.:Lee County Viriginia:.



Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
.:Daily Strength ..2:.
Author Message
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted May 31st, 2011 02:54 PM   IP              
Holiness Has an Edge

"Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: 'Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy." Leviticus 19:2

All of us who have kids have been guilty of ending an argument about why they should or shouldn’t do something with the conversation stopper: “Because I said so.” The reply is powerful because it has an edge to it. There are times when God is edgy with us. We’d like to stand there and argue with Him, but He keeps saying things like, “Because I said so” or “You be holy, because I am holy.” His call to holiness in our lives has that edgy sound.

In the Old Testament, when God wanted to bring that kind of holy edge to His people, He showed up in a place called the temple. God’s holiness came from another world and engaged with yours and mine. Jesus’ birth was a holy invasion—it came with an edge—from another place, another world, another reality. It cut through pretense by coming as a peasant baby born in a stable surrounded by sheep and goats. It cut into religious and political agendas by displaying genuine humility as a way to power. It sliced through the stuffy, hot air of classicism by first announcing His arrival to lowly shepherds working the third shift outside the city limits. It carved away centuries of religious oppression and hypocrisy by showing the power of quiet innocence. Holiness in God’s terms has an edge.

And it’s not only edgy in its essence; it’s also edgy in its demands. Because we represent Him, we are called to live with a holy edge. To live with a holy edge means to live differently—to make daily choices that square with God’s holiness; to stand for right in a wrong-headed culture; to preserve honesty, justice, and integrity no matter what. It means to replace greed with generosity and to forgive the cruelest offense. To serve others instead of ourselves, and to use our power to bless others instead of using it to advance our own agendas. It’s that kind of edgy living that makes a huge statement about the distinct difference that a holy God makes in our world.

When God first spoke to His people through Moses, He told them to live in and enjoy the land He had promised to them. But they were to live with a holy edge. They were to live differently than their pagan counterparts, uniquely reflecting the Holy difference of the true and living God.

Don’t lose your edge! Holiness sets you wonderfully apart in an increasingly unholy world. It’s no wonder that He said we should be holy because He is holy!

YOUR JOURNEY…

•In what ways do the people around you see you as different because of your walk with Christ?
•In what areas of your life do you feel you’ve lost your edge? What can you do to reclaim it?
•Take some time to read through Isaiah 1:1–31; 2:1-22; 3:1-26; 4:1-6; 5:1-30; 6:1-13. Isaiah addressed his words to a people who had lost their holy edge. Write down some of the insights you gain from reading these passages.
•Write down a prayer you can use daily, asking the Lord to sharpen any dull edges in your relationship to Him—your words, thoughts, attitudes toward others, and so on.


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 1st, 2011 12:23 PM   IP              
Not Quite Dead…

“We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6:2

Paul Harvey tells a fantastic story about an encounter with a kangaroo.

The Italian sailing team was in Australia for the America’s Cup and, finding themselves with some free time, decided to rent a Land Rover for a jaunt into the Australian outback. The team had been outfitted by the designer, Gucci, so they ventured into the bush clad in their Gucci jackets, wearing their Gucci watches, and carrying their Gucci bags.

As they were driving, a kangaroo bounded out in front of their Land Rover. Unable to stop in time, they hit the poor animal. Climbing out of the four-wheel drive, they figured they would at least capitalize on the sad event by getting some close-up pictures of the kangaroo. One of the team members had the brilliant idea of putting his jacket on the critter for a fun photo.

As they got the jacket on the animal, the kangaroo revived and bolted off into the bush—with the jacket, the car keys, and the team member’s wallet!

The moral of the story? Sometimes what you think is dead is not quite as dead as you thought!

That’s the perspective Paul brings to his discussion of our struggle with sin and temptation in Romans 6:1-23. After a wonderfully detailed treatment of God’s grace and our inability to achieve God’s righteous requirements through the law, he anticipates the next logical question. If our sin is an opportunity for God’s grace to be shown, shouldn’t we sin all the more—you know, so that God gets to show lots of grace?

Paul’s immediate answer is forcefully simple: No way! “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” he argues. Then he goes on to say, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6).

The point is simple. The behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, and actions that marked us before Christ were part of our old self. That’s not who we are anymore. That person is dead, so we’re now free to walk in a new life. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

The problem is, many of us live as if our old self was like that truck-struck kangaroo. Rather than leaving our old self behind, we decide that we’re better off cleaning it up and maybe even dressing it in some designer clothes. We figure that it’s enough if we take the old self to church and even teach it some Bible verses. If the old self goes on a missions trip or puts some money in the offering plate, maybe it will be harmless.

But before long, it will be obvious that the old self isn’t as dead as we thought. And when the old traits of our old self revive, we’re pulled back into temptations and patterns of behavior that we thought we’d left behind. The old self fights against all that we want in Jesus—things like purity, integrity, holiness, and effectiveness for the kingdom.

Paul, anticipating this problem, says to “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). When the temptations surface, we can deliberately choose to say, “I am dead to that temptation and am alive in Christ.”

Today, let’s choose to let the old self stay cross-struck dead and revel in the freedom of walking in our new identity as followers of Jesus!

YOUR JOURNEY…

•Have you experienced new life in Jesus? Can you look back at the moment when you, by faith, trusted in His death to forgive your sins and in His resurrection to give you a new life? If not, you can experience that incredible privilege today!
•In what areas of your life do the attitudes and actions of the old self surface?
•Think of some tangible ways you can remind yourself that you are now “dead to sin” and free from the hold of the addictions and attitudes of your old self. Then rejoice that you have been set free!


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 2nd, 2011 06:31 PM   IP              
Peace in the Midst of the Pieces

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

There I was, minding my own business, shopping for an anniversary card for Martie when something on another shelf caught my eye. It was a box with a tantalizing picture of a mound of Oreo cookies surrounding a big glass of milk with cold condensation running down the glass. Just thinking about it made my blood sugar soar. I went over and grabbed the box off the shelf. It was a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle.

I’m not really into jigsaw puzzles, but at that particular moment, I was a goner—so I bought the puzzle. When I got home, Martie and I opened the box and dumped the pieces out on the table. What had been such a beautiful picture on the box was now only a bunch of disconnected, upside-down parts.

Sometimes life is like that—a disappointing mess of confusing pieces. The longer we sit staring at the fragments, the more hopeless it all seems. But then we remember that it all makes sense on the box top. God is the “box top” of our lives. He—and He alone—knows how to make sense of the mess. He is the one who works all things together for good (Romans 8:28) and who, in His sovereign grace, knows how He will make something beautiful out of the mess of our lives.

That’s why Psalm 46:10 instructs us to be still and know that He is God. The Hebrew phrase for “be still” literally means, “to put your hands down to the side; to relax.” Which leads us to this reading of the phrase: “Put your arms down and relax by knowing that I am God.”

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find it hard to just “relax” in the midst of confusing and disheartening seasons of life. When things go haywire, when dreams are demolished, when family is fragmented, when people have pulverized us, it’s hard to relax! Our instinct is to try to keep our hands on all the pieces at once. We want to manipulate and control them and force the outcome that we desire. But God says that we should do exactly the opposite—stop trying to force the issue and let go. If we don’t give up striving with the problems, our meddling usually just makes things worse.

Thankfully, Psalm 46:10 calls on us to let go. But it’s not letting go without knowing to whom we’re letting it go. Notice that the verse says, “Be still, and know.” Normally, when life is a confusing puzzle, what we know is overshadowed by what we feel. Our emotions threaten to drown us like a scary tsunami. It’s easy to get submerged in a wave of anxiety or a surge of self-pity. But notice that God says the only way we are going to be able to let go and relax is to remember who God is—and to know that He loves us, that He is not confused, that He is in the details, and that, as we obey and trust Him, He is working to make sense of it all.

When we allow ourselves to be taken in by the wonder of God’s work in the mess of our lives, we will be free to stop fretting over the pieces knowing that in the end God is putting the pieces together so that the beauty of the box top will become a reality in our lives!

Take a deep breath. God knows where the pieces go!

YOUR JOURNEY…

•Comb through the Bible to find out more about God. Write down what you learn. Here are a few attributes to give you a running start. God is: alive (Jeremiah 10:10), holy (Leviticus 19:2), faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9), eternal (Genesis 21:33), and just (Isaiah 30:18).
•Is your life a confusing array of scattered pieces? Pray and give the fragments over to Him. Ask the Lord to help you find peace in Him.
•Read Psalm 46:1-11. In your journal, write down 3-5 reasons to “relax” when your life is in pieces.
•Memorize Psalm 46:10. Commit to reciting it when you are overwhelmed by the pieces of your life.


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 3rd, 2011 02:28 PM   IP              
Out of Luck

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Jeremiah 29:11

One of the most oft-quoted movie lines on high school and college campuses comes from Napoleon Dynamite. The line closes the film, after Napoleon’s brother, Kip, gets married and rides off on horseback with his new bride. If you’re a closet Napoleon fan (or have a 14 year old in your home), you know it well:

“Lucky-y-y!”

I don’t want to spend a lot of time analyzing Napoleon Dynamite, but I do want to talk with you about “luck.” First, it’s important to know that the words luck and, for that matter, coincidence are not in God’s vocabulary. God’s hand is at work in every situation, coordinating every detail to accomplish His purposes for His glory and our good. No event is random. No moment is beyond His notice or beyond His control. Christian thinkers and writers have often called this the “providence” of God and, given its importance, let’s think through its implications for our lives.

At one extreme, the providence of God is challenged by post-modern thinkers who tell us that everything happens by chance. For them, life has no ultimate meaning and our only goal is to scrape together enough pleasure and possessions to create some semblance of purpose and enjoyment in life. With such an empty perspective on life, it’s no wonder that lives end up being a string of “sex-capades,” or the pursuit of new and strange pleasures. It answers the question why binge drinking on college campuses is at an all-time high.

At the other end of the spectrum is the distortion of God’s providence by assigning everything in life to “fate”—a fate that portrays us as victims of circumstances entirely outside of our control, leaving us to twist in the whims of a capricious being who manipulates our lives for his own amusement.

It’s time for us to get a biblical view about luck, randomness, fate, and the providence of a good and powerful God!

The God described in the Bible loves His creation passionately and has plans for His people that are supremely good. Not plans of calamity and despair, but plans that are good. If you believe in the providence of God, all of history is moving to a grand and glorious end—the crushing of Satan and evil and the emergence of the new heaven and earth, where all is good and righteous. Where life is full of joy, peace, comfort, and happiness in the presence of God—forever!

I’ll be the first to admit that trusting in God’s providence is hard to do when it comes to difficult circumstances over which I have no control. God’s work is often behind-the-scenes, hidden from our view. He doesn’t give a play-by-play on everything He is doing to coordinate the details of His providential plans. In fact, often His work is most clearly seen in the rearview mirror. But I’ve looked back enough times to see and trust that my life is not a product of good or bad luck, or of random coincidences. It is divinely shaped and guided by the providential hand of God toward a wonderful conclusion.

So today, let’s choose to align our perspective and even our vocabulary with God’s. No more “luck” and no more “coincidences”! It won’t make for memorable movie quotes, but it will make for an infinitely more meaningful and biblically lived life!

YOUR JOURNEY…

•Take a few minutes to look back over some of the events that have shaped your life. How can you, looking back now, see God’s divine hand at work?
•Now think about some of the questions you had in the midst of those events and circumstances. How was your faith challenged during those times?
•How does it encourage you, even if you are in a difficult season of life, to know that God has a plan and that it is for the ultimate good of His children?


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 4th, 2011 12:34 PM   IP              
The Sting of Betrayal

“Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.’” John 13:21

Most of us are familiar with the events in the upper room, where we see Jesus washing the dusty feet of His followers and preparing them for the drama that was about to unfold in the final stage of His earthly ministry. When Jesus—“troubled in spirit”—predicted that one of them would betray Him, it’s no wonder that the disciples “stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant” (John 13:22). Weren’t they all fully committed to Jesus? For three years they had been in this thing together. Little did they know that there was a traitor in their midst.

Betrayal often comes from those we would least suspect. And—here’s a news flash—the person you might least suspect could even be you. The seeds of betrayal are sown in the unseen world of our hearts. And while the seeds may be unnoticed for a time, left unchecked they will inevitably begin to pop up to the surface of our lives in tragic ways.

Some of us have already betrayed Jesus at the heart-level. Often it is a slow, subtle shift from being fully devoted to Him, to following the seductive lure of personal pleasure or gain. Hearts dedicated to cash and comfort are quick to bail when Jesus calls us to sacrifice and suffer for Him. But, whether the betrayal is “big” or seemingly small, it is always in the face of His love. That’s what makes it so wrong, so brazen. When we lose the wonder of His amazing love for us, when we fail to look at His nail-scarred hands, when we start taking His daily provision for granted, we run the risk of cultivating a compromised heart.

And when we betray Jesus, it also shows how stubborn we can be. Clearly, Judas had already made up his mind, or perhaps the love that Jesus extended to him in the upper room—washing his feet and honoring him with a distinguished seat at the table—might have made him think twice. It’s a reminder that when we have decided that we want to sin—that the wrong in our lives serves some purpose that is more important than anything else—we have the capacity to insulate our choice from any outside influence that would cause us to change. We go to church and essentially say to God, “I don’t care what You or anyone else says today. I don’t plan on changing. I don’t care what my spouse says, what my friends say. I don’t care what it means to my job, to my family, or even to Your reputation.” The resolve to sin is an engine that is powerful enough to drive us past even the deepest love of Christ all the way to betrayal. Sin is often an in-His-face, stubborn enterprise.

It’s what happened to Judas and, if we’re not careful, it can happen to us. But if we carefully cultivate a heart that responds to Jesus’ amazing love, we can find ourselves in the group of followers who will stay true to the end!

So, whose crowd are you in—the 11 who followed Jesus regardless, or the one who wanted life his way regardless? Think about it!

YOUR JOURNEY…

•In your opinion, what heart issues may have led Judas to eventually betray his friendship with Jesus? Can you identify with any of those issues?
•You may not be tempted to turn Jesus over to the authorities as Judas did, but in what ways do we betray Jesus in terms of our friendship and devotion to Him?
•What issues in your heart might threaten to derail your commitment to Christ? If you’re not sure, ask Him to reveal those areas to you—just as He revealed the reality of Judas’ imminent betrayal—and then pray that He will break down any stubbornness that might keep you from responding to His love.
•How can you avoid cultivating seeds of compromise in your heart?


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 5th, 2011 11:37 AM   IP              
"You are a chosen generation, . . . a holy nation . . . that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness. " 1 Peter 2:9

My wife, Martie, and I have grown to love England—its history, culture, and people. One of our favorite activities when we visit is going to outdoor concerts (also known as proms) on the sloping lawns of ancient estates. “The Last Night of the Proms” event is the best, with fireworks and hundreds of nationals waving little British flags to rousing patriotic tunes.

We loved joining the celebration—until the summer our children came with us. When we started waving our flags with all the enthusiastic Brits, our kids were aghast. I can still hear them shouting over the music, “What are you doing?! You’re Americans!”

God must often feel like that when we blend in and live like the “locals” around us. I can almost hear Him saying, “What are you doing living like that?! You belong to My nation!”

Peter reminds us that we are different from the locals—we are a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). Being holy means that we are unique, set apart for Jesus, becoming like Him, and reflecting His countercultural ways of living. It means that we are forgiving in the face of cruel offenses; and merciful, gracious, truthful, and loyal to our promises. It means being just like Him.

So let’s start waving the flag of holiness as members of the “Jesus nation”!

O child of God, guard well your life
From anything that stains the heart;
Forsake those things that soil the mind—
Your Father wants you set apart. —Fasick

Our loyalty to Jesus should be seen and heard in our lives.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 6th, 2011 07:01 PM   IP              
Whitewater Experiences

Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God—my God—will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. —1 Chronicles 28:20

I was enjoying the start of my first whitewater rafting experience—until I heard the roar of the rapids up ahead. My emotions were flooded with feelings of uncertainty, fear, and insecurity at the same time. Riding through the whitewater was a first-rate, white-knuckle experience! And then, suddenly, it was over. The guide in the back of the raft had navigated us through. I was safe—at least until the next set of rapids.

Transitions in our lives are like whitewater. The inevitable leaps from one season of life to the next—college to career, singleness to marriage, career to retirement, marriage to widowhood—are all marked by uncertainty and insecurity.

In one of the most significant transitions recorded in Old Testament history, Solomon assumed the throne from his father David. I’m sure he was filled with “white-knuckle” uncertainty about the future. His father’s advice? “Be strong and of good courage, and do it; . . . for the LORD God—my God—will be with you” (1 Chronicles 28:20).

You’ll have your fair share of tough transitions in life. But with God in your raft you’re not alone. Keep your eyes on the One who is navigating the rapids. He’s taken lots of others through before. Smooth waters are just ahead.

I am safe when danger threatens,
For I’m trusting Christ the Lord;
Since He promised He’ll be with me,
Though I fear, my faith’s restored. —Hess

God will guide you through the rapids of change.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 7th, 2011 12:08 PM   IP              
When the Going Gets Tough

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.” James 1:12

There I was driving along, half hypnotized by the steady flow of traffic. I glanced at the car ahead of me. The bumper sticker read, “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping!” I chuckled. But then I thought: Could you really call yourself “tough” if you headed for the mall every time life went sour? As I drove, I pondered how to really finish that sentence, “When the going gets tough, the tough . . . do what?”

A quick Internet search on the phrase returned endless possibilities for completing the thought. Here are some of the wackiest endings: “When the going gets tough, the tough “go to Asia,” or, the tough “start knitting.” One even said, “The tough lighten up!”

All of these alternative endings are humorous in their own way. But, they also represent ways to deal with “tough going.” For example, shopping could symbolize immediate gratification. Racing off to Asia might mean you’re running away from the problem. Starting to knit is a picture of distracting yourself from the trouble at hand. And if you simply lighten up, or laugh it off—that’s kind of like denial.

I don’t think any of us would get very far in life if we repeatedly chose those responses to trouble. They all contradict the traditional ending to the phrase. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” The tough hang in there; they persevere. James 1:12 says: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life.”

In the Greek language, the word perseverance is literally made up of two words. One means “to remain.” The other word means “under.” That tells us that perseverance is the ability to remain under the pressure of difficulty with a good spirit. As Christians, we have a responsibility to bear the stress until God accomplishes His purposes. This gives us the assurance that our suffering has meaning.

In fact, God intends that we, in time, will blossom under the pressure. That’s why James exhorts us to submit to the trial and let perseverance finish its job of sanctification. In James 1:4, the text tells us, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” And, check out Romans 5:1-21 where Paul says that perseverance produces character!

In addition to the blessings that God brings to us when we persevere, perseverance also allows others to see Christ at work in our lives. With the growing interest in spirituality today, people are watching us more than ever before. They are looking to see if there is anything of value in our walk with Jesus. Or, are we just like anyone else when the going gets tough? They want to know, would a Christian use a string of four-letter words if she lost the big sale? Would a Christian booze it up after a crazy stressful day at the office? What would it take for a Christian to throw in the towel on his marriage? When we invite God to help us through situations like these, He furnishes the power to persevere so that onlookers can see that our Jesus is worth being faithful to regardless of the stress.

The next time a problem comes up and you’re tempted to go shopping, gallivant off to Asia, or knit yourself into oblivion, remember: Since God has a purpose in your problem, it’s worth hanging in there! So, if you are a follower of Jesus, your bumper sticker announces, “When the going gets tough, the tough hang in there!”

YOUR JOURNEY…

•Many people in the Bible struggled with difficult circumstances, but they did not give up. Read Hebrews 11:1-40. What enabled those people to persevere?
•Do you have true grit? Write down some recent responses to trouble in your life. Do you tend to stay the course, or do you look for a way out?
•If you need encouragement to persevere, read the following Scriptures: Psalm 73:26; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12; Hebrews 10:19-39; 12:1-3.


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 8th, 2011 06:24 PM   IP              
Anybody for Servanthood?

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant." Matthew 20:26

In politics, the paths to success and significance are paved with the right contacts, the right connections, and the right contributions. In Chicago, which was my adopted hometown for 20 years, a series of investigations and indictments have unearthed the steamier side of this cycle—political favors and premium jobs doled out in exchange for campaign funds and other perks. Sadly, the common defense in most of these cases is, “That’s just politics. It’s how things are done.” As one comedian aptly put it, “You know it’s cold in Chicago when the politicians have their hands in their own pockets!”

Actually, from an earth-side point of view, there may be some advantages to a “political” approach to life. Our world is all about “who you know” and “What have you done for me lately?” We are primed early on to look out for ourselves and to do whatever it takes to not miss the big break.

But if you see yourself as a follower of Christ, that kind of thinking bears little resemblance to His life and teaching. Take for instance the encounter that Jesus had with two of His most committed disciples. An encounter that only goes to prove that even the best of us can still have those political instincts alive and well, down-deep inside.

James and John grab for the brass ring as they try to cash in on some relational capital. In Matthew 20:21, we read that James and John may have convinced their mother to petition Jesus for some plum cabinet positions in the new kingdom: “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” Wow, what a bold request! But if you don’t stick up for yourself, hey, who will?

What were these guys thinking? Probably the same kinds of thoughts that cross our minds as we think about our role in Jesus’ plan: “I’m sure I could be doing that job much better than that person. When is God going to entrust that kind of position to me?” “Serve as an usher? No thanks, but don’t forget to call me when that elder position is open.” Or, “I’m really bummed that I’ve done all of this and no one has even offered a word of thanks.” Or we might think, “If I’m nice to him I can leverage our relationship to get ahead.” “We’ve had them over for dinner twice, and they have never included us in anything!”

Sound familiar? Sadly, I don’t think I’m alone in battling the inborn desire to be noticed, to be affirmed, and to feel significant. Scripture records that the other disciples were visibly ticked at James and John’s request—probably because they had beaten them to the punch and used their mother in the process. Talk about unfair leveraging of relationships!

So what is the cure for this disease of “Hey! How about me?” self-promotionitis. Well, it is found in the response of Christ when He said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26).

A servant? The one who quietly and humbly submits to and serves the desires of others regardless of personal recognition? That doesn’t sound like the politician’s path to greatness or the world’s path to significance, does it?

But it’s the path Jesus took. Before going all the way to the cross, He told His disciples: “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). So, if we’re striving to be like Him, no task is beneath us, no person is below us, and no legitimate sacrifice is too great. From Jesus’ point of view, servanthood is the path to significance. As a friend of mine says, “In the kingdom, the way up is down!”

Let’s drop the old “What will others do for me?” routine and get on with serving others as Jesus has served us.

Your Journey . . .

•How has the world’s thinking about significance and success crept into your attitude at work, at home, and in your relationships? What struggles have you had recently with “it’s all about me” issues?
•Read Philippians 2:1-11. How was the humility of Christ demonstrated, and what was the result? What difference would having this attitude of Christ make in your life? Be specific.
•What are some practical ways that you could serve your spouse? Your children? Your co-workers? Your friends at church? The helpless and needy?
•Will your efforts to serve stop if no one says thanks or reciprocates? Serving regardless, serving because He served us, is the purest form of service!


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 9th, 2011 11:39 AM   IP              
Living Here for There

“Our citizenship is in heaven” Philippians 3:20

Victoria Perez watched as the Cessna touched down on the road in the distance. When she was sure it was him, she shouted to her children, “That’s your father!” Grabbing the little ones, they ran to the plane and scrambled aboard. The engine buzzed to life, and the tiny aircraft lifted off. They were finally leaving Cuba. It had been two years since her husband Orestes had defected to the United States, and he had finally returned to fly them to their new home in America.

I am sure that Victoria initially lived for the day that her husband would return and take her to their new home in a better land! But I wonder, not knowing when he would return, if she ever gave up hope and hunkered down in her home in Cuba as though it was the only home she would ever have?

You’re probably connecting the dots. As followers of Jesus, this world is not really our home. For the most part, it’s not all that bad a place to live—but it’s still not home. Jesus has not only gone to prepare a place for us but has promised that He will come again to take us there (John 14:1-6). And as Paul notes in our text for today, our citizenship is in heaven. So, until we get there, we need to consider ourselves transient, like immigrants on our way to a better place. Saint John the Divine said it best when he wrote: “God is at home; we are in the far country.”

So what should we do to keep our eyes toward heaven and our hearts fixed on our new home?

Our first challenge is to remember that we are people of a different nation. We are people of His kingdom (Colossians 1:12-13). As citizens of a different land, we live by the principles of our homeland. We are generous, we forgive, we serve others instead of ourselves, we are patient and kind and extend mercy and grace whenever we can. Jesus is our King and we live to be like Him. Like pasta is to Italians, so living like Jesus is to people who are citizens of heaven!

With Abraham, we consider ourselves strangers and aliens here, desiring a better country (Hebrews 11:13-16). It’s not that we are aliens in the weird sense. We don’t have antennas on our heads and green skin. But if we know where we are headed, we will be different—wonderfully different!

Of course, there are things to enjoy and appreciate here. Being citizens of heaven doesn’t mean that we don’t live to revel in the glory of God in art, music, nature, friendships, love, and the material gifts that He has graciously bestowed on us. But when we are headed home, those things don’t ever tempt us to set up permanent residence in their pleasure. In fact, if we were to lose everything here, we could still hold our head high because we can never lose our greatest treasure: Jesus and the home where He will take us when He comes again. We live in the midst of both pleasure and pain with the confidence that the best is yet to come!

The old hymn gets it right when it says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” Victoria Perez must have known that. As she and her children ran for the plane, one of the kids lost a shoe. “Forget the shoe!” Victoria yelled. “Father is in the plane!”

YOUR JOURNEY…

•The Bible says that heaven is for people who trust Jesus Christ as their Savior. If you don’t know Him, read the following verses to discover how to invite Jesus into your heart: Romans 3:10; 3:23; 5:12; 5:8; 6:23; 10:9-13.
•Do you ever get tired of living in a place that is not your home? Search the New Testament for verses that show what heaven (your true home) is like. Make a list of all the things you are looking forward to when you arrive!
•Are you living as if this earth is your true home? Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show you the beauty of unhindered service for Christ.


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 10th, 2011 03:09 PM   IP              
Now Appearing . . . Jesus!

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

If I were God—and I know a lot of people including my wife who are deeply grateful that I’m not—I might very well have planned a stealth arrival to our planet to keep people guessing about who I really was.

Think of how cool it would have been for God to be here and for no one to know it was actually Him. With the old sunglasses, fake nose, and moustache trick, He could sneak into a lot of places without being noticed. The advantage of being able to check up on religious folk to see what they were really like when they thought He wasn’t looking is almost too tantalizing of an option to refuse! He could do the Santa routine: making a list and checking it twice. And to most people that would make a lot of sense since masses of us assume that God considers it great sport to spend his time finding out who’s naughty and nice. Then, after getting the scoop, He could quietly disappear and plan His sting operation against our wayward ways.

But you’ve got to give God a lot of credit. He resisted the temptation and arrived on our planet in the person of an unshrouded and wide-open Jesus. And most surprisingly, He didn’t come to find out who is naughty and nice. He already knows that. Instead, He came to shock us about God. To prove once and for all that God was not a stingy-hand-wringing-grimacing-out-of-touch-with-reality God who can’t wait to pull the trigger. But rather a God who generously disperses the rare items of grace and mercy to all who have at one time or another slipped up. And that’s all of us! A God whose love was not the mushy kind but tough enough to risk a life-threatening rescue mission so that all of us might recover and experience the ultimate satisfaction that He promises—guaranteed!

And, it must be admitted, masses in our day have found the real Jesus to be anything but elusive. In fact, they have found Him to be compellingly available. And, for the suspicious among us, it is not just the feeble and weak who flee to Him for rest and comfort (though He gladly grants rest and comfort to those who find themselves shoved to the bottom of the heap). Many highly placed, intelligent, prosperous, and privileged people have found—in the midst of their abundance and instant access to thrills and stuff—that they are still hanging out the vacancy sign on the door of their hearts. It is these people who are finding that Jesus does exactly what He says He will: cancel the smoke-and-mirrors show and fill the hollow recesses of life with hope, purpose, and the pursuit of all that is truly significant!

So, here’s the good news. If you embrace the real Jesus, you will find Him to be deeply rewarding and wonderfully different. Wonderfully different from anyone you have ever known. Wonderfully full of grace and truth!

YOUR JOURNEY…

•Have you embraced the reality of Jesus and his ways in your life, or is He just another religious icon in your life?
•What do you find wonderfully different about Jesus? Do people around you find that in your life as well?
•What do you find wonderfully rewarding about Jesus? Have you rewarded others with that through your life?
•Make a plan. Be the wonderfully different and rewarding Jesus to someone in your world today!


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 11th, 2011 05:43 PM   IP              
Open-Book Test

“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Philippians 3:8

Have you ever taken an “open-book” test? At first blush they seem like a piece of cake. You can actually have the book open during the test! No late-night cramming. No last-minute frenzy to memorize facts and figures. Count me in!

But astute students quickly learn that open-book tests are not always as simple as one might think. An open-book test has a much higher standard of accountability. If you have the answers right there in front of you, then there’s no excuse for a wrong answer—it was right there in your open book!

As I look through Scripture, I’m struck by the fact that the tests God brings into our lives are always “open-book.” We don’t need to cram or study for them, we simply need to open God’s Book and apply it to each situation. The prophet Micah says it plainly: “He has showed you, O man, what is good” (Micah 6:8). God’s instructions for our lives are clearly and lovingly outlined in His Word, and each test is an opportunity to put our faith and allegiance into action.

When we consider our allegiance to the Lord, let me suggest a few questions that might appear on His open-book exam for our lives:

1. Would you still love and serve God, even if He hadn’t made promises to bless and reward you? In other words, is your love and loyalty to Him based on what He does for you, or is it based on your love for Him whether He ever does anything for you or not? If you open the Book, you’ll see that Job passed the test because he knew that his God was worthy of his worship regardless. As he so boldly announced, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15). Reading about the absolute worthiness of our God in the open Book will help you pass the test.

2. If God required your prized possessions, would you place them on the altar for Him? Think about it. What’s more important to you, the gifts that God has given you, or the Giver of the gifts? I can’t consider this question without my mind racing to the “open-book” picture of Abraham on top of a mountain with his son, Isaac, ready to offer up what was most precious to him—his son—a gut-wrenching demonstration of God’s absolute supremacy in his life (Hebrews 11:17-19).

3. If He required what brings you pleasure, would you give it up for Him? I’m not speaking here of illicit pleasures that are outside the boundaries of God’s righteous rules. I mean legitimate pleasures like peace, affluence, and significant friendships. Can you open the Book and say with Paul that you count the best things in your life as rubbish compared to the joy of Jesus in your life?

The apostle Paul seemed to have a good handle on this. For him, walking with Jesus wasn’t about scoring points toward receiving heavenly promises. Life was not about the accumulation of possessions or the pursuit of pleasure. It was about Jesus, and Him alone. Writing to the Philippians, he gave an open-book assessment of his life—a long list of worldly accolades and successes followed by the right answer: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

Now it’s our turn. Regardless of the test you face, open the Book and let Jesus help you ace it!

YOUR JOURNEY…

•What has motivated your obedience to Jesus? Has it been the character of Christ and gratitude for His grace, or has it been a desire to receive the blessings He has promised?
•Have any possessions (whether you own them or simply long for them) begun to hinder your pursuit of Jesus as your first priority? How can you put those possessions in their rightful place?
•How much of your life is spent in pursuing pleasure? What would it look like if you truly considered “everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus”?


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 12th, 2011 12:14 PM   IP              
The Quarter In Your Pocket

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. —James 5:16

Some things are irresistible. For me, it’s bubble-gum machines. I can hardly resist the urge to watch one of those colorful gumballs roll down the tunnel so I can pop it into my mouth. But without a quarter, those gumballs are locked up inside. You can be sure that as long as I have the right coin, I won’t pass up an opportunity to enjoy the mouth-watering treat.

Prayer is the quarter in your pocket when it comes to releasing the vast resources of God’s character and blessings in your life. The “muchness” of God stands in sharp contrast to the leanness of our souls, and without prayer we cannot begin to tap into the reservoir of all that He is waiting to bestow on us. When we long for a satisfying taste of His resources, prayer is essential.

James makes it clear that our prayer needs to be “fervent” and “effective” (James 5:16). God is not into ritual but reality. He wants us to avoid formulaic prayers in exchange for a persistent passion. We are to approach His throne of grace with a keen awareness of our need for Him.

As James stated earlier in his book, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). The more we pray, the more we receive, and before long our lives will demonstrate the life-changing reality of the muchness of God.

The more we go to God in prayer
Intent to seek His face,
The more we’ll want to be with Him
Before His throne of grace. —Sper

Much prayer, much power; little prayer, little power; no prayer, no power!



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 13th, 2011 01:41 PM   IP              
A Boost of Courage

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. —Hebrews 12:2

When my son Joe was a child, I took him to the local YMCA for swimming lessons. I could almost see an Olympic gold medal swinging around his neck.

To my chagrin, Joe didn’t “wow” the class. Instead, he took one look at the water, one look at the instructor, and started bawling.

I thought, Oh, no, I’ve fathered a coward! To make matters worse, the instructor motioned for me to take Joe back to the locker room. In the midst of his sobs and pleas to go home, I gave him a little pep talk: “You can do it, Joe! I’ll come to all your lessons, and we’ll have a signal. When you get scared you can look up at me, and when I hold my thumb up you’ll know it’s going to be okay because I’m here cheering you on.” Joe finally agreed, and today he can swim circles around me.

How often we too face situations that seem overwhelming and impossible. It’s in those times that we need to find our confidence in Jesus. Our first instinct may be to back away in fear. But that’s exactly when we need to look to Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2), who will raise His nail-scarred hand and say, “Stay with it. Run the race. I’ve run it before you, and in My power you can win. You can do it!”

Hold fast to Christ and He will give
The will to see you through;
And if you keep on keeping on,
Your strength He will renew. —D. De Haan

Christ’s victory in the past gives courage for the present and hope for the future.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 14th, 2011 01:08 PM   IP              
God's Instrument

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth." Psalm 100:1

I’ll never forget my conversation with Erin, who is an accomplished violinist. As we were talking about violins, I asked her whether or not the coveted violins made by Stradivarius were really all that different. As you may know, on the very rare occasion when one becomes available it will sell for amounts of well over a million dollars. Because she had heard a Stradivarius played, she affirmed that the difference between a Stradivarius violin and even the best of the others was significant. Which then led me to ask her, “What makes the sounds from the Strads so great?”

Erin explained that Stradivarius lived in a small Italian village in the 1700s. Since he was too poor to buy fine wood for his violins, he pulled his wood from the polluted harbor of his village. Three hundred years ago, the harbors were the equivalent of our town dumps. They were a smelly, dismal stew of trash, human and animal waste, and garbage.

As experts analyze the wood from these famous violins, they discover that microbes in the contaminated water had eaten away the inside of the cells in the wood. The only thing left of the cells was the superstructure. So, when a violinist plays a Stradivarius violin, it’s like an organ with thousands of sound chambers, each reverberating the sound of the bow moving across the strings.

What a great picture of what Jesus has done for us! Valueless and lost in the soul-rotting disease of our own sin, Jesus came and pulled us from the sludge. As the Bible puts it, He loved us while we were sinners. In other words, even though we had been eaten hollow by sin, He reached down from the cross and wiped us clean. And then He crafted us into priceless instruments to resonate the strong and distinct sounds of His love and grace and glory.

No wonder David wrote, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness!” (Psalm 100:1 ESV). And Paul reminds us that with the indwelling Spirit in control, our lives should be filled with “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19). Our lives should resound with gratitude and not grumpiness, thanksgiving and praise regardless of our life circumstances. When Paul and Silas sang in jail, believe me, the jailor had never heard anything like it before! Like the Stradivarius violin, the sound quality of the song that Jesus puts in our restored souls should be noticeably different than the other “violins” around us. The song we sing with our lives should be joyful and glad. And this difference is not just for our benefit, or the benefit of those around us—it’s for the listening pleasure of the Master Creator.

Just as Stradivarius must have smiled at the sound of melodies played on his instruments, God delights in the beautiful songs that His instruments create when our lives are tuned to sing His praise.

YOUR JOURNEY…

•Have you allowed God to rescue you from your sins through a saving faith in Christ? If not, pray and ask Jesus to forgive your sins. Ask Him to come into your heart and give you eternal life.
•Meditate on Psalm 100:1-5 and ask God to show you new ways to worship and serve Him. Read and internalize the advice in Philippians 4:4-7 and Hebrews 13:15. What can you do to ratchet up the song in your heart and on your lips?
•Which sins pull you back to the polluted harbor? Make a list, and spend time in repentance. Find an accountability partner to help you stay on track.
•On an index card, write down three ways in which you want to be more set apart from the world. Keep the card in your Bible and pray about it daily.


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 15th, 2011 12:10 PM   IP              
Getting Along

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3

I’m guessing that even astronomical gas prices won’t stop many parents from packing up the car and taking the kids on a road trip for vacation this summer. And if the trip is more than 50 miles, you can already imagine the scene in the backseat: “Mom, he’s on my side!” or “Dad, tell her to stop doing that!” When the kids don’t get along, it drives their parents nuts and takes the joy out of the journey.

I often wonder: Does God feel that way about His kids? He has asked us to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), and yet differences in gender, color, gifts, temperaments, roles, perspectives, preferences, and denominations threaten to wreck the unity that He intends for us to enjoy on the road to paradise. The psalmist had it right when he declared, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

A close look at Jesus’ prayer in John 17:1-26 sheds some light on how to grow up and get along. Just before His ultimate demonstration of love on the cross, Jesus prayed that His followers would be unified (John 17:11) and that they would be set apart by the truth of God’s Word (John 17:16-17). He continued, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one” (John 17: 20-21).

We can’t miss the connection between truth and unity. In fact, truth is the key ingredient of biblical unity. Truth is what unites us as believers: Truth about His deity. Truth about the message of salvation that comes by grace through faith in Christ alone. Truth that the Scriptures are the sole authority for faith and practice, and that they are without error and completely trustworthy.

Jesus goes on to indicate that unity is also built around righteousness. “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (John 17: 15-16). As His followers, unity comes when together we cling to the distinction between good and evil and seek to reflect the goodness of God in all that is pure and right.

What we know to be true about God’s Word and what we know to be true about how to live gives us a lot in common! And since Jesus is at the center of it all, He becomes the glue that makes us one. I might not be particularly drawn to you—your culture and background may be different than mine—but when I find out that you too are a follower of Jesus, His Word, and His Way, I find myself saying, “You too? Hey, let’s walk together!”

Being one in Jesus gives us the joy of bearing one another’s burdens, praying for one another, overlooking class distinctions, and casting the log out of our own eyes rather than focusing on the weaknesses of others. When we let the grand things we have in common override our petty differences, the backseat will be a happier place, and we can all enjoy the journey in peace!

YOUR JOURNEY…

•Read Jesus’ prayer in John 17:1-26. Why do you think He earnestly prayed for unity among His followers? Read through the passage again making it your own prayer, and ask Him to reveal areas where unity may be lacking.
•What are some things that make unity in the body of Christ so challenging?
•Have you ever compromised truth and righteousness for the sake of unity? Ask the Lord to keep you strong in these areas, and seek input from a trusted pastor or church leader if you need help bolstering these components of your faith.
•Is there a fellow believer you find difficult to get along with? What can you do to pursue unity in that relationship?


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 16th, 2011 08:10 PM   IP              
Thou Shalt Not Be a Bystander

“He upholds the cause of the oppressed.” Psalm 146:7

In 1955, an African-American Christian woman in her 40s refused to surrender her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. As a result, many now view Rosa Parks as the mother of the civil rights movement and consider her act one of courage. But Rosa called her decision an act of faith. She said, “I felt the Lord would give me strength to endure whatever I had to face. It was time for someone to stand up—or in my case, to sit down. I refused to move.”

As followers of Jesus, we must be willing to stand, or sit, for what is right and just. Sadly, when life is good inside the “believer’s bubble,” very few voices cry out in protest against injustice.

Take a glance back through history with me for just a moment. Remember the Christians who lived in ancient Rome? They were tortured and killed for entertainment in the coliseums of Rome. Centuries later, generations of Africans were forced into slavery and kept in bondage until they were legally set free in 1865. Today, the atrocities in Darfur have resulted in the killing and maiming of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.

Something should go “tilt” deep down inside us when we think about these detestable actions against the dignity of fellow humans. And if it doesn’t, we need to check our spiritual pulse! God hates injustice and has a special place in His heart for the oppressed. In Psalm 146:7, the text tells us, “He upholds the cause of the oppressed.” It moves me to think about how His heart must break when He sees people who are precious to Him victimized by corrupt thinking and twisted morality.

God hates injustice so much that He gave us a living model for raising the standard of justice against oppression. That model is Jesus Christ!

Take, for instance, the time when He “cleaned house” in the temple where the merchants and moneychangers were in cahoots. They were requiring poor pilgrims who had come to worship to change their money for temple currency at exorbitantly unjust rates and, on top of that, they were forced to pay several times the market value for the cow, lamb, or dove that was to be used as an atonement for their sin!

Obviously, Jesus despised this unjust practice so much that He used a whip to drive the money changers from the temple, overthrowing their money tables and calling them thieves! He reacted so strongly because the merchants were taking advantage of people’s desire to serve and obey God. Injustice in the name of a just God is a serious offense to our God, who is perfectly just. In fact, throughout the Gospels Jesus took it upon Himself, at great risk, to be an advocate for the maligned and the oppressed.

One of history’s most tragic offenses to justice was the Holocaust. In Washington D.C., at the Holocaust Museum, there is a plaque with these words, “Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”

Although the silence from the Christian community is often deafening when it comes to helping the oppressed, it is never too late to start. You and I need to link arms with the people who are taking justice to our unjust world by rescuing those who are victims of injustice.

The Old Testament prophet Micah said that when it comes to pleasing God, we must “act justly and love mercy” (Micah 6:8). Maybe, that’s why I would like to see the eleventh commandment be: “Thou shalt not be a bystander.”

YOUR JOURNEY…

•Read the story of Christ in the temple in Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46; and John 2:12-22. Make a list of observations about these passages. What stands out to you about the way Jesus reacted to injustice?
•Jesus demonstrated righteous anger in the face of injustice. When is the last time you experienced anger in seeing someone mistreated? What did you do about it?
•Have you ever showed injustice to someone? Pray and ask the Lord how He might lead you to make that situation right in His eyes.
•Reach out and help the victims of injustice. Consider supporting a ministry like the Hands of Hope, which helps women and children in Africa (www.handsofhopeonline.org); or International Justice Mission, which provides legal intervention and advocacy on behalf of victims of injustice internationally (www.ijm.org).


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 18th, 2011 12:04 PM   IP              
Two-Way Street

“You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 15:14

Ever had a one-way friendship? You know the drill—people who always need a favor but never give anything in return. Every time they come close, you can almost hear that sucking sound as they bring a new set of demands and needs. In these kinds of friendships, there is clearly something missing if you’re looking for the joy of shared friendship.

I’ve often wondered if God ever feels that way about us with our constant barrage of questions, problems, and prayer requests. Of course, He wants us to cast all our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7), and thankfully He stands ready and willing to help (Hebrews 4:16). But if we aspire to be a friend of God, we need to recognize that true friendship with God is a reciprocal deal.

When Jesus talked about friendship, He told the disciples, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). They probably had a hard time getting past the shock of the first part, “You are my friends . . . ” Any good Jew would have known that Abraham and Moses were the only two people in the Old Testament to have been called a “friend” of God. What a distinct privilege! But notice the second part, “if you do what I command.” Jesus made it clear that His true friends would be those who would show their allegiance to Him by doing what He told them to do: “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

Jesus proved His friendship when He “laid down His life” for us. Now the question is, what will we do for Him? Although we can never out-give Him or come close to repaying Him, every day we have opportunities to display our friendship with Him when we extend kindness to someone, forgive an offender, and show compassion to the poor and the oppressed.

So, welcome to the privilege of being God’s friend—and the privilege of proving it. After all, true friendship goes both ways!

YOUR JOURNEY…

•In what ways has Jesus proved His friendship toward you? Make a list of things that come to mind, and look for other expressions of His friendship as you go through your day.
•Evaluate your friendship with God. Is it a fair-weather friendship with a few perks thrown in? Or do you feel that it is a privilege and a priority? Be honest!
•How can you express your friendship to Jesus? Are there some habits or routines in your life that need to change in order to prioritize this relationship?


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 19th, 2011 07:13 PM   IP              
The Right Answer

"Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him"— 1 John 5:1

When Jesus asked a question, it was not because He didn’t know the answer. You can be sure He was making a point.

Jesus and His disciples were in Caesarea Philippi, away from their own territory. It was a place of idolatry and oppression—a threatening place both politically and spiritually. In this environment, Jesus posed two important questions about the perception of His identity. He wasn’t interested in His popularity rating. He wanted His followers to be sure about the One they were following.

Today our culture is just as hostile and opposed to Jesus as when He first asked the question: “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Matthew 16:13). As in Jesus’ day, people offer a long list of inadequate and incorrect ideas about Jesus, ranging from “just a good teacher” all the way to “divisive” and “intolerant.”

The real question was and continues to be: “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Peter boldly declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus said that Peter’s accurate confession was a God-given insight and that he was blessed because of his declaration (Matthew 16:17).

Join Peter in confessing that Jesus is your Savior. Your life will be bolstered and blessed.

O receive Him today who so loved you
That He died on the cross for your sin;
O believe Him and open your heart’s door,
Let the Savior who loves you come in. —Anon.

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. —1 John 5:1



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 20th, 2011 12:06 PM   IP              
On Purpose

We . . . are being transformed into [Christ’s] image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. —2 Corinthians 3:18

Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life has had an unbelievable run on the best-seller lists. Its phenomenal appeal reminds us that believers and nonbelievers alike have a deep longing for a clear sense of purpose. We all want to know that our lives are involved in something worthwhile. Without a strong sense of calling and purpose, life is nothing more than routine busyness.

Being a follower of Jesus gives us a distinct advantage when it comes to having a sense of purpose. The Westminster Catechism sums it up well when it says the “chief end of man” is to “glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

Glorifying God means putting His character, His will, and His ways into action in all that we do. The apostle Paul reminded us that we “are being transformed into [Christ’s] image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). The purpose of our lives is to let others see what God is like as they watch and experience His love through us.

What a profound privilege it is to mirror God’s love, mercy, grace, justice, and righteousness to a world whose heart is “veiled” to God’s truth! (2 Cor.4:3-4). Our purpose is to show others less of us and more of Him. That’s living on purpose with a purpose!

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

The Christian’s purpose is to promote God’s plan.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 21st, 2011 03:54 PM   IP              
She Loves Me, . . . She Loves Me Not

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15

Did you ever try to figure out whether or not someone you loved, loved you in return? Who knows when, but a long time ago some romantic had the idea that you could solve the dilemma by pulling petals off of a daisy. Remember how it works? “She loves me, she loves me not . . .” When you got to the last petal, you’d have it figured out. And, the beauty of it was, if you didn’t like the outcome, you could grab another flower and start over!

Sometimes I wonder if that’s how God feels about our love for Him. We know from Scripture that God’s love toward us is faithful, undaunted, and unchanging (Lamentations 3:22-23). But, quite frankly, our love for Him is often fickle and erratic. One day it’s “we love Him,” and a couple of days later it looks like “we love him not.” And while we would never say it that way, sometimes that’s really what it is! One day we resonate with intimacy toward God, and the next, we feel distant and disconnected.

I suspect that part of the problem is our understanding of the word love. We use the same English word to speak about so many things. I could say, “I love the Chicago Cubs; I love deep-dish pizza; I love the family dog; and I love my wife” using the same word for all, but meaning dramatically different things. Then we take that same word and say, “I love God.” No wonder the meaning gets lost!

That’s why I’m thankful for the writings of the apostle John. He moves the discussion about our love for God from the realm of our fickle feelings to tangible, practical ways that we can express our love to God regardless of how we feel. John tells us that God feels loved by us when we surrender to Him and obey (1 John 5:3). He also tells us that loving God is expressed to Him by loving our brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 4:21). And in today’s verse we see that our love for God is also proven when we choose to love God more than the world! “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

So, thankfully, our love for God doesn’t need to rise and fall on how we feel on a given day. Loving Him is about our choice to put Him first and care about the things He cares about! And that is something we can do on a regular basis regardless.

If you’ve been caught in a “petal-pulling” love relationship with Jesus, set yourself free by choosing to express your love to Him in concrete ways every day. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the good feelings follow your good choices!

YOUR JOURNEY…

•Take some time to evaluate your love for God. Is it based on your feelings or on the facts you know to be true about Him? In what ways do you express your love for Him?
•How are you doing in terms of not loving the world? What are some things in the world that attract your attention, distracting you from your relationship with God?
•According to 1 John 2:17, what will happen to the world? Can you be described as a person “who does the will of God”? Take some time to prayerfully ask the Lord to anchor your heart with this desire.


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 22nd, 2011 04:12 PM   IP              
Are You Down With It?

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” Luke 6:27

In the early hours of the morning, five drug dealers kidnapped Buster Soaries and drove him to a vacant lot. They dragged him out of the car and jammed a shotgun in his face, a .45 to the back of his head, and a rifle in his side. Just as they were about to do him in, the driver noticed a police car parked on a nearby highway. Afraid that the police would investigate the gunfire, they forced Buster back into the car. Nearly five hours later, their gang lord ordered the kidnappers to let him go. They made it clear to Buster that they would get him later.

Talk about enemies! Buster had every reason to hate those guys. And he resolved to get even with them in a way that probably would have landed him in death row. But God had a different path in mind—one that involved salvation instead of incarceration.

Buster encountered Jesus and began to learn what it means to live by His ways, not the ways of the street. On the street, payback is king. But Jesus taught something completely opposed to the idea of avenging our enemies. Jesus was, as they say on the street, “down with it” when it comes to loving our enemies. In Luke 6:27-36, He said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

If you think His take on love is extreme, you’re right. And Jesus lived out exactly what He preached. Jesus had a lot of opportunities to hate and destroy His enemies. But He loved them instead. The most incredible example was displayed when He was brutally crucified for something He did not do. He prayed for the men who were crucifying Him, even while they were doing it! He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

I think Jesus made it clear that He didn’t want a bunch of vigilante Christians running around trying to give our enemies a dose of their own wickedness. When I say “enemy,” I’m not just talking about the guy who used your stolen credit card to buy Cubs tickets. Enemies can be our bosses, parents, spouses, or even our own children, and sometimes, they are the hardest to love.

Jesus’ calls us to be really different—to return grace for hurt, mercy in the face of malignancy, and kindness for cruelty. And this requires absolute faith in God’s promise found in Romans 12:19: “For it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” In essence, we have to “chill out” because the Lord is saying, “Don’t worry; I’ve got your back.”

Several years after the attempted murder, Buster (who by the way is now Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr., the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey) encountered one of his kidnappers in a crowd at Madison Square Garden. He stood there, stunned as he looked into the eyes of the man who had once held a gun to the back of his head. Once again, fear washed over his heart. But what did he do? He went over to his enemy and shocked the guy by hugging him! He told him he loved him, and said that if he needed anything he would be happy to help him. Because of Jesus’ example, Buster had the power to embrace a man who once wanted to kill him.

Buster took the “Jesus way.” And I wonder, are you down with it too?

YOUR JOURNEY…

•Spend some time journaling about your philosophy of love. How does it compare with what Jesus taught about loving people who hurt and mistreat us?
•Meditate on the text in Luke 6:27-28 and Romans 12:14-21. What do you think will happen if you follow these instructions?
•Make a list of the enemies in your life—people who need to experience your love and forgiveness. Commit to praying for these people once a week. Maybe you’ll need to pray for the boss who passed you up for the promotion or the entire Republican or Democratic Party!


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 23rd, 2011 07:38 PM   IP              
Living With a Clear View

“Offer your bodies as living sacrifices . . . this is your spiritual act of worship” Romans 12:1

I love Wrigley Field in Chicago. But like most old ballparks, it has the necessary but aggravating problem of support posts that obscure the view of the game. Unfortunately, I got stuck behind one of those posts at a game once, and, needless to say, it was disappointing. Without a clear view, I became easily distracted.

It can be like that with worship. Without a clear view of what really counts, we are quickly distracted by lesser things in life. And when that happens, our worship becomes ritualistic and routine. Worship isn’t meant to be a drab experience, but rather an active, ongoing, enthusiastic response to God for His work and worth in our lives.

As I sat distractedly behind the post, I often wondered why everyone was cheering. What had I missed? Losing sight of the real game, God’s wonderful worth to us, will make you wonder why others are so excited about God and why you are only excited about your own dreams, desires, and possessions. Maybe it’s time to look around the obstructions of life to see Jesus clearly again and notice what He is worth to you—personally.

And what would that worship look like? Well, it would be more than singing in church. True worship is a surrender of all that we are and have. Paul told the believers in Rome to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1). Our lives are to be placed on the altar as an act of worship as well! Is He worth that kind of sacrifice? You bet! He gave up everything to set you eternally free. It’s time to tell Him how much He is worth by returning the favor. Being truthful, loving, honest, and forgiving even when it hurts would be a great place to start. And be careful, living sacrifices tend to want to climb off the altar!

Go ahead—get out from behind the support posts so you can get a fresh glimpse of Jesus. He’s the only action worth worshiping in your life!

YOUR JOURNEY…

•What is God worth to you? Is He worth your resources of time and attention, and even your money? What are some specific reasons why He is worth that much to you?
•Do you feel stuck behind a support post, with a dim view of God and a discouraging experience of worship? If so, why? What can you do to move to a “new seat”?
•What living sacrifices have you demonstrated lately? How have they shown up at home, and at work, school, or play?


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 24th, 2011 01:22 PM   IP              
Cause for Rejoicing

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!” Philippians 3:1

I’ll never forget the Sunday morning when I was hanging out in the hall with a bunch of my “cool” junior high friends before Sunday school. Walking toward us was a visitor to our class, wearing a chain of perfect attendance awards pinned to his shirt. As he approached, our attitude about him was anything but sanctified. It was more like, “Who does he think he is?”—and we immediately dismissed him as a legitimate candidate to make it into the “in” group. Not one of my finer moments, I must admit, but a good illustration of what happens when people walk around flaunting their accomplishments.

The early church at Philippi had similar problems. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul spoke forcefully against the Judaizers in the church who were flaunting the fact that they kept the religious customs of the law, including circumcision. In their minds they were the blue-ribbon Christians in Philippi, and their self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude was a source of conflict and division in the church. Paul’s advice? Stop rejoicing in your own accomplishments, and start rejoicing in the Lord.

When he commanded the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord, he wasn’t calling for incessant, glib expressions of “praise Jesus!” Aren’t we all just a little tired of people who walk around with 24-hour “praise Jesus!” smiles on their faces? He was calling for something deeper. It was a call to forsake our absorption with things that elevate us and to instead live in a way that makes Jesus the focus of our “bragging rights.” To illustrate the importance of this, Paul gave a personal testimony in verses 4-6. After listing his own accomplishments, he said that he had learned to count it all “loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

The lesson for us is that there are no “blue-ribbon” Christians. There is no spiritual caste system that separates the high performers from the others. We all have one blue ribbon: Jesus.

Whatever it is in your life that you want to brag about—don’t! As Jeremiah said, “Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth” (Jeremiah 9:24).

When we begin bragging about Jesus and His wonderful grace in our life, we can replace the “Who does he think he is?” attitude with the desire to say, “Let me tell you who He is!”

YOUR JOURNEY…

•Make a list of the accomplishments that make you feel proud. How do those things compare to Paul’s list in Philippians 3:4-6, and what should your response be according to Paul’s statement in Philippians 3:7?
•In what ways have you felt tempted to flaunt your own accomplishments above the Lord’s? If you have given in to the temptation, how did it make you feel?
•Ask the Lord to shift your attention from your own accomplishments to the work Jesus accomplished for you on the cross. Don’t forget to ask for an opportunity to boast in Him today. You can bet that He will give you a chance!


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 25th, 2011 01:13 PM   IP              
Finding Jesus in the Loop

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

My friend Craig Phillips was a 27-year-old rising star in Chicago’s corporate world. His natural drive and determination landed him a premium position at a Fortune 500 company in the Loop—Chicago’s business district. Early in his career, he encountered Jesus on the way to work.

In his own words, Craig says, “One morning I was on my way to my beautiful corporate office with my nice clothes and my nice tie on and my expensive shoes, and I walked by this alley and saw this broken man lying underneath an elevator vent where the hot air was coming out for some warmth.” Chicago, like most metropolitan centers, is a curious mix of the very elite and the very poor, so Craig had encountered poverty and brokenness every day on the way to work. But this time, something stopped him in his tracks.

“I couldn’t go any further,” Craig continues. “I turned around and walked back in the alley. I went up to that man and asked, ‘Is that you, Jesus?’ I knew it wasn’t Jesus, but I knew that that is where Jesus would be.”

That encounter transformed Craig’s understanding of what it meant to walk with Jesus, freeing him from materialism and focusing him on the eternal. It sparked a life of service to Jesus, leading Craig to found two churches and compelling him for decades to volunteer at the Wayside Cross Mission in the suburbs of Chicago.

He had discovered a truth that, quite frankly, we can only realize if we take the instruction given in Matthew 25:31-46 seriously. In profound, yet simple words, Jesus tells His disciples that in their service to the broken and marginalized—the hungry, the imprisoned, the sick, and the naked—they will encounter Him. Think about that. The moment a lovingly prepared sandwich or cup of hot soup is passed to a homeless person in Christ’s name, the service is rendered to Jesus Himself!

If we could grasp this truth, I think it would radically reconfigure the way we view opportunities for service. When we see the stranded motorist with a flat tire, we would ask the question Craig asked, “Is that you, Jesus?” Or to the single parent in our neighborhood who needs some assistance with childcare we would say, “Is that you, Jesus?” The individual who is physically ravaged and socially isolated by AIDS would hear us ask, “Is that you, Jesus?” Service in the name of Christ no longer is a duty to be checked off our spiritual task list. It is an opportunity to encounter and minister to our Savior!

By the way, Craig is in his late eighties and still volunteers regularly with the Wayside Cross Mission in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. I hear from him regularly, and in a recent letter he reminded me all over again that our call to know Christ through service has no time limit or expiry date. “Love causes us to have no bars and no exclusions when we see someone hurting,” he wrote.

It’s something that Craig discovered in the Loop one day and has been living out ever since. Jesus is ready and waiting all around us. All we need to do is stop in our tracks, reach out, and serve in His name.

YOUR JOURNEY…

•What needs were brought to mind as you thought about Matthew 25:1-46 today? Take a few minutes to write them down.
•Look back over the list of needs. How does seeing each of those needs as an opportunity to encounter Christ transform your attitude about service?
•Focus on at least one of those needs. In prayer, commit to following through on addressing that situation as a ministry to Christ in the next week.


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 26th, 2011 05:29 PM   IP              
No Bragging Rights

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him. —Ephesians 1:4

My dad was the most important person in my world when I was a boy. He was a respected pastor, a good preacher, and a kind and gentle leader. His gifts were recognized by several boards on which he served. Wheaton College rewarded his service to Christ with an honorary doctorate. People often said, “Oh, you’re Joe Stowell’s son” or introduced me as “the son of Dr. Stowell.” I was proud of my dad and was so honored to be his son that, for years, being known as his child was my source of significance.

That’s but a glimpse of what it means to be satisfied with the significance that comes from our position as a child of the King. Because of God’s great love for us, He adopted us as His sons and daughters (Eph. 1:5). There is no greater honor. No material possession, fame, power, or position can compare. When we embrace this reality, we are set free from the temptation to manufacture and manipulate our own significance.

Those who are in Christ have significance in Him. We can rejoice because we are called by His name. “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). When we belong to the King of kings, we need no other bragging rights!

We magnify our Father God
With songs of thoughtful praise;
As grateful children we confess
How perfect are His ways. —Ball

Children of the king find their significance in Christ.



God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 28th, 2011 05:19 PM   IP              
God With Us

“And we, who… all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness…” 2 Corinthians 3:18

He was sitting three rows back in the aisle seat, slouched down in his chair, wearing a baseball cap on his head and a green Diesel shirt that complemented his blue jeans. He caught my eye because he seemed out of place in the setting—a chapel service at a Baptist seminary in Bucharest, Romania. I noticed him, while preaching to the group of students gathered for the meeting, because it was clear that he was a little different from his otherwise “properly” dressed classmates.

After the service was over, he came up to me with one of my books, which had been translated into Romanian. In halting English he asked if I would sign his book. “Sure, I’d be happy to,” I replied, “What’s your name?” His reply caught me off guard.

“Emmanuel.”

Quite frankly, the whole thing took me back a little since I had always thought that the name Emmanuel was the exclusive territory of Jesus. I thought, Emmanuel?As in the same name the angels told Joseph to give to Jesus? God with us? That Emmanuel? Wondering if I had heard him correctly, I asked again, “What did you say your name was?”

“Emmanuel,” he boldly replied.

“Do you know what Emmanuel means?”

“Yes, I do,” he said without a moment’s hesitation. It means, “God with us.”

The longer I thought about the brief encounter with the student in jeans, the more I realized we should all think of ourselves as “God with us.” When we understand that we are to live to bring glory to God, the thought that we are to be God’s representative to our world is right on target. Glorifying God simply means that we are to demonstrate God’s glory through our lives. His glory is the expression of all that He is in His all-surpassing stunning perfection. Obviously, we can’t be all that He is, nor can we pull it off in all-surpassing stunning perfection. But we can live to show others what the love, justice, integrity, trustworthiness, mercy, and grace of God are like in real life. Glorifying God means to express the reality of His attitudes, actions, and character in and through our lives.

In Scripture, we learn that God’s glory has been displayed through a variety of means. Psalm 19:1 points out that “the heavens declare the glory of God.” From the indescribable magnitude of our vast universe to the intricate details of DNA, the glory of God’s power and creative wisdom is proclaimed. God also selected a group of people, the Israelites, to reflect and portray His glory in a special way. His divine protection and direction of the Israelites as they journeyed from Egypt to the Promised Land let the whole world know that He is a God of supreme power and goodness to His people. And, of course, the Bible points out that God’s glory is most clearly seen in Jesus Christ, the One who is “the radiance God’s glory and the exact representation of His being” (Hebrews 1:3). John 1:1-51 explains that the Word, God’s Son, came and pitched His tent among us so that we could see the glory of God, up close and personal.

And now it’s our turn.

My Romanian friend, Emmanuel, has a distinct edge. Every time he says or hears his name, he knows that he is to be the presence of God in his world. I wouldn’t suggest that you change your name to Emmanuel—unless you really are down on what your parents named you—but I would suggest that you take seriously the reason why you are saved in the first place: to demonstrate His glorious qualities to a world that has no clue about how stunningly wonderful He really is.

Be Jesus in jeans to your world!

YOUR JOURNEY…

•How have you seen God’s glory displayed through creation? Through the stories of God’s interaction with the Israelites in the Old Testament? Through the stories about Jesus in the Gospels?
•What thoughts or insights come to your mind as you think about the privilege of displaying God’s glory through your life?
•Make a short list of the qualities of God that you most appreciate in your life. Think through how you could communicate those qualities in your world. Keep the list in mind and pray that God gives you the opportunity to glorify Him in at least one situation today.
•How will your attitudes and actions at home, school, work, in traffic, or at the mall be impacted today by the truth that you are the representative of God to your world?


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 29th, 2011 09:51 PM   IP              
The Hot Shot Café

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11

The Hot Shot Café in Asheville, North Carolina, is where the locals hang out. Old jukebox and all—no pretense—just good old home cooking. A while back I had the chance to eat there. The meal was delicious, and as I was paying my bill, I noticed a shelf full of shiny new Hot Shot Café mugs. I knew I needed one. It was a compulsion I couldn’t resist. So, I forked over a few extra bills and left with the mug.

It may sound weird, but I love heavy porcelain mugs with nifty logos. Over the years I have collected so many you would think I had enough, but no. I needed just one more!

If it were only about the mugs in our lives, or the teddy bears, CDs, or shoes—it wouldn’t really be a big deal. The thing is, it’s about more than that. It’s about this inner dynamic where we need just one more thing all the time. The technophile needs the fastest computer processor; the fashionista must have the latest open-toe sandals; the car enthusiast yearns for the perfect low-profile tires.

I think the issue behind our constant craving for more and more, for the latest and greatest, is contentment. It is easy to let our longings for possessions, relationships, and experiences shape our lives. The danger is, when we’re constantly on the hunt for the next thing, our life circumstances become pumped up with importance, while our Bibles collect dust on the shelf.

When we let the passion to consume crowd out the contentment we have in Christ, the result is an endless chase for the proverbial carrot on a stick. Since we can never have “enough” of what we crave, the emptiness makes us vulnerable to aloneness, and that leads us to sacrifice ourselves on the altar of the “next big thing” only to find that we still aren’t satisfied. Jesus alone gives the power to live a life where inner contentment abounds, regardless of our circumstances.

In 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, Paul listed some of his life circumstances. He was beaten with whips and rods, stoned, and shipwrecked three times. He survived a night and a day in the open sea, rivers, bandits, his own countrymen, Gentiles, and false brothers. He had often gone without sleep, food, water, clothing, or heat. And, he lived every day with concern for the churches he planted. He doesn’t even mention the fact that he wrote most of the New Testament from a jail cell!

Despite all of this, Paul wrote these words in the last chapter of Philippians. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:11-12).

What was Paul’s secret for contented living? I’ll tell you what it wasn’t. It wasn’t his mug collection and certainly not his life circumstances. It was his deep awareness of the supernatural presence of Christ in his life, and an abiding sense of all that Jesus alone provided for him.

The next time you’re at the Hot Shot Café, or wherever it is that you’re tempted to reach for “just one more thing,” remember that Christ alone provides the relaxing peace of contentment. Having Him, we have it all!

YOUR JOURNEY…

•Read the following Scripture: Proverbs 19:23; Philippians 4:11-13; 1 Timothy 6:6-8; and Hebrews 13:5. What does the Bible say about contentment?
•Do you spend more time thinking about the things you think would bring you contentment or about the sufficiency of Christ?
•What does it look like to be content with Christ? Brainstorm a list of ideas and practice living them out for one week. Reflect on the experience and record it in your journal.


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted June 30th, 2011 05:13 PM   IP              
A Parade Worth Marching In

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” 2 Corinthians 2:14

For Americans, the Fourth of July is usually a day of picnics, parties, and parades. Putting aside partisan differences and political perspectives, the people of the nation gather to celebrate Independence Day—the founding of the United States. Across the nation, people will line the streets of their towns and villages to see a line-up of brightly decorated floats, shiny fire trucks, antique cars, and grown men driving go-carts in circles. It’s a wonderful holiday and a great celebration!

I find it interesting to note that the apostle Paul actually uses the picture of a parade to teach the Corinthian believers an important biblical truth about the work of Jesus on our behalf. In the second chapter of 2 Corinthians he says that God “always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:14). The Corinthians would have been very familiar with the idea of “triumphal processions.” In fact, anyone living under the Roman Empire would have instantly pictured what Paul was describing.

Historians tell us that whenever Roman forces captured another region, the victorious Roman commanding general would stage a parade. Gathering his victorious soldiers, he would march through the streets of the city with crowds lining the roads. The captured general and his subdued men would be forced to march, shackled and humbled, with the Roman forces to demonstrate the power and might of Rome’s reach. While they marched, the pagan priests of Rome would burn incense to symbolize the sweet smell of victory.

Paul takes that powerful picture and uses it to illustrate the immensity of Christ’s victory over sin and death in the lives of His followers. He says that in the spiritual world, we are being led by the victorious one—Jesus—in a triumphal parade that displays His victory over the forces of evil. We have been set free from our enslavement to sin, and we are now “slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18). We have a new master now that we have been gloriously set free!

Paul even takes the illustration one step further by referencing the incense burned in the Roman processions. Look again at what he says in 2 Corinthians 2:14, “God . . . through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” Isn’t that incredible! Our lives, Paul says, are to be a sweet-smelling reminder of how attractive and appealing the freedom and victory we find in Jesus can be! The scent of God’s grace is supposed to linger in the lives of those in our sphere of influence.

So today, if you are an American, enjoy the parades. But if you are first and foremost a follower of Jesus, revel in the independence and freedom that you have found in Him. Picture yourself being led through the streets of your town, on display to your friends and family as a trophy of Christ’s victory. And pray that your encounters with others will leave behind the sweet smell of God’s goodness.

And here’s the good news: When Jesus is the victor, no one can rain on your parade!

YOUR JOURNEY…

•What are some practical ways to celebrate and remember the day that Jesus set you free from your sin?
•What freedoms and blessings do you enjoy now because of Christ’s victory on the cross? (If you need some ideas, look at Romans 6:1-23, 7:1-24, 8:1-39 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-58.)
•How effectively is your life spreading the “fragrance of the knowledge of Him”? Do the people in your sphere of influence tangibly see and experience the goodness and grace of God through you?


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   
today
Administrator

Posts: 17162
Registered: Mar 2009
 Posted July 3rd, 2011 03:16 PM   IP              
A Parade Worth Marching In

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” 2 Corinthians 2:14

For Americans, the Fourth of July is usually a day of picnics, parties, and parades. Putting aside partisan differences and political perspectives, the people of the nation gather to celebrate Independence Day—the founding of the United States. Across the nation, people will line the streets of their towns and villages to see a line-up of brightly decorated floats, shiny fire trucks, antique cars, and grown men driving go-carts in circles. It’s a wonderful holiday and a great celebration!

I find it interesting to note that the apostle Paul actually uses the picture of a parade to teach the Corinthian believers an important biblical truth about the work of Jesus on our behalf. In the second chapter of 2 Corinthians he says that God “always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:14). The Corinthians would have been very familiar with the idea of “triumphal processions.” In fact, anyone living under the Roman Empire would have instantly pictured what Paul was describing.

Historians tell us that whenever Roman forces captured another region, the victorious Roman commanding general would stage a parade. Gathering his victorious soldiers, he would march through the streets of the city with crowds lining the roads. The captured general and his subdued men would be forced to march, shackled and humbled, with the Roman forces to demonstrate the power and might of Rome’s reach. While they marched, the pagan priests of Rome would burn incense to symbolize the sweet smell of victory.

Paul takes that powerful picture and uses it to illustrate the immensity of Christ’s victory over sin and death in the lives of His followers. He says that in the spiritual world, we are being led by the victorious one—Jesus—in a triumphal parade that displays His victory over the forces of evil. We have been set free from our enslavement to sin, and we are now “slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18). We have a new master now that we have been gloriously set free!

Paul even takes the illustration one step further by referencing the incense burned in the Roman processions. Look again at what he says in 2 Corinthians 2:14, “God . . . through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” Isn’t that incredible! Our lives, Paul says, are to be a sweet-smelling reminder of how attractive and appealing the freedom and victory we find in Jesus can be! The scent of God’s grace is supposed to linger in the lives of those in our sphere of influence.

So today, if you are an American, enjoy the parades. But if you are first and foremost a follower of Jesus, revel in the independence and freedom that you have found in Him. Picture yourself being led through the streets of your town, on display to your friends and family as a trophy of Christ’s victory. And pray that your encounters with others will leave behind the sweet smell of God’s goodness.

And here’s the good news: When Jesus is the victor, no one can rain on your parade!

YOUR JOURNEY…

•What are some practical ways to celebrate and remember the day that Jesus set you free from your sin?
•What freedoms and blessings do you enjoy now because of Christ’s victory on the cross? (If you need some ideas, look at Romans 6:1-23, 7:1-24, 8:1-39 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-58.)
•How effectively is your life spreading the “fragrance of the knowledge of Him”? Do the people in your sphere of influence tangibly see and experience the goodness and grace of God through you?


God, Whose Love Is Always Stronger
   



Posts:
Registered:
 Posted    IP              
  
< Previous thread | Next thread > | Subscribe to thread |
Post new topic Post reply Lee County Viriginia :: :: Christianity :: Daily Strength ..2

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17  
All times are EST
Mark all forums read
Logout
Forum jump:

Thread Options: Delete thread / Open/Close thread / Rename thread / Stick thread / Move thread / Merge thread