense of inferiority and helplessness in the face of an overwhelming problem. If he had listened to the pessimism of Saul or the threats of Goliath, he would have done nothing. Instead, he acted with courage because he trusted God.

It’s easy to feel like a penny in a trillion-dollar deficit. But when we obey the Lord in every circumstance, it all adds up. Collectively, our acts of faith, large or small, make a big difference. And every penny counts.

It matters not how large or small
Your faith may seem to be;
What really counts is whom you trust
In life’s uncertainty. —Fitzhugh


Courage will follow when faith takes the lead.


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted April 12th, 2011 03:25 PM   IP              
Pay Attention To Signs

As Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. —Luke 11:30

The road was smooth and we were making good progress as we headed for Jay’s dad’s house in South Carolina. As we drove through the mountains in Tennessee, I began seeing detour signs. But Jay kept going, so I assumed that they didn’t apply to us. Shortly before we reached the North Carolina border, we came to a sign that said the highway ahead was closed due to a rock slide. We would have to turn around. Jay was surprised. “Why wasn’t there any warning?” he wanted to know. “There were lots of warnings,” I said. “Didn’t you see the signs?” “No,” he said, “why didn’t you mention them?” “I assumed that you saw them,” I answered. We now tell this story to entertain our friends.

Throughout history, God provided plenty of “signs” to show people the way to live, but they kept going their own way. When God finally sent His Son as a sign (Luke 11:30), the religious leaders paid little attention to His warnings. Life for them was good. They were recognized and respected (v.43). They resented being told that they were wrong (v.45).

We can be the same way. When life is going well, we tend to ignore warnings that we need to turn around and change our sinful ways. It’s important to remember that we may be wrong even though life is good.


God gives us warnings to prevent
What comes from falling into sin;
But if we do ignore—and fall—
Confession cleanses us within. —Sper

God sends warnings to protect us, not to punish us.




God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted April 13th, 2011 12:43 PM   IP              
Sourdough Bread

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. —Luke 12:1

Sourdough bread became popular during the California Gold Rush of the mid-1800s. In the 1890s, it was a favorite during the great Gold Rush in Alaska. Prospectors would carry with them a small portion of sourdough mix that contained a natural yeast. It could then be used as a starter to make more of their favorite sourdough bread.

In the Bible, though, yeast or leaven can have a negative connotation. For example, in the New Testament, “leaven” is often referred to as a corrupting influence. This is why Jesus said: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1).

Hypocrites put on a show of righteousness while hiding sinful thoughts and behavior. Christ warned His disciples and us that secret sins will someday be exposed to full disclosure. He said, “There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known” (v.2). Because of this, we are to reverentially fear God, to ask for His grace to forsake any sin, and to grow as authentic believers.

Yeast may be a blessing in the bakery, but it can also remind us to guard against the permeating influence of sin in our hearts.

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

Be sure your sin will find you out. —Numbers 32:23


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted April 14th, 2011 11:42 AM   IP              
Breath Of Life

The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. —Job 33:4

In his book Life After Heart Surgery, David Burke recalls his close brush with death. Lying in his hospital bed after a second open-heart surgery, he found himself in incredible pain, unable to draw a full breath. Feeling that he was slipping toward eternity, he prayed one last time, trusting God and thanking Him for forgiveness of his sin.

David was thinking about seeing his dad, who had died several years earlier, when his nurse asked how he was feeling. He replied, “I’m okay now,” explaining he was ready to go to heaven and meet God. “Not on my shift, buddy!” she said. Soon the doctors were opening his chest again and removing two liters of fluid. That done, David began to recover.

It’s not unusual for any of us to ponder what it will be like when we face our final moments on earth. But those who “die in the Lord” have the certainty that they are “blessed” (Rev. 14:13) and that their death is “precious in the sight of the Lord” (Ps. 116:15).

God fashioned our days even before we existed (Ps. 139:16), and we exist now only because “the breath of the Almighty gives [us] life” (Job 33:4). Though we don’t know how many breaths we have left—we can rest in the knowledge that He does.

God holds our future in His hands
And gives us every breath;
Just knowing that He’s by our side
Allays our fear of death. —Sper

From our first breath to our last, we are in God’s care.


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
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 Posted April 15th, 2011 09:39 AM   IP              
Dealing With Delay

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You. —Isaiah 26:3

In April 2010, clouds of ash spewed by a volcano in Iceland closed airports across the UK and Europe for 5 days. Nearly 100,000 flights were canceled and millions of passengers around the world found themselves in an enormous holding pattern on the ground. People missed important events, businesses lost money, and no one knew when it would end.

When our plans fall apart and there is no remedy, how do we deal with frustration and delay? Isaiah 26:3-4 is an anchor for our souls in every storm of life: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in [Jehovah], the Lord, is everlasting strength.” Whether we’re facing annoying inconvenience or heartbreaking loss, this rock-solid promise is worth memorizing and repeating every night when we close our eyes to sleep.

Today, when plans are shattered, do our minds dwell on the circumstances or on the Lord? During frustrating delay, can we still trust the loving heart of God? In the hymn “Like a River Glorious,” Frances Havergal so beautifully expressed what we long for.

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest,
Finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest. —Havergal


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


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 Posted April 16th, 2011 01:50 PM   IP              
Of Pain And Gain

Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him. —Psalm 32:10

During summer training camp, the coaches on one football team wore T-shirts intended to urge their players to exert maximum effort. The shirts bore the motto, “Each day you must choose: The pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” Discipline is tough—and something we may try to avoid. But in sports and in life, short-term pain is often the only path to long-term gain. In the heat of battle it is too late to prepare. Either you are ready for the challenges of life or you will be haunted by the “what ifs,” “if onlys,” and “I should’ves” that accompany the failure to be prepared. That’s the pain of regret.

One source defines regret as “an intelligent and emotional dislike for personal past acts and behaviors.” It’s painful to look back at our choices through the lens of regret and feel the weight of our failures. This was the case for the psalmist. After a personal episode of sin and failure, he wrote, “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him” (Ps. 32:10). In the clarity of hindsight, he saw the wisdom of a life that strives to honor the Lord—a life that does not need to be marked by regret.

May our choices today not result in regret, but rather be wise and God-honoring.


In You, O Lord, we take delight,
Our every need You can supply;
We long to do what’s true and right,
So, Lord, on You we will rely. —D. De Haan

Present choices determine future rewards.


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 Posted April 17th, 2011 01:19 PM   IP              
Who Is This?

Blessed is [He] who comes in the name of the Lord! —Luke 19:38

Imagine standing shoulder to shoulder with onlookers by a dirt road. The woman behind you is on her tiptoes, trying to see who is coming. In the distance, you glimpse a man riding a donkey. As He approaches, people toss their coats onto the road. Suddenly, you hear a tree crack behind you. A man is cutting down palm branches, and people are spreading them out ahead of the donkey.

Jesus’ followers zealously honored Him as He entered Jerusalem a few days before His crucifixion. The multitude rejoiced and praised God for “all the mighty works they had seen” (Luke 19:37). Jesus’ devotees surrounded Him, calling out, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” (v.38). Their enthusiastic honor affected the people of Jerusalem. When Jesus finally arrived, “all the city was moved, saying, ‘Who is this?’” (Matt. 21:10).

Today, people are still curious about Jesus. Although we can’t pave His way with palm branches or shout praises to Him in person, we can still honor Him. We can discuss His remarkable works, assist people in need (Gal. 6:2), patiently bear insults (1 Peter 4:14-16), and love each other deeply (v.8). Then we must be ready to answer the onlookers who ask, “Who is Jesus?”

So let our lips and lives express
The holy gospel we profess;
So let our works and virtues shine,
To prove the doctrine all divine. —Watts

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


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 Posted April 18th, 2011 12:50 PM   IP              
The Purpose Of God’s Goodness

God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us. —Psalm 67:1

When I was growing up, we often sang a song in Sunday school that went like this: “God is good to me! God is good to me! He holds my hand and helps me stand! God is good to me!”

I need to say right away that I believe God is good and He takes delight in doing good things for people. He does indeed hold our hand in times of trouble and helps us stand against the onslaught of life’s difficulties. But I wonder if you’ve ever asked yourself, Why is He good? It certainly is not because we deserve it or because He feels the need to buy our love and allegiance with His benefits.

The psalmist prays for God to bless him so that “[the Lord’s] way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations” (Ps. 67:2). God’s daily blessings are proof positive that He is indeed a good God who cares for His own. But how will our world know this about God if we never praise Him for His goodness to us? (v.3).

So, the next time God blesses you, be sure to look for ways to appropriately give Him the credit. Consuming His blessings without communicating His goodness shortchanges the very purpose of His gifts of grace in our lives.


As endless as God’s blessings are,
So should my praises be
For all His daily goodnesses
That flow unceasingly! —Adams

God is good—make sure the people in your world know what He has done in your life.


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 Posted April 19th, 2011 05:26 PM   IP              
The Dividing Wall

He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation. —Ephesians 2:14

November 9, 2010, marked the 21st anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. On that day in 1989, an announcement over East German TV informed people that they were free to travel to West Germany. A day later, East German bulldozers began to dismantle the wall that for 28 years had divided East and West Germany.

Jesus Christ “has broken down the middle wall of separation” between Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:14). But there was an even more impenetrable barrier that separated man from God. Jesus’ death and resurrection made the reconciliation between man and man and between man and God possible (v.16).

All believers are now “members of the household of God” (v.19). Together, we are to grow into “a holy temple in the Lord” (v.21) with God’s Holy Spirit living among and within us (v.22).

But sadly, Christians often re-erect walls between one another. That is why Paul urges us to “walk worthy of the calling . . . , bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:1-3). Rather than building walls, let’s work to dismantle what separates us. Let the world see that we are indeed of the same household.


We’re members of Christ’s body,
A blessed family;
So let’s not fight or quarrel,
But live in harmony. —Fitzhugh


Unity among believers comes from their union with Christ.


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 Posted April 20th, 2011 01:07 PM   IP              
Knowing God’s Will

. . . that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. —Romans 12:2

A young man facing the future and unsure of what the next year would bring, concluded, “Nobody knows what God’s will is.” Is he right? Does a lack of certainty about the future translate into not knowing God’s will?

The concept of knowing God’s will is often limited to discerning what specific situation we will be in at some future time. Although seeking God’s specific leading is part of it, another aspect that is just as vital is to follow the clearly defined elements of God’s will each and every day.

For instance, it is God’s will for us to be good citizens as a challenge to those opposed to Christ (1 Peter 2:15), to give God thanks no matter what (1 Thess. 5:18), to be sanctified sexually, avoiding immorality (1 Thess. 4:3), to live under the Holy Spirit’s control (Eph. 5:18), to sing to Him (v.19), and to submit to other believers (v.21).

As we submit to God in these and other areas, we are more likely to live in what Romans 12:2 calls God’s “good and acceptable and perfect will.” Living with God’s smile of approval leads to His guidance for the future.

As we seek to know God’s will for the future, we must also act on what we already know now.


Knowing God’s will for the future
Comes when we follow today
What He’s revealed in the Scriptures
As His commands to obey. —Sper


Love and obey the Lord every day, and He will unfold your future.


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 Posted April 22nd, 2011 01:25 PM   IP              
Sin Hurts

He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many. —Isaiah 53:12

Sooner or later we all feel the painful effects of sin. Sometimes it’s the weight of our own sin and the shame and embarrassment of having failed miserably. At other times, it’s the load of someone else’s sin that weighs us down—someone who betrayed, deceived, abandoned, ridiculed, cheated, or made a fool of us.

Think about a time when the weight of that guilt or pain was so heavy that you couldn’t pull yourself out of bed. Now try to imagine the heaviness of the combined grief that everyone’s sin has caused your family, your church, your neighborhood. Add to that all the suffering sin has caused everyone in your city, state, nation, and the world. Now try to imagine the accumulated grief that sin has caused throughout the centuries since creation.

Is it any wonder that the weight of all this sin began squeezing the life out of Jesus on the night He was called to bear it? (Matt. 26:36-44). The next day, even His beloved Father would forsake Him. No other suffering can compare.

Sin put Jesus to the ultimate test. But His love endured it, His strength bore it, and His power overcame it. Thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection, we know beyond a doubt that sin will not and cannot win.


Is God aloof from human pain
That ravages our mortal frame?
Oh, no, Christ felt our agony
When sin and death He overcame! —D. De Haan

Christ’s empty tomb guarantees our victory over sin and death.





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 Posted April 23rd, 2011 01:22 PM   IP              
A Family In Trouble

He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. —Luke 1:16

Many of America’s 30 million white-tailed deer find themselves endangered not by guns, but by the cars of our expanding suburbs. I was reminded of their plight when a mature doe dashed through traffic just ahead of me. As I watched, I wondered what had driven her to take such a chance, and why she then stopped on the other side and looked back over her shoulder. As I drove by her, I turned to follow her gaze and saw two small fawns looking helplessly at their mother across the busy street. Instead of following, they turned and walked back into the woods.

This family is not alone. We too can find ourselves in circumstances of separation and danger we did not anticipate. Reading Malachi and Matthew reminds us that we are troubled children of troubled parents who desperately need the help of our Father in heaven. Sometimes we need His help to see and avoid repeating the sins of our fathers (Neh. 9:2-3). Sometimes we need His help to turn back to the example and care of loving parents (Luke 15:18).

Only from our heavenly Father can we find the perfect forgiveness, example, and inner grace we need. He knows we are all fallen children of fallen parents, and even now He offers us the help of His Spirit and the rescue of His Son.


Each day we learn from yesterday
Of God’s great love and care;
And every burden we must face
He’ll surely help us bear. —D. De Haan


It’s never too soon to turn back to God.


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 Posted April 24th, 2011 11:50 AM   IP              
Too Good To Be True?

Their words seemed to [the disciples] like idle tales, and they did not believe them. —Luke 24:11

In the 1980s, John Knoll and his brother Thomas began experimenting with a computer program to manipulate images. Software companies thought they were crazy, because photographers didn’t use computers at that time. Initially the brothers called their program Display, then Imaginator, and finally they settled on Photoshop®. Today Photoshop® is used by amateurs at home and professionals in business around the world. A San Jose Mercury News article noted its place in popular language. When something looks too good to be true, people say, “It must have been Photoshopped.”

On the first Easter morning, the women who took spices to anoint the body of Jesus found the tomb empty and heard angels say, “He is not here, but is risen!” (Luke 24:6). When the women told this to the disciples, “Their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them” (v.11). Nonsense! Mind-boggling! Too good to be true!

If someone manipulated the evidence, then millions of people around the world gather today to celebrate a myth. But if Jesus conquered death, then all He said about forgiveness, power to change, and eternal life is real.

Because Christ has risen and lives today, this news is too good not to be true!


Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes;
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign. —Lowry

The resurrection is a fact of history
that demands a response of faith.


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 Posted April 25th, 2011 12:20 PM   IP              
Resurrection And Life

I am the resurrection and the life. —John 11:25

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life”! It’s one thing to make such a bold assertion; it’s another to back it up—and back it up Jesus did by rising from the dead.

“If you believe that the Son of God died and rose again,” writes George MacDonald, “your whole future is full of the dawn of eternal morning, coming up beyond the hills of life, and full of such hope as the highest imagination for the poet has not a glimmer yet.”

The Son of God died and rose again, and His resurrection is the guarantee that God will bring us up and out of the ground: A thinking, feeling, remembering, recognizable person will live forever.

Living forever means living out the thought of eternity that God has placed in our hearts; meeting again one’s believing loved ones lost through separating death; living in a world without sorrow; seeing our Lord who loves us and gave everything to unite us to Him forever.

But I see another meaning. Since we have this life and the next, we don’t have to “have it all” now. We can live in broken and ruined bodies for a time; we can endure poverty and hardship for a while; we can face loneliness, heartache, and pain for a season. Why? There is a second birth—life in heaven forever.

Yes, Christ the Lord is risen,
Has come forth from the grave;
He breaks the chains of death for you
And now has power to save. —Woodruff

The resurrection is the foundation of our faith.


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 Posted April 26th, 2011 12:08 PM   IP              
Hard To Imagine

I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. —Philippians 1:23

Whenever my wife, Martie, and I get ready to go on vacation, we like to read about our destination, study the maps, and anticipate the joy of finally arriving at the place we’ve dreamed about for so long.

For those of us who know Jesus Christ, we have an incredible destination ahead of us—heaven. But I find it interesting that a lot of us don’t seem to be very excited about getting there. Why is that? Maybe it’s because we don’t understand heaven. We talk about streets of gold and gates of pearl, but what is it really like? What is there to look forward to?

I think the most profound description of heaven is found in Paul’s words to the Philippians. He said that to “depart and be with Christ” is “far better” (Phil. 1:23). It’s what I told my 8-year-old grandson when he asked what heaven is like. I started by asking him, “What is the most exciting thing in your life?” He told me about his computer game and other fun things he likes to do, and then I told him that heaven is far better. He thought for a minute, and then said, “Papa, that’s hard to imagine.”

What is it that you look forward to in life? What really excites you? Whatever it is, although it’s hard to imagine, heaven will be far better!

To be in His presence! A glorious thought
So awesome I cannot conceive;
I’ll bow down and worship the Lord on His throne
And add to the praise He’ll receive. —Sper

The more you look forward to heaven,
the less you’ll desire on earth.


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